• Published 26th May 2020
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Tales from Everfree City - LoyalLiar

Princess Platinum and Celestia's first student face changelings, a magical curse, the specter of war with the griffons, and the threat of arranged marriage in early Equestria.

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Of Storms of Yore

"What…" Frostfall grumbled at the sound of a hoof on her door. Squinting in the dark, wondering if something had fallen over her eyes, she finally realized that, no, it was still the middle of the night when no sane or reasonable pony would be knocking on anypony else's door.

But the battery of knocks came again anyway.

Sitting upright in her cloud bed and throwing aside her covers, Frostfall looked out her bedroom window; judging by the moon's steady pace across the sky, it had to be just past midnight.

It took a good few more knocks and a good few more grumbles, but the Auditoris of the Cirran Legion finally made it to her own front door in the moonlight. "This had better be important," she announced to whoever was standing on the other side, even before she opened it.

She only barely avoided a knock to her own face. "Whoa, I—easy with the hoof!" Rubbing her eyes with a wing, Frostfall let out a throaty grumble that turned rather quickly into a yawn. "Who are you kids?"

"Really, Frostfall?" When the sound of Gale's voice coming out of a mare who wasn't Gale-colored caught Frostfall's sleep deprived mind by surprise, Gale decided to move the night along by muscling past Frostfall into the small hallway that was the entrance to the mare's home. "The Lookout is probably still open; I'll come find you two when I'm finished."

"We're gonna find a private tub in the baths, actually," Somnambula answered, waving with a wing. "Have a good talk."

"What? Who was…" Frostfall pinched her muzzle between her leading feather and the next one down her right wing, as Lark took the opportunity to close the pegasus' front door on her behalf. "Gale—Your Majesty—what in Celestia's name are you doing here in the middle… where did you go?!"

"Kitchen," Gale called, followed by the distinctive pop of a cork from the neck of a bottle. "Sorry for barging in so late, Frostfall, but it's important." When the older pegasus mare made her way into her own kitchen, she found one of the bottles of marelot (which the sharp-memoried reader will recall were purchased shortly after Frostfall's encounter with Graargh), uncorked and poured into a pair of glasses on the little 'table-for-two' she kept in the corner of her space. "Here," Gale offered, already seated at the far side of said table, sliding one glass toward the empty opposite seat. "I don't know if this is going to be a really easy talk, or really shitty, but I figured I'd get ahead of the curve."

Frostfall sighed, but she slowly walked over to the table. "You know I keep that wine for Typhoon and I to share."

"Yeah, I've heard. To deal with me. Well, I'm the one who woke you up so damn early, so I figured—"

Frostfall, midway through taking her seat, gently deflected the glass. "I'll listen, Gale, but I don't think I want to share that with you."

"Did I do something wrong?" Gale asked, looking down at the wine. "It was just sitting there on the counter, still in a case—"

"There's nothing wrong with the wine. But…" Frostfall hesitated, obviously considering what she wanted to say. At last, she settled on "Sharing it usually leads to other things, Gale. Things that I don't really want to share with you. And certainly things I shouldn't share with you while I'm also sharing them with your older sister."

Midway through a sip of wine, Gale's face turned a red color rather reminiscent of the drink in question. As urgently as she could without spilling, she lowered the glass to the table and pushed it aside. "Right. Sorry. Um… well, I, uh, I guess I'll get to the point then. So, Ty and I were talking about what happened in front of the Stable, and—"

Frostfall held up a hoof, and Gale cut herself off in respect for the motion. Only when there was silence did the legionary speak. "Are you sure you should be having this conversation with me, then, Gale? I'm not going to go behind Typhoon's back, and if that's what you're looking for—"

"No." After a disbelieving moment, Gale repeated "No! Come on, Frostfall, give me a little fucking credit? This isn't about politics. That's just how it got started."

"If it's between you and Typhoon, I have a hard time believing it isn't politics."

"It's—ugh, fuck—look, she's my sister. And I'm not going to let Mom stepping down just throw that away, even if we don't have much in common anymore. So let me ask my godsdamn question, and if you think it's 'too political' you don't have to fucking answer—but at least hear me out?"

"Alright," Frostfall agreed. "I'm sorry for cutting you off."

"It's fine," Gale deflected, waving a hoof in the air like Frostfall's minor offense had given off some odor. "And what we were talking about isn't that important. What matters is, we got to arguing, and I said something that I'm pretty sure hurt Ty. And I feel like I need to apologize, but I don't know what the fuck I said that was so wrong."

Frostfall raised a brow. "Typhoon is a strong mare, Gale. I'm sure she's probably already gotten over whatever you said—"

"She made ice," Gale interrupted. "I don't think she did it on purpose, either. But it was a lot."

Frostfall winced, and then was quiet for a surprisingly long moment. Then she swallowed, building up words. "I see. And… how much do you know about pegasus magic, Gale?"

"I know ice comes from sadness. And I know Ty's the best ice user in Equestria, so she usually has better control over it than to just blow up like that. That's how I fucking knew I needed come up here and ask you."

In the ensuing silence, Frostfall reached a wing over to her glass of wine, lifted it up to her face, and stared into its rich red depths. "Do you know what a 'wing memory' is?"

Gale shook her head.

"It's part of how we train new recruits—I guess just new pegasus recruits—to use their magic." Frostfall meaningfully tapped her leading feather against her wine glass, and a spiraling pattern of frost slowly spread across the surface. "If you ask somepony to come up with a memory that made them feel angry or sad or whatever emotion you're looking for, most ponies can come up with something. But for most ponies, the feelings in those memories fade away over time. We call them 'feather memories', because they're really only on your fringes, and you lose them just as easily as you molt… I'm guessing you understand that, right?"

Gale rolled her eyes. "I know what molting is, yes."

Frostfall chuckled softly. "I suppose given how attentive Commander Hurricane is to his pruning, you'd have to. Anyway, 'feather' memories are common, and they're quite normal, but they fade in magnitude over time, so they don't make for very strong magic. Still, that's healthy; it makes for stable legionaries who aren't going to lose control of the magic they're learning to use. And by the time a memory does fade, you've usually had enough practice that you can will some magic into being without needing a specific memory." Frostfall tapped the frozen side of her wine glass. "For most ponies, it isn't terribly strong, but it's enough to fling a few icicles or freeze a raincloud, if your element of choice is ice, or make a smokescreen or a bit of fire… you get the point."

"But obviously Ty isn't like that," Gale observed.

Chilled wine was raised to Frostfall's lips, seemingly without thought. When she felt the cold liquid hit her tongue, she winced, swallowed hurriedly, and set the glass aside once more. "No. Typhoon, and I suspect your father, and maybe a dozen other ponies have what we call 'wing' memories. Because, at least as far as we can tell, they're permanent. As much a part of you as your wing."

"Maybe my dad's a bad example, then?" Gale joked.

Frostfall shook her head. "I know you know what I mean. But the reason I bring this up: a wing memory isn't just a source of magic; it's not a one way road. When you have a memory that strong, whether it's good or bad—and it's usually bad—the more you use it to fuel your magic, the more that memory and the magic become the same thing. Meaning, when somepony else does something to bring up the wing memory, the pony will sometimes use their magic without meaning to. And the more you lean on that memory for your magic, the worse it gets."

"So that's what happened with Ty?"

"I'd guess so," Frostfall agreed. "Since I've been in the Legion, ponies with wing memories get pulled aside for special training, and from what Typhoon tells me, it's mostly about making sure they learn not to rely on those memories, and instead practice their magic with feather memories of the same element—so they don't have outbursts and hurt somepony. But… well, the Legion gossip is that Commander Typhoon is the reason we have that rule now."

"Ty's that bad? This is the first time I think I've ever seen her freeze like that." Gale frowned as her own words hit her ears. "I mean, freeze around her… you know."

"I understand," Frostfall agreed. Then she turned away from Gale and toward her still slightly frosted glass—now beginning to collect condensation—once more. "You have to remember, Gale, almost all of our knowledge about pegasus magic beyond flying and moving clouds comes from the studies your father ordered with Archmage Star Swirl, after the Red Cloud War. Before that, Cirra used to think the accidental bursts of magic some pegasi let off were the acts of the gods, not something to try and repeat on purpose. Typhoon is probably older than what we know about pegasus magic."

Her explanation drawing to a close, Frostfall hesitated heavily. The wings on her back pulled tight against her chest, and her breath caught a moment in her throat. It took nearly a minute before finally, mercifully, she completed her thought. "I don't know what Typhoon's wing memory is. I asked her once, and with how she reacted…" For a moment, the mare found enough energy to vigorously shake her head. "Whatever you do, don't ask her. Mobius, you might be better off just admitting you don't know what you said was wrong, and telling her you're not going to pry."

"That's a pretty shitty apology. Well, sorry about whatever I did that made you re-live your worst, darkest fucking memory; I don't know what the hell it is, so I'll probably do it again someday, but I feel really shitty about it, so maybe that makes you feel better?" Gale let out a scoff. "I think I'll press my luck."

"Well, apart from Typhoon, I would guess your father probably knows…"

"Fuck that," Gale muttered. "He won't even talk about his own time fighting wars, let alone somepony else's. He'd just tell me to talk to Typhoon."

Frostfall nodded, and then, rather abruptly, chuckled.


"Just remembering the first thing he ever said to me. Typhoon brought me home for dinner one night—you were there I think, years ago—"

"I remember," Gale agreed.

"Hurricane walked up to me, and the very first thing he said was 'I hear you're dating my daughter'. So I flat out asked him 'Is this the part where you tell me that if I hurt your daughter, you'll kill me?'"

Gale shared a hint of Frostfall's earlier humor, taking another sip of her (more-or-less stolen) wine.

"I was just joking," Frostfall continued, "but I remember he said 'I don't have to. She's already proven she'll do it herself.' Which, at the time, I thought was just 'oh, she's the Commander of the Cirran Legion, of course she doesn't need her dad to look out for her, which is why what you said reminded me." Frostfall took a sip of her own, now quite 'sweaty' glass, and this time swallowed without hesitation. "Now I'm remembering another weird old Legion joke."


"Well, um… look, a long time ago, during the buffalo campaign, when I was still just a fresh recruit who was good with ledgers and a crush on the Commander, my Legate apparently noticed that I blushed one time when she walked by or something. I don't remember what it was, but Legate Grassroots tried to warn me off, um, pursuing her. She told me 'Commander Typhoon has killed everypony she's ever slept with'."

Gale shrugged. "She didn't kill you."

"No. But she sure didn't go easy on me." Frostfall sighed, but there was good humor in it, and again she indulged in her wine. "And before you make that into some double-meaning, Gale, I mean in the Legion sense. I might not have been flying back and forth to Everfree like her messengers, but I probably covered twice as much air with how many messages she made me carry back and forth on the front."

"Okay, now I'm curious: what ultimately won her over?"

Frostfall rolled her eyes. "Maybe it was that I was the only pony who even tried. But probably, it's that I wasn't that much older than you, and all that flying gave me a good figure."

Gale frowned. "I was serious."

"So was I," Frostfall noted bitterly, taking another sip of wine.

"Something wrong between you and Typhoon?" Gale asked. "Maybe I could help—"

Frostfall shook her head firmly, placed her wings on her table, and used them to brace a swift rise from her seat. "I'm sorry I can't help you more, Gale, but the only place I can point you is your father. Everypony else I can imagine who'd know is dead. Now, I do need to get some more sleep."

"Yeah, that's…" Gale trailed off. "Actually, just humor me: who are you thinking of? That's dead, I mean?"

Frostfall raised a brow, staring at Gale for a painfully long moment before she finally spoke. "Either your aunt Twister, or Typhoon's mother, Swift Spear. But… look, just don't do anything rash, okay? Typhoon loves you, Gale. You're her sister. You'd be surprised how often she talks about how she used to take you riding on her back to go flying around Everfree."

"That was a long time ago," Gale answered sourly, stepping from Frostfall's kitchen out into the hall, toward the door out. "Doing things the 'we're sisters, we can get along' way is how I got into this fucking mess in the first place. So even though it makes me want to throw up, I'm trying it Mom's way."

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

"You're going to do what?" Lark asked, midway through sliding aside to make room for Gale in a heated tub of the Cloudsdale baths. "Don't you want tall, pale, and handsome to do that kind of crap?"

"He showed me how a little while ago," Gale explained, rolling her neck. "It's actually pretty easy magic. And if anypony knows Ty and might actually tell me a damn thing, it'll be her mom." Gale scoffed. "Plus, from what I hear, she's way less of an asshole than mine."

"I have seen Star Swirl speak to the dead once or twice," Somnambula agreed, clearly enjoying the warm bathwater as a hearkening back to her homeland. "Though, given I understand he is a very powerful wizard, I guess that does not say much about how easy it is to do."

"Well, it's a fuck of a lot easier than learning to teleport," Gale (accurately) concluded—lest anypony tell you, dear reader, that necromancy is somehow intrinsically too complex to be considered a school with its own basic cantrips—before she lit up her horn. "Let's see… first I run my magic up to my neck, and find that chain…"

"Chain?" Somnambula asked. "Is this a unicorn thing? I do not see a chain anywhere in this room."

Lark shrugged. "I promise, I don't see anything either—"

"Quiet. I'm concentrating." Despite the harsh words, Gale grinned. "There. And if I slide along it… woah, okay, that's still a weird feeling. All that blood."

"Blood?" Lark asked, nervously.

"It's not real," Gale answered. "Alright. And what did Morty say about the Summer Lands? Happy memory, happy memory…"

Perhaps there is something to be noted about the fact that the memory Gale chose was one to which Frostfall had alluded only perhaps a quarter of an hour earlier: a memory of a much, much younger princess of the unicorns, clinging firmly to her elder sister's bare neck as the two cut through the thin sky above Cloudsdale.

"Swift Spear. Swift Spear. Swift Spear."

"Ah!" That gasped out syllable came from all three voices in the pool that did not belong to Gale. And, by virtue of the number 'three', you can be assured that I had taught Gale well.

"Ghost pony!" Lark announced, leaning back.

"You did it, Gale," Somnambula declared, overcoming the sudden appearance of another pegasus rather more quickly.

The mare in question (underneath the glow of Gale's cerise magic) was something like manila or khaki in color, and her mane and tail were an equally unambitious brown. In age (as well as in general shape, for hopefully obvious reasons) she rather resembled Commander Typhoon. "Who are you three young mares?" Swift Spear asked, after a moment to take in her surroundings. "And are these the Cloudsdale baths?"

Gale took the lead with a nod. "Um… Legate Spear, I'm guessing? This is Lark, and Somnambula. And I'm…" Gale hesitated for a moment, prompting a raised brow from the soul in the water before her. "It probably means the most to you to say I'm Gladiopocellarum Aura. But you can call me Gale."

"You're my granddaughter?" Swift Spear asked with some amusement. "A unicorn granddaughter? Typhoon or Cyclone?"

"Not exactly." Gale ran a rather wet hoof past the sizzling magic on her horn to adjust her mane. "Dad—um, Hurricane—remarried."

"Ah." Swift Spear smiled at the revelation. In fact, I would call it a credit to her character to note just how unreservedly glad she was at that news—though most of us who've lived enough to have truly loved like to believe that we would wish our significant others the best after our passing, in my considerable experience with this subject, most ponies aren't quite that that benevolent in practice.

Though, lest anypony reading become too disillusioned with our so-to-speak 'dearly departed', most ponies do come around to the idea; it's merely that first moment that tends to bring out sour feelings.

Swift settled down into the hot pool, sighing in mostly imagined comfort—the extent to which an ethereal spirit can experience warmth or immersion is a subject for a very different tome—and looked between the three living mares before once more settling on Gale. "Well, I'm guessing you magic'd me up for a reason, but if you don't mind, I would like to hear about how things are going for the family. Can I ask who the lucky mare is?"

"Queen Platinum," Gale answered flatly.

I sometimes find that, when I look into another pony's eyes while they are deep in thought, I almost feel as if I can see gears churning, belts and chains grinding away toward a conclusion. But at the core of any pony, deep in the heart of their metaphorical brain-machine, there is something small, something personal, some fundamental truth that provides the energy to keep the machine going. Usually, something simple, like a waterwheel or a treadmill.

In Swift Spear's ghostly mind, those gears began to turn so rapidly that their teeth began to glow orange with heat. Foul smoke erupted from the machine as it ground together, ungreased and unhinged, but still plowing forward. And at the core of her being, one could just make out a hamster wheel, spinning at a dozen revolutions a second. But though the wheel was still spinning, the hamster was stone dead.

After a solid ten seconds, it was Somnambula who broke the silence. "Um, Gale… is Miss Spear alright?"

"Well, it's not like Gale could have killed her again," Lark joked. "Miss, you there?"

"I… You're joking me," Swift Spear said. "You can't… you can't be serious. This is a joke, right?"

Lark slowly shook her head. "Not only is that true, but your, uh… reverse step-daughter?... is Queen Platinum the Third."

"You…" Swift buried her muzzle in a wing (which, being partially translucent, was not exactly as effective as the motion might have been in life. "Mobius have mercy, you're all serious, aren't you? But… how? Hurricane loathed her."

Gale shrugged. "Well, by the time I was old enough know any better, they were getting on well enough to have have me—"

"Getting it on well enough," Lark contributed.

Gale shot Lark a flat glare, before turning back to Swift and dropping into her exaggerated 'old unicorn' accent. "You see how far the quality of the help has fallen these days? But in all seriousness, I have no idea how they got together. Some ponies say it started out as a political marriage to try and keep Equestria together." Gale hesitated then. "Actually… do you know what 'Equestria' is? You died before everypony came together, right?"

"Yeah. At the very end of Cyclone's uprising. But I did hear a bit since then, from Celestia, and Hurricane."

"It is good you are still able to talk to one another—"

"Wait, what?!" Gale snapped. "You talked to Dad?"

Swift Spear retreated slightly at the accusing question. "Is there something wrong with that? It was almost twenty years ago; he'd just lost his wing."

"Fucking hypocrite…" Gale muttered. "Dad gave my… gave a friend of mine a ton of shit for using necromancy like this."

"You're going behind Cane's back?" Swift asked with amusement. "I suppose I should have expected you'd be like Cy and Ty. How are they?"

Gale drew in a breath as she wrangled her mind away from her frustrations at her father. "Cyclone's as good as you can expect. It's cold as fuck in River Rock, but I guess being able to light yourself on fire probably helps with that. He has a fucking ton of kids. And he gives great hugs; I feel like he could probably choke a dragon to death."

"You've met him face-to-face?" Swift asked, obviously surprised. "I… I didn't think that your mother would want… I mean, given what happened—"

"I didn't exactly ask her permission when I went on my trip," Gale admitted. "And yeah, that's the only time I've ever actually met him. He does seem kind of lonely."

"Do Typhoon and Hurricane visit him, at least?"

Gale shook her head. "Dad sometimes talks about wanting to, but he can never convince Ty."

That comment was perhaps the first thing Gale said that truly brought any sort of distress to Swift Spear's expression. "Ah. I… I suppose that's to be expected, if their fight was as bad as Hurricane said."

Gale shrugged. "I mean, it must have been pretty fucking bad for Cyclone, since he's got a crippled wing now, but as far as I can tell, all Ty got out of it was a badass eye scar."

"I think there may be more wounds there than you see, Gale. Typhoon and Cyclone were the best friends in the world, once upon a time." Swift concluded that thought by hanging her head, closing her eyes, and drawing down (the sound of) a deep, filling breath. "But I suppose growing up the way they were, both chasing after Hurricane, Legion politics were bound to come between them sooner or later."

"Is that what… what gives Typhoon her ice?" Somnambula asked.

Swift cocked her head. "Typhoon has always favored ice, even since the very first day Hurricane taught her the first thing about magic."

Gale nodded. "I don't think that's what we're looking for, Somnambula. I didn't say anything about Cyclone last night. But, Swift… well, to make a long story short, Typhoon and I had an argument last night. And I'm trying to make it up to her, but I don't actually know what I said that bothered her. We were thinking it might have to do with whatever memory she uses to make her magic so strong."

"Typhoon's magic is strong?" Swift asked. When all three living mares expressed their confusion that the question even needed to be asked, Swift offered her raised wings to hold them at bay. "I don't mean to demean Typhoon; she was perfectly practical with her ice magic because she put a good bit of practice into it, and most ponies would say she was near the top of the Legion with it, in terms of practical use. But she never made that much. Typhoon was always about precision—in her magic, her flying, her swordplay. Cyclone was the one everypony talked about for huge shows of his magic. Well, him and 'Cane, but a lot of stories about Hurricane got exaggerated in those days. Ever since the story about him fighting Magnus got out—"

"Time the fuck out, what?!" Gale stood fully up in the pool, sending a splash over Lark and Somnambula's faces (and straight through Swift's).

"I know I'm not your mother, Gale, but I'm certain Cane doesn't approve of that kind of language."

Gale completely ignored Swift Spear's protests. "Dad actually fought Magnus? That isn't just some made up 'Commander Hurricane is the best soldier ever' bullshit? You're serious?"

Swift let out a sigh, but nodded. "I'm surprised he didn't tell you himself. It wasn't anything glorious; he certainly wasn't winning. It was at the battle of Nimbus, right near the end as we were falling back. Silver and I came and rescued him, and even with all three of us, it was pretty much everything we could do just to get out of the room alive."

"Was he really gigantic?" Gale pressed. "Could he really make wind? And—"

"Gale," Lark interrupted, harshly.


"It's the middle of the night, and I don't know how long these potions last, but I'd feel a lot better getting back down to solid ground before I try to sleep. You can always cast this spell again, right?"

"Oh. Um… yeah, sorry. I guess I lost track of time." Gale shook her head. "So, Swift, um… thanks. I… would you mind if I talk to you again?"

Swift smiled. "I'd be very happy to. Maybe next time get the whole family together?"

"Well, Dad would probably have a heart attack if he knew I knew how to do this, but maybe after I talk to Ty again, I'll bring you up so you can talk to her."

"I'd like that very much. And I'm sorry I couldn't help, Gale; it sounds like whatever happened to Ty happened after I died. But it's been very nice to meet you."

Gale smiled. "Well, um, I think I'm supposed to warn you that there's a kind of funny feeling when I let go of this. Ready?" Only a moment after Swift Spear's phantom nodded, the magic around Gale's horn vanished, and with it, the deceased mare likewise disappeared.

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