• 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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Feast and Famine

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

There were, in retrospect, rather a lot of important conversations that took place over that most-of-a-week in the north. If we'd had better records, I suspect it might have produced a master's thesis in sociology or international relations or some similar field.

In the absence of such enormous time, I shall do my best to filter down the list.

Though the Crystal Spire had a throne room, unlike was sometimes the case in unicorn history, feasts were not held before the throne in the main chamber. Instead, the belly of the Spire held a huge more-or-less round room (technically a dodecagonal chamber) with a huge fire pit in the center. Around it, the floor rose up in steps—a bit like the seating style of the Cloudoseum in Cloudsdale, where everypony in the room has a view of the central floor and perhaps one or two important boxes. In this case, the focal point for the room was a huge table with Jade and Cookie's talent marks emblazoned as a sort of heraldic iconography hanging from cloth on the table's face. Behind that table, the aforementioned hosts sat centered, with Gale and Typhoon enjoying Jade's company, while Puddinghead absolutely abused his access to his old secretary.

At a nearby table—but notably not in the limelight of the room, such as any place could be called dark when the walls were made of polished crystal and a huge fire was burning in the center of the chamber—one could find Hurricane and the elder Platinum enjoying a quiet moment to themselves as husband and wife. It was a rare luxury, one I don't begrudge either of the pair, and so they have my sympathy that it was ruined when, without any sort of request for the space, a heavily laden plate clattered down on the table at Hurricane's side, and a moment later, a crystal mare settled onto the seat.

"So, Hurricane… Long time no see."

The speaker was my dear mother Castigate.

Hurricane drew in a brief breath, but it was Platinum who spoke up. "Queen Jade introduced us not altogether too long ago for the tour… Commander, is it?"

"I'm not a Cirran," Castigate answered, picking up a blood orange and taking a bite out of it without bothering to peel it whatsoever. As a bit of the citrus' namesake colored juice leaked down her chin, she smiled. "I mean, I'm not even here as a soldier. You can call me Castigate."

"Why are you here?" Hurricane asked rather directly, eyes narrowing.

"Well, the popular rumor up here is we're going to be family soon. Figured I should say hello, get to know each other on better terms."

Platinum massaged a weary temple. "Whatever you heard is wrong, I'm afraid. Morty and Her Majesty might be very good friends, but they certainly aren't getting married. Morty isn't even eligible. He's not a noblepony."

Castigate raised a brow, then leaned forward across her plate to get a better view past Hurricane at Platinum. "I'm not sure whether to think it's cute you haven't thought this through, or to be offended you have such a low expectation of my taste in stallions."

Hurricane pivoted fully on the bench, so that he could cross his remaining wing between himself and Castigate, marking a very visible barrier with his obsessively well preened feathers. "Even if I didn't remember what it meant for some poor soul to be taken alive thirty years ago, Castigate, Morty didn't leave much to the imagination when he explained the subject. I'd rather not be reminded of that story over dinner."

Castigate shrugged, trying to play off the introduction as friendly and failing quite miserably. "Fine, fine, I can take a hint. Just figured we should celebrate together a little, be proud of the foals." The crystal mare stepped past Hurricane's back, and in passing Platinum, she observed aloud to herself (but obviously not actually to herself) "A crystal finally conquers the Diamond Kingdoms and it's Mortal?"

"Conquers—?!" Platinum's hiss of offense was cut off by her husband moving in a rather distracting blur of dark gray-blue, putting his wing over Castigate's foreshoulder and yanking back to make eye contact with the mare.

"You're making the same mistake as your son, Castigate."


"You think I'm the scary half of our marriage," Hurricane told her. "But we're not at war anymore. You've got nothing to fear from me. But Platinum?"

The genuinely reasonable warning earned a disdainful scoff. "What's she going to do?"

Hurricane shrugged. "If you apologize, I'll make sure nothing. Otherwise, you'll see her talking to Jade in private out of the corner of your eye some time in the next couple of days, and—"

"Jade?" Castigate raised a brow. "Oh, I see. That's… Hah. Adorable, Butcher, really." The crystal mare had the audacity to remove Hurricane's wing from her shoulder with a hoof. "Queen Platinum, if I've offended, I apologize. I wouldn't want any trouble between future in-laws. As for you… ex-Commander? Jade was an inspiring leader at Onyx Ridge, but the 'Union' isn't about to forget her being Wintershimmer's bitch for twenty years."

Platinum cocked her head. "But… surely, with Wintershimmer's passing, and Smart Cookie restored…"

"Think what you want, Your Majesty. I'm just being honest with you. Halite might not have been your favorite pony in the world, but at least you had to respect him." With a shake of her head, Castigate slipped away.

Platinum frowned to her husband as Castigate left. "I was at Onyx Ridge; I thought Jade was a delightful leader. Certainly, she was a great warrior."

"She was," Hurricane agreed.

Alas, twenty years of marriage do not let such a comment lie. "There's more behind that thought, Cane. I can hear it."

The old soldier sighed. "Personally, Jade was a great warrior. Being an alicorn doesn't hurt. And she was a fine leader on the battlefield. But… Before the windigoes, probably once a week, I'd sit down to a council argument about Jade: whether it was better to let her die fighting Halite and then sweep in while he was weak, or to come here to lay siege to the Spire and then let her pick up the pieces. Jade was never going to beat Halite and free the crystals on her own; even with a bigger army, the unfortunate truth is that between his cruelty and his experience he was always going to be the better general."

Platinum nodded. "That may be true, but we're talking about her quality as the ruler of a civilized state. The Crystal Union may not have the economy or the population of Equestria, but that is no reason to admonish a mare who turned around their society from such… barbarity."

Hurricane glanced in the direction of my mother, now mingling at the far side of the room with a few other crystals. "Between what Morty's told us since he came to Everfree, and what we just heard from Castigate, I'm wondering if she actually did. Castigate isn't the first pony to claim Wintershimmer was the reason the Union has been so stable all these years."

Platinum put a hoof on her husband's shoulder, pulled his height over her closer, and pecked him on the cheek. "I'm sure Typhoon and Gale will be glad to help if Jade needs any assistance. But for the moment, I think I'll refrain from worrying about the Union until I hear a reason to worry from somepony whose read on politics I actually trust."

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

When Silhouette and I entered the feast, forelegs entwined, it would be quite the understatement to say that there was some stir. Immediately, all eyes were on us, which as far as I was concerned was the natural order of things—but to my surprise, I found Silhouette at my side shying from the attention.

"Maybe this was a bad idea," she whispered in my ear.

"It'll be fine," I replied, and then dared to peck her on the cheek, thinking that might give her comfort.

The sound of tankards and plates dropping on the chamber floor (and a wolf whistle from the supreme political authority of the earth pony breed) proved I was… overeager in my encouragement. From across the room, I caught a very skeptical raised brow from Gale.

"Come on," I told her. "Let me introduce you to some of my new friends."

While the high table was her eventual goal, I had the sense that going there first was going to really get to Silhouette's nerves, as unprepared as I was to consider their mere existence. (For a reminder of the brashness I was used to from my crystal peer: Silhouette broke into my magically sealed bedroom just to sprawl herself in my bed to tease me, shortly before Wintershimmer's ostensible death). Thus, I glanced around the room, and settled on the first welcoming face I found.

"Okay, Silhouette, this is going to sound a little wild, but I promise he's very friendly. This is Hurricane. Hurricane, this is my friend Silhouette."

Hurricane smiled and dipped his head (a motion that still managed to make Silhouette pull back just a little—one does not cease to be the collective bogeystallion of an entire culture with just one small verbal assurance), and then fixed his eyes on our interlinked forelegs for a moment, before finally turning to me.

"I usually say that Gale can take care of herself, but you are an exception. So I should be very clear. If you're cheating on her, I'll kill you, but only because I don't want her to get hurt doing it herself. And to be completely honest with you: Wintershimmer was right to not want to pick a fight with me."

"Um…" Silhouette tugged rather hard at my foreleg. "Maybe we should…"

"Calm down," I insisted. "He's an old stallion who cares a lot about his daughter. And she's," I continued to Hurricane, "an old friend. I'm not interested in keeping secrets from Gale." I then nodded past Hurricane. "That's… Right, it's still Queen Platinum even though you aren't the seated Queen. Gale's mom, though that's probably obvious. Platinum, Hurricane, this is Silhouette."

"A pleasure," said Platinum, standing up and reaching out a hoof toward Silhouette. I realize in hindsight from her slightly tweaked brow that she wasn't expecting an earnest hoofshake, and least of all from a mercurial claw-thing, but to Platinum's credit, she reacted nearly as though it had been her intention all along. "I understand you were the mare who had a couple of… interesting encounters with my daughter and this one in Lübuck?"

Silhouette let out a little snort of amusement (though still clearly on edge from being so close to Hurricane). "You make it sound like we had a threesome."

"If you did, please do not tell me," Platinum replied, before sighing. "My apologies, for what it's worth, about your position. Your replacement is an intriguing mare."

Silhouette sighed. "It's probably for the best. And I don't think that's why Jade made the change anyway."


"It's just a convenient excuse…" Silhouette let the words trail off as she glanced across the room toward the high table. "I'm sorry Your Majesty, and, uh… Commander? Morty and I need to be talking elsewhere."

"Oh, no trouble at all," Platinum agreed. "It was nice to meet you properly, Silhouette."

"Indeed," said Hurricane, and then he nodded once and added "I'm not here to hurt anypony, really. There's no need to be afraid."

"I… yeah," Silhouette managed before she pulled me hard enough to get my legs moving. "Bye."

"Eloquent," I noted as I was pulled toward the high table. "Really, I mean it, well done."

"That's the Butcher!" Silhouette hissed only once she was sure Hurricane wouldn't hear her over the dull roar of the crowded room. "And he threatened you to your face, and you don't care? Are you stupid?!"

"Even if he did decide to do something, Celestia would handle it."

"The goddess? You think she's gonna personally step in—wait, did you actually fuck her? When you were talking about her staring at your ass in the swamp…"

"No, no," I waved away the thought. "She's just my teacher. And my friend. Even if her idea of a 'lesson' is sometimes infuriating." I glanced briefly around the room at the thought of Star Swirl, and found the old stallion chatting with High Castle, Grand Duchess Chrysoprase (whom I had not seen in the crowd of the carriages boarding back in Everfree—a troubling addition to the crowd, even if I didn't fully understand the significance at the time) and a few other random nobleponies. "Look, it took me a while to get over it too, especially with what happened when I first met him. But Hurricane's just a friendly tired old stallion now. It's Typhoon you have to watch out for."

"Typhoon?" Silhouette repeated. "The one we're going to talk to right now? She's worse than Hurricane?"

"Oh, calm down; I didn't mean it like that. She's fine. She and I just got off on the wrong hoof." I couldn't help but chuckle. "I guess the two of you have that in common."

"Us and everypony else you've ever met?" Silhouette suggested.

I sighed. "I mean because you're both missing hooves. Though at least your story why isn't embarrassing." With barely a second between that thought and arriving at the head table at least close enough to be heard, Silhouette was left with a rather confused look on her scarred muzzle as I spoke up. "Your Majesties and et cetera..."

"Morty!" Jade grinned at the surprise of my greeting (having been deep in conversation with Gale and so facing vaguely away), only to slightly dampen upon seeing Silhouette. "I… had thought the two of you didn't get along."

"Funny how a fight to the death can bring ponies together," Silhouette answered, with just the barest hint of spite—not that I understood the edge at the time. "Gale—sorry, Your Majesty—good to see you. Anypony else make it? The little bear-shapesh—mmph!"

That last noise came from my magic grabbing onto her muzzle.

Typhoon, sitting on Gale's other side from the hosting monarch, sighed with dry amusement. "You're a little slow on the cast for us not to hear 'shapeshifter' out of that, Morty. Though most of us already know anyway."

"I'll ask later!" Puddinghead chimed in from the more distant end of the high table with surprising glee, before going back to his conversation with Smart Cookie.

"You know?" I asked Typhoon.

The pegasus triumvir nodded grimly. "Frostfall tells me the most interesting things about your experience at 'magic kindergarten'." Then her focused eyes turned on the mare beside me. "It's Silhouette, right? Are you and Morty an item, now, or…"

"Oh, it's nothing like—"

"We just needed a moment to catch up on lost time," I cut in. "Massage some… unresolved tensions."

Chancellor Puddinghead wolf-whistled mid-sentence, then carried on as if nothing had happened.

Gale frowned, put a hoof on the table, and pushed herself up to standing. "Morty, can I have a word?"

I indulged the queen of Equestria, leaving Silhouette alone for a moment between Jade and Typhoon, where she obviously felt no small nervousness unbecoming of her usual attitude.

Jade's gruff initial question did not help matters. "Was there something you wanted from me, Silhouette?"

"No, um… actually, I was hoping to talk to Commander Typhoon."

Typhoon raised her scarred brow, sat back in her seat, and nodded. "Go on."

"Um… look, I'll just cut to the chase. I'm looking for—"

There was a brief but very demanding distraction from across the room and the barely nascent conversation was quite thoroughly halted for a solid few seconds of wincing in the aftermath. To understand this distraction, we'll need to refocus for a moment on Gale and I.

"You didn't actually fuck her," was the first thing Gale said to me.

I shook my head. "Of course not."

"That wasn't actually a question, fuckwit. I'm telling you you're a shit liar."

"Are you mad?" I asked. "You don't sound mad, but—"

"I know what you're doing from Vow," she hissed, making extra effort to sound mad just to contradict my claim. "Would have been nice for us to have talked about it first, but I'm not out of the loop. It's fine. Makes sense. I fucking hate it because it's more political bullshit, but I get it. We both have to do what we have to do. But here's the kicker: I—oh, hey look!" Gale abruptly cut herself off to point across the room with one foreleg, pivoting on the other as she did.

I turned to look where she was pointing, but saw only a random servant of the Spire's palace staff entering with a tray of new hors d'oeuvres through one of the chamber's doors. What I did not see, because I was looking at the servant, was that Gale did not stop pivoting on her foreleg. Instead, kicking off the ground with both hind legs as well, she practically pirouetted on that single planted forehoof, and as she did, pulled her hind legs in tight to her body with all the power of her slim, sinewy build like as much of a coiled spring. When her rotation brought that compressed core and those folded legs to be pointed at the back right corner of my now-turned-away jaw, she released the pressure.

The result: a double-hoofed buck with her full body strength to the side of my head. If she'd been wearing Legion-issue steel shoes, I suspect she would have actually broken a vertebrae and crippled me, if not killing me outright. With softer, gentler silver shoes (it's the small mercies, I find), she only picked me up, spun me around in an orientation pegasi refer to as an aileron roll, and then left my crumpled form to stop abruptly by slamming into the nearest wall. I then made a rather awful squeaking noise, like a squeegee dragged down a not-quite-wet-enough window as I slid down to the foot of said wall.

"The kicker is, I have to play my part too," Gale concluded. "And everypony knows I don't pull my punches. Sorry, not sorry." A very satisfied Queen Platinum III took two strides away, lit her horn, and popped back into her seat with a show of teleportation that would have been quite the triumph if she didn't proceed to slap her own chin on the high table tabletop for having landed a good half-hoof too far forward in her seat.

Typhoon attended briefly to her little sister, offering a block of magically formed ice to hold against her chin (which Gale waved off appreciatively), before finally returning to the subject at hoof. "You were saying?"

"I want to join the Legion," said Silhouette, finally overcoming her hesitation and vomiting out the words in a rushed dump of thought. When Typhoon's brow climbed back to its earlier high-water mark, she continued "I'm a good scout; Morty can attest to that if you need. If he's still alive."

"He's fine," said Gale. "You fucked up his neck way worse than any time I've ever hit him and he walked that off."

"Right…" Silhouette swallowed quite visibly, turning back to Typhoon. "I know I don't have formal war experience, but I've fought enough monsters and rogue crystals that I've made a good name for myself here. And more than all that, I know my way around commanding a sizeable force. I'm not asking for a Commander's title—a, what do you call them, 'legate' or anything like that. But I could lead a squad for you. All I need is the basic pay and, I guess, for you to make me an Equestrian like Morty."

"Really?" Typhoon steepled her wings as she asked that concluding rhetorical question, more a mark of her surprise at the request than anything.

"I know I'm a crystal; I hope that won't be a problem. I'm not old enough to have fought anypony back then, and—"

"That's fine," Typhoon assured the younger soldier. "You'd be the first, so you'd have to expect you'll get trouble for it from the others, but the first earth ponies and unicorns had to go through the same. There won't be real trouble."

"Really?" Silhouette brightened at even Typhoon's tense choice.

"But I can't offer you an officer's commission," Typhoon continued.

"What? Why?"

"In the Legion, we don't fight solo the way you've learned. We—"

"Of course you do!" Silhouette interrupted. "Every story I've ever heard about you and the B—Commander Hurricane, I mean, says—"

Typhoon interrupted swiftly, and with practiced authority. "The Equestrian Legion is made up of twelve distinct legionary armies, each with four thousand soldiers and as many supporting ponies as well. One hundred thousand ponies. My father and I are two. And no matter what stories you might have heard, neither I nor he in his prime could fight even a full century alone, let alone a legion."

Though Typhoon's point in making this claim is valid, in the interest of historical accuracy, I wish to note it is also a damnable lie. Typhoon certainly could not fight the four thousand and ninety six soldiers in a standard legion with her accursed sword before they overwhelmed her, but I have every confidence that, wielding her frightening mobility as a world-class flier, using hit-and-fly tactics in combination with her ice magic, Typhoon would be the smart bet in such a conflict. It would just be very slow.

My particular insight aside, Typhoon continued with her point. "Every legionary is expected to know how to fight in those massed units. Not scrapping alone—no matter how good at it you might be—but flying in tight formation, or in your case, marching with gladius and scutum. Until you've served amongst those ponies, I won't put you ahead of them."

"I see." Silhouette didn't even properly answer the offer; she just turned and stormed away; I waylaid her en route to the doors, and the two of us made our escape only a few moments after we'd entered.

Watching us leave, Typhoon commented to her little sister "You should've killed him."

"It was for show," Gale confided back, though with a hint of a grin she added "Fun as hell though."

"For show?"

"Unicorn politics bullshit. Just keep it between us?"

"Ah. Sure." Typhoon picked up the crystal goblet set before her, and had it nearly to her lips when Gale sat back in her seat, revealing a rather intense look in the commander's direction coming from Queen Jade. "Oh, um… something you wanted, Your Majesty?"

"Hmm? No, nothing. I just… I certainly wouldn't want to tell you how to run the Legion of course, but it would be a pretty big favor to me and Cookie if you could take her on." When Typhoon raised a brow, Jade retreated from the pause behind the veil of a bite of sweetbread laden with sugared crystal berries.

Typhoon might have left it at that, but Gale was not so easily deterred. "You want to get rid of her? If it's just the whole thing with Morty and I, let me say officially on behalf of the crown, it's water under the bridge. She's a damn good fighter."

"I know," Jade agreed. "Maybe the best in the Union. It's not her fault, but… Well, you understand. Sometimes it's not what you do, it's who you are."

"I don't follow," Gale answered. Then, after a bit of a pause, "I mean, obviously for me that's true, and you were born an alicorn so that probably carries some weight, but—"

"I wasn't, actually," said Jade. "I, um… After I lost my father," (Jade pointedly refrained from glancing in Hurricane's direction across the room) "and most of the old warband, Halite started hunting those of us who were left. We were the last real resistance against his dominance of all the crystal clans and tribes. One by one, I lost my friends. Eventually, I was alone, freezing in a cave on the side of Mount Garnet. I prayed… well, it's more like I just cried out for any help I could. I must have fallen asleep, or passed out from the cold, but whatever happened, Luna heard me. And when I told her my story, and what I hoped to achieve for the crystals, she gave me her blessing." Jade extended what remained of her wings, and glanced somewhat cross-eyed up at the broken shards of her horn, both fairly briefly. "Her only requirement was that I not let anyone know of her involvement or her existence."

"That was before dad found them, then?" Gale asked.

Jade nodded. "Fifteen years before Onyx Ridge; maybe a little more. I know crystal earth ponies stay looking young for a long time, and nopony has a good frame of reference for alicorn age, but I'm a little older than your mother, Your Majesty. Anyway, since nopony was left who remembered me, when I came out of that cave and went to try and bring some of the clans who weren't as close to Halite's cause over to my side, I told them I was born this way; both my way of keeping my promise, and a good excuse for why they should follow me. Now, obviously, it doesn't matter much if I'm honest about it, but stories are hard to change sometimes."

"Well, thank you for trusting us with the truth," said Gale. "But, uh… I'm still not following how that applies to Silhouette? The only weird thing about her is the new foreleg she got a couple months ago, right?"

"I would like that to be the whole story," Jade answered with a wistful smile. "But I'm not as good at telling those kind of stories as you are down in Equestria. I can't find a place for her here, not anymore; you follow?"

"I… think I do?" Gale asked, glancing back to Typhoon.

Her sister offered a rather tentative nod. "I follow there's something wrong with her, but if you know what it is, Gale, you're ahead of me. She's not old enough to have worked with Halite or done something terrible, and you went as far as to take a mare who was close to the warlord and put her in the highest rank you had open, so obviously that's not a problem for you."

"Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer," Jade replied. "You understand enough, Typhoon; I'd rather not talk more about this in completely open company. I'll just say: even if Wintershimmer stoked a certain amount of paranoia in my court to serve his own ends, he wasn't often wrong. I need Silhouette out of power in my army, and ideally out of the Union, but she hasn't actually done anything wrong herself… the whole thing with Morty and Wintershimmer aside. So I feel bad for her. If you could humor her to be a scout-centurion or something to soothe her ego, I promise you, she'd be useful to you. And her heart's in the right place."

Typhoon sighed. "Be that as it may, it's one thing to accept a crystal into the Legion; it's another to let her skip up the ranks. If I'd taken a unicorn who was thrown out of a knightly order in disgrace and made them a legate or even a centurion, morale would be in shambles. I gave her the best offer I could. If you want her to take it, you're going to have to help her over her ego first."

"I might be able to help with that," said Gale between the two older mares. When they both looked at her, she couldn't help but don a small grin. "I've learned a thing or two about dealing with oversized egos recently."

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

When the doors at the far side of the room from the high table opened once again, it marked the first time in nearly a quarter century that all six of the survivors of the first Hearth's Warming were in the same room. Clover the Clever entered in full glory, carrying a wooden stave and flanked on either side by the two pegasi who had pulled her chariot: Tempest and Blizzard. She wore not wizard's robes, but instead an elegant ball gown of thin, nearly transparent lace netting, interspersed with diamonds. The net effect (pun fully intended) was that at least at a distance, she seemed to be surrounded in a floating matrix of glittering stars. (Again, her traditional costume of tattered sackcloths in the pageant is utter tripe).

Despite Clover's importance to this story, though, I shall have to spare you reciting her reunions with old friends (and one newer enemy, given Hurricane's loathing of her talents as a playwright—for those wondering why no first editions of the original pageant script exist, it is because Hurricane personally hunted them down and burnt them; anecdotally, this may be reflected in his character being rather harsher and more racist in the now popularized second edition). Our focus instead must settle on a rather uncomfortable reunion between two half-sisters.

Blizzard shared a brief hug with Hurricane (as did Tempest) before the grandfather was pulled away by his wife to share reintroductions with Clover after her long absence. Feeling suddenly aware of her place in a rather busy and social room, the young mare drifted over to where the welcome form of her grandfather had been seated, hoping that if she just sat still, hunched down, and kept to herself, he might return to keep her company and shield her in what was one of the bigger social events of her life.

Just as she settled herself, however, Sirocco returned with a platter of drinks and further refreshments for herself, her Commander, and his wife.

"Sirocco," said Blizzard as she hesitantly looked up.

"Traitor," Sirocco snapped back, though at least the snideful utterance was quiet, drawing no attention from the surrounding group. "Father sent you? I'm surprised he didn't entrust Maelstrom. Or is he already done with you too?"

Blizzard winced. "Oh… y-you don't know, do you?"

"Know what?"

"Maelstrom…" Blizzard hung her head, took a deep breath, and then calmly forced the words off of her tongue. "Maelstrom is dead, Sirocco."

Sirocco stared for a few seconds, blinking, and then simply said "I don't believe you."

Blizzard glanced around the room, then leaned forward. "There's more griffons. They came after you left. When food ran low, Wrest wanted to kill them. Maelstrom tried to protect them against her. Wrest killed him."

"More…" Sirocco shook her head. "No, no he can't…" Flames began to build on her wings as the platter with which she was carrying the drinks and food clattered onto the floor, splashing rich purple wine on the glittering crystalwork. "You're lying."


"No!" Sirocco shouted. "He's not dead!" Flames burst up from her wings. "You shut your lying traitor mouth…"

The younger sister's words died down in shock when, despite the accusations (and the pressures of the scene she was causing, now fully turning heads), Blizzard had moved around the table, wrapped her wings around her sister's shoulders, and embraced her in a hug.

For a moment, the two were silent, peaceful. Blizzard shed a few tears in her brother's memory. Far more flowed from Sirocco's face.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Sirocco pushed Blizzard away violently with a hoof, and when Blizzard didn't fully yield, she got a shod hoof to the eye for her troubles. As ponies gasped at the fight, the burnt orange mare spread her wings and flew out of the room, trailing smoke as she went, and forced her way past the palace's attendants until she finally reached the quiet of the Union night sky.

Typhoon was the first to arrive at Blizzard's side; unlike Gale, she gladly accepted the offer of ice for what would, the following morning, become a rather bitter black eye. Soon thereafter, Hurricane arranged a private room to tend to his granddaughter and spare her the discomfort of being the center of attention in such a gathering. It was, I suspect, not his plan but rather just a lucky coincidence that the small bedchamber Jade afforded for her care was also a private enough place for Blizzard to give a report in full of River Rock's state and its newer griffon arrivals to Hurricane.

The old stallion was strong enough, and had suffered enough in his life, that through the news, he only comforted Blizzard with the embrace of his one wing, and saw her comforted as he tucked her into bed. But if one listened close that very night to the wind at the battlements near the top of the crystal spire, one might have heard the haunting voice of a broken old soldier cursing his gods. And in the morning, though the first winter frost had not yet touched the spire, one would find a line of icicles dripping as they dangled from the polished stone.

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