• Published 14th Oct 2019
  • 3,202 Views, 142 Comments

Never Seen - semillon



Ten years after Princess Twilight’s coronation, the Student Six are no longer friends.

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BROKEN WINGS

GET TO THE MOUNTAIN TRAIL THEY’RE BEING REALLY ANNOYING GO FIX IT!

The writing was hurried. Irritated. Gallus wasn’t sure who wrote it, but it must have been somegriff near the entrance to town. The mail service, once headed by Gabby, had been left in good talons and was as fast and alert as ever.

He left his house groaning.

Back to work. Back to living. Sudden bouts of fear be damned.

Past the newly made houses on the outskirts of Griffonstone was the official entrance to the town. It was an elegant golden arch adorned with two red phoenix wings. Under it, a large wagon blocked the path.

Gallus crept around the wagon to find an earth pony mare hitched to the wagon. She had a pale yellow coat, a short red mane, and brown eyes to boot. On her flank lay a mark of autumn leaves, gliding carelessly on a breeze.

In front of the pony was a griffon, colored from feather to fur like a roasted chestnut. Gallus recognized her as Gwenn: one of the heads of Griffonstone’s construction teams.

Both of them were tethered to similarly sized wagons. Both could not be on the trail at once.

“Move!” screamed the mare, her voice young and intense. “I’m not gonna ask again!”

“No,” Gwenn said firmly.

“Why not?”

“You already know.”

“Oh my—move it! I have to check in to the inn by sunset!”

“Then you should hurry.”

“I would if there wasn’t a stupid griffon in my way!”

“That’s another ten minutes I’m gonna stand here.”

“I swear to Celestia I’ll—”

“You’ll what? Bite me with your flat teeth?”

The mare opened her mouth to respond, but Gallus took the opportunity to loudly interject. “What’s the problem here, ladies?”

The mare turned on him with a snarl. “And just who do you think you are?”

“My name is Gallus. I’m in charge of keeping the town quiet, and you’re being loud.”

The mare’s eyes widened. “Gallus, like, Captain Gallus?”

Gallus’s tail went stiff momentarily. “Yeah. Now, what’s the problem?”

Gwenn was all too happy to explain. “She won’t move her wagon.”

I won’t—do you hear this? Are you hearing her?” The mare scoffed, her previous train of thought obscured by frustration. “She could very, very easily step aside for a second and let me pass, but instead she’s been sitting on her butt for half an hour and refusing to move because I was ‘rude’ to her!”

“I’m standing,” Gwenn said.

The mare’s face twisted into a monument of annoyance. “I know that!”

Gallus raised an eyebrow at Gwenn. “What’d she do?”

“Called me a bird,” huffed Gwenn.

“That’s what you are!” said the mare.

“Right.” Gallus clicked his tongue, turning to her. “Your name, miss?”

“Late Harvest,” she said.

“Have you ever been around griffons before, Harvest?”

“No,” she snorted. “Why?”

“Birds are dumb,” he said. “They’re weird, and they have scary, unfeeling eyes, and you don’t get to call us birds just because we look like birds, and share genetic similarities to birds, and eat worms sometimes. No griffon likes birds. That’s not an exaggeration. Zero griffons like birds. We all hate them. Like, a lot. The only thing that they’re good for is dinner. Did you try apologizing to Gwenn over here?”

“No,” muttered Harvest, looking away.

“Why is that?” asked Gallus.

“Because she’s in my way.”

“Look, I know it’s really annoying to have your way blocked like this, but you said something that upset her.”

“I didn’t mean—”

“You didn’t?” Gwenn interrupted, monotone as ever but with a caustic tone to her voice that wasn’t there before.

Harvest sighed. “I didn’t know you would actually be offended.”

Gwenn laughed harshly. “Then I guess you were just yelling at me to be friendly?”

“Maybe?” said Harvest. “I-I kind of figured that a griffon would respect me for being—I don’t know—not your average cuddly pony.”

“That’s stupid.” Gallus blinked. “But I appreciate the thought.”

From his periphery, he could see Gwenn turn to him with an eyebrow raised. “You’re letting her off the hook?”

“She was trying to speak our language,” he said, not looking away from Harvest. “I’ll give her more credit than the other pony tourists who come here and then are shocked out of their minds when we turn out to be the worst.”

Gwenn grunted agreeably. Gallus smiled.

Harvest’s eyes bounced from Gallus, to Gwenn, and to Gallus again. “So will you move your cart?”

Gwenn looked to Gallus. He shook his head. “You still need to apologize. It wasn’t a very kind thing for you to keep arguing and yelling when it clearly didn’t work the first time.”

Harvest groaned in response.

“My brother made your window at the castle, you know,” Harvest said. “You oughta be thankful. I’m the one who pushed him to accept the princess’s commission.”

“I’ll be sure to buy him dinner if I run into him,” said Gallus. “Now apologize.”

“You’re actually serious? We aren’t in grade school!”

Gallus glared.

Harvest cringed under his stern expression, and, after a glance at the sky, looked to Gwenn. “I’m sorry for calling you a bird.”

“Say the whole thing,” Gwenn said, smiling.

“I’m sorry for calling you a dirt-caked, arrogant, ugly bird.”

Gwenn backed her wagon up, turning to give Harvest enough room to pass. “I forgive you.”

With a huff, Late Harvest lugged her wagon back into motion, passing Gwenn with a glare that didn’t entirely sell her remorse.

Gallus exchanged nods with Gwenn before he followed in Harvest’s hoofsteps. He made sure to walk slow, and not make too much noise. The mare was still in his sight, and he would be in hers if she turned around, and he didn’t want that. The last thing he wanted was to talk to a pony.

But avoiding her was a cowardly move, and Gallus didn’t want to be a coward. He sighed, willing himself to move forward. He caught up to Harvest in no time, and she smiled when he reached her side.

“First time in Griffonstone?” he asked before she could speak, to avoid suspicion. “I don’t know why I asked that. It clearly is.”

“Yeah,” she said. “I’m supposed to be staying at Greta’s Inn. Near the tree? I still can’t get over the giant tree that you guys have. It’s just—there’s just a tree in your town.”

“Greta’s inn is nice place,” Gallus said. “You’ll have a decent time there.”

“Only decent?”

“Maybe more than decent.”

It didn’t take long for them to reach the town, and when they did, Late Harvest stopped to gawk. Gallus waited.

“Oh my stars,” she gasped.

Under the sun’s joyful zenith, Griffonstone’s town square looked like something out of a postcard. Newly furnished buildings stood proud all around, smelling as delightfully rustic (and somehow sweet) as freshly cut wood always did. They were like buildings one would find in a fairy tale: almond brown walls latticed with white wood, with cleanly cut triangular roofs that were freshly tiled, and loomed above balconies whose railings were lined with colorful flower pots.

There were griffons everywhere, flying to and fro, hanging out on porches, selling odd wares to passersby; all smiling or, at the very least, not angry.

“Even the windows are shining,” said Harvest, finally walking forward, letting Gallus do the same as her eyes roamed the town square excitedly. “This looks like Appleloosa, almost. It’s so lively. This looks like it could be a pony town.”

“Yeah,” said Gallus. “It’s not too shabby.”

“Where’s—”

“I’ll lead you to Greta’s,” he said, and began walking towards the inn. “You seem really surprised.”

“The newspapers said it was nice, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this nice,” Harvest said, glancing around. “Wasn’t this place a dump ten years ago?”

The other townsgriffons paid them no mind as they entered the heart of the square. Ponies were a common enough sight, though only a few took up permanent residence.

Just outside the square lay Greta’s inn: a humble abode of three stories, with a small pub beside the check-in desk. It had never been completely full, but there lay an air of quiet nostalgia that Gallus relished in whenever he had the pleasure of visiting. He liked the peaceful nature of a place with but a few griffons. Once, he would have preferred the contagious mirth of a full tavern stuffed with griffons, euphoric on mead, but his tastes had changed over the last few years.

He liked the calm. It offered no surprises.

He walked Harvest to the inn and watched as she parked her wagon and came up to him with a smile.

“Thank you,” she said.

“How long are you staying?” Gallus asked.

Harvest shrugged. “Maybe I’ll stay forever. Can’t be hard to find someplace nice. Half the place seems like it’s under construction.”

Gallus blinked, and it was like he had popped his ears or something, because he could hear the hypnotic sound of hammering and sawing cascade around him. He looked back to see multiple unfinished buildings, peeking through the pristine line of finished ones, almost like they were hiding.

“I guess,” said Gallus.

“Like, how long has that building been under construction?” said Harvest, pointing to an unfinished house across the road.

“A week or so.”

“What?”

“A week or so,” Gallus repeated, raising a brow. “Why?”

Harvest looked at him like he had grown a third wing. “It’s almost finished!”

He shrugged. “I guess.”

Harvest raised an eyebrow. “That’s weird.”

Gallus shrugged yet again. “I haven’t really thought about it.”

“Seriously?”

Gallus rolled his eyes. “Look, are you gonna grill me all day or tell me what you’re planning on doing next?”

“I’ll probably check in and get the keys to my room,” said Harvest, still looking at the construction. “...You’re sure it’s only been a week?”

“Of course,” Gallus said. “And I meant, what are you going to do in Griffonstone now that you’re here? I don’t think I asked.”

“See the sights, probably,” said Harvest. She finally turned away from the buildings to look him in the eye. “Do you know where Grover’s castle is?”

“That’s an easy one,” Gallus said. He walked Harvest a few yards more and pointed to the top of the giant stone tree, which was half a mile away, and the ruined castle that lay in its middle.

“Oh!” Harvest chirped. “Oh, wow.”

The ruins of Grover’s castle, and the branches of the stone tree near to it, looked comparable to a fallen ice cream cone at a picnic, covered in ants. Only the ants in this case were griffons. Young, strong griffons swarming the castle, building on every part at once.

He had always hated that gargantuan tree. He hated how it towered over the rest of the town, and he hated how some of the more pompous, rich townsgriffons took refuge in extravagant homes in the tree’s branches, near the fork in the tree where the castle was. So he never gave himself much reason to look up at the tree. Until now.

It was like waking from a dream.

Gallus backed up a few steps, suddenly finding breathing to be a strange, unfamiliar sensation. This—

Where was he? Where did all of this construction come from? He hated the noise that hammers made. Surely he would have been annoyed at those, but he breezed right past their hypnotic slamming like they were nothing.

He looked back at the town square, now seeing even more construction behind the finished buildings, but even then, the buildings were so, so close to being finished.

But he didn’t remember half of it. Surely he would have seen it? He would have watched the construction take place slowly, and be completed in a year if the workers were fast. But—but it was like some of these buildings had been erected overnight.

Where was he?

“You okay?” Harvest asked.

Gallus blinked. The feeling was gone.

“I’m fine,” he said. “See you around.”

He managed to smile awkwardly at her before he turned around and, on pure, forgotten instinct, spread his wings.

His eyes widened, and he drew his wings in again.

He stopped himself from looking backwards, from seeing the pity that must have been on Harvest’s face, because hearing the gasp that rose from her lips was painful enough.

“Sorry,” he said. “You didn’t have to see that.”

“I—I didn’t know,” she said.

“Not many creatures do,” he replied. “See you around.”

Gallus walked until he heard the little bell of Greta’s front door. Then he ran.

It was four o’clock—or something like that—when he was finally able to return home. He skipped out on checking up on Gilda and Gabby. He’d do that later, after he had a bath. Maybe a pint of mead or three.

He sprinted for the bathroom once he entered his home, having eyes only for the immaculate white ceramic tub next to the shower. It was cleanly cut, square, and attached to the wall, and from the faucet came what seemed like the clearest, warmest water in the world as he began to fill the tub. As the water pooled, he sat on the edge and glanced to the mirror.

A dilapidated, baggy-eyed, sad griffon greeted him. His crest feathers were a mess, frayed at the edges and pointing in odd directions, like he had been struck by lightning. He looked like the exact opposite of Griffonstone, with its rapid expansion and its newfound beauty. He looked tired, and he was.

His instincts were right. A bath was exactly what he needed.

It wasn’t long until the tub filled completely, and he stepped into it, sinking into the comforting heat of the water with a restrained sigh.

When he was almost fully submerged save for his head, Gallus closed his eyes. After moving back to Griffonstone, life quickly became about the little luxuries—the quiet moments that he had to himself when he wasn’t dealing with the small problems of the town.

As he washed himself, a cynical part of his mind wondered if he’d be out of a job soon. When he first arrived back, he was regularly called in to deal with situations of true hatred and vitriol; unpaid debts, family feuds, scams.

Now, well...things were getting better, and they didn’t look like they would stop. First, the city gained dozens of houses and renovated the old ones. Now, it was clean and new, the kind of place that creatures would actually want to live, and it seemed like the citizens were following the same trend. At the very least, nogriff was regularly fighting anymore—except Glenda and Gilroy, but those two were always bickering.

What would he even do if he had no one to mediate? No crimes to solve? Either of those things disappearing completely was an improbability, sure, but the thought seemed more valid to him than it should have, and it poked at his brain until he shivered.

If everything was so good, what was wrong with him? Why was he so…

He couldn’t think of a word. Tired, sad, and hazy seemed too weak for it. Too far away from it.

Maybe he was being doomed: the council was sacrificing him to some dark god for prosperity, and they needed a griffon who had a stained, filthy past, and that no one would miss if he went missing.

An hour passed as his thoughts drifted from one topic to another, and before he knew it, he had spent way too long in the hot water.

He climbed out of the bath, limbs tingly and awkward from the lack of activity, and fetched himself a towel. Gingerly, he started with his head, patting himself down until his crest feathers were no longer dripping or stuck to his forehead. Then he dried off his chest, belly and legs.

After that, it was time for his wings.

He watched himself in the mirror as he unfurled his wings. The halves closer to his body flared out like they were supposed to, and the outer halves bent grotesquely backwards, his primaries almost pointing at the small of his back.

Gallus brought his wing closer to his barrel and dried it off, touching it as gently as possible. He could barely look at the things when he had first lost his flight, but he was rather proud that he had gotten to a place where he could look at them in the mirror without feeling repulsed. Now, he didn’t feel anything, and that was a blessing.

He could very well have stayed inside his home, lying down on his couch in the afternoon sunlight as he completed a crossword or napped, but his encounter with Late Harvest had triggered a certain yearning in him for a certain pair of griffons. He wanted to see Gilda and Gabby. To talk to them, listen to their voices. The most optimistic part of him wondered about making plans to go out, maybe eat dinner at a restaurant together. But exchanging a few friendly words would be more than enough.

The small path to the office barely took a minute to walk. The sun was on its way to setting, but wasn’t quite there yet. It blazed orange in the sky. Gallus hummed to himself, focusing solely on keeping his tune in check as he cantered up the steps to the back door, where he could already hear Gilda’s voice.

He turned the handle and stepped inside, and—

“How stupid can you possibly be?” Gabby seethed, standing on one side of the living room. She was nearly yelling, but there was such a dark intensity to her words that she didn’t need to raise her volume to make her feelings evident. Her feathers were ruffled from head to wings, and the fur on her lower half was standing on end. “No, I’m seriously asking. Do you need me to repeat that again? Did your dumb pigeon brain hear me right the first time?”

“Oh, shut up,” said Gilda, who was on the other side, by the fire. “You know exactly what Gloria needed.”

Gallus restrained himself from sighing.

Gloria was a townie, same as them. She grew up in Griffonia, and moved to Griffonstone when she was Gallus’s age. Since his deputization, he had been over to visit Gloria multiple times a month. She was troubled. Gallus had thought to himself multiple times that she needed a therapist, but there were none of those in Griffonstone.

“She needed a friend!” yelled Gabby.

Gilda rolled her eyes. “She needs to stop whining and get her life together!”

Gabby laughed hatefully. “You can help her do that without calling her entire family garbage.”

“Guys,” Gallus interrupted.

He was completely ignored.

“Motivation,” Gilda explained, slowing down the word. “You might not know this, because you’ve only been alive for, like, two years, but her dad sucked. Her mom was terrible. Her sister––”

“Okay, again,” Gabby interrupted. “You can––”

“Don’t talk over me,” Gilda snapped. “If any reasonable griffon was in Gloria’s position they’d be working to make themselves better than their parents. Not crying all day and lashing out at whoever was trying to help them.”

“Guys?” Gallus tried again. “I’m standing right here.”

“No one here knows how to help her,” Gabby said.

“And you do?”

“Yes!” Gabby yelled. “You know what the worst thing about this entire job is? No one wants to fire you, Gilda, just because you were the first griffon here to accept friendship. Gruff handed this job to you, and now no one can take it away. But you’re bad at it. You don’t know anything about compromise, or trust, or being kind.”

Gallus stepped forward at that, awkwardly closing the back door with a hind leg. His wings twitched, wanting to unfurl as he approached the girls. “Gabby, lay off of her. Let’s go take a walk or something.”

“No!” said Gilda. “Let her say whatever she wants. She’s clearly the expert here. That’s why she helped Gloria out after she tried to burn Gray’s house down, right? That’s why she didn’t follow me back here with her fat tail between her fat, wobbly legs and that’s why she didn’t wait until we were back home to blow up at me like she isn’t a fucking tubby little pussy-faced coward.”

Gallus puffed up, feathers and fur flared electrically. He opened his beak to say something, but no words would come.

“What happened to you?” Gabby said.

“Nothing!” Gilda snapped, flying towards the front door and throwing it open. She turned to glare at the two of them, hate screaming loudly in her eyes. “I guess I just woke up today and realized that I’m trapped in this shitty town and I work with two kids that think they can match up to me as equals when one is a nasty little dragon-fucking fatass and the other is a sad orphan with broken dreams and broken wings.

The door slammed. Gallus’s ears were ringing.

It couldn’t be happening. Not again. It couldn’t. He couldn’t do that again.

He wouldn’t be able to survive another wave of fights, constant and brutal, with no one ever meaning what they were saying, but saying it anyway. He wouldn’t be able to go through another collapse.

This wasn’t why he moved back to Griffonstone.

“What happened?” he asked Gabby. She looked like she was on the verge of tears. “With Gloria, I mean.”

“Not important,” she said quietly. “Normal Gloria stuff, right? She’s been having it hard. But Gilda…she’s been acting more and more...griffony for the last week. I feel like I’m talking to her from—from twenty years ago or something.”

“Seriously?” asked Gallus. “I’ve never seen Gilda so angry. Not even when I was slumming it with Gruff at his place, before I started school. You’re sure nothing happened?”

“Yes!”

“Then, what, I just haven’t noticed her turning into a massive jerk all of a sudden?”

“Yes. You haven’t,” muttered Gabby. “You’re always going off on your own.”

He watched her fly away, soft sobs starting to crawl out of her throat, until she disappeared up the stairs.

A voice in the back of his mind pleaded with him to go after her—to knock on her room or something—but he didn’t. Instead, he stood in the living room awhile and pretended like hearing his friend’s crying through the floorboards was a helpful thing to do.

His posture slouched. There seemed to be spiders crawling around in his guts.

He just wanted to talk. He needed to talk. To anybody.

“Gallus!” Gertrude said after she opened the door. “I’m so glad you came by. I was worried that you were just being polite last night. Come in! Would you like some of that Marebucks I mentioned?”

Caffeine was more than welcome. “Sure thing,” he said, stepping into the foyer. Gertrude left him with a smile as she flew down the hall and turned a corner, to where the living room and kitchen were.

From what he had seen so far, the hallway didn’t look all that different in the daylight. But he could see a few things better, like the paintings that were hung on the walls, all of seascapes. At night, he simply thought they were the standard photorealistic prints that one might find in a large Equestrian city, and didn’t think to inspect them closely. Now, though, he could see that they were a little more abstract than that.

He stepped closer to one, admiring the creative use of pinks and purples that melded into the sky above the sea. It reminded him of Mount Aris.

But, as he thought more about it, and inspected more of the paintings, he realized that they were, in fact, the waters of Mount Aris. He turned his gaze to the bottom left corner of the painting he was looking at and saw the initials S.S in the corner, and he felt the urge to vomit.

“Gallus?” Gertrude’s voice drifted from around the corner. “Is everything alright?”

Gallus turned from the painting, walked down the hall and entered the living room.

Gertrude was sitting on a couch, two cups of coffee on the table in front of her, the previously broken window behind her now completely repaired. She smiled as Gallus gawked at it, saying, “You’ll be surprised how fast a griffon can work when they get paid not only in money, but in food and gifts.”

Gallus went to a chair next to Gertrude, graciously picking up a cup of coffee before sitting down and nestling into the plush warmth. “Is that why you have all this stuff lying around? So you can give it away?”

“Partly,” said Gertrude. “How has your day been, so far?”

“Cruddy,” he said. “Yours?”

“Productive,” she replied.

Gertrude turned to glance at the line of book shelves that Gallus was admiring the night before. He looked to it as well, and was surprised to find that the order had been completely rearranged.

“Sometimes I like reading by category,” she explained in response to his questioning look. “But usually I prefer alphabetical order. It’s nice to have that variety.”

“Don’t think I’ve ever met a griffon who likes books as much as you do,” he said.

She laughed. “Many griffons happen to be uneducated, as well. No disrespect towards them, of course, but I haven’t had a decent discussion about changeling opera in months and I’m dying to talk about this beautiful performance of Parasite Lost I managed to catch in the Badlands last time I was in Equestria.”

Gallus looked around, making sure nogriff was around to hear before he leaned forward to giggle softly. “I love Parasite Lost. My—someone I knew from school took me to see it one summer and I couldn’t stop singing all of Pharynx’s songs to myself for the next year.”

“Oh, I’ve been tracking Parasite Lost since it first came to the Ocular Theatre. That performance I was talking about had the most haunting Chrysalis I’ve ever seen. Her voice was like frost forming on wet leaves in the morning. I wish I could relive those four hours again, just once.”

“I guess the third act is still as long as ever?” Gallus grinned.

“You’re one of those types, aren’t you?” teased Gertrude. “Well, I happen to like Thorax’s monologues.”

“They’re so—” Gallus waved his talons, scrunching his face up in disgust.

“I find that those who hate that act tend to have sad histories themselves,” Gertrude said.

Gallus held up his talons, palms out. “You got me,” he replied, laughing softly.

They shared a smile. It was the first time Gallus had talked about anything other than griffons or—Celestia forbid—ponies, in a long while. It was a sorely needed change from his day to day.

And yet, through his blush and his easy bliss, there lay a clarity at the center of his soul, and it wiped away every ounce of happiness that had been created in the last few minutes until he was left with a single, niggling question that he couldn’t hold in.

“You want something from me, don’t you?” Gallus asked.

“A nice talk, for one,” said Gertrude, but behind her joking tone lay a sharp edge.

“You gotta admit that it’s weird for you to invite me over. Weirder for me to actually come, now that I think about it...”

The merchant sighed, an easy smile still on her face. Gallus watched as she took a sip of her coffee before she answered.

“I’m not interested in obtaining anything from you,” Gertrude said. “But I would be lying if I said I asked you over for the sake of it, as pleasant company as you are. If you’re interested—and you don’t have to be in order to be my friend—I’m of the opinion that there’s something the both of us can gain from being friends.”

Gallus had heard that tone before, haggling for apples at the market. He was suddenly unsure of everything that had happened in the last few minutes. Gertrude’s house, once slightly familiar, again felt foreign.

He kept control of his face as he leaned forward, not wanting any of his thoughts to show in his expression. “Tell me more.”

Gertrude smiled, shaking her graceful head. “Does this mean you’re interested?”

“Can’t be interested in something without knowing what it is first.”

“That is fair.” She took a sip of her coffee and, remembering that he had one too, Gallus did as well. “How much do you know about the Council of Griffonstone, Gallus?”

He knew a decent amount. He knew that Gruff, weathered by age and tired of his role as the sole leader of Griffonstone, had brought a select few griffons together to help him fulfill his duties. Most of the council, like Gilda, had already been innovators or leaders in some way. Gertrude was the only member who rallied her way in through public support.

But he didn’t want to tell her that. He wasn’t sure what she wanted, but he wasn’t going to let himself be taken advantage of, however she was planning on doing so. Feigning ignorance seemed the wisest course.

“Not much,” Gallus admitted, placing his cup on the arm of his chair. “That’s more Gilda’s joint, though she hasn’t needed to fill her ambassador gig in a while for some reason.”

Gertrude nodded. “What do you know about our responsibilities?”

“You got into the council because of your stance on trading, right? So you probably deal with stuff about Griffonstone’s trading. You probably work with Equestria a lot. Like Gilda. But Gilda—”

He stopped himself. She had warned him, hadn’t she?

Since when did he listen to Gilda, though? He continued talking. “Gilda doesn’t talk about you much, so I guess you guys don’t really work together, huh?”

Gertrude blinked. There was something in her eyes that Gallus couldn’t place. “Do you know anything else about the council? You haven’t had contact with them?”

He hadn’t, but he didn’t want to admit that. He still wasn’t sure what she wanted from him. Was it to get to Gilda? That wouldn’t make sense. She didn’t even do all that much.

“Why do you ask?” he asked.

“There’s something else that you need to know,” said Gertrude, “but you have to tell me that you want to know. It’s dangerous information.”

Gallus blinked. He didn’t like the sound of that. “Well, I don’t know. What are the stakes?”

Gertrude’s posture wilted. Her eyes became almost dim as she caught and held Gallus’s confused gaze. She was almost a completely different griffon. “Gallus, there’s something strange going on here. In the town square, on the outskirts, in our own homes...do you not feel it? I need to know if you do. I need to...”

She trailed off.

Gallus’s skin crawled, and his feathers and fur began to bristle anxiously. The air suddenly felt different—completely the same, temperature-wise, but the texture of it had changed, like it was fuzzier, and there was a feeling in the air that felt distinctly like somegriff was watching him.

“You’re the only one home, right?” Gallus asked. Something told him that there was something wrong. Fear was beginning to take hold of him, but there should have been nothing wrong. He was sitting on a couch in a friend’s house.

Gertrude seemed to come to some kind of understanding behind her piercing stare, and she adjusted her seating. Her body relaxed slightly, and with it, Gallus found himself able to breathe just a little better.

“Griffonstone is on its way to becoming a rising nation within the region of Equus,” explained Gertrude. “We’ve made leaps and bounds in the past few years in terms of infrastructure, economy and diplomatic relations. Has anything changed about your job, Gallus?”

“I don’t know. What do you mean?” he asked.

He felt slightly silly for doing so, but there was something in the back of his mind that was telling him to keep his eyes on Gertrude—like she could disappear if he didn’t keep his eyes on her, or even if he blinked.

“Everygriff seems happier,” he said, hesitantly, “but that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

“No,” replied Gertrude. “Look, I’m not trying to cheat you out of your bits or use you to get to Gilda. I just need to know that you’re not—”

Gallus shifted in his seat, and his cup of coffee fell from its perch on his thigh. He squawked in surprise as the fine ceramic rolled off of the chair and fell to the floor, shattering loudly.

The coffee crawled out from the cup’s point of impact, spreading over the smooth floor until Gallus could see his own reflection in the wide puddle. He sat there, staring until he realized what he had done.

“Frass,” Gallus cursed. “I’ll clean it—”

“It’s fine!” Gertrude said loudly, standing. Again she seemed like she had swapped bodies with another. Gallus had never seen somecreature so purely on edge in a long time. Gertrude’s neck feathers were completely erect, as if something invisible was tugging on each of them.

Gallus opened his mouth to talk, but Gertrude put a talon up to silence him. He waited until she put it down, after she had steadied her breathing, and she was suddenly back to her old self. It was like the previous moment never happened.

“I just realized we’ve been talking for two hours,” said Gertrude, a smile on her face. “You should go.”

“Two hours?” Gallus balked, turning towards the clock mounted on the wall above them. “There’s no way that—”

He stopped.

That couldn’t be right.

The clock had to be broken. There was no way they had talked for that long.

A talon on his shoulder made him flinch, and he stumbled out of the chair with his eyes wide.

“You’re busy, aren’t you?” asked Gertrude. There was something in her voice that Gallus wanted to call regret, but he didn’t know what she could possibly be regretful of. “You should go. Go home. Now. I shouldn’t have—of course they would—”

“Gertrude?” he asked. “What the hell were we doing for two hours?”

Every window lining Gertrude’s living room and kitchen broke.

Wind. There was nothing but the feeling of wind through his feathers and it was so harsh and powerful that Gallus was thrown onto the ground. He yelled in the sudden gale, shutting his eyes tight as he felt shards of glass glance his sides.

Gallus heard words, but he couldn’t make them out. He called out for Gertrude, for Gilda or Gabby, but he heard no response. How could he? Air was rushing through his ears like he had jumped off the highest point on the world, head first.

The wind’s intensity increased, and Gallus found that his grip on the floor beginning to weaken. He yelled, reaching out for any furniture he could hold onto, but his eyes were still shut, and he couldn’t find any.

His body gave way to the wind. It tossed him into the air, and he crashed against a wall, back hitting first and knocking the breath out of his lungs. His head was thrown back hard, smashing against the wall so hard that his eyes were forced open.

He saw Gertrude on her back, on the floor, looking up at the ceiling. She looked terrified. Like her soul had been robbed of any joy that it possessed. She was trying to talk to something.

Gallus tried to push himself up and stand, but the wind—whatever it was—was still pounding against his body. He had nearly drowned in a river once, when he was a hatchling. He thought back to the way that he was helpless against that current.

Gallus tried to look up, to see who Gertrude was talking to, but in that moment, one of the books from Gertrude’s bookshelves flew towards him, and its corner hammered into the side of his head.

Then there was black.

Author's Note:

Special thanks to Miller Minus and Jack of a Few Trades for their help with editing this chapter :heart: