• Published 14th Oct 2019
  • 3,196 Views, 142 Comments

Never Seen - semillon



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

  • ...
7
 142
 3,196

RUNAWAY

Gallus awoke in the middle of the night, surrounded by shattered glass and flecks of his own blood. The glass had cut into his chest and legs, slashing him moderately, but those cuts were already scabbing over. He felt sore, but he wasn’t exactly in pain as much as he was completely dazed.

“Gertrude?” he called. No answer came. The living room was in shambles. She was definitely gone.

Gallus forced himself up. A frosty breeze came in through the side of the house, getting under his feathers. He winced, and made for the hall leading to the front door. Torn shreds of Mount Aris lay at his feet. A bit of Basalt Beach here, a bit of the sea as seen from the Pine Needle Barrens over there, the prismatic colors of Seaquestria on Freedom Day scattered amongst the joyful spectacle of the Harmonizing Heights.

His crest feathers went limp at the sight.

Gertrude was trying to warn him about something. Maybe she left behind some sort of hint as to what it was.

He turned and went up the stairs, which twisted in a square spiral until he reached the second floor of the house.

There were four rooms. He went to check the one closest to him, but noticed that the room at the end of the hall was slightly ajar. He crept forward and opened it, bit by bit, until he could see the inside.

There was a large bed, a wide dresser and a desk covered in loose sheets of paper. Most likely the master bedroom. Gertrude’s room, and she had been busy. Gallus walked to the desk, now recognizing the loose papers as scrolls and envelopes, some of which were sealed with purple wax in the shape of a six pointed star.

Gallus’s heart rate spiked. He swallowed hard as he got closer to the letters—as if they had suddenly turned into cornered animals—and gingerly picked one up at random.


Princess Twilight,

I need your help.

My name is Gertrude Robintabby. You may have heard of me from my dealings with your friend, Miss Rarity. I am a member of the Council of Griffonstone, and I am in charge of Griffonstone’s trade with other nations on the continent, as well as with the Monarchy of Griffonia. I assume you may have looked over some of my deals with certain Equestrian cities, but maybe not. This is beside the point of this letter. The context of my station is merely intended to validate my concerns.

I suspect one of my fellow council members of performing a sort of magic which I’ve only encountered in mentions by ancient texts. I don’t have a name to provide you with, as the rituals involved seem to have been lost to time. I only know that the population of Griffonstone’s current and collective state of mind seems uncannily similar to what’s been described by verbal accounts of mountain tribe elders written down by their families.

There is


The letter ended there. Gallus looked around, finding multiple letters just like it strewn across the desk that Gertrude always seemed to have quit writing once she got through a third of the scroll.

Gallus looked for something other than an unfinished letter, and found a loose sheet of paper underneath a couple of envelopes.


I can’t write about it. Their influence is building. Whoever is behind this won’t let


“Let” what? Let her write about—about whatever she wanted to write about? Gallus clicked his tongue, stuffing a few of Gertrude’s unfinished drafts into a messenger bag he found near the foot of the bed, and he left the room.

He did a quick sweep of the other rooms in the house, but came up with nothing else. There were a few guest bedrooms, and a room that was used as a second pantry of sorts, but for the most part, each room in Gertrude’s home was empty.

Gallus felt a pang in his chest, but ignored its sore, sympathetic throbbing. He walked down the stairs, arriving back at the ground floor. He stopped just in front of the door, taking a last look back at the hall and the shredded paintings. Hopefully he would return here, someday, with Gertrude safe and sound, and show her that she didn’t need a princess to save her.

He left the hollow, broken house, taking his first strides into the cold.


At first, Gallus thought the night was rather peaceful, if a little cold. As he got closer to the town’s center, however, he realized that Griffonstone was not unlike a ghost town. He could hear his own footsteps as he arrived in the town square, travelling in the direction of his home. He hadn’t seen anygriff walking around, and the night was dead quiet.

He hadn’t felt so alone in a very long time.

To distract himself, he tried to hum his favorite melody from Parasite Lost—the bridge of a seven-minute song about Pharynx choosing Thorax over the beliefs he had grown up with—but all that left his throat was a wheeze that sounded more like a whimper. He tried a few more times after that, but found that he just couldn’t carry a tune. His body was devoid of music, and he was left alone with the silence.

Gallus stopped as he left the vicinity of the square, now entering the blocks of residential neighbourhoods that had been erected in recent years. His home wasn’t far, but he was tempted to stop by some of the other houses. Something about the night was strange to him, though he hadn’t seen Griffonstone past eight o’clock in the last few months. There was no way it could be so devastatingly quiet, was there? Did all of Griffonstone go to sleep at the same time? Did not one griffon in the entire town stay up past...whatever time it was?

There was a rustling behind him.

Gallus turned, breath hitching and hackles rising, but found nothing. From where he was standing he could see Greta’s inn, and, just before that, the loads of unfinished construction that he had shown Harvest when she first came into town. But there wasn’t a single living soul in sight.

His skin crawled. Gallus turned back and began walking home again, his pace quickening, but never starting into a run. He wouldn’t let himself run. That would mean he was scared, and whatever was following him—if something was following him—would know that too, and then he’d be easy prey.

Gallus listened to the sound of his breathing and the gravel he kicked up. He could feel fear hiding in the back of his mind, uninvited but still crashing the party. He tried to focus on the path in front of him, but in the dark it seemed to blur. Was he lost? Did he even know where he was?

Gallus arrived at the front steps, and he let out the breath he was holding. He wanted to go to bed, to grab the artifact that lay underneath a loose floorboard in his room, but he didn’t. He didn’t even know if he could use it. Besides, he had to find Gabby and Gilda. They were more important than some stupid crown. If he was with them, he could accomplish anything.

He walked to their house, went up the steps, and opened the door using the spare key underneath the rug.

Familiarity kissed him on both cheeks and nuzzled his neck. Gilda and Gabby’s house smelled like roasted potatoes and light sprinklings of potpourri. It smelled like home. The warmth of the house made him sigh.

However, there was no time to rest. Gallus walked up the stairs and went straight for Gabby’s room. He nearly opened the door of his own accord, but thought twice of it, and gave it a series of knocks instead, making sure they were loud enough to wake Gilda up as well.

From within, he could hear Gabby groaning. Gallus drummed the tips of his talons on the floor as he waited for her to answer, and when she did, eyes looking tired, and with an unhappy frown on her face, he leapt forward and put his front two legs around her.

Gabby squawked loudly. She struggled for a few seconds, but upon realizing that it was Gallus hugging her, and not some stranger that had broken into her home, she sunk into his body, hugging him back.

She smelled like raspberries. Gallus squeezed her hard, feeling for a moment like Gabby might disappear if he loosened his grip one bit, but she was there. Gabby was still there, because of course she was. In what world could they be separated?

Gallus’s eyes were wet. He stealthily wiped them, flicking the tears off of his talons before he answered, forcing his voice into a stable state. “Sorry for leaving you alone.”

“No…” said Gabby, confused. “No. You did fine. Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

“I’m fine,” Gallus said.

“What’s in these?” Gabby asked, tugging on the messenger bag he had stolen.

“I’ll show you later. Gertrude’s been—I don’t know—kidnapped or something. She was trying to warn me about something. We need to find her. We gotta wake Gilda up too.”

Gallus found the strength to pull away so he could see Gabby’s face, but Gabby was frowning.

“She never came back,” she said. “I went to sleep an hour ago…I figured she was staying at Greta’s.”

“What?” Gallus walked across the hall and opened the door to the room across the hall. “Gilda?” He began to enter, but stopped upon seeing the inside of the room.

The bed, the desk, and the many papers that Gilda always had lying around were suspended two and a half metres in the air. As Gallus and Gabby struggled to find words, the floating objects, as if they were embarrassed at being caught, dropped to the ground. The resounding clatter made Gallus and Gabby scramble backwards until their flanks hit the wall.

Gallus waited with bated breath for something in Gilda’s room to jump out at him. But that something never came.

“That’s not good,” whispered Gabby.

Gallus nodded. “You said Gilda might be at Greta’s? We should go there. Now.”

“Way ahead of you,” said Gabby, flapping her wings.

She flew behind him as he raced out of the house, and kept a few yards in front of him as they got onto the road proper. They raced down the road, flanked on both sides by parallel rows of unlit houses until they came to the town square.

“No one’s awake,” Gabby said. “Should we start knocking on doors?”

“No,” said Gallus. “I don’t even know what we’re looking for yet. We don’t want to tip anything off before we have the chance to catch it.”

Both of them were panting by the time Greta’s inn was within their sight. Around them, Griffonstone stood still, somehow seeming uneasy. It was waiting for something. Again, Gallus looked for any signs of life, and found none.

Once, when he was still a tiny little chick, Gallus found himself trapped inside a closet.

He was trying to steal bits from Grampa Gruff’s secret stash, and through an almost comically arranged series of accidents, locked himself inside the old griffon’s closet in the process of hiding from him. Gallus would never forget the feeling of the wooden walls squeezing his shoulders. Gruff had been going to Manehattan, and when he left, he was gone for an entire day. Gallus would never forget the darkness and the helplessness of his screaming when he realized that he had locked himself in. He was left with nothing but his thoughts, and the pressing of the closet’s walls—the pressing that seemed to get tighter with each hour that passed. He remembered what happened when Gruff finally came home and let him out. He remembered how he couldn’t breathe. How it seemed impossible. Like something big was squeezing him tighter and tighter.

Standing in that quiet, open town square, Gallus felt an inkling of the same fear that strangled his lungs all those years ago.

He wanted to leave. He had to.

But he couldn’t.

Gallus kept his stride, focusing on the sound of Gabby’s flapping wings as she hovered ahead of him. This would be over soon. He just had to find Gilda and make a plan from there.

Gabby stopped. Gallus walked ahead of her for a few seconds before he stopped as well, turning around.

Gabby was sitting on the ground, now. Looking at something up ahead.

“What?” Gallus turned, and he saw it too.

Off in a cluster of unfinished homes was a light. A dark, cherry red wave of light permeated out of the jungle of wooden beams and boards, and in its light were several shadows, moving around like they were dancing. Griffons, standing around a weird sort of lamp. They were the first signs of life that Gallus had seen since Gertrude disappeared, besides Gabby.

“Can you see anygriff?” he asked Gabby, walking closer to her.

“No,” she said. “Why—why aren’t they making any noise?”

Gallus’s tail swished. “I don’t know.”

“I’m going to check it out,” said Gabby. “Go get Gilda.”

“What? No,” Gallus scoffed. “We’re not splitting up.”

“Aren’t we in a hurry?” Gabby asked. “Come on, don’t worry about me. Who’s beaten you in eighteen consecutive races and counting?”

Gabby smiled, and Gallus made the mistake of smiling back.

Gabby sped away, taking off faster than Gallus could stop her. He didn’t want to yell; for all he knew, something was waiting for them to make a significant amount of noise, and that’s why everything was so quiet.

So he watched Gabby fly away, and when she got too far for his heart to bear, he turned away and ran to Greta’s.

The front door was open, but nogriff was in the tavern or at the check-in desk. No lanterns or candles were lit, and from what he could see of the hall of rooms up the stairs, no magical lights were on either.

Gallus walked up the wooden stairs, past pictures of Greta’s blown-up selfies with various ambassadors hung up in gaudy yellow frames. He entered the hallway and crouched to the floor, looking for any signs of life peeking out from underneath the doors.

Nothing. No Gilda.

He stood and, on a whim, called out “Harvest?” at the lowest volume he could manage while still making sure he was heard.

He waited a moment. Then, as he turned to go down the stairs, he heard a door open.

Late Harvest, tired-eyed, trotted out of her room and yawned. “Captain Gallus? What’s the problem? It’s the middle of the—”

“Harvest,” he said, walking to her. “Listen to me. Something’s up. I need you to get all your essentials and leave Griffonstone. You don’t need to be involved in this. It’s not safe here. Have you seen Greta or Gilda anywhere since I last saw you?”

“No,” said Harvest, blinking hard to get the sleep out of her system. “Uh...Greta said she had somewhere to go and she’d be away all night, I think. I haven’t seen anypony else in here, either, so I don’t know about—Gilda? The ambassador? What’s going on?”

“Shit,” Gallus muttered, then firmly placed a talon on Harvest’s shoulder. “Harvest. Do what I said. Get everything you need. Get out of town. Don’t even take your wagon. I’ll have somecreature compensate for that.”

“What? Are you serious?” asked Harvest. “Wait. If—”

She stopped speaking as the desperate, helpless sound of a griffon screaming came from outside.

Gabby.

Gallus sucked air into his lungs.

“Run!” he shrieked at Harvest.

He took off, sprinting down the stairs towards the door, his head and shoulder colliding with the wood as he struggled with the door knob, slipping a few times as Gabby’s screeches became louder and louder and, finally, he opened the door and ran in the direction of her screaming.

“Gallus!” Gabby cried. “Gallus!

Leaving her was a mistake. How could he be so stupid? This was what happened when he trusted someone else to look after themselves. He should never have taken her in the first place. Now she was in trouble. And it was his fault.

“Gallus!”

The road beneath Gallus turned from stone to gravel and dirt as he entered the cluster of construction. The red light was gone, but in its place was an aggressive feeling of dread. Above him, the night sky seemed darker than it had ever been, as if the stars had disappeared. Around him were skeletons of buildings. The foundations of Griffonstone’s future. They stood high, and tall, and as he continued running through the maze-like structures, he realized that he no longer knew which way he had come from, and that Gabby had stopped screaming.

Gallus turned. He could no longer see the road. There were only long, unnatural forms made of wood looming over him, watching his every move, and he could swear on his life that somewhere, or maybe everywhere, something was watching him.

“Gabby?” he called into the void, his voice hoarse and tight. “Gabby!”

His wings quivered, wanting to unfurl, but he kept them glued to his body. Shame burned through him. If only he could take to the sky...

He’d never leave Gabby alone again. He’d stop keeping her at a distance whenever she got too close. Give her more hugs, pony style. He would teach her how to fight and how to sneak and he would be her best friend, and he would tell her that she was his best friend. He just had to find her. He just had to find her and keep her safe.

“Gabby!” he called again. He had slowed his run into a jog, but he still had no idea where he was heading. “Gabby! Answer me!”

There was a rustle behind him, and he turned around.

Gabby crashed into his arms, panting. She wrapped her legs around him, and he held her as she caught her breath.

“Gallus,” she rasped. “Gallus. We need—oh god, oh god—we need Twilight. We have to—to tell her.”

“Tell her?” repeated Gallus. “Tell her what? Are you okay?”

“It’s—it’s—” Gabby stopped. She scrambled away from his embrace, falling onto her flank.

For the first time since Gallus had seen her last, he could see her face clearly. Her tear ducts looked blood red, and the whites of her sky blue eyes were tarnished with red, bloodshot veins. Gabby opened her beak, trying to say something.

“Gabby?” Gallus said, trying his best to sound calm. “Gabby—”

“Don’t you see it?” she asked.

Gallus froze. There was a displacement in the air behind him. Something was there.

He tried to say Gabby’s name, but a sensation came like hooks digging into his wings. All the breath left his lungs as he yelled. He reached out, but something pulled him backward and up through the air. His surroundings turned into nothing. He shot upwards through an endless void, with no sound and no thoughts. Only pain.

The hooks pierced further into his wings. He thrashed. Talons, or maybe they were claws, groped at his body, tearing into his fur and feathers and worming their sharp points into his flesh. Hot tears spilled from his eyes. Something else grabbed his tongue, tugging on it tight. He tried to bite down, but his beak was being held open as well, and as more and more things found purchase on his body he found that he couldn’t move any longer, he could barely even turn his head, and everything was scratching and tearing and pulling on him. He was going to die.

He was going to die.

Gallus let his body go limp. There was nothing he could do.

Then there was light. A light made of millions of smaller rays of light, all radiating out from him. The majority of the pain, and the appendages causing it, vanished as the light grew brighter. Suddenly he could move again.

Then he was falling.

The stars were back, shining in the sky, and Gallus existed again. He was on his back in the town square. His head throbbed, but the pain was gone, and for a long moment, his body felt alien, like it didn’t remember how it was to not hurt.

Gallus sat up, looking to the trail to Greta’s inn and the construction.

“Gabby!”

He ran there at once, turning sharply into the zone of incomplete houses and buildings, and he found nothing. He ran past beams and freshly sawed piles of wood, looking into every pit in the ground and every possible place that Gabby could be.

It only took him fifteen minutes to search the entirety of the zone. When he got to the other side, he could see where he had come from, plain as day. Wherever he was—wherever Gabby was, was gone.

That didn’t matter, though. He had to try again, didn’t he? He had to turn over every house in Griffonstone, level that hideous stone tree if he had to. He had to find Gabby!

But somehow, he knew that he wouldn’t. He couldn’t, because they needed Twilight. This was more than Gallus could handle on his own. A thought occurred to him. He felt around for the messenger bag filled with letters to the princess, gasping in relief when he found that it was still fastened to his body.

How could he have been so stupid? He should have left Griffonstone with Gabby when he had the chance. They needed an alicorn, or the artifacts, or—or just anything more than boring old Gallus. They needed someone useful, and he hadn’t been useful since he left Canterlot.

A small part of him regretted not bringing the crown, but he wasn’t sure if it would have been much use on its own anyways. It never had been before.

How could he not have noticed something was wrong for so long? Was he really that weak?

Gabby was fine. Or she wasn’t. But she was safe. She had to be, or he’d go insane. He didn’t know. He hoped that she wasn’t scared, but he had seen the look in her eyes, and he knew that she was, and she knew that he had to leave.

Leave. His mind screamed at him to leave. He had to get out of Griffonstone. Something terrible was happening.

He had to run. Again. That’s all he had ever done in his life.

Gallus stood.

Whatever was causing this wanted to stay hidden. The other griffons in town would be fine.

He hoped.

He ran, heading towards their home. His legs burned and he panted harshly, forcing himself to stay running even as his joints ached and buckled. If only he could fly, just one more time…

It was too long before he reached his house. He headed straight for the front door, thanking the stars that he forgot to lock it earlier.

His sparse living room and kitchen greeted him. His couch looked more comfortable than his old bed at the School of Friendship.

Thoughts of his old dorm and his adolescence filled his head. He wiped his eyes and headed for his room, where there lay a loose floorboard near his bed.

He forced it open, grabbing the dusty old crown made of enchanted gold, with a purple gem in the middle.

He took it out of the floor and held it in both of his talons.

The Crown of Grover. It felt warm in his palms.

Gallus blew the dust off of the crown and fastened it to his head, feeling a slight influx of magic flow into his veins. He shivered as heat gently kissed his brow, the crown testing to see if he was, in fact, its rightful owner. If he wasn’t, it would get unbearably hot to wear, and he would never be able to touch it again.

The crown stayed warm, and didn’t get any warmer. Gallus sighed, and began to move about his room, looking for any bits he could find. He’d have no time for anything but travelling and purchasing food on his way to Canterlot.

He shoved what he needed into the messenger bag, taking one last, long look at his bedroom. He had never once thought he’d miss it, but he knew he would. He was already craving a good night’s rest in his own bed, in Griffonstone, not a few yards away from his only remaining friends, who were safe and sound in their own home. But now they were gone.

Gallus turned to leave.

He had made a few strides towards the front door when a griffon came from behind, wrapping their forelegs around his neck and wrenching him backwards, bringing his head under the bottom of their chin.

Gallus squawked, dropping his weight as he struggled to hold the griffon’s arm back, preventing them from choking him completely. The griffon adjusted, dropping their weight down as well, and when they did, Gallus sprung upwards and flung his head backwards. The back of the crown cracked against the griffon’s beak sickeningly loud, but the crown magically stayed tight around his head.

The strange griffon’s grip loosened, and Gallus backed up, still standing on two legs. He gripped the griffon’s foreleg with a talon and hooked his own foreleg around their torso, loading their weight onto his hips and then throwing them over his shoulder.

The griffon landed painfully on her back, breath audibly leaving their beak. Her beak. Gallus raised a talon, curling it into a fist, hoping to wail on the griffon’s head until she was unconscious, but he saw the beautiful, purple spots around her eyes, and the purple tips of her crest feathers.

“Gilda...?”

Gilda took the opportunity to recoil, straighten her wing, and swing it at his face.

Gallus’s beak caught most of the damage, but the momentum caused his head to whip to the side. Instinct saved him from another punch as he hopped backwards. His world was spinning. He lurched over slightly and coughed, a long, thick string of blood oozing out of his beak.

“Gilda!” he said.

Gilda stood, and he saw her eyes, rolled back all the way into her head and moving constantly, like she was in a deep sleep, and someone had peeled her eyelids back.

“Gilda, stop!” he said, louder.

She didn’t hear him. Gilda pounced, flapping her wings to speed herself up mid-air, but Gallus knew how to fight against another flying enemy. All he had to do was take off and get higher than her—

Gallus remembered he couldn’t fly.

Gilda crashed into him, grabbing him as she hit the ground. They rolled into the kitchen, knocking over the table in the process. They struggled for dominance; a tangle of feathers and grunting, ending finally with Gilda above Gallus, her full body weight on his torso as she held his head to the floor.

He began to say Gilda’s name again, but her fist bashed him in the temple, and all that came out of his beak was a pained groan. She hit him again, aiming for the same spot on his head each time. Pain shot through his entire body. Gilda’s punches landed heavy and precise.

The next time Gilda raised her fist, Gallus sat up as much as he could, planting a palm on the ground and sliding hard to the side, offsetting her balance. He wrapped one of his forelegs around her neck and wrenched down, getting her head close to his face.

With a frenzied cry, Gallus leaned forward and bit down on her neck, making sure to push the mass of his beak into her gamey flesh.

Gilda screamed and pulled away. Gallus let her go and backed up, getting back on his feet as she nursed her wound.

“Snap out of it!” Gallus yelled.

Gilda came at him again, but she was getting tired. Gallus could see her muscles tensing beforehand, and when she leapt into the air towards him, he was ready.

He pushed forward with his hindlegs, keeping the centre of his body down so he shot underneath her. Gallus had enough time to grab a chair from the kitchen and surge towards her, swinging it hard.

Just as she turned to face him, the chair broke over the left side of her body, shattering into a dozen different pieces.

Gilda’s posture broke and she fell to the floor, but she was far from done. She grabbed one of the pieces of the chair, now jagged and triangular, and came again.

Her chest met both of Gallus’s hindlegs as he bucked with all his might.

There was a disgustingly loud crack his Gilda knocked back, sprawling limply on the floor of his home.

Gallus approached her, muscles tensed and talons ready, but Gilda stayed down. He laid himself by her side, watching her chest closely.

It rose and fell, weakly, but she was still alive. Gallus sighed in relief.

He looked around at his home. The kitchen table had cracked when it had fallen over. The bits of the chair were scattered across the ground. The blood that he had spat on the floor was still there, looking like congealed cherry juice.

Gallus stood and walked to the couch, running his talons lightly over the fabric, feeling their sharp tips catch on the threads. He closed his eyes, trying to relax, but how could he? He had beaten the shit out of his friend, and now he had to leave her, still lying on the ground, like he was some sort of criminal.

Part of him wanted to lie down and let himself be preyed upon. He was tired, and he didn’t want to do this again. He didn’t want to see Twilight, or Spike. He didn’t want to look them in the eyes and tell them that he needed their help. He didn’t want to hear their voices, telling him that it was fine, and that everything would be okay, because he knew that he’d hear the disappointment underneath their words.

Gallus, once again, biting off more than he could chew. That stupid, arrogant griffon. Was getting his wings broken not enough punishment for him? Did he have to let yet another villain ruin his life? Why hadn’t he talked to his friends recently? Poor Gallus. Poor Sandbar, Yona, Silverstream, Ocellus, and Smolder. Poor them for having to deal with him. Poor him for being promoted to Captain through cronyism, and having nothing to show for it.

Gallus swallowed. He would die if he stayed, so he wanted to stay. But Gabby needed help, and Gilda was under some sort of control. Gertrude was missing or dead, and he had to find out the truth.

He had no choice.

Gallus turned and left his home. He was weak and cowardly, and he had never known happiness for long, but there would be time to wallow in his misery later. He had a princess to call in a favor with. He was going to do the only thing he had ever proven himself to be good at.

Gallus ran. The moon lit his way out of Griffonstone.