• Published 17th Dec 2011
  • 8,848 Views, 624 Comments

Banishment Decree - Neon Czolgosz



Gryphon warriors don't get fired, they get banished.

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1. Hard Landing

Everything that can hurt, does.

This isn’t a bad thing. Griffons have high pain tolerance, and unless there’s such thing as Griffon Hell, it just means I'm still alive and I probably haven’t severed my spinal column. Since my last memory was hitting the ground at terminal velocity, I’d say the pain is a net positive.

A hoof gently nudges my side.

"Sup, loser." I recognise the voice, but can’t place it.

I'm in a large hut. It looks like something out of those cub’s pirate tales about voodoo, monkey curses and secret treasures. Strange masks adorn the walls, every surface is covered in bizarre ingredients and poultices and there are dozens of candles dotted about the place.

I look down. I'm in a bed, surrounded by more candles, covered in bandages and casts with Hoofrican scripts written over them and my wings are suspended outward by bandages and splints. Sharp smelling pastes are slathered underneath the casts on my arms, legs and neck. There are huge needles pinning the casts onto my limbs through my bones. There's a zebra in the corner, mixing something up.

Zebras don’t buck around when it comes to healing, it seems.

"You awake, Gilda?"

I place the voice this time and turn my head a little to the left (which hurts). I see Rainbow Dash. She hasn’t changed much in the eight or so years since I’d seen her last. Her face is a little more weathered, but same voice, same mane and same easy grin.

"Sup dweeb" I say weakly.

"You took quite the fall there, pal. I think you’ve just lost the right to call me Rainbow Crash ever again," she says.

"Mmh. How am I alive, Dash?" I ask.

The zebra speaks up, "You fell on granite rock into which Poison Joke had pried, The Joke softened the rock, lucky, or you would have died."

Even without the rhyming, that would have made no sense whatsoever. Dash sees my confused expression.

"Poison Joke is this weird flower that changes the main attributes of whatever it touches. It turned the granite into a big trampoline, you bounced and landed near Zecora here’s house. She took you in and patched you up, she’s pretty good with her zebra medicine," she says "Good thing too, you’d broken just about every bone in your body."

"Thanks ‘cora" I say.

"Now, you’d usually be laid out for a few weeks and go through several months of agonizing physical therapy before you could walk or fly again, but my good friend Twilight Sparkle has a hornboner for some accelerated healing spell she’s been researching," says Dash, "She’s been getting the reagents together for the last two days, she should be here shortly."

"Two days? How long have I been out?" I ask.

"Four days. Zecora sent for me, she found a note on you with my name on it. Too much blood to make out what it said."

"Ah. Hey, was there anyone else-"

"Yeeahh, we found a unicorn, we think," she says.

"You think?"

"Whoever it was, sorta... splashed," she says with a grimace, "Wasn’t much to go by. We think there was a horn in there. Friend of yours?"

"He put a hole in my wing and tried to toss me out of a sky chariot. Fell out with me," I say. It's not entirely a lie.

"Huh, you’d have thought he’d have teleported somewhere safe before he hit the ground," says Dash.

"Ehh, unicorns. That’s what they get when they spend their childhoods with noses stuck in books instead of practicing wing-free landing drills."

"Well, seems like your grisly sense of humor survived the fall, Gilda," says Dash with a grim smile.

Just that moment a purple unicorn comes in through the door. "Hey Dash, Zecora; I’ve got all the stuff here, is the patient still- Ah, hello!" she says, turning to face me "You’re Gilda, right?"

"Yup."

"Gilda, this here is Twilight Sparkle, Doctor of Thaumatics, Master of Sciences. You’re in good hooves, she’s been working on some kind of super-spell to patch you riiight up. I heard it might hurt, so I’m going to stay and enjoy the show," says Dash.

Same old Dash.

Twilight and the zebra spend a few minutes setting up the equipment, attaching wires to the spikes through my limbs, injecting me with a green substance, giving me a shot of apple brandy and setting up some weird effigy of me with needles through various points above my head. Twilight attaches the wires on my limbs to her horn, and casts her spell.

It is not a pleasant experience. It feels like all of my flesh has turned into ravenous maggots, which are trying to eat all the other ravenous maggots, and are somehow breeding at an alarming rate. My bones don't feel any better. I now know what a castle feels like during a siege.

Luckily, it's over fast. The pain is gone, just a tightness like I’d been working out without stretching the muscles for a few weeks. My neck, arms and legs move just fine. The metal spikes through my limbs have somehow dissolved.

"Well, it looks like a successful operation," says Twilight as she starts to unravel my bandages and remove my casts with her telekinesis, "How are you feeling? Can you move all your limbs at the joints? Do you have feeling in all your limbs and muscles?"

With that, Dash punches me hard in the arm.

"Ow, buck off!"

"Yeah, I think she’s got feeling in all her limbs," says Dash with a grin.

* * *

An hour later, after I’d thanked Zecora for her hospitality and Twilight had finished interrogating me on every single possible aspect of how the healing had worked, I was on my way out of the Everfree forest with Dash. Twilight had teleported back to the library, but Dash wanted a chat with me.

"So what was on the note, Gilda? One last “Buck off, dweeb” before you kicked it?" she says.

"Well, I had a job to do around here, thought I’d pay you a visit after it was done. I was kind of a bitch last time I saw you, didn’t treat your friends too well, got all jealous, yadda yadda. Got all bitter and didn’t want to think about it for a few years after, but I figured I should buy you a beer and try make it up to you, y’know?"

"Doesn’t seem like you to tell me that through a note," she says, grinning.

"Yeah, well, you’re right about the whole “before I kicked it” thing. You were a good friend, and a great, y'know. Couldn’t die and leave you thinking I hated you, would’ve broke your heart," I say, grinning right back at her.

"Hah, whadya know, Gilda actually changed for the better," she says.

"You’re still the same ol’ Dash. Still questing after the Wonderbolts?" I ask.

"Questing after? I retired last year" she says, a huge grin plastered across her face.

"Say bucking what?" I say.

Dash, actually got into the Wonderbolts? Dash, screaming Wonderbolt fangirl, actually quit the Wonderbolts?

"You actually got in?" I ask.

"Yup, a few years after we last met. Signed up for a four year contract, was on the performance squad for one. Flew a couple of scouting missions over hostile Diamond Dog territory, did a whole bunch of interdiction over pirate routes, provided aerial support for the peacekeeping mission in Llamastan, was on the mission to rescue that jackass Prince Blueblood when he caused those riots during his diplomatic visit to Tarandroland; and a bunch of other stuff like that," she said, failing entirely to keep a smug tone out of her voice.

"You actually quit?" I ask.

"I retired. Just wasn’t for me, in the end. Too much time practicing the same routines, over and over, way too much travel, not enough naps. Now I’m a ‘freelance aeronautical performance consultant’, I set my own hours, chill out in my cloud house and can get stonking drunk with Applejack and Pinkie all the time. Not bad work, if you can get it," she says.

"Fair enough. Hey, you said I’ve only been out for four days right? And you still live near Ponyville?" I ask.

"That’s where we’re headed, birdbrain!" says Dash.

This is good news, my contact is in Ponyville and she would still be there for the debrief. The mission would be a complete success!

"Yeah whatever, can you take me to the Ponyville library? There’s someone I’ve got to meet there." I pause. "Actually, you don’t know if there’s been anyone from out of town hanging out at the library lately do you?"

Dash thinks for a moment. "Yeah. There was a brown stallion, from Fillydelphia, bit stuck up. He’s been hanging out there all day for the last few days, Twilight said."

"Does Twilight go to the library a lot? Did she notice anyone else there?"

"Twilight’s the librarian. She hasn’t mentioned anyone else, why’d you ask?"

Let me stop for a moment and explain:

Equestrian libraries are decent meeting places for people in the intelligence business. Magical books need lots of charms and runic magic to stop them from playing hazard with all the other books and, in large numbers, the library itself. These charms have the wonderful side effect of making libraries very hard to magically scry without the librarian being involved. Librarians tend to have terrible poker faces, and the locals can generally tell you if the librarian has been suddenly replaced, so if something is up you can get out of dodge quickly. They’re usually pretty empty so it’s hard to hide a pegasus assault team in one, and it’s easy to subtly slip a note into a book and leave it for your contact to find.

Plus, spies tend to travel constantly and trashy romance novels are a good way to alleviate the boredom. Most libraries have at least a few Rose Papillonne titles for those cold nights in dingy Bed and Breakfasts.

"Just wondered if sh- uh, he was travelling with any friends. His name is Cravat Tweedhooves or something, right?"

"Yeah, something like that. Hey, Gilda."

"Yeah?" I say.

"Wanna race?"

* * *

We'd started at the edge of the town. Dash beat me to the tree-library by a good few seconds. Not too surprising, since I’d just recovered from a broken everything and she's apparently an ex-stuntflier.

"Hey Dash, do us a favor and get Twilight," I say at the door, "I’m knackered." It was a lie, but I wanted to check that the library was secure. Better safe than sorry.

"Pfft, weak. I’ll go get her, you want me to check if she’s got any ice cream for you to cry into?" she says.

"Buck off," I say.

"What’s that about ice cream?" Twilight Sparkle is standing in the doorway. I can’t see anyone behind her.

"Hey, is anyone else in the library with you?" I ask.

"Uh, there’s Spike and there’s Mr Tweedhooves, but that’s it," she says. She looks a little confused, but isn’t lying.

"Awesome, I need to talk to him," I say.

“Mr Tweedhooves” was sitting at a table next to a window. Rainbow Dash had gone outside to chat with Twilight. When Tweedhooves was completely sure no one was around or listening, he spoke.

"Ah, hello old friend, how's the weather back home?" he asks.

"Wet and cold, there was a thunderstorm but it didn't last. My aunt Gillian keeps saying that she'll never get enough sunshine. Course, it doesn't help that Ruddy Boddington is pissing all over the place, barking at the cellar and sneaking chews from the pantry. We had to sort that out, we've found a new home for him."

TRANSLATION: "Mission was finished. Agent LD is dead. Redbeard was the leak, he was a mole for a slavery ring and has been developing and selling weaponized magical reagents. I have killed him, and found the location of his stash"

"Well, it looks like it all worked out. Any of your cousins coming to visit?"

TRANSLATION: "Affirmative. Were you followed here?"

"Nah, they didn't bring it up. Only people I've met since are Dash, Twilight Sparkle and a Zebra witch."

TRANSLATION: "No, was checking every fifty meters from Everfree forest borders. Clear skies, no one hiding in the clouds. Met Dash, Twilight Sparkle and Zecora on the way."

"Good, I can lose the disguise. Honestly, Cravat is a versatile cover but Trixie will never know how stallions are able to walk around with that thing swinging between their legs all the time."

Mr Tweedhooves’ skin ripples and twists, and suddenly he's a powder blue unicorn mare.

"Uh, aren’t those two-"

Trixie cut me off. "Rainbow Dash is ex-special forces and knows the deal with assets like me. Twilight is the personal student of Celestia herself and is hardly a security risk."

Trixie has always been a bit Nightmare-Moon-May-Care with security procedures for my tastes.

"Besides, I have some rather bad news that pretty much makes our covers moot," she said darkly.

"What?"

"You’ve been banished, Gilda."