• Published 17th Dec 2011
  • 8,856 Views, 624 Comments

Banishment Decree - Neon Czolgosz



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

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2. A Warmer Place

“You’ve been banished, Gilda,” says Trixie, slowly.

I blink, confused. I'm on good terms with my immediate “Family”, and I couldn’t think of anything I’d done to anybird in the Tribe bad enough to get banished for it. Hopefully some crow-beaked up-and-comer had just got it made, needed a favor done and thought she’d look the big cat by banishing me and making me do it as a quest. Not that hard to find something I could technically be banished for, I suppose. Anger management was never my strong point. Trixie is looking at me warily, waiting for a response.

“Huh. Well that’s uh... weird,” I say, “Do you know which Tribesbird ordered it? Did they tell you what my quest was?”

Trixie winces as she says the next seven words: “It’s Clan level. Double secret banishment decree.”

I blink twice. My mouth is dry, my heart drops to my stomach before both drop into a pit of freezing acid, I can barely breathe and every muscle on my body tenses. I think Trixie is speaking. I can’t hear her.

Clan banishment, double secret. By the Four Winds...

“-so then my EIS contact says that you are no longer a trusted asset, and that since we have been working closely together, Trixie is no longer a trusted asset either!” I hear Trixie say, “The Great and Powerful Trixie, cast aside like bruised fruit! This is bad, Gilda, this is very bad. What in Discord’s true name did you do?"

My beak opens but I can’t speak. I focus, and finally say “There can’t... I mean... buck there’s, uh, I can’t even - NOTHING I could have...”

Trixie’s voice starts to rise. “Gilda, Trixie’s entire income and lifestyle depends being a trusted middle-mare between the Guild and other groups and ponies. The Guild needs me to smuggle ten crates of gemstones, I smuggle twelve and keep the profit. The guild asks me to blackmail some mayor or councilpony for two thousand bits and their help covering up a break-in, I blackmail them for two thousand five hundred bits and have them write off my unpaid parking fines. Now she is not trusted and is NO LONGER a middle-mare! What in the Princesses' names am I supposed to do?”

“Well I don’t know, go round Equestria putting on magic shows again, you’ve lived off that before haven’t you?” I snap. Her eyes are full of venom but I can’t bring myself to care right now. “I’ve been banished from the Blackwings, Trix. This is bad. This is very bad,” I say.

We must have been getting loud, because Rainbow Dash bursts back into the library. “Hey, everything okay Gil- What the clop is that unicorn doing here?” she says, staring at Trixie.

Trixie shoots Dash a look of loathing. “Oh, how Trixie hates this town.”

* * *

Trixie, Dash and myself are sat at some hay fries place near the library. I'm poking at a seed cake and explaining the situation to Dash. Trixie is pointedly ignoring both of us.

“Wait, hasn’t this all happened before?” asks Dash, “Didn’t you get banished after rigging a bunch of card games when you were with your griffon family, just after our last year of flight school? You got that sorted out, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, but I only got banished from the tribe for stealing. My quest was to make up the money I stole, with interest and they would let me back in,” I say.

“Ahh, that was why you were working triple shifts at Beanburger Palace all that summer; and why you took so long to snap and punch your supervisor. Quite the show of restraint on your part, she was a nag and a half,” says Dash, “So what’s different now?”

“I’ll lay it out for you,” I say, “You get banished from your family for ignoring your parents too often, getting in too many fights with siblings or not coming back to visit relatives at the Midwinter Carnival; and they give you a quest like ‘go bring your brother a dozen juicy rabbits’ or ‘send your grandmother a new coat and write her an apology’. You get ignored and can’t stay at home ‘till the quest is done, but when it’s done all is forgiven and forgotten. It’s small potatoes, you get me?” Dash nods.

“Getting banished from your tribe is bigger," I say, "Mine’s the Redbeaks, you met a few of them, they’re basically extended family plus neighbors and families. You only get banished from your tribe if you do something that seriously damages your tribe or your tribe’s reputation, like killing a clan member without tribal approval, not offering hospitality to someone in need, or like me, rigging an inter-tribe sporting event for quick bits.

“Your entire tribe won’t talk to or be seen with you until you complete a quest, and the other tribes in your clan are wary of you. It’s not like getting a reputation here, everybird just knows you’ve been banished, it’s like magic. The quest will be bigger, like ‘earn enough money to pay off everyone you stole from and give them a tidy profit on top’ or ‘work as an indentured servant for the family of the griffon you killed’ or ‘steal such and such piece of griffon artwork from some idiot pony collector in Manehattan.’”

“I think I see where this is going...” says Dash.

“Clan banishments are big,” I say, “There are only eleven griffon clans in existence, and six of those are just tribes putting on airs who would join one of the big five in a flash if a civil war broke out or something. You only get banished from your clan if you’re seen as a clear and present danger to every tribe within it. You get banished for murdering an entire family in one tribe and blaming it on a family from the next, for trading a dragon a bunch of tasty griffon eggs for a bit of his horde, for selling secrets to Stalliongrad or a Camel Sultanate and then defecting.

“If you get banished from your clan, it’s... Imagine that one of your friends turned up at your house one day wearing a dress made from all your other friends.”

“Gross, but go on,” says Dash.

“Well that’s how every other griffon in your clan will react to seeing you. If they’re on their own, they’ll run in terror. If they’re not, they’ll try tear you to pieces. Even griffons in other clans won’t want anything to do with you. I saw a banished Stormclaw once. Half of me wanted to fly away, the other half wanted to cut his throat before he cut mine.”

“Pretty harsh. Is there no way back in once you’re gone?” asked Dash.

“You still get a quest. If you got banished for flying into a rage and doing something terrible, or through gross negligence, your quest will be a vital service to the Griffon Kingdom. You’ll have a quest to secure enough medicine to save one thousand griffons, or to hunt down everyone on a list of defectors or enemy agents and bring back proof of death for all of them. If you got banished for something you did in cold blood, it’s likely to be a suicide mission, like flaying a grown dragon by yourself.” I pause, and pick at my seed cake.

“Soooo, I’m guessing you ended up with more of a ‘suicide mission’ than a ‘saviour of your clan’ quest...” says Dash, tensing like she's expecting a blow.

“There’s the rub,” I say, “no one can tell me why I was banished or what my quest is, and no one can tell anyone who might contact me why I was banished or what my quest is, because it’s double secret banishment. They're probably worried that I'll just murder any griffon messenger on sight, so they're going to watch from a safe distance and then decide if they should tell me or not."

"You're stuck out in the cold until the people who banish you decide you're not going to murder them then, basically" says Dash.

"Yup. So on the upside, I’m still alive and there’s probably no death squad after me," I say, "Downside, I’m banished, my funds will be frozen, none of my contacts within the EIS or Griffon Kingdoms will get within a dozen leagues with me; plus...” I pause to put on a pair of my widest, cutest molly-kitten eyes and aim them straight at Dash, “...I don’t have a place to stay.”

Dash just gives me a dark glare in return. “Eight and a half years, Gilda. Eight and a half years, barely a buckin’ peep from you, and you think one crash landing and little apology later turns us back into schoolfilly slumber-party friends, preening each other’s wings and psyching each other up for the next big race?”

Ouch. I should have seen that coming. I open my beak to talk, but get cut off.

"I sent you dozens of letters after our spat in Ponyville to see how you were and try patch things up, you replied to ONE of them, two years later, on the back of a Llamese takeout menu that had been redacted by censors. The only things I could make out were 'Gilda,' 'sorry for all the crazy shit' and 'beware of weasels,'" she says.

I give her a pleading look. "I bucked up, I was a dumbass back then after that letter things got all crazy with the military. I'm sorry, Dash."

“Huh. Well I tell you, if you are thinking we’re back to old times, you best be thinking we’re back to being schoolfriends and not that other thing we were, because oh, Gilda. I. Bucking. Tell. You,” she says, holding her stare and pointing a hoof at my face.

Four Winds, this week is getting worse and worse. This week started off as old, unseasoned meatloaf, then I realized that in my carelessness, I had pissed on that meatloaf; and now I have to eat the pissy meatloaf. Dash still hates me, which I guess still counts as ‘meatloaf I have pissed on’, but I think it deserves a special mention.

It's all I can take. My face falls, I stare down at my claws and I stammer “Dash, I’m-” before she bursts out laughing. “Oh mare, I had you, I completely had you Gilda!” she says, cracking up.

I - I do not have to eat the pissy meatloaf. This is a very good thing.

“Oh Gilda, the look on your face,” Dash says with a grin, “Of course you can crash round mine, there’s always room at the Casa del Dash for an old friend. Element of Loyalty, Beeyotch! You mah homefilly! We can fill each other in on the last eight and a half years years, you can drink all my vodka, and if you’re a good little molly and you think up your apologies for Pinkie and Fluttershy, I’ll even let you preen my wings. That sound good?”

Oh Dash, how I’ve missed your sense of humor.

“In some of the places I’ve been in the last eight years, I’d be legally allowed to kill you for messing me like that,” I say, “You still living in that sweet cloud house?”

“Same as ever. I’ll fly over there now and get some stuff set out, come over when you’re done here. That cool?” she asks.

“Sure, see you there,” I say.

See ya!” she says, taking off.

Trixie levitates her last hay-fry into her mouth. “Well with that, Trixie plans to retire for the night. Meet me here at ten in the morning tomorrow. I had the foresight to book us some freelance work in Fillydelphia so that we do not run dry of bits by the end of the month-”

“Good thinking Trix, who’s still hiring in Filly? Sparks?” I ask.

“Sparks is entirely legitimate now. He hired a few old pals for the sole purpose of keeping all his other old pals well away from him. He’s got nothing on offer, unless you want to invest all those bits you don’t have in property. No, we’re working with-”

“Trotsky?”

“Similar problem, she’s still big in the underworld but she’s justifiably paranoid and won’t even be seen by anyone outside of her own organisation. She’s been involved in a quite few things lately that individuals like you or I would want no part in, so it’s all for the best. No, we’re working with-”

“Ichthyosaur?”

“Trixie likes to finish her jobs alive so she avoids working with individuals like him. He has chronic backstabbing disorder, he’s never been a very stable zebra and losing a hoof, an eye and his front teeth to that Fifth Horseman character in Manehattan hasn’t improved him any. No, we’re working with-”

“We’re not working with ‘Lit-Up’ Lucino are we? Because that pony was a scrambled abortion before-”

“Before he got into drugs, yes,” Trixie says, “He’s far worse now, half of the bookies in Filly are running a pool on how long he’ll last before one of his crew finally pulls Lucino’s kidneys out through his nostrils. It’s quite an achievement for one pony’s drug supply to completely drain the coffers of a large crime family, but he seems to of managed it. No, we’re going to work with-”

“Is it Daddy Cane? He was pretty reliable last I remember, usually has all kinds of work going.”

Trixie winces. “No, it’s not Daddy Cane. We’re working with Brickbat.”

“Brickbat Maginty? Why didn’t you say so?” I ask. Trixie gives me a look. I try to remember the last time I worked with him. It was a few years back, when booze smuggling was still the big thing. “Does he still call everyone a bucket of cunts?” I ask.

“No, he’s mellowed out since. Best of both worlds really, he offers well paying jobs that we’re suited to but doesn’t go around breaking legs with a brickbat any more so I find he’s much easier to talk to these days. I think he has some security work for us. Trixie will see you at ten tomorrow, yes?”

“See you then, Trix,” I say.

* * *

I’d been cast out by my clan for a crime I (probably) didn’t commit, had just recovered from breaking almost every bone in my body, had no real job, no real home and no money. But I'm now in a warmer place.

Maybe the warmth is from the fireplace that despite being in a cloud-house, works perfectly. Maybe the warmth is from the half bottle of vodka in my belly. Maybe it's from hours of swapping tales and war stories with a true friend I thought I’d lost, with no disguises or dishonesty truly necessary.

But I’m pretty sure the warmth is coming from Dash’s lips, as she drags them over one of the secondaries in my right wing, preening them perfectly. She had finished working her magic on my left, which had melted into the floor next to me, and was ever so carefully straightening out and stretching every little feather I had. After spending a month living in a muddy hole of an observation point, followed by an assassination, followed by breaking my everything and followed by spending several days in a coma, this is heaven. I'm talking, I think.

“...so our intel is bucked and we end up practically crashing into the wrong side of the country, where I don’t speak a word of the languaahhhhh.....” I try to say. Dash had just taken a feather that was twisted 180 degrees the wrong way and gently eased it back into place. She murmurs for me to continue

“...and we’re there, with all this medicine and weaponry, about to hand it over to the camels we’re supposed to be fighting. There’s not much we can do right, we just try to bluff and be all like ‘Yo, from Griffon Kingdoms and Equestria with love!’ and try not to get stabbed,” I say. Rainbow finishes the secondaries, takes a moment to spit out some down, and moves onto the primaries. By the Four Winds she’s good.

“So all the bad guys, who we’ve just armed up to the humps, decide to venture out their fortresses and strike our guys so hard that they’ll have to surrender. Thing is, the camels we were supposed to be supplying got suspicious and decided we had swi- ohhhhh -tched sides. So they had decided to just gather what they could, and assault the fortresses with everything they had.”

Dash spits out some more down, and says “Wait, was this in the fall of about three odd years ago?” She goes back to work.

I grin my beaky grin as she tugs a particularly stiff primary with just the right amount of hardness. “That’s the one, Dash. Felafel Valley Not-Massacre. Both armies head straight towards each other with nothing but siege weaponry, meet bang on in a corner of some twisty valley, and are reduced to slap fighting with hooves and clubs. They panic and try to rush past each other to take their opponents fort and both succeed, then spend the next year and a half skirmishing to retrieve all that siege weaponry they just left laying in the valley. They’ve been in a stalemate ever since, and most of the wood has rotted away from rains and floods.”

“Not yur mouth successful mission then?” asks Dash, mouth full of feather.

“No. But I did learn a very important lesson.”

“Whut?” She wriggles one of my primaries from side to side with her lips, and it was all I could do to not pass out.

“Never put your own name on the mission plan when you submit it”

“I’ll drink to that!” She takes another shot of vodka, and downs it with a slice of apple pie.

I look at the pie. No meat or seeds, but it still smells delicious. “That from the farmer you go drinking with, Applejack or something?” I ask.

“Yeah, that’s the one. Made by her, but it’s more of a Soarin thing,” she says.

“Soarin the Wonderbolt?”

“Ex-Wonderbolt.”

“Retired?”

“Dead.”

“Oh.”

“He loved his pies. That dude was like a brother to me, just wasn’t the same after he went, even with Spitfire and Thunderhooves still there,” she says.

“Sorry to hear that, Dash” I say, giving her a gentle nip on the ear. She nuzzles me back.

“He died doing what he loved. Anyway, much as I love to reminisce, this talk is getting a bit heavy. What’s your plans for tomorrow? Are you doing something with that crazy unicorn?”

“Yeah, we’ve got some job providing security for something-or-other in Fillydelphia, going down there tomorrow to get the details,” I say.

“Sweet. I’m tagging along,” says Dash with a big fat smile.

“Huh? Why? It’s probably only a two-pony job” I say, sounding more surprised than I should have.

“Firstly, you’ve been banished, smashed to bits and put together again and have no money. I wouldn’t be the awesome Element of Loyalty if I didn’t help a friend out when she’s like this. Secondly, I want to go to Filly anyway to visit Pinkie Pie, she’s doing consulting for a restaurant that one of the Cake nieces set up. You can apologise to her while you’re there,” says Dash. I groan.

“Thirdly, that blue mare is crazy and I trust her as much as a fishnet condom. You just get banished, and that nutty blue illusionist is acting all ‘ooh silent treatment’ and acting like you cost her money?” she says.

“Yeah, Trixie is crazy but she’s always been a bit crazy. No different now than ever,” I says.

“Yeah, but... Just for this first job after you get banished? For me, Gilda?” she asks, blasting me with her own set of kitten-eyes.

“Oh fine, you can keep an eye out for her,” I say.

“Great, she’s also why I’m bringing along another friend who can deal with her if anything goes wrong.”

“What? Oh buck no Dash, that’s just plain unprofessional. You can’t just drag random amateurs into business with you, they end up being the weak links that panic, break the chain and mess up a whole bucking op. If you’re coming, it’s you alone,” I say flatly.

“She’s not an amateur. She has espionage experience and is skilled countersurveillance, tracking, magic detection, languages and a dozen other things that get spooks like you all hot between the haunches.”

I look at Dash skeptically. “When you say ‘espionage experience’, you do mean actual experience working as a spy and not just...”

“Not just what, me telling them my stories of being an awesome Wonderbolt and then peeking at the neighbors through cheap binoculars? Nah, she was doing this stuff before I’d even been accepted into the ‘Bolts, she was the one who prepped me for my mission in Tarandroland! She was working all kinds of crazy intrigue over there, trust me,” says Dash.

“Fine,” I say, “But if she bucks up the job, I get to stay in your guest room forever, deal?”

“Deal. Anyway, we should probably hit the hay. I’m a tired pony,” she says, turning towards her room.

“Yeah that sounds good-” I suddenly think of something, and put on my suavest, cockiest grin possible. “Hey Dash,” I say, “Wanna fool around, for old times sake?”

In my defense, I sound like much less of a sleazy rake in my head.

Dash looks at me over her shoulder, turns and walks up to me. Eyes half lidded, she leans in and gives me the lightest kiss on the beak.

“Go to sleep Gilda,” she says softly, with her perfect easy grin. She trots back into her bedroom.

I shrug and go over to the guest room. ’Doesn’t matter, got preened,’ I think to myself as I slip into bed and fall asleep.