• Published 12th Jan 2013
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A Song of Storms: Snow and Shadows - The 24th Pegasus



With the onset of the windigo curse, Commander Hurricane and the other tribal leaders leave in search of new lands. They aren't the only ones to face challenges, as the tribes inch closer and closer to ripping each other apart with each day.

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Chapter 19: Follow the Sun

Chapter 19: Follow the Sun

“I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t see the Imperators right now. They’re still in critical condition.”

Hurricane sighed and nodded solemnly to the Legionnaire with the red cross on his shoulder plate. “Right. Just—how are they?”

The Legionnaire pulled out a scroll and stretched it open with his hooves. “They lost a lot of blood. Imperator Cyclone has severe damage to his left shoulder and wing; it was badly dislocated in the fight, and the successive flapping around didn’t help it out much. It was a good thing he was passed out from blood loss; the doctors were able to manipulate it back into position with little difficulty…”

The black stallion glanced at the medic. “What is it?”

The medic shuffled his hooves. “I don’t think he’ll be able to fly again, sir. The wing crest is fractured badly, and the dislocation cut off blood to the muscles. Even if he does fully recover after the physiotherapy, I doubt he’ll be able to fly more than five minutes at a time.”

“But he is stable?” Hurricane pressed. “You said he lost a lot of blood.”

“‘Balanced’ would be a more apt turn. He lost a lot of blood; probably near half of it. He’s walking on a razor’s edge. We’re hoping that food and rest will help him recover, and what little there is of the former is leaving plenty for the latter.” The medic smiled at Hurricane professionally, as he was trained to do to a hundred other families for a hundred other dying soldiers before. “Relax, sir. He’s in good hooves.”

Hurricane dipped his head and fidgeted slightly. “And Typhoon? How is she?”

The medic shuffled in his armor and tapped a hoof on the ground. Hurricane saw it, despite the calm the pony’s face presented. “She’s in critical care. She lost more blood than Imperator Cyclone, and she’s a smaller pony, too. Combine that with several days of intense starvation and dehydration, along with the deep wound to her side…”

The Commander Maximus of Cirra was trembling like a worried foal, yet he managed to raise his head and look the medic in the eye. “Is she going to live?”

“We’re doing the best we can, sir. The other doctors are working on her right now. I’ll make sure to keep you informed if her condition changes.”

Hurricane nodded. “Thank you. If there’s anything you need…”

The medic had heard this all before. “Of course, Commander. We will have messengers on standby in case anything changes.”

Sensing that the conversation was finished, the soldier saluted to Hurricane and turned away towards another family approaching from the other side. They were a mare and a young stallion with two foals playing at their hooves. From the way they eyed Hurricane warily, the Commander suspected whomever they were there to visit had sided with Cyclone during the siege. Not that it particularly mattered to him one way or another.

Sighing, Hurricane walked away and deeper into the hospital, searching for a pony. It had been three days since the coup; three tiring, blurry days. In the wake of the takeover attempt were left tens of thousands of bodies, twice as many wounded, and hundreds more without homes. Feeding, clothing, and housing all of them had been a nightmare, and now, well over a month since the blizzard began, all three tribes had finally exhausted the last of their fresh food. Hurricane had sent as many soldiers as he could spare, some twelve thousand, to the west with the simple mission of gather as much food as they could fit onto pegasus wagons and bring them back as soon as possible. He had also dispatched two chariots to locate Platinum and Puddinghead and bring them back to their respective capitals along with their companions. As of yet, they had not returned, which was understandable; after all, trying to find four ponies in the middle of unexplored wilderness was much, much easier said than done.

And in the middle of it all, Hurricane still had to manage a nation—two, actually, counting the shattered royalty of the Diamond Kingdom. King Lapis had died from his wounds long before Hurricane had fought his way into the throne room, and Cyclone’s firebombing had killed a good number of nobles as they cowered within their manors. With nopony to rule them, Hurricane and the Legion had to step in and try to restore some semblance of ordinary life to the city. With anti-pegasus tensions higher than ever, though, it was a struggle just to stop the city from rioting. At least the Praetorian Guard was slowly bringing calm back to River Rock, and those members who had participated in the invasion were just as quick to lend a hoof in the reconstruction of the town. Not that it would matter much, anyway, when Princess—Queen Platinum led the unicorns west.

Hurricane mused on that briefly. Platinum probably still thought that nothing was wrong back home. What a horrible shock it would be to her when she realized that her city was nearly burnt to the ground, her father was murdered, and she had become a queen the moment she returned to River Rock.

He could feel her pain. It was nearly the same sentiment he felt when he came back to Cloudsdale.

Pausing at an intersection, Hurricane glanced around for a sign telling him which way to go. There were no such signs, however, and he soon decided to set off to the right on a hunch. As he walked, his mind wandered to everything that still needed to be done. He needed to preside over the trial for the treacherous officers, he needed to organize the exodus—another exodus—and he still had yet to say his final goodbyes to Swift Spear. He wanted to do so with his children and Twister, and that was the only reason he had not yet gotten around to it. That, and the wounds in his heart were still too deep and too fresh. Even thinking about the mare that he loved, the mare he would never see again, brought him to the verge of tears.

Hurricane paused by a window and rested his hooves on the sill as he felt his chest begin to heave and tremble again. So much was piling on top of him. So much to do, so much to say, and nobody he could pass it off onto. His family was dead or dying. His friends were in little better shape. No wonder he had found the first traces of silver hair in his mane the night prior.

He looked out the window again, and immediately realized his mistake. It was placed on the eastern side of the building, and he could see across town square and the statue nestled in the middle. The statue of Silver Sword, standing tall, proud and looking ever eastward. From this angle, Hurricane could just catch a glimpse of his solemn face. The resolute features had never changed in twenty years, and never would change for as long as the city stood the test of time.

It was too much. He broke down there in a quiet sob, pinching a hoof to the bridge of his nose as tears streamed from his eyes. His wings hung low by his sides, dirty and unpreened, and the primaries brushed against the floor. As the warm water ran down the fur on his face, Hurricane squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his forehead against the window.

Several ponies walked past him in both directions, but none stopped, and for that, Hurricane was thankful. When he had finally regained his composure some ten minutes later, he wiped the tears from his face and set off down the hall again, making sure to keep his all-too revealing wings at his side. He must be strong; he was the only true leader Cirra and perhaps the entirety of the Compact had left now.

That conviction slowly steeled his nerves as he walked into another wing of the hospital. Here lied the treated Legionnaires in various stages of recovery, some with little more than linen bandages around their heads, others with wings in slings or legs amputated with bloody gauze-wrapped stumps where flesh and bone ought to have been. Hurricane looked through all of them, noting the placards hanging from the bedframes, and soon found the pony he was looking for with a doctor not too far away.

Hurricane moved towards the bedded Legionnaire, but the doctor nearby stopped him with an authoritative hoof. “Sir, with all due respect, now would not be the best time to see him. I know the private is a friend of yours, but—”

“I don’t mean to wake him if he’s sleeping,” Hurricane said, looking over the doctor’s shoulder and noting that the pony was indeed out cold. “I just want to know how he’s doing.”

The doctor looked through the papers at the foot of the bed until he pulled out a marked-up diagram of a pony. “The swords cut fairly deep, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. His flank and the stifle of his left leg took the worst of it; those muscles will need some time to heal on their own. The hock and cannon of his right leg are crushed. He hasn’t said much about the fight, but two other soldiers who were with him at the time, Legate Iron Rain and Centurion Pathfinder? They said a Legionnaire falling out of the sky struck his leg directly with its helm when the corpse landed.”

Looking left, Hurricane saw the pony’s ears twitch. Turning back to the doctor, he bowed his head. “Thank you. If you would, I would like to spend some time with him.”

The doctor saluted. “As you wish, Commander.” Then, gathering up his belongings, the medic left to check on some other patients.

Pulling over a stool, Hurricane sat down and rested his forehooves on the frame of the bed. “He’s gone now, Pansy.”

The butter yellow stallion frowned and squirmed just enough to get his head up and supported by the backrest of his bed. “I thought he would never leave. And it’s ‘Pan Sea’, sir.”

Hurricane chuckled lightly. “Force of habit. How’re the legs?”

Pan Sea lifted the covers slightly. Whatever he saw was obviously anything but pretty, and he quickly dropped them again, a tinge of green in his face. “They’ve been… better. To say the least.”

The smirk came softly over Hurricane’s face. “Two cuts and a broken leg? I’d say that’s a helluva tradeoff compared to all the traitors you cut down.”

Laughing slightly, Pan Sea shook his head. “Right. I just figured I’d do my best to impersonate you, sir, and nothing would be able to touch me.”

“Seems like you could use a little work. Overall, though, a really solid plan.”

They both chuckled, Hurricane enjoying the friendly banter to take his mind off of the world just as much as Pan Sea.

“How are Cyclone and Typhoon?” Pan Sea suddenly asked, his face growing stern.

Hurricane’s chuckles died into silence like a lone wolf over the frozen tundra. He furrowed his brow, thoughtful for a moment, before sighing. His shoulders collapsed then, and he shook his head slightly.

“I wish I could say things were going well, but it’s a tenuous enough balance as it is. They’re thinking Cyclone might live, but Typhoon?” He shook his head, blinking away tears, “She took the worst of it. They’re still not sure if she’ll make it.”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Pan Sea insisted. “You know her better than I do, but I can say that she’s her mother through and through, all the way to the core. She’s strong, stronger than I could ever be.”

“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” Hurricane noted. “Not many ponies survive what you went through.”

“Not many ponies pass out from a cut,” Pan Sea returned. “Pathfinder saw me yesterday and said I was never in any danger of dying from my wounds.”

“Pathfinder’s a stubborn son of a bitch who forgets that not all Legionnaires joined the Legion when they were thirteen. Don’t listen to him just because he took a bad wound during the Red Cloud War and survived; he would have been dead if help didn’t arrive for him.”

Pan Sea thoughtfully hummed and placed a hoof to his chin. Hurricane wasn’t sure if telling Pan Sea he would have died without help to prove a point was a good idea or not, but it hardly mattered now.

In the end, the yellow pegasus just nodded his head. “Oh well. Not that it matters anyway. It’s not like I’ll ever be fighting again.”

Hurricane raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t mean you were in that much danger of dying…”

“No, it’s not that,” Pan Sea said. Pulling off the covers, he showed Hurricane his twisted right leg. “That’s the problem. How can I fight if my leg points almost directly at my opposite hoof? How can I get the momentum to swing a sword? Walking is already going to a problem enough as it is.”

“Pan Sea…” Hurricane began, his tone cautious. “What is it you’re so worried about?”

Pan Sea sighed. “I don’t want to be discharged, Commander. Years ago, even last month? That would have been different. Truth be told, I hated the Legion. I only remained because the centurions wanted my experience from the War and… well, my dad would never forgive me if I quit. Even from the grave, he’d still scorn me. He was a proper Legate in his day, during the High Noon War, and he was a proud stallion. He died a few years before the Red Cloud War, but all my life he kept pressing me towards the Legion, and I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t say no, and now…”

“Now you don’t want to go,” Hurricane finished for him. “Now that you finally have your way out, you finally feel like you belong.”

“Exactly,” Pan Sea mewled. “Flying with you to the west, sir, and doing the things we did, and Pathfinder and Iron Rain? I don’t want to give that up, not now, but the Legion will never keep on a lame stallion who can’t fight. What have I got to look forward to when I’m discharged? Where will I work, what’ll I do?”

Hurricane frowned at Pan Sea. “You have my word, Pan Sea, I’ll say something to the Praetorian about this. I may not be able to earn you a spot on the battlefield, but I’m in desperate need of a secretary, and I only hire ponies I trust to look through my paperwork.” Squinting at Pan Sea, Hurricane raised an eyebrow. “Can I trust you?”

Pan Sea smiled and saluted. “Sir, yes sir!”

“That’s what I thought. At ease, centurion Pan Sea.”

“Heheh. You know what? I think I’ll take the promotion for once, sir.”

“Good to hear,” Hurricane said as he backed away. He could already see sleep and exhaustion clawing at Pan Sea’s eyes. “I’ll let you rest for now. I’ll see you in the morning, hm?”

Pan Sea nodded at Hurricane. “Of course, Commander. I’ll be looking forward to it.”

Hurricane saluted to Pan Sea and all too quickly had to turn around and leave. By the time he had taken five steps away from the wounded soldier, Pan Sea was asleep, a serene smile on his face.

-----

Typhoon floated through darkness. There was nothing around her. No sky, no ground, no floors or walls or ceilings. No light, no shadows. Not even a rustle of air. Her mane and tail were as limp as could be as they draped from her head or down her flanks.

She was happy here. It was peaceful. There was no pain, no feeling. Just the dark. Her and the darkness. She couldn’t feel the numerous shards of skysteel embedded in her skin, couldn’t feel the deep wound in her side or through her shoulder. The burning in her flesh and the lightheadedness was gone. Everything was perfect. Everything was nice.

There was a slight tug at her shoulders and at her mind that felt like she was falling, sinking ever so slowly, just as she had been for the past… Gods, she had no idea how long. Time did not exist here. Nothing existed here. Yet she knew that she was going somewhere. She felt whatever it was drawing her soul ever onwards, ever closer to the Great Skies. When she would get there, she didn’t know. If she was already there, she didn’t know. If she would ever get there, she didn’t know. But it was nice here. Comfortable, even.

A tiny pinprick of light pierced the darkness.

Typhoon recoiled from it, throwing up a hoof against the pain it brought. Why did it have to be so cruel? Why did it ruin her happiness? She didn’t want it. Didn’t want its light. Make it go away. Please. Bad light. Bad pain.

Her falling sensation stopped, and to Typhoon’s infinite dismay, she began to move upwards, towards the light and the pain and the imperfection it was. She could feel the wounds against her sides reopening. Shards of skysteel suddenly sprouted from her neck, little larger than pebbles but sharper than any metal, horrible razors of fire and ice sent to torture her. A cleft under her right wing opened up, and Typhoon shrieked in pain. She felt the returning pain of a sword burrowing into her left shoulder, but it was simply another needle on a pile of swords. It was already so much, so much compared to the perfect darkness she had dwelt in.

The light was getting closer, larger, brighter, meaner. Go away, please. Go away. Go away go away go away go away go away go away—

In a blinding flash of light, Typhoon’s eyes flew open and she sat up in her bed. A sudden and sharp pain in her sides forced her back down, and she lay there with her head on the pillow, moaning. A dull ache pervaded her body, and her neck and chest itched like mad. Sweating profusely, she gulped down air and shuddered at each breath. She moved a hoof, slowly and with great difficulty, along her body, feeling numerous stitches and several thick, plaster bandages on each side.

Blinking several times, Typhoon tried to get a fix on her surroundings. It was a white room with several cabinets and shelves holding medical equipment. That the white came from cloudstone was incredibly comforting to the mare. She was somewhere safe at least. If it had been stone or dirt, she probably would have broken right there. But she was in Cloudsdale, not River Rock. She doubted she could ever set hoof in that city again.

“So… awake?”

Typhoon jumped in her bed, her wings shooting out to her sides in alarm. Trembling slightly, she turned her head to the side. She realized for the first time there was another bed in the room she was in, and it was also occupied. There, with his back against the frame of his bed, was a stallion with a crimson coat. He too was covered in bandages and stitches, and the scar over his left eye was still raw and oozed slightly.

“C-Cyclone?” Typhoon inched herself backwards, wary and alarmed. “You’re… alive?”

Cyclone chuckled slightly. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

Typhoon was at a loss for words. “I… I didn’t think you’d survive… I didn’t think I’d survive.”

“A stubborn enough pony can survive about anything,” Cyclone mused. “You and I? We’re stubborn ponies. It’ll take a lot more than that to kill one another.”

He coughed, spitting a wad of bloody saliva on the floor next to him. He grimaced and laid back against the bed, placing a hoof over his chest. “That… urgh… doesn’t mean you didn’t do quite a number to me in that fight.”

Typhoon glanced at her own wounds. She spoke softly, ashamed of what she said next. “I tried to kill you.”

Cyclone stared at his rear hooves. “So did I… and I meant it.” His voice was but a low murmur, difficult to make out even in the quiet room. “I tried with everything I had to kill you, Typhoon. I tried hard, harder than I ever fought before. And it was killing me inside.” He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. “I didn’t want to kill you.”

Typhoon breathed quietly to herself, her hooves trembling. “I… I didn’t want to either. I hoped… hoped you would kill me first. I didn’t want your blood on my hooves, but I had to fight. I couldn’t let you do what you were going to do.”

A flash of hurt streaked across Cyclone’s eyes. “I was wrong,” he quietly whispered to himself. “The Praetorians… Thunder Hawk and Rust Shot and so many others… they convinced me what I was doing was right. But I started this mess. I deserve nothing less than the fullest of punishment Cirra has to offer.” He gestured with a hoof at the medical equipment around him and the rudimentary bandages on his sides. “Why they bothered saving my life is beyond me. I should have died on the floor of River Rock’s throne room. That’s where I belong. A traitor’s death. I tried to overthrow two governments and failed.” He looked at his wing, which was tightly held against his side with a thick leather sling. “I can’t fly, not like this. When they hang me they won’t have to worry about binding my wings.”

There was nothing Typhoon could say about that. She knew it to be true enough. Instead she asked him a simple question. “Have you spoken to mom? Or how about dad?”

Cyclone visibly paled, even beneath his red fur. He held his forehooves together, rubbing the hard keratin against itself. “I— mom’s gone, Ty.”

The words slammed the air out of Typhoon’s lungs and left her reeling. “Mom’s… d-dead?” It wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be possible. Typhoon flashed back to the day she left Cloudsdale to investigate River Rock with Cyclone. Swift Spear’s worried face as they left, just the two of them, to a city full of hostile unicorns. How that was the last time she would ever see her alive, and she never knew it.

The tears came streaming down her face, freely. She was too stunned to sob, and too weary to even bring her hooves to her cheeks and brush off the warm tears running down them. All she could do was lie there and shudder softly.

“She died fighting the Praetorians I sent to apprehend her,” Cyclone was saying, almost to himself. “It’s my fault. All I’ve done is kill ponies who didn’t need to die. Nothing else has changed.” He looked over at Typhoon, his eyes also on the edge of tears. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Typhoon only whimpered to herself, withdrawing slightly. “M-mommy...” she said quietly. Cyclone looked at her thin and wounded body as she shook. He saw her so often in her armor that it was hard to remember that even under all that, beneath the battles and the combat experience and her authority, she was barely eighteen. He wanted to go to her and drape a wing across her shoulders, telling her everything would be fine, but he couldn’t move. The pain in his body kept him down, and two thick, leather straps across his legs and abdomen kept him fastened to the bed. The medics had taken every precaution that he and Typhoon wouldn’t go at it in their weakened states while they weren’t around.

Several minutes passed before the young mare finally collected herself enough to stop the tears. She sat there, sniffling, and staring out into space. Her eyes were haunted and hollow, and her lips still trembled. Without looking at Cyclone, she asked him, “And what about dad?”

“Dad’s okay,” Cyclone was able to answer, relieved to be delivering some good news. “He rallied soldiers and put an end to… it all.” Sucking awkwardly on his cheek, Cyclone danced around the subject as best he could. “He was with mom when she died, and he found us when we were dying. He’s been asking every day how we’re both doing, or so the doctors tell me. They won’t let him see until we’re both better.”

Typhoon breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s… good. When will that be?”

Cyclone shrugged his shoulders. “Days, weeks maybe. I’m glad to hear you’re doing better. I saw you when I first woke up… I didn’t think there was a way in hell you would survive that. There was so much blood.”

“Yeah… right,” Typhoon said. “Thanks for that.” Pressing a hoof to her head, the mare suddenly felt dizzy and lightheaded.

“We both lost a lot of blood, sis,” Cyclone said. “Just take it easy and rest. You’ll be better in no time.”

Typhoon nodded and slumped back deeper into the bed. “Hmmm… I think that’s a good idea…” Her eyelids were heavy, and when she blinked they were difficult to open.

Just before she drifted off to sleep, she mustered her focus for one last thought. “Cyclone?”

Her brother looked up from where he was also nodding off. “Yes, Typhoon?”

“I… I’m just glad that I didn’t kill you. And no matter what happens, I love you.”

Cyclone smiled softly as Typhoon’s eyes closed and she drifted back off to sleep. “I know, Ty. I know.”

-----

Commander Hurricane hated trials. He had no patience for the arguing and bickering, or the jury and their deliberations, or the cunning machinations of slick lawyers keeping the guilty from justice. If it were up to him, he’d let the convicted give him their story and be judged by it, or give them a sword and let them defend their honor. Not make a whole song and dance of it.

Unfortunately, Hurricane found himself in the dull position of presiding over the trials for the attempted coup. About a week had passed since then, and the soldiers he had sent off to the west were returning with barely enough food to keep the Compact Lands alive for the time being. Despite the continued snow outside, spring was coming, and the air temperature was inching up by a few degrees. With time, the permafrost covering the ground might begin to thaw, allowing food to be grown again. Regardless, Queen Platinum and Chancellor Puddinghead were working together to draw up plans for the exodus across the Narrow Strait, and soon enough food would no longer be an issue.

There was the stomping of a hoof against wood, producing a clack clack clack as one of the lower judges dismissed a group of traitors to make way for the next. The sentence: death, like so many others before, and perhaps many more to come. Hurricane was glad there were three other judges under him that did most of the work while he simply presided over the hearings. They had been going at it for ten, almost eleven hours, with little breaks for short five minute recesses scattered about seemingly at random. Hurricane, like a bored bird, had started absentmindedly plucking feathers from his wings in the meantime, relapsing into his old habit of making sure they were perfect and spotless. He had to apologize once to one of the palace staff for making a mess around his chair when he got back from lunch.

The next names read perked Hurricane’s ears for the first time in the past few hours. Coughing lightly, the mare reading off the names of convicted began to speak. “The Senate will begin the hearings for the war crimes of Imperator Cyclone, Praetorian Commander Thunder Hawk, Praetorian Commander Rust Shot, and Praetorian Lieutenant Steel Wing. They have been charged with treason, conspiring against the Legion, and the unlawful invasion and wanton destruction of unicorn territory in the capital city of River Rock. Praetorian Commander Thunder Hawk has been charged specifically with the murder of Imperator Primus Swift Spear. Imperator Cyclone has been charged with leading an army into River Rock, resulting in the deaths of thousands of unicorns, including the King, Lapis IV, father of Queen Platinum.”

The four accused stood at their table, surrounded on all sides by angry and hissing Cirran senators. None of the four responded, instead staring directly ahead at the judges before them. Hurricane shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he felt Cyclone’s eyes find their way to his face. They were calm and remorseful, and filled with a sad acceptance of what was about to come.

“The Senate lays the evidence against you,” the mare continued, a Legate by rank but court judge by trade. “You have been convicted of treason in its highest form and the murders of numerous military officials. Do you have anything to say in your defense?”

The Praetorians were quiet; instead, they looked to Cyclone, expecting the younger stallion to speak for them. Stepping forward, Cyclone took a deep breath and let the air release from his lungs, slowly. Hurricane noticed his muzzle twitch in pain at the action; he had only been released from the hospital the day before, and only because the other Legates in charge of the trial were anxious to get it over with and fly west towards warmer lands. The leather sling holding his wing in place was still there, and some scars that he had nervously scratched at some time earlier were surrounded in dried blood. It still bothered Hurricane that the doctors and then the Legates had denied him from speaking with his son before the trial; in fact, it had taken the use of all of his authority to not let them force him to recuse himself from the day’s proceedings. Even if he did have to wait through a day’s worth of boredom, he wouldn’t let them attempt to sentence his son to death without him there.

“I have little to say in our defense,” Cyclone began. His voice was so low and resolute it was difficult to make out in the courtroom. “There is nothing that can be said to change our fates, justly deserved as they may be.”

The Legate squinted at Cyclone, obviously expecting a better argument than that. Around the room, the senators likewise narrowed their eyes and grumbled; they had come for a show, and in the end would get nothing. Hurricane fidgeted in his seat as he watched his son walk himself towards the gallows.

“So you admit to your guilt?” the Legate asked, still incredulous. Cyclone’s only response was a single-degree tilt of his head down and back up. Frowning, the mare leaned forward. “You refuse to defend yourselves against your supposed crimes?”

At this Cyclone scowled, and his free wing began to open in anger. “You were expecting a show? You were expecting me to fight to the end of this runaround? To struggle all I could to save myself from a fate I already know you have condemned me to?”

“You have not been condemned to anything, Imperator—”

“Bullshit!” Cyclone seethed. “Don’t play games with me, Legate. I can see it in your eyes, yours and the eyes of the rest of this damn Senate. You’ve already signed me off to the gallows. But I’m more than stallion enough to accept my fate when it’s given to me. It’s more honorable to die justly than to go down kicking and screaming like some foal. I will not twist myself and beg for my life just for you to hold it tantalizingly close before ripping it away. Give me my sentence and be done with it. I will entertain this Senate no longer.”

The three judges below Hurricane looked at each other, confused. In the end, they had no choice but to nod to one another, and the Legate in the middle stood up. “Imperator Cyclone, Praetorian Commanders Thunder Hawk and Rust Shot, and Praetorian Lieutenant Steel Wing. With your admission of guilt to the crimes of treason and conspiracy laid before you and branded over your heads, the Senate of Twenty-Four sentences you to death. May Mobius judge your soul for your foul crimes and cast you off to where your honor deems you worthy. Your execution will take place a week from now, on—”

“Stop!” Hurricane boomed from above. All the ponies in the room turned to look at him; it was, after all, the first time he had spoken during the proceedings almost all day. He stood with his forehooves braced on the polished wood and skysteel trimming of his desk, breathing heavily and angrily. “I will not condemn my only son to death.”

The Legates turned around in their seats and raised their brows, aghast. “Commander,” the lead mare began, “Imperator Cyclone has admitted his guilt. He is a traitor, and the Legion demands that he pay the price.” Turning back to the room, the mare nodded her head and recited the Legion’s creed, which was echoed back to her by the many voices in the room. “Ante Legionem nihil erat, et nihil erit post Legionem. The Imperator has forsaken the Legion, and for that, there will be nothing for him.”

“I made a promise to my wife,” Hurricane bristled as tendrils of smoke began to drift from his wings. “I made a promise to her as she lay, dying in my arms, her blood pouring out across the floor. She knew that this was Cyclone’s fault, and she knew that it was because of him that she died…”

Below, Cyclone visibly flinched and lowered his head, ashamed.

“…but that didn’t matter to her. She demanded that I didn’t kill one of her children, one of our children. And I promised her that I would keep him alive.”

An uneasy silence settled across the courtroom. Clearing her throat, the lead mare addressed Hurricane directly, saying, “You would let your son walk free without any repercussions, sir? Remember that you hold no direct authority over these proceedings. Your role here is ceremonial; the sentences are passed by us three and no others.”

“I would not let him go unpunished,” Hurricane said. “I already know what will happen to him.”

“And what, pray tell, is that, Commander?”

Hurricane was quiet. He looked directly into Cyclone’s eyes, seeing the first glimmer of hope in them since he had walked into the room. “He will not be joining us during the exodus. He, and all his followers, will remain in River Rock, and pay back the damage they caused to those inhabitants who will wish to remain.”

A murmur spread throughout the room as the senators whispered among themselves. Cyclone’s wing began to tremble, and it took all his self-control to not look around the room in anxiety. He couldn’t really tell how he felt about what his father was suggesting. The chance to live, which, despite his acceptance of an early death was still something he hoped for, but at the cost of being left behind? Would he ever see his family again? Would he live long enough to get that chance when surrounded by ponies who hated him for who he was and what he did?

“Commander,” the Legate began, “who is to say that the other unicorns and earth ponies who remain will even want him there? They’ll just as quickly string him up and kill him as the Senate demands, and they’d be much more brutal than we would. You’re offering your son the worse of two identical outcomes.”

Hurricane remained resolute, and his eyes glinted at the Legate. “We will let the other races decide his fate, then. I think you will find they’re not as unforgiving as you would believe them to be.” Looking off towards the window across from him, and the setting sun framed between its panes, he smiled softly to himself. “I learned that myself not too long ago.”

The judges still remained dubious. “Commander…”

The black stallion’s eyes snapped back to the Legate’s and narrowed into smoldering coals. “This is his sentence. If you try to interfere in any way, today will be the last time you will be sitting at that desk… or at anything, really.”

A threat from Commander Hurricane was more akin to a prophecy than intimidating words, and the Legate turned around, trembling slightly. Standing up, she addressed the Senate. “Imperator Cyclone’s fate, and the fate of his companions, will be determined by the judiciary branches of the Low Valleys and the Diamond Kingdoms. At that time, their fates will become sealed. The Senate now brings this session of today’s trials to a close.”

With a loud stomp of her hoof, the Legate dismissed Cyclone and the other ponies in the room. Gathering up their things, the senators left in groups, grumbling to each other about their disappointment with the day’s supposed ‘grand finale’. Even the judges were quick in leaving, eager to be away from the irate Commander. Eight Legionnaires approached Cyclone, leading him and his three companions away and back to their cells. As they left, Cyclone turned and looked at Hurricane one more time.

His father’s smile calmed him more than any official pardon ever would have.

-----

“Are you sure?”

“We’ve shared our thoughts with her. But all we can do is advise; it’s up to the Queen to make the final call in the end.”

“I wouldn’t go around calling Platinum that, yet. She’s still shaken by it all.”

“Would this be a bad time to talk about—?”

“Yes, it would be, Chancellor.”

“How did you even know what I was going to say, Smart Cookie? Are you a wizard or something?”

“No, I just know that the wrong things have a tendency to stream out of your mouth at the wrong time.”

“They do not! Just because I was describing Platinum’s beautiful flanks that I got to stare at the entire walk home to a unicorn that just happened to be a diplomat to the Diamond Kingdom doesn’t mean—!”

The door opened, diverting the attention of Smart Cookie, Puddinghead, and Clover from their conversation. In walked Queen Platinum, holding her crown of namesake metal at her side with her magic. Her eyes were sullen and her tail was slightly drooped, and whether or not she heard the subject matter of Puddinghead’s objections seemed to affect her little. As her three companions backed away to form a respectful semicircle around her, Platinum released a tense whistle of air and spun the crown in her telekinetic grasp.

“Platinum, you’ve made your decision?” Clover asked, taking a few steps towards the white mare. Her attire was considerably upgraded for the event; no longer did she wear the rough spun rags and garments she was accustomed to. Instead, she wore an elegant yet practical set of robes that draped down to her knees, colored with blue satin and lined with white fur. Her braided green mane hung to one side of her head, its usual curls and general roundness somewhat straightened out to appear like something fashionable. A golden brooch encrusted with diamonds held the robes together at her neck.

“Indeed I have,” Platinum darkly said as she stared down the hallway towards the bright light pouring in. Just beyond the light was the lowest balcony of Castle Burning Hearth; down below, thousands of ponies were gathered, waiting to hear the decision. Chanting and whistling filled the stone corridor like white noise, a part of the background as obscure and continuous as the faces of the stone bricks around the ponies inside. With a shudder, Platinum levitated the large crown onto her head, feeling the unnatural weight of the metal as compared to her lighter Princess’ headpiece, and began to walk forward. Clover turned and followed at her side, while Smart Cookie and Puddinghead walked together a small distance behind her.

Squinting, the Queen stepped onto the balcony and was blasted by a wall of noise from the ponies below. Raising a hoof to her eyes to shield them from the bright gray light, she looked over the crowd. The plaza, which just over a week ago had been filled with bodies and stained with blood, was now jam packed with unicorns and earth ponies of all kinds and from all classes. Atop the surviving buildings around the square, several squads of Cirran Legionnaires watched the masses below, ready to intervene if the crowd became too unruly. On the ground, most of the survivors of the Diamond Guard walked about, instilling order in the ponies around them.

The wooden structure directly beneath the balcony was what caught Platinum’s attention the most. There, surrounded by unicorn guards, stood four pegasi, each with their wings tied and their legs bound. A thick plank of wood supported between two poles towered above them. Swaying gently in the breeze, four heavy coils of rope tied into loops hung from the plank. A collapsible platform linked to a pull lever stood just beneath the nooses.

Noticing the sudden uproar from the crowd, the lead pegasus, the one with the coat of blood, craned his neck upwards. When his eyes locked with Platinum’s, the Queen flinched and stepped back a foot. Calmly, the prisoner blinked at Platinum before lowering his neck back towards the crowd of ponies around him.

Taking a breath to steady herself, Platinum once more approached the railing of the balcony. She let the crowd roar for a while, hoping to feed off of their energy and prepare herself to deliver the sentence. Then, raising a hoof into the air, she lowered the noise until she had silenced several thousand ponies with nothing more than a hoof.

A chill ran down her spine. This power was surreal. She didn’t know whether she liked it or not.

Her horn crackled to life in a wash of blue Arcana, and soon, Platinum’s magically-amplified voice rang out over the town square. “Ponies of the Diamond Kingdom and the Low Valleys; I, Queen Platinum, first of my name, stand here to pass judgment on the four ponies below. They were heavily involved in the coup d’état, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including Imperator Swift Spear, wife of Commander Maximus Hurricane of Cirra, and King Lapis, fourth of his name, during the invasion of River Rock, which is still so horribly fresh in our minds.”

The crowds remained quiet as she spoke. It was unnerving. Political speech as the leader of the Kingdom still unsettled her; she hadn’t been in River Rock during the invasion, and hadn’t even known about it until she returned two days prior, yet she had to speak like she was there. She suddenly had a much deeper appreciation for her father and even for Commander Hurricane himself; it wasn’t easy being queen.

With another prolonged breath through her pause, Platinum picked up her speech once more. “Commander Hurricane has offered these four ponies to the Diamond Kingdom for me to decide their fate; after all, it was our home which they attacked, not Amber Field or the Low Valleys.”

Behind her, Chancellor Puddinghead frowned, but, to Smart Cookie’s relief, he refrained from saying anything or blowing raspberries at the Queen. Apparently he had managed to outgrow that on the journey to and from Equestria.

“After spending a great deal of time in my quarters thinking,” Platinum resumed, “I eventually came to a conclusion. Some ponies deserve a second chance for their actions. Some ponies make truly terrible mistakes. Those mistakes can be small, or they can be large. Regardless, second chances are something I believe in, if the pony receiving it is worthy of another attempt at doing right.”

The crowd began to murmur amongst itself. At this distance, Platinum couldn’t tell what their mood was, but it seemed sour. She couldn’t blame them, not after what they had been through. But she wasn’t finished yet.

Clearing her throat, the white mare called out over the crowds again. “Even still, there are some acts that are nigh irreconcilable. Sometimes, the price is too high to buy a second chance. Sometimes, a second chance would not matter in the first place, because the pony is too far gone to be deserving of one. In such a case, it is our duty, the duty of the righteous, to ensure that justice be delivered swiftly and cleanly.”

Narrowing her eyes, Platinum looked down at the group of pegasi below her. None of them shivered or fidgeted or pleaded for their lives; they were soldiers, trained to stand behind their wall of discipline and defend it to the end. Platinum marveled again at how a pony could train themselves to be so desensitized to everything happening around them, even when it concerned their own fate.

“It is time that their sentence be delivered unto them, and by the sun and stars, let its ruling be true and forever upheld.”

She could feel the tension building in the air as her subjects (and now they were truly her subjects) waited for her to deliver the sentence. Four ponies’ lives would be directly affected by what she would say next; even now, her doubts fought against each other, trying to tear the other apart and make Platinum choose their side. Buying time, the mare took a deep breath and looked out over the ponies around the edge of the square.

Her eyes stopped on the face of one black pegasus clad in onyx armor. He stood on the roof of a burnt out building far across the plaza, one hoof resting on the remains of a chimney. His expression betrayed nothing, but Platinum knew he was watching and hanging on the decision she would deliver upon his son.

Closing her eyes, Platinum made a quick prayer to the gods that her choice be the right one. When she opened them again, she forced all the doubt out of her voice as she delivered the sentence.

“By the power of Celestis and Lunis, and by my own royal decree, I, Queen Platinum, first of my name of House Azurite, and in the presence of the Great Kings of Old, especially the Wise Five who founded the mighty Diamond Kingdom, hereby rule that the four accused… shall live.”

There was a riotous roaring from the plaza, and the soldiers stationed around it braced themselves and nervously leaned towards their weapons. Screams of outrage echoed across the hollow buildings around the castle, and the surface of the mass of ponies rippled violently as some displayed their displeasure with angry hooves and stomping.

“Enough!” Holding her hoof out, Platinum continued to order her subjects down with her magically enhanced voice. “Enough! Ponies of River Rock, please, listen! Listen!!”

As Platinum stood her ground, the rioters slowly muted themselves into a smoldering anger. The slightest touch would set them off again, Platinum knew, so she began to appeal to them. “Are we noble unicorns and humble earth ponies, or Crystal barbarians?” she asked, letting her gaze sweep across the ponies present so that she could look as many of them in the eye as possible. “Do we call for blood when blood is spilt? Do we seek to mutilate ponies for their crimes? I tell you, we do not.

“Some of you might be worried that we have incorrectly pardoned these soldiers for their actions, yet I see it as a chance for them to redeem themselves. Imperator Cyclone and his companions, along with many of his followers during the coup, have elected to stay behind in River Rock and offer protection to those of you staying behind. For you who have elected to journey west to the new lands, what does it matter if they live or die? You will not be seeing them ever again. For those of you who wish to remain, fear them not. Captain Chiseled Gem and several other officers of the Diamond Guard have volunteered to remain as well. They will be in charge of the day to day operations of River Rock, and they will keep the Imperator and his followers in line. Together, they will keep you safe from the monsters that even now prowl the snows, and together they will find a way for you all to survive. This, I promise you. Please, believe in them as I do.”

Nodding to the silenced crowd one more time, Platinum nodded and lingered long enough to see the guards leading Cyclone and his followers away from the gallows and back into the castle. Looking upwards, she saw that the black pegasus on the rooftop had already disappeared. With a slight toss of her mane, Platinum waved goodbye and walked back into the castle with Clover at her side. Behind her, Chancellor Puddinghead and Representative Smart Cookie took to the balcony to discuss the plans for the journey west.

As they approached the inner door leading back into the castle, the two unicorns saw Star Swirl the Bearded leaning against the wall. He was still wearing the bruises and scrapes and burns he had taken in the fight when he took on an entire company of Diamond Guards by himself, yet he looked as lively as ever, even if he was seventy-nine.

“An excellent speech, your highness. Most befitting of a queen.” Smiling softly, he teased some hairs of his beard with a hoof. “You’ve already got your father’s charisma about you.”

“Thank you,” Platinum said, politely nodding. “It’s good to see that you’re doing alright.”

Star Swirl chuckled softly. “Of course. I may be old, but I can still tumble with the best of them.”

“Not many ponies live to be eighty, and even fewer can sweep the halls of traitors at that age like you did. Now,” she said with a dip of her head, “I need to make my final preparations for the journey in a few days’ time. Clover, please come see me when you’re finished, darling.”

With that, Platinum turned and left, walking through the doors beside them and disappearing down the stone halls. Clover and Star Swirl stood there for a long while after the door closed before saying anything.

“Eighty, hmm? Do I really look that old?”

Clover nearly choked on a giggle at the innocuous question. “It’s the beard, Teacher. And, to be fair, your birthday is in exactly seventeen days, four hours, and fifty-three minutes.”

Star Swirl raised an eyebrow towards his apprentice. “It’s good to know somepony’s keeping track at least. But when you’re my age, Clover, you’ll understand. Every day that you’re still alive is another day you’ve been given to make something out of. Never just sit back and take life for granted; it’s one of the biggest mistakes a pony can make.”

Clover smiled thoughtfully to herself. “You should come with us.”

“Who, me? Have you seen me try to get around the castle, Clover? Why, I can barely walk!”

The apprentice frowned, but then she remembered something. “Teacher?”

“Hmm?”

Fidgeting on her hooves, Clover asked, “Do you remember what you told me when I left?”

Star Swirl stood thoughtful for a minute. Raising the pipe that was always present in his robes, he drew on it as he looked down the hall towards the light outside. “Yes, I do believe I remember.”

“You said it yourself, Star Swirl,” Clover said, turning to stand face to face with the aging stallion. “You told me there was so much more out there that you couldn’t possibly teach me. Well, I’ve seen things that I’ve never heard of before, witnessed beauty in but a sliver of its forms, yet still vastly wider than what I had known just inside of River Rock.” Her eyes looked into his, soft and pleading. “You asked me to bring you back something to teach you what sorts of things there are outside of these city walls. But I don’t want to simply talk about what I found. I want to show you what I learned.”

Her ears drooped, and she smiled sadly in remembrance of her journey. “The world is a beautiful place. It may be founded on hate, like you said, but also like you said, it is guided and shaped by love. Right now… we’re helping to guide it and shape it. I want you to help us too.”

Star Swirl’s lips were first pensive, and he tapped a hoof against his chin. But then, with each passing second, the corners nudged themselves upwards in almost imperceptible spurts until he had a grandfatherly smile on his face. Reaching forward with his hoof, he tousled Clover’s mane and pulled her close.

“Here I am, complaining that I’m too old to do these things, when a young mare reminds me that it’s never too old to see new sights and learn new lessons.”

Clover looked up at Star Swirl, teary eyes wide like saucers. “Every day that you’re still alive is another day you’ve been given to make something out of.”

Star Swirl chuckled. “And never just sit back and take life for granted; it’s one of the biggest mistakes a pony can make.”

Placing her head against the old stallion’s chest, Clover whispered softly, “So you’ll come with me? With us all?”

A single tear crept down Star Swirl’s cheek. His words were so soft that Clover didn’t hear them when he whispered to himself. “I will, Clover dear. Anything for my granddaughter.”

-----

The wind swept across the icy bluff, scattering snow and frost into the air. It swirled about on small currents, tumbling end over end, before dashing itself into the feathers of the four pegasi standing there, silent. They were in a line, standing next to a square of cleared ground, looking towards the rising sun as it framed the flat stone in front of them with gold.

Other than the wind, it was a nice and quiet morning. The air was warm for the late winter, a few degrees above freezing. To the four weary pegasi standing there, it felt like a midsummer’s morning. Three of them stood fully clad in armor, one of which had a red cloak draped over his left shoulder. The fourth pegasus was finely robed in ceremonial garments and a simple golden cuirass, and she stood next to the pegasus with the cloak. None of them spoke until their shadows finally began to retreat towards their hooves.

“She was a good pony,” Twister murmured as she stood next to her brother. Her ceremonial robes fluttered in the breeze, and she shifted a hoof to hold them down tighter. “I’m proud to have known her. She was like a sister to me.”

“That she was,” Hurricane mumbled softly. “Kind, friendly, and loyal. An angel among ponies. Soft eyes that cared, tender caresses from a loving hoof, and a passionate energy unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. She was truly one of a kind. From high to low, she was with me…” He stopped, grimacing as he fought back a sob, “…and she’s gone. Like writing on sand, the winds of time have carried her away. Just as they will lead us onwards, to the west.”

Taking a deep breath, Hurricane hung his head, his mind wandering back to happier times. Twister draped a wing across his back, and the two stood there, shoulder to shoulder, as they mourned.

To their left, Cyclone and Typhoon stood next to each other, wings brushing lightly. Typhoon was still shaky on her hooves, having been released from the hospital only the day before. Next to her, her brother also trembled, hearing the sentence the ponies who would stay in River Rock gave him just a few days ago. Now, in the presence of their mother for the first time since the coup, both were struggling to not break down into teary messes.

Resting her head on Cyclone’s chest, Typhoon let silent tears run down her cheeks. She didn’t say anything; there was nothing that needed to be said. Instead, she just wept. Her wings fell to the ground, brushing the snow ever so lightly, making light patterns as her feathers shifted the crystals. Cyclone placed a hoof around his sister’s back, rubbing her shoulders and comforting her as his own eyes filled with sparkling tears.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, and either to himself or to Typhoon or to Swift Spear in the ground, not even he himself had an idea. “I’m so sorry for everything I’ve done. Please forgive me.”

Even if the words weren’t spoken to her, Typhoon nodded her head and spoke softly into Cyclone’s chest. “I do, Cy. I… I already have.”

Somewhat relieved, Cyclone pulled his sister closer for a bigger hug. The two nuzzled each other’s necks, shaking with repressed tears and emotion. “Thank you,” the older of the two said, running a hoof through Typhoon’s mane.

Nodding to Twister, Hurricane stepped forward until he was standing at the very foot of Swift Spear’s grave. With several deep breaths, he steadied himself for the words and prayer to come next.

“Swift Spear, child of Strigon and all the other gods above, living on the plane that He himself has shaped, and will shape again at the end of time; you go to the grave not with the curse of a sellsword or the hollow death of a thief or rogue, but with the highest honor that one can give; the honor of death on the battlefield, fighting to defend one’s home, one’s family, and one’s nation. In the service of the Legion, and all the pegasi of Cirra, before the divine light of Mobius himself, we pray that your soul may find its way to the east, to the rising sun, and the Great Skies from which the new light is born again every day. Your honor has been unyielding, and as best as you could, you have lived by the code of Mobius, adhering to the tenants of honor and justice with all the effort a pony could muster. Garuda beckons for you to come to his Skies and live in peace. Go now, and leave the pain of the world behind. Let your wings guide you to the Skies above, and may your wake leave a trail for those who loved you, and still love you, to follow you into the Dawn, when the Dusk of their time comes.”

Reaching into a small pouch under the lightning bolt in his armor, Hurricane withdrew a single, blond feather. Holding the stem gingerly between his teeth, he examined the vane and the bristles on the thing. Then, with a flutter of his wings, the black stallion flew upwards a few feet before he released the feather into the wind. It twirled in the sky several times and darted back and forth, passing before Hurricane’s eyes for one more time before the winds took it away. Then it was little more than a light shadow skirting across the land, until it finally flew up and out of sight.

Hurricane watched it go, and when it finally disappeared, he turned away from Swift Spear’s grave and walked a short distance to the west. Over the cliff, he could see the wagons and carts of thousands of ponies trekking through the valley just to the south of Cloudsdale. In the distance, the stream of earth ponies met up with another line of unicorns leaving from River Rock. Together, they formed a line of ponies that steadily trickled towards the western mountains, the summits known as the Western Teeth, and the promised land beyond them.

“It will be a solid week before the first of that line make it across the Narrow Strait,” Hurricane said. “From there, another week until they get to the settlement established there. What was it that Clover said it was named? Everfree?” He shrugged his shoulders to himself. “I’m sure quite a few will just stop at the coast. Granted, the land isn’t as fertile as Everfree, but the greenery will do wonders for the mind.”

“And you and Platinum and Puddinghead already have begun organizing this ‘Equestria’ nation?” Twister asked from his side.

Hurricane nodded. “No longer three separate tribes, but united under one banner. Equestria, home of the ever-free. Never again shall we let our hatreds consume and enslave us. We will find some way to live together, no matter the cost.”

Typhoon stepped up to her father’s side and looked at him, her eyes sparkling with determination through the tears drying on her face. “I will stand by you until the end, Dad. Together, we’ll honor Mom and make sure that we never have to run again. We’ll make this new place our home, and I’ll defend it to the death.”

“Thank you,” Hurricane breathed to his daughter. Then, smiling, “We’ll have our work cut out for us, no doubt.”

“Work is better than the cold. We’ll be fine.”

“And I’ll do my best here,” Cyclone said from a distance. The three ponies standing on the cliff’s edge turned to look at him. He glanced away, uneasy, saying, “the ponies of River Rock spared me my life, however reluctant they might have been to back Queen Platinum’s decision. I’ll make it up to them by keeping them alive, and doing everything I can to find some way to end this damnable blizzard.”

Trotting forward, Hurricane wrapped his wings around his son in a warm embrace. Cyclone stiffened at first, but he soon relaxed as Hurricane held him closer. “I know you will, son. And while I still can’t forget what you did while I was gone, I forgive you, and in a sense, I’m proud of you. You realized your mistakes, and you’re making up for them in the end. I know that you have what it takes to survive out here with what little the land has left for you.”

Cyclone sniffled. “T-Thanks, Dad. It… it means a lot to me.”

Hurricane gave his son one tighter squeeze before letting go. “You’re my son; always have been, always will be. And by that simple fact alone, regardless of what you have done or what you will ever do, I love you. And no matter what happens, always know that. There are few things absolutely certain in the world; this is one of them.”

“Thank you,” Cyclone said again. “And I never will forget you. Even if we never see each other again, I’ll keep you close to my heart.”

Smiling, Hurricane nodded to Cyclone. “As will I. One day, we will see each other again. I look forward to that time. And I wish you the best of luck, Cyclone. I know you won’t let me down.”

Then turning away, Hurricane spread his wings and took flight. Twister smiled at Cyclone and waved a wing before following him, leaving just Typhoon on the cliff side with her brother. Walking closer, the two siblings embraced one last time.

“Don’t make me have to come back and beat your ass again,” Typhoon said to him, smiling.

Cyclone shook his head. “Only because I loved you, sis. You wouldn’t have lasted that long otherwise.” But still, his face was bright and cheery, happy that they could joke about trying to kill each other barely two weeks prior.

They laughed quietly together for a few seconds before Typhoon squeezed Cyclone tighter. “Be safe out here. I’ll make sure to see you on your birthday. You’ll be twenty-one this year, right?”

Cyclone chuckled. “That I will be. Damn, I’m feeling old. Know that I’ll be wishing you a happy one as well whenever yours rolls around.” Holding out his left wing, which was free of the sling but still bent slightly with crooked feathers, he sadly laughed. “Otherwise I would fly there and visit you myself.”

Typhoon nodded, feeling a twinge of remorse for robbing Cyclone of his flight. “I will, Cy. I will.”

They stood there in silence for a few seconds longer, enjoying each other’s company, before Typhoon’s ears perked at the sound of her name being called. Sighing, she broke off the embrace and stepped back. “You’re in my heart, always, brother.”

“As are you, Ty.”

Smiling, Typhoon stepped towards the cliff and spread her wings. Shaking them free of snow, she looked over her shoulder one last time at Cyclone before leaping over the edge. After a few-second delay, Cyclone could see her rising in the distance to where the rest of his family waited. Together, the three pegasi flew off towards a larger cloud of Cirrans, as the city of Cloudsdale slowly trailed along behind them, riding the winds westward.

Walking towards the edge of the cliff, Cyclone sat down and watched the ponies stream by. He watched earth ponies and unicorns alike shuffle across the ground below. Here or there he could see a company of Legionnaires providing over watch and assistance to those below. But that interested him little; he turned his eyes back towards his distant family, watching them fly on, until they became smaller and smaller specks in the distance.

The hum started low and quiet, like a mournful sound, but it soon picked up. As Cyclone quietly hummed to himself, the noise of the rest of the world faded away. Soon, it was only himself and the song his mother had sung to him, long, long ago, when he was just a colt who couldn’t get to sleep. It was a sad lullaby, and even as he hummed it, he could hear Swift Spear herself singing to him from the heavens above.

The journey begins

Starts from within

Things that I need to know

The song of the bird

Echoed in words

Flying for the need to fly

Thoughts endless in flight

Day turns to night

Questions you ask your soul

Which way do I go?

How fast is too slow?

The journey has its time then ends

If a horse can fly over an ocean

And no mountains can get in his way

Will he fly on forever?

Searching for something to believe

From above I can see from the heavens

Down below see the storm raging on

And somewhere in the answer

There is a hope to carry on

When I finally return

Things that I learn

Carry me back to home

The thoughts that I feed

Planting a seed

With time will begin to grow

The more that I try

The more that I fly

The answer in itself will be there

--The End--