The Power of Freedom

by Greatazuredragon

First published

Having long grown utterly bored with the destiny the gods had decreed for him, Ganondorf decided to take matters into his own hands and escape to a new dimension where he could be free. Even if that would mean turning into a pastel colored pony.

Ganondorf, King of Thieves, Lord of Darkness, Master of Evil and Wielder of the Triforce of Power, had long since grown thoroughly and completely bored with the path the gods had decreed for his destiny.

Time after time it was always the same, try and unite the Triforce, plunge the world into darkness for a time, search out and then kidnap Princess Zelda, watch his minions be defeated one after another and then finally battle Link for supremacy. Rinse and repeat.

All the while knowing that regardless of winning or losing, that no matter what he did or didn’t do, that in the end everything would end up repeating itself in another time and place afterwards, again, and again and again, in an utterly pointless never ending cycle.

Having decided that enough was finally enough, and refusing to continue to be a simple pawn at the hands of the gods, he vowed he would find a way to escape from his cumbersome destiny, a way to start anew far beyond the meddling grasp of the gods, a way to reach a realm upon which he could be the master of his own fate.

And after years of careful planning he had finally succeeded.

Sure, the fact he had to drag the know-it-all Princess and the green obsessed Hero along for the ride for his plan to work was a minor inconvenience, but he knew that sometimes sacrifices had to be made. And the fact that this new realm apparently decided to turn him and his two unwilling companions into miniature pastel colored ponies upon arrival also wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but he could cope.

After all, that was a negligible price to pay in achieving his deepest wish: freedom.

In this story Ganondorf, having grown sick of following through the motions his destiny placed before him as the eternal bad guy to be defeated time after time, seeks out to escape from his fate by breaking through the void between dimensions and running away from Hyrule to another realm entirely, Equestria, all the while dragging both Link and Zelda along for the ride.

Arriving long before the founding of the country, back before the events of Heart’s Warming Eve and at the highest point of the conflict between the Three Tribes, he and his two new companions will have to deal with a whole new world and it’s wonders and dangers. All the while this new magical world will have to learn to deal with its three new strange inhabitants in kind.

Just a warning: This is NOT a Displaced fic. All three main characters are the actual characters from the Zelda series that have been taken to Equestria due to Ganondorf’s master plan, and not humans turned into them.

Beta Reader: The Amazing Emtu!
Cover Art: The Incredible swagmu!
Proofreader: The relentless TranquilClaws! (From chp I - XXV)

Featured for the first time! 07/06/2018 to 07/11/2018

Edit: Crossposting at Royalroad where I have the same username.

I - Breaking Free

View Online

Breaking Free

A heavy downpour obscured the heavens, hammering everything in sight with its ice cold deluge. Thunder cracked amidst the forlorn sky, jumping forth from the dark crimson clouds that were gathered around an imposing tower in order to strike against its ebony black walls with thunderous explosions. The midnight black structure withstood the assault of the furious storm with impunity, rising high into the sky as if in defiance to the very heavens themselves.

It was an imposing sight, the large stone structure all but radiating a dark sense of malevolence, a looming threat to all who happened to gaze upon it, as if it were an evil colossus of old standing ready to strike down anyone who would dare to defy it.

And deep within its walls, waiting inside the last room of the highest floor, the master of this menacing stronghold waited with barely contained excitement. Sitting with his back to the large room’s only door, there was a content grin firm upon his imposing features as the heavy foreboding song of an organ filled the air.

He was a large man with dark brown skin, standing nearly nine feet tall and sporting impressive muscles, which allowed him to carry the heavy armor he was wearing with ease. Its dark red highlights set upon the midnight black plate mail contrasted sharply with his crimson hair, a golden headdress with a blood red ruby set upon its center resting amidst the crimson locks.

His was a truly imposing sight, one that demanded respect and all but radiated danger. The feeling was only compounded by the massive double edged claymore that was strapped at his back, almost as long as he was tall, the dark metal that composed the gigantic blade seeming to drink out all light that touched it, making it look like as if the sword had been carved out of a piece of the starless void itself.

The threatening figure was known by many names and titles, earned and bestowed through countless lives and due to innumerable deeds: The Black Rider; Lord of Darkness; The Great Evil; King of Thieves; The Great Calamity; Demon King; and many more. But chiefly amongst them was what he had always considered to be his only true name, Ganondorf.

As his fingers deftly pressed the keys of the metal instrument that occupied the wall before him, skillfully weaving the next notes of the song into the building harmony that he was creating, he allowed his grin to grow into a satisfied smile. He knew it wouldn’t be long now.

The song he was playing had no proper name, no music sheet to immortalize it, being nothing more than his current emotions given form. And yet, as he listened to the vibrant defiance and powerful unyielding undertones contained within it’s every chord, he felt that it fit the momentous event that was swiftly approaching far better than any other masterwork he had ever heard before.

After decades of careful preparation, after centuries of meticulous planning, the moment he had been searching for for so long was finally upon him, nearly within his reach, so close that he could almost taste it. It would be but a matter of moments now before it was finally time.

“You shall not succeed, Ganondorf! No matter what you do, you shall not prevail!” A musical, aristocratic voice sounded from his side, each word filled to the brim with grim certainty and unbreakable resolve. And yet despite the harsh words, hearing them only seemed to make his smile grow even larger.

After a few more chords he stopped playing his organ in order to turn and look at his current guest, the last reverberating notes of the unnamed song echoing for a moment before only the sound of the storm raging outside remained.

The owner of the aristocratic voice was a graceful, blonde haired woman wearing a white and light purple dress with yellow designs, her golden locks falling to the middle of her back in a complex braid and contrasting with her pale white skin. Her beautiful features glared at him in defiance without an ounce of fear, despite the fact she was currently trapped within a large blue crystal floating two feet above the ground, her right hand grasping the hilt of a thin, elegant rapier strapped at her waist.

“Regardless of whatever traps and obstacles you may have laid out, despite any foul creatures you may throw against him, and no matter what dark powers you may call upon to aid you, you shall not triumph this day! Link shall see that it’s so!” she proclaimed with unwavering certainty, as if simply stating an immutable fact, a long forgone conclusion.

“Perhaps you may be right Princess, after all the track record of your Hero speaks for itself,” Ganondorf calmly replied in a conversational tone of voice, not a single trace of anger to be found in his words. “After all, nine times out of ten he seems to be able to defeat me in the end, doesn’t he?

“Pulling out victory from the jaws of defeat despite all odds being set against him, truly his resolve and determination are commendable.” He genuinely praised the lad while rising from his seat with an amused chuckle, Zelda’s surprised expression clearly showed that the Wielder of the Triforce of Wisdom hadn’t expect this kind of response from him. “Though I have to admit, his sheer persistence can be somewhat irritating at times.”

Staring at her long time foe in slight bewilderment, Princess Zelda searched his face for any signs of lies or deceit, seeking for the trap the Lord of Darkness had to be preparing in order to defeat both her and Link in the approaching clash... only to find nothing of the sort, only an anticipating and slightly amused expression showing itself upon his usually harsh features.

"You seem...rather philosophical about the possibility of your eventual defeat," she finally pointed out, trying to understand what was happening and why Ganondorf was acting so carefree at the eve of the final battle.

"Refreshing, isn't it?" he joked, giving her a roguish smile. “After all, it’s not as if this battle could change anything in the end. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it no longer holds any meaning.”

Sensing that something had truly changed in regards to her foe, that he truly didn’t seem to care about the coming battle, Zelda decided to try something she hadn’t attempted in several lifetimes, having long since come to believe it to be an futile effort, to try and avert the battle altogether through diplomacy.

“Ganondorf, if that’s the case, why are you doing this?” she earnestly enquired, clear blue eyes staring straight into his golden orbs. “Stop all this madness so peace may reign once again! You don't have to do this-"

"But yes I do, Princess," he calmly replied while cutting her off with a sharp gesture, a small tinge of sadness flickering through his eye for a brief moment. "For no matter either of our feelings about it, the story has to be allowed to unfold to the end. I conquer the world and cover it in darkness, the hero appears to defy me, you aid and guide him through his quest, and either through my victory or defeat the stage is set for the next tale.

“This is how it has always been, and if left up to the gods, it’s how it always will be,” he explained in a somber tone of voice, calmly walking away from her prison. “A story to be told time and again, nothing more and nothing less. Isn’t that right, Link?”

He finished his question while turning towards the large, ornate double doors at the far side of the room precisely as they opened with a threatening groaning sound, allowing in the final member of their trio.

He was a blond haired man garbed in forest green clothes, chain mail peeking from beneath his garb and a green cap perched upon his hair. His piercing blue eyes stared straight at Ganondorf defiantly, his left hand grasping the hilt of a long, double edged sword that seemed to radiate light and power and his right holding firm to a mirror polished shield depicting the starry sky.

“I see you have made it here with little trouble, not that I had doubted such a result even for a moment,” Ganondorf calmly commented as he started to walk away from both the Princess and the Hero with unhurried steps, Link’s sword pointing straight at him and tracking his every movement. “Nonetheless, I’m glad to see you here, old friend, and I welcome you to my humble abode. Here at the final climax to our cumbersome little tale.”

“What are you playing at, Ganondorf?” the Wielder of the Triforce of Courage asked with a stern tone of voice, narrow eyes fixed upon his ancient foe even as he questioned the complete lack of aggression he could see coming from the Dark Lord.

“It’s quite simple my old friends, I have grown tired of the games of the gods,” he explained staring first at Zelda and then at Link with a rueful smile, never breaking his calm unhurried stride. “Let’s say that we did battle as we always do and I emerged victorious, unleashing a new age of darkness and conquering the whole world. All that would result would be that both of you would be reincarnated before long and rise to defy me once again.

“Likewise, should the two of you strike me down and claim victory for yourselves, unleashing a new golden age of peace and prosperity, all that would arise from such actions would be for me to be reincarnated, gather my power once again and once more lay siege to your fair kingdom.

“And again, and again, and again, unto time immemorial!” he spat out the last part, disgust clear in his tone of voice as his golden orbs stared straight at his greatest foes, his oldest opponents, his eternal nemeseis, but also the only two people he knew could truly understand his plight, the only ones whom he maybe could call friends. “Answer me this, the both of you. How many times have we done this? How many times have we watched this story unfold?

“Tell me, oh, Princess of Wisdom, answer me, oh, Hero of Courage! What is the point?” he fervently asked, stopping at a side of the room in such a way that the three of them were each at the points of an equidistant triangle, the exact same distance separating each of them from the other, arms open wide as if clamoring for a blow to hit his chest. “What is the point of this futile struggle that the gods force down upon us without rest or respite?! Of this eternal battle which we pointlessly wage against each other time and time again?!”

“Ganondorf…” Zelda muttered in sadness from within her prison, a hint of understanding entering her words.

“We are but playthings at the hands of the gods, actors on a stage, living a play for nothing more than their cruel amusement,” The Lord of Darkness continued with a sharp dismissive gesture, a rueful smile on his face.

“All our actions, all our struggles and achievements, all our sacrifices and victories, all of them are utterly meaningless in the end. For no matter the outcome, it will never last, it will never endure,” he continued in a forlorn tone of voice as Link slowly lowered his sword and stared at his eternal foe with a hint of sadness. “Nothing but characters in a story, that’s all we are in the end, no more and no less.”

A heavy oppressive silence filled the air for a long moment, both Zelda and Link staying perfectly still as they stared at Ganondorf's equally still form, only the sound of the raging storm outside breaking the complete stillness that had taken hold of the room.

“We have been nothing but marionettes playing at the end of the strings of fate for eons untold, nothing but pawns at the hands of the gods…” he forlornly stated, head bowed low and arms slowly falling to his sides.

“But no longer!” he suddenly all but roared, defiance permeating his very being as Zelda’s prison shattered at the same time as a massive runic array came to life, covering the entirety of the room and entrapping all three of them where they stood.

“I refuse to let others decide my fate any longer, to allow them to choose my destiny as they see fit!” he fiercely declared to the heavens, head held high and arms raised in defiance, the golden symbol of the Triforce marking his right hand glowing with otherworldly power as if answering its master’s call. “No one shall control me ever again, for I am the master of my own fate! That I most solemnly swear!”

“Ganondorf, what’re you doing?!” Zelda exclaimed in distress, attempting in vain to dispel the runic circle upon which she was trapped, her own Triforce mark shining with power upon the back of her hand, Link’s form at the other side of the room mirrored her own situation.

“Breaking free of the chains of fate that bind us, Princess! Shattering the loathsome destiny the gods cursed us with!” he bellowed in near manic glee as golden light permeated the entire room, as the vast magical array he had spent centuries perfecting greedily drank from the power of the three pieces of the Triforce each of them carried within them, growing closer and closer to completion with each second that passed. “No more shall we be forced to act their pathetic play! For henceforth, we shall be free!”

“How troublesome...” Link muttered with a small sigh, sheathing his blade after confirming that he could not break free from the circle with it, stoically waiting to see what exactly Ganondorf was trying to do as the golden light filled the room to nearly blinding levels.

“Almighty, Triforce! Hear the plea of one who has borne your burden for countless eons!” he shouted to the heavens, a manic smile firm upon his features even as the tower started to shake upon its very foundations, as if unable to withstand the sheer power now coursing through it. “Hear my wish! For too long have we been slaves to the gods, too long have we served them in bondage!”

“Ganondorf!” Zelda shouted in warning, distress clear upon her eyes as her keen magical senses alerted her to a massive buildup of power coming straight towards the tower, as if the gods themselves were attempting to stop the ritual from completing.

“Grant us freedom!” he bellowed his defiance, pure power filling the room to the brim and nearly overloading for a moment the array he had so painstakingly constructed.

And then, with a blinding flash of light that turned night into day for a moment, they were no more. Nothing remained within the room but a burnt and faded magical array placed upon the now cracked and shattered stone floor.

The very next moment a wall of pure energy fell upon the mighty tower, crushing it into nothing but debris in a vain attempt to stop the ritual that had just been completed a fraction of a second earlier.

The sky and the earth themselves seemed to tremble in fury for a moment as the gods realized what had happened, that three of their most important pawns had slipped their leashes.

That the Wielders of the Triforce had left Hyrule.

He was floating amidst an infinite void. Nothing but darkness filled his vision as far as his eyes could see, his limbs refused his commands to move and feeling slowly left his body behind.

Despite it all Ganondorf could not help but smile.

Even if this was to be his end, even if his plan hadn’t fully worked as he had intended and instead resulted in his true death, he had no regrets. For he still had done it, he had defied his fate, dared to seize his own destiny with his own two hands.

And if that simply resulted in his permanent death, in his very soul being erased away from the cycle of reincarnation, then so be it. He still would have no regrets.

For in those precious few moments that would precede his end, he would be free.

Coldness permeating his entire being, he closed his eyes for what he believe may be the very last time, a small content smile firm upon his features. Not a single trace of fear or apprehension was present upon him as he waited for it all to end.

Only for a feeling of warmth and safety to replace the growing cold, as two gentle hands carefully wrapped themselves around his chest from behind him.

Opening his eyes and turning his head to the side he stared at the one holding him, a small self deprecating smile slowly surfacing on his lips.

“Even here you still follow me,” he half stated and half joked, a rueful chuckle escaping his lips. “Of all of them, you and your sisters are perhaps the only ones I never came to despise, Din.”

She had the figure of a woman of immense beauty, with long waist length hair and dainty graceful limbs. But the fact her whole naked body was a vibrant red color and the fierce glow that seemed to emanate from her very being showed what she truly was.

Din, Goddess of Power, one of the three divine goddesses, which alongside her sisters Nayru and Farore, had forsaken it all, sacrificing their very divine essence in order to create the Triforce in order to safeguard the world they had once created from destruction.

“I guess I’m glad to see you one last time before the end, but I fear you will have to find yourself a new wielder from now on,” he said, knowing that he would not return no matter what, that even should she attempt to do so he would refuse. There was simply no turning back now.

The Goddess of Power simply smiled at him, a motherly expression appearing upon her beautiful features, as if showing him her understanding and her respect regarding his decision.

“Thank you,” he spoke truthfully, the growing tension in his body that had started the moment he had seen the goddess now leaving him as he confirmed she would not force him to go back.

This was one of the reasons why amidst all the gods, the three sisters who formed the Triforce were the only ones he did not despise. For despite all their power, they refused to control the lives of mortals, letting them decide for themselves what they desired, how to act or what to do. Granting them nothing more than the power they had asked in order to complete their self imposed tasks, no more and no less.

He started to close his eyes one more time, intending to bask upon the peaceful warmth one last time before the end, only for a fiercely glowing light to force him to open them once again.

Din’s overpowering red glow was now filling the formless void, a beacon of defiance lighting up the eternal darkness. And far in the distance two other beacons of light answered in kind, one a gentle patient blue and the other an unyielding resolute green.

Looking at the Goddess of Power with the intention of asking what she thought she was doing, Ganondorf couldn’t help but blink in befuddlement as she lowered her head in order to place a gentle kiss upon his forehead, as if a mother to her child.

And as the glow of the three Goddesses grew to the point of blinding him from anything else, filling the entirety of the void with their power, he felt her arms tightening around him in a gentle hug, while for the first time in all of his lives he heard the voice of the Goddess who had always accompanied him. An unbelievably strong and yet undeniably kind voice, speaking words that were not words straight into his mind the very moment before he lost consciousness.

“Be free.”

Groaning in pain Ganondorf kept his eyes tightly shut in a vain attempt of protecting them from the harsh sunlight that was currently falling upon his face, his hazy mind trying to make sense of what he was currently feeling and how he had reached said condition.

Ears folded against the top of his head in an endeavor to try and drown out the cheerful singing of birds that was assaulting his, currently far too sensitive, hearing organs, he stayed there, lying upon the ground a few moments longer while gathering his bearings.

Finally forcing his eyes open he took in his surroundings. He was in the middle of a verdant forest, sunlight peeking in through the various gaps between the trees and allowing for a thick and healthy underbrush to thrive, several colorful birds happily singing upon the branches and even a squirrel swiftly climbing a faraway trunk completing the picture.

Attempting to stand upright made him immediately lose his balance, forcing him to fall back to the ground upon his four limbs with a soft clopping sound... bringing to the forefront of his now swiftly awakening mind the fact that his limbs were now both shorter and thicker than they used to be, not to mention covered in dark brown fur instead of bare skin and ending in four hooves instead of feet and hands.

“Guess I’m a quadruped now,” he mused to himself, carefully analyzing his new appendages, checking their overall strength and range of motion. Meanwhile he noted there was a long crimson mane falling to the side of his head, having apparently replaced his usual hair.

Continuing his examination, he confirmed that he was indeed some kind of dark brown equine, with a crimson mane and an equally crimson tail flickering behind him. He also noted, with some bemusement, that his Triforce mark had apparently migrated from its former spot at the back of his hand and into his flank.

He knew that there was a chance the transition could affect and alter his body in unpredictable and unknown ways. After all, in order to escape the far reaching grasp of the gods of Hyrule he had purposefully aimed his spell towards the farthest habitable dimension he could possibly find, which in turn could easily mean that his destination may not even recognize what a human even was, and as such attempt to change him into a more natural form in regards to its own natural laws.

Checking out the short fur covered muzzle that was protruding from his face, and the two pointy ears resting atop his head, while inwardly sighing in relief at the fact his fore hooves seemed to have an even larger range of motion than his original arms, he concluded that, regarding a blind jump between dimensions, it could have been infinitely worse.

At the very least this was not his first time walking upon four legs, so that would be one less problem and would prevent some humiliating falls. Though the fact he was now sporting hooves instead of claws probably meant it would take some practice before he could safely trust exactly how much traction he could put upon them, especially while turning or moving at speed.

A massive grin started to spread across his new face as the truth that his plan had actually worked started to truly sink in. And so he simply threw his head back and laughed, all the while silently thanking Din for her aid.

He had done it! He had escaped the meddlesome grasp of the gods of his home reality! Crushed through the chains of his fate and claimed his destiny for himself! He had succeeded!

His joyful celebration regarding the absolute success of centuries of careful planning was regrettably soon cut short, as he heard a feminine aristocratic voice yelling at him from very close by, an extremely familiar feminine aristocratic voice.

“What’s the meaning of this?! Ganondorf, what in the name of Nayru did you do?!” he heard Zelda shout in a near panic from very close by, a shout that was soon followed by a far more calm, but equally familiar, curious voice.

“Well… this is new,” he heard Link calmly speak, apparently having managed to remain far more collected than the Princess in their new situation.

Chuckling in amusement upon receiving confirmation that the other two had come along with him, something he had calculated had a reasonably high chance of happening but in the end regarded as an acceptable risk, he started trotting through the trees towards the source of the voices, a spring in his step as he acknowledged a very rewarding truth.

He was free.

II - New Coat, Old Acquaintances

View Online

New Coat, Old Acquaintances

Trotting through the gap between a few trees, Ganondorf soon found himself in a small clearing. From within which came the voices of his two old acquaintances, now unwilling impromptu dimensional traveling companions.

The moment he laid eyes upon them however he found himself stopping and blinking in surprise at the sight before his eyes, a sense of bemusement filling him as he observed his fellow Wielders of the Triforce.

They both had clearly also been affected by the dimensional travel, having been transformed into equally furry quadrupeds. Though clearly smaller than his own form by nearly a head, they still possessed two small furry ears atop their heads, small muzzles on their faces and sported manes and tails just like him. Not to mention they too now had the three golden triangles that made up the mark of the Triforce emblazoned upon their flanks.

However, that was where the similarities between them were cut short.

For while his body was that of a very thickly proportioned and slightly alien looking normal pony, both Zelda and Link had different extra appendages upon their bodies that made him ponder if they were perhaps different branches of the same species.

Zelda had been turned into a pristine white pony, her coat shining as though it were freshly fallen snow, and her mane and tail sporting a golden blond color. But what truly differentiated her from both males was the small, fluted spiral horn resting atop her forehead, giving her the appearance of a miniature unicorn.

Link instead had a forest green coat of fur covering his body, which made Ganondorf chuckle at the fact the green obsessed hero was now actually green himself, and an equally golden blonde mane and tail. And while his forehead had no new protrusions sprouting from it, extending from his sides were a pair of feathery green wings, making him look like a miniature pegasus.

“How curious,” he commented while walking into the clearing, immediately gaining the attention of the irate looking wielder of Wisdom and the placidly waiting wielder of Courage.

“Ganondorf! You sand brained Neanderthal! What did you do?!” Zelda all but snarled, attempting to charge straight towards him only to stumble with her new unfamiliar appendages and nearly fall face first on the ground. Link saved her from the fall at the last moment by grabbing her with one of his fore-hooves, a slightly perplexed and surprised look appearing on his features for a moment as he did the action.

Nodding her head in thanks towards the now distracted looking Hero, Zelda once again turned towards the still smiling King of Thieves, her anger reaching new heights.

“I know this is your fault! So explain to me why, by the love of the Three Goddesses, are we miniature, pastel colored horses!?” she shouted towards him, large eyes narrowed at him and her barrel heaving in and out as she breathed deeply in anger.

“Ponies, actually, not miniature horses,” he calmly explained, noting that curiously enough both their eyes, and probably his as well for that matter, now seemed to occupy the majority of their faces.

“What?” she asked in confusion, not really understanding exactly what he was talking about.

“Our muzzles and hooves are too short, and our bodies and limbs too thick for us to be horses. Not to mention our size is far too small for an adult horse, while the proportions of our limbs are not right for us to be foals,” the Lord of Darkness calmly replied, explaining the differences between their bodies and those of a horse. “Therefore we can only be ponies, not miniature horses.”

“And you know the difference between a horse and a pony why exactly?” Zelda asked in a sickeningly sweet tone of voice, taking in deep breaths in an attempt to rein in her anger.

“Please don’t insult me, Princess,” Ganondorf huffed in slight annoyance before proudly placing one of his fore-hooves against his chest. “In eight out of ten lives I end up being a Gerudo, and proud of it! And if there is one thing we Gerudo pride ourselves in, it is our horsemanship and ability to raise quality horses! Having raised my fair share of equines of various breeds throughout the ages I can securely say that we are ponies, and not horses.”

“Very well, allow me to rephrase my question,” she replied with fake calm while giving him a smile that showed far too many teeth. “Explain to me exactly, why are we miniature pastel colored ponies?”

Moving his hoof from his chest towards his chin while giving the question the necessary weight it deserved, while idly noting that Link was distractedly examining something on the ground, he thought about how to best answer her. After another moment and having selected an answer, he turned towards Zelda’s silently fuming form before cheerfully replying.

“I’m not really sure, but if I had to guess I would say that our bodies, while still remaining in slight flux due to the rough dimensional travel, had their biological patterns overwritten by this reality’s natural laws,” he explained, knowing that the wielder of the Triforce of Wisdom, being a more than accomplished mage herself, would easily understand the concept. “Not really surprising, since our bodies being adapted to their new reality was a definite possibility of interacting with a whole new set of natural laws, well either that or being utterly destroyed in a cataclysmic implosion caused by completely incompatible types or energy interacting with each other. But then again one can only do such much in regards to safeguards and fail-safes when dealing with dimensional travel of this scale.”

“So, what you are saying is that you flung us into a new dimension on purpose, despite all the risks inherent with such an action, knowing perfectly well this could happen,” she questioned him, her voice as cold as an arctic wind and a faint twitch developing in her left eye. “And that this was actually one of the more fortunate possibilities you envisioned happening amidst several that could have befallen us, since there was a very distinct chance of us simply imploding or worse due to your harebrained scheme. Is that about right?”

“Well… that’s a gross oversimplification of a carefully and well thought pla…” he started to say, only to be cut short as, with a bellow of rage, a blue glow materialized around Zelda’s horn before being swiftly thrown towards him with both the speed and strength of a Goron rolling out at top speed.

Feeling like a large boulder had just been thrown against his chest Ganondorf was thrown backwards through the air, before impacting one of the large trees around the clearing with an explosive cracking noise and loudly falling towards the ground.

“Din’s fury, that’s what I call a hit! As far as I can remember it used to take you far longer than that to gather so much magical energy!” he grumbled in a slightly flattering tone of voice, shaking off the pain and rising back to his hooves with a roguish grin. “I see you have been training, well done!”

“That… was actually far easier than I expected it to be, actually,” was Zelda’s hesitant reply as she stared cross eyed at the tip of her horn, her anger temporarily pushed aside in favor of curiosity regarding how she had managed to gather so much magic so quickly without any type of chant or spell. “It was almost as if the magic was rushing forth to respond to my intentions. Quite unlike how magic naturally behaves back in Hyrule.”

“Hmm, well that’s interesting, wonder what it could mean?” He pondered it thoughtfully, brushing off what little dust had gathered upon his coat only to notice he didn’t have even a single bruise to show that he had just been hurled against a large oak tree by the equivalent of a magical sucker punch, not to mention that he was no longer feeling any pain due to the high speed impact. “And speaking of interesting, I seem to be completely fine despite my impromptu flight and its rather abrupt stop.”

“But that’s impossible,” Zelda commented in slight disbelief, anger now well and truly set aside in favor of curiosity as she slowly approached Ganondorf with uncertain steps in order to better study his apparent lack of wounds. “Even back in your old body such a high speed impact would leave at least some visible signs of bruising, and that’s if you were lucky!”

“Guess this body is just that tough!” he boisterously proclaimed, the idea that his new, far smaller, body could actually be physically stronger than his old one deeply pleasing him.

“You two want to talk about impossibilities?” Link calmly interjected, reminding the other two that he was still in the clearing with them and making them both turn towards him.

“Then how about this for an impossibility?” he calmly spoke, a tinge of bemusement clear in his tone of voice, while gesturing with his left forehoof back and forth, drawing the attention of them both towards said appendage. Immediately both of them widened their eyes in surprise at what they were seeing.

“How does that even work?” Ganondorf curiously inquired while Zelda at his side simply opened and closed her mouth without making a sound.

“I have no idea,” the green coated pony simply replied while shrugging with his wings, before turning his gaze back towards the small stone that he was somehow grasping with his left hoof, his completely flat, fingerless, left hoof which had nothing to grasp things with. “I simply noticed that I somehow grabbed Zelda while she was falling despite not having anything to grab her with, and here we are.”

“Curiouser and curiouser,” Ganondorf stated with a bemused smile, before looking towards the ground in search of a rock so that he could try the trick himself.

Meanwhile Zelda had finally managed to shake off her surprised stupor, only to see both of her companions, the mighty Lord of Darkness and the stalwart Chosen Hero, staring intently at a pair of rocks they were now somehow grasping with their flat hooves while sporting looks of intense focus, and promptly proceeded to face-hoof.

After a few more minutes exploring their newfound, and apparently unexplainable, ability to grasp things without appropriate grasping appendages, Link finally decided that it was time to move on to more pertinent matters.

And so he turned towards his regular nemesis and old time foe, a serious look on his face, as he asked the King of Thieves a question regarding their newfound situation.

“So Ganondorf, do you have any idea what happened to my sword?” he calmly inquired, gaining a thoughtful look from the wielder of Power and an incredulous one from the wielder of Wisdom.

“We have just been transformed into another species, after being unwillingly dragged out of our world, and you are asking him about your sword?” Zelda asked in disbelief, staring at the green pony with questioning eyes.

“Not my first time being transformed into another creature against my will Zelda, or being suddenly transported to another realm/plane/world/whatever without prior warning,” the wielder of the Triforce of Courage nonchalantly replied with a shrug of his wings. “Trust me, you get used to it. Not to mention it kind of loses most of its shock value after the first half a dozen times.

“Sure, I have never been a pastel colored winged pony before, but it was probably bound to happen one of these days anyway. Compared to that, I’m far more worried about where the Master Sword ended up, or even where the rest of my stuff disappeared to. Especially since some of the things I was carrying around really shouldn’t be left unsupervised.”

“So it wasn’t only me, huh? My sword, armor and everything else is also kind of gone.” Ganondorf grumbled thoughtfully in reply, one hoof massaging his chin.

“I’m sad to say that I’ve no idea really. They could either have been left behind on Hyrule when the spell took effect, have been scattered throughout the void between dimensions during our travel, or even been dumped somewhere else on this realm,” he replied while deep in thought, pondering about it for a moment before simply shaking his head. “So in this case your guess is as good as mine.”

“Figures, of course it couldn’t be that easy.” Link replied with a resigned sigh. “All that time wasted gathering my equipment, now for nothing. Things can never be nice and easy after all.”

“Yeah, I know how you feel. I’m going to miss that sword myself,” the Lord of Darkness said in a sympathetic tone of voice, moving towards the green coated pegasus and gently patting him on the back. “Real pity too. I was quite certain that my Night Bringer would be able to give your Master Sword a run for its money!”

“I can’t believe you two! Here we are, in alien bodies in a completely unknown new dimension! And you are mourning about lost swords!” Zelda exclaimed incredulously upon seeing both males commiserating about their lost blades for a few moments longer.

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to forge a Void Steel blade properly? It’s a delicate and precise process, demanding dozens of extremely rare ingredients and dozens more extremely intricate spells cast at very precise moments of the forging process! It took me months to make that sword!” Ganondorf grumbled in annoyance, giving the Princess a disbelieving stare, as if saying she should know this already.

“As for the Kid’s sword, sure he didn’t forge it himself. But if what normally happens held true, he probably had to undergo half a dozen extremely long and ridiculously complex quests to ‘earn the right’ to wield that thing!” He continued to rant, Link at his side nodding his head in agreement with his words.

Looking at the identical expressions both the green coated pegasus and the dark brown pony were sporting Zelda couldn’t help but huff in annoyance as she rolled her eyes and simply mumbled. “Boys…”

Ganondorf and Link traded a bemused look at that, before with an inquiring tilt of the head of the first and an acquiescing shrug of his wings from the latter, Ganondorf decided to move on.

“So now, first things first,” Ganondorf cheerfully proclaimed as he clapped his fore hooves. “Did any of you see a river, lake or any other kind of body of water before we landed?”

Trotting between the trees of the forest, easily finding the easiest path forward, Ganondorf kept his head pointing resolutely ahead, doing his very best to ignore the hole in the back of his head the white coated unicorn following him with unsure steps was trying to carve out with sheer willpower.

“I can’t believe we are doing this!” Zelda angrily muttered as she carefully trotted through the forest alongside Ganondorf, her muzzle scrunched up in annoyance as she followed the larger brown pony while trying not to trip.

“It’s the very basics of survival, Princess. We have to find water before anything else, everybody knows that,” Ganondorf simply replied while purposely missing the point. “Considering how many times you had to go into hiding or run away in one manner or another in our past lives, I would think you would know about that by now.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it!” she shot back with an angry huff. “I can’t believe how after everything you did, not to mention dragging both Link and myself into this whole mess and nearly killing us in the process in the first place, you are now acting like nothing ever happened!”

“What do you want me to do? Pull out my mane in distress; perhaps have a little mental breakdown?” he sarcastically asked while rolling his eyes. “We both know that any show of remorse along those lines from me would be nothing but cheap theatrics. So why should I insult both my dignity and your intelligence with it?

“And stop pretending you are not happy I managed to get us away from that whole damned mess that used to constitute our destinies!” he firmly stated, stopping in his tracks and wheeling around to stare Zelda straight in the eyes. “How many times did you helplessly watch as everything collapsed all around you, knowing something like that was coming but unable to do anything about it? How many times did you watch your parents die before your eyes? Point in fact, was there even a life upon which your parents survived long enough to see you reach adulthood?”

“And who was responsible for doing those things more often than not?!” she angrily retorted, walking straight towards him until their muzzles were nearly touching. “Who was it that destroyed everything in his path in his mad quest for power?!”

“You know far too well that just like you I had little choice in the matter, Princess!” he snorted angrily, piercing golden eyes staring straight into defiant azure orbs. “Not to mention that even if I had never done any of that, something else would inevitably occur in order to force the story to unfold along the lines the gods desired! Or have you forgotten about Demise’s fucking curse?! Or how your, oh so precious, gods did nothing to try and prevent it or even minimize it’s effects?!

“Just look at Link! Almost always he is a freaking orphan! And on the rare few times he actually has a relative still alive, they always die while he is still young in an appropriately dramatic manner!” he firmly stated in an irritated tone. “And that’s despite the fact I normally only meet him far later after that ever happens!

“So stop trying to throw everything that ever went wrong in that accursed realm down at my hooves!” he loudly proclaimed, causing Zelda to release an angry huff.

“He does have a point Zelda,” a conciliatory voice came from above them, breaking their staring contest. “But you also should really try and be a little more tactful Ganondorf, after all, Zelda also does have a point regarding the fact you are guilty regarding quite a few things.”

Looking upwards they watched as the green colored pegasus gently drifted with the breeze towards them, gracefully landing right alongside both ponies as if he had been born with wings.

“Now stop antagonizing each other, for better or for worse we are in this together, so deal with it,” he sternly stated, staring both of them down until they turned their faces away with angry snorts. “Good, now, I can confirm that there is a large river a couple of miles north of here, so that solves our need for water. Afterwards we can follow it and see where it leads.”

“I still can’t believe how fast you managed to figure out how to use your wings to fly,” Zelda said in a slightly miffed manner while trying to change the subject, knowing that Link was right but not wanting to say it out loud. Although, truth be told, the fact she was still stumbling around occasionally due to being unused to walking on four legs while Link was acting as if he had been born with his new body was not helping her mood in the slightest.

“I have to agree with her on this one, Kid. While I know that you tend to have your body transformed into other forms more often than not, and that that could explain why you are so at ease being a quadruped. I don’t think I remember you ever being anything that could truly fly. Or well, at least fly with wings, that is,” Ganondorf said in a wondering tone of voice, his anger shoved aside for the moment. “I remember you being wolves, bunnies, Zoras, Gorons and Deku Scrubs, just to name a few, but never any kind of bird.”

“I must admit that I’m curious too. For while we both learned how to navigate wind currents and other useful information regarding how to travel the skies back on Skyloft with our Loftwings, that wouldn’t really translate well to how to use actual wings,” Zelda agreed, her own curiosity also shoving her anger aside as she stared at the green coated pegasus wonderingly. “It’s almost as if you had had wings already at some point. So how did you learn how to fly, Link?”

Giving the two ponies who had been quarreling with each other mere moments ago but now were serenely standing side by side eagerly waiting for his answer a look, with a small eye roll, he simply answered two words before turning around and starting to walk towards the river.

“Hyoi Pears,” he simply stated, much to the confusion of both the white unicorn and the brown pony that were now following him.

“Hyoi Pears? Wait, weren’t they those really wonky looking fruits that were a thing back when Hyrule was almost completely flooded over?” Ganondorf asked in confusion, wondering how they could give anyone experience with flying with actual wings.

“Oh, I see! That makes so much sense!” Zelda happily exclaimed as the pieces of the puzzle started to fit together. “They allowed people to mind control any seagull that ate them for short periods of time. And during that time you could actually experience how the birds used their wings to fly! That’s actually very clever!”

“Naturally occurring fruits that allowed people to mind control seagulls… I had nearly forgotten about that,” Ganondorf grumbled in an odd mix of irritation and befuddlement. “And some wonder why I decided to rebel against the gods. Not only were most of them completely useless, but also quite a few of them were utterly insane!”

“Not all of them were that bad,” Zelda tried to protest, but anyone who knew the Princess could tell that said protest was halfhearted at best.

“Setting aside Nayru, Farore and Din, tell me about one living god or goddess who is both helpful and sane,” he challenged her with a knowing smirk.

“The Goddess of Time.” Zelda triumphantly replied, giving Ganondorf a self satisfied smile.

“The one who once trapped the Kid for seven years in a magical coma after unilaterally deciding he was too small to wield the Master Sword? Despite the fact said action allowed me to breach into the Sacred Realm and lay havoc and destruction on the land practically unopposed for said seven years?” he shot back with a large grin, which grew only larger as a frown crossed the Princess features upon remembering that little fiasco.

“She may not be much of a deep thinker, but her heart is normally in the right place, and at least she tended to try to help,” Link piped in, turning his head backwards to look at them with a small smile. “If not for her aid, I would have never managed to save Termina after all.”

“Oh yeah, that time the Goddess of Time turned that little blue ocarina of yours into an even bigger macguffin than it originally was,” Ganondorf commented in a tone of realization, a small playful smile slowly blossoming on his features.

“And then you proceeded to try and test just how much strain the time stream could actually take before imploding due to the number of paradoxes you were causing! There had to be dozens of you running around that place simultaneously when you finally managed to fix that mess up!” he joked, earning an amused scoff from the green coated pony and actually managing to get a small snicker from the white coated unicorn at his side.

“But I asked for a god or goddess who was both helpful AND sane,” he continued in a playful tone of voice. “And while I’ll freely admit she was helpful, which is far more than what can be said about most of those oafs, she was most definitely not completely sane. So that doesn’t count.”

“Fair enough.” The wielder of the Triforce of Courage acquiesced easily enough, staring once again straight ahead as he guided them towards the river.

“You know, truth be told I never truly knew how to feel about that particular adventure of yours,” Ganondorf said conversationally, earning a few interested glances from his two companions.

“On one hand, for once I wasn’t the damned bad guy, which was awesome; but on the other, they replaced me with a freaking Skull Kid of all things!” he grumbled in playful annoyance, a smirk firm on his features “Oh, sure, in the end it turned out that the true mastermind was the really creepy mask all along, but even so, being replaced with a Skull Kid of all things even if just temporarily was just demeaning!”

“So you were replaced by a completely incompetent and nonthreatening looking villain for a while, that’s nothing,” Zelda answered with a small smirk of her own. “Do you have any idea how embarrassed I was the first time I was forced to pretend to be a man in order to remain hidden? Or when I realized that that particular stunt had somehow become a trend?”

“Oh, please, that was nothing,” Link joked right back. “You want to talk about demeaning? Try being turned into a tiny pink rabbit! Now that was demeaning!”

That particular example was more than enough to get both Zelda and Ganondorf to laugh out loud. And from there their conversation devolved into good natured ribbing and name calling, as they remembered particularly embarrassing moments of their many past lives while walking towards the river.

The wounds of the past were not healed, not by a long shot. The rift between the Hero, the Princess and the Dark Lord was still standing between them, just as deep and foreboding as ever.

But for the moment, they chose to set the past aside and simply enjoy the moment while it lasted. For to those who had lived as long as they had lived, and seen all that they had seen, that was sometimes the only way to keep walking forward.

And yet, as a lighthearted atmosphere fell upon the group as they passed between the trees, walking side by side for once without fear or apprehension, one could say that as far as first steps went, this was more than enough.

III - A Not So Peaceful Stroll Through the Woods

View Online

A Not So Peaceful Stroll Through the Woods

Dunking his head in the placidly flowing waters of the large river that they had finally reached after nearly three hours of walking through the trees, Ganondorf held back a contented sigh as the cold waters gave him some respite from the heat of the day. Raising his head back out and shaking it side to side in order to dry his mane a little, he sent a deluge of water drops towards the deeply scowling unicorn that had been approaching the river by his side.

“Must you always act like such an uncouth savage?” Zelda asked her usual nemesis with a desert dry tone of voice, trying to dry out her fur with one of her fore-hooves with little success.

“Of course not!” Ganondorf promptly declared in mock indignation, his right forehoof pressed against his chest and head held back as if he had been struck. “But where would be the fun in not doing that?”

Turning her head towards the green coated pegasus at her side in search of support, Zelda instead let out a tired sigh upon seeing her long time friend and stalwart defender calmly walking towards the river’s bank, before promptly dunking his own head into its cold waters.

Watching her two companions acting so at ease and moving so naturally in their new bodies, Zelda couldn’t help but point out said fact. “Am I the only one even remotely uncomfortable with the fact our bodies have been changed into that of equines against our will?” She questioned with a hint of incredulity, gaining a roguish grin from the Lord of Darkness for her troubles.

“Not quite. Truth be told, I must admit that I would have greatly preferred to have been turned into some kind of carnivore. And I’m really not looking forward to finding out what this body can and can’t eat,” he simply stated with a shrug of his shoulders. “But all in all, a pony’s body really isn’t a bad deal for a random transformation. Things could have been much worse.”

“Very well, I’ll concede the point in that regard,” she grudgingly agreed, accepting that there could have been far worse fates than ending up as some kind of miniature unicorn. “And speaking in regards to our new bodies, do you have any idea why our Triforce markings have migrated to our... hindquarters?”

“Flanks,” Ganondorf nonchalantly replied as he tried to place some semblance of order upon his long crimson mane with his hooves.

“I beg your pardon?” Zelda said in slight befuddlement, not really understanding how his one word answer fit with her previous question.

“The word you are looking for is flanks. That’s what you call the side posterior area of an equine,” the Lord of Darkness continued in the same calm tone of voice, despite the fact his efforts in taming his mane were proving to be less than fruitful.

“Is this really the time?” she asked in exasperation, rolling her eyes when her question only garnered an impish smile from the crimson maned pony.

“I would think the Princess of Knowledge above all others would want to know the correct terms for her new anatomy,” he teased while giving up on his mane for the moment. “After all, there is no wrong time for one to increase their wisdom, isn’t that right, oh, follower of Nayru?”

“Ganondorf…” the unicorn started to say warningly, only for him to immediately cut her off.

“The ends of our limbs are called hooves by the way. Our faces are muzzles; the furry lengths that replaced our hair are called manes; oh, and our bellies are now called barrels! The kid and I are stallions, if you were wondering, while you are a mare. And…”

“Ganondorf!” she barked, narrowed eyes staring straight at him and blue specks of magic sparking menacingly all around her horn.

“Yes?” he innocently asked, his expression as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, before relenting and answering the princess’ original question. “As for why we got our Triforce marks emblazoned upon our flanks? Well, forgoing the obvious fact that we don’t have hands anymore and so they had to go somewhere. I really have no idea.”

Zelda stared at the brown coated pony’s smiling face for a moment as she fought to control her growing eye twitch, her mind swiftly passing through several spells she knew of as she pondered how the apparent ease which she could now manipulate magic would affect them and wondering if she shouldn’t volunteer the pony in front of her as a test subject.

Only for the feeling of many soft feathers resting upon her shoulder to cut her train of thought short, the silky feeling of them resting upon her back and the warmth radiating from them enough to distract her.

Turning her head to the side she followed the forest green wing gently resting over her back towards the equally forest green pegasus they belonged to, and the serene, understanding smile he was sporting.

“Slow deep breaths, Zelda, in and out, feel the air filing your lungs and then let it leave, let it all out carrying your anger and frustration with it,” Link coached her, demonstrating and emphasizing the movements with one of his hooves until Zelda started to imitate him. “Your anger and frustration is completely understandable, but holding on to such feelings will serve you no purpose here. So let them leave, floating away like leaves in the breeze.”

Calming herself all the while listening to Link’s soothing mantra Zelda felt as her heart beat slowly returned to normal, a tinge of embarrassment for losing her cool so easily now surfacing as she calmed down.

“And his holy greenness strikes again!” Ganondorf's voice boomed from her side, doing a very good job of making her newly found peace scatter to the four winds. “Seriously kiddo, one day you’ll have to tell me your secret to achieve Zen-like enlightenment!”

“Ganondorf…” she trailed off warningly, the wielder of Courage simply shaking his head as she left his wing behind in order to march towards Ganondorf’s smug smiling form.

“What? You can’t tell me you never wondered where his ever present stoic calmness comes from!” the wielder of Power forcefully exclaimed, throwing both fore-hooves up into the air for emphasis. “I’ve seen him explore active volcanoes without a care in the world, go into zombie infested cursed temples without missing a step, sail straight towards gargantuan hurricanes in the middle of raging seas without a moment’s pause, and that’s just to name a few instances! All the while keeping that same placid expression on his face all the time! It’s enough to make one wonder about how he hasn’t already been a monk or something in one of our past lives!”

Zelda kept her silence at Ganondorf’s little outburst, especially because an annoying part of her mind thought that he did have a point. Not that she would ever admit to that out loud, of course.

“Raging against that which you cannot change is simply a waste of time and energy. It’s all a matter of knowing what it is that you can actually change or not and how best to do so,” the blond maned pegasus stated as if it was obvious, a serene smile on his features as leaves blew behind him on a gentle breeze and a ray of sunlight bathed his form. “Accept what is, and strive to change that which will be. No more and no less.”

Ganondorf and Zelda traded a long look, before silently deciding to move on.

“Right, so now that we found the river do you want to follow it upstream or downstream?” the King of Thieves boisterously asked, putting a firm end to that particular topic.

Looking at the over twelve foot tall wild apple tree standing in front of his not even five foot tall equine body, Ganondorf silently pondered for a moment how exactly was he supposed to get said apples. After all, quadruped equines weren’t exactly known for their climbing prowess. He carefully considered his options for a moment longer, before simply shrugging his shoulders and kicking the base of the tree with one of his hooves.

The thunderous sound of bark exploding and ancient wood cracking filled the air for a moment as the proud tree toppled over, turning the problem moot.

Nodding in satisfaction he grabbed the, wider than his own body, fallen tree and hoisted it up over his back with ease before turning back towards the general direction of where they had made camp for the night alongside the river. His even and unlabored pace was not bothered in the slightest by the massive weight of the tree he was now carrying.

Casually shoving a rock larger than his own body away from his path, Ganondorf didn’t even try to fight back the smile that he felt expanding over his muzzle. He really didn’t know why it was so, but by Din’s might was he coming to love how powerful and sturdy his new body was turning out to be!

No matter what he did or how much physical strain he put over his equine body, it seemed to simply shrug it off and keep going, to the point he was literally not even winded after a whole day of following the flowing river at a brisk, distance eating pace, an advantage that, to his slight amusement, his two companions apparently didn’t share.

But then again Link did end up with a pair of wings and the ability to fly, while Zelda’s magic had apparently underwent a major power boost for unexplainable reasons, though he privately was blaming the new spiral protrusion sticking out of her forehead. So in the end things probably leveled out in the bonus due to sudden species change criteria.

But it also made him wonder if other members of their new species suffered from similar racial specializations, and if so, how that would change the structure of their societies. After all, having a clear advantage over another being hardly lead to healthy relationships between two or more beings forced to coexist with each other.

He wondered about it for a moment, before dismissively discarding the train of thought as inconsequential, not really caring one way or the other about the subject, save as a time waster to stave off boredom as he drew closer to the camp, deciding instead that he would rather leave all that philosophy-like stuff to the Princess, thank you very much.

Crossing the clearing’s boundary where said camp was located he couldn’t help but let out a small impressed whistle as he gazed upon Zelda’s form as she expertly weaved dozens of different vines, branches and large leaves into an impromptu shelter more than large enough for any of them to sleep in. Two other such shelters already ready by the side and a small fire inside a fire pit circled with rocks completing the picture.

“Impressive, Princess, I can’t have been gone longer than an hour!” he cheerfully noted while moving closer to the fire and unloading the apple tree next to it, his eyes interestedly tracking the intricate telekinetic dance Zelda was doing with apparently little effort.

“I believe this body’s horn may be acting like a natural focus for both conducting and channeling magic,” Zelda answered in an absent minded manner as she added the finishing touches to the last shelter. “Telekinesis and other such minor cantrips require but a fraction of the concentration and energy that they would have demanded back in Hyrule.”

“Flight, magic channeling powers, and super strength and endurance,” Ganondorf commented half to himself as he shattered the tree’s trunk near its top in order to move the apples a little further away from the fire before promptly turning the rest of the massive trunk into firewood with little to no effort. “Truly a curious breed of equines.”

A small noise of agreement being his only answer, the King of Thieves arranged the firewood into an almost organized pile before turning his eyes towards the rest of the camp, noting the absence of a certain green Hero.

“Where’s Link by the way? Considering how now he can fly, one would think he would have gotten back before I did,” he said, since both stallions had decided to try and forage for some food while Zelda had stayed behind to fix the camp for the night.

“He did,” Zelda stated, gesturing with a hoof towards two big piles of fruits neatly arranged over a stack of large leaves near one of the shelters, one that looked like some kind of strawberry and the other a large fruit that kinda looked like a plum, if one were to ignore the fact they were neon pink that is. “But he decided to make a quick recon of the surrounding area before the sun finished setting.”

“So, you let the green trouble magnet out unsupervised at dusk in an unknown forest?” Ganondorf teased, a small grin on his muzzle. “We will be lucky if he doesn’t stumble upon a quest or three before it’s dinner time!”

Receiving nothing more than an irritated grunt as an answer and noticing that the Princess had yet to even look in his direction, he wasted a moment wondering if he should ask what her new problem was or let her deal with it on her own time. He quickly decided that subtlety was never really one of his virtues anyway and that he would rather not wait in silence until the Kid got back.

“Alright, what’s your problem now?” he cheekily asked while sitting on his hindquarters near the fire. “You are grumpier than normal, and that’s saying something!”

His tactful approach to the subject earned him a baleful glare from the white unicorn, the kind of look that would have lesser, or perhaps smarter, beings running for their lives. But considering the fact that Zelda was now properly looking at him and how the angry scowl she was leveling his way clearly preceded a long discussion that would probably waste more than enough time for Link to come back so they could eat, he would chalk it up as a success.

“My problem? My problem is that I’m the ruler of a kingdom, with all the responsibilities and duties that entails, that has been forced to abandon said kingdom without any warning!” Zelda angrily hissed at him, her blue eyes narrowed.

“You do realize I’m the king of the Gerudo in quite a few of my lives right? Including this current one?” Ganondorf curiously asked, idly wondering what her point was.

“Yes, but unlike you I actually care about my subjects!” she harshly rebuked while rising from her sitting position and pointing a hoof forcefully towards him. “Do you have any idea the kind of chaos our disappearance is probably causing with our subjects? How do you think your followers are taking your unexplained sudden disappearance?”

“Well, Usug is probably challenging all other officers in the army to duels in an attempt to prove her superiority and become their war leader. And if Segiki and her sisters haven’t raided my personal treasure vault by this point I would be really surprised. Not to mention that Turat is probably trying to surreptitiously gather power in order to try and install herself as Queen or something, all the while devoting as many resources as possible to confirming that I won’t be coming back,” he dutifully answered while stroking his chin, naming his head general, spy/thief master and vizier’s probable reactions to his sudden disappearance.

Zelda simply stared at him for a long moment, before continuing in a desert dry tone of voice. “And you don’t see any kind of problem with that?”

“No, not really, why?” the Dark Lord cheekily asked, purposefully pushing the Princess’ buttons.

“I don’t know why I even bother,” she mumbled while massaging her brow. “Unlike you and your bunch of barbarians and their ‘might makes right’ mindset, Hyrule is an actual kingdom with an actual government. A government who just had its head of state disappear into thin air after being kidnapped, right alongside the equally sudden disappearance of its greatest hero who just so happened to have been trying to save said head of state.

“Goddess knows what state this will have left the government, much less the kingdom itself,” she continued in a defeated tone of voice.

“Oh, please. We both know that over two thirds of your time as a ruler of that accursed kingdom is spent either on the run and hiding, as a captive of yours truly, or trying to alert people to the next coming disaster while being summarily ignored by the idiotic masses,” he cut in, growing tired with the Princess’ defeatist attitude. “Even the sheep-like useless beings you tend to call subjects have to have some modicum of survival ability and have learnt how to take care of themselves by now. They will be fine.

“You can’t know that,” the mare bit back sharply, the answering grin on her conversation partner and the mischievous glint on his golden eyes only adding to her irritation.

“Of course I know! Fine stands out for: Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional after all!”

The growing eye twitch and the slowly gathering blue glow around the Princess’ horn probably meant she didn’t really agree with his point of view. And so, Ganondorf slowly rose from his sitting position, his four legs tensed and ready to launch him away from his current position when she decided to finally express said disagreement.

"Oh, good, you are both here,” a voice coming from up above resounded through the clearing, stopping things short before they could really start, to the King of Thieves’ slight disappointment. “I could really use the opinion of a magic user right now.”

Enduring another annoyed glare from the Princess with a cheeky grin, he turned his gaze upwards towards the source of Link’s voice, Zelda following suit soon after with an annoyed huff.

“What is it Kid…” he started to say before trailing off as his eyes found the source of the Hero’s voice. Or more importantly, exactly atop what said Hero was currently standing.

“How does that even work?” he heard Zelda mutter incredulously at his side, the wide eyed Princess also staring at the same thing the Lord of Darkness was, with equal incredulity in her eyes.

“How should I know?” Link simply stated with a shrug of his wings from atop the small, fluffy, white cloud that was floating less than two meters above ground which he was currently standing on as if it was a solid surface. “You are the spell caster and the warlock respectively. All that I know is that it’s probably magic and that it happens. If you two don’t know why it’s so, then why would you expect me to know?”

“Okay, this is pushing it!” Ganondorf grumbled, balancing himself atop his hind legs in order to pass one hoof through the small cloud in order to confirm that, yes, said cloud was still apparently made of water vapor and wasn’t actually solid, despite the fact the green pegasus atop it was treating it as such. “So you can stand on clouds now?”

“Stand, push, pull and manipulate them as if they were solid objects, yes,” the Hero calmly spoke, jumping off the cloud and hovering besides it in order to demonstrate his words by pushing the cloud around a little. “They are incredibly soft, by the way.”

Both extremely powerful and incredibly experienced magic users stared at the forest green pegasus casually pushing around what should be by all accounts a loose collection of suspended water droplets with identical looks of bafflement and incredulity. The fact that said cloud was somehow maintaining its shape perfectly despite the growing speed with which Link was pushing it around in circles, and the fact neither could really detect any kind of spell at work, was also really not helping.

Trading a long look with the bearer of Wisdom, the bearer of Power felt as they silently reached a mutual understanding.

“Okay, dinner first, weird magical weather phenomena latter!” he loudly declared, turning his back to the fluffy cloud with finality.

“Seconded,” Zelda readily agreed, also turning her back to the unexplainable not quite natural phenomenon and moving towards their dinner.

Both of them leaving a slightly bemused pegasus calmly leaning against said fluffy cloud about two meters above their campsite, a small barely perceptible smile on his muzzle.

The birds were singing atop the trees, the sun was shining on a beautiful azure sky, small forest critters were frolicking among the underbrush. All in all it was a truly magnificent and perfectly peaceful day.

Much to Ganondorf’s current boredom.

Silently praying to Din for strength, the Dark Lord wondered what his adventures had been reduced to. The most interesting thing to happen to them so far this fair day had been having found a small dirt path crossing the forest, way too small and unkempt to be called a road by even the most generous of souls, but at least it was a sign of some form of civilization.

The problem was that said discovery had happened about two hours after they had started walking at sunrise, and now it was already well past the middle of the day and absolutely nothing else of interest had happened yet.

No interesting new sights. No mysterious forks in the ‘road’. No other travelers. Not even a monster or two to break the monotony of the day!

Seriously, considering the track record of the little Hero by his side alone he gathered that they should have stumbled upon a fleeing noble, discovered a long lost temple, or at the very least have been jumped by a horde of skeletons or something by now!

But no, the day remained stubbornly boring and uneventful. Despite having not one, nor two, but three distinct trouble magnets in the same party! It was downright unnatural, it was!

He silently fumed for a few moments longer as they walked down the dirt path, until his ears perked in interest as he noticed something at the edge of his hearing range.

He carefully tracked the sound for another moment, seeking confirmation to what he suspected, before sending Din a silent but heartfelt thank you. For the Goddess of Power had apparently heard his prayers, as the all consuming boredom of the day that had been but slightly disturbed but a few minutes ago was once again being disturbed, now in a far more intense way that hopefully promised at least some entertainment for the evening.

“That looks like a good enough spot,” Ganondorf happily declared as they approached a part of the path that opened up into a small clearing with a large oak right in the middle, excitement clear in his voice. “So, should we greet our new friends?”

The answer to his prayers and source of possible entertainment being the fact that someone had apparently spotted their group and started to briefly follow them while trying to remain hidden from their senses earlier in the day, the key word being trying, of course.

Sadly their little guest hadn’t remained there for long, swiftly leaving after but a few minutes of trying to stalk them. But thankfully now said interloper was apparently back, and had even been courteous enough to bring along friends!

And the way their little stalker and his friends were now trying to slowly approach the Dark Lord and his two companions without being noticed spoke very favorably to a soon end to the day’s boredom.

Link quickly took in their surroundings before nodding in agreement that they probably wouldn’t find a better place than the small clearing for dealing with the group that had started following them, at least not without a disproportionate amount of effort on their part neither really felt like undertaking, that is.

“I count fifteen individuals, all of them flight capable. You?” Link calmly spoke, rolling his shoulders, stretching his wings and slightly flexing his legs, loosening up all his muscles to what was to come.

“The same.” Ganondorf readily agreed with his sometimes archrival’s assessment, turning his neck with a crack to one side and then the other. “This will be interesting, I wonder how the warriors of this realm stack up to those from back home?”

“Seriously, you two...” Zelda trailed off with a tinge of resignation in her voice as they approached the tree in the middle of the clearing.

“Could you at least try to resolve things peacefully for a change? There could be perfectly valid reasons for why they are acting the way they are. We have no idea if we are trespassing upon their borders or something along those lines, after all,” she reasonably stated while giving a slightly annoyed huff at the look the two stallions were giving her for her suggestion. “There is no reason why we can’t solve this through this little thing called diplomacy!”

The two stallions traded a bemused look for a moment before the brown coated pony simply shrugged his shoulders signaling his indifference in regards to the topic while the green coated pegasus calmly nodded his acceptance to the idea.

“It’s worth a try, I guess,” Link simply stated, though the look he briefly gave Zelda showed he wasn’t exactly trusting of her idea actually working. “After all, there is a first time for everything.”

“Oh, why not,” Ganondorf jovially proclaimed with a teasing smirk firm on his muzzle. “Stranger things have happened before.”

For a moment Zelda thought about berating her two companions’ dismissive attitudes to the mere idea of diplomacy ever working for avoiding a fight. That lasted until she remembered their less than stellar track record regarding such attempts in the past. Not to mention the size of said track record. And so, with a tired sigh, she instead decided that it was better to be safe than sorry and closed her eyes for a moment, expanding her senses searching for any active magical signature in their surroundings.

“They do not have any spell casters that I can sense, or any functioning enchantments on their persons, nor is there anyone actively using magic to hide themselves within my sensing range,” she succinctly informed her companions as they stopped by the large oak in the middle of the clearing.

“Very well then, let’s try your so called diplomacy and then proceed to the main event shall we?” Ganondorf answered in the same far too cheerful tone, turning his head slightly upwards and taking in a deep breath.

“Oi, you useless maggots, stop trying to skulk around in the shadows like a five year old pickpocket and come out here!” he bellowed at the top of his lungs, completely ignoring the indignant look Zelda was giving him or the small chuckle that had come from Link.

Seriously, there was no pleasing some people! He hadn’t even threatened their stalkers with the extremely long and painful end of their worthless lives or anything of the sort. And if that wasn’t being diplomatic then he really didn’t know what was!

Sharp eyes tracking the treetops, he saw as their little interlopers made themselves known, a glint of interest showing itself on his eyes the moment they did so. Mostly black and brown feathers covered an avian-like front body with wickedly sharp looking long talons and beaks, and similarly colored fur covered feline hindquarters ending with large lion claws and a long slender tail.

The Dark Lord immediately recognized the creatures as some kind of gryphon, clinically noting the beasts’ species and their usual strength and weaknesses with a slightly detached air before moving on to the details of their equipment and individual appearance, not being particularly impressed by what he saw.

The bunch was lightly armored and armed at best. Wearing what amounted to boiled leathers with pieces of metal sewn over vital spots here and there while carrying an assortment of shoddy looking spears, a few simple wooden shields banded with iron here and there, and a scattering of cheap looking swords for their equipment, all of them very basic looking, while four members of the flock further behind were carrying what looked like very crude crossbows.

Crude looking crossbows that were nonetheless loaded with sharp steel tipped arrows and were pointed straight towards him and his two companions the moment the band landed in a half circle around the three ponies. Not that that particular fact really worried him in any shape or form. After all, after repeatedly dealing with Zelda’s supersonic Light Arrows or the ever growing assorted armory of exotic and deadly munitions Link tended to favor more times than he cared to remember, the more ordinary kind of ordinance most archers used had long since lost any threat value to him.

Instead he focused on the clear leader of this little warband, the gryphon’s position clear by the way he was standing in the middle of the others, and the fact he was the only one sporting true metal armor, a burnished chest plate covering his feathery chest and a helmet atop his head.

Though, the large broadsword he was sporting looked equally as ordinary and basic as his followers’ weapons. Which was a real pity, since Ganondorf really preferred broadswords, so looting the leader after his inevitable defeat should his equipment have been even halfway decent had been a more than decent proposition on the King of Thieves’ mind.

Also, they were all jeering and sneering towards the three ponies, showing a lack of discipline and caution that would have made him kill them on the spot out of sheer principle should they have been part of any of his armies.

In other words, adding their shoddy looking equipment, the lack of discipline, and their overall appearance, the bunch looked like either a very poorly equipped and trained army unit or a band of brigands. Neither of which had apparently any idea they were biting off ridiculously more than they could ever possibly chew.

The day was definitely looking up!

“Well, well, well, what do we have here? A mud-pony, a feather-brain, and a needle-head out for a stroll through the woods, isn’t that cute?” the leader jeered to his minions in a contemptuous tone of voice, the fact that Ganondorf was quite sure that they had just been insulted making him wonder why Zelda still insisted with her so called diplomacy.

“So let’s make it so that your pathetic little pony brains can understand your situation,” the gryphon continued while unsheathing his cheap looking broadsword, not really noticing that none of his three targets were showing a single hint of fear or apprehension at being confronted by a pack of armed gryphons. “Right now y…”

Ignoring the buffoon’s words completely Ganondorf gave Zelda a smug look, a look that grew even more smug as the Princess surreptitiously avoided his gaze while sporting a slightly miffed expression. The way Link was clearly fighting to contain a small chuckle was also helping his smugness quite a bit too.

Unfortunately his enjoinment was soon cut short as the armed idiot’s next words reached his ears, making his smile swiftly be replaced by a slightly annoyed frown.

“So, lay down whatever weapons you may be carrying, do not try to resist in any way. And perhaps you may get to keep your pathetic lives as slaves to the Gryphon Kingdoms,” the leader continued, failing to notice the deathly stillness that had just descended upon the clearing.

Giving the pathetic excuse of a raid leader and his equally underwhelming thug-like followers a hard look, Ganondorf swiftly decided that the joke had long since run its course.

“A very interesting proposal, but I’m afraid we will have to decline it,” the Dark Lord answered in a flat tone of voice, now deeply unamused by the whole situation.

If there was one thing he never really liked and made sure to never allow to happen under his rule, then that thing was slavery, for quite frankly he never saw the point of it. For in his opinion if you wanted to kill someone you should just do it already, and besides there were far better ways of making an enemy suffer. In his mind it was simply a pointless and wasteful endeavor that was so far beneath him that it wasn’t even worth of consideration.

And no, his stance about it wasn’t due to that strange thing Zelda kept referring as a conscience she insisted he had, or the even weirder thing called morals that Link liked to talk about from time to time. It was simply something so pathetic and unneeded that it would be nothing but an insult to even allow it to happen under his rule.

And that was his excuse and he was sticking with it!

Calmly placing his right forehoof upon the very large and very sturdy looking oak tree by his side, while discreetly trading a meaningful glance with both Zelda and Link, Ganondorf kept talking, a fanged smirk slowly surfacing on his features.

“So here is our counter offer: You drop your weapons, give us the best map you got of the surrounding regions, get out of our way, and we don’t make you all deeply regret ever crossing our path,” he magnanimously proclaimed, as if a king humoring a particularly dimwitted peasant. “Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?”

“Why y-" But whatever the gryphon was about to say would forever remain unknown, because the moment he had opened his beak Ganondorf had acted. Said action took the form of using all his considerable strength to uproot and hurl the large oak tree right next to him, in one fluid motion, straight at the oaf with not inconsiderable speed.

The brown blur that was his impromptu ranged weapon was swiftly followed by a green blur racing it while verging to the right and towards the five startled looking gryphons there, and by a pulsating ball of flame darting straight after both of them and bearing down on the four crossbow wielding gryphons standing behind their leader.

The moment the hurled tree had left his hooves he charged towards the enemies to his left, while mentally marking all the enemies to the right where Link had charged at as already dealt with.

Swiftly approaching his first opponent Ganondorf focused upon his inner magic, swiftly bringing it to the surface. For while he hadn’t yet managed to learn how to use his usual spell repertoire in this new body, he had learnt quite soon that reinforcing his equine body’s strength and endurance with magic was almost as easy as breathing, raising his already impressive physical attributes even further. And that would be more than enough for dealing with these wannabe thugs.

Exploding into motion he reached the closest gryphon before the feline avian had even truly processed the fact his leader had just been assaulted by an aerial tree trunk, the loud explosive sound of roaring flames making him mark the crossbow wearing enemies as engaged by the Princess and so not a current threat. Not wasting a single moment he struck his opponent down with a powerful strike straight to the chest, the leather armor with studded metal pieces the gryphon had been wearing proving very little defense against the blow.

Grabbing his enemy’s former sword straight from his talon before his crumpling form could even hit the ground, while outright sneering at the extremely poor quality of the blade, he spun around, swinging it while using his own momentum to increase the strength of his strike. The move proved itself successful as he cleaved straight through the wooden shield the next gryphon had been raising in an attempt to defend himself.

Sure, the fact that the pitiful blade shattered explosively like an impromptu shrapnel bomb due to the strength of the blow wasn’t exactly part of the plan. But, considering the fact that his enemy had just gone down with several sharp pieces of metal hitting his lightly armored body all over while the very same speeding pieces of metal had harmlessly bounced off his own magically reinforced coat, he would chalk it up as a success anyway.

Outright ignoring his second enemy’s equally pitiful sword he charged his remaining three foes unarmed, preferring to trust his own hooves instead of the dubious metal of the blade. For at least with his hooves he knew that they wouldn’t simply break after doing something as simple as smashing through a bit of solid wood reinforced with iron.

All the while the sound of panicked shouting, fiery blasts, and of someone darting at speed around the right side of the battleground, told him that Zelda and Link were already mopping up the rest of the feathered idiots that decided to try and attack them.

Dodging the rushed spear thrusts of two gryphons and a panicked sword slash from the remaining one with contemptuous ease, he closed in before they could even think about attempting another strike.

Two swift blows to the base of the necks of the first two and a harsh back kick to the chest of the last one and it was over. His newest foes folded like a house of cards facing against a raging typhoon and no more enemies were left on his side of the battlefield to take their place against him.

Turning around he idly noted that Link had dealt with the opponents that had littered his side of the clearing with equal ease, while the burnt and crispy looking gryphons further behind carrying the destroyed husks of what had once been crude crossbows showed that Zelda had dealt with their archers before they could manage to unleash even a single arrow.

Start to finish, from the moment he had hurled the tree at their leader until the last of their number had fallen, the battle hadn’t lasted even five seconds.

“Well, this was vaguely disappointing,” he mumbled to himself, idly hoping that this wasn’t indicative to the level of ability of this realm’s warriors while halfheartedly inspecting his downed opponents’ weapons, before dismissively shattering the remaining sword with a hard stomp upon it, confirming that they were of equally shoddy quality, just like the first blade.

“They probably have a camp nearby. Bandits and raiders always do,” he mused out loud, considering that whatever supplies these wannabe bandits had to have in said encampment would be downright useful for them right now.

“Indeed, but nearby probably has a whole other meaning for a race capable of flight,” Zelda reasonably pointed out, giving the downed gryphons a slightly annoyed look for a moment before huffing and moving to where Link was inspecting one of their downed opponents’ blades with a very clear look of disgust before promptly throwing it away.

“You have a point there, Princess,” he agreed, the idea of searching through miles of forest for said camp not really enticing him in the slightest. But thankfully a loud groan coming from a certain armored gryphon provided an easy answer to the problem.

Calmly trotting to the form of his first opponent, who was still lying on the floor half buried beneath the shattered remains of the oak tree, Ganondorf first pushed the large pieces of wood off of him before placidly resting his right hoof over his battered armor.

Smiling beatifically at the slightly dazed gryphon, he leaned forward, looked him straight in the eyes, and started to press his hoof downwards. The loud groaning of metal immediately accompanied his action, as the metal of the chest plate said hoof was resting atop of started to readily dent and sink beneath his appendage, and immediately making the gryphon inside the now shrinking chest plate to stare at him with wide eyes.

“Now then, about that map we were talking about?”

IV - Role Reversal

View Online

Role Reversal

Lying perfectly still in a vain attempt to not aggravate the bruises covering her weary body, Forest Blossom cursed herself for her arrogance and carelessness as she laid inside the crude cage the filthy flying beasts had shoved her in.

She was a pretty mare with a burnt orange coat and a violet mane, her looks never failing to turn stallions’ heads her way, not that she had ever overly cared about her appearance anyway. No, like her cutie-mark of a proud wild tree at full bloom could easily attest, while she liked her looks, her strength had always been what she had prized above everything else.

Forest had always prided herself on her ability to traverse the woods around the village with ease, she had always bragged to everybody that could hear that nothing could ever approach her within said woods without her notice, and she had always boasted that even should any being by some miracle be able to do so, that they would find nothing but a swift end beneath her strong hooves.

So of course she had outright scoffed at Sure Shot’s offer of help when the ranger had offered to accompany her and her sister on their little foraging trip this morning.

After all, why would she ever need the other mare’s help? She was more than strong enough to protect both her sister and herself from any forest beast that may cross their path. And while the skirmishes between the pegasi and the unicorns were growing worse by the day, the rumors of earth-pony villages being attacked kept growing wilder and wilder, and the whispers about how the chancellor was being pressured more and more by both sides in taking a side in the growing conflict, it wasn’t like anypony really cared about a small hamlet in the middle of nowhere. They would be fine.

How that thought burned within her now. All her bravado and strength, it all had availed her for nothing as the cursed beasts had descended upon them like a flock of vultures, as they had been foraging for the rare wild herbs Old Oak, the ancient stallion that was the village herbalist, had asked them to retrieve.

Well, at the very least there was the cold comfort that she got something right in the end; no pony was interested in their forgotten little village.

She had been collecting some elderberries while listening to Singing excitedly talking about her apprenticeship under Old Oak, when the disgusting half-breeds had attacked them with no prior warning.

Even though she had been caught unawares she had attempted to fight them off. Despite knowing that she simply could not win against six armed gryphons she had still thrashed and bucked, attempting to use her beloved strength to at the very least buy her little sister a chance to get away.

It really didn’t matter to her that her little sister had gotten her cutie mark more than two moons ago already; Singing Blossom was still a filly in her eyes and simply had no business having to endure such a perilous situation. And if getting her out of there meant gaining quite a few new bruises and cuts, or even something worse, then by Faust it was her duty to try and do so. But it had all been for nothing, her desperate attempt at giving her little sister a chance of escaping to alert the village, all for naught.

So much for her vaunted strength, so much for her lauded skill, for no matter how skillful one was, in the end only a fool would face down naked steel with nothing but their bare hooves, and no matter how strong one was, in the end it was simply impossible to tear down metal with nothing but sheer physical strength.

And the small whimpers that were coming from the figure huddled close to her side sharing the cage with her only made everything worse, as they reminded her that she hadn’t even been able to manage to allow her little sister to escape the filthy beasts.

Fighting back the burning feeling of tears in her eyes and ignoring the pain from the collection of bruises and cuts that were covering her body, she futilely attempted to comfort her little sister, hugging Singing Blossom as best as she could with her pained body,

The worst part was that she knew that soon the cursed beasts would raid their village. She knew far too well what the savages were doing, that the group of gryphons that had attacked them were scouting the area in order to make sure no pony sounded the alarm early, taking down and capturing any pony that worked or ventured outside the village, making sure that no warning ever reached the settlement about the incoming attack. And what was worse, she knew that it would work.

The only other pony that regularly braved the woods was Sure Shot, and after the way she had brushed off her offer earlier, Forest bet that the sea green mare would be either at her little cottage sulking or drinking at the tavern while grumbling about young upstarts.

Which meant no one would see the raid coming, and that come nightfall, their village, their home, would be sacked and burnt to the ground.

And so there she laid, body bruised and pained, as she silently fumed at her own powerlessness. She stewed in worry, unable to do anything about the fact the damned gryphon war band was planning to attack their village.

She could barely move her body without feeling pain all over, which meant that any chance of escaping and alerting everypony about the coming attack was a forlorn hope at best. Even now that there were only a few of the damned beasts strutting through the tents of their camp, there was simply no way for her to even free her sister so that she could try and escape.

She was powerless… and she hated that fact with all her being!

And even worse, the fact that most of their captors weren’t here was due to the fact that they had departed to take down a group of ponies that one of their scouts had apparently spotted. And the mere idea that said group could be actually out searching for her and her sister, worried because they were late coming back, made her want to scream in frustration at it all!

“What the… Hey, you, what do you think you are doing?!” she heard one of the damned beasts screeching in clear confusion.

Shaking herself out of the slight stupor her dark train of thoughts had led her to, she slowly raised her head to see what was happening, a small movement by her side showing that Singing was doing the same.

She watched with muted confusion the scene before her eyes, her mind trying to make sense of it all. The three armed gryphons that remained at the camp were pointing their swords towards a large pony that was calmly trotting straight towards them, as if he had not a care in the world.

And he was quite a large stallion, easily the largest Forest had ever seen. His large dark brown body was covered in muscles, his legs thick and sturdy looking, and his chest and barrel appeared as if they had been chiseled from stone. All in all, alongside his rugged looks and deep crimson mane, she had to admit that the strange pony was quite the looker.

Not that his good looks would serve him for anything in this situation. Just as his muscles would serve him little against three armed gryphons. Like her own strength had served her for naught, she knew that he too would fall before the beasts.

“You, mud-pony! Get down on the ground now before I end your pathetic existence!” one of the gryphon raiders commanded, moving closer to the brown earth-pony and placing his sword near his neck.

“Hmm, guess this is the place after all,” the stallion muttered to himself, completely unconcerned by the fact that a steel blade was all but pressing against his neck as he took in the tents and the supplies they held for a moment before moving his gaze towards where she and her sister where being held.

“Are you fucking deaf! Hug the ground, mud-dweller!” the feline avian shouted as he pressed his blade against the stallion’s neck, clearly angered by the fact that he was being ignored.

And yet, the stallion seemed unable to comprehend the seriousness of his situation, for despite having a blade literally pressing against his neck, he simply gave the gryphon holding the sword a cocky smirk, completely unconcerned by the fact he was about to die.

“Well then, better mop this up before the others finish with the stragglers,” she heard him speak, moving his right hoof towards the naked blade all the while still completely ignoring the gryphon holding a sword to his neck. “Wouldn’t do to let the Kid take down more of you than me, after all.”

Forest swiftly closed her eyes while hugging her sister closer and making sure that she couldn’t see what was about to happen, now quite sure that the crazy stallion was about to get himself killed.

She waited in silent dread for the wet sound of steel slashing through flesh and the muted thump of his body hitting the ground to reach her ears, of an innocent, if apparently slightly crazy, pony being killed by those filthy beasts. All the while cursing her own powerlessness.

She most certainly did not expect to be greeted by the sudden, sharp echoing sound of metal being snapped in two, nor for the sudden deluge of confused, perplexed and slightly panicked curses coming from the flying beasts.

Opening her eyes she took in what was happening, only to blink in confusion as she tried to make sense of what she was seeing. The stallion was casually inspecting a long length of polished metal, one end sharpened to a point and the other ending at a ragged mess of torn and crushed metal. It almost looked like the sword the gryphon had been pressing against his neck, now that she thought about it.

“Seriously, don’t any of you filthy mongrels have a decent blade?” the stallion asked, disgust clear in his tone of voice, hard eyes moving towards a pole-axed looking gryphon that was staring with wide eyes at the hilt and about three inches of a blade he was holding on his talon.

“What the…?!” the flying beast started to say, only for his words to be transformed into a pained squawk, as a brown hoof suddenly impacted his chest with enough strength to send the creature flying into one of the trees circling the camp.

Watching wide eyed, Forest Blossom took in the unbelievable sight happening before her eyes. As the magnificent looking stallion blocked the spear thrust of the second gryphon like it was nothing, the wooden shaft of the spear actually shattering due to the strength of his hooves, and dodging the wild slash of the third beast with such ease that it looked like he had barely moved at all, he then took the filthy mongrels down with one blow each, none being able to withstand the sheer power of his blows for even a moment.

Forest Blossom had no idea how this could possibly be happening, how she had been transported to what looked like an old tale regarding the long lost Age of Legends.

And yet, as she watched entranced as the mysterious stallion come towards their cage, his crimson mane flowing freely on the wind and a fanged smirk playing across his rugged muzzle, and as he casually bent and ripped the iron bars of the cage they had been trapped in as if they were nothing but dry twigs and not two inches of solid metal, freeing them from captivity with the same ease as he drew breath, as she fought down a incandescent blush, Forest realized a single truth.

As she stared at his strong muscles and sure gait, at this embodiment of power incarnate, despite her bewilderment and confusion she knew without a shadow of a doubt what this stallion was.

A hero.

Looking at the two mares that had been trapped inside the metal cage he had just ripped open, Ganondorf, Lord of Darkness, King of Thieves, wielder of the Triforce of Power, found himself in the slightly unprecedented situation of having no idea what to do next.

Freeing them from their cage after dealing with the pathetic feline avians had been more an instinctual response than anything else. He had simply seen two young equines stuffed into a far too small cage, a cage that was not even appropriate for transporting equines safely at that, with the slightly larger one also being covered in bruises and welts, and the Gerudo in him had immediately all but demanded he do something about the completely unforgivable situation!

For a race of proud horse riders and breeders, such poor treatment of any equine was simply inconceivable! He had killed for far less than that! Din’s fury, most of his former subjects had killed for far less than that!

It was only after ripping out the iron bars trapping the two young mares and seeing the undeniable intelligent light shining within their eyes that he remembered that those were not two young regular equines, but that said ponies were in all likelihood actual sentient beings.

Which brought forth his current little conundrum.

Sure, he knew far too well how to treat a horse, pony, or basically any ride-able equine creature there was. He had done it countless times before after all. By the Three Golden Goddesses! Some of his best childhood memories actually took place either at some stable grooming his newest warhorse or riding one equine or another through the glowing shifting dunes of a desert or another! Treating newly freed captives from a bunch of slavers, or even interacting with them for that matter? Now that he could safely say was a first for him.

The fact he couldn’t exactly be called social even at the best of times also wasn’t really helping.

The younger one, a tiny thing with a light yellow coat and a deep violet mane, seemed to be fine for the moment, thought the way she was looking at him with wide sparkling eyes and a slightly opened mouth was kind of odd. Choosing to ignore that little oddity, he passed his eyes over her body one more time checking for any apparent injuries, and finding none he decided that it should be safe enough to ignore her until either he had an epiphany regarding how to deal with the whole situation or Link and Zelda stopped taking their sweet time mopping up the remaining scouts from the gryphon war band and came here to deal with the social stuff for him.

The older one was another matter altogether, the burnt orange mare was covered in bruises and cuts, and while none of them seemed life threatening, the open wounds were an obvious infection risk just waiting to happen. The way she was looking at him with slightly hazy eyes, drawing short quick breaths as if she was out of air, and the rosy coloration that was slowly taking over her muzzle showed him that maybe she could already be running a fever or something.

Which would be a real bother. He had never really rescued anyone before, after all, so letting one of the first two beings he had ever rescued die to some stupid illness would be kind of anticlimactic, especially after putting forth the effort of freeing them in the first place.

As he took a step closer in order to inspect her wounds more closely to see if he should do anything about it, the way her cheeks were now completely flushed with blood made him wonder if he should check her temperature or something.

Sadly healing magic was something he had never truly researched in depth, so even if he ignored the fact he was still trying to figure out how to properly cast spells through his new body, healing them with magic was a dead end option for him anyway. And somehow he had the niggling feeling that his preferred method of dealing with his own injuries, flooding the wounded area with raw magic and ignoring it until it stopped bothering him, wouldn’t really work that well in this case.

Wracking his brain, he tried to remember if he had ever learned how to dress a wound or anything of the sort, only to draw a complete blank. The fact that he normally had a whole bunch of minions assigned to such mundane tasks, and that he sincerely couldn’t remember the last time he had ever been sick for that matter, also probably wasn’t helping.

Blinking his eyes, Ganondorf realized that he had been staring at the two mares for more than a minute or two in complete silence as he pondered about what to do. And that that was probably quite the faux pass regarding how to treat rescuees, simply stand there staring at them instead of actually helping.

Thankfully the Princess wasn’t here to see that, or the mare would probably start ranting at him for being insensitive or some other such nonsense. But then again, if she had been here from the start, that would mean that he wouldn’t have to be the rescuer in the first place, which would have avoided the whole issue altogether.

He probably should say something, but what? Or would it be better to try and deal with the injured one first? Taking her out of the cage and covering the wounds with something couldn’t really hurt, right? Though he vaguely remembered someone once saying that you shouldn’t move an injured person without due cause. Which, in his personal opinion, was utter nonsense, after all he had fought with a sword sticking out of his gut and other such wounds on more than one occasion and nothing had come of it. So how could moving someone with a few light injuries be a problem?

Letting out a small snort he wondered how the Kid did this all the time while making it look so easy. For he had just barely done it once and was already sporting a small headache for it! Perhaps he should ask for some pointers in the future, there had to be a trick or two he was missing that would make dealing with this mess easier after all!

His unhelpful musings were thankfully cut short as the tiny yellow filly next to the larger mare decided to break the awkwardly long silence under her own terms.

“That was awesome!” the filly boisterously yelled, darting from the other mare’s side and towards his far larger brown form with a very respectable speed. “They were like, roar, you will not pass! And then you were like, out of my way! And then…”

Following the small filly happily bouncing all around him with a small sense of befuddlement as she energetically told him about a very imaginative and colorful retelling of his actions of a few minutes ago, all of it accompanied by impromptu vocalized sound effects and wild gestures with her hooves for emphasis, he wondered how he should react to this new development.

All the while the fact he still didn’t really know what to do with the injured pony kept pestering him like an annoyingly persistent fly.

“T-thanks a lot. I really can’t say that enough,” the orange coated mare said in a slightly shaky voice as she slowly pushed herself upright, a few grimaces of pain briefly crossing her features before she pushed them aside with willpower alone, something that Ganondorf definitely approved of. Letting anyone realize how injured you were was a great way of asking for them to come finish the job, after all.

Seeing her step out of the cage with slightly shaky legs made that little bit of medical advice about not moving while injured drift by his mind for a moment, before being swiftly tossed aside. If the mare had the strength and will to move despite her injuries then that was more than good enough in the Dark Lord’s opinion, no matter what nonsense the so called scholars had to say about it.

“What they were going to do with us… do to my little sister…” the orange mare started to say, something that sounded alarmingly like a hiccup lurking on her tone of voice and an even more alarming shine on her eyes. Until, with a fierce head shake, she thankfully seemed to regain her control before Ganondorf was forced to try and deal with a crying female, much to his relief.

“My name is Forest Blossom and this is my little sister, Singing Blossom,” she introduced herself and the enthusiastic little filly that was still jumping around him, before dipping her head in a small but heartfelt bow. “You have both my and my family’s eternal gratitude.”

“No problem,” he grumbled after a moment, realizing he was probably expected to give an answer. And after another he also realized that he should probably introduce himself as well. “I’m Ganondorf.”

“Weird name,” the tiny yellow pony happily proclaimed with the suicidal sincerity and eagerness of youth, to her older sister’s clear horror and the King of Thieves’ slight amusement.

He had never been one for the stupid rules of etiquette and decorum that plagued the nobility, personally preferring a far more direct and blunt approach, something that had served him well on more than one occasion. Din’s wrath, he remembered more than one time when he avoided a fatal, and far more importantly extremely embarrassing, mistake due to the simple fact that his elite minions felt no compunction about saying one plan or another was utterly stupid and would never work.

Tunnel vision was a thing, and having nothing but bootlickers that feared doing anything but curtsy and throw useless fancy speech one’s way had the nasty side effect of aggravating the problem, as such he had long since completely abandoned the trappings of formality that enshrouded most positions of power.

So the filly’s words didn’t really bother him, point in fact he could even see her point. For if their names were the norm for this realm then both his and Zelda’s name would probably sound a little odd to the ponies.

“But you are really strong mister! And really, really big! How did you get so big and strong? Will I be that big and strong when I grow up?” The fact the little bouncing yellow thing earnestly praising him with sparkling eyes was rather adorable also helped him forgive her a little bit, not that he would ever admit that out loud. “Not even big sister is that strong! So you are still amazing even with a weird name!”

Not to mention that whatever slight anger he might have felt had been swiftly derailed due to the fact that the tiny pony’s eyes were literally sparkling, as in there where tiny shiny stars twinkling inside them, much to his slightly confused bemusement.

“Singing!” the older mare hissed at her younger sibling, receiving a mutinous ‘What?’ for her efforts in trying to ensure the continued survival of the younger generation by preventing it from possibly angering him.

A logical path of action, but really unnecessary at this point in time, and as such he decided to intervene before the mare aggravated her injuries further, since he had noticed that her hiss was more than partially due to pain as she swiftly moved towards the yellow bouncing ball of fluff.

“It’s fine, she is just a filly after all,” he curtly said, all the while pondering about the fact that his Gerudo instincts and knowledge in regards to how to correctly treat and care for equines could probably be a bother later on while dealing with this new species.

“Thank you, good sir,” the mare said with heartfelt sincerity, giving him a dazzling smile, the little ball of fluff by her side immediately imitating her with an equally shining earnest smile.

Brutally beating down the part of his brain that wanted to offer them an apple or other such treat while reminding himself that they were not pets, Ganondorf concluded that his Gerudo raised instincts would be a bother after all.

“But while I’m thankful for both your help and understanding, I fear we must leave here as fast as possible! A large group of gryphon raiders departed some time ago planning to attack a group of travelers and it won’t be long before they are back!”

Stopping her from trotting away by firmly placing a hoof on one of her shoulders, while noticing that her fever was apparently growing worse due to how red her face was turning, he decided to inform them there was no need to rush and exert themselves before she made her situation worse in regards to her injuries.

“There’s no need, my companions and I have already dealt with the warband, they are just hunting down the last few stragglers and remaining scouts before coming here themselves,” he firmly spoke, the fact he could now actually sense both the Princess and the Kid calmly approaching their location giving even more weight to his words. “So take it easy until they get here so that we can deal with those injuries.”

Forest simply gave him a startled look, as if she couldn’t believe that they had already dealt with that sorry excuse of a warband. Her incredulity lasted until her eyes fell upon the gryphon’s sword he had snapped in half, at which point she simply nodded, not even a trace of doubt still present on her features.

They waited in silence for a few moments longer, until a frightened little whimper coming from the, up to this point, hyperactive ball of happiness, swiftly followed by Singing Blossom running to hide behind her sister, made Ganondorf immediately spin around while lowering his center of gravity slightly to provide him a more stable form so that he could react to any possible attack, sharp golden eyes searching for whatever unspoken danger that had scared the little filly. The fact that Forest had let out a small angry hiss while taking a clearly self-taught but still decently solid looking beginner’s battle stance right in front of the filly, despite her wounds, only reinforcing the notion that a new danger was at play.

And yet, no matter how hard he searched or strained his senses, the fact remained that there was simply nothing to either see or sense. No sign of danger, no threat whatsoever, nothing at all to explain the two females’ current actions.

Nothing but the green coated pegasus and the white coated unicorn that had just appeared at the far side of the clearing and had started to calmly trot towards them before noticing their reactions and taking battle stances of their own, sharp blue eyes searching both the trees and the sky for whatever danger could be lurking there.

After another moment fruitlessly searching his surroundings, Ganondorf traded a slightly confused look with both Zelda and Link. The curious and slightly confused looks that they were giving him in turn showing that they too hadn’t found anything even remotely wrong.

Turning his gaze back to the mare and the filly hiding behind her, which he noted to his growing bewilderment had yet to relax from her battle stance and was glaring at the two ponies that were now once again moving towards them, if at a far more careful trotting speed as they kept searching their surroundings for something they all could have missed, he decided to ask what she thought she was doing.

“Right, believe me when I say that there is nothing out there, if there was, one of us would have sensed it by now.” He spoke with utter certainty, knowing that there were precious few beings skilled enough to escape the sharp senses of even one of them, much less the senses of all three Triforce Wielders. “So, what exactly got you all worked up?

“Them!” the orange mare quietly hissed to him, as if she were trying to prevent Zelda and Link from hearing her words.

“What about them?” he asked in curiosity, not trying to modulate his loud echoing voice in the slightest and noting with some incredulity that she had subtly moved herself and her sister to place him between them and the approaching forms of his two old friends.

“They are a pegasus and a unicorn!” she once again hissed while briefly giving him an incredulous look, as if saying that that should be obvious, before returning her wary eyes to the incoming duo.

“Really, I would have never guessed!” he cheerfully replied with a hint of sarcasm, now thoroughly confused by the fact she was giving the two do-gooders the evil eye while hiding behind him of all beings. “Those are the companions I was talking about, Link, Zelda, meet Forest and Singing Blossom.”

“But, but… but you are an earth pony!” Forest incredulously stated as she finally stopped glaring at the duo in order to look at Ganondorf as if he had just sprouted a second head.

“Is that so? Good to know,” the King of Thieves readily replied, this time sincerely, glad to have the question regarding his species name answered without much effort on his part.

“Oh, and by the way, Princess, we got a wounded one here. We could use some of those healing spells of yours,” he shouted to the wielder of Wisdom, quite happy with the fact that at least one little conundrum could now be solved as the Princess hurried her pace towards them. Now he only had to try and figure out why Forest was openly gaping at him.

Perhaps Link could explain that to him later, or why Forest had been acting so oddly for some time now for that matter. Goddess knew the Kid was way more socially adept than the Dark Lord would ever be.

V - First Impressions

View Online

First Impressions

You should never trust a pegasus or a unicorn.

That was a truth that Forest’s parents had told her more than once when she was still but a little filly. A truth that nothing had discredited as the moons went past and she saw more and more of the world as she grew up to the mare she was today.

You trusted only the members of your own tribe, for doing otherwise was nothing short of folly at even the best of times.

Oh, sure, everypony knew that the Three Tribes were technically allied with each other. An alliance based on a fair division of tasks befitting each tribe’s innate magic, and that should allow them all to thrive and prosper together in harmony.

The basic idea of the treaty was really very simple. The pegasi would protect their borders from outsiders and control the weather, the unicorns would safeguard them all from magical threats and keep the cycle of the celestial bodies going, and the earth ponies would tend to the land and manufacture what was needed for them all to thrive.

But the truth was that everypony also knew that the treaty wasn’t worth the parchment it had been written upon.

The pegasi were full of themselves and antagonistic to ground dwellers even at the best of times, taking whatever they wanted with their flying legions while calling it a ‘tribute’ for keeping the weather fair enough for farming and ‘protecting’ them all. Despite the fact that the feather brains barely did the minimum necessary regarding maintaining the weather, forcing honest and hardworking earth ponies to put that much more effort in taking care of their crops due to rain shortages and rogue storms and tended to be way too busy butting heads with the unicorns to even try and maintain their peacekeeping duties.

The unicorns were somehow even more arrogant than the winged ponies, lording their control over the sun and the moon and using it as an unsaid but always present threat that should their own ‘tribute’ not be paid in time then famine would shortly follow as they prevented the sun from rising as it should. And as for protecting them from magical threats? Be prepared to pay a leg or two if you ever wanted to see a needle head spell caster ever do something helpful for a change. Not to mention most of their magicians were always being deployed to fend off the winged armada of the pegasi, and so far too busy to help the common pony.

Amidst that whole mess, despite the fact that two thirds of the alliance proposed by the treaty were more often than not at each other’s throats, the earth ponies were forced to soldier on. Only the knowledge that should they ever stop, neither of the other two tribes would be able to produce even one tenth of the food necessary to keep them going worked as a shaky counterbalance to keep both the pegasus armada and the unicorn war mages somewhat at bay and maintaining a tenuous semblance of order.

That was the truth of the ‘great treaty’, an uneasy truce born by sheer necessity due to the fact that no tribe could truly survive alone, despite the fact that they all dearly wished that wasn’t the truth. They were only kept going by greed and the desire for survival in equal measures.

And that was why the mere idea of any member of the Three Tribes willingly working with any of the others was laughable at best, sheer insanity at worst. For who would ever truly trust somepony you knew would end up stabbing you in the back in the end?

And that question was why, as she took in the current situation she found herself in, Forest Blossom sincerely wondered if she wasn’t suffering from a concussion or something. Perhaps she had been hit on the head as the gryphon raiders’ tossed her into the cage and she was hallucinating due to it? For it would most definitely explain this whole thing quite nicely after all.

At the very least it would make far more sense than the other option, that her savior’s companions were indeed a pegasus and a unicorn. A pegasus and a unicorn that not only seemed quite civil with each other despite the old hatred that existed between their tribes, something that quite frankly she hadn’t even known was possible, but also seemed to be traveling with an earth pony without trying to treat him like an unimportant servant or free muscle.

Yes, the concussion idea definitely made more sense.

But, as she watched a light blue glow envelop her battered body as the white unicorn cast what she had said was some kind of analysis spell on her, all the while speaking with her savior in what had to be the most civil conversation she had ever seen between a member of her tribe and a horn head, all the while their pegasus friend went along with Ganondorf’s suggestion of searching the camp for anything of use while keeping an eye for threats without a single complaint she had to admit that perhaps this was actually happening.

No matter how weird it all was.

“She has both bruises and open cuts, none of which seem to have been treated properly, and I think she may be running a fever,” Ganondorf nonchalantly spoke, his right fore-hoof idly petting Singing Blossom’s mane, keeping the little filly calm at his side after explaining to her that the unicorn mare was going to heal Forest’s wounds.

“I see, but why haven’t you at least started cleaning and dressing her wounds then?” the white coated mare inquired in a disturbingly polite tone of voice, eyes narrowed in concentration while staring at Forest with a slightly unnerving intensity.

“Do you seriously think I know how to do that?” the large brown coated stallion said with a loud scoff while giving the white mare an exaggerated eye roll. “I at least know that since there was no immediate risk to her health that it was better to wait for someone that knows what they are doing rather than to try and bodge something together and hope that it works.”

“Point,” the mare, Zelda apparently, readily replied. Her eyes kept track of something Forest could not see as her spell took effect. “Despite my limited knowledge of her species’ biology, I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here, it should be a simple matter to heal all the wounds and cleanse any foreign substances from her blood stream, so as to prevent infections from occurring.

“Lady Forest, the healing spell I’m about to use may cause you a slight tingling feeling, please do not be alarmed,” the unicorn mare calmly explained in a polite tone of voice, which alongside her caring smile was doing a very good job in unnerving the earth pony mare.

Giving a brief glance to Ganondorf’s composed and calm form for a long moment, she hesitated for a moment longer before nodding her understanding, not trusting her voice with remaining steady and not wanting to embarrass herself in front of the stallion.

As the glow around herself intensified and the promised tingling feeling started to spread around her body, she once more thought if this wasn’t another point in favor of the concussion idea, the very surreal fact that she was being treated by a magical healer.

For while it was true that Forest did not know much about the magical secrets of the horn heads, one thing that she knew damn well was that ponies capable of healing magic were as rare as hens’ teeth. To the point that many unicorns spent their whole lives without ever seeing a magical healer, even amidst their so called nobility! And the less said about the chances of an earth pony commoner like herself being treated by one of those the better!

And yet, as she felt a warm feeling swiftly covering her body, and as she watched in silent awe, as her open wounds closed before her very eyes leaving nothing but her unmarred and pristine coat behind, as if she hadn’t ever been injured in the first place, she could not deny what was clearly happening.

Somehow, Forest Blossom, a no name mare from a forgotten little hamlet in the middle of nowhere, was being healed by a magical healer so skilled that she wasn’t even sweating as she healed dozens of open injuries as if they were nothing.

And that, right after being rescued from a group of gryphon raiders by an extraordinary earth pony that was so strong that he could literally rip steel in two without even trying!

As the last of her wounds magically disappeared and all pain left her body, Forest discreetly gazed towards the green pegasus calmly opening a barrel to see what was inside it, wondering if he at least was somewhat normal, though she somehow doubted it.

All in all, it was understandable really why she was in a state of near shock while inwardly wondering what the buck was going on! A state of near shock that wasn’t being helped in the slightest by how the massive mountain of masculinity and power that was her savior was now nearly touching her muzzle with his, as he observed her with his intense and entrancing golden eyes from way too close.

“You sure you are finished, Princess?” she heard Ganondorf question from what sounded like too far away, despite how he was inching his face even closer to hers, before promptly placing his right forehoof atop her brow. The action made her already crimson muzzle blush even harder. “I think she still has some kind of a fever or something, her face is awfully flushed.”

Cautiously approaching her target while doing her level best to not make any noise and keep herself hidden behind one of the meany winged beasts’ tents, Singing Blossom peeked from behind her hiding spot.

Thankfully, big sister was still occupied with mister Ganondorf and the strange unicorn mare that had healed her injuries, and so they were far too busy to stop her from investigating her target. And while she would have liked to see the unicorn from up close too, she knew better than to do so right underneath her big sister’s muzzle, no matter how weirdly and distracted she was currently acting.

Curiously watching the forest green pegasus as he kept gathering all the items that were littering the campsite and sorting them into several different piles, for some reason she couldn’t really guess, she took in his form with a hint of excitement.

She had never seen a pegasus from this close before! None of her friends or acquaintances had! Not even that arrogant poser Shining Quartz could boast about seeing one of the winged ponies from so close, and she had once visited the earth pony central city with her father!

The closest she had ever been to a member of the feathered tribe had been once seven moons ago when she and her friends had dared each other to try and sneak out so that they could try and see the winged ponies bringing forth the rain clouds their home village needed to grow crops.

And all she had seen that day had been colorful blurs darting one way or another high up in the sky around the black background of the rain clouds, which had been really unfair considering how much time she had spent grounded when her big sister had found out what she had done.

Sure, she knew that the winged ponies were dangerous meanies, Forest had said so herself, after all! Something that, after everything that had happened today, made her wonder if being a meanie wasn’t maybe a problem caused by having wings or something. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t curious about them!

And besides, the horned ponies were also supposed to be mean and arrogant. Never helping an earth pony no matter what! And yet the mare with mister Ganondorf had healed all of her sister’s wounds just like that! So perhaps mister Ganondorf’s companions could be alright despite not being earth ponies themselves.

It wouldn’t really surprise her, after all mister Ganondorf was awesome and really, really strong! There was no way he would accept a bunch of meanie-pants as his friends!

But that didn’t mean she shouldn’t be smart about it, which was why she was sneakily peeking from behind a wooden barrel to see the strange winged pony.

She stared in awe at the forest green pegasus calmly sorting through the items for a long moment, watching curiously how his feathery wings seemed to sprout from his sides. She stood there for a moment longer, until with a wide eyed look she finally noticed one very attention grabbing fact.

“How are you doing that?” she blurted out, incredulity clear in her words as she stepped from behind the barrel in order to get a clearer look. The surprise she felt at what she was seeing was so strong that she momentarily forgot that she had been hiding from the stallion in the first place.

“Doing what?” the forest green pony calmly inquired while giving her a small, peaceful smile. His hooves still moved through the assorted items in front of him and placidly packed them into a small brown saddlebag lying in front of him.

“That!” Singing forcefully exclaimed pointing with one hoof to the ordinary looking saddlebag, now peeved that he was being stubborn and not answering her question.

“What? I’m just packing some things for later,” the pegasus placidly explained, tilting his head to the side as he gazed at her in slight confusion. “It’s always a good idea to carry some supplies with you, just in case you know.”

“That’s not what I mean!” she exclaimed while stomping on the ground in frustration as the oblivious green pegasus kept packing the items into the saddlebags, watching as he stuffed a packet full of dried nuts into it.

The normally completely ordinary action absolutely lost said classification due to the simple fact that the packet in question was over three times bigger than the saddlebag it was being stuffed into! And yet, despite how impossible It sounded, not only was that little fact not stopping him in the slightest, nor the fact that he had already stuffed quite a few other things into said saddlebags, but the saddlebag wasn’t even bulging after being stuffed with quite a few things that individually surpassed its own size and mass by several orders of magnitude!

“It’s just packing,” the pegasus simply said with a shrug of his wings while giving the filly a slightly perplexed look. “Hasn’t anyone ever taught you how to do so?”

Watching in utter bewilderment as the stallion proceeded to stuff a cooking pan that had no right to even fit through the bag’s opening in the first place, much less disappear into it without even the smallest bulge appearing on the mysterious container, Singing Blossom simply replied with a slow and hesitant head shake.

“It’s an important skill to learn you know?” he simply stated, giving her a brief considering look before continuing with a small serene smile. “Here, I’ll teach you.”

The small filly stood there for a moment, unsure what to do. Until, slowly but surely, her curiosity and enthusiasm started to override her wariness and confusion.

Slowly closing in with unsure steps, eyes glued at the second, equally ordinary looking saddlebag being offered to her as if she expected it to grow fangs and lunge at her at any moment, she settled herself next to the odd pegasus and hesitantly grasped it with her hooves.

Nodding his head once and giving her a small smile, the green pony gestured with one hoof towards the completely ordinary bag and started to explain the old and proud art of properly storing and sorting adventuring equipment.

“Well, first you need to…”

Fighting down a new wave of embarrassment, Forest quickly left the presence of her savior and his perplexing unicorn companion, quite happy to use the excuse of seeing what her little sister was currently doing to leave the now bickering duo behind.

She simply could not believe how she had just acted in front of him! Blushing and stuttering as if she was a young filly being asked for a dance on her first harvest festival!

Taking a deep breath in order to calm herself, she begrudgingly sent a mental thanks to her healer. She may be a needle head, but not only had she healed her, she had also at least not spilled the beans to Ganondorf about the reason for her ‘sudden fever’.

Though Forest could have really done without the deeply amused smile the mare had been sporting after her savior directed his questions her way. Thought she shouldn’t had been surprised, she was a unicorn after all. Even if she was surprisingly helpful, she still had to have the tribe’s arrogance and superiority complex.

Leaving the still bickering duo behind, she pushed the thought that she had only ever seen that kind of good natured bickering and fake grievances in old married couples to the deepest reaches of her mind, she instead started to search for Singing in earnest.

No matter how sure Ganondorf was that Link, which was apparently the pegasus’ name, would be perfectly able to keep any possible danger well away from the gryphon camp, and so from her sister, she was still very uncomfortable about the fact that her little sister was alone there with a pegasus.

Everypony knew how aggressive and territorial the feather brains were. Who knew what he could possibly do to her, should the little filly accidentally annoy him in some manner! The sooner she took Singing away from the feathered menace the better!

Turning around one tent Forest felt herself relax as she gazed at her perfectly fine little sister and a relieved sigh slowly left her lips.

The filly was sitting right beside the pegasus, which was worth some worry, but thankfully nothing bad seemed to have happened so far. Point in fact, considering the two saddlebags resting in front of them and the assortment of packets and loose items all around them it seemed that Link had decided to pass the time by teaching Singing how to pack properly, which was a quite thoughtful way of distracting the filly, since it was a useful skill to have.

Slightly berating herself for having such unkind thoughts to her savior’s companions Forest started to move towards the duo. She should have known that Ganondorf wouldn’t allow a dangerous barbarian to travel with him, after all. But even so, the knowledge that all pegasi were dangerous brutes was something that was widely accepted as fact, so her reaction was more than warranted.

It was simply one more proof of how extraordinary Ganondorf was that he had somehow managed to recruit such oddly upstanding members of the other two tribes as his companions.

But her thoughts about her savior’s virtues were brought to a screeching halt as her eyes took in her dear little sister’s actions.

Or more accurately, how she had somehow just stuffed what looked like a pack of medicinal herbs into her saddlebag with a look of fierce concentration. A pack of medicinal herbs that was twice the size of the saddlebag it had just been stuffed into.

“…what?” Forest incredulously whispered, watching the aberrantly normal looking saddlebag with a perplexed look. Her shock grew even larger as Singing stuffed another far-too-large-to-fit package into the container, which wasn’t looking even remotely disturbed despite the impossible load it was now containing without even bulging.

Gazing at her little sister’s beaming form with more than just a little shock, as she crowed in joy to the strangely civil looking pegasus that was calmly praising her for her successful efforts in breaking the laws of nature, Forest once more revisited the validity of the concussion idea.

It really was looking like the only logical explanation left.

The group was walking alongside the unkempt road that would lead them to the small settlement where Forest and her sister lived alongside his companions. Inwardly quite amused at the suspicious, confused and weirded out looks Forest kept giving both Link and Zelda when she thought they weren’t looking, and at the truly perplexed looks Zelda was returning to the mare on occasion, Ganondorf thought that the day shaped up quite nicely, all in all.

Sure, it had started quite in the slow side, but the gryphon raid had thankfully remedied that, no matter how lackluster the gryphons had proved themselves to be as combatants in the end. And now they were even moving towards an actual civilized settlement, from where things could hopefully really get going in regards to this new adventure.

Sure, the fact it was a tiny farming hamlet in the middle of nowhere probably meant that calling it ‘civilization’ was a bit of a stretch. Considering how Forest kept referring to it as ‘the village’, the place apparently didn’t even have a proper name, and if that didn’t say how small it really was, nothing would. Not that that would be a particular problem, for after roughing it more than once in the middle of the desert without even a tent, one tended to grow to appreciate even the simplest of inns.

Nonetheless, it was still a step in the right direction, a place to gather information and find out exactly what kind of world this was and what was its current situation. They already knew that there were pegasi, unicorns and gryphons inhabiting this land, and so the Lord of Darkness was really looking forward to what other species he could hope to stumble upon here.

It had been far too long since he last wrestled a good sized elder dragon after all, and he didn’t want to risk letting his skills get rusty.

“Mister Ganondorf?” Singing Blossom innocently asked, derailing his train of thought. The little ball of fluffy happiness had been asking questions nonstop for the past hour or so, which was, at times, somewhat annoying. However, dissecting her questions and Forest’s replies was also a surprising source of information, and since if he didn’t want to answer and kept his silence long enough, Zelda always ended up answering for him, he saw no reason to make her stop.

The fact the yellow filly had a truly devastating puppy dog look had nothing to do with the decision.

“Yeah, squirt,” Ganondorf absentmindedly replied to the happy little bouncing ball, all the while debating the worth of asking the tiny filly to stop referring to him as ‘mister’. Sure, the complete lack of success caused by his last four attempts at getting her to drop it probably hinted that it wouldn’t stick for long, but stubbornness was always one of his key virtues.

“What is the meaning of your cutie mark?” she curiously inquired as she turned her large sparkling eyes his way.

“My what?” he swiftly asked, now giving the filly his full attention as he tried to confirm what he had just heard but hoping he was wrong.

“Your cutie mark!” Singing helpfully repeated while pointing to the Triforce Mark emblazoned upon his flank, confirming the very unique name the ponies had apparently given to the tribal markings they seemed to favor emblazoning on their flanks.

“I take that Cutie Mark is the local name given to the markings upon our flanks?” Zelda curiously inquired, after noticing that the Lord of Darkness was in no condition to contribute to the discussion for the moment.

“Well, yes, that’s what they have been always called.” Forest Blossom interjected with slight confusion as she gave Ganondorf’s mildly pained face a bewildered look for a moment before giving Zelda a suspicious glare.

The wielder of Power had of course noticed that both Forest and Singing had very detailed marks emblazoned on their flanks, right where he and his companions now carried their Triforce Markings for that matter. He hadn’t paid it much mind, having personally seen quite a few cultures that used ritualistic markings and tattoos as everything, from rites of passage to adulthood to ways of demarking one’s social status. It wasn’t a big deal in the least.

If you ignored their culture’s unique choice for how to name said markings, that is.

A small shudder ran down his spine when he truly processed the fact that a whole culture would more likely than not apparently call his magnificent Triforce of Power a cutie mark on sight. By Din’s majestic flame was he glad none of his minions would ever hear about that!

“And I must admit that I’m a little curious about your cutie marks myself. I’ve never seen identical cutie marks before, after all.” Forest continued, the glare she was giving the Princess all but demanded the unicorn to spill why exactly she had the same mark as the Lord of Darkness.

“I take that identical marks are rare then?” Link calmly interjected, distracting the earth pony mare from her attempt at glaring Zelda into submission.

“Rare? Try unheard of!” Forest nearly shouted, stopping on her tracks to give them a very serious look. “While they also denote a pony’s special talent, they tend to be unique to each pony! They are the marks of our destinies made manifest after all!”

“Well, if that doesn’t have some wonderful implications…” Link calmly mumbled, giving the Triforce Mark on all three of their flanks a look.

The King of Thieves had to agree with the Kid on that one, even if it did neatly explain why their Marks had migrated all the way to that particular area and not anywhere nearer their hooves.

“A physical manifestation of one’s destiny… probably magical, but that would mean… their apparently innate magical capabilities could serve as an explanation… how fascinating!” Zelda swiftly mumbled under her breath with a tone of voice that Ganondorf had learned was bad news long ago, an excited glint on her eyes. Granted, he knew from personal experience that it tended to precede the wielder of Wisdom disappearing with a bunch of dusty tomes and forgotten scrolls for some time before reappearing with a new, and usually quite unpleasant, spell or two.

Thankfully Link had apparently noticed as well, since he poked Zelda on the side with one wing in order to break her out of her funk before she decided to try to dissect and analyze their flanks or something.

Shaking his head clear of such thoughts he turned towards Forest in order to explain to her the meaning behind their marks, all the while mentally banishing the first part of the name given to them by the locals to the back of his mind so that it could be ignored and forgotten.

Only to stop the moment he opened his mouth as his ears immediately noticed the whistling sound of something swiftly cutting through the air. A whistling sound he was very familiar with for that matter. But before he could even start to react a green blur had already moved, turning the issue moot.

“Archer,” Link unnecessarily explained, calmly inspecting the arrow he had plucked midflight with the same ease most would pick a pebble from the ground.

“Cool…” Singing Blossom quietly exclaimed, watching the green pegasus wide eyed. Her older sister by her side had a far less measured reaction, having sprung forth to cover the little filly with her body while searching for whoever had fired the shot.

“Forty yards to the north, three individuals, only one archer,” Link kept on talking with his ever present stoic calmness upon noticing that the earth pony mare was searching for the origin of the attack, most of his focus still on the arrow on is hoof as he turned it one way and then another before nodding slightly in approval.

“You don’t seem very worried about the fact someone just attempted to shoot us,” Zelda grumbled under her breath, a blue magical aura surrounding her horn as she prepared herself to cast at a moment’s notice.

Ganondorf himself had started to fall into a battle stance, but that had lasted until he saw the same thing the Princess had just pointed out, how utterly unruffled Link was acting. And since the Kid was hardly one to allow himself to be caught off guard, he decided to trust Link’s instincts that there was no threat, for the moment.

“Warning shot; it was intended to be a close miss but not to hit any of us,” the wielder of Courage explained as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, clearly not paying the incident much mind.

Well that explained it then. Which, alongside the fact that none of the new interlopers seemed flight capable, only left one likely origin from them. Forest’s home village had to be close by this point.

“None of you move! I won’t miss again!” a loud voice shouted from amidst the trees to the north of their position, though Ganondorf’s sensitive ears could detect a hint of incredulity on the archer’s voice. Clearly whoever the archer was, they really hadn’t expected to see someone simply grab their arrow mid-flight as if it was a complete nonissue.

“Well balanced and perfectly aligned; good craftsmanship. Did you make it yourself?” the green coated pony pleasantly asked, finally averting his eyes from the arrow in order to look at the sea green mare that was holding a short bow with its string already pulled back and another arrow nocked in and pointing straight at his head. Not a hint of worry was present in either his voice or his body language.

Upon seeing the incredulous look the archer was giving Link, and the equally bewildered looks her two companions were also sporting, how clearly none of them knew how to deal with how calm and unbothered the Kid was acting after nonchalantly plucking the mare’s warning shot out of the air, nor how to respond to his nonsensical sounding question, Ganondorf snorted in amusement and decided to simply wait and see how this would develop.

It was always a treat watching new people react to the green wonder’s unique personality after all.

VI - Culture Clash

View Online

Culture Clash

He took in the sight of three, clearly unnerved, earth ponies as they uneasily stared at the green pegasus who was calmly praising the mare’s craftsmanship in regards to her hunting tools. Despite the fact said tools were being used at the moment to point a sharp steel tipped arrow right between his eyes in what most would consider quite a threatening manner, Ganondorf had to do his level best to not make his mirth known. He really didn’t want to ruin the setting, after all.

“I said to not move!” the mare once again shouted, as she noticed Link had taken a step closer. The way he looked at her bow with interest as he did so clearly showed what was going on in that one track mind of his.

Meanwhile he inwardly agreed that the fact that both the arrow that had been shot and the bow used to do so seemed to be of some quality was a heartening sight and worth some interest. The mongrels’ weapons from earlier had really made him dread the mere possibility that just maybe that was what passed for quality work in this realm. Though he had to admit that, to someone who didn’t know the Kid, his actions had to look mighty strange.

But then again, the green wonder always had had a pretty unique way of dealing with anything that happened to threaten him… which could be very accurately be summarized as, he simply refused to feel threatened in the first place.

Truth be told, he really wanted to know how Link managed to do that, because he personally simply couldn’t ever completely ignore someone openly threatening him like that, as if they were a complete non issue. No matter how utterly ineffectual said threat really was, or the knowledge of how very little real danger the action really presented, his instincts simply wouldn’t allow him to do that. Then again, when the fact that his first instinct to any kind of threat was to usually destroy it with overwhelming force, the fact he couldn’t really embrace the Kid’s zen-like stance to threats became more understandable. A real pity really, for to completely ignore ones opponent’s attacks as inconsequential and not worthy of notice had to really irk them something fierce.

This was something he now got to appreciate from a front row seat, as the mare apparently debated what to do with a hint of panic, as Link showed no sign of having even heard her order as he took another step closer.

He knew that quite a few people tended to get more than a little unnerved by Link’s utterly unruffled attitude to, well, basically anything that could possibly bother him really. He even understood a little where they were coming from too. After all, most sane beings would consider fighting off a horde of bloodthirsty monsters as they attempted to kill you and dine on your innards to be a slightly harrowing situation, and as such worthy of a certain level of seriousness, not something to be disregarded as completely ordinary and unworthy of worry. But not the Kid, for him that was basically an everyday occurrence, and that was if you ignored the extraordinarily deadly gigantic beasts he dealt with from time to time, so Ganondorf guessed that Link had eventually grown a little bit jaded in regards to what really constituted a threat.

Part of him briefly wondered if constantly sending all those extremely dangerous monsters and abominations against the green Hero maybe had something to do with his skewed views about what could be called a threat, before the thought was dismissed as inconsequential. It really wasn’t his problem what quirks the Hero had or not.

Regardless, the fact was that Link simply didn’t let anything really ruffle him, which, alongside his very stubborn one-track mind when he saw something that was of interest to him, tended to kind of unnerve most that did not know him well.

Oh, sure, in the end the green wonder tended to somehow bullrush straight through that initial uneasiness and apprehension with such speed and ease that most actually even forgot it had even been there in the first place, turning it all in a non issue in the end. It was kinda weird really. But that didn’t mean it didn’t happen in the first place.

Nonetheless, for a guy of such few words the Kid was somehow seriously charismatic.

“Sure Shot, wait!” Forest Blossom suddenly shouted, the moment being unintentionally ruined by her loud voice. “They are not enemies!”

A small sigh escaped his lips as Forest sprang forward to disarm the growing tension. And things had just started to get interesting too, a pity really. He had been slightly interested in seeing how far the Kid would’ve been able to push them before someone snapped. He had been inwardly betting on either the grey coated mare carrying a blacksmith hammer or the lilac colored stallion with the woodcutter axe doing something foolish first, the archer seemed to be made of slightly sterner stuff.

“Forest, where the buck have you and your sister been! Do you have any idea how worried everypony was?” Sure Shot demanded, arrow still ready to fly at the slightest provocation. “When Old Oak expressed his worry due to how long it was taking for you and Singing to come back and we found out your mother had no idea where you were and we decided to go search for you two the last thing I would expect was to find you gallivanting through the woods with a bunch of strangers!

“And with a unicorn and a pegasus no less!” the archer belligerently added, as if that was by far the greater fault on the whole situation. The way the other two ponies silently nodded their agreement while holding their improvised weapons pointed towards both Link and Zelda, while somehow ignoring him of all beings, only reinforced that image. “You better have a very good explanation for this!”

Ganondorf had noticed the fact that Forest had a deep distrust of both Link and Zelda due to their new species, something so deeply ingrained that had to be cultural. And now, as he watched the exact same reaction from three new earth ponies, he had his earlier suspicions confirmed.

Racism, pure and simple, how bothersome. Or would it be specism on this case? Where all the three types of ponies considered one species or not, for that matter? And would it change anything if they were or not in regards to how to call this kind of action? Something to bother the Princess about later.

But the fact remained the same regardless of the name, to persecute and deride someone because of the way they were born, what a useless waste of time and energy.

He never really understood why anyone would loathe and hate someone based on something as idiotic as how they were born. Especially considering there were so many more far saner and logical reasons for either hating or loathing them in the first place! It made absolutely no sense and that really annoyed him!

Thankfully for everyone involved the growing tension was shortly brought to a halt. For, before anything could be said or done, Singing Blossom had apparently taken Sure Shot’s question as her cue to insert herself into the conversation with all the enthusiasm the filly seemed to do everything she did.

“We were collecting berries for Old Oak, but then a bunch of meany gryphons came and attacked us! They were all like, roar, fear us! And they threw us in a cage and Forest was really hurt and everything and it was really scary!” the tiny filly excitedly answered the sea green mare’s question in such a rapid fire way that the wielder of Power had to wonder if she had even stopped to breath at all during it. “But then mister Ganondorf came and he was all like, stop you evil meanies! And he took them down just like that! And freed us from the cage and it was awesome!

And then mister Ganondorf’s friends came and it was really weird!” Din’s might, did the little one have a good set of lungs on her, for he was now sure she hadn’t drawn breath since she had started to speak! The fact that she was also bouncing around and wildly gesturing as she told the newcomers what had happened only added to how impressive that was. “Because they weren’t earth ponies like him but they weren’t mean! Like, not at all! Which was really, really weird! And I didn’t even know you could have non earth pony friends in the first place!

“And then the pretty unicorn lady went and healed all of big sister’s wounds! And they disappeared just like that! Which was almost as awesome as mister Ganondorf saving us! And then big sister got kinda weird for some reason!” The way the newcomers simply stood there and looked at the little ball of hyperness as they tried to understand her tale was also amusing. Especially the way the one carrying the hammer had tilted her head sideways in silent question. “And then Link went and taught me how to pack! Which was really, really cool! Even if big sister got weird again after seeing it! But not as cool as how he caught the arrow while it was flying! That was awesome too!”

Singing finally stopped and took a deep breath, before simply giving the mare a huge beaming smile. “And that’s what happened!”

“What?” the sea green mare asked, now clearly even more confused than before, something that really wasn’t helped by what happened next.

“Rosewood, a good choice for a hunting bow really.” Link calmly spoke with a small smile of approval. From right next to Sure Shot’s already confused form. The presence of the pegasus less than five inches away from her bow more than enough to startle the mare into giving a small shout of surprise as she jumped backwards. The action also had the effect of causing her to release the drawn string of her hunting tool.

Thankfully Link’s reaction time was as infuriatingly efficient as ever, as he plucked the arrow just as it left the bowstring behind and before it could truly harm anyone.

He gleefully watched as the three strangers reacted with various amounts of panic to the fact that the green pegasus had gotten right next to them without their notice, being completely overlooked until he finally spoke. The fact he had nonchalantly grabbed a second flying arrow was also apparently not helping matters.

Now truly amused, he watched as both Forest and Singing rushed towards the now panicked group, the first awkwardly attempting to simultaneously explain what had happened in regards to their abduction and apologize for the Kid’s usual behavior, and the latter’s hyper excitedly babbling about everything and anything as she jumped up and down and skipped around all the shouting ponies legs, both of them only adding to the general chaos.

All the while Link simply stood amidst it all, his expression calm and unruffled, as if nothing could possibly be wrong in the world. An immovable boulder calmly set in the middle of a raging sea, unperturbed by the roar of the waves.

When it all was added to the sight of Zelda face-hoofing by his side while she let out a tired sigh, it finally became too much and managed to overcome his restraint. And so he let out a loud echoing laugh that proudly proclaimed his mirth.

Sure Shot had dealt with many odd things ever since her special talent had appeared. After all, there was always work for a good tracker or woodsmare, especially when your home village was surrounded by woods, her abilities with a bow and arrow certainly didn’t hurt either. Being tasked with finding ponies that lost their way in the woods or to deal with one dangerous beast or another that strayed far too close to the settlement for comfort. It was part and parcel of being the only ranger of the community really, especially when the only other two ponies with any skill in woodcraft were the old village elder and a far too sure of her own strength young mare.

So when the village elder Old Oak had asked her to see what had happened to said mare and her sister to delay them so much she hadn’t really expected for it to be anything but the usual. She supposed that Forest had probably gotten too cocky with something and had sprained a leg or incurred another injury that was preventing her from returning, and her little sister probably didn’t want to brave the woods alone. Nothing but a routine job, really.

That didn’t mean she wasn’t going to do the smart thing and go prepared of course, especially considering the ever growing tension between the Three Tribes and the whispers about the possibility of open war. So not only had she made sure to carry her trusted bow and quite a few arrows with her, she had also procured a few healing poultices from Old Oak and conscripted the help of Forge Fire and Woodcutter since she knew that both the blacksmith and the lumberjack could keep their own in a brawl. And if it was just the usual and nothing happened, they could still help her carry Forest back home if she was too injured to move. It was better to be safe than sorry after all.

She really hadn’t expected things to get this pear shaped though.

“So let me see if I got things right,” she asked with a tired tone of voice while trying to stave off the headache she could feel coming. “You were attacked by a gryphon war band, got injured and held captive, but these three dealt with them and saved you, not to mention magically healing your injuries?”

“Yes…” Forest replied with a hint of embarrassment, clearly the mare knew how unbelievable her tale sounded.

A unicorn or a pegasus working alongside an earth pony was already pushing it to the limits of believability. But a unicorn and a pegasus working together alongside an earth pony? Without everything coming to blows soon after?

“Horseapples,” Woodcutter nicely summed it all up, if in a far more crass manner than she would have personally liked.

“Look, I know it sounds crazy! But that’s what happened!” Forest angrily retorted, not liking to see her word being doubted.

“You want us to believe that this stranger, with the help of those two no less, took down a whole bucking gryphon war band?” Forge Fire asked, incredulity clear on her tone of voice.

She had to admit that part of her agreed with Forge Fire’s words. But no matter how farfetched it all sounded, and how much she wanted to agree with the blacksmith, the fact remained that that the presence of said ponies right in front of her continued to exist. And along with the fact that she knew that for all her bragging and boasting, Forest was a mare of her word and that she simply loathed liars, the possibility of the absurd tale being true kept nagging at her.

“Glad to hear you volunteering yourself to go see the remains of the camp in order to validate the truthfulness of her story, Forge Fire,” she firmly stated before things could grow out of hoof. “By the sounds of it the camp can’t be much farther than an hour’s gallop. Go there and see what is there to be seen.”

The mare attempted to protest, but one hard look from the ranger and said protest immediately turned into a begrudging nod. One way or another they had to get to the bottom of this mess, and confirming that the camp existed would go a long way on doing that.

Personally she would have preferred to go herself, but she didn’t dare leave her fellow villagers alone with these strangers. The fact that the brown coated stallion was a mountain of muscle unlike anypony she had ever seen was already bad news should the group decide to turn aggressive, but when added to the fact that, if Forest’s story could be trusted, the unicorn mare was apparently a talented spell caster, then things became even worse. And that was not even mentioning the pegasus.

She could recognize a warrior when she saw one, and the green stallion was definitely that and more. When added to the fact that he seemed able to walk without apparently making a single sound and how he had managed to grab an arrow midflight, twice for that matter, there was only one possible conclusion to be reached.

That pegasus was dangerous, she was sure of it.

“Would this perhaps help?” said green stallion calmly spoke as he reached into his saddlebags. Apparently he had been perfectly able to hear their conversation despite the fact he was standing with the other two strangers over thirty feet away from them as they discussed what to do.

Sure Shot opened her mouth to rebuke the need for whatever aid the winged pony was trying to offer, only to stop short upon seeing exactly what it was he was getting from his saddlebags.

“What the buck?” Woodcutter once again nicely summed it all up. But this time the ranger didn’t feel any need to berate the stallion’s crass words, for she could understand the sentiment behind them perfectly.

“Why did you pack one of those things? They are rubbish!” the large earth pony berated the green pegasus, the deep feeling of familiarity the action carried, as if they had done this song and dance dozens of times before, only added to the surrealism of it all.

“Agreed, but the metal can probably be salvaged with the aid of a proper forge,” he calmly stated while brandishing the long sword he had somehow taken out of a far too small saddlebag with the experience and ease of a sword master. “I packed quite a few of them actually. Worst comes to worst they can be used to forge some farming equipment or other useful tools.”

The pegasus apparently decided to demonstrate the validity of his words, because after offering the sword hilt first to a very confused looking Forge Fire he proceeded to retrieve another sword from his tiny saddlebags that shouldn’t have been capable of holding even one of the blades.

“Okay, you may have a point, but still that’s no reason to…” the earth pony started to rant, the unicorn mare joining him soon after. Nonetheless the trio’s oddly good natured bickering was swept to the background of her hearing range as she noticed that Forge was attempting to grab her attention and show her something on the sword she was now holding.

Moving closer to the mare she immediately saw what had got her attention, for the sword had a simplistic but very clear crest near its hilt, the image of a roaring gryphon. The symbol of the Gryphon Kingdoms.

“Seriously?” she heard Woodcutter interject after seeing the crest himself, his words now held far less hostility than earlier, the feeling being apparently traded with confusion.

She had to agree with the sentiment, for as she looked from the blade to the oddly friendly looking mixed group of ponies, she could feel her confusion about this whole mess growing. In an attempt to get at least some sort clarification to it all she gave Forest a questioning look, hoping that just perhaps the other mare could provide some sort of explanation for what was happening with the weird trio.

Unfortunately, the equally lost look that was her answer wasn’t particularly helpful.

The sun had started to set on the western horizon. But thankfully the small fire-lit lanterns that glowed right past the tree line showed how close they were to Forest’s home village. And, far more importantly as far as Ganondorf was concerned, a good meal and some kind of bed. Regrettably, such comforts apparently had to wait a little longer before they could be enjoyed.

They had been politely asked to wait here as the group entered the village proper in order to call the village elder to decide what to do or something. And considering that regrettably, according to Zelda, they couldn’t simply barge into the tiny village until they were invited and had instead to wait until the ponies decided what they would do in regards to the trio’s presence, they now had to wait.

Apparently it was rude to simply enter someplace uninvited or some such nonsense. And not even pointing out that Link did it all the time and no one seemed to really mind managed to convince her otherwise, point in fact it had made her rant even worse somehow.

Thankfully the rant had been directed mostly the green pegasus’ way, the Kid weathering it all with a very practiced calm smile that made Ganondorf wonder if he was hearing even a word of it. But nonetheless, the King of Thieves decided that in the end waiting a few minutes was far preferable to dealing with Zelda in a mood.

At least it gave him some time to ponder their more recent meeting with this world’s inhabitants.

“So, do you think they are just extremely racist towards your new species or that they have an actual reason for their dislike and wariness to fuel their preconceptions?” he asked conversationally, immediately drawing the attention of his companions.

“Probably a mix of both really,” Zelda spoke with a tired tone of voice as she massaged her brow with one hoof. “Such remote villages do tend to be stuck in their ways and naturally wary of outsiders, but the tension and fear all four adult ponies displayed the moment they saw either my horn or Link’s wings was far too clear to not be at least partially based on facts.”

“Bad blood, huh? Now that’s always annoying,” he replied with a thoughtful air. He remembered far too well the headaches he had to deal as king of the Gerudos that had been caused by generations long grudges that simply refused to die out, sometimes for decades after anyone could even remember why the grudge had started in the first place.

“Indeed. Regrettably this will be an obstacle while dealing with the ponies that we will simply have to deal with,” the Princess grumbled in slight annoyance, clearly she remembered more than a few cases of such stupidity from her own times as a ruler.

“Well, either that or simply sleep in the woods,” Link helpfully added, gesturing with his head to the pair of saddlebags he was carrying with him as a silent reminder that they now had provisions of their own.

“I doubt it will come to that,” Zelda replied with a now impish smile on her face as she gave the King of Thieves a half lidded look. “Forest wouldn’t allow her savior to spend the night in the woods after all, no matter what the other ponies had to say about it.”

“Heh, she did seem to have spirit, I’ll give you that!” Ganondorf readily agreed to the unicorn’s words, even as he gave Zelda an odd look for the way she had said it. “Not to mention that the little one seems to have taken a liking to the Kid, too.”

As he ignored the small smile still on the Princess’ muzzle, the Lord of Darkness instead started to ponder about the ponies’ odd names, for apparently his earlier thoughts about the ponies naming conventions proved itself to be spot on, as the two new earth ponies’ names, Forge Fire and Woodcutter, proved, which In turn meant that both Zelda’s and his own name did sound kind of weird to the colorful little quadrupeds. All the while, and quite unfairly in his modest opinion, Link’s name fit right in without a problem.

He then remembered that he did possess a piece of useful information his two companions did not have, as the fact that Zelda kept referring to them as simply ponies attested. And so he cheerfully contributed with a new topic for the talk in order to stave off boredom as they waited.

“Oh! By the way, I thought you may want to know, my species is called an Earth Pony!” he cheerfully proclaimed as both Link and Zelda digested that little fact.

“Earth pony? Perhaps suggesting a magical inclination for the element? Or is it perhaps something more abstract?” Zelda happily spoke, her mind already busy as it analyzed and dissected the little ponies’ species name and what it could possibly mean. “Pegasi, unicorns and earth ponies. I wonder if that means there are other pony species in this realm? How interesting…”

He watched as the Princess inner scholar surfaced once again with a hint of amusement. But while amusing, he was soon distracted by Link’s response to that little bit of information.

“Huh, how fitting,” Link interjected with a hint of amusement on his voice. His answer and tone of voice naturally caught both other Triforce wielders’ attention.

“Why do you say that?” Ganondorf asked with slight confusion as he wondered exactly why the green coated pegasus thought his new species name was somehow fitting for him. The fact that Zelda was looking at Link with curiosity clear in her eyes showed that the wielder of Wisdom was equally puzzled by the wielder of Courage’s remark.

Link, for his part, gave his fellow Triforce Wielders a long look, as if silently questioning how they weren’t getting it already, before he calmly explained the reasoning for his thoughts.

“Din, with her crimson flames created the red earth.” He dutifully quoted the relevant part of the ancient tale of how the three sister goddesses Din, Nayru and Farore had created Hyrule in the distant past. “Does that ring any bells?”

“Oh, right…” Ganondorf replied with a hint of sheepishness, as he remembered how Din had supposedly used the power of her mighty flames to bring forth the very earth into existence. “I see your point.”

And as he digested that little revelation, the fact that his new species’ very name was linked to the goddess of Power even if indirectly, Ganondorf found that he was sporting a small smile.

Old Oak felt as if his very bones ached with every step he took as he kept pace with Sure Shot and the rest of the group as they trotted towards the village’s border where the three strangers who had saved Forest and Singing were waiting.

He was a light brown colored pony with a mane turned silver by the passing of many seasons. His body showed signs of once having been well muscled and athletic, but sadly that was now nothing but a memory as it simply wasn’t what it had once been after so many moons already behind him. His mind was still as keen as ever, which alongside his many years of experience was one of the reasons why he was his home village’s elder. There was a reason why his cutie mark was an oak tree, after all.

And he would need every bit of his wisdom and experience if he was to deal with this strange situation their home was now faced with, of finding out the truth behind the Blossom sibling’s fantastic tale.

The simple fact that a gryphon war band had lurked in ambush so near to their homes was already hard to believe. The fact that a trio of unarmed ponies had dealt with them all was even harder to accept. The fact that said trio consisted of an earth pony, a unicorn and a pegasus working together and apparently willingly traveling as a group? Now that pushed it all to the very limits of believability!

And yet the fact remained that it had happened. Both Forest’s words and the remains of the beast’s camp proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt. His very home, nearly destroyed if not for the aid of three very unlikely travelers.

The moment he laid eyes upon the trio one fact immediately jumped to his eyes. The sudden realization was almost enough to make him stop in his tracks in shock before he remembered his place and schooled his surprise beneath the mask of firm and just leadership his fellow villagers needed.

Both Sure Shot and Forest had talked about it, but merely hearing was completely different from seeing it with his own two eyes.

“Greetings travelers, I am Old Oak, the elder of this humble village. I have been told that we have much to thank you for this day,” he clearly spoke while giving the trio a small bow, all the while ignoring the whispered angry bristling coming from Sure Shot about him bowing to a unicorn and a pegasus. “You have our most sincere thanks.”

Inwardly he understood the mare’s reaction. He himself was extremely uneasy about the mere idea of allowing them into the village. But the fact remained that they had directly saved both the Blossom sibling’s lives and quite likely the lives of several more of the villagers by taking down the gryphons, and so honor demanded that they be greeted with all the hospitality they could grant them.

“It wasn’t a problem,” the large stallion, Ganondorf, replied with a hint of annoyance. The way he was acting clearly showed he wasn’t used to being the spokespony for their group. And yet he couldn’t see any hint of anger or disgruntlement on the other two faces at allowing an earth pony to take the lead and speak for them. How curious. “But we accept your thanks.”

“I’m afraid we do not have much to offer for your help, but nonetheless please come and accept at least a warm meal and a comfortable bed for the night for now,” it was a very surreal feeling offering guest rights to members of the two other pony tribes, something he could truthfully say was a first despite how long he had lived. “Come, Beautiful Blossom, Forest and Singing’s mother, has insisted that you should dine and spend the night with them.”

But even as he spoke, and despite his uneasiness, his eyes couldn’t help but dart towards the three ponies’ near identical cutie marks of three interlocked golden triangles. Only the fact that in each of them a different triangle had a slightly stronger coloration than the others showed they weren’t exactly the same. And yet, the fact that the marks were clearly linked could not be denied. Something he had once thought nothing but an old myth, a silly flight of fancy of bards now long since dead.

Entwined marks.

To see the clear sign of two or more destinies joined together by fate itself. It was the kind of thing one expected to hear about around a campfire in one of the ancient tales spoken about the long lost Dream Valley and the reign of the mythical Queen Majesty, something belonging to the forgotten age of legends. It was most definitely not something he ever expected to hear about in these modern times, much less actually see it with his own two eyes.

And for a moment, regardless of his apprehension and misgivings for this whole situation, as he took in the sight of an earth pony, a pegasus and a unicorn calmly conversing with each other as they trotted after him, the clear sign of their bonded fates proudly displayed on their cutie marks, Old Oak wondered if he himself wasn’t maybe bearing witness of the beginning of a new tale himself.

As they followed the Blossom siblings into a quaint wooden cottage, Ganondorf wondered exactly why Old Oak had been acting so skittish as he led them here before bidding them a good night. Truth be told, he had to give the old timer a nod of approval. He had hidden his unease and apprehension caused by Link and Zelda’s new species very well, willingly putting forth the need to repay what he clearly saw as a matter of honor to his village before the apparent blatant racism that seemed to permeate his very culture. That had to have been hard for the old stallion.

But the fact remained that there had been something else clearly on his mind, and the way he kept trying to discreetly look at their Triforce markings gave the Lord of Darkness at least an inkling to what it was likely related to.

“My dears, I can’t believe what almost happened! Come here the both of you!” a warm motherly voice loudly resounded through the building before a large plum colored mare with a blonde mane engulfed both Singing and Forest on a bone crushing hug. “But you are both safe, and that’s what matters!”

The sight of the obvious mother of the mares fussing over them, much to the siblings’ embarrassment and happiness, was enough to make him set that line of thought for later. Especially since he didn’t want to get caught unaware should the mare attempt to hug him too and risk his ability to dodge away in time.

“And you dears are the heroes who helped my precious blossoms, yes?” she asked in a warm tone of voice, actually not showing a single trace of derision or apprehension upon seeing Link’s wings or Zelda’s horn. Thankfully it also didn’t look like she would be trying to hug them as well, much to his silent relief. “Come in, come in! Dinner is almost ready! Come you have to tell all about what happened as we eat! The story I’ve been told, why it sounds like quite a tale!”

“If you would like we have some provisions of our own that we wouldn’t mind sharing for dinner, we wouldn’t want to impose,” Zelda politely said as they all entered the cottage. Inwardly he agreed with the Princess’ suggestion, he knew that feeding three more mouths could be a strain to a simple family depending on their resources.

“Nonsense!” the mare loudly proclaimed while giving them a beaming smile. “You have saved the lives of my children! You shall be treated as part of this family and I shall not hear anything more about it! Now come, eat and be merry!”

The Princess looked like she wanted to object, but another beaming smile from their host seemed to be enough to reassure her. And besides, even he knew that it would be extremely rude to refuse such an offer.

They followed the mare into a large open kitchen with a wood fueled stove already lit and heating a large pan of very tasty smelling soup, a large piece of cheese and what looked like a large loaf of newly baked bread by its side. Simple but hearty fare, Ganondorf most definitely approved.

As he walked into the kitchen he quickly took in his surroundings, from the simple but well made wooden table to the fluffy looking cushions that seemed to work as chairs, from the various pans and packages of food neatly arranged on various shelves to the large barrel of water next to the back door, all the way to the very nice looking collection of pottery to the side that had to hold pickled vegetables and other such things.

That last thing immediately made him stop and take a second look, in order to confirm that, yes, there were several large clay pots lying in one of the corners of the kitchen. The sight of which made both Ganondorf and Zelda trade a meaningful look before they immediately turned towards Link with serious expressions on their muzzles.

“What?” the wielder of Courage asked with a hint of confusion as he also stopped in his tracks to see what his companions wanted.

“You know what,” Ganondorf gruffly replied as Zelda seriously nodded by his side. He couldn’t care less about the foolish rules of good manners of the nobility, but the laws of hospitality were another matter altogether! And he had no intention of letting Link’s little problem with pottery be an issue to their hosts!

The slightly baffled look the Kid gave both of them before he trotted away begged to differ about his knowledge of the issue, and for a moment he wondered if Link was being serious or simply messing with them. With him both options were usually valid and there was basically no way to tell which it was until well after the fact. Nonetheless, Ganondorf nodded in approval as Zelda trotted after the green pegasus while making sure to take the smart precaution of placing herself between him and their hosts’ collection of pottery.

Crisis temporarily averted, he followed them to dinner.

Interlude - Remembrance

View Online

Interlude - Remembrance

As he slowly walked through the desolate landscape that surrounded him from all sides, a faint air of curiosity firm on his features, Ganondorf took in the dreary scenery presented to his eyes.

It should have looked like nothing more than a castle, perhaps a little more flamboyant and heavily adorned than he would have personally preferred, but still made of solid stone and clearly developed with the intention of providing a defensive stronghold. It should have been a familiar sight to him, something calm and comforting.


But that was not the case. The aberrant nature of his surroundings replaced whatever feelings of warm familiarity his surroundings could have evoked with coldness and a hint of dread.

Everything, from the imposing pillars to the beautiful tapestries, from the rich oaken furniture to the exquisite paintings, from the well tended gardens he could glimpse through the windows to the masterfully carved statues that decorated the hallways, everything as far as the eyes could see was a dull monochrome grey. Everything was the same stale grey coloration, which, alongside the utter lack of even the smallest sign of movement or even the tiniest of sounds, gave the large castle the sobering feeling of a tomb.

Lifeless and forgotten.

As he followed the corridor towards a large central hall, even the sound of his hoof steps seemed barely able to carry into the distance, the noise being almost immediately swallowed by the dead silence that seemed to envelop everything else.

He stopped for a moment to observe an exquisitely crafted sculpture of the Three Sister Goddesses of the Triforce that dominated the room. But even the awe-inspiring sight of the masterful sculpture could not pierce the heavy choking shroud of apathy that seemed to permeate the very air, the monochrome coloration sapping all beauty from the art piece and leaving nothing but a feeling of desolation behind.

He turned away from the sculpture, a hint of sadness now lodged deep within him as he trotted toward a large opening that led to a stone balcony. And as the Lord of Darkness looked outside into the lifeless, endless grey expanses of what had once been a thriving kingdom, he felt a somber mood settle upon himself even as a spark of anger ignited deep within his heart.

He remembered this place. He remembered it far too well.

The sealed kingdom of Hyrule, buried beneath the seas by the whim of the gods, who had decided to simply bury the world he had conquered beneath the endless waves of the ocean instead of actually answering to their followers’ prayers and pleas for salvation. A whole world, abandoned as if it was nothing without a moment’s pause.


The stone railing of the balcony he was standing upon crumbled beneath his hooves, as Ganondorf’s fury slowly rose to the surface, as he felt the biting anger of the indignity of it all, the casual disregard the so called gods gave to even their most ardent believers.

It had been here, amidst this lifeless tomb, this forgotten monument to a discarded world, that he had first started to remember. That he had started to realize that the odd feelings of familiarity brought forth by the two irksome pests who insisted on thwarting his plans were more than mere flights of fancy. That the strange feeling of déjà vu he kept experiencing again and again was more than justified.

It was amidst this dead, colorless tomb that he had finally remembered it all.

How ironic, that he would finally learn about the futility of his own fate amidst the most blatant sign of the gods’ disregard for the world they were supposed to guide and protect.

For a moment the King of Thieves thought about what his life would have been had he never come to learn the truth about the cycle of reincarnation and recovered his past memories, or what would have happened should the same had never happened to Link and Zelda for that matter. How they would be still nothing but puppets dancing at the end of strings, used for nothing more than the whimsical amusement of the gods. Ordered to dance and act their play, only to be swept aside and cast away the moment they inevitably lost interest of it all.

The mere thought sickened and infuriated him to his core.

Ganondorf fractured the stone wall by his side with one single mighty blow as he bellowed his anger in a vain attempt of controlling his rising fury. But to no avail, the mere fact that both his shout and what should have been the thunderous sound of solid rock crushing beneath his hooves were immediately devoured by the all crushing silence of this dead and forgotten realm only further stoked the fires of his wrath.

For a brief moment that seemed to last an eternity, he felt the overpowering urge to simply destroy it all. To unleash the roaring fiery wrath he could feel coursing through his very being, demanding to be released so that the whole of creation could be brought to a close. Just so that it could all end.

“No,” he snarled with the unwavering power of the very firmaments of the earth, immovable and unyielding. He stood there like a silent monolith that refused to bend, much less break, no matter what was thrown against it. “I control my fury! It does not control me!”

And against all odds, despite the scorching all encompassing strength of the fury that now flowed through his very veins, the roaring inferno deep within the Lord of Darkness was slowly swept aside, contained piece by piece and chained down by his unwavering will and nothing more. Until, slowly but surely, his breaths became more and more calm and collected, his wrath entrapped and controlled underneath the indomitable power of his will.

The very next moment, everything all around him exploded in a sea of sickly looking crimson flames. The fiery conflagration was accompanied by an otherworldly bellow of pure undiluted hatred that echoed throughout the entirety of this dead world.

Ganondorf opened his eyes with a sharp snap, his body already in motion as he rose to his hooves in one lightning fast fluid motion, before settling in a battle stance.

His blood hammered against his ears, his lungs worked overtime as if he had been already amidst a fierce hours long battle, and adrenaline coursed through his veins as he strained all his senses to their extremes as he searched for an attack that his instincts all but screamed at him was about to happen.

“Ganondorf?” the familiar voice cut through his hazy mind as if a clear spring breeze through the morning mists. Clarity returned as the sight of the small room he was sharing with Link in the earth pony village finally registered to his senses.

He took it all in, the rich brown colors of the wooden walls, the colorful wildflowers arranged near a clay jug filled with spring water, the calming murmur of the wind out past the open window blowing through the verdant trees as they basked beneath the slivery light of the moon.

“It’s nothing, Kid,” he explained to the slightly wary looking pegasus who had also abandoned his bed and adopted a battle stance of his own upon seeing Ganodorf’s unexpected actions.

“Are you sure?” the Hero simply asked, concern clear on his voice as he relaxed his body’s muscles from the ready state he had immediately forced them to take the moment he had sensed his companion’s distress in order to better react to any possible danger.

“Yeah, get back to bed, it’s nothing,” the Lord of Darkness gruffly reassured his former foe, having already retrieved his blanket as he moved towards his bed and forced his body to relax from its current hyper aware state, clearly intent on putting the whole thing out of his mind. “It was just a stupid dream.”

VII - Of Storms and Prophecies

View Online

Of Storms and Prophecies

Giving a brief look outside as he stretched his muscles, Ganondorf noted that it seemed it would be a sunny day, though the slight chill in the air made him briefly wonder if they were nearing winter in this realm. As he stretched his muscles and stepped into the kitchen, he immediately noticed that the only ones already awake were apparently the Kid and Forest’s mother, Beautiful Blossom, and that both were already busy as they made breakfast for everyone.

Of the duo, Link was, unsurprisingly, the first to notice his presence, nodding in silent greeting the moment the brown coated pony entered the room. The pegasus’ actions did not go unnoticed by Beautiful, as the mare immediately followed the Kid’s gaze towards the King of Thieves’ form.

“Good morning dear, I hope you slept well!” the mare happily said with a beaming smile as she nodded in greeting herself, while giving Link a platter to take to the table, a burden he easily accepted with a small nod. “Please take a seat and make yourself at home, breakfast will be ready in a moment.”

“Morning,” he grumbled back after a moment’s pause with a hint of hesitation, not being even nearly used to anyone greeting him that cheerfully, or being that happy seeing him for, well, basically any reason, really. It was actually kind of unnerving if he was being honest.

Thankfully their host didn’t appear to take offense to his brusque answer as, with another beaming smile, she made her way back towards the counter where she appeared to be preparing some fresh bread with a happy air all around her.

After taking a moment to process the strange scene, Ganondorf decided to move towards the table and stay out of the way until the food was ready and the Princess and the other mares joined them so they could eat. But, while doing so, one fact in regards to the platter that Link had just placed atop the table caught his attention.

“Hey, Kid,” the Lord of Darkness called the attention of the green Hero, who stopped on his way back towards the stove to see what his old acquaintance wanted. Not wasting another moment Ganondorf pointed towards the large plate in question.

“Those are flowers,” he simply stated without wasting another moment as he pointed towards the plate that was filled with what looked like freshly cut flowers. The fact that the whole arrangement looked less like a decorative centerpiece and more as an actual dish intended for consumption showed its intended purpose for all to see.

“Yes,” Link succinctly replied in such a way that had it been anyone else Ganondorf would had been sure it would constitute as a deadpan. “Daisies, in fact.”

“Part of our breakfast?” he asked only for confirmation’s sake in slight befuddlement, the calm nod from the pegasus answering whatever doubt the King of Thieves still had for him.

“You don’t seem overly bothered by it,” he spoke conversationally as he examined the flowers more closely. He had been aware that their change in species probably would incur in an obligatory change in diet as well since their new equine bodies obviously would have very different food requirements and digestive tracts when compared to their previous ones, it had been the main reason why both of them had limited their food gathering before stumbling upon the gryphons to foraging for fruits and other edible plants instead of fishing or hunting, but this was the most blatant sign of the forced change in diet yet.

“Not really,” the green pegasus immediately replied with a small shrug of his wings. “Truthfully speaking, it should be an interesting new experience. And besides, it’s nowhere near close to the oddest thing I’ve ever eaten.”

“Oh?” he wordlessly inquired as he decided to make himself useful and help to set the table, taking over the clay plates Link was now carrying and setting them atop the wooden table.

“Yes, this has nothing on fresh bee larvae,” the Hero dryly spoke, a hint of distaste briefly appearing on his muzzle before disappearing behind his serene visage. “That’s something that I personally wouldn’t recommend anyone to try unless absolutely necessary.”

“I will take your word for it,” Ganondorf deadpanned with a small shudder as he imagined what that probably tasted like. With a serious nod of agreement Link turned back towards the oven where Beautiful Blossom was giving the finishing touches to their morning meal.

He gave the platter full of daisies a dubious look for a brief moment before, with a shrug of his shoulders, he grabbed one of the flowers and threw it into his mouth. He thoughtfully chewed it for a few moments, before he admitted that it was nowhere near as bad as he had initially feared. Crispy and kind of minty flavored actually, not even close to the bland mess he had been expecting.

But even as he chewed his little morsel and wondered about the very real possibility that his taste buds could have been changed by the transformation of his body, he couldn’t help but gaze at the mark proudly emblazoned on Beautiful Blossom’s flank as the mare busied herself around the kitchen. For now that he knew what the marks at the colorful little equines flanks really were he couldn’t help but pay a little more attention to them as he pondered their meaning, which in turn immediately brought to the forefront of his mind a curious little fact he had noticed and was now nagging at the back of his mind.

And, thankfully, the white coated mare entering the kitchen with a slightly sleepy look would be the perfect sounding board to bounce his current line of thought at.

“Hey, Princess, what do you make of the relation between the ponies names and their marks?” he conversationally asked to the sleepy looking unicorn.

“What?” she asked in slight confusion as she gave him an odd look after she wished both their host and the Kid a good morning.

“Forest Blossom, Singing Blossom and Beautiful Blossom,” Ganondorf dutifully explained in greater detail to the wielder of Wisdom. “The first has a wild tree in full bloom, the second has what looks like a happy singing flower and the later has a pretty looking blooming flower.”

“And that’s not even mentioning Sure Shot’s bow and arrow, Forge Fire and Woodcutter’s blacksmith’s hammer and lumberjack’s axe or Old Oak’s oak tree,” Zelda immediately added on as she swiftly grasped what the Dark Lord was implying, what little sleep that still held on to her being forcefully shoved aside as she started to think about it all with a curious glint on her eyes. “I see what you mean; all the marks of the ponies we have met so far seem to be directly linked to their names. How intriguing…”

“So, any ideas for why that’s the case?” he curiously asked after watching the Princess ruminate about the little conundrum for a few moments longer.

“You know that I have nowhere near enough information to even try to create an appropriate hypothesis, especially with a sample size as small as seven individuals,” the unicorn mare sternly replied as she gave him a warning look.

“Oh please, I know how you work, Princess!” he teased with a dismissive wave of a hoof and a large smile as he took a seat at the table. “You may not know the specifics or be able to prove anything yet, but you must have at least an idea or three to explain whatever this is by now!”

They stared at each other for a long moment, his golden orbs and roguish grin against her blue ones and stern expression. Until, finally, she relented with a huff of annoyance, much to his internal celebration due to his minor victory.

“Very well, right now I see two possible explanations: the first is quite simple really, upon discovering their cutie marks the ponies change their names to something that better fits to the mark in question, abandoning their birth names to a new one linked to the mark,” she lectured him in the tone of voice that scholars everywhere seemed to favor for some odd reason.

“Boring, but practical, yeah I can see that happening,” he grumbled at the exceedingly mundane answer before asking about the second option. “And the second idea?”

“Due to the fact that the marks appear to be linked with the individual’s own destiny, it’s possible that either upon birth or during the mother’s pregnancy the parents may be able to achieve a limited form of precognition in regards to their children’s future,” she dutifully explained in a calm tone of voice, even as a very eager glint appeared in her eyes as she spoke about the idea. “As such, it’s possible that the ponies may be capable of foreseeing at least part of their offspring’s future, which would allow them to grant them names befitting of the destinies they saw!”

“Precognition… yeah, right,” the large stallion grumbled in disgust as he dismissively threw another daisy in his mouth. “I think I’ll take the boring first option, thank you very much!”

“The study of fate and prophecy is a thoroughly studied and proven field of magical lore!” the Princess huffed in slight annoyance at Ganondorf’s reaction to her second theory.

“Oh, I’m perfectly aware of that. Just as I’m aware of how thoroughly and completely useless said field of magic is!” he sneered back at the white coated mare. “You yourself should know that better than most, Princess!”

“And what would that mean?” Zelda shot right back, an annoyed look now firm on her features.

“Tell me, oh great Seer. Exactly how many times have your so called visions proved themselves to be of any use?” he asked in a sickly sweet tone of voice as he grinned back at the wielder of Wisdom.

The angry glare that the Princess was giving him was returned with an equally fierce glower from the Dark Lord. This was an old argument between them, one that Ganondorf refused to give a single inch on despite knowing that Zelda herself was a more than accomplished Seer, said argument being about the fact that, as far as he was concerned, seeing the future was a completely useless ability when all was said and done.

“Good morning Mister Ganondorf, good morning Zelda!” a tiny yellow blur suddenly materialized herself between the two ponies without any warning, cutting the argument short. “What are you talking about?”

Seeing the little ball of happiness that was called Singing Blossom, Ganondorf felt his sudden anger at the topic of seeing the future abate slightly. As he nodded a greeting to both Singing and her sister who was but a few steps behind her he inwardly berated himself for losing his control so easily, all the while blaming that stupid dream from last night as to why he was already so irritated this morning.

“Morning Squirt, Forest,” he dutifully greeted the two sisters with a nod each before refocusing on the little filly eagerly waiting for an answer to her question. “And we are talking about the general uselessness of prophecy.”

“What?” Forest asked in a very confused tone of voice as she stopped mid motion with one hoof raised in greeting towards her mother.

“Oh, you know, how seeing the future isn’t really useful, like at all, due to how incredibly vague any kind of warning you could get about the future tends to be as a general rule. I mean, you would expect that any Seer worth their salt would at least try and make themselves clear when they try to give a warning about some cataclysm or other that will happen in the future,” he fiercely stated as he grabbed another daisy to munch on. “But nope, all you’ll get is vague and confusing gibberish that will only make sense after whatever it was supposed to warn you about happens. And let’s not even start on the mess called self fulfilling prophecies, completely useless, all of it!”

“You know that’s not how it works, Ganondorf!” the white coated mare fiercely rebuked as she took two steps closer to his idly sitting form. “You know far too well that the future is not something that can simply be read as if an open book! That the future is not written in stone, but sculpted in water! Ever flowing and ever changing! To the point that the mere act of looking at it may change it!”

“See, just like I said, completely useless!” he interjected as he gave Singing a sage nod, the way the Princess was practically spitting fire by this point doing wonders for his irritated mood.

“But how would you know that?” Singing innocently asked with a tilted head, all the while her big sister kept switching her gaze from Ganondorf to Zelda as if she was trying to figure out if they were being serious or not.

“Well, for starters, the little Princess here got this really annoying habit of having prophetic dreams,” he stated in fake cheerfulness while gesturing towards Zelda with a fluid gesture. “She tends to know trouble is coming days to weeks before it happens, though the ability is far less useful to avoid said trouble than you would think, but at least she knows it’s coming!

“Meaning that she tends to get plenty of time to get herself into a tizzy and start to panic before the trouble really starts. That’s got to be worth something, right?” he continued while giving the unicorn a patronizing smile, the way Zelda was gritting her teeth in annoyance greatly improving his sour mood.

Forest’s barely audible and confused ‘What?’ was effectively overshadowed by Singing’s enthusiastic proclaimed ‘Cool!’, but both of them were overshadowed in turn by the way the green pegasus that had just placed his load of fresh bread atop the table entered into the conversation.

“And talking about prophetic dreams, Zelda, Ganondorf woke up in the middle of the night quite abruptly due to one,” Link casually stated before cordially greeting both sisters and the Princess a good morning. “The very abrupt way in which he returned to wakefulness and the fact he immediately adopted a defensive stance as he took in his surroundings before calming down also weren’t positive signs.”

“That was just a stupid dream Link, I told you that!” he grumbled in annoyance as he leveled a betrayed look at his occasional nemesis. “It was nothing!”

“Good, in that case you really shouldn’t mind giving us some details,” the green coated Hero reasonably pointed out, a serene smile on his features despite the ever growing glare Ganondorf was throwing his way. “Better to be safe than sorry and all that.”

“He is right, you know,” Zelda interjected as she gave the earth pony stallion a stern but understanding look, the mere idea of Ganondorf having experienced a prophetic dream neatly shoving her earlier annoyance to the side. “I know personally how hard it can be to interpret a prophetic dream correctly, it’s far better to have several different perspectives analyze it in order to gather what information is possible from its portents.”

“For the last time, it was just a stupid dream!” he huffed in annoyance as he rose from his seat and moved towards the Princess. He stopped right in front of her before he slowly enunciated every word, his voice loaded with meaning. “And besides, you know that you are the Seer, not me! Now, drop it!”

“Link also occasionally has prophetic dreams, Ganondorf! They may not be frequent, but they do happen!” Zelda shot right back, not even slightly threatened by the Dark Lord’s posturing. “We share the same bond; it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that you could have them too and you know it!”

The wielder of Power and the wielder of Wisdom simply stood there in complete silence as they defiantly stared at each other’s eyes, neither willing to give up a single inch in this contest of wills, nor admitting that the other could be right, the tension in the room steadily rising with each moment that passed.

Until two gentle green wings rested themselves atop both their backs, startling them out of their staring contest and stopping things from escalating further.

“Calm down, the both of you. Zelda, you have to respect Ganondorf’s desire for privacy, if he doesn’t want to share what happened in his dream, then that’s his right,” the wielder of Courage serenely but sternly stated as he gave the white unicorn a look, keeping eye contact until she grudgingly nodded her acceptance. “And Ganondorf, while I shall respect your desire for privacy, know this, if you decide to share whatever it is that you saw, we will be here to help.”

Suddenly finding the wooden floor to be extremely interesting, the King of Thieves avoided the Hero’s earnest and sincere gaze... only to stumble upon the very big, soulful eyes of Singing Blossom. The worried look the tiny pony was giving him made him deflate with an annoyed grumble.

“Fine, if you must know, it was just a stupid dream about the long forgotten past, back when Hyrule had been flooded over. It didn’t contain anything I would call a warning and nothing else of note really happened,” he grudgingly shared, the beaming smile the tiny filly was now sporting making him decide to carefully examine the wooden ceiling instead. “Like I said before, it was just a stupid dream, everything is fine!”

With that admission the growing tension that had been permeating the room was blown away as mist before a gentle breeze, something that was helped further along as Zelda playfully replied.

“You do remember what ‘fine’ stands for, right?” Zelda immediately shot back with a tiny smirk on her muzzle, clearly remembering what Ganondorf had said about the expression a couple of days earlier.

“Breakfast is ready!” Beautiful Blossom cheerfully proclaimed before anything more could be said about it, much to the silent relief of the Lord of Darkness.

Thanking the Three Goddesses for the mare’s timely intervention, Ganondorf immediately hurried towards the table, swiftly leaving behind a serene looking pegasus, an annoyingly smirking unicorn, a happily bouncing filly and a very, very confused looking earth pony mare.

As he took a moment to appreciate the chill morning breeze and the warm sunlight across his body, Link calmly kept track of his companions’ conversation as they left the Blossom’s family home behind in order to meet Old Oak so that they could decide what to do next.

Though conversation might be a slight misnomer, considering that it mostly consisted of Zelda attempting to pry further details regarding Ganondorf’s dream, and the later unhelpfully answering with monosyllabic grunts to her inquires.

He knew that Ganondorf would be annoyed by him bringing his dream to Zelda’s attention, and he even could somewhat understand the Dark Lord’s dislike in regards to anything even remotely related to the realm of fate and prophecy. Because, truthfully speaking, he did have a point in regards to the fact that any kind of warning in regards to the future tended to be infuriatingly vague and imprecise as a general rule. But at the same time, Zelda also did have a point in regards to the fact that any kind of warning, no matter how small or vague, was better than none at all. And that while it was true that stopping a future from fully happening was extraordinarily difficult, that did not mean it was impossible.

And besides, he was never one to ignore a useful tool or potential advantage, even if it looked like a long shot. And if that meant he had to deal with a grumpy Ganondorf for a while in order to make sure his ‘stupid dream’ was exactly that? Well, he had endured far worse for far less certain gains.

Not to mention the fact that one their hosts really didn’t look like they intended to let the larger stallion brood was a definite bonus to that particular plan, something that was readily confirmed by how Forest was now interposed between Ganondorf and Zelda, as if to protect him from the unicorn and happily changing the subject as she started to lead them down a gravel covered path and towards the elder’s home.

The wielder of Courage took a moment to smile and nod in approval to Singing’s happily bouncing form as he noticed the small saddlebag she was proudly sporting for all to see, as he calmly trotted after the others. The filly had been a very attentive student yesterday and deserved some recognition for her efforts.

“Hey, Forest, are we nearing winter or something?” the King of Thieves once more changed the subject with all the subtlety of an avalanche, the fact he had just ignored another of Zelda’s inquires making the Princess huff in annoyance.

As he made sure to not allow his smile to grow as he followed after the group, Link calmly kept looking at the small village they were passing through, the small cottages and wooden cabins and the fields beyond their backyards. Ganondorf could grumble and complain as much as he wanted, but no matter how annoyed the brown earth pony acted, the simple fact he hadn’t tried to make the white unicorn stop pestering him with her questions yet was quite telling.

“Not even close, we should be just nearing the fall, the weather really should be way warmer than it has been these last few weeks,” Forest retorted with an interesting mix of irritation at the subject and elation at being asked a question by her crush. And wasn’t that an interesting development? It was obvious that both Zelda and Beautiful Blossom had seen the young mare’s actions for what they were as well, so that left the question of who would realize the truth next in their little group, Ganondorf or Singing?

“And yet, despite the fact that the harvest season should be just around the corner, the weather keeps getting colder and colder!” the orange colored mare complained as Link listened with one ear while he placidly nodded in silent greeting to a group of deeply scowling earth ponies they had just passed by.

Personally he placed his bets on the young filly finding out about it first, since Link was quite sure that despite all his knowledge and experience the Dark Lord had very little experience when regarding the matters of the heart.

As he nodded in greeting to another group of angry looking earth ponies, while noting with some amusement that his actions of cordially greeting them while ignoring their glares seemed to make them really not know how to react, he thought that perhaps he should offer his old nemesis some advice for that little conundrum. Though finding a way of doing so without Ganondorf rebuffing his effort due to wounded pride would be tricky. It was something to ponder nonetheless.

“So it should be warmer than it is?” Zelda curiously asked while she did her level best to try and ignore the suspicious and angry looks both she and Link kept receiving. Though the way her ears flickered from time to time in agitation showed that her efforts weren’t being as successful as she would probably like.

“You bet it should be warmer! Bucking unicorns can’t do anything right! The needle heads got basically one job! To move the sun and the moon! That’s it! And yet they somehow manage to fumble it!” Forest’s newest complaint actually managed to gather his full attention as he processed what the mare had just implied. And apparently he hadn’t been the only one to find her phrase interesting, for both Ganondorf and Zelda were now intently staring at the mare.

“The mortals move the celestial bodies on this realm?” Zelda immediately asked, a tinge of incredulity clear in her tone of voice as she gave Forest a disbelieving look.

“Obviously! That’s basically all that your Tribe is good for!” the earth pony mare readily replied, a tinge of confusion overpowering the usual distrust her voice tended to carry when she spoke with the Princess. “No matter how high and mighty you horn heads like to portray yourselves to be, you are still mortal after all!”

A moment of silence permeated the group as they processed that little fact, nothing but the sound of their hooves against the gravel of the road as they moved breaking it. That the responsibility of something as intrinsic to the very survival and continued existence of this world as the movement of the sun and the moon had been apparently left at the hands, or hooves in this case, of mere mortals and not assigned as a permanent duty to a deity or two, was quite simply astounding.

“By Din’s sacred flame, and I thought our realm gods were lazy!” Ganondorf loudly proclaimed, nicely summarizing Link’s own thoughts on the matter, while Zelda’s utterly aghast expression showed that the wielder of Wisdom’s thoughts were not far behind the Dark Lord’s either.

The green Hero had to agree with that sentiment; such actions were both extremely lazy and highly irresponsible in regards to whatever pantheon oversaw this realm. It was actually quite baffling, in fact. Next thing he knew, the mortals had to take care of the weather and the shifting of the seasons as well.

“Greetings young ones, I hope you had a good night’s rest?” Old Oak’s firm voice cut past his musings, refocusing his attention at what was currently happening. He could always ponder about lazy, neglectful gods later.

The old stallion was standing right in a fork of the path with Sure Shot right by his side, an affable look on his muzzle and a deeply suspicious one on the ranger’s, a deeply suspicious look that seemed to grow even more pronounced as he nodded in greeting to both the elder and the sea green mare.

“Indeed we had, our thanks once again for your village’s hospitality,” Zelda honestly said while giving the elder a respectful nod, the very image of polite thankfulness.

“What she said, old timer,” Ganondorf happily added, completely ruining the image Zelda had been trying to present and garnering him an quick glare from the mare.

Link on his part simply stood there, a small smile on his muzzle as he listened to the song of the wind as he waited for his companions to end their usual byplay so they could move on to what had to be done today. Though, judging by the scowl Sure Shot was now sporting, his lack of reaction seemed to have somehow annoyed the ranger even more. Not that that really bothered him in the end, the mare would most likely come around eventually after spending some time with them, something that would undoubtedly happen sooner rather than later in such a small community.

“Good, good. So tell me travelers, how can this old stallion be of help?” the earth pony asked after letting out a small laugh as his intelligent eyes moved from one member of their trio to the other.

“We would like to see any maps or tomes you may have, and a general overview of the surrounding regions would also be greatly appreciated,” Zelda said after she saw that neither Ganondorf nor Link seemed enthused to be the first to speak. “Beyond that, the chance to resupply would be greatly appreciated.”

“Yes, I believe we can be of some help to both your requests,” Old Oak spoke after a moment, the way he was regarding the fact that Zelda was acting as their front today while Ganondorf had done so yesterday a curious point that Link made sure to take note.

“Yes, the first one can be easily handled; I have a few rough maps of the surrounding regions and quite a few books about various topics in my residence that I wouldn’t mind allowing you to see,” the elder graciously offered, an interested glint in his eyes now that he had confirmed that neither Link nor Ganondorf seemed bothered by the fact that Zelda had taken the lead.

“The second one is a little more complicated I’m afraid, for, as you can probably see, we are at the eve of the harvest season, so we cannot afford to part with much of our own supplies at present,” he spoke in an apologetic tone of voice, though his body language indicated to Link that Old Oak was far from finished, something that was proven as he continued. “Or at least, not freely.”

“Whatever, we got a few things we could barter with, up to and including several steel swords we took from the gryphons,” Ganodorf interjected, the fact that Old Oak immediately sneaked a peek towards Zelda to see if she had been offended by the Dark Lord assuming the lead of their talks, and the curious glint in his eyes when he saw that wasn’t the case, another thing that Link made note of.

“Ah, yes, the enchanted saddlebags I’ve been told your feathery friend carries, quite useful that,” he happily said, though upon hearing that Link simply blinked in slight confusion as he wondered why the old stallion thought his saddlebags were enchanted. “But while that would be appreciated, that’s not what I had in mind.”

“What would your idea entail then?” Zelda asked as she stood next to Ganondorf, not a trace of their earlier disagreements present in either of their features.

“You see, due to the growing unrest between the Three Tribes we have been getting fewer and fewer groups of pegasi bringing our crops the rain they need,” so the mortals also did tend to the weather in this realm, good to know. “As it stands we can barely offer you but the bare minimum of travel supplies without taking a risk due to the current state of our crops. But with enough rain to secure our harvest it would be another matter.”

“You desire for me to bring rain to your crops,” Link easily deduced.

“I hate to say it, but Old Oak is right, you know, the crops could really use some extra rain,” Forest added after a moment’s hesitation. “This is more than about mere supplies, buck, after saving us mom probably would supply you herself if she needed to! So if you wouldn’t mind, could you sort it out for us?”

Link barely had to stop to think about it. If bringing some rain to water their crops would help the villagers them he would gladly aid them regardless of there being a reward or not. Especially for something as simple as this request.

“I don’t mind, that isn’t really a problem,” he calmly stated, completely unfazed by the angry and distrustful glares the earth ponies who were slowly gathering around their group were giving him. “Would you happen to have an ocarina or any other kind of wind instrument that I could borrow?

“What?” Sure Shot asked as she abandoned her annoyed glower for a moment in favor of a look of honest confusion.

“Well, truth be told I can make do with any kind of instrument in a pinch, Farore’s grace, I once made do with a grass whistle of all things for quite a while,” he calmly explained to his curious and distrustful audience with a small smile. “But wind instruments do work better for me, and ocarinas are a personal favorite.”

None of the ponies seemed to know how to react to his statement, until, with a strange look on his features, Old Oak once more spoke.

“A Storm Caller?” the elder stallion mumbled in shocked surprise as he gave the green pegasus an evaluating look. “Are you saying that you are a Storm Caller?”

“A what?” Forest said, giving voice to everybody’s general confusion.

“A Storm Caller. Once long ago, long before the birth of the Pegasus Armada and their military ways, there were pegasi who could control the weather not through their hooves, but through music!” Old Oak excitedly explained to his attentive audience. “I had thought that the Armada had abandoned such old ways many, many years ago. That such knowledge had long since been lost! For as far as I know, all pegasi within their ranks now know only how to tend to the weather by hoof!”

“Well, it works,” he simply replied with a shrug of his wings after a moment’s pause, while also silently making a note to try and figure out how his new race could ‘tend’ to the weather by hoof since that implied he could probably do way more to clouds than merely push them around.

“Mister Link, would this work?” Singing happily asked as she offered a long wooden flute from her small saddlebag, the appearance of the long instrument from the tiny container gaining a few exclamations from the gathered earth ponies.

He analyzed the instrument for a moment before he nodded his agreement. A flute wasn’t really one of his favorite instruments, but it would work just fine for this purpose. He took it from the helpful little filly and took a moment to test how best to use the instrument with his new body.

Nodding once more in satisfaction he settled for using his extremely dexterous wings to press the holes of the instrument with his primary feathers while he held it with his hooves. And then he took a deep breath and started to play to his now very interested looking audience.

The moment the first few notes had left the flute, Link found himself sporting a jovial smile. A smile that grew alongside the echoing melody as dark rain clouds started to swiftly gather on the, up to this moment, cloudless sky, as if by magic, much to his audience’s vocal amazement.

Smile firm on his muzzle, he kept playing while immersing himself in the melody. After all, the Song of Storms had always been one of his personal favorites.

VIII - Portents

View Online


As he watched the last few raindrops of the storm Link had called forth hit against the window of Old Oak’s log cabin, Ganondorf listened with half an ear to the hushed whispers of the throng of ponies who were now crowding the far side of the main room of the elder’s home, an action that was made far easier than normal due to the fact that his ears could now apparently swivel independently in order to better capture sounds. Quite useful, that.

He thought about this new biological quirk for a moment before a particular awestruck comment from one of the ponies talking about how Link had affected the whole area by himself as he called forth the storm proved itself too much and made it so that the King of Thieves couldn’t help but snort in amusement. Seriously, it was almost as if none of the locals had ever seen a large scale magical undertaking before. Though truth be told, the fact that Link’s little musical ability could be mistaken for an old pegasus art had been as surprising as it had been amusing.

Growing bored with both the landscape he had been watching and the locals which he had been eavesdropping, he turned around from the window and searched the room for his two companions. Link was standing near the cabin’s small hearth, apparently entertained talking with Singing Blossom and completely ignoring the deeply distrustful look Sure Shot was giving him from less than two feet away.

Zelda, on the other hoof, was animatedly talking with Old Oak while perusing a large faded book. While he would normally be all in favor of gathering some actionable intel regarding this world, he had decided that the Princess had the situation well under control by herself. And no, that decision had nothing to do with the fact that he had forgotten to add a written component to the translation spell that had been integrated into the transportation ritual that had brought them all to this realm, which meant that he couldn’t read a single line of any of the books inside the cabin, absolutely not.

Of course the lack of prompt translation hadn’t fazed the unicorn scholar for more than a heartbeat, the mare having apparently managed to figure out and read the earth pony language in a matter of moments after seeing it for the first time as if it were a non-issue. That was clearly visible by how she was now happily devouring the books he simply couldn’t read. The fact that he was quite sure she hadn’t even needed a translations spell, or any kind of magic for that matter, to do so was just icing atop the cake. Not that that fact bothered him. Not at all.

Nonetheless, now that the rain had already fallen upon the area, their part of the deal was completed, and with the Princess sifting through dozens of dusty old tomes in order to separate the junk from what was of worth and gather some intel they could actually use, that left seeing to the promised supplies to do. Well, either that or admitting he couldn’t read the darned things and asking the unicorn for a translation spell so he could help. And there was no question to which task he would rather do.

“Hey, Princess!” Ganondorf loudly called the wielder of Wisdom, making the mare stop her enthusiastic discussion with the village Elder as she gave him a half curious half suspicious look. The fact quite a few ponies gave both him and Zelda strange looks when they heard what he had called Zelda was simply ignored by the Lord of Darkness.“I gather that you will lose yourself on the old timer’s book collection for the immediate future, so the Kid and I will go ahead and start seeing what we can get regarding travel supplies. You both okay with that?”

Link simply raised his head from his one-sided conversation with Singing to nod his agreement to Ganondorf’s plan. The fact he was ignoring Sure Shot’s angry glower as if it wasn’t even happening, and making the action look completely natural at that, forced a tiny smirk on the King of Thieves' muzzle.

The Princess seemed to think about his proposal, for a fraction of a second that is, before the white coated mare immediately nodded her agreement to the plan without even really looking his way, a happy little smile on her muzzle as she immediately started discussing something about soil types of all things with Old Oak as she turned back to the book. Not that he had doubted that outcome even for a second, since the fact that Zelda actually liked reading through the dusty old things really helped accomplish his current goal with minimum fuss.

Scholars, he would never understand them.

“Yes! I can show you around the village so we can see what you need!” Forest happily replied from his side as she moved her still wet mane behind her head with one hoof all the while she tilted slightly to the side and gave him a half lidded look. “We can also pass by Forge Fire’s forge so we can drop those swords you got from the gryphons.”

“Very well then, see you later Princess,” he agreed after a moment’s thought as he made a mental list of what they would need both long and short term and what they were likely to be able to find in this little hamlet. “Let’s get going, Link.”

“There is no need for that! The two of us can do this easily enough by ourselves! There is no need to tie him up with us, Singing can show him around the village instead!” the mare hastily added as she saw both the green hero and the little hyperactive ball of fluffiness that was her sister getting up to follow them outside, her words followed by her giving him a strange look for a moment as a small smattering of red appeared on her cheeks, before she averted her gaze and continued in a strangely bashful tone of voice while making a small kicking motion with her foreleg. “If you don’t mind, that is?”

The Lord of Darkness gave the proposal a moment of consideration, even as part of his mind briefly wondered if it was alright for Forest to be out and about after being in the rain earlier since it looked like her fever was making a reappearance, even if it seemed weaker than it had been yesterday. Perhaps the mare had some kind of chronic illness of some kind? A quick look towards Zelda, who had actually set aside her book for a moment to see what was happening, and he decided that it was probably alright. If there had been any real danger to the mare’s health the Princess would be already nagging her to get back to bed or something, and since she was simply standing there with a small smile on her muzzle as she gave both him and Forest an odd look he decided there shouldn’t be a problem.

“Fine, let’s get going then,” he gruffly said as he picked the saddlebag with the swords from the Kid’s outstretched wing, his words somehow having the effect of making the orange coated mare beam in happiness and dart ahead of him with a skip in her step. He watched the odd sight for a moment in slight befuddlement before he followed her outside at a far more sedate pace.

Females, he would never understand them either.

Eyes never straying from her target, Sure Shot kept pace while keeping a healthy distance between her and the possible threat to her village, the weight of her bow and arrows a comforting feeling at her side. But even that was not enough to stop her ears and tail from flicking in annoyance. She really didn’t like how the day was shaping up.

“And those are the southern fields there after that fence! They are called that because they are at the south side of the village, you know?” the very excited filly explained to the strange pegasus who was oddly enough actually attentively listening to her inane babble with a placid smile on his muzzle. “Just like the western orchards are to the west side of the village! But you can’t see them from here of course, since we are at the south side, not the west one!”

As she followed after the odd pegasus and his very enthusiastic tour guide, Sure Shot wondered not for the first time what strange madness had befallen their little village, all the while doing her level best to tune out the filly's inane chatter.

As if this mysterious trio appearing out of thin air, just in time to stop a gryphon raid before it could even start as if it was nothing, wasn’t enough, now by order of the elder himself they were to allow these dangerous outsiders leave to freely roam within the village as they pleased, no matter how much of a bad idea everypony knew that was!

“And that’s Shining Quartz home farther down the road! I don’t like her, she is mean! And really, really stuck up! I mean, just because her father is a merchant and keeps going to the Earth Villa and bringing back awesome stuff for her, that doesn’t mean she has to be such a meany-pants! Oh and there is…”

Oh sure, she understood why Old Oak did it, after all the outsiders did help Forest and Singing out of a very tough situation personally and the village as a whole indirectly. But couldn’t they have just tossed them the supplies they needed and wished them a safe travel immediately afterwards? Was that too much to ask for?

It seemed that she was the only one who had realized a very worrying truth, which was that the simple fact that they had been able to take down the gryphons while unarmed in the first place already showed how dangerous the group could be. And that was before they learned the pegasus could somehow summon storms with a bucking flute of all things! They were all dangerous and a threat just waiting to happen! And they were to be allowed to gallivant through the village unsupervised?!

And even worse, the group had divided itself, meaning she had been forced to choose who to tail.

Not that that had been a particularly tough choice. Ganondorf was still an earth pony after all, no matter the very dubious company he kept, and Forest Blossom would also be accompanying him so she didn’t think he would end up causing much mischief. Not to mention that the mare would probably throttle any other mare that tried to get into her newly found alone time with the stallion. The unicorn was cause for some concern, but she seemed civil enough and had been clearly engrossed by Old Oak’s books and other inane brainy stuff, so it was probably alright to leave her with the elder unsupervised for a few moments. So that left her current target and clearly the most dangerous member of the strange trio. The pegasus who was currently nodding to Singing’s rapid fire speech.

“And that’s our house! But you already know that since you slept there last night! Oh and that’s…” and speaking of the tiny filly, the ranger really wondered where she got all that energy from, only watching Singing bouncing around all the place was already making her feel exhausted. She was quite sure the other foals were nowhere near as active and hyper as the yellow coated filly. “Oh, and this is the river that crosses the village! Once I grabbed a frog from it, but mom really didn’t like it when I brought it back home to show her! She didn’t like the mud prints I left on the floor either!”

Her early impression of how dangerous the pegasus was hadn’t abated in the slightest. Point in fact, the strange way in which he seemed to take everything around him in with disturbing efficiency and focus while completely ignoring everything else only served to enhance that feeling.

“…and then both big sis and mom said I was grounded! And how unfair was that! I mean, how could I know that flour can explode if you throw it all around in the air while near a fire!” The fact that listening to the filly’s very fast paced one sided dialogue was starting to give her a small headache also wasn’t exactly helping her mood. “And why wasn’t that taught in school? I think that really should’ve been taught in school! Don’t you think so?”

For that matter, how exactly was he keeping such composure as he listened to the filly go on and on as she talked about everything and anything? The ranger could see that he wasn’t simply pretending to pay attention to the babble as he actually followed the filly’s movements and made one worded comments that actually pertained to whatever she had been last talking about as they trotted through the village! He had to have the patience of a saint or something!

As Singing started another odd tangent, Sure Shot groaned in annoyance as she closed her eyes for a moment and stopped in her tracks in order to lightly massage her brow. Bucking perfect, she now had a headache, just what she needed as she kept watch over a dangerous unknown.

She stood there massaging her brow for a brief moment, before the lack of something made her abruptly open her eyes with a sharp snap, headache be damned, as she noticed the lack of a certain filly's continuous stream of gibberish.

“Oh, come on! It was just a moment!” she snapped as her eyes frantically looked from left to right as she searched for a tiny yellow filly, and far more importantly, a green coated pegasus she had vowed to not leave unsupervised. That only to confirmed that, somehow, the strange outsider had managed to disappear completely from her sight during her brief moment of inattention, despite the fact he had been standing less than two feet away from her while being followed by a loud brightly colored bouncing chatterbox.

“Buck!” she silently cursed as she started to gallop as she searched for the odd featherbrain, determined to find him as swiftly as possible before he could cause some trouble.

He couldn’t have gone far with the filly following him around after all. Right?

“I see, so we are located at the north easternmost border of the territory claimed by the Three Tribes?” the Princess of Wisdom asked the elder stallion by her side as she intently analyzed the faded and crude map atop the table before her.

“That is correct. We are at the very border of the settled regions. Directly to the south of us, five days away at a travel pace, lays the Earth Villa, my tribe’s main settlement,” the grey coated stallion calmly explained as he pointed his hoof first to the location of his village before moving it to the earth ponies capital. “Two days travel west from there rests the mountain stronghold of Unicornia, the unicorns’ capital and seat of their nobility, and while Pegasopolis can usually be found a few days travel from either of such settlements, the fact that the great cloud fortress of the pegasi is always drifting around makes truly pointing out its location an exercise in futility.”

Zelda nodded her understanding of Old Oak’s words, knowing from personal experience how frustrating it was to locate a floating city even at the best of times. Though the idea that said city was actually made of clouds was quite odd to the wielder of Wisdom and made her dearly want to be able to examine such a unique architecture and how it could possibly work. It would probably be truly fascinating. As she set that little musing aside, she instead focused on the fact that the area shown on the map was in fact quite small, with the distance between the borders being something an able rider could traverse in a couple of weeks' travel time with ease. All the while vast swaths of the map to both the west and the south were completely blank as they showed they hadn’t even started to be explored yet.

“Though I must admit that I’m quite surprised you don’t know about this already, my dear. I can easily recognize a scholar when I see one, and the great library of Unicornia vastly outstrips my paltry collection of knowledge by an immense degree,” the stallion calmly said, though Zelda's experienced ears could easily detect the hint of suspicion and curiosity in his tone of voice. “So I find it quite odd that one as well educated as yourself wouldn’t know such basic facts when they could be so easily accessed by any unicorn who ever set hooves upon their capital.”

“My companions and I come from a very distant land my good sir, far, far beyond the borders of your tribes’ lands,” she calmly stated. She understood why the earth pony was slightly suspicious, after all most would expect that someone who could easily converse about the myriad of topics they had talked about both on the way to his cottage and as she perused his tomes wouldn’t need to ask about basic information about the region they were currently in that anyone should know already. “I have personally never set hooves within Unicornia, much less its vast library, I’m sad to say. Point in fact, this settlement is the very first my companions and I have visited upon reaching this land.”

Luckily for her it was clear that the ponies' so called Three Tribes hadn’t yet truly started to explore the world, for besides their immediate surroundings all that they knew of foreign lands was about the Gryphon Kingdoms to the northeast and a large city state to the southwest where yet another pony tribe apparently lived. And even that was more hearsay and conjecture than not in regards to the second one, since the ‘Crystal Ponies’ were apparently extremely isolationist and basically refused all contact with those not from their great city.

“I see. In that case, if you wouldn’t mind answering to this old stallion curiosity, what brings you and your companions to our lands?” Old Oak said in a far less suspicious tone of voice, even if his muzzle's expression showed that he found that the fact that Zelda and her companions heralded from foreign lands explained a lot. “For while I’m thankful for it due to your timely intervention on that nasty business with the gryphons, I must say that this isn’t exactly a good time to visit the region, what with the growing tension between the Tribes, especially for a group as… diverse as your own.”

She could see the old stallion’s point. In the last few hours she had spent inside this room Zelda had already obtained quite a bit of information regarding this new realm she and her fellow Triforce Wielders had been transported to by Ganondorf’s newest scheme. Chiefly amidst them being that the different pony tribes were on the brink of open warfare after decades of growing unrest and distrust. That really wasn’t helped by the ever growing deterioration of the weather as winters grew harsher and harsher with each year that passed, despite both unicorn and pegasus attempts to resolve the situation, which in turn, led to both tribes accusing the other of sabotaging the other's efforts and not doing enough to help. Which, when it all was added together, meant that the situation was a literal boiling pot waiting to blow.

“Regrettably, due to a series of unavoidable circumstances, we were unable to remain within the lands of our birth,” Zelda continued to explain, glad that her host had accepted her half-truth without undue complications since she would hate to have her conversation with the old stallion cut short after but a few short hours. Old Oak was clearly a scholar himself and had much to share about this strange new world. The large bookshelf filled with books and scrolls she had but started to peruse could easily attest to that. “But you need not worry, both myself and my companions are more than able to protect ourselves should there be the need.”

“Of that, I have little doubt,” she heard the elder mumble as she moved towards the bookcase in search of new information. It had been slightly annoying but not remotely surprising to discover that the ponies' written language was different from her own, and that apparently whatever ritual Ganondorf had dreamt up to get them here hadn’t bothered with translating written information. But that had been only a minor hiccup. After learning and translating so many different languages during the course of her many lives, learning the basic rules and generalities of the pony language had taken but a matter of moments. Given that, she thought she probably should make a note of casting a mildly adapted translation spell on both Link and Ganondorf later on.

“Do you possess any tomes or scrolls about this realm’s pantheon?” she inquired of the stallion as her eyes roamed from tome to tome. She now had a very solid foundation in regards to the mortal side of things regarding this world inhabitants, and as such it was time to see what they could expect from the more ethereal side of things.

“I beg your pardon?” Old Oak asked for clarification, confusion clear in his tone of voice as he moved to stand beside Zelda’s white form.

“I would like to know what information you have pertaining to this realm’s pantheon. Who they are, who worship them, and what are their mantles of power, things like that,” the unicorn explained in more detail as she averted her gaze from a book that seemed to be about earth pony agricultural magic to look at the village elder, only to stop short as she noticed the clear confusion and lack of comprehension of the stallion’s features. “Information about the gods responsible for overseeing this realm's stability and continued existence?”

The long moment of silence that followed, when coupled with the very confused expression Old Oak was now sporting and with how she had learned that the mortals of this realm not only moved the celestial bodies, but also were responsible for keeping the weather and the changing of the seasons stable, were enough for her to start building a very disturbing picture in her mind.

“Honored Elder, tell me, what knowledge do you possess in regards to your people’s gods?” she sought clarification one last time, even if she herself was already quite sure that, even if she had no idea about the details, the hows and the whys, the mad hypothesis she had just came with had to be at least roughly right on its broad strokes

“Well… I do have a few tomes about folklore and ponytales…” Old Oak hesitantly stated after another long moment as he caressed his beard with one hoof in deep thought, though the way he looked at the Princess showed he knew that was not the case. “Is that what you are talking about?”

The white coated mare took a deep breath as she centered herself. She knew that it was too soon to draw any conclusions, but yet this initial evidence by itself was quite damning. And so, even as she kept asking ever more intricate and detailed questions to Old Oak, part of her mind kept thinking about this newest revelation and what it could possibly mean.

This world may very well no longer have gods of its own.

“This is awesome!” Singing Blossom excitedly shouted from her perch atop Link’s back as she gazed past the pegasus' shoulders at the tiny structures that made up her village far down below. “I can see my house! And Old Oak’s house! And the barn! And the farms! And…”

She kept going with ever growing enthusiasm and eagerness as she noted every single structure in the village she could see from this high up, which could be basically be summed up as, all of them.

“Indeed,” Link calmly replied to the filly’s eager comments as he flapped his wings as they climbed ever higher towards a loose collection of clouds that seemed to have survived the small storm he had summoned earlier. “Do hold tight for a moment, yes? Falling from this height is not much fun.”

“Okay!” she happily proclaimed as she pressed her body flat against his back and held on tight to his mane with her hooves. Her eyes tracked the distant figures far down below for a moment before she excitedly asked, “Can we go faster?”

“Yes,” Link simply replied before they both rushed forward in a sudden burst of speed, much to the filly’s delight, and she squealed in happiness as the wind rushed past her.

Far too soon for Singing’s liking they reached the cloud bank, where the pegasus proceeded to land as if the fluffy structure was some kind of very white ground, much to the young pony’s amazement.

“That’s really cool!” she happily proclaimed before letting go of the pegasus' mane and attempting to jump at the fluffy looking surface, only for a set of strong teeth to gently but firmly pick her up by the scruff of her neck before she could touch the white surface, much to her disappointment. “Ahhh, come on!”

But her current jailor was unmoved by her pleas for freedom, as he calmly but firmly placed her back atop his back before giving her an amused but unyielding expression.

“I can walk on clouds, you cannot,” he simply stated the moment his mouth was free to do so.

Singing Blossom stopped to think about that particular revelation for a short moment, before she eagerly nodded her head in agreement. “Okay, that makes sense!”

The yellow coated filly kept herself entertained for a few moments as she gazed at this strange new view in wonder. Meanwhile, Link busied himself by pushing and pulling at the cloud he was standing atop.

“What are you doing?” she curiously asked after a few moments longer, wondering what exactly the green pony was doing.

“Experimenting,” was the stallion’s immediate reply as he gave a harsh stomp on the cloud. The fluffy surface turned dark for a moment and rumbled with something that kind of sounded like thunder and made Singing’s whole body thrum in place alongside the cloud the moment he did so.

“Experimenting with what?” she inquired with a huge smile on her muzzle after her body stopped shaking. That had been fun!

“Controlling the weather by hoof,” he easily answered as he once more stomped. This time his action caused the cloud to return to its original white appearance, to which he nodded once in apparent approval.

“Don’t you know how to do so?” she asked while stretching herself past his neck in order to try and see his face better.

“Not really, no,” Link answered, eyes still calmly analyzing the weather phenomenon he was currently standing atop, even as he moved a wing to better support the filly now atop his neck and peering from over his head.

Singing hummed in contemplation as she tried to think on how to help her new friend with this new problem. It was hard, since controlling the weather was a pegasus trait, not an earth pony one!

She thought about it for a moment longer as she ignored the low rumbles coming from the cloud as Link pushed and prodded it, her eyes gazing away in search of inspiration, until she finally found it.

“Maybe they can help?” she eagerly asked as she pointed to the far away colorful blurs in the distance, feathered wings beating up and down as they flew their way.

Another pegasus had to know how to help with the problem more than her, after all.

IX - Birds of a Feather...

View Online

Birds of a Feather...

“Pleasure doing business with you!” Forge Fire happily replied, a happy smile on her muzzle as she examined the several gryphon swords she planned to melt in order to salvage the metal.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Ganondorf halfheartedly replied to the grey coated blacksmith as he left the forge behind, not exactly surprised but nonetheless not thrilled at his earlier prediction of the feline avians’ blades not being of much use in their current form being proven right. At the very least, he had acquired the chance to use the forge and some of the salvaged steel later on to try and bodge together a half decent weapon for the time being, so that was something.

“Everything alright?” Forest Blossom asked as he exited the building where she had stayed as some odd sort of guard. The two unknown mares swiftly departing from the area showed that the orange coated mare had just gotten rid of a few more of the hangers-on that had started to follow him around everywhere since he had left Link and Zelda behind.

“Eh, nothing I wasn’t already expecting, it’s fine,” he reassured the slightly worried looking mare with a small shrug. Forest had been a useful and attentive guide so far, which had allowed him to see about most of the supplies he had sought to gather in a far smaller time frame than he had initially expected, not to mention her help in keeping the riffraff away, so there was no need to cause the mare undue worry over such a minor irritant as a few days wait time for him to get a weapon.

“That’s good to hear,” Forest happily said with a smile, before giving a harsh glare to an approaching mare, who suddenly seemed to decide she was late for something, as she did an about face and left them alone. Unsurprisingly the glare was once again replaced by a beaming smile as she gazed back towards Ganondorf. “So, is there anything else that you need?”

The King of Thieves thought about it for a moment as he gave Forest a nod of appreciation for her efforts in preserving his peace as he started to walk away from Forge Fire’s place of work, Forest following right alongside him as if some kind of honor guard.

Ganondorf had noticed that staying still in one place in this village for long resulted in the annoying consequence of drawing a crowd to him, and since the Lord of Darkness had never been one to appreciate large mobs of people, or crowds in general, he had taken to simply not staying put for long if he could help it. He had expected the earth ponies to be a little more approachable since neither the Kid nor the Princess were around to trigger their ingrained social prejudices to their new species, but he had really underestimated how many of them would try to get close and talk with him without them both there to act as a shield of sorts. As such, the fact Forest had decided to help keep most of the ponies away in order to give him some breathing space, and went so far as stopping other ponies from unduly bothering him, was appreciated.

It was a slightly annoying situation, even if seeing so many females trying to talk to him and gather his attention brought some nostalgic memories to his many days as the king of the Gerudo. Though that did bring into question the possibility that, just like with his former subjects, there was some kind of imbalance between the number of mares to stallions, since nearly everyone who had tried to interact with him since he left Old Oak’s house had been female for some odd reason. It was something to think about later. Nonetheless, Forest’s efforts in keeping them at bay and not bothering him were a true gift from Din herself.

“Nah, I’m thinking what we currently got is good enough for now. Got all the true essentials and even some extras,” he easily answered as he mentally catalogued the supplies he had managed to acquire so far as they walked down the cobblestone path. Sure, some of them would only be available later as they were delivered to the Blossoms’ home. Considering that he would have to wait a couple of days or so to use the forge anyway, that was hardly a huge issue. It wasn’t like either he or his companions had to hurry anywhere, after all.

“In that case, if you don’t have anything else planned that is, what do you think about eating lunch together?” Forest asked in an eager tone of voice, staring at the large brown coated pony with hopeful eyes, as she sped up slightly in order to be able to look Ganondorf in the eye as she talked. “Mother told me she would leave me a picnic basket ready if I wanted to, and I know a very nice place near the border between the village and the woods where we could eat undisturbed!”

The wielder of Power considered the proposition for a brief moment before deciding that he liked the sound of it. Both yesterday’s dinner and today’s breakfast had been quite tasty after all, not to mention that free food was never something to be turned down lightly, so accepting the lunch offer was a given. Add to that a place he could eat in peace without being gawked at by a species he didn’t feel truly comfortable telling to get lost, due to how his mind linked their appearance with lessons from several of his Gerudo upbringings insisting that he shouldn’t mistreat anything that looked like that, while accompanied by someone who had no such compunction and whose presence he found he didn’t really mind all that much and the answer was a foregone conclusion.

“Sure, that sounds like a plan,” he stated out loud with a small nod of his head towards the now beaming mare, all the while not paying much mind to the brief death glare Forest leveled at a trio of mares who had been blocking their path prior to her having done so. The speed at which the mares had fled was slightly impressive though, Forest had a very respectable glare it seemed.

“YES!” Forest Blossom loudly proclaimed to all and sundry as she gave a small hop in apparent happiness as they trotted down the now unblocked path, before she seemed to remember where she was and lowered her head slightly as a generous dusting of red overtook her cheeks. “I mean… I’m glad that you accepted the offer. That’s it! Now come on, let’s get us some lunch.”

The Lord of Darkness watched the strange behavior of the now swiftly departing mare in slight befuddlement for a moment, nearly stopping in his tracks as he pondered her odd reactions before he noticed that the trio he had noticed blocking the path earlier had apparently grown into a quintet, and were starting to trot his way now that his personal bulwark was disappearing down the road.

Immediately picking up his pace it didn’t take him long to catch up with the very excited looking orange coated mare.

As he trotted down the road alongside Forest, towards her home, Ganondorf briefly wondered about what Link and Zelda could be doing right now and where exactly they would eat. After a moment’s thought, he let out a small snort of amusement as he decided that the Princess had to be still buried underneath every single dusty tome, scroll and book that the village elder possessed, and that she would most likely ignore lunch completely in favor of acquiring every single possible scrap of knowledge those dusty old tomes could provide during the smallest frame of time possible.

At the very least Zelda’s little obsession would mean that he himself wouldn’t have to read a bunch of useless drivel, not to mention finding a reliable way of reading said drivel in the first place. Thankfully he wouldn’t have to go looking for what was relevant and what wasn’t in that sea of words, since the wielder of Wisdom would more likely than not give the summarized versions to both himself and the Kid later on. And as such he was more than happy to let Zelda to tackle that little ordeal.

Link, on the other hoof, had wandered off to goddess knows where. He knew from personal experience that even trying to guess what he was up to was an exercise in futility, what with how his whimsical nature was overshadowed only by his ability to fulfill said whimsies. But, since Singing Blossom had been following him the last he had seen the pegasus, Ganondorf was fairly confident that the green wonder wouldn’t get in too much trouble in the near future.



Eh, whatever, it wasn’t like he was responsible for the green trouble magnet’s actions anyway. And besides, Link was more than capable of taking care of both himself and the little filly. Not to mention that anything capable of posing a real threat to the Hero would undoubtedly leave behind such a large scale trail of destruction in its wake that it would be really hard to miss it before it even neared the village, meaning that he could easily join in case of a fun fight.

And with that cheerful thought, Ganondorf trotted down the street alongside Forest Blossom, towards lunch.

As he kept his position at the outermost left end of the formation his squadron was using as they flew through the, surprisingly cloud free, sky as they searched for the cause of the strange rogue storm that had suddenly befallen the area earlier, Bolt couldn’t help but wonder why it seemed no one else in his flight could see what he could.

Strange happenings had been taking place these past few days with ever growing frequency, from the sightings of gryphon scouts testing their borders to the odd lights that had fallen from the sky a couple of nights ago. And that was not even mentioning the unexplainable cold snaps that were happening with alarmingly growing frequency, sure signs that things were not proceeding as they normally should. And this unknown storm was just another sign pointing towards it.

But of course, with the whole Armada busy confronting the unicorns for the lack of results in making the cold stop, all the while blaming them for everything and anything, not many seemed to want to pay such oddities much mind. No matter the fact that his gut instincts said that things weren’t as they should be. That danger was lurking ever nearer.

Not that anypony would ever listen to him anyway, even if there wasn’t the threat of open warfare hanging over all their heads.

He held back a small sigh of frustration as his left forehoof briefly played with the strange object he had found as he investigated where he had thought one of the lights had fallen. A guess that was proven right, but even that had earned him nothing from his superior but him yelling at him to stop wasting their time with stupid pink bugs.

“Half-breed, stop daydreaming and pay attention already!” Lieutenant Wind Shriek yelled from the very tip of their formation, his grating voice making Bolt’s ears fold beneath his helmet due to the noise. “If you got time to woolgather then you got time to do your job right! So pay attention, scout!”

But then again, considering the lieutenant’s usual dislike for his very being, Bolt gathered that he would have probably ended up yelled at even if he had found a fully fledged gryphon raid group instead of an odd pink light bug.

“Sir, yes, sir!” he immediately replied even as he ignored the snickers and taunting looks the rest of the pegasi in the squadron were throwing his way with the ease of long practice. He knew that they wouldn’t try anything more than that, not after what he had done to the three last idiots who had tried to take their taunts and words into the next level and physically strike against him.

“Good! It’s bad enough I got saddled with you even when you are being useful!” the grey coated stallion all but spat as he gave him a scathing glare before returning his attention onwards.

The azure coated scout fought back another sigh, and the completely inappropriate desire to simply speed up and leave the whole squadron in the dust with a single wing beat. Instead he pushed back his annoyance and focused on the environment as he scanned the immediate area.

He was easily the strongest flyer in the entire squad by far, and one of the best skirmishers in the whole force too. Either of those by themselves would normally more than assure him a command position in the Armada due to its so called meritocratic ways. If not for the ‘taint’ to his family’s honor that is, a ‘taint’ that he had inherited despite never doing anything to deserve it.

“Unknown pegasus dead ahead upon that cloud bank, sir!” he dutifully reported even as he wondered exactly how Wind Shriek, not to mention the rest of the squadron, had somehow missed the unknown. Sure, the pegasus was still quite far away from their current position, but his forest green coloration upon the white of the only cloud bank in sight was kind of hard to miss.

“Good, at the very least we can get some answers to what happened around here without having to talk with ground dwellers! Now move it!” the lieutenant barked as he adjusted the straps of his armor with an angry glower. “And you better pay more attention half-breed! You should have seen that pony far sooner!”

“Sir, yes, sir!” Bolt readily replied while doing his level best to resist the urge to roll his eyes. The Lieutenant’s distaste for anyone who didn’t have wings was well known to him, something that was sadly not uncommon amidst the pegasi of the Armada. Something he sadly knew from personal experience and was the cause of his position, or rather lack of such, in the squadron.

As he flew towards the unknown pegasus, the azure coated pony considered for what felt like the thousandth time if his mother had regretted her ‘sin’ before her passing.

Wondrous Sky had been a skilled fighter, a truly superb flyer and an even better weather manipulator. But even those traits had been barely enough to prevent her for being exiled from the great cloud fortress of Pegasopolis when it had been found out that she had chosen to lay with an earth pony and had been willingly carrying his foal.

That inescapable fact, that his father was an earth pony, had haunted his whole military career, as every pegasus he found tried to belittle him or put him down. His skills, alongside the fact that his stamina was simply unheard of in the entirety of the Armada, seemed to only make the idiots try even harder to, in their words, put the half-breed in his place. Nonetheless, he soldiered on.

He never truly understood exactly why his winged brethren had such dim views about the earth ponies, as he personally found the tribe to be hardworking and steadfast to a fault. But then again, he was quite sure that with his infrequent visits to his father’s family that he had more contact with the tribe than the rest of the Armada combined, no matter how depressing that thought was.

With a mental head shake he put said train of thought aside and focused instead on the green pegasus far into the distance. There was no need to make the lieutenant scream at him more than necessary after all.

Even if that nagging feeling at his gut warning him something was about to go horribly wrong was now pestering him more than ever before as they flew upwards their new target.

Feeling the chilly afternoon breeze brushing against his coat, Ganondorf stood still for a moment in order to simply enjoy the feeling of the cold air moving through his fur as his eyes took in the woodlands situated a little beyond the border of the small village where Forest had taken him so they could eat lunch.

He gazed at the wall of trees as he savored the slice of pie he was currently eating as he appreciated the natural beauty all around him. It probably wasn’t exactly a surprise, but the king of Thieves had realized that, after being born in the middle of deserts and other such desolate wastelands more times than he cared to remember, he had eventually developed a very healthy appreciation for plant life in all its forms. As such, the large forest right in front of him was a welcome sight to his golden eyes.

As he swallowed his morsel he decided he was content for the time being. Nice scenery, very good food and non-annoying company, what more could one want for their lunch hour, really?

“I hope you liked the pie, the recipe has been in the family for a long time,” Forest timidly said from where she was seated by his side as she played with the nearly finished slice she had been slowly nibbling at as she kept giving him strange looks when she thought he wasn’t looking.

Ganondorf gave her a simple nod as an answer, far more worried about savoring the cinnamon flavored apple pie he was currently eating than talking. It was a very tasty pie.

“Good, that’s good… I even helped mother bake it this time! So I’m happy that you liked it! Really!” Forest said in a hurried fashion, each word tumbling out of her mouth with ever growing speed as her eyes moved all around the scenery without truly focusing on anything and as a dusting of red sprung across her muzzle.

He wasn’t exactly sure why exactly Forest had been acting so skittish ever since they got the picnic basket from Beautiful Blossom. But considering how her mother had pulled her aside for a hushed conversation before sending her away with a wink and a smile as she pushed the basket into the orange coated mare’s hooves and closed the cottage’s door, he supposed that it was probably either a family or a female issue, and as such not his business.

If she wanted to talk about it he would listen. There was no reason not to, after all. But if she didn’t want to do so then it was equally fine in his opinion. He could always find other ways to occupy his thoughts.

Though he hoped, that whatever it was, that it wouldn’t affect her actions past its current point. Finding tolerable company was always a massive chore after all, not to mention how useful she had been today keeping the crowds of awestruck earth ponies at bay. So he hoped she got over whatever issue it was in a timely manner.

Mind wandering as he thought about exactly what to do next as he searched his mind for any idea of what to do to pass the time until he could use Forge Fire’s forge, the Lord of Darkness distractedly reached into the basket for another slice of apple pie, only to feel his hoof hitting something furry and warm midway that was most definitely not an apple pie.

He blinked in slight surprise once before looking downwards; only to see that he had unwittingly grabbed Forest’s hoof as they both attempted to grab a slice at the same time. He let out an amused chuckle as he mentally berated himself for his lack of awareness. He guessed he had been even more relaxed than he had initially thought for him to miss that the mare had been moving as well..

He let go of her hoof as he turned his gaze upwards towards Forest’s face, ready to tell her to go ahead and grab her slice first. Only to once more stop and blink in slight surprise, as Forest Blossom simply stood there, her body completely unmoving with its left fore-hoof midway through the motion of grabbing a slice, her face a vibrant red coloration, a glassy look to her eyes and a tiny dreamy smile on her muzzle.

He kept staring for a moment longer, idly wondering what exactly was the problem now. A moment later, the mare appeared to shake herself out of the odd stupor that had overcome her and gave him a tremulous, shy smile.

“So, Ganondorf, I had been thinking…” Forest hesitantly started right next to him as she fidget in place as if unsure of what to do next. “You see…”

“Yes?” he simply inquired as he moved his head slightly to the side so that he could better see the orange coated mare after the pause stretched a little too long without another word from her. His right hoof was already firmly grabbing his next slice and bringing it towards his mouth.

“I mean… after everything you did for Singing and I with the gryphons…” she hesitantly said while looking as if she was trying to order her thoughts in a coherent manner. “I mean, that’s obvious! But you were really amazing and… well that’s not the point! You see, you are really… and so… what I mean is…”

The Dark Lord watched the mare sputter incoherently for a couple of heartbeats before he set his pie slice aside as he decided that enough was simply enough. And so, the King of Thieves turned around so he could face the fidgeting mare fully and gently but firmly placed a hoof on her shoulder to keep her in place before he looked her straight in the eye.

“Take a deep breath, and then speak,” he commanded in a hard but unthreatening tone of voice, as he used millennia of experience dealing with fretful, panicking and spooked equines to calm her down, all the while making use of an equally vast period of experience dealing with prevaricating minions trying and failing to report things to him as a basis to make the mare simply spit out whatever she wanted to say it already. “Stop overthinking it and simply say whatever it is you want to say.”

He watched as Forest followed his commands with a nod of approval, even as part of his mind inwardly decided he was going to bother the Princess to have a look at the mare’s fever bouts later. He had never seen anyone turn such a vibrant shade of red before. And that was considering he was seeing it through her burnt orange coat.

The mare took in various deep breaths before opening her mouth to speak. Only to promptly fail to produce a single sound, close her mouth and take a few more deep breaths. She then proceeded to repeat the whole process twice more before she finally managed to articulate her words properly. Well, kind of.

“Ganondorf… Would you… I mean…” she stuttered in hesitant tones, her eyes once again wandering everywhere as she fidget underneath his large hoof. Ganondorf simply patiently waited, since he knew from personal experience with panicking minions carrying bad news that, frustratingly enough, trying to force the issue would only make it take even longer.

She finally seemed to gather her resolve and looked him straight in the eye. The action actually earned a nod of approval from the Lord of Darkness, as he glimpsed the steel hidden beneath her insecurities for a brief moment.

“Ganondorf, would you mind being m…” she started to say, before suddenly closing her mouth as a sudden look of panic crossed her features. A look of panic that grew for a moment as her eyes darted back and forward before she finally decided to carry on.

“Can you teach me how to fight?!” the mare rushed it out in a single breath before slightly averting her gaze, her muzzle as red as ever.

“What?” the question actually making the Dark Lord blink in surprise.

“YES! I mean, that’s right! That’s exactly what I meant to say! Can you teach me how to fight?” she once again asked in a rush, her words gaining strength with each moment that passed despite the strange grin on her features and strained look in her eyes, though both oddities were slowly being replaced by more normal expressions as she kept speaking. That alongside how, after a fierce head shake, the mare seemed to had both regained her composure and warmed up to the idea she had just proposed made Ganondorf simply shrug the whole odd episode aside as inconsequential.

“I always thought I was strong, but those damnable flying beasts took me down like it was nothing and I couldn’t do anything about it! Buck it all, I was completely helpless!” the mare spat out, disgust clear on her tone as she angrily stomped on the ground. “I didn’t even manage to slow them down! Didn’t even manage to protect my little sister!

“You, on the other hoof, took them down like it was nothing! Despite the fact that you were unarmed!” she enthusiastically continued, the strained smile long since replaced by a far more natural looking one and a look of determination in her eyes. “I refuse to be that helpless ever again! To ever risk letting my sister be in such a situation!

“You’ve got to be the strongest earth pony I’ve ever seen! So please, teach me how to fight!” she ended her plea as she stared at him with shining eyes, an eager expression on her muzzle.

Ganondorf blinked in befuddlement for a moment, not sure how to react to this new situation, before he started to think about her request. Should he bother humoring such a request? The mare did have some muscle already, which was a point in favor of it, and considering the magical strength enhancements all earth ponies seemed to have she probably could deal some adequate damage should she manage to hit her opponent, which was another point in her favor. Not to mention that the way she moved showed that she had absolutely no training whatsoever regarding how to fight, which while some would consider to be a point against in his opinion that was an overall positive, since it would mean she wouldn’t have the myriad of flaws and bad habits most students got from mediocre masters.

He pondered it for another moment, before he remembered that he would have to wait one way or another until the steel was ready and he could forge a new temporary blade, and as such had a day or two to waste, at minimum.

And besides, he had never taken an apprentice before, had he?

A fanged smirk slowly surfaced on his muzzle as he reached his decision. This could be interesting.

“What travesty is this?!” Wind Shriek snarled from the center of the formation, the grey pegasus’ features twisting between rage, incredulity and disgust as if the lieutenant could not decide what emotion was allowed to win over as their squadron drew nearer to the unknown pony.

The source of the stallion’s fierce reaction being the fact that the green pegasus who was placidly waiting atop a cloud as he gazed at them with nothing but idle curiosity on his gaze was carrying an earth pony foal atop his back.

Bolt himself could barely believe his eyes. After all, to carry somepony atop one’s back was a sign of both deep trust and familiarity. Something that hardly ever happened outside either family, be it by blood or not, or extremely close friends. And yet the image of the green pegasus carrying the yellow filly on his back still remained. An image that made Bolt inwardly wonder: Could this stranger be just like Wondrous Sky, only having not chosen to return to the Armada afterwards?

“Greetings, my name is Link and this is Singing Blossom,” the green stallion calmly introduced himself and his small hanger-on, who happily waved upon hearing her name. Neither outwardly reacted to the snarls and glares nearly all of Bolt’s squad mates were throwing their way. “And I fear I will need you to elaborate upon your question, since as it stands I do not think I can adequately answer it.”

“What the- What kind of nonsense are you spouting about?! What is your rank and file, soldier!” the lieutenant shrieked, clearly thrown for a loop regarding the green pony’s reaction, or lack thereof, to his words. “And what the buck are you doing out here?! We were supposed to be the farthest ranging squadron sent out by the Armada! And what do you think you are doing carrying that thing on your back as if you were a filthy ground pounder! Explain yourself immediately!”

His flight commander’s outburst was enough to break Bolt out of the daze the unexpected sight had caused him as he processed with a sinking feeling what exactly was happening.

Wind Shriek was right of course, there shouldn’t be any pegasi anywhere even near here, the Armada would never allow it. Not with the looming threat of war on the horizon. Which, he realized with a jolt as he uneasily took in the ever worsening glares the rest of his squad was giving the green pony, meant that, regardless of the stallion’s relation with the filly, there could be only one answer to how he was here, that he could only be one thing: a deserter.

“Very well, in the same order as your questions: I merely introduced myself and my companion and explained the lack of necessary details pertaining to your initial question, and I’m currently inspecting the clouds that remained from the storm I called forth earlier in order to better understand my body’s innate abilities,” Link calmly explained, his tone of voice showing he was apparently not fazed by how eleven of the twelve pegasi all around him were pointing their weapons towards him quite aggressively. “As for my rank and file? I fear that I possess neither and as such cannot offer them.”

As Wind Shriek sputtered in incoherent rage at the rogue pegasus’ nonchalant admission to not being a part of the Armada and as angry mutters of betrayer and deserter made their way through the squad, Bolt started to fidget with his wing-blades, quite uncomfortable with the direction where this was going, until with a sudden start he noticed to a particular point in Link’s speech.

“Wait! What do you mean, you called forth the storm?” Bolt blurted out, wondering if he had heard it wrong. He kept his gaze firm upon the odd pony, all the while doing his level best to try and ignore the death glare the lieutenant was throwing his way. “Are you saying you caused the storm earlier by yourself?”

“Yes,” was Link’s unruffled reply, the very slight tilt to his head silently adding that he didn’t understand why that was worthy of any notice, despite the fact that causing such a massive storm usually demanded a full weather team working together, minimum.

“You want us to believe you created that storm from scratch by yourself? A filthy, ground loving deserter?! Don’t make me laugh!” the grey coated lieutenant raged as he threateningly pointed his short sword straight towards the stallion’s chest. The action signaled for the rest of the squad to spread out in a half circle around the unlikely duo, weapons ready should he try to flee. “Now tell me what caused the rogue storm before your lies get added to your crimes!”

“But that’s the truth! There weren’t any clouds around and everypony was quite worried about the harvest because there was no rain, but then Link played a flute and then there was like a lot of clouds all around! And I really mean a lot! Like filling the whole sky, a lot! There were really that many! And then they kept getting darker and darker as he kept playing some really catchy song! And then it started to rain! It was awesome!” the little yellow filly happily interject, the deluge of information exiting her mouth in a single breath that forced everypony to try and decode what she had just said due to it’s sheer speed.

“What?” Wind Shriek demanded once again, now not only angry but also more than moderately confused. A feeling that was clearly shared by most of his squadron if one where to go by all their confused expressions.

And what exactly did she meant with, he called the storm forth by playing a flute?

“That’s what happened!” Singing helpfully added with a beaming smile.

“Be quiet mud-pony! Your betters are talking!” the lieutenant snapped at the tiny filly after having decided to simply ignore her words. The action caused her smile to disappear and Bolt to have to hide a wince as Singing’s eyes took on a sad shine.

“You are quite rude, aren’t you?” Link asked with a hint of displeasure, the ever present serene mask that had been firmly placed on his features since they had arrived now marred by the tiniest of frowns.

“Like I care about the opinion of a worthless deserter and a filthy mud-pony!” he snarled as he moved a few wing beats closer to the duo in as threatening a manner as he could manage, his teeth bared in a parody of a smile. “Now tell me what I want to know before I’m forced to convince you to do so!”

“Mister Link, why is he saying all those mean things?” the yellow filly asked with a small sniffle as the tense silence drew on. Her body lowered against the stallion’s back and half hid behind his neck.

Bolt felt another sharp wince as he heard her words. And as he took in the contemplative expression that briefly passed over Link’s features, as if he was now wondering how to explain the whole situation to Singing, he wondered about how the green pegasus would explain this to her. How he planned to explain to the little filly the ugly truth about the ever present racism and prejudices inherent to their tribe. The foolish hatred they harbored for those bound to the earth. How to express to such an innocent soul why a sentient being would choose, of their own free will, to persecute and harass another being for such petty and pointless reasons in a way that she could understand it.

After a moment’s pause the green pony nodded slightly, as if he had found out an appropriate answer. And so, Link gave the sad looking yellow filly a solemn look and spoke in a perfectly level and calm tone of voice.

“He is a very silly meany-pants,” he serenely intoned in the most perfect deadpan Bolt had ever heard.

The yellow coated filly made a silent oh of realization the moment the green pegasus finished his explanation, before she nodded her head in understanding from her perch. All the while, more than one pegasus nearly dropped their weapons in sheer incredulity at his words, the speechless looking lieutenant being no exception.

“Okay, that makes sense!” Singing exclaimed, apparently happy that that little mystery had been explained to her. The sight actually forced Bolt to bite his lip to contain a chuckle.

“You…! You dare mock me!” Wind Shriek yelled in outrage, now all but frothing at the mouth. “I will make you pay for this insult! Both of you!”

“You may try,” the stallion nonchalantly replied with a shrug of his wings, not even a single trace of worry at the threat in either his voice or body language. And for the second time in as many minutes, Bolt bore witness to his flight leader being rendered completely speechless once again.

“You- You think you can defeat us!? A fully trained pegasus squadron! Unarmed and carrying a ground bound filly at that!?” the grey coated stallion shrieked in both outrage and incredulity, a sentiment that was shared by quite a few of his followers. “Do you truly believe that?!”

“Yes,” the pegasus calmly stated, as if simply saying a universal truth.

And in the long moment of stunned silence that follow Link’s bold claim, Bolt noticed that there was not a single trace of arrogance or bluster in his words. The one word answer should have sounded juvenile at best, sheer insanity at worst, and yet, somehow, as he heard the absurd affirmative from the serene looking pony, Bolt felt a shiver run down his spine. The sheer, unshakable conviction held in that single word showed that the stallion not only fully believed his own words, but saw the whole thing as if a foregone conclusion, as unquestionable as the moon following the sun.

“Enough of this!” Wind Shriek snarled, fury clear in his eyes. “If words won’t get through that thick skull of yours then perhaps steel will!”

With a sinking feeling Bolt watched as his commander raced forth towards the pegasus placidly waiting atop his cloud, whom, the azure coated pony realized with a start, held a look of complete disinterest on his muzzle despite the charging warrior flying towards him.

“Singing, do hold tight, yes?” Link calmly said to his charge even as his steely blue eyes tracked Wind Shriek’s advance. “I do not wish to risk you falling.”

“Okay!” the filly readily agreed as she pressed herself tight against the stallion’s back and hugged his neck and mane with all of her earth pony strength.

Meanwhile the lieutenant had already crossed two thirds of the distance between them. And as he approached into striking distance he drew his sword back for a slashing strike meant to take down both the stallion and the filly on his back with a single blow.

Bolt wanted to close his eyes so as to not see what would undoubtedly come next, to see this senseless attack carried forth to its end. And yet, a sudden scream from his instincts told him in no uncertain terms that closing his eyes for even a moment while in the presence of the green pegasus would be a monumentally bad idea.

Wind Shriek slashed with his short sword as he unleashed a battle cry. The steel weapon darted towards its targets with the speed of a striking viper, ready to take them down in one fell swoop.

And then, Link moved.

Bolt gaped, utterly astonished, as during the single instant as the blade crossed the last few inches that had separated steel from flesh the stallion had somehow darted upwards with a wing beat so strong that the cloud beneath him had literally disintegrated due to the wind pressure, turned around in midair and, with an equally titanic wing beat, dove downwards towards the striking lieutenant. All of it in less time than it took to blink.

He watched for a brief moment as Wind Shriek’s satisfied face started to morph into confusion as he realized that his sword had cut nothing but air, the lieutenant clearly having not been able to even see his opponent’s movements as Link evaded his strike. An instant later, his look of confusion was quickly hidden from view by a swiftly descending green hoof as it struck the lieutenant with all the momentum of a small avalanche.

And so, Bolt and the rest of the squadron watched, mouths agape, the surreal sight of an unarmed rogue pegasus taking down a fully trained and armed lieutenant of the Armada. The later apparently had been rendered unconscious by the blow as he bonelessly fell towards the ground down below.

The fact the sight was accompanied by a loud, excited squeal that came from the tiny filly firmly pressed against Link’s back only made the whole situation even more surreal.

“Lieutenant Wind Shriek!” the squad’s second in command yelled in distress as she finally processed what had just happened before she turned her now snarling muzzle toward the green stallion serenely hovering amidst them all and snarled. “You bastard! You shall pay for this! Get him!”

But even as his remaining ten flight mates charged against Link and Singing with yells of rage, Bolt hesitated for a moment. Until, with a heavy sigh he followed. Even if he really didn’t want to do it and no matter how much it pained his heart to do so, he was still a pegasus of the Armada, and as such had a duty to fulfill, no matter how unsavory.

And so, with a heavy heart, he charged into the growing melee. Of course, the fact that his instincts kept screaming at him that this was a terrible idea also wasn’t really helping.

As she attentively listened while Ganondorf walked her through a very basic fighting stance he had said would allow her to better keep her balance and improve both her reaction speed and striking power, Forest Blossom wondered how exactly things had turned out this way.

“Good, remember to always keep your body firmly balanced and rooted to the ground, just like that,” the King of Thieves calmly instructed as he walked around the orange coated mare. “Fancy movements and showy tricks will just serve to get you killed if you don’t have a strong foundation!”

It had seemed such a golden opportunity. She had managed to make it so that she had spent the whole morning in the company of her hero, much to her enjoyment. And even better, Ganondorf seemed to have appreciated her presence too as she had guided him though the morning! He had even complimented her! Sure, it had been slightly odd being complimented about her helpfulness and for not being annoying, instead of her looks or such, but it was still a compliment!

The day had proceeded so well and without any hiccups too! She refused to acknowledge her mother’s light teasing about possibly becoming a grandmother as having happened at all. And as such, as they had proceeded to have lunch at a very beautiful, and far more importantly slightly isolated, clearing she had decided to try her luck. And so, Forest had gathered her courage and been moments away from asking if the stallion could maybe be interested in being her colt-friend.

Only to completely lose her nerve at the very last possible moment as she gazed at his beautiful golden eyes and abruptly changed what she had been about to say.

“Forward hooves further apart!” the brown coated stallion firmly instructed and Forest immediately obeyed, to her silent delight as he nodded in approval, his beautiful crimson mane fluttering on the wind.

She hadn’t meant to, but the truth was that in the heat of the moment she had panicked and brought forth the very first thing she had managed to think about! Which, considering Ganondorf’s exquisitely muscled form that had been right there in front of her, and his even greater battle prowess she had witnessed first hoof already, had unsurprisingly been his fighting ability.

She felt like she would die of embarrassment as she fumbled with her words like a filly to her first crush. The fact that she had never had a colt-friend before was tactfully ignored. And yet now that it was all said and done, despite it all, somehow things had actually ended up working better than she could have hoped for!

“Good! Do you see how it’s far harder to dislodge you from this position?” Ganondorf firmly asked as he pushed her at her sides with enough strength that he would have sent her tumbling had she been standing normally. The feeling of his hooves on her coat made a silly smile briefly appear on Forest muzzle, before she refocused on his instructions. She refused to let him down by not paying attention to his lessons! “That’s your foundation! Remember it always!”

The more that she thought about it the more she realized that her blunder was actually quite the stroke of genius! After all, in order to train her on how to fight properly Ganondorf would have to spend time alone with her! Not only would she learn how to defend herself and her family from the strongest earth pony she had ever seen, but she would also get to spend some quality time with him too without having to keep away what looked like every mare in the settlement that was currently single! A winning situation if she had ever seen one!

And seriously, couldn’t those mares take a hint already and leave them alone?! Forest felt that every single moment where she hadn’t been talking or helping her hero had been occupied by her having to drive the female hordes encroaching all around him back! Sure, Ganondorf was amazing, and extremely handsome, and incredibly strong. Basically a hero of legend given form, really. But that didn’t mean that everypony had to try and vie for his attention! But now that would no longer be an issue!

“Now then, slide your right hoof slightly forward and-“ but sadly for Forest, both her elated inner monologue and her beloved teacher’s lesson were both cut short as an out of breath Sure Shot burst forth from the underbrush with a slightly maniacal look in her eyes as she frantically scanned the area.

“Forest! I finally found you!” the village’s lone ranger shouted. All the while the orange coated mare narrowed her eyes as her alone time with Ganondorf was cut short by one of said single mares. “Why the buck did you decide to come to such a secluded clearing! I looked for you everywhere!

“No matter, have you seen that weird pegasus and your sister anywhere?!” the sea green mare rushed frantically asked as she approached them under her slightly miffed and Ganondorf lightly curious gazes. “They are nowhere to be found! I looked away for but a single moment, but now they are gone!”

“Calm down Sure Shot, they can’t have gone far,” Forest Blossom said with a tired sigh as she took in that her training session with her hero had been cut short because the ranger was apparently seeking Link and Singing without success.

“Oh, you would be surprised!” Ganondorf happily piped in as a fond smirk settled on his features. “Link can really move when he wants to!”

“So neither of you has seen them?” she once again asked through gritted teeth as faint twitch developed on her left eye.

“Sure Shot, seriously, calm down!” Forest once again stated as she took a step closer to the other mare in order to rest a comforting hoof over her withers, forgoing her slight annoyance at being interrupted due to the sorry state the other mare was in.

“Calm down? Calm down?! That menace is lose on our village completely unsupervised alone with a defenseless filly!” the sea green snapped, her light blue mane fraying at the edges as she did so. “How the buck am I to calm down!?”

Forest Blossom didn’t quite know how to reply to that. Especially since she was quite sure that Link wouldn’t do anything to her little sister, even if he was a pegasus. Thankfully she didn’t need to, as a loud voice from her side cheerfully interjected..

“If you are worried about the little one, then don’t be, the Kid won’t let anything happen to her,” Ganondorf nonchalantly said with a tiny smirk on his muzzle. “And believe me, very few things can get past him, and those very few that do tend to be kind of hard to miss as they approach, she’s perfectly safe.”

“You can’t know that! You cannot trust a pegasus, everypony knows that!” Sure Shot angrily replied as she took a forceful step towards the large stallion. “I don’t know why you risk doing so! That’s asking for him to stab you in the back!”

A moment of silence descended after the ranger’s words were over. As an uncomfortable looking Forest and an incredulous looking Ganondorf stared at the mare as she forcefully pointed towards the brown stallion with a hoof. A moment of silence that was shattered immediately afterwards by a loud boisterous laugh, as the King of Thieves simply threw his head backwards and roared with laughter.

“Link, stabbing me in the back?” the stallion managed to incredulously ask amidst bouts of laughter. All the while both mares looked at him not knowing how to react as he pounded the ground due to his mirth. “The Kid would never stab me in the back! The mere thought of it is simply preposterous!”

“But- but- You simply cannot trust a pegasus! Everypony knows that!” Sure Shot tried once again to make Ganondorf see sense, a flustered and confused look on her muzzle.

“Look lady, I don’t know what your problem with the winged ponies is, and frankly I don’t really care, but let’s get something perfectly straight,” he mirthfully stated as he wiped a tear from his eye and gave her a very amused look. “Link is the kind of guy that will draw the blade in full view right in front of you, salute you with it, and then look you right in the eye as he proceeds to impale it right through your guts.

“Believe me; I know that from personal experience. That’s just the type of guy he is! Really, Link stabbing me in the back, what a ridiculous idea!” he continued as he fought back a stray laugh, as if what Sure Shot had said was the funniest thing he had heard in ages. All the while Forest simply stared in utter confusion as she tried to make sense of what her hero was talking about, something that was not helped as he continued to speak. “Zelda on the other hoof, now that is a whole other beast altogether!

“The Princess would never hesitate to take advantage of such an opening, not in the slightest!” he proudly proclaimed, as if it was something to boast about, as he nodded in apparent approval. “It probably has something to do with her ending up being raised by that little ninja cult thing that tends to gravitate around her family, but nonetheless she can be downright vicious in a fight! It truly is a thing of beauty!”

“What?” Sure Shot finally asked after a long and uncomfortable moment of silence. Both mares now even more confused and befuddled than before.

A state of affairs that was aggravated even further as the topic was brought to an unexpected end due to the fact that an armored pegasus suddenly crashed against the ground, hard, but a few steps away from their position.

Both mares jumped in fright at the sudden appearance of the apparently unconscious pony, before they cautiously approached him in order to see what had happened. Meanwhile, as they checked the clearly injured pony’s current state of health, Ganondorf chose instead to look upwards as he searched from where their newest interloper had sprung from.

“Found them,” Ganondorf cheerfully said to the two mares as his eyes locked on something high up above. And as Forest followed his gaze after confirming that the pegasus was still alive, if sporting quite a few broken bones from the fall, she saw the mess of colorful feathery blurs that were apparently trying, and failing, to pin down a frighteningly fast green blur up above. A frighteningly fast green blur that seemed to have a tiny yellow dot on his back.

“Singing!” she shouted with a start, as she realized that quite a few pegasi were apparently attacking both her sister and Link high up above.

“Eeyup, that’s them alright,” Ganondorf calmly stated as he shaded his eyes with a hoof in order to better see the distant confrontation before he added with a slightly irritated grumble. “The Kid always had a gift for finding the fun first. Now if only he chose to share it instead of hogging it all for himself…”

“Filthy feather-brains!” Sure Shot snarled as she unslung her bow and nocked an arrow with the ease of long practice before she started to take careful aim at the darting pegasi.

“You will never hit them with that little stick thrower of yours, not at this distance. You know that, right?” Ganondorf bluntly stated, not even trying to mince his words in the slightest. The fact he didn’t particularly like bows, what with how often they tended to be used to take him out, made sure of that. “Even if you had the necessary strength to send an arrow that high, the wood of the bow would shatter the moment you put the necessary force into the string.”

“And what do you suggest we do then, throw a tree at them?!” Sure Shot bit back in annoyance even as she loosened the tension on the bow’s string slightly as she realized the truth of his words.

“Nah, those aren’t anywhere near aerodynamic enough for such a long distance shot,” he nonchalantly replied as his eyes briefly surveyed the open clearing where they were currently in. “Such a projectile would veer off course long before reaching its mark.”

“What?” the ranger asked in confusion, only to be ignored by the stallion as he huffed in slight annoyance as he mumbled about the lack of rocks of all things.

“So what do we do?” Forest hurriedly asked with a hint of panic as her eyes tracked the distant figure of her sister. They had to be able to somehow help! She refused to be powerless again as Singing was placed in danger!

“We make do, obviously,” Ganondorf deadpanned, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world as he raised his right hoof. “Can’t let the Kid hog all the fun, after all!”

The moment the last word left his mouth the Wielder of Power brought his hoof downwards in a stomp, hard.

The very next moment Forest found herself fighting to keep her balance as she reflexively tried to retake the stance Ganondorf had been teaching her moments earlier. All the while the ground below their hooves heaved and rumbled as the earth itself shattered along dozens of deep fissures that sprung forth from the large stallion’s right hoof.

“What the buck?” Sure Shot asked in a barely audible whisper as she slowly rose from the now shattered ground as she stared wide eyed at the pony that had somehow caused a miniature earthquake with a single stomp of his hoof.

“Now this is more like it!” Ganondorf cheerfully exclaimed as he completely ignored the ranger’s question, all the while raising a large chunk of earth and roots larger than his head from the ground as if it weighted less than a feather. “Now this is a lesson to remember, Forest. When in doubt, improvise!”

Forest Blossom mechanically nodded her head, her mind still trying to process exactly how strong her hero really was. Sure Shot in the other hoof was slightly less poleaxed, or at the very least hadn’t lost her words due to the feeling.

“And what exactly do you plan to do with that? Throw it at them!?”

“Exactly!” he easily confirmed as he drew his hoof backwards while taking careful aim with his unwieldly large impromptu projectile.

The sea green mare opened her mouth once more, but whatever she was about to say never passed her lips as Ganondorf threw the large chunk of compacted dirt upwards with enough force to cause a sudden gale to whip around the clearing and force her to take a step backwards.

Several more gusts of wind ravaged the area as her hero threw his projectiles against those who would dare to threaten her family. And as her eyes greedily drank his perfectly muscled form as it moved with divine precision to create this impossible feat of pure undiluted power, Forest realized two things. One, her cheeks were once again hued the crimson of a blazing sunset, and two, getting Ganondorf to agree to teach her how to fight had indeed been a stroke of genius.

“Watch out!”

Link dodged a charging sword bearing pegasus with a small tilt of his body before, with a single beat of his wings, he rose upwards just in time to avoid two more charging fliers and their spear thrusts and turned around just in time to place himself in the perfect position to buck a fourth winged pony that had been attempting to blindside him right on the jaw. All the while he made sure to keep a weather eye on the little filly on his back ensuring her hold was still firm and that no harm had come even close to her.

“Hey, Link! There is another one there!”

Corkscrewing to the right he left behind a diving foe, his snarled curses and the delighted squeal from his companion. That was followed by another strong wing beat to propel him forward so that he could tackle the charging foe right in front of him before he could position himself correctly. His left hoof made said enemy’s helmeted head ring like a gong, the blow apparently enough to render the helmet owner unconscious as he dropped to the ground. He then folded his wings slightly, dropping a couple of inches as he avoided two other attackers while reflexively making sure Singing was still centered on his back.

“Wow, did you see that!”

All the while he heard with half an ear to the constant flux of blabber that came from said companion’s mouth, as Singing excitedly talked about his charging opponents, from their position and movements to their coat colors and how shiny some of their weapons and armor were.

He dodged a snarling red pegasus wielding a longsword by the smallest of margins, before weaving around a charging purple one with a spear in just the right way to position himself to strike another brown one with what looked like blades strapped to the tip of his wings with a strong buck straight to the chest.

“Hey, Link, are you listening?”

One would think that having someone constantly babbling inane things at one’s ear mid combat would be quite distracting and annoying, but Link didn’t really mind, nor was he even slightly bothered by it. Point in fact, truth be told, as far as he was concerned it was actually quite nostalgic.

It reminded him of Navi, and Tatl, and Midna, and Fi, and quite a few more companions who he had partnered up with in one past life or another. Whom, one and all, for some odd reason, felt like every single moment of silence had to be filled with chatter regardless of what was happening in said moment, or if the topic of discussion was even remotely appropriate or not.

“Watch out!”

Two more wing beats took him out of the range of his opponents, even as it also prevented him from striking at his intended target. He followed with an appraising eye the azure colored pony who had quickly proven himself to be the best combatant on the group by a far margin.

He was an azure blue pony with a very bright neon green mane and a winged lightning bolt as his cutie mark, whose weapon of choice was one of those interesting looking wing-blades. And, far more importantly, he was the only one of his opponents whose speed and agility he deemed to be acceptable.

As he evaded three more strikes and downed another of the pegasi in a single heartbeat, the Wielder of Courage reasoned that the rest of the attackers weren’t exactly bad per se. There were simply… lackluster, that was all.

“Hey, Link! Did you see that?”

And so, in the sea of mediocrity all around him, the lone blue pegasus shone like a small star. His movements sharp, precise and contained, and all of it enveloped by both skill and an obviously clear head.

Of course, the fact that he was the only of the pegasi not snarling and cursing, or that he seemed to refuse even attempting to strike Link in the back where Singing was, to the point that twice he had aborted an attack run upon noticing that it would lead him towards where the filly was, also served to draw the Chosen Hero’s attention.

It was a strange contrast, the one between the collected blue warrior and the group of snarling minions all around him. One that Link found himself contemplating as he dodged a very well executed series of strikes from said azure pony before he opened space between then with a series of rapid wing beats, weaved around two other pegasi and downed them with two hard strikes to the back of the helmeted heads.

“Watch out!”

His companion’s warning, alongside a faint whistling sound coming from below, made Link choose to temporarily shelve that particular train of thought as he darted upwards and away from the remaining pegasi. He was just in time to see three of their number hit by large brown projectiles that were traveling at very respectable speeds and burst into explosive showers of dirt upon contact.

“Artillery strike!” a mare shouted as she attempted to evade the sudden barrage by flying upwards, only to apparently forget the slightly bemused green pegasus who had gotten there first.

A few very confused moments passed, filled with speeding chunks of earth sailing through the air, panicked shouting, frantic pegasi trying and failing to escape to an higher altitude, and a green blur zipping and weaving around it all and adding to the general confusion.

Afterwards, as the sudden onslaught drew to a close, only three ponies remained amidst the endless sky. Link, Singing and the azure blue pegasus.

Link watched his opponent for a moment as he allowed him to regain his breath after the frantic dodging of moments earlier, before the Wielder of Courage decided to try and sate his curiosity.

“Thrice you abandoned excellent attack venues upon noticing they would endanger Singing, I would like to ask you why?” Link asked, curious for the warrior’s reasoning for doing so. For, while the Hero knew that he would have been able to either block or dodge said attacks before they could harm his charge, his opponent had no way of knowing so.

“I have no desire to hurt a young innocent, no matter the circumstances,” the pony answered after a brief moment of consideration as his eyes took in Link’s form, a hint of approval hidden beneath his steely eyes.

“You do not condone your leader’s actions,” Link stated, instead of asked, as his suspicion about the warrior in front of him were slowly confirmed.

“Yes, but that changes nothing,” he simply stated, his voice strong and unwavering but lacking even a single trace of hate or anger. “I’m a pegasus of the Armada and they are my squad. Regardless of who leads our flight, or what I think about their actions, it’s my duty to aid them and keep them safe.”

“I understand,” The Wielder of Courage answered with a shallow nod of approval. He could acknowledge such drive and sense of honor, even as he inwardly pitied the pegasus for the fact he had ended up saddled with someone unworthy of his loyalty. “My name is Link, may I know the name of the one I face?”

“Wonder Bolt, that’s my name,” the azure coated pony replied with the tiniest of smiles on his muzzle, a smile that remained even as he tensed his wings and prepared himself to re-start their fight. “And for what’s worth, I commend your speed and skill, brother.”

“Likewise,” Link honestly stated as he likewise prepared himself. He knew that Bolt had to be aware that he would be unable to match Link’s speed. That he had to know about the gap in skill between them by this point and how large it was.

And yet he refused to even attempt to retreat, choosing instead to face his foe with everything he got and more. Knowing that should he fail, that at the very least he had done his very best and that he could go down with no regrets. Link could respect such courage.

“You know, despite it all, I’m happy to have met you, Link,” Wonder Bolt said, his small smile still firm on his muzzle even as he started to beat his wings, body tensed and ready to charge at a moment’s notice. “To know that there are others like us, who saw past the barrier of our tribes, it brings me hope.”

“Oh?” Link answered, head tilted to the side slightly in curiosity even as his wings remained tensed and ready to launch him forward and his eyes remained locked on his opponent’s form.

“Yes, to say that to one’s opponent. Funny isn’t it? “ Bolt said as he let out a self deprecating laugh, all the while his wings tensed in kind as he kept his own eyes fully focused on Link’s form, ready to move. “I wonder-“

But whatever words would have followed remained unknown, for the very next moment a swift brown blur suddenly connected against the azure coated pegasus with explosive force, showering Link’s surprised form with pebbles and dirt.

Link blinked in befuddled surprised once as he watched his opponent plummet towards the ground, clearly unconscious. He blinked once again as he took in the boisterously cheering brown coated earth pony down bellow that was surrounded by large chunks of earth waiting to serve as ammunition, before his companion’s words finally brought him back to the present.

“Ouch, that’s got to hurt!” Singing Blossom earnestly stated as she peeked past Link’s neck as she followed Wonder Bolt’s form as it hit the ground with a muted thump.

“Indeed,” he simply replied, eyes never straying from Ganondorf’s form down below. All the while a small, irritated frown bypassed his usually serene facade.

X - Crashed Course

View Online

Crashed Course

As he idly took in the sight of the unconscious bodies of the pegasi littering the clearing all around him with a very self satisfied smirk firm on his muzzle, Ganondorf calmly rolled his shoulders in order to make sure he hadn’t sprained anything. He was quite happy with the knowledge his aim hadn’t rusted overmuch in this new form. True, a few of his impromptu projectiles had missed the speeding targets, but in the end he had gotten them all, which he decided was a satisfactory result, all in all.

Satisfied everything was in order, he turned towards the only other currently conscious occupants of the clearing. A slightly bemused look briefly crossed his looks as he took in the two mares’ forms.

“That’s not possible,” Sure Shot woodenly mumbled in a barely audible whisper at his side, her head mechanically moving between the few remaining chunks of compacted dirt that had served the King of Thieves as ammunition, the downed warriors that had been hit by said chunks of dirt, and finally towards the deep fissure the Dark Lord had created in order to produce said ammunition, a look of utter shock on her features. “That’s simply not possible…”

Ganondorf paused for a moment to take in the ranger’s shocked mutterings, before he decided he would rather not deal with whatever her problem was now. A brief look of confusion passed across his features as he wondered what the mare’s problem even was, before he dismissed the thought as inconsequential altogether and turned towards Forest, intent on asking her what she had in her basket for dessert. A good fight always helped him work up an appetite, after all.

A green blur suddenly all but materialized right in front of him, as Link apparently decided to return to solid ground, causing him to stop short.

The King of Thieves took in the tiny frown marring the face of the Hero standing but a few inches away from him with keen interest. He knew that the Kid wasn’t usually one to wear his heart on his sleeve, so that tiny frown was easily comparable to an outright scowl when placed upon the green wonder’s form, which was highly unusual for the pegasus and made him question what could have caused it.

Though, now that he thought about it, could he even still use that expression when he hadn’t even seen a pony wearing clothing yet? Did the ponies even use clothing for that matter?

“Hi, Mister Ganondorf! How are you doing?” Singing cheerfully asked as she popped up from atop the lightly scowling pegasus, which made him shove that stray train of thought aside in favor of answering the adorable little fluff-ball. “Did you see how fast Link was flying? It was really fun!”

“Doing fine, squirt. And I bet it was,” he chuckled as he raised a hoof in order to lightly pet the filly’s mane, all the while conspicuously ignoring the pissed Hero that currently served as her steed. He would deal with that later, if he had anything to say about it. An angry Kid was even more annoying than an angry Princess, after all. “So, how did you enjoy your first battle?”

“It was awesome! Did you see when-” she started to answer, before an orange blur materialized next to her and interrupted the filly with a shout.

“Singing!” Forest shouted as she snatched the tiny filly off Link’s back and hugged her for all that she was worth. “Don’t ever do anything like that again! Do you know how worried I was?!”

“Forest, did you see how mister Link took care of those silly meany-pants? It was awesome! We were flying so fast, and they were everywhere, and trying to fly as fast as we were flying, but we were still faster! And then that blue one that was almost as fast as mister Link came and...” the yellow filly started to excitedly regale her older sister with the tale of the epic showdown between the Kid and the other pegasi, not really noticing her sister’s admonishments for being part of said battle.

Ganondorf took in the scene with an amused look for a brief moment, naturally one’s first battle was a memory to preserve and cherish, before he turned back toward the still unimpressed looking Hero as he silently bemoaned the loss of his tiny yellow shield against annoying talks.

“So Kid, what’s the problem now?” he bluntly asked as he decided to tackle the problem head on. Partly out of practicality, so that they could move on and deal with the problem and partly out of sheer curiosity, since he wasn’t quite sure what had annoyed the green wonder this time.

Link, for his part, simply raised an unimpressed eyebrow before briefly glancing towards the downed pegasi sprawled across the ground and the few remaining ‘rocks’ scattered to the side, before he once more focused his gaze upon the Dark Lord’s form.

“What? It’s not like you were in any danger of being hit! I knew you could avoid those attacks easily!” he firmly stated as he guessed that Link maybe hadn’t been amused by him joining the battle unannounced. Oh sure, he hadn’t purposely aimed at the Kid, but he also hadn’t truly bothered making sure he wasn’t inside the line of fire before throwing the damn things. Why would he bother doing so, when he knew that it would take something far faster than that to strike a ranged attack at the infuriatingly quick Wielder of Courage?

However, the lack of reaction from the Hero clearly showed that wasn’t the case.

As he tuned out the admonishment slash story telling happening between the Blossom sisters, he raised a hoof to his chin as he pondered what could be bothering the Kid then… until he suddenly realized that Link hadn’t exactly gazed at the pegasi as a whole, but at the azure coated pegasus that had been able to avoid his first onslaught specifically.

The azure coated pegasus he had nailed straight in the chest as he apparently prepared himself for a doomed last stand against the Kid.

“Seriously? That’s what this is about?” he grumbled as he forcefully pointed towards the blue pegasus. The way that the green wonder very slightly narrowed his eyes told Ganondorf that he had hit the proverbial bull’s eye this time.

“Come on Kid! He was monologuing!” he firmly stated with a hint of exasperation. The Kid knew this stuff after all, so why was he being forced to explain this to him? “That’s basically asking for someone to hit you! You know that!”

If you started to monologue mid-battle you were either skilled enough to compensate for it and deal with the inevitable sneak attack that would surely follow, or you deserved to be hit. There was no third option, it was that simple! Everybody knew that!

They stared at each other for a long moment, before with a slow sigh the Hero gave a barely perceptible nod of his head as he acknowledged the Dark Lord’s words. Ganondorf nodded in kind with a small smile, before he noticed that the Kid was still sporting a small, barely visible frown.

“Really Kid, he can’t have been that good if he got hit like that,” he added, as he tried to understand why Link wasn’t letting the topic go already. “Sure, from what I saw he had a modicum of skill and lasted longer than the rest, but that’s not saying much.”

“He had some potential,” Link simply stated. The very brief answer actually managed to bring Ganondorf short as he gazed at the downed flyer with renewed interest. Link was easily the one with the greater martial knowledge of their dysfunctional little trio, so the Kid saying the stallion had some potential was basically the same as the Princess saying someone was moderately intelligent or him saying someone was kind of strong. In other words, a massive understatement.

“You!!! What the buck did you think you were doing dragging a little filly into that whole mess!?!” Sure Shot outright snarled as she all but shoved a steel tipped arrow between the green pegasus’ eyes, an action that sadly cut their previous line of conversation short just as it started to get interesting, to the Dark Lord’s slight annoyance. “And what were those pegasi doing here anyway!? What are you feather-brains planning!?!”

Well, at least she was no longer sporting the pole axed look she had acquired after he had thrown the first salvo of his attack. Though the look of apoplectic rage she was now sporting wasn’t much of an improvement, in Ganondorf’s opinion.

“I told the elder that you couldn’t be trusted!” she kept up her rant, not really noticing that Link was calmly stretching his wings in order to make sure he hadn’t strained anything during the aerial battle, and not paying much mind to the arrow less than an inch away from his head. “I don’t know what trick you are trying to pull, but-“

Thankfully her rant was cut short as an incongruous popping sound resounded through the clearing, an annoyingly familiar popping sound at that. The tiny sound somehow overtook all other noises in the clearing as it was clearly heard by them all.

He turned his head towards the origin of the sound, an action that was imitated by all his fellow ponies. The origin of the familiar sound actually was the azure coated pegasus that had grabbed the Kid’s interest. Or more specifically, the swirling pink fairy that was now swiftly flying all around his unconscious body.

Ganondorf watched with a raised eyebrow as the tiny familiar pink form started to swirl around the downed warrior faster and faster, before it finally disappeared from sight completely as it left nothing but glowing sparkles behind.

That, and causing the formerly downed pegasus to start to get up with a loud pained groan, as he started to massage his head as if to fight off a headache as he stood upon no longer broken legs.

The mares at his side reacted to the sight of the, apparently no longer injured, warrior returning to wakefulness with shouts of surprise, exclaimed curses, and the re-aiming of a bow and arrow towards a target against which the weapon could actually serve for something, besides amusing him that is.

But all that was but a brief flight of fancy that occupied but the tiniest of portions of the mind of the King of Thieves. The rest of his vast intellect focused instead upon a far more pertinent matter.

“Okay, how exactly did he get a fairy?” he bluntly asked as he marched towards the azure coated pony, an interested light in his eyes.

As he massaged his brow in a vain attempt to alleviate the massive headache that was currently hammering against his brain, Wonder Bolt wondered what the buck had just happened.

He remembered being about to charge against Link, ready to put his all into a final clash he knew he simply wouldn’t be able to win, but refused to dishonor both himself and his opponent by fleeing from it. And then something large and brown had suddenly occupied the entirety of his field of vision, an oddity that was immediately followed by quite a bit of pain as he felt quite a few of his bones breaking like dry twigs, before he passed out.

Wonder Bolt let out a loud groan as he pushed himself back to his hooves. Though this groan wasn’t born out of pain, but of sheer embarrassment as he realized what had most likely happened. He had gotten so engrossed with talking with Link that he had completely forgotten that there was apparently a crazy pony down bellow that had already downed quite a few of his squad mates with thrown rocks, of all things.

But of course, that little realization brought forth the very important question as to how exactly he was actually standing right now, apparently fine, save for the splitting migraine pounding against his skull, when he had been sporting broken bones moments earlier. And it was mere moments, he was sure of that, the battered unconscious forms of the rest of his squad all around him proved that.

“Don’t you bucking move, do you hear me!” an angry shout resounded far too close to his currently far too sensitive ears, which brought his former train of thought to a crashing halt in favor of far more important topics. “I don’t know what you and the rest of your feathered menaces were planning, but it ends now!”

Like the steel tipped arrow he could see was now pointed right between his eyes.

“…Okay?” the azure coated pony hesitantly answered as he did his level best to remain stationary as he took in the sea green earth pony mare that was wielding the bow. The way her eyes were twitching and their slight manic look easily convinced the pegasus scout that obeying her right now was probably a good idea.

“Well, I’ll be. Hey Kid, isn’t this one of yours?” a loud boisterous voice asked right next to him in a nonchalant manner before casually but firmly shoving him forward. This in turn forced him to stumble a couple of steps in order to regain his balance as he nearly fell right at said bow wielding mare.

“I told you not to move!” the ranger shouted once more as she grasped her bow with enough strength that Bolt could actually hear the wood groan in protest.

He felt cold sweat start to pour down his back as the nocked arrow wobbled one way and then the other as it came dangerously close to getting loose. But even as he gulped in worry, he started to tense his legs and wings. Sure, the arrow was way too close for him to do much of anything about it, but by the great winds he sure as buck wouldn’t simply stay still as a crazy mare turned him into a pincushion!

“Lady, give it a rest would you? And drop your little stick thrower before you poke someone’s eye out,” the same loud voice from before said in an equally nonchalant tone of voice. All the while a large brown hoof moved forward and pushed the bow downwards, so that the arrow was now pointed towards the ground.

Wonder Bolt followed the hoof back towards its owner, only to feel his eyes widen as he did so, suddenly finding himself gazing at what had to be the largest pony he had ever seen. A huge brown earth pony stood almost a head higher than anypony else in the clearing and sported an intimidating amount of muscle on his body.

That explained why the pegasus had thought he had briefly glimpsed what seemed to be a pony of all things throwing the rocks against him and his fellow flight mates as he dodged said rocks. Though at the time, he had dismissed the sight as a trick of the light caused by the high speed maneuvers he had been forced to undertake. No one could be strong enough to throw a rock that high without either a lot of magic or some kind of contraption.

That is, unless you were a mountain of muscle that looked capable of crushing a gryphon warrior in half with ease, armor and all.

“So, Kid, is this one of yours or not?” the intimidating large stallion cheerfully asked as he showed something that glinted in the light to somepony further behind. All the while he ignored the sputtered protests and curses the ranger threw his way.

The appearance of a known forest green pony as he approached to better look at the object was both a relief and a source of worry for the warrior of the Armada. On one hoof he knew the stallion to be honorable, so that was a plus if he was being taken prisoner or something. But on the other, he could barely keep up with Link even in the best of circumstances, so adding him to the mountain of muscle and the twitchy ranger meant that Bolt was well and truly done for if things turned violent.

Though the way the twitchy ranger was now pointing her bow and arrow towards Link’s form as she screeched at him was confusing. All the while he calmly talked with the mountain of muscle as if nothing was wrong. It made Bolt wonder if they were really allies or not.

That, and he questioned who exactly had had the brilliant idea of giving a bow and arrow to the clearly unbalanced mare that now had a vein pulsing on her brow as she clearly debated with the idea of shooting the arrow at the serene looking pegasus’ head.

Bolt stared with confused bemusement, and more than a little trepidation, as the two stallions kept talking about what he now could see was the bottle he had found earlier, though the pink light bug had apparently escaped somewhere during his crash landing. Well the big brown one was talking, Link basically just nodded and answered with monosyllabic sounds, both of them apparently not being bothered in the least by the irate armed ranger less than a foot away from them.

This was shaping up to be a very weird day.

“Hi, how are you doing? Your name is Wonder Bolt, right? That was what you told mister Link up there at least, so I think that’s your name! Unless you pegasi do it differently or something.” Until a tiny yellow blur suddenly materialized itself right in front of him and blocked his vision of the odd sight with its fuzzy bouncing form. “Do pegasi have more than one name? Does that mean that mister Link has another name too? Why would you do that? Sounds really confusing if you ask me!”

Wonder Bolt wasn’t exactly proud to say that it took him a few very confused moments to realize that the little hyperactive yellow blur was the same filly Link had been carrying around during the battle as he faced off against his entire squad. He still wasn’t sure he believed it to have happened, despite the fact he had seen, and experienced, it with his very own eyes.

“So what’s your other name? Wonder Bolt is a nice name so I’m sure it’s very nice too! Oh, I’m Singing Blossom by the way!” the little filly continued in a rapid fire manner as she gave him a huge beaming smile. “Nice to meet you!”

“Nice to meet you too,” the scout confusedly replied in an automatic manner as he considered the whole situation, the apparently miraculous lack of other pain he was currently feeling, and the headache that still hammered his skull, and he wondered if perhaps he wasn’t suffering from a concussion.

“Singing, get back here this instant!” an orange coated earth pony mare hissed as she grabbed the small filly and put her atop her back. All the while she kept a distrustful eye upon the pegasus.

“Why?” Singing curiously asked as she popped up from the side of the mare’s neck, apparently not understanding that the older earth pony wanted to keep her hidden from view. “Oh, this is my sister Forest Blossom! Forest, this is Wonder Bolt!

“Or at least I think that’s his name. He may have another one, but it’s apparently a secret name, which is cool but also kinda weird!” Singing happily continued as she rested her chin atop one hoof as she thought about the mysteries of pegasus naming conventions, completely unaffected by her sister’s exasperated look. “But, even if that’s not his real name, Wonder Bolt was the only not meany-pants pegasus we met up there. So he is still nice, even if he won’t tell me his secret name!”

“What?” Forest Blossom simply asked, the look in her eyes clearly showed she was more than a bit lost. Wonder Bolt didn’t blame her though; he currently felt the exact same way.

“Oh, yeah, that reminded me! I wanted to ask you something!” she excitedly exclaimed as she all but jumped in place atop her sister’s back. “So, I was wondering: did being hit by that rock mister Ganondorf threw and then falling to the ground hurt? Because it really, really looked like it hurt! But now you are standing around just fine, so maybe it didn’t hurt that much?”

“…I guess?” he hesitantly spoke after a moment of silence, not really knowing how to answer the question. The fact that he himself didn’t even have the slightest idea of how exactly he was fine already after being hit by what felt like a siege engine and falling from the height he had been at really didn’t help in that regard.

Forest Blossom opened her mouth, either to retort his words or ask for further clarification, Bolt wasn’t sure which, before their attention was captured by a loud reverberating sound that echoed through the clearing. A sound as if a tense bow string was released, a sound that was immediately followed by an even louder manic shout.

“And how the buck do you keep doing that?!?”

He swiftly turned towards the clearly unhinged bow wielder, more than a little worried about what exactly he would find as he realized that she had just shot her arrow, only to stop short and blink in confusion as he took in the very odd sight before his eyes.

“What the hay?” he mumbled in a barely audible whisper as he watched as the mare ranted and raged at Link’s utterly unruffled form, his utterly unruffled form that was calmly holding an arrow on his left hoof. “Did he just catch that arrow?”

“Yeah, he does that,” Forest answered in an equally quiet voice, her own confusion clear in her eyes for a moment before she visibly shook herself as her eyes landed upon the openly smirking large earth pony who was apparently enjoying the show, at which point her confused look was replaced by a dreamy smile.

Wonder Bolt, proud scout and warrior of the Pegasus Armada, took it all in, everything that had already happened and kept happening, and came to a simple conclusion.

This was indeed shaping up to be a very, very weird day.

A blue flash blinded everything all around him for a brief moment, and as sight returned to his eyes Old Oak confirmed that he was indeed at the small secluded clearing at the border between the village and the forest.

A clearing that was a good ten to fifteen minutes walk from his cabin.

“My word!” the elder exclaimed as he tentatively took a step forward. Confirming that he was indeed at the clearing, despite the fact he had been at his house mere instants ago!

When the Blossom sisters had rushed into his home talking about wounded pegasi at said clearing, Old Oak had immediately started to gather what herbs, tinctures and poultices he had on hoof in order to go and help deal with the situation. For even if the presence of the forces of the Armada so close to the village filled him with questions, he was still the only trained apothecary for several miles, and as such he was duty bound to at least try to help.

But, he had accepted a neatly organized and surprisingly well packed saddlebag that contained clean bandages and rags from Zelda, and answered affirmatively that he was ready to go, as she said she would take them to the clearing. As he answered affirmatively he had expected them to rush to the door, not for the unicorn mare to light up her horn and teleport them right to the clearing!

“That was awesome!” Singing joyfully exclaimed from her perch atop a surprised looking Forest. The older Blossom sister quietly mumbled about something the old stallion could barely hear, though Old Oak could discern the words ‘impossible’ and ‘trio’ amidst whatever she was mumbling.

“Zelda my dear, you truly are a mare of many talents, aren’t you?” he half asked, half stated, as he took in the fact that the white coated mare wasn’t even sweating after casting a spell the elder knew that very few unicorns even knew, much less could actually cast without passing out: Teleportation.

“Time is of the essence when dealing with those injured by accidents or in battle. And so, even if the initial report states there are no critical cases, it is best to not tarry,” the mare answered in a very professional tone of voice, as she started to trot towards the center of the clearing where the other ponies where situated. Meanwhile, she gave him a small smile and a short apologetic nod. “Though, that does not excuse the lack of warning prior to me casting the spell. Not seeking your prior agreement was quite rude of me. You have my sincere apologies.”

“They are unneeded but nonetheless accepted, my dear,” the stallion answered with a small smile as he trotted after the unicorn. “For you are quite right that the faster we can aid the injured the better.”

“Nice entrance, Princess!” Ganondorf loud boisterous voice resounded in greeting as he lazily nodded towards their group as they approached. A large smile was firm on his muzzle. “I see you haven’t lost your aim with those fancy tricks of yours!”

“It’s not like you and Link are even trying to mask your presences, Ganondorf,” Zelda drily replied with an eye roll as she stopped in front of the large earth pony. “The mere fact that you’d imply that I could ever miss such an obvious target is an insult.”

“Oh, I would never insult such an august mage such as you in such a manner! After all…” the King of Thieves shot right back as his smile somehow grew even larger despite how his words garnered an outright scoff from the unicorn mare.

Old Oak stopped next to the odd duo as he gave a small nod of greeting to a placidly waiting Link, an unknown but clearly confused pegasus and a rather frazzled looking Sure Shot. A part of his mind pondered about prescribing some calming teas to the ranger, the mare looked like she needed it, even as a larger part of it took in the easy back and forth banter between the unicorn and the earth pony with delighted incredulity. It was something that always happened as he saw the strange trio friendly interacting with each other without a single regard to their different tribes.

“…but that’s irrelevant, and you know it,” Zelda finished with a tone of finality and a small glare for good measure, before she once more adopted a more professional tone of voice. “Very well then, Ganondorf, what exactly did you do this time?”

“Why do you immediately think this is my fault?” the Dark Lord loudly protested, though Old Oak easily noticed from both his tone of voice and body language that he wasn’t even remotely offended by Zelda’s words.

Instead of answering, the Wielder of Wisdom simply looked first towards the destroyed and cratered earth, and then to the dozens of large and very heavy looking chunks of earth neatly arranged as if waiting to serve as ammunition and finally to the beaten and battered looking pegasi who were scattered all around the clearing, before she turned back towards the Wielder of Power and raised a single unimpressed eyebrow.

“Okay, point,” Ganondorf grudgingly conceded before continuing to banter and argue in the manner only old time friends could. “But I’ll have you know that I didn’t start it this time! By the time I joined in the fray the Kid had already downed a few of them! So there!”

Zelda kept her gaze locked with Ganondorf for a moment, before she tilted her head slightly to the side in order to look straight at said green pegasus in silent question.

“They were quite rude,” Link calmly replied with a small nod and a serene smile on his muzzle, as if the short answer explained everything there was to be explained about the whole situation.

“Of course they were,” Zelda agreed with a long exasperated sigh, the look on her face showed that she didn’t know if she would rather laugh at the whole mess or facehoof at it. The feeling was apparently shared by the azure coated pegasus next to Link.

“Very well then, let’s see what we have here,” the unicorn stated as she clearly pushed the whole situation out of her mind, turning towards the downed ponies, and bathed both her horn and their bodies in the blue glow of her magic.

The elder simply stood there and watched with wide eyes the show of magical skill and might for a moment as he idly wondered how many arch-mages could replicate the arcane feat Zelda was so effortlessly doing before his very eyes. It was only a moment before Ganondorf’s gruff voice brought him back from his musings.

“What’s it, Kid?” Ganondorf curiously inquired as he gazed at Link, as the green pony stared towards the northwest with a hint of curiosity in his eyes.

“It has gotten colder,” the pegasus simply replied, as his eyes never strayed from the cloudless horizon. And, as he heard the words, Old Oak realized that the young one was right, there was indeed a chilly breeze coming from that direction.

As he shook his head in sadness, as he pondered what this new cold snap could mean for the harvest, Old Oak proceeded to try to help Zelda with the injured, if in a little more mundane manner.

XI - Ordinary Days

View Online

Ordinary Days

As he took in the truly odd sight right before his eyes, Wonder Bolt sincerely wondered if maybe he wasn’t having a fever dream caused by the injuries he should be sporting right now. Well, either that or perhaps a concussion. It made sense, after all, being hit by a speeding rock and then falling to the ground from cloud level had to have caused some damage. It would definitely make more sense than what was currently happening, at the very least.

But as the slowly lessening headache he kept feeling and the truly unexplainable lack of any other injuries across his body attested, this was indeed happening. Somehow.

“I have finished healing the worst of their injuries, but nonetheless they will need at least two days of proper rest before I’m comfortable with any of your subordinates undertaking any kind of strenuous physical activity,” the white coated unicorn mare politely explained to a very, very confused looking Fierce Breeze. The second in command of the squad clearly had no idea how exactly to deal with this whole mess.

Not that he could blame her, after all, considering the equally confused looks and angry whispers being traded by the pegasi who had already awoken, nopony did.

There were certain expectations that were generally accepted when one went into battle. And being soundly defeated with insulting ease only to be completely healed by your opponents afterwards simply wasn’t one of them!

At the very least, the general confusion meant that, for the moment, the squad was choosing to not rock the boat after the crushing defeat they had suffered.

The fact that Link was serenely standing a few steps back from the unicorn mare, as he stared at them all with a small pleased smile firm on his muzzle, and that the massive mountain of muscle called Ganondorf was also standing but a few steps to the mare’s other side, casually inspecting a pegasus blade with an appraising eye, probably had something to do with how they were all keeping quiet.

Everypony had seen, and experienced firsthoof how swift and skilled the green pegasus was and had no desire for a rematch now that he wasn’t carrying a ground bound filly as a handicap. Add that to how most of the squad had apparently connected Ganondorf’s imposing sight with the form of the lunatic pony who had downed quite a few of them with thrown rocks, and it was very understandable why most were content to simply angrily mutter and glare defiantly at their captors, of sorts. At least for now.

The fact that their opponents hadn’t even bothered to take their weapons away before healing them, and how that showed how little of a threat they considered the squad to actually be, was also probably a factor.

“You are not to even try and take flight for at least a couple of hours, minimum. A full day would be best,” she continued to explain to the pegasus mare, apparently not even remotely threatened by the fact that she still had her sword holstered at her side despite being unarmed herself. “Is that understood?

“Broken bones are extremely finicky to heal completely with any kind of real speed, and as such they must rest in order to allow them to settle properly. Otherwise there is a very real possibility of them re-shattering and ruining all the healing.” Zelda continued her lecture, voice calm and professional even as she froze one of Bolt’s comrades in place with a look as he started to flap his wings experimentally. The way she continued to politely explain to Fierce Breeze how they had to rest in order for the healing magic to settle afterwards, without a single hint of aggression or prejudice, was clearly not helping the pink coated mare to deal with the situation.

Not that he blamed her in the slightest. For, even if Wonder Bolt himself tended to try and keep an open mind in regards to the other tribes, the fact remained that most interactions between pegasi and unicorns had the tendency to end up with both sides either hurling insults at each other at best, or actually trading actual spell fire and lightning bolts at worst. Which meant that dealing with a polite and helpful unicorn mare, who had happily healed their injuries without even inquiring about payment, was, point in fact, kind of uncanny really.

The fact that she was, somehow, apparently friends with the massive earth pony and the impossibly fast pegasus that had taken them down was another point toward how abnormal this whole situation was.

“None of you are to attempt anything above a light exercise until tomorrow’s evening at the very least. And that includes flying. Do I make myself clear?” the unicorn inquired with a gentle smile and kind eyes, which seemed to bear down upon the fidgeting pegasus mare’s very soul for a moment, before she glanced at the rest of the squad. Each and every single one of the pegasi currently awake stood slightly straighter, as they felt a chill that had nothing to do with the sudden cold snap run down their spines, as they agreed with the healer’s edict.

The fact that her polite and gentle smile and kind eyes somehow promised terrible retribution should her directions not be followed to the letter by her patients was at least familiar ground. Bolt was quite certain all healers had to learn how to do that before their masters deemed them fit for active duty, in fact.

“W-what is the meaning of this?!” a shaky voice shrieked from the side, signaling their flight leader’s return to wakefulness as he shakily rose to his hooves, which meant that now the whole squad was awake. “What’s one of you bucking needle-heads doing here?! Explain yourself at once!”

“Ah, I see you have awakened, good. Are you experiencing any kind of pain or dizziness?” the unicorn mare politely inquired in a professional tone of voice as she started to trot towards him, all the while completely ignoring the lieutenant’s questions and insults. “As I have already explained to your subordinates, you are not to-“

“Shut your mouth, needle-head! The Armada does not answer to you or your pathetic excuse for a kingdom!” he yelled as he attempted to take a threatening step forward as he flared his wings wide, only to wince in pain as he did so.

“I will have to ask you to cease and desist with your current behavior. For, while you were sporting the lightest injuries from your entire party, even you should not stress you injuries further,” Zelda politely informed him once again even as her smile and eyes grew distinctly colder with each word the lieutenant yelled. “You should rest b-“

“You do not order me, you needle-headed freak!” Wind Shriek angrily yelled as he drew a knife from the side of his armor after he had realized his sword wasn’t in its scabbard. “I am a Lieutenant of the mighty Pegasus Armada! No filthy ground pounder has the right to command me!”

The grey coated pegasus attempted to once again move forward with a flap of his wings as he glared at both the unicorn mare and her two companions, only to once again be stopped due to the pain that the action was clearly causing him.

And as he watched this, Wonder Bolt wondered what the buck the lieutenant thought he was doing by antagonizing a clearly superior force that had already taken down the whole squad with insulting ease less than an hour ago. And that when said squad had been injury free in the first place.

“Oh, this is going to be good,” Ganondorf not so quietly commented with an amused chuckle, gaining a pair of death glares from both Zelda and Wind Shriek in response.

As the lieutenant regained his balance after the latest failed attempt at taking wing, brandishing his knife towards all and sundry, Bolt suddenly realized with a shiver of trepidation why he was acting so brazenly. After all, being taken down before the fight truly even started meant that Wind Shriek hadn’t born witness to what had happened afterwards , and as such didn’t have a single clue about what their opponents could do or their absurd capabilities.

And the suddenly panicked look Fierce Breeze and a few of the more intelligent members of the squad were now sporting showed that Bolt wasn’t the only one to have reached that conclusion.

“With all due respect, sir, but-“

“Silence!” he yelled in fury as he threw the knife straight towards the mare after another failed attempt at taking wing.

Bolt cursed under his breath as the knife swiftly barreled through the air towards Zelda’s deeply unimpressed looking form, an action that was imitated by quite a few of his squad mates as they warily eyed Link and Ganondorf as they waited for their reaction.

But before him or anypony could react, a blue light shone across the clearing. And where Zelda once stood there was now what looked like a large swiftly spinning blue gemstone. Clearly some kind of magical barrier meant to stop the lieutenant’s attack.

Or more accurately, Bolt corrected himself an instant later as the spinning gemstone actually reflected the thrown knife back the way it had come from with twice its initial speed, a magical barrier meant to reflect the lieutenant’s attack.

The pegasus scout watched in what felt like a trance as the knife barreled past the now wide eyed lieutenant, right next to his head. The sharp blade drew a thin crimson line upon Wind Shriek’s left cheek.

A moment later he openly gaped as, instead of barreling away into the woods or falling to the ground afterwards, the speeding knife was expertly grabbed by a pristine white hoof, twirled around, and gently pressed against the shocked lieutenant’s throat.

Wonder Bolt’s eyes darted to the spot where the mare had been a fraction of a second earlier, only to confirm that there was nothing but undisturbed grass there. And with a sinking feeling he realized that she had teleported, in a split second of all things. Which, in addition to the reflection spell she had cast with equal ease, and her clear ability with a knife, could only mean one thing.

“Oh, buck, they got a war mage,” he heard Fierce Breeze hiss under her breath as her whole body tensed. Neatly summarizing Bolt’s own thoughts as the whole squad’s wary eyes darted from Ganondorf and Link towards Zelda’s deceptively harmless form.

“Lieutenant Wind Shriek, let’s make something perfectly clear between us,” the unicorn mare said in the same polite tone of voice she had been using since the start of the whole debacle, though her kind smile was now absent from her muzzle. “While I do not expect you to like me, as the one who has healed both yourself and your subordinates I do expect some modicum of civilized behavior on your part.”

The lieutenant opened his mouth to curse and shout, only for the blade to be firmly pressed against his throat, which promptly made him shut up.

A few pegasi started to flap their wings, with intent to help the lieutenant or to fly away Bolt had no idea, only to freeze on the spot as Zelda landed a deeply unimpressed gaze upon them. Bolt was quite sure the collective shiver that spread through the clearing, again, had nothing to do with the cold weather.

“So you can either behave and stop aggravating your injuries, or I shall render you incapable of doing such until a time when you are no longer injured,” she politely informed him as she twirled the knife away from the grey coated pegasus’ neck and took a step to the side. “So, do we have an accord?”

“You filthy ground pounder! How dare you!?” Wind Shriek spat in fury as he turned around as swiftly as he could, right hoof already swinging towards the nonchalant mare. Only for Zelda to flow around the blow with the grace and ease of a calm river flowing around a boulder as she easily avoided the blow before, with a small unimpressed huff, she brought down the knife she was still holding down upon the back of the lieutenant’s head pommel first.

A muted cracking noise echoed through the now silent clearing as Wonder Bolt bore witness to his squad leader being rendered unconscious, for the second time this day.

“How uncivilized,” Zelda simply stated even as she grabbed hold of Wind Shriek in her magic before he could hit the ground and aggravate his injuries further. She gently rested his body on the ground before her horn’s aura took a deeper blue hue and the lieutenant’s new injuries faded away under the care of her healing magic.

A moment of astounded silence followed her dry statement, before being promptly broken by a loud guffaw from Ganondorf. The large earth pony nonchalantly leaned against the sword he had been examining as he gave the white unicorn a large fanged grin.

“I see you haven’t lost your ability with a knife, Princess!” he boisterously proclaimed with another joy filled laugh. “Now that was nicely done!”

Instead of answering, or even turning her head towards him for that matter, the unicorn mare simply threw the knife she had been holding in a blur of motion straight at the large earth pony’s head. The blade was nothing but a metallic flash as it swiftly cut through the air far, far faster than any of the previous times it had done so.

Only for the massive earth pony to move just as fast, somehow managing to deflect the blade straight upwards with the sword he had been leaning against a fraction of a second earlier.

“Yup, sharp as ever!” Ganondorf kept going in the same boisterous manner, not even blinking as the knife fell back downwards less than an inch from his head then punched into the ground. Going by his tone of voice and body language, the stallion apparently wasn’t bothered in the slightest by the fact that Zelda had just thrown a knife at his head. “But then again, she always had a way with knives, right Kid?

“Knives, daggers, short-swords, and assorted thrown weaponry, yes,” Link serenely replied, also acting as if nothing odd or noteworthy had just happened, a frame of mind that clearly was not shared by the rest of the openly gaping ponies in the clearing. “She also has more than adequate abilities with whips, wires and other rope-like items.”

“Very true, very true,” Ganondorf sagely agreed as he nodded his head. All the while the mare in question simply let out a small annoyed huff before she started to walk towards the elder earth pony to the side, who was sporting an odd mix of confusion and fascination in his eyes.

“And talking about weaponry,” Link calmly interjected as he gestured with one wing towards the sword Ganondorf was still holding. “Anything of use?”

“Nah, not really,” the Dark Lord immediately replied in a slightly annoyed tone of voice as he showed Link the sword, and the small dent in the metal that had appeared where it had made contact with the thrown knife. “Oh, sure, they are better than the gryphon weapons. But, all in all, still pretty shoddy stuff, really.”

“I see,” the green pegasus replied with a hint of disappointment as he examined the blade. “Regrettable.”

“That’s military grade steel!” Fierce Breeze angrily stated, the open disparaging of the Armada’s weaponry apparently enough to shake her from her shock induced stupor.

Instead of immediately answering, Ganondorf gave the pegasus warrior a long, and lightly incredulous, look. He then returned his gaze to the sword in his hoof, nonchalantly sat back on his haunches, moved his other hoof towards the point of the blade so that he was grabbing it from both ends, and broke it in half with the same ease most would a dry twig.

Another extremely long moment of incredulous silence permeated the clearing as the sharp echoing sound of metal being snapped in half filled the clearing and everypony stared at the broken sword with wide eyes.

A moment of incredulous silence that was broken soon afterwards as the large stallion looked Fierce Breeze straight in the eyes and bluntly stated.

“Your soldiers have my pity.”

“Honored elder, with all due respect but, are you out of your bucking mind!?” Sure Shot all but exploded as she paced back and forward inside the main room of Old Oak’s house.

“Would you like some tea my dear? It’s chamomile,” said elder stallion calmly said as he served the piping hot tea into two separate cups. The mare sure looked like she needed it. “I find that it does wonders to help with one’s stress. You should try some.”

“Forget about the tea! Why are we allowing that bunch of feathery barbarians to camp right outside the village?!” the ranger fiercely stated as she glared at the cottage’s northern wall, almost as if she thought that if she tried hard enough she could see through the wooden obstruction in order to see the camp in question. “They should’ve been driven off, or better yet, clapped in irons!”

“Ignoring for a moment the fact that we do not have a prison or any way to keep a military force of that size contained for any period of time,” he calmly replied as he brought his cup towards his muzzle so as to better appreciate the tea’s aroma for a moment. “You forget the fact that the Treaty still exists, and as such we cannot imprison them without clear and irrefutable proof of criminal behavior.”

“They attacked a defenseless filly!” she shot back in anger.

“And were soundly beaten for their stupidity,” Old Oak simply pointed out before sipping his tea. “A lesson I am sure they will not soon forget.”

Pegasi were extremely proud beings after all, and as such the fact that they had been so utterly and completely beaten by unarmed opponents despite having a significant numerical advantage would sting much, much more than any kind of slap on the cannon punishment the Chancellor could ever achieve should they try and make a stink with the Armada about this whole mess ever would.

“And besides, I agree with Zelda’s diagnostic. Most of them do need to rest for at least a day before whatever she did with their bones is finished with healing them, and as such they cannot be ‘driven off’ as you put it.” he calmly explained for what felt like the tenth time to the angry ranger. And hadn’t that been a unique experience?

As an apothecary, being able to see first hoof a clearly first rate unicorn healer at work had been a truly unexpected treat. The fact the mare also appeared to be extremely knowledgeable about more ordinary salves, poultices and other mundane treating matters, and didn’t seem to mind sharing said knowledge, only added to it.

“We will not persecute wounded ponies and throw them into the wilds, no matter how unsavory said ponies turn out to be,” the elder gently but firmly stated as he eyed the sea green mare. “Letting them rest and recover near the border of the village is not only the most sensible thing to do in order to avoid an incident with the Armada, but it’s also the right thing to do.”


“No buts, my dear, my decision is made and I will not change it,” he forcefully stated as he interrupted the ranger before she could protest further. “I appreciate your diligence in regards to the defense of our homes, but in this matter I ask that you trust in me and abide by my decision.”

“Fine!” the mare grudgingly spat out as she all but ground her teeth in frustration. “In that case I’m going to go and place some kind of watch over the feathery menaces in order to make sure they don’t get any ideas!”

Old Oak calmly nodded his agreement, knowing that not only would there be no way to change the ranger’s mind in the subject, but also agreeing that some kind of oversight wouldn’t harm anypony in the long run. Even if he thought the pegasi wouldn’t try anything, it didn’t hurt to be prudent. And so he sipped his tea, hoping that that would be all and he could enjoy what was left of the afternoon. But sadly it wasn’t meant to be.

“And talking about menaces, what do you plan to do about those three?!” the mare asked as she angrily stomped on the ground for emphasis and made the light brown elder silently sigh into his teacup.

“I believe you are talking about our three guests, yes?” he asked as he pretended to be unsure of what the ranger was talking about. “What about them, my dear?”

“What about them!?” she hissed as she stomped the ground in growing frustration. “Those three have proven themselves to be credible threats to the village! We can’t let them go around doing whatever they want unsupervised as they have been doing!”

“You confuse the possibility of a threat with the existence of one, Sure Shot,” the stallion sternly stated as he placed his tea cup aside and looked her straight in the eyes. “They are not our enemies.”

“Elder, they are dangerous!”

“Oh, of that I have no doubt,” Old Oak readily agreed in a joyful tone of voice and with a light chuckle.

“What?” the ranger confusedly asked, the oddity of the elder agreement of her point of view alongside with the tone of voice used to do so being enough to draw Sure Shot out of her rant.

“Zelda not only knows healing magic and teleportation, but her actions against the leader of the pegasus squad clearly show that she may well be a war mage, with everything that entails,” he seriously spoke as he gave the ranger a look before he unhurriedly moved towards the nearest window. “Link was capable of outflying and outmatching fifteen pegasi without receiving a single scratch, despite being both unarmed and burdened with the protection of a filly on his back.

“And Ganondorf is easily the strongest earth pony these old eyes have ever seen, to the point that steel and stone break before his hooves as if they were nothing,” he continued as he stopped in front of the window and stared at the small encampment the pegasi were building at the border of the village in order to spend the night. “Each and every one of them is extremely dangerous, my dear. That’s a fact.

“But you shouldn’t allow that fact to cloud you to a simple truth,” the elder said as his eyes found a green figure far to the left being followed by a tiny yellow filly. “They are not our enemies, much to the contrary.”

Sure Shot stared at the elder with uncomprehending eyes for a moment, before she departed with an angry snort, clearly unhappy with the situation but unwilling to keep pushing it. For now, at least.

Letting out a tired sigh, Old Oak kept staring at the scenery as he felt the unnaturally cold wind caressing his old bones.

He could understand the ranger’s fear and unease, for he himself was not immune to them. The three strange ponies were indeed an intimidating sight. And yet, after personally speaking with Zelda, he knew that the mare was a gentle soul and a scholar at heart. The fact that the Blossom family had so readily accepted them was another positive sign. For not only was Beautiful Blossom not a fool, but as he well came to know after taking her as an apprentice, her youngest daughter had a way of bringing the best, and worst, in ponies due to her antics. As such the fact that Singing was apparently so friendly with Link was another sign in their favor. Forest also had a good head on her shoulders of course, but she was a mare in love, and that said everything there was to say about how reliable her words would be about the subject.

Nonetheless, Old Oak was confident that the three ponies were not at threat, at least, to them, no matter how odd and unconventional they were.

Now if only Sure Shot could see that too.

Sighing once again, he slowly closed the windows so as to keep out the biting wind. He turned towards the lit stone hearth in the middle of his home and started to stoke the fire, all the while his mind thought about the overall situation.

Odd happenings had been occurring more and more often as of late. Which while individually didn’t seem like much, together they formed a sobering picture.

The unease between the Three Tribes was at a never before seen high. Food production was at an all time low. The weather was growing wilder and wilder despite both the unicorns’ and the pegasi’s best attempts to fix it. The gryphons were probing at their borders. And the shadow of open warfare loomed over them all.

And yet, all attempts to fix those issues through conventional means had failed miserably as the situation deteriorated further and further.

As he stared into the flickering flames, a stray thought drifted through the old stallion’s mind: If all conventional options had been of no use, how about trying a slightly odder and more unconventional option?

“They don’t have a pantheon?” the King of Thieves asked with a hint of incredulity as the three Triforce Wielders sat outside the Blossom family home as the sun slowly set and they waited for dinner to be ready, being relegated to that position after Beautiful Blossom most emphatically refused their offer of help in making said dinner. Something about it being a secret recipe of the family or the like. “I mean, really?”

“None whatsoever,” Zelda tiredly stated as she lightly massaged her brow, as if to alleviate a headache. “There are no known gods, no practices of worship of any kind, no observed rituals, nothing.

“By Nayru’s eternal wisdom, they don’t even have a creation myth!” The Wielder of Wisdom grumbled tiredly.

While that was hardly hard proof, Ganondorf had to admit that it was pretty damning evidence. Gods, no matter the kind or nature, liked to brag. It was a simple fact of life, really. They liked to be worshiped, they loved to be known, they craved to be noticed. Even the Golden Sisters of the Triforce, for all their nurturing and self-sacrificing nature, weren’t exempt from that. One only had to look at how they had made damn sure that everybody and their grandmother knew about how they were responsible for creating and later safeguarding Hyrule through their sacrifice to see that.

So the idea of a whole set of gods not even trying to be noticed was really hard to swallow. Which, alongside the fact the mortals took care of moving the celestial spheres and oversaw the weather in this realm, meant that Zelda’s theory of them being gone was most likely right.

“So they either left for some reason or died out, huh?” Ganondorf bluntly asked, since as far as he was concerned those were the only logical explanations left. “Now that is unusual.”

“Truly? I hadn’t noticed!” the mare sarcastically replied as she gave him only a very mild glare. She really had to be feeling that headache, her glares were normally way better than that.

“Any chance of confirming which it was?” Link calmly asked even as he kept his eyes closed while the wind played with his mane. “Knowing if there is a chance of their return, or the possibility of something roaming around that managed to kill a pantheon, would be quite helpful.”

Ganondorf blinked once, before he nodded in agreement and turned an expectant gaze towards the Wielder of Wisdom. That would indeed be useful information to have.

“Very unlikely. Whatever happened took place so long ago that the ponies can’t even remember a time when they weren’t handling the forces of nature in order to keep the world turning,” she honestly replied, though the irritated look in her eyes promised that if the information existed anywhere in this world, then she would eventually find it. “But I doubt there is need for undue worry. In case the gods left, had they been planning to return they would have done so a long time ago by now. And I really can’t see a god slayer deciding to simply quietly fade into obscurity should they have lived after doing the deed.”

“Agreed,” Link replied as he opened his eyes and nodded his acceptance of Zelda’s words, an action that was soon followed by the Dark Lord. It made sense, and besides, should she be wrong they could always deal with the problem when it surfaced later on. No need for undue worry, after all.

“Oh, and speaking of possible global threats! We got confirmation that at least some of our stuff got scattered in this realm!” the large stallion cheerfully interjected as he beamed at the more normal glare Zelda was now sporting. Ganondorf guessed that she was starting to feel better. “That blue pegasus the Kid took a shining to had one of his bottles with him!”

“It contained a fairy, I take it?” Zelda curiously inquired as she moved her gaze towards their green companion. “I thought I had felt some of their magical residue on his body when I scanned him for injuries.”

“Yup, got him right back on his hooves! Much to his surprise too!” he joyfully told her as he remembered how confused the azure coated pegasus had looked when he realized he wasn’t injured any longer. “So, that’s just a heads up so that you are aware that they may pop up.”

“That’s appreciated. And talking about sharing information, here,” the princess added as her horn started to shine with the blue glow of her magic, before with a flash two blue orbs rushed towards both Link and Ganodorf’s heads.

Trusting that Zelda wouldn’t simply attack Link just to get him with a cheap blow, Ganondorf didn’t even try to evade the blue orb. A moment later his instincts were proven right, as what felt like a complete dictionary was absorbed into his mind.

“That shall hopefully allow you two to read the ponies’ language, since someone apparently forgot to include a written component into their translation matrix,” the Wielder of Wisdom playfully explained as she gave the Wielder of Power a smug smile for his oversight.

“Thank you, Zelda,” Link simply stated as he gifted the mare with a smile and a nod of appreciation.

“Whatever,” Ganondorf shrugged it off as if the gift was unimportant, even as he gave the white mare a small nod of thanks. All the ideas he currently had to solve the problem were annoyingly complex and time consuming, so Zelda turning it into a non issue was appreciated, even if he would never verbalize said appreciation.

“By the way Kid, out of curiosity,” Ganondorf asked as he looked at the green wonder after a few moments of comfortable silence had passed. “How many bottles were you carrying? And what did they contain?”

“I had five bottles with me as I entered into your throne room. Three of them had fairies, and one contained some great fairy tears,” Link calmly answered the Dark Lord’s question. Ganondorf in turn calmly nodded with each item that was spoken. That is, until the Hero said what the last bottle contained. “As for the last one, it was a bottle of milk.”

“What? A bottle of milk!? Ganondorf enquired with a shout, more than a little insulted that his old time nemesis felt he could waste one of his rare magical all purpose containers carrying such a useless beverage to their final clash. “Why by the Three Goddesses would you bring a bottle of milk to our final battle?!”

“It was a bottle of Chateau Romani milk,” Link calmly explained to the now fuming Dark Lord as a small smirk briefly surfaced on his muzzle.

Ganondorf openly gaped at that piece of information for a moment, remembering far too well the little fact that said outrageously expensive milk had the interesting side effect of completely halting the drinker’s magic expenditure for a few minutes after being consumed, no matter how much magic they used.

“That’s cheating!” He bellowed in outrage as he forcefully pointed a hoof towards the now lightly smirking Hero. The King of Thieves’ utterly betrayed look actually managed to make Zelda dissolve into a fit of giggles.

“If it works, it works,” was Link’s unapologetic reply, which caused Ganodorf to scowl even harder and Zelda to giggle even more. That lasted for but a single moment, as the Dark Lord suddenly realized something.

“And where, by Din’s fiery wrath, did you even get a bottle of that stuff in the first place!” he incredulously asked as he lowered his hoof back to the ground and gave Link a confused look. “Isn’t that thing only produced on Termina or something?”

That particular detail managed to stop Zelda’s giggles short, as the Wielder of Wisdom blinked in surprise as she acknowledged the truth of the Dark Lord’s words.

“Yes, that’s where I got it. It wasn’t that hard really. The portal to Termina is still in the Lost Woods, you know,” the Wielder of Courage nonchalantly replied as if that was obvious. Something his two companions clearly didn’t agree with if one was to go by their incredulous expression.

“And you never thought about sharing that little bit of information why exactly?” Ganondorf drily asked as he processed that little bit of information and Zelda nodded her agreement with his question.

“I never told either of you about it?” Link calmly inquired in slight confusion as he tilted his head slightly to the side.

“No, you did not,” the King of Thieves bluntly stated as he gave the Hero a very impressive deadpan, an action that was mirrored by Zelda at his side.

“Huh,” was the green wonder’s highly intellectual reply to that as he closed his eyes once again.

The unicorn and the earth pony stood there for a moment in silence, as if waiting to see if the pegasus had anything more to say about the subject. After a few more moments of silence, Ganondorf traded a look with Zelda in silent question. And, after her silent nod of agreement, he started to move his right hoof towards the Kid’s shoulder in order to try and shake some more information from him. Literally, if it was needed.

“Dinner is ready, come right in my dears!” Only for said plan to be thwarted by the cheerful mare that was calling them from the front porch, as Beautiful Blossom enthusiastically called them in for dinner.

A call that the Hero promptly obeyed, as he opened his eyes and calmly moved towards the house, pace untroubled and unhurried, not even glancing at his companions as he passed them by with a serene smile firm on his muzzle.

Ganondorf and Zelda traded another long look, before after another moment they both sighed in resignation as they decided it wasn’t worth the headache and followed the green wonder inside and towards dinner.

At least Beautiful Blossom’s food had been consistently delicious so far, so there was at least that to look forward to.

Ganondorf trotted down one of the village’s outer paths as he enjoyed the light of the dawn. He had a spring in his step as he acknowledged a very rewarding fact, Forge Fire had finished with the gryphon blades and had the steel ready for his use.

He turned around the corner of a house as he took in the most direct path towards the forge, only to stop as he noticed the green wonder walking his way from the other side while carrying a very distinctive creature atop his back.

“Ganondorf,” Link politely greeted with a nod of his head as he stopped on his tracks.

For his part the Dark Lord nodded in kind, even as he discreetly tensed his muscles as he got ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

“What’re you doing, Kid,” he bluntly asked as he kept a discreet wary eye on the little white creature on the Hero’s back. He couldn’t care less that the locals apparently called it a different name, it sure as heck still looked like a cucco to him! And he knew better than to not keep a watchful eye on one of the feathery menaces when they were around.

“Helping, Woodcutter to recover his missing chickens,” the green Hero calmly answered. As if gathering feathery menaces for other people was an everyday occurrence.

“Why?” Ganondorf asked with a hint of curiosity as he re-started to move towards the forge.

“Why not?” Link easily replied as he started to move alongside the watchful Dark Lord.

“Fair enough,” he agreed after a moment’s thought. He himself was guilty of doing quite some odd things once in a while simply because he felt like it at the time. So if the Kid wanted to help some random pony to gather his lost feathery menaces, then who was he to say otherwise.

They walked in companionable silence for a few moments, before the sight of what looked like the start of a small argument drew their attention. For at the border of the village a group of earth ponies led by Old Oak was apparently talking with a few of the recovering pegasi. And far more importantly in the Dark Lord’s opinion, he saw that Forge Fire was amongst their number.

“… can’t you do anything about it? It is your tribe’s duty to tend to the weather after all!” a random earth pony yelled at Old Oak’s side, his comment inflaming a round of angry mutters from the others despite the elder’s best attempts to contain the situation. “If those snow clouds get here the whole harvest could be ruined!”

“Look, even if we felt like helping, we are under direct orders from that crazy war mage to not fly!” Fierce Breeze angrily shot back, the pegasi behind her adding their own angry comments to the whole mess. “And considering how lieutenant Wind Shriek still hasn’t woken up from whatever the hay that mare did, I don’t plan to disobey her!”

“Zelda put the lieutenant under a healing trance so that he would stop aggravating his injuries,” Link helpfully supplied as they approached the mob, completely unfazed by the dozens of angry glares that were now aimed his way. “He will wake up after his body has finished healing.”

Ganondorf couldn’t help but snort at the incredulous looks some of the ponies were making upon hearing that news. Let it never be said that the Princess didn’t know how to hold a grudge.

“That’s good to know,” Wonder Bolt hesitantly added after a moment of silence. “But even so, only five of us have even basic weather manipulation training. In order to affect so many clouds, and snow clouds at that, we would need a full weather team.”

As the ponies started a new round of arguments and accusations after hearing that, Ganondorf gazed towards the northern horizon in order to see the source of the whole mess. High upon the distant sky there were indeed quite a few dark clouds, and considering the very chilly wind coming from that direction, the pegasus’ claim that they were snow clouds had some merit. Weird, especially considering that according to Forest they were supposedly in the middle of summer.

But far more importantly, as far as Ganodorf was concerned, he saw that Forge Fire was taking an active part in the argument and showed no signs of stopping. Meaning that the blacksmith wouldn’t be available to give the Dark Lord the steel he needed to forge a temporary sword for his current use. And while he had no problem with simply grabbing the steel himself, he had no idea if the metal even was at the forge right now to be grabbed in the first place. Meaning he would have to wait in order to make his sword.

And that was completely unacceptable.

He pondered about how to solve the problem for an instant. Before he simply decided to make use of a tried and tested method of solving annoying issues he constantly saw Zelda using. Throw the Kid at them.

“Hey, Kid, don’t you have anything that could deal with this?” he bluntly asked as he gestured to the slowly approaching snow clouds.

“Possibly,” the green Hero serenely replied after humming in thought for a few seconds. “If it’s simply a matter of preventing the snow clouds from reaching the crops, a strong enough wind coming from the right angle would probably be enough to redirect them.”

“And how the buck would you do that?!” the yellow coated mare spat in anger. The discussion between Ganodorf and Link had apparently gained the mob’s attention. “Like Bolt said, we do not have enough trained hooves to deal with such a large scale task!”

“It’s a good thing that I do not plan to use hooves then.” The Wielder of Courage serenely replied with a smile, already sporting a long flute in his hooves he had taken from who knew where. Ganondorf really had to ask the Kid one of those days how he managed to change his equipment so fast.

And, in front of a few very confused pegasi and a few now hopefully expectant earth ponies, Link started to play a light echoing melody. And as the song reverberated through the air the wind started to change as the magic of the song gave it direction and purpose. The shift continued until the chilly northern wind had been replaced by a fairly strong breeze blowing towards the northeast, and started to slowly push the clouds away.

“Storm Caller,” Ganondorf barely managed to hear Fierce Breeze mutter under her breath in astonishment as she gazed, wide eyed, at the green pegasus.

With a shrug of his shoulders the Dark Lord decided that it wasn’t any of his business. And as such, as he ignored the perplexed and astounded pegasi, or the still slightly distrustful looking but now far happier earth ponies, he pushed his way through the mob and towards the red coated blacksmith.

That sword wouldn’t make itself, after all.

An uncharacteristic somber frown on her muzzle, Singing Blossom sat near a river that crossed the village at its western border. She stared at her sad looking reflection as she idly played with the small saddlebags she had started to wear everywhere after mister Link had taught her how to use it in an attempt to distract herself from the source of her unhappiness, to no avail.

She had really been looking forward to showing to the other fillies and colts of the village what she had learned to do with the pegasus’ teachings. Only for that stuck up meany, Shining Quartz, to start to openly mock her for carrying her simple saddlebags everywhere. Making them laugh at Singing before she could even try and show them anything. And all that before Quartz distracted everypony with the really pretty gemstone necklace her merchant father had bought her after his last trip to the Earth Villa.

After such a failure she had wanted to be alone, so she had come to this isolated corner for a little bit.

“Hello Singing, what is troubling you right now?” the familiar calm voice of mister Link came from right behind, startling the filly as she jumped in place before spinning around.

“Mister Link! Don’t do that!” the yellow filly shouted as she gazed at the green pegasus now right in front of her.

“Do what?” he curiously asked as he tilted his head to one side, while the chicken atop his back tilted its head to the other. The silly sight was enough to get a small giggle from the filly.

“So what’s the problem, little one?” Link once again asked as he lightly ruffled the filly’s mane with his left wing, obtaining a few more giggles from his efforts as she batted away the feathery appendage with her hooves.

The filly tried to keep an angry face as she gazed at the serene looking pony politely waiting for her answer. Only for Link to simply incline his head slightly in order to show he was listening, and for the chicken at his back to jump atop his head in order to get a better view of the filly, the sight of which caused her angry glower to falter as she giggled once more and be replaced by a small but sincere smile.

“Shining Quartz is a silly meany pants! But everypony likes her because her father keeps giving her awesome stuff from the Earth Villa! And it’s not fair!” the little fluff ball finally replied as she forlornly kicked at the ground. “Just because she gets to have a pretty necklace with a gemstone and I don’t doesn’t mean she has to make fun of me!”

“I agree, Singing, that is not right at all,” the Wielder of Courage agreed as he rested his wing atop the filly’s back in a comforting manner as he gave her a small understanding smile. “And she does sound like quite the silly meany pants.”

“Yeah! I mean, it’s not like everypony else wouldn’t like to have a pretty necklace too! But only she gets to have it since only her father can get the gemstones at the Earth Villa!” Singing continued as she nested inside Link’s wing. “And she even refuses to share them! Despite having like a lot of gems! If I had so many gemstones I would share them with everypony, not hoard them like some silly tiny dragon!”

“Then let’s get you some gemstones,” Link calmly replied as if that was the most logical conclusion possible to the problem at hand.

“What?” Singing confusedly asked as she stepped away from the warm wing in order to better look at the pegasus’ face, only to notice that Link was now intently scanning their surroundings.

“No tall grass, or pots for that matter, pity.” The Hero spoke out loud as he redirected his gaze towards the small river and the many tiny pebbles at its banks. “Plenty of rocks though. Yes, those will do nicely.”

“Come on Singing, let’s get some rocks,” he jovially stated to the now very confused looking filly.

“Why?” she asked as she tilted her head to the side in confusion.

“You do want some gemstones, yes?” Link asked right back as he started to move towards the river bank.

“Well, yeah, but rocks aren’t gems!” the filly stated the obvious even as she started to follow the stallion.

Despite nodding his head in placid agreement, the green pegasus still kept calmly moving to the river bank, where many small pebbles littered the ground. He then stopped and picked up one of the, completely ordinary looking, light grey rocks with one hoof and examined it with a critical eye for a brief moment. He then nodded in apparent approval and offered it to a very confused Singing with a small smile.

“The size and shape of the rock do help, so do try and choose the more spherical ones with lighter grey colorations at first, at least until you get more experience with how to do it properly,” the Wielder of Courage dutifully explained to the young filly as he gave her the small, slightly spherical, grey pebble before grabbing another identical rock for himself. “But the important part is all in your inner focus and the movement of the throw, you have to do it just right. Remember that.”

Singing simply stared at the pebble she was now holding, now even more confused than before. Only for Link to recapture her attention as he continued his explanation.

“Here, watch carefully,” the Hero calmly stated while demonstrating the necessary movements by performing a lazy overhead throw, the grey rock flying through the air in a perfect arc for a brief moment before it shattered into so many dirt particles the moment it hit the ground. And with a small tinkling sound, amidst the settling dust cloud now rested a small perfectly cut green gemstone.

“What?” Singing asked in undiluted surprised as she let go of the grey pebble Link had given her in order to dart towards the small gemstone that had sprung forth from within the completely ordinary rock the pegasus had thrown as if by magic.

“How did you do that?” the tiny filly asked, excitement swiftly overriding her earlier surprise as she turned the green gemstone one way and then another on her hoof as she made it sparkle in the sunlight. The fact said gemstone was about the same size as the original rock, and as such couldn’t have been simply hiding inside the rock, and that it was faceted already despite no one having touched yet, only added to the filly enthusiastic curiosity.

“Focus on the rock, feel it with your hooves and picture it in your mind until nothing else remains. And then, throw it overhead in a fluid motion,” the stallion calmly explained once more while demonstrating the actions again, the newly thrown rock shattering once again the moment it hit the ground and with another soft tinkling sound another green gem was revealed amidst the debris.

Had Singing Blossom been older, she would have known that what had just happened before her own eyes was supposed to be impossible.

An adult pony would have immediately pointed out that, even with magic, there was simply no way an ordinary rock could release a perfectly cut gemstone basically the size of the thrown rock simply due to some concentration and the manner how said rock had been thrown. Years of learning and experience would have made her forcefully state that there had to be something more to it, that such a situation couldn’t possibly be real, that it was simply impossible for that to happen, that it was a blatant violation of all the rules of both logic and magic!

All those after having a minor freak out due to seeing said impossibility happen right in front of her very eyes, of course.

“Here, now you try it,” Link happily said as he offered back the small pebble the tiny filly had dropped in her hurry to examine the shiny mysterious gemstone, a small encouraging smile on his muzzle.

But thankfully for the young filly, Singing Blossom wasn’t an older pony. She was an eager little filly being taught a cool new trick. And so, as the green pony, who had already taught her how to properly pack several dozen far-too-large items into a simple saddlebag so that they would all fit and their weight wouldn’t bother her, offered her the pebble and started to coach her on how to properly throw it, she didn’t question it, she simply accepted it with a happy nod and a look of fierce determination on her muzzle.

A few moments later, a small pebble made its way in a lazy arc through the air, and, with a faint tinkling sound, a small perfectly cut blue gemstone was revealed after the dust settled, shining in the sun almost as brightly as Singing’s now huge happy smile.

“Like we had agreed, here is your part of the recovered steel,” Forge Fire seriously spoke as she gestured to a pile of about ten good sized metal ingots placed a few steps away from the forge proper. “They turned out quite well, I would say. Despite their origins I was able to remove most of the needless impurities and refine the metal to a proper level of quality.”

Ganondorf grunted to show he was still listening as he moved towards the pile of metal and grabbed the first ingot of the pile and tested its weight and texture. He examined it for a moment longer with a critical eye as he searched for flaws, before he hit the ingot against the top of a nearby anvil. He closed his eyes as the metallic sound reverberated through the room, his keen ears dissecting the long echoing note produced with the experience born of long arduous practice.

“What are you doing?” the red-coated blacksmith asked in slight befuddlement as the King of Thieves set the metal bar aside and repeated the process with the next one. Only for her question to remain unanswered, as Ganondorf ignored it in favor of searching the ingots for micro fractures, hazardous impurities in the metal and other such problems by hearing the tone of their vibrations.

As he finished with the last piece, he asserted that of the ten ingots four were completely unsuitable for proper forge work, with the remainder being of passable quality. A better result than he initially expected, if he was being honest.

“Okay then, guess I will just leave you to it,” Forge Fire uncertainly said after watching the brown coated stallion toss nearly half the ingots to the side for no apparent reason after completely ignoring her questions or any attempt to make small talk. “You do know how to use a forge, right?”

The contemptuous snort he released was answer enough apparently, for the mare then departed after a half-hearted reminder for him to not break anything. Not that Ganondorf paid it much mind, as he had already dismissed her from his thoughts and was focused at what he had to work with instead.

He took in the simple but sturdy forge at the back, the clamps, tongs, chisels and hammers of various sizes neatly arranged at the sides, and finally the small crucible and the anvil in the middle of the room. All in all, very mundane tools that weren’t anything to boast about, but useful nonetheless.

He moved the good ingots closer to the forge and started to separate what tools he would need before finally turning to stoke the forge’s flames to a proper level, only to snort once again before moving on with the needed chore. Charcoal as the heat source, of course, how utterly pedestrian.

The Dark Lord knew he really couldn’t expect more from a civilian run smithy, especially in a remote village like this one. But, nonetheless, seeing the extremely bare bones equipment he had to work with really made him miss his personal forges.

Nothing could beat a direct link to a magma vein to heat a forge properly. Especially with a few well placed runes to focus and direct the heat. But there was no use moaning about that, one made do with what one had to work with, after all. The Dark Lord knew that better than most.

Truly, it wasn’t the worst setting for metalwork he had ever been forced to work with, not by a long shot. But then again, considering how that honor belonged to that time he had been forced to repair a magical dagger in a frozen mountain in the middle of nowhere, and ended up using a massive bonfire as a forge and his chest plate as the anvil, that wasn’t saying much.

As he shoveled more charcoal into the flames he reviewed what he planned to do. First he would have to further refine what few passable steel ingots he had into proper Wootz steel. That at the very least would guarantee the blade had some level of basic durability and resilience. Afterwards, he would have to really concentrate in order to make sure this pitiable little forge could produce an adequate Damascus steel blade from said refined ingots.

Yes, that would be a nice starting point, he decided as he placed the first ingots inside the crucible and placed it into the forge, not even sweating despite the oppressive heat now permeating the entire room. Nowhere near the level of quality of even the lesser bits of his usual equipment, but with a few runes and a bit of enchanting it would definitely do as a temporary measure until he could dedicate the time and effort to either find or, irritatingly more likely due to what he had seen about the quality of this plane’s equipment so far, create the needed tools so he could make proper weaponry.

As he waited for the metal to melt, Ganondorf idly wondered when was the last time he had worked with something as mundane as normal steel, before drawing a complete blank. He remembered working with dozens of the more interesting cousins of the metal, from Demon Steel to Moon Steel and everything that lies between, all the way to his personal creation of Void Steel all those centuries ago. But comparing those alloys with their lesser mundane cousin was like comparing iron with Orichalcum. It simply wasn’t done.

The truth was that, normally, if he found himself in need an ordinary steel weapon then he simply stole it instead of wasting his time with forging it. The King of Thieves could, and often did, disparage about many facets of the hylians culture, from their tendency towards stupidly flamboyant architecture, to their obsession with annoyingly flimsy furniture, but one thing was undeniable, they did know how to make a decent blade at the very least. But sadly that wasn’t an option this time.

With a huff of annoyance he kept watch as the ingots slowly, slowly started to become more malleable as the pitiful forge heated them bit by bit. He mumbled a curse as he took a seat on his haunches right on the ground, unminding of the heat, and settled in for a long wait.

Ganondorf would kill for a proper blast furnace right now.

Verdant fields filled the horizon as far as the eyes could see. Lush forests and pristine lakes dotted the landscape as dozens upon dozens of ponies lived their lives in farmsteads and villages all around in peace and harmony.

But then, three ponies started to quarrel with no apparent reason. A unicorn, a pegasus and an earth pony.

Their argument grew more and more heated with every moment that passed, until, slowly but surely, all the ponies around them started to argue and bicker as well. Until, where once there were only three ponies quarreling, there were now dozens upon dozens of them.

They kept arguing with each other as the realm slowly fell to disharmony, shouting and accusing each other until mere words were no longer enough and blows started to be traded and the three types of pony started to fight each other without rhyme or reason.

Amidst the ever growing brawl, a desolate echoing cry resounded through the fields as a fierce blizzard suddenly blanked out the sky. It rushed forth with terrifying speed, covering the land in ice and snow. And yet the ponies kept fighting each other, completely inattentive to the coming danger even as the frozen onslaught covered them all.

For a moment the world seemed condemned to be covered in a frozen white mantle, until three figures huddled together, not in anger and hate, but in friendship and harmony. A unicorn, a pegasus and an earth pony stood together against the incoming blizzard, and right between them a fierce fiery heart made of pink flames sprung into existence, keeping the cold at bay and slowly thawing the other ponies as it shielded them from the freezing winds, freeing them from their icy prisons.

It seemed as if the end had been averted, as the now freed ponies gathered in front of the trio, for once no longer quarreling or fighting. But it was not to be.

A roar of unbridled anger reverberated throughout the world, a scream of pure fury that was so loud and all encompassing that seemed to want to swallow the entirety of creation with its wrath.

The shield created by the heart-flame flickered and wavered as the blizzard was reborn with renewed fury. Little by little the heart-flame started to fail against the relentless onslaught as the sky was consumed by sickly looking fire and the earth was turned into a frozen wasteland, making it look like all was lost.

Only for two shining beacons to add their light to the faltering flame, one a pure pristine silver and the second a warm vibrant gold, their light alongside the heart-flame was enough to hold off the tide of destruction, but not to push it back.

But their efforts were not in vain, for their struggle bought them enough time for a very familiar blade to make its appearance, as it fell from the sky point first right in the middle of the defenders, its holy light shining in defiance as the symbol of three golden triangles came to life where the blade now rested .

Zelda’s eyes snapped open in a single instant.

The Wielder of Wisdom simply stood there for a moment staring at the wooden ceiling of the Blossom’s family home, as her heart hammered against her chest and cold sweat covered her brow, while her mind frantically went through what she had just dreamt.

As she let out a long, weary breath, she pushed the blankets away from her body and quietly stood away from the bed and moved towards the open window, all the while doing her level best not to wake any of her hosts from their sleep.

She stood there completely still for a few moments, staring at the serene woods but a few meters away from the window and letting the cold breeze caress her fur. She breathed deeply, and started to slowly crush the instinctual waves of panic the vision had caused to her body and forced her brain to analyze every single part of the warning she had just received in a calm and methodical manner.

It was a vision, of this she was certain. Now the question was: what was said vision warning her about?

Something was coming, something of ice and death, and the ponies would be too engrossed and distracted by their silly infighting to notice the danger until it was too late, that was extremely clear. Only for a group of ponies to try and unite against the threat, a group of ponies composed of members of all Three Tribes. And together they would bring the threat to a halt through some kind of pink fire, though what created said fire was a mystery.

Nonetheless, the heart-flame would manage to keep the frozen threat at bay, for a time, at least. Only for something else, something of fire and hate to also enter the struggle, and all but guarantee the ponies perdition. Then two unknown lights, which for all she knew could be either individuals, a spell or even some kind of relic, would offer their aid to the ponies and prevent their ultimate defeat, but even that would not be enough to assure their victory.

And finally the end, with the Master Sword appearing to challenge this unknown evil that sought to set the sky aflame and freeze the world over, and no guesses to who would most likely be wielding that sword by then. The golden triangles on the ground around the blade only added to the obvious fact that the Triforce Wielders would be right in the middle of the whole mess.

So two unknown threats, who may or not be aligned; possibly three, but perhaps more, defenders of some significance whom, through unknown means, had to summon a pink heart-flame; either two champions, or two objects, or spells, that would aid said defenders in order to prevent their fall; and finally the presence of the Triforce Wielders while carrying a sword the location of which they currently had no idea, but which was heavily hinted to be essential in order to effectively fight back said threats.

In other words, the prophecy had been infuriatingly vague and nebulous, and left behind far too many questions with far too little actual answers.

How typical.

The Wielder of Wisdom carefully considered the vision and its implications, and how little actual usable information it truly contained, for a few moments longer. Before, with a tired sigh, she grumbled underneath her breath.

“Ganondorf’s going to be insufferable after this.”

XII - Preparation is Key

View Online

Preparation is Key

The first rays of the sun had just started to peek from beyond the eastern horizon as a new day was born. A chilly wind coursed through the sleepy little village as its inhabitants slowly started to wake up and get ready to greet the new day. All was quiet and peaceful, except for a small clearing right next to the Blossom family’s cottage.

“Good! Put your muscles into it!” Ganondorf cheerfully instructed as he blocked Forest Blossom’s blow, before he forced her to hurriedly backpedal in order to block one of his own strikes. He held back, of course. Massively, in fact. After all, the intention was to teach the mare, not to turn her into paste, but even so she still staggered backwards quite a bit as the strike fell.

While she clearly felt the blow, Forest pressed forward nonetheless. She ignored her fatigue and pain and pushed forth as she unleashed a new series of strikes against her teacher. Each strike was blocked with ease by the large earth pony as if they were nothing, his fresh and collected appearance a stark contrast to the sweaty and disheveled mare that was trying to make the imposing mountain of muscle move at least a step backwards.

“Yes, that’s it!” the large stallion said with a nod of approval and a small smile on his muzzle as he blocked a particularly strong buck from the orange coated mare. “Put your whole body behind your blows! Just like that!”

Forest’s cheeks turned crimson at the praise coming from her hero. And a moment later she felt as if her fatigue was washed away and was replaced by a surge of energy as she got her second wind and pressed forth, putting her everything behind each blow even as she kept in mind the basic fighting stances and moves Ganondorf had been teaching her these last few days.

“Better. You are grasping the basics nicely,” the large stallion boisterously proclaimed even as he forced the orange coated mare to stagger backwards as he hammered at any opening he could find in her stance. “Not that I would expect any less from my student!”

Cheeks flushing crimson at the praise, she forced herself to keep her footing even despite how her legs wanted to do nothing more than collapse due to exhaustion. She refused to fail her hero in such a manner. Ganondorf was taking his precious time to teach her how to fight and make her stronger, and she sure as buck was not going to let him down!

“Okay, that’s enough fighting practice for now,” the large earth pony decided as he blocked a new series of strikes while he gave the mare a professional once over to make sure she was still fit to keep going with their training, before he cheerfully continued. “That’s a nice and solid foundation there, now we just have to start building upon it!”

Forest simply nodded as she drew great gasps of air and tried to sweep some sweat out of her face with a trembling forehoof, not trusting herself to speak right now. She knew that her hero was strong, that was an undeniable fact. Just as she knew that he had probably undergone some serious training to get to that level. But nothing had prepared her for how arduous his training sessions had turned out to be.

For the past two days Ganondorf had awoken her three hours before sunrise for training, and proceeded to guide her in how to develop a fighting style and increase her striking power to the best of his abilities, only to repeat the process for two more hours after dinner, before he allowed her to collapse upon her bed.

To say that the training was arduous would be a massive understatement. When they weren’t exercising, they were working on her flexibility; when they weren’t building her endurance, they were improving her fighting stances; and when all of the above wasn’t happening, Ganondorf would be engaging her in actual mock fights to drive it all home and test her growth, all of it with barely any stops or chances for her to recover.

To say that Forest currently felt muscle pains in muscles that she didn’t even know she had would not be inaccurate. Only three things kept her coming back for more despite how tired she currently felt.

First, she absolutely refused to show such weakness to her hero after being the one to ask him for training in the first place! Secondly, despite all the pain and hardship, the training meant that she was spending several hours a day alone in the company of Ganondorf, and she was not going to give that up without a fight! And finally, and possibly almost as important as spending time with the brown coated stallion, she could actually feel herself growing stronger.

“Okay, I’m ready, what’s next?” she finally managed to speak as she pushed her fatigue away. The nod of approval that gained her from the large stallion made the crimson tint currently adorning her cheeks grow a few hues darker.

“I think it’s about time we move to the next step, which just so happens to be one of my personal favorites!” he cheerfully proclaimed as he moved towards one of the large trees that lined the small clearing they were currently using. “Magical strengthening and enhancement!”

Forest had already been automatically nodding to her teacher’s words, only to stop mid motion as she truly processed what he had just said.

“W-what? What do you mean with magical enhancement?” she asked in confusion as she wondered if she had heard him wrong. Magic was the domain of the unicorns, after all! Right?

“You forgot the strengthening bit, and it means exactly what it sounds like, using magic to strengthen and enhance your body past its natural limits,” the large earth pony nonchalantly answered as he lightly patted the very solid looking tree right next to him and nodded in apparent approval. “Now focus on your inner energy, grasp the magic that sleeps deep within you, bring it forth towards your hooves, and strike this tree down!”

“But, but I’m not a unicorn! I can’t cast a spell!” the tired and fidgeting mare replied in a near panic as her head looked from her hero to the large tree he had just commanded her to take down with her bare hooves. “And besides, even if we ignore that, doesn’t it take years of study for somepony to learn how to cast a spell right?”

“Only if you are a mage, wizard, or spell caster. Their fancy stuff is all about precision, control, study, research and all that needlessly complicated junk,” Ganondorf promptly replied with a derogatory snort before he gave Forest a slightly questioning look. “And who said anything about casting any spells?

“We aren’t talking about that useless prattle and needlessly flashy mumbo-jumbo that those trumped up scholars love. We are talking about emotion, will and, above all else, power!” he fiercely stated as he lightly struck the tree right next to him, the deceptively innocuous movement somehow carrying more than enough force to crater the large trunk in an explosion of bark and wood and cause the tree to topple over. “We are talking about taking hold of the magical energies that course through our very bodies and bending them to our desires not through some fancy-pants spell, but with nothing but our wills!”

Forest gaped for a moment as she saw what Ganondorf had done with what most would consider being nothing but a light tap, before she forced herself to close her mouth and pay close attention to her hero’s words.

“Emotion and willpower, those are the key tenets of the path of a true sorcerer, Forest! The mages, wizards and spell casters can keep their fancy shit and needlessly complicated spells,” he solemnly stated as he started to move towards Forest’s intently listening form. “All we need, all that any sorcerer and warlock needs, is pure undiluted power!”

Forest watched as if in a trance as her hero stopped right in front of her and rested his large hoof upon her shoulder. She felt as her muzzle acquired the hue of the dawn as he looked her straight in the eye, but nonetheless she listened to his every word with everything she had.

“Now grab hold of the magic that dwells deep within you. Bend it to your will, bring it forth and focus in the result you desire and nothing else,” Ganondorf instructed as he turned her so that she was facing another large tree. “Can you feel it, Forest?”

For a moment all that Forest Blossom could feel was Ganondorf’s strong hoof resting upon her coat, until with an internal head shake she closed her eyes and focused inward in search of what he was talking about. At first she felt nothing at all, but after a few minutes she thought that she felt something. It felt like a warm river flowing deep within her very being. She attempted to grab hold of it as he had instructed, only for it to slip away. Again and again she attempted to grasp it, only for it to escape her, almost as if she was attempting to grab water with her bare hooves.

Snarling in frustration after several more fruitless attempts, and knowing that failing Ganondorf was simply not an option, Forest instead dove head first into the river and willed it to obey her! If she couldn’t bring it forth then she would go to it instead! She refused to fail her hero’s teachings! She would succeed!

“Yes, that’s it!” she heard Ganondorf’s voice echo as if it was coming from very far away, all the while she felt as if her very body was now on fire as the strange river surrounded her from all sides. “Abandon all doubt; forsake the mere possibility of failure!

“Do not think, feel! Gather your will, muster your resolve, and let the fire of your emotions empower your very soul!” Ganondorf Lord roared, and as her body was enveloped and consumed by the fiery river Forest roared in kind. “Now stop wasting time, AND TAKE THAT TREE DOWN!”

Before she could even attempt to think about what she was doing, Forest’s eyes snapped open and she surged forth with a shout as her right hoof darted straight towards the very large tree right in front of her.

Her bare hoof met solid wood in an explosion of sound and power, and, before her own wide eyes and against all logic, wood lost.

“Not bad for a first try,” Ganondorf happily mused as he inspected the plate sized crater on the side of the tree caused by Forest’s hoof “Not bad at all!”

Forest started to smile at the praise she had just received, only to all but collapse in place as she was suddenly hit by a massive wave of fatigue. She felt her eyes grow heavy and her legs stop supporting her as she felt more tired than she had ever felt before in her whole life. But before she could hit the ground a strong hoof had grabbed hold of her tired form and kept her upright by pressing her against a large warm form.

“Guess training is over for now, feel free to take a nap, you made some decent progress today!” the large stallion happily proclaimed as he nonchalantly placed Forest’s utterly exhausted from atop his back as if she weighted nothing and started to trot towards the cottage. “Good job! You better keep it up!”

Even as she felt her cheeks burn due to the fact she was pressed against her hero’s back like a little filly, Forest couldn’t help but smile. And with a happy sigh she closed her eyes and surrendered herself to sleep.

After having carried the napping Forest back to her home, Ganondorf had cleaned himself of what little dust and grime that had settled upon his coat during the series of light exercises with a bucket of water taken from the rain barrel in the yard, before he decided to wake her up with another bucket of the refreshingly cold liquid so that she could clean herself and get ready for the day.

“Here,” he simply stated as he offered the sputtering mare a clean towel, all the while making sure it wouldn’t drag at the now slightly muddy ground. Forest mechanically accepted it even as she kept her gaze firmly locked upon the Dark Lord’s waterlogged mane and her face turned crimson once again.

Frankly, the way the mare’s face constantly got flushed all the time still made the King of Thieves slightly worried from time to time. But considering that he had brought up the subject of the earth pony mare’s constant fever bouts with the Princess yesterday, and how the Wielder of Wisdom had assured him that there was nothing wrong with the mare’s health, he decided to ignore the issue for the moment.

Though he really wished that the Princess had answered in a little more detail about the cause of Forest’s affliction. All that the unicorn had done was smile and tell him he would understand it eventually, a truly useless piece of advice in his humble opinion.

“Ganondorf, there you are!” the source of said useless piece of advice shouted as she and the Kid approached from the other side of the house.

“Morning Kid, Princess, so what’s up?” Ganondorf cheerfully greeted his fellow Triforce Wielders with a nod as he kept drying his mane.

“A good morning to you too, Ganondorf, Forest,” the green coated pegasus calmly replied as he nodded to each of them in turn. “And I fear that Zelda had a prophetic dream last night.”

The King of Thieves groaned loudly upon hearing that piece of news and moved his own towel so that it covered his eyes so he wouldn’t have to look at the glowering white coated font of bad news right away.

“Please tell me you are joking,” he grunted in annoyance as he tossed his towel onto a wooden bench next to the door and gave a mildly pleading look towards the green pegasus, all the while he ignored the still glowering unicorn and the confused looking earth pony now right next to him.

“I’m afraid not,” the green wonder replied with an apologetic shrug of his wings and a tiny smile on his muzzle.

“Indeed, the dream I had last night has all the signs of being a prophetic vision,” Zelda added her two bits as she let go of her glower in order to briefly greet Forest’s still confused looking form.

“That’s just perfect,” the Dark Lord grumbled as he gave Zelda an angry glower himself. “And I take it you were looking for me to inform me about said vision?”

“Indeed. The vision started with thr-” Zelda confirmed with a nod before she started to explain the prophetic dream, only to be immediately cut short by the Wielder of Power.

“Nope,” he firmly intoned as he rose a hoof up as if to physically stop the Princess from speaking. “If we allow you to do so, you will go through a whole damn dissertation of the whole thing and all it’s useless tiny details, when I really have no need of any of that useless stuff.”

Ganondorf ignored the indignant look Zelda was giving him for his blunt statement as he looked towards the placidly waiting pegasus right next to her before he gestured with his hoof for him to carry on.

“So come on Kid, sum it up, short and sweet,” he simply stated as he attempted to impose some semblance of order to his slowly drying mane.

“Incoming ice age caused by some kind of unknown ice wraith;” Link dutifully reported as requested with a barely perceptible smile on his muzzle, while Zelda let out an indignant huff and glared in the large stallion’s direction. “Internal infighting between the pony tribes shall weaken their defenses to the point of collapse; unknown chosen heroes will temporarily repel the threat through unknown means, which are somehow related to a pink flame; another unknown factor that may be somehow aligned with fire will then aid the ice wraiths; two unknown beacons will then prevent the total collapse of the defenders; and we need to find the Master Sword.”

“That’s a lot of unknowns, isn’t it, oh great seer?” Ganondorf couldn’t help but needle the unicorn even as he went through the rest of the information. “And a pink flame? I mean, really?”

He knew far too well that magical fire could, and often did, take basically any color and hue imaginable. One just had to look at Nayru’s sky blue and Farore’s forest green flames to confirm that. But seriously, pink?

“So ice apocalypse, huh? Well, if nothing else it will be something new,” he concluded with a shrug of his shoulders as he saved what little usable information the warning did contain to his memory. It was a definite annoyance, but he could deal with it. He always had, after all. “Any idea for a time frame?”

“Regrettably no, there was nothing to indicate a specific time frame in the vision,” Zelda all but snarled, her eyes all but daring him to comment about it. But before he could oblige her and state that of course there wasn’t a time frame in her vision, Link interjected and redirected his attention away from raising the Princess’ blood pressure further.

“Sooner rather than later, I’d say,” the Wielder of Courage firmly stated and gained the immediate attention of both the Dark Lord and the Princess.

“Why do you say that?” he bluntly asked as he stared at the pegasus.

“It’s been getting colder with each passing day, for one. And there is also that to consider,” the Kid simply replied as he pointed towards the mass of dark snow clouds that were occupying the entirety of the northern horizon and most of the eastern one where they were being slowly diverted to by the gales he had summoned. “I had to reapply the effect twice already to divert those snow clouds, but they are still heading in a general southbound setting, which is where most of the pony settlements are located according to Old Oak.”

“I see your point,” Ganondorf nodded his agreement to the Kid’s reasoning, it made sense. Before he turned to a still confused, and now also slightly unnerved, Forest Blossom. “Guess we will be upping your training then, Forest.”

Yes, that was for the best, the large stallion decided with a firm nod. He had to make sure she was at least minimally prepared for whatever it was that would come. For there was simply no way he was allowing his first apprentice ever to die to one of the Princess’ silly little visions!

“What the hay are you three talking about!? Prophetic dreams, visions, ice wraiths?!?” the mare shouted, incredulity and a quite few hints of panic clear in her voice. “You three can’t be serious!”

“Oh, we are quite serious. For you see, no matter how useless the little Princess here is in getting the useful details,” he stated as he nonchalantly gestured to the now furious looking unicorn with blue sparks dancing around her horn. “She is quite reliably accurate in regards of what little information she does get. It’s kind of infuriating really.

“So, if Zelda saw ice wraiths freezing everything over until they were stopped by pink fire, then there will be ice wraiths freezing everything over and we will need pink fire to stop them,” he simply stated as if it was no big deal, all the while he started to instinctually pet the clearly distraught mare’s mane in order to calm her down, as any proper gerudo would when faced with a fearful and fretful equine. “Though, are you sure the fire needs to be pink, Princess?”

Instead of answering him, Zelda instead had hidden her muzzle from view behind a white hoof as she made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a snicker. In turn, Ganondorf stopped his hoof near automatic motions and snorted dismissively at the Princess’ rude answer to his question.

“Whatever. So don’t worry overly much about it, what will happen will happen and we will take care of it then,” he firmly stated as he looked to a now dazzled but happy looking, and once more crimson faced, Forest Blossom, all the while he completely ignored the Princess’ rude snickers. So he wasn’t a fan of the color of the fire, so what. There was no need for her to make a huge deal about it!

“At least that resolves the issue of what element to imbue my new sword with. Can’t go wrong with fire, after all!” he thought out loud as he considered what he had to do to prepare himself for what was to come. And finishing his blade was right at the top of the list, and speaking of preparations, “So, what about a spar you two?”

“What?” Zelda asked in confusion as she finally stopped snickering, all the while Link simply tilted his head sideways in a silent request for him to elaborate.

“A spar? You know, a controlled fight between two or more individuals with the intent of helping to develop and or maintain one’s fighting capabilities?” Ganondorf teased as he purposefully misinterpreted the white unicorn’s question so that he could needle her due to her earlier rude behavior. “I would have expected that you would know the concept, at least in passing!”

“I know what a spar is, Ganondorf!” Zelda grumbled in annoyance, taking the bait hook, line and sinker.

“So why did you ask about it?” he innocently inquired as he widened his eyes as if he didn’t truly believe her claim, which caused the Wielder of Wisdom to grumble in annoyance and glare his way, much to his amusement. A small amused snort and a look from the green pegasus placidly taking it all in made him decide to cut his fun short and get back on track though.

“Look, forgoing for a moment that I will indeed enjoy trying to hit you in the face, and that you will undoubtedly enjoy it just as much to pay me back in kind,” Ganondorf simply stated as he made his thoughts known as he gave Zelda a level look. “The point is that none of us have come even remotely close to pushing ourselves since we arrived here, and as such have no idea about our current limitations.

“So I say that we flex our muscles and fix that issue right now at least a little bit before whatever is going to happen happens,” he finished with a solemn nod and a large fanged grin. “So I will repeat myself, what about a spar you two?”

“A logical argument,” Link calmly agreed with a small nod as he started to flex and loosen his muscles. “One on one, two on one or everybody for themselves?”

“Let’s make this interesting, shall we? Everybody for themselves, obviously!” the Dark Lord cheerfully replied as he also started to warm himself up.

“You two… why am I even surprised?” Zelda grumbled as she tiredly rested her brow upon her hoof. “So your reaction to learning about a looming, and possibly highly dangerous, supernatural threat to a whole civilization is to beat each other up, instead of say, warn everybody about it?!”

“And since when did warning the masses ever help? Much better to use the time to prepare ourselves, I say!” the King of Thieves easily replied as she sent the Wielder of Wisdom a taunting look. “Relax a little Princess, who knows, you may even have some fun!”

“Unlike you uncouth barbarians, I do not consider beating other people as an appropriate way to pass the time!” she immediately spat back as she raised her head in order to glare the Dark Lord’s way.

“Come on Zelda, I know you want to!” Ganondorf taunted as he lightly patted his chin with one hoof. “I will even sweeten the deal. You get one free shot!”

“You…” she snarled, only to be cut short as Link gently draped a wing over her body.

“Zelda, we do need to learn how we currently fare in true combat against a capable opponent,” the Wielder of Courage gently but firmly stated. “Right now the rest of the village is still waking up, so rushing will be of no help. And this will likely be the best opportunity we will get to see to this issue in a semi controlled setting, so why not take it?”

The Wielder of Wisdom stopped and started to think about that logical argument. Only for her train of thought to be well and truly derailed as a ball of mud hit her straight in the face.

Zelda slowly removed the dripping mud from her face, before she settled her hard unimpressed eyes upon the unrepentantly grinning form of the King of Thieves, who still had some of the mud he had grabbed from the wet ground in his outstretched hoof.

“One. Free. Shot.” Ganondorf taunted as he carefully enunciated each word.

And as the Princess developed a beautiful eye twitch upon her still mud streaked visage, the Wielder of Power lowered his hoof and prepared himself, his smile now larger than ever since he knew it wouldn’t be long now.

A moment later an angry feminine yell resounded through the air, proving him right.

“And that’s all that you know about him?” Fierce Breeze insistently asked for what Wonder Bolt felt had to be the tenth time this morning alone, and, considering how dawn had just happened minutes earlier and the sun was still barely above the horizon, that was saying something.

“Yes, that’s all that I know about Link!” he replied with a hint of irritation as he trotted with the second in command of the squad towards the house in which the green pegasus in question was staying with his companions. “Seriously, yes, I talked with him a little after that whole mess ended, and traded a few more words with him yesterday, but that’s it! You know that, since you have been grilling me about it nonstop ever since it happened!”

“He is a Storm Caller, scout! Need I remind you of that?!” the pink coated pegasus’s mare all but shouted in a mix of eagerness, awe and trepidation. “A bucking Storm Caller! Do you know what that could mean?! There hasn’t been a confirmed Storm Caller in more than three centuries!”

Wonder Bolt knew perfectly well what it would most likely mean. The higher ups in the Armada would most likely lose their minds once they learnt that there still was a living breathing pegasus that knew the once thought long lost art, just like Fierce Breeze was currently doing.

“Did you see how he managed to change the wind currents with a single song? It would have taken at least seven weather ponies to do that, maybe more! This could revolutionize how we tend to the weather as a whole!” Fierce Breeze all but gushed as her eyes took in a dreamy look. “The higher ups will be so pleased when he returns with us to the Armada! We may even get to talk with the Commander himself!”

“You do realize he may not want to return to the Armada with us, right?” he noncommittally asked in a polite tone of voice as they trotted down the path towards their mission of recruiting Link to the Armada. There was no need to be antagonistic to the mare, no matter the fact that the azure coated pegasus thought that the whole idea was pure folly.

After all, Fierce Breeze wasn’t the strongest of his detractors in the squad, not by a long shot. Truth be told, the second in command of their flight tended to be actually quite professional in her dealings with Bolt, almost never giving him a hard time without a valid reason. Even if how she never approached him without an official motive showed how she wasn’t exactly comfortable in dealing with his mixed heritage. So he felt that accompanying her in this new mission was hardly a hassle.

The fact that this would allow him to sate a little more of his curiosity about, and interact with, the mysterious pony that just so happened to be the only other pegasus he had ever met, besides his late mother, that had a positive relationship with the earth ponies was also a factor in his decision.

“Don’t be ridiculous, of course he will return with us after we promise to get him a pardon for either his desertion or whatever it was that caused him to be banished in the first place,” the pink pegasus said with a light scoff as she pushed a strand of her mane away from her eyes. Clearly the thought that any pegasus would refuse to return to the Armada covered in honors had not even passed through her mind. “Why wouldn’t he want to return to the greatness that is Pegasopolis? It sure beats living in a tiny earth pony hamlet in the middle of nowhere!”

Bolt simply made a noncommittal sound to indicate that he was listening. The memory of the green pegasus carrying the tiny earth pony filly in his back made him think that there could be quite a few reasons why a pony wouldn’t want to return to the great cloud fortress of the pegasi, but nonetheless he kept his silence. Just as he kept quiet about his thoughts about how the odd pegasus may not have ever even been a member of the Armada at all in the first place.

Storm Calling was a lost art, it was that simple, one of the many wonders that had been forever lost with the fall of the Dream Valley. Or so everypony had believed, until Link had come into the picture that is.

The last confirmed Storm Caller had died over a century before the Armada had even been founded. Nothing but stories, legends and the barest scraps of information about the skill now remained within the cloud halls of Pegasopolis. That was a fact.

And yet, the green pegasus had to have learned the skill somewhere. And if there was nopony who could teach him the skill in the known lands where the Three Tribes dwelled, wouldn’t it mean that he had to have learned it somewhere else?

Wonder Bolt’s thoughts about the possibility of survivors of the destruction of Dream Valley maybe having managed to create a colony in the unexplored regions were soon shoved out of his mind, as his keen ears alerted him to a series of loud sounds that were breaking the peace of the early morning.

“Fierce Breeze, do you hear that?” he questioned the mare as his ears swilled one way and then another in an attempt to better pick up the source of the sounds.

“Fighting! Come on scout, move it!” the pink pegasus hissed after a moment of careful listening before she bolted towards the source of the sounds, Wonder Bolt right behind her, as both of them realized that the sounds of loud crashing, things breaking and other assorted cacophony had to be coming from a brawl of some kind, a brawl that was currently happening in the exact direction of the cottage where Link and his companions were staying.

They hurriedly galloped down the tree covered path for a few steps before they instinctively took wing in order to go faster. All the while Wonder Bolt wondered who could be crazy enough to attack those three ponies.

Nopony in the squad would be stupid enough to attack Link and his companions, not after everything that they had seen and the utter beat down they had suffered in their hooves. And that was before you added the knowledge that the unicorn was a war mage into the mix. Or at least Bolt thought so. But then again, it wouldn’t be the first time some of his fellow warriors had astounded him with their intellect.

Perhaps the lieutenant had finally woken up?

And with that cheerful thought Wonder Bolt burst right next to the quaint little wooden cottage with Fierce Breeze right next to him, both of them on their guard and ready to act. Only for them both to simply stay where they were, hovering just a few feet above the ground, as they stared wide eyed at the source of the noise.

It was a fight alright, they had gotten that part right, and quite a fierce one at that. What they had gotten wrong was exactly whom the trio was fighting.

Ganondorf blocked a harsh blow from the green blur that was coming from his left before he retaliated with a fierce hammer blow straight to the pegasus’ chest the very next instant, whom despite the speed of the large earth pony’s attack had somehow managed to dart away just in the nick of time, leaving it so that Ganondorf’s strike only cratered the ground beneath them and not Link’s chest.

Before the stallion could even start to remove his hoof from the crater, a flurry of white hooves fell upon him, striking at any and all openings in sight. Apparently completely uncaring about the rain of blows besieging him from all sides, Ganondorf abandoned all thoughts of defense and pressed his own attack against the white coated unicorn. Blows capable of crushing stone sought his enemy’s elusive form, as Zelda twirled and spun around the heavy blows.

The mare jumped upwards as she whirled around in order to avoid a haymaker while simultaneously delivering a fierce buck of her own against the large stallion, only for a green blur to suddenly connect his own strike against her airborne form. The blow threw her away from the fight as Link used the mare as an impromptu springboard to redirect himself towards Ganondorf in order to deliver a heavy strike straight to his chin. Only for the large stallion to simply grunt and weather the blow before he returned one of his own against the green pegasus’ side.

“By the great winds,” Wonder Bolt heard Fierce Breeze exclaim from right next to him. A feeling he most definitely shared as they watched all three ponies return to the brawl as if the blows they had taken meant nothing and he watched, entranced, the three very different fighting styles being used in this fierce melee

Zelda’s whole fighting style seemed to be based around agility and flexibility; whether she was attacking, evading or simply repositioning, her movements carried the fluid motions of the fierce rapids. Dodging and weaving between attacks by the barest of margins, never taking a step that was not needed. She was like a river of quicksilver, flowing through the battlefield with apparently no effort, always on the move as she prepared her next attack or set up a new trick.

Ganondorf was a stark contrast to the unicorn mare. He was a monolith, enduring and unyielding as he stayed rooted in a single spot, not taking a single step backwards as he blocked all attacks that came his way with frighteningly fast movements of his hooves and only truly moving in order to deliver crushing blows against any who dared approach his imposing form. He was slower, yes, but his defense was rock solid, and every hit he delivered was spot on and carried more than enough force to lay down a grown pony in a single strike.

As for Link? Speed, that single word accurately summed up the green pegasus’ whole fighting style, sheer blistering speed. He was like a furious gale, a constant blur that was never where his opponents thought he was. While Zelda flowed around all attacks and Ganondorf blocked them with ease, Link instead was never anywhere even near to where the blow would fall, having already darted someplace else long beforehoof as he prepared his next attack run while his opponent struck nothing but air.

Wonder Bolt watched, wide eyed, as the white unicorn flowed and bent to avoid a strike that cratered the ground, before she gracefully twisted midair in order to deliver a buck straight to the large stallion’s head. Only for the stallion’s other hoof to dart between the blow and its target and block it with ease, not even straining as he kept a strike containing the entirety of the mare’s weight and all her considerable momentum at bay with a single hoof. They stayed in that position for a brief moment as they battled for dominance, before they were forced to disengage as an impossibly fast green blur darted in to strike at the openings now present in both their defenses.

The green blur pressed both ponies for a moment with a flurry of lightning fast blows, before he was forced to suddenly dart backwards due to an impromptu pincer maneuver held between Ganondorf’s crushing blows and Zelda’s ever flowing onslaught. Only for him to dash back a moment later with speeds that Bolt had trouble even attempting to follow as he dove right into the brawl once again.

And as he took in the fierce melee taking place between the three very different combatants, as they showed more martial skill and capability than anypony he had ever laid eyes upon, Wonder Bolt felt a shiver run down his spine as he came to a sudden realization.

The utter defeat they had suffered had been the squad getting off lightly.

And the second in command of said squad had firmly decided that the impossibly swift and lethally skilled pegasus was going to go back home with them. Without consulting said pegasus about it beforehoof. Or even thinking about how he would react to said little demand for that matter.

Wonder Bolt let out a tiny sigh of frustration as he started to think exactly how he would keep Fierce Breeze alive long enough so that they could leave this odd little hamlet, preferably in a way that prevented her and the squad from angering the impossible trio further. Or what exactly they would all do when Wind Shriek finally woke up and retook command of the squad.

This was going to be one huge headache, wasn’t it?

“What is this?” Ganondorf heard Forge Fire question in a tone of voice filled with wonder as he proceeded to give his broadsword its finishing touches. “This resilience and strength, I’ve never seen anything like it!”

He ignored the fawning mare as he gave the over five foot long sword a final check in order to confirm that the metal had settled as it should and that there were no imperfections that could threaten the structure of the blade. He nodded once in approval, happy that there was indeed no need to return the blade to the forge.

Now all he needed to do was enchant it for durability, strength, sharpness and add in the fire element to the sword. Which, all in all, would be a fairly quick and enjoyable process, the runes the blade would require were fairly simple after all, as were the enchantments needed. He never really understood why most rune-smiths made such a fuss about working with metal, since he personally never had found any difficulty in carving runes in the substance.

“Incredible! How did you manage to make this, this… I don’t even know what to call this kind of alloy!” the red coated blacksmith mare loudly proclaimed as she darted this way and that in order to better see the blade while not getting in Ganondorf’s way.

“Damascus steel,” the Dark Lord nonchalantly replied as he raised the large blade with a single hoof and leveled it with his sight in order to better see if it had taken the edge properly.

“Damascus steel,” Forge Fire spoke in near reverence, as if savoring the words while she stared at the sword like a starving Like Like staring at, basically anything, really. “So that is its name.”

Not paying the extremely excited looking pony much mind the brown coated stallion put the blade back onto the table with a satisfied nod. The sword wasn’t even close to what he tended to give to his top minions, much less personally use himself, but it was decent enough and would serve its intended function as a temporary blade dutifully and well.

“Magnificent, truly magnificent!” Forge Fire gushed as she darted around the sword all the while she kept staring at it from so up close that Ganondorf was slightly surprised she hadn’t cut herself on its blade yet. “Oh, what I wouldn’t do to be able to work with such a material!”

That last pleading statement at least managed to garner the King of Thieves’ attention due to the opportunity it presented. His keen mind swiftly considered what he now knew was coming, the level of quality of the weapons he had seen in this realm so far, the several steel ingots he knew remained still unused that belonged to the blacksmith, and came to a simple decision.

“You know what, how about this,” Ganondorf cheerfully stated as he gazed at Forge Fire’s eyes properly for the first time since he had entered the forge this day while a fanged grin grew on his muzzle. “You let me use the rest of the steel you got stored away however I want, and help me with the refining process and the other menial tasks of the forging, and I show you how to make Damascus steel.”

“Deal!” the red coated blacksmith excitedly shouted in a hurry, as if afraid that Ganondorf would change his mind if she didn’t answer fast enough. “I will grab the metal and set everything up right away!”

The Dark Lord watched the very excited looking blacksmith dart away at a very respectable speed for a non combatant with a faint air of befuddlement, not quite sure why she was that excited. It was just Damascus steel, after all. A decent enough alloy all in all, but nothing to really brag about. Whatever, at least he now had a new minion to do the drudge work for him and some more metal to play with.

It wouldn’t hurt to make some temporary blades for the Kid and the Princess so that they didn’t need to face whatever was coming unarmed, and by Din’s crimson flame he knew that they wouldn’t find anything even half way passable with the ponies. Especially considering what the winged ones tried to pass as military grade steel. He snorted in contempt at the mere idea that something as brittle as the pegasus blade he had inspected could ever be considered adequate by any proper blacksmith, much less military grade anything. And the feathered ponies were supposedly the militaristic ones of the Three Tribes!

As Forge Fire darted back with several steel ingots on her back and offloaded them near the forge before she darted away to get more, Ganondorf started to happily separate what he would need in order to refine the metal.

He would make their blades, and then as the metal cooled and settled he could proceed to enchant his own sword during that time before he saw if his fellow Triforce Wielders’ swords would need any extra work before he added the finishing touches. But he wouldn’t enchant them with any elemental empowerments or the like, or any other fancy stuff for that matter. No need to make the Kid and the little Princess think that this was some kind of gift or anything like that.

Though, perhaps some minor durability enhancements wouldn’t be out of the question. And maybe a few rune clusters to add to it at the very least since he would be already working on the subject. But nothing more! After all, making them the blades was simply a way to raise the whole group’s combat potential and nothing else! That was it, nothing more, at all!

And as Ganondorf moved towards the forge he reaffirmed that thought to himself with a solemn nod a few more times, despite how he was already planning what kind of blade would fit each of his companions’ particular fighting styles the best and how to make them.

“You simply can’t be serious! Do you take us for foals?” Sure Shot’s angry voice reverberated through the walls of Old Oak’s home. The shrill noise was enough to force Forest to fold her ears to protect them from the onslaught as she watched the mare glower at Zelda’s white form. “I don’t know how you convinced Forest of this idiocy, but the rest of us will not fall for your tricks!”

The orange coated mare couldn’t help but feel slightly insulted at the ranger’s angry words. As if she were some foolish filly that believed anything that she was told. She was a grown mare and knew far too well how to differentiate the truth from some clever scheme, thank you very much!

Sure, Zelda’s visions sounded like sheer lunacy at first. Unknown ice wraiths condemning the lands to ice and death as they unleashed an eternal winter did sound like quite the far fetched story, after all. Something that most definitely was not helped by what little they knew about the supposed prerequisites to defeating said wraiths in the first place, or even about the wraiths for that matter. So yes, she understood why the others were at least somewhat doubtful of the unicorn’s tale, since she herself had been plagued by similar doubts at first. But of course, those doubts had been swiftly shoved aside as her hero firmly stated his certainty of the validity of the white mare’s words. And if Ganondorf believed the vision to be real, then it obviously was so!

“Please calm yourself, Sure Shot,” Old Oak calmly asked as he gave the frantically pacing and fiercely scowling mare a slightly concerned look. “Let’s allow them to finish what they have to say before passing a proper judgment of their words.”

“Honored Elder, you can’t possibly be thinking about listening to this absurdity!” the mare snarled as she started to develop a somewhat worrisome eye twitch. “There is no way such a tall tale could possibly be true!”

“Is she always like this?” the azure coated pegasus standing at her side whispered underneath his breath as he kept a wary eye on the sea green mare as she discussed and argued with Zelda and Old Oak. All the while Link calmly stood next to them and a very confused looking Fierce Breeze tried to make sense of the whole situation.

“For these last few days?” Forest replied in an equally low tone of voice before she simply nodded once. “Yes.”

“Perfect,” Wonder Bolt groaned as his second in command entered the argument with a few pointed questions, the action apparently only serving to anger the ranger even further as she made an aborted motion of grabbing the bow on her back as she all but shouted at the pink pegasus.

“There you all are!” Ganondorf loudly proclaimed as he barged into Old Oak’s home unannounced, uninvited, and completely unconcerned by either of those things, or by the stifling atmosphere permeating the entire room for the matter. “I’ve been looking for you two everywhere!”

“Ganondorf,” Zelda coolly greeted the large stallion with a stiff nod. “It’s good that you are here. We were informing Old Oak, Fierce Breeze and the other’s about the vision and what it’s likely to come.”

“I see. So, are they somewhat accepting of your Seer mumbo-jumbo yet, or are they still in the disbelieving, there is no way this is real, total denial, stage of things?” he cheerfully asked as he trotted towards the group without a care to the odd looks he was getting for his words.

“Mostly the latter, but with a few hints of the former here and there,” Link placidly replied as he nodded in greeting, also apparently unaffected by the tense atmosphere. “And I see that you finished your blade.”

“Eeyup!” the Dark Lord joyfully exclaimed as he removed the large slab of metal he had been carrying at his back by a hilt that Forest hadn’t noticed at first, showing to all and sundry that said ‘slab of metal’ was in fact a massive broadsword. “This little one turned up quite alright if I may say so!”

Forest followed Ganondorf’s every move as he practiced a few quick swings with the large sword, which was covered from hilt to point by some weird squiggles for some reason. His muscles flexed and moved without a single trace of strain despite how obviously heavy such a large chunk of metal had to be, showing to everypony present his magnificent strength and exquisite musculature. A point that was driven even further as he held the blade up with a single hoof as if it weighted less than a feather

“Yeah, it will definitely get the job done for the time being!” he happily concluded as he placed the sword point first on the ground with a loud clanging noise before his hoof moved back towards his back where something else laid wrapped in cloth. “And talking about getting the job done, here, catch!”

The large stallion then proceed to unceremoniously toss the wrapped bundle in the air, which promptly made it start to slip loose as it gracelessly tumbled through the air and resulted in the two swords that had been hidden inside to spring loose and start spinning mid-flight.

Somepony loudly gasped, but before anything else could happen a green blur had already materialized next to the spinning blades and expertly grabbed them midair. Forest blinked once, and when she opened her eyes again Link was already right next to the white unicorn mare as if nothing had happened while he offered her one of the blades hilt first, and a very odd blade at that.

It didn’t look like any sword the mare had ever seen before. It was much shorter and thinner than a normal sword for one, and also apparently only had a sharp edge in one of its sides. It actually reminded Forest of a large kitchen knife truth be told, but much, much slimmer and slightly longer looking, not to mention somewhat curved. The other blade that Link was carefully examining at the very least looked like a normal bastard sword, though both blades did have the same weird squiggles written on them too.

“You aren’t ready for a blade yet, Forest,” Ganondorf joyfully said as he stopped next to the mare and noticed her interest in the swords. His sudden appearance made her jump slightly in surprise and her cheeks took in a rosy tint as she heard his next words. “After you advance some more in your training, I’ll make a sword for you too so we can practice.”

The orange coated mare only managed to mechanically nod her agreement as she used all the willpower she currently had to stop from squealing like a filly at the thought of receiving something personally made by her hero.

“Thanks,” Link simply replied after taking a few test swings of his sword and redirecting the large earth pony’s attention away from the orange coated mare, much to her simultaneous relief and disappointment.

“I offer you my sincere gratitude for this aid as well,” Zelda also added as she gave a regal nod towards the Dark Lord after she had checked the balance of the strange short sword.

“Whatever, it was nothing,” Ganondorf loudly grumbled as he averted his gaze away from the two ponies examining their new swords with a huff. “I just had some metal left over and some free time to kill. That’s it!”

“While those do look like some nice blades,” Fierce Breeze interjected in a slightly annoyed tone of voice before she tartly inquired. “Can we go back to the part about your affirmations that some kind of ice sky monsters are about to attack our lands?!”

“Of course,” Link calmly replied with a serene smile. Before he twirled his new blade around and promptly stashed it at the tiny saddlebag at his side, a tiny saddlebag that couldn’t be larger than one of his hooves, while the blade itself was longer than his foreleg, and then helpfully asked. “So what do you seek clarification about?”

Only for the pegasus mare to simply stand there and gape, eyes fixed at where the blade had disappeared from view, whatever questions she had well and truly forgotten.

“You don’t seem overly surprised,” Wonder Bolt commented faux casually and with a very blank look on his muzzle.

Forest on her part couldn’t do much more besides simply shrug her shoulders. She had no idea how the pegasus did that, or how the buck it could possibly work. But considering how Singing had started to do the very same thing, she had decided to simply not question it, at all.

It was far, far, far less headache inducing that way.

“Show yourself you filthy needle-head,” an obnoxiously loud shriek came from outside the cabin’s wooden walls, breaking both the strained silence that had settled over the room and the carefully blank mask of the azure pegasus at her side.

“Oh, great, he woke up,” Wonder Bolt moaned in a barely audible whisper as he looked upwards towards the ceiling as if seeking for strength, a pained look on his features. Before he continued in a deeply sarcastic tone of voice, “Things just keep getting better and better!”

“Come out and face judgment!” Wind Shriek yelled at the top of his lungs, the way his shrill voice pierced through the cabin’s thick wood walls probably meant he was being heard by everypony in the village. “Your filthy tricks won’t save you now!”

“Seems like one of your patients is calling, Princess!” Ganondorf joked with a chuckle as he nodded towards the door. “So, are you going to answer?”

The white coated mare simply threw the Dark Lord a withering look for a moment, before she moved towards said exit with an imperious huff, her face perfectly composed as she walked out of the cabin as if nothing was wrong. Though, as everypony else followed after the white unicorn, Forest did notice that her new sword was idly floating right next to her hips in a faint blue aura.

“So the coward finally decides to show herself!” the grey coated stallion shouted as he finally saw Zelda. His sword was firmly held on his hoof and a sneer was firm on his muzzle as he stood in front of a large group of very uneasy looking pegasi. “You won’t take me down with your tricks this time!”

“It seems that you have recovered fully, good,” the white unicorn calmly said as if she hadn’t even heard the lieutenant speak, her body posture calm and professional despite the slight coldness in her voice. “Do you require any further assistance?”

“Y- You…! What do you…?!” he sputtered in rage as his face contorted in fury. All the while more and more earth ponies gathered from their homes to see what exactly the source of the commotion was. “You hit me! A lieutenant of the Armada!”

A moment of awkward silence followed Wind Shriek’s shout as all eyes moved towards the deeply unimpressed unicorn mare who was simply staring at the furious pegasus with a slightly unbelieving expression on her muzzle.

“He isn’t very bright, is he?” Ganondorf casually asked in a conversational tone of voice. His words resounded in the stretching silence. Several ponies snickered at that, much to the lieutenant’s ever growing ire, though the green pegasus he was speaking to seemed to be more interested in gazing at the far horizon.

“Shut your mouth, mud-pony!” he yelled towards the amused looking Dark Lord, which caused Forest and most of the earth ponies in the crowd to stop snickering in order to level angry glares at the grey coated stallion.

“Who do you think you are?!” Sure Shot spat back with equal anger, her bow now firm in her hooves and an arrow already nocked in it. “You think you featherbrains can just barge into our village and do whatever you want?! Well, think again!”

And with that remark the floodgates broke, as the until that time uncertain looking expressions on the pegasi turned into angry sneers. And soon both sides started to argue and shout at each other. All the while Zelda remained half forgotten to the side, where she had promptly rested her brow upon one of her hooves and let out a tired sigh.

The argument started to escalate further and further as it looked like Sure Shot and Wind Shriek would actually attack each other. Until a startling, unyielding, but surprisingly serene voice cut through the entire cacophony like a hot knife through butter.

“Honored elder, it may be best if all non combatants go back indoors,” Link suddenly interjected in a tone of voice that badgered no contestation as he completely ignored the angry crowd while his hard eyes remained fixed upon the northern horizon. “Immediately.”

“You winged freaks think you can order us around?! Just try it and I’ll show you all your places!” Sure Shot angrily snarled as she drew her bow taut and several earth ponies shouted their agreement.

“Are you trying to threaten us, mud pony?!” Wind Shriek yelled in kind as he held his sword high while several pegasi voiced their support. “Try it and see what happens to you! We are pegasi of the Armada!”

“Like that means anything! You think you featherbrains can take us down when you aren’t hiding amidst the clouds!?” the mare sneered in answer as the situation swiftly grew out of control.

“Bring it on, mud-pony!” Wind Shriek yelled as he attempted to charge at the mare. Only to be silenced as a tiny rock was thrown at the back of his helmet with enough force to stagger him forward several steps and nearly make him collapse to the ground, while his helmet rang like a gong, the sound of which silenced the whole crowd.

“Idiot, shut up. Mare, be quiet,” Ganondorf bluntly cut both of them off, right hoof still outstretched from the motion of throwing said pebble as he barely paid them any attention. Head unrelentingly pointed northward as his gaze saw exactly what Link had already noticed. “Old timer, do as the Kid says. Now.”

“What? Why?” she heard Wonder Bolt warily question from the side, since the sputtering Sure Shot or the slightly concussed looking Wind Shriek didn’t seem to be in any condition to ask for his reasoning and the rest of the crowd had grown silent. All the while Forest’s wide eyes swiftly moved from Ganondorf’s imposing form, to Link’s uncharacteristically fierce visage and finally to Zelda’s narrowed gaze and ready form, all of them staring straight to the north, and felt a sudden hint of worry lodge itself deep within her.

“Simple really,” Ganondorf easily replied as he cracked his neck to one side then to another and a fanged grin started to appear in his muzzle. “The snow clouds are moving far too fast to be natural, against the wind, and heading straight this way.”

His words caused a wave of worried mutters to spring forth in the crowd, as each and every single pony present, be they pegasus or earth pony, stared at the northern horizon and at the mass of dark clouds swiftly heading their way despite the heavy winds blowing in the exact opposite direction.

And as the sun slowly set and the darkness of night fell upon the land, Forest Blossom remembered what Ganondorf had said about Zelda’s visions, and felt a shiver run down her spine.

XIII - The Wraiths of Winter

View Online

The Wraiths of Winter

Worried whispers and angry arguments resounded through the early night air as both pegasi and earth ponies stared wide eyed at the looming wall of dark clouds swiftly advancing towards them, as if a great predator rushing towards its prey.

For a brief moment, Old Oak found himself unsure about how to proceed. The tale told by Zelda and her companions sounded like utter nonsense at best, sheer lunacy at worst. The mere idea that some kind of, up to this point completely unknown, ice-sky-monster was about to assault the entirety of the lands under the control of the Three Tribes was simply ridiculous. There was simply no logical way that such a massive magical and weather based phenomenon could pass unnoticed by both the pegasi and the unicorns!

And yet, something deep within him, a gut instinct of sorts, told him that his old ears had heard nothing but the terrible truth this cold evening. And so, as his eyes took in the odd trio’s fierce visages as they defiantly stared at the incoming blizzard that seemed to be able to defy the winds themselves, as he took in the three strange ponies he knew were extremely powerful and dangerous as they acted as if they were preparing themselves for a fight, he made up his mind.

“Forest, find your mother and start gathering the villagers that live at the outskirts!” he barked towards the orange-coated mare, which startled her out of her wide eyed staring at the looming danger and made her gaze at him with wide eyes. “They are to barricade themselves alongside all noncombatants inside the houses around the village’s center! And keep a head count! No one gets left behind!”

The mare hesitated for a moment as an uncertain look attempted to take over her muzzle, before, with a quick glimpse towards Ganondorf, a look of fierce resolve banished whatever doubt she had and she nodded with finality.

“Right away, elder, just leave it to me!” she promptly replied before she galloped away as she shouted orders towards the worried crowd as she told them to get inside and gather those who lived further away from the center of the village.

“Woodcutter, get a group of ponies and bring as much firewood as you can!” he immediately turned towards the beige-coated lumberjack. “I want bonfires lit in front of all the houses with ponies in them and all around the center of the village! As swiftly as you can!”

The stallion simply solemnly nodded before he departed without waiting a single moment, all the while Old Oak had already turned towards the red form of the village’s blacksmith, who met his gaze with equal fierceness. “Forge Fire, gather whatever weapons you can from your forge and from the other villagers and bring them here!”

“Got it!” the mare readily answered as she gave the dark mass of cloud in the not so far distance an angry glower before rushing away to do as he had asked. This left only one pony by the elder’s side.

“Elder, you can’t be serious a-!” Sure Shot attempted to interject, only for a harsh look from the old stallion to silence her on the spot.

“If they are wrong all that we lose is some firewood and time, both which are easily replaceable,” Old Oak stated in a tone of voice that accepted no counter arguments as he gazed straight into the ranger’s eyes. “If they are right and we do nothing, we risk losing it all.”

It was that simple really. Either their crazy story was real or not. If it wasn’t, then all that those preparations would cause was some short term panic and the waste of some easily acquired firewood. But if it was, if this madness was actually true… then they could very well mean the difference between the village seeing a new dawn or not. Something that he knew that Sure Shot was smart enough to realize, a belief that was soon proved right as, though the mare seamed as she wanted to protest further, she gave the distressingly serious looking form of Link an angry glare, gritted her teeth, and nodded once with finality.

“What do you need me to do?” she firmly asked, her face contorted as if she had bitten a lemon, but her eyes were fierce and determined as her right hoof firmly held her bow.

“Gather those you know that can fight,” Old Oak said as he gave her a grateful nod. “Distribute whatever weapons Forge Fire brings to those who best know how to use them and protect the homes where the villagers will take shelter.”

A short nod was all the answer he received before the mare rushed to do as she was told, already shouting and calling her fellow villagers to order as she gathered those who could fight and separated them from the majority that was being lead into the solid wooden buildings all around them.

Meanwhile, the pegasi had formed up in two orderly lines as they stared with distrustful and angry eyes towards the looming mass of clouds bearing down upon them all, while the pink-coated mare that was the squad’s second in command barked orders, and her immediate superior tried to stay mostly upright as he cradled his head with one hoof and groaned in pain.

His weary eyes took in the preparations already underway, the mass of frightened ponies that were his fellow villagers as they rushed inside, the bonfires as they started to pop up all around the village’s center and the clamoring form of Sure Shot as she armed a select few with whatever weapons Forge Fire had managed to gather. A freezing wind washed over his old body as worry and fear gnawed at his insides, and he only hoped that it would be enough.

But as his eyes turned towards the strange trio just at the outskirts of the maelstrom of activity that had overtaken his quiet little village, as he took in the sight of the most unlikely of friends that were waiting side by side as they stared towards the incoming threat with identical looks of defiance on their hard eyes, Old Oak had an odd feeling that even if the preparations weren’t enough, those three would still spit in the face of fate and forge onwards, despite it all.

A fierce look overtook his own features as he pushed his worry and doubt aside and galloped towards the panicky mass of ponies, starting to shout and yell orders as he imposed a semblance of order to the crowd. There was no way he was letting a group of whippersnappers do all the work.

Ganondorf nodded in approval as he saw what the old timer was doing. Even if his plan was pretty basic, it still was fairly solid and showed initiative. It was always refreshing to see actually capable people placed in positions of power. The pegasi weren’t as organized, despite the pink one’s best efforts, due to the simple fact that their leader looked to be still slightly concussed from the pebble he had thrown. The sight made him snort in amusement. Seriously, it had just been a pebble, and he hadn’t even thrown it that hard.

“So what can you tell us about our new friends, Princess?” he calmly asked as he kept one watchful eye at the swiftly approaching mass of clouds while he checked his new broadsword and its rune work one final time. The ever increasing cold a sure sign that whatever it was that lurked within those clouds wasn’t far now.

The Wielder of Wisdom was way ahead of him though, as she already had her horn wrapped in a magical aura and her eyes closed as she extended her magical senses in order to examine whatever it was that was approaching.

“Definitely some kind of ice apparition, at least thirty individuals, but possibly more,” she answered after a couple of seconds before she snapped her eyes open and glared at the dark clouds. “They are constantly on the move, which, alongside the fact that the snow clouds themselves are completely saturated with magic, makes sensing their true numbers a difficult endeavor.”

“Now that is something we don’t hear every day,” he casually commented with a whistle. There had to be truly a massive amount of magic in that blizzard in order for it to give Zelda, of all beings, a hard time seeing through it. He knew from personal experience just how annoyingly sharp the Princess’ magical senses really were and how hard it was to fool them.

“Plan of engagement?” Link serenely asked as his new blade all but materialized on his left hoof, and he tested its weight as he defiantly stared at the incoming threat.

“Let them come, and then make them regret it!” The Dark Lord cheerfully replied with a fanged grin as he rested his massive broadsword upon one of his shoulders.

“Go support and be an overwatch for the pegasi,” Zelda immediately replied, acting as if Ganondorf hadn’t spoken at all. “And try and prevent the apparitions from bombarding us from up high if you are able. It’s very likely that these creatures may possess elemental attacks, so be on your guard.

“Meanwhile I shall provide cover fire while also aiding the earth ponies and ensuring none of the noncombatants face undue harm.” She continued as her horn lit up and she started to cast barriers and ward spells upon the houses in which the villagers were taking refuge. “If we work with the ponies it should be relatively easy to funnel the attackers towards us so as to allow us to take them down quickly.”

“Hey, what about me?” the large stallion grumbled in playful annoyance due to the fact that Zelda hadn’t taken the bait for once. The Wielder of Wisdom, for her part, simply gave Ganondorf a look that said that the answer to his question was stupidly obvious. Before, after a long moment, she finally deigned to reply.

“Simple, really,” she spoke with a voice as haughty and condescending as she could make it and a tiny smirk on her muzzle, as if a queen addressing a simple servant. “Destroy anything that comes into range and isn’t a pony.”

Ganondorf simply blinked upon hearing his instructions as he wondered if he had heard the mare right. Before he threw his head backwards and roared with laughter. Now that was a plan he could sincerely say he approved!

“That I can do, Princess!” he cheerfully proclaimed as he removed his sword from its resting place upon his shoulder and pointed it towards the swiftly approaching blizzard, before with a flex of his magic he started to empower the runic arrays inscribed upon the massive blade.

The runes immediately lit up one after the other with a fierce crimson glow that grew brighter and brighter with each moment that passed, before with a burst of light and heat the entirety of the blade was consumed by roaring flames.

“Come on, beasties!” Ganondorf boisterously shouted, completely unbothered by either the freezing winds of the blizzard or the scorching heat of his sword. “Let’s have some fun!”

“What the buck is that?!” Wonder Bolt heard one of his flight mates yell as he averted his gaze from the incoming threat and moved out of formation. Though he felt that the pegasus' distraction and breaking of protocol was slightly excusable this time. It really wasn’t everyday you saw a massive earth pony wield an even more massive broadsword that was apparently able to burst into flames.

He had heard of magical swords before, just like everypony who had ever heard a tale or two around a fire or ever listened to a bard. But that was very different from seeing one of said fantastical blades first hoof. Especially if you considered how they were stupidly rare and expensive. Buck, he was quite sure most unicorn nobles didn’t have access to such blades! So how the hay an earth pony had managed to get his hooves on one was a very valid source of incredulity.

“Focus, soldier!” Fierce Breeze barked, the harsh light in her eyes clearly showing that she didn’t share Bolt’s opinion about the soldier’s actions being excusable. “This is no time to woolgather! We’ve got incoming! Stay sharp and get back in formation!”

“But that earth pony’s sword just-!” the pegasus attempted to say, only for a very angry looking pink mare to press her muzzle straight against his and glare him down.

“I don’t care if his bucking sword burst into flames! Nor would I care if he had the long lost Rainbow of Light as its bucking hilt!” she roared at point blank as the soldier shrunk upon himself. “We may very well be about to be attacked by bucking ice wraiths, that have, of all things, dared to mess with the weather that we are duty bound to control! You will focus or by the great winds I will place you at punishment detail for the rest of your natural bucking life! Are we clear?!”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am!” the thoroughly cowed soldier, Wonder Bolt, and every single pegasus in hearing range shouted as one.

“Good,” she firmly stated with a sharp nod as the entire squad neatly fell into line. “Now get ready to take wing at a moment’s notice! I want whatever is causing this mess dealt with on the double!”

And at this moment, as the squad acted as a well oiled machine under the pink mare’s harsh gaze while they were battered by the ever increasing freezing gales, Bolt couldn’t help but be thankful for the fact that Ganondorf had pretty much all but removed Wind Shriek from command, at least for the moment. And talking about the lieutenant…

“Lieutenant, Wind Shriek, permission to proceed, sir?” Fierce Breeze dutifully asked of her immediate superior with a salute. All the while said immediate superior valiantly attempted to remain standing and not empty his stomach as he swayed in place, quite clearly at least slightly concussed.

Who would have thought that it was possible to throw a pebble hard enough to dent a military helmet?

“Urgh, W-what? Oh, yes… proceed… immediately, soldier. I… will follow you shortly!” the grey-coated stallion managed to mumble as he pressed his hoof to the side of his head and his eyes tried to focus towards Fierce Breeze’s general direction.

“Sir, yes sir!” Fierce Breeze shouted to the swaying lieutenant before she turned towards the squad and roared at the top of her lungs, which caused Wind Shriek to whimper due to the sudden burst of sound. “What the buck are you waiting for?! Move, move, move!”

As one fourteen pairs of wings unfurled and beat downwards as they threw their owners up into the air as the squad soared into the heavens with weapons on hoof and at the ready despite the now gale like winds that battered against them. They rose ever higher despite the freezing temperatures, well past the tallest building in the village in order to get an overview of the whole area, and there they stayed as they waited amidst the chilling night air.

“I want a line formed and ready to intercept whatever it is that’s foolish enough to attack us ready yesterday! Nothing shall pass!” she shouted as she gestured towards a group of pegasi before she pointed where she wanted them to move. “They think they can challenge us in the air! In turn, we shall show them who rules the skies!”

As far as rallies’ or speeches went, it was fairly basic. But as the squad roared as one and looks of determination took over their visages, Bolt had to agree that it was effective. The fact that a green blur had just blitzed past them, and was now hovering high above also probably helped to lift the squad’s spirits even further, it was always nice knowing that that kind of overkill was on your side of the battlefield.

Snow had started to fall by this point, a phenomenon that caused more than one pegasus to curse and mutter incredulously before they were silenced by a barked order from Fierce Breeze. They waited with bated breath as the bonfires down below sprung to life one after another and the last stragglers entered the wooden cottages and barricaded the doors. Nothing but the sound of the freezing wind and the falling snow surrounded them as they stood at the ready, waiting for the blizzard to hit.

Wonder Bolt checked his wing-blades one more time as he kept his position at the outermost left corner of the squad, as a blue flash of magic enveloped the homes into which the villagers had fled. He kept his eyes locked on the, now far too close for comfort, mass of dark clouds as the snow started to fall heavier and heavier with each moment that passed and the freezing winds grew ever fiercer.

He saw through the corner of his eyes as the lieutenant finally took wing and started to head their way, while Ganondorf and Zelda had taken position atop the tallest buildings in the village about fifty feet down below and the few earth ponies that knew how to fight had huddled together near the bonfires.

Wind Shriek reached their position and promptly opened his mouth to shout something; only for whatever it was that he was about to say to be silenced as an oppressive scream echoed through the night air.

The bone chilling noise was unlike anything Bolt had ever heard before, a supernatural sound that seemed to convey nothing but hate and hunger and caused more than one pegasus to shiver from something besides the biting cold. And soon after, several more bone chilling screams echoed in answer.

“Incoming at eleven o’clock,” Bolt heard Link’s steely voice cut through the howling winds and echoing screams. And as he looked towards where the green pegasus had said, he saw what they were about to face.

Several spectral figures were galloping amidst the freezing winds, easily over three dozen ice-blue near see through equine figures that seemed to disappear and reappear from amidst the dark clouds as they screamed and shrieked to the frozen heavens. Each of them had a near skeletal figure, with far too thin limbs and their ribs showing at their sides, as if victims of starvation.

And each and every single one of them looked towards Bolt and his flight mates with naked hunger in their shining ice-blue eyes.

“Take them down!” Fierce Breeze shouted as she charged towards the creatures without a hint of hesitation, while a green blur darted past her speeding form as Link dove straight against the beasts with impossible speed.

Bolt shouted alongside the rest of the squad as they followed both pegasus’ charge, only for their scream of defiance to be answered in kind, as the specters bellowed as one before they galloped through the air straight towards the pegasi and the ponies down below, their echoing cries making Bolt fold his ears flat as a shiver ran down his spine.

All the while, the freezing winds renewed their intensity and the heavy snowfall swiftly turned into a blizzard proper upon the starless night.

Link kept beating his wings in a constant rhythm to counterbalance the frozen gales that kept trying to alter his flight course as he dove towards the first ice wraith in sight. Hard eyes locked onto the spectral being as it charged towards him. The Wielder of Courage firmly held his new sword as he prepared for what was to come.

There were at least three dozen of the apparitions as their opponents, and a raging blizzard as the battlefield. All in all, those were truly excellent odds when compared to some of the situations he had been forced to face in the past. Especially when he considered that for once he actually wasn’t facing it by himself.

He tilted one wing slightly to the side as he spun sideways without losing any of his forward momentum in order to dodge a barrage of razor sharp ice shards that were shot by the creatures. Then he flapped his wings and increased his speed even further.

As he neared the first specter, he focused on the magic that dwelled deep within his body. Fighting semi-corporeal enemies like wraiths, ghosts and specters was always a slight annoyance, since they could more often than not phase through normal attacks unless you hit them at just the right time when they solidified to attack you. But thankfully there were ways around that.

Link didn’t really consider himself a mage or spell caster like Zelda, or even a warlock or sorcerer like Ganondorf. Not due to a lack of magical potential, but simply due to a lack of personal interest. He had always preferred to master the use of weapons, artifacts and other such items rather than learn the myriad intricacies of magic, since that fit his personal fighting style so much better than most spells. But being uninterested in magic didn’t mean he was unable to use it.

And coating his sword in magic in order to make it so that it could hit things it normally wouldn’t be able to was something he had mastered doing lifetimes ago.

His sword darted towards the equine creature’s neck as he sailed past the screaming specter’s see-through form while it kept charging forward without any care for the piece of steel heading straight towards it. The creature’s already transparent body turned near invisible as the blade neared its target and the specter turned intangible, only for Link’s magic coated blade to still meet its mark nonetheless.

A pained shriek echoed through the air as the Wielder of Courage beat his wings and reoriented himself towards his next foe, all while the blue specter just behind him dispersed into nothing amidst the frozen winds. Now certain that the technique still worked, he rushed forth and buried his blade straight into another specter’s chest. Meanwhile, his steely eyes tracked the winter spirits as some of their number engaged the other pegasi while the remainder rushed towards the ponies down below.

Unfortunately, the pegasi warriors apparently didn’t have something similar in order to ease things along, which meant that four out of five of their blows harmlessly passed through the wraiths. The creatures’ efforts weren’t so hindered. Trusting that Zelda and Ganondorf could more than take care of things groundside, Link rushed to the aid of the struggling pegasi, darting from specter to specter as he dodged and weaved amidst the hail of frozen projectiles thrown his way.

He downed another wraith just as it was about to strike down a harried looking pegasus, before he promptly closed his wings to drop a few feet in order to escape another that charged at his blind spot. A sudden rush of several pinpoint balls of flame and a huge wave of roaring fire came from the ground and proved his earlier thoughts right, as Zelda and Ganondorf joined the fight, downing several score of the creatures with their magical barrage.

The sound of thunder suddenly reverberated through the night as Link watched a wraith that had just scored a deep gash against a red-coated pegasus’ side be hit by a lightning bolt before he could finish the warrior. The creature screeched in pain as electricity coursed through its body, before a second bolt of lightning struck it dead on and finished the job.

“Lightning works!” he heard Wonder Bolt shout over the sound of the shrieking winds. “Get a lightning barrage going!”

He blinked once in surprise as his eyes found the azure-coated stallion and he saw exactly what Wonder Bolt was doing. The stallion bucked a dark cloud he had dragged out of the rest of the blizzard, which somehow caused it to shoot a lightning bolt straight at another wraith that was about to strike one of the other pegasi in the back. So pegasi could control lightning to some extent. An interesting and quite useful ability, he would have to try and see how it worked.

As a few more pegasi followed Wonder Bolt’s lead and gathered dark clouds in order to rain down lightning at the shrieking wraiths, Link dove back into the fight. He darted through the freezing gale-like winds as he struck and evaded, attacked and dodged, as more and more of the ice creatures focused on him as if sensing he was the greater threat. But even as he downed enemy after enemy, even as thunder resounded and fire roared in the background as the wraiths were struck down by pure elemental fury, the green pegasus couldn’t help but feel that something was amiss.

Shortly afterwards, as three more of the creatures fell to his blade, Link frowned as he finally noticed what had been bothering him.

He had already taken down over twenty of the creatures, and his fellow Triforce Wielders’ magical barrage had also dispatched an equal or greater number of the specters, not to mention the few that had been downed by the pony warriors. So why exactly was he still seeing over twenty of the beings galloping through the blizzard despite the fact there had been only a little over three dozen of them at first?

A moment later, he had his answer. As before his very eyes he saw one of the beasts shiver and tremble, before, with a haunting shriek, where there was once only one specter there where now two.

“How bothersome,” Link mumbled under his breath before he took a deep breath and shouted his new discovery to the four winds as he dove back into the fray. “They are multiplying!”

“So they are, isn’t that interesting!” Zelda heard Ganondorf gleefully shout back a moment after Link’s warning resounded through the night. A warning that was annoyingly enough quite accurate as the unicorn mare saw it for herself as an ice wraith that flew overhead spawned another one before both dive bombed towards her form atop a wooden cottage.

As she fought the urge to roll her eyes at the Wielder of Power’s antics, Zelda unleashed a trail of fire orbs at the two attacking creatures. Both of which showed a remarkable ability to dodge as they darted sideways to avoid her barrage. Not that it did them much good as each and every single orb detonated simultaneously the very next instant and turned all the area surrounding the creatures into an raging inferno for a brief moment.

The ice apparitions weren’t really a true threat for either Zelda or her fellow Triforce Wielders, at least individually. But sadly, the creatures had apparently some modicum of intelligence and had also realized that fact, meaning that they were now attempting to bury them under the sheer pressure of their numbers. Which, considering this new spawning ability, was regrettably a valid strategy.

All the while, the earth ponies were having a far harder time in dealing with the beasts as their attacks harmlessly passed through the creatures’ ghostly forms more often than not, to the point quite a few of their number had dropped their weapons altogether in favor of wielding long fiery branches from the bonfires as they used the heat of the flames to ward the ice spirits away as their efforts to harm them proved ineffectual.

Well, in most cases, that is.

“Get the buck out of my village!” Forest Blossom bellowed at the top of her lungs as she brought down her bare hooves down on a wraith that was kept at bay by the improvised torches of two other ponies. Her magic coated hooves actually found purchase against her semi-corporeal enemy, unlike her brethrens’ weapons.

Zelda couldn’t help the small smile that appeared on her muzzle as she saw the mare actually take down her enemy with a very rudimentary but effective use of magic. She eyed the mare’s now harshly panting form with interest for a brief moment as several awed earth ponies dragged her back towards the relative safety of the fires. Who would’ve thought that Ganondorf of all beings would be an effective teacher?

She dispelled the errant thought a moment later as she created a wall of blue energy to block a barrage of ice bolts that came from her side, before she twirled around and buried her magic coated blade deep into the side of a foolish apparition that thought that it could get the drop on her in her moment of distraction, and unleashed a barrage of spell fire at two others as they attempted to flank her.

“Come on beasties! Is this the best you can do?!” Ganondorf’s maniacal shout resounded through the heavens as a good portion of the eastern sky was suddenly consumed by a nearly out of control deluge of fire.

She placed any and all thoughts about Ganondorf teaching another being aside for the moment as she twirled between two charging specters and took them down with quick swipes of her blade, and instead focused upon how to deal with the issue of their foes’ growing numerical advantage. However, the sight of Forest once more rushing to strike at another wraith inspired her course of action.

Link, Ganondorf and herself could strike the beasts down easily enough despite their semi-corporeal status, but the same could not be said about most of their allies, which in turn forced the Wielders of the Triforce to take the creatures down basically all by themselves while also protecting said allies. Which really wasn’t an ideal situation against such numerous enemies, and that simply had to change.

Now with a new plan firm upon her mind, she exploded several more fire orbs amidst a gathering of the creatures before she teleported from her current position and towards the largest grouping of earth ponies she could see.

“Keep the fire going!” Sure Shot shouted as she let loose another arrow. The shot flew straight and true, only to harmlessly pass through the freaky ghost-horse things head as its body turned into mist.

She angrily gritted her teeth hard enough she heard them start to crack. But even so, her hoof stayed firm and her aim true as she took careful aim and waited for her chance. This had been the situation ever since the freakish things had descended upon the village. Nearly all attacks did buck all to the beasts unless they happened to hit in the split second just before the freaks themselves were about to attack. Which meant that the only reason Sure Shot and her fellow earth ponies hadn’t been routed by now was the fact that the freaky things seemed to be somewhat wary of fire, and the fact that the bucking strangers apparently didn’t share their little problem.

“How is Forest doing?!” she yelled over the loud sound of the blizzard and the shrieks of the specters as she released another arrow. The shot once again did nothing to its target, but at least this time it forced the thing to stop its attack short before it could hit one of her fellow ponies.

“Old Oak is treating her right now, but he says that he is surprised she can even stand!” Woodcutter shouted back as he threw a fiery branch straight at the muzzle of one of the beasts. It did little save make the freakish thing rush away as it turned to mist, but it’s angry shriek at least showed it hadn’t liked being near the fire one bit.

Sure Shot cursed underneath her breath as she let loose another arrow, fury and anger coursing through her very being. For some reason Forest had actually been able to hit the damn beasts, but whatever the buck it was that allowed her to do that had left her utterly exhausted. The mare had been dragged to the rear where Old Oak was tending to those who had been injured by the freaks’ barrages of ice shards, protesting all the way but too exhausted to do much else. At the very least the orange-coated mare had taken down a few of these things, which was much more than Sure Shot could boast about.

A roaring wall of fire burst forth from atop of one of the village’s cottages, and, despite the raging blizzard, even from where she was standing the ranger felt the wave of heat that came from the attack. But even as she saw at least five more enemies be consumed by the raging inferno, Sure Shot couldn’t help but curse once again as she let loose arrow after arrow.

She was completely useless. The skills and abilities she had spent so long training, so long practicing and perfecting, the very skills that had earned her cutie mark, could do absolutely nothing against this foe that threatened her home and all that she held dear. And she hated that with her whole being.

It had been bad enough when that annoying pegasus had started to mock her skills as he grabbed her arrows like they meant nothing. But at the very least, in that case her failure didn’t immediately put those that trusted her skills to keep them safe in danger. But now, now every shot that did nothing was one more failure to her name. Those who trusted her were being attacked and hurt, yet all she could do was fail in her duty, and that brought angry tears to her eyes.

A sudden flash of blue light amidst the defenders made the sea green mare shove aside that line of thought in favor of action as she spun around towards whatever this new threat was, arrow already at the ready. Only to stop at the last second as she saw what exactly was the source of the light.

“What are you doing here?!” she asked as she bit back the string of curses she wanted to throw at the white unicorn now amidst her fellow earth ponies. She didn’t like or trust Zelda, but the fact remained that the mare had already saved more than one of her friends with her spells this cursed night, far more than the ranger had managed to do, and as such she would push down her anger and frustration and try and be polite.

“Leveling the playing field!” Zelda immediately replied without even looking at Sure Shot as a fierce blue glow enveloped her horn. The ponies all around cursed and gasped in surprise as their weapons were enveloped by the unicorn’s glowing magical aura. A magical glow that persisted even after the needle-head’s horn had stopped glowing itself. “The spell won’t last long, about two dozen hits or so at most, but it will allow you to hit the wraiths!”

Sure Shot opened her mouth as if to reply, only to find out she had no words to speak. Her surprise lasted until Forge Fire spun into place and threw the large hammer she had been wielding straight at the snout of one of the freaky horses, which shrieked in surprise and pain before it darted upwards and away as the metal actually connected for once.

Sure Shot’s eyes immediately darted towards the large bundle of arrows right at her side as her fellow ponies shouted in joy and reformed the defensive line around the fire with renewed vigor. Her pride and ingrained distrust for the horned tribe battled for supremacy with her duty and need to help to defend her village.

“Oh, buck it all,” the ranger cursed as she firmly tossed her pride aside and turned towards Zelda with unflinching eyes. “Can you do something similar with my arrows?!”

“Better,” Zelda immediately replied as she closed her eyes and concentrated. Her horn glowed a fiercer blue hue for a moment, before it suddenly turned into a deep golden color. “Oh, blessed Nayru, creator of the eternal sky! Grant upon your daughter the holy light of the primordial dawn!”

She watched with unblinking eyes as her arrows were consumed by the golden glow, until each and every last one of them looked like they were made of solidified golden light.

“These light arrows will not only hit the wraiths despite their phasing abilities, but they will also deliver massive damage to them,” Zelda quickly explained as she reopened her eyes and gave Sure Shot a serious look. “But be warned, that each arrow fired will consume your magical energies to fuel the spell. You will grow fatigued far more swiftly than usual, and if overused can cause you to collapse!”

“Got it,” the ranger answered as she nodded in thanks, even as she already nocked one of the golden arrows to her bow. And just like that, the white-coated mare was gone with another flash of blue light.

Sure Shot had never bothered to learn anything about the headache that was magic, but even so she could grasp what the mare had meant to explain. She would have to power the arrows with her energy, and that would make her tired and maybe cause her to collapse. But, quite frankly, by this point of things she wouldn’t had even cared if the bucking arrows consumed her very soul to function. All that mattered was to protect the village!

She took aim and let loose, and immediately felt as if she had just ran around the whole village as a wave of tiredness hit her whole body. But Sure Shot didn’t give a buck to that! All that mattered was that the freaky ghost-horse thing she had aimed at had just disappeared amidst an explosion of light with a loud shriek of pain! She could now actually hit the damnable beasts attacking her home, and that was all that bucking mattered!

A huge fanged grin now firm on her muzzle, she aimed and let loose as she struck down another wraith as it attempted to bombard her fellow ponies with hail and ice.

So buck that annoyingly frustrating green pegasus!

Two more arrows sailed through the frozen night air, and two more of the abominations disappeared in explosions of light before they could finish their charge at the defensive lines eastern flank.

Buck these completely insane past few days!

Three more arrows were aimed and let loose in as many seconds, and three more of the creatures shrieked in pain as they disappeared into nothing.

And above all else, buck these bucking freakish ghost-horses that thought that attacking her village was a good idea!

And as she ignored the crushing wave of tiredness that had started to permeate her very bones, Sure Shot made good upon her name as arrow after arrow flew straight and true as freaky ghost-horse after freaky ghost-horse exploded in showers of light and shrieks of pain.

A fierce smile was firm on her muzzle despite the fact her brow was covered in sweat, and her barrel kept rising and falling as she fought for breath, and exhaustion wracked her body. But all that was irrelevant, her skills were needed to defend her home and that was all that mattered!

And as she fought back her growing fatigue and blinked sweat away from her eyes while she swiftly nocked another golden arrow upon her bow and took aim, Sure Shot decided that Zelda wasn’t that bad in the end, even if she was a unicorn.

As he was forced to abandon the thundercloud he had been using in order to avoid being skewered by a hail of freakishly sharp ice darts, Bolt had to admit that things weren’t looking particularly promising.

Oh, sure, after he had found out that the damned ghosties could be actually hit with weather magic the squad had managed to take down quite a few of them with some well placed lightning bolt barrages, or in the case of Fierce Breeze, actually coating her sword with weather magic in order to ram it through some of the beasts as they attempted to charge at the pegasi handling the thunderclouds.

But the fact remained that for every wraith they took down, two more seemed to appear to take their place. And the battle was slowly but surely starting to take its toll on the squad’s stamina. Dents and scratches littered their armors from blows they hadn’t managed to completely avoid, and more than one of their number had their coats matted the deep red of blood from where the armor hadn’t been able to completely protect them from injury.

And yet the enemy’s numbers seemed to be endless. Not even the impossibly fast green blur that was Link as he darted through the entire battlefield as he took down wraith after wraith seemed to be able to completely stop the creatures’ seemingly unending tide.

Bolt fought back his tiredness as he imitated Fierce Breeze’s idea and coated his wing-blades with raw weather magic before he drove them through one of the creatures before it could bite his head off. All the while the sweat that caked his body froze solid as the freezing winds battered his tired form.

He saw the mentioned pink-coated mare as she assembled and organized her fellow warriors into making a new set of thunderclouds. Truly the second in command of the squad had been a blessing from the great winds themselves. For while Wind Shriek barely managed to keep himself in one piece as he avoided the razor sharp frozen hail that the creatures kept throwing against the pegasi, Fierce Breeze kept a cool head as she commanded the squad and directed it into a coordinated counterattack that had so far prevented them from losing anypony.

As if in mocking of his thoughts, Bolt saw as if in slow motion as one of the creatures jumped forth from its hiding place upon a mass of dark snow clouds, right behind Fierce Breeze and his brothers and sisters. He opened his mouth to shout a warning, but before he could do so the creature unleashed a barrage of frozen shards straight at the mare’s back. Fierce Breeze shouted in pain as she was struck from point blank range, before right in front of Bolt’s eyes she fell towards the ground.

It was like a blanket of silence had fallen upon the battlefield as the pegasi followed the warrior as she fell into a thick cloudbank and out of view, before the tense silence was broken by a shrill, panicked voice.

“Retreat!” Wind Shriek’s shrill voice resounded through the night air as the lieutenant turned his back towards the fight and started to fly southwards with all his might. “Flee! Flee for your lives!”

Wonder Bolt watched, mouth agape, as the leader of his squad abandoned both his duty and his subordinates and flew away without a second of hesitation. His fellow pegasi faltered, uncertain what to do in the face of their flight leader abandoning the fight entirely and the seemingly never ending onslaught of frozen abominations that had already taken Fierce Breeze down.

Wonder Bolt saw the doubt and fear in their eyes, how they wavered between fighting and fleeing, not knowing what to do, while the frozen beasts shrieked and howled all around them as they closed in, as if sensing their weakness. With a jolt he realized that the whole squad was on the brink. That they were about to break and rout. And in doing so, would doom both themselves and those down below they were supposed to protect.


With that singular thought reverberating inside his mind Wonder Bolt roared in challenge as he dove downwards with all his might. His powerful wings kept beating harder and harder as he flew faster than he had ever flown before as he aimed at a group of four pegasi that were surrounded by the damned abominations. He flew faster still as he gathered all the weather magic he could into a single point right before him until he felt as if he was about to burst. Until finally, with a thunderous noise he tackled the spectral horses head on and unleashed all the condensed weather magic point blank.

A concentrated wave of wind and lightning washed over the battlefield as the unstable weather magic detonated right upon the creatures and eradicated them completely. The action freed his brothers and sisters from the encirclement and, far more importantly, the thunderous noise and the explosion of light that followed had grabbed the attention of every single pegasus still on the air.

“HOLD THE LINE!” he roared towards his flight mates even as he sunk his wing blades deep into one of the abominations as it charged him, and with a supreme effort of will pushed the weather magic still all around him through the weapons and into the beast in order to rip it apart. He ignored how his hooves trembled with exhaustion, the cold he could feel sapping his strength, and yelled with nothing but fierce determination in his voice. “We are the guardians of these lands! And we shall not fall! HOLD THE LINE!”

And as if in answer to his shout a green blur dove downwards with an echoing sonic boom, as Link charged at the largest concentration of abominations in sight. The green pegasus flickered from enemy to enemy at impossible speeds as lightning crackled around his blade and nothing but dissolving specters remained in his wake.

A flicker of courage had been sparked in his flight mates’ eyes. Bolt could see it as their hope battled against their despair. They held their weapons tightly and their eyes constantly moved from the creatures, towards him and Link, and finally to the distant fleeing form of Wind Shriek. Now he only had to fan those flames.

“We are pegasi of the Armada!” he shouted while he charged into the heart of the blizzard without a hint of hesitation and struck at any of the abominations in sight, all the while the faltering line slowly started to mend itself as his brothers and sisters remembered the true purpose of their calling. “Through generations we have kept these lands safe!

“And we shall not be the ones to fail this task!” he kept shouting even as he desperately dodged a barrage of frozen spears from the cursed beasts and struck at another one as it charged at his side. He could see the effect that his words had caused, he could see his brothers and sisters as they rejoined the furious battle with battle cries of their own, all thoughts of escape long gone from their minds. “HOLD THE LINE!”

His final shout was repeated by all the ponies amidst the sky as they charged against the wraiths of winter with renewed vigor. But even as he inspired his fellow warriors, even as he struck and weaved, parried and blocked, Bolt could feel himself growing more and more exhausted with each moment that passed. He had already used a lot of energy in the battle before that crazy stunt with the weather magic, and now he felt as his body started to fail him. Despite his exhaustion, he kept going. He refused to fall, to even contemplate the possibility of failure!

He forged forward as his squad finally got back into the swing of things as they retook their formations and dove into the fight with renewed vigor as they worked in pairs and trios to take the beasts down. He pushed his tiredness and fatigue to the side as he kept going, as he struck and spun, evaded and charged. But despite his will, eventually his exhaustion started to take its toll.

One of the beasts surged from a cloud bank as it charged at him from behind. He attempted to spin around, to evade the creature that sought him with ice and death. But his tired muscles refused to respond fast enough. Wonder Bolt brought his hooves forward in a last ditch attempt of defense as the creature bore down on him. Only for a snarling pink pegasus to surge from below straight at the monstrosity and sink her blade into its chest with a roar.

“Watch your six, scout!” Fierce Breeze shouted as she moved to cover Wonder Bolt’s back. Sword held high and body ready to act despite the fact her armor was covered in scratches and dents, how several patches of her pink fur where matted with the deeper crimson of blood and her wings trembled with the effort of keeping her in the air. “The Armada works in groups for a reason!

“And what the buck are you idiots waiting for?!” the second in command of their squad roared as she ignored her injuries and fatigue as she sunk her blade deep at another wraith. “Hold the line!”

The pegasi roared in answer as they charged at their enemies as one. They struck and dodged, attacked and parried, until not a single wraith remained in their immediate vicinity.

“Good! Now, Bolt, take those five idiots and get me some space! The rest of you with me!” Fierce Breeze commanded as the squad attempted to regain their breath, a look of resolute determination on her blood soaked muzzle. “We are creating a bucking lightning barrage and frying these things if it’s the last thing we do! Let’s teach those beasts what it means to mess with us! Now move it!”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am!” Bolt shouted in answer as he darted back to the fight and the five pegasi in question promptly followed his lead without a moment of hesitation. And as he fought alongside his brethren to allow Fierce Breeze the time to set up her plan, Bolt realized that, for the first time in quite some time, he had said the formal words used to address one’s superior officer with actual respect.

“Okay, now this is just getting annoying!” Ganondorf grumbled as a blast of freezing wind crashed against his body, only to be erased from existence by the flames of his fury. He roared to the heavens as he brought his flaming broadsword downwards straight through the foolish spirit that had just attempted to attack him and the wraith shrieked for a brief moment before his being was consumed by fire. “You lot just don’t know when to quit, do you?!”

Four more of the weird ghost equines charged him in answer to his yelled question. Two of them unleashed a rain of ice spikes straight at him, while the others attempted to flank him from both sides at once as they galloped through the air atop currents of freezing wind.

He stoked the fires of his anger as he used his flaming broadsword as an impromptu shield against the frozen darts, before he spun around and decked one of the ice wraiths right at the chin with a hoof crackling with magical energy and promptly turned towards the other one trying to strike at his blind spot and bisected it with a fierce swing of his sword. But even as the two specters dissolved into nothing, the other two that had been bombarding him with ice had already spawned two others.

“You think that stupid trick is going to be enough?!” he roared to his enemies as he raised his broadsword above his head and grabbed hold of the eternal fury he kept chained deep within him. “Let me show you the meaning of true power!”

The flames of his sword grew brighter and brighter, before he brought it down with a harsh slam straight to the ground. A wave of roaring fire sprung forth and barreled towards the four wraiths right in front of him, consuming them in an instant. The wall of heat and flame kept going for several feet longer as it destroyed seven more of the pesky annoyances, only for the cold winds to finally prevail as the attack started to slow down, taking down two more of the creatures before it faded completely, and leaving behind one single lonely wraith at the end of the path of destruction.

A single lonely wraith that, right in front of the Dark Lord’s furious gaze, spawned two more of the utterly annoying creatures, which in turn spawned two more each, all of it in the span of a few moments.

“This is really! Fucking! Annoying!” Ganondorf yelled as he charged at the apparently never ending sea of creatures, unminding of the biting cold and the freezing winds as he focused only on utterly destroying the irritatingly persistent enemies right in front of him.

“Ganondorf, they are absorbing some form of external energy to cause their propagation!” he heard Zelda shout amidst the blizzard as he eradicated everything in his path as he roared his anger to the heavens.

“Wonderful, that’s just great!” he sarcastically shouted back as he took in the implications of what the Princess’ words meant and bisected another enemy in two. If the ice beasties were using an external power source as fuel for their mass spawning trick, then that meant that they could keep doing it for a freaking long time. And as he noticed one of the annoying things rush away from him in order to spawn more of the damned things in relative safety, while four more charged against him in order to keep him busy, he decided that he really didn’t have the patience to outlast these annoyances.

“We have to take them down in one go!” he firmly declared as he unleashed a new wave of flame and crushed another pesky annoyance that attempted to blindside him with his hoof.

“Agreed,” Zelda replied as she appeared out of nowhere right next to him as she sunk her sword into one wraith before she exploded three more with a pulsating ball of flame. “You start the attack, I guide it, and Link prevents their escape!”

“Works for me!” he immediately replied as he took down two more beasts with one swing before he turned his head heavenwards and shouted at the top of his lungs. “Link, get down here!”

A muted sonic boom echoed as a green blur materialized but a few feet above the ground, blade straight through a surprised looking wraith. Link gave him a questioning look as his enemy dissolved into nothing, but nonetheless waited to see what he wanted.

“Get that instrument of yours and make those stupid things stay still for a moment!” he promptly yelled without wasting a single moment. “Zelda, get ready!”

The Kid didn’t need to be told twice, for, between one eye blink and the next, his sword had disappeared and a flute had taken its place. He started to play an uplifting song as he infused the world all around them with the magic of its melody. All the while Zelda had grown deathly still right in the middle of the battlefield as a brilliant corona of blue magical energy surrounded her whole body.

Not to be outdone, Ganondorf gathered his own quite considerable magical reserves. The fire of his sword grew brighter and brighter until it looked like he held a miniature sun in his hooves. At the same time arcs of magical energy sparked away from the Princess’ horn as if bolts of vibrant blue lightning and Link’s song reached its crescendo as a brilliant pillar of light surged forth from the pegasus into the heavens.

Sunlight bathed the battlefield as the fierce light of the midday sun shone in its entire splendor, as Link’s song forced the moon out of the sky and brought back the fiery orb to the middle of the heavens. And with a sudden surge of golden light each and every single one of the wraiths found themselves bound into place by golden sparks of light.

“Now!” the Dark Lord gleefully roared as he unleashed a veritable inferno into the world, an all encompassing sphere of blistering flames that sought nothing more than to consume it all. Only for the roaring inferno to meet and entwine itself with the vibrant arcs of magic that surged out of Zelda’s form with equal intensity.

The intricate weave of spells of the Wielder of Wisdom gave the mighty flames called forth by the Wielder of Power purpose and focus, as they turned what should have been an uncontrollable omnidirectional blast of flame into dozens upon dozens of fiery lances that bore down with pinpoint accuracy at each and every last foe held tight in the grip of the Wielder of Courage’s song.

Fire consumed the world for a brief instant before the conflagration disappeared and left nothing but warm calm air on its wake, not a single trace of the raging blizzard remained.

“Now, wasn’t that something!” Ganondorf cheerfully proclaimed with a boisterous laugh as he confirmed that there were finally no more of the icy annoyances around. The mass of dark clouds that still remained at the entirety of the northern horizon and were slowly encroaching at the eastern one could be somewhat of an issue. But that was for later. “Really persistent little buggers, weren’t they? But all in all, that was a very nice fight!”

“Truly,” Zelda readily agreed as she moved to the side of the Dark Lord as her eyes also scanned the sky for any lingering threats. “Are any of you injured?”

“Hah, it takes way more than that to take me down, Princess!” he happily exclaimed as he playfully shoved the white unicorn on the shoulder before he turned to the green pegasus at his other side. “Isn’t that right, Kid?”

Only to stop and stare as he took in the fact that Link’s brow was covered with a light sheen of sweat as he breathed deeply, as if he was short of breath. And considering what it normally took to make a dent in the green wonder’s stamina, that was more than slightly worrying. “You okay there, Kid?”

“Yes, I’m perfectly fine,” Link immediately replied with a small smile as he recomposed himself and nonchalantly waved away the concerned looks Zelda and Ganondorf were giving him. “The Sun Song simply took much more magic to power than I had expected, I will be fine shortly.”

“Very well, but do inform us should you need any assistance, no need to be careless,” Zelda promptly stated as she gave the pegasus a last scan for any possible injuries he may had failed to report. “Especially since I fear things may not be over yet.”

As he stared at the far horizon under the renewed light of day, Ganondorf watched the massive wall of dark snow clouds that stretched as far as his eyes could see and how they kept their inexorable march south alongside a continuous freezing gale, and nodded in agreement to the Princess’ words. They had won the battle, of that there was no doubt, but they hadn’t even scratched the source of the problem, whatever it even was in the first place.

“Unknown warriors, mysterious beacons and pink fire, huh?” Ganondorf mumbled to himself as he reviewed the Princess’ vision while an exhausted looking Forest charged towards him to enquire about his safety and well being. And as more and more ponies rushed towards the trio, the Dark Lord found himself musing on what they would need going forward with quite a bit of excitement as a large grin slowly grew on his muzzle

“Now, this is going to be interesting!” he cheerfully concluded. After all, he had always wanted to know what it was like to be on the other side of one of the Kid’s so called quests.

Interlude - Of Astronomers and Astrologists

View Online

Interlude – Of Astronomers and Astrologists

“All scans indicate that the unknown object is made of nothing but ordinary ceramic,” a cultured voice carefully enunciated to the quill floating within the grip of a silver hued magical aura, the sleek writing utensil swiftly noting down all the words that were said upon a large piece or parchment that rested at a nearby table. “There are no traces of spells, enchantments, or runes of any kind upon the object, nor of any kind of magic whatsoever, for that matter.”

The voice belonged to an elderly grey-coated stallion with a long lush white beard. He distractedly removed a stray strand of his white mane from his face as he kept pacing along the length of his private workshop as he pondered at the strange mystery that had recently fallen on his hooves, quite literally in fact. Nothing but the sound of his hooves, the baritone of his voice and the tiny tinkles of the bells hanging at the rim of his hat permeated the silence of the isolated room that rested atop one of the tallest towers of Unicornia.

“None of the spells cast upon the object have produced any kind of usable information,” Star Swirl the Bearded, high arch-mage of Unicornia, stated in the same calm and collected tone of voice he had been using so far, even as his eyes angrily glared at the mockingly ordinary looking blue ocarina that innocently rested upon a table at the very center of his workshop. “Nor have any of the more mundane methods of investigation utilized so far, for that matter. All tests and observations would lead one to conclude that the object is nothing more than a completely ordinary musical instrument.

“And yet, the fact remains that the object seems to be, for all intents and purposes, completely indestructible,” he dictated through gritted teeth as he paced towards this offending object that refused to reveal to him its mysteries. He placed his fore hooves on both sides of the blue ocarina as he nearly touched it with his muzzle, inspecting it as closely as possible, as if that would provide him with the elusive answers he sought. “The object has shown itself to be able to resist any and all spells I’ve tried against it so far without suffering so much as a scratch; the more mundane methods of attempting to damage it have also proven themselves of no use. Not to mention how it remained unscathed after falling from the sky of all things!”

He gritted his teeth and glared at the infuriatingly ordinary looking item, as if in an attempt to force it to divulge its secrets. Star Swirl had been devoting what little of his free time he still had to try and unravel the mystery of this stupefying object ever since he had found the ocarina in a crater during one of his morning walks, after he saw the damned thing falling from the sky in a ball of light at the nearby woods, to no avail.

“This makes absolutely no sense!” he angrily muttered as he massaged his brow with one hoof while his eyes never strayed from the damned ocarina. He pushed himself away from the table and resumed angrily pacing along the room as his mind went through what else he could try to attempt to extract some kind of answer from the instrument. A quick spell to see the time later and his scowl grew even more pronounced, as he saw that he only had another half hour of free time before he would be forced to call it quits for the night and resume his duties as arch-mage.

The fact that his available free time had been steadily dwindling day after day these past few months, due to how the tensions between the tribes grew worse and worse, and the systematic problems with the weather remained unchanged as the days kept getting colder with no apparent reason, kept creating more work for him, and as such he hadn’t been able to devote his full attention to this blue mystery, a problem that only made his temper deteriorate further. And that was without mentioning Princess Platinum’s latest stunts and the headaches and necessary damage control they tended to cause!

Stars above, if it wasn’t for the fact that his apprentice kept that annoying diva’s attention firmly away from him, Star Swirl had no idea how he would have kept his sanity! Truly, King Bullion couldn’t have chosen a worse time for passing away! At least, for all his arrogance, the late king had still had a good head underneath his horn and knew how to not needlessly antagonize the other tribes! Something that his dear little daughter apparently hadn’t quite gotten from her late father, despite having apparently inherited all of his arrogance!

The arch-mage huffed in annoyance as he closed his eyes and massaged his brow in a vain attempt to fight off his growing headache. Star Swirl knew that he was being extremely unfair to the young princess. The mare truly cared for her subjects and wished to see the kingdom prosper, but the fact remained that she was young, inexperienced, entitled, and dangerously naive in regards to how her actions were perceived by the other tribes, which, considering the current situation and political climate, was doing extremely little to not aggravate the whole mess!

Not that his reclusive and brusque ways were much better in helping with that, in the end. The simple truth was that he had long stopped having the patience needed in order to deal with either politics with the other tribes or the unicorn nobles in general, much less an entitled princess who had little idea what she was doing. Thankfully, he hadn’t been forced to interact with Platinum in any manner beyond the most basic of court niceties ever since he had had the genius idea of assigning his apprentice Clover as the diva’s aid and his direct link to the throne.

Part of him did feel slightly bad for basically throwing Clover to the den of wolves that was the court and its nobility in general, and their diva platinum-maned pack leader more specifically. But sometimes sacrifices had to be made for the greater good; priorities had to be determined and maintained, after all. And few things took priority over his continued mental health, and as such Clover’s sacrifice was duly appreciated. Nonetheless, a raise for his faithful apprentice was probably something to consider.

But as he briefly considered how to proceed with implementing said raise, a sudden and massive surge of magical energy swiftly tossed aside all thoughts about unexplainable blue ocarinas, the current political situation, or his apprentice from Star Swirl’s mind, as he spun around in place and rushed towards the nearest window as his bells madly jingled with each hurried step he took.

“What are those foals doing!?” he spoke out loud, incredulity clear on his features as he watched the Celestial Spire, the great arcane tower used by the Celestial Council to aid in their task of keeping the cycle of the sun and the moon going, light up with a torrent of magic, as if to move the celestial orbs. This, despite the fact that night had fallen less than an hour ago.

Not wasting a single moment, he teleported from his personal studio at the top of the easternmost tower to just outside the spire situated at the very center of the city, as not even he could safely bypass the tower’s many ward spells in order to teleport inside of it, intent on demanding an explanation from the council for whatever the hay they thought they were doing! But the moment his eyes fell upon the great structure whose only purpose was to aid his tribe in their task to guide the sun and the moon through the heavens, Star Swirl could do nothing but stop and stare in muted astonishment.

Every single rune, spell and enchantment on the massive structure was alight with magical energy. Arcs of barely controlled arcane power sparked and danced across the spire. All while a very worrying grinding noise reverberated underneath the solid thrum of barely contained power that coursed through what was, for all intents and purposes, a massive magical array in the form of a tower.

“What is this?” he whispered under his breath. He had seen the rising and setting of the celestial orbs thousandths of times, had even personally been part of the process several dozen times before obtaining his current rank, and nothing like this had ever happened before. Something was most definitely not right.

“Master Star Swirl, what’s happening?!” the panicked voice of his apprentice sounded from right next to him as the white-coated stallion appeared from his own teleportation spell. Panic and worry were clear on Clover’s features as the young mage hurried towards Star Swirl’s side, his green mane madly swaying as he galloped with all his might.

Only for any possible answer the arch-mage could have uttered to his apprentice to die upon his lips as, with a loud shattering sound, the weave of spells that surrounded the tower suddenly shattered and went silent. And, at the same time, the moon was swiftly pushed out of the heavens and the sun was brought back into its place.

Both ponies stared into the unexpected daylight with looks of surprise and astonishment for a moment in complete silence, before they rushed as one toward the ornate double doors that lead into the Celestial Spire and unceremoniously threw them open without a single care for the ceremonies and procedures that usually had to be observed before entering it. Once again they had to stop in astonished silence as they took in the sight that lay within the massive arcane structure.

Thirty unicorns laid on the floor, some of them unconscious, others groaning and panting as they massaged their horns, each and every single one of them covered in sweat and showing clear signs of magic depletion. The sight made it clear to Star Swirl that there was simply no way that the council had been the one to cause the unexpected and unscheduled day time, for no matter how straining it was to do so, there was simply no way merely moving the orbs would leave the entire council in this condition. Which in turn could only mean…

“Master Star Swirl, did… did something just usurp control of the sun and the moon away from the council?” Clover the Clever asked in a barely audible murmur as the white-coated unicorn watched, wide eyed, the unprecedented sight of the whole of the Celestial Council laid low upon the ground.

“I don’t know,” Star Swirl replied to his apprentice as he took in a couple of steps into the tower as he attempted to see any hint to what could have possibly happened, all the while checking to see if the mages of the council needed any medical assistance.

After he and Clover made sure that the downed unicorns were physically fine, if magically exhausted, the grey-coated stallion furiously wracked his brain for an explanation, any explanation, to what could have possibly caused this, to no avail.

“Master, do you think this has something to do with the strange behavior of the weather as of late?” Clover inquired as he helped a unicorn mare up from the ground. All the while angry and worried shouts started to enter through the open doors to the tower, as a veritable wave of unicorns sporting emotions varying from fury to panic rushed towards the Spire in search of answers of their own.

As he ignored the growing rabble and their useless babble, the arch-mage considered the validity of his apprentice’s question. Truth be told, Star Swirl had barely bothered to pay any attention to the strange news regarding the worsening condition of the weather and other odd sightings that had been happening as of late. He had been feeling far too tired and annoyed with the sheer stupidity of court to do otherwise. Let them do something productive for a change, or so he had thought as he let the other court mages tackle the issue. But now, now as he stared at the light of the midday sun merrily shining through one of the tower’s windows, despite the fact that it should be night, he realized that leaving it to the incompetent foals that called themselves part of the unicorn nobility to try and resolve the issue had clearly been a massive mistake.

Dismissing the shouted questions some noble he had never bothered remembering the name of asked, Star Swirl narrowed his gaze as his brilliant mind went through everything he knew about the odd happenings of late, the rapidly deteriorating weather, and now this new unexpected mystery, and came to a simple conclusion. It was time to fix said mistake, personally.

“I don’t know, Clover,” he seriously intoned as he gazed at his apprentice’s worried form, a fierce light on his eyes. “But I intend to find out.”

“What are those foals doing?!” Celestia heard her younger sister angrily question as they both stared at the midday sun that was merrily shining atop the heavens, despite the fact that it should be currently night. “Has the Council lost what little sense they still had?!”

“I don’t know, Luna, but this is most certainly abnormal,” the pale pink, nearly white, alicorn wearily stated as she looked towards her scowling sister who was glaring at the sun as if that would force the great celestial orb to somehow answer her questions about what the hay was happening. “Something is most definitely not right.”

“Do you think… do you think that something has happened to Star Swirl?” the midnight blue alicorn hesitantly asked as she fidgeted with her wings, worry and apprehension clear in her features.

“I hope not, Lulu,” Celestia answered, but even as she did so she couldn’t help but share her sister’s worry. And as she stared at the distant northern horizon and the lands of their birth that lay beyond, her thoughts went back to one of their few remaining friends. A friend they hadn’t met in years.

“Big sister, do you think… do you think that something has happened to the Three Tribes?” Luna hesitantly asked as she took a step closer to Celestia, who immediately covered the smaller alicorn with her wings and pressed her closer in a show of comfort.

It had been several years since Celestia and her sister had left on their self-imposed exile of sorts. The contempt and distrust their own tribe kept throwing at them due to their change in species, alongside the startling discovery that they apparently were now aging at a fraction of what should be normal, had finally started to take its toll as their friends started to pass away one after the other. Until, when but a bare hooffull of familiar faces remained, and surrounded by bigotry and derision from all sides, enough had finally become enough and they had decided to depart from the lands claimed by the Three Tribes.

They had made infrequent visits back in the beginning, only to be received by ever growing distrust, and repulsed by what had once been their own tribe, and open hostility by the other two, until they had finally stopped doing so altogether. No matter what prince Bullion or their old friend Star Swirl had to say about it, the peace and tranquility provided by the absence of ponies in the unknown regions to the south had sounded like everything the sisters could possibly desire. For, even if it was lonely, they still had each other.

But now that isolation meant that Celestia had no idea what could have possibly caused the aberrant behavior with the sun, and considering the fact that when last they had spoken to him Star Swirl had been a member of the Celestial Council, Luna’s worry was more than justified.

“Luna, have you seen anything amiss in the dream realm as of late?” she asked after a long moment of silence. She knew that her sister insisted upon at least attempting to protect their fellow ponies from the things that lurked within the strange plane of dreams she had been able to access ever since their transformation into alicorns, despite the fact the vast majority of said ponies had no knowledge of her efforts in doing so.

“Dreams are hardly straightforward enough for me to answer that, sister,” the midnight blue alicorn replied with an aggravated huff even as she snuggled against Celestia’s form. “There have been a growing number of nightmares as of late, yes, but forgoing the more ordinary and recurrent fears, they tend to consist of the same topics as always: distrust, doubt, contempt and anger towards their fellow ponies.

“Nothing I’ve seen these past few moons can evenly remotely explain the Council suddenly attempting to upend the order of the heavens like this,” she concluded with finality as she gestured towards the sun with one wing and let out a tired sigh.

“I see,” Celestia replied in an equally tired tone of voice as she gently nuzzled Luna’s mane.

“Maybe… maybe you should try to see if anything is happening?” her little sister hesitantly proposed as she turned her head to look at Celestia, who had stopped mid motion upon hearing the proposition.

“You know that I don’t like using that ability, Lulu,” she muttered under her breath as she averted her eyes from her sister’s earnest gaze.

As far as they had managed to ascertain, they had turned into their new forms due to the new magical abilities they had created so long ago. But while Luna took great pride in her ability to dream-walk, the same could not be said about Celestia’s own magical ability of foresight. Not only did she consider their odd abilities as the original source of their forced solitude, but in the case of her own ability, she also thought that it was next to useless when compared to Luna’s ability to enter the realm of dreams.

Looking into the future was like looking at an ever changing fractal of colors and shapes that never stayed still for more than a moment. It was an utterly maddening kaleidoscope of pictures that had no rhyme or reason from which getting any kind of real tangible information was a disproportionately frustrating and exhausting endeavor.

“I know, sister,” Luna gently said as she rubbed her muzzle alongside Celestia’s neck in an encouraging manner. “But what other options do we have?”

Celestia closed her eyes as she let out an aggravated sigh. No matter how much she wanted to dispute her sister’s words, she knew them to be truth. Her ability was indeed the best chance they had to try and learn what could be happening in the distant northern lands of their birthplace. And so, after a long moment, she nodded her head once in resigned agreement.

“Very well, I will attempt to see what I can get,” she answered with a tinge of annoyance at the need to do so. “But do not get your hopes up, Lulu. You know how infuriatingly vague my future sight truly is!”

“I have faith in you, sister!” Luna jovially answered as she gave an encouraging smile.

Celestia gave her a small smile in answer, before with a deep breath she focused herself, gathered her magic, and opened her mind to the flow of the future.

Images flashed by right in front of her eyes with impossible speed, appearing and disappearing without rhyme or reason almost too fast for her to even truly absorb their meaning: A massive explosion of sickly looking crimson flames blanket the sky; Ice and snow swirled around in a blinding blizzard; A sword stood tall against the darkness, it’s point puncturing the earth as otherworldly light covered the whole blade; The Three Tribes as they fought and argued against each other; A haunting shriek echoed through a deserted village covered in snow and ice; Three ponies, one of each tribe, huddled together amidst a raging blizzard, before, with a sudden flash, a pink flame was born in their midst; More scenes of her fellow ponies as they fought and argued with each other as ice and snow covered the land; A strange see through equine looking creature screamed to the heavens; The proud halls of Unicornia vacant and desolated as ice and snow slowly blocked all buildings from view; Three golden fi-

With a shuddering gasp Celestia closed off the ever speeding flow of images. She took in several heavy breaths as she attempted to re-center herself upon the present, an action that was immensely helped by the feeling of her little sister tenderly caressing her back with her wings in an attempt to help her deal with the strain of peering into the ever changing future.

“Well, that was as unpleasant as always,” she tiredly commented as she took in a long deep breath, before slowly letting it out. The fact that quite a bit of what she had seen was deeply worrying only added to the unpleasant feeling that using the ability normally caused.

“What did you see, sister?” her young sister asked, worry and apprehension clear in her eyes.

“I don’t know for certain, Luna. There was fighting and arguing, ice and desolation, some strange equine creature and even stranger looking fire,” Celestia tiredly replied as she attempted to put some semblance of order to what she had just seen. The fact that she knew from personal experience that the scenes she managed to glimpse from her future sight were never shown in a chronological order only added to the problem. “I simply don’t know…

“But one thing is certain,” she continued as she shoved her tiredness aside as the image of Unicornia’s snow covered and deserted halls resonated through her mind and a fierce glint entered her eyes. “We must find out.”

XIV - Taking Stock

View Online

Taking Stock

Sure Shot stared at the incongruously bright sky for a moment with tired eyes as the few remaining bits of her rational mind screamed that it was supposed to be night! With a firm shake of her head, she banished the thought away and concentrated back into the moment. She had far more important things to do than gape at the newest impossibility the crazy trio had somehow caused.

“Gather all the injured around the central bonfire!” she commanded to Forge Fire and the ponies by the blacksmith’s side, while she did her level best to ignore the bone deep tiredness that was plaguing her body, stubbornly remaining on her hooves instead of collapsing into the ground as her muscles kept screaming at her to do. “We’ve got to check everypony for frostbite and make sure nopony’s injuries are infected! Coordinate with the elder, he will know what to do!”

The red-coated mare seemed to hesitate for a moment, before, with a final gaze of her own towards the now clear skies, and to the crazy green pegasus calmly talking with the two other impossibilities slowly walking their way alongside Forest’s exhausted looking form, she nodded and trotted away in search of Old Oak.

“Woodcutter, did you get those blankets?” Sure Shot asked the lumberjack, upon noticing the stallion emerging from one of the houses alongside three other ponies, all of them carrying large bundles upon their backs. “We have to make sure everypony who got injured remains as warm as possible and gets some rest until they can be healed!”

“Got it,” the stallion replied with a nod even as he passed the pile of blankets he had been carrying to another earth pony that was rushing towards where she could see Old Oak was already starting to treat the injured. All the blankets that is, except for a single one that remained on his hooves for a moment before being offered to the exhausted looking sea green mare.

“What?” the ranger asked in both confusion and slight annoyance as she stared at the fluffy blanket being practically shoved at her face that was stopping her from trotting off to see what else had to be done. “What the buck do you think you are doing?”

“You said to give a blanket to anypony who was injured,” the beige-coated stallion answered as if it was obvious, once again offering said blanket to the now glowering ranger. “So here, for you.”

“Oh, buck it all,” Sure Shot spat back as she shoved the hoof carrying the fluffy item back towards Woodcutter. She didn’t have time for any of this nonsense! She had to make sure everything was alright after the attack by those freakish ghost horses! “I told both you and Forge Fire plenty of times already, I’m fine! Now go help the injured!”

The very dubious look the stallion gave her as an answer only made her want to grind her teeth. She was fine, damn it all! Sure, she was kinda swaying in place a little. And her body did feel colder than normal. And her hooves did feel like they were filled with lead every time she attempted to move them. But that was nothing! She was fine!

“Sure Shot-“ the lumberjack started to say, only for the ranger to once more push the blanket back to him and take a firm step towards the outskirts of the newly erected medical area.

“There’s no time for this nonsense! We have to make sure none of those freakish things remain around the village!” she firmly stated one final time. She took several more wobbly steps away from the warmth of the bonfires as she kept herself standing through sheer force of will. “Now stop wasting time and go help the injured!”

And with that final order Sure Shot took hold of her bow and started towards the outskirts proper. Or, at least, that had been her intention. After taking but three measly steps, the ground swayed in an unpredictable manner underneath her hooves, making her lose her footing and slip straight towards the cold earth.

She cursed underneath her breath as she readied herself for the fall. But a single moment before she hit the ground, Sure Shot found herself floating within the grip of a blue magical aura.

“Easy there! You really shouldn’t be exerting yourself like that!” Zelda dutifully said, helping Sure Shot back into an upright position as she quickly approached the ranger still held firm within her magic.

The fact that it was a unicorn that was helping her stand upright would have made Sure Shot curse and push the horn head away but a few hours ago out of sheer principle due to her distrust and anger of the horned tribe! The fact that said horn-head was using magic on her person of all things to do so would’ve only aggravated the issue! A few short hours ago she would’ve rather hit her muzzle and lay on the cold ground than trust a horn-head to not have ulterior motives for helping an earth pony, much less allow one of them to hold her with their freaky magic!

But this particular horn-head had just helped her to save the village and all of her friends from a bucking army of freakish ghost horses in the span of those very same few short hours. So, despite the fact that a considerable part of her mind kept yelling at her to push the horn-head away and get free immediately before something bad happened, Sure Shot was willing to overlook Zelda’s tribe for the time being and offer her some small measure of trust. Even if said decision caused decidedly mixed feelings in her and made most of her instincts rebel and scream.

“Look, thanks for the help, but I need to go and make sure everything is alright,” she woodenly said after taking a deep breath and biting back the slew of curses she had almost spat out by reflex. Zelda was somewhat of an ally right now, and so deserved some measure of respect. “So if you could let me go, that would be great!”

“Sure Shot, you have depleted your magical reserves in their entirety,” Zelda gently admonished as her eyes took in a deep blue tinge as she observed the sea green mare’s form, not showing any sign that she intended to comply with Sure Shot’s request. “You need to rest, not go gallivanting around.”

“Look, thanks for the concern, but I can’t waste time like that!” the ranger retorted with a tinge of anger as she tried to make contact with the ground so she could get moving already, to no avail. “I gotta make sure everypony is alright! Besides, I’m fine!”

“Sure Shot, quite frankly I’m astounded that you are still conscious,” the unicorn admonished once again as she let out a tiny, aggravated huff. “You are in no condition to go anywhere!”

“I already told you that I’m fine!” Sure Shot angrily rebuked to the white unicorn, all the while she leveled the fretting form of Woodcutter, who had been taking advantage of her bound floating state to start to cover her with the bucking blanket she had already told him she had no need of, a glare. “Tend to the others! I’m going to make sure none of those things are still around! I can rest when that’s done with!”

With those words she attempted to free herself from both the very warm blanket that had just been wrapped around her body and the grip of Zelda’s magic with slightly shaking hooves, while trying to find some traction on the ground beneath her in order to move out of Zelda’s magical grip. All the while, the earth pony mare stubbornly ignored the bone deep tiredness that was plaguing her body, or how the floor seemed to be swaying side to side a little under her, or how there were annoying black spots blinking in and out of focus in the corner of her eyes.

She was fine! Buck it all, she had no time to be placed in a bed like she was an invalid or something! There was simply too much to be done after those creatures attacked for her to laze around like this! She wasn’t even injured!

“Do not even think about it,” Zelda’s aristocratic voice made a shiver run down Sure Shot’s spine despite the incongruously gentle tone it had. The words had not been shouted, nor had they been spoken harshly; point in fact, the inflection and tone they had carried had been nothing but perfectly polite and soothing. And yet, the ranger somehow couldn’t help but stop all motion the moment she heard those words and Zelda leveled at her a deeply unimpressed look.

“But-” she attempted to protest, only to be immediately cut off by the white-coated unicorn.

“That was not a request, young lady.” Zelda firmly stated as she started to float Sure Shot’s now blanket wrapped form a few inches above the ground proper.

“But-“ the sea green mare attempted to interject once again, to no avail.

“You are currently suffering from severe magical exhaustion and have depleted the entirety of your magical reserves and almost all of your stamina, a situation which, if left untreated, could easily lead to severe complications to your health and land you into a coma,” Zelda explained in a tone of voice that brooked no arguments as she looked the ranger straight in the eye.

“But I gotta help!” she pleaded, hating how weak that made her sound. The protection of the village was her responsibility! She couldn’t fail her fellow ponies! Not after almost failing so miserably during the attack! “I have to help!”

Zelda, for her part, stared at the floating ranger for a long moment, before she closed her eyes and let out a tired huff as she mumbled underneath her breath about stubborn idiots that really should know better.

“Stay inside that blanket and save your strength, do so and I will help you stay awake without risk to your health so that you can help coordinate the efforts alongside Old Oak as I help him tend to the injured,” Zelda firmly stated as she started to move towards where Old Oak was already tending to the injured, Sure Shot floating right beside her inside the unicorn’s blue magical grip. “You shall accept these terms, or I shall render you unconscious for your own good. Am I clear?”

“Fine,” Sure Shot grumbled her agreement. Slightly annoyed at the situation, but somewhat mollified that at least she would be of some help this way instead of shoved aside like a dead weight.

“Excellent,” the white-coated mare simply replied as she trotted towards their destination and a moment of silence descended between the two of them.

“Hey, Zelda?” Sure Shot hesitantly asked after a few moments, a plethora of emotions battling for dominance on her features as she spoke.

“Yes?” the unicorn asked as she turned her head slightly in order to better see the ranger’s face.

Sure Shot moved her mouth without making a single sound for a few moments longer, before her features settled into a determined look and she looked the unicorn straight in the eyes.

“Thanks for the arrows,” she sincerely spoke in a barely audible tone of voice, eyes locked into the horn-head’s own blue orbs.

“You‘re welcome,” Zelda replied with a small smile, a small smile that was tentatively answered by the earth pony ranger as they reached the warmth of the bonfires.

For what felt like the third time in so many minutes Old Oak found himself having to fight back the urge to stare at the impossibly bright sky that had somehow replaced the dark, storm ridden night that had been overhead but moments ago. But in the end, his sense of duty and responsibility pushed aside his incredulity and bafflement as he kept seeing to the injured alongside Zelda. He could always ponder about how little he actually knew about the mysteries of the world and what was really possible or not later. For now, tending to his fellow ponies took precedence.

There was a myriad of injuries ranging from cuts, bruises, slashes and puncture wounds plaguing his fellow ponies, not to mention varying levels of frostbite, but thankfully none of the injuries were life threatening or beyond his ability to heal. This, alongside Zelda’s healing spells, meant that there would thankfully be no long term repercussions to this dreadful business.

“We have to make sure there aren’t any stragglers near the village!” a slightly miffed looking Sure Shot said from the cocoon of blankets she was nested within right next to a large fire, a sight that nearly brought a smile to the elder’s face despite everything that had just happened. Seeing the headstrong ranger bundled up inside the blankets with only her head poking out was something he could sincerely say he had never expected to see. And even if he had no idea how exactly Zelda had gotten the stubborn mare to listen to reason for a change and at least lay down for some rest, he was nonetheless thankful for it. “If even one of them remains we could soon be buried by a whole new wave of those freakish things!”

“Leave it to me! I c-“ Forest Blossom started to say with a confident tone of voice as she proceeded to push her own blanket away and try to rise up upon slightly shaky hooves. Only to stop talking and freeze in place as both Old Oak and Zelda leveled very unimpressed looks at the equally stubborn orange-coated mare.

“You will do no such thing, my dear,” the old stallion fiercely stated. He may not have a single idea what exactly it was that Ganondorf had taught the mare to allow her to hit the ice wraiths with her hooves, but the obvious fact that it had left Forest almost as exhausted as Sure Shot was clear for all to see. “You need to rest, not to be gallivanting out in the woods!”

“Indeed, you are in no condition to undertake such an endeavor, neither of you are,” Zelda added her two bits even as she finished healing an awestruck looking villager that seemed unable to believe his wounds had been healed already.

“She does have a point though, we really should make sure there aren’t any more of those things around,” Woodcutter uneasily stated as he threw some more branches onto the fire in order to keep the cold at bay.

Old Oak couldn’t help but nod in agreement; yes it was a valid concern that had to be dealt with. Only, not by the two headstrong mares that seemed determined to fall unconscious due to sheer exhaustion and pure stubbornness! Thankfully, Ganondorf’s gruff voice answered the lumberjack’s words before they could get any more ideas.

“Eh, why not?” the massive earth pony nonchalantly stated as he rose to his hooves from where he had been sitting to the side as he examined his equally massive broadsword. “I can check the outskirts for any stragglers. It beats sitting here doing nothing and goddess knows that me helping tend to the injured is a bad idea!”

The fact that the last statement caused Zelda to let out an amused snort and a small smile to appear on Link’s face told Old Oak that there was probably a story there. But now was not the time to try and inquire about it.

“Your help would most definitely be greatly appreciated, my good stallion,” the elder said as he gave the brown-coated pony a small grateful smile even as he finished applying some ointment to the bruises at the side of his latest patient.

“Whatever,” the large stallion grumbled as he holstered his sword on his back and rolled his shoulders around as he turned towards the green pegasus by his side. “So, Kid, how about you put those wings of yours to some use scouting further afield while I secure the perimeter? It would be nice knowing where exactly within those snow clouds over yonder the next wave of those annoyances are.”

For his part Link simply nodded his head once in agreement, before with a sudden gale the green pegasus disappeared from where he had been standing but a second ago. Only the fact that a green blur was already disappearing at high speed towards the northern horizon showed what had just happened.

“Always on the move,” Ganondorf stated with a chuckle as he also started away towards the outskirts of the village, completely unminding of the impossible display of speed that had just been shown or of the gawping ponies all around that were either staring at the quickly disappearing green blur or looking at his own large form with wonder.

A moment of silence then occurred, as Old Oak and Zelda kept tending to the wounded and everypony else either stared at the retreating form of the massive stallion carrying a humongous magical sword or at the sky where Link had already disappeared from view. A moment of silence that lasted until Forge Fire shook her head and turned her bewildered eyes towards her fellow earth ponies.

“Okay, so I know that a lot has happened in far too little time, most of it bucking insane, but just checking something,” the blacksmith hesitatingly said as she massaged the back of her neck, as if unsure about her own words. “So, call me crazy, but back during the fight, did Link kinda use that flute of his to turn night into da-“

“No, he did not,” Old Oak fiercely interjected in an inarguable tone of voice as he leveled a fierce warning stare at the now very confused and uncomfortable looking blacksmith. A look that apparently Forest Blossom missed completely, as she immediately replied.

“I’m sorry, Elder, but , even as exhausted as I was, I’m quite sure that he did summon the sun wit-” the orange-coated mare started to say, only to stop mid sentence as the elder turned the full brunt of his glare straight at her.

“Let’s make something perfectly clear, yes?” Old Oak firmly stated in a deceptively pleasant tone of voice as he looked each and every single earth pony around him straight in the eyes, causing the wave of mutters and whispers that had been gaining strength to swiftly disappear. “Our green pegasus friend did not do something that, if it ever reached the ears of most of the unicorn nobility, or good part of the pegasi leadership for that matter, would quite possibly cause open warfare to erupt between their tribes. Especially right now when we are facing what looks like an invasion of ice wraiths and need to stand together more than ever before to have any hope of survival. Are. We. Clear?”

A moment of tense and uncomfortable silence permeated the area the moment that he finished his question and the ponies truly processed what it would mean if the unicorn nobility were to learn that a pegasus had controlled the celestial orbs. The control of the sun and the moon was one of the unicorns’ greatest trump cards in their dealings with the other tribes, and as such the fact that a non-unicorn could somehow do what, for generations, was thought to be impossible, and as such destroy said trump card, could turn things ugly. Fast.

They simply couldn’t afford for that to happen, not with those wraiths about to invade their lands. Not if there was to be any hope of avoiding the future Zelda had foretold. If there was to be any chance of the Three Tribes surviving what was to come, they would have to work together. And as such he would make damn sure that everypony present realized that nothing odd had just happened! End of story!

“Here! I brought all the supplies you asked me to bring so that we can tend to everypony!” Singing Blossom happily proclaimed as she popped up while carrying her small saddlebags. Her cheerfully bouncing form and huge smile as she neared them unknowingly broke the tension that had descended upon the group. “Though, since I wasn’t certain about everything that we are going to treat I thought it would be best if I brought a little of everything!

“I got the aloe vera goop, the crushed garlic cloves, some turmeric milk, the smelly poultices you told me I can’t make yet but that are good for both fever and treating cuts, that tasty smelling paste of onions and honey that helps healing faster, peppermint, lavender, chamomile…” the tiny filly dutifully said as she stopped right next to the elder and Zelda and proceeded to remove each item from the ordinary looking saddle bag resting at her sides as she spoke their names. An action that served to finish what remained of the tension completely, as the gathered earth ponies either gaped or stared in incredulity as the small filly kept removing more and more items from the even smaller tiny compartment and causing an ever growing pile of medicinal supplies that dwarfed Singing’s form to appear. “…and plenty of fresh wraps and bandages for the wounds! Did I forget something?

“No, Singing, you did not. Well done,” Old Oak praised the filly as he started to sort the fresh supplies while he pushed the incredulous questions about how exactly their three saviors had so many enchanted items to the back of his mind.

Helping and tending to his fellow ponies had to come first. Incredulity and bewilderment could wait until later.

Wonder Bolt flew one final time around the perimeter of the village’s center, nothing but willpower keeping his bone tired muscles moving, as he made sure that the remainder of the squad had landed safely at the hive of activity that had taken over the front of the village elder’s house, where what looked like a makeshift field hospital was being built under both Old Oak and Zelda’s firm instructions.

As he slowly landed he examined his fellow flight mates as he made sure that nopony who had been injured was attempting to play it tough and not seek immediate medical aid, something he was glad to see apparently wasn’t happening. Pushing to the back of his mind the small deferential nods and looks of respect his fellow pegasi were giving him, something that had literally never happened to him before and that quite frankly unnerved him a little, he continued with his self imposed inspection in order to make sure that all the five pegasi standing at attention before him had nothing but light cuts and gashes that posed no immediate threat to their health and as such could be excused from immediately going to the healers as the rest of the squad had already done.

“Sir, the remainder of the squad is already being treated by the war mage and the earth pony healer,” a pegasus that Bolt knew had derided and insulted him more than once in the past spoke to him with nothing but respect in his voice as he saluted the scout, before he continued with his impromptu report. “There were no fatalities in our ranks, but less than half our number is currently flight capable, and nopony has escaped injury free.”

“Good work, soldier,” he replied with a sigh of relief at the news that somehow they hadn’t lost anypony to the wraiths’ seemingly unending horde, even as a voice inside his head questioned in bewilderment why exactly was that report being given to him of all ponies, or why the buck the soldier was saluting him of all pegasi? It wasn’t like he had any kind of ranking on the squad, after all! And talking about ranking members of the squad. “Where is sergeant Fierce Breeze?”

“Sir, sergeant Fierce Breeze ordered us to land and tend to our injured as she made a final recon of the surrounding area for any of those creatures remaining!” the pony that apparently hadn’t gotten the memo that Bolt wasn’t part of the chain of command continued his report, hoof firmly raised in a picture perfect salute.

“See to your injuries then and get some rest, I will go find and offer support to the sergeant!” he immediately replied as he inwardly cursed as he remembered the battered and injured covered state the mare had been last he had seen her, a memory that made him question what the buck she thought she was doing by not immediately going to see the medic! All the while trying not to think too deeply at his flight mates’ odd behavior towards his own person.

“Sir, yes, sir!” all five pegasi replied as one before they started to slowly move towards the healers to see to the myriad of gashes and cuts that littered their forms.

Wonder Bolt simply blinked in confused astonishment for a moment, before with a shake of his head he decided that he was too tired to even try to make sense of this utterly bizarre turn of events. He had to find Fierce Breeze and make sure she was okay, then he could proceed to see to his own injuries and collapse somewhere for some much needed rest. Afterwards he could try and make sense of things.

Thankfully for the very tired azure-coated pony, as he had but started to flap his leaden feeling wings in an attempt to take flight a firm voice called to him from above telling him exactly were the second in command of the squad was.

“Bolt, status report!” Fierce Breeze bellowed as she landed right next to him on unsteady legs and his fellow pegasi stopped and saluted the pink mare. The deep red stains covering several patches of her pink coat, the sweat that covered her brow, and the way her wings kept trembling before she firmly folded them against her sides told Bolt that the mare really should had gone to see the healers already. But as he opened his mouth to say just that, the glare Fierce Breeze leveled at him made him rethink his priorities.

“Ma’am! There have been no casualties, and we have started tending to our injured as best as we can! Only six members of the squad remain flight capable though, and nopony is uninjured!” he dutifully reported while also directly placing the sergeant amidst the rank of those that weren’t currently flight capable. “Quite a few of our flight have injuries ranging from cuts and gashes, up to varying levels of frostbite, but nothing immediately life-threatening. Especially with the fact the war mage is tending to all injured with the aid of the earth ponies!”

“Good! See to the injured as best as you can, afterwards get the more intact members of the squad patched up and start a staggered patrol of the surrounding area! Do not exhaust yourselves, but I want a tight search pattern all around the village’s air space! If those things come back I want it to be known on the double!” she commanded as her eyes warily took in the dark snow clouds in the distance, a scowl firm on her muzzle.

“Ma’am, yes, ma’am!” Bolt and his remaining flight mates spoke as one. But taking in the clearly exhausted and injured form of the squad’s second in command, Wonder Bolt decided to take the plunge and try and suggest that the mare go seek some medical help and rest a little. “Ma’am, if I may be so bold, don’t you think you sh-“

“Now, Bolt, listen up!” Fierce Breeze barked as she effectively stopped him from speaking any further as she took two wobbly steps towards the azure-coated pegasus. “You are in charge of the squad for the moment, do not buck it up! Am I clear?!

“Ma’am?” Bolt asked in utter bewilderment, convinced that he couldn’t have heard her right.

“I asked, am I clear?!” the mare fiercely repeated as she moved even closer to the scout until their muzzles were nearly touching each other as she stared straight into his eyes.

“Ma’am, yes, ma’am!” the very confused and thoroughly cowed scout immediately replied more out of habit than anything else, even as his mind wondered what the buck had just happened!

“Good! Do not disappoint me, scout!” the sergeant said with a satisfied nod as she took a step backwards. “Now, if that’s all, I think I’m going to pass out.”

And with those words, Fierce Breeze proceeded to do exactly as she said as the second in command of the squad proceeded to fall to the ground in an unconscious heap that Bolt barely had time to jump forward to catch before she hit the ground.

“Medic!” the now more than slightly panicked scout shouted as he proceeded towards where Zelda was as swiftly as he could as he carried Fierce Breeze, his equally panicked flight mates hot on his hoofsteps.

“Well, that’s not good.” Link muttered to himself as he gazed at the raging blizzard that covered nearly everything in sight as he peeked from his hiding place amidst the topmost clouds of the ice storm, the smothering, swirling white mass only being broken by the pale blue figures of the equine specters that were galloping and shrieking all around it.

The Wielder of Courage calmly took in everything all around him for a few moments longer, as he analyzed everything that there was to see at this particular spot. Then he rose from his half crouching position and started to fly away to another location before the creatures could detect him.

He paid little mind to the arctic winds that were buffeting his form at this altitude, as he focused both on what he had seen and remaining undetected by the ghostly horde madly screeching all around him. He idly took cover behind some dark clouds as a pair of the creatures rushed away through the sky, before he continued onwards. This had been the third area of the horizon spanning blizzard he had investigated so far, and what he had seen up to this point was more than slightly problematic.

There were easily hundreds, if not thousands, of the wraiths scattered throughout the massive storm. And if they all possessed the same multiplying abilities that the wraiths that had attacked the village had displayed, that meant that the army that was currently galloping amidst the frozen winds could easily become a horde at a moments notice as they moved southwards alongside the storm. And that was not even mentioning the problem caused by the storm itself.

He swiftly dove towards the ground in order to take cover beneath the snow laden trees as five more wraiths galloped into view and started to screech and shriek at each other. And while he waited for the creatures to move away so he could continue on his way he pondered the current situation and what it meant to the village but a few hundred miles to the south of his current position.

An opposing force with a vast numerical advantage, terrible fighting conditions, the presence of non-combatants that had to be protected, and a complete lack of defensive fortifications to use.

He had faced worse odds in the past, yes, but not that often, and rarely with results that he could call acceptable in regards to collateral damage despite emerging victorious at the end of them more often than not. If it was simply a case of numerical superiority he was certain that he and his fellow Triforce Wielders could easily carry on the defense of the village with little trouble while minimizing the casualties amidst the ponies. But sadly, it wasn’t a mere case of numerical advantage.

Link scraped his hoof atop the snow covered ground. His brow furrowed as he confirmed that beneath the foot deep covering of snow there was a very solid looking layer of ice covering the ground. He then proceeded to look at the dead leafless trees all but smothered by an equally thick white mantle of snow, the large lake that was frozen solid all the way through but a few steps away, the complete lack of signs of life as far as his senses could reach, and finally to the sky that was hidden from view by the gargantuan blizzard that stretched as far as the eye could see.

Yes, this was most definitely not merely a case of a numerically superior force.

“Not good at all,” Link concluded with a solemn nod as another freezing gale of wind battered his body and the temperature seemed to drop even lower.

With one final look around he confirmed that there were none of the creatures in his immediate vicinity and took flight towards the village as fast as he could while making sure to remain unnoticed.

The others had to be informed about this as quickly as possible.

XV - Winter is Coming

View Online

Winter is Coming

“Was he the last one?” Zelda inquired for clarification, as she took in the lack of any other injured in her vicinity and took a sip of water from the waterskin one villager had brought. The solemn nod Old Oak gave her as he started to repack his healing supplies made the Wielder of Wisdom let out a relieved sigh that contained both her tiredness for the whole ordeal, and relief that there hadn’t been any fatalities or lasting injuries amidst the defenders.

“Yes, and once again you have my heartfelt gratitude, my dear,” the elder spoke with a tired but sincere smile as he gazed at the white-coated unicorn and bowed his head. “You and your companions’ aid was invaluable in this whole ordeal. We are all in your debt.”

“I humbly accept your gratitude, elder, but nonetheless know that there is no debt between us. To aid those who are in need is simply the right thing to do, no more and no less,” she replied with a smile as she set aside the waterskin and placed a hoof upon his shoulder.

“If only more ponies agreed with such a sentiment,” Old Oak quietly said as he gazed Zelda in the eyes and realized she truly meant her words. “If that was so, the world would be a very different place.”

A moment of solemn silence made itself known as both the unicorn and the earth pony acknowledged the sad truth of the elder’s words, only for the somber mood to come to an abrupt end as Zelda’s smile grew a little larger as she looked Old Oak straight in the eyes.

“That may be so, as the world is often a dark and unforgiving place. But that’s why we must try and be that change,” Zelda said as she looked towards the ponies roaming but a few meters away from the healers as they completed their own tasks as the village slowly recovered from the attack, many earth ponies who had glared at her but a few hours ago actually smiling or giving her nods of respect as they hurried along. “For no matter how dark the world may be, the quality of kindness shall never be strained.”

Old Oak stared at the Wielder of Wisdom for a moment, as if unable to truly comprehend her words. Until, with a small laugh and a shake of his head, he answered, his body language far more at ease and his eyes shining in wonder. “Indeed, my dear, you are absolutely right!”

Zelda removed her hoof from the elder’s shoulder and proceeded to help to pack what remained of the medicinal supplies. A moment of companionable silence stretched on for a few minutes as they finished the small chore, until the sound of flapping wings made them look upwards towards the azure-coated pegasus that was coming their way.

“Zelda, Old Oak,” Wonder Bolt greeted them with a deferential nod of his head to each of them as he landed next to the two ponies and let out an exhausted sigh. “Sorry for disturbing you both, but how are the sergeant and the rest of my flight who happen to be under your care fairing?”

“Do not speak nonsense, my young lad! You aren’t being a disturbance in the slightest,” Old Oak jovially said as he nodded in greeting towards the exhausted looking pegasus and Zelda nodded in kind. “As for your fellow pegasi, I’m happy to say that they are out of risk and their injuries have been treated as well as possible, considering the current circumstances. Given enough time and rest they should all make a swift recovery.”

“That’s very good to hear, you have my thanks, both of you,” Wonder Bolt said as he all but sagged in relief for a moment before he recomposed himself and bowed low to the two ponies. “Now if you excuse me, I must continue my patrol.”

“You are welcomed, but if you would forgive my impertinence, I believe that you should rest and recover your energies yourself,” Zelda gracefully interjected as she truly took in the pegasus warrior’s disheveled and exhausted appearance. “You need to rest, not to push yourself to exhaustion.”

“Regrettably, with only six of our number still on their hooves it’s has been a challenge to create a proper patrol schedule of the skies surrounding the village in order to warn us should the beasts make a reappearance, especially considering how most of us are also weary from the battle,” Bolt replied with a head shake as he pulled a few strings in his armor with his mouth in order to make sure it was secure and flexed his tired wings. “I ordered the others to rest first as I took the first watch since they are worse off than me. But rest assured that I shall soon be relieved by the next pegasus on the rotation, and I plan to rest immediately afterwards.”

“Very well, I shall trust that you know your body well enough to not push yourself past your limits,” Zelda grudgingly conceded after briefly scanning the azure-coated pony and making sure he wasn’t about to collapse or harm himself out of foolish pride. “But do make sure to rest and recover as soon as possible, most of the rest of your numbers should be flight capable and able to endure minor efforts by tomorrow morning, but they shall not be fully recovered before at least one more day after that, so be warned.”

“That’s actually far better than I dared to hope,” Wonder Bolt said with a tiny smile. “Rest assured, I shall take heed of your words, Zelda. Once again you have my thanks.”

And with those words and a final bow towards the two healers’ the pegasus warrior took wing and started to ascend in a slow but steady spiral, his flight steady and his eyes alert despite his exhaustion.

“Come now, my dear, let us heed our own advice,” Old Oak said after a moment of watching the pegasus warrior’s flight as he gestured towards his cabin. “If I know anything about my apprentice, then I can hazard a guess that Singing has left some water boiling already in the fire. So let us rest a little with a warm cup of tea, yes?”

“I would love to,” Zelda easily replied with a sincere smile towards the old stallion as she followed him towards the cabin while carrying the medical supplies in her magical aura.

A brown hoof scraped the light layer of frost that had slowly started to spread upon the ground as its large owner observed his surroundings with all his senses, both magical and mundane, as the sun slowly crept towards sunset for the second time in less than twelve hours.

“This is going to be annoying,” Ganondorf firmly decided. As he took in the light coating of ice and snow that now covered almost the entirety of the woods surrounding the pony settlement, he felt a renewed gale of freezing wind coming from the north.

With a final look around in order to confirm that none of the frozen pests remained in the immediate vicinity, he turned around and started to trot towards the village. All the while he ruminated about the implications the changes in the weather that the ice wraiths were clearly causing would have in the long run. After stalking the whole perimeter around the area, it had become readily apparent to the Dark Lord that the deep coating of ice and snow found at the northern woods was slowly but surely inching its way towards the village. And it would soon overtake and envelop it.

As he kept weaving around the trees at a ground eating pace, he acknowledged that, even if the ghostly annoyances didn’t make a second strike against the ponies, the little equines would soon face problems due to the quickly falling temperature and all that it entailed, especially considering the earlier comments about their food stocks being currently low. And if Zelda’s vision could be trusted, something that he was more than inclined to believe, what with how accurate the little Princess was in regards to delivering bad news, then the harsh cold that was already present was nothing but the beginning.

“Really annoying,” he concluded with a final nod as he left the slowly freezing woods behind and emerged into the village proper, his muzzle sporting a mildly irritated look. He had always had something of a dislike for problems that couldn’t be solved with a good judicious use of excessive force.

“Ganondorf, you are back!” Forest earnest shout resounded through the cold air as she abandoned her spot near one of the many bonfires scattered throughout the village and ran towards him with a skip in her step and a dazzling smile on her muzzle. The action was accompanied by a deluge of praises and cheers from the surrounding earth ponies as they realized the large stallion had returned from his scouting mission.

“Yes,” Ganondorf replied after a moment for lack of anything else to say, still not really sure how to react to the oddity that was being warmly received and welcomed by a civilian population. After another moment he firmly decided that it was a problem for another time and firmly marched forward as he ignored the cheering ponies, Forest in lockstep with him as he kept walking.

“Was there any trouble? Did you find more of those things? Are you alright?!” Forest asked one question after another as she fretted all around the very bemused Wielder of Power, her eyes searching his large form for any injuries.

“I know you are strong! That’s obvious!” she continued, a tinge of worry entering her voice as she assured Ganondorf of her confidence in his strength. “But, but even so… being caught by a bunch of those creatures alone would be really bad! Not that I’m implying that you can’t take care of yourself! But even so-”

The large earth pony for his part just kept walking as he curiously observed his apprentice continue to talk and fret as she kept talking about how she had worried for his safety, while reassuring him that she knew that he would be fine thanks to his great prowess and unmatched ability.

Ganondorf couldn’t help but snort in amusement at the orange-coated mare’s words. All that would result from being caught alone by those pesky annoyances would be that, without others around, he wouldn’t have to worry even slightly about collateral damage. And he really doubted that any number of the ice beasties could deal with him when he went all out. As such her worry was completely unneeded, of course, if not exactly unwelcomed.

It was a unique feeling to say the least, since he really couldn’t remember the last time anyone had worried about his personal health. Her recognition of his skill and power was also appreciated.

“I mean, it was just that you were taking so long to get back that I… Not that I’m implying that you can’t take care of yourself!” the orange-coated mare swiftly continued her deluge of words as she all but vibrated in place and looked everywhere but at him. “Well… I mean… I’m just glad that you are back safe and sound! That’s all!”

“There was no trouble at all. There was also no sign of those things anywhere around here. Tons of ice and snow, but none of the beasties that caused them,” Ganondorf nonchalantly said as he started to answer her questions in the order she had made them. All the while he kept ignoring the happy smiles and waving hooves being sent his way, before he turned towards Forest and gave her a roguish smile. “And besides, there is no way I would go down to such pathetic enemies; you can rest assured of that, Forest.”

“Link also hasn’t come back yet…” she mumbled as she averted her gaze, her cheeks once again acquiring the now familiar tone of red that seemed to pop up on her features on a semi regular basis. “He may be in trouble.”

“Oh, he is going to be fine, don’t worry about it,” he nonchalantly replied with a wave of a hoof and a snort of amusement. Oh, sure, there were indeed extremely good odds that the green wonder would indeed find trouble of some kind, he had a downright uncanny gift for that, after all! But his ability to deal with said troubles was downright ludicrous too.

“But-“ Forest started to say, only to stop speaking all together and become as red as a lobster as Ganondorf lightly patted her on the neck as he gave her an amused look and kept talking himself.

“No, seriously, you wouldn’t believe what it actually takes to bring the Kid down! He is going to be fine!” he laughed out loud as he spoke. He knew that from personal experience, after all! In order to take the Wielder of Courage down you needed an outrageous amount of actually powerful enemies to keep him busy, many, many traps and spells to weaken and distract him, a few actual heavy hitters to wrap up the deal, and a good deal of luck to top it all! All basically thrown at him at the same time! And even then it was by no means an assured thing! “He will be back before you know it, trust me on that!”

Of that the Dark Lord was certain. After all, if Ganondorf himself had trouble bringing the green wonder down, then by Din’s eternal fury was the Wielder of Power certain that the little bunch of frozen beasties they were dealing with wouldn’t be able to take down the infuriatingly resilient and persistent Wielder of Courage! No matter what numbers they brought to bear! Of that he was certain!

“Okay,” Forest simply said, her orange coat still retaining its new red tint. But at the very least the gleaming smile on her muzzle showed she wasn’t worried any longer, so that probably counted as a win. He was getting the hang of this ‘social interaction’ thing!

“Big sis, mister Ganondorf! I finally found you two!” A small yellow ball of fluff yelled at the top of her lungs as she darted towards the two of them at very respectable speeds, cutting the King of Thieves’ train of thought short as he dropped it in favor of watching the now happily bouncing ball of hyperactivity called Singing Blossom as she reached them. “I was looking for you two everywhere!”

“Hey, Squirt, how’s it going?” Ganondorf happily greeted the tiny yellow filly as she kept bouncing in place.

“I’m okay! Old Oak showed me how to use some new healing salves and poultices, which was neat! Even if that meant that ponies had been hurt, which really wasn’t neat! But now everypony has been treated already, which is also neat, and so he didn’t need my help with that any longer!” she cheerfully regale him with the tale of what she had been doing as she jumped atop his back all the while ignoring Forest’s protests about her doing so. “So I started helping people carry things from one part of the village to another, since apparently nopony knows how to pack things right! Really, mister Link should teach them, because they are all doing it wrong! The faces they make when I show them the right way to do it is amusing though!

“What were we talking about again?” she curiously asked as she tilted her head to the side from atop her new perch on the back of the Wielder of Power, gaining an amused chuckle form the large stallion and an exasperated sigh from her older sister.

“You said you were looking for us,” Ganondorf helpfully pointed out as he resumed his walk.

“Right! Mom asked me to find you all and tell you that dinner is ready! Again!” she dutifully reported to the two of them, before she raised a hoof to her chin and took on a contemplative look, “Or would it be breakfast instead? Out last meal was dinner, after all, and the next meal after dinner is breakfast! That’s how it goes, after all! So this is probably breakfast! But breakfast is supposed to be after we go to sleep and when the sun is rising again! And we didn’t sleep yet and the sun is setting! For the second time today!

“So is this meal breakfast or a second dinner? I don’t know! Maybe miss Zelda would know though, she seems to know about a lot of stuff!” Singing kept going as she debated what to call the meal they were about to have, the idea of her pestering the Princess about it only amusing Ganondorf even more. “ Anyway, like I said Mom asked me to tell you that the food is ready and that you should get back home to eat the second dinner or breakfast!

“Now I gotta go find Zelda and tell her that too! See ya at home, bye!” Singing happily finished and prepared to jump away and resume her search, only for Ganondorf to keep her in place with one hoof.

“No need for that, Squirt,” Ganondorf said as he rested a hoof that dwarfed the tiny filly upon her back in order to stop her from darting away as he had just seem the unicorn in question appear from around the corner of a cottage. And so, like any reasonable person seeking to gain the attention of another who so happened to be further away he proceeded to shout at the top of his lungs. “Hey, Princess, get over here!”

He nodded in satisfaction at a task cleared as the Wielder of Wisdom proceeded to glare in his direction for a moment at the shout, sigh, and then start walking towards them. All the while the orange-coated pony at his side was giving him a strange look.

“Ganondorf, why exactly do you keep calling Zelda princess?” Forest Blossom asked after a few moments of quiet contemplation as she gazed at him with a look he couldn’t really decipher.

“Why shouldn’t I call her Princess?” he questioned in slight puzzlement. “That’s what she is, after all! So what else would I call her?”

Forest’s answer to his own question was to soundlessly mouth the word: what. After another moment of staring and being stared at by a very confused looking earth pony without having any idea how to proceed, or what had even caused the silence in the first place, Ganondorf decided that maybe he still had some ways to go in regards to this ‘social interaction’ thing.

With a shrug of his shoulders he banished the topic from his mind and re-started his walk towards the Blossom family’s cottage. There was dinner or breakfast to be had, and regardless of which it was, Beautiful Blossom’s food had yet to fail to pass muster, so there was no reason to let her efforts go to waste.

“So no sign of Link yet?” Zelda asked the Wielder of Power as they approached the Blossom family’s home.

“Nope,” Ganondorf nonchalantly replied even as he took a deep breath of the very tasty smell that was permeating the air. “You know how the Kid is; he is probably going to explore the whole of the blizzard just for the heck of it before he deigns to come back.”

The small sigh that was the answer of the Wielder of Wisdom showed that Zelda also agreed with Ganondorf’s impression of Link’s little exploring habits. The Kid had some serious wanderlust in him, and little to no regard to what exactly constituted as a good time and place to indulge said wanderlust.

“We’re home!” Singing cheerfully shouted as Forest opened the door, before she darted past her sister and straight towards the kitchen.

“Welcome back!” Beautiful Blossom happily greeted them with a beaming smile as she placed the last few plates upon the table. “You’re right on time, the food is all but ready! I’m certain you all must be famished after this whole dreadful business, so do take a seat!”

And with those words the plum-coated matron went straight back to the kitchen, where what looked like several piping hot apple pies were resting near the lit stove where a large pot of stew was simmering under the watchful eye of the Wielder of Courage.

“What the-“ the large stallion mumbled as he did a double take and confirmed that, yes, the green-coated pegasus calmly stirring the stew was indeed Link of all beings. “Hey, Kid, what are you doing here?”

“Cooking,” Link simply replied as he nodded in greeting towards them before raising the spoon he had been using in order to taste the stew.

“Yeah, I can see that,” Ganondorf grumbled as he trotted into the kitchen proper, Zelda right alongside him. “But why are you cooking?”

“Beautiful Blossom asked for some help with it,” the pegasus calmly replied as he nodded in satisfaction at the taste and proceeded to remove the pan from the fire. “And I decided it would be a good time to show her how to create cold resistance meals.”

“Yes, and what a marvelous little idea this was!” Beautiful Blossom happily interjected as she picked up the pies and proceeded to take them towards the table. “Who could imagine that mixing the ingredients together in such a way could have such a drastic effect on the end result!

“And who would ever think to try and empower the food while it’s cooked like we do with our crops!” she continued to the three nonplussed ponies and cheerful little filly right in front of her. “But now that I see how it works, it makes so much sense! These recipes will be so much help, I can already tell! Truly you have my thanks, dear!”

“You are welcome,” was Link’s simple answer as he deposited the stew upon the table, not paying much mind to the varying levels of incredulity permeating the room.

“Okay… What?” Forest Blossom finally said, apparently trying and failing to understand what was happening.

“The Kid knows how to make food that temporarily increases resistance to different elements or raise certain attributes,” Ganondorf dutifully explained to his apprentice with a shrug of his shoulders. He had little knowledge exactly how the Kid did it, but he could acknowledge it had its uses.

“Link, exactly how long ago did you return to the village?” Zelda interjected with a put upon look on her features, cutting Ganondorf’s train of thought about Link’s cooking skills short.

“About two hours ago,” he calmly replied as he started to set the plates and cutlery down, before tilting his head towards the Wielder of Wisdom. “Why do you ask?”

“And you didn’t think about reporting back what you found during your scouting mission?” the Princess asked in slight exasperation.

“You looked busy,” was the nonchalant reply as he pulled Beautiful Blossom’s chair back so that she could sit.

“Of course, silly me,” Zelda answered with a tired sigh before with a shake of her head she clearly decided to drop the subject and gracefully accept the seat Link was offering her.

Ganondorf, for his part, couldn’t help but snort in amusement, even as he inwardly agreed with both the Princess’ slight exasperation and her smart decision to not pursue the topic further. Link had a seriously skewed view on how to prioritize things, after all.

He still remembered far too well the confusion and incredulity he had felt the first time he saw the green wonder postponing their final clash for the fate of Hyrule in order to go fishing, of all things, or to pursue some other inane task for no apparent reason. In the end the Kid tended to do things at his own pace, and nothing and no one had been able to change that for as long as he could remember. So him deciding to go help their host cook instead of bringing vital intel back was perfectly in character with his little antics.

“Anyway, you being back probably means your scouting mission was a success, right?" Ganondorf asked after pulling a seat for a once again red tinted Forest and taking a seat for himself as he stared at Link as he helped Singing to her own seat and nodded in answer. “Great! So, on a scale from one to ten, with one being a typical hylian hissy fit and ten being me in a downright foul mood, how bad is the situation?”

“An eight, possibly a nine,” was the Hero’s calm reply as he took his own place at the table and started to serve the food.

“What?” Zelda immediately interjected, a worried look on her features as she traded a meaningful look with the now deeply interested Wielder of Power.

“Afterwards, the food will get cold otherwise,” was the green wonder’s succinct reply, and then he proceeded to engage their host with some inane babble about different types of food and how to best prepare them, as if he hadn’t just alluded to the frozen beasties being a major and imminent threat.

The face that Zelda was making clearly showed that she really wanted to pursue that topic further as well, but in the end, after closing her eyes for a moment and letting out a very tired sigh, she simply shook her head and grabbed her own plate as she resigned herself to follow Link’s pace in this matter. Quite smart of her in his own opinion, one had to recognize a losing battle when they saw it, after all.

“So, what you are telling us is that there are easily hundreds, if not thousands of those beasts in the storm,” Wonder Bolt asked the green-coated pegasus nonchalantly standing in the middle of Old Oak’s home as if he hadn’t just told them all that a massive horde of hungry, multiplying ice wraiths was hanging at the near horizon, with a hint of dread. “A storm that is swiftly turning everything in its path into a frozen wasteland, no less. Is that it?”

“Yes,” Link simply said with a small nod, apparently happy everypony had understood his report.

“By the great winds…” he heard Fierce Breeze mutter from the bed she was tucked into, the news of the incoming horde really doing nothing to help the still exhausted sergeant’s health, who was clearly aghast at what she had just heard. Not that Bolt could blame her, for he himself and all their squad members and the earth ponies who had managed to cram themselves into the elder’s home to hear what news Link had shared the same feeling.

The victory they had managed against the last assault had been far too close for comfort, and that had been against a group of but a few dozen of the creatures at first! Against a strike force of hundreds, if not thousands of them? Their odds didn’t bear mentioning…

“Oh, buck it all!” Sure Shot angrily spat as she glowered at the massive blizzard she could see through the window from her own pile of blankets, fear and fury battling for supremacy in her hard eyes. “How can we defend the village against a bucking horde of those things?!”

“Simple. We can’t,” Old Oak interjected in a tired voice, his eyes closed as if in deep contemplation.

“What?!” Sure Shot and Forest Blossom shouted as one, indentical looks of incredulity on their muzzles as they stared at the old earth pony.

“Exactly as I said, we simply cannot defend the village, not in the long term, not in any way that matters,” Old Oak continued his voice quiet but unrelenting as he opened his steely eyes and stared at both mares.

“Even if the village was equipped with protective structures that would allow us to defend ourselves against such numbers, the storm is already progressing southwards through our eastern flank, and starting to do the same through our western one,” Zelda interjected with an equally hard and unrelenting tone of voice, a deep frown on her features. “As such, standing our ground here would result in a single, inescapable conclusion.”

“We would be surrounded,” Ganondorf added with an annoyed huff as he immediately realized what Zelda was implying, an angry glower flickering deep in his eyes. “Even if we turned the village into an unassailable fortress before the beasties manage to hit us, it would inevitably turn into a siege.”

“A siege against a foe with seemingly endless numbers and whose mere presence slowly turns the lands all around them into a frozen wasteland,” Zelda easily continued the large stallion’s train of thought as she traded a meaningful look with him. “Even if the wraiths were unable to overcome us with their numerical superiority, even if we defeated wave after wave of their numbers, the cold and a lack of supplies would eventually defeat us for them.”

“Supplies that are already strained to their limits due to the poor harvests we have experienced in the last few seasons,” Old Oak grimly concluded as a heavy silence descended upon the room.

“Ancestors protect us…” Bolt heard Forge Fire whisper, as the realization of what would inevitably follow in such a scenario dawned upon them all.

“What do we do?!” somepony shouted amidst the small crowd as panic started to set in, only for the sea green ranger to cut it short with her next words.

“The only thing we can do,” Sure Shot spat, the expression on her muzzle making it look like she could barely tolerate the words she was saying. “We leave.”

“What!” Forest shouted alongside several other ponies, as they stared at the ranger as if she had grown a second head.

“There is a great deal of difference between courage and idiocy, Forest! And staying to fight an unwinnable battle that would condemn us all is definitely the latter!” Sure Shot angrily replied, a furious look in her eyes. “I may not like it one damn bit, but the fact remains that leaving the village behind is our only chance of making it out of this alive!”

“Indeed. We must leave as swiftly as possible, for it’s not only our own safety that is at stake,” Old Oak added before the angry mutters of the crowd could grow, as he stared them all quieted down. “The creatures will surely not stop at our village. We must warn the other villages south of us of the incoming danger as well!”

“The Armada must be warned!” one of his flight mates shouted as they all realized what would happen if the horde reached the heart of the pony lands unnoticed. The death and destruction they would rain down in their wake as the whole of their lands was turned into a frozen wasteland.

“The whole of ponykind must be warned!” Sure Shot retorted with a final glower to the threatening storm on the horizon. “Something that will not happen if we turtle up and die here!”

“Indeed. We must make haste. Prepare wagons for the wounded and start packing all the necessary supplies, we must depart as soon as we are able!” the elder sternly stated as he looked at the scared and angry crowd, until his eyes finally stopped at the strange trio who appeared to be the only ones keeping a semblance of calm amidst the storm of emotions ravaging the room. “You three have already done so much for us, and yet I fear that I must impose upon you once again. Would you help us?”

“Stop speaking nonsense, old timer! Like I would allow such pathetic beings to kill my new apprentice!” Ganondorf’s boisterous voice cut through the growing tension as a hot knife through butter, a roguish grin fixed on his muzzle as he stood right next to a fiercely blushing Forest Blossom. “And besides, I still owe those beasties a piece of my mind!”

“While I wouldn’t use such crude words to address the issue, I have to agree with the sentiment behind Ganondorf’s words,” Zelda added, her eyes shining with conviction and defiance. All the while Link nodded his agreement at her side. “You shall have our aid, of that I assure you!”

“Thank you,” Old Oak sincerely said with a deep bow, before his steely eyes locked upon Link’s form. “Link, how many of the enchanted saddlebags you gifted Singing can you part with?”

“How many saddlebags do you have?” was the green pegasus immediate reply. A reply that caused the growing cacophony all around them to ground to a sudden halt.

“You can make those things?!” Forest incredulously asked as she and everypony else stared at Link with slight incredulity. Everypony had seen at one time or another the seemingly bottomless bags both the green pegasus and the tiny filly had been using. Just as they all knew that such magical items were both rare and very expensive. So the thought that a pegasus could make such enchanted items was…

“How- no that’s not important.” Old Oak muttered with a firm head shake, neatly summarizing everypony’s train of thought. “I shall make it so all saddlebags we have available are brought here, please do so to as many of them as you can. They will make the moving of supplies infinitely easier and speed up our movements tremendously! We must make haste, ponykind must be warned!”

“Agreed!” Fierce Breeze exclaimed as she forced herself out of her bed, determination filling her entire body as she turned and stared Bolt straight in the eyes. “There is not a moment to lose!

“Scout, no boasting, no bragging, and no fake humbleness either! I want a straight answer,” the pink-coated sergeant all but roared, her eyes drilling into Wonder Bolt’s. “How fast can you reach Pegasopolis without the rest of the squad slowing you down?”

For a moment a lifetime of keeping his head low and avoiding drawing attention to himself in order to avoid his brethren derision and spite nearly made Bolt downplay his abilities, only for such petty things to be neatly pushed aside as his sense of duty and the seriousness of the situation made themselves known. And as such he returned Fierce Breeze’s stare with an equally determined look as he answered with nothing but the absolute truth.

“Two days if I go all out, maybe less depending on the weather,” he stated without a hint of arrogance or boasting. Nearly all the pegasi on the room, and more than one earth pony as well, looked at the azure-coated stallion with looks of both awe and incredulity at his statement. After all, for the average pegasus such a trip would take double that timeframe, easily.

“Good, I thought that would be the case,” the sergeant said with a simple satisfied nod of her head, paying no mind to the mutters that had made themselves known amidst the other pegasi. “Somepony get me quill and parchment! On the double!

“Listen up, scout, the Armada must be informed about this threat immediately! The sooner they are informed, the sooner our forces can be mobilized to face this threat and the sooner the horn-heads can be informed so they can do something useful for once!” she fiercely stated as she slowly started to test the strength of her limbs, her eyes never straying from Bolt’s gaze. “And I’m not letting everything hang in the off chance of Wind Shriek doing his bucking job and reporting it right! Not after his disgraceful conduct during the battle!”

The fact Fierce Breeze did not refer to the runaway lieutenant by his rank was quite telling and was immediately noticed by every single member of their flight. The fact that not a single one of the pegasi currently present voiced even a token protest at this breach of protocol was even more telling of everypony’s current thoughts about the grey-coated stallion.

“Ma’am, the higher ups would never listen to my report,” Bolt couldn’t help but point out, knowing from personal experience that they would ignore the warning if he was the one to bring it due to their idiotic hatred of his ‘tainted’ bloodline.

“Oh, they will hear you alright!” she fiercely replied, her eyes glinting with determination and a savage grin on her features as her eyes finally left Bolt and locked themselves on Link’s placidly standing form. “Especially if you got a bucking Storm Caller along to back it all up!”

XVI - Moving On

View Online

Moving On

“Bucking move it, you idiots! There’s not a moment to lose!” Sure Shot growled to a pair of ponies who were taking their sweet time placing a large barrel full of food at the impromptu storage area that had sprung up near Old Oak’s cabin. “Everything has to be ready by first light!”

The cold wind that kept blowing from the north was a constant reminder of what was swiftly approaching them with each moment that passed, and she wanted all the supplies wrapped and stored away and the wagons ready to depart at the first sign of daylight. It was a more than manageable task, considering they had quite a few hours left until daybreak, if Link left the damn celestial orbs alone, that was. And talking about the crazy pegasus…

“How does that even work?” she heard Woodcutter whisper with incredulous awe, as barrel after barrel, sack after sack and crate after crate of supplies steadily disappeared from the pile of stored items and into the far, far smaller pile of what had been completely ordinary saddlebags but a few minutes ago under the watchful eyes and steady hooves of Link and Singing Blossom.

“I haven’t a bucking clue, but right now I frankly couldn’t care less!” Sure Shot tersely replied as she purposely averted her gaze from the sight of Singing placing a sack of flour over three times her own mass into a saddlebag that was half the filly’s size and gave the lumberjack a stare. “It works and it’s helpful, that’s all that matters right now!”

Sure Shot was an earth pony ranger. She knew about woodcraft and the beasts and plants of the wild, about how to gather resources and follow trails, how to survive off the land and wield a bow. And as such she freely admitted that she knew next to nothing about the bogus hocus pocus horseapples nonsense the needle-heads called magic. But even she knew that an enchanted item was supposedly something that took laborious effort and a lot of precise work on the part of the enchanter, easily taking an enchanter hours, if not days, to make a single item depending on their ability and skill.

So even she knew perfectly well that the fact Link had simply picked the saddlebags and started shoving things inside of them immediately afterwards was downright crazy. And the fact that Singing was doing the same, if at a far slower rate, as the filly apparently needed to concentrate for a few moments at each saddlebag before proceeding, only made it even more so. But after watching the crazy pegasus summon the sun with a bucking flute she was ready to simply wash her hooves of the whole thing and call it quits! It worked, it was helpful, and that was it! Full stop! Move on already!

“Yes, but…” the far less practical minded beige-coated lumberjack started to uncertainly say, continuing to stare as Link shoved several large crates full of apples into another saddlebag, only for Sure Shot to have none of it as she grabbed his shoulders and forcibly turned him around.

“But, nothing! Now go find Forge Fire and tell her to make sure to pack everything she has on her forge! And to not forget the forge itself too!” There was no time to lose with idle nonsense, and if they had some crazy horseapples magic stuff at hoof to help she sure as buck was going to take advantage of it, weirdness be damned! “Now move it!”

As she watched the lumberjack hurry away she turned back to overseeing the mass of ponies hurrying one way or another as they prepared the evacuation. At first she had feared that the villagers would have to abandon practically everything behind and carry only the barest of essentials in order to ensure they could move fast enough to not be caught by the bucking ghost-horses on the road. But Link’s crazy magic changed things, it changed them a lot.

“All the injured have been stabilized and can now be moved safely and without any risk to their health,” the second source of crazy bullshit magic around said to her as Zelda emerged from the cabin. “How are the preparations for their transportation going?”

“We are preparing two covered wagons with blankets and pillows for them, it should be ready soon if it’s not already,” Sure Shot replied as she gave the unicorn a small nod of acknowledgement, acutely aware of the golden arrows she was still carrying on the quiver at her back. “With how much less weight we will have to carry we will be able to put several ponies pulling each of the wagons, so we will be able to make some good time despite how large they are.”

“Very good, a few spells to reduce friction, weight and reinforce their structures would also help, I gather,” Zelda said calmly as she analyzed the various wagons being loaded all around with a critical eye. “I will see to it at once. In the interim, should anyone have need of me, call me immediately.”

“Right,” the sea green earth pony nodded as she watched the white unicorn move towards the nearest wagon, her horn already being enveloped by a blue glow. With a shake of her head Sure Shot refocused on the bustling throng of villagers and at the task at hoof.

Magic was a crazy pile of horseapples, that was the truth, pure and simple. But at times it could be a really useful crazy pile of horseapples nonetheless.

As he swiftly trotted past two armored and armed pegasi warriors who were going out to replace the current pair on watch duty, they promptly went into parade rest and saluted him as he passed, Wonder Bolt wondered when exactly the world had decided to go crazy and turned on its head.

As he entered into Old Oak’s home and moved towards the far corner where he could see the pink-coated form of Fierce Breeze bundled up in a nest of blankets, he idly pondered about how but a few days ago things were business as usual as he dealt with the same old routine. Deal with his squad mates hazing and name calling, do the tasks assigned to him, ignore the lieutenant’s new bout of stupidity, rinse and repeat. All simple, logical and sane tasks pertaining to a nobody in the service of the Armada.

And yet, here he was, somehow about to deliver a missive of vital importance to the survival of ponykind straight to high command, after receiving an unspoken and unofficial field promotion, after dealing with an attack by flying ice-wraiths.

Oh, and he was going to do so alongside an impossibly fast pegasus who also happened to be a practitioner of a long lost pegasus art and could apparently mass produce enchanted items in mere moments, couldn’t forget that.

What the buck was his life?

“Bolt, there you are!” Sergeant Fierce Breeze shouted the moment she saw him as she gestured with one wing for him to come closer immediately while nodding towards the pegasus at her side in clear dismissal. A pegasus who promptly proceeded to salute first the sergeant and then him before leaving at a brisk pace.

Choosing to ignore that little display for the moment, Bolt turned his attention towards the still lying Fierce Breeze. The sergeant had apparently made the very wise decision of following Zelda’s unspoken instructions of ‘not leaving her bed until told otherwise or else!’ seriously. Not that Bolt blamed her for following them, not at all. He would’ve done the same in her horseshoes. Angry healers were already a force to be reckoned with, and that was forgoing how this particular healer was apparently an extremely powerful battle mage.

“Here are the missives you have to deliver,” the mare said as she gave him two rolled up and sealed scrolls and a serious look. “The first is to be delivered to high command, the second is to be delivered to Colonel Shake Spear personally!”

“Ma’am?” Wonder Bolt couldn’t help but ask, confused by the breaking of protocol of adding a second message not intended for the Armada’s high command.

“Always have a backup plan, scout!” the sergeant replied with a narrowing of her eyes. “If all goes well you may well reach the Armada before Wind Shriek, and with the help of the Storm Caller manage to get yourself straight to high command in order to report what is happening and deliver the missive.

“If things don’t go well, then you will have to make sure that the second scroll reaches the hooves of colonel Shake Spear! Am I clear?!” she forcefully questioned, her eyes burrowing into his very being.

“Ma’am, yes, ma’am!” Bolt forcefully replied with a serious nod, taking the two scrolls and proceeding to stash them safely inside his armor. “I shall not fail! Rest assured of that!”

“Make sure of that, Corporal Wonder Bolt!” she replied with a small brief teasing smile and a nod of acknowledgement. For his part Bolt nearly fumbled with the scrolls as his eyes widened in surprise. So he really did get an unofficial field promotion… this… this was going to cause some waves back home when the news got out…

“You’re to leave as soon as the Storm Caller is finished with whatever the hay it is that he is doing with those saddlebags and the rest of the supplies,” Fierce Breeze continued as she pretended to not notice the azure-coated pegasus’ shocked surprise. “Any word to when he will be finished?”

“Fifteen minutes ago,” a calm voice promptly responded from right next to Bolt, making him startle and spin around, only to blink as he saw Link tranquilly standing right next to him, a serene smile on his muzzle as he watched them.

“How did you get here?!” Fierce Breeze questioned as she folded back her wings that had been flared in surprise due to the green pony’s sudden appearance. Said appearance had been unnoticed by either of the pegasi, or the several earth ponies roaming around, if Bolt was to judge from their reactions.

“I walked,” Link answered with a small nod of greeting to both pegasi, not really answering the actual point of the question. “I have finished my tasks and I’m ready to depart at your earliest convenience.”

“That’s not- oh, forget it! Bolt, I don’t have to tell you that the completion of this task is of vital importance!” Fierce Breeze sternly told the newly unofficially promoted corporal after deciding that questioning Link wasn’t worth it, which Bolt had to agree was probably for the best. “Do not buck it up!”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am!” Bolt promptly replied with a salute, steel in his eyes. The missives would reach their targets, that he most solemnly vowed.

And without another word Wonder Bolt turned around and started towards the door and the freezing winds that were waiting, Link right behind him. There was not a moment to lose, they had a long flight ahead of them and time was of the essence!

As Forest took in the barren and empty wooden cottage that had been her home since she had been a little filly, she couldn’t help but be assaulted by a feeling of loss and powerlessness. And she quite literally hated that. She took a few still slightly unsteady steps forward before scraping her hoof over the stone counter of the kitchen, and as she remembered all the times she had helped her family prepare their meals here, her mind couldn’t help but wonder if things could have been different if only she had been stronger.

“Buck!” she cursed as she hit the solid stone piece with her hoof in anger and frustration, the surface of which actually cracked underneath her strike while her hoof remained unscathed. But a week ago she would have marveled at her newfound strength, but now, now it felt woefully inadequate. This was their bucking home! She should’ve been able to protect it, damn it all! “Why the buck am I so weak?!”

“If you hate your weakness, then purge it and become stronger,” a deep voice said from behind her, startling her as she spun around. Her surprise swiftly turned into mortification as she saw the large earth pony at the door that had borne witness to her outburst.

“Ganondorf! I… I was just-“ Forest attempted to say amidst a furious blush, only to stop her stuttering attempts as her ears dropped and she averted her gaze from her hero and mumbled underneath her breath. “I’m sorry…”

“What?” was Ganondorf’s terse and slightly confused reply as he tilted his head to the side while moving towards her.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more!” the mare all but shouted as she stomped on the ground in frustration and she kept babbling faster and faster. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t live up to what you taught me! That I had to be removed from the fight by the others after I collapsed in the middle of it all like some weakling! That-”

“Forest, stop being an idiot,” Ganondorf grumpily interrupted her with a hoof upon her shoulder as he huffed in annoyance and gave her an exasperated look. “So your endurance wasn’t up to snuff, do not be sorry about it, Instead work on it to get rid of that weakness!

“Weakness by itself is not a sin, only refusal to get stronger is!” Ganondorf simply stated as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, hard golden eyes staring deep into her very soul. “Hate your weakness, Forest, and use that hatred to purge it from your very being!

“You’ve got talent, I’ll give you that, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t fall down on the path to becoming a proper warrior!” he continued with an amused head shake before he gave her a fanged grin. “You will fail and fall, Forest, repeatedly at that! But as long as you keep getting back on your hooves and keep pressing onwards, you have nothing to be sorry about! Keep moving ever onwards no matter what! For that is the only path to true power!”

A moment of silence hung in the air for a moment as Forest digested her hero’s words, the feelings of doubt and inadequacy that had been plaguing her since she had landed on a bed due to the exhaustion of the battle being slowly blown away by the large stallion’s words.

“As for temporarily retreating?” Ganondorf continued with an amused snort. “What about it? Falling back in order to fight another day isn’t something to bemoan either! Especially if you were exhausted and facing a foe superior to your current strength! In such situations you fall back, prepare yourself and return stronger than ever to make them regret ever crossing your path!

“You did pretty damn well for how short a time span I had to try and shape you into a proper fighter! So you had to fall back for a minute, big deal!” Ganondorf said as he removed his hoof from her shoulder and shook his head in slight amusement before he once again locked eyes with his intently listening apprentice. ”As long as nothing truly important is on the line, retreat is always an option, Forest, remember that!”

Forest considered her hero’s words, before she slowly gave voice to a fearful doubt that had lodged itself deep within her ever since it had been decided that the only path to survival was to abandon the village. “And when retreat isn’t an option? What if falling back would cause the loss of something truly important? What then?”

Ganondorf stared her straight into the eyes in solemn silence for a very long moment, before his massive fanged grin firmly appeared on his muzzle.

“Simple, Forest,” he seriously stated as he placed a hoof underneath her chin and raised her head slightly so that she was staring directly into his burning golden eyes and an aura of pure power radiated from his very being. “Then you spit fate in the eye, charge head-on against your foe, and make damn sure that you give them a fight they shall never forget for as long as they live!”

The orange-coated mare blinked once in confused surprise, until she truly thought about what her hero meant, to fight on no matter what, even when faced by insurmountable odds. Forest remembered when she had been ambushed by the gryphons. How even outmatched, unarmed and caught by surprise by the filthy beasts she had still fought on until they had been forced to mob and overrun her to bring her down. How despite acquiring more and more injuries she fought until she could fight no more.

She looked her teacher straight in the eye, a resolute look firm on her muzzle, all trace of fear and doubt gone from her eyes. Yes, to say buck it to fate and chance and fight until the end no matter what. She could agree with that.

“Good,” Ganondorf simply said with a small nod as he let go of her chin. “Now c’mon, the others are waiting.”

And with that he simply turned around and headed towards the door. Forest Blossom following straight behind him with steady and sure steps, cheeks aglow and a burning fire inside her own eyes.

Snow had once again started to fall as the very first signs of dawn started to make themselves known upon the eastern horizon. All the while a glacial wind kept its relentless assault from the distant north. Ponies were hurrying from one area to another in a rush of activity that had taken over almost the entirety of the village’s population. The only exception was a single light brown old pony with a silver mane who stood motionless amidst the sea of movement.

Old Oak took in his fellow ponies as they either hurried from one wagon to another checking if everything was ready or made sure that nothing was left behind. And despite the feeling of pride of seeing his village rising up to the task of the ordeal they had been faced with he couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of sadness.

He turned his tired eyes towards the now mostly dark and empty buildings that had been a thriving community but a day ago. And even as he watched the few still lit houses grew dark as the ponies that lived within put out the last few fires and rushed to join the rest in the caravan that was about to depart. The sight of it forced him to close his eyes in order to prevent a tear from falling. This was no time to show weakness. Not when his villagers needed him to be their strong and calm leader. But that was also the problem, for this was his village.

He had been born and raised here. This was the place he had matured into who he was today. The place where he had fallen in love, had children and watched them grow. The place his whole family was laid to rest. And now, now he was leaving it behind to be buried under ice and snow.

“Are you alright?” a melodic voice questioned as a pristine white hoof rested comfortingly upon his shoulder.

Old Oak turned towards Zelda with a tired and worn smile, a hint of amusement briefly dancing on his eyes when he saw the kind compassion the mare was freely giving him due to his distress, when he saw the impossibility of a unicorn battle mage sincerely trying to comfort an earth pony elder.

“I’m as well as I can be in the current circumstances, my dear. This old sentimental fool is simply having trouble convincing his heart of the necessity of what has to be done,” he attempted to joke with a smile, only to stop mid motion and sigh instead. “I doubt most would understand it, they are nothing but easily replaceable wooden huts and cabins after all, but regardless of the necessity of it abandoning this place weights upon my old heart.”

“Much to the contrary elder, I understand. For, for all its faults and problems, this was your home,” Zelda kindly said as she gave him an understanding smile, while her eyes briefly took in the darkened buildings before returning to his tired eyes.

“Yeah, the little Princess has a point, Old Timer, being forced to abandon your home is never easy,” Ganondorf boisterously proclaimed as he approached alongside Forest Blossom, a playful smile on his muzzle. “It may be an inhospitable backwater, and all outsiders may think you crazy for deciding to stay there of your own free will, but it’s still home. The place your ancestors decided against all logic to plant themselves in and declared out loud: Here is our home! As if in challenge to the world itself!”

“That’s an… interesting way to put it, but I can’t say that’s wrong!” Old Oak said with a small chuckle, his dark mood alleviated by the young ones’ attempts to help. “Why, you sound like you speak from personal experience!”

That comment made Ganondorf snort in open amusement before he gave the elder a mischievous look and replied. “You may say that. After all, my ancestors thought that a desert was a perfectly suitable place to call home. And millennia later we were still too stubborn to even accept considering that they might have been wrong!”

That actually managed to get a laugh from the old pony, as Old Oak couldn’t help but shake his head in slight bemusement. “I guess ponies will be ponies no matter what or where they live, won’t they? Stubborn to a fault, the lot of us!

“Forget the ramblings of this old one. Zelda, my dear, how proceeds the preparation for the evacuation?” the elder asked as he shoved his melancholy aside.

“Everything is ready, the supplies have been packed and stowed away, the injured are inside their wagons, and the last few stragglers are accounted for,” she immediately replied with a nod towards Forest as one last family rushed towards the large group, all the while completely ignoring Ganondorf’s comments about how Old Oak had made far too much sense to allow his words to be considered proper rambling. “Link and Wonder Bolt have also already departed towards Pegasopolis. We may depart as soon as we desire.”

Old Oak took one last look at his village, his home. Then, with a final nod, he turned towards his ponies, his friends, his family, and started to walk, a firm look on his old eyes as he marched onwards. Not a single glance more was given to the place of his birth.

“Then let’s do what has to be done, there is no reason to tarry any longer,” he stated with finality, head locked onwards as his hooves hit the cobblestone path he had trotted over so many times before one final time. There would be time for mourning what was lost later, but first he had to make sure his ponies would make it to that point unscathed. “Spread the word, it’s time to depart.”

XVII - Trails and Tribulations

View Online

Trails and Tribulations

The sun was slowly setting at the western horizon, gentle snowflakes drifted across a gelid northern wind. Nothing broke the peace and tranquility of the dying evening as the darkness of the night slowly emerged to reign until the sun was back to banish it for one more day. Nothing except for two colorful blurs cutting through the snowy sky with haste, one blue and one green, their strong wings pushing them forward as mile after mile swiftly disappeared beneath them.

As he forced his wings to keep beating, Wonder Bolt resolutely ignored the tiredness that was starting to seep into his very bones. He ignored the all encompassing cold that tried to steal the warmth from his blood as his wings moved up and down, up and down. As he completely ignored the protests of his tired body, all of his focus was solely locked onwards as he made sure to angle himself in such a way as to get as much speed as possible from the chilly tailwind that kept battering his form. The winds were both a blessing and a curse, for while the ever southward winds did speed up his flight considerably, they also heralded the advance of the very threat he was rushing to warn ponykind about.

He closed his weary eyes for a moment as he remembered the ghastly fight that had occurred but a few days ago, and the promise of what it foretold for the future of the Three Tribes. With a firm shake of his head, Bolt opened his eyes with a snap and a glower fixed itself on his muzzle as he forced his wings to beat a little faster despite how exhausted he currently felt. Up and down, up and down, as the ground far below darted past him, he kept pushing himself to the limit and beyond. Reaching the Armada as soon as possible so that ponykind could be warned of what was coming amidst the freezing winds, that was all that mattered. That was the mission he had been entrusted with, and he would not fail!

“I see a good clearing coming up ahead, let’s stop and rest a little there,” the green-coated pegasus flying at Bolt’s side calmly stated.

The meaning behind Link’s words was so against Wonder Bolt’s previous state of mind and utter focus on keeping his wings moving that the newly, unofficially, promoted corporal wasn’t proud to admit that it took several wing beats before he truly absorbed what his mysterious companion had said. But when he finally did, he reacted in accordance with the years of training that the Armada had given him.

“What?!” he shouted as he did a double take, certain that he couldn’t have heard it right and that Link couldn’t possibly have suggested that they stop their vital mission midway when time was of the essence!

But much to the azure-coated pegasus’ incredulity the sight before his eyes confirmed what his ears had just heard, as Link was already diving towards a clearing slightly to the left of their path, apparently without a care in the world. Wonder Bolt simply stood there hovering in place for a moment as his tired mind tried to formulate a response to this new development, but when he finally thought about voicing his protest, Link had already landed.

Cursing beneath his breath, the corporal dove towards the ground, intent on convincing Link that there was no time to lose! If there was to be any chance of the plan actually working then the help of the Storm Caller was paramount!

Part of Bolt’s mind wondered how, by the great winds, Link had managed to light a fire and start cooking a stew in the span of time it had taken him to shake off his mental stupor and descend to ground level, but a far larger part of his mind remained focused on the vital mission they had to complete, regardless of the inviting warmth of the fire or the tasty smelling stew now simmering atop it!

“Link, what do you think you’re doing?!” Wonder Bolt shouted in distress while forcing himself to ignore the mouthwatering smell slowly spreading out of the cooking pot. “There is no time to lose! We have to keep going!”

“You are tired and hungry,” Link simply stated without even looking to his fellow pegasus after getting a cutting board from who knew where and starting to dice carrots and potatoes before adding it all to the simmering stew. “You need to rest. There is no point in pushing yourself past the point of exhaustion. All that would do is jeopardize the mission.”

Bolt simply shook his head in exasperation. Sure, the knowledge that Link cared about his well being was slightly heartwarming since they were acquaintances at best, but the point remained that there were far more important things at hoof than the health of a single pegasus!

“There is no need for this! I can keep up until we reach Pegasopolis just fine!” he stated while stomping a hoof for emphasis as he tried to convince the odd pegasus to see reason.

“Good, but what about afterwards?” Link serenely replied as he taste tested the stew with a spoon that hadn’t been there a moment before, nodded in approval and turned to look Bolt in the eye as the spoon once again disappeared into the apparently bottomless pit that the green pegasus called a saddlebag.

“Time is important, yes. But you’re forgetting that there is a very good chance that we will not be able to reach your high command without issue,” he calmly stated as he gave Bolt a look that uncomfortably reminded him of when his late mom felt that he was missing the obvious. “And even in a best case scenario, you will have to be in good enough shape to explain the situation and help me convince them of the veracity of it all.”

“The scroll Fierce Breeze wrote, alongside you demonstrating your Storm Caller abilities, should be more than enough to get you a meeting with high command! Buck, it will be more than enough to get you a meeting with Commander Hurricane himself!” the corporal tried to explain to the green pegasus. What the hay, now that he thought about it Link should just ditch him here and keep going alone! The green pegasus was in far better shape than Bolt currently and looked more than ready to continue! But before he could voice that thought, Link interjected with a small head shake.

“Bolt, I’m an outsider to the Armada. Do you truly believe they would grant me an immediate meeting with your leaders without you there to present Fierce Breeze’s orders? And besides, going by the reactions of your squad mates, should I demonstrate my ability to control the weather with music to a large amount of pegasi without prior warning in order to try and gain entry to Pegasopolis, any time gained by rushing ahead would be lost thrice over in the ensuing chaos,” he stated as he picked two bowls and a loaf of bread from his bag, and Bolt cringed as, even as tired as he was, he could recognize the truth of his words. There could easily be a commotion depending on how Link demonstrated his abilities. “Rushing things will not help us, nor will it actually help us accomplish our objectives faster in the long run.”

“But-” Wonder Bolt attempted to interject, only for Link to have none of it and silence him with a look as he served a healthy portion of the stew into a bowl and pushed it into the azure-coated pegasus’ hooves.

“Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. In cases such as this you must be mindful of your pacing and know when to save your strength,” he seriously stated with a small nod before serving a portion of stew for himself and breaking the loaf of bread in two. “Patience is a virtue for a reason, Bolt. Now sit, eat and rest, we shall reach our objective when we reach it and no earlier.”

And with those words Link offered a very frustrated and aggravated looking Wonder Bolt his half of the loaf of bread, turned his gaze back towards his own meal and started to eat it at a slow and methodical pace as he savored every bite. There was not a hint of restlessness or apprehension on his placidly eating form.

Bolt opened and closed his mouth several times as he searched for the words needed to convince his companion to change his mind, to impress into him the critical need for haste in regards to their mission, only for a loud growling coming from his stomach to betray him as his body told him in no uncertain terms what it wanted, and demanded that he stop being silly and eat the tasty smelling stew that was but inches away from his muzzle.

Letting out a defeated sigh, Bolt sat back on his haunches and took a bite of the stew. Humming in contentment at the taste, he started to scarf it down as he finally realized how hungry he really was. And so he started to follow Link’s counsel and rested a bit, serving himself a second bowl of stew as the heat of the fire slowly warmed him.

It was a very tasty stew, after all.

“Are we there yet?” Ganondorf obnoxiously asked the very aggravated looking white-coated unicorn walking by his side as they followed at the very end of the caravan of ponies trotting down the dirt road leading them in a general south-bound heading.

“I will not deign to answer that question,” Zelda replied with a huff, aggravation clear in her features as she kept her gaze resolutely onwards, refusing to so much as glance at the large earth pony with the even larger sword strapped at his back.

“Oh, c’mon Princess, don’t be like that!” the Dark Lord joked as he took a step closer to Zelda and lightly bumped her side. The fact that his definition of lightly was enough to throw the smaller pony more than three feet to the side was irrelevant, in his opinion.

“Ganondorf!” Zelda hissed as she finally deigned to look his way in order to level her best glare at him after twisting midair and gracefully landing on her hooves without a single strand of her mane out of place.

“What?” he bluntly asked as he wondered what the problem was, it wasn’t like the Princess couldn’t deal with such an action in her sleep anyway. What was there for her to be angry about?

“Blessed Nayru, give me strength,” Zelda mumbled under her breath as she pinched the bridge of her muzzle for a moment before she resumed walking.

Easily keeping pace with the aggravated mare, the Wielder of Power stared at the slowly, slowly passing forested landscape as the pony caravan kept moving onwards at speeds that, while very respectable for a civilian group, were excruciatingly slow in his honest opinion.

“Are we there yet?” he asked once again out of sheer boredom as he decided that needling Zelda was far more entertaining than looking at the exact same scenery all the time.

“There are still two hours until we reach the point Old Oak has decided we will set up camp, at the minimum, and you know it,” the Wielder of Wisdom growled at him as blue sparks started flickering around her horn and her blue eyes attempted to pierce straight through his skull. “Ask me that question again and we shall see just how sturdy your new body really is!”

“Seriously! Why are they so damned slow! It’s like watching a Hylian patrol slowly crawling towards the ambush point where you are waiting! It takes them forever to get where you need them to be!” he complained with a slightly irritated grumble, all the while completely ignoring the Princess’ angrily retorted ‘What?!’ “And we can’t even rush ahead, or scout, or anything of use, what with how all the interesting enemies are behind us! And the lack of proper defenses for the caravan!”

“Deal with it,” Zelda mercilessly proclaimed as she once again turned her head towards the path, completely ignoring Ganondorf’s next few attempts at small talk. Really, if not for her slowly worsening eye twitch, the King of Thieves would have thought that she wasn’t even listening to him at all!

With another aggravated huff, the large earth pony pondered how the dullness of reality had come to bite him once again. He had intellectually known that a quest would involve a whole lot of walking, roaming, hiking, strolling, riding and all other variations of physically moving from point A to point B. How could he not after watching the Kid do it several dozen times and how it always involved an inordinate amount of time simply trying to go from place to place? But knowing about it was very different from experiencing it himself, especially when he found himself at the slowest speed possible of said physically moving from point A to point B!

Taking one more look around, Ganondorf attempted to find anything to distract his mind from his current boredom. One would think that an epic quest to find pink fire in order to stop an invasion of ice wraiths would have been more exciting than this!

Finding nothing of interest, both the forest and the caravan of ponies a few dozen meters ahead of them remaining as uninteresting as ever, Ganondorf let out an aggravated groan before his eyes settled on the white unicorn at his side that was still resolutely not looking at him. He pondered this new idea he had just had, for a moment or two that is, before he decided that he really had nothing better to do anyway, so why not?

And so, a small grin slowly surfacing on his muzzle, the Dark Lord took in a deep breath, turned his head straight towards Zelda, and innocently asked. “Are we th-”

Only to stop before he could finish the question, as he swiftly jumped to the side, avoiding a sphere of roaring fire that materialized where he had been standing but a fraction of a second ago. As he took in the Wielder of Wisdom’s very frustrated and irritated gaze, the growing eye twitch on her brow more prominent than ever as sparks of magic radiated from her horn and highlighted her features under a fierce blue glow, the Wielder of Power felt his grin grow even wider as he decided that had been the right decision after all. And so, no longer bored, he decided there was but one course of action to take.

“-ere yet?” he cheekily finished the interrupted question, before jumping backwards and un-holstering his greatsword in one swing in order to bat away the swiftly approaching flurry of fireballs raining towards him from one now very angry looking unicorn.

Now this would be very entertaining!

As the ponies bustled all around setting up camp for the night, either by unloading needed supplies and objects from the wagons, or setting up tents and fires, at the very center of activity Beautiful Blossom was guiding several of her fellow ponies as they prepared the evening meal.

But even as she prepared several dishes, while instructing other ponies on what to do and how to proceed with all the skill and grace of a maestro leading their orchestra, she was still more than able to appreciate the juicy gossip that the two younger mares helping to make soup right next to her were currently engaging in.

“I mean, it’s not that I want to question Ganondorf’s word, far from it!” Forest Blossom said to Sure Shot as she absentmindedly stirred the pot. “But that seemed a little… excessive for a sparring match, don’t you think?”

In response to her daughter’s words, Sure Shot proceeded to snort in apparent amusement, and so, as she tossed the already chopped onions into the cooking pot, she leveled the younger mare with a lightly incredulous look.

“Not sure how you haven’t noticed this by now, Forest, but excessive basically describes everything those three do!” the sea green ranger retorted white an exasperated shake of her head as she proceeded to chop the carrots. And Beautiful had to concede the mare the point; Ganondorf, Link, and Zelda really weren’t the kind of ponies to content themselves with half measures! “Or did you somehow forget what they did these past few days?”

“But that was different! Zelda was throwing fireballs, lightning bolts, earth spikes and other such things at him! It was as if she really wanted to hurt him!” Forest angrily retorted as she stomped her hooves in frustration, nearly knocking down a nearby basket filled with freshly baked bread, which earned the orange-coated mare a warning look from her mother which made her quickly secure said basket.

“All the while Ganondorf was somehow creating craters, with his bare hooves, large enough to fit an entire wagon in as he attempted to hit her head, while unleashing large gouts of flame with that magical sword of his,” Sure Shot snarked back with an eye roll and a dismissive huff. “How was that any different from what the crazy trio was doing back in the village near your cottage? Or did you somehow miss that new clearing that sprung into being after that sparring match of theirs?

“Sure, I agree that the fact that Zelda being a unicorn would normally be cause for severe concern, but she is an alright sort when all is said and done,” she continued as she finished the carrots and added them to the simmering soup as well. “And besides, it’s not like Ganondorf can’t take care of himself.”

“But even so, shouldn’t we maybe intervene or something?” Forest hesitantly asked as she stopped stirring in favor of half heartedly kicking at the ground with an uncertain look.

“Seriously Forest, let it be,” the ranger stated as she finished her own chores and cleaned her hooves on a clean cloth as she leveled a look at the younger mare. “Those two can resolve whatever lovers’ quarrel that set them off by themselves.”

“What?!” Forest shouted at Sure Shot as she processed the ranger’s choice of expression. And then proceeded to stammer and choke at her own words as the idea of her crush being already in a relationship hit her with all the strength of an avalanche. “But- Do you mean… No, they aren’t… are they?! Sure Shot, what do you mean by saying that?!”

As she took her daughter’s place at the forgotten pot before the lack of stirring could cause anything in it to burn, and seeing the surprised and slightly panicky look on the ranger’s muzzle as Forest advanced towards her until their snouts were nearly touching with each other, Beautiful Blossom decided that smoothing things over would not be amiss.

“Don’t worry dear, it was merely an expression,” she gracefully interjected as the sea green mare swiftly started to nod her agreement, before she continued as her words took in a lightly teasing tone. “No matter how close those two are, I’m quite sure they are not romantically interested in each other. Have no fear; you haven’t lost your chance yet!”

“What?!” Forest repeated as her cheeks turned crimson and she proceeded to try and avert eye contact with both of them. “I have no idea what you’re talking about!”

“Oh please, dear, you have hardly been subtle about it!” Beautiful teased as she removed the pot from the fire, placed it to the side, and then proceeded to give her daughter a half lidded look. “Not that I blame you, not in the slightest! Ganondorf is quite the dish, isn’t he?”

“Mom!” Forest interjected in mortification, not wanting to know her own mother’s opinion on how attractive her crush was.

“Now, now, dear, none of that,” she chided with a playful wink and a smile, all the while Sure Shot had hidden her own smile from view as she attempted to contain what sounded suspiciously like chuckling. “You have to be more assertive! For while I’m quite sure Ganondorf and Zelda are just friends, that doesn’t mean others won’t seek him all the same if you dawdle too long! Be bold, my dear Blossom! Be bold and go snatch your gallant stallion!”

As her daughter’s coat swiftly turned from burnt orange to vivid red, and she stammered denials unintelligibly as steam all but escaped from her ears in embarrassment, Beautiful Blossom turned to the now openly chuckling ranger as she decided that she may as well continue to impart her knowledge to the younger generation. “The same can be said to you, my dear ranger!”

“What?” Sure Shot questioned as she controlled her chuckling and gave the plum colored mare a confused look.

“Why, I mean that you have even less time and have to be even more assertive than my daughter!” she stated as if it was obvious, thought considering the even more lost look Sure Shot was now sporting she apparently would have to be even more direct and to the point if there was any hope for her to understand it all. Young ones these days! “My dear, while I’m certain that Zelda is not a threat to Forest’s interest in regards to Ganondorf, unfortunately the same cannot be said about her in regards to your interest in Link!”

“What?!” Sure Shot shouted in consternation as a hint of pink surfaced on her own muzzle.

“Why, yes! I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t something between those two!” she continued as she hid her mouth behind a hoof, giggling at the thought of it all. “And while the romantic in me admits that seeing a star-crossed romance between a pegasus and a unicorn would be truly delightful, the friend in me thinks that you also deserve a chance to make your feelings known!”

“WHAT?!” Sure Shot repeated even louder than before with a pole-axed look on her swiftly reddening features. Seriously, young ones these days! They had to have everything spelled out to them!

“You better start taking a more proactive stance, my dear, or I fear your stallion may be snatched away right before your muzzle! You must take a stance and claim his heart before another does it!” she declared with a firm nod to her stunned audience.

Sure Shot simply stared at Beautiful for a long moment, her mouth hanging open as she failed to find words to respond to the older mare. Eventually, with a fierce head shake, she swiftly blurted out, “I’m not interested in Link!

“Don’t try and play coy with me, my dear,” the plum colored pony stated with a musical laugh as she moved closer to Sure Shot and lightly bumped her side. “Why, the signs are all there, one needs but to have eyes to see them! The way you followed him everywhere these past few days, the way your eyes never stopped tracking his form!”

“Beautiful, seriously! I’m not interested in Link!” the very embarrassed mare stated in such a forceful way that to the older mare it looked like she was attempting to convince herself! “That’s it! Full stop!”

“Is that so?” she questioned the fidgeting mare with a look of deep interest.

“YES!” Sure Shot immediately replied, her features every bit as red and embarrassed as Forest’s. “And besides, I have no time for silly stallions!”

“Oh, I see, I apologize for my mistake, I understand completely!” Beautiful replied in sudden understanding as she berated herself for not noticing it sooner! It was so obvious as well! “You were scouting out the competition, weren’t you? Clever mare!”

“What?!” the ranger shouted in embarrassed confusion, gaining a wink from Beautiful from her troubles.

“Don’t worry about it, dear, while I know some uncultured buffoons seem to be unable to wrap their little minds around the concept, I have no problem with you walking the other side of the paddock!” Beautiful serenely stated with a chuckle. Truly, she thought that the younger mare would have known her better than to think she would be so narrow minded!


“I can see the appeal, really. Such poise and elegance! Zelda is quite the mare indeed! You have excellent taste, my dear!” she lightly continued as she gave her another wink and giggled as she started to move towards the next dish that needed finishing.

A long moment of silence followed Beautiful’s words, as a now thoroughly red faced Sure Shot stood completely still, mouth hanging open and eyes glassy as she stared at the older mare, until she finally hesitatingly replied.

“I… I’m… I’m going to go check the perimeter!” the ranger rushed to say before galloping away as fast as she could, leaving an extremely embarrassed and equally crimson faced Forest alone with her mother.

“Ah, young love!” Beautiful sighed with a happy smile as she remembered her own younger years, before she turned her expectant eyes to her daughter. “Well dear, now back to the topic of how best to snatch your stallion! My, will it be good to see this family growing again!”

“I’m gonna help Sure Shot!” Forest squeaked as she too galloped away after the ranger as fast as she could while refusing to make eye contact with anypony in sight.

Shaking her head as she watched the two mares rush away, Beautiful Blossom couldn’t help but chuckle at the silly hang ups of the younger generation, before she returned to the tasks at hoof. Dinner wouldn’t cook itself, after all!

“There it is, Pegasopolis! The great cloud fortress of the pegasi!” Wonder Bolt said in reverent awe as the first rays of the sun started to illuminate the pegasus city floating in the sky near the southern horizon.

Link could actually understand the azure-coated pony’s feelings. As the sun shone and glistened upon its pure white structures, making them shine brighter than polished marble, Link had to admit that Pegasopolis was an impressive sight, and coming from someone who had seen all that he had seen, that was saying something.

It wasn’t as if he was a stranger to impressive and grandiose structures, far from it. Nor was it like he was unfamiliar with floating cities. Sure, they were fairly uncommon, but not so much that he hadn’t stumbled upon them once in a while during his adventures. But he could safely say that this was the very first time he had ever seen a grandiose, floating city made entirely out of solidified clouds. Now that was something new.

He pondered how that could work in regards to everyday life. After all, even if all pegasi could stand and manipulate clouds as if they were solid objects, wouldn’t anything else fall straight through them and plummet to the ground down below? Bolt and his squad mates had armor and weapons made out of metal, so there was probably some way to deal with the issue. Now the question was, what exactly was it?

“We actually made some good time getting here, hopefully that will be enough; The worst of it is over, now let’s go, there’s not a moment to lose!” Bolt happily stated as he picked up his speed and headed straight to the faraway cloud fortress.

Setting aside the thought of how cloud structures interacted with everyday items aside for later perusal, Link followed straight after his traveling companion. All the while, he pondered if he should warn the pegasus about how erroneous his current thought process actually was. The worst part of this little mission was not over, not by a long-shot, much to the contrary.

Wonder Bolt seemed to be working under the strange impression that everything was going to proceed smoothly as they met with the Armada, that nothing would go wrong. And Link could say from personal experience how erroneous such a notion was.

Something would go wrong, that was a given. Something always went wrong when he first met another species while on a quest, after all. Especially if time was of the essence. Their leader would be missing, or away on an important mission, a priceless artifact would have been lost or stolen, an ancient monster would have escaped its prison and be terrorizing the locals, so on and so forth. A hundred and one different things would happen to hold them back and hinder the journey, official orders or not.

And that was forgoing the trials of valor he would undoubtedly have to undergo in order to prove his worth before anything of importance could be done.

Link really wished he could say he was exaggerating, but sadly it wasn’t possible, because that was simply how things were. So, of course his first meeting with the pegasus leadership would turn into some kind of test, trial, or martial contest. Because, of course, why wouldn’t it?

After all, it wasn’t like nine times out of ten the first meeting with the gorons demanded some kind of test of strength and valor, which had the annoying tendency to demanding he overwhelm several tons of sentient rock in one on one fights before he could so much as explain the reason for his visit. Or that the zora would likewise request him to show some kind of token as proof of his intentions, all the while completely ignoring that said tokens tended to be stowed away in very hazardous, inaccessible, faraway and inhospitable locations for some reason that frankly escaped him. Or that the rito could be at times downright antagonistic and refuse to so much as talk with him until something drastic happened and he inevitably saved someone important, stopped a rampaging monster, or stopped some kind of natural disaster. And that’s not even mentioning the gerudo and all that dealing with them tended to entail… and that was by no means an exhaustive list.

In the end he decided to keep his silence, best to let Bolt keep his high spirits for as long as he could. And besides, who knows? Things could actually go smoothly for a change.

Chuckling lightly at the absurd thought, Link mentally prepared himself for what was to come as he followed Wonder Bolt towards the great cloud fortress of the pegasi. He would simply have to overcome whatever obstacle it was that would materialize on his path, same as always.

Now the trick would be to do so without somehow ending up as the new chieftain of the pegasi or some other such nonsense, or accidentally getting engaged to someone he barely knew afterwards. It was always annoying when that happened.

XVIII - Diplomacy?

View Online


As they swiftly approached the great city of the pegasi, Link couldn’t help but appreciate the large cloud structure. Dozens upon dozens of pillars and columns stretched as far as the eye could see, supporting many tall and open buildings, all made of the same pure white material that shone in the morning sun brighter than polished marble. It truly was a magnificent sight.

And yet, his experienced eyes immediately noticed an oddity. For a moment the Wielder of Courage wondered about the apparent lack of walls and other such battlements, as their absence seemed odd when linked with the feathered ponies’ apparent martial mindset, not to mention how they referred to it as a ‘fortress’. Until, with a sudden epiphany the obvious answer hit him.

The pegasi were a flying race, the sky was their home, and their abode lazily floating more than three miles above ground only reinforced that fact. Additionally such fortifications would mean next to nothing to both themselves and any race that could reach the city in order to attack it, since any and all who could accomplish such a feat had to be capable of flight in some manner or another in the first place.

“Halt!” The shouted command stopped Link’s musings on how best to assault and defend such unique structures, as he instead focused on the group of pegasi swiftly approaching him and Wonder Bolt with weapons drawn. “There are no flights scheduled to return at this time! State your rank and file immediately!”

As the group of feathered ponies encircled them with their weapons at the ready, Link decided that their readiness and reaction time were decent enough. Sure, they clearly should’ve been able to see them and intercept long before this point, but considering how there was still about two miles before they reached the city proper it wasn’t the worst showing of a patrol he had borne witness to, not by a long shot.

“Sir, Corporal Wonder Bolt, forty second patrol squad!” Wonder Bolt promptly replied as he saluted the leader of the pegasus squadron, making Link stop his wandering thoughts about some of the more embarrassing examples of poor patrolling skills he had seen throughout his many lives. “I bring urgent news from the northern territories and a vital message from Sergeant Fierce Breeze to high command; there have been new developments to the north that they must be made aware of immediately, sir!”

The wave of murmurs and firm looks that some of the pegasi started to sport upon hearing Bolt’s words managed to make Link think for a moment that, strangely enough, the azure-coated pegasus’ extremely optimistic prediction of how things would proceed could actually come to pass. That is, until what looked like the patrol group’s second in command interjected.

“I know you, you are the half-breed from Lieutenant Wind Shriek’s squad!” a black-coated pegasus snarled in clear disgust, a reaction that Link was quite unhappy to see mirrored by more than half of the winged ponies now that Bolt’s heritage was known. “What the hay are you doing here without the rest of your squad?”

“Sir, most of the squad was injured during a battle to repel an assault against a new foe who now threatens the northern border,” Wonder Bolt continued in a precise and controlled tone of voice, showing absolutely no reaction to the open hostility now being thrown his way as he addressed the leader of the group. “Being one of the less injured of our flight, Sergeant Fierce Breeze entrusted me with the task of reporting the situation to high command as the rest of the squad recovered and aided the evacuation of the local civilian population, sir.”

A few worried murmurs started, only for them to be buried underneath a new wave of derision and name calling being thrown Bolt’s way. Link had noticed the undercurrents of distrust and racism that seemed to taint some of the ponies' actions in the village, but they had all been directed at members of the other tribes, and even then it wasn’t nearly as strong as the reactions the feathered ponies were showing to Bolt’s mixed heritage. And, as he watched the pegasi dithering about and arguing with each other about trusting the half-breed’s report or not, Link pondered if he should help things along a little in order to expedite their entrance into the cloud-fortress.

He was quite certain that they could get into it and find whomever they had to deliver the missive to before a second patrol realized the first one had been taken down.

“Enough! Half-breed or not, the mere possibility of an attack against one of our patrols must be kicked up the chain of command!” their leader barked as he frowned at them all, stopping their needless yapping and unknowingly preventing the lot of them from being rendered unconscious in the immediate future. “Now form up, you are pegasi of the Armada, act like it!

“You better be sure about your words, half-breed,” the leader spat as he sent a warning glare Bolt’s way before turning a suspicious look on Link for a moment, probably realizing he hadn’t been introduced. With an annoyed huff, he turned towards the large cloud-fortress in the distance. “Now all of you, move it!”

“Sir, yes, sir!” Bolt and the other pegasi shouted as one, the first still acting completely professional and as if he hadn’t been derided and insulted repeatedly for the temerity of existing. And as the squad formed up around the two of them and proceeded to guide the duo towards Pegasopolis, a small frown briefly made itself known upon the Wielder of Courage’s brow, before being smoothed underneath his ever present serene visage.

As they swiftly approached and entered into the pure white structures of the cloud fortress, Link carefully observed the path they were taking and the movements of the patrols he could see. For now he would trust Bolt’s plan of action and play along, but he could safely say that, as far as first impressions went, the so-called Pegasus Armada hadn’t exactly made good ones either time Link had interacted with their numbers.

Taking deep, greedy gulps of air, Ganondorf climbed out of the large crater he had been shoved into by Zelda’s newest magical assault. He shook his whole body in order to remove the worst of the soot that now covered his fur and rested his blade upon the ground for a moment as he assessed the damage to his body.

“Now we’re talking, that was a really nasty trick, Princess, well done!” he boisterously proclaimed as he looked towards the Wielder of Wisdom’s form as she climbed out of the wrecked tree he had punched her through moments ago, a blinding smile on his muzzle.

Zelda had never been a pushover, far from it, that was a fact. She was a dangerous and accomplished combatant, had a very sharp tactical mind, and was easily the most gifted magical practitioner the King of Thieves had ever had the pleasure of facing in combat. But the fact still remained that between the three Wielders of the Triforce, the Wielder of Wisdom was the weakest of them all when it came to pure martial might.

And yet, this new reality’s apparent overabundance of magic and her new species’ natural gift to control and manipulate it seemed keen to correct that little deficiency, allowing her to fling far more powerful spells than usual in a fraction of the time it would normally take her to cast them back on Hyrule. Thankfully, his own new species’ absurd endurance also seemed keen on not letting him fall behind, what with how his body seemed to simply refuse to acknowledge that he should be damaged after being hit by Zelda’s magical assaults!

“You insufferable, barbaric, buffoon! Why, when I get my h-” the little Princess kept muttering underneath her breath as she shoved wood splinters away from her mane and glared his way with eyes hidden beneath a fierce blue glow.

“Now, now, Princess, you got to relax a little!” Ganondorf cheerfully replied to the very inventive death threats Zelda was currently uttering as he prepared himself to renew their spar. And he meant it! Those were some really creative death threats! He would have to remember them for later! “Just because I’m currently in the lead, that’s no reason for you to lose your temper!”

Zelda's answer was to try and plunge her sword into his neck as she suddenly appeared at his side in a flash of magic, forcing him to swiftly block the blow with his own sword while at the same time using his slowly re-growing grasp on his own magic to maintain the barrier preventing the deluge of lightning currently coursing through her blade from electrocuting him into charcoal.

They stood like that for a moment, before he used his greater weight to push her backwards in order to give himself space to dodge the earth spike coming from below and the wind blade coming from behind in a synchronized attack. Now that was what he was talking about! Back in Hyrule such continuous and simultaneous casting would have strained Zelda at least somewhat, but now the unicorn seemed to be able to do it with ease! An ease that seemed to grow more and more with each of their now daily spars!

Unleashing a gout of flame hot enough to melt steel towards the now openly cursing mare, Ganondorf couldn’t help but smile, feeling extremely pleased and content with the world. He didn’t know why, but he had been getting more and more agitated and annoyed these past few days. It was as if some kind of persistent buzz kept ringing just outside of his hearing, a persistent yet barely perceptible feeling that he only just started to notice recently that was slowly but surely aggravating his temper. He had no idea what it was or why he was feeling that way, which only served to aggravate his annoyance even more, but what he did know was that a good bout of violence with the Wielder of Wisdom seemed to scratch it nicely.

He grunted as Zelda managed to land a direct hit with her rear hooves, which was followed by what felt like some kind of concussive spell fired point blank that promptly propelled him away and through several trees, and as the shattered pieces of wood were still falling all around him, before he could right himself, the feeling of cold steel against his neck made him stop.

He took in Zelda’s form as she held her sword firm against his neck, her horn and eyes aglow with power showing she was ready to react to any new tricks he may pull. And so, with a loud boisterous laugh Ganondorf calmly pushed the blade away and got back up. “You win this one, Princess, well done! This was a great match!”

The Wielder of Wisdom stared at him for a moment with an indecipherable expression on her muzzle, before with a huff she turned her head away muttering something about insane battle maniacs that only made him laugh harder.

“Oh, c’mon Princess, don’t be like that! Enjoy yourself a little!” Ganondorf boomed as he shook himself to get all the dirt, rock and wooden fragments free from his coat.

“You are nothing but an overgrown, belligerent, battle obsessed child with an ego the size of Death Mountain,” the white-coated unicorn huffed in response, not even looking Ganondorf’s way.

“And you are a prissy, knowledge obsessed busybody with a martyr complex as large as Hyrule Lake, so what’s your point?” the brown-coated earth pony easily riposted with another laugh. The fact that Zelda simply huffed once more and kept walking away made him tally another point to himself in their old little contest of one-upmanship.

After all, Zelda could huff, turn her nose up, and complain as much as she liked, but the truth was that, after all the centuries they had known each other, there was simply no conceivable way that the little Princess hadn’t realized he was actively antagonizing her in search of a reaction by this point of things. She was simply far too self aware and smart to not have noticed. And so, considering the fact that she still reacted anyway, the only logical conclusion was that she did like their little spats far more than she was willing to admit.

Personally, Ganondorf thought that she probably saw them as a good, ready-made excuse to allow herself some time to unwind and appreciate some good old fashioned violence with no repercussions and without tarnishing her precious royal image. It was weird, but who was he to judge? He had done far weirder in the past, after all!

“Well, if the ponies weren’t up before they are sure to be now! Let’s go get something to eat and get things going, shall we?” he loudly proclaimed to the unicorn mare that was still trying too hard to pretend she wasn’t listening, his mood far better now that the annoying itchy feeling that had been bothering him was almost completely gone.

For a moment he thought about maybe trying to see what that whole annoying feeling thing was all about, but then the sight of Forest rushing towards them made him dismiss the thought for more immediate and practical stuff, like breakfast. It probably wasn’t anything important anyway.

As they entered the outermost battlements and journeyed deeper into the main northern barracks, Wonder Bolt ignored the many looks and whispers being thrown his way with the ease of years of experience. He had long since learned to let his brethren’s myopic views about his bloodline wash over him like water off a duck’s back. Words were nothing but wind as his mother used to say, and now, with the fate of pony-kind on the balance, their words had even less weight than usual.

Thankfully the squad leader was above all else a professional, for despite his clear and apparent distaste for the ‘half-breed,’ he had taken the mere possibility of an attack against a pegasus patrol squad with all the weight such a situation demanded and, unless Bolt was completely mistaken about the ever more elaborate carvings upon the cloud structures they were passing by, was taking them straight to the superior officer in charge for this section of the defense of Pegasopolis.

“Colonel Winter Gale, sir,” the stallion said as he snapped a salute right after entering a large room filled with war maps, squad reports, and other assorted scroll-work needed for the running of the Armada. “An emergency message from the northern border has been brought by Corporal Wonder Bolt, forty second patrol squad, sir!”

“Is that so?” A large ice-blue stallion with a bone-white mane calmly asked, his posture firm and unyielding as he stared at the incoming group from behind a desk with hard eyes. His eyes briefly took in Link, one eyebrow rising minimally as he saw that the green pegasus wasn’t wearing armor or any other garment common for the Armada’s squads, before settling upon Wonder Bolt. “Very well, report corporal.”

Wonder Bolt promptly saluted,“Sir, we were patrolling the northern border when-” Wonder Bolt began reporting the situation to the north, keenly aware that Winter Gale’s rank meant that he was one of the highest ranked pegasi in the armada, only below Commander Hurricane himself. “And that’s the situation, sir.”

“I see,” the colonel spoke in a near whisper, eyes narrowed in thought as he stared intently at the azure-coated pony standing at parade rest in front of him. “And Sergeant Fierce Breeze’s message?”

“Here, sir!” he promptly said, walking forward and giving the sealed scroll to the colonel, who promptly broke the seal and started to read the missive.

“This is very interesting news corporal,” Winter Gale frostily said as he allowed the scroll to furl itself closed, his words as cold as the winds of his name. “Especially considering the fact that the leader of your squad, Lieutenant Wind Shriek himself, gave me a very different report but a few hours ago.”

“Sir-!” Wonder Bolt started to say in alarm, eyes wide and a hint of panic blooming in his heart upon hearing that the idiotic former leader of his flight had arrived before them as he wondered what kind of ‘report’ the disgraced pegasus had given the colonel. Only for Winter Gale to silence him immediately with a risen hoof.

“However, considering the fact that Lieutenant Wind Shriek’s report clearly stated his whole squad was lost fending off the unicorn ambush, and that yet here you stand, carrying a scroll with both Sergeant Fierce Breeze’s signature and hoof-writing, something is clearly amiss,” the ice-blue stallion continued, his voice now as warm as a glacier as he calmly rose from his seat allowing Bolt to see his cutie mark of a blowing blizzard. Hard eyes focused inwards as he clearly pondered about what he had just heard and read and compared it to whatever Wind Shriek had said previously.

“You and your… companion, are to wait here for the moment,” he said as he rounded the desk, hesitating for a brief moment as he pondered what to call Link now that he knew that the green-coated pegasus was not, and never had been, a part of the Armada. “I shall be clarifying the situation with the lieutenant personally.”

“Sir, yes sir!” Wonder Bolt shouted, as he fought off the desire to shiver at the barely concealed anger contained in the colonel’s last few words.

Without another word or glance their way, Colonel Winter Gale calmly trotted out of the room, only his furious eyes betraying his feelings. The pegasi who had escorted them here saluted and followed the colonel at a brief signal of his wing, closing the door as they left, leaving Wonder Bolt and Link alone.

Wonder Bolt nearly collapsed with a sigh of relief a moment later after taking a second to confirm they weren’t coming back immediately. Despite the near disaster caused by Wind Shriek arriving before them, that had gone as well as he could’ve hoped! Now they could actually start moving to properly combat the menace from the north!

Turning towards Link, ready to chastise and lightly tease him for making them waste time and endanger the mission with needless breaks, Bolt opened his mouth to speak, only for the green pegasus to beat him to the punch.

“You still have the second scroll, the one written for Colonel Shake Spear, yes?” Link asked in a serene tone of voice that nonetheless, for some reason he couldn’t point out, made Bolt stand immediately on alert. The fact the usually placidly smiling pony had a very small frown on his brow as he stared at the closed door was also not really helping.

“Yes, of course, why do you ask?” the corporal promptly replied, instinctually shifting his wings in order to make sure his wing-blades were still in place.

“Just a feeling,” the green-coated pegasus unhelpfully answered as he kept staring at the door.


That single word thundered within Colonel Winter Gale’s mind as he calmly trotted down the halls of the fortifications under his rule as he searched for his target, barely paying any attention to the pegasi that saluted him as he passed.

Most of the report he had just been given sounded utterly absurd. Unknown ice wraiths made far less sense than a horn-head ambush, not to mention the other absurd claims he had both read and heard. But all of it was secondary to a single undeniable fact, the squad was alive if injured and slowly making their way back towards the Armada, when Lieutenant Wind Shriek had clearly stated in his report that he had seen them fall to the honorless horn-head’s attack before being forced to abandon the field.

And that trumped all the other nonsense the half-breed had reported.

It did not matter if it was an attack by some new unknown species, or an ambush by the cowardly spell casters. Wind Shriek had reported his flight lost in battle, a flight that was alive and returning, and far more importantly, a flight whose report said Wind Shriek had abandoned his squad and fled from battle. Fled, like an honorless coward!

Utterly disgraceful!

“Lieutenant Wind Shriek, a word if you would,” he commanded from the entrance of one of the barracks, the narrowing of his eyes the only sign of his inner fury as he watched the grey-coated stallion part from the group of ponies he had been talking to and hurry towards him.

Winter Gale turned around and started to trot without uttering a single word the moment the lieutenant had reached him, confident in the knowledge that he would follow. All the while the simple fact that the utter disgrace beside him had abandoned his duty and fled from battle kept thundering within his mind. By the ancestors, they were pegasi of the Armada! They did not flee!

Ignoring the uncertain looks Wind Shriek kept giving him, Winter Gale motioned towards a room after confirming it was unoccupied, and closed the door firmly shut behind them before turning to stare at the lieutenant straight in the eye.

“Congratulations are in order, lieutenant,” the colonel said, calmly enunciating every word as he started to slowly circle around the smaller pegasus’ form, not unlike a hawk circling its prey. “It seems you were not the only one of your squad to heroically survive the ambush by the cursed horn-heads.”

“Sir?” Wind Shriek questioned, a hint of unease clear in the stallion’s eyes. Only for Winter Gale to completely ignore him as he kept calmly and methodically circling, eyes never straying from the grey pegasus’ form as the temperature inside the room started to slowly but noticeably drop with every moment that passed.

“Why, yes, in fact your whole squad seems to have survived the assault. Bruised and battered, but alive and victorious against their foes despite all odds. Truly, they are a tribute to the Armada,” he continued, giving a small nod of respect to the brave ponies that had honored their duty and upheld their vows to the greatness of the pegasus race. “And yet a most curious discrepancy surfaced due to this joyous news that just reached my ears. Would you like to know what that is?”

“Sir, I-“ the lieutenant attempted to speak, only for Winter Gale to once again ignore him, as he kept his slow circular pace, the temperature of the room still steadily dropping with every step he took.

“Why, not only is the squad you reported to have seen fall in battle alive and well, but they reported through a missive and a courier that you abandoned them mid-battle and fled like a craven,” the colonel continued, his anger and fury now clear in his every word as he gesture with the scroll on his left hoof. “That you turned your back towards the enemy, abandoned your flight mates and ran away, like an honorless, cowardly, ground pounder!”

“Sir, with a-“

“Silence,” the ice-blue stallion hissed as the temperature plummeted, frost and ice swiftly growing upon the nearby cloud structures as he stopped and took a single deliberate step towards Wind Shriek, who gulped audibly. “You may be my brother, but know that this only protects you to a certain extent. Bring shame and dishonor to our family again, and there will be consequences.”

As the last word left his lips, the colonel was all but touching his muzzle to the now shivering grey-coated stallion’s, and yet the grey stallion was still standing his ground despite how ice was now starting to grow upon his fur. Maybe he wasn’t a complete waste, after all, disgrace to the family or not.

“Your pathetic behavior shames our entire bloodline. I do not care how many magic beasts the treacherous horn-heads had summoned to assault your forces, you should have stayed until victory was yours or perished with your sword in your hoof,” he spat as he flared his wings as his little brother cowered in place while a coating of ice settled upon the whole room. “If your pathetic actions and even more disgraceful lies were to become common knowledge, it would disgrace our entire family! Do you understand this?”

Seeing the lieutenant frantically nod his understanding, Colonel Winter Gale took two steps back and released his control upon the weather magic he had enveloped the room in, allowing it to slowly return to its former temperature as he pondered how to tackle this new situation.

For the first time in years he had been able to actually see a path to ascend as the newest Commander of the Armada. As Hurricane dithered and hesitated in dealing with the ground dwellers with a firm enough hoof, those who understood that only through the leadership of the pegasi could ponykind reach the heights it deserved had slowly but surely flocked to his banner.

When Wind Shriek had come with his tale of ambush and betrayal while Commander Hurricane was away at Unicornia demanding answers of the horn heads for the unscheduled change of the celestial spheres’ movement three days ago, Colonel Winter Gale felt confident that the time was right to convince the other colonels that the time for Hurricane’s half measures was over. That he should be elected as the new Commander of the Armada so that they could show the world the true might of the pegasi!

And yet, it would all come crashing down should what truly happened be let known to the rest of the Armada. Cowardice could never be condoned, and as such Wind Shriek’s actions would taint their entire bloodline, firmly placing his rightful rank beyond his reach. And that was simply unacceptable.

“Most of your squad is wounded and is slowly making their way southwards as they escort a group of civilian farmers. It will be several days before any of their voices can be heard within the halls of Pegasopolis,” the colonel spoke calmly and clearly, as if he was talking to an imbecile and didn’t want to risk the other party failing to grasp what he was saying. “The only ones here that know the truth are in this room or waiting inside my office with guards upon the only entrance keeping them in.

“You are to gather a squad loyal to me and arrest the half-breed and the rogue with him, as long as they are dealt with swiftly, by the time the rest of your command reaches us it will no longer be an issue, our truth about what happened shall be the only truth that matters,” he said as he settled his wings at his side and looked Wind Shriek straight in the eyes.

Yes, the situation was hardly ideal, but if he could push things for a strike against the horn-heads before Wind Shriek’s squad made it back the truth would be easily buried amidst the ensuing fighting as they placed the ground pounders where they belonged, underneath the righteous rule of the Armada!

“What about the report?” Wind Shriek hesitatingly asked as he gestured towards the scroll upon Winter Gale’s hoof.

“What report?” Winter Gale calmly questioned as with a flex of his weather magic the scroll froze solid and shattered into pieces. “Now go and fulfill your duty.”

With a sharp nod and salute, the still slightly shaken lieutenant proceeded to rush toward the door to fulfill his older brother’s command, only for him to stop as Winter Gale spoke once again just before he reached the door.

“And lieutenant,” Colonel Winter Gale said in a near whisper, his eyes as cold as the arctic winds of his name as his hooves nonchalantly crushed the frozen shards of the destroyed scroll. “Do not fail.”

XIX - Minor Inconveniences

View Online

Minor Inconveniences

“This can’t be good,” Sergeant Fierce Breeze grumbled as a new gust of arctic wind battered both her and her fellow squad-mate during their scout mission of the surrounding area.

As more and more members of the squad regained their strength, the pink-coated sergeant hadn’t wasted any time putting them to good use. Pegasi were soon sent off to scout the movements of these bucking ice-wraiths and hopefully warn nearby settlements of the coming danger before it was too late.

Luckily, this part of the frontier was scarcely populated at best, containing only three proper settlements in its entirety. The village they had already started evacuating was one of them. The second was straight southwards in a direct path to the Earth Villa. She had already sent a flyer that way with a missive written by Old Oak explaining the situation. If it got there in time they would probably manage to leave in good order. The problem was the third one.

The small village of Firestone was a settlement created around several large coal deposits that lay to the east of their current position, the same direction a new source of unnaturally cold wind was now coming from.

“Stay alert, do not drop your guard and follow me!” Fierce Breeze commanded as she deviated her flight path eastwards, her fellow pegasus following close behind as he kept giving the massive wall of dark clouds in the northern horizon uneasy looks.

She had initially sent another flight pair to deliver the missive explaining the situation to Firestone which told them in no uncertain terms that if they wanted to live they had to move out immediately!

But that had been under the assumption that the storm and the wraiths within it would’ve been moving southwards at the same pace they had apparently been keeping all this time. This was apparently not the case, as the rather large arm of the accursed snow storm doggedly following them, rushing forth in that direction with terrifying speed, could easily attest.

Praying to the great winds that she was wrong she rushed onwards, hoping that her subordinates had reached the village already and convinced the stubborn earth ponies who lived there to leave posthaste.

But even as her wings beat harder and harder to give the speed she desperately needed, a very bad feeling kept growing deep within her gut. Somehow, she knew they weren’t going to be that lucky.

“Well, this is undoubtedly the fanciest cell I’ve ever been shoved into,” Link calmly stated as he sat at the very fancy cloud chair behind Colonel Winter Gale’s desk while rummaging through said stallion’s scrolls and papers resting atop the desk.

“Stop that!” Wonder Bolt hissed in consternation, eyes darting from the green-coated pegasus now inspecting one of the desk drawers, completely unperturbed by the corporal’s words, and towards the door of the office, hoping the colonel wouldn’t chose this exact moment to return. “You can’t just go through the things of an officer of the Armada like that! And this is not a prison cell!”

Link raised his head for a moment to give Bolt a small indulgent smile, before promptly returning to his self imposed task of rummaging through the things of one of the highest ranked pegasi in the Armada without permission.

“So, if I were to go and attempt to open that door I wouldn’t find it locked?” Link asked serenely as he closed the drawer, got up from the chair and started towards the large bookcase at the wall near the door.

“Well… I’m sure there is a reason why the colonel did that,” Bolt said with far less certainty than he would’ve liked, ears pressed against the back of his head as he pondered the fact that the colonel left them locked inside his personal office was indeed quite odd. But then part of what Link said penetrated his mind. “Wait a minute. You’ve been thrown into prison cells before?”

“It happens from time to time,” Link simply replied, dismissively shrugging his wings as if it was no big deal while he observed the magnificently sculpted mahogany bookcase near the door, a true luxury in Pegasopolis where most of the furniture tended to be made out of clouds, especially considering its rather large size. “Question: how do the non-cloud objects not fall through the cloud flooring?” the pegasus serenely asked as he turned his head once again towards Bolt.

“Cloud structures are normally made of extremely dense clouds packed on top of each other. A good cloud-mason can then imbue the finished structure with enough weather magic to allow it to hold solid objects,” the azure-coated pegasus explained with a tiny sigh at the sudden change of topic.

He knew from personal experience and what little time he had spent with Link that he would not return to the previous topic until he wanted to, so Bolt may as well sate his curiosity so that that could happen sooner rather than later no matter how much he wanted to inquire more about what the green pegasus had just said about being thrown into prison cells from time to time.

“Huh, interesting,” was the, sometimes impossible, pegasus’ reply as he turned his head towards the ground and started to poke it with his left front hoof. Each poke was accompanied by a small flare of his weather magic.

Wonder Bolt opened his mouth to question what the pony thought he was doing now, only to freeze as the sound of the door unlocking made him stop, turn around and promptly stand at parade rest for the return of the colonel.

The very next moment only years of dealing with the utter stupidity and general annoyances that were his peers allowed him to keep his face impassive as Wind Shriek entered the room in the company of a dozen armed pegasi. All the while Bolt felt as if a leaden weight had fallen into his stomach.

The grey-coated stallion walked in with an infuriatingly smug smile on his muzzle as the rest of the pegasi started fanning out to surround Bolt and Link. The green pony let out a tiny, barely audible sigh.

“You should’ve known better than to question those above your station, half-breed,” Wind Shriek sneered as the squad drew their weapons as one. “By the powers invested in me by Colonel Winter Gale you and your collaborator are under arrest!”

“Big words coming from an honorless craven who abandoned his squad and duty!” Wonder Bolt snarled even as his muscles tensed and his eyes darted around the room as he tried to make sense of the current situation. “Do you truly think you will get away with this after what you have done, that the Armada will allow this farce to stand!?”

“Silence!” Wind Shriek shouted, his eyes narrowed in anger as he took a step towards the azure-coated pegasus. “You know nothing, half-breed! And besides, who do you think will be believed? A disgusting half-breed and a pathetic rogue, or a lieutenant of the Armada and his brother, one of the four colonels themselves!”

“What?!” Bolt hissed as his worst assumptions, that Colonel Winter Gale had indeed betrayed them, were confirmed. And even worse, that he was directly related to this sorry excuse of a pegasus!

“Oh, so you do have some intelligence in that little head of yours and you can see what situation you found yourself into,” Wind Shriek gloated as he sneered towards Bolt and started to move towards the tense pegasus. “Not that that will serve you for anything, not after my brother is done with you! Now arrest them!”

Wonder Bolt tensed, desperately trying to seek a way out of this mess as the twelve soldiers started towards them. They couldn’t fail here! Far too much was riding upon them completing the mission for them to fail here!

“Enough,” Link said as his wings flapped once. The simple statement, calm, collected and devoid of any emotion resounded through the room as if a thunderbolt despite having been barely more than a murmur. Meanwhile a sudden gust of wind started to push the door behind the advancing pegasi closed.

What little experience he had with the green pony and his own instincts warned him of what was about to happen, and so, Bolt allowed his tense muscles to spring him forward in a sudden explosion of motion towards Wind Shriek the moment the door slammed closed. At the same time Link rushed forth in a green blur with the terrifying speed the corporal had since learned to expect from the pegasus.

The look of shock that had just appeared upon the grey-coated sad excuse for a pegasus moments before Bolt barreled upon his face hooves first, and the accompanying squeak Wind Shriek made as he made contact was something Wonder Bolt was sure he would savor for quite some time.

Not wasting a single moment, he used Wind Shriek’s now unconscious form as a platform to launch himself towards the nearest soldier as swiftly as he could, his strong wings beating with the effort, for he knew that shock and speed were their only chances of taking down the squad before they could get over the surprise of seeing two pegasi willing to tackle six to one odds in a headlong charge and proceed to overrun the two of them.

Bolt shoulder tackled his opponent as he started to react and swing his sword towards the azure-coated pony, closing the range in order to try and deny him the use of the blade. Bolt grabbed his sword hoof, turned around and spun, throwing the soldier over him and slamming on the ground where he promptly proceeded to knock him unconscious with a firm stomp to his helmeted head.

He spun around, nose flaring and adrenaline coursing through his veins as he drew his wing-blades and prepared himself for the fight ahead. He knew that the worst was still to come, as the remainder of the squad had to be getting over their shock by now and be able to proceed to try and subjugate them with their superior numbers.

Only to stop and stare, as he realized that the only other still standing pony in the room was his green companion.

“Well, that was annoying,” Link simply stated, as if this whole mess had been nothing but an unpleasant chore that had to be done before moving on to more important things, and not them taking down thirteen enemy soldiers in a span of moments.

“Oh, buck… Oh, buck it all…” Bolt let it out in a breath as the enormity of the situation hit him, cold sweat running down his neck and blood thundering upon his ears. He realized that he had outright attacked a group of soldiers of the Armada who were following the orders of a colonel who wished to silence them and stop their mission.

Oh, this was bad! No, bad was far too mild a word, this was a disaster! Plain and simple! How could things have turned so bad so quickly?!

“It happens,” was Link’s very unhelpful comment, showing the panting and slightly panicking stallion that he had apparently said that last question out loud.

All the while, his still completely unruffled looking companion had moved towards the large bookcase next to the door and proceeded to push it to the side, dropping it right in front of the door and blocking it.

“What are you doing?!” Bolt hissed in alarm at the loud sound of its crash to the floor, as he jumped toward both Link and the large wooden bookcase now blocking the way.

“Buying time,” was Link’s calm reply as he started to move back towards Winter Gale’s desk. “With any luck no one heard this little scuffle and it will take some time before anyone else thinks to see what is taking this lot so long, and a few moments more for them to get through the door and the bookcase. That should give us a small head-start in finding Colonel Shake Spear before they start to hunt us down.”

“But that’s the only way out!” Bolt hissed as he gestured all around the large room filled with unconscious pegasi, the large room with no windows and only a single door that was now blocked with them inside it! Link on his part merely made a sound that could, maybe, be interpreted as a sign that he was listening, choosing instead to closely inspect the cloud wall behind the desk.

“What do you think you are doing?” the azure-coated pegasus asked in incredulous exasperation as Link started to unhurriedly poke the wall with a hoof. Now was really not the time for him to indulge on his eccentricities!

“These are made of clouds, yes?” Link serenely asked, completely ignoring Bolt’s question as he kept poking at the extremely dense cloud structure as if they had all the time in the world.

“Well, yes, but what does that have to do with anything?” was the corporal’s terse reply, now even more exasperated than before. Only to have his question be ignored once again.

“And pegasi can manipulate clouds, no?” Link asked once more, his voice the same calm tone as he stopped poking and instead rested his left hoof directly upon the wall.

Wonder Bolt felt his eyes widen as he realized what the green-coated pegasus meant with his words, a flicker of hope briefly entering him as he thought that maybe there was still a chance to complete the mission! Only for it to die immediately afterwards, as he realized the cruel truth.

“That won’t work, you would have to completely overpower the magic coursing through the structure keeping it solid to make the clouds of the wall malleable again,” Bolt started to say as his ears and wings dropped in dismay. “And considering that it takes a full team of cloud-masons to erect such structures, and that since this is a Colonel’s personal room, only the very best would have worked on it, the amount of magic needed to do so would be simply-”

Only for his words to be ignored completely by his companion, who simply kept staring at the wall for a moment, concentrated, and then pushed.

“…Ludicrous…” Bolt trailed off as Link kept pushing as a hole started to first appear and then started to grow and grow around the area he was pushing at, all the while letting out so much weather magic that Wonder Bolt could almost taste it, so thick it was in the air.

“Well, that is that,” Link stated with a pleased nod as he inspected the large hole he had just created in the wall that seemed to lead into an empty room, apparently not paying much notice to how utterly insane what he had just done was. “This should allow us to leave unnoticed.

“Now to meet up with Colonel Shake Spear and deliver the missive,” Link continued in that same infuriatingly calm and collected tone of voice as he proceeded through the hole. “Preferably before something else happens.”

Wonder Bolt simply stood there staring at where the impossible pony had disappeared through the wall for a moment, before he firmly shook his head and hit both his cheeks with his hooves. He could freak out about Link’s absurdity later, for now he had a mission to fulfill and nothing and no one would stop him!

And with that thought Wonder Bolt promptly rushed through the hole, a look of fierce determination in his eyes.

“So we shall reach this Earth Villa in two days time?” Zelda asked Old Oak as the caravan settled down for the midday meal. Both ponies took the opportunity to check the group and confirm that no one had foolishly re-opened nearly healed wounds or somehow re-injured themselves. Zelda knew from past experience such actions were sadly far more common than she could wish.

“Indeed, if we keep this pace we shall reach our capital in such a time frame,” the elder said with a relieved sigh while smiling and nodding in greeting to a group of ponies they were passing by. “Then we can inform Chancellor Puddinghead of the whole situation, and see what can be done.”

Nodding her understanding, Zelda wondered how Link and Wonder Bolt were faring in their own mission. With any luck by the time the caravan reached the earth ponies’ capital they would have managed to warn the pegasi already, which would then mean that two out of the three tribes would at least know what was coming towards them and start preparing for it. Though, considering Link’s usual tendency to attract trouble, the white unicorn couldn’t help but think that it wouldn’t be that easy.

“Elder, so that’s where you are!” Sure Shot said firmly as the mare in question appeared from the side of a wagon and saw the old pony. The mare started to trot towards them, until she noticed Zelda right next to old Oak, which promptly caused her to blush for a moment before face-hoofing and start mumbling something about Beautiful Blossom and stupid ideas.

Giving the mare, who was now vigorously shaking her head, a slightly bemused look, Zelda decided that she didn’t want to know. And so, with a short farewell towards Old Oak and a small nod to the sea green mare, the white-coated unicorn proceeded onwards while leaving them behind so that they could talk without her presence distracting the ranger. While odd and slightly flattering, Sure Shot’s sudden bout of mild infatuation towards her was hardly something to linger about, especially considering there were far more important things occupying her attention.

“No, no, no! You have to keep the shape of the energy firm in your mind and then release it all at once in a sudden burst! Like this!” the voice of one of the problems currently occupying her mind resounded through the air as she approached the end of the caravan.

Stopping for a moment to take in the sight of Ganondorf coaching Forest Blossom on how best to release a mana burst to increase the striking power and range of her blows, Zelda couldn’t help but wonder how odd it was to see the Wielder of Power willingly taking up the mantle of a mentor and teacher, and far more importantly, actually making a decent job of instructing a student.

“Better!” Ganondorf sincerely praised as he blocked Forest’s next blow, the strike carrying a very respectable amount of magic for a novice in the art. The words from her crush caused the orange-coated mare to blush far, far more strongly than Sure Shot had mere moments ago. “Now, again!”

A tiny smile formed on her muzzle as she took in the scene, not for the first time Zelda couldn’t help but marvel at how a difference in cultural upbringing could cause the normally so alert and perceptive Dark Lord to so easily miss the signs that were painfully obvious to all the others in the caravan that showed that Forest was more than a little interested in him. Gerudos, their idea of romance and courtship had always been odd, at even the best of times.

As she calmly waited for Ganondorf to finish his current set of instructions to his apprentice, Zelda’s mind focused once again at what had been nagging at her for some time now. That something was seriously bothering the Dark Lord.

“Why, hello there Princess! Come to join us?” Ganondorf teased with a fanged grin as he noticed her waiting, and with a roll of her eyes she approached.

“I’m afraid I shall have to decline,” she smoothly said as she gave Forest’s panting form a polite greeting. Now far closer to the large earth pony she could easily see that he was both annoyed at something and all but fidgeting in place. Most wouldn’t notice it, the brown-coated earth pony’s control over his body being far too good for the clearer tells to surface, but Zelda knew Ganondorf far too well not to see that he was both irritated at something and filled with nervous energy.

“Always so prim and proper, aren’t you little princess?” Ganondorf needled her as he let out a boisterous laugh. “You really should let your mane down from time to time and live a little!”

Rolling her eyes and ignoring the jab, she thought how best to broach the subject. After all, Zelda knew perfectly well that her relationship with the Wielder of Power had always been, in a word… complicated.

Ganondorf had been her enemy far more times than she cared to remember. And yet, despite it all, there was actually very little true animosity between then. Both knew that their confrontations had stopped being personal a long time ago.

Oh, sure, there was plenty of annoyance, a good deal of frustration, and not an inconsiderable amount of anger between them. How could it be any different considering their past and how many times the King of Thieves had laid waste to everything the Wielder of Wisdom had sought to protect? And yet there was also a healthy deal of respect, plenty of understanding, and against all odds a smattering of trust born of their long interaction with each other.

And as such, despite him being an irritating, blood-crazed, nincompoop that did not mean she did not worry about him, at least a little.

“Okay, what is with that look?” Ganondorf grumbled in question as Zelda kept her silence.

Ganondorf was a conqueror, a warrior who held very little respect for the innocent masses who, in his words, refused to shake free of their own helplessness and willful ignorance in order to even attempt to stop being weak. But for all his faults and all his trickery, the Wielder of Power had never been one to fool himself with self delusions or lies, he was what he was and fully accepted that in its entirety, both the good and the bad. He always said what was in his mind and held nothing back, and that honesty had always been one of his few truly redeeming qualities in Zelda’s eyes.

And as such, seeing the person she knew would gleefully charge head-on against any obstacle or problem that dared block his path no matter the odds growing more and more fretful with each passing day with no apparent reason was more than slightly worrying.

“Ganondorf, is everything alright?’ she asked as she looked the large stallion straight in the eyes after deciding to discard any complicated plans and musings and simply take the direct approach.

“What?” the Wielder of Power replied, more than a little bewildered as he gave Zelda a very confused look. “But of course, why would you even ask that?”

“You have been more… fretful as of late, is all. Filled with nervous energy and unable to sit still for long,” she carefully continued, immediately noticing how Ganondorf’s already superb control over his body immediately grew even stronger, as the barely perceptible tells she had noticed before disappeared in an instant. “As such I thought about inquiring if there is something bothering you.”

A moment of tense silence descended upon the group as the Wielder of Wisdom and the Wielder of Power kept staring at each other’s eyes, while Forest’s head kept moving from one of them to the other. Another moment passed in a silent contest of wills, before finally the Dark Lord opened his mouth to answer.

“We got trouble!” Fierce Breeze’s shout cut through the growing tension as if a hot knife through butter, as both Triforce Wielders spun in place, discussion immediately set aside, and rushed towards were the pink-coated sergeant and three other pegasi were coming rushing towards them with panic, anger and worry clear in their features.

A howling gale shrieked through the streets of the small village of Firestone, ice and snow battering everything in sight as the ever growing blizzard that had suddenly fallen upon the settlement raged with ever increasing fury, while ghostly equine beings shrieked in hate and hunger as they galloped amidst the freezing winds.

“Keep those fires going and stand back,” a silver-coated unicorn stallion with a bright blue mane shouted as he waved what looked like a red wand with a round crimson gem at its end, unleashing a jet of flame to ward off the ice-wraiths surrounding the villagers who had taken shelter inside a large stone building surrounded by roaring coal stoked fires.

“Bombard these beasts the moment they approach!” Limelight shouted in his best commanding voice, as two earth ponies used large metal shovels to throw a barrage of burning coals at the charging creatures, forcing them to back away with angry shrieks. “And above all else do not go beyond the fire-line!”

Both his voice and body language screamed defiance and self assurance, invigorating the earth pony villagers and filling them with determination and hope as they redoubled their efforts to keep the many fires going and bombarding the attacking specters with burning coal to keep them at bay. His every action and word served to keep their spirits up, as he projected for them all the very image of a noble hero straight out of a legend. Keeping them from giving up and holding them together was exactly what they needed from him in what was increasingly looking like a truly desperate situation.

Not for the first time since this whole mess began, Limelight sent a heartfelt thank you to the many, many acting lessons his parents had given him as he grew up in their little troubadour troupe moving from settlement to settlement, since those were basically all that was keeping things together at this point and preventing the denizens of this quaint little village from outright panicking, abandoning their posts at the fires, and condemning them all to a frozen death.

At least for the moment that is, since he sincerely had no idea how they were going to get out of this freakish mess.

He waved the fire wand he had found but days ago as he focused his magic and unleashed a jet of flame he would have never been able to do on his own, as the sudden brightness of the flames illuminated his cutie mark of a shining star superimposed over a laughing theater mask, the troubadour was now forced to play the part of a hero. He felt like both cursing and praising the magical artifact for what was also not the first time since this mess began.

Internally cursing his own stupid naiveté, even as he unleashed another jet of flame while making sure none of his inner musings showed on his muzzle and the earth ponies brought more coal to stoke the fires, Limelight felt like the utter fool he was for not having noticed the bucking obvious!

He knew hundreds of plays by heart, he had memorized thousands of stories, songs and ballads, so how by the stars above had he not noticed the signs when a bucking magical wand even a noble from upper Unicornia would pay their weight in gems for had fallen from the sky right in front of him in a ball of light?!

“They are coming from the back!” one of the villagers on watch duty shouted, prompting Limelight to immediately gallop in that direction while doing his level best to not allow his exhaustion, panic and fear to show.

Getting the personal attention of fate was never a good thing! Basically all the heroic stories, ballads and epics he knew about agreed about that! The magical artifact or legendary sword the plucky budding hero found by accident or chance always had either a price in the end or inevitably led them to live lives full of peril and danger! So why had he decided to grab the wand like a bucking idiot instead of walking away?! How had he thought that could possibly be a good idea?!

“Begone, foul beasts!” he shouted, a small part of him disproportionally proud of how strong and unwavering his voice was despite it all, as a new jet of flames actually managed to kill two of the attacking creatures, much to his shocked hidden surprise and the cheers of the villagers.

Oh, sure, the wand had undoubtedly saved his life thrice over in the last half an hour alone, minimum. And he was more than appropriately grateful for that. But that didn’t change his illogical feelings that it was all its bucking fault in the first place!

After all, without it and its surprising ability to summon fire with incredible ease, he wouldn’t have thought about rushing to Firestone ahead of schedule in order to implement a new act while using it to portray himself as a great mage in order to draw a good crowd in the first place. And as such he wouldn’t have been in the settlement when the specters arrived shortly after he had started his performance, and wouldn’t have ended up stuck pretending to be a hero in order to try and stay alive!

“Keep the flames going, and do not falter!” he shouted in a firm voice, despite internally all but crying in panic, knowing far too well that if the line of ponies keeping the fires going broke that they would all be dead in short order.

That was the main reason he was still keeping the show up. Why despite wanting to curl up in a corner and cry he was acting the part of the hero and inspiring the masses. Because without that the ponies would break down in more than justifiable panic, and that would mean very bad things to his continued health. And so he immersed himself in the role of a dashing hero, all the while bemoaning what even was his life for things to have devolved into this!

He was a troubadour, a minstrel, a bard! His job was entertaining the masses for fun and profit! Not facing off against rogue spirits and leading the shambling defenses of a frontier settlement! All the while he wracked his mind for a way, any way, to get out of this mess! And he was failing!

By the celestial spheres and all the stars! His life was not a play, for buck’s sake! He was no hero! And it was not like there would be a sudden twist in the story that would miraculously bring them all the help they desperately needed in the very last moment possible just to spike the drama of it al-

His train of thought was completely derailed as a large explosion of flame, far, far larger than anything he could make even with the aid of his new wand, consumed a vast swath of the skies, destroying dozens of the spectral creatures.

A moment later a downpour of lightning bolts rained down upon them from above even as a regal looking white-coated unicorn suddenly appeared from out of nowhere in a flash of blue magic before unleashing a devastating barrage of magical fire against the beasts, trapping them between the fire and the lightning, while what looked like several rays of light joined a new massive stream of flames in taking down the specters not currently being bombarded, and a group of pegasi descended with battle cries on their lips and weapons drawn.

Staring in silent disbelief at what looked like a scene straight out of one of the many epic tales he knew about from the Age of Legends, as the evil beasts threatening the innocent masses were swiftly routed in a truly impressive display of might and magic as help arrived at the precise moment of the heroes’ greatest need, Limelight could find but a single thought resonating inside his mind.

He really should’ve listened to his parents and stayed with the rest of the troupe instead of deciding to try and go solo this year.

“How can you be this calm with everything that’s happening?!” Wonder Bolt hissed under his breath as he snuck down a deserted corridor and cautiously peeked from behind a cloud pillar to confirm that the next passage was clear. All this, while the green pony right next to him kept walking without any apparent worry or concern as to what was currently happening!

“Things are actually proceeding better than I expected,” was Link’s immediate reply before he jumped upwards while dragging Wonder Bolt along in order to hide amidst the top of the columns so that an approaching patrol that Bolt had been far too busy gaping at him to notice could pass them by.

“We were forced to take down an entire squad of pegasi back at Colonel Winter Gale’s office! Not to mention how one of the four colonels attempted to have us unjustly arrested in order to prevent us from warning everypony of the coming threat due to how that shows his younger brother’s incompetence!” he hissed after a few moments to make sure the patrol had truly passed them by. “Despite the fact that said threat could easily cause the doom of pony-kind if left unchecked!”

Link on his part simply nodded his agreement as he landed and proceeded to walk down the corridor, clearly not seeing what the problem was.

“Precisely,” the green pony continued in the same calm and unhurried tone of voice before giving Wonder Bolt a strange look. “As I said, truth be told, things are actually going better than I expected.”

Bolt gaped for a moment, before rushing after the pegasus as they slowly made their way towards the western quadrant of Pegasopolis and Colonel Shake Spear’s barracks. After another moment he found his voice and asked, incredulity clear in his tone. “And how exactly could this have gone any worse?”

“There aren’t any rampaging monsters for starters, nor any natural disasters directly blocking our path,” the green-coated pegasus succinctly explained, as if those were things you actually could expect to happen and had to plan to deal with during a delivery mission. “Besides, each of the four colonels only controls roughly one fourth of the Armada’s armed forces, correct? And since he will not want to risk letting the others learn about his brother’s actions he won’t alert them right away, so we don’t even have to worry about the entirety of its military trying to oppose us in a worst case scenario.”

Bolt simply blinked for a moment as he processed the other pegasus’ words. While he couldn’t say that Link’s explanation was wrong per se, he couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t exactly right either. But before he could comment about it, the sound of clarions sounding an alert coming from the area of the northern barracks they had just vacated moments ago cut him short.

“Guess they noticed we escaped, not bad,” Link nonchalantly said as he briefly turned his head to look back where they came, nodding once in apparent approval. “A better reaction time than most.”

Bolt gave his companion a look. A look that was completely ignored as Link turned a corner and proceeded towards their goal as if nothing noteworthy was currently happening.

Letting out a tired sigh, and wondering not for the first time since meeting the strange pegasus what exactly went on inside the green pony’s head, Wonder Bolt followed, inwardly wondering what else could possibly go wrong.

XX - Heroics 101

View Online

Heroics 101

The blizzard raged all around them as they fell upon the unsuspecting wraiths with the might of a tidal wave. But even as Ganondorf unleashed a deluge of flames against their opponents while the other ponies added to the assault, Zelda was already giving orders.

“Fierce Breeze, create a perimeter and keep them away long enough for me to set the ritual!” Zelda’s firm voice cut through the howling winds of the blizzard as the group pushed against the wraiths that had been attacking the village. “Keep close and do not stray far!”

“You heard the mare! Move it!” Fierce Breeze snarled as she led her fellow pegasus straight against any of the creatures that dared approach the airspace above where the villagers had apparently bunkered down at. The winged ponies roared as one and followed their leader in a display that brought a tiny smile to Ganondorf’s muzzle. There may still be some hope in turning these ponies into proper warriors after all.

“Sure Shot, you and Forest go and reinforce the defensive line!” the Princess commanded the two earth ponies trotting beside her. The first immediately nodded and rushed to do as she was told, and the second following along after giving Ganondorf a quick look before her features firmed into a look of pure determination.

“Ganondorf, all the ponies are at or near that main structure!” Zelda shouted as she unleashed a barrage of spell fire towards the enemy, joining the Dark Lord’s own blasts of flame in thinning their numbers before they got started with their annoying multiplication trick. The Wielder of Wisdom looked him straight in the eye and said in perfect seriousness, “Don’t worry about collateral damage to the rest of the village and deal with their numbers!”

Despite the whole situation, the King of Thieves felt a massive fanged smile grow on his muzzle at the princess’ words. Miss prim and proper herself giving him carte blanche to go all out for a change? Now that was something you didn’t see every day!

“Gladly!” he gleefully shouted as he allowed the fires of his soul to surge forth, to grow from a mere bonfire into a raging inferno as he gathered his magical might. A moment of focus, a flex of will, and he swung his greatsword downwards and covered the northern sky in flame.

A hungry look in his eyes, Ganondorf surged forth amidst the trail of destruction he had just caused. His booming laughter fought for supremacy against the wraiths’ shrieks and howls as he left the defensive line far behind and dove straight at the heart of the enemy horde.

Fire and flame enveloped his surroundings with each swing and strike. Enemy after enemy fell before him as he tested the mettle of these frozen beasts’ unending horde against his own might, and found them wanting.

Forget annoying feelings and useless distractions! Now this, this was what he lived for!

To fight, struggle and overcome! To better oneself upon the anvil of conflict! To forsake the silly masks of society and instead embrace the purity of battle! To seek to ascend past one’s limits and excel against all odds!

Ice and hail rained against his form to no avail. Foes surrounded him from all sides, only for the unending sea of enemies to part before him, as mere pebbles before the greatness of an avalanche.

Swing, strike, dodge, parry. He fell into an easy rhythm brought forth by eons of practice as he filled the frozen air with fury and flame. He never stopped moving, each step perfectly balanced and calculated, swinging his massive greatsword as if it weighed nothing.

As what seemed like hundreds of enemies surged forth in an attempt to end his life. As the roar of the flames battled for supremacy against the raging howling winds of the ever growing blizzard. As he faced his foes apparently limitless numbers, while Zelda got ready to move the non-combatants away. Ganondorf forgot all the annoyances and irritations that had been bothering him these last few days as he showed to all and sundry why he was the Wielder of the Triforce of Power!

The world had once made sense. That was the thought that reverberated through Sure Shot’s mind as she took aim before unleashing a beam of solidified light against a shrieking wraith. You tended to the crops; took care of your fellow earth ponies; and above all else, you did not trust the other two tribes no matter what.

That was the truth, pure and simple, a reality as immutable as the very earth beneath their hooves. Only… that apparently wasn’t the case anymore.

“I’ll be unable to aid in the defense as I finish the teleportation circle! Keep each other safe and do not drop your guard,” Zelda shouted to be heard above the howling winds and the sounds of the raging battle. As she spoke, the white-coated unicorn swiftly drew several strange symbols upon the ground with her blade.

“Yes, milady,” the other unicorn that had apparently been leading the defense immediately shouted as he unleashed a jet of flame from his wand, protecting Sure Shot’s left flank as she took aim at another wraith and ended its miserable existence in an explosion of light. “It shall be done!”

Forest, with the aid of the pegasi flying above, made sure to take down any of the beasts that got close enough in order to threaten the defensive line. All while Ganondorf did his very best to level over half of Fire Stone to the ground and set the rest on fire just for good measure, in a display of magical might that would put most unicorns to shame. Sure Shot came to the conclusion that the world had indeed stopped making sense for some time now.

Two more light arrows cut through the air, taking down two of the beasts that were trying to be clever and bombard everypony from afar with hail and ice. She could feel the bone deep tiredness that the arrows caused starting to seep into her body. But nonetheless she soldiered on. Draw the string and nock an arrow. Take aim and shoot. Rinse and repeat as more and more of the ancestors-forsaken freakish creatures fell before the magical arrows she had been gifted, by a unicorn of all beings. With apparently no strings attached or demands of payment!

Yes, the world had indeed stopped making sense when she hadn’t been paying attention.

Eyes narrowed in determination, the ranger took down a wraith about to strike a pegasus from behind. Two pegasi aided Forest against a group of the creatures and three earth pony villagers aided the unicorn with the fire wand in warding more of the creatures away with shovels full of burning coal.

Focus! Draw the string. Nock the arrow. Aim and shoot. She could deal with the rest of the insanity later.

In the end it didn’t matter to her if the world had stopped making sense or not. For, as pegasus, earth pony and unicorn fought together against a common threat, as members of the Three Tribes actually worked together for what had to be the first time in living memory, Sure Shot decided that if it meant the safety of her loved ones, she would fully embrace the sheer insanity that these three crazy ponies had brought forth into her life.

And if that meant she was crazy too, she thought as she nocked a new arrow and took aim, then so be it.

“How could this possibly work?” Wonder Bolt asked in sheer incredulity. Eyes locked at the end of the corridor where the patrol that had just gone by had disappeared moments ago. “I mean… just… how?”

“People very rarely look up,” Link promptly replied with a small nod. His words sounded as if he was sharing something of great importance with the azure-coated pegasus.

“We are a flying race for bucks sake!” Bolt indignantly pointed out as he gestured towards their flapping wings. The fact both of them were hovering near the ceiling of the corridor just reinforced the fact. “How could they possibly not think to look up? By the great winds, it’s just common sense!

“It doesn’t matter that the only other flying races around are the dragons and the gryphons and how neither species would recognize stealth if it hit them on the head with a war hammer!” he kept hissing, hooves gesturing wildly even as both ponies lowered themselves back to the floor. “Searching everything during a patrol is basic procedure! Not doing so is just shortsighted, idiotic and sloppy to the extreme!”

“From my personal experience, I tend to find that the intelligence of the average guard is not that high,” Link helpfully pointed out.

Trying not to glare at the green pony calmly flapping his wings as they got back to the floor, Wonder Bolt dearly wished he could refute Link’s words. But sadly, he could not. When the green pony had first told him his plan of how to ‘hide’ by basically going up and getting out of line of sight, Bolt nearly had a heart attack. He had been sure that was it, that there would be simply no way that they wouldn’t be discovered and the whole mission would be put into jeopardy.

That had been five patrols ago.

This was the fifth patrol they had avoided by simply flying up towards the ceiling and ‘hiding’ by staying between the wall and one of the columns keeping said ceiling up! And even worse! Out of the five patrols, out of the dozens of ponies composing said patrols, only a single pony had bothered to look up for even a moment!

“This is just embarrassing,” he bemoaned as he fought the urge to face-hoof at the level of competency displayed by his fellow pegasi today.

He grumbled about the stupidity of it all for a few moments longer as they went deeper and deeper into Pegasopolis. By the great winds, he knew he shouldn’t be complaining about it since it was actually helping them on their mission, but this could not be allowed to stand! What if they were actual enemies to the Armada?!

“Don’t worry about it too much. It’s an incredibly common problem if you bother to pay attention,” Link added with a small shrug of his wings. Bolt simply let out a tired sigh and decided to focus on the current crisis. Restructuring the training of the patrol squads could be tackled when they weren’t fighting for the survival of pony-kind.

They walked in silence for a couple of minutes, as the sun slowly started to go down on the western horizon. Twice more they were forced to go up towards the ceiling. Neither patrol bothered to look up, which made Bolt reinforce the thought not to forget this problem. But, save that, things were proceeding incredibly well for a change. They probably would reach the center of the western quadrant and the barracks under Colonel Shake Spear’s command shortly.

“Bolt, would you mind answering me a question?” Link asked, breaking the silence. The corporal simply gave his odd companion a look for a moment before answering.

“Sure, what do you want to ask?”

“Is racism and prejudice as prevalent amidst the pegasi as the meetings we have had so far lead me to believe?” the green-coated pegasus calmly asked, as if he was inquiring about the weather and not an incredibly sensitive topic.

“Yes. And no,” Wonder Bolt answered after a few moments to organize his thoughts as they stopped at a corner and took a quick look to make sure the area was clear. “It’s complicated.”

“Oh?” Link wordlessly asked for further clarification as they moved towards a large closed reinforced door at the end of the corridor.

“What you need to understand is that pegasi like you and me, who had first hoof experience with the other tribes, are few and far between,” the corporal said with a tired sigh as Link moved towards the cloud wall right next to the large closed door barring their path and proceeded to make a hole in it, bypassing the obstacle entirely. “The vast majority of our tribe almost never interacts with ground dwellers. And when they do interact with them, that interaction tends to take the form of a mission for the Armada.

“Missions that more often than not involve conflict of some kind with said ground dwellers,” he continued as they passed through the hole before Link proceeded to close it. Bolt still wasn’t sure if this newly found method of bypassing the Armada’s defenses deserved his attention later on or not. After all, how many ponies could boast to have Link’s downright insane magical reserves? “Which, in turn, causes them to have a negative impression of non-pegasi. An impression that is slowly reinforced as the years go by with little to no positive interaction with the other tribes. And that can easily lead to prejudice and the sorry sights you have been witness to.”

“I see,” Link thoughtfully said as they continued on their journey. His eyes briefly looked at Bolt’s before he faced forward once again. “And yet, despite that, and their prejudice towards your own person, you still remain steadfast in your loyalty towards them. Commendable.”

Bolt blushed at the frank compliment, coughed and picked up the pace. “It’s not that I don’t see that the Armada has its issues, I know that. But that doesn’t change the fact that it also does a lot of good and is basically all that stands between pony-kind and the dangers of the world.

“What is needed is to fix those faults. To right those wrongs and allow our brethren to see that the other tribes also have their virtues,” he spoke more to himself than to his companion. His mind reminisced at the vague dream he had started to harbor ever since meeting his father’s family for the first time. “To show that the treaty between the Three Tribes is not merely a piece of parchment, to make it so that we can actually work together in mutual aid, so that the act of stepping forward to help another is not something worthy of note, but instead something… normal.”

“So you desire to be a hero,” Link immediately answered in a calm and collected tone. Only the small smile on his features betrayed any of his thoughts about the matter.

“What? No!” Wonder Bolt replied in shocked surprise. Actually stopping moving for a moment, before he shook his head and rushed back towards the still calmly trotting green pegasus’ side. “I just want to help change this stupid outdated mindset, that’s all!”

Link stopped moving. He looked Bolt straight in the eyes for a long moment, and when the azure-coated pegasus started to fidget in place, he spoke.

“Anyone who wants to change the world must first overcome it,” he spoke, his serene voice carrying within it an undercurrent of strength that seemed to consume Bolt’s entire focus. “If the derision the Armada shows towards the other two tribes is as widespread as what I’ve seen so far. And if most of the other two tribes respond in kind, then any chance of change will only be possible if those seeking the change are strong enough to shatter the old in order to erect the new.

“A hero, a true hero, is one who overcomes life’s misfortunes.” he continued, eyes never straying from Wonder Bolt’s. Each word was burdened by a weight Bolt could barely fathom. “One who challenges the world despite all odds in order to right its wrongs. No more and no less.”

And with those words the green-coated pony turned around and continued to trot down the corridor, as if nothing of note had just happened. Bolt stood there fixed on the spot for a moment longer before he let out a breath he hadn’t noticed he had been holding.

With a vigorous shake of his head he tried to focus on the matter at hoof as he galloped after Link. Even so, he couldn’t help but keep thinking at the strange pegasus’ words.

Limelight really wondered what he could possibly have done in a past life to have deserved this. It was undoubtedly quite serious, but at the same time it couldn’t be that bad, could it? After all, help had come against all odds when all hope seemed lost!

Though, that didn’t change the fact that he was still, somehow, at the very frontline of battle against monsters straight out of a fairy tale, while prominently figuring in what looked more and more like a story straight from the Age of Legends.

“Get down!” he shouted to the orange-coated mare that, somehow, seemed able to actually hit the specters with her bare hooves. She ducked low as he shot a jet of flame against one of the creatures that sought to end them all, destroying it before it could strike at her back.

Getting a short nod from the mare, he moved backwards so he could stay side by side with the sea green ranger shooting what looked like rays of light out of a bow of all things! If not for the biting cold, the pain from the myriad of small injuries and scratches covering his form, and the deep tiredness plaguing his whole body, the young troubadour would easily think he was having a very vivid nightmare of some kind.

“Stoke the fires! There is no need to save coal!” he shouted to the villagers, who immediately ran to fulfill his demand. “We need to keep the beasts back until Lady Zelda is done! Stay together and do not falter!”

A roaring wall of flame all but consumed the northern part of the village, as the massive earth pony wielding the even more massive magical sword of terrible might added to the surreal feeling of it all. Before today he had been certain that earth ponies capable of freely expressing magic in a visible way was the stuff of tales and songs, myths and legends. But with three different examples standing right in front of him, he would have to seriously reconsider that notion.

Letting out an undignified squeak, he dropped low to the ground in order to avoid having his head impaled by a spear of ice. Luckily no one appeared to have heard him due to the sounds of battle and the raging blizzard. And even better, the ranger had destroyed the beast that attacked him with another ray of light out of her bow.

“The circle is almost done! Be prepared to protect the non combatants as they are teleported away!” the war mage added as she continued to work at the mind bogglingly complex spell matrix she was drawing. Something that would apparently teleport the entirety of the village population away towards another circle she had prepared beforehoof.

It was just another bout of insanity to this already insane day! But Limelight knew better than to question a war mage! If she said that the array could teleport ponies several miles away, then it would teleport ponies several miles away, no matter what his sensibilities had to say about the likelihood of that working.

“Yes milady, it shall be done!” Limelight promptly replied, fighting the urge to bow low as he unleashed another jet of flame. Truth be told, he had no idea if the mare was even a noble or not. But nonetheless, she was a war mage, and only the most foalish of idiots would fail to show one of their numbers the proper respect.

The fabled spell casters were renowned far and wide for their skill and power. Something that was only reinforced by the fact that all the awe inspiring displays of magic the mare had shown so far had been done without the presence of any artifacts or magical items on her being, no runes or artificial boosters of any kind, nothing to add to her magic but her own power.

Only the best and brightest could ever dream of becoming a war mage. Many great and gifted unicorns toiled for years in search of such a title. And most of them failed the endeavor regardless. It was, in fact, one of the only two positions in the whole kingdom where money and status was not enough to buy a haughty useless noble into. And considering how the other position where that held true was the bucking Arch-Mage, that was saying something.

So, only the truly foolish would not show one of their august numbers the proper respect. Which was why, when the mare had commanded him to aid to the defense as she prepared her ritual, he had promptly agreed while doing his level best to appear enthusiastic about it. Facing the ravenous horde of ice spirits was probably far healthier than angering her, after all.

Another massive wave of fire proceeded to consume more of the already merrily burning village of Fire Stone, making him flinch in place. All the while the massive earth pony that was the cause of said fire kept laughing despite dozens of the beasts attacking him from all sides.

Fighting down his incredulity and shock, the silver-coated unicorn continued to use his new wand to send jet after jet of flame against the creatures as he focused on something far more important than what looked like a tale straight out of legend come to life - his continued survival.

“It’s done, start sending the villagers!” that survival had become far more likely as the massive array started to glow a fierce blue hue and thrum with magical power.

“As you will, Lady Zelda!” he enthusiastically said as he started to push the ponies to make great haste! After all, the faster the non combatants left the field and went to safety, the faster he could leave too.

And so the young troubadour redoubled his efforts in keeping the beasts at bay. Something now infinitely easier thanks to the awe-inspiring magic barrage Lady Zelda was unleashing against the creatures.

It looked like they would actually survive the day! Things were definitely looking up!

As the teleportation array he had just gone through powered down, Ganondorf couldn’t help but smile as he cracked his neck in order to loosen his muscles. Now that had been a very enjoyable way to end the day!

“That’s everybody. Proceed to seeing to any injured immediately,” Zelda promptly started, even as the blue glow of the array hadn’t faded completely. “Honored elder, I trust that the medical supplies had been made ready?”

Seriously, that mare really had to learn to relax a little! Especially since Ganondorf knew that the Wielder of Wisdom had to be feeling the magical strain of powering such a massive teleportation gate. And yet, regardless of that, he knew that the self-sacrificing idiot was going to proceed to heal as many people as possible.

“Yes, all is ready and prepared, and we have already started treating the villagers,” Old Oak promptly replied as he gestured towards an area near the wagons where several temporary tents had been erected.

“Very well, I shall go aid them immediately,” was Zelda’s far too predictable reply as she started towards said tents. Stubborn to a fault, as always.

He took in her swiftly departing form bathed by the light of the setting sun. Oh, she was hiding it well, the Dark Lord would give her that, but to him it was clear that she was nowhere near one hundred percent. He pondered what, if anything, he should do about that for a moment… until Forest called him, breaking his train of thought.

“Ganondorf, is something wrong?” the lightly panting orange-coated mare asked, her eyes moving from the tent Zelda had just entered to him. That made him decide that second guessing himself was a waste of time, he had always been one for action and damn the consequences, after all.

“Hey, Old Timer, do keep an eye on Zelda, will you,” he bluntly stated. Better to make sure she wouldn’t burn out, than risk her not being able to help when the frozen beasties inevitably attacked again.

“Is there a problem with her?” the elder seriously asked as he stopped on his tracks and gave Ganondorf his full attention.

“Look, the magical cost of a teleportation spell is directly proportional to both the distance travelled and the mass relocated,” the Dark Lord quickly summarized the situation to his now very attentive audience. “Fancy rune circle or not, those things become magic drains fast!

“So while she made it look easy, the truth is that you can count the number of people that can pull off what she did in one ha- Oh right, guess that saying doesn’t make sense anymore,” the Wielder of Power trailed off as he briefly looked at his hooves for a moment, to the slight confusion of both earth ponies. “Anyway, my point is that that self sacrificing idiot has got to be exhausted, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she kept healing ponies until she eventually falls down unconscious.

“So just keep an eye on her to make sure that doesn’t happen. It won’t do if she is not able to help should something else happen later on,” he finished with a serious nod, happy he managed to actually explain the situation.

A brief moment of silence followed his words, before a small smile appeared on Old Oak’s muzzle.

“You are a good friend,” the elder stated out of nowhere. Which made Ganondorf question if maybe he hadn’t explained himself right after all. “Rest assured, I’ll make sure Zelda does not exhaust herself.”

“Whatever,” he promptly replied, a strange feeling of discomfort now making itself known to him. “Now come on, Forest. There is no time to dilly dally. Let’s go check the perimeter.”

And with those words he swiftly turned around and power-walked away from the still smiling elder, Forest right on his heels, grumbling all the while that he knew he shouldn’t have bothered speaking about Zelda’s idiotic little habits.

As he watched the slowly setting sun from one of the large windows of his personal office, Colonel Shake Spear pondered about the problems that had been pilling higher and higher these past few days.

With an aggravated huff the cream-coated pegasus turned around, the many curling ringlets of his wiry black mane catching on the late evening wind as he coiffed his perfectly trimmed beard in thought.

Things were getting more and more complicated, it seemed. Colonel Winter Gale had become even more militaristic as of late, something he didn’t even think was possible. Add that to the very odd reports he had been getting, and said colonel’s not-so-secret meetings with Colonel Thunderstrike. Not to mention the fact that the northern barracks were acting like a kicked wasp nest for the past few hours. The picture that started to appear really wasn’t very pleasing.

All of it happening while Commander Hurricane was away trying to make sure the unicorns hadn’t completely lost their minds compounded the issue.

“How vexing,” he tiredly spoke with a shake of his head as he moved away from the window. The last few rays of the setting sun highlighted his cutie mark of a spear crossed with a writing quill.

Truly, that had been terrible timing on the part of the Commander. But then again, it was not as if he could let whatever new insanity was assailing the unicorns pass by without complaint. An answer was needed for why they had suddenly changed the cycle of the celestial spheres without prior warning, after all.

But, nonetheless, Hurricane’s absence complicated things.

It wasn’t exactly a secret that Winter Gale wanted Hurricane’s position. And with the commander away dealing with the unicorns, Shake Spear feared that it wouldn’t be long before his fellow colonel did something untoward, ill advised and, quite frankly, downright stupid.

He wondered what exactly could be done, until his train of thought was cut short as he heard a strange faint bubbling sound. He turned around in search of the source of the weird sound, now clearly audible, only to stop and stare in fascination as he saw one of the cloud walls of his office start to ‘ripple’ outwards, for lack of a better term.

“How curious,” he sincerely stated, keen eyes taking in the odd phenomenon with interest, even as he walked towards his desk and took his ornate spear out of its holster. You simply didn’t get to his age by not taking some sensible precautions every now and then.

A moment later, his wall now sported a new hole more than wide enough to allow a pony to easily pass through. Something that was immediately put to test as two pegasi proceeded to do just that the very next moment. One was a calm and collected looking green-coated young lad with a marvelous blonde mane, and the other a very nervous looking azure-coated one with a very striking neon green mane.

He stood there, spear ready at his side, wondering how exactly to proceed in regards to these two strange interlopers, or who they were for that matter. The azure-coated one started to sport a very brittle smile and fidget in place, before his features took a resolute look and he gave him a salute.

“Colonel Shake Spear, sir! Corporal Wonder Bolt, forty second patrol squad, I bring you an urgent missive from Sergeant Fierce Breeze, sir!”

A moment of silence followed. Blinking once in both surprise and slight befuddlement, Colonel Shake Spear couldn’t help but think that this was the most unique way anypony had ever delivered a missive to him.

Interlude - Remnant

View Online

Interlude - Remnant

Everything around him was burning.

Plumes of smoke and ash billowed towards the heavens. Noon had turned to night as the firestorm raged. Rivers of molten magma were visible through the cracked stones of the pavement and the collapsed buildings, their fierce crimson glow giving the landscape an even more hellish appearance.

And amidst the desolation, Ganondorf walked alone.

He walked through the ruined landscape, untouched by the rampaging conflagration, the heat, the smoke. Tired golden eyes took in the entirety of this ruined land. Of this once thriving city, now nothing more than rubble. A single truth was acknowledged by the Wielder of Power’s mind.

He had been the one to do this.

Ganondorf walked past a large destroyed temple, its intricate murals and exquisite sculptures now indistinguishable from the surrounding rubble. Only a single statue remained standing, the statue of a regal looking woman adorned with red jewels. She stood right next to the destroyed remains of two other statues. And, despite the fact that the harsh light of the fires hid her features in shadow, he somehow knew that she looked at him in silent judgment.

Destruction and fury, wrath and desolation. Once upon a time that had been all that he had known, as anger suffused his very being down to his very soul in his eternal quest for greater power. That had been his whole world, and he had thrived on it.

Ganondorf turned his back to the destroyed and ruined temple and the statue’s silent gaze. He kept his stride calm and slow, neither the flames nor the destruction all around barring his progress for even a moment as he casually moved towards the nearby lookout so that he could fully take in the razed city. A small, barely perceptible frown was firm upon his features.

It had once been a painfully pleasant sensation. The sheer catharsis and satisfaction he used to take from the pure, utter destruction he could unleash upon the world at a mere whim. The satisfying feeling of bringing terror, hate and despair towards his enemies, of crushing those who attempted to block him from claiming what he sought, what he once fully believed was rightfully his and his alone. Once upon a time, that had brought him nothing but joy as he sought to claim the world for his own.

Once upon a time…

And yet, as the centuries went by, everything remained the same no matter what happened. The cycle of destruction repeated itself time and time again no matter what. Regardless of his wishes or desires, things remained exactly the same. Slowly but surely the joy of these actions started to wear thin and he found out that instead he had started to find it all… empty.

He gazed at the burning wreckage that had once been Hyrule Castle in the distance, framed by the destruction all around, and highlighted by the lights of the fires. His ears folded against his head as his hooves angrily stomped at the cracked pavement while a single thought reverberated through his mind.

What was the point?

The Dark Lord let out a tired sigh as he closed his eyes, the small sound lost amidst the roar of the flames and the crumbling of stone, as he let the burning wind caress his coat.

All the death and destruction he had wrought in search of his ultimate goal. All the lives he had destroyed and kingdoms he had ruined, the cities razed and the nations he had toppled, all of it. Everything was empty and meaningless, for his goal was simply never attainable in the first place. And that undeniable truth had drained whatever pleasure he had once taken from the actions of his past.

There was no point.

And yet, even so he had been forced to keep trotting down that path due to the whims of uncaring gods and the curses of fate. To endure it, marked and bound to this destiny by no actions of his own, doomed to this role until the final twilight of the world and the end of all things.

“But no longer,” the Wielder of Power muttered as his eyes opened with a snap. A fierce fanged grin was now firm upon his features as he gazed at the devastation before his eyes with open contempt.

He had shattered the chains of his past, crushed the bonds of his loathsome destiny, and carved a new path for himself where he and he alone was the master of his own fate. The past was dead and buried; now all that remained was the future. A future he was now free to shape with his own hooves.

With a final sneer he turned his back to the burning ruins with finality and started to trot away, eyes resolutely gazing at the far horizon and the coming dawn that was slowly starting to light up the shadowed visage of Din’s statue…

Only for the still standing wall of the temple right next to him to explode into a fiery conflagration of sickly crimson flames, as something large shoved its way through the stone like it was nothing. Before he could react, a crushing blow hit his chest and threw him back into the burning ruins of the city. An otherworldly bellow of pure undiluted hatred resonated throughout the burning city, as if seeking to consume all of creation underneath its unbridled wrath.

Ganondorf quickly climbed back onto his hooves and gazed at whatever had dared to strike against him, power coursing through his veins and a snarl on his lips. His expression froze when his eyes met a pair of equally golden orbs staring back at him with nothing but rage and fury within them.

And, in that moment of inaction, the gargantuan boar-like demon now crushing Din’s statue underneath its claws bellowed its wrath and hatred once again, as the world was consumed by fury and flame.

Ganondorf’s eyes snapped open in an instant. Only centuries of arduous training and harsh discipline allowed him to remain still upon his bedroll and not wake up those around him, despite how his heart thundered within his chest.

He took a long deep breath and held it in, before letting it out with a low long hiss. The large pony calmly rose from the comfort of his blankets and deftly moved around those still sleeping all around him on his way out of the tent. He neared a water barrel, submerged a cup into the cool clear liquid and emptied it in a single gulp as the cold night winds chilled his now lightly sweaty brow.

He placed the cup aside and moved towards the outskirts of the encampment. Signaling towards the ponies on watch duty that all was well he sat down just beyond the ring of light cast by the many fires encircling it.

Ganondorf stood there unmoving for a moment, taking in the tranquility and splendor of the night sky. Before, with another deep breath, he closed his eyes, and, for the first time in more than a few centuries, started to meditate.

The Wielder of Power stood there for several moments, a silent monolith in the darkness as he directed his whole focus inwards. He focused deeper and deeper into his own being, towards a part of himself he more often than not rather liked to pretend didn’t exist, only to confirm what he already knew from the moment his eyes had snapped open.

Deep within his being, in the darkest recesses of his very soul, the majority of the vast array of seals, wards and chains he had painstakingly created through centuries of effort and toil laid broken and shattered. And even the few that still remained were slowly but surely starting to crack and unravel as a bellow of pure fury echoed from deep within the darkness.

“This could be a problem,” Ganondorf muttered to himself as he opened his eyes and glared into the night sky, a frown clear upon his brow as he realized what this meant.

That Demise’s Curse was escaping its bindings.

XXI - Sow the Wind

View Online

Sow the Wind

As the light of the moon started to shine through the eastern windows of his office, Colonel Shake Spear re-read the missive the two odd ponies had brought him, through a wall of all things, for the third time. Anxiety and incredulity battled for supremacy within his mind as he pondered what Sergeant Fierce Breeze had written.

“These are some very serious, and very incredible affirmations you have here,” he commented with fake nonchalance as he placed the missive down, hiding his worry with the ease of long practice. “Very serious and incredible, indeed.”

“We are aware, sir! But they are nothing but the truth, sir!” the azure-coated pegasus immediately stated as he stood at a picture perfect parade rest. His green companion, on the other hoof, seemed to be far more interested in examining the colonel’s spear, now once more resting at its holster by his table, with a faint air of approval. As he should! That masterwork had cost him quite a bit, and more favors than he wanted to admit, to get it done just right!

Internally shaking the random thought away, Shake Spear re-read the missive for a fourth time, perhaps vaguely hoping that would change what was written within, but he had no such luck. With a tired sigh, he put it down on his desk and looked at the two odd pegasi.

“Well, if this is true, then we now have found ourselves in quite a pickle.” He could easily believe that Lieutenant Wind Shriek would act like a craven and abandon his troops. He had had the displeasure of meeting the officer before, after all. And even if he hadn’t, one only had to look at how he had been stuck as a lieutenant for well over a decade, despite having a colonel for an older brother of all things, to ascertain his capabilities and general competency level. But the rest of the missive, now that was the problem, wasn’t it? “And that’s the question now, isn’t it?

“I remember Fierce Breeze. She was a bright and extremely competent mare. I remember thinking that she would go far as I oversaw her go through basic training. But her word alone wouldn’t be enough, not for such wild claims,” he seriously stated as he tapped the missive with one hoof. An unknown threat to the whole of ponykind, numberless ice wraiths, a long lost Storm Caller? Yes, those claims were indeed hard to accept at face value. “So I do hope you have some proof with you, my dears. Or I fear things will get a little dicey.”

His eyes were now fixed on the green pegasus, who had finally deigned to pay him some attention. The same green pegasus who, if Sergeant Fierce Breeze could be trusted, possessed knowledge of the long since thought lost art of Storm Calling.

“The sergeant tells me that you are a Storm Caller, mister Link,” he calmly stated to the serenely waiting pegasus that apparently had never been a part of the Armada. Another thought that defied belief. “Would it be a bother to ask you for a demonstration of said skill?”

There were many wild claims being made right now. Wild claims that would have some very serious repercussions if proven true. And luckily, one of the wilder claims could easily be verified. And should it turn out to be true? Well now, things were bound to get quite interesting in the near future.

The green pony simply shrugged his wings in answer to the colonels’ request, gaining an aghast look from Wonder Bolt and a slightly amused one from Shake Spear. There were far too few ponies that were brave enough to forgo formality and act candid with a colonel, after all. The next moment, his amusement was traded by slight bafflement. As Link now had a flute on his hooves, and for the life of him Shake Spear could not tell from where the instrument had come.

Soon after, his emotions suffered another change, from baffled to surprised. For, as the green-coated pony started to play a melody that reminded the colonel of thunder echoing upon the open skies, a dark rain cloud slowly started to form inside his office.

“Well, I’ll say,” the cream-coated colonel found himself muttering, surprise now truly entrenched on his mind, but more than willing to make room for astonishment and awe.

The cloud kept growing and growing until it occupied a good third of his office. Link stopped the song and took a few steps to the side, so that he was no longer underneath the storm cloud, an action that was immediately followed by Wonder Bolt. The very next moment, it started to rain.

“By the great winds,” he exclaimed as he extended his hoof towards the rain that stopped about an inch away from his desk, and all the scrolls and paperwork found there. How very considerate on the Storm Caller’s part. And as the wet droplets of rain hit his outstretched hoof, Shake Spear could only conclude that this, no matter how unlikely, was indeed happening.

Thunder resounded within the room as his eyes finally moved away from the dark cloud and back towards the sergeant’s missive, the validity of which was now infinitely more likely than before.

The doors to his office were slammed open as several of his soldiers rushed into the room, undoubtedly attracted by the sudden sound of thunder now filling the entire area. They stood there, staring incredulously at the large storm cloud merrily floating in the middle of the room, in all likelihood wondering exactly how they had missed a team of weather pegasi carrying such a large cloud into the room. But Shake Spear paid them no mind as he re-read the missive a fifth and final time, mind awhirl with what this meant.

“Very well, with that out of the way, lets us proceed shall we?” he stated with fake nonchalance as he turned eyes now filled with steely determination towards Bolt and Link. “Tell me everything you know about those ice wraiths to the north, yes? Oh, and do tell me more about Wind Shriek and his brother’s actions, if you wouldn’t mind, my dears.”

As the caravan, new additions included, proceeded down the road before the sun had even properly risen, a massive brown-coated earth pony trotted along with a small irritated look on his muzzle.

Grunting in slight annoyance, Ganondorf beat down the irritating feeling that he now knew was caused by the thrice blasted Curse thrashing against its remaining bindings. The mere thought of the damned final parting gift from that sore loser of a dark god made his already sour mood even worse. That was not helped by the idiotic thing blasting sheer hate and anger his way willy-nilly with no prior warning.

“Is everything alright, Ganondorf?” Forest Blossom asked as she stopped by his side upon noticing he had stopped for a moment. A look of concern lingered upon her features as she looked at him with her big green eyes.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he reassured his apprentice with a wave of his hoof as he hit the metaphysical gathering of malice and wrath trapped within his soul with a mental blow that would shatter most beings in order to get it to shut up for a moment. “Just a slight annoyance, nothing to worry about.”

“Well, if you are sure,” the orange-coated mare uncertainly said as she gave him a strange look. Ganondorf merely gave a grunt in confirmation, mind already back at the problem at hoof: Demise’s fucking Curse.

Demise’s Curse was hatred made manifest, pure and simple. It was the metaphysical representation of the late, and unlamented, dark god’s eternal hatred towards basically everything in existence, his final ‘gift’ to the world at the moment of his passing. And, lucky him, Ganondorf was the one that got burdened with carrying the whole mess in the end.

Another random spike of anger attempted to escape his control, only to be brutally beat back by the Wielder of Power’s indomitable will. Sure, during his early years the idiotic thing had influenced him far more than he would ever care to admit, pushing him to lash out and destroy without rhyme or reason at times. But that was then, and this was now.

Several centuries had passed since he had been under any danger of succumbing to the curse’s effects. Even without the seals and wards he had painstakingly placed during the long years of his existence to keep the stupid thing quiet, he could keep it contained and his mind free of its influence. But that didn’t mean it didn’t take some concentration and effort, or that it wasn’t a major pain in the flank to do so. It was a major annoyance, one that had to be dealt with, the sooner the better so that he could focus on more worthwhile things.

The next moment Zelda rushed past Ganondorf and Forest. The Princess weaved through the crowd of moving ponies, never stopping for even a moment as she solved one problem after another in order to make sure the caravan kept going forward as smoothly as possible. That little idiot was going to run herself ragged like that. Especially now that they couldn’t keep up with their spars, what with the need of keeping the caravan going as fast as possible.

Ganondorf snorted in irritation at that thought. A spar sounded great right about now. A good old bit of violence to help him vent his frustrations and aid the Wielder of Wisdom in winding down a little. But no, he could even hear the Princess rant if he even suggested such a thing. She would rant about how, due to the ice beasties attacking that earth pony village last night, they simply didn’t have the time for such frivolous pursuits, not if they wanted for the caravan to reach the Earth Villa unmolested, no matter how helpful said spar would be for his peace of mind and her stress levels.

As the last thought passed through his mind, for a brief moment Ganondorf hesitated as he briefly focused on a single word. Help.

The holy light the little princess could wield had extremely strong sealing capabilities, after all. He knew that from personal experience, having been on the receiving end of that annoying ability more times than he cared to remember. And there was no denying that that pesky little ability could be really helpful in putting the Curse back where it belonged.

The Wielder of Power pondered about the situation for a brief moment. Of maybe, just maybe, just an idle thought really, asking the Wielder of Wisdom for some help in regards to the stupidly persistent annoyance the idiotic gods had saddled him with without so much as a ‘by your leave’. Subduing and sealing it away would be infinitely easier and faster with her aid, after all.

Ganondorf walked beside Forest in silent contemplation for a moment as he weighed the option. A moment later, he swiftly tossed the idea aside with an annoyed huff.

He had contained the damned thing before without help, and could easily do so again. He had dealt with this issue for centuries by himself and never needed any aid from anyone. So why should that change now? There was no need to drag the little princess into something that she had no business sticking her nose into!

It would be extremely annoying; there was no doubt about that. But he could easily handle the annoyance, for he was not the Wielder of Power for nothing! He would deal with that cursed, beastly embodiment of hatred, beat it back, subdue it, and lock it back down into the deepest recesses of his soul to rot and be forgotten like it should’ve! There were no two ways about that! He would deal with this himself!

All it would take was time. Time and a good deal of annoyance and effort, but mostly time. And it wasn’t like he didn’t have plenty of that between keeping the caravan going and waiting for the wraiths to attack again.

Oh, sure. The thing would be doing its level best to try and influence his emotions, radiating anger and hatred every which way like a broken faucet. But it was not like he hadn’t long since learned how to make sure it couldn’t affect him directly. It would be a massive pain in the ass, but as long as he was careful his thoughts and emotions would remain his and free from its influence, all of the thrice damned Curse’s hatred simply passing by without truly affecting him before being dumped into the atmosphere like so much excess magic.

With a firm nod he made up his mind and proceeded to see if there was any way he could help to make the caravan go faster. The sooner the caravan reached its next stopping point the sooner he could start dealing with this pesky little annoyance properly.

All it would take was time.

And, as he trotted into the sea of ponies, Ganondorf paid no mind to the steadily dropping temperature or the small snowflakes that were now slowly falling from the sky.

“Sir, with all due respect, but are you sure it’s a good idea for me to come along for this?” Wonder Bolt hesitantly asked as he followed Colonel Shake Spear, Link, and about a dozen other pegasi. He fidgeted in place as his eyes darted one way and then another, more than a bit agitated as they went deeper and deeper into the very heart of Pegasopolis.

“Don’t be ridiculous, young Bolt!” was the colonel’s loud reply as he flamboyantly pointed a wing towards the fidgeting azure-coated pegasus. “You are a direct witness to this whole affair! Your presence is of paramount importance!”

“But ,sir-“ he tried to interject, only to be immediately stopped as the cream-coated officer took a step towards him and closed his mouth shut with that very same wing.

“Ah, ah, ah! Enough of that!” Shake Spear continued. He shook his head once, the many curls that made up his mane swinging wildly on the wind. “While your green friend’s abilities are essential to give validity to the brave sergeant’s words, the fact remains that he is not part of the Armada!

“And as such, your presence and words are necessary to give far greater weight to the narrative!” he continued with a stomp for emphasis before finally releasing Wonder Bolt. “So stop dilly-dallying. Chin up, chest forward, and let us proceed!”

And with those words, Colonel Shake Spear started to power walk away, Link and the several other pegasus attendants that were part of the colonel’s inner circle of officers following after. This forced Bolt to quickly regain his wits, shake his head, and dart after them.

It was not that he didn’t know what needed to be done. But even so, the idea of actually going into the chamber of the High Council of the Armada was a daunting prospect. He knew of captains who had never set hooves in there! Oh, quite a few ponies he knew would have fits if they were to ever learn that the ‘half-breed’ had found himself inside where the four colonels ruled the Armada alongside Commander Hurricane himself!

“Sir, everything is in order,” another of the Shake Spear’s aids, followed by two other armed and armored pegasi, said with a salute as they turned a corner and started to trot down the corridor. “The troops are at attention and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.”

“Excellent. I doubt it will come to it, but one does not get to my age by trusting things to chance,” Shake Spear seriously said with a nod of his head, all while a knot of worry made itself known right upon Bolt’s gut. “I trust that Colonel Spring Shower has been informed of the overall situation?”

“Yes, sir, she has made known her slight skepticism to whatever it is that you may have that could possibly convince Colonel Thunderstrike to not side with his fellow war-hawk. But she confirmed that she and her troops shall not be caught unawares should the worst happen.”

Right after dissecting everything they had to say about the various ordeals of the last few days, Colonel Shake Spear hadn’t allowed a single moment to go to waste. They went through the night as he questioned them extensively, before sending missive after missive to the various troops under his command and to his closest ally among the other colonels, Colonel Spring Shower; leader of the southern barracks.

Orders had been sent, reports analyzed, and in the end a general meeting of all four colonels had been called at the central chambers. A gathering upon which they would present the proof of Colonel Winter Gale’s and his brother’s actions and warn the Armada of the threat to the north.

If all went well, Colonel Winter Gale would allow his brother to face justice for his actions and would suffer reprimands himself, and they would be able to move on to focus on the true danger and start to prepare for the invasion from the north. But if all did not go well… well, there was the fact that Winter Gale still had one fourth of the Armada under his direct command to consider. And the only pony who could directly command him to stand down was not in Pegasopolis at the moment.

Things could get… complicated, for lack of a better word.

“Calm down, lad, I can hear your heart hammering from where I stand!” Shake Spear told him with a jovial smile even as they went deeper and deeper into the central halls of the cloud fortress, and more and more armed and armored pegasi joined their ranks. “Take a deep breath; this is not my first time wrangling a storm!

“Spring Shower would already be inclined to listen even without our evidence, but with it she will be firmly on our side! If we manage to convince Thunderstrike as well, then Winter Gale will have no choice but to relent!” he continued as his smile became somewhat fanged, before a steely look entered his eyes. “And from there we can start with what really matters. If those beasties are even half as nasty as you have led me to believe, we do not have a single moment to waste!”

And that was the crux of the matter, wasn’t it? Time.

They simply did not have the time to wait for Commander Hurricane to come back to deal with the situation, not if there was to be any hope of preventing the frozen specters from invading their lands. They had to act, the sooner the better. But even so, Wonder Bolt couldn’t help but worry. Winter Gale had already shown he wasn’t exactly the most reasonable of ponies, after all.

Bolt felt a shiver run down his spine from a gust of cold wind that rushed through the large open windows as they neared the large, ornate double doors to the council’s chambers. The moment before they opened and the large group went inside, the corporal thought that he saw small snowflakes being carried by the wind outside, shining upon the sunlight, before his line of sight was cut off by the imposing cloud walls of the room.

“Well then,” Colonel Shake Spear jovially stated as he fixed his ornate armor so that it rested properly on his back, his eyes glinting with determination and a small smile on his lips. “It’s showtime!”

If but a few days ago anypony had told Limelight that he would ever find himself helping to guard an earth pony caravan, alongside a squad of armed pegasi, and under the command of a war mage, he would have flatly told them that they’d had too many ciders and really should stop drinking already. But then again, back then he would also have said that there was no chance he could have ever been dragged into one of his tales and epics. So that proved what he knew in the end.

“If we keep our current pace, we should reach the Earth Villa tomorrow,” the earth pony ranger with the golden arrows pointed out during the short stop they had taken for lunch. The pace both the earth pony elder and the war mage had set for the caravan had been brutal, but he really couldn’t complain. Not in the slightest, not after hearing what was coming south after them. “We could get there earlier if we push through the night, but that is a risk I don’t think we should take. A broken axle in any of the wagons would cost us way more time than risking a night march would gain us.”

“Agreed, even if we could easily redistribute the bags holding the supplies amongst those walking, it’s best to stay cautious,” Old Oak said with a firm nod toward the ranger. “Many of the villagers of Fire Stone would not be able to keep the pace without being able to rest in the wagons from time to time.”

“The messenger I sent must have reached the city by now, for all the good that will do. I doubt they will even bother to read it, or listen to the words of a pegasus for that matter,” the leader of the pegasi stated with an irritated grumble. In his opinion, the fact that the earth ponies all around the circle nodded their heads in commiseration and sympathy towards the pink winged pony was almost as odd as the fact there seemed to be several dozens, if not hundreds of bags of holding scattered throughout the whole caravan. But then again, maybe he was getting inured due to all the various magical artifacts being toted around like nothing.

Limelight nodded in thanks as a bowl of steaming soup was given to him. And as the huge earth pony started to discuss logistics with the ranger and the orange-coated mare, who against all logic seemed able to manipulate magic with her hooves, the troubadour tried to focus solely on the meal and not at what was being discussed for a moment. He most certainly was not going to think about the endless horde of frost monsters rushing south to destroy everything he had ever known. No sir, not at all.

For a moment his hoof trembled as he brought the bowl to his mouth, before he forced his confident mask back into place and pretended it hadn’t happened. If he buried the fear deep enough, maybe he himself would eventually believe it wasn’t there.

“The storm to the north seems to be slowly picking up speed, but even so we should make it with a couple of days to spare before it reaches the Earth Villa,” he couldn’t help but overhear as Fierce Breeze replied between bites to something that Lady Zelda had asked. “The scouts I sent to keep an eye at the arm of the storm that struck Fire Stone should be back soon with more news too.”

The truth was that he wanted to run far away. That was all there was to it. He wanted to run away, find some nice safe hole, and hide until the danger had passed and the world made sense again. Only… apparently… if nothing was done soon there would be nowhere safe to hide… at all…

Limelight was not a brave pony. He knew that, accepted it really. To run away to live another day was a perfectly valid course of action as far as he was concerned. But now, now that there may very well be nowhere left to run to… that didn’t leave him with that many options on how best to proceed.

He didn’t know if it was his imagination or not, but Limelight could swear he felt the magical rod he had found heating up from its resting place against his flank, as if to remind him that it was there. Choosing to ignore that, he kept eating his meal. Nothing odd had happened, and that was final.

“The climate is getting colder and colder, before long it will become a problem keeping everypony warm,” Old Oak mused worriedly as several other ponies nodded their agreement.

“Any hocus pocus that could solve that, Princess?” Ganondorf blithely threw Lady Zelda’s way, the massive earth pony apparently not concerned in the slightest with his lack of courtesy towards somepony that could probably destroy battalions by herself due to her magical might. But then again, he had leveled most of Fire Stone with that magical sword of his. So that probably wasn’t that much of a deterrent as far as he was concerned.

“Possibly,” was the white-coated unicorn’s calm reply as she apparently pondered the problem, not really minding the earth pony’s curt manners. “I do know some weather protection and warming charms that could work and wouldn’t be too hard to make. But I would need something to affix the enchantments into, like gemstones or alloys.”

“Would this work?” a very excited young voice enthusiastically asked as a tiny yellow-coated filly appeared out of nowhere and started to shove something Zelda’s way. More than one pony, Limelight included, nearly jumped at the beaming filly’s sudden appearance.

“Singing! How long have you been there?!” Forest Blossom sternly asked, clearly not happy that the young one had been eavesdropping on their decisions. Not that that was apparently a deterrent to the young one.

“A while!” she happily exclaimed, before once again trying to give what she was holding to Zelda. “So, anyway, would this work?”

Limelight then realized what the young filly, Singing Blossom was her name if he was not mistaken, was holding. A perfectly cut, shining blue gemstone.

“Well, yes,” Lady Zelda said after taking the gem and examining it for a moment, a faint look of recognition in her features. The look she then gave Singing was as if she was questioning if she should ask the filly something or not. “This would work perfectly, but we would need many more of them.”

“That’s easy! I can make more! All I need are a few rocks!” the filly exclaimed in barely contained excitement as she started to jump into place. Paying absolutely no mind to the strange looks she was getting from most of the crowd. “Or perhaps more than a few rocks! Now that I think about it a ton of rocks is probably better than a few rocks for this! Anyway, if I have rocks I can make more of those!”

“What?” Limelight found himself muttering, more than a little confused. For, while he didn’t exactly recognize the type of gemstone, it was most clearly a precious stone of some kind, and as such worth more than a bit of money. So what exactly did the filly mean with that she could make them with rocks?

“The kid showed you how to make those things?” Ganondorf asked with amusement clear in his voice and a smirk firm on his muzzle as he examined the gemstone with an experienced eye.

“Yes! Mister Link taught me how to do it! It was really, really neat! He showed me how to choose the right rocks, how to throw them, and everything!” she proudly explained while not really explaining anything, before promptly starting to rummage through the small saddlebags she seemed to carry everywhere in order to grab a small grey pebble out of it. “Here, let me show you!”

The troubadour really wondered what exactly he was even looking for as the young filly stopped for a moment, as if concentrating hard on something, before throwing the pebble away with a strangely fluid throwing motion. The very next moment his jaw dropped, as a small perfectly cut green gemstone appeared as if out of magic from the remains of the pebble that had shattered upon hitting the ground.

“Here! Neat, isn’t it?” she cheerfully asked as she offered the green gemstone to Zelda, the look on her face showing that the war mage didn’t know if she should laugh in amusement or sigh in exasperation. Neither of them really paid any mind to the sudden silence that had fallen upon the rest of the group.

“Indeed, Singing, that was very neat, well done,” Zelda kindly stated with a smile, all the while Ganondorf let out an amused laugh. “If you could make some more that would be extremely helpful.”

“Okay, I will be back after I gather more rocks!” the young one excitedly shouted before rushing away with far too much energy for such a small body.

“Can’t believe that the kid taught someone else how to do that!” Ganondorf boisterously exclaimed.

“Indeed,” was Zelda’s reply, her voice filled with fond exasperation as she shook her head.

All the while Limelight simply stood there, staring at where the filly had just disappeared from view. His mind tried and failed to reconcile what he had seen with what he knew about the laws of magic. After another moment, he suddenly turned towards the group, intent on asking what the buck had just happened?!

“Don’t question it,” Sure Shot immediately interjected before he could say a single word, cutting him short while giving him a very strange look.

“But she just-” he tried to say once more. The all encompassing fear he had been feeling these last few hours well and truly forgotten due to the impossibility he had borne witness to!

Only for Sure Shot to calmly take a step towards him and place a hoof on his shoulder, cutting him short once more. The deeply understanding look the earth pony ranger was giving him made him stop and listen despite his current feelings of shocked incredulity.

“Just, don’t,” the sea green mare firmly stated as she looked him right in the eyes. All the while the other ponies had re-started to talk about the plans and preparations, as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. “Trust me on this; you will be much, much happier if you don’t follow that train of thought. Just let it go.”

He opened and closed his mouth a few times as he searched for words, to no avail. He looked from the oddly sympathetic look the ranger was giving him, to the rest of the group who had apparently already moved away from the impossibility that had happened.

After another moment, a very lost Limelight hesitatingly nodded his agreement. The commiserating pats on the back Sure Shot gave him before moving away only made him feel even more confused about it all.

XXII - Storm Front

View Online

Storm Front

Standing alongside Link amidst Colonel Shake Spear’s retinue as they entered the chamber of the High Council itself and went towards the empty western section, Bolt could sincerely say he had never felt more out of place in his entire life. The feeling was further reinforced as Colonel Winter Gale’s gaze found his azure-coated form after a few moments and proceeded to glare his way with such intensity that Bolt was surprised he hadn’t dropped dead.

“I see we have all gathered with no issue, most excellent,” Shake Spear cheerfully stated from his position in one of the five elevated podiums around the room. His face was calm and unperturbed, as was his voice. If Bolt hadn’t heard his orders to the troops to be ready for a possible altercation moments before he would quite possibly believe that the flamboyant stallion had completely missed the fact that a good quarter of the gathered pegasi were glaring at them. “Colonel Thunderstrike, Colonel Spring Shower, Colonel Winter Gale, I thank you all for your prompt answer to this summon.”

As the cream-coated colonel nodded his head in recognition to each of his three peers, Wonder Bolt couldn’t help but feel a foalish sense of excitement at seeing all four colonels gathered in one place, knowing far too well that extremely few ponies ever saw such a sight… only for the gravity of the situation to kill that budding excitement in its tracks. This was no time for flights of fancy.

“It gladdens me greatly to see that even during the absence of our most august Commander our response remains as swift and steadfast as ever!” he continued to elaborate, his words getting more flamboyant by the moment as he grandiosely gestured towards the highest and final podium that remained at the center of the room, the podium where the High Leader of the Armada, Commander Hurricane himself, would normally be.

“Yes, yes, greetings and all that nonsensical useless stuff,” Colonel Thunderstrike grunted in a slightly annoyed tone of voice, his eyes discreetly taking in how Winter Gale was still glaring towards Shake Spear’s entourage in general and Bolt specifically. Thunderstrike was a large ebony-coated stallion with a platinum-blonde mane that was cut short to the point of it almost reaching his coat. Upon his chest was a large scar he acquired when facing down one of Unicornia’s war mages, or so rumor said. “Enough with the pointless niceties, get to the point and explain the reason for this summons already, colonel!”

“While his manners leave much to be desired, I must say that I have to agree with the spirit of Thunderstrike’s words,” Colonel Spring Shower added in a no-nonsense tone of voice while giving the belligerent form of Thunderstrike a warning look. For his part the ebony-coated pegasus grunted in reply as he briefly flared his wings, showing his cutie mark of a sword being hit by a lightning-bolt. “So please, enlighten us as to the reason for this meeting, Shake Spear. Why have you summoned us?”

The only mare amidst the four colonels was a white-coated beauty with a light-blue mane. Her body was svelte and athletic, showing the build of a pony who had spent countless hours controlling and directing the weather with their own four hooves. Fitting, since Spring Shower was renowned far and wide amidst the Armada as the greatest of their Weather Controllers. Upon her flank, her cutie mark of a sun peeking over a rain cloud could easily be seen.

“Yes, my fellow colonel,” Winter Gale interjected with a voice as cold as his name. His tone of voice was calm and collected, but the way he was still glaring towards them all belied that. “Do explain the meaning of this. And while you are at it, why don’t you explain why you harbor enemies of the Armada amidst your number.”

A sudden wave of murmurs and whisper befell the gathering at those words. Bolt couldn’t help but gulp as every single pair of eyes in the room moved towards Shake Spear’s entourage, seeking who Winter Gale spoke of. If his fellow colonel’s words had affected him, Shake Spear wasn’t showing it, as he calmly answered with the same affable smile on his muzzle as before.

“My, oh my, what an interesting choice of words, my dear colonel,” the cream-coated stallion said, raising a wing towards his mouth as if to hide a gasp of shock that simply wasn’t there to be hidden. “Enemies of the Armada? Such harsh words! What could you possibly mean by that?”

“Stop playing the fool, Shake Spear! Wonder Bolt and his companion are wanted for attacking and incapacitating soldiers of the Armada!” the ice-blue-coated colonel tossed with another glare as he flared his wings. “They are criminals who have fled from their rightful arrest and should be detained at once!”

“Is that so? How curious!” Shake Spear exclaimed with such genuine cheer that Bolt had no way of telling if it was an act or not. “My, truly these are curious days when a supposed criminal is entrusted to deliver vital information to the Armada’s leadership, and then instead of escaping seeks one of its colonels in order to fulfill his task. Wouldn’t you say so?

“You say that Corporal Wonder Bolt and his unaffiliated companion are enemies to the Armada,” he joyfully continued, stressing Bolt’s newly changed rank amidst their forces as his eyes hardened and took a definitely steely look. “But is that the truth? Or would they be merely enemies to your ambition, my dear colonel?”

“What are you implying, Spear?” Winter Gale hissed, eyes narrowed and wings poised at his side half raised as if he was refraining from taking an attack stance. Meanwhile, a new wave of harsh murmurs and worried conversations started anew amidst the watching pegasi.

“What I mean is that I have here, on my person, an urgent missive written by Sergeant Fierce Breeze of the forty-second patrol squad detailing of a massive attack at our northern borders by a yet unknown type of creature,” Shake Spear fiercely stated with narrowed eyes, his earlier cheer and flamboyance disappearing as if they were a mask he had just removed. “And how she sent the two fastest fliers at her current disposal, Corporal Wonder Bolt and unaffiliated pegasus Link, to deliver two missives containing all critical details pertaining to the developing situation to the Armada.

“One of which was delivered to my person, and the other which was delivered to yours but a few hours ago,” the stallion continued as he tilted his head slightly to the side as if in doubt, his golden ringlets swaying at the motion. “So, my fellow colonel, would you mind explaining to this august body what has happened to said missive? The one that contains information about how the leader of the forty-second patrol squad, Lieutenant Wind Shriek, your brother, abandoned his command mid-battle and fled like a craven?”

Shouts of shock and anger resounded within the council chamber’s cloud walls, as dozens of pegasi started to try and speak one over the other. All the while Winter Gale glared at his fellow colonel as the temperature around him slowly plummeted.

As she gazed at the small red gemstone tied at the end of some strong strings she was currently wearing as a necklace, Forest Blossom couldn’t help but marvel at how she wasn’t feeling even slightly chilly despite the occasional snowflake she could see fluttering along with the wind.

Looking all around her as she kept pace with the rest of the group at the head of the caravan, her eyes were assaulted by a rainbow of colors. Green, blue, red, and the occasional purple. Everywhere she looked, a pony was wearing a small gemstone somewhere on their bodies. The small gemstones had been enchanted to protect them from the biting cold from the north.

As a gust of wind she was quite sure would’ve made her shiver without the gemstone washed over her to no effect, Forest wondered if the novelty of interacting with actually helpful and non-aggravating unicorns would ever cease to astonish her.

She knew that it was unlikely. After all, there really couldn’t be that many unicorns that fell into that category. But, considering that counting Zelda and Limelight they had actually managed to find two horn-heads that actually fit that mold, when but a few weeks back she would have sworn there were none to be found, she supposed that it wasn’t impossible.

“Looking good, Forest.” Ganondorf nonchalantly tossed her way with a roguish grin as trotted to her side as he came back from one of the periodic perimeter patrols he did around the moving group. His eyes drifted from her new necklace towards her rapidly reddening face.

“T-thanks!” The orange-coated mare managed to find her tongue after a few false tries. She didn’t need a mirror to know that her face had to be as red as the gemstone by this point. Thankfully her mother was more towards the middle of the caravan, or she would never hear the end of this.

“The Princess does good work. This isn’t bad at all, especially for something done in a rush,” Ganondorf mused as he briefly moved a hoof to bring the gemstone closer so he could inspect it. The fact that his hoof was touching her coat and that he had brought his muzzle closer to get a better look doing nothing to help with Forest’s current issue.

“Though some credit should go to the little one as well for providing the raw materials,” Ganondorf continued with a light chuckle as he let the necklace fall back against Forest’s coat. “Still can’t believe that the Kid taught her how to pull off that little trick!”

“Yes, Singing has been beaming almost constantly since she helped Zelda with this endeavor,” Forest took in the change of subject gladly as a way to calm her nerves, though a small part of her did bemoan the loss of Ganondorf’s touch upon her coat. It was the truth as well. Singing seemed unable to stop smiling every single time she saw someone wearing one of the gemstones she had… procured was probably the best word. “But I can’t help but wonder, how exactly did Link learn such an odd magic?”

As she said the words her eyes moved towards where Singing was currently babbling to a slightly distressed looking Limelight. Her eyes moved from the small saddlebags Singing now carried everywhere with her towards the filly’s shining blue gemstone necklace. She couldn’t help but wonder what other strange magic Link had taught the little filly when she hadn’t been paying attention.

No matter the small mumbled complaints that Limelight kept muttering every single time he saw Singing create a new gemstone with a faraway look on his features about how that couldn’t be magic. It had to be magic that allowed the tiny filly to turn the rocks into gemstones. For what else could it be? Though… how the throwing motion affected any part of the process frankly eluded her. Singing insisted it was very important, though.

“Now that is a question for the ages!” the large earth pony half complained and half laughed. “Link likes to keep a few things close to his chest on occasion. And that one’s sadly one of them. So your guess is as good as mine!”

Forest didn’t really know how to process that bit of information. After a few moments longer, she decided to follow Sure Shot’s advice regarding the whole situation surrounding the seemingly bottomless bags, magical arrows, mysterious gemstones, and basically everything else the Trio seemed to pull out of thin air. Don’t question it, accept it, and move on.

The fact that Ganondorf’s brow suddenly scrunched together, as if he was experiencing a small headache, and how he had tensed his muscles also helped her swiftly move away from the subject of the odd abilities Singing had learned.

“Is everything alright, Ganondorf?” Forest immediately asked, eyes quickly going over his large form in search of what could possibly be causing him the discomfort. In a moment she realized what may be the issue. “Where is your warming gem? Are you cold? If you want I can lend you mine until Zelda can make more of them!”

Upon hearing her words Ganondorf slowly untensed his muscles before letting out a small amused laugh. He looked at her with fond eyes before briefly messing up her mane with a large hoof.

“You worry too much, Forest. And I have no need for such trinkets. It would take far more than a little ice and snow to inconvenience me,” he stated with some fondness, all the while Forest felt like her blush was slowly climbing up towards her ears if she went by how warm her whole face currently felt. With a shake of his head, the large stallion continued, all traces of his earlier discomfort now completely gone from his appearance. “Nah, it’s just a small annoyance that shall be dealt with in time. Nothing for you to concern yourself with.”

“Well… if you are sure,” Forest hesitatingly agreed, not wanting to question her teacher.

They walked in companionable silence for a few moments longer, until Ganondorf briefly stopped and raised his right hoof to shield his eyes as he scanned the horizon.

“The scouts are back,” the brown-coated earth pony declared as four blots of color appeared amidst the overcast sky and started to approach the caravan at speed.

The group of four pegasi was swiftly approaching. Clearly not intending to waste a single moment before delivering whatever news they had acquired, the feathered ponies were making a beeline towards Fierce Breeze. The pink-coated warrior narrowed her eyes the moment she saw their approach.

“Let’s go see what our eyes in the sky have seen, shall we?” Ganondorf nonchalantly said as he put deeds to words and started towards where the scouts had landed and were now talking with Fierce Breeze. As she followed after him, Forest noted that Zelda, Sure Shot, and Old Oak were also hurrying towards the group.

“Are you certain about that?” Fierce Breeze questioned the scouts with narrowed eyes, her wings fidgeting at her sides.

“Yes ma’am! The storm clouds to the north seem to be picking up speed. That is an undeniable fact. But the caravan is still far enough ahead that, if we keep up the current pace, we should reach the Earth Villa before the wraiths and the storm by a large margin. Two to three days by my best estimates.” A wave of relieved murmurs washed over the gathered ponies at the news. It wasn’t a lot of time but, considering how Unicornia was less than a day’s ride from the Earth Villa, it was still more than enough to warn everypony and start getting things done.

“That’s good news,” Fierce Breeze stated with a small nod before she turned to the second pair of pegasi. Her features did not relax even slightly at the news. “What about the arm of the storm that struck at Fire Stone? How is it behaving?”

“Ma’am! The arm of the storm enveloping where the village of Fire Stone was located has also picked up speed, quite significantly at that!” the second scouting pair reported, to worried whispers all around, only for them to try and reassure everypony with a smile. “But at the same time, it seems to be veering off course from our current path. I think they may have lost our trail due to Zelda’s long-range teleportation spell.”

Quite a few sighs of relief and happy shouts resounded at that bit of news. Even Forest couldn’t help but relax a little. For while the teachings Ganondorf gave her did allow her to face the frozen beasts in combat, it was still by no means a pleasant experience.

“Very good. But we will have to keep a wary eye to make sure they do not drift back towards the caravan,” the pink-coated sergeant seriously stated as she flapped her wings once to silence the crowd before refocusing on her subordinate, “What is its current heading?”

“Ma’am, It seems to be going towards the southeast at this current point in time, picking up speed as it goes.” The feathered pony concluded his report with a salute. But unlike the rest of the gathered ponies, who had seemed to relax at the pegasus’ words, upon hearing those words the pink-coated sergeant started to curse profusely.

“Pick up speed, on the double! Old Oak, Sure Shot, pass the command along! We’ve got to get the caravan moving as fast as we can!” she barked in a tone of voice that brooked no argument, eyes narrowed in worry and anger as she demanded they move on as fast as possible. “We have to reach the Earth Villa yesterday! There isn’t a moment to lose! Now move it!”

“Ma’am?” the pegasus who had just delivered the news hesitatingly questioned, giving voice to the confusion Forest could see on everypony’s muzzles. There was almost nothing to the southeast, after all, nothing but one or two small settlements that were barely worth the name, being so small that they made their old village look large. So what was the reason for the mare’s sudden frantic worry?

“Think, you idiot!” the mare hissed as she flared her wings and took a step towards the now slightly cowering scout. “There are practically no settlements in that area! No major gatherings or trading lanes! Absolutely nothing! Nothing to gather the attention of the wraiths! Nothing to slow them down!”

At those words, a wave of confusion started to settle upon the crowd, only for it to be shattered by the sergeant’s next words.

“The only thing of note around there is the fact that Pegasopolis is currently above that area!” she spat with finality. “Now stop losing time and move it!”

As the crowd dissolved into what could be easily called organized chaos under the stern orders of Old Oak and Sure Shot, Forest couldn’t help but glance towards the southeast. Towards distant Pegasopolis, the fabled floating fortress of the pegasi. Towards where Link and Wonder Bolt had gone.

“Clever little critters,” Ganondorf grumbled at her side, a thoughtful look on his features. “If they are attempting to strike at the armed forces before the pegasi are ready, then they may be smarter than I gave them credit for.”

“Link and Wonder Bolt will surely have warned them by now,” Zelda reasonably stated as she passed close by after giving several orders in regards to the wagons carrying the few still recovering ponies. “If they are smart about it, by this point they shall have some preparations already underway and should not be caught unawares.”

On his part, upon hearing those words the large earth pony simply gave the white-coated unicorn a lightly incredulous look as he looked her right in the eyes.

Individuals can be smart, Princess,” Ganondorf said in a voice as dry as the dessert, specifically stressing the word ‘individuals’ as he spoke. He then shook his long crimson mane before letting out a very irritated huff. “But join them in a group of any significant size and unless you have a firm hold on the reins, nine times out of ten, you end up with dumb panicky animals, no matter how smart each individual of the group was before grouping together. You should know that by now better than most.”

Forest really didn’t like the implications of what Ganondorf was saying, a feeling that was not helped even slightly by the very pained look Zelda was now sporting.

“Link is there, he won’t allow it to devolve to such a point,” she stated with conviction. Though Forest noticed that the unicorn’s voice wasn’t as firm as was her norm, as she said those words.

“Oh, I’m sure he will do his best!” the stallion stated with a laugh that lacked any real mirth before he started to trot away, apparently done with the conversation. “But in the end, you cannot cure stupidity by hitting people. I know, believe me, I tried.”

Madness. This was madness, pure and simple.

The gathering of the four colonels, the greatest authorities and leaders of the Armada, the highest-ranked amidst their number, beneath only the Commander himself, had devolved into a shouting match.

Accusations were being thrown every which way. Insults were being hurled back and forth. Nerves were flying high as tempers rose and arguments sparked. And Bolt was certain that the only reason that blows hadn’t yet been traded, or weapons drawn, was due to the centuries-old tradition that no violence should ever occur within these hallowed chambers.

“You dare accuse me and mine with these pathetic lies!” Winter Gale hissed, his voice dangerously low as he glared at Shake Spear. His troops behind him shouted their agreement towards their leader’s words.

“Enough, Winter Gale, we all have seen Shake Spear’s proof!” Spring Shower forcefully stated as she stomped a hoof for emphasis, clearly annoyed with the whole situation. “So unless you can explain what has happened to the second missive or why you attempted to have Corporal Wonder Bolt and his companion arrested-“

“A fanciful tale in a piece of parchment and the words of a rogue and a half-breed,” Thunderstrike interjected, cutting Spring Shower off mid-speech, much to the white-coated mare’s ire. “If that is what you and yours would call proof, Spring, then I fear should we ever have to trust you as scouts in a conflict.

And so the arguments started anew. Now with the ebony-coated stallion trading barbs and veiled insults with the female colonel adding another layer to the whole mess.

By this point of things Fierce Breeze’s missive had been both read out loud, twice, and re-read personally by each of the other three colonels. But that had seemed to only stoke the fires of dissent even further. Ponies questioned and argued about everything in regards to it. From the validity of the missive, up to if the sergeant had been in her right mind when she wrote it, even if the missive was valid.

All the while they were no closer to resolving the whole mess and getting ready to tackle the real crisis looming over the horizon. Even worse, slowly but surely Bolt could see two camps were materializing amidst the chaos. Spring Shower and Shake Spear on one side, with Winter Gale and Thunderstrike on the other, two camps which were harboring a growing and growing animosity to each other.

With each hour that passed in this fruitless endeavor, Bolt couldn’t help but feel his anger and helplessness grow. Each hour that passed meant that the wraiths to the north were that much closer to the lands of the Three Tribes.

How couldn’t Winter Gale see what this would cause? That no matter if he won or lost this foalish argument would only weaken the Armada when pony-kind needed all of their strength more than ever before?!

“Again with this silly story of the ice creatures to the north?” Winter Gale scoffed with clear disdain as Shake Spear attempted to raise exactly said issue. “Have you forgotten that there was a war mage within that wind forsaken hamlet?

“What exactly was one of Unicornia’s oh so precious war mages doing at such a faraway place?” he questioned, his words as cold as a glacier as his hard eyes moved around the entire crowd. “Tell me, all of you, what is more likely? That one of the thrice-cursed war mages of the unicorns created the whole situation, or one of our patrols was attacked by an up to that point undiscovered hostile species, while a group of three unaffiliated ponies, one of each tribe, just so happened to stumble upon the whole situation. And on top of that, one of said ponies knows the near mythological long lost art of Storm Calling!”

He outright sneered at the last bit, as if the words themselves left a sour taste on his mouth, playing up how truly unbelievable the reality of the situation was to try and trick the others into doubting Fierce Breeze’s report and Bolt’s own words.

“Tell me then, which of these options sounds more likely? Or will you insist on supporting this foalish fanciful tale Shake Spear’s trying to push for reasons unknown?”

A wave of shouted agreements and hushed doubtful whispers filled the chamber for a moment, before Shake Spear forcibly snapped his wings and demanded attention. A decidedly predatory smile was firm upon the flamboyant colonel’s muzzle as he did so.

“Point of order. Why, if you desired proof my dear colonel, you had but to ask!” he jovially stated even as his smile grew decidedly more pointy with each word he spoke. “Link my good lad, if you wouldn’t mind, please step forward.”

“If you think that the word of a rogue with no concept of loyalty will-“ Thunderstrike started to interject, to a wave of agreements from his own followers. Only for Shake Spear to silence them with another forceful snap of his wings.

“Ah, ah, ah, now be patient my dear. And for the record, no, Link’s words will not be needed for what I have in mind,” Shake Spear gleefully continued as he gestured towards Link. And with a jolt of realization Bolt realized what the colonel was planning. “Now then, some amidst our number seem to be doubting the good sergeant’s words. Let’s put those doubts to rest, shall we? Now, Link, if you would be so kind. Play us a little tune, yes?”

A renewed wave of shouts and arguments surged forward as Link calmly grabbed his flute and rose it towards his lips. A wave of shouts and arguments that continued for a few moments longer, until suddenly stopping as a strong wind started to blow inside the council chambers, which so happened to have no windows and whose doors were currently closed.

Link kept playing the song for a little while longer in the now ringing silence, changing the tune once in a while in order to change the direction of the wind and show to all and sundry that he was indeed controlling the wind through the melody he was playing.

“Now then, I believe this puts to rest the questions about our dear green friend here being a Storm Caller, yes?” Shake Spear asked the dumbfounded chamber.

The silence that had befallen the room lasted a single moment longer. Before it was mercilessly shattered by a wave of noise that dwarfed the earlier arguments by several orders of magnitude as everypony started to try and talk over each other. This quickly devolved into shouting matches and renewed arguments between the four groups.

As the shouting grew louder and louder, Bolt couldn’t help but let out a very tired sigh as he briefly closed his eyes, exhausted with the whole affair. His breath began turning to mist as the temperature kept slowly dropping, going unnoticed amidst the growing argument.

XXIII - Diplomacy!

View Online


As the large caravan climbed up one final hill on the path, they finally laid eyes upon the so-called Earth Villa, capital of the earth ponies and their current destination. And it currently was quite the large caravan.

They had managed to add another three villages’ worth of ponies to their group as they pushed forward with all due speed. Thankfully, two villages’ worth of refugees telling all and sundry about the threat to the north was more than enough for the very practical minded villagers to pack their things with all due haste and swiftly depart alongside the group.

The knowledge that the little beasties were not only hot on their heels, but were already flanking the lands of the Three Tribes, as they moved eastward to strike at the cloud fortress of the pegasi, had pushed the group into a forced march that had continued straight through the night and well into the following day. Pushing harder than Ganondorf had thought the ponies capable of, they had taken turns having short naps on the carriages, where the little ones and the elderly were being kept full time, when needed and simply kept pushing forward.

The earth ponies’ apparently inborn talent towards resilience and endurance proved its weight in gold as they endured the distance eating stride Sure Shot had set for far longer than most professional military outfits Ganondorf could care to name, and he was including his own military forces on that list.

Suffice to say, the Wielder of Power was pleasantly surprised and slightly impressed by his new sort-of kin.

“We made it,” Forest let out with a small sigh of relief, while the earth ponies picked up the pace, a burst of energy entering their tired bodies upon seeing their destination.

“So this is the Earth Villa, huh?” Ganondorf mused out loud as he took in the earth ponies’ capital.

There was a large central hub of various buildings, ranging from one to three stories in height, which clearly housed both the government and the greater merchant guilds of the town, not to mention the more well off citizens, of course. And all around that central hub were lots and lots of farmsteads, and Ganondorf really meant lots. Orchards and vineyards, fields and plantations, all spread out as far as the eye could see. If there had been any doubt that the earth ponies were the breadbasket of the Three Tribes, this so-called Earth Villa put said doubts to rest.

“Indeed, and luckily their harvest seems to not have been as severely impacted as the other villages so far, and appears to be well under way,” Sure Shot pointed out with a firm nod as she gazed all around the advancing caravan, searching for any problems that could arise with keen hard eyes. “If the standard procedures have been applied, they have to have at least three times the amount of grains, fruits and other foodstuffs currently on the fields already stored away.”

“That will be useful,” the large earth pony readily agreed, already calculating the numbers that would feed and for how long as Ganondorf considered the very real possibility of having to fight off a siege in the not so distant future. “Sadly, the same can’t be said about the Villa proper.”

“W-what? What do you mean?” Forest hesitatingly asked as she shook her head free of tiredness and gave her full attention to Ganondorf’s words.

“This place may well be a gold mine as far as supplies go, but in regards to the defensiveness of the settlement,” the Dark Lord grunted with a clear hint of distaste on his words as he analyzed the ‘capital’ of the earth ponies with all his considerable military experience, and found it wanting. “Even attempting to make a defense here would be a waste of effort and resources.”

Forest looked a little scandalized and Sure Shot looked like she had bitten a lemon upon hearing his words, but thankfully both mares chose to not interrupt him with useless exclamations of shock or other such useless acts and seemed to be actually willing to listen.

Which was good, great even, what with how Ganondorf’s patience had been growing thin as of late. Mostly due to a certain Curse’s ineffectual attempts to gain any leeway so that it could try and influence him. Seriously, for all its power the damned thing had all the subtlety and intelligence of a rampaging dodongo. Blasting hate and anger every which way and not even thinking that Ganondorf would actually notice that the emotions weren’t his in the first place!

“This place is basically defenseless! Whatever idiot built this settlement didn’t even bother with making a wall circling the town proper!” he scoffed, his words carrying a little more bite to them than he had initially intended. The idiotic emotions may not be his, but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel them at least somewhat. Taking a deep breath, he continued in a calmer manner. “When adding the lack of defensive works to the sprawling nature of the town, defending this place becomes even more inadvisable than it was to defend your home village.”

“I fear that defense was never in the list of priorities when the Earth Villa was built,” Old Oak blithely commented as he approached alongside Zelda, a hint of tiredness clear in his voice. “Considering how far away from the borders it is located, and how neither the pegasi nor the unicorns would stand to allow another race to endanger their main source of food, and how little said defense would actually be of use if there was a need to repel either tribe should they ever turn against us, the original builders considered any defensive battlements to be superfluous.”

“Wonderful, that’s just perfect,” Ganondorf drawled, voice thick with sarcasm as he cracked his neck in order to loosen the muscles. “So what’s the plan, Old Timer?”

“The Earth Villa may be next to defenseless, especially against a flight capable, magically natured threat such as the wraiths,” the elder firmly stated without a moment’s hesitation, causing both Forest and Sure Shot to give him worried looks. “But there is another settlement but a half day’s ride from here that is everything but defenseless, sporting extensive defensive works that were built specifically against airborne threats that can control the weather.”

“Unicornia,” Sure Shot exclaimed in sudden realization. “You are talking about the horn-heads’ capital!”

“Precisely,” the grey-coated stallion said with a firm nod. “The unicorn’s capital city is more than large enough to easily accommodate both their own citizens and ours. When taking into account the city’s defenses, the supplies we can acquire here, and the ease of moving them thanks to Link’s bags, we can use Unicornia as a stronghold to weather the storm until we can find a way to properly combat the wraiths’ hordes.”

“Huh, not too shabby,” Ganondorf declared even as the last few ponies of the caravan passed by and their own group started to move after them. It was a basic plan, but at the very least that would keep the three of them from having to worry about the non-combatants and allow them to try and find the pink flame from the little Princess’ dream.

“Yes. Though now comes the hard part, I’m afraid,” Old Oak gloomily said with a very tired sight. “While Chancellor Puddinghead is a very level headed pony, convincing the rest of the senate that evacuating the capital is not only necessary, but must be done with all due haste, will not be an easy task, even with his aid.”

“Senate?” The large earth pony asked Zelda with a hint of curiosity, knowing that the Wielder of Wisdom probably knew something about whatever it was that the old timer was talking about due to her little reading binge earlier on the week. The little Princess’ need to know everything about all things in existence proved its usefulness once again, as she swiftly answered.

“The earth ponies follow a representative democratic form of rule, in which elected officials, known as senators, serve for a predetermined number of years, and work to create their laws,” the white-coated unicorn dutifully answered, gaze focused inwards as she probably remembered word for word one of Old Oak’s books. “They also choose by popular vote amidst their number someone to act as a leader, known as a chancellor, who serves for the duration of a mandate and may be re-elected later.”

“Huh, how quaint,” the Dark Lord idly commented while briefly considering this very odd form of government. From what little he had heard it sounded convoluted at best. But what did he know? If the earth ponies made it work, then more power to them.

As he kept walking towards the Earth Villa, Ganondorf pondered how swiftly such a form of government would act when faced with the current crisis. He really didn’t know enough to say anything about it, but from personal experience he knew that the more people there were in positions of power the longer it took to get things done. And as the thought of wasting hours, or perhaps even days, waiting for them to act, all while the green wonder hogged all the fun as the wraiths attacked Pegasopolis, crossed his mind, Ganondorf decided that that wasn’t exactly acceptable.

So, as they neared the Villa proper, Ganondorf idly mused if perhaps there wasn’t any way to expedite things a little.

Bolt let out a very annoyed and tired sigh as the clamor of angry voices and shouted discussions resounded within the hallowed halls of the council chamber.

Once upon a time he had seen the leaders of the Armada in a near reverential light. He remembered as a young colt how their teachers had talked in length and great detail how the High Commander and the Four Colonels were basically the epitome of their tribe. How they were what all that a young pegasus should strive to be, bold and brave in the face of their enemies, steadfast and just when alongside their allies, undaunted and resolute in the face of adversity. They were the leaders of their tribe, chosen amidst their numbers by skill and capability above all else. The greatest of their greats!

Suffice to say that seeing four of their five leaders squabbling with each other as if they were a bunch of foals, all the while a very real and dangerous threat kept advancing upon the pony lands, had caused that image to crack somewhat.

“Ancestors protect us,” he mumbled in a near whisper while briefly closing his eyes and massaging his brow in a vain attempt to alleviate the headache he was suffering. “This is madness!”

“This is politics,” Link nonchalantly replied with a shrug of his wings. How the green-coated pony could still act so calmly when about half the chamber continued to stare at him almost non-stop since the fact he is a Storm Caller came to light was beyond the corporal. By the great winds, the looks some of the weather ponies under Colonel Spring Shower’s command were giving Link would make a dragon suddenly decide he had urgent prior commitments somewhere else! And yet, the green pegasus continued to act completely unaffected by the whole situation!

Well, perhaps not completely unaffected. Bolt corrected as he saw Link briefly move his wings in an apparently completely natural and casual manner, which nonetheless made it so that the saddlebags he was wearing were now at an optimal position for easy reach. Saddlebags that Bolt knew somehow contained the green pegasus’ sword.

That and a very light narrowing of his eyes were the only signs that Link wasn’t as unaffected by the situation as he let on.

Shaking his head lightly as he let out another sigh as Winter Gale, Thunderstrike, and Shake Spear started to shout over each other at the same time. When all was said and done Bolt felt extremely disillusioned with how things could’ve devolved so fast.

By all that was sacred! The azure-coated pony was quite certain that the only reason open conflict hadn’t explosively started yet was due to the ancient tradition that no fighting of any kind was allowed inside these chambers!

“Seriously, what are Colonel Winter Gale and his troops thinking,” one of Shake Spear’s aids angrily commented with a few other pegasi while he rubbed his wings to ward off the chill that had fallen upon the room. “Everypony knows there is no fighting allowed within these halls! What he and his troops think they will accomplish with this cheap intimidation tactic is beyond me!”

As several other ponies angrily voiced their agreement, Bolt realized that the temperature had truly dropped significantly since the start of the talks hours ago. He also couldn’t help but agree that he didn’t see the point for such a blatant and ineffectual attempt at intimidation.

Yes, Winter Gale and his personal troops were fearsome fighters. Their mastery over their weather magic easily allowed them to rain down ice and frost upon their enemies to great effect, something that had spelled the end of more than a few enemies of the Armada.

But when the ones you were trying to intimidate knew that you wouldn’t attack no matter how much posturing you were doing, most of the intimidation factor fell flat and instead turned into annoyance. For all his faults Colonel Winter Gale was a firm believer in the traditions of the Armada, everypony knew he would never break them in such a crude manner, so why he was allowing his troops to lower the temperature in a very ineffectual theatrical display was beyond Wonder Bolt. Especially since doing so came so close to skirting the sacred rules laid down by their forefathers! It made absolutely no sense whatsoev-!

And suddenly, like a lightning bolt amidst a clear blue sky, it hit him.

All Pegasi knew that breaking the truce here was folly. All of them!

So why would Colonel Winter Gale so brazenly skirt those sacred rules and attempt to do just that? What could he possibly win by so openly flaunting an apparent disrespect for one of their most ancient traditions? All that would do was anger everypony and push those who were still neutral away from his camp! It was simply idiotic! And, say what you will about any other of their character flaws, but none of the colonels got to their position by being idiots!

Ignoring all thoughts about protocols or station, Wonder Bolt surged forth past the pegasi all around him. Ignoring their shouts and curses he swiftly forced his way onwards, urgency clear in his every move. He knew with a sinking feeling on his gut what the steadily dropping temperature meant, and time was of the essence!

Ignoring the fact that what he was doing was tantamount to political and social suicide, Bolt pushed forward until he was past the ring of ponies circling the center of the chambers and standing right next to a very surprised looking Shake Spear. Ignoring the dozens upon dozens of angry eyes glaring down upon him, or the anger filled calls demanding his immediate removal from the chambers, he took a deep breath and shouted at the top of his lungs.

“Sound to quarters!” he bellowed as loudly as he could.

A deafening silence filled the chambers as his shouted command reverberated within the cloud-walls. Technically speaking he had every right to give voice to this command, for it was the only command that any pegasus could voice regardless of rank. Should any pegasi realize there was a danger to either their squad or allied forces, he had both the right and the duty to alert and call their brothers to arms.

Sure, misusing said command would mean that a court martial would be the least of the caller’s worries, but the option was there.

“Corporal, what do you think you are doing?!” Colonel Shake Spear hissed, the look on his face making it clear he was wondering if the corporal had lost his mind.

Firming his resolve, and praying to all his ancestors that his gut feeling was right and this wasn’t the biggest, and quite possible last, mistake he would ever commit in this life, Wonder Bolt resolutely looked the colonel straight in the eyes and refused to be cowed.

“Sir, the temperature has been steadily dropping more and more for several minutes now-” he started to say, only for Shake Spear to cut him off with a very aggravated hoof movement.

“Well, yes, but while extremely rude on Colonel Winter Gale and his troops’ part, that’s hardly a-” the cream-coated colonel started to say, only for Bolt to be the one to suddenly cut him off.

“No, think!” the corporal berated the colonel, to the shocked gasps of nearly the entirety of the room. Trying to not think about the possible consequences of his actions, Bolt firmly continued. “No colonel would ever sink so low as to violate the truce these hallowed halls impose! Nor would they be so sloppy as to allow their troops to act without his say so or allow his own talent to run wild and accidentally cause this!”

Quite a few murmurs started to sound as he said those words, as the crowd wondered what he was talking about then if he wasn’t about to try and undermine Winter Gale and his faction. Even the ice-blue colonel himself was giving Bolt a frosty but slightly inquisitive look.

“Don’t you see? Winter Gale and his troops aren’t the ones lowering the temperature! Which can only mean one thing; the wraiths are getting closer to Pegasopolis!” he declared to all and sundry as he turned his frantic gaze towards the four colonels.

Shake Spear’s eyes had widened at the corporal’s words, clearly seeing what Bolt had seen. But the same could not be said about the others. Spring Shower had a slightly confused look in her eyes, while Thunderstrike was openly scoffing. All the while Winter Gale kept staring with an inscrutable expression at the azure-coated stallion, his hard cold eyes not showing any hint of what he was thinking.

The other pegasi in the room started to voice their protests or ask questions once again, the volume of the crowd growing once more with each moment that passed, much to Bolt’s inner despair, before a loud firm voice bellowed right next to him.

“Sound to quarters!” Shake Spear voiced the command once again in a shout so loud as to vibrate the air itself. The colonel gazed at the unruly crowd with hard steely eyes that dared anypony to contradict his words. “Arm yourselves, brothers and sisters! Form your squadrons and prepare the defenses! On the double!”

Shocked gasps and worried murmurs started to fill the chambers as Winter Gale took a step forward and flared his wings as he looked Shake Spear straight in the eyes. “Spear, what exactly are y-“

“Colonel Winter Gale,” Shake Spear brusquely cut off his fellow colonel as he took several steps forward until he was standing right in front of Winter Gale. “I have never liked you, and I’m quite sure that the feeling is entirely mutual.”

Whatever Bolt thought Colonel Shake Spear was going to say, that was most definitely not it. It was a thought clearly shared by most ponies in the room, who were trading perplexed looks with each other. But before anypony could say anything else, Shake Spear continued undaunted.

“And yet, I know for a fact that, in your own way, you have always strived for the betterment of the Armada. That you have always fought for what you think is best for our tribe. And I’m equally sure you know that I am the same,” now even more confused, the crowd waited with bated breath, listening to every word the flamboyant colonel spoke to his cold-eyed fellow colonel. “As such, hear my words and understand their urgency!

“Pegasopolis itself may well be about to be attacked! Yes, the possibility exists that it may be a false alarm, but considering the cost of it being true and we do nothing, should we really risk inaction?” Shake Spear loudly asked the colonel and the room at large, wings flared at his sides in defiance. “To do nothing as a new foe that dares challenge us for our position as rulers of the skies remains unopposed? A foe bold enough to strike at us in our very seat of power?”

With every word the colonel spoke, Bolt felt a sense of defiance and virtuous anger nest itself on his chest, a feeling that going by the looks of the crowd, quite a few pegasi shared with him.

“Will we allow the chance that this attack is real to go unanswered? Will we allow ourselves to be caught unawares as we air our grievances within these halls? Or will we meet this foe upon our battlements with blades drawn? What say you, my fellow colonel? I, for one, know what my answer is!”

A long moment of silence followed the cream-coated colonel’s speech, as Winter Gale stared at Shake Spear with hard narrowed eyes. His gaze carried within it all the warmth of the winds of his name, and yet Shake Spear did not falter, meeting his fellow colonel’s stare with equal intensity.

All the ponies in the room held their breath as Winter Gale turned his hard eyes towards Link and Bolt and scrutinized them for a brief moment, as if searching for something. Before, with a barely perceptible nod, the ice-blue pegasus returned his gaze towards Shake Spear and broke the silence.

“Sound to quarters,” he commanded as his wings flared at his sides, his voice barely louder than normal and yet still filling the silent room completely. “Gather all the troops and occupy the battlements. If these creatures exist, then let them see the folly of attacking the home of the pegasi!”

Roars of agreement and defiance filled the chambers as orders started to be shouted and the crowd swiftly started to leave towards the barracks and armories. But amidst the controlled chaos Shake Spear and Winter Gale remained perfectly still as they kept staring deep into each other’s eyes.

“You better be right, Spear,” Winter Gale said as a parting remark as he turned around and started to leave. His true feelings were once again hidden behind a visage that could’ve been sculpted out of ice, for all the warmth it showed.

“Truly, Gale, I sincerely hope that I’m wrong,” was Shake Spear’s reply, as he started to trot towards Bolt, Link, and the rest of his officers, the colonel’s eyes as hard and sharp as a drawn blade.

“This is completely idiotic,” Ganondorf spat out in clear disgust from where he and Zelda sat at the very edge of the earth ponies’ central hall, watching as over two dozen of the so-called ‘senators’ discussed what to do with the information Old Oak had brought them. Or even if said information was real for that matter, despite having five villages’ worth of refugees currently in their city.

The old timer actually had a decent plan as they approached his tribe’s leadership. Apparently having more than enough connections to get an audience straight away, and assuring them that he personally knew Chancellor Puddinghead, and that their leader was a very pragmatic and down to earth sort that would listen to their words.

Only said chancellor was apparently currently in Unicornia, demanding explanations out of the unicorns for the sudden change in the day and night cycle. Bad luck, that.

Which left this bunch of morons in charge, who clearly would have trouble with agreeing which direction was north, much less that they needed to evacuate their capital, and it needed to be done yesterday. It brought Old Oak’s plan to a grinding halt before it could even start, as the elder was forced to waste valuable time attempting to convince the idiots of the validity of the threat to the north.

“We’ve got to make them rethink their position,” Zelda muttered in a near whisper, her eyes narrowed as her mind worked at the problem at hand.

The Wielder of Power knew that the Wielder of Wisdom was a shrewd politician, being sharp as a razor and knowing all the tricks of the game. Give her half a chance and she would have the majority of these idiots agreeing to her plans in short order while thinking that it was their idea all along. But sadly, the spiral protrusion upon her head had cut that avenue off as well, since allowing a unicorn to speak at the earth senate was apparently tantamount to sacrilege or some such nonsense.

“Thinking twice with no brain isn’t any better than thinking once, Princess,” he dryly informed her as a particularly fat earth pony wearing far too much jewelry started to shout about how there was no such thing as wraiths to the north.

Truly, they had been at this mess for less than twenty minutes, and Ganondorf could swiftly feel his patience disappearing while his anger rose in equal measure. And for once he knew that those feelings were entirely his own and had nothing to do with the curse’s attempts to influence him.

He really, really wished that he could say he was surprised by this whole mess. But that would be a complete lie. Stupidity was a universal constant, after all. And, if left unchecked, it had the worrying tendency of accumulating at important positions, or other such places where it really shouldn’t be allowed to be even near to.

As he took in, with a very annoyed look on his eyes, how two other senators started to shout over each other, about a subject that had nothing to do with the current topic of discussion or even the whole crisis in general, Ganondorf felt the last of his patience snap.

“I’ll handle this,” he bluntly told the little princess, already marching forward with a scowl on his muzzle.

Completely ignoring Zelda’s panicked exclamations, he started to shove his way to the middle of the room, any pony that was not swift enough in getting out of his way being unceremoniously pushed aside to make way for the Wielder of Power. Uncaring for whose feelings he was hurting he trotted onwards, charging past anything in his path while paying no mind to Zelda’s final shout to think about what he was doing. The last part made him snort in a mix of amusement and frustration.

That had always been a problem with the little princess. She was simply far too darned nice!

Zelda was a superb ruler, far better than him, in fact. His ego wasn’t anywhere nearly as fragile for him to not recognize that. She cared for her subjects and always strived to give them all that she thought they deserved from their kingdom. Always ready to work harder, to compromise, and to sacrifice for the betterment of the faceless masses. And that had simply been something he had never had the patience or inclination to do.

For, while the Wielder of Wisdom had always favored the velvet glove as her form of governing the masses, the Wielder of Power instead had always preferred the iron fist.

He knew that by the definition of most beings he would be classified as a tyrant. Oh sure, he was actually quite fair and just towards those under his rule, never asking more than they could give and always rewarding his subjects’ efforts with the appropriate rewards, but still a tyrant nonetheless. And quite frankly, Ganondorf had no problem accepting the title.

He was who he was, and made no attempts to hide that. The Dark Lord had made peace with his myriad character flaws centuries ago, accepted them and moved on.

Ignoring the affronted looks and biting questions thrown his way by several ponies about what he thought he was doing, Ganondorf forced his way past the useless nitwits that dared call themselves the ruling body of the earth ponies and kept moving towards the very center of the room, his pace calm and unhurried as he shoved past both guards and senators alike with ease.

Nowadays he could see that both paths had positives and negatives. That both the path of the enlightened monarch that the Princess sought to tread and of the dauntless overlord he had chosen to walk for himself had upsides and downsides in various areas. But there was one specific area where his own path greatly surpassed anything that Zelda’s more benevolent and peaceful path could ever hope to produce.

Standing at the very center of the room, under the curious gaze of Old Oak and the other ponies he knew, the furious gaze of the idiotic senators and their guards, and the utterly exasperated look from a now very resigned looking princess, Ganondorf took a deep breath and spoke.

“Shut up!” he shouted at the top of his lungs as he brought down his right hoof against the ground with enough force to completely shatter the slabs of stone that made up the pavement and cause more than one earth pony to lose their balance and fall down due to the small quake his actions had caused.


When all was said and done in the end, when it came the time to make up a decision, his path was infinitely faster than the Princess’ and that was an undeniable fact, due to the simple fact that he didn’t need to spend countless hours convincing clueless idiots that the actions needed to ensure their continued survival were, in fact, necessary.

“How dar-” the fat pony he noted before started to say as the two closest guards got back to their hooves and started to rush towards him, only for Ganondorf to both silence him and freeze the two guards in their places with a look.

Yanking one of the cowed guards’ unsheathed blades straight out of his hoof, Ganondorf crushed the sorry excuse for a sword into scrap metal with contemptuous ease. The loud ringing sound of snapping metal filled the now deathly silent room, while he leveled all the weight his steely gaze could deliver at these ‘senators’.

“Good, so you can understand simple instructions, excellent,” the Wielder of Power conversationally said as he swept his gaze around the now thoroughly intimidated hall. He briefly saw that Zelda was face-hoofing near the back, but he also noted that the Wielder of Wisdom was most definitely not attempting to stop him, which, from the mare, was tantamount to tacit approval.

Letting that happy little fact translate into his smile growing to show a few more teeth, Ganondorf continued to talk to his now very attentive audience. “Here is what is going to happen:

“All of you who want to keep breathing for the foreseeable future are to gather all the essential supplies you can find, arm and armor all those who know how to wield said arms without hurting themselves due to sheer stupidity, and proceed to evacuate this town as swiftly as possible, heading towards Unicornia. Oh, and do send word to all settlements to do the same. Do you understand these instructions?”

“You can’t jus-”

A fine coating of dust and debris washed over the once again prone ponies as the dissenter found himself suddenly with nothing to say. Calmly removing his hoof from the now quite sizable crater that was now all that remained of the center of the room, Ganondorf gifted the senate with his best glare.

“Now listen, and listen well!” he quietly said as most of the ponies cowered underneath the gaze of his golden glare. “For reasons that quite frankly I can’t be bothered to ponder about, I do want your species to continue to exist for the moment. And as such you have the great honor of having my aid in ensuring your continued survival! And fortunately for you, your acceptance of such a situation is not necessary!”

“So you will follow our commands, do as Old Oak said, and do the sensible thing once in your pathetic existences and not try to prevent us from saving your lives! Or I will personally ensure that you shall do so! Kicking and screaming if it is what it takes!”

And as he laid down the law upon the idiotic senators, Old Oak, Forest Blossom and Sure Shot looked as if they didn’t know if they should be scandalized or fascinated by the whole process. Meanwhile, Zelda was gently shaking her head, her hoof still firmly pressed against her brow.

Though, as he continued to put some semblance of order to this pathetic excuse of a ruling body, Ganondorf couldn’t help but notice that there was a very faint upwards tugging at the corners of the Princess’ mouth, as if she was currently suppressing a smile.

XXIV - The Calm Before the Storm

View Online

The Calm Before the Storm

A biting cold wind was blowing, and as he walked past row after row of his brave warriors standing at the ready at the northernmost battlements of Pegasopolis, Colonel Winter Gale felt an even colder biting fury raging inside his chest.

As Winter Gale stopped atop the very edge of the cloud wall, his cold gaze piercing the swiftly approaching blizzard that was now taking over almost the entirety of the northern horizon with rage and loathing, the colonel found himself in the position of having to acknowledge a very unpalatable truth. That he had been wrong.

Winter Gale knew perfectly well the abilities of the accursed horn heads. He had spent countless hours studying their thrice accursed magic tricks, what their heaven’s forsaken war mages could and could not do. He knew it all by heart; their powers, their weaknesses and how best to thwart and defeat them. He had made a point of knowing it all, a fact that had reflected upon his long successful career and the many victories he and his troops had claimed against the ground pounders and their cursed spell casters.

As such, as he gazed at the massive blizzard coming towards his home, his teeth gritting against each other, cold fury coursing through his veins, he could say with absolute surety that this display was beyond the ground pounders’ capabilities. Not even if they had emptied Unicornia of all their war mages would the horn heads’ pathetic tricks be able to influence the weather to such an extent. Which, in turn, left only one option available. As galling as it was to be forced to admit it, he could, for the good of his troops, do nothing but accept it for what it was.

“Sir, all the troops have been deployed and are at the ready!” one of his adjutants firmly stated as she landed by his side and promptly saluted him.

“Good, the troops are to engage fully the moment the enemy enters the striking range of our weather teams,” he clearly stated with a small nod of his head, not allowing a single trace of his fury to enter his words. He was going to kill his brother after this mess had been dealt with!

“What information we have about these creatures indicates that they can multiply if given enough time, which, alongside the worsening cold and weather conditions means that a protracted battle is not to our advantage.” He would know, bombarding an enemy with ice and hail while allowing the cold to sap their strength was a strategy that he had used to the doom of several of the accursed horn heads in the past, to great effect. To have it now turned against him and his troops was an infuriating prospect. “We will overwhelm them on the initial push.”

“Sir, yes, sir!” the adjutant said before swiftly taking wing to relay the orders.

Banishing any thoughts about Wind Shriek and the stain his incompetence had brought upon their family, Winter Gale moved towards another part of the battlements under his control, making sure his troops were at the ready. No matter how these developments affected him personally, as a pegasus of the Armada he had a duty to fulfill, and he intended to do so to the best of his capabilities.

As a freezing gust of wind washed over the battlements, only his iron-like control over himself stopped the snarl he felt coming from surfacing upon his features. It wasn’t enough that his brother’s stupidity had most likely just destroyed any chance of him ever ascending to the rank of supreme commander of the Armada. It wasn’t enough that his own actions, fueled by the faulty information provided by that pathetic stain to the family, had allowed an enemy to get so close to Pegasopolis as to threaten the great fortress itself completely unopposed! No, not only that but said enemy dared to use the pegasi’s own sky given gift, the control of the weather itself, to strike against the Armada!

“Unacceptable!” he muttered through gritted teeth as he threw another baleful glare towards the swiftly approaching storm, the barely audible sound of his voice being immediately engulfed by the blowing winds.

There would be much to be done after this was over. The remaining creatures would have to be hunted down and exterminated for the safety of the pegasi to be ensured. New patrol protocols would have to be created in order to ensure that no enemy could ever reach the heart of the Armada undetected so easily again. Pressure would have to be applied towards the horn heads in order to prevent them from seeing this development as a sign of weakness from the Armada and get any funny ideas about taking advantage of it. There would be much to do.

That is, if he even had a rank in order to ensure such things were done after all was said and done.

Closing his eyes for a moment, he cursed his own foolishness. He had known Wind Shriek was a disappointment to the family. He had known for years that he lacked the will, skill, and grit of a true officer. His pathetic lack of ability to climb the ranks of the Armada proved it. And yet, due to the ties of blood they shared, he had accepted the fool’s words without a second thought and acted upon them. How pathetic.

He couldn’t help but berate his own foolishness. Sure, when the half-breed and the rogue had come with the truth about what had happened, their tale had been so absurd that it had been extremely easy to dismiss it as a tall tale. After all, who was he to believe? His own flesh and blood, or a half breed alongside an unknown rogue claiming to be a mythical storm caller?

Madness, nothing but pure madness! And yet…

Truly, he had no one to blame but himself. For who was the greater fool? The fool who couldn’t help but speak gibberish, or the one who should know better and yet blindly believed the fool’s words?

Opening his eyes with a snap, Winter Gale started towards where the command center for his troops was, the tallest spire of the northern battlements, his gaze even colder than the glacial winds buffeting his body.

As the air around him grew far colder than the biting winds of the incoming blizzard could account for, Winter Gale acknowledged that, by his own actions no less, his honor and the honor of his family had been tainted. Decades of spotless conduct had now been stained and defiled. And as he threw a final hateful glare towards the approaching threat to the Armada, he vowed to the Great Winds that said stain would be purged, no matter what. That he swore.

As he entered the command center and started to bark orders to his subordinates and receive reports to what the other three colonels were doing, his mind briefly went towards the half-breed and the storm caller. Fighting off the instinctual desire to sneer at the mere thought of the stain upon Wondrous Sky family line, he couldn’t help but admit that, for all his faults, the half-breed had done his duty. And that was far more than what his own flesh and blood had accomplished.

A half-breed that, despite currently following around after Shake Spear, was still a part of his command, for all intents and purposes. Receiving a report detailing how Spring Shower and Thunderstrike weather teams were now in position, a report that had to be delivered to Shake Spear in turn, Winter Gale decided that he may as well deliver it personally. After all, there was still something to be done in regards to Wonder Bolt.

Mind made up, he trotted out of the room, sure that his officers could keep things well in hoof as he dealt with this. And so he once again ventured into the cold biting winds, his demeanor as cold as the oncoming blizzard.

He sat on a cushion next to a large table filled with gems within a house that had been… requisitioned for his efforts. Not for the first time, or the second, or the third for that matter, these last few days. Limelight couldn’t help but wonder how exactly his life had been turned into a tale without his prior input or notice.

Grabbing one of the many gems the young earth pony filly had… procured, the thought of which he swiftly banished out of his mind for the sake of what remained of his sanity, he focused upon the spell matrix Lady Zelda had taught him and engraved it into the gem. And just like that, another cold protection amulet was ready to join the wood box resting by his side filled with many, many more of the magical amulets.

Paying little mind to the slightly wide-eyed earth pony that had just come to take the nearly full box, while leaving behind a new empty one, the silver-coated unicorn instead grabbed a new gem and focused. A moment later, and his magical aura was engraving the surprisingly cost-efficient spell matrix into the new gem.

Not that he had expected anything less than the best from a war mage. But even so, he couldn’t help but marvel that he had been able to enchant so many gemstones before keeling over due to magical exhaustion. Truly, the spell Lady Zelda had gifted him was wonderfully efficient!

“You are working hard, I see,” Sure Shot said in lieu of a greeting, surprising him and breaking his train of thought, making him drop the, thankfully completed, new amulet to the table. Though, considering that the sea-green earth pony was carrying a fresh loaf of warm bread and some cheese, both of which she promptly offered him when she got closer, Limelight decided that could be forgiven.

Enchanting was hungry work, after all.

“Many thanks, lady ranger,” he politely thanked the mare, following his old father’s very sensible advice of always being polite and courteous to anypony that was armed and could probably kick his flank.

“Drop the fancy talk, I am no lady,” Sure Shot snorted with a head shake.

Limelight on his part simply made a non-committal noise as he started to eat his very well deserved lunch. It had been at least three hours since Lady Zelda had requested his aid in this task. And, while the spell was truly wonderfully efficient and took but a smidgeon of his magic to function, he was still feeling sore and tired due to the exertion. So the break was more than welcome.

“And besides, I think we should be thanking you,” the ranger continued with a slightly unbelieving laugh, which was something that the silver-coated show-pony could understand. From his interactions with the Ranger so far, the mare was apparently also struggling with making sense of when exactly the world decided to go crazy. “A unicorn actually making and giving out magical trinkets to us earth ponies isn’t exactly something that happens every day, you know? Especially for free.”

His eyes briefly took in the empty room as he considered the mare’s words. Had there been any other ponies around, Limelight may well have hammered upon this apparent selfless act of altruism, all to help bolster his heroic persona and help keep morale high in these bleak days. But they were alone right now. And Sure Shot was shaping up to be one of the only sensible ponies around.

“This isn’t actually for free,” Limelight replied after another moment as he placed both hooves upon the table and leaned forward, deciding to trust his guts and simply tell the truth to the ranger. “In fact, you could even say that I’m being overpaid for my efforts. Massively at that!”

“What?” the sea-green earth pony questioned, head tilted to the side in clear confusion, not really getting what he meant. But, then again, she wasn’t a unicorn, and so Limelight supposed that she not getting the nuances of what was happening was only to be expected. Letting out a small chuckle, the silver-coated show-pony continued his explanation.

“Upon asking me to do this task, Lady Zelda gave me the spell matrix to the weather protection enchantments. The complete spell matrix!” he firmly stated, slowly shaking his head as the surreal awe of the enormity of the gift he had been bestowed hit him again.

“Yeah, so what? How is that any kind of payment?” the ranger queried once again. Her still present lack of comprehension got a tired sigh out of the unicorn, as he proceeded to teach the earth pony mare something that all unicorns were taught at foalhood.

“Spell Matrices are jealously guarded, my dear ranger. They are treasures to be hoarded in family grimoires,” he firmly stated as he looked her straight in the eye, the sea-green mare now attentively listening to his every word. “Treasures to be protected and preserved within one’s family line, and quite commonly, even within the family itself, access to such things is limited to the head of the family and their heirs.

“Normally, the only way a unicorn would get to lay eyes upon such things would be to join said family, or, on rare occasions, as a gift from a master to a particularly gifted student!” he finished with a serious nod, imparting what a huge deal it was that Lady Zelda had given him such a thing for his efforts! The old families protected their personal grimoires fiercely and relentlessly, after all!

Sure, after such a thing he was practically honor bound to follow the white-coated war mage orders no matter what. She had basically conscripted him as her personal apprentice and subordinate. But, considering how she could’ve simply ordered him to do that anyway, and easily kept back an essential part of the spell or two, leaving him to do the drudgery work while she added the finishing touches later and in doing so denying him the spell, he really had no complaints. To serve under such a powerful and skilled war mage was far more than most nobles could ever achieve. So, even if he was by no means thrilled by the danger that would surely follow, he still felt that he had no right to complain.

And besides, there was a horde of ice-wraiths swarming the countryside. As such, oddly enough, being right next to the frightfully powerful mare was probably safer than most places.

“I see,” the ranger slowly said, looking with new eyes at the new gem that Limelight was starting to enchant as he had finished his meal. “It’s kinda a big deal, isn’t it?”

“Very much, yes,” he confirmed with a nod, finishing with the amulet and grabbing a new gem from the pile.

For a few moments, they simply stood there in companionable silence. Limelight enchanting the gems while Sure Shot observed the process with curious eyes. Then, a melodic aristocratic voice made itself heard from the entrance to the room. The sound of which made Limelight fumble with the gem he was grabbing as he immediately rose up from his seat and stood at attention.

“I see you have greatly advanced with this task, Limelight,” Lady Zelda primly said as she took in the greatly diminished pile of gems while entering the room. She proceeded to give a small nod of greeting to both himself and Sure Shot. “You have my thanks for your aid.”

“It was my pleasure, milady,” he humbly said while giving the white-coated war mage a bow. “If you are wondering, I believe I can finish enchanting all the gems before the moon rises if I put my all into it.”

“Excellent, but try to not push yourself too much, there is no need to risk your health,” Zelda added with a small smile as she approached. “But that’s not why I have come here. Limelight, it is my understanding that you have been to Unicornia recently?”

“That is correct, milady. I have been to the capital but a few moons ago,” the show-pony promptly replied, wondering what the war mage was leading to.

“Good. In your opinion, how well will Unicornia’s rulers react to the earth ponies’ exodus?”

The question actually made Limelight flinch. He knew from personal experience how most nobles tended to act towards those they considered lesser than them. And he was a fellow unicorn! And such, he knew that the answer he was about to give probably wasn’t what she wanted to hear.

“If I could be perfectly honest, milady?” he slowly asked, knowing that lying to his new patron was probably a terrible idea in the long run, which was only strengthened by the fact she was a war mage, but feeling that it was better to verify first.

“Always,” was his lady’s prompt reply as she gave him a look that seemed to convey that that should’ve been a given.

Taking a deep breath, while trying to pay no mind to the very intent look Sure Shot was now giving him, he replied. “In a word, badly. Most of the nobility will not be happy with the need to allow earth ponies into the capital. Added to the fact that Princess Platinum is still fairly new to her role as our ruler, things are going to get complicated fast.

“There is a very real possibility that the earth ponies will be denied entrance until the rulers of both tribes come to an agreement on how to proceed, and that may take time,” he finished with a grimace, knowing far too well that time was quickly turning into a precious resource they had far too little of.

“Not unexpected, but still regrettable,” the unicorn mare said with a small sigh as she lightly massaged her brow with a hoof. Sure Shot’s response was far more energetic.

“That’s horseapples! So what, they will just leave hundreds of ponies out in the cold as the wraiths approach while they talk?!” the ranger fumed, angrily stomping at the ground. “We can’t let that happen!”

“Not all beings can be reasonable, especially when put under stress,” was Zelda’s calm reply, though a clear hint of distaste could be found in her words. “But nonetheless you are correct, such a situation is best not allowed to occur.”

“If I may be so bold, milady,” Limelight hesitatingly said, not sure if he was overstepping any boundaries or not, but knowing that it seemed it had been quite some time since his lady had been at the capital, and so was most likely out of touch with the current political situation. As she gave him a silent gesture to continue, with a deep breath he gave voice to his thoughts on the matter. “Considering that due to the passing of King Bullion and the rise of his daughter to the throne the political climate amidst the nobles is already tense, it is my belief that our best chance of success would be to undercut the nobility in its entirety, and bring the current crisis directly to the attention of your fellow war mages and the arch-mage himself.”

Feeling emboldened that Lady Zelda had yet to tell him to be quiet, and was instead clearly listening to him, he continued. “If the situation is brought directly to those who are truly responsible for the safety of our nation, those who have achieved their lofty posts by their skill and ability, rather than riches and heritage, it is my belief that they will be far more likely to heed your words and act instead of losing themselves to politics and its games.”

A moment of silence hung upon the room for a brief moment, as both mares looked at Limelight. The tension was broken as Zelda nodded her head once in apparent approval.

“I will keep that in mind, thank you for your words,” his lady graciously spoke, her eyes narrowed in thought as she left the room with a final goodbye to him and Sure Shot.

Ponies rushed one way and then another, carrying packets and crates, supplies and weapons, as the full evacuation of the Earth Villa proceeded at breakneck speed. Watching the organized chaos taking place, and remembering what had caused it, Forest couldn’t help but think that she really didn’t know how to feel about this new development.

On one hoof, things were well underway. The Senate was grudgingly following Old Oak’s plan with very good speed while under Ganondorf’s watchful gaze. Which was great, time was of the essence, after all! A notion that was only reinforced by the gathering storm in the northern horizon, and how it seemed to be keeping its advance south with ever-increasing speed. A repeat of the attacks that happened upon Fire Stone and her own village was the last thing she wanted to see happening to the Earth Villa.

But on the other hoof, the idea that somepony powerful enough could just show up and browbeat the Senate into doing what they wanted gave her a queasy feeling. It made a mockery of the representative system that their ancestors had so painstakingly created, and she could see so many ways that such usurpation of power could be abused that it wasn’t even funny!

In the end, it had been their luck that Ganondorf had been the one wielding such power. She shuddered to think what a more unsavory pony would do in such a situation while wielding such strength. At least her hero was trustworthy and she knew they didn’t have to fear him temporarily taking control in an emergency. But sadly the truth was that not all ponies were as great and upstanding as the large stallion, and as such it was probably best they keep this fault in mind so that they could fix it after the crisis was over.

And on the subject of said large stallion. Forest’s ears perked up as she heard her hero’s loud voice approaching her location. Turning around, she saw the brown-coated stallion being followed by a slightly bemused-looking Old Oak, and several openly fretting representatives of the Senate.

“This is an outrage! You cannot empty all the granaries and storerooms of all their foodstuffs!” a fat senator loudly complained, his outrage overcoming his common sense for a moment as he shouted at the very large earth pony in front of him.

“Can and will!” was Ganondorf’s gruff reply as he glowered at the now shrinking senator, his brief bout of bravery now nowhere to be seen. “I will not repeat myself again, you are to pack up all the supplies. All of them, do you understand? And that’s final!”

“But-“ another pony attempted to interject, only for Ganondorf to silence him with a sharp gesture of his hoof and another glower.

“But nothing!” he sharply replied, his thunderous voice echoing through the air and reaching every single pony in sight. Who, one and all, had stopped to see what was happening. The tale of what had happened in the Senate chambers had long since spread like wildfire throughout the population. “The dead have no need for supplies, and rest assured, all those who do not leave with us will be dead in short order! Pack everything, on the double! And tell those who are dragging their hooves to start moving before I decide to go and motivate them personally!”

The fact that Ganondorf chose to punctuate his statement with a hoof stomp strong enough to cause the ground to quake slightly was apparently more than enough to put an end to the argument. After gulping a couple of times, the senator swiftly nodded his head and muttered his understanding before rushing away to comply with the large stallion’s orders, an action that was swiftly followed by his fellows. All the while, the preparations all around them seemed to double in speed.

“I hate politics,” Ganondorf grumbled while glaring at the back of the departing senators’ heads.

“When you have lived as long as I’ve lived you come to find out that most sensible ponies share that sentiment,” the old stallion easily replied, silver mane fluttering against the wind. His tone of voice was every bit as bemused as his appearance. The elder gave Ganondorf an assessing look, before shaking his head lightly as if to clear his head. “At the very least things are progressing far more swiftly than I had dared to hope. If things continue at this pace we will be able to leave by tomorrow’s first light.”

“That is very good news,” Zelda replied to Old Oak’s words as she swiftly approached their group. The white-coated unicorn’s eyes narrowed despite the warmth of her words.

“Princess,” Ganondorf replied in greeting, using the strange title he insisted was appropriate to use for Zelda for some reason. Nodding in greeting to the mare herself, and getting her own greeting in return, Forest couldn’t help but wonder why that was the case.

“So, wanna bet that the pegasi are being every bit as obstinate?” Ganondorf grumbled in a half-joking tone of voice as he gestured with his head towards the departing senators.

“That’s a sucker’s bet and you know it,” was Zelda’s prompt reply as she let out an aggravated huff.

“Very true!” Ganondorf agreed with a loud barked laugh before his golden eyes narrowed and he gave Zelda a serious look. “But that will delay the Kid quite a bit, you know that right?

“He never had much of a head for the political game and how to play it,” he grumbled with a head shake, his crimson mane swaying wildly as he did so. “It will probably take some time before the winged-ponies chip down the green wonder’s patience enough to force his hoof and make him act.”

“A regrettable, but unfortunately accurate summarization,” the white-coated mare said with a sigh, as she briefly closed her eyes before opening them once again with a sharp snap, her fierce blue eyes staring at Ganondorf’s golden orbs with equal intensity. “As such, we must plan accordingly and act as if any aid from that direction will be delayed, which is why I have come here.”

“Oh?” the large stallion questioned, giving voice to Forest’s own curiosity.

“There are no longer any injured that would require my personal assistance. There is already a considerable stockpile of weather-protection gems ready, and I have instructed Limelight in how to produce more, a task he is diligently undertaking,” the mare explained, slightly nodding her head with each item she spoke as if she was reading them from a list. “Despite your… questionable methods you seem to have things well under control here. And considering the estimates given to us by Fierce Breeze’s scouts of how far the storm is from the Villa, I believe that there is little risk of an attack in the following day or two.”

“Just say what you want to say already,” Ganondorf grumbled with an eye-roll, causing Zelda to let out another aggravated huff. But nonetheless, the unicorn soon complied.

“I wished to warn you all that I’ll be heading towards Unicornia before the preparations here are ready,” she bluntly said, giving Ganondorf a serious look. “We cannot risk there being some kind of delay that could bar the earth ponies from entering the city, which could be a very likely reaction if the unicorns were to panic at the size of the exodus coming towards them without any warning.”

“And so you are going first to establish the pecking order?” Ganondorf asked with a large fanged grin, amusement clear in his voice.

“If it proves to be necessary, yes,” was the mare’s immediate reply, her shining blue eyes narrowed and focused, an aura of authority and purpose briefly flaring around the mare before disappearing so fast that Forest wondered if she had actually felt it.

Zelda’s blunt reply apparently catching him off guard, Ganondorf simply blinked in apparent surprise for a moment. Then a large fanged smile slowly surfaced upon his features, his eyes glinting in silent approval.

As the cold winds blew all around them, Forest had to admit, if not for the fact that she knew him so well, the deep booming laugh Ganondorf was now letting out would’ve been slightly intimidating.

“Good, that’s very good soldier, keep it up!” Colonel Shake Spear happily thanked the pegasus who had brought him the report about the state of readiness of his troops.

As he took in the full might of the western barracks fully armed and armored, waiting at the battlements and ready for the coming fight, Wonder Bolt could somewhat understand the colonel’s enthusiasm. Unfortunately for the azure-coated pegasus, the ever-growing biting wind and the sight of the massive blizzard that was now almost upon them, robbed him of said feelings. He remembered far too well what those two things heralded.

The fact that Link had disappeared from sight when he had taken his eyes off the green-coated pegasus for a single moment also wasn’t exactly helping his nerves. Though, like Colonel Shake Spear himself had said upon noticing the storm caller’s disappearance a few minutes after they had left the council room, with the way the female officers of the weather teams under Spring Shower’s lead had been looking at him, it was no wonder Link had decided that discretion was the better part of valor for the moment.

Closing his eyes, Bolt tried to calm his nerves and prepare himself for the fight that would soon come. He had already explained every single detail he and his flight mates had obtained about the wraiths to his fellow pegasus. Everypony was now aware that weather magic was the only way they could hit the accursed beasts, be it by infusing their weapons with it, or unleashing heaven’s wrath upon the beasts directly. The full might of the Armada was ready to rebuff their attack!

And yet, he couldn’t help but worry. The memories of the bitter cold and the haunting shrieks echoing inside his mind stoked his fear. Until a far more normal worry made itself known, bringing Bolt’s mind back to the present.

“Colonel Shake Spear, I see that your troops are at the ready,” Winter Gale said in a cold emotionless voice as he approached their group, the ice-blue colonel briefly passing his eyes over Bolt before focusing on his fellow colonel. “Colonel Thunderstrike’s teams have already assembled several thunderclouds and are ready to be deployed, likewise Colonel Spring Shower’s weather teams are also in position and ready to negate as much of our foes’ ability to influence the weather as possible.

“My own troops are also ready and waiting to be deployed at a moment’s notice. Once the creatures reach Pegasopolis, they shall be promptly met by the full fury of the Armada,” he continued in the same emotionless tone of voice, not showing any sign that the biting cold wind battering them all and making his bone-white mane sway around was bothering him in the slightest.

“That’s very good. We cannot allow these creatures time to entrench themselves! If their ability to increase their numbers is even half as effective as our reports say, that would be disastrous!” the cream-coated colonel firmly stated, a hoof resting upon his spear as he turned his steely gaze towards the storm that was quickly approaching. “Time will be of the essence in this coming fight!”

“My thoughts exactly,” Winter Gale simply agreed with a shallow nod, before his cold eyes moved towards Wonder Bolt, causing the azure-coated corporal to all but freeze in place.

A brief moment of silence descended upon the group, as Winter Gale stared at Wonder Bolt with hard, undecipherable eyes. Before, with the barest of nods, he spoke. “Colonel Shake Spear, am I to assume by his presence here that you have use of this pegasus?”

“You assume correctly, colonel,” Shake Spear replied in a faux nonchalant tone. Though, for all the levity that the flamboyant colonel had spoken, Bolt couldn’t help but notice that he was now holding his spear with a proper grip, as if ready to use it at a moment’s notice.

Winter Gale completely ignored Shake Spear’s actions as he gave Wonder Bolt a long assessing look, his cold hard eyes taking in the azure-coated pegasus’ entire form, from his battered and dented armor to his ready wing-blades already safely secured upon his wings, before he turned his gaze back towards his fellow colonel.

“Very well, then I am transferring Corporal Wonder Bolt from his position in the forty-second patrol squad under my command to your direct command, effective immediately,” he calmly intoned without a trace of emotion in his voice. Bolt, for his part, had to fight to stay at attention and not do a double-take, as Winter Gale in one single move confirmed the azure-coated pegasus’ field promotion and placed him safely under Shake Spear’s command. “May he serve you and the Armada well.”

Despite how his eyes widened slightly in surprise, Colonel Shake Spear gave his fellow colonel a single firm nod. His face still a mask carved out of ice, the ice-blue colonel simply turned to leave, not giving any of the pegasi around him so much as a glance.

A few steps after passing Wonder Bolt’s highly surprised and incredulous form, Winter Gale briefly stopped. And, while keeping his head pointing straight forward, simply spoke in a cold and collected tone of voice.

“Colonel Shake Spear seems to place a great deal of trust in your potential, Corporal. Do not betray that trust.” With those words, Winter Gale moved on, walking away without so much as a glance backwards.

Wonder Bolt simply stared at the retreating colonel, inwardly wondering if what he had just seen had indeed happened before Shake Spear broke him out of his surprised stupor.

“Well, that went much better than expected,” the cream-coated pegasus mused in a wondering tone of voice. “I sincerely half-expected him to try and impale you with an icicle or something like that for all the trouble this will cause him in the long run!”

“What?!” Bolt screeched, all but jumping in place, wide eyes snapping towards his new superior officer.

“I’m merely jesting, my boy! Merely jesting!” Shake Spear said with a laugh while dismissively waving a wing. Though the barely muttered ‘I think’ that he added afterwards wasn’t exactly comforting to Bolt’s peace of mind. “Don’t worry about it! Now, chin up, my boy, and enjoy the moment! That’s the closest I have ever seen that old piece of ice come to apologizing to anypony, after all!”

Before Wonder Bolt could react to that little bit of information, a loud shout from a returning group of scouts cut through the night air, a shouted warning of the immediate incoming of several ghostly equine creatures galloping upon the frozen winds, banishing all thoughts but what had to be done from the azure-coated pony’s mind.

“Now then lads, let’s go greet them, shall we?” Shake Spear simply stated, all traces of levity disappearing from his voice as he twirled his spear and gazed to the north with hard steely eyes. “After all, to leave our guests waiting would be terribly impolite!”

Mustering his resolve and courage as the pegasi all around him shouted their agreement to the colonel’s words, Bolt banished his worries and fears to the back of his mind and firmly nodded. Checking his wing blades and armor one last time, he followed Shake Spear and his troops as they took wing.

Even as the haunting shrieks of the wraiths rent the cold air, he did not falter. He had a duty to fulfill, and he would not fail.

XXV - Eye of the Storm

View Online

Eye of the Storm

The howling shrieks of the blizzard were filling the sky; ever growing gales battered the battlements of Pegasopolis, bringing ice and snow in their wake. The mourning cry of the frozen winds seemed to overpower all other sounds as the pegasi prepared to face the menace that sought to threaten their mighty stronghold. The haunting sound of the blizzard and the distant cries of the wraiths that were carried upon its winds resounded and echoed everywhere, filling the air as the sun slowly set with a mournful tune.

The haunting dirge could be heard everywhere upon the open skies. Everywhere but at the exact center atop Pegasopolis itself, that is.

The howling winds and haunting shrieks, the bitter cold and the swirling snow rushed forth towards the home of the pegasi as if a hungry beast seeking to pounce upon its prey, only for it to be repulsed by the unyielding roar of thunder.

As if another predator demarking its territory, the echoing boom of thunder and the crackling of lightning rebuffed the mourning cries of the blizzard as more and more storm clouds gathered atop the mighty fortress of the pegasi. As though a titan striking against metal, thunder resounded through the air; as though a beast roaring its defiance, lightning filled the horizon. All of it at a counterpoint to a song that seemed to embody the wild and free feeling of the very thunderclouds themselves, of the untamed winds that called the sky their home, proudly proclaiming its defiance to the coming blizzard and all that it entailed.

And yet, despite the roar of thunder and the flashes of lightning, despite countless storm clouds gathering in ever increasing numbers atop the home of the pegasi, each and every single one of them as black as a starless night forming the greatest thunderstorm any living pegasus had ever seen, not a single drop of rain was to be found.

Dozens upon dozens of colorful blurs could be seen flickering amidst the rainless storm clouds, as the weather teams under Colonel Spring Shower gathered and repositioned the dark clouds filled with thunder and lightning where they needed to be placed. But even as they efficiently manipulated nature’s wrath so that it could be unleashed upon the enemies of the Armada, the weather teams couldn’t help but sneak awed glances towards the green figure standing at the very center of the rainless thunderstorm.

As he deftly continued to play his flute, weaving his magic into the ever growing storm, Link paid little mind to his audience. The amazed glances and the muttered whispers meant next to nothing to him. Storm Caller, the pegasi called him, but in the end it was just one more title to add to the collection, unimportant in the face of far more relevant things.

Keeping the sound of thunder in harmony with the Song of Storms as he started the next stanza of the melody, the Wielder of Courage maintained his focus upon the careful weave of magic, intent, and will contained in the song he was playing. As more and more dark clouds crackling with lightning formed all around him, he had to admit that creating storm clouds with the song while preventing them from unleashing a downpour immediately afterwards was something that he had never done before, a somewhat rare occurrence when all was said and done.

It was an interesting challenge.

A few minutes later as he reached the song’s ending point, Link decided that the amount of storm clouds gathered was probably sufficient for what was to come. His assumption was reaffirmed by the fact that the pegasi were hurriedly carrying the clouds away as fast as they could, and yet the sky above Pegasopolis was still cluttered with the dark clouds. And so he removed the flute from his lips and allowed the song to slowly fade away into silence.

Or at least, as close to silence as the center of a massive collection of storm clouds could get.

Giving a quick look around and noting that Colonel Spring Shower seemed to be slowly approaching his position, the Wielder of Courage decided that the pegasi had things well under control here.

Giving a nod to Spring Shower as he flew away before she could reach him properly, Link started to move towards the northern perimeter while pretending to not notice the rather… intense look the female colonel was giving his green-coated form as he departed. Or the faint blushes and very appreciative looks quite a few female, and a scattering of male for that matter, weather ponies were giving him.

Such things were not exactly welcome. But he knew from personal experience that pretending to not notice anything was by far the best way to deal with such a situation. Oddly enough, trying to deal with such things directly had the very annoying tendency of escalating everything instead of solving anything, while pretending to be oblivious placed everything into a stalemate the other side rarely broke without prompting. He had no idea why it was so, but experience had taught him that was simply how it was.

Leaving behind his contribution towards the ‘ammo supply’ of the pegasi, Link wondered if there was anything else he could do to aid in the preparation for the fight before the wraiths were to reach them in the time they still had.

Though, judging by the growing frequency and volume of the beasts’ shrieks, he guessed that said remaining time wasn’t exactly plentiful right now.

Using one of his melodies to try and counter the fierce blowing winds seemed of little use, especially since the pegasi seemed to be already erecting some kind of wind current around the fortress to try and mitigate the worst of it. And summoning more storm clouds mid-battle was ill advised considering that it took some concentration in order to prevent rain from following, and soaking everypony with water while fighting in freezing weather while flicking around lightning sounded like a very unsound idea. The Sun Song was also out, for while it had proven itself effective against the wraiths last time, the length of time the song kept those bound by its magic immobilized was relatively short, which alongside the lack of someone to truly take advantage of the opening provided for a critical strike turned its new heavy cost in magic and stamina prohibitive and ill advised.

And that was not including how Old Oak had pulled him aside back on the village before his departure and had insistently explained how Link was to show his ability to control the Sun with song to nopony, unless he wanted to cause a civil war to immediately explode between the pegasi and the unicorns, that is.

The elder had seemed like the well grounded and well read sort, and so Link was inclined to believe him for the moment.

After another moment of thought, Link decided that he had done as much as he could in regards to the battle preparations. And now all that remained was to aid the fight directly.

Something that apparently would take place in the immediate future, if he were to judge by how all the pegasi seemed to be mobilizing while the shrieks of the wraiths and the blowing winds of the blizzard grew in intensity.

Narrowing his eyes, Link drew his blade as he flew to join the front lines, the light of the setting sun playing around the sword’s edge as he focused on the task at hoof.

In other circumstances, Colonel Winter Gale knew he would be outright salivating at the show of skill the Storm Caller had so casually displayed by summoning so many storm clouds out of thin air with no apparent effort.

He knew that Thunderstrike and Spring Shower were masters of their craft, trained officers of the Armada that knew their crafts inside and out. And yet, he knew that neither of them, even with the aid of all weather ponies under their command, would have been able to gather even half the clouds that the Storm Caller had.

What he could do with such an ability! The heights the Armada could reach! The cursed horn heads wouldn’t even be able to muster a shadow of a defense as heaven’s wrath itself fell upon them!

Alas, far greater things than mere daydreams demanded his attention, as he dismissed such idle thoughts away while he kept formation as he flew amidst his soldiers upon the northern skies over Pegasopolis.

The biting winds of the blizzard were battering his troops as they stood outside the bubble of calm protective winds Spring Shower and her ponies had created near the battlements. Yet neither he nor his troops showed any sign of discomfort, the freezing winds meaning next to nothing to him as he kept his hard eyes focused upon the heavy snow clouds attempting to crash down upon the proud home of the pegasi.

“Draw weapons,” he commanded as he saw the flickering forms of this new enemy start to appear amidst the swirling ice and snow.

The sound of steel being drawn resounded as his brothers and sisters promptly followed his command. The next moment he felt as they wrapped their weapons in weather magic without need of his verbal command, the feeling of so many pegasi doing so at once making it so one could almost taste the sharp tang of the magic upon the wind.

Now his brethren would be able to strike down the loathsome beasts. An extremely valuable bit of intel, even if the knowledge of whom they owed for it made him have to fight to not allow a scowl to surface upon his features. It was a pity that his bloodline had been tainted, for it was clear that despite said disadvantage Wonder Bolt’s skill and dedication were commendable. Clearly Wondrous Sky had done something right raising him in order to manage to overcome such a massive hurdle. Something he most assuredly could not say the same in regards to his own flesh and blood.

Looking at the shivering waste of space hovering but a few hoofs away from him, Winter Gale felt his mask nearly break due to the growing desire to snarl.

It was clear by the fretful movement of his eyes and how tightly he was holding his sword while outright shivering that Wind Shriek was not appreciative of the efforts Winter Gale had personally taken to volunteer the lieutenant for the frontlines. Another disappointment to add to the long list of disappointments the scourge to their family line had caused.

Anger and fury coursing through his blood, Winter Gale took a deep breath in order to control his temper. He had to keep his mind cold and controlled for the fight to come. The disappointment would atone for his sins, or perish in the attempt; he would make sure of it.

“Hold!” he commanded as the creatures started to rush towards the pegasi lines, the order being repeated by his officers as his brothers and sisters prepared themselves to deal with these pathetic interlopers that dared to challenge the true rulers of the skies!

No matter how much he desired to simply charge forth and expunge the taint to his family honor by defending their home with all that he had, tactically speaking the honor of first blood would befall Thunderstrike and his troops. And so he waited as the shrieking beasts drew closer and closer.

“Hold!” he repeated, sword held at the ready and wings tensed, ready to move at a moment’s notice. But still he remained calm and collected; waiting as the freezing winds buffeted his troops and the wraiths drew even closer. He could feel the tension growing within his brethren as the shrieking beasts rushed ever closer, but just as it neared its breaking point, Thunderstrike acted.

Light and sound consumed the skies for a brief moment, as hundreds upon hundreds of thunderclouds were unleashed simultaneously. A barrage of lightning surged forth, right through the holes his formation left there for that explicit purpose, and raining down upon the charging wraiths.

The creatures’ howls and shrieks swiftly turned to howls of pain as lightning coursed through their see-through forms before they dispersed into nothing amidst the frozen winds. Before the beasts could react, a second salvo was fired, the roar of thunder and the blinding flashes of lightning once more filling the skies and breaking the creatures’ ranks even further.

“Charge!” Winter Gale snarled, wings beating fiercely as he dove straight towards the creatures, his brethren shouting alongside him as they followed, blades drawn and ready to make the foolish beasts pay!

He cut clean through the neck of one of the apparitions before turning towards another with a snarl on his lips. As more and more of the beasts fell to his blade, as his fellows charged unflinchingly with him into the maws of the blizzard, as thunder and lightning resounded all around him, Winter Gale focused all his anger and fury regarding the events of the last few days into the task at hoof. The Armada would endure! No matter what!

The biting cold winds battered his body as he dodged and weaved between hail and ice, as he spun and charged, his wing-blades bit deep into the wraiths that surged before him. But Wonder Bolt could feel a sinking feeling start to form at the pit of his stomach.

As he dove in order to dodge a screeching wraith, which was promptly taken by one of Colonel Shake Spear’s officers, only to moments later pass it forward by doing the same to another soldier, Wonder Bolt couldn’t help the feeling of dread that was starting to permeate his being as a feeling of déjà-vu fell upon him.

Even if, by all accounts, the initial strike had been wildly successful, taking out hundreds of the beasts in mere moments as the forces of the Armada bit deep into the enemy forces. Even as the sound of thunder and the flashes of lightning never seemed to stop for more than a heartbeat as Thunderstrike and Spring Shower’s forces kept raining the fury of the heavens upon the beasts. Even as Link became little more than a green blur upon the sky, leaving a swath of dispelling wraiths in his wake. Even with all of it, one fact remained.

They just kept coming.

No matter how many they took down, no matter how many fell before pegasus blades or were struck down by lightning, there were always more to take the place of the ones that had just been destroyed.

Time was not their ally. This was something Bolt understood better than almost anypony else in this mad melee. They simply could not allow this to turn into a battle of attrition. And yet, as the cold winds howled all around him and he battled the endless hordes of the specters alongside his brothers and sisters, this was exactly what the battle was slowly turning into as the overwhelming push of the initial assault ground to a halt under the apparently endless numbers of wraiths.

Dodging a hail of razor sharp ice shards, Bolt felt the frown currently upon his features grow even heavier even as his attacker was taken down by the swirling blur that was Colonel Shake Spear’s namesake weapon. The cream-coated colonel twirled his blade in such a way that it looked like nothing but a silver whirling blur, a silver blur that shredded any wraith stupid enough to approach the colonel.

And yet, it simply was not enough. None of it was.

They had taken down thousands of the beasts by this point. The constant lightning barrage alongside the fierce onslaught being offered by Winter Gale and Shake Spear’s forces meant that even when one of the beasts split into two it wasn’t long before the new one was taken down too. And yet their numbers seemed limitless. For the moment the Armada was holding firm, surging forth against the damned creatures in a display of power few would be able to match, a show of martial power that even the vaunted war mages of Unicornia would find daunting to face. And yet, it was simply not enough. As things stood it was but a matter of time before the biting cold winds and the exhaustion of combat would start to take its toll. And then…

For a moment a hint of despair tried to nestle upon his heart, only for Bolt to shake it away, a snarl of anger on his lips as he stuck down two more of the beasts.

They could not falter! Would not falter! Far too much was at stake for any other option to be acceptable!

And so he struck and spun, dodged and parried. Aiding and being aided by his fellow pegasi in kind as he flew through the chaotic battlefield, doing his level best to ignore the freezing winds as he attacked any and all wraiths in sight.

But even as he did so, he inwardly knew that they had to take a different approach. Raw military might was clearly not the answer! They had to find a way to deny their enemy in its seemingly limitless numbers!

Hard eyes searched the battlefield with fervor even as he kept fighting. Even as he dodged and spun, struck and parried, he searched for something, anything, which could be of use to turn the tide before it could swell enough to engulf and drown the whole of the Armada!

As the cold of the blizzard seeped into his bones, as he slowly drifted away from his initial position closer to the battlements of the cloud fortress and the protective winds that forestalled the worst of the ice storm there, as he downed enemy after enemy, he finally found something.

It was small, so small that if he hadn’t been so desperately searching he probably wouldn’t have even noticed. So small, that even after finding it, it had taken him several moments longer to make sure he wasn’t just imagining things and that what he felt was actually real.

Of course, that moment of inattention almost cost him his head, as a beast attempted to strike him down with ice and frost for it. Only the armor he wore saved him as it deflected the worst of the blow from a frozen spear.

Openly cursing, he took down the attacker while berating himself for the lapse in judgment, the throbbing upon the muscles of his left wing a stark reminder that a single mistake was all that it took to down even the mightiest of warriors. Falling back slightly, he allowed two other pegasi to cover him as he attempted to refocus upon what he had found.

It was a subtle thread amidst all the raging weather magic of the blizzard. No, not a thread, but countless ones! Each as thin as a spider web fluttering upon the breeze! Apparently connecting everything upon the battlefield, carrying within them something back to the blizzard! He had no idea what was being carried, but he knew that if the enemy wanted it, then they should deny them!

Narrowing his gaze, he turned his steely eyes towards where he thought the threads connected. Attempting to see past the blowing hail and swirling snow, the snarling pegasi and the shrieking beasts, he saw it. Deep within enemy lines, a part of the storm that seemed deeper than any other! A place where the winds seemed to blow fiercer than anywhere else! And where, even as he stared, he could see more of the beasts appearing as if by magic!

“Found it!” he shouted, wings tense and heart hammering against his chest, his eyes never straying from the heart of the raging blizzard even as he fought a new onslaught of wraiths.

“What have you found?” a snarling voice demanded from his right flank as a pale blue blade hammered against a shrieking wraith, before a deluge of frozen shards rained down upon two more. The ice-based weather magic did little against the beasts, but the continuous rain of blows kept them at bay long enough for two more pegasi to rush forth and strike them down.

“Colonel Winter Gale?!” Wonder Bolt exclaimed in alarm as his eyes saw the pony that had spoken. The ice-blue colonel’s snarling visage simply glared at him, a visage that was not helped in the slightest by how his armor seemed to be covered by a second armor made of jagged ice spikes.

A quick look around and Bolt realized he was surrounded by Winter Gale’s personal troops as they stood at the very northernmost part of the battlefield. Bolt hadn’t even realized how detached he had truly gotten form the rest of Shake Spear’s troops as he searched! And suddenly finding himself right in front of the snarling visage of Winter Gale and his personal troops was also not exactly a pleasant thing.

“Corporal, report!” Winter Gale demanded, his eyes showing he had no patience for any further delay.

“Sir, the enemy is gathering a significant amount of some kind of magic towards the northeast of our current position!” he promptly replied, years of training and survival instincts bypassing his panic and hesitation. “The area in question has an unusual amount of the wraiths constantly leaving it, but none entering! I believe it may be the heart of the blizzard, sir!”

As Winter Gale turned his hard pale eyes towards where Bolt was pointing, muttered curses and imprecations carried over the small group of pegasi that were close enough to hear his words. Curses and imprecations that grew louder as they realized that Bolt was right.

“That cannot be allowed to stand,” Winter Gale fiercely stated, unblinking eyes staring at his new target even as he unleashed a new barrage of ice to counter that attack of another wraith that was then overtaken by two more of his pegasi. “How many of your number have training in how to dismantle wild storms?”

“I do, sir!” Bolt promptly replied, only, with a sinking feeling to realize his voice had been the only one to answer.

“Truly?” the Colonel questioned, briefly averting his eyes from the storm to gaze into Bolt’s eyes. Gulping down his nerves Bolt held his own, staring right back.

“Sir, my mother, Wondrous Sky fully trained me in all the intricacies of weather magic!” he continued, refusing to back down. “Up to and including how to deal with rogue storms, sir!”

Winter Gale briefly assessed Bolt’s form, before with a barely perceptible nod he continued. “Can you dismantle that storm?”

“It would take a concentrated explosion of raw weather magic unleashed at point blank right at the heart of the storm to dismatl-“ the Corporal started to explain, only for Winter Gale to cut him off with a brusque sharp movement of the hoof holding his sword.

“That was not my question, Corporal!” the Colonel bitingly stated, hard eyes glowering at the Corporal before him as the sounds of the battle and the storm raged all around them before repeating himself. “I asked: Can you do it?”

“Yes,” he replied after a moment of hesitation as he pushed down his doubts away and re-focused on the task at hoof, before swiftly adding. “But I will need an open path. It will take my whole focus to do it, I’ll be unable to do anything else!”

“So be it. A path will be cleared. To me, brothers and sisters!” Winter Gale commanded, turning his back to an openly gaping Wonder Bolt as he shouted for the troops in their vicinity. As the colonel ordered his troops, Wonder Bolt wondered if he was perhaps dreaming, or hallucinating. Because there was simply no way that Winter Gale was using Bolt of all ponies as a pivotal part of an attack plan!

“Corporal, I do not have to tell you what this would mean for the battle,” Winter Gale frostily said, his eyes filled with such burning fury that Bolt abandoned all musings and idle thoughts, focusing solely at the task at hoof. “Do not fail.”

With those final words, Winter Gale charged into the storm, several dozen pegasi following him with war cries upon their lips. And so, amidst the swirling snow and raging winds, Wonder Bolt left all doubt aside and charged after with a war cry of his own.

Wings beating against the raging storm, Bolt abandoned all thought of offense and defense, focusing solely on the task at hoof and the heart of the storm in the distance. He knew that Winter was right. For if the heart was as they both suspected the focal point where the wraiths were gathering the energy to multiply, then destroying it would severely cripple their ability to do so.

Hard eyes narrowing even further, he kept beating his wings as he concentrated, gathering as much raw weather magic as he could before his front hooves. He paid no mind to the wraiths screeching all around him, as each of the beasts was either tackled by armored pegasi or struck down by bolts of lightning. He focused the weather magic further and further, all the while his wings beat harder and harder, pushing him through the stormy winds in a swift and straight path towards the very heart of the storm. He was an arrow aimed straight towards the heart of the enemy that dared to threaten his brethren.

Focusing like he had never done before, Bolt kept condensing the unstable weather magic gathering in front of him. His wings kept beating harder and harder as he flew faster than he had ever flown before, and then faster still. All while more and more weather magic gathered before him until he felt as if he was about to burst. And then he pushed even further still.

Hail and ice battered his form, but he paid no mind to the wraiths attempting to attack him, trusting his well being fully upon his brothers and sisters, and he flew faster still, the weather magic upon his hooves condensing to such a point that it seemed as if he was holding a pulsating ball of light within them.

A wraith surged towards him, blocking his path as spears of ice and frost formed around it, pointed straight towards the azure-coated pony. And yet he did not falter, his strong wings pushing ever onwards straight towards the creature that was seeking to end him with ice and frost, the mere thought of abandoning the attack run not even crossing his mind.

The beast shrieked as it unleashed its frozen barrage, only for it to strike the snarling form of Winter Gale, the frozen spears hammering the Colonel’s already ice-covered body, denting and cracking his ice armor before the ice-blue pegasi tackled the wraith and struck it with ice and hail of his own, pushing it away from the charging corporal’s path.

His path once again clear and target in sight, Bolt kept going, wings beating as hard as they could as the frozen winds futilely attempted to hamper his path.

As he dove towards the heart of the blizzard, towards the apparent endless hordes of frost wraiths that seemed to spring from its dark depths, he felt as if he suddenly hit a barrier. An invisible wall that seemed to want to dictate to him: this far, and no further.

Gritting his teeth and ignoring the complaints of his aching muscles, the splitting migraine hammering his head, or the burning feeling of keeping so much raw weather magic contained, he forced his wings to beat even faster. He completely ignored the wall attempting to block his way as he pushed his body harder than he had ever done before. Harder than he had ever thought possible.

He couldn’t care less about whatever it was that was attempting to bar his path! All that mattered was that it was attempting to stop his advance! To stop his mission! To stop him from helping his brethren! And if there was one thing that he had recently learned thanks to Link, it was that if a wall blocked your path and there was no way around, you just made a way through!

Screaming in defiance as the weather magic gathered right in front of him started to release bolts of energy every which way, nearing closer and closer to a catastrophic collapse with every moment that passed despite his best efforts to keep it whole, he flew harder still. The wraiths’ storm had to be destroyed, and by the sky above and the earth below, he refused to fail this task!

The very next moment, with a deafening booming sound the wall impeding his path shattered as though it had never been there as his body was enveloped in thunder and light.

Flying far faster than he had ever dared to imagine, Bolt didn’t waste a single moment wondering what the buck had just happened. Aiming straight towards the deepest part of the storm he could identify he kept going, darting past dozens of the wraiths far too swiftly for them to react to his approach.

Not even noticing the trail of light being left behind in his wake, mind completely focused on the task at hoof, he flew onwards. The beasts were unable to react to him in time due to his insane speed as he forged on and unleashed his payload right on the middle of the blizzard’s heart, where it promptly detonated with the fury of an untamed lightning storm.

The shockwave of thunder and light hurled him through the air, tumbling out of control due to its sheer power even as he attempted to use his insane speed to try and avoid the worst of the explosion.

But even as his whole body ached, even as his wings stopped listening to his commands and he started to fall from the sky. Even as darkness started to fill his vision, Bolt felt a small fierce smile appear on his muzzle. For even as darkness overtook him, he could still glimpse the massive hole devoid of all clouds where the heart of the storm once had been, a hole where no wraiths remained.

As he fell towards the ground far below he heard a roar of challenge echo through the skies as the sound of thunder redoubled its intensity. As he felt a pair of strong hooves grab him and arrest his fall, as his body lost its fight against the sweet embrace of unconsciousness, he only hoped that he had done enough.

Interlude - Duty

View Online

Interlude – Duty

As the cold biting winds battered the northern battlement of Pegasopolis. Colonel Winter Gale walked past scores of his troops, all of them exhausted, bloodied and battered, but still standing strong. And as he ignored the protests of his aching muscles, the myriad of bruises under his armor, and the small cuts where said armor had not been present, he couldn’t help but think that it could have been worse, much worse.

No. He inwardly corrected as he gritted his teeth, a wave of fury coursing through his veins. It should have been worse.

That last, very unwanted thought had been haunting Winter Gale since the battle had ended. And yet, for all the fury the thought brought forth, for all the ice-cold shame it summoned, he did not even attempt to banish it away.

Waving away a medic trying to fuss about his minor wounds and ordering him to go tend to those who truly needed it, the ice-blue pegasus continued his march towards where he could see the three other colonels’ troops were gathered. No matter how unwanted the reality was, he would not shy away from it.

To deny reality was a surefire way to get one’s troops killed while gaining nothing for the Armada, and Winter Gale refused to become such a pony. As such, he fully embraced the fact that, had his plan come to fruition, had he succeeded in detaining the Storm Caller and Wonder Bolt when he had believed them to be nothing but fools at best and swindlers at worst, the toll the wraiths would have cost the Armada would’ve been far higher.

Perhaps even too high. The stray thought passed through his mind, and the sound of his teeth gritting against each other strong enough to almost crack was only just drowned out by the cacophony of troops hurrying every which way to tend to the injured and assess the damage of the battle.

He did not doubt for even a moment that the Armada would emerge victorious in the end, that his brothers and sisters would overcome the challenge presented to them with grit and discipline, or that they would triumph against all odds.

However, he also knew that many would’ve fallen before that point could have been reached. Far too many.


As he approached where he could see his fellow Colonels standing alongside the Storm Caller, that single thought reverberated inside of his mind, the cost that had almost befallen the Armada. How many of its brave soldiers could have fallen. And what that would’ve meant to the might of the pegasi in the long run.

Completely unacceptable!

“Colonel Winter Gale! Good, you are here. I have just finished reporting that while exhausted and sporting more than a few bruises, my troops suffered very few casualties. Colonel Spring Shower and Thunderstrike’s troops fared better, and save depleted magical reserves and tiredness they are ship-shape,” Shake Spear reported the moment Winter Gale approached what appeared to be an impromptu reunion of the standing officers of the Armada. “How fared your troops?”

“My troops are being treated for their injuries as we speak. Despite the wraiths’ elemental resistance to ice, my troops managed to persevere within acceptable levels of casualties. Most will be back in fighting shape after some rest and proper care,” the ice-blue colonel succinctly replied, not a hint of emotion appearing upon his features. “Far more importantly, thanks to Corporal Wonder Bolt’s efforts, we now know that the beasts’ storms possess a core of sorts, where they seem to gather some kind of magical energy to greatly increase their replication speed.”

“Valuable intelligence, very valuable indeed.” Shake Spear commented as he stroked his chin with a hoof. A moment of silence followed as they all absorbed this new piece of information, before Thunderstrike broke the silence.

“Speaking of the Corporal, what by the great winds was that stunt he pulled?” the ebony-coated colonel gruffly asked, though even that was not enough to hide his clear bewilderment. “The shockwave of light and sound caused by whatever he did washed over almost the entire battlefield!”

“A concentrated explosion of weather magic delivered to the center of the storm at supersonic speeds,” Winter Gale simply stated, icy mask in full force as he spoke without a trace of emotion. “Which was pivotal to the disruption to the heart of the storm.”

“Supersonic?” Thunderstrike incredulously asked, looking at Winter Gale as if he wasn’t sure the other colonel was being serious. “Impossible, no pony has ever breached the sound barrier!”

“Until this day.” Shake Spear added his two cents, a small smile briefly playing around his lips before being hidden away behind his serious steely expression. “And how is young Bolt faring?”

“Unconscious, suffering from serious magical and physical exhaustion, and sporting several cracked bones and torn muscles. He was left with your troops’ healers, Spear. And the medics’ primary reports indicate, while it will take time, the Corporal should make a full recovery,” Winter Gale promptly replied in the same gruff emotionless tone of voice, acting as if he were reporting about simply another pegasus. “Far more importantly, we now know a major weakness to the wraiths’ attack method and how to counter it. If played right, a high precision strike deep into the blizzard may be able to neutralize the beasts, despite their replication speed.”

“Considering the speed with which they replenished their numbers during the battle, and the size of the approaching blizzard, such a strike would demand a near full commitment of our troops," Shake Spear promptly replied, his steely eyes looking intently to the mass of dark clouds in the not-so-far horizon, a mass of dark clouds that utterly dwarfed the blizzard they had faced but hours ago.

“It was faster,” the Storm Caller interjected, his quiet voice cutting through the background noise of the soldiers as if a razor-sharp knife through butter.

“I beg your pardon?” Shake Spear asked, voicing the confusion of all four colonels.

“The storm to the north. The speed with which the wraiths multiplied there was far faster than what was apparent here,” the green-coated warrior stated with all the seriousness of a drawn blade.

“Are you certain of that?” Winter Gale demanded, only to feel as if a rock had been dropped into his stomach as the Storm Caller seriously nodded and replied.

“Yes, the wraiths to the north multiplied far faster. At least by a factor of five, if I was forced to hazard a guess.”

“Troubling news. Very troubling news indeed.” Shake Spear murmured as curses sprung amidst the other colonels as they glared towards the storm to the north.

“The storm is far larger. Perhaps it possesses a larger core? Or even more than one core, for that matter?” Spring Shower proposed, the weather expert of the four colonels trying to figure out the mechanics of their enemy’s ability.

“Until we have proof to the contrary, we should act as if both possibilities are true. Anything less is folly,” Shake Spear seriously stated with a firm nod, hard eyes staring at his fellow colonels as the cold winds of the approaching storm battered the battlements. “And as such, the forces necessary for a successful strike would leave Pegasopolis, and the younglings within it, woefully under defended. Prohibitively so.”

A moment of grim silence befell the group for a brief moment as they all considered how best to proceed. How to deal with the coming attack. The approaching blizzard that would reach them in a matter of days at best, hours at worst, and the unending horde it would bring with it. With another solemn nod, Shake Spear turned towards the Storm Caller.

“The protection and well-being of the younglings is paramount! Link, my dear, how strong a Wind can you summon and how long can you keep it going?”

If the green-coated pony found the abrupt change of topic of the question strange, he did not show it, as he calmly replied. “I can summon a typhoon. And I can maintain it for as long as I remain awake. However, I would have to fully concentrate on doing so and would be unable to do anything else while maintaining it.”

As Thunderstrike and Spring Shower gaped at the answer, and even Winter Gale himself raised his eyebrows in surprise at the ludicrous response, Shake Spear simply nodded his head in acceptance of the answer and forged onwards.

“Separate the innermost and most easily defensible segment of Pegasopolis from the barracks and outer battlements. After placing the younglings there, with Spring Shower and her weather teams to keep the structure’s integrity and harness the winds generated by the Storm Caller you should be able to achieve a very respectable speed while keeping our people safe. Especially if Thunderstrike and his troops garrison the battlements and keep a perimeter in order to snipe down any scouting elements that may attempt to attack. Doing so, you should be able to rendezvous with Commander Hurricane and his troops at Unicornia in good time.”

“That could work,” the white-coated female colonel answered, looking at the innermost sections of Pegasopolis’ cloud structures with an appraising eye.

“Not fast enough,” Thunderstrike interjected with a firm head shake. “With how fast those things advanced south, there is a strong chance they may be able to keep up long enough for them to attack again before we reach Unicornia. And this time all our weather teams and the Storm Caller would be tied up, exhausted, and unable to give battle properly. To repel a concentrated assault under such circumstances is not something I think is feasible, not against the numbers these beasts can deploy.”

“Only if they were to be allowed to follow you unmolested,” Shake Spear grimly replied, eyes narrowed as his wings slowly caressed his ornate spear. “Something that I have no intention of allowing them to do.

“My troops and I shall stand behind here at Pegasopolis and blockade their advance for as long as we are able before starting a fighting retreat when you have enough of a head-start,” Shake Spear simply stated, as if what he was proposing were but an ordinary patrol. “This should give you all the time that you need to get our people to safety and join the remainder of our forces with Commander Hurricane and his troops. With the forces of the other two tribes at Unicornia, you can mount a proper defense and plan a counter offensive.”

“Doing so is certain death, Spear.” Spring Shower grimly stated, a frown on her regal features as she stared at Shake Spear’s steely determined visage.

“All death is certain, my dear,” The cream-coated colonel replied with a fanged grin. “If mine is the price that must be paid to safeguard the future of our young, then so be it.”

As the light of the moon found its way past the clouds up above, bathing all the pegasi with its silver glow. Winter Gale looked at his fiercest opponent in the armada, he saw not only the pony that had often blocked his political ambitions due to his silly soft spot for the ground-pounders, but also one of the best strategists and battle commanders in the Armada. A pony that had led their brethren to victory in countless battles. He saw the sheer conviction this warrior of the Armada had whilst calmly assigning himself to what amounted to a suicide mission, Winter Gale found a single word resonating in his mind.


“No,” Winter Gale firmly stated. The single word carried within it all the warmth of a glacier as the ice-blue colonel took a step forward towards Shake Spear, ice meeting steel as their gazes locked with each other. “This is not where you shall meet your end, Spear.”

“Winter Gale, this is the only way to-” Shake Spear started to say, only for Winter Gale to cut him with a sharp swing of his hoof as he took another step closer to the cream-coated colonel.

“Oh, do not misunderstand me; I agree that your plan is most likely our best shot in ensuring our people’s survival. The young ones must be evacuated to safety. They must survive no matter the cost! And a Colonel and his troops must block the beasts’ path so that this can be achieved,” the ice-blue colonel firmly stated as he stopped inches away from Shake Spear’s form, their eyes never straying from each other as the freezing winds battered their bodies. “But that does not mean I shall allow one of our best tacticians and war leaders to be lost so easily, not when the Armada shall undoubtedly have need of your skills in the immediate future!”

“Winter-” Shake Spear attempted to speak, only for Winter Gale to force him silent as he kept talking, fury and determination shining within his ice blue eyes.

“Spring Shower is vital to the success of the plan, and it’s already proven that the beasts are susceptible to lightning; as such Thunderstrike and his troops will be invaluable to the war effort as well.

“That leaves a master tactician, or a weather master specialized upon ice and snow to take this task. And against beasts made of ice and snow who seem to be highly resilient to said elements, it’s obvious which will be a lesser loss to the Armada and the coming conflict,” he frostily stated, silently daring his fellow colonel to contradict his words. To contradict the simple truth now laid bare before them.

It was the calculus of war. A Colonel for the future of the Armada, to allow the young ones to grow and step forward to replace the old and the fallen. A more than fair trade. And of the four Colonels, it was a simple decision who was the most expendable for the coming conflict.

Inching even closer to his fiercest opponent, their muzzles were almost touching, Winter Gale continued to speak, knowing what it would mean for him and yet not hesitating in the slightest.

“As you said it before, Spear, I may never have liked you, but that does not mean I do not respect you, Colonel. The Armada must endure!”

The last few words held all his conviction. The years of service and sacrifice. The battles fought and victories won. All of it condensed into the single utmost priority all pegasi should hold above all others. And to his satisfaction, he saw Shake Spear firmly nod his head.

“It will. You have my word,” Shake Spear firmly declared, his eyes as hard as the purest steel as the pale moonlight bathed them all.

“May clear skies grace your flight,” he simply stated, his voice once more void of emotion and his face an icy mask as he turned around and immediately started back towards where his troops were resting.

“And may the great winds fill your wings,” Shake Spear promptly replied, his voice solemn as Winter Gale passed by Spring Shower, Thunderstrike and the Storm Caller without breaking stride, confident that this was the way things had to be.

For all their softness, he knew that Shake Spear, Hurricane, and his fellow colonels would do their utmost to ensure the Armada would survive the coming storm. They would do their duty, or die trying.

And so would he.

A void as black as a new moon’s night without stars. If forced to try and explain the dream realm to those who had never laid eyes upon it, that would be a good start. A pitch-black void, filled with countless shining stars. Countless stars of all shapes, sizes and colors, which, for all their brightness still did nothing to light up the black void. Each and every single one of them was the dream of a different being.

As she flew amidst the void of the dream realm, Luna pondered, not for the first time, how odd this realm truly was. And she knew it wouldn’t be the last time as well.

From long experience, she knew that she wasn’t actually flying. That her wings were beating up and down out of sheer habit, and that instead it was her belief that such actions should propel her forward through the air that caused her movement.

For in the realm of dreams, the rules of reality were forsaken for intent and desire.

As she flew past several stars, calmly assessing their colors and brightness, nodding, seeing nothing that needed her immediate interference, she mused how even her form was something that was born of belief and desire. And she wondered, not for the first time, what would happen should she change it.

The desire of being taller than her older sister for once playfully flitted through her mind for a brief moment before she banished it with a smile.

But no, she remembered far too well old Star Swirl’s musing and warnings of the dangers that changing one’s form could bring, especially in a realm governed by belief.

And so she flew onwards amidst the dreams of countless others, carrying on her self-imposed duty of safeguarding this strange yet marvelous realm, alone save for her musings and thoughts.

The midnight blue pony knew that her sister did not truly understand why she insisted on doing so. Especially after they had left the lands of the Three Tribes behind. Why she insisted night after night on scouring the dream realm for threats in order to safeguard those that knew nothing of her efforts or those who would give little appreciation for her actions if they did.

But while it would be a lie to say that such disregard did not hurt her, the fact remained that it was her duty, for who else could do so?

Who else could enter this whimsical and awe-inspiring realm? Not even Star Swirl had managed to replicate the process and spells she had used to reach it in the first place.

Well, at least before they left, that is. But she was sure that if he had achieved a breakthrough since then he would have found her in the dreamlands in order to brag. She mused this as she veered away from a bright pink star that she knew from painful experience she had no desire of peeking into. Some things should remain private, after all.

And somepony had to safeguard this realm, that was a fact.

She still remembered when she first started to explore it, the strange ‘creatures’, if that was even a valid term, that she would at times find preying upon the dreams of others. How they would slowly grow with every dream they consumed. And how their hunger seemed to grow with their size and power.

No, somepony had to safeguard the dreams of ponies. And if not her, then who would? Who even could?

And so she continued to perform her self-imposed duty, knowing no one would thank her for it, but that it had to be done.

Thankfully such ‘creatures’ were rare. And had become even rarer after she had started to hunt them down. And so, her patrols upon the dream realm were more often than not peaceful.

But not this night.

Scrunching her brow and narrowing her eyes, Luna flew onwards, searching for something she could not name nor explain, a feeling that grew with each night that passed.

It had started so small that she had barely noticed it. It was but the phantom of an itch upon her fur. The hint of a sound at the edge of her hearing. But, just like the dream ‘creatures’ she hunted, it had slowly grown with each night that passed, until its presence became undeniable.

It was an oppressive feeling of malice. A lingering anger that seemed to seep into the dream realm. Undirected, without apparent focus or target, and far more oppressive for it. A wrath so large and all encompassing that it seemed to want to consume everything with its fury.

Luna did not know what it was, for it was unlike anything she had ever seen or experienced in this realm. But she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that leaving whatever it was alone to grow even stronger as the nights went by was a terrible idea.

And so she flew ever onwards amidst the dreams, searching for the source of this undefined malice.

She knew not how long it took, time having little rhyme or reason in this place, but eventually she believed that she had found it, the source of whatever this was.

It was a dream, its star the largest she had ever encountered, shining a brilliant crimson unlike anything she had ever seen before. From experience, she knew that red dreams usually involved anger and violence. Yet, the sheer brilliance of the color was unlike anything else, as was the way it seemed to waver at the edges into different shades of red that she felt repulsed by, as if they were somehow diseased and sickly.

For a moment, or perhaps several, she floated before the strange dream. A look of determination formed on her muzzle and she raised her hoof towards it. She knew not what it was, but moving onwards was the only way she would get answers.

The moment she touched the dream the black void all around her was replaced by a crimson sky. The roar of flames took over the silence of the void. Taking in her surroundings Luna soon realized she was in the middle of a ruined city blazing with out-of-control fires, ruin and devastation unlike anything she had ever known surrounding her from all sides.

And right amidst the flames, she saw two beings.

Unminding of the roaring flames and the collapsing buildings, two figures were locked in a brutal fight. The first was a large brown-coated earth pony, easily the largest she had ever seen, his mane a brilliant crimson that outshone the very flames around him. The second was a monstrous pig-like creature that dwarfed the large stallion with its sheer size. Sharp tusks jutted out of its roaring maw, and a sickly red mane rested atop its monstrous face.

Luna simply stared for a moment, mouth agape in sheer surprise as she watched the pony and the monster trading blows, buildings collapsing and stones shattering with every crushing blow they delivered against each other as the flames roared even higher.

And before she could decide to do anything else, the pig-like monster delivered a massive blow that threw the pony away and through a burning building. Rising onto its hind legs, it unleashed a roar so filled with wrath that Luna could not help but flinch.

And in that moment of inaction the world was consumed by fury and flame.

Gasping for breath, Luna fought to free herself from whatever it was that was trying to constrain her, blood thrumming against her ears and heart hammering against her chest.

“Luna! Are you alright?!” The worried voice of her sister brought her back to reality, as she realized that the opponent constraining her movements was her older sister’s wings she had nested herself under before venturing into the dream realm earlier this night.

Stopping her frantic movements, Luna allowed her head to rest against her sister’s side as she took several deep breaths, attempting to calm her thumping heart.

“What happened?” Celestia gently asked while stroking Luna’s back with her other wing, not even a hint of annoyance at being so suddenly awoken on her visage as she looked at Luna with concern.

“I do not know, sister,” Luna replied after a moment, taking a deep breath as a look of determination crossed her features. “But I intend to find out.”

XXVI - Wizards' Affairs

View Online

Wizards’ Affairs

The darkness of night had long since fallen upon the countryside. The deep shadows it brought forth, only briefly illuminated by a few scattered rays of moonlight glimpsing through the thick cloud cover overhead, made the bumpy uneven gravel road that lead from the Earth Villa to Unicornia a treacherous path for even the most surefooted of travelers.

The danger of a hidden hole or a loose stone, of an ill-timed misstep or a fallen log, and all that that could bring, made it so that most travelers, no matter the urgency of their journey, had long since bunked down for the night in order to wait for the warming rays of the sun and the day’s light.

However, there was still a traveler swiftly crossing the dark road despite the late hour, braving what for most would be a fool’s endeavor at best. Yet the pristine white figure kept going, for Zelda was not like most travelers. Several lifetimes’ worth of training alongside her trusted shadow protectors weremore than up to the task of allowing her to traverse the darkness as if it was the brightest of days.

As she trotted down the dark road with swift ground-eating steps, her form little more than a brief white blur to any who chanced upon her, the Wielder of Wisdom mused how once more time and experience had proven themselves the greatest of teachers.

Where once her steps with her new form had been unsure and awkward, they now were sure and purposeful. As her hooves hit the uneven ground in sharp staccato, each movement precise and purposeful, it was nigh unthinkable to imagine that but a few weeks ago she had been barely able to walk without falling down into a graceless heap as if a newborn foal.

Indeed, experience was a good teacher. If not a nice one.

As she jumped over a barely visible crack in the road that could easily lead the unwary towards a sprained ankle or worse, before hitting the ground and continuing forward without losing any of her speed, she mused that by this point in time, she had all but grown completely used to her new body.

And as her golden mane fluttered behind her upon the cold night wind, part of her was not sure if she appreciated that thought.

Her brow furrowed slightly as she kept moving ever onward. Nothing moved amidst the darkness. There was no sound but the constant whispering of the cold night wind. There was nothing but darkness and the rare moonbeam to keep her company. Her movements were sharp and precise while keeping her senses locked upon her surroundings and the treacherous terrain, so Zelda couldn’t help but use this rare moment of peace and quiet to think.

A small part of her could not help but be slightly amused by the dichotomy of it all. Here she was, frantically rushing to complete a time-sensitive goal as swiftly as possible. And yet, amidst this frantic endeavor was when she finally had the time to simply ‘stop’, think, and ponder about it all.

Now. Now without any distractions or disturbances around her, with nothing to do until she reached her goal of the unicorn capital city, she could truly think for what felt like the first time since Link had departed towards Pegasopolis and necessity all but dictated her every action.

She took a deep breath as her white-coated form swiftly passed by a stray ray of moonlight, as if a wraith in the night. Despite the fact that she knew she was heading for another ordeal, Zelda couldn’t help but find herself relaxing for the moment.

No matter the fact that Ganondorf had apparently decided to turn over a new leaf… in a manner of speaking. The big oaf was still just as aggravating as ever. The fact remained that dealing with the Wielder of Power was trying at even the best of times. And Zelda was honest enough to admit that these were not the best of times for her.

Unlike her two companions, who had taken to their new forms and circumstances with insulting ease, she had and still did struggle to let go, to simply accept their new reality.

Link had been completely unruffled by it all, his ever-present patience and acceptance of odd circumstances as admirable as it was at times exasperating. Ganondorf had decided upon this course of action of his own volition, and so had simply accepted the end result as the price demanded for achieving his wish of freedom. However, while deep in her heart Zelda could not truly say that said wish had been truly undesired on her part, eons of duty and service were not so easily set aside.

She had been the ruler of the Hylians more times than she cared to count. And, while she did not wish to insult her fellow kinsmen… the fact remained that experience more than showed that more often than not they needed someone at the helm to prevent things from devolving into utter chaos. They needed an aegis to protect the kingdom. It was not an insult to their capabilities, just a fact. And for the longest time, Zelda and Link had been that shield.

Yet, now that was simply no longer an option.

A cold wind rushed through the night, caressing Zelda’s galloping form. However, the shiver she barely managed to suppress had little to do with the cold weather.

For that thought, that she had failed upon her duty in such a complete way, filled her with unease and anger. A fact that had not been helped by how Ganondorf kept prodding her temper at every possible opportunity, never giving her time to decompress and accept it all. This new calamity that had befallen this new land, and the fact that the Wielder of Power had been behaving oddly these past few days, only worsened it all.

Keeping her breath even as she sidestepped a large fallen tree branch, she pondered it all. The hours of silence and repetitive movement were a chance to organize her mind, knowing that this may well be the last bit of peace and quiet she would have for a good long while.

The Wielder of Wisdom held no delusions about how things would proceed going forward. Every single bit of information she had acquired about the unicorn nobility blared at her like a gigantic warning sign that things would not proceed smoothly.

Zelda would always favor diplomacy when possible. She would always choose the velvet glove over the iron fist. It was simply in her nature. To deny another the chance to express their thoughts and desires was to deny all parties the chance to grow and evolve together. But she was not blind to the major detriment of said path of action, the cost it demanded to truly function as it should. That cost was time. And, right now time was an ever-growing luxury that was in increasingly short supply.

Letting out a frustrated sigh, she angrily cursed under her breath. She thought about what she knew had a very good chance of needing to be done even as she took advantage of cresting a respectable hill and the view it offered to teleport several miles forward before continuing to run right afterward without missing a step.

Time was of the essence. The earth ponies would soon be departing towards Unicornia, probably by dawn’s first light. And with Ganondorf goading and pushing them onwards she had no doubts they would make excellent time. As such, it was paramount that they found the gates of the unicorn city open and ready to receive them so that they all could prepare for what was to come in a timely manner.

As she turned a corner on the forested path, she saw a walled city appear in the distance. Its pristine white walls were a stark contrast to the greenery all around. Dozens upon dozens of towers reached up toward the stars as they filled the city’s skyline. As she laid eyes upon Unicornia for the first time, Zelda acknowledged the very unwelcome fact that she may well not have the time to play nice.

Narrowing her eyes at the majestic city as the very first rays of the sun started to peek past the eastern horizon, Zelda made up her mind. No matter how distasteful she found it all, the fact remained that she could not fail.

As her horn glowed blue, and her white form disappeared as she cast another teleportation spell, Zelda couldn’t help but muse that at the very least those lessons about aggressive negotiations she had learned during her life as a pirate captain would finally be useful.

Silently climbing the last few steps of a large stone stairwell, Clover finally arrived at the small shadowy alcove that was his destination. Moving towards one of the stone benches that lined the small window of the alcove, the white-coated unicorn all but collapsed upon it. Groaning in pained annoyance, the personal apprentice of the great Arch Mage of Unicornia allowed his head to fall upon the frame of the window, resting there against the cold stone in a very ungraceful way as his green mane fell by the side in an ungraceful heap.

For several minutes, he just stood there, unfocused eyes taking in the beauty of the countryside and the imposing form of the city’s main gates but a few stories down below as the sun slowly started to rise. The celestial spheres actually listened to the council’s command with no apparent problem this morn.

The peace and quiet of this forgotten and barely-tread part of the city allowed him to relax for what he felt was the first time since some crazy flankhole had decided that messing with the movements of the sun and the moon for no good reason would be a great idea!

Groaning once again, Clover the Clever started to massage his brow, trying in vain to fight off the headache that was his newest near-permanent companion.

What a mess.

It had been bad enough how the court had all but devolved into petty insults and wild accusations after the event had taken place, as every single tiny faction amidst the nobility accused each other of being responsible for the theft. It had been bad enough when Princess Platinum started to angrily demand answers that nopony had, using her fury to hide the fear and panic Clover could see in her eyes due to long experience with the young ruler. Never in his life had he seen things devolve so badly at court. In fact, never in living memory had things devolved so badly at court, period.

And that had been but the beginning.

For then Chancellor Puddinghead and a throng of burly, headstrong, and above all worried earth ponies had barged into the city loudly asking what had happened. Demanding explanations for why the unicorns had reversed the cycle of day and night, upsetting the order of the heavens. Explanations that not only they did not have, but for far too long most of the court refused to even consider telling the earth ponies that the unicorns hadn’t been the ones to do it in the first place!

What a massive mess.

For most of a day chaos had ruled, and by the stars above Clover had no idea how a brawl between earth pony senators and unicorn nobles hadn’t exploded in the castle and out into the streets of Unicornia, as tempers kept rising and rising and nothing got even close to being done.

And then the pegasi showed up…

Groaning once again, Clover closed his eyes as if doing so would deny reality for a few short moments. Exhaustion was all but radiating out of his body as he rested his head against the cold stone and the first rays of sunlight bathed his form. The cold morning wind caressed his mane.

What a truly massive mess.

Commander Hurricane had descended upon Unicornia with all the fury of a barely contained storm, a full elite battalion of equally unamused and heavily armed pegasi right behind him, demanding, with weapons half drawn, to know what the unicorns were playing at by messing with the celestial orbs.

The intelligent thing to do would’ve been to act like rational beings and simply tell their allies what had happened, that an unknown factor had somehow usurped the control of the celestial spheres! And there may well be an unknown threat at large! That would have been what a sane and sensible pony would’ve done!

So of course the nobles then promptly proceeded to dither and prevaricate, refusing to show weakness and admit that something had stolen control of the celestial orbs from their kind! They were just procrastinating on giving an actual answer for the longest time possible while tempers rose even higher!

All the while somepony decided that putting all these very aggravated, worried, and furious parties into the same building for a prolonged period of time and letting the sparks fly would be a good idea! Truly, the unicorn nobility’s intellect and wisdom was second to none! Not!

And if he ever found out who had had the brilliant idea of saying that, as the personal aide to the Princess and Star Swirl’s student he was the best pony to organize lodging, catering, and to try and keep the peace between all the aggrieved parties, he would not be held responsible for his actions!

Groaning once more, Clover felt a very worrying kinship with his master’s usual rants about the stupidity of other ponies.

There hadn’t been a moment of peace or quiet ever since, as screams and accusations were hurled every which way! The earth ponies and the pegasi demanded to know why the unicorns had upset the movement of the celestial orbs, all the while his fellow unicorns had clammed up and refused to answer, for admitting that they simply did not know was apparently an unforgivable sin or some other nonsense! In turn it made the other two tribes even more suspicious and distrustful!

Things had finally reached a boiling point yesterday when some loose-lipped noble had finally let slip the truth, that apparently an unknown party had been the one to usurp the heavens from the unicorns’ grasp. And hadn’t that been a sight to see?

The screaming had lasted well into the night. No pony liked the idea that some unknown element could be able to do that with no prior warning or apparent motive, which in turn led to another wild round of accusations. The idea that the other tribes had to be lying and no third party existed was far more palatable to most than that an unknown threat now loomed over them all.

By the stars above… how he wished he could imitate his master and simply state he was researching the situation in order to isolate himself from the whole mess! The surly flankhole hadn’t come out of his tower in over two days!

Alas, he was no arch mage, but merely the arch mage’s personal student. And so had to take the place of his master and endure several hours of Hurricane, Pundinghead, and Platinum screeching at each other. Only the presence of some very uncomfortable-looking guards from all three tribes prevented their illustrious leaders from devolving into blows! Even then, it most likely was but a matter of time for it to happen anyway if nothing changed soon!

The fact he had seen more than a few servants of all three tribes discreetly trading gems and placing bets had not helped his mood in the slightest!

Things had finally calmed down for the moment, if “calm” was even the right word, what with the discussion ending due to everypony being hoarse and exhausted from so much shouting and so they all had retired for what little remained of the night.

But even then, basically everypony knew where his quarters were, and more than once since this mess started someone had barged into said quarters with some ‘urgent’ thing he ‘had’ to deal with as soon as possible. And when added to the fact that dawn was already upon them anyway, Clover had decided that a tactical retreat to a very isolated part of the city for a few hours was just what he needed.

Taking a long, deep breath, the white-coated stallion tried to regain a measure of calm. Inhale, hold, and exhale. Again, and again, the mage repeated the action, slowly feeling more like himself and less likely to strangle the next idiot to demand some asinine chore out of him, until with his newest breath, he did not smell the morning dew or the surrounding stone, but the very appetizing scent of freshly baked bread.

Opening his eyes, Clover paid little mind to how the morning sun was now lighting up the city’s main gate several stories down and right ahead of him. Instead, he ignored the change of guard shift taking place down below and turned back towards the stairwell to see the softly smiling form of a caramel-coated earth pony carefully balancing two loaves of bread still lightly smoking from the oven upon her back.

“I knew you would be here,” Smart Cookie said, the slightest hint of teasing in her voice as she approached Clover’s little balcony. “For where else would mister introvert go after being forced to deal with so many ponies at once for a prolonged period of time?”

“Like you would’ve fared any better having to deal with this whole mess,” he grouched, even as he accepted one of the bread loaves with a soft thanks to his friend. “Perhaps I should let you act like an in-between for all three tribes and see how you fare.”

“No, thanks. Dealing with the earth pony senators and the Chancellor while stopping them from doing something stupid is already bad enough. I do not intend to add the pegasi and unicorn equivalents to that list,” she promptly replied with a pained smile as she took a seat right next to Clover.

They stood there in companionable silence for a moment. Clover allowed the warmth of the loaf to penetrate his hooves, temporarily banishing the morning chill as he appreciated the bread’s smell.

“Where is Pansy?” the young mage finally asked, briefly looking around as if the Pegasus could be hiding somewhere in the tiny alcove as he took a large bite out of the bread. The rich and nutty flavor permeated his mouth and made him realize just how hungry he really was, making him take several more bites.

“Trying to prevent an incident by keeping Hurricane busy and relatively calm,” Cookie replied with a pained grimace, letting out an aggravated sigh before taking a bite out of her own loaf. “I do not think we will be able to see her for several hours at least. From what she told me things are tense amidst the pegasi right now.”

“That’s an understatement if I’ve ever heard one,” Clover replied with an equally aggravated sigh. He did not envy their pegasus friend’s situation. Hurricane’s temper made it so all knew how appropriate his name was. Preventing the commander of the Pegasus Armada from doing something overtly aggressive that could lead to trouble between the tribes was a full-time job even at the best of times. And considering the current situation…

Frankly, between Smart Cookie and Chancellor Puddinghead, Private Pansy and Commander Hurricane, and himself and Princess Platinum, Clover had no idea who had it worse in regards to keeping their superiors in line while preventing inter-tribe incidents.

In some ways, Clover almost wished that their leaders’ belligerent actions were caused by pettiness or greed. But sadly that was not the case. The Chancellor, the Commander, and the Princess all cared and strived for the betterment of pony-kind. It was just that they had very distinct views of what said betterment was, and personalities that were a little too strong and hardly meshed well with the others.

And with his personal experience of far too many incidents in which he had to help keep Princess Platinum’s temper under control while making sure not to appear to be doing so… Yeah, Clover did not envy Pansy’s situation right now in the slightest.

“Things just keep getting better and better, don’t they?” he sarcastically asked, taking another bite of his bread while inclining his head backward until it rested on the stone wall behind him.

“So it would seem. By the way, Pansy told me that the pegasi also have no idea what is causing the growing cold. And that the Armada’s best efforts to dispel it had not given any appreciable results before whatever happened to the sun and the moon happened and Hurricane hurried here,” Cookie said in a faux casual tone of voice as she continued to eat her own loaf.

“Perfect, just… perfect,” the white-coated unicorn groaned, finishing the bread with one large angry bite. “So nopony has any idea what is happening. How great. Perfect even!”

“So not even the Arch Mage knows what is causing this whole mess?” Cookie asked as she finished her own loaf. Clover only gave her an angry glare in response. “Hey, I’m just asking! Don’t blame me, you know your kin love keeping their secrets!”

After a moment, Clover could not help but let out an exhausted sigh, unable to refute his friend’s words. “No, nopony has any idea of what is happening. And that really worries me.

“The weather is getting worse and worse by the day. Something is messing with the Celestial Spheres. Tension and distrust between the Three Tribes is higher than anypony can remember. And nopony has any idea what is causing this whole mess or what to do to fix it!”

With every word he spoke, Clover’s voice rose higher and higher. Until, as the last words left his mouth the unicorn was all but shouting as he tossed both fore-hooves upwards in sheer frustration. The tensions, worry, and anxiety of the past few days finally burst over.

He probably would have gone off on a rant if not for the fact that he was distracted by Cookie holding him tight in a friendly hug. After a few moments of inaction, the unicorn returned the earth pony’s action, hugging her back.

They stayed that way for several moments as the sun finally rose fully, lightning up the landscape and illuminating Unicornia’s white walls and imposing towers.

“Feeling better?” Smart Cookie asked with a small sincere smile, causing Clover to smile back in kind.

“Yeah. Thanks, I needed that,” the unicorn replied, giving his friend one more hug before letting go.

“Anytime!” Cookie happily replied, a beaming smile on her muzzle. A lighthearted atmosphere fell upon the small alcove, as if it was an island of peace in the middle of a turbulent sea.

Alas, as if fate itself disapproved of such a development, the peace did not last, as the sound of somepony loudly shouting reached their small island of peace from down at the city’s gate.

“And as I said several times now, young mare! The gates are closed and shall remain that way! Nopony may enter or leave Unicornia until further notice as per the orders of Princess Platinum and the Celestial Council!” a grating and self-important voice resounded through the air, very firmly destroying the moment.

Letting out a new tired sigh, Clover wondered what exactly was Pure Blood’s problem right now. As the captain of the gate, Clover sadly knew the pompous unicorn far too much for his liking, having had to work with the arrogant stallion more than once. He was competent and a decently skilled magical practitioner. But alas…

“And I said I do not care what ‘vital’ piece of information you may possibly have! Nor do I care how ‘time sensitive’ said information may be! I was told to keep the gates closed and allow nopony to pass! And so the gates will remain closed and nopony shall pass!”

Yeah, combining the usual noble arrogance with a huge inflexibility and need to follow all orders to the letter turned dealing with the white-coated and blonde-manned unicorn into one heck of a chore.

Briefly looking downwards, he confirmed that it was indeed Pure Blood who was standing atop the gate alongside a baker’s dozen other soldiers, all of them armed and armored and staring at their equally armored captain as he screamed at somepony outside the city at the base of the gate.

“I see he is still as pleasant as always,” Cookie sarcastically stated, taking her own look downwards before shaking her head. “Did you know he attempted to block us from going through? If not for the fact that Chancellor Puddinghead simply kept walking, forcing Pure Blood to move out of the way or be trampled, it might have even worked for an hour or two until our ‘identities’ were confirmed.”

Yes, Clover could easily believe that. Shaking his head once again he turned towards the stairs, silently wishing whoever it was that was locked outside the city luck dealing with the captain. This promised to be another long day and there was far too much to do, especially if he wished to be able to get some sleep in the not-so-distant future…

Only to stop mid-stride as his magical senses suddenly screamed at him. A loud shattering ‘sound’ echoed through the aether, a sound any accomplished magic user would recognize as a ward being broken.

His head snapping back towards the gate, Clover confirmed with his eyes what his magical senses had just told him. Someone had just broken the gate’s wards. The wards were meant to prevent rogue elements from bypassing the gate through spatial displacement spells, such as teleportation. And despite how ludicrous the mere idea of a ward created and reinforced by dozens of trained unicorns being broken so quickly and easily sounded in his head, the fact remained that at this very moment, a white-coated mare with a luscious golden mane was now atop the gate and standing right next to the flabbergasted Captain of the Gate. Pure Blood kept looking from the bottom of the gate outside and back towards the mare right in front of him with his mouth opened in surprise, an action repeated by his soldiers atop the gate.

“What the buck?” Clover found himself asking without meaning to, rushing back to the balcony to get a better look, Cookie right behind him.

“Enough. Lets us simplify things, shall we?” a calm and cultured voice cut through the morning air, the very polite voice caring within it an implied threat that for some reason immediately reminded Clover of his master in a foul mood. “You will tell me where exactly I can find Arch Mage Starswirl, or I shall render you unable to hinder my quest any further and proceed down the chain of command until I can find someone capable of answering my question.

“Do we have an understanding?” she firmly asked a now growing red and sputtering Pure Blood. The captain lit up his horn, the yellow glow of his magic surrounding both the appendage and the sword at his flank.

“Do you have any idea who I a-” the captain started to shout as his sword slid an inch out of its scabbard, only for a brief blue flash to occur. Immediately afterward the white-coated unicorn stallion had fallen in a graceless heap on the ground, openly snoring. All the while, the unknown mare was already in front of Pure Blood’s second-in-command.

“The same question. Where can I find Arch Mage Starswirl?” the mare firmly asked, as if she had not just downed the Captain of the Gate and teleported towards his second in command in a single heartbeat.

“You dare to at-” a flash of blue and another snoring officer was on the ground. All the while, the mare was now standing in front of a now very panicked-looking lieutenant.

“The same question. Where can I find Arch Mage Starswirl?” she calmly asked, steel in her words despite the fact they remained calm and polite, all the while acting as if she had not rendered two unicorn officers unconscious in as many seconds.

“What the buck?” Cookie incredulously repeated Clover’s question as they watched the surreal situation, neither really knowing how to react. Though, the unicorn had to agree that it was a very succinct and concise way to summarize the situation. As they stared with wide eyes from their balcony, the situation down below kept devolving as three more unicorns had been rendered unconscious while the rest of the company seemed to be rooted in place by some kind of magical circle the mare had cast with ridiculous ease.

As he finally managed to shake off his surprised stupor and decided he had to do something in regard to this newest mess, a panicked soldier finally gave the strange mage what she wanted.

“Starswirl the Bearded is in his personal tower right at the center of the city! It has a silver roof and it is the second-highest tower in the city! Right in front of the tower of the Celestial Council! You cannot miss it!” a very nervous-looking unicorn soldier promptly blurted out the moment the mare appeared before him before she could even open her mouth to ask the question one more time.

“You have my thanks,” she politely replied while giving the sweating soldier a short nod, before dismissing him from her thoughts as she turned towards the city and started to scan its skyline until her eyes fell upon the highest towers that were situated at the center of the city.

As her eyes fell upon the large silver-roofed tower that was his master’s abode, the mare narrowed her eyes for a moment as magical energy gathered around her horn with speed and precision that would leave most battle mages green with envy.

The next moment a blue flash filled the air, and she was gone, leaving nothing but a few panicking soldiers behind, and several more snoring.

“That may be a problem,” part of his mind heard Cookie speak as if from a great distance. But Clover did not answer his friend, far too busy making the calculations for the teleportation spot he tended to use outside his master’s tower as his gold magic gathered around his horn.

The next moment, with a golden flash he was gone as well, leaving a visibly exasperated Smart Cookie behind.