Of Families & Freedom

by Deathscar

First published

Soon, Silverstream will depart for the holidays, leaving Gallus alone at the Academy. Despite her pleas, Gallus refuses to follow. That is, until a special pony arrives that night and poses one question: why did they come to the Friendship Academy?

In just 12 hours, Silverstream will depart for the holidays, leaving Gallus alone at the Academy. Despite her pleas, Gallus refuses to follow or even tell her why. That is, until a special pony arrives that night to his dorm room and poses two simple questions: why did they come to the Friendship Academy? And if the answer is to make friends then...


Proofread by VerumTee

Cover art from the Season 8 episode 'The Hearth's Warming Club'

Of Families & Freedom

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“Come on, Gal! Please! You’re the only one of us that’s left here!”

“For the last time, Silver, no,” Gallus replied with his claws crossed.

“But there’ll be swimming! And whale singing! And humming with the Harmonizing Heights!” As Silverstream listed each item, she darted around the brightly lit, and almost utterly empty, student lounge. She zipped from the couch, to the ceiling and back towards the tables on the other side. “And—”

“Gifts from Queen Nouvo on the third day. Silver, you’ve given this speech to me like twenty-five times already.”

Silverstream tapped her chin with a talon, when a playful smirk crossed her beak. “Will a twenty-sixth—”

“No.” Gallus starkly stated, causing Silverstream’s expression to melt into a frown. “Headmare Twilight let all of you go back for the holidays. You should just take it, and get back as soon as you can.”

“She allowed all of us to go back. That includes you, Gal!” Silverstream’s words caused images of the Blue Moon festival to flash in Gallus’ mind. And the very thought of spending another season in Griffonstone made his stomach churn.

“Yeah… I think I’ll just hang out in school for the holidays.” He turned to face the balcony window of the student lounge. Outside, flakes of snow were pouring from the clouds. Though they were put in place just a few days ago from the Cloudsdale pegasi, mounds of the soft, icy cold powder had already began building up upon the ground. And with it came the crisp winter winds, colder than even the ones that soared by upon Griffonstone’s peak. Which was another plus in his book.

It would make the cups of hot cocoa even more scrumptious than they usually were.

“But you’ll be all alone! There won’t be snow parties or blanket parties or even singing parties!” Silverstream lamented. “How can you have a Hearth’s Warming celebration without singing parties!?”

“...Like I usually do?”


“You should get some rest. I heard the trip to Mount Aris is pretty long, and station’s gonna be busy tomorrow morning.”

A defeated sigh escaped Silver’s beak. She hung her head low and softly nodded. When she turned back up, a smile had return to her mouth, though this time it was smaller. “Good night, Gallus.”

“Night, Silver.”

With that, Silver exited the student lounge, disappearing down one of the hallways.

Gallus waited for several seconds, until he was sure Silver was gone, before returning his sight to the falling snow outside and the bustling Ponyville streets. The night brought with it a certain charm to the quaint little village, which was now lit only by street lamps and the lights from the houses. He could only imagine how chilly it was without any nearby heaters. Yet, the ponies were gathering around, laughing and cheering like there wasn’t chill at all. For a moment, the sight made him consider Silverstream’s offer, but he quickly sat that thought aside.

Don’t even think about it, Gal. He chided himself within his thoughts. Don’t even think about it.

The night wasn’t being kind to Gallus.

He had been tossing and turning within his sheets for the past few minutes. Or was it hours? It was hard to know in his position. He didn’t understand why. He was wrapped in the comfort of his warm blanket. His pillow was sat just right and had been flipped no less than four times during the night. And Sandbar wasn’t snoring up a storm in the bed above him.

Yet, he remained as awake as he was in the day. Something in his mind was churning, like a machine which would not stop working. He sat up, throwing his sheets to the side and giving an annoyed yell, covering his eyes.

“Why is the one night I can’t sleep the night where I didn’t eat chocolate before bed.” Suddenly, there came a knock upon his door. Gallus turned to it curiously, eyes furrowed in confusion. Almost everyone’s gone back for the holidays. Who could— Oh. “Silver?” he called out.

“Not exactly,” the voice that spoke back was softer. Calmer. And much more methodical. In other words, a hundred percent not Silverstream. Yet, there was a certain aspect of the tone that made it sound familiar to Gallus. He hopped out of bed and pulled open the door. The moment he did, he recoiled in equal parts shock and confusion.

“Princess Cadence?” Gallus cocked his head to the side. In his mind, there was only one reason a Princess would’ve paid him a visit. “If you’re looking for Headmare Twilight, she’s back at the castle.”

“I’m… not looking for Twilight. I’m looking for you.”

“Me? ...Look, whatever it is you think I did, I promise it wasn’t me this time.”

Cadence giggled softly, shaking her head. “You’re not in trouble, Gallus. I just wanted to talk to you. Could I come in?”

“Umm, sure?” Gallus stepped aside, allowing Cadence into his room. He closed the door, turned to the Princess, and begun anxiously pacing around the room. “So, what’re you here for?”

“Well, I heard that Twilight released every student early to go back and celebrate the holidays with their family.”

“Yeah, she did. What of it?”

“And that everyone’s headed back… except for you?”

“Yeah?Why? Is it, like, against pony law or something?” Gallus asked sarcastically, but quickly regretted his tone.

Cadence chuckled. “No, no it’s not. But, I also heard that Silverstream invited you to join her and her family at Mount Aris?”

“Really?” Gallus remarked. “Silver tattled on me to the Princess of Love about me not wanting to join her?”

“No, she didn’t tattle to anyone.”

“Then how did you know?”

“Gallus, why don’t you want to go?”

Gallus rolled his eyes and turned away from the Princess. He found a seat at his empty study desk and sighed. “Not like it’s any of your business, but I’m not going for Silver’s sake.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Look, Silver’s been looking forward to this holiday for the past couple of months. Every time she was on break she would just read that ‘Three Days of Freedom’ guide and giggle to herself. It’s like that time she found the book about train tracks.” Gallus began tracing his talon in a circle on the desk. “And me, well, I’d just ruin her holidays. The only celebrating I’ve done is during the Blue Moon festival, and that was just some griffons I barely know trying not to shout at each other.” His eyes drifted to the snow falling outside his window, but his claw kept deepening the grooves upon his table. “Silver has a family. And she should celebrate with them, and not some sarcastic griffon who’s just gonna weigh everything down.”

“W-wait, family? ...Oh… d-did Silverstream never tell you?”

“Huh?” Gallus darted his head back to face the Princess, who was now staring at him with a look of concern.

But the worry wasn’t directed towards him.

“Tell me what?”

This time, it was the Princess who shifted her eyes away. “It… isn’t in my place to say. If you’re going to hear it from anyone, it needs to be Silver.”

“Is she okay?” Gallus shot from his seat. His heart was pounding and his breaths grew short. “Did something happen to her!?”

“No. Relax, Gallus. It’s something she’s had some time to accept.”


“But we should really talk about you. You don’t want to join Silverstream because you’re worried you’ll weigh her holiday down?”

“I know I will. That’s what I do most of the time anyway,” Gallus said. As he leaned against the table, he crossed his arms and lowered his head. “I think every creature just thinks I don’t know how I sound most of the time. I do! And I’m… trying to get better at it. But, it’s not as easy as flicking a switch. Most of the time, I’m not even aware I’m doing it until it’s too late.”

“I don’t think that’ll affect how good of a time Silver will have. I think she’d appreciate the company.” Cadence’s tone was warm, caring and everything Gallus was attempting to ignore.

“Well, she deserves better company. I’m a Hearth’s Warming grump while she’s the happiest Hearth’s Warming creature I’ve ever met.”

“I’m… not going to convince you, am I?”

“No,” Gallus answered immediately. “I’m sorry, Princess. But if you came all the way here just to get me to join Silver, I don’t think it’s happening.”

“Well, can’t say I didn’t try,” said Princess Cadence with a smile. Which unnerved Gallus more than it should’ve. It was the smile of a creature that still had something up their sleeve. He should know. He gave that smile more often that he’d like to count.

Cadence turned to leave, but just before exiting the door, she swung back around, her hoof raised. “Oh, just one thing. Do you know why Silverstream joined the Friendship Academy?”

“To make friends? Isn’t that just it?”

“Is it?” Cadence asked, but her tone sounded like she already knew the answer. Or, more accurately, that Gallus knew it too.

It was that very reason as to why Gallus didn’t immediately answer back. He allowed the silence to fill the air and kept his beak closed shut.

“You should ask her. You two might have more in common than you think,” Cadence suggested with a sincere smile. “She’s awake too, down at the gardens. By the fountain.” The Princess didn’t wait for an affirmation before disappearing back through the doorway and down the hall.

Slowly, Gallus pushed the door closed. However, before the lock could click into place, he froze. Ten words rang in his mind. Ten words that caused his mind to whirl like a vicious machine, churning out endless possible thoughts and theories.

You two might have more in common than you think.

If he hadn’t gotten any sleep before, he sure wasn’t going to now.

With a sigh of a griffon who knew that this was exactly what the Princess wanted, he pulled his door open, stepped out into the hallway and headed for the gardens.

Sitting upon a wooden bench in the midst of the gardens, whereupon the calming splashes of the nearby fountain could be heard, was none other than Silverstream. She had a pair of blue earmuffs upon her head and a fluffy red scarf wrapped around her neck.

Gallus approached silently, though he didn’t know why he was attempting to be stealthy. He had came here to talk to her. So he had to make his presence known sooner or later. Though seeing Silverstream stare up at the moon, or perhaps the stars above with such serene stillness made him wonder if he should return another time.

But then he realized that there would not be another time. Not for another couple of months.

“Umm, h-hey, Silver.”

“Huh?” Silver turned to regard the voice. When she spotted Gallus, her expressionless face broke into a beaming smile and a gasp that would’ve woken up half the school, if there were any creature left to wake up. “Gallus! Are you here to enjoy the winter nights too!?”

“...Something like that.” Gallus hopped up onto the bench, taking his seat upon the empty space beside her.

“You’re not going to believe what I found just a few minutes ago!” Silverstream pointed towards the night sky. Gallus squinted, shifting his vision around the entire purple blanket above, but only spotted the sparkling stars and glowing moon embroidered upon the endless expense.

“All I see are stars.”

“Mmhm!” Silverstream nodded excitedly. “But they’re winter stars! They’re all shiny and sparkly! We don’t get stars like that at Mount Aris!” At any other time, Gallus would’ve simply rolled his eyes and ignored her. But this time, he chuckled and smiled.

“I don’t think there’s a creature in the world that loves winter as much as you do.”

Silverstream grinned and nodded, before resuming her valiant watch over the sky. “So, what brings you over? Can’t sleep?”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much it.” Gallus stared up as well and, now that Silver had mentioned it, the stars were looking rather sparklier than he remembered. “Shouldn’t you try to catch a wink at least?”

“Psh, nah. You said it yourself, train ride’s gonna be long. I can always catch up on sleep there!”

“Right…” Gallus’ voice trailed off, leaving the two of them in chill silence. Silver appeared content keep her gaze locked upon the wondrous heavens, occasionally dotting her awed expression with soft ‘wows’, none the wiser to the stillness that had enveloped the air between them.

But Gallus wasn’t so lucky.

He had a lot on his mind. Well, he had one thing on his mind. But the weight of it felt like it was a thousand things packed into one. Ask her, his mind suggested. But just as quickly, it rebutted with no, it’ll get awkward. You don’t need to.

He would’ve stuck in this endless back-and-forth with his thoughts, that is, until the ten words Cadence had said echoed in his mind.

You two might have more in common than you think.

After taking a breath to muster any courage he could, he spoke, “Silver?”

“Yeah, Gal?”

“...Why did you come to the Friendship Academy?”

The question caused Silver to jerk in her seat. She darted her head towards Gallus, whereupon he could see the shock on her face. Anyone could, for she made no attempts to hide it. But it soon melted into one of… sadness? Pain? Confusion? Worry? Anxiety? He honestly couldn’t tell.

Silver sat for a couple of seconds, mouth agape. But nary a peep escaped her open maw.

When she regained her senses, she turned away. “O-oh just, wanted to make friends!”

“Well, yeah, that’s why we all joined. But, why?”

“W-why? Psh, there’s no need for ‘why’!” Silverstream’s voice grew more flustered, and her speaking begun to pick up pace. “Just… friends!”

At this point, Gallus knew that this conversation would simply go around in circles unless one of them were to divert the track. Or, in his case, destroy it entirely. Perhaps if it wasn’t three in the morning, or the fact that it was winter, or the fact that it was Hearth’s Warming, he would’ve had more inhibitions. But they were numbed. So, without so much as a second thought of doubt to plague his mind, he spoke.

“Do you know why I wanted to make friends?”

Silverstream slowly turned to face him, her once elated eyes now showing raw emotion, though it wasn’t a single one. It was more of a swirling cocktail of countless feelings, which Gallus didn’t even bother to decipher. All he knew was that it was too late to stop this line of conversation.

“Remember back when we were being tested by the Tree of Harmony that took the form of Headmare Twilight underneath our school?” Gallus paused. “Wow, we’ve had some weird moments here, haven’t we?”

Silver laughed and nodded her head. “Yes. And yes.”

“Well, you remember how I told you I had claustrophobia?”

“Uh huh?”

Gallus tapped two of his claws against one another, eyes drawn down to them. “I have claustrophobia because when I was a kid, I got trapped in one of the caves back at Griffonstone.”

“What!?” Silverstream exclaimed, nearly shooting out from her seat. “How?”

“Two griffons and I were just playing in one of them. I kicked a ball to the ceiling and, well, things started falling. The other two flew away before I could. Next thing I knew, I was trapped. Could only move in a small empty space I was lucky enough to find. Every now and again, the cave would move and some rocks would drop, thought I was gonna get crushed,” he attempted to laugh at the situation, but all that came out was a stuttered and shaky chuckle. Even now, as he recounted his tale, Gallus felt a shiver ripple through his body. His mind told him to stop out of safety, but he didn’t listen. “I tried to shout for help, but I don’t think my voice ever got past the rocks at the entrance.”

“H-how long were you stuck for?” Silverstream asked, her voice already beginning to break.

“A while. A couple of days at least.”


“Yeah. Only reason I got out was because Gabby accidentally found me while looking for mushrooms outside the cave-in. I managed to get her attention and, well…”

The next thing Gallus felt was Silverstream’s claws wrapped tightly around him, pulling him into a large, choking hug. But, much to Gallus’ own surprise, he didn’t resist.

“Oh, Gal! Why haven’t you told me this before!? That’s terrible!”

“Yeah, it was. But that’s not the point the story. The point was, I was so angry at the griffons who ran away, I thought if I was mean and sarcastic all the time, I could keep every griffon away from me. No friends. No problem, right? Just like every griffon’s supposed to be.”

“Gal, that’s—”

“Stupid, I know. I realized that when I saw Professor Rainbow and Pinkie came over and helped Gilda. Then I realized, I didn’t have to be mean just because every griff was. But…” Gallus shrugged. “But I didn’t really know where to get started. Every time I tried in Griffonstone, I’d just get yelled at. Didn’t really know how to change. Didn’t know if I could. So when I heard that Princess Twilight was opening a Friendship Academy… thought it’d be a good time to… try, at least. And, somehow, be able to find a new group of friends. Ones who wouldn’t just toss me in a cave-in and run. Ones who were...”


“Heh, yeah.”

“That explains why Professor Rainbow is your favorite,” Silverstream said. Gallus simply gave a shrug and a smirk as his answer. “You know, I always thought Grandpa Gruff made you come here.”

“That’s what I tell every creature. But, I mean, think about it. Do you really think Grandpa Gruff cares if I make friends or not? And even if he does, take the steps to enroll me into a Friendship Academy?”

“...Huh, now that you mention it, it does make sense,” said Silverstream. She paused for a moment to ponder the thought, but soon went back to the bone-crushing hug, much to Gallus’ comfort and dismay. “Oh, Gallus, I’m sorry you had to go through all that!”

“It’s… fine…” Gallus barely managed to choke out. “B-but could you… let me breathe? I like breathing.”

Silverstream released her iron grip upon Gallus, dropping him coughing back onto the bench.

“Thanks. Well, now you know why I’m at the Friendship Academy.” Gallus leaned back into the bench, smiling. “Oh, and keep what I told you between us, okay? I don’t want word of this getting out to other creatures yet.”


“I’ll tell them in my own time,” Gallus said, and that’s when it hit him. He froze in place, finally realizing what he was doing. He scrambled back up and turned to Silverstream. “And… hey, that goes for you too. If you don’t wanna tell me your story yet, don’t worry! Don’t… don’t feel like you have to just because I did and all. Whenever is cool too”

Silverstream thought. And she thought some more. She turned to her right, staring at the bush of colorful flowers. Or perhaps it was directed to the large, glowing building which housed the dormitories. Either way, she didn’t say much of anything at all, simply muttering out a, “wait here,” before zipping away, leaving Gallus sitting upon the bench, alone and perplexed.

She returned a few minutes later, gripping something within her claws. “Here, you’ve seen this, right?” Silver’s tone was different. It was heavier this time, dragged down with a sense of carefulness and calm. She dropped a necklace onto Gallus’ lap, but not just any necklace.

It was the transformation necklace. The necklace that, as Silverstream had said before, contained a small piece of the transformation pearl strung upon on string with multicolored shells on either side.

Gallus picked it up, watching the small shard of pearl sparkle from the glowing light of the moon. It resembled a piece of glass, yet, not so at all. There was a certain magic to it, something latent, something extraordinary. Something he had not noticed before. “Yeah, of course. You wear it all the time.”

“I know I told all of you that Queen Novo shattered the Pearl of Transformation and gave everygriff a shard of it, right?”


“But I never told you guys why.”

“Well, okay, why did she do it?” Gallus handed the necklace back to Silverstream.

“She did it to mark our freedom from the Storm King’s reign. She said it was so everygriff could move between ocean and skies as we wanted to. We had the freedom to,” said Silverstream, staring intently into the fragment of pearl. “She gave this to us at the start of the very first Three Days of Freedom celebration. And along with it, she put these.” Silverstream lifted the necklace and pointed to the beads and shells decorated on either side.

“Those look… nice.”

“She put those to remember everygriff that… uh… umm... “ Silverstream lowered her hands and retreated back into her thoughts. “That… didn’t… aren’t... “ She took a breath. “Didn’t make it when the Storm King attacked.”

“O-oh,” was all Gallus could stutter out. He quickly shuffled through things that he could say within in his mind, but came up empty. So he remained silent, unsure of what to say. Or if he should even say anything at all. Luckily, Silverstream didn’t leave the sombre silence hanging for long.

“I was there when he attacked, you know? I was young but… but I was there.” Silver had began running the pearl fragment gently over her claws. “Being a cousin to Princess Skystar, we were considered royalty, and so we were the first ones that were brought into the castle to escape. But just as we were about to leave, a hippogriff came by, begging us for help. There was a lot arguing. Some royals said they needed to make sure kids like me were safe, while others wanted to help every griff. My father wanted to help, so he went off. And when he got there…” Silver shut her eyes and tilted her head away.

Gallus immediately knew that something had struck a chord within Silverstream. Her breathing grew shorter and her hands were trembling. He extended a claw and placed it gently upon her shoulder, hoping that it could provide some level of comfort to her. “Silver?”

“There was no one left to help.” She sniffed. “A couple nights later, I couldn’t sleep cause, you know, still trying to get used to the tail and fin and always underwater thing, and I saw my parents in the kitchen. My father… he blamed himself a lot for what happened. Said if he had just been more decisive. Or maybe even faster. Those few extra seconds—”

“You can’t know that those seconds would matter!” Gallus interrupted. “This isn’t anyone’s fault but the Storm King’s!” The moment he had finished speaking, he heard he never thought he would hear.


Silverstream was giggling through her trailing tears.

Uh oh, what did I say?

“You sound just like my mom. She would say that to my dad every night he couldn’t sleep.”

“Would?” Gallus repeated, prompting Silverstream’s smile to immediately fade.

“Y-yeah… w-would.” Silverstream scrunched up the necklace and placed it gently to her chest. “My… my family… isn’t really together anymore.”

“What?” Gallus exclaimed on instinct. “I thought you have an awesome family! You’d tell us stories about going to parties together. Or going out together.”

“...We did! But that mistake, I… don’t think my father ever got over it. My mom and my dad haven’t been together for a while now. When Princess Twilight and Princess Skystar defeated the Storm King, my dad decided to head up the surface. My mom… didn’t.”

Silver lifted her legs up onto the bench. “Ever since then, we’ve kinda been apart. Thing is, my mom and dad don’t… they don’t hate each other. They just…” she sighed, shutting her eyes tight. “I don’t know.”

“But don’t they get together for the Three Days of Freedom celebration?”

“Yeah,” Silverstream spat. “They do.”

The bitterness of Silver’s tone was not lost on Gallus, who immediately cringed at her words. He had never heard her channel so much spite in her voice before. And to hear it directed somewhat at him made his heart and stomach twist. “Did I… say something wrong?”

“No!” Silverstream quickly assured. “It’s just, during the Three Days of Freedom celebration, my mom and my dad will get together, my brother will make jokes as we’re trying put up a nice tree or design our coral reef for the holidays,” Silverstream said with an odd mix of anger and sadness. Then, she paused. She paused and waited, as if something had dragged her mind away from reality and, instead, occupied her in some unknown dimension.

“Honestly, Silver? That… doesn’t sound that bad!”

“That’s the thing… it isn’t bad,” she said, sorrow overwhelming her tone. “At all.”

“I… don’t get it.”

“Every time I think I can get over my family… not… being a family anymore, the Three Days of Freedom is the one time I get reminded of how happy we once were. How happy we are. But, I know my mom and my dad won’t make up. They’ll never make up. They can’t. And it hurts, because for three days… for three days I get to have a family again. And I miss them.” She pressed her feet closer to her chest, resting her head softly upon her knees. “I miss us.”

“Silver, I’m so sorry.” At any other time, saying ‘sorry’ would’ve been a hard task for Gallus. And saying it would’ve drawn side-eyes from his friends. But this time, there was no judgemental gazes. Just one of a hippogriff with tear-filled eyes.

“You shouldn’t be sorry. This… isn’t your fault,” sniffled Silverstream. “If you’re wondering why I’m the last to go back every Hearth’s Warming, it’s because I don’t want to go back. I mean I want to! I really do! The Three Days of Freedom is the best time of year and I love every griff there! But it’s also… the worse and… and… things are hard.” She placed her claws over her eyes and threw her head back. “When I first came to the Friendship Academy, the first thing I did was try to find Princess Cadence and, being the Princess of Love and all, I asked her to fix my family.”

“Cadence… she—”

“Didn’t. She couldn’t. She said that it wasn’t up to her. And that if they didn’t want to be together anymore, she couldn’t help it.”

“Silver,” Gallus started. “Is that… one of the reasons why you came to the Friendship Academy?”

“No. I mean, yes! But...” Silver met Gallus’ gaze. “I came here for a lot of things. But I mainly came here so that I could learn how to make friends after being trapped underwater for so long. And if I do, maybe I can protect Mount Aris like my aunt and cousin! So that if another big baddie like the Storm King shows up, I can protect them! And if I can, then no creature, hippogriff or no hippogriff, has to go through what I did. They get to keep their families!” She lifted a talon and wiped away a stray tear from her cheek. “And… maybe I get to find one.”

“Well, I think you did that. You have us! And me.” Gallus pointed to his chest, drawing a laugh from Silverstream. “Especially me.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

And that was when it hit him in full-force. A realization. The realization.

“S-Silver… you asked me to join you, not because you were pitying me. You asked me because… because I was family to you.”

Silver smiled, but didn’t deny. “The only one that’s left here,” she said in a tone that was as calm as the tranquil sea, a stark contrast to her red eyes and tear-trailed cheeks. “There was no way I could ask the others. They had their own celebrations at home. But I also didn’t want you to spend Hearth’s Warming alone.”

Gallus, you’re an idiot. It took all of Gallus’ willpower not to slam his palms straight into his face at a force that would’ve gave him a concussion. So, instead, he settled for dropping his head into his hands.

“H-hey, look, Gal. If you want to spend Hearth’s Warming here, you don’t have to come! I don’t want you to feel like I’m forcing you!”

“I do,” Gallus answered.


“I do want to come. I was just worried that… I’d get in the way of celebrating the Three Days of Freedom.”

“What!?” Silverstream exclaimed. “Why would you ever think that?”

“Cause I’m mean. And grumpy. And if A Hearth’s Warming Tail was real, I’d be Snowfall Frost.”

“Wow, you listened during Headmare Twilight’s history lesson?”

Gallus coughed. “It was a good story.”

“Well,” Silverstream smiled, wiping away the last of her tears. “Snowfall becomes nice at the end, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“So… do you wanna join me for the Three Days of Freedom?”

“Heh, sure,” Gallus said with a shrug.

“Woo hoo!” Silverstream unfurled her wings, pulled Gallus into a bone-crushing hug and spiraled upwards. “You’re going to love it there! There’s dancing and swimming and food and—”

“Breathing?” Gallus barely squeaked out.

“Oh oops!” Silverstream lightened her hug. “And breathing. Lots of breathing.”

“Whew, good.” Gallus sighed, a playful smirk crossing his beak. “Anyway, I need to get back. I have only a... couple of hours to pack everything.”

“O-oh, right. You should probably do that.”

Gallus, with a smile, took off towards the dormitories. But not before turning back around, spotting Silverstream waving her claw rapidly in the air, with her signature excitable energy put behind each swing of her arm.

And Gallus waved back.

“You ready?”

Gallus nodded. Despite the chilly weather, the station was packed with creatures of all sorts, some alighting and trying to make their way into Ponyville, and an equal amount attempting to get on trains to leave. With a ticket in one claw and his luggage in the other, he was slowly inching his way towards one of the parked train cars.

In front of him was Silverstream, who was radiating excitement. So much so that she could barely stand still. Somehow, in the dense crowd, she had found enough room to bounce back and forth on the spot, swaying and swinging to the beat of her own song.

When they had reached the front, Gallus laid eyes on the sign that read ‘Train to Mount Aris’, and he felt his stomach began to churn. Was he really going to through with this? It was a whole new place, with whole new creatures to deal with. When he could barely handle those at the Friendship Academy.

But before he could consider anymore, he was at the front of the line. He gave the conductor his ticket and ascended the steps into the train car. He and Silverstream had found a seat next to one of the windows at the back.

“Aren’t you excited?” asked Silverstream as she pulled off her earmuffs.

“Y-yeah!” Gallus partially lied.

“H-hey, Gal. It’ll be fun! You’ll get to see many new things! Get to do so many new things! It’s going to be amazing!

“Y-yeah. Just… never been this far out before,” said Gallus. He peered out of the partially frosted windows, making out the fields of white snow and fillies and foals playing in them. And even he couldn’t deny the joyful spirit in the air.

“Relax! It’s gonna be fine!”

“Yeah.” The horn of the train sounded three times and, slowly, it began to move forward. He had just past the point of no return, so he drew several slow breaths to steady his fraying nerves. “You’re right. After all, we’re both looking for the same thing from the holiday right? Friends? And family?”

“Honestly, Gal. With you trying to change for the better, I think the former won’t be a problem for you.”

Gallus stared forward with a large, genuine smile. “And family?”

Silver shifted in her seat, a sheepish smile crossing her beak. She stared down at the accessory around her neck. Lifting a claw, she dragged it lightly over the shells, beads and pearl fragment. She then turned up to meet Gallus’ gaze, before saying seven words.

Ones that he’ll never forget.

“I… think we both already have that.”