The Final Quest of Star Swirl the Bearded

by JohnPerry

Chapter 9: Act II: Chapter VI

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The next morning the sun rose from behind the mountains to the east, its golden rays cutting through the fog and casting their light on a weary group of travelers resting in the foothills of the Southern Peaks. From their position amongst the craggy, mossy rocks that covered the ridge, the ponies looked out over the misty forest that lay beneath them.

“I can still make out smoke rising from the trees,” Tempest announced to a nearby Silver Lining and Star Swirl. “But it seems to be fading. They must be putting the fire out.” The second she finished talking she grasped her forehead in her hooves and swayed slightly on the spot. “Curse this illness!” she sputtered, reaching for her flask to take a swig of water. “My head is pounding, my mouth is dry, I’m dizzy and inside I feel a sense of…longing. Are you sure this will pass soon, Star Swirl?”

“I’m not sure of anything, commander,” the unicorn answered. “Very few ponies can honestly claim to having survived the song of sirens. But I believe your symptoms are a result of your euphoria caused by the changelings. In time, they should fade.”

“I certainly hope so,” Silver Lining commented. Despite the cloudy weather, he was squinting as if a bright light was being shone into his face. “This is most unpleasant. Then again, I suppose it is a small price to pay for being alive.”

“Spoken like a true optimist.” Tempest chuckled heartily for a moment before her laughs turned to groans and she began clutching her forehead in her hooves again.


Nearby, Humble Pie was laying on a mossy rock, catching his breath as Swift Cloud sat nearby. Of all the pegasi she was the only who had flown out of the forest the night before; the others had partially flown, partially galloped, but mostly stumbled on their way out of the woods. Swift Cloud had been the one to take the lead and kept Commander Tempest close by, while Humble Pie galloped alongside the group, occasionally stopping to yank one of the pegasi to their hooves after they tripped over themselves for the umpteenth time. The earth pony still felt amazed that they had made it, and even more so that they hadn’t needed to fight their way out; Star Swirl had seen to that.

“Are you feeling alright?” he asked Swift Cloud. The pegasus smirked back at him.

“That must be the third time you’ve asked me that in the last hour. I told you, I’m fine. In fact, I’m better than fine. We managed to save Commander Tempest and my fellow soldiers! I was so afraid we wouldn’t succeed, but we did!”

Humble Pie nodded. “This must be a very proud moment for you. I imagine the Pegasi Empire gives out medals for saving their leader.”

“Oh…yes, I suppose they do.” Swift Cloud gave a small laugh. “I wasn’t even thinking about that. I’m just happy we’re all alive. I don’t want to have to do anything like that ever again.”

The earth pony smiled and laid his head against the mossy stone, still looking at Swift Cloud. “I never said thank you for saving my life from those things. So…thank you.”

“I owed you for saving my life. And, err, comforting me,” the pegasus replied, looking sheepish at the memory of her emotional outburst.

“You don’t need to thank me for that. What sort of pony would I be if I didn’t help somepony in need?”

“Regardless, you did. So thank you,” Swift Cloud insisted, giving Humble Pie a warm smile, which he returned.

“Hey, Swift Cloud!” The pair turned to see Thunderhead approaching them. The private was walking cautiously towards them, which Humble Pie was grateful for; given Thunderhead’s bulk and the pegasi’s present condition recovering from the changelings, he would likely be a hazard if he flew.

“Private, why don’t you come join me and General Hurricane?” Thunderhead said in a rumbling, though friendly tone.

“Um, thank you Thunderhead, but I’m content to keep talking with Humble Pie.” Swift Cloud gestured towards the earth pony, nudging slightly closer to him as she did so.

Thunderhead gave a sharp, barking laugh. “Him? Honestly Swift Cloud, I thought you’d appreciate talking with some pegasi after having to put up with this groundling for so long.”

Humble Pie stiffened, but did not rise to defend himself. He was tired and in no mood to get into any more entanglements. “Least of all with a dumb brute like this one,” the earth pony thought to himself. However, it turned out he didn’t need to go on the defensive; at Thunderhead’s words, Swift Cloud promptly lifted into the air, placing herself directly in front of him with a stern expression on her face.

“I’ll have you know that this ‘groundling’ saved my life last night. I suggest you show him the proper respect, private.” Her forcefulness caused Humble Pie to raise his eyebrows, but he at least had the benefit of seeing this new side to her last night. Thunderhead stepped back a few paces, eyes wide and mouth agape as he struggled to comprehend this change in her behavior.

He cast a quick glance at Humble Pie before giving Swift Cloud a dismissive shrug. “Suit yourself,” he said as he turned around to walk away. As he left, the pegasus mare fluttered back down onto the rock the earth pony was resting on.

“Nice pony,” Humble Pie grumbled under his breath.

“Actually, he is,” Swift Cloud commented, drawing a skeptical look from the earth pony. “I know he can be gruff sometimes, but he can really be very kind. In fact, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t even be where I am now.”

“Is that so?”

“Oh yes. He was the one who recommended me for this job. Nopony else seemed to think that I was cut out to be a soldier, but Thunderhead came through for me.” She smiled fondly at the memory.

“Oh…” Humble Pie’s reply trailed off as he considered this new information. “…I guess you must be very close friends, then.”

Swift Cloud chuckled. “I wouldn’t say very close, but he’s like a brother to me. I mean, we’re all brothers and sisters in the military, but Thunderhead especially so.”


General Hurricane sat alone, resting her head against a boulder and staring off into space, grimacing once in a while as a fresh wave of pain crept through her head or her stomach. The sound of hooves trotting snapped her out of her thoughts and she looked up to see Thunderhead slowly approaching, looking as disconcerted as she felt. They silently nodded at each other before Thunderhead sat down beside her.

“Private Thunderhead, I am ashamed.”

“…General?” Thunderhead asked hesitantly, fearing he had done something wrong and readying an apology for it.

“Not at you, private,” Hurricane grunted, squeezing her tired eyes shut and irritatingly rubbing them with a hoof. “Be honest, Thunderhead. We are the most pathetic excuse for soldiers that ever were, aren’t we?”

Thunderhead gave a sharp laugh, filled with relief that what was bothering Hurricane wasn’t of his doing. However, the stallion’s laugh was quickly stifled when he caught sight of the fierce glare the general was giving him. He cleared his throat. “Okay, I grant that last night wasn’t our finest hour, but-“

“Now there’s an understatement if I ever heard one,” Hurricane muttered darkly. “Being the first in our company to be captured by changelings and then later needing to be rescued by an earth pony and a hornhead in a silly hat: ‘not our finest moment.’ Thank you private, that puts everything into perspective.”

“At least the unicorn has magic. A lot of it.” Thunderhead looked over at Star Swirl with a thoughtful expression. “I can see why your mother sought to bring him along. With power like that willingly offered, I take no shame in accepting his help.”

“Hmph,” Hurricane grunted, crossing her forehooves and determinedly looking away from the unicorn.

“No, it’s the groundling that bothers me,” Thunderhead said, his tone darkening.

“Humble Pie?” Hurricane inquired, raising an eyebrow at the stallion. “I’m not fond of him myself, but he hardly seems worth worrying about.”

“Haven’t you noticed how much time he spends with Swift Cloud? Ever since that earth pony came into the picture, she has changed. Why, just now she had the gall to speak back to me! Me!

Now it was Hurricane’s turn to laugh. She momentarily tittered before succumbing to groans once more as her stomach churned. Placing a hoof on her forehead, she managed a smirk at Thunderhead. “You’re her recommender, private. Not her superior. If anything, I’d say she’s finally becoming the soldier you promised she would! Honestly, I don’t know what you saw in her, but she definitely came through for us last night.

“I know she’s always followed your word,” the general added, “but you couldn’t expect that to go on forever.”

“It’s more than that,” Thunderhead insisted, waving a hoof dismissively.

“Is it, though?” Hurricane asked, giving the private a level stare. “I grant that she and the earth pony seem rather…close, but that’s just Swift Cloud for you. She’s always been friendly. I think you’re just disappointed that your underling has finally grown a backbone.”

“I…I suppose,” the stallion relented, now unsure if there was anything to his suspicions or if he had simply been blinded by personal bias.

“Birds have to leave the nest eventually, Thunderhead. She couldn’t be your underling forever.”


After they all finally felt rested, the group of travelers began making their way up into the mountains, climbing high above the forest and leaving the misty landscape behind at last. A layer of fog clung to the rocky slopes, but where in the forest the fog felt heavy and stale, here it was accompanied by a cool breeze that felt refreshing to the ponies after spending so much time in the dense trees. The pegasi in particular were reveling in the change of scenery, even if they were still too ill to fly.

Humble Pie trotted forward at the head of the group. He was smiling inwardly to himself; with the pegasi grounded, he was now proving to be the fastest in the group save for Swift Cloud, who remained nearby anyway. A part of him wanted to openly point this out to the winged ponies behind him just to antagonize them, but he held back that urge and decided to savor the moment while it lasted. He fell back a few steps to trot beside Commander Tempest.

“I’m still not entirely clear why you wanted us to climb the ridge. I understand getting away from the forest if that’s your intention, but the pass through the mountains is a little further on,” Humble Pie pointed out.

“We’re not going to the pass,” Tempest replied. “At least not yet. We’ve lost too many supplies to continue all the way to Fortune’s Peak, so first we need to restock.”

“Ah. So you pegasi have a base somewhere around here?”

“Well…almost,” Tempest answered, smiling slightly. “You’ll see.”

“I suppose I will.” Humble Pie shrugged before glancing down at the weapon still hanging on the commander’s side. “Err…Temp-Commander Tempest I mean, may I ask you a question?”

“Of course you may, Humble Pie. But whether I will be able to answer it is a different matter entirely,” Tempest said, winking at the earth pony.

“…Right. Well, I was curious about the sword.”

“What of it?”

“You said that sword of yours was fashioned from a dragon’s tooth. But when I asked, you told me the story behind it was for another time.”

“And you want to hear it?” Tempest smirked.

“Well, you’re grounded, I’m in the mood for a good story, and we’ve got a long walk ahead of us. This seems as good a time as any.” Behind them, Silver Lining stiffened at hearing somepony addressing the commander so casually, but Tempest chuckled heartily.

“I’m not much of a storyteller, but there is an interesting tale nonetheless. Many years ago when I was still just a filly, if you can imagine that,” she added with a snicker, “a pegasus warrior on a scouting mission traveled far afield, deep into the mountains to the north. She was on her own and didn’t know what lay in those formidable peaks. Lost in the snow and ice, she sensed heat coming from a distant cave. Freezing, she followed the warmth and entered the cave, not realizing that she had flown into a dragon’s den.

“As can be expected, the dragon was not pleased and tried to chase this pegasus out. But the dragon was old and its eyesight was poor, and the warrior was very clever. So she taunted the dragon and lured it outside. Despite its size and strength, it could not keep up with the warrior’s speed and became lost in the blizzard raging outside. But it could still hear the pegasus’ taunts and became enraged, crashing into the snowy slopes in its anger. Finally it wore itself out and collapsed on the mountainside, where it shortly died from exhaustion. The brave, clever warrior took a fang from the dragon’s corpse as a trophy of her victory and brought it back to Peasopolis, where it was fashioned into a sword.”

“…Wow,” Humble Pie muttered quietly, in awe of what he had just heard. “That’s incredible! A single pegasus laying waste to a mighty dragon!”

“Yes, it is a very impressive feat,” Tempest agreed, nodding. “It’s also complete nonsense.”

“Ye-wait, what?”

“The warrior from this story had a penchant for self-aggrandizement. In fact, when I was young she was occasionally used as an example to teach foals of the risks of an inflated ego. That is why she was allowed to roam about alone in the first place; nopony wanted to work with her, and I imagine that she preferred it that way.”

“So there was no dragon?” Humble Pie inquired, bewildered by this new information.

“That’s what makes it confusing, because clearly there was a dragon; the tooth I now carry is indeed authentic. However, I believe she overstated her bravery and cleverness. I have no way of confirming my suspicions, but my guess is that the dragon was already dead when she arrived, and taking the tooth was a simple matter of plucking it like a flower. But my kind were so excited at the prospect of a single pegasus downing a fierce dragon and gifting our empire with an indestructible tool that she became a folk hero and her story accepted as fact.”

“Well, it sounds like everything worked out for her in the end,” Humble Pie commented.

“Actually, she perished when a certain dragon attacked her cloudpost on Fortune’s Peak,” Tempest stated matter-of-factly.


“Needless to say it didn’t help morale very much, to have the world’s only known dragon slayer killed so swiftly by said creature. Soon she became something of a martyr for the pegasi, her flaws and pompous nature quietly forgotten as her gift became the empire’s most treasured possession,” she finished, gesturing to the sword hanging off her side.

“You mean to tell me that you pegasi hail a pony who only rose to fame because of a lie?” Humble Pie asked incredulously.

“It is not who she was in life that matters, it is what she became after death that is important,” Tempest patiently explained. “Her sacrifice touches our souls, her gift is our key to victory and her tale of slaying a dragon, however fabricated, gives us faith that we shall succeed in doing the same.”

Humble Pie was silent for a moment. “This quest…this is about more than reclaiming territory for you pegasi, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Tempest confirmed. “This is about giving hope to my kind. This is about avenging the dragon slayer.”


Noon came and went as the group of travelers continued to ascend the ridge, heading eastward as they did so. The fog thinned as they climbed further away from the forest, slowly replaced by large, pillowy clouds that drifted by, pushed by the stiff breezes that buffeted the slope. To the north was a vast expanse of fog interrupted by the occasional hole in the clouds which gave them a view of the greenery below. From above the treetops the forest looked serene, belying the dangers held within. To the south, majestic peaks rose high above them, their tops covered in snow and ice; another blanket of white that seemed to reflect the clouds shrouding the forest below. And between these two expanses of white was the strip of stone gray and mossy green that the ponies now traveled along.

By this point the pegasi had largely recovered from their illness and could now fly without being in danger of crashing immediately. Humble Pie and Star Swirl were once again the only ponies in the group walking upon the ground as their winged companions took to the air, a few of them scouting ahead but never straying out of sight.

“Commander Tempest, we’re approaching our destination,” Swift Cloud reported, flying back to join the main group.

“Thank you private,” the commander responded. “Accompany Silver Lining while he goes ahead and formally announces our presence.” The private nodded as the advisor flew on ahead, joined swiftly by Swift Cloud.

“Formally announce?” Humble Pie muttered to Star Swirl in an undertone. “What, are we going to get attacked otherwise?”

“I think it’s more a matter of politeness,” the magician suggested.

“Politeness? We’re with the leader of the Pegasi Empire!” the earth pony exclaimed. “I don’t think we need to worry about politeness with a cloudpost.”

“I don’t think this is a cloudpost,” Star Swirl said, gesturing up the hill with one of his hooves. Humble Pie followed his gaze to see what looked like the mouth of a cave at the top of the ridge and a creature coming out to greet them – a creature that had wings but was most certainly not a pegasus.

“Commander Tempest!” a griffon called out to the pegasi leader, managing to pull off a deep, sweeping bow while remaining aloft. He lifted his head, grinning broadly at the visitors. “An honor t’ meet ye! Welcome t’ our humble den. Allow me t’ introduce myself; name’s Gregor.”

“Gregor the Griffon, it is a pleasure.” Tempest offered a salute. “I trust you’ve already met my advisor, General Silver Lining, and our youngest and most eager member, Private Swift Cloud. This is my daughter, General Hurricane-” here she pointed out Hurricane, “-and my loyal guard Private Thunderhead,” she finished, pointing out said pegasus.

“Charmed.” Gregor nodded at each of them in turn, before turning to the two grounded ponies. “And ye’ve got a unicorn an’ a pony with ye! I like yer hat,” he commented, pointing a claw at Star Swirl’s pointed cap. “What are ye, some kin’ o’ jester?”

“I am Star Swirl the Bearded,” the magician said in a commanding voice. “The greatest conjurer of our time!”

“Star Swirl the Bearded! Ye don’t say…” Gregor placed a claw on his chin and gazed at the unicorn with a thoughtful expression. “My word, Star Swirl the Bearded…” The unicorn adopted a smug expression at this recognition.

“Nope. Ne’er heard of ye.” The griffon shrugged and Star Swirl looked momentarily stunned before glaring at Gregor as if he had insulted him.

“So who are ye, then?” the griffon asked, turning to Humble Pie.

“Oh, nopony important,” the earth pony said quickly, feeling slightly intimidated by Gregor.

“Oh? Well then, soldiers, beardy, unimportant one, all of ye, come in! Come in!” he exclaimed enthusiastically as he began leading the ponies up the slope to the den.

Humble Pie followed along. Unlike Star Swirl, he wasn’t insulted by the griffon’s jibe. For that matter, he wasn’t sure how to feel about the whole situation. On one hoof this creature seemed friendly enough, but on the other hoof those claws and that sharp beak couldn’t be just for show. Pegasi actually got along far better with griffons than they did with the other pony tribes, probably because they both could fly and had a certain ferocity about them; griffons as dangerous creatures and pegasi as warriors.

“Yer a quiet one,” Gregor commented, now hovering beside the earth pony and placing a claw on his shoulder. Humble Pie suppressed a shudder at his touch, glancing down at the sharp talons that were now but an inch away from piercing his flesh should their master choose to wield them thusly.

Gregor must have noticed Humble Pie’s unease. “Don’t fret yerself now, I’ve no quarrel wit’ yer kin’. Or th’ unicorns fer that matter. Griffons don’t bother wit’ th’ weather or feed on pony crops; all th’ fightin’ between you ponies aren’t any o’ our concern.”

“That’s…good to know,” Humble Pie replied meekly. Gregor chuckled and gave the earth pony a friendly slap on the shoulder before flying ahead to speak with Commander Tempest.

The griffon’s den was a simple abode consisting of a small, rocky clearing near the top of the ridge that had several caves opening onto it. Overhead were several clouds that served as watchposts, each with a griffon atop that was keeping an eye on the surrounding landscape. Humble Pie noticed them keeping a close eye on their visitors, their sharp eyes watching his every step. Their gaze wasn’t hostile, but it certainly kept the earth pony from making any sudden moves.

As they walked across the clearing, Gregor and the pegasi landed and began to enter one of the caves. Looking around, the earth pony could only think that ‘humble’ had been an apt descriptor for the griffon’s home. The clearing was little more than a collection of large boulders that looked like suitable resting places for a lounging griffon. A few of the boulders were littered with what appeared to be the bones of small rodents, fish or other such animals you would expect a creature that was half-eagle to eat. Humble Pie grimaced at the sight before following his fellow travelers into the cave.

However, while the exterior of the caves suggested a simple, no-frills and perhaps harsh lifestyle, Humble Pie was stunned by the treasures held inside the cave. Within was a spacious room that was sparsely but elegantly decorated with busts of griffons, wooden shelves filled with goblets, collections of spears neatly arranged in fan patterns on the walls and a massive table in the center of the room that was covered in maps and charts laid out between plates and goblets full of food and drink.

But there was one feature of the room that immediately captured the earth pony’s interest. In the center of the room positioned on the wall was an intricate carving of a pair of griffons shown from the side, holding between them an elaborate coat of arms. Extending from this carving along both sides of the room was a painted frieze on the uppermost portion of the wall depicting griffons in flight or battle, frequently swooping down upon dark, shadowy creatures.

One section of the frieze caught Humble Pie’s eye; it showed a trio of griffons doing battle against a massive pony-like creature, and at first glance the farmer thought it was an earth pony the griffons were fighting, but he shortly realized that this thing was no pony. For one, it was at least twice the size of any of the griffons depicted, but more importantly was that it appeared to be flying, despite lacking wings. The griffons’ wings were outstretched to suggest that they were airborne and the strange creature was positioned above clouds. ‘No…it is clouds,’ Humble Pie realized as he examined the painting further. One griffon was painted upside down and in a state of alarm, encased in some sort of trap as curving lines that represented harsh winds threatened to topple the remaining griffon warriors. They fought boldly but the creature looked unperturbed, its visible eye inlaid with a small sapphire that shined a cold blue-

“Humble Pie!” The earth pony started at being snapped out of his thoughts and turned around to see Star Swirl calling him over to the center of the room. Casting a final glance at the frieze he approached the table where the group of ponies and several griffons were presently assembled.

“Humble Pie, this is Gwendolyn the Fair, leader of this village,” Star Swirl introduced the earth pony to the head griffon, who nodded at him but remained expressionless, gazing down at Humble Pie as if considering him. The pony bowed toward her as Star Swirl continued. “She has offered room for the two of us in this homely dwelling.”

“Plenty of room here,” Gwendolyn commented, offering the two a small smile. “We don’t play host to the wingless very often, but we should be able to house you. Gregor, see our guests to their quarters.” Gregor nodded and led Humble Pie and Star Swirl deeper into the cave as Gwendolyn turned to face Commander Tempest. “I know you’re going to refuse, but I still want you to know that you and your soldiers are welcome to spend the night inside, should you choose.”

“Thank you, but we prefer sleeping by our own means,” Tempest answered. “I will take my soldiers outside and set up our sleeping quarters for tonight. General Silver Lining, I leave you to recap our situation to Gwendolyn and bring her up to speed.” Silver Lining promptly saluted as Tempest gave him a small smile and a wink before leading the rest of the pegasi out the cave, leaving her advisor alone with Gwendolyn.

“Good to see you again, Silver,” the griffon said, giving the pegasus a genuine smile before pulling him into a strong hug.

“Same to you, Gwendolyn,” Silver Lining replied, returning her embrace. He nuzzled against her, his head resting on her feathery shoulder before they broke apart.

“So, joining together with a unicorn and an earth pony? That’s a bold move for you pegasi. If I didn’t know any better I’d say you’ve gotten desperate.” The griffon chuckled.

“Oh, we have grown desperate; there is little doubt about that. Commander Tempest worries so... But I would venture that you are even more desperate than we,” he added, looking around at the room. “This room seems rather sparse if my memory serves me well. Either the griffons aren’t as interested in guarding treasure as they used to be or,” the pegasus turned to Gwendolyn with a stern expression upon his face, “you’re actually leaving.”

“We can’t stay here.” The griffon gave a heavy sigh and looked fondly around the room. “Much as I have come to love this place, we have to leave. As you can see, we’ve already moved much of our possessions to a safer place. We’re preparing to migrate into the West; there may be good lands in the mountain ranges beyond the known world. There is nothing left for us here.”

“You can stay and fight with us! Gwendolyn, please,” Silver Lining pleaded, grabbing the griffon by the shoulders and looking into her eyes. “The pegasi have no quarrel with the griffons. Let us take up arms together, as we did before!”

“Always the optimist,” Gwendolyn said with a chuckle before her tone grew darker. “You can’t fight this.”

“So you know what this is? You know what threatens my kind?” the pegasus inquired urgently.

“We have a hunch,” the griffon replied, picking up a goblet to take a sip from it before continuing. “But we’re not staying here to find out. Our food sources are depleting and we don’t have the means to stay here much longer. The animals know, Silver. They know something draws nearer and so they flee this land. We have to follow, for our own survival.”

“I implore you to change your mind. After everything we’ve been through together-“

“This is not a matter up for debate,” Gwendolyn said, cutting Silver Lining off with a fierce glare. “Do you think that this was an easy choice for me? I am leaving behind the life I built here! I’m bidding farewell to my husband!” she cried out as she gave the pegasus a significant look, which caused him to look down at the floor in shame. “And what about our daughter? Do you think this will be easy for her?” The griffon stopped and breathed heavily for a few seconds to hold her emotions in check as a thick silence fell between the two.

“…How is Harriet?” Silver Lining asked, finally breaking the silence.

“She…” Gwendolyn had to pause, as the next word briefly got stuck in her throat. She inhaled deeply before allowing herself a proud smile. “She is the most beautiful hippogriff I have ever laid eyes on. Her writing gets better with each passing day and she takes such an interest in the world. You remember her curiosity,” she added, receiving a smile and a nod from her husband. “She needs to eat meat just as I do, so I had her leave on one of the first groups to depart. The reports she sends back sound promising. I can let you read them, if you wish.”

“I’d like that,” Silver Lining answered, giving his wife a grateful smile. Gwendolyn’s expression softened and she leaned in to embrace him once again.

“Come with us,” she whispered gently. “Come see your daughter again. She misses you so.”

“You can’t ask me to leave Commander Tempest’s side, especially now.” He broke out of the embrace and met the griffon’s eyes with his own. “You haven’t seen her as I have, Gwendolyn. She would drive herself mad with worry if I wasn’t by her side, and the empire needs her wisdom now more than ever.”

The griffon sighed deeply. “When did we take on such responsibility? When did we become stewards to our kinds? Heh, sometimes I think I should have married another griffon like a normal girl so we could both do away with this heartache.”

“Don’t say that.” Silver Lining gave her a stern look. “Don’t even joke like that. I don’t regret any of the times we spent together.”

“Oh Silver, I’m sorry,” Gwendolyn apologized, regret evident in her voice. “...Are you sure you won’t come with us?”

“This...” The pegasus paused for a moment before giving a heavy sigh, laden with emotion. “This is not a matter up for debate.” The griffon nodded and the two became quiet once more. Silver Lining looked down at the floor, fiddling with one of his hooves while Gwendolyn avoided looking at her husband, idly scratching one of her arms to keep her claws occupied.

“We’re the last group remaining here,” Gwendolyn explained. “As soon as we dismantle the rest of the settlement and secure what’s left of the treasure, we’ll leave as well.”

“I’ll follow you someday,” the pegasus stated confidently. “I can’t now, but someday I will.”

“I’d like that,” Gwendolyn said, returning Silver Lining’s grateful smile.

Another silence fell as memories of the past came flooding back and the two reminisced on the times spent with each other. Silver Lining looked thoughtful for a moment before reaching onto the table to grab one of the goblets.

“Then let’s make good of what little time we have left together in this land. A toast to our future! To Harriet! And to the griffons! To the West!” Silver Lining proclaimed, raising the goblet into the air.

Gwendolyn smiled warmly and took the goblet beside her, lifting it alongside her husband’s. “To the Pegasi Empire. Long may it prosper.”

Next Chapter: Act II: Chapter VII Estimated time remaining: 1 Hour, 59 Minutes
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