Three Years Later…
Any minute now. Come on… where is she?
Gilda sighed and rolled her eyes, taking them off of the wall clock as she blew her hanging feathers out of her face nonchalantly. Script was running late yet again, and the suspense caused by awaiting the mare's return home was driving Gilda mad with both boredom and anticipation. The mare had become quite a well-respected teacher over the years, and being pulled aside after school to attend to this or that affair was becoming an increasingly common occurrence.
Gilda herself had also been quite successful, having become a somewhat-known painter in the city of Canterlot, with her paintings being recognizable to a few critics outside of the city's ivory walls. Her works hung in various galleries and homes throughout the capital, and she spent many days in her lavish home experimenting with various styles. Presently, she was reading a book about philosophy, waiting for inspiration to strike her and drive her to put brush to canvas. She had found herself in a creative slump as of late, and felt that she desperately needed a break from her normal activities. However, none of that mattered at the moment as she continued to stare into her book, seeing the outlines of the words but taking no meaning from them. It was somewhat hard to focus when something so important could be arriving soon. Something that could finally take her mind off her recent streak of near-depression.
The griffon heaved a sigh and put the book down upon the coffee table while reaching up with her free claw to massage her temples. The past three years had flown by, and she was beginning to feel an emptiness that she could not explain. She had money, was gaining local fame, and was free of tangible desire, but still she felt a void in her soul, one that she could not explain. Though the loss of Estelle had never gotten any easier, Gilda had finally come to terms with the fact that she had no parents to rely on, and had forced herself to mature and learn to cope. With her newfound maturity came a sense of self-understanding, and the griffon had slowly come to both accept who she was, and had learned who she was not. After years upon years of uncertainty, Gilda finally was finally beginning to feel comfortable in her own skin. So why was she still so unhappy?
With a snarl, the impatient griffon closed her book and rose off the couch to find something more stimulating to do while she waited. Something, anything to successfully divert her attention from these stupid and unnatural feelings that she was beginning to develop. Now eighteen, Gilda found herself unsatisfied with the thought of remaining alone for the rest of her life, and had decided to attempt to be more open to those around her. Rainbow Dash had played a great part in Gilda's change in attitude, opening her mind ever so slightly to the idea that the world was not the horrible place that Gilda was previously convinced it was. She explored the city, tolerating the masses of ponies and sometimes even going so far as to converse idly with them, but almost always lost interest in such activities quickly. Though she wanted to connect with others and bring more meaning into her life, she was thoroughly unwilling to compromise her personality or beliefs to do so, and as such, found it difficult to find friends as close as Rainbow Dash and Derpy.
Fond memories flooded her mind as she walked into the kitchen, and Gilda thought back to the times that her best friend and rival had visited her in Canterlot. The stays were always brief, a few days at best, but Gilda found herself eagerly looking forward to each visit. Rainbow's promise to write had indeed been kept, and the two sent letters back and forth on at least a weekly basis. The pegasus wrote about all sorts of things, from her experiences in her first meeting with a unicorn named Rarity and earth pony named Pinkie Pie, to the arrival of a new pony in town named Twilight Sparkle, who was apparently Celestia's protégé, to the vanquishing of Nightmare Moon and the return of Princess Luna, to the most recent account of Applejack having overworked herself to the point of sleep deprivation.
That last letter had been a particularly amusing one, and the hybrid girl couldn't help but chuckle as her mental pictures of the imagined scenario rose up to the forefront of her mind. As she shook the silliness from her head, Gilda reached into the fridge and poured a glass of water, hoping that it would at least be able to bring some comfort. Reflection had never really been her thing, and yet here she stood, lost in memories as the cool liquid met her beak. The letters once again became the subject of her thoughts, and more imagined snapshots of a wobbly earth pony failing to buck trees almost caused her to choke upon her drink in laughter.
Gilda had a feeling that she and Applejack were going to get along quite well when they finally met, based upon the descriptions of the stubbornness that the farm pony was capable of displaying according to Rainbow. Gilda knew the sensation of a lack of sleep well, as her muse was a fickle bitch and kept her awake painting at odd hours, which in turn drove Script up the wall. The older mare, now in her early thirties, had developed a lifestyle heavily coated in routine, which clashed with Gilda's own free and erratic will and sleep schedule. Though the conflict of interest was there, it caused no friction between the two, and Script merely found it amusing and baffling that her friend could live her day to day life without a plan. However, the lifestyle of the griffon was a puzzle that Script knew she would never solve, and so she accepted it, despite being frustrated at her inability to comprehend it.
Though Gilda was content to maintain a chaotic existence, she had begun to worry for her other friend's stability. Derpy Hooves had visited Gilda's home once, and the reunion, which taken place two months after Gilda's departure from Flight Camp, had seemed tense and strained. Gilda had noticed that the mare's sadness and anxiety that had begun near the end of their time together at camp was present in full force, but the mare had been completely unwilling to tell Gilda the cause. Though she was slightly hurt by her friend's lack of trust, Gilda allowed Derpy to deal with her problems in her own way, and had not seen the mare since. Gilda set down her half-finished water upon the counter, finding that she was no longer thirsty for some reason. She would never admit it to herself, but over time, Derpy's lack of communication had begun to hurt.
Despite her friend's noticeable absence, Derpy had begun sending mail in a fashion much like Rainbow, only at a much slower rate. Her letters tended to ask questions, concerned more with what Gilda assumed were theoretical scenarios and learning Gilda's opinions about random subjects than what Derpy had been doing throughout the years. Gilda only knew that Derpy had moved to Ponyville because Rainbow had told her in a letter, and otherwise had no knowledge of anything else going on in her life. Though the letters were nice, Gilda found herself missing the enthusiastic, spritely pegasus that had not been around in so long. Without her… things just weren't the same.
Son of a bitch. I don't do this reflective crap. I need to stop this before I get all sappy and… lame. Ugh.
Gilda shook her thoughts of concern for Derpy from her mind, beginning to reach for the refrigerator handle as she heard a key slide into the lock of the front door downstairs. The griffon immediately abandoned her intended foray into the culinary arts, instead running down the stairs to meet her friend and pseudo-family. Though Gilda was elated just to have the pony back home, today, her goals were two; to greet Script as she always did, and to learn if there had been any new mail for her.
The thought of receiving a reply from Rainbow for her last letter made Gilda's heart race, as she had never before written something so bold and forward. In her previous letter, Gilda had asked Rainbow if she could stay with the pegasus in Ponyville for a few days, as she had become anxious to experience something totally new, both to drive her artwork and to fill the gap in her heart. Though bar Flight Camp, Gilda had never ventured far from her hometown's walls, the griffon felt it was high time to go and explore the possibilities of meeting new ponies from different cultures and try to let go of her passive hatred for them. Given that Rainbow had taken the griffon's advice and relocated to Ponyville, where the pegasus had several friends, Gilda could think of no better place than the small town to visit as the start of her attempt at learning tolerance and accepting new ponies into her life.
As Gilda reached the bottom of the stairs, the door swung open to admit a bespectacled mare, who immediately smiled at the sight of Gilda anxiously waiting in the foyer. Script reached back to her saddlebags, removing a singular envelope and handing it to the waiting griffon who stood clicking her talons against the wooden floor in anticipation. "Looks like she replied, Gil."
Gilda's eyes widened, and a surge of sheer excitement swam up through her breast in a sensation that she had not felt since she was an eaglet. The elated griffon accepted the letter, all smiles, uncaring that Script was laughing at her uncharacteristic reaction. Hastily, she drove a talon into the top of the envelope, letting the paper shell fall to the floor uselessly as she quickly unfolded the parchment within and began to read.
Of course you can come visit! Just drop by whenever, and stay as long as you want. We haven't seen each other in so long! Writing is nice, but it just isn't the same. It's been what, almost a year now? So much has happened, even more than I've been able to tell you, and I can't wait for you to meet everypony! Stop reading and start packing, G. You need to get here yesterday!
Gilda folded the letter, laughing a bit at the messy writing and brevity of the reply. Just like Dash. Straight to the point, and doesn't even care when I show up, just as long as I do soon.
"Well, Scribbles. Looks like I'm heading out for a while to go try my claw at meeting Rainbow's friends. Should be… interesting."
Script adjusted her glasses as she made a disgusted noise. Telling Gilda her fillyhood nickname had been a mistake, and ever since that fateful conversation a few days ago, the griffon had never missed an opportunity to use it. "You're lucky you have claws, Gil. I've bucked others for less."
"No, you haven't. You don't have anger problems like meeeeeeeeeee," the griffon said in a singsong voice.
Script laughed, and gave Gilda a playful punch on the shoulder. "That stupid camp was forever ago, kid. I thought you let that go?"
"I did," she lied. Gilda had indeed moved on from her lashing out at Dune and almost taking the stallion's life, but she had also never forgotten Ember's cryptic and meaningful words. The impact of his advice and warning had caused Gilda to think more carefully about the way in which she reacted to things, and thus far, she had prevented herself from exploding again. However, she had an unsteady feeling that the longer she stayed bitter, the closer she was coming to making another unforgiveable mistake…
"Well, I guess you'd better go pack and whatnot. I've got some work to do, so I'll be in my study. Or the living room, actively not doing it. Whichever. Make sure you let me know when you're leaving, or else I'll cry, and then get over it pretty quickly." The mare smiled, walking past Gilda and up the steps to go and drop off her saddlebags. Gilda followed and parted with the mare in the hallway, ascending the second staircase that lead to her mother's former room.
In time, Gilda had claimed the bedroom on the highest floor of the house as her own, and turned her childhood room into a glorified storage closet. All of her painting supplies and books remained in her second floor room, while her more personal treasures were moved to the larger bedroom in which she now slept. Gilda gave her few belongings a cursory glance, and eventually decided that she would likely need absolutely nothing. So long as Rainbow had a place for her to sleep, Gilda would be content to hunt for her own food and style her feathers with a light coating of water to prevent the need to bring supplies. After a little internal debate, the griffon eventually decided to at least bring her duffel bag and a pouch of a few hundred bits with her, in case she felt inclined to buy anything during her stay.
Gilda turned and left the room, heaving the bag back over her shoulder as she walked down to the second floor, where she knew Script would be, probably lying on the couch with a tin of candy. Though the pony was indeed a hard worker, Gilda also knew that she was prone to several hours of procrastination upon arriving at home before actually behaving like an adult. As Gilda stepped into the room, she found the lazy mare in the exact position she had imagined her in, one grey hoof stuck into a colorful container and a guilty look plastered upon her face. The griffon snorted as the pony blushed, and the two exchanged a brief look before Gilda turned to face the door.
"Hey, I'm heading out."
Script blinked, not having expected her friend to be leaving so soon. The pony hiked a brow and allowed herself an amused smirk at the sight of the lightly-packed griffon before her. "Need help with all of those bags?"
Gilda rolled her eyes and blew her feathers out of her face in response. "I'll be fine. I'm probably only staying a week or so, and I could use a break from painting. So… yeah. Not bringin' shit." She hiked a talon toward the sliding glass door behind her before moving her body to follow the motion. "Looks like I'm gone for a bit. See you around, Scribbles."
"Later, Gil. Tell Rainbow I said 'hey'. I hope you find what you're looking for, kid. Be nice."
"Yeah, yeah. I will. Get some work done, you horrible pony. Your students are depending on you! Whatever would they do without your knowledge?" Gilda replied in a mocking tone.
Script waved a dismissing hoof, her attention not breaking from unwrapping her candy. "Don't make me come over there."
Years of reflex training was the only thing that saved Gilda from taking a sugary projectile to the forehead, and she caught the small confection inches from her face before popping it into her mouth with a smirk. "Ooh, vanilla lemon drops. Good choice. Can I have another one?"
Script hurled another candy to the waiting griffon with equal force and just a little bit more malice. Again, the griffon managed to catch it, and sucked on it the candy happily while she watched the mare begin to fume. "One more for the road?"
Script sighed before rising from the couch with a stretch and walking over to her former student and close friend. The pony captured Gilda in a tight embrace, sighing before she removed one last candy for herself and giving the griffon the entire container with a sad smile.
"Take care of yourself, kid. It's time to start over and just let go. Stay with your friend as long as you want, and I'll be here if and when you need me. You'd better write if you're gone longer than two weeks, though, or I'll have Celestia send the Royal Guard to hunt you down. I've got connections, you know."
Gilda returned the smile and placed the container into her bag with a slow motion, one leg still wrapped around the charcoal mare. "I know, and I will. Well… bye. You take care of yourself, too." Slowly, she broke the embrace and moved to open the door before stepping out onto the deck. Her feathers and fur ruffled in the strong breeze as her talons met the woody surface, and she closed one eye against the harsh wind.
As she brought one wing down above her forehead to shield her eyes, Gilda looked in the direction of Canterlot Castle, far beyond which the village of Ponyville could be found. It would be a long, arduous flight, but in the end, she didn't mind. Flying was always her time for quiet reflection, where Gilda could feel free and alone without judgment, and escaping the past became that much easier due to the euphoric feeling of the rushing wind against her fur and feathers.
The solemn griffon walked down the steps of the deck and into the grass, where she paused and took a deep breath. Gilda closed her eyes, cleared her mind, and resolved to do her best to start her life anew.
Here I come, Dash. I hope Ponyville is ready for me.
Gilda opened her fierce golden eyes and began a quick sprint across the lawn before performing an impressive leap and spreading her massive wings. Pouring all of her effort into the act, she flapped repeatedly, rising higher and higher, heading in the direction of the setting sun as its rays played across her tawny coat. With her mind in the past and her hopes in the future, Gilda the griffon flew onward toward Ponyville, into the endless sky.
Author's Note: And there it is. The third and likely final full editing of this story is complete, and I really, really hope that it has been improved to a level that is satisfying. I want this to be the background that I feel Gilda deserves, and so I've put a hell of a lot of time into reworking this. The sequel to this story, Crossroads, has begun, and chapter one was posted quite some time ago. However, due to Scented Venom blooming into a full story and taking a ton of my time along with unexpected events in my life, Crossroads was put on hold. However, as soon as Scented Venom is complete, I'll be giving Crossroads the focus it deserves and making it one of possibly two main chapter story projects. A few quick notes about this universe, and the stories tied to it:
-There are two sidestories that I highly recommend reading before Crossroads if you plan to keep up with this whole saga. The Endless Sky: Perfect is Derpy's story throughout the final chapters of this, and The Endless Sky: Circle of Flames deals with Ember Blitz's perspective on those events and beyond. You could skip them and jump directly to Crossroads… but I wouldn't recommend it. Perfect is especially important.
-Crossroads, the sequel, will cover the events of Griffon the Brush-off and beyond. It's a bit of a Gilda redemption story, and really the reason that The Endless Sky was even written. This is more of a prequel to Crossroads than that story is a sequel to this. Crossroads is the main attraction, this story was just an attempt at making Gilda an actual, defined character before I gave her a whole huge story.
-To New Heights and Ruby are both one-shots that take place in this universe. Neither is absolutely essential to understanding this or Crossroads, but both flesh out some characters that will play a role in time. To New Heights is centered around Applejack and Rainbow Dash, both of whom will play a huge role in Crossroads. Ruby is about Vinyl Scratch, who will also be showing up, and getting her own story at some point. I won't really say how that ties into this, yet, but it does.
So… what did you think of this entire thing? Given that it was my first real story, I was constantly on edge, and after redoing the entire thing twice, I think I'm finally satisfied with how it turned out. Anything you'd like to see in Crossroads? Feel free to let me know, I'd love to hear your overall opinion of this entire thing, and what you hope for Crossroads to hit upon. Though I have a pretty specific idea of what's going to happen from here on for most things, I'm open to suggestions or requests, and will see if I can incorporate them.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who reviewed, favorited, subscribed, and read this story period. You guys are all great, and I want to give special thanks to Amber Treelights, Heart of Blades, Quill Inkwell, and CanadianSushi. Thanks for putting up with the PMs and actually responding and whatnot, and all of the advice and insight that you guys have given me. It's time to start working on Crossroads for real, now. See you there, I hope!
(Holy shit my first big story is actually done… again! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!)