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An Inspiring Occurrence in Griffonstone (Open!; tacobob)

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Oh, Griffonstone; the total dump of a bird/cat city that the fellow griffons liked to call home. Though some of the griffons were growing out of the grumpy and selfish phase of their stereotype, others were hesitant, or more so, hostile to the sudden change. Gillian was indifferent of the changes coming to the city, as her aunt went on and on about how this change needed to be put down for the sake of their humanity. Gill agreed, but she didn't want to be a happy-go-lucky type of griff. Or more like, she didn't know how to express her feelings in a positive light. 

 

Whatever the case may be, the half peregrine falcon, half cheetah, stood motionless at the entry way, awaiting her new guest. Her Auntie Gia told her about her cousin that was coming to visit, but Gill was ignorant on why she was coming. She hasn't seen her cousin since she was a kitten, but she hoped the other griffon made a good living. She knew to get around here, her cousin was going to have to keep hold of a lot of bits. Gillian was already ready with her bag, as greedy griffons still ran about the trashy area. 

 

The bird kicked away at a piece of paper rolling towards her. She hoped her cousin, Zelda, wouldn't be too shocked at how rancid Griffonstone looked. Trash covered the plains as every griff's houses seemed to be only holding up by a thread. Even her own seemed to be dismembered and unorganized, but it wasn't as nearly as bad as the others.

 

Honestly, Gillian didn't know how to act around Zelda. She hasn't seen her in forever, they both probably have changed a lot. The griffon was rather nervous, to much she'd admit, as she found herself digging into the sandy ground with her talons. Her long tail waved back and forth with anxiety, as she tried to collect herself. She was normally reserved and nonchalant, but her heart was beating a little extra. The athletic griffon darted her eyes around the entrance in search of her mysterious family member, then looking behind to see other griffons tilting her head at her. 

 

With a huff, all she did was blink at them, no smile, no wave, just a blink. They must've gotten her drift as they looked away immediately, rolling her eyes at the curious half-cats behind her. Though she could here some grumble with curiosity and anger, she didn't budge. She knew she looked a little off standing there by herself, as normally when some other griffon comes along, there normally isn't a very genuine welcome. This was her cousin though, and she felt she should at least give her a nice appreciation. Gill knew Zelda wasn't fond of this place, that's one of the things she remembered about her. So, she wanted to get this reunion off to a positive start. More like, her aunt wanted them to start of on a good note. Gill sometimes felt her Auntie Gia controlled her life. 

 

The griffon perked up a little when she saw a moving shadow come towards her, hoping it was her cousin. She put on a forced smile and lifted her arm up for a wave. 

 

Hopefully this would go well..

 

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Here she finally was. Griffonstone. The former heart of the Griffon Kingdom that once rivaled Equestria and the Crystal Kingdom in beauty, but was now a retched cesspool. It was the land of her ancestors and a place someone thought it would be a good idea to build a large castle on top of a single branch of a very old and very large tree.The young griffon had planned to visit the shanty town and take photos of some of the older statues that lined the area. Hundreds of years of non-extant maintenance and poor weather had reduced the once meticulous statues into un-salvageable heaps of stone.
 
Once she flew through Griffon Gorge, the black coated griffon found a nice spot to land and take in the ghastly sight of what would have been called a 'city' at one time. She pulled out a rather heavy tome from her backpack. It was one of her favorite books, 'Bygone Griffons of Greatness'. Here she would be able to use as a reference to fill in the blanks when she would later recreate her statue of choice. She was almost certain she would do one of King Grover as she turned to the page that showed the great king and his royal family.
 
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This wasn't the right page. This was King Gryphus III, a strong king who foolishly allowed his pride to get the better of him. He tried to conquer Equestria and managed to run into a Princess Celestia who was not in the best of moods. Thankfully the next King...Rhosus was far wiser than his older brother. She paused to admire the image of Gryphus's youngest son, Prince Alex. Who knew this adorable little creature would grow up into a beast of a bird that was an epic drunkard and philanderer? Thank goodness he never got his claws on the kingdom.  Griffonstone would never have lived long enough for Guto to run it into the ground.
 
Thankfully, there was more to Griffstone than rotten statues and dead kings, there was the remaining members of her family that never left the old city during the great migration to Rockwington. Her cousin Lil' Gilly was there. Poor thing was abandoned by her birth mother and would eventually be raised by her Aunt who was a total Mensch for doing so. The young griffon had a rather lofty goal of becoming an Wonderbolt. Had there been Wonderbolt griffons in the past? Zelda really didn't follow sport, so she did not know.
 
As she schlepped her way through the residential zone of the ruins, the blacksmith and artist was pleasantly surprised that there were signs of some constriction going on. Apparently after a few hundred years, some griffons finally figured out how to fix a thatched roof. But for every restoration going on, there were ten homes that looked utterly unlivable.
 
And wow. There she was. Her cousin Gill. She was no longer the cute little kitten like in the photo her father had given her. She had grown up to become a rather beautiful bird.  "Hey! Gill, it's me Zelda!" Ho-Boy, that smile was so forced, she was surprised her beak didn't pop off. Still, she was not going to let that stop her from giving her cousin a hug!
 
Thankfully she did not put her full strength into said hug as the blacksmith was very strong. "Nice to meet you cousin.", the bird flashed a comfortable, beaky smile. She gave the pretty bird time to respond.  Then added,  "If you don't mind, let's get something to eat as I'm starving....And I will be paying.." There had been nothing but snacks on the train for her to nosh on. She needed real food, griffon food. Hopefully there was something resembling a bar or restaurant somewhere under the rubble.
 
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Among all the signs of construction and commotion that dotted the old and rotting city, one of the most conspicuous surrounded an incongruous splash of color in the drab tones of Griffonstone.  Some weeks prior, the East Canyon wall had been festooned with banners emblazoned with an... interpretation of the old Imperial Crest, below which a seat had been carved out of the stone, roughly, almost as if in hasty preparation for the arrival of its occupant.  But where was the claimant to the ancient throne, the would-be restorer of Griffonstone?  Perhaps the first clue would be the shouts from underneath the roof of a nearby building, as mouldering thatch shook and rustled, muffling the sound of shouts and cu-catrses until, at last, a whole section of the roof gave way, falling to the ground in a great heap of rubbish.

 

"Damn and Blast the hides of our ancestors!  How in the name of Tartarus can you maintain a glorious Empire while living in a fire hazard?"  The figure that emerged from the hole in the ceiling would have been remarkable and eye catching even without the straw festooning his head, wings, and various patches of staticy fur.  He was an older male griffon, who had managed to cultivate a moustache of truly awesome proportion, waxed and curled so much that not even straw could fit through the fibers.  Less immune to bethatching was his magnificent feather hat, which matched in color to what looked to be the dress uniform of the Aquellian Marines, festooned with medals, some of them genuine!

 

"Well, never mind that, we'll have the palace properly tiled yet!"  The griff didn't seem to be one to be kept in a bad mood for long.  "In the meantime, let us have the tarps!"  Around the house, a small crowd had gathered, some to spectate, others to jeer, and a few more besides to actually help.  Not like there was any better show in town.  Whatever his Imperial Pretentions may have been, he clearly wasn't too proud to get his claws dirty, working with his few helpers to fly a tarp that matched the banners to cover the roof.  Insignia and all; any newcomers to the town would immediately have their eyes caught by the spectacle....

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Wow! There she was! Gill's cousin in her full glory was right there in front of her. Honestly, she looked just as she remembered. Just.. bigger and older, but she was utterly gorgeous. All black, piercing blue eyes. She was sleek. Her fur seemed nice and soft. All her features seemed to have filled out well with a good number of years. Gill was impressed. "Uh- hey, cousin." She forced another smile, lifting her talon up for a respectful shake, but instead she was hugged. 

 

Oh, boy. How this griffon hated physical contact like this. 

 

"Nice to agh!" A little squeeze, thankfully nothing too strong. Knowing Zelda was a blacksmith, she probably was way stronger. "-meet you too!" Finally the hug was over, making Gill take in a big breath. The speedy bird hadn't been hugged in a long time. The last time was probably back on the first day of flight school, where her Aunt Gia gave her a sweet goodbye. The poor shy kitten was so scared for her first day.

 

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Luckily she got over that.  

 

Now being a little more confident, she cleared her throat. Her orange-green eyes looked at her cousin's regular smile, then opened her beak, "Yeah- sure. Food sounds good." Right to the point, the half-cheetah always was. She wasn't much of a long talker for conversations, but she felt she had to keep her cousin comfortable. She hasn't seen any part of her family in forever, besides her Aunt. Anyway, the griffon didn't argue about Zelda paying. Gill was running low on the bits, and didn't really wanna pay.

 

She awkwardly cleared her throat again, looking around the desolate Griffonstone. Only a few creatures were out 'n about, though one think distracted her, which was a group of griffons setting up a tarp over a roof.  "Um- there actually is a new bar up ahead. Just got built." She nudged her head forward. "They.. got some good drinks. Food isn't bad or anything." Gillian then began to walk, hoping her cousin would follow behind. She suddenly looked behind though, thinking about her luggage. "Oh- we can stop by my place if we need to drop your things off. It's on the way there."

 

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After the series of very big bird hugs, Zelda cringed as something very large had fallen. Oy Vey Ist Mir! Was Griffonstone somehow managing to fall even more apart? Was the large rubble collapsing into smaller rubble? While there were some birds who insisted on trying to save the place, was it really worth it? it was all turning to plotz! Even the noble little ponies gave up on their original castle when the Everfree became too unmanageable. "Yeah.", she glanced at her own heavy pack, "We better stop at your place first, if you don't mind and I can drop off my pack.", she held a large backpack that probably contained more stuff than anyone needed.
 
As she followed her cousin, Zelda studied the area. The more she saw, the more hope she had for the village, but it was still probably not enough, "So, how are you doing? I heard you wanted to be a Wonderbolt. And I could see you doing that..You're more than fit. You could probably fly circles around most of the last class I saw in Canterlot. Everypony was eh.", she shrugged her shoulders, "Except for the Rainbow haired mare. She could probably out-fly death itself, but the others..I think they're running out of athletes. Maybe next team will have a griffon, dragon and even a gargoyle...I would also recommend you join the R.E.A as only the best Bolts come from the military..."
 
The pair stopped. Was this Gillian's house?
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(I'm going to assume the house they stopped in front of is the one with Norton)

Once the tarps were in place and secured, the mustachioed griffon gave a nod of approving inspection before landing on the ground in front.  This brought him fairly close to the pair of griffons, one of which was not among any of the faces he knew.  With a smile, and a stentorian voice, he called out, "Welcome, stranger and exile, to the Imperial Restoration!"  The small crowd around him began to mutter and nudge each other, as if they expected some kind of entertaining show to ensue.  It often did, when newcomers encountered-

 

"I am Emperor Norton Breakbeak the First, Restorer of the Imperial Seats, true heir to Griffonstone, and Lord Protector of the Nations."  The titles he assigned himself had been adjusted since his first public appearance; he used to call himself 'Lord Protector of Equestria' before some irate pony visitors had given him a piece of their minds.  "You have arrived in the middle of the palatial renovations."  He gestured back to the tarped building behind him.  "A longterm work in progress, as will be the Restoration as a whole.  But as the wise say, it is good for a nation that the old plant trees in whose branches they shall never perch."

 

While he recognized Gillian, he can't have said to have interacted with her much.  It was fair to say that her life plans did not include him and his notions being at all relevant to her future.  Hence, he could only address her as he saw her.  "Citizen-subject, is she a relative of yours?"

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"Okay, we can stop by my place then." She shrugged, suddenly staring at the very large backpack on her cousin's back. She really wanted to ask what all was in there. Definitely more stuff than she needed. Griffonstone was way better off now, but Zelda probably thought this city was uttery unlivable. Gill understood though. A while back, before those two colorful ponies who changed up Gilda's life, the city was rancid. Times change though. Anyway, she didn't ask, because that would be confrontation. She didn't feel like talking much. 

 

Of course the silence didn't last long, which kind of made Gillian's anxiety skip a beat. She had to open up more.. great. "Oh- I'm doing good. Yeah. Flying is cool. Being a Wonderbolt would be cool too." She shrugged once again, whipping her long tail side to side behind her. Then her tail flicked up when she heard 'rainbow haired mare'. "You talking about Rainbow Dash?" A little hint of excitement washed over her eyes. She secretly admired the mare, probably the pony she looked up to the most in the Wonderbolts. Her aunt would talk about her all the time. Her and the rest of the Wonderbolts. Though, Fleetfoot was also one of Gill's favorites. "Heard she's the best flier. Not too sure how all the other fliers are though." Honestly, Gill never paid attention to any creature else when flying, just her. "R.E.A? Seems legit." 

 

Suddenly the pair stopped, which confused Gill. This surely wasn't her house. Immediately she felt uncomfortable, as a male griffon made his way towards them. His look itself made Gill feel rather weird. He only looked a little familiar. When he began talking, the half cheetah felt the urge to dash away quickly. She couldn't leave her cousin though. She probably wasn't used to weirdos like this. "Uh- yeah, she's my cousin," she simply said, feeling awkward.

 

Hopefully Zelda would make this encounter less awkward. She seemed to be a friendly talker.

 

 

 

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"I never met her, but I've seen her more than a few times. Impressive flyer. Not a fan of the hair...Eh, it's too much.", she added as she scanned the area for somewhere to stop at, "I have hung around with some of her companions, mostly with the earth pony, an rather impressive gal named Applejack, along with her rather yummy big brother. My heart was broken when he got ma...oh..", she stopped her beaky yammering when she was interrupted.
 
Oh. This was not good. Zelda really did not like to be interrupted when she had food on the brain. But what sort of restaurants did they have here? Did they have any health codes to follow? Would one need to wash the rubble before and after cooking each meal? She had a feeling she would see an old 'friend'. Back in her poor college years, she got stuck with her usual meal of Ramen and a VERY off brand canned Gefilte fish, called 'Paskudnik's Fish In A Can', which was a poached mixture of pickled herring, boiled carp and the rest was a mystery. It tasted horrible, but it was really cheap and filling. She recalled one of her school friends when she took a bite out of her meal. Poor Docket went from white to green in seconds.
 
The be-mustachioed griffon was the emperor? Griffonstone still had one of those? Seriously? Zelda glanced over at her cousin to catch her reaction. Was he the real deal, or was this bird trying to rip her off? He was going to stick out his claw for coins. That was the running joke here.
 
"Yep, I'm her cousin.", the black bird replied. While she might live to regret it later, the feisty female gave the maybe royal griffon a proper bow. "I am Griselda or just 'Zelda', formally of Rockwington, now of Canterlot, where I am a Royal Blacksmith. And also a sculptor. I hoped to view and create full sized versions of the statues here in hopes to make proper copies before the originals crumble into dust and.", she made sure to add, "To see my super-fast cousin."
 
He obviously wanted something. She was guessing, it was small, round and made up (mostly) of gold.
 
"And how could I be of aid to you, good Emperor?", she gave another bow. She was a very proper sort.

 

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Sensing the awkwardness emerging from the cheetah-patterned citizen, the mustachioed "Emperor" turned to address himself pretty much exclusively towards Zelda.  "Ah, a bespoke crafstgriff!  Truly, your kind were pillars of the Imperial glory back in the days where it shown; one cannot conceive greater evidence of the present Republican decadence in Aquellia that you had to leave your homeland to find a patron worthy of your art."  He might have been slightly hyperbolic in his classification of the Talonopolis regime, but he was right enough as far as history went.  The greatest smiths of each Emperor's reign were often listed alongside them in the histories, as the royal glory of both arms and architecture alike were so dependent upon them.

 

"The Imperial Treasury, alas, is not currently of such a state where it can hope to outbid Equestria's for your services.  Nonetheless, your efforts at the restoration of our public art have the Gratitude of the Crown.  I should be honored to conduct you personally to each remaining edifice. "  He even gave a little bow in return, only half as deep as the one Zelda gave to him, of course.  Didn't want to allow any confusion as to relative rank.  "It is to be hoped that the renewed displays will attract the interest of more than the odd academic; I see little recourse for revenues outside of tourism for the immediate future.  It is as much as We can ask of you... but there is one further favor, if you both would not mind."  He nodded to Gillian once again.  "There are two spaces open at the Imperial Banquet table, and We should love to have you two grace it for lunch."  For a moment, the Imperial airs slipped with a chuckle.  "Truly, it has been too long since I have treated two lovely young hens to a meal!"

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"Sure, she's pretty impressive," the griffon spoke, her voice sounding unimpressed. She particularly wasn't invested in the conversation, though she normally wasn't anyway. She just sounded bored. Her cousin rambled on about Rainbow's friends, as Gill spaced off from what she was saying. 

 

They stopped in front of this house with a really strange griffon on the top. Gillian wanted to just leave so, so, bad. Thankfully, the one time Gill liked the over-talkative persona, Zelda took over on all the talking to the stranger. She just let her tail whip around behind her in boredom, as the two griffons talked to each other. The only time she listened in was when Zelda started to talk about herself, then about Gill. She kind of smile of the idea of being the 'super fast cousin'. It felt right to hear. 

 

But her smile soon transformed into a frown, as the old bird went on about treating the two 'hens' to a 'lunch'. Gill's immediate reaction was to scrunch up her beak in disgust. She wasn't mean enough to give him a big fat 'no' though, so she stayed completely silent. She left it up for Zelda to respond to his idea. Meanwhile, the half-cheetah just stood by, looking around at the houses around her. If they did bring this griffon along, he'd have to come to Gill's house too.. great.

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“My clan....The Birzoths left Griffonstone many generations ago.”, the griffon really did not like to be referred to as a ‘hen’. It was a very old and outdated term for a female griffon and was a downright slur when applied to  females of the other races.  It normally meant  a group of busybody chattering old gals. No better than the fowl one would find at a farm. “They tried to keep everything properly maintained after King Guto lost his magic Macguffin to that horrible Cyclops, but the griffons were so heartbroken that it became a lost cause. Like this formerly great city, but I hope you well if you intend on restoring Griffonstone to its former greatness."
 
Something quickly dawned on her. She was here to visit her family, not to conduct business! But she actually wanted to help Griffonstone. "I really appreciate the offer, Emperor Norton Breakbeak the First.", she gave another quick bow. "I came here to see this gal and her aunt, so how about we postpone our little meeting until, possibly tomorrow? I'll get some good sleep tonight and will be ready for your ideas tomorrow...I know a good way to restore old statues and not make them look brand new...Stone statues that is.." She was will aware that most of the great bronze Griffonstone statues were either stolen and moved out of Griffonstone or simply melted into bars and sold.  She silently hoped that the great bronze of Princess Greta had been stolen and not melted as it was considered one of the grandest statues to ever grace any kingdom.
 
She was also very aware that her sweet cousin was very unsupportable at the moment and there was no reason to stress her out. "Begging that I have no intention to insult you or your upcoming work, I and only I will see you tomorrow." She was not going to drag poor Gillian into this. "We can work out some details and by then, I should have some useful ideas of my own." They REALLY needed to abandon the whole 'nest on trees' theme as it was so dangerous! Either go with traditional homes like the cute ones in Ponyville or the stone homes from Canterlot. Or maybe even build artificial trees to keep the old look...Oooh! She had so many ideas!
 
Once Norton gave his answer of either 'no' or 'yes, she gave the older griffon a fond good-bye (with another bow) and it was off again with her cousin.
 
"Sorry Grilly.", her ears drooped down as she spoke, "Let's head over to the house if you wish.."
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The 'Emperor' listened to the tales of Zelda's ancestors with a serious, but unsurprising face.  "My branch of the family left Griffonstone some time before that, settling in the first Clopton Coast Colonies.  I've no doubt that other surviving lines of the Imperial Tree survive, but none have come to claim their inheritance."  There was a look in his eye, suggesting that some sense lingered behind his anachrony that could sometimes come out in outdated words and outsized dreams.  "Many desire the glory without the labor, and many more cannot even see the glory.  After all, how many griffons could look at a granite boulder, and see the statue inside?"

 

He seemed somewhat disappointed that his lunch offer would not be taken up, but stepped back nonetheless.  "Of course.  One must maintain the bonds of kin, however much distance may divide.  I do look forward to seeing you tomorrow, both of you, in fact."  He nodded back towards Gill again, though he noted with a somewhat rueful expression.  "It does appear, however, that your cousin does not share our enthusiasm.  I hope, at least, she will come with some suggestions of how we may share it?"  He looked, for a moment, saddened, like a distant uncle who had come to his first family reunion, and wanting desperately to befriend his nieces.

 

Upon their departure, however, he would give a more cheerful, if formal, farewell, and return to his work of restoration, after a couple of sandwiches alongside his 'retainers'...

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