Chapter 1: The Roaring Storm
“How did you and Brave Storm meet, Soft Glow?” Gold Standard asked before taking a quick sip of the daiquiri that was just placed in front of him. “I’ve heard how she met Pas D’arms and Velvet Wing, but never you.”
“That’s because we grew up together!” Soft Glow proudly answers, licking her lips at the mudslide that was slid in front of her. “We had the same class in school and she was trying to be every creature’s friend back then.”
“Oh dear, what happened that made her change?” the stallion asked, dramatically clutching his heart as he looked at the table filled with Brave Storm’s friends.
Brave Storm, not one for any sort of liquor, had ordered a soda. She tried to give her friends her attention and space to talk with each other. A task that had especially proven difficult now that she had a date to factor in.
Gold Standard and Brave Storm had put themselves on the table to become more than friends, but for now- they were feeling each other out. And Brave Storm already knew her biggest flaw- she was too clingy to previous mare-friends and stallion-friends. But now she found herself worrying that she wrapped herself back around and might be making herself too distant.
“Darling, I don’t think it’s good to be in your own head like this.” Brave Storm heard a sultry voice break into her thoughts. “And I don’t think that’s the sort of straw you’re meant to chew on.”
“Huh?” Brave Storm noticed that the straw she was meant to be drinking out of was rather flat and battered at the top. She pushes it out of her mouth before speaking, “Sorry, was anyone talking to me?”
“No, but you hadn’t said anything in a hot moment there.” Velvet Wing answered before putting a concerned hoof over Brave Storm’s, “Is everything all right, dear? Do you need to use the washroom?”
“I’m fine. Thanks for checking in on me.” the zebra smiled, happy that the bat pony noticed something was off about her. “I guess I’m just overthinking things.”
Velvet Wing shot a glance over at Gold Standard. Brave Storm did the same to see him talking to Pas. Or more so, Pas was boasting about some fight with a monster that he got into and Gold Standard found himself rather engaged in Pas’ storytelling. Brave Storm noticed Soft Glow, who was currently curling her hair, staring dreamily at Velvet Wing. Odd, she never knew the changeling to like mares before now.
“No way, a bugbear!?” Pas shouted, throwing his hooves onto the table in excitement, making everyone’s drinks jump a little bit.
“I know we’re in a rowdier establishment, but that doesn’t mean you get to display terrible table manners!” Velvet Wing snipped immediately as her own top-heavy beverage nearly spilled onto her.
“Sorry, ma’am.” Pas sheepily sinks back into his seat, his ears red. He remained quiet and didn’t prompt the bugbear story out of Gold Standard. As the conversation among Gold Standard, Soft Glow, and Velvet Wing hectically continued, it was easy for Brave Storm to notice that Pas wasn’t joining in. His ears would move to follow the conversation and she’d occasionally see him light up and want to join. But he’d keep himself quiet.
“How’s your flank recovering?” Brave Storm prompted. She was certain even Velvet Wing didn’t want this as a result of her scolding.
“I can lay on it now.” Pas laughs, his ears pulling forward. “Your face looks better.”
“Thanks. It was hard to smile on that side for like a week.” Brave Storm joins in the laughter.
“So you two just beat each other up and that’s fun to you?” Gold Standard jumped into the conversation, his eyebrow quirked.
“Sparring?” Pas asks. “Sparring’s great! Especially with Brave Storm. I don’t have to hold back with her.”
“I don’t think Sword Dancer is happy with how often we take each other out of commission though.”
“I don’t think I can ever understand why you two enjoy hurting each other.” Gold Standard muses. “Some of the injuries you give each other look painful.”
“We don’t enjoy hurting each other, is the thing.” Pas tries to explain. “We like fighting and seeing how much stronger we and the other pony are getting. Right, Brave?”
“Yeah. And it keeps us in shape for things that actually want to hurt us.” Brave Storm cooperates with a nod.
“You don’t expect me to fight you, right?” Gold Standard asks.
“Of course not.” Brave Storm shakes her head. “You’re not a Knight or a Guard.”
“Or a monster,” Pas adds. “Speaking of monsters. The bugbear?”
“Oh right. I needed to get its stinger for some medicine. I made this fish and honey dummy that I had hoped would interest it. Bu-” Gold Standard begins his story, but he’s shooshed by Velvet Wing and Soft Glow at the same time. The table falls silent.
“Do you hear that?” Soft Glow asks, pulling her head forward as creatures do when they’re trying to listen harder. Soon the entirety of the establishment falls silent, save for radios that haven’t been turned down yet.
Slowly, everypony could hear the howling of violent winds whipping up outside. Soft Glow noticed the temperature drop first, shivering slightly. Pas D’arms was the first to see the ambient light get dimmer. Then came the downpour, tapping the roof heavily and rapidly. Brave Storm felt her heart begin to race. Soft Glow peered around Gold Standard’s mass to check up on her friend.
“Brave Storm?” she asked.
“I think I’ll be okay,” Brave Storm replied, swallowing to keep her fear down. It’s just wind and rain. She’ll be okay.
But then came a crackle, a rumble, and the roar of angry thunder! Brave Storm screamed and nearly bit her tongue off falling to the table, and covering the back of her head with her hooves. She was too scared to feel embarrassed. She was waiting for jeering or laughing, but what she got was a reaffirming pat on the back. She didn’t know from who, but she guessed it was Velvet Wing.
“Is she okay?” she barely heard Gold Standard ask.
“She’s… she’s scared of storms.” Soft Glow answered, hesitance was obvious. She didn’t know if it was her place to answer, but clearly, something was up with Brave Storm. “Natural hazards in general, but storms in particular. It’s… you need to ask her why.”
There was silence. Gold Standard was judging her, she knew it.
“How do I help her?” he asks instead, no judgment in his voice.
Before the changeling could even answer, the wind’s howling song became louder and thunder became a cacophony. The magical power in the bar and grill began to flicker and then died. Debris flew through the windows, shattering them as the doors were pulled off of their hinges. Brave Storm bolted away, fear driving all of her actions as she ran to a windowless wall and hid in a corner. Her rapid breathing made her dizzy and her fear made it hard to process anything in the darkness.
A flash of lightning lit struck and Brave Storm found herself screaming into the darkness in a forgotten language. Rumbling thunder. Another flash of lightning and the bar was in disarray, her friends were running towards her. Rumbling thunder. Lightning. She begins to cry as the storm around her whips up and harsh rain hits her belt. Rumbling thunder. Lighting. Soft Glow lays next to Brave Storm, pressing her weight into one side. Gold Standard is instructed to do the same and he lays into her other side.
Brave Storm takes a deep breath. Rumbling thunder. Lightning. She’s taken shelter within a giant tree and she’s watching the storm rage on from the safety of the oak. Rumbling thunder. She’s between her friends. They wouldn’t leave her. She’s safe. She can recover. The storm shall not take her this day.