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Fanfic / Summer Days and Evening Flames

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Even a Griffin can make a fine Royal Guard

A MLP Fanfic by Nicknack, continuing on from Heart of Gold, Feathers of Steel.

Gilda's had it rough for the past few years. She's been kicked out from her tribe, been barely surviving out in the wilderness, and her hopes with reuniting with her old friend have been shot. Unwilling to go through with the ultimanum her father ordained for her, she resigns herself for permanent life of an exile.

But that changes when Captain Iron Bulwark of the Farrington Guard offers her a job, which Glida accepts. After all, it's not like she has anything better to do. How will Gilda adjust to her new life as a Farrington Guard, and how will she come to terms with her feelings for her Captain?

The story took a year-long break, but is finally, finally being restarted, updated, and moved to, along with its prequel. You can find the first part, Summer Days here, the second part Evening Flames here, and the prequel page here. Reading the prequel isn't required, but it definitely explains a few things.

This fic was finally completed on May 23, 2013, though NickNack has teased the possibility of future short stories set in the universe.

This fic contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Gilda's father, big time. Dealing with the lasting effects of his "raising" drives many of Gilda's interactions.
  • Absurdly Sharp Beak: Gilda's beak can cut like a hot knife through butter, and she causes restaurant staff much irritation when she ends up scoring their glassware.
  • Accidental Aiming Skills: Gilda, who has apparently never used a crossbow in her life, picks one up in a desperate effort to take down a fleeing Red Hooves, aiming for his knee. She doesn't hit that...
  • Action Girl: In Chapter Six of Evening Flames, a group of nearly twenty criminals find out the hard way it's not easy to kidnap an angry griffin. Sure, Starfall helped a bit, but Gilda did most of the ass-kicking.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Sherry is much more manipulative and ruthless in the rewrite, and now is responsible for the Farrington gang war breaking out.
  • The Alcoholic: Sergeant Sherry, after losing her husband and fellow guard a few years prior. She takes a few shots even while on duty, and has an entire wardrobe filled with drinks.
  • Aloof Older Brother: Iron Bulwark is the Captain of the Farrington Guard and acts as befits his position. His younger sister Maxie is a mail clerk and has a interesting night life.
  • Alternate Animal Affection: Played with. Ponies kiss in the normal fashion. However, trying to do the same with a griffin's beak ends painfully for Iron, so they instead settle for nuzzling or Iron kissing the end of Gilda's beak. It also ends up as the butt of a joke when Iron asks Sherry for advice.
    Sherry: "Well, you can either practice tonguing a knife or ask her."
  • Badass Boast: Gilda, before Starfall initiates their duel.
    You want me to fight back? You'll be dead in three hits.
  • Belated Injury Realization: In the prologue, Bulwark doesn't register that Starfall stabbed him until he starts giving him judgement. Same with Gilda, after her duel with Starfall.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Gilda finally moves into Farrington after deciding she wouldn't trade her new life for anything, Iron and Gilda grow even closer and consumate their romance, Maxie gets a respectable job and lifestyle, Starfall gets over his racism and falls in love with his wife again, and Gilda plans to return to Ponyville to apologize. However, Sherry still had a Face–Heel Turn and is now on Equestria's Most Wanted list, and she started a gang war that wrecked the city, and Gilda is still banished from her home.
  • Broken Angel: Starfall's wife, having lost her wings by a griffin attack, which leads Starfall to hate all of their race. Turns out it was Gilda's father who did it.
    • Briefly, Starfall after his duel with Gilda. After several surgeries, it takes about 5 months for him to be able to fly again.
  • Broken Pedestal: Sherry was the closest thing to a mother figure Iron had in his early days after joining the guard. When Iron learns that Sherry was responsible for the Gang War, he's beyond appalled.
  • Bullying a Griffin: Starfall's treatment of Gilda falls under this. Their duel shows why this is a very bad idea.
  • The Cameo: Luna appears when Gilda is in the hospital, prompting her to wake up when Iron visit.
  • Character Development: Gilda is much more fleshed out than the arrogant Jerkass we see on the show.
  • Child-Basher Basher: The only time Starfall was ever officially reprimanded for overzealous enforcement was after he had almost beaten a father to death before dragging him in, because the father would abuse his child. When Starfall learns exactly how cruel Gilda's father was to her, he comes to view her more with pity than hostility.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Starfall does not fight fair during the duel. Gilda's still a good enough fighter that it doesn't really give him an advantage.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Sherry's punishment for Gilda for getting into that duel with Starfall. The community service part is being required to spend time entertaining terminally-ill foals at the hospital, and then apologizing to the officers she ran in to, including Starfall himself.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Gilda warns Starfall that their duel will turn into this if she actually starts fighting back. He doesn't listen. It does.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Sherry does it regularly since she lost her husband, and briefly Iron Bulwark after both Starfall and Gilda abandon him. Iron gets better, Sherry gets worse.
  • Fantastic Racism: A major theme in the fanfic, along with the repercussions. Gilda's father hated ponies, and took out his anger on her and any ponies that wandered over the border. At the same time, Starfall hates griffins (actually due to Gilda's father) and his hatred of Gilda drives many of the conflicts.
    • Also, Maxie's irrational hatred of griffins (which is based solely on hearsay and rumors, unlike Starfall's) drives a wedge between her and her brother. She hasn't yet found out that Iron and Gilda are dating .
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Half-breed" is apparently a derogatory term for griffins. Also, several citizens insult Gilda by referring to her as "that beast".
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Griffins are very similar to Germanic tribes
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: Starfall seriously hates griffins. Gilda is a griffin. They're both guards. Gilda didn't have a problem with him in particular, but he made one.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: After Gilda talks with his wife and kids, Lieutenant Starfall assaults Gilda and challenges her to an illegal duel.
    • And earlier, Starfall subjects Gilda to a humiliating "inspection" because she asked him for permission to go home for the night.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: "Hey, Fotze!" Gilda uses this to get the attention of a thief, right in time for her to catch a thrown baton to the face.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Inverted to great effect to show Gilda's Character Development. She watches Officer Sunset, who she considered at best a friendly acquaintence, die from an arrow right in front of the stunned griffin. However, she starts to show Survivor's Guilt when considering it was herself who was the intended target, and attends Sunset's funeral for closure.
  • Gratuitous German: Griffin tribes are based off Germanic tribes, so it makes sense that Gilda slips into her natural tongue occasionally.
  • Hates Being Touched: After years of severe physical abuse at the hands of her father and other male griffins, Gilda is uncomfortable with even light touches, especially by those she invites emotionally close. In particular, she responded to a pat on the back by rolling into a combat stance. Losing this around Iron and allowing arm-holding, embraces, and nuzzles is an indicator of how she's getting better psychologically.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: It's been pointed out that Starfall hasn't been in a particularly loving relationship with his wife, viewing her as "damaged goods" subconsciously. When he realizes this, he promises himself to try to amend their love.
  • Heel Realization: Most of Evening Flames chapter two is this for Starfall. He begins to realize that he's turned into a major asshole, even to those he cares about, and that he's responsible for starting a duel with Gilda and almost threw his life away when he still had a family to care for.
  • Hidden Depths: Gilda is considered scholarly by her tribe's standards and can read a week's worth of reading material in two half-days, something you wouldn't expect from her only in-show appearance.
  • Hot-Blooded: Starfall, big time.
  • I Have This Friend: Gilda is confused about her relationship with Iron, so she writes to her friend Rainbow Dash for advice. Rainbow is just as uneducated in romance as her, so she goes to Applejack, using the classic device to explain Gilda's situation. It's vague enough that Applejack assumes she is asking her about their relationship. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: In full effect, as Iron and Gilda don't explicitly say so even months into their romance. Iron cracks first, and Gilda finally confesses just as they're about to make love.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun:
    • When Gilda's about to be inducted into the Guard, and Starfall's protests are blown off:
    Lietuenant Horatio: I don’t know why Starfall rejected you. It’s not every day that we’re griffin a new recruit.”
    He put the glasses on while I fought to keep from groaning.
    • When declining a request to cover for another guard:
    Gilda: Oh, you know. There’s some homeless hornets near my home, I’m going to teach them how to mind their own bees’ nest.
    • Sherry throws a pencil at her to scold her.
  • Interspecies Romance: Gilda eventually starts dating Iron Bulwark. She's justifiably worried that dating him could make others look down on him, especially since his best friend is hugely bigoted towards griffins.
    • And he's seriously concerned about the physical side of things. That Gilda's beak can score glass, and in fact dices his lips when they finally kiss, to be precise.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Eventually, this is revealed to be the reason why Sherry worked so hard to get Iron and Gilda together, though it was more of a "mother wanting his son to fall in love" version.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Sherry's logic for starting the gang war is sound, in a twisted sense, as it eliminated all the major players in the Farrington Crime Circuit. However, she somersaults off the ledge when she's about to be arrested for the indirect murder of dozens of city guards, where she shows little remorse and violently escapes. Sherry made a perfect landing when she pulls all of her connections to get Iron removed from his post and threatens him and his family if he pursues her.
  • Kangaroo Court: The Competency Review Panel that gets Iron fired, exaggerating his role (or rather his lack of response) in the past month's events. Sherry sends a goodbye letter that also explains she used all of her remaining favors to ensure Iron would get fired.
  • Lighter and Softer: Downplayed, but the rewrite resolves some conflicts faster and generally leaves people in a better situation than when they left the same situation in the original version.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Gilda is a adolescent with serious psychological problems, and Iron is one of the most stable characters around. Naturally, he provides emotional support, and as their relationship deepens and Gilda opens up more, Iron does his best to help.
  • Loved I Not Honor More: Iron Bulwark tries to be impartial after Starfall attacked Gilda. It doesn't go well for the either relationship, as both Starfall and Gilda feel like he's betraying their friendship/romance, respectively.
  • The Mafiya: Sherry is revealed to have a few contacts in the Stalliongrad Mafia, and after her Face–Heel Turn, essentially defects to them.
  • Married to the Job: Iron Bulwark's spent ten years on the force. He's willing to do a lot for a griffon he's only just met, but even when Make Up or Break Up is on the table, he's not going to stop being a guard. Unusual for the trope, his romantic partner both understands, and is beginning to become attached to her career, too.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Gilda to most injuries that leave her bloody, on account to her harsh upbringing. The crowning moment comes after her duel with Starfall, where she doesn't notice Starfall's knife sticking through her palm until Iron points it out, and even then declines going to the doctor.
  • My Eyes Are Leaking: Gilda sheds a few tears when visiting Sunset's grave, a fellow guardsman who was the first fatality in the recent gang war. She knows why she's crying, but it's a sign of her Character Development when she can feel sorrow for someone she barely knew.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Starfall challenges Gilda to an illegal duel and gets hospitalized during so. His wife visits him and berates him for almost getting himself killed and not thinking about what would happen if he lost, straining their marriage. Starfall still blames Gilda for this.
    • When she's about to be arrested for the indirect murder of dozens of her fellow guardsmen, Sherry instead lashes out and escapes to join the Stalliongrad Mafia. And when Iron rightfully gets her onto the Equestrian "Most Wanted" list, Sherry acts as if he betrayed her, and pulls strings to get him fired.
  • Noble Bigot: Lieutenant Starfall hates griffins, on account of his wife being maimed by one. Gilda's father no less. He extends his hatred onto Gilda, making her integration to the Farrington Guard a lot less pleasant.
    • Noble Bigot with a Badge: At least from Iron Bulwark's viewpoint, Starfall's still a Good Cop, or at worst a Cowboy Cop, who genuinely cares for his kids and recognizes his prejudice against griffins enough to avoid giving bad romantic advice. Deconstructed into Troubled Sympathetic Bigot at best, as the Happy Marriage Charade and effect on Gilda goes far beyond being merely unprofessional, and jeopardizes everything he cares about in a way he can not comprehend.
  • Not a Date: The first time Gilda eats with Iron, she considers it paying him back for Iron buying them both lunch for the past week. A turning point in their relationship was when Gilda casually thinks of their upcoming dinner together as date.
  • Pink Is for Sissies: When Starfall is recovering in the hospital from his duel with Gilda, he was to focused on seething to care what color his casts were. When he's finally released with only a pink leg-cast, he's very defensive about any mention of its color.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Outnumbered and outgunned by a group of kidnappers led by the brother of a perp she arrested, Gilda utters this gem:
    Gilda: All of you are now under arrest.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni:
    • Starfall and Bulwark, respectively.
    • Bulwark's sister Maxie and Bulwark, as well.
  • The Resenter: Starfall to his wife, though he doesn't realize it. He hates how she moved on from her permanent disfigurement and "not acting like a cripple." He's envious that she still finds happiness despite her disability therefore not reinforcing his blind hatred of griffins.
  • Revenge Myopia:
    • Red Hooves wants revenge on Gilda for arresting his sister, who was in the middle of robbing a merchant blind.
    • After Sherry's Face–Heel Turn and Iron puts out a country-wide arrest order, she pulls her connections to get Iron fired for daring to try bringing her to justice for all of her fellow Guardsman she got killed.
  • Ring-Ring-CRUNCH!: Gilda's first morning with an alarm clock, since she needs to wake up on schedule now. Justified by her upbringing in the harsh wilds, where punching a loud noise right next to you was often the difference between life and death.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: At one point in history, an 80-member tribe of griffons was eating ponies. Celestia caught wind of this and responded by personally killing 77 of them with one spell. The survivors only lived because she wanted them to tell the other tribes about it.
  • Samaritan Relationship Starter: Iron Bulwark not only got Gilda a job in the guard, but also saved her life when she escaped from her tribe and helps her get used to dealing with pony etiquette.
  • Sexy Discretion Chapter End: Just as Iron and Gilda are going to finally make love, the chapter ends just after they get into position and Gilda admits "I love you."
  • She Who Fights Monsters: Sherry eventually turns as bad as the criminals she was hoping to weed out from Farrington, starting by initiating a gang war that gets dozens of her fellows officers killed in an attempt to kill Red Hooves, and ends with threatening to kill Iron and vowing to become the head-honcho of the Salliongrad Mafia.
  • Smug Snake:
    • Red Hooves, a local criminal boss that likely killed Sherry's husband and who considers himself untouchable. Gilda despises him because her first interaction had him simultaneously offering jobs along with a side of racist insults, and finally arrests him after Red Hooves and his cronies attempt to kidnap her.
    • His sister as well. When Gilda arrests her for thievery, she rants how her family would make Gilda's life hell.
    • Starfall to Gilda, at least in the earlier chapters. He just loves doing everything he can to inconvenience her.
  • Stunned Silence: After Starfall returns home from the hospital in Evening Flames, he and Comet get into an argument about how they'll earn their living that turns to Iron's love life. When Comet points out how it's unfair to blame an entire race for only her disfigurement while other ponies have done worse, Starfall blurts out that it's not the same because "they didn't leave [you] a broken cripple." They both stare in horror for a few moments, Comet for realizing what her husband really thinks about her and Starfall for realizing he said that out loud, and Starfall storms out when his attempts at defusing the situation fail.
  • Tap on the Head: Iron is on the receiving end when Sherry escapes his custody. He assures the two guards (actually one) that he's okay, and is sent all the way to the hospital to confirm that he's okay.
  • Their First Time: Finally, Gilda and Iron reach the point of their romance to reach intimacy, and as they start the motions Gilda panics and bolts. The next day, Gilda apologizes sincerely and they try again, this time with much more success and heartwarming.
  • The Theme Park Version: When Gilda's stuck with entertaining children, she starts telling them tales and folklore from her tribe. Except, they're rather gory, sex-filled, and mature, so Gilda horribly butchers them by trying to make them kid-friendly. The plot holes and censors are so glaringly obvious that even the kids can see.
  • There Are No Therapists: Subverted when Horatio convinces Iron to get help after the Farrington gang war, who in turn convinces Gilda to visit as well. The sessions actually help them get better, though they only seem to attend at most two sessions each.
  • Throwing Your Baton Always Works: Out of options and faced with a taunting thief, Gilda tosses her baton to stun her long enough to get close and make an arrest.
    • A variation is used in Starfall's duel with Gilda. He throws his sword scabbard, which she mistakes for the sword itself, and Gilda's dodge leaves her in a bad position to deflect Starfall's actual attack.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Lieutenant Starfall in the rewrite, compared to the original version.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Poor, poor Iron Bulwark. From June to August, he's torn between his griffon girlfriend and best friend who hates griffins, both of whom are guards under his command, and then has to deal with his best friend attempting to murder his girlfriend and then a violent breakup with said girlfriend. He takes to drinking for a few weekings, and then when things are finally looking up after reconciling with both Gilda and Starfall, his mentor, Sherry, starts a gang war that gets two dozen of his officers killed, and his girlfriend is nearly killed in said gang war. When confronted, Sherry assaults Iron and runs off to join the Mafia, and gets Iron fired through her connections when Iron puts out his arrest warrant, and Iron is remitted to the guard as a mere sergeant. Eventually, things get better as he and Gilda grow closer and he comes to enjoy his new position, but that was a long way to fall.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Done by Iron to Starfall after Starfall attacks Gilda, a fellow guard, while in uniform. This enrages Starfall, as he thinks it's Iron expressing favoritism for his new girlfriend. The next month after calming down, he realizes that he was fired because... he attacked Gilda, a fellow guard, while in uniform. After seeing Starfall change his attitude, Iron invites him back into the guard (albeit at a lower rank).
    • Eventually, happens to Iron as the city is still panicking over his perceived mishandling of the recent Red Hooves crisis, though the new Captain of the guard offers him a new position before Iron finishes taking off his armor.
  • Unequal Pairing: Iron is significantly older, takes a significant part in teaching her about pony society, and several ranks higher than Gilda in the Guard. Sergeant Sherry points out how creepy this can be, if Iron honestly considers the matter too severe for a romantic relationship now. Gilda, on the other hand, comes from a culture where Unequal Pairing is commonplace, and thus has a different set of concerns.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Since the story switches between multiple first-person perspectives, some things stated either turn out false or don't paint the whole picture.
  • What's a Henway?: Pulled by Sherry, the resident Deadpan Snarker.
    Gilda: How [would I apologize to Officer Weatherly]?
    Sherry: Well, you can form words to ask that question, so you know how to talk...
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Subdued example. Lieutenant Horatio has been sore at Iron Bulwark for years for being passed over for promotion to Captain of The Farrington guard, as Horatio had been on the force for a decade longer. When Iron gets dismissed, Captain Horatio walks into him packing from Horatio's new office, and notes the irony of the situation. However, Horatio admits that Iron is a good officer, so offers Iron a position as a Sergeant and intends to promote him to Lieutenant as soon as the excitement dies down.
  • Woman Scorned: Gilda after her angry break-up with Iron, planning to leave Farrington as soon as she's able to quit the guard without criminal consequences. Fortunately, she gets better.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: After Gilda apologizes to Starfall over her part in their duel, Starfall actually refers to her by name for the first time. Gilda is shocked.
  • You Just Told Me: How Sherry confirms Gilda and Iron are dating in Chapter 6.
    • And also how Sherry confirms that it was Gilda's father who maimed Comet Tail, though the fact that there are only seven males in Gilda's tribe made this less of a wild guess.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: A variation. Gilda grimly notes how her Father would be proud of her fighting and potentially crippling Starfall by breaking his wings after their duel.