• Published 11th Sep 2013
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Second Princess of the Night - Senyu



With King Sombra gone, is Equestria truely safe from harm? Or will another foe as old as the Crystal Kingdom itself appear now that the dark unicorn's position of evil is vacant? What new danger will threaten the land and the Elements of Harmony?

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Act II - Chapter 26

There is a celebration tonight, one to signify our recent and successful contract issued from the Noble’s out in the Highlands, and to congratulate our newest family members. They performed exceptional during the ambush, and reacted appropriately when the enemy's reinforcements arrived. I have decided to recognize them tonight during the initial ceremony. It will do their spirits good, as well as make their chooser’s proud for selecting them.

No doubt that their actions will be popular during the next few weeks, of how they devastated the opposing forces and drank more than their fill multiple times over. At times, I wonder how other ponies see us when we arrive on the battlefield. How do they feel when they see our fangs and crimson eyes? Do they curse us when we slip past their guard and disrupt their defences? Or do they weep at the knowledge that only a few—if any—of them will survive or be spared and allowed to retreat?

I wonder what they are thinking of as they drag their tails home…


-Ruby Sparkle




Despite how hard everypony tried, and how soothing the gentle rocking motions of the train was, the majority of the bat ponies found they were only able to manage a few hours of sleep, and were now mulling about the train compartments in either the common areas or their bed cabins.

Ruby shortly joined them to see how each pony was doing, finding herself also unable to sleep in addition of finding the strange voice in her head silent and unresponsive. In one moment it had been there criticising her, then after what seemed only like a few seconds of shuteye, it was gone. How it had appeared or even its purpose, Ruby did not know, but decided it would be a mystery to solve another time. Right now, her ponies needed her, and she desperately hoped to rekindle their spirits.

Her presence however, did not have the entire effect she desired. No matter how supportive she was, or condoling to the ones that stared at the empty bed across them that should have had a friend, she found it was a mood that would not fade anytime soon. The weight of the day’s memories hung heavily on their faces, even the ones who managed to smile when they saw her.

Though Ruby knew the dark mood would not fade easily, and that by just being there was the best thing she could do, it still made her feel helpless. Sitting beside them and listening was all she could do, and would do. She was intent on being present for the ones who had been closest to the ones that were lost, and would stay by them for any length of time they requested. It was as she thought, her duty as their Princess, and punishment for have being unable to protect them.

Ruby and the parents however, found some joy at the fact that the children were at least managing sleep. So as to not disturb them, Ruby only spent a few moments in the family cabins, passing on that others were in the food cart and to make sure they eat soon. But when she entered Lily Wing and Lunar Pearl’s room, she was invited to say, and sat across in the bed across from them.

As Ruby and Lily Wing talked, Lunar Pearl remained fast asleep next to her sister, tucked beneath the covers and huddled against Lily Wing’s body. Were it not for her tuft ears twitching in agitation, or the scrunching of her face at who knows what in her dreams, Ruby might have thought she might have escaped the days ordeal without the pains everypony else had suffered. Whenever Lunar Pearl squeezed her eyes tightly, or let out a meek moan of discomfort, Lily Wing would turn her weary eyes to her, and rub her hoof gently up and down her back through the covers, easing her back to what the two mares hoped might be a more peaceful dream.

“I can’t believe Gravel is gone…” Lily Wing said quietly.

“How well did you know him?” Ruby replied equally quiet.

“More than most. He was one of my best friends growing up,” Lily Wing said with a sigh. “Him and me, along with a few others, were inseparable as kids. We were always running around the town causing mischief where ever we could, just to do anything to pass the time within the walls. We had some pretty good times growing up…”

Though Lily Wing was looking at her sister, Ruby saw how distant they were actually looking. “What kind of pony was he?” Ruby asked tentatively.

Lily Wing made a half snort as she smirked. “He was helpful to a fault, always was willing to lend a hoof or wing to anypony that needed it. It got him in trouble a few times, but he would still help out even the pony that got him in trouble anyways, regardless of his punishment. Some bat ponies took advantage of that for a while. But when he was around us we’d make sure he was alright.”

Lily Wing then manage to let out a small laugh. “I remember this one time, we were hiding on one of the rooftops. Him, me, and a few other friends. We brought some rocks with us to chuck at different stuff, seeing who could throw the farthest or hit the smallest target. But we ran out and nopony wanted to fly down and get more. So we asked Gravel to get more because some thought it was funny since his name meant he would be the best for it, and because we’d knew he would be the only one to do it.”

Lily Wing turned to Ruby smiled weakly. “So when he flew down and gathered as many as he could, he tried to fly back up to us. But every time he would get a few feet off the ground, one of the stones would slip out and he would go right back down to pick it back up.” She closed her mouth as she held back a laugh that might have woken Lunar Pearl. “H-He probably landed and took off a dozen times because he was too stubborn to leave a few stones behind. Eventually, we flew down to help him, but all of us were laughing the whole time because his face was just so funny when he kept glaring at the rocks.”

Lily Wing’s chest quivered as she held giggled quietly, reminiscing the time with a fondness she had never held for it before. “It was such a silly thing, how he wasn’t able to hold all of them. It was so stupid and small, but I can’t get it out of my head.”

Ruby watched quietly as Lily Wing tried to hold back her laughs. She couldn’t bring herself to say anything, and only found her heart sinking as she watched her play over some invisible street in another time. Her distant eyes became dull, her silly grin slowly turned upside down, creating creased lines for the stray tears to follow, and her breathing turned into something hollow and ragged.

It took every ounce of Ruby’s strength to not pry her eyes from her, and to not let her vision become blurry as she saw every moment of Lily Wing’s pain.

It was only after sometime when Lily Wing manage to breath again normally, and began wiping her eyes did Ruby dare to speak. “Did… you love him?”

“Huh?” Lily Wing replied, taken aback by the question. “Oh… oh no,” she said, followed by a short laugh as she cleared the moisture from her face. “No, me and him weren’t anything like that. He was nice and all, one of the best friends I’ve ever had, but that’s all we were. He actually has a special somepony back in…”

Lily Wing’s voice trailed off as brought her hooves to her mouth. “By the night… I had almost forgotten about Wisp. Oh my goodness… she… she doesn’t even know that he’s… he’s…”

Lily Wing choked, unable to even finish her sentence. “She doesn’t know… and his brother in the Vanhoover group doesn’t… he doesn’t…”

“Lily, I…” Ruby had started, fearful that she might panic further and distress herself beyond her control, but still found nothing to say.

But she didn’t need too as Lily Wing lowered her head, profusely wiping away fresh tears, and forcing herself to breath deeply and hold back her quivering chest. Slowly but surely, her shakes calmed her tears dried, and her breathing became normal, causing her to look as normal as she could be with only the small edition of red eyes and stained cheeks.

“I’m… I’m alright,” she breathed. “It’s okay…”

“Lily Wing, you’ve lost a friend,” Ruby said softly. “It’s not okay…”

“I know, but he hasn’t been the first,” she replied, swallowing the breaks in her voice as she regained her composure. “Maybe the first in a fight… but I think if he had to die, he would have preferred this than lying in a bed around some unicorns who wouldn’t be able to do thing.”

She lifted her head and looked back to Ruby, and wore a neutral face that betrayed the last few minutes. “If there is one thing we’ve learned living in Dusk Town, it’s being able to accept hard things.” Her eyes however, remained distant if not indifferent. “From learning that you are different than other ponies, to realizing that you can never go outside the walls, that you have to live your entire life in that place, to never seeing ponies you know ever again…”

Lily Wing took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly. “I don’t know if it’s because we’re part vampony... or if it’s just how we we’re raised to think, but we’ve had to learn to accept the hard facts of life. Death… is just one of them.”

Ruby wanted to say something. She wanted to say a lot of things. But like with everypony that night, she found she couldn’t say anything. There were no words that she could put together that would make any of what happened even remotely okay or better. Yet, she could not let that first sentence slide.

“By becoming vamponies,” Ruby began, “you will still have to deal with it, if not more…” Lily Wing opened her mouth to object, but Ruby spoke before she could. “But… even if you still have to deal with it, it won’t be the same.” Ruby turned her gaze out the window, staring wistfully into the night. “You dealt with the difficulties of life without freedom, and suffered by the decisions of others. But by becoming a vampony, you can get your freedom back. After that, anything is possible, even your own death can be something you can say no too…”

Lily Wing stared long and hard at Ruby, looking onto her with awe like she had before during her speech. When it became apparent Ruby had become lost in thought as she looked out the window, Lily Wing gave a small smile, and returned to rubbing Lunar Pearl’s back, both of them content to share each other’s company in silence for the time.

It was then that sometime later that Lily Wing had guessed to be no more than an hour, Lunar Pearl let out a small yawn and she rose from the bed, rubbing her eyes as she woke from her semi-restful sleep.

“Lily…” she asked groggily.

“I’m here,” Lily Wing cooed, before pulling her gently into a hug. “Did you have a good sleep?”

“Hm-hmm,” Lunar Pearl hummed, still blinking herself awake. She eventually looked around her in her dazed state, taking a few moments to notice Ruby across from ontop of the other bed. “Princess Ruby? What are you doing in our room?” Lunar Pearl asked as she rubbed her eyes.

“Your sister and I were just having a talk,” Ruby replied. “How are you feeling?”

“Hungry…”

With a giggle, Ruby hopped off the bed and took a few steps to the door. “I’ll get you some fruit from the dinning cart.”

“Actually, can I go with?” Lunar Pearl asked, all traces of her sleepiness already gone. Before Ruby could answer, Lunar Pearl craned her head upwards to her sister. “Can we go with her?”

Lily Wing failed to miss the emphases on ‘we’ in her question, something she hadn’t heard her do in a long time, and smiled in reply. “Sure, let’s go get some food.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The three of them left the cabin and headed down the dark narrow corridor with only the moonlight filtering through small windows to light their way. As they passed the few doors and transitioned into the next cart, Ruby’s mind churned in concentration at the chance to finally analyze their situation.

So far it seemed the train had been prepared specifically for them, having been completely empty save for the small staff that she assumed operated it in the front along with the butler. But thus far, there had been no sign of any pony besides the stoic servant. Ruby gathered that perhaps the train had been readied in advance with only a minimal but isolated crew to manage it, keeping them apart from their mysterious guests as to not reveal they were actually transporting a fugitive group wanted by the crowns.

It seemed whoever had funded and supplied their speedy transportation had done well to ensure everything remained as discreet as possible from what she gathered. While she still had her doubts about the butler, he seemed hardly fazed at her and the group of bat ponies he saw to. While no reaction was as worrying than reaction, thoughts of accidentally bumping into a cook or other staff member played across her mind, and she wondered if they were as reserved as the butler. But at this point, there was simply no telling who knew about them, or how they would behave.

While their supposed benefactor had appeared prepared and thus far trustworthy, Ruby had never met him nor even learned his name; a detail she now scolded herself over for never getting back in the cave. Night Walker seemed to have trusted him enough to put her and the bat ponies in his hoof for safe keeping, but he was no longer here. And that fact troubled Ruby greatly.

The vampony lord was who knows how far away, unable to assist them in any fashion should their situation turn dire. Which meant from here on out, the safety and well-being of her bat ponies was entirely dependent on her. She alone held the final decision in whatever actions that concerned them, and she would be responsible for the results. One wrong choice, could mean the death of her ponies.

Suddenly, Ruby realized how much she had depended on Night Walker presence, and how little she knew of things. There were much she was kept in the dark and not aware while Night Walker was beside her, feeling that perhaps he was giving her time to recover from her thousand year ordeal that she still could not recall. While that was understandable, it now left her in the precarious role of being the sole leader of the group, and it was a burden that weighed heavily on her mind.

Maybe I should have gone with Shade Flare… No, I can’t think like that.

Narrowing her eyes, she glanced over her shoulder to Lily Wing and Lunar Pearl following behind. They looked to her curiously as they passed through another empty cart, wondering why she was looking at them so. But when Ruby gave out a relaxed sigh and smiled warmly to them, they responded in kind with smiles of their own.

Despite how afraid I am for them, I can’t let that stop me, Ruby told herself as she looked forward again. I can watch out for them by myself. I’ve done it in the past, I can do it again.

With renewed faith in her ability to make sound choices on her actions there on out, Ruby adopted a protective bearing towards anything that could potentially pose a threat to her or her ponies, telling herself she would not allow her guard to drop while they were under her wing. Even the mysterious pony who had provided this luxurious train for them would be held in scrutiny.

I don’t care if Night Walker trusts him. I will decide what is safe to trust or not. And no pony is beyond my suspicions of being a threat.

The memory of a wounded green mare who appeared as a simple but friendly traveler flashed across her mind. She recalled vividly how quick that cheerful disposition turned into one of hatred as she struck at her and Lunar Pearl. From that mare, to the guards who had called them monsters inside Night Walker’s spell, Ruby felt that there were no ponies save her own kin that she could trust at this point.

She could not afford false and naive hope with her ponies on the line.

Eventually, they made their way up to the food cart, having past multiple barren rooms as a result of how the little the bat ponies filled the expansive train. There, they found a few bat ponies already sitting about the booths positioned near the windows, munching away silently at the fruit that was brilliantly displayed on nearby tables with white cloths, or staring thoughtfully out into the passing nighttime landscape.

“Wow!” Lunar Pearl exclaimed before rushing over to the confections displayed in fanciful styles. Everypony in the cart turned their heads at the sound of her excited voice, easing themselves back to their seat at their recognition of her running across the floor, and the comforting sight of their princess behind her.

Ruby gave a nod of affirmation to all of them while Lily Wing walked to join her sister who was already staring hungrily at the different types of fruit available. Deciding to leave the two of them to prepare their plates, Ruby moved to an available seat at a booth occupied by a few bat ponies, Mist Hoof being one of them.

“Princess Ruby,” he respectively spoke at her arrival, his gruff voice sound as scratchy as ever.

“Hello, Mist Hoof,” she replied as she sat next to him, giving similar hello’s to the other two across the table shortly; a mare and a stallion. “How is everypony holding up?”

“The food is good,” Mist Hoof simply answered. Ruby noticed that while the fruit his plate before him indeed looked more delicious than the ones that were picked from the forest by the cave, hardly any of them appeared to have been touched. The other two ponies plates seemed just as nibbled on as well she realized with a quick glance.

Narrowing her eyes, Ruby lit her horn and floated a piece of mango from Mist Hoof’s plate and delicately plopped it into her mouth. Despite its hollow like taste it had as with any food besides blood, she still enjoyed the hint of sweetness on her tongue while chewing it thoroughly.

The three bat ponies around her stared blankly at her action, not entirely sure of what to say as she looked skeptically back at them. After gulping the fruit down, she raised an eyebrow.

“What? If you aren’t going to eat them, somepony else might.” When they remained stunned at her behavior, Ruby glanced to another plate and spotted a lumpcious strawberry. “Ooo, that looks good.” Smiling, she grabbed ahold of it and brought it towards her.

“H-hey!” the stallion the plate belonged to started, raising a hoof with intent to snatch the strawberry back in midair. But he immediately clammed up and brought his hoof beside him with a nervousness that held him in check.

“What’s the matter?” Ruby asked with a mischievous grin. “Do you want it?”

“N-no… you may have it, Princess,” he mumbled while looking away, lowering his tuft ears in submission.

Ruby narrowed her brows at being unable to elicit a reaction from the stallion. Closing her eyes to let her frustration cool, she calmly spoke, “If you are going to eat, then why have you all barely touched your food?”

“Princess,” Mist Hoof spoke up, starting to become cross from her actions. “We’ve lost good ponies today. So forgive us if our appetite is lacking.”

“I’m fully aware of that,” Ruby replied. Mist Hoof was about to open his mouth again in retort, but caught himself when she opened her eyes and looked directly at him, her face stern and beset with a multitude of emotions hidden subtly on her. He had seen similar looks before during his life, the kind only those who stared defiantly at everything that made life difficult, but unable to do a thing about it. The difference between others and hers however, was that she believed something could be done about it.

“I know there are some who can’t be with us right now, sharing this feast and comforts on this train,” Ruby spoke. “But that does not excuse yourselves in denying food, especially when your strength is needed now more than ever.” Turning her head to the other two she continued, “We are on our way to a city. A large city full of ponies who may or may not be aware of our existence. If the guards were any indication, then I doubt they will accept us with open hooves if they discovered us.”

“But Night Walker said we would be safe there,” the mare said.

“I don’t care what Night Walker said,” Ruby replied, an edge to her voice that she only caught after the matter. “We don’t know what will happen while we’re there. We didn’t know that the guard would find the cave in the middle of nowhere, who’s to say that they won’t find us whatever our hiding spot is in a city full of ponies?”

The three of them were quiet as she tore away through the illusion of safety that the train had brought to them, and feeling foalish that they let themselves believe it if even for a moment.

“We need to be strong, for each other,” Ruby said, bringing a hoof to Mist Hoof’s shoulder that caused him to blush faintly. “Regardless of whoever we meet, we can only truly trust each other. Which means we need to be prepared for anything that could happen, and that includes even an attack on this train.”

“You don’t think we would be betrayed do you?” Mist Hoof asked, his voice quickly becoming deep as he put on a serious outlook on things at the mention of danger.

“As of right now, no. I think we are okay,” Ruby answered. “But that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down.” Returning to her stern expression, she finished her thoughts. “Ponies gave their lives today so that we can continue. And we cannot risk that happening again because of something silly like you being famished because you didn’t eat when you had the chance.” A guilty expression crossed the bat ponies faces as they turned to look back down at their hardly touched meals.

“So eat, replenish your strength, and be ready. Because right now, we only have each other. And we have to remain strong.”

They sat in silence for a moment as Ruby’s words sank in, thinking over the faces they would not see again, and that if they were not careful, become themselves in the future. The harsh reminder of their situation however, was quickly flipped as the happy moan of a filly behind caused them, and every other pony in the cart, to turn their heads to the source of the noise. In a booth, Lunar Pearl stood on the seat with her front hooves outstretch onto the table, her mouth leaking fruit juice as she chewed away happily with a silly expression. After gulping a large mouthful down, she opened her eyes and revealing that they were wide with joy. “This is the best food I’ve ever tasted!”

Lily Wing gave a nervous smile to each pony staring, and turned red in embarrassment as Lunar Pearl stuck her head into the pile of fruit again and began to munch loudly. “Lunar Pearl! Some manners please!” Lily Wing hissed beneath her breath before smacking her on the head with a leathery wing.

Ruby giggled along with the growing smiles of each pony who had witnessed the moment, their moods being somewhat lifted at the carefree smiling of Lunar Pearl munching away despite her sister’s wing thwacks.

“See?” Ruby said. “Even Lunar Pearl is eating. Now, are you going to finish your meals?”

Slow but sure nods from them, along with a grunt from Mist Hoof, relaxed Ruby’s worries. She did not know if it was because of her, or if it was the fact that she was a vampony, but the idea that one should eat during a hard time seemed like a simple notion that everypony should already follow. Maybe it was because her diet was consisted of the life force of other ponies, something that to her seemed to be a respectful way to honor the lives lost by those close to you. If a pony takes away a life, you simply take it back. Such was the way of nature and predators.

I think that’s an awful way to look at things.

Be quiet, Ruby replied, before blinking in surprise that the voice had spoken out of nowhere, and seemed to vanish just as quickly.

“Um, excuse me Princess Ruby?” the stallion hesitantly asked.

“Hmm? Oh, yes?” Ruby said snapping back to the conversation.

“May… may I have my strawberry back?”

Ruby tilted her head at the fidgeting stallion, before remembering she still held the small piece of food currently floating in the air between them. “Oh!” she exclaimed, before giving him a mischievous grin. “If you want it, you’re going to have to take it,” Ruby stated.

The face the batpony made at the bold dare she set on him was absolutely priceless.

“What? A vampony’s diet is about taking. So if you want this strawberry, I suggest you take it before I eat it,” Ruby said with a smirk. Opening her mouth wide, she slowly began to float the strawberry towards her revealed fangs and hanging tongue, letting out a quiet ‘ahhhh’ as she inched it closer.

“No!” the stallion shouted before propping himself up onto the table and swiping the floating strawberry, followed by shoving it into his mouth and chewing it quickly, visibly reveling in its sweet taste.

Mist Hoof let out a small chuckle, then erupted into a series of laughs as his wings threatened to open from pure amusement. His hearty laughing caught the attention of everypony in the cart. When all of them looked at him as if he had gone mad, he turned to Ruby with an approving grin.

“Princess Ruby, I was hoping you weren’t an uptight princess like Celestia and Luna. And that little act there sealed the deal that you aren’t. I think I’m going to like having you lead us.”

“You’ve meet the princesses?” Ruby asked in interest.

Still dwindling down from his laughter, Mist Hoof replied. “Celestia I’ve meet a few times. When you manage to live to my age, you get to see her visits more than most. And while Luna had only shortly returned from her banishment, she has been more active with us than her sister. To be honest, we’d hoped that her return meant that something could finally be done about our predicament. But we all know how that turned out. If you wish to do so now, I can speak to you all I know of them.”

“Later will be fine,” Ruby replied, not wanting to ruin the first light hearted mood they were having since last night. “For now, let’s eat.”

“As you wish,” Mist Hoof said before licking his lips. Bringing up large mouthfuls of food, he ate ravenously with an intensity Ruby did not know he was capable of. The conservative senior that seemed to always hold an opinion about anything that he did not agree was necessary, always saying something was too much or risky, ate with gluttony that put even Lunar Pearl to shame. With a twinkle around his older and beginning to wrinkle eyes, he decided to impart an important lesson of life he had learn to the princess. “When there’s food about, eat like there’s going to be a drought.”

When Mist Hoof saw the deadpan look Ruby and the other two gave, he simply shrugged his shoulders. “It’s my belief that a big appetite is what I think got me to this age. And from the looks of it, that youngster over there is going to easily outlive me.”

Ruby followed Mist Hoof’s smiling gaze and saw Lunar Pearl rubbing the top of her head while wincing at the sametime, no doubt feeling the discipline of manners from her sister who held an outstretched hoof that had smacked her. Giggling at the two siblings, Ruby’s eyes passed over their shoulders to see the young stallion behind them eating alone.

“Ebon Wing is here,” Ruby commented as she watched him nibble his food quietly, his eyes focused on the small debacle the sisters put in front of him.

“Yeah, was surprised myself to see him about,” Mist Hoof commented after wiping his mouth with a napkin, having been reminded of his own manners from the same sight. “Normally he’s always off on his own in some spot, out of sight and out of mind. Guess he feeling the need for familiar company after today. I don’t blame him for it either.”

Ruby was tempted to pick up a piece of fruit and toss it over to him, seeing if he would reactively open his mouth if she yelled ‘catch’ to include him in on the fun and pull him out of his isolated world. But decided otherwise and simply chose to let the young batpony become social on his own accord. She felt that eventually he would come out of his shell, it would just be a matter of time before he did.

“Look everyone!” Lunar Pearl suddenly exclaimed with an outstretched hoof, the other still rubbing the sore spot on her head. When they all turned their heads to see what had caught her attention, a collective breath was exhaled in awe at the sight of a distant city that blazed with light.

The train was currently parallel to the city that they assumed was Fillydelphia, its far away splendor slowing inching its way to the front of the train as the tracks slowly turned them toward it, an indicator that it was indeed their destination.

“Wow…” the mare at their table breathed. “I’ve always heard the cities were big and dazzling, but this… it looks beautiful.”

“Do the ponies the ponies really stay up through the night there like us?” the stallion asked.

The cart was filled with gentle murmurs as the bat ponies looked on in awe at the rising splendor that none of them could take their eyes off of. The towering structures looked to rise above even the clouds from their massive height, and the amount of lights that sparkled the city made it look like it had its own sun powering it, a bustling hub of activity even at night, defying the idea they were the only ones to be awake for it.

Ruby looked on with awe as well, scanning the broken skyline that the buildings made. She was curious, and even looking forward to see it closer, but found that she lacked the excitement that was clear in everypony else.

Looking around, she saw how their eyes took in every detail, the distant city lights creating tiny stars in their eyes. They were captivated, and Ruby could not fully understand why. She turned to Mist Hoof to see if he had perhaps was unaffected as her, but held her tongue when she saw how he looked out to the city.

His jaw was tight as he sat rigid, and his eyes were crinkled with an edge of wetness to them. He stared so intently at the city that began to shift to the front of the train as they turned, that he did not notice Ruby watching him with a saddened demeanor. Even though he was among the older bat ponies, Ruby could not help but think of a young foal finally seeing a dream, a simple dream of being able to see the city, and all of it’s dazzling splendor. And Mist Hoof she realized, had been waiting for that dream for a long time.

Turning her head so as to not embarrass him should he notice her staring, she refocused herself back onto the city, searching for same excitement and awe it had brought the rest of them. When it’s light’s had no effect, she concentrated on the details of the buildings that could be made out, thinking it’s architectural design might have some appeal.

Hmm, those skyscrapers are awfully tall. I wonder how many floors they have? Ruby thought to herself. It took a few moments for her mind to catch what she had thought, and furrowed her brows in contemplation afterward.

How did I know they're called skyscrapers?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When the train pulled into a brightly lit and large overhanging station, they ducked beneath the windows at the realization that other ponies may be in the area and would be able to spot them within the darkened train. However, their fears proved to be fruitless as they carefully peaked over the edges to find the entire station empty.

After gathering everypony, they made for the exit where the butler exited onto the platform who politely urged them to hurry along as they tentatively poked their heads out and glanced about barren place. He explained to them that it was a private train yard and no employees were currently nearby, but that such a rare moment would not last for long if they waited aboard the train any longer.

With hurried movements, they walked through the back passageways of the train station, twenty-eight bat ponies warily following Princess Ruby who in turn, followed the butler. Their eyes shifted about at every noise and corridor they came across as if they were expecting a contingent of guards to catch them by surprise, somehow already aware of their location and simply waiting in ambush.

They were lead out of the structure and directly to a large and strange carriage near the bay doors to what Ruby figured was the loading docks where cargo was transitioned to and from the train station. The carriage looked to be made out of metal and wood, with solid metallic beams holding it together while boards covered most of its surface area. The back end of it was wide open, revealing a hollow interior that ended abruptly after a short distance. From the side, it appeared its space was walled off from the covered sitting section in the front that she assumed a pony would sit at. However, it looked like nothing she could describe as it sat atop something that was completely covered in metal, and there were no reins in front of it for ponies to pull the large thing.

“What is that?” Ruby asked as she eyed it over.

“It is called an automobile, cargo truck specifically,” the butler replied dully. “It is the result of the master’s effort in increasing work productivity in his transportation business.”

“And exactly how is anypony going to pull that with us in the back? You know, the end with the wide open hole where anypony could see us?” Ruby asked skeptically.

“The door closes and it is powered by charged gemstones, a new method of combining magic and technology together to create something that is called an ‘engine’. Now if you will please aboard the back, we are still behind schedule.”

Ruby gave a glare at the elder pony, wondering how in Equestria he was still focused on something such as being timely of all things. She wondered if his blood would be as sour as his mood before dismissing the violent thought and turning back to her ponies. “Alright, let’s get everyone on quickly.”

After Ruby leapt onto the floor of the contraption, the last one to board, the butler’s horn glowed white and the door slide from above them and downward, slamming hard onto the bed of the cargo truck and sending them into total darkness.

Ruby heard the worried whispers of the group as they moved closer to each other in the already tight space, causing her to give reassuring words despite her own second thoughts on the matter. She flared her horn to give some them light so that they could see each other, and felt her chest tighten as she saw twenty-eight faces look to her for guidance, their literal shining beacon in this uncertain time in their lives.

They gasped when they felt the vehicle rumble to life and the sound of something churning in front of them. And sure enough, their bodies shifted about as it began to move and steadily pick up in speed.

Being inside the cramped space made it hard to indicate how long the trip lasted, their bodies swaying to and fro slightly from the turns of the vehicle. But eventually it had come to a stop for the last time, and the doors were suddenly thrown open as the butler stood before them again. They were at another loading dock, albeit much smaller than the one at the train yard. Except this time however, they were in the heart of the city, and at the base of possibly one of the tallest towers within it. Their heads craned upwards as they tried to spot the top of the structure, wondering how long it would take them to fly to the top. It was far beyond the height limits the guards of Dusk Town had in effect.

With the same process as before, they were hurriedly ushered inside and made their way through the empty halls of the building, never spotting another soul. But they knew some ponies were about as they heard the muffled shouts of conversations, or the sound of distant hoof steps echoing through thin walls. They quickly made their way to a large door and paused in front of it, and then the unicorn butler wrapped his magic around a strange dial beside it. After a single spin, the rumbling of machines similar to that of the cargo truck began to churn behind the walls.

Staring warily at the door, the bat ponies flinched as the doors opened by themselves without the aid of hoof or magic, and revealed a small space that apparently lead to nowhere.

“What is this supposed to be?” Ruby asked, trying to sound like she wasn’t overly concerned as she currently was. While she had strangely recognized some things on their secretive journey since leaving the station—the train being one of them she realized in retrospect—she had only a hint of what this windowless room was supposed to be.

“It’s called an elevator,” the butler replied.

“I know that!” Ruby retorted. “But where are the unicorns that are needed to lift it up?”

“Like the automobile, this is powered by the combination of technology and magic. It only needs to be told which floor you wish to arrive at and it will take you there. Now if you will be so kind, please enter in groups of ten. It can only safely hold so much weight.”

It had taken over twenty minutes in total to chauffeur all of them in turns to their destined floor, Ruby having decided to go with the first group incase wherever they were being taken to did not suit her liking. But as waited for the remaining bat ponies to be brought up, she found herself speechless in what was her opinion a very fancy and high-class waiting room with double doors across from the elevator.

Textured walls were lined with an assortment of paintings and artwork elegantly displayed along with potted plants, and the detailed marble floor with intricate details gleamed beneath their hooves. It was polished enough for them to see their faces in. The bat ponies had never seen a room like it in their whole life, and stared about their environment in awe. Their amazement was compounded even more when the butler appeared with the final group and led them through the double doors, and out into a large space that took their breaths away.

“Welcome to the penthouse atop of Skyline Tower. Please, make yourself at home within the various rooms,” the butler announced as he gestured them inside.

It was like walking through the front door of a mansion as they walked into an open area that held two large double staircases beneath a balcony, indicating a second floor above them. From the crystal chandler, to the sculpted statues, everything screamed that somepony important lived here. Even the view through vertical arched windows that looked out onto the adjacent buildings and brightly lit city below made them look about with hanging mouths.

“This must be what a princess would live in,” one of them commented as he turned in circles, trying to take in all the details at once.

“Actually, more like a prince,” a voice answered above them.

Turning their heads, they looked upwards to see a unicorn stallion standing atop of the balcony, a smug smile etched onto his face in what was obvious amusement and content at their reactions to his abode. His pose was that of royalty and lordship as he held himself upright and in confidence. Not a strand of hair was out of place on his white coat, his well brushed golden mane hung about his neck in a neat fashion, and the cutie mark of a compass rose adorned his flanks.

The butler moved to the base of one of the stairs and gave a small cough. “Princess Ruby, and honored guests, please welcome your benefactor and owner of Skyline Transportation. My master, Prince Blueblood.”

Blueblood finally looked down onto them, appearing as if he had not truly looked at them until he had been announced. His eyes passed over the ragtag group of ponies with silent mirth, before his grinned faltered at the sight of the alicorn staring cautiously up to him.

He nearly called out to her in surprise as to what she was doing here, but the warning Night Walker had given to him before came back to him as he recognized the fact she held crimson eyes. To took a good amount of effort to suppress his grimace.

So that’s what he meant by a ‘familiar’ princess. I knew she had gone missing, but he never told me it was her who had become a vampony. To think, she would receive such a gift before me.

Without hesitation, Blueblood coughed to clear his throat, and swept a hoof over the railing. “Please, make yourselves at home. All my services are free for your own use within this floor. We have rooms, food, and entertainment for your pleasure. So please, bat ponies, make use of your new sanctuary. And a special welcome to you as well, Princess Ruby.”

Author's Note:

Prince Blueblood has made the scene. With him we expand the story, its characters, tech, and possibilities of where it can go. I know some of you saw him coming but I hope I surprised at least a few of you. But then again, the recent addition of his tag was kind of a dead giveaway. Some foreknowledge, Prince Blueblood is the owner of the largest transport and shipment company in Equestria, his destiny he discovered when the compass rose symbol appeared on him; an indication of his future in the transportation and travel business. He is currently on the verge of a releasing a brand newline of machinery to enhance his business, being a pioneer in leading Equestria into more a more advanced age. Possibly even into a steam-punk like type of world. How far it will go however, remains to be seen. But this story and others related to it will have continuity, and his inventions will make their mark on the world as they are slowly incorporated into the daily lives of ponies. This world I have made is a evolving and growing one, and I hope you like the direction it is going.

Note: I have updated the main description of the story a tiny bit as older chapters are being tweaked. Though I feel it could perhaps be written differently and better, I hope it will not scare away readers as it probably has been doing thus far. I also mentioned dark tag is for light dark, and its current position is where I will also be posting side stories specifically related to this one, as well as the link for the next story. Which will appear whenever this one is finished.

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