• Published 11th Sep 2013
  • 15,916 Views, 1,377 Comments

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 III - Chapter 44

Still is the field,
And still is the heart,
The wind blows cold,
Beneath the twinkling of stars.

Rest your eyes,
And calm your soul,
Let soot and ash,
Drift away in the cold.

It begins with a pause,
Then settles to pace,
A glaze in the eyes,
And a hollow face.

But do not despair,
For lives you have won,
Let soot and ash,
Fade beneath the sun.

Turn your head,
To the sweet sunrise,
Lift your spirits,
As high as the sky.

Carry on,
And forget not your pact,
Let soot and ash,
Be always your path.

Soot and ash,
Will follow our wrath.

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

Rarity stood the near the railing, a passive expression on her face as she drifted past the mountains. It was the Unicorn Range, a wall of winding mountains that branched out across western Equestria. It had been a long desire of hers to someday see them up close. It had several unique attributes, one them being that many of Equestria’s rarest and most precious gemstones were mined from its roots. Its other well-known trait was its naturally sparkling rock faces, which she could see glittering in the setting sunlight clearly from her vantage point. She could not help but admire and appreciate their beauty, fulfilling one of the many dreams she’d kept since her fillyhood. But it seemed so unimportantly small now, even with her view from the portside of an airship.

The ship floated across the sky parallel to the mountains, slowly coming closer for the eventual crossing of the peaks that their route would require. Far below was the rolling hills that formed the base of the Unicorn Range, their colors ever so slightly changing between each distinct mound of earth. From this height Rarity couldn’t make out the variety of flowers and stones that gave the hills their colorful appearance, but neither did the prolonged, nearly vertical downward gaze through miles of open air elicit any fear.

More than once she leaned herself over the edge, craning her upper body farther and farther forward over the rail. She never had a phobia of heights growing up, but neither did she ever fully recover from her disastrous fall from Cloudsdale. She should have felt something inside from pushing herself over the edge as she did, an inkling of alarm at being so dangerously close to falling. Desperate for some kind of response, she continued further and further until she knew that anymore and she would actually fall. She paused in contemplation of the fact that she had physically reached her limit. She stared at the passing hills beneath from her near horizontal position, and yet, she still felt nothing. It was as casual as if she was simply leaning over her chair to stare at the wooden floor.

Ever since then, she had chosen to remain alone at the front port of the ship, keeping the Unicorn Range within sight, and leaving her to wonder what she would find once they crossed over them.

Then, her ears flicked, and her body tensed. It was a subtle sound, barely distinguishable amidst the noises of high altitude winds and the working ponies of the airship. Or perhaps her awareness stemmed from a strange and faint sensation she had detected. She did not know. But regardless of which it was, it only added to the inner worry of how much easier it was becoming to notice her.

“Hello, Twilight,” Rarity said, keeping her eyes forward.

“Hey,” Twilight quietly replied as she came to Rarity’s side and joined her in watching the scenery.

Rarity took note of Twilight’s voice and the subtleties within it, mentally crafting an image of Twilight’s underlying mood.

“How are your brother and Princess Cadance handling things?”

“Better now that we’ve talked more,” Twilight replied, the hint of weariness hardly noticeable in her tone. “We got most of everything out last night, but these last few hours have been really nice. I wish they could have come with us instead of talking to me through letters, but there's a lot they need to attend to, especially since Celestia and Luna are with us.”

“Hmmm,” Rarity replied. The flow of the conversation was clear in her mind, what reactions Twilight might have to the various but specific questions that floated in Rarity’s mind. All she needed was a nudge in the right direction. “Have you told them about Ruby yet?”

Rarity did not need to see her to know Twilight’s face creased at the question.

“No, not yet.”

“Did Princess Celestia say why you shouldn’t?”

“I forgot to ask her last night.”

“If I had to guess, I imagine it’s just until they’ve had some time to adjust to the situation,” Rarity commented. “It is a lot to handle, after all.”

“You’re probably right,” Twilight replied in a low tone.

“You shouldn’t worry yourself so much about it. Perhaps once we find some answers in Dusktown you should tell them. I can understand the wait, but they shouldn’t be kept in the dark for too long.”

“Yeah… that sounds good,” Twilight said, sighing moments after.

The sound finally made Rarity turn to look at Twilight, noting Twilight’s somewhat slumped form, her drooped head, closed eyes, and deep breaths. It was clear the inner weight of such matters held her attention, and it left her vulnerable.

Rarity observed Twilight closely for several moments. Her posture, her state of mind, what her reactions would be at this very moment. From among the many choices that came to her mind with a level of clarity that only her dressmaking decisions could match, Rarity chose one.

She wrapped her hoof around Twilight’s neck, and pulled her into an embrace.

Twilight wordlessly let herself be guided into Rarity’s arms, and returned the hug as she kept her face hidden beneath her mane.

Feeling Twilight’s body against hers, Rarity’s face became tight, and she closed her eyes to hide the moisture that was building up.

She had exploited Twilight. She saw her mood so clearly and knew what buttons to press to further it, to lower her guard, to create an opening. And she took it. Regardless of the outcome, she had been very aware of what she had been doing, and she’d done it anyway.

A shudder passed through her body as the unnatural clarity of her surroundings began to dim, and the increasingly absent emotion of fear crept back into her mind. For the first time in her life, she was beginning to appreciate being afraid.

“You finally relaxed,” Twilight quietly said.

Rarity let out a small gasp, and pulled back to look at Twilight with wide eyes.

Twilight, however, simply held a knowing look along with a sad smile. "I should have said something when I approached. You’ve been tense this whole time. I could feel it when you hugged me.”

Water formed in Rarity’s eyes as she pulled away, being mindful of her mascara as she wiped her eyes. “I’m sorry.”

They had discussed this before, many times in fact, back in Ponyville. This was a situation that affected them both, one that may try to come between them from time to time. They were two sides of the same coin in a manner. And when it did threaten them, they would fall back on the promise they had made.

Rarity sat down on the wooden deck to idly look at the passing mountains, and Twilight sat beside her. For the remainder of the trip, and possibly for the majority of the time in Dusktown, they would not leave the other’s side. It was a bond that was, in its nature, designed to keep them apart, but they decided they would instead use it to bring them closer than ever before.

They sat in silence for minutes as the sun set below the horizon, causing the glittering specks on the Unicorn Range to dim.

“Do you feel anything towards me?” Rarity asked.

“Some wariness, but it’s most likely from noticing the tension from you,” Twilight replied. Rarity merely hummed in response.

It was a hard answer, but an honest one. Being straightforward was something they quickly learned during those first few days after Twilight’s return. They couldn’t afford to be too hesitant with each other when regarding such serious matters. They couldn’t be afraid of hurting the other’s feelings when it was possible they would be hurt so much more otherwise.

“You seem less worried, or rather, I should say, you’re attitude has changed,” Rarity commented. Even though she despised her acute awareness of Twilight now and then, she had to admit it made figuring her out far easier than normal. At times it was so precise it was borderline mind reading.

And Twilight was begrudgingly learning to accept it. “The conversation Celestia and I had wasn’t what I expected…”

Rarity turned her head to Twilight, her inner intent now in support instead of exploitation.

“I’ve never seen her break down,” Twilight continued in a quiet voice. “I wouldn’t even call what happened last night her fully breaking down. She just… She was overwhelmed. She’s never been open to me like that before…”

“She acted like a pony, not a princess,” Rarity guessed.

Twilight nodded. “She’s always been so confident, so certain. It’s like no matter what happened, she would always be there to show the way. To let you know that it would be alright. No matter what the situation, she would always stand firm and tall.”

Rarity’s eyes briefly left Twilight to spy the large cabin on the upper deck at the other end of the airship, the quarters Celestia and Luna shared as they traveled.

“But it’s not like I think less of her,” Twilight continued. “I never imagined that I would become so close to her. But at the same time, It’s just… It feels like things aren’t like they used to be. Like some hidden wall isn’t there anymore to hold things back.”

“It’s like an illusion on things has finally wore off,” Rarity said with an empty voice. “Reality isn’t the hopeful thing you once thought it was.”

Twilight felt like smirking, but she couldn’t find the will to do it. “It’s annoying how much better you’re becoming at reading me.”

“I didn’t read that from you, dear,” Rarity replied. “I’ve just come to feel the same thing myself.”

Twilight had nothing to say to that, and they soon found themselves watching the mountains again as the moon climbed into the sky. Their steady incline towards them closed by the minute, and they guessed that it wouldn’t be long until they finally cut over the peaks and into the heart of the range.

“You know that the Unicorn Mountains used to be the Gemstone family’s kingdom?” Twilight asked.

“I did,” Rarity replied.

“Are you worried about going there?”

“A little,” Rarity said in a relieved voice, glad to at least feel something about something. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised the Hunters wanted Dusktown within their ancestral lands. How are you feeling about it?”

“Nervous,” Twilight replied. She nibbled slightly on her lip as she searched for the words. “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do when I get there. I have nothing against the bat ponies, but I can’t help but feel uncomfortable about it given that Ruby was so close with them. It’s like I have an expectation or duty to them now, and I never had the chance or choice to decide that for myself.”

“You don’t want the responsibility of the bat ponies?”

“I suppose,” Twilight said as her eyes trailed downward. “I’m a princess now, which means all the ponies of Equestria are my responsibility. But… I’m not sure what the bat ponies specifically mean to me. Ruby was completely fine with making them her only focus, but I can’t feel the same. At least, not yet. And I’m not even sure I want to…”

“What Ruby did has nothing to do with what you will do,” Rarity replied firmly. “You have no obligations to anything she or Night Walker created, and you shouldn’t hold yourself to their actions.”

Twilight nodded idly at the comment, then gave a small frown. Looking at Rarity, she asked, “You didn’t call Ruby an ‘it’.”

It appeared for a moment that Rarity would say something hostile by the way her eyes glared, but the demeanor quickly changed into resignation as she looked away. “Applejack and I had a talk. She… She thinks we should be… more supportive to you about Ruby. At least, until you decide what you’re going to do with her.”

“Oh,” Twilight said. That was a surprise she hadn’t been expecting.

“Speaking of inner soul-changing entities,” Rarity said momentarily. “I might have an idea on how to deal with mine.”

“Oh?” Twilight repeated.

“The Elements of Harmony.”

Rarity waited as Twilight’s face frowned in that way it always did when thinking hard about something. Her eyes went through the usual movements of coming to conclusions, lighting up at new ideas, then shifting again as she applied them to her imaginary model on the topic. Whether this puzzle solving mood would last a few seconds, or a few minutes, Rarity had no idea. Especially given the nature of the problem. So it was to her surprise, then confusion when Twilight looked back to her and simply said, “Maybe.”

“Maybe?” Rarity replied in a displeased tone.

Twilight nodded. “To be honest, I have no idea if they would help or just make it worse.”

“But you’re Twilight!” Rarity said. “If anypony knows these things it’s you. It’s either a yes or no!”

“It isn’t that simple.”

“Yes it is!” Rarity stood up and glared at Twilight. “It is that simple. You simply pick them up and use them! The fact that I didn’t think about using them until yesterday is bad enough, but saying that they might help? I need to know if they can or can’t!”

A few ponies turned to glance at the two of them on the front deck, but otherwise kept to themselves.

Twilight held a disheartened look as she too got onto her hooves. “Rarity, I wish I could tell you if it would work or not. I wish I could say that it would remove it from you. But I can’t promise you anything. I just don’t know! I still don’t even fully understand what the Elements did to me.”

“Then you need to figure it out! Look into my soul or whatever it is you need to do and tell me!” Despite her angry glare, tears were forming in Rarity’s eyes, and Twilight only became further dismayed.

“I don’t know how yet. Ruby has that knowledge.”

“Then get it from her!”

“It doesn’t work like that, Rarity,” Twilight said, lowering her ears as her voice became softer and softer.

“It has to work. I need to know!” Rarity stated as she started to back away. Twilight, though, made sure to stay within a few steps.

“Rarity… I know you’re frightened. But we-”

“Frightened?” Rarity scoffed, causing Twilight to flinch. “You think being frightened is the problem?” Rarity stared at her with a glower. “I need to be scared, Twilight. I need to be terrified. Because if I’m not, then I can’t worry about whether or not I’m going to be like this for the rest of my life. You aren’t the only pony who is affected by this, Twilight. What about my family? What about Sweetie Belle?”

“You’d never hurt them!”

“Of course I wouldn't hurt them physically!” Rarity shouted. “They’d only be hurt in every other way!” Rarity’s breathing was becoming heavier as she struggled inside. With each moment her inner world threatened to break like before. The cold and calculated mental state threatened to smother everything but her anger. She could feel the chilled fury rise inside of her. Holding on to every other feeling was becoming difficult. Retaining her fear was the most difficult. And to her dismay, the image of Sweetie Belle being affected by all this in the worst possible way was the only thing allowing her to keep from being fully taken over. It churned her stomach to know that it was the only way to stave off the mental transformation, and even worse, she worried that eventually it might not be enough.

“It’s not just fear that leaves me, Twilight,” Rarity said in a hoarse voice. “At its worst, it feels like everything is gone. It makes me feel cold both in mind and heart. Like there isn’t anything else.” Her mascara was running now, and she hardly paid it mind. “You may feel like you’re on fire. Like an overwhelming desire burns through you. It makes you feel alive. But me…” Rarity swallowed a lump in her throat. “I don’t have any of that. It makes me feel so little, Twilight. It makes me feel dead. Dead like the things that the Gemstone’s had fought. They made themselves dead so they could fight the dead!” Rarity’s face then contorted into something painful as she spoke in a faint voice, “For my sister’s sake, I can’t be dead.”

Twilight stared aghast at Rarity, the overwhelming urge to hold her being held back the the fear that it would only exasperate the situation further. Getting a glimpse of what Rarity was suffering brought on a fresh wave of pain. Rarity had been right. Despite Twilight’s aversion and contempt for herself for what she felt, she didn’t know if it would be better to feel nothing at all.

“I need to know…” Rarity then said in a surprisingly quieter voice, the contempt in her eyes falling away to sullen fear. “I need to know what I have to do… I need to be in control. I… I have to know if I can fix it, or if I have to live with it… I need to prepare...” Rarity’s legs began to shaken, and she slowly lowered herself to the floor. “Please, tell me, Twilight… Please, tell me…”

Twilight was besides Rarity’s slumping form in a moment, and she held her tightly.

Neither said anything more on the matter, and they simply resigned themselves to sitting together on the wooden deck. Rarity kept her breakdown as quiet as she could, and many times mumbled something about stopping or that she was alright. But Twilight’s insistent embrace and hushed words instead urged her on. She was intent on being there for Rarity as Rarity had been there for her, and Twilight was not willing to let Rarity slip away into her inner dead world as she had described it. Even if it hurt her to do so, Twilight kept Rarity in her sad, fearful, living world while she could.

The two of them sat at the front of the ship, being allowed plenty of privacy from the rest of the ponies as they went about their duties. The winds shifted, ropes were tightened, and the airship steadily turned to its port. In minutes they passed the outer peaks of Unicorn Range and drifted into the heart of the mountains.

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

Climbing the stairs and opening the door to the deck, Twilight and Rarity stepped out into the cool night air. Both closed their eyes and took a moment to enjoy it, Rarity more so as she felt the newly applied mascara dry further. And neither of them had to open them to know that a pony was approaching

“Excuse me, your highness,” the stallion said, one of the airships workers. They opened their eyes to look at him, and he offered a small bow. “The two of you are being waited upon in the main cabin. The Princesses and your friends are there now.”

Twilight nodded at him as he returned to work. Turning to Rarity, she gave her a questioning look. “Ready?”

Rarity took a deep breath, then rolled her shoulders as she straightened her posture. “Yes.”

Crossing the deck in a quick fashion, they knocked on the door once, then entered. Inside were Celestia, Luna, Cadance, Shining Armor, and their friends. All of them were standing about an expertly crafted desk that held various papers.

“Twilight, Rarity,” Celestia said. “Please come over. We were just beginning the introduction to Dusktown.”

Once the two of them joined the group Luna began to speak. “As you all know, Dusktown was the settlement my sister and I created for the vamponies. It was to be their home until cured, and watched over by the Hunters until that time came to pass. For this reason, the Hunters insisted that it be located within their old kingdom’s borders. Given that the lands had not been claimed by neighboring kingdoms and its remote location was ideal, it was agreed and settled upon.”

With her magic, Luna unrolled one of the various scrolls on the desk and laid it out for all to see, a map of Dusktown. “The town itself is built upon the summit of a mountain. Many of the spires within the range have flat tops, and this was one of the largest ones that could be used. It is surrounded by stone walls with guard towers dotting its edges, and the houses, while having changed since my absence, take up the majority of the space within. They are wrought of stone and tile with artfully inlaid gems.”

Unraveling another scroll, Luna laid out a map of Unicorn Range, within the mountain expanse sat a detailed picture of Dusktown, surrounded by a large circle. “Despite the initial agreement, the bat ponies are not entirely confined to the town. They are able to fly about and explore a distance from the town so that they may stretch their wings and break from the usual monotony of their home. It may appear short, but this range has been negotiated over time with the nobles.”

Twilight kept her expression passive as Ruby made her presence known; her contempt for the situation shown clearly.

“What can we expect about the general mood?” Rarity asked.

“It is unstable,” Luna replied. “Everypony within has been shaken by the recent events, but they otherwise continue as normal. The elders have stepped up to quell the worries of the young, and the guards have increased their patrols while requesting more bat ponies volunteer in their program.”

“The bat ponies are helping secure the town?” Twilight asked in confusion.

“Why wouldn’t they?”

A perplexed frown appeared on Twilight’s face. “I just thought…”

Luna gave a knowing nod. “It’s best to see things for yourself before you fully believe what others have said. Dusktown is not Ponyville, but neither will you find it cruel.”

Twilight was quiet as Luna rolled the parchments. Once done, Luna addressed them all, “We arrive to two hours. Please hold any judgements until then.”

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

Twilight stared nervously from the stern of the ship. Everyone had gathered beside her as they drew closer to their destination. Wild expectations passed through hers and Ruby’s thoughts, some of them becoming overly imaginative before the other gave a reminder that they had strayed from the realm of possibility. They tried to reassure themselves that in all likelihood, it was only a simple town, just like any other with the exception of a few differences. It just happened to be a town of bat ponies who were the descendants of vamponies, the very ponies Night Walker had gathered and used to exert his influence all across Equestria. Nothing more than that.

Nibbling her lip, Twilight stared out across the night landscape, watching with bated breath each time they turned a corner around the towering mountains. If they had been here for any other reason, she might have been able to enjoy the beautiful aerial view. The gentle glow of gem lights from the airship made everypony else need to squint to see anything, unlike Luna and Twilight who saw everything as if it was day.

The old legends that these mountains were the home of the original unicorns gave Twilight some thought as she cautiously looked about. Lush trees grew on random crevices against the rock, moonlight reflected off the crystal clear water shined from far below as rivers snaked their way through the valleys, and every now and then a glint of gems caught her eye. It was a beautiful place, and she briefly thought that perhaps out of all the places in Equestria, this might be the most pleasant one for the bat ponies.

The thought wasn’t well received from Ruby, causing the two to reinforce their mental walls against each other for the time being.

Then, as sudden as the wind that came, four ponies appeared off the starboard side of the ship. Everypony’s eyes focused on them within the gem light. They were four guards ponies, dressed in pegasi designed royal armor and flying in a close-knit formation. After a few moments of assessing the airship, the ponies touched the gems on their chests and a gentle glow was emitted from the surface, lighting themselves to be fully seen. While Twilight’s friends held a surprised look at noticing that their escort was two pegasi and two bat ponies, Twilight’s eyes had never left them since their arrival.

Noticing the stare, the two bat ponies locked eyes with Twilight, and a mixture of emotions passed across their faces. What they were, however, Twilight did not know because they shortly split their formation and positioned themselves around the airship, guiding it through the mountains using their chest gems as beacons. The bat ponies then kept their eyes forward and focused on their task, and Twilight continued to stare at them in wonderment and uncertainty, unsure of what she was supposed to be feeling towards them.

As the ship was led through, more ponies caught Twilight’s expert eye, and more chests began to glow. Soon there were at least a dozen or so ponies flying around the airship, and while more than half were pegasi, there were enough bat ponies that Twilight found her gaze switching every few moments to take them all in. Twilight even kept an eye on the few who kept a distance from the airship with their gems remaining deactivated, an outer ring of protection.

It was as if a flock of wisps had found their ship and were leading them to some place magical. And when they turned the last corner, Dusktown finally came into sight, and Twilight let out a gasp.

The others had a difficult time making out its form given the few lights placed around it, but Twilight breathlessly saw its entirety. Dusktown was perched on a wide, flat mountain top, easily housing a couple hundred ponies given the number of two stories houses scattered throughout the tightly packed quarters. The architecture was unlike any she had seen before. It was a mix of modern and olden Equestrian, the product of centuries of preservation, careful maintenance, and renovations. A town like this would have been demolished and rebuilt house by house over time in any other part of Equestria. But it was evident that had not happened here. Here instead, was the convergence of old and new artfully woven together, bringing an almost mystical feeling to the town of gem light.

And even more breathtaking was the shining reflection of what looked looked to be thousands of stars laid within the stonework, nebulous in appearance and numerous in color. Even upon realizing that they were gems instead of actual stars, the effect was undiminished. By all accounts, it truly looked to be a town made of the night sky.

Among those glittering reflections that only her, Luna, and the bat ponies could see in their full spectacular appearance, came the awareness of the forms of ponies flying above and around the town, their leathery wings distinct from the ones with feathers even from here. To see so many bat ponies made Twilight’s chest feel light, and even Ruby was unable to contain herself at the sight.

“May I present to you,” Luna said, sweeping her hoof through the air, “the home of the bat ponies. Dusktown.”

Author's Note:

Alright, before anything further is said, having a town sparkling like star light does not make them similar to vampires from the Twilight series. Instead, it's more like the stars themselves have been woven into the buildings, an illusion created by the stones from Unicorn Range and the carefully positioned gems over centuries of residency. For those unfamilar with MTG cards, it's similar to the shiny and sparkling bits of this guy's cape, this roof top, and this wolf's coat.

It's not like the exact look of nebulas are built into the town, but it is close in concept. After all, if you are going to live in a place for a thousand years with some of the most beutiful gems in the land making the mountain you live on, and you have the princesses there to support, encourage, and promote the best lifestyle they can for you, then you are going to get one hell of a decorated and artful town.

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