• Published 30th Jan 2016
  • 2,053 Views, 76 Comments

Of The Night - TheBrianJ



One year ago, Night Glider was exiled from Modus. Now, it’s time to go home.

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Chapter 3

Night Glider’s wings ached. She briefly perched on a tree and stretched them out, pulling at a loose feather as she stared off into the distance. She had never flown for such a long time in her life, but somehow, the sensation was not unfamiliar to her.

She surveyed her surroundings. She had left the forest hours ago, and now found herself on a fairly barren path with no discernible landmarks in any direction. Save for a few trees dotting the dirt road, there wasn’t a whole lot to look at. She stretched her neck and looked off into the distance. She still had a long way to go; it would take another day and a half of flying, at most, before she made it to Modus.

Modus. The thought that she would actually be there soon, that she would be standing in front of the gates to her home, sent goosebumps up and down her back. She was actually going to be there. A smile crossed her face and she flicked her wings back, stretching them out and getting ready to take off again. A gust of wind blew her necklace to the side, the ding of its chimes reverberating in her ears. She grasped it in her hoof while her gaze slowly moved to the horizon.

Her wings were still aching; she tried to ignore the pain as she let go of her necklace, then quickly took off into the air again. With each flap, another surge of pain shot through her wings. She gritted her teeth and pushed forward, but a sharp sting sent her off balance. She flapped furiously to get any sort of stability back as she rapidly approached the ground, barely managing to get her hooves out in time to land safely.

For just a few seconds, everything was still. She slowly unfurled her wings, only for the pain to throb harder, and she instinctively snapped them back against her body.

I guess I’m walking, she thought to herself as she trotted forward along the path, letting forth a deep sigh.

She quietly walked, only breaking the monotony to unfurl her wings every few minutes to see if the ache had gone away yet. After having flown for so long, the world seemed to be moving in slow motion by her as she trotted. Her gaze kept wandering upwards until she found herself looking directly at the sky, zeroing in on birds as they flew every which way.

The repetitive crunch of the dirt beneath her hooves was getting to Night Glider. She stifled a yawn, pressing forward and picking up her pace to try to get some semblance of speed back. Crunch, crunch, crunch: the sound was almost melodic. She yawned again, and looked towards the sky. Her wings instinctively unfurled, but the ache was still there, and they snapped back against her body before they could flap once.

With a third yawn, Night Glider stopped and stretched her body out. It hadn’t hit her just how exhausted she was after flying for so long. She had no idea what time it was, only a general sense of time based on the sky, but she found herself wondering when the last time she had actually stopped and rested.

She arched her back downwards, looking down the path and wondering if there was a place to set up camp for the night. As she scanned the area, there was a glimmer of light far, far in the distance. Night Glider zeroed in on it and waited for a few seconds, before it glimmered again. She inhaled sharply through her nose as she realized what it was.

It had been a long time. She had only been outside of Modus a few times growing up, and every time was a trip to the greatest port city in all of Equestria: Palmacolta. As a filly, the few times she had been to Palmacolta had stuck in her memory: a big city right on the shore of the ocean, ponies openly talking to each other and waving as she trotted by. A bustling city full of life. Her memories of the city remained strong, but it had been years since she had been there. And one memory remained particularly strong.

“Dusty!”

Only one pony had never judged her for being different when she lived in Modus. One pony who treated her as an equal. Dusty ran an inn and tavern in Palmacolta with his wife, and Night Glider spent as much time as she could hanging out with Dusty whenever she and other ponies had gone to the coastal city. It had been years since she had seen him, but she could practically hear his voice already.

With a newfound energy surging through her, she started galloping. It would only take a half-hour of running, but she couldn’t wait. Dusty would probably be awake, and she’d finally be able to reconnect with a pony on her journey. She stifled a yawn as she ran down the path, already anticipating seeing Dusty’s smiling face again.

The more she ran, the more the terrain changed. The empty fields were giving way to farmhouses, scattered buildings around, and firefly lanterns on either side of the road. Even the crunch of the path beneath her hooves gave way to the sound of cobblestones as the dirt became a hoof-made road. The lights in the distance were getting brighter; despite the time, Palmacolta appeared to be wide awake.

She came to a fork in the path. One path headed off to the left, cobblestones leading the way towards the water, where Palmacolta now lit up the area far clearer. The other path was an old dirt one leading off into the middle of nowhere. Night Glider squinted down the dirt path, but there was nothing to be seen, just some rocks in the far distance.

She turned and started down the cobblestone path. Her wings were still aching, but she knew that if she kept the pace up, it wouldn’t take long before she could relax. The images of the city danced in her mind: the ponies, the buildings, the soothing sound of the sea washing over the shore, the chance to see her only friend outside of Starlight’s town…

Hello!”

Night Glider’s ears twitched. She looked around, having sworn she heard something, but there was nopony in sight. She turned back and continued walking.

”Anypony?!”

She stopped. This time she was sure that she had heard something. She looked at her surroundings, trying to find the source, but everything around her was still, not any indication of a pony near her. She stood perfectly still, trying to block out any other sound around her to zero in on what she had heard. After a few seconds, her ears twitched again.

“H-help! Somepony, please!”

Night Glider whirled around, back towards the dirt path. The voice was faint, but she had a general idea of the direction it was coming from. Before she could move, there was a sudden loud rumbling in the ground that lasted for a few seconds before going away. She started trotting—slowly at first, but when she heard the voice again, it became a gallop. She frantically looked around, trying to find the exact source.

After a few minutes, the voice had gotten louder, but as Night Glider glanced from left to right, and all around her, she still couldn’t see anypony.

“Hello?” Night Glider yelled. She heard a gasp.

“I-I’m down here!” A voice said in a hushed tone.

Night Glider turned towards where the voice was, seeing a long pile of rocks fifty feet away.

“What’s wrong?” Night Glider called back, running towards the rocks. “Anything I can do to help?”

She trailed off as she came to the rocks and stared downward. A massive gorge, twenty feet across and at least fifty feet deep, spanned below her. There was very little light showing anything in the gorge, but as she squinted, she could see a small amount of movement in the far corner at the bottom of the gorge.

“I can’t g-get out!” the voice sobbed quietly.

Night Glider unfurled her wings, but a single flap sent more pain through them and she shut them quickly, then scanned the gorge. Some feet off to her right, enough rocks stuck out from the side of the gorge to form a path downwards, right near where the the voice was.

“Hang on!” Night Glider said, quickly rushing over and jumping down the rocks. “Be there in a minute.”

“Shhhhhhhh!” the pony suddenly said. “Don’t talk so loud. They’ll hear you!”

“Who will—”

Night Glider was only halfway down the path when she was interrupted by a rumbling sound. She turned to look at the wall, which was actively shaking.

Something is coming, and fast.

She barely had time to jump out of the way as something burst through the wall. She tumbled down to the bottom of the gorge and looked up, wide-eyed, as a monstrous creature trashed about, biting. Suddenly the entire gorge was awash in activity, with more of the creatures coming out of holes and letting out loud screeches. Night Glider huddled against the wall, trying not to move or even breathe, until the creatures slowly returned to their caves.

Night Glider waited another minute to make sure the creatures had gone, before she looked to her side. A few feet away, a small filly with a dark green coat and dark red hair sat against the wall, shivering. Half of her hair was tied with a bow, the other half messily running down the side of her head. Her right front hoof was stained with blood, with her other bow wrapped around it.

“H… Hi….” she mumbled.

Night Glider crouched down next to her. “Hey. I’m Night Glider. What happened?”

“I-I’m Olive Branch,” the girl said. “I was just p-playing near the gorge, and I lost my balance and fell in and now I c-can’t get out…”

Night Glider turned her head upwards. “But what were those things?”

“T-they’re quarray eels,” Olive said. “They hide out in the walls, then come out if anything comes near them or makes a lot of noise. I dunno if we can m-make it back up without them hearing us…”

Night Glider reached down and helped the filly to her feet, holding her up so she wouldn’t have to put pressure on her hurt leg. “Don’t worry, let me help you.”

“Are you sure?” Olive Branch said.

Night Glider nodded, and began walking the filly back up the path. She took as quiet hoofsteps as she could, carefully looking around to make sure there were none of the giant eels noticing them. They only made it a part of the way up when the same hole that the eel had burst out of rumbled again. The sound was quickly amplified, and Night Glider grabbed Olive Branch and jumped back down as the eel burst from the hole. For another few seconds, the entire trench was a flurry of activity, the two ponies huddling in the corner as the quarray eels writhed and snapped at the air and at each other until they again retreated to their holes.

“Okay…” Night Glider whispered. “So that’s not going to work.”

“Can we just fly out?”

Night Glider unfurled her wings, but the sharp pain was still there. “I… don’t know if I want to risk it.”

Olive Branch nodded. “Maybe if we just wait, my parents will get worried about me and send somepony.”

Night Glider shook her head. “You can’t just assume that’s going to happen.” She looked around, then picked a rock up from the ground. “On my signal, we’ll go.” She wound up and threw the rock as far as she could. As soon as it hit the ground, the eels popped back out, gnashing at each other.

“Okay, let’s hurry! They’re distracted!”

Olive Branch jumped onto Night Glider’s back, and she began to run up the path. She had gotten halfway up when the eels began to calm down, and there was a brief moment of quiet before her foot caught on a single rock, which fell and rattled against the ground. Almost instantaneously, one of the eels turned and lunged.

Night Glider leapt backwards and dodged the bite, tumbling down off the side of the path. She twisted her body and wrapped herself around the little filly, landing back-first on the ground with Olive on top of her, and their full weight pressed into Night Glider’s wings. She bit her tongue to stifle a scream as there was an intense throb of pain. They lay silently, Night Glider holding the filly tight to her, until the eels once again returned to their caves.

“Hey… are you okay?” Night Glider whispered. Olive Branch nodded, and Night Glider gently put her down. “Good.”

Olive slumped down to her knees. “I really hope somepony’s gonna come help us…”

“Hang on, let me think,” Night Glider said. “I’m sure I can come up with something.”

“A-are you sure? We should wait for somepony to help—”

“No!” Night Glider hissed, briefly causing a rattling around her. “Listen, Olive. A lot of the time—most of the time—I’ve had to get myself out of situations because other ponies won’t lift a hoof to help me. I’m not gonna let that happen to you. I’ll get us out of this, I promise!”

Olive Branch nodded, and Night Glider turned back to the gorge, looking around at the numerous holes that ran along the sides. She closed her eyes, gently nodding her head up and down, her necklace chiming; for a few moments, she could sense how far into each cave the eels were, even hear their slow breathing. She took a long look down the gorge again.

“Okay, I think I have a plan,” she said, turning back to Olive. “I’m going to run over there and distract them, and you can run out of here.”

“What?” Olive said. “B-but…”

“I’ll be fine,” Night Glider said. “I can dodge them on the ground until you’re outta here, then I can run up.”

“I don’t—”

Night Glider looked back down the gorge, crouching down and stretching her hooves. “It’s our best bet to get out of here. Trust me. We’re gonna get out.”

There was a pause, and Olive Branch nodded. “Okay, I do.”

“You do what?”

“I trust you.”

Night Glider stopped and stared into the distance.

~~~~~~~~~~

Night Glider sat in her room, her ear pressed up against the door. She hated being treated like a child, but with the mayor visiting her parents, he had asked if he could talk to them in private. Not that that would stop her: the mayor always tended to underestimate Night Glider’s abilities.

“Dusk Gaze, surely you understand my trepidation with allowing Night Glider to do this,” the mayor said.

“I do, but you have to know what Night Glider is capable of by now,” her father replied.

“I am well aware,” was the response. “It is those capabilities that worry me.”

“She will be fine!” Night Glider’s mom interjected. “I know that everypony is very wary of her, but this is something she’s wanted for years.”

“I am not concerned with what Night Glider wants. I am concerned for the very safety of the citizens of Modus.”

Night Glider shuddered. She closed her eyes tight, the silence from the other room tearing her apart.

“Please,” her father said. There was more silence, then a sigh.

“If you continue to insist,” the mayor said, “I suppose I could allow her in.”

Night Glider’s eyes shot open, and she gasped. She was sure the gasp was loud enough for the other room, but she didn’t care. Her lip was quivering. She couldn’t believe it.

“Thank you so much,” her father said. “It is nice to know that even with Night Glider’s differences, you can still trust her enough to—”

“Trust?” the mayor interjected. “Let me make one thing clear: I trust you. I trust both of you. But I have no trust in Night Glider. And I doubt any pony in Modus does, either.”

Night Glider didn’t move. Her lip had stopped quivering; she was just staring straight ahead.

“Nevertheless, I will allow her this,” the mayor said. “And pray that it is not a mistake.”

There were some pleasantries exchanged after that, but Night Glider was no longer paying attention. The Mayor’s words about trust were ringing in her ears, but she was pushing them out of her mind. She laid with her back against the door, a smile on her face.

It had taken months, years, of begging, pleading, trying to prove herself. And now finally, it had paid off. This was it. Her chance to finally prove that she wasn’t different. She was normal.

She would earn their trust. She just knew it.

~~~~~~~~~~

Night Glider turned to look at Olive Branch. “You… trust me?”

Olive Branch nodded. “Yeah?”

Night Glider stared at her, then looked back to the gorge. “Okay… Y-you trust me…” Night Glider took a deep breath and let it out slowly, as a smile grew across her face. “You trust me. Can’t let you down, can I? Alright, when they’re all distracted, you go.”

Olive nodded again, and Night Glider rushed forward. She stomped her hooves as loud as she could as she ran, immediately hearing the rumbling coming from the walls.

“Hey. Heeeeeeey!” She yelled. “Here I am, come get me!”

The eels burst from the wall, screeching and looking for the source of the noise. Night Glider gulped down the ball of saliva in her throat, and took a deep breath.

Two coming in, from either side. 3...2...1…

Night Glider dove out of the way, and two of the eels crashed into each other. She ran under one of them.

Eel from above, closing in quickly.

She leapt to the right as an eel smashed into the ground, its teeth stuck in the rock. Night Glider looked up; through the flurry of activity, Olive Branch was hobbling her way up the path that led out.

Straight ahead, eel is changing directions

She threw herself to the ground just in time to dodge under another eel’s lunge. The eel slammed into the one behind her, and she could hear the sound of the two tangling around one another.

She briefly glanced back to see the eels starting to go to war with each other, giving her enough time to rush away. She turned back to check on Olive, and a chill went down her back. Olive had frozen, her back pressed against the wall, as in front of her, one of the eels loomed threatening, its eyes on the tiny morsel.

Hey!” Night Glider yelled, trying to get its attention to no avail. She began galloping as fast as she could, trying to get back to Olive Branch before anything happened, but another loud rumble came from beneath her. Before she had time to react, another quarray eel burst from below, and she found herself standing on top of it as it rose up. It opened its massive jaw and Night Glider lost her hoofing. She tumbled to the side, barely grabbing on to the front tooth of the creature.

The eel whipped its body back and forth, screeching, as Night Glider held on for dear life. She looked back to see Olive Branch cowering, the eel in front of her seemingly toying with its prey before making the strike.

Something in Night Glider’s mind sparked, and for just a split-second she was back to the day before she was exiled. She could hear and see everything again: the terrified screams of other ponies, the sounds of broken bones and torn wings, the feeling of helplessness to stop what was happening.

Then, there was a different voice that she heard. It was another cry for help. She briefly didn’t recognize the voice; it was far too high pitched to be any of the ponies who had been there.

“Olive!”

She tried to get a good look as the eel she was holding onto continued to thrash. For just a second, she caught a glimpse of Olive cowering as the eel was ready to strike.

This isn’t going to happen again!

Night Glider snorted, then planted her hooves on the chin of the eel and pulled back. The eel screeched in pain, and she pulled harder, feeling her hooves digging into the scaly skin of the monster. The eel trashed about, but Night Glider just pulled harder, her whole body shaking with exertion. Finally, something gave, and the eel’s tooth snapped in half. It reared back, letting out a mighty cry and retreating back, as Night Glider tumbled down.

Without another thought, she unfurled her wings, twisted around, and took off in mid-air. Her wings were burning, aching, every feather a pinpoint of white-hot pain. She didn’t care.

The eel lunged. Night Glider swooped in front of and grabbed Olive Branch in her front hooves, just barely dodging the eel as it sunk its fangs into the side of the gorge. Suddenly encumbered with more weight, Night Glider flapped her wings harder to compensate, though they felt like they were going to fall off. She gritted her teeth as she hauled Olive Branch up as the eel pulled itself from the wall and located them again.

“Hang on!” Night Glider yelled. “Almost there!”

Olive Branch clutched Night Glider’s chest tightly as they could see the top of the gorge only feet away. Desperately trying to ignore the sheer exhaustion in her wings, Night Glider soared towards the top.

Eel coming in from below!

She lifted her back hooves just as the monster snapped at them, its hot breath on her back. With one last push, Night Glider cleared the top of the gorge. She quickly flew forward a few feet over the edge before she landed, where she and Olive collapsed.

Night Glider’s wings folded back against her body; her wings were so sore that there was no way she was going to be flying for hours, at least. She glanced over at Olive Branch. “Hey, kid, you okay?”

Olive Branch wiped the tears from her eyes. “Yeah.” She reached forward and wrapped her hooves around Night Glider’s neck. “T-thanks…”

Through her exhaustion, Night Glider laughed. “No problem, kid.”

Slowly, the sounds of the panicking and rampaging eels subsided, and there was silence. Night Glider slowly pushed her way to her hooves. “What were you doing playing around that gorge anyway?”

Olive Branch got up too, not putting any weight on her hurt hoof. “My parents kept telling me to stay away, but…”

Night Glider smiled. “Say no more, I get it. Come on, let’s get you home. Where do you live?”

“Palmacolta.”

“Oh, great, I was heading that way too.” Night Glider reached down and picked the filly up. She winced as Olive climbed onto her back. “Just, uh, watch the wings, kid.”

~~~~~~~~~~

The residential areas of Palmacolta were significantly calmer than the rest of it. Rows of quaint cottages trundled on by the sides of plain streets. Despite her previous visits to the city, Night Glider had never made it out here.

“So, which one is your house?” Night Glider asked. A hoof pointed forward from her back.

“Just turn at the next block, it’s the big red one,” Olive Branch said.

Night Glider trotted on, admiring the area. The houses all being so close to each other gave a sense of warmth to the community. It reminded her of Starlight’s town, with all of the houses in a neat row, although this street was rather empty.

She turned the block, and stopped at an unexpected sight. Although the rest of the streets had been all but empty, the house she had been looking for was not only lit up, but ponies were milling all about, talking to each other. There were even a few police ponies standing around, talking.

“What’s going on?” Night Glider said.

“I bet they were looking for me!”

As Night Glider approached, one of the ponies looked over and saw her, then his gaze moved to Olive Branch on her back, and his eyes widened.

“Hey!” he yelled, drawing the attention of all the other ponies. “She’s here! Lovey Dove, Olive’s back!”

A white pony burst out the front door, looking around frantically until she spied Olive. Night Glider gently helped Olive down as the pony sprinted over, tears in her eyes, and immediately wrapped Olive in a hug.

“Where in Equestria were you?” she said, holding her daughter tighter. “We were so worried! We thought something had happened to you!”

“I-I fell into the gorge,” Olive Branch said. “I couldn’t get out. I-I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have played around there…”

“Never scare us like that again!” Lovey Dove said, before pulling away and gasping. “Your hoof!”

“I hurt it when I fell…”

“Let’s get you inside and get a bandage on you,” she said. Lovey was about to help her daughter in when she looked up at Night Glider. “I’ll be right in.”

With the help of one of the neighbors, Olive Branch made her way inside, as Lovely walked over to Night Glider. “I don’t think I’ve seen you around before…”

“I’m from out of town,” Night Glider said.

“Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. Thank you so much for getting Olive Branch back safely. What happened?”

“Like she said, she fell into the gorge,” Night Glider replied. “I just helped her out. There were some, uh, quarray eels, and—”

“Quarray Eels?” The mom gasped. “That’s right, there are quarray eels there! Oh my goodness, I’m so glad you got her out in time!” She looked behind her and waved a police pony over. “Any idea where the search team is? I don’t want them to run into those nasty eels.”

The pony looked at his watch. “By now, they’re probably on the east side of the city. I’ll go let them know to call off the search.”

As the pony galloped off, Night Glider turned to Lovey. “Wow, a whole search party? Didn’t know Palmacolta police had a whole squad like that.”

“Oh, no, most of them are just volunteers,” Lovey said. “Friends and neighbors, mostly. It was so nice of them to help, especially at this time of day.”

Night Glider stared past Lovey to the ponies behind her who were only now starting to disperse. Most of them were still chatting, all clearly relieved that the event had a happy ending. She glanced through the window of the house, where one of them was carefully wrapping a bandage around Olive Branch’s injured hoof. The filly winced, but looked up through the window and caught Night Glider’s gaze. Olive smiled and waved to her and the pony who was helping followed her sight to Night Glider, and gave her a smile and nod as well.

“Huh…” Night Glider mused.

“Is everything okay?” Lovey Dove asked. “Is it something I said?”

Night Glider shook her head and turned back to her. “Oh, uh, no. Sorry, just… thinking.”

“Well, anyway, thank you so much again for what you did,” Lovey said.

“Glad to help,” Night Glider said, the sentence punctuated with a yawn.

“You do look a bit tired,” Lovey said. “If you’d like somewhere to stay, I’m sure we could make accommodations. It’s the least we can do.”

Night Glider opened her mouth to answer, but behind her, she saw the lights of Palmacolta shining. She closed her mouth for a second, and the reason for returning to the city came back to her.

“Thanks, but I’ll be fine,” Night Glider said. “There’s somepony I’m meeting downtown, I think he’s going to let me stay with him.”

“You think?” Lovey said. “Well, if things don’t work out, feel free to come back. I’m in your debt for this.”

“Thank you.”

Night Glider nodded and trotted forward, joining the ponies who were leaving the scene and going back to their homes, as Lovey Dove walked back to her house to check on her daughter. Night Glider spread her wings briefly to check how they were feeling. The ache was still there, but significantly less than before. She gently folded them back against herself, then trotted off down the street, off towards Palmacolta.

Towards her only friend.

Author's Note:

Special Thanks: Shortskirtsandexplosions and KiltedKey