• Published 30th Jan 2016
  • 2,038 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 4

Night Glider looked back and forth down the long streets of Palmacolta, taking in the city. So little had changed in the years since she had been there: buildings stretched in every direction, standing tall on either side of cobblestone streets. There were open markets everywhere, with ponies setting up to sell their goods to whomever walked by. And over it all, the gentle lull of the ocean crashing into the shore gave a calming feel to the town.

She stopped and took in a long sniff of the air: the scent of saltwater and seaweed sent Night Glider right back to being a filly, the few times she got to visit the city. It seemed so big to her back then, but standing in it now, it felt just as big, if not bigger. The streets reached far in either direction, butterfly lanterns dotting the roads, buildings stretching stories above her.

Night Glider glanced down the road stretching out towards the ocean: in the far distance she could just barely make out a single building, much smaller than the others in the city. She breathed a sigh of relief; there was a small part of her that had been worried it would be gone. Even at that distance, she could see that not much about the building had changed. And if the building hadn’t changed, she assumed that neither had the occupant.

She hadn’t even spent that much time with Dusty—she had probably only seen him a dozen times over her life—but he had become almost a grandfatherly figure to her, and she held every moment with him dear.

~~~~~~~~~~

Night Glider sipped on her juice, kicking her back legs under the table. She looked over at the nice pony behind the long table, and the pony smiled back at her. It only made Night Glider smile more. She had never been outside Modus before, and seeing so many ponies was exhilarating.

She looked at the door across the big room, where her parents were talking with somepony. They had told her that while they got work done in town, this must have been the first pony they needed to meet with. She hadn’t gotten the chance to see him yet, but she was already excited to meet him before she got to spend the day doing official Modus business.

Night Glider put her juice down and closed her eyes. She had to concentrate, but she was just barely able to make out the conversation.

“...dea how long I’ve been waitin’ to meet her?”

“We know, Dusty, and we’re sorry for not making it out to see you for so long. But after she was born, there were some issues we had to deal with, so we haven’t had the time to join others in the trip out here.”

“Well, no matter, yer here now. What kinda issues?”

“You should just go out and meet her yourself. You might be a bit surprised when you see her. She’s, well… different.”

Night Glider winced and looked down at the table. She had gotten so used to hearing that word from ponies in Modus, mostly in the form of whispers that they thought she couldn’t hear. She didn’t understand the stares that she got any time she left the house in Modus. The whispers… even the other students at the schoolhouse didn’t seem to want to sit next to her.

She shook her head to chase the thoughts away. She was just happy to be out of Modus for once, seeing another town. Palmacolta was so much more open than Modus, and had so many more ponies than she was used to seeing. All kinds of ponies! Earth Ponies, Pegasi, Unicorns… seeing all of them was such a treat for her.

“Well, I think we have to get going, Modus business,” she heard her mom say. “Let’s go introduce you.”

The door opened, and her parents trotted out, with a third pony in tow. He was an older stallion with a faded yellow coat and mane, but most of his head was obscured by a large white hat. As they approached, Dusty paused, then looked over at her parents.

“Wait, is that her?” he asked. Her mom nodded. Dusty looked back at Night Glider for a second, looking her up and down as if analyzing her mere existence. Slowly, he smiled. “Ah. ‘Different.’ I gotcha.”

“Night Glider, this is our old friend Dusty,” her dad said. “While we’re taking care of things for Modus, he’ll be watching you today.”

“What?” Night Glider leapt up, her front hooves balancing on the table, causing it to wobble. “I thought I was going with you guys!”

“Sorry, Night Glider, but you’re not old enough yet,” her mom said. “That, and… well, the mayor was against even bringing you in the first place, he doesn’t think-”

“I hate that old fart!” Night Glider yelled,come on, let me do something! I’m tired of just sitting around and not being allowed to do anything!”

Dusty stared at Night Glider as she fumed, glaring back and forth at her parents. Her mom and dad glanced at each other, then her mom sighed.

“I’m sorry, Night Glider,” she said. “Just stay with Dusty for the day, please.”

“We should get going,” her dad said, turning towards the door.

“But—”

By then, her parents were already out the door. Night Glider limply reached a hoof out, then slowly let it fall to the table She looked up at Dusty, who tried smiling at her, but Night Glider just drooped back in her chair, angrily folding her forehooves and staring straight ahead of her.

Dusty sat down next to her. He opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off.

“I’m sick of being treated like I’m different,” she muttered.

“I don’t blame ya,” Dusty replied. “Listen, I jus—”

“Go away!” Night Glider yelled.

“Look, I—”

“I said go away!” Night Glider turned away. “I don’t wanna talk to anypony right now.”

Dusty scratched the back of his head. “Stubborn, aintcha? Well, fine. I’ll get outa yer hair.”

Dusty stood up and trotted away. Night Glider stewed in her anger for a minute, then looked back. Dusty was busying himself behind the table, arranging some colorful bottles around. She slowly turned to face him, averting her gaze downward. “Um…”

“Hey, you wanted to be alone. You can just sit there quietly until yer parents get back.”

She coughed awkwardly, shuffling uncomfortably in her seat. A minute of complete silence went by, and Night Glider looked out the window at all the ponies walking around the grand coastal city. Dusty turned to look at her, then smiled and trotted back over.

“Ain’t fun bein’ alone, is it?”

“N-no…” Night Glider said. “I get a lot of that back in Modus.”

Dusty blinked, then sat down next to her. “Ya do?”

“Yeah. A lot of the other kids don’t want to hang out with me, because…”

He held a hoof up, and Night Glider shut her mouth and looked at him. He smiled back.

“I’ve heard the word ‘different’ three times already in the past five minutes, and I ain’t in the mood to hear it again,” he said. “If you keep tellin’ yerself that, it’s gonna end up bein’ true, you know.

Night Glider slowly returned the smile. “Thanks.”

Dusty hopped to his hooves. “Now come on, this is yer first time outside of Modus, right? You wanna go see the city?”

Night Glider’s eyes lit up. “B-but mom and dad wanted me to stay here.”

Dusty chuckled. “Well, we’ll still be in Palmacolta. I’m sure they’ll be okay with that.”

With an even bigger smile, Night Glider leapt down from the table and ran up next to Dusty, trotting next to him as they exited the tavern, out into the cool Palmacolta day.

~~~~~~~~~~

The door to the tavern still had a familiar, almost comforting creak as Night Glider stepped through. It was fairly empty: a pony was behind the bar, wiping down the counter, there were a few ponies sitting around and talking, and in the far corner of the room was a single pony, his hooves up on the table. His head was buried in a newspaper, but Night Glider couldn’t help but smile as she saw a familiar white hat over the top of the paper.

She trotted across the room to the table and stood across from the pony, waiting a few moments to see if he would notice her. When he didn’t, she reached over and pulled the newspaper down.

“And after all this time, you don’t even say hello,” she said with a grin.

Dusty stared at her for a second, before slamming the paper down hard enough to shake the table. “Well if it ain’t the sweet lil’ sapphire!” he yelled, jumping up to his hooves and grabbing Night Glider in a tight hug. “How you doin’, Night Glider? Been way too long!”

Night Glider winced. “Ow ow ow! It’s nice to see you, too, but watch the wings, Dusty!”

Dusty backed off. “Damn good to see ya, kid. Damn good. Sit down!” Night Glider sat across from Dusty, as he motioned to the pony behind the bar for something. “Hey, did that pony ever find you?”

“‘That pony?” Night Glider asked. “Who?”

“‘Bout a year ago, a pony came through town, asking about ponies who ‘didn’t fit in,’” Dusty said. “I told her about you, she got all excited and raced off to find ya.” He rubbed his chin. “Star… Star somethin’ or other, can’t remember her name.”

Night Glider shivered. “Oh, that’s how she knew where I was.”

“Nighty, if you were gonna refuse to stay here, I wasn’t gonna just let you live out in some forest like a hermit,” Dusty said as a waitress came by with two mugs and carefully set them on the table. “Yer too stubborn for yer own good, ya know.”

Night Glider rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I guess. She did find me, and… well, it’s really complicated. There was some, uh, brainwashing involved.”

“What?!” Dusty yelled, loud enough for most of the ponies in the tavern to turn towards him. “Brainwashin’? The hay did she do?”

“Like I said, it’s pretty complicated,” Night Glider said, as Dusty pushed the mug up in front of her. The smell of mango cider was unmistakable. “But she’s gone now! I’m back to my old self. We all are, really.”

“All?”

“Yeah, there were a bunch of ponies living together in one village,” Night Glider continued. “All of them under her control. But like I said, that’s all over with.”

“Well, shoot. I never woulda sent her yer way if I knew she was gonna do all that,” Dusty said, taking a long drink of cider and then patting Night Glider on the back. “I’m just glad to see yer doing alright for yerself. You were in an awful state a year ago.”

Night Glider looked down into her mug. “Yeah… I wasn’t really thinking straight. I probably should have just stayed with you until I figured things out.”

“Water under the bridge, Nighty,” Dusty said with a smile. “So, what brings you out to Palmacolta? Were you thinkin’ of moving here?” He lifted the mug up to his mouth for another drink.

“Nah, just stopping by, mostly to visit you,” Night Glider said. “I’m actually heading back to Modus.”

The mug stopped in front of Dusty’s mouth. He looked over the top of the cider mug, straight directly at Night Glider. His eyes narrowed and he slowly lowered the mug. There was an uncomfortable silence; Night Glider had never seen Dusty like that before.

“...Back to Modus?”

Night Glider nodded. “Yeah. It’s been a year, I feel like I’ve changed a lot, I think I’ll be able to convince the mayor or my parents to let me back in.”

Dusty took a long breath and set the mug down. He looked off into the distance at nothing in particular, contemplating something. Night Glider felt a chill run down her back as Dusty remained silent for a few more moments.

”Ah mean, I’m glad yer feeling confident enough to go back,” he said, his voice distant. “But are ya sure it’s gonna be that easy?”

“Well, it’s been awhile,” Night Glider said, her own voice wavering. “Maybe if they’ve seen how I’ve changed, I can prove that I belong there and that I won’t make any more mistakes, they’ll give me another chance. And then I’ll show them that what happened before will never, ever happen again!”

“Huh,” Dusty said. “Well... I’m glad you got yer confidence back, Night Glider. You were in a pretty awful state last time I saw ya.”

Night Glider awkwardly coughed. Dusty’s mood had changed so abruptly she was caught off guard, and wasn’t sure where to go next. “Uh, so, what’s going on in Palmacolta?” she asked, trying to change the subject.

Dusty took another sip of his cider, his eyes wandering. “Not a whole lot. Market season’s comin’ up, that’ should be good. Couple’a griffon bandits have been hitting the area, too, although we ain’t seen ‘em in a couple days. Not a whole lot else goin’ on.”

“Really?” Night Glider said. “Well, uh, that’s good at least. Hopefully you don’t see-”

“Nighty,” Dusty suddenly interrupted, “why are ya goin’ back to Modus?”

Night Glider went quiet. Dusty’s eyes were narrowed slightly as he looked at her.

“What?”

“Night Glider,” Dusty said, his voice calm but firm, “I jus’ think that there ain’t nothin’ there left for you.”

“Nothing left there?” Night Glider replied. “Dusty, it’s my home! I can’t just move on and let things end the way they did. There has to be more there for me. My story in Modus isn’t over.”

“But-”

“Like I said, Dusty, I’ve changed a lot,” she said. “I’m stronger!”

“It ain’t you bein’ stronger that I’m worried about, Nighty.” Dusty took a methodical sip of his cider, then put the mug down and looked right at her again. “Look, I don’t know how to put this.”

Night Glider gulped, afraid of what she was about to hear. “What?”

“Nighty, a lot of ponies in Modus… well, most of them just feel safer without you there.”

Night Glider’s body went numb. For a few seconds, the words echoed in her head. “S-safer?” she managed to sputter out.

“Yeah,” Dusty said. “I asked a lot of ponies about it whenever they visited, and a whole lotta them are just glad you’re not around anymore. They said having you around for so long was a liability, and while they’re not happy with how things went down, they do think it was in the best interest of Modus. I mean, obviously yer parents don’t exactly feel the same as the rest, and I certainly don’t agree with them, but them’s the facts.”

Night Glider blinked a few times, then looked down at her cider. It had been a year, but the memories of what had happened that day still felt fresh in her mind. Especially after saving Olive Branch from the quarry, the thoughts on that day still lingered in her head. And she could remember all the reactions from ponies in Modus in the minutes, hours, and day following, until she was kicked out.

She wasn’t surprised by the news. It was her utter lack of surprise that was concerning her. Suddenly, Modus felt further away than ever before, an impending doom that she was heading straight for, but had come too far to turn back.

“I… guess I should have seen that coming,” Night Glider said, feeling the energy drain from her body.

“It ain’t about you, Nighty,” Dusty said. “It’s about them. They don’t know about where you’ve been for a year or how you’ve changed, and I got a feelin’ they just don’t care. I hate saying this, but I don’t think they’re ever gonna see anything about ya besides, well, besides what happened.”

Night Glider let out a long sigh. Her eyelids suddenly felt very, very heavy; all that was on her mind was what happened a year ago.

“I mean,” she muttered quietly, “It was my fault.”

Dusty shook his head. “Now you stop that.”

“But it was!” Night Glider said, her voice louder and quivering. “I… it was my fault those ponies got hurt. I was in charge.”

“Now look,” Dusty said,”it wasn’t you, it was a damn pride of manticores! I’ve been trading with Modus my whole damn life, and no hunter has ever told me about running into a single one o’ them beasts, let alone a whole buncha them.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I was the lookout. It was my responsibility. It was the first time any pony gave me responsibility in Modus, and I screwed it up.”

“Night Glider!”

“First hunt, and I couldn’t even keep an eye out for dangers,” Night Glider said, tears welling up in her eyes. “And after I begged them so long to let me come along…”

That’s enough!” Dusty practically shouted. Night Glider looked up at him, seeing a determined look in Dusty’s eyes than she was used to. “I ain’t gonna let you sit here and pity yourself no more!” Night Glider sniffed and wiped her eyes as Dusty gently patted her shoulder. “Now you listen to me, Night Glider. I don’t care what anypony in Modus says or thinks, you’re a damn capable pony, and a friendly one at that. What happened was not your fault, it was a mistake and it could have happened to anypony in Modus.”

Night Glider slowly smiled. “T-thanks, Dusty.”

“I ain’t done,” Dusty said, adjusting his hat. “Now, I truly believe everything I just said. An’ you should, too. But Modus… well, I ain’t so sure if they’re gonna be as receptive. Like I said, most of ‘em still blame you.”

“I figured,” Night Glider replied.

“And to be honest, I think it’s gonna take a hell of an effort for them to even give ya the time of day, let alone get back in,” Dusty said.

Night Glider sighed. “I know.” There was silence as Night Glider waited for Dusty to continue, but when she looked up, he was staring at her, expectantly. “Dusty…”

Dusty reached over and took another long drink of cider. He slowly put the mug down.

“Night Glider, I can’t tell you how to live your life. If you think going back to Modus is something you need to do, I ain’t gonna stop you. But what I can do is tell you that if you’re expectin’ to just waltz back into Modus, it’s gonna take a lot more than you think. And even if they let you back in, I wouldn’t be so sure that they’re gonna let you stay very long.”

“S-so…” Night Glider muttered. “So this was all a big mistake…”

“That ain’t what I said,” Dusty continued. “Look, Nighty. I can’t make this decision for you, but I know you, and you’re a stubborn one. I ain’t gonna be talkin’ you out of Modus any time soon.”

Night Glider looked up at Dusty. The old, wrinkled smile slowly returned to his face. She couldn’t help but smile back.

“Yeah,” she said. “‘I’ve already come this far, I’m barely a half-day away from Modus. I don’t know what’s gonna happen when I get there, but I can’t just turn back now, you know?”

Dusty chuckled. “Ya haven’t changed a bit, Night Glider. And I hope things go well for you in Modus. But if they don’t, I promise you can come back here if you got nowhere else to go.”

“Thanks,” Night Glider said. “But if everything goes how I want it to, the next time you’ll see me is during official Modus business.”

Dusty tipped his hat back. “We’ll see, Nighty. We’ll see.”

Night Glider opened her mouth to say something, but instead a long yawn came out. “Dusty, thanks for talking to me about this. But listen, I’m exhausted, I’ve been flying nonstop for a while and there was an, um, incident about an hour ago. Any chance-”

Dusty raised a hoof. “Say no more. Room’s upstairs if you need to crash.”

Night Glider slowly stood up and reached around the table, hugging Dusty. “Thanks so much for this, Dusty.”

“Not a problem, Nighty. You get yourself some sleep, we can talk more before you head out.”

Night Glider nodded and slowly made her way around the back of the tavern and up the stairs. As she climbed, the exhaustion really started to set in, and by the time she had gotten to the door, she was struggling to even keep her eyes open. Everything was catching up to her at once, and she quickly found the room and pushed the door open.

There were much nicer rooms at the tavern, but this was a much smaller, simpler room. Nothing but a bed in the corner, a few drawers, and a window on the eastern wall so ponies could look out at the landscape. She slid the saddle bag off her back and to the ground, then glanced over at the window.

It would take half a day for most pegasi to get from there to Modus. She knew she could shave a few hours off that time. Her heart began to pound just thinking about it all. She would finally be back. Finally be home.

She squinted as the sun glared through the window, and she quickly closed the blinds before walking over to the bed and laying down. She almost immediately felt herself drifting away, the sound of ponies downstairs lulling her further towards the sleep she desperately needed.

As she faded, she thought of Modus. It wouldn't be long. She would get there and show them that she’s changed, that she can make up for the mistakes of the past. That she wasn’t different…

~~~~~~~~~~

Night Glider hopped up on the bench and looked out over the water. She had never seen a body of water that big before, the sea seemed to stretch out forever. She could hear every wave crashing into the shore and watched as ponies ran up and down the beach, playing in the sand.

“Pretty cool, ain’t it?” Dusty said, sitting down next to her.

“Yeah!” she excitedly replied. “There’s nothing like that in Modus! It’s just a big forest.”

“Well, tell ya what. Next time you get down to Palmacolta, I’ll take you out on the water.”

“Cool!” Night Glider said.

“We should probably head on back to the tavern, lil’ missy,” Dusty said. “Your parents are gonna be back any time, don’t want them to worry about you.”

Night Glider was still transfixed on the water. Dusty slowly stood up and put his hoof on her shoulder, trying to get her to stand up too.

“Dusty, do I have to go back?”

Dusty stopped, and Night Glider just stared straight ahead. He slowly sat back down.

“‘Course you do, Nighty,” he said. “It’s your home, after all.”

“Yeah, but…” Night Glider looked up at him. “But ponies there treat me weird.”

Dusty sat back down. “Weird?”

“They talk really quietly when I walk around,” she said. “They don’t like talking with me. They’re always staring at me wherever I go. I don’t like it very much. And nopony wants me to do anything. They tell me to just stay put, let the other ponies handle things.” She rested her head on her hooves. “I don’t like being different.”

Dusty rubbed his chin and looked out over the water. “Yeah, you and yer parents mentioned something like that earlier.”

“But I like it here!” Night Glider said. “There haven’t been any whispers, ponies have been smiling at me and treating me like everypony else!” She looked up at Dusty. “It’s probably because they don’t know me…”

“Don’t know you?”

“Yeah,” Night Glider sighed. “But I guess if I lived out here, ponies would start treating me like that eventually.”

“Now hold on there,” Dusty replied. “That might not be the right conclusion to jump to, little missy. I mean, who says you’re the problem?”

Night Glider blinked. “What?”

“Look at it this way: all the ponies in Modus treat you different. All the ponies outside of Modus don’t. Now, does that mean you’re the one who’s different—” Dusty leaned in, a wry smile on his face, “—or does that say more about Modus?”

“I… I dunno,” Night Glider said, tilting her head to one side.

“Jus’ something to think about, Nighty,” Dusty said.

Night Glider looked back out over the water. The sun was just starting to dip downwards, and she saw more ponies gather on the beach to admire it.

“I don’t wanna be treated differently anymore,” Night Glider said. “I’m gonna show all the ponies in Modus that I’m not different! I’m just like them! Then everypony will treat me the same, right?”

Dusty nodded. “That’a girl, that’s the spirit! Now come on, your parents are probably waiting.”

Night Glider hopped off the bench and trotted up next to Dusty, heading back towards the tavern. She spared a quick glance backwards at the beach, ponies player or just sitting and enjoying each other's company. With a determined grin, she turned back and continued her march back towards the tavern.

Author's Note:

Special thanks to KiltedKey and PropMaster