• 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 5

“Alright, ready? Three, two, one, pull!”

With a burst of energy, the three ponies pulled on the ropes attached to the top of the wall. Foot by foot the wall raised off the ground, until it neatly pressed up against the open side of the town hall. The three ponies held the ropes tightly, sweat pouring down their faces as they could hear frantic hammering coming from the other side of the barn. After a few seconds, a voice rang out from the other side.

“Alright, we got the first nails in! You can let go!”

The three ponies released the ropes, each holding their breath for a few seconds as they watched the wall. When it didn’t collapse outward they exhaled a collective sigh of relief.

“Sheesh, I thought we’d never get that up,” Party Favor said, wiping sweat from his brow. “Hope it holds.”

“I think we should be fine, Arch knows what she’s doing,” Sugar Belle replied, then looked around the room and smiled in satisfaction. “This place is really coming together!”

“Yeah,” Party Favor said. “So I was thinking, what are we going to use this room for? Don’t think it’s gonna be big enough for any practical use.”

“I was thinking we could keep all the important documents once we get the town on the grid. Just somewhere to store everything that makes a town a town.”

“Like an actual name?”

Sugar Belle giggled. “Yeah, like an actual name.” She glanced across the room. “Hey Double Diamond, what do you think? Just store our important towney stuff in here?”

Double Diamond was vacantly staring out the window, off into the desert. Sugar Belle and Party Favor glanced at each other.

“Uh, earth to Double Diamond?” Party Favor said, to no reaction. He rolled his eyes and trotted over, then tapped his friend on the shoulder.

Double Diamond snapped to attention and turned to Party Favor. “Oh! Did you guys say something?”

“Come on, man,” Party Favor said. “You’ve been like this for days. Don’t you wanna talk to us?”

“Look, it’s just a tough topic.”

“Who, Night Glider?” Sugar Belle asked.

Double Diamond gasped. “Y-you knew?!”

Sugar Belle nodded. “I mean, it’s kinda obvious. You’ve been like this ever since she left.”

After a brief pause, Double Diamond cleared his throat awkwardly. “Yeah… I just really miss her, guys.” He sat down against the wall and glanced out the window again, as Party Favor and Sugar Belle joined him. “And I’m worried about her.”

“Worried?” Party Favor said. “Come on, you know Night Glider better than any of us, she can take care of herself just fine. Probably better than any of us could, actually.”

“I’m not worried about that,” Double DIamond said. “I’m worried about, well, what’s gonna happen when she gets back to Modus.”

“Yeah,” Party Favor said. “Who knows if they’re gonna let her back in. She was exiled, after all.”

“And if they don’t let her back in…” Double Diamond sighed again. “I just don’t want her to get hurt again.”

“Again?”

“It sounds like things went really sour at the end, before she first was exiled,” Double Diamond said. “And then she was living in a cave, she was miserable. I don’t want her to go through that again.”

“I know you’re concerned, but like I said, she can take care of herself better than we ever could,” Party Favor said. “All we can do right now is focus on getting the town up and running.”

There was a pause. Double Diamond stared out the window, then suddenly turned to look at Party Favor.

“Do you, like, just not care about Night Glider?”

“What?” Party Favor gasped. “Of course I do!”

“You don’t seem that worried about her to me!”

“And that means that I don’t care about her or miss her?” Party Favor said, his voice raising.

“You didn’t even lift a hoof to try to stop her!” Double Diamond shouted.

“Stop her?” Party Favor stepped forward. “Why would we stop her? This is what she wanted to do!”

Double Diamond leapt to his hooves. “Well what if she doesn’t know what she wants? What if Modus kicks her right back out and she’s back to being homeless?”

“You’re panicking yourself, Double Diamond,” Party Favor said. “Look, I know you’re really concerned about her, but I think she’ll be fine, no matter what happens in Modus. She’ll find somewhere else, and she’ll fit right in”

“You don’t know that!” Double Diamond yelled. “You heard her say it herself, she’s different!”

“But we’re not the ones she’s different from!”

Stop it!!” Both ponies stopped as Sugar Belle stepped between them. “Both of you, stop arguing! Double Diamond, just because you’re upset doesn’t mean you should snap at your friends. Party Favor, don’t just start arguing too, you’ll make things worse!”

Double Diamond and Party Favor slowly looked back at each other. There was a brief pause before Double Diamond looked down at the ground.

“Look, I’m really sorry,” he said. “I...”

Party Favor reached over and patted him on the shoulder. “I know, man. You miss her, probably a lot more than the rest of us do.”

“Yeah,” Double Diamond said. “I just don’t want her to get hurt again, you know? When I first met her, she was absolutely miserable, and that was right after Modus. I don’t want that to happen to her again.”

“Well, unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do at this point,” Party Favor said. “All we can do is hope she knows what she’s doing. That things will work out when she gets back to Modus, you know?”

“But, like, what if they don’t?”

“Well, hopefully she’ll find somewhere else to go,” Party Favor said.

“Guys, I hate to say this,” Sugar Belle said, “but there’s nothing that we can do by just talking. We have to keep the town going.”

“Yeah,” Party Favor said. “You gonna be okay, Double Diamond?”

Double Diamond slowly nodded his head. “Yeah. Sorry. I’ll be right down, give me a minute.”

Party Favor and Sugar Belle smiled, then trotted off down the stairs. Double Diamond sighed and gazed out the window, off into the distance.

~~~~~~~~~~

Night Glider took a quick glance out the window as she finished packing up her saddle bag. She stretched out her limbs and threw the bag over her back, then turned to the door. She could hear the sounds of ponies talking downstairs, silverware clinking against plates, and the general din of a busy tavern.

She slowly opened the door, and was immediately hit with a strong smell. Roasted peppers, fried potatoes, a delectable blend of spices that immediately sent her stomach growling. She stepped down the stairs and surveyed the busy tavern, until she saw a hoof waving to her. She worked her way across the room to where Dusty was sitting at a table in the back, a plate of food in front of him.

“Little grub before you hit the road?” he said, pushing the plate towards Night Glider.

“Thanks, Dusty,” she said, sitting down and eating.

“No problem, Nighty,” he said. “I’m sorry if I was soundin’ a bit rude when we talked, I really didn’t mean to. I just want what’s best for ya.”

“Sure,” Night Glider replied. “I know you, Dusty. You’re just looking out for me. I appreciate it, but I’m ready to do this.”

“Well, that’s what’s important,” Dusty said. “So, got any other stops before you go?”

“Nope,” Night Glider said. “Straight shot to Modus. Normally takes eight hours to get there from Palmacolta.”

“And you and I both know you can make it in six. So, what are you gonna do when you get there?”

Night Glider took a drink of water. “They’re obviously not gonna just let me in, but I think that if I ask to talk to the mayor,” She slowly lowered the glass down. “Or maybe if I talk to the guards at the front of town, or ask for my parents,” She slowly looked up at Dusty.

“You don’t have a plan, do ya?” Dusty asked. Night Glider shook her head. “Yer a real sweet pony, Nighty, but you gotta think this stuff through first.”

Night Glider grinned sheepishly. “Like I said, this was kinda a snap decision.”

Dusty pushed his hat back up on his head. “Well, that’s gonna complicate things a bit. But yer a capable pony, I’m sure you’ll figure something out.”

“Yeah,” Night Glider stared down into her food.

“Penny for yer thoughts?”

Night Glider sighed, and slowly looked up at her old friend.

“Dusty… I’m starting to have second thoughts.”

Dusty looked back at Night Glider, slowly removed his hat and set it down next to him, then rubbed his head.

“Somehow I knew you were gonna say something like that.”

“I’ve just been thinking about when we first spent a day together,” Night Glider said. “I remember telling you that I didn’t want to be different anymore. But that never happened, you know? No matter what I did, I was always different. Nothing ever changed.”

“Now that ain’t true, Nighty,” Dusty said. “You changed. You seem a heck of a lot more confident than the last time I saw ya. You come this far on a spur of the moment decision, yer bound to have some second thoughts.”

“Yeah…”

“But from everything you told me, this is something you need to do. If you were to turn back now, I have a feeling you’d regret it.”

“I would,” Night Glider said. “But yesterday, you said—”

“I know what I said, but I also know what you said,” Dusty. “And if you’ve come this far, and are this determined, I don’t see how turning back would solve anything. But like I said, you’ve changed. And I think you might just be able to get what you’re looking for in Modus if you play yer cards right.”

Night Glider smiled again. “Thanks for believing in me, Dusty.”

“Always have, Nighty. Always have,” Dusty put his hat back on and took a long drink of cider as Night Glider went back to her food. “I ain’t saying I approve of the trip, but at this point there ain’t no turnin’ back now. If you wanna show them that they screwed up for exiling you for not bein’ a good lookout, then that’s all there is to it, and yer gonna do it.”

There was a long pause as the words bounced around Night Glider’s head. She slowly looked back up at Dusty.

“Not being a good lookout?”

Dusty shook his head. “Shoot, I didn’t mean it like that, Nighty. You were new, and—”

Night Glider blinked. “Dusty… what did they tell you about what happened? About why I was exiled?”

“Nighty, do you really want to—”

“What did they tell you?!”

Dusty sighed. “They told me that you had been lookout on a hunt, and had missed a pack of manticores that attacked the rest of the group,” he said quietly. “They told me you had failed in your task as a lookout, and that was that. Seemed kinda odd to me, but…”

Night Glider slowly looked down at her food, trying to process what Dusty was saying. A lump had quickly formed in her throat and it felt like her hair was standing on end. The whole event was playing itself over and over in her mind on an endless loop, every scream, every panicked cry… she could practically feel the wind frantically blowing her mane back all over again.

“Dusty… there’s more to it than that,” she finally said, her voice barely above a whisper.

“There is?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I thought they had told you. I told you, they had been looking for me to trip up for a while, but after what I did…”

“Nighty, no more bein’ cryptic,” Dusty said, his eyes narrowing as he leaned in. “I want you to tell me right now what the hay her talking about.”

Night Glider looked up at her old friend, nodded, and swallowed down the lump in her throat.

~~~~~~~~~~

The sounds of chaos were ringing in Night Glider’s ears. Her breathing was quick, her heart was pounding in her chest. Her mind was racing. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening.

The hunt had been going fine. The ponies had been doing their thing, and Night Glider had been doing hers. She had finally convinced Modus to let her hunt with them. After all the hushed whispers, the judging glances, the outright hostility from those in Modus who had seen her as an outsider, even from the moment she was born.

And now, her mistake was staring her in the face. There was a war being waged directly below her. She hadn’t even seen the pride of manticores approaching the rest of the hunt until it was too late.

Blood. She could see blood. One of the ponies had pulled himself to the side, clutching at his stomach. The rest were still fighting, trying to get some kind of advantage over the angry beasts, to no avail. Their guard had been down; they had a pony to watch out for them, after all.

Night Glider was struggling to breathe. A million thoughts were racing through her head, and she didn’t know which one to listen to. In the back of her head, she heard the voice of the leader of the hunt, his lecture from earlier.

“If you want to be a part of this hunt, then you are going to contribute. No matter what happens, you help. If we fight, you fight. If we forage, you forage. Do you understand me?”

Night Glider desperately tried to swallow her anxiety, and she aimed herself down towards the melee. But before her wings could carry her down, more voices popped into her head, far louder.

“She don’t belong in Modus. She never will.”

“We’re letting Night Glider on the hunt? Why?”

“We’re just letting you on this hunt to shut you up, you know.”

“Just stay up there and don’t do anything, let the ponies who actually know what they’re doing take care of things.”

“If it was up to me, we’d have gotten rid of you long ago.”

Tears were streaming down Night Glider’s eyes. Her wings were flapping just enough to keep her in place, but not move an inch in any direction. For just a moment, she could hear absolutely nothing, until finally a single thought rose to the forefront.

“I’ll just screw things up more. I need to get help!”

And she turned, and she flew. She flapped her wings harder than she ever had in her life, straight towards Modus. Branches were slamming into her face, tearing across her wings, but she didn’t have the wherewithal to even fly upwards. All she could focus on was getting back to Modus, as quick as possible. She prayed to Luna that she could make it in time. No matter how far and fast she flew, Modus felt hundreds of miles away, as though the world was going in slow motion.

Finally, she burst through a line of trees to see the familiar tall, wooden gates of her town. She flew over and made a dart for the ground, slamming into it with all four hooves before completely collapsing. Almost immediately there were ponies surrounding her, talking.

“Night Glider?!” she heard a familiar voice bellow. She glanced up to see the mayor pushing through the crowd of ponies. “Where is the rest of the hunt?”

“Th-there… there was…. M-manticores…” she stuttered through tears. “T-they attacked… they’re s-s-still out there…”

The mayor gasped. “And you RAN?”

“I-I-I c-couldn’t…”

The mayor ignored her and looked up. “We need every pony who’s able out there, now! Find them!”

There was all-out bedlam. Ponies were running through the gates, immediately taking off into the air towards the hunt. Night Glider, her energy still sapped, slowly pulled herself up to her hooves, barely able to step forward as ponies shoved by her in their rush. She looked back, and for just a brief second could see her parents, concern on their faces, looking towards her. But before she could even call out to them, she saw other ponies quickly corralling them out of town, taking off with the rest of them.

It barely took a minute for the streets of the small town to be almost completely empty. The sound of wings flapping gradually got more distant, with the only ponies that remained huddled together, trying to figure out what to do. Night Glider, finally able to move again, shakily trotted towards her house, stumbling in and up to her room.

She curled up on her bed and sobbed. She had been so close. Ponies finally wouldn't have treated her differently. But instead, everything went to hell. Her heart wouldn’t stop pounding. She didn’t know what was going to happen.

Hours later, she could hear commotion outside her window. he carefully peaked out her window to see ponies returning; they were all helping the ponies who had been hurt. She breathed a momentary sigh of relief when she saw that all the ponies on the hunt were accounted for, but as they got closer, her heart sank even further. They were covered in battle wounds: one had a long gash running along his chest that had been hastily bandaged up, another’s wing looked like it had been torn to pieces, and was barely hanging on to his body, and there were horrible claw and bite marks all over their faces and bodies.

Night Glider could see ponies staring in the direction of her window. Glaring angrily. Muttering to each other. She saw her parents start to walk towards the house, but they were cut off when the Mayor landed right in front of them and began shouting.

Night Glider turned away from the window and buried her head in her pillow. No matter how hard she tried, she could hear the mayor. She could hear scattered words he was shouting at her parents: Worthless. Endangering. Belong. Decision. Tomorrow.

She pushed her head into the pillow. She wanted everything to go away.

~~~~~~~~~~

Dusty slowly took his hat off again.

“I...I had no idea,” he said. “They jus’ told me that you had failed in your duties as a lookout,”

“Well, I did,” Night Glider said quietly, wiping a tear from her eye. “They didn’t exile me just because I was a bad lookout. They exiled me because I was a coward.”

“Now Nighty, don’t say that. I don’t blame you for headin’ off to get help, what could you have done?”

“Something. Anything,” Night Glider said. “It’s the job of every pony on a hunt to protect each other, and I couldn’t even get that right. After everything they said about me, they were right the whole time.”

“Nighty…”

“That’s why I have to do this, Dusty,” she said, straightening her back and looking right into Dusty’s eyes. “I need to prove to Modus that I’ve changed as a pony. That I’m not the same pony I was a year ago, when they got hurt. That I can, and will, be just like them.”

“Nighty, I know how tough it must be for ya, and I know this is something you need to do,” he said. “But you and I both know that no matter what you say, no matter what you do, you ain’t never gonna be like the ponies in Modus.”

Night Glider shifted her gaze away momentarily, but Dusty reached over and put his hoof on top of hers. She slowly looked back at him.

“Yeah… I know.”

“I’m glad you understand that, Nighty,” Dusty said. “But there’s something else you gotta understand then. Most ponies, they ain’t gonna blame you for what happened.”

“You think so?”

“I know so,” Dusty said with a smile. “I’ve lived long enough to know that ponies are a forgivin’ and understandin’ lot. They’d understand what happened, and that you did the only thing you could do. And even if they did blame you, I think that after a year, they’d be willing to give you a second shot.”

Night Glider started to smile, but the stern expression on Dusty’s face stopped her. He cleared his throat.

“That said…” he muttered, “ponies in Modus ain’t like most ponies. I ain’t so sure that they’ll be quick to forgive you. Way I see it, the wounds are still gonna be pretty fresh in everypony’s mind. So if you wanna get back in, even just to see somepony, you’re gonna have to work hard, prove to them that you deserve to even be heard out, let alone brought back to Modus permanently.”

Night Glider nodded. “I know, Dusty. It’s going to be rough. But it’s something I have to do. Like you said, I’ve come this far.”

“Exactly,” Dusty said, then smirked. “ ‘Sides, you’re one of the most stubborn ponies I’ve ever known. I figured there was no way to talk ya out of this.”

“Pretty much,” Night Glider said.

“I jus’ want you to take care of yourself, Nighty. Not get hurt again. Or at the very least, be prepared for what’s comin’. Because I guarantee you, there are gonna be ponies in Modus who just don’t want you there.”

“I know,” Night Glider said. She looked to her side. “Double Diamond said the same thing.”

“Double Diamond? Who’s that?”

“Oh, he’s a friend of mine,” Night Glider continued. “Back in the town I lived for a year.” Night Glider looked over at Dusty and paused; his head was tilted to one side. “What?”

Dusty shook his head. “Nah, it’s nothing. Jus’...” he trailed off and looked away for a moment. When he looked back at Night Glider, there was a warm smile on his face that made Night Glider smile out of pure instinct. “I jus’ never heard you talk about havin’ friends before.”

“Really? Never?”

“Not once,” he said.

“Huh...” Night Glider looked down. For a moment, she thought back to town. She wondered what her friends were up to; probably just continuing to work on the town, setting up buildings, trying to finally connect it with the rest of Equestria. A part of her wondered if they missed her, but almost immediately, that thought was chased away. Of course they missed her! They were her friends.

But just as quickly as the thoughts had entered her head, they went away. She thought about the next step of her journey; the last step.

“Listen, Dusty,” she said, clearing her throat. “It’s been so great to see you, but I think it’s time I hit the road again.”

Dusty nodded. “And yer headed straight there, right?"

“Yeah," Night Glider said, getting to her hooves. “Can't think of anywhere else to go. Nothing between me and… and home.”

Dusty stood up too and wrapped his hooves around Night Glider. She returned the hug, nuzzling the side of her friend’s cheek.

“Dusty, thank you so much for everything,” she said.

“‘Course, my lil’ sweet saphire,” Dusty said. “And listen; no matter what happens in Modus, no matter what they say or what they do, I promise you you can come back here any time you want.”

“Really?” Night Glider said.

“Of course! You should always have a place to call home, Nighty, no matter where it is.”

Night Glider paused and slowly pulled away from the hug. She looked into Dusty’s eyes, saw his beaming smile. There was a sincerity in his face that put her at ease.

“Thanks, Dusty,” Night Glider said. “But if things go well, I won’t need to find a new place.”

Dusty lead Night Glider out the front door of the tavern. She looked off into the starry sky.

“Well, nothin’ left for you here,” he said, patting her on the back. “Least not now, anyway. Don’t be a stranger!”

“Wouldn’t think of it!” Night Glider unfurled her wings.

“Hey, Nighty?” Dusty said. Night Glider turned around, and he gave her another grin. “Yer a lot stronger than you think you are, and don’t you dare let anypony try to tell you otherwise.”

Night Glider smiled. “I won’t. Thanks again, Dusty.”

With a wave goodbye, Night Glider turned and took off into the air. The feeling of the wind in her mane was exhilarating, and she immediately flapped even faster to speed over Palmacolta.

“Alright,” she said to herself, closing her eyes momentarily to just feel the world soar by her.

“Next stop, Modus.”