• 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 6

Night Glider hovered in the air, staring down at the lush forest beneath her. Her heart was beating ever so slightly faster as she looked at the layout of the green below. She could see fruit hanging from scattered trees, many of them having already been picked clean. The ground was well-trotted, and she could see the missing leaves from the trees that had been flown by so many times. Even the sound that reverberated off the trees was familiar to her.

There was no doubt in her mind: she was close to Modus. Close to home.

Her wings felt very heavy as she slowly lowered herself to the ground and looked around. She could hear every rustle of leaves, every far-away bird call, every noise. She tried to remember exactly which direction she needed to go.

She slowly closed her eyes and took her locket in her hoof, then gently shook it. She could hear the jingles reverberating around her.

50 paces southwest, small creek running through the forest, flowing south. There are waterfalls at the head of it, but they’re very far away. 23 paces east, a few frogs hiding under an old stump.

She held her breath and shut her eyes as tightly as she could, concentrating on trying to hear something that would be more useful to her. Nothing but the sounds of the forest enveloped her. She held the locket tightly in her hoof, not letting it make any noise, but still, nothing. She scolded herself for forgetting the exact location of Modus in this forest, but suddenly, another noise entered her hearing, just barely above silence.

A voice. Multiple voices.

Her eyes snapped open. It was just for a moment, but she could hear voices. They were a few minutes walk straight north of where she was. She felt a pit in her stomach, but she ignored it as best she could and began walking. A voice in the back of her head was telling her to fly, but she ignored it. She needed the time to prepare.

As she walked, she was left with her thoughts. She had been traveling for days just to get here, yet it felt so surprising to her. To actually be back at Modus. To be only minutes away from staring down her home once again. To be able to finally confront the past.

The more she walked, the slower her pace became. The voices were growing louder; she was very close. But all she could think about was what Dusty had told her: that the ponies in Modus weren’t quick to forgive. She hated to admit it, but deep down, a part of her hadn’t been surprised in the least.

“No!” she hissed to herself, shaking the thought out of her head. “I’ve come this far. There’s no turning back now; I have to get into Modus. I’m going to get in.”

She gulped down a lump in her throat as she stared at a dense line of trees in front of her. It was the first landmark in the area that she was familiar with, and she realized what was just beyond it. She took a deep breath and pushed through the trees; as she emerged from the other side, her blood ran cold.

In front of her stood the towering wooden wall that surrounded her home.

It towered above her, reaching just below the treeline. Bushes lined the top of it, making the town blend into the forest around it. Most ponies were only aware of the general location of the town; even Pegasi had a hard time locating it.

Night Glider’s legs were shaking. She took a long, deep breath and exhaled slowly. She had to calm herself down as she began the long walk around the edge. Modus wasn’t a particularly large town, but time seemed to stand still with each step. She could hear ponies inside, and every few seconds, she could see somepony fly up overhead, on their way in or out of Modus. It seemed busy, but then, it always was.

She turned the corner and stopped. Ahead of her were two ponies standing guard at the gates to the town. They were engaged in conversation, but still keeping an eye out above them. Night Glider took a long breath again and closed her eyes.

This is it,” she thought to herself, cracking her neck. “Home.”

As she opened her eyes, she looked up. Flying over the gates was the grand flag of Modus. It depicted a full moon high in the sky, a single dark wing in front of it…

Night Glider’s train of thought stopped as she narrowed her eyes at the flag. She took a few steps to the side to look behind it, but there was nothing. The two flags of Modus were almost sacred to the town, always flying proudly at the entrance. But there was now only one flying in its mast, the other conspicuously absent.

As she pondered why it was gone, her gaze slowly returned downward, and her thoughts stopped dead in their tracks. The two guards were now staring directly at her, their eyes narrowed. For a few seconds their sight didn’t wander, until they turned and stood at attention in front of the gate. She took one more deep breath and trotted forward again. In a few seconds, she was in front of the two guards, who briefly glanced at each other before looking over at her.

Night Glider had had days to go over in her head what she would say when she returned to Modus. But now, standing in front of the gates and with the piercing eyes of the guards, the words wouldn’t come.

Seconds ticked by. Night Glider could feel beads of sweat forming on her forehead. She tried opening her mouth again, but could barely make out a whisper. She instinctively grasped at the locket around her neck, jingling it. Part of her was screaming to just give up and fly back into the forest.

But before her wings could react, a different thought entered her mind.

“I guess you gotta go for it.”

“I mean, we’re sure as heck gonna miss you, but if you think you belong back in Modus, we’re not gonna stop you.”

“It’s your decision, and as your friends, we’ll always support it!”

Night Glider opened her eyes and exhaled sharply. If her friends believed in her, she knew she could too. She looked directly at the guards.

“H-hey,” she stammered, immediately cursing her casual tone.

One of the guards nodded. “Hello,” he said coldly.

“Um,” Night Glider said, trying to shake the unease out of her voice, “It’s been a while.”

“Yes,” the guard said. “It has.”

“It, uh, looks like—”

“Night Glider,” the guard interrupted, “What do you want?”

Her face went numb. She shook her head again, throwing all the pleasantries out the window, then looked directly at the guard.

“I want to speak with someone in Modus.”

“Someone?”

“My parents,” Night Glider said. “Or the mayor.”

The two guards looked at each other. Night Glider waited for any sort of response as the two guards glanced at each other for a moment. One guard slowly shook his head, and the other nodded in agreement.

“Completely out of the question,” the guard said.

In the back of her head, it was exactly the response Night Glider was expecting. But she couldn’t help but step back in shock.

“W-what?”

“Night Glider, you were exiled from Modus,” he continued. “After what you did, after you failed in your duties as a lookout, after the mayor kicked you outthere is absolutely no reason for us to allow you to simply walk back into the town.”

“Well then I’ll talk to them out here!” Night Glider said. “I won’t set hoof into Modus.”

The guard shook his head. “I see no reason to get them. Modus is done with you, Night Glider. And whether you are willing to accept it or not, you are done with Modus.”

Night Glider stamped her hoof into the ground and gritted her teeth. “It’s been a year! I haven’t tried to contact you guys once!”

“And that is appreciated,” the guard continued. “But exile simply does not go away after a set period of time. So as we stated, there is no intention to let you back in.”

“In fact,” the other guard said, looking over and nodding, “ I think it would be best if you left.”

“But—”

“Modus wants nothing more to do with you,” he said, interrupting Night Glider. “Therefore, there is no reason to be here anymore.”

Night Glider slunk back. The bluntness in their voices and the sternness on their faces was giving her chills. Neither one had budged an inch from their positions since they had seen her, and their glare was telling her that there was nothing she could do to convince them otherwise.

She took another step back, ready to turn around, but her sight wandered upward to the flag waving on the left side of the gate, then to the right side.

“What happened to the other flag?” she said.

“That is official Modus business,” the guard said. “It is of no concern to you. Now leave.”

Night Glider unfurled her wings and slowly lifted herself off the ground. She took a long look at the gates of Modus, then down to the two unflinching guards in front of it. With a shake of her head, she turned and flew off quietly into the forest.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit!!!

Night Glider drove her hoof into the side of the tree, causing the whole thing to shake and leaves to fall down on her. She punched the tree over and over, letting out her frustration.

“I was right there,” she seethed. “It was right in front of me! And I just had to talk to those damn guards!” She slunk back against the tree and stared upwards at the canopy. “I should have just flown over. Rules be damned, I’m not a part of Modus anymore, why should their rules apply?”

She grabbed her locket in her hoof and shook her head. After all the time to prepare, the days of flying with nothing to do but think about a way to get back into Modus, and her mind had gone totally blank, and the tone the guards immediately took had stopped any attempts of her to take control of the conversation.

She popped the locket open and looked at her parents inside. She had been so close, and now it felt like she was farther than ever. She could always sneak in to Modus, but with so many ponies in the town, somepony would surely see her before she got to her parents house. There was absolutely no sneaking in under the cover of night, that was when the ponies in Modus were most active. She knew that the only way of getting in would be right through the front gates… but the odds of that happening were slim.

Night Glider bucked the tree in frustration, then started trotting aimlessly in one direction and trying to calm herself down.

“This is just a setback,” she muttered under her breath. “Just round one. I can’t give up now. I’m just gonna have to be more strategic. I’m sure that if I just talk to them again…”

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.”

She stopped walking and looked down at the ground. Dusty was right; it was never just going to be as easy as walking up and being let back into Modus immediately. It was going to take more than words to get anywhere.

She sat down against a tree and closed her eyes. Despite how quickly she had been turned away, she knew that if she played her cards right, if she found a weakness, she would be able to get what she wanted. It was just a matter of what that weakness was.

The only sounds she could hear is the gentle rustling of leaves and the rushing of water coming from the source of the nearby river. It would take time, but there had to be something she could do.

“I should just wait until they change guards and go back,” she thought to herself, briefly opening one eye to check where the sun was in the sky. “Probably won’t be until tomorrow, though. If I go back and talk to them calmly…” She sighed. “No, that’s not gonna be any different. I could watch for when the mayor or my parents leave town and track them…” She shook her head. “No, they definitely wouldn’t want to be ambushed like that…” She pressed her hoof into the side of the tree. “Gah, why is this so damn complicated?” she seethed.

Just as she was withdrawing her hoof, the serenity of her surroundings was interrupted by a shout from far away.

“We can’t just go back to Palmacolta, you moron!”

Night Glider looked around; the voice was distant, but loud enough for her to quickly pinpoint the direction it was coming from. She could just barely make out more voices, each one raised as if there was an intense argument happening.

She closed her eyes and tried to focus on her predicament. “Nope, don’t want any part of that,” she muttered under her breath. “I have my own problems to worry about.”

“There’s only one place that’ll be interested in this stuff, Gillian. Let’s just go!” a second voice said.

“Shut up, both of you!” a third rang, slightly quieter than the other two. “Quiet, dammit, I’m sure they’re still looking for us!”

Night Glider turned her head to the direction the voices were coming from. They quieted down a bit, but she could still make out an impassioned argument happening some distance away.

“Dammit…” she said as she climbed back to her hooves and started trotting towards the source of the sound. The argument, despite growing quieter, seemed to also be getting more intense, as the three voices went back and forth in hushed tones about something. As she walked, the sounds of rushing water also filled her ears. With that added sound, she could make out three figures standing near the source of the river. All three were larger than her—larger than most ponies she had ever encountered, in fact.

“Why am I doing this,” she said as she stopped in her tracks. “I have more important things to worry about. Let them argue.”

She turned around and started walking away, blocking their conversation out of her mind, when a single word caught her attention.

“Flag”

Night Glider froze in her tracks. She was still for a few seconds before she took off into the air and landed on the branch of the closest tree. She carefully made her way from branch to branch towards the argument, before she finally reached a branch that extended out into the clearing and peered in.

A small but active waterfall was rushing down the side of a cliff, into the river. At the base, three griffons were standing, still engaged in their argument. In the middle of them was a crumpled heap of dark cloth.

She stifled a gasp, holding her hoof to her mouth so she wouldn’t be heard. Down below, the three continued arguing, utterly oblivious to the pony above them.

“Geoff, we can’t just go back to Palmacolta with this thing,” one of the griffons said. “They’ll know what it is.”

“Well so will everywhere else then!” Geoff replied. “Let’s junk it. I don’t even know why we took this damn thing in the first place.”

“Because it’s gotta be worth something, somewhere!” the first said. “And that somewhere has gotta be Las Pegasus. Let’s go back and talk to Shady Skies, he can—”

“Gillian, Shady won’t be able to make heads or tails of how much this thing is worth,” the third said as he poked at the crumpled flag. “It’s just a flag.”

Night Glider’s teeth ground together. “Dusty mentioned something about griffon bandits…” she thought to herself.

“Do you know what I had to do to distract those guards for you guys?” Gillian said. “We’re not gonna get rid of it.”

“But I don’t wanna go all the way back to Las Pegasus just to find out it’s not worth a damn thing,”

“Gerard, it’s the only thing we can do,” Gillian said. “This was a stupid idea, but we gotta roll with it. Let’s pack it up and head out, we can be in Las Pegasus in a day or two, and get an idea of how much we can get for it. And if it’s not worth anything, we can junk it there.”

“Fine,” Gerard grumbled.

As one of the griffons started to open up a bag on his back, Night Glider’s heart started pounding. She stared at the flag for a second, when something clicked in her head.

My way in.

She bolted from the branch and sped towards the flag, her hooves reaching out for it. The griffons looked up as she came barreling towards them.

“Whoah, whoah!” Gerard screamed, as he grabbed the flag and pulled it out of the way.

Night Glider flipped around and landed on her hooves, staring down the three griffons.

“You stole that from Modus!” she said, leaning down and grinding her hoof into the ground. “I’m here to take it back.”

The three griffons looked at each other, then back at their new adversary.

“You?” Gerard said. “What, did Modus hire you or something?”

“I’m from Modus,” she growled.

“I didn’t know they had ponies like you there,” he replied. “Normal ones, anyway. And in case you haven’t noticed, missy… there are three of us, and one of you.”

The other two griffons stepped forward, and Night Glider could feel her legs shaking, suddenly feeling very in over her head. She eased her stance and took a step back.

“Now if you think we’re just gonna give this back to some brave-girl act, good luck,” Gerard said. “Get out of here before we—”

“Hang on!” Gillian interrupted, then pointed at Night Glider. “What’s that?”

Night Glider looked down at what Gillian was pointing at: the silver locket hanging around her neck.

“M-My locket?”

She looked up to suddenly find Gillian stepping closer to her. She took another step back, and felt her flank press up against the rocky cliff behind her. Her wings seemed locked in place as Gillian loomed forward.

“Well, looks like we won’t have to write this thing off as a total loss,” Gillian said, reaching down and taking the locket in his claw. “Oooh, real silver, too. That’s nice.”

“No!” Night Glider yelled, pulling back.

Gerard and Geoff snickered as Gillian yanked on the necklace, making Night Glider almost fall to the ground. “Tell you what. You give us this locket, and we’ll just head out in our own direction like this never happened.”

Night Glider tried to dodge to the side, but Gerard grasped her mane with his claw.

“I don’t think you understand here, little girl,” he said as he leaned in. “This is not optional. Now hand it over!”

He balled his claw into a fist and pulled on the locket, straining the chain and digging into Night Glider’s neck. Her muzzle pressed into his shoulder, and she struggled to take a breath. She pressed her hooves into his chest and tried to push away, only succeeding in getting a few inches away.

“Let go of it!!” Gerard screamed as he used his free claw to reach and grab Night Glider by the mane.

Night Glider’s heart was racing as she struggled. Her mind was a garbled mess of thoughts, unable to focus on anything. She desperately pushed backwards to try to escape, but Gerard’s grip just tightened. Her eyes darted towards the flag that was laying on the ground, but another yank from Gerard sent her sight skyward. For a brief second, the corners of her eyesight started to blacken.

For a split second, something flashed before her eyes. She could see Party Favor tying an unbelievable number of balloons together to form a bridge. Sugar Belle throwing snow at Starlight Glimmer to knock her off course. Double Diamond skiing across the snow to stop her in her tracks.

And for a moment, she could see herself. Carrying Double Diamond into position. Putting the bridge into place. The four of them hugging after they had run Starlight off.

She snapped back to reality and saw red.

She reared her head back, then pitched forward and drove her teeth down into Gerard’s shoulder.

Gerard screeched in pain and immediately released his grip. Night Glider didn’t; she bit harder.

“Aaaaaaaaagh!” Gerard screamed, as behind him Gillian and Geoff stood frozen in fear. “GetheroffgetheroffgetheroffGETHEROFF!!!”

He tried to flail back and forth, but Night Glider just bit harder. She felt something give, and a metallic taste coated her tongue. She didn’t care; she bit down again.

Help me dammit!!” Gerard screamed again. Finally, Gillian and Geoff snapped to attention and rushed over, managing to pry Gerard off. They all fell back, Gerard clutching at his shoulder as a few drops of blood trickled down between his claws.

Night Glider stepped to the side, putting her back away from the wall, and spit blood out onto the ground. She flashed her teeth at the bandits, who were staring at her in a panic.

“Can’t let you take this. It means a lot to me.” She took a step forward, and all three griffons stepped back. She couldn’t help but chuckle. “Oh, I see how it is. You can dish it out but can’t take it?” She wiped the blood from her muzzle. “I wouldn’t mind round two…”

“Get away from us!” Gillian said, stumbling back and nearly tripping over his cohorts. He took off into the air. “We’re leaving, now.”

“What about the flag?” Geoff said, tying a piece of cloth around Gerard’s neck.

Forget the damn flag!” Gerard screamed as he took off into the air too. “She’s crazy!”

Night Glider watched as the three griffons took off into the air out of the canopy of the forest, then carefully listened. She could hear their panicked arguing slowly fade as their wing flaps became more and more distant, until they were so far away that she couldn’t hear them at all. She immediately rushed over to the waterfall and opened her mouth.

“Gross gross gross gross gross gross gross gross,” she sputtered as she frantically washed every trace of blood out of her mouth in the rushing water. The metallic taste quickly went away, and she stepped out of the waterfall, her mane completely soaked. She took a look around at the clearing; there were drops of blood dotting the rocks in front of the cliff, and one larger patch from where she had spit. And a few feet away…

She practically dove on the flag and unfurled it. Other than a few wrinkles from how ineptly it had been handled, it was in fine condition.

Night Glider started to laugh. She clutched the flag close to her chest and fell back, continuing to laugh as tears started rolling down her face.

She had it.

Her way back in.

~~~~~~~~~~

Night Glider pushed through the bushes and found herself face-to-face with the gates of Modus once again. As soon as the two guards heard her they snapped to attention and looked her way, before scowls crossed their face.

“Night Glider,” the first guard said, “I already told you several hours ago that we are not interested in—” His train of thought stopped when Night Glider held up the flag. “Wh-where did you get that?!”

“I found a group of griffons in the forest,” Night Glider said. “From the sounds of it, they were able to distract whoever was on duty and nab this in the confusion. They were planning on taking it to Las Pegasus to get it appraised.”

The guards glanced at each other, then back at the flag.

“Well,” the first guard said, awkwardly clearing his throat, “I, um… I do appreciate you returning it to us. It is as you said, it had been stolen a day ago. We have been preparing a group to go hunting for it, but this will save us time.”

He reached out for it, but Night Glider pulled her hoof back.

“If you don’t mind,” she said, unable to hide a smirk, “I would like to give this to the mayor directly.”

“You are not allowed back into Modus.”

“Then have him come out here!” Night Glider yelled. “He has a reason to meet with me now, doesn’t he?”

There was a long pause. The first guard slowly shifted his gaze from the flag to the other guard, then silently nodded his head. He took off into the air and flew over the top of the gates.

Night Glider was left alone with the other guard, who stood completely stoic. She sat down on the grass and just waited. As minutes ticked by, beads of sweat began to drip down her face.

What if he still doesn’t let me in?” she thought, looking down at the flag. “He always hated me, and I doubt thing have changed. But this is my best shot for getting in, it’s this or nothing.” She looked up at the guard; he briefly locked eyes with her, then went back to staring silently ahead. “If one of the guards doesn’t want anything to do with me…

Her thoughts came to a halt when she heard the sound of wood grinding against wood. Slowly, the gates to Modus opened.

For a moment, Night Glider’s heart leapt into her throat. The town was identical to how she remembered it; small cottages stacked on top of each other lining the streets, ana massive tree in the middle with branches that extended out in every direction, shrouding much of Mouds in shadows no matter what time of day it was.

She looked forward to see the guard approaching her, followed closely by the mayor. There was a certain air of regality to him as he strode towards her, despite the way that his eyes narrowed the moment he saw Night Glider. He trotted forward and looked down his nose at her, then at the flag.

“Let me see it,” he said, his voice cold as steel. Night Glider slowly handed it to him, and he unfurled it to look it over. There were a tense few seconds before he slowly folded it up and handed it to the guard. “Bring this to be cleaned. Have it flying as soon as possible.”

As the guard flew away, the mayor turned his attention back to Night Glider. She didn’t say anything, waiting for him to make the first move.

“I suppose that some gratitude is in order for you returning the flag,” he said, looking away. “So, I thank you. But that is where my obligations to you end, Night Glider. You may leave now.”

With that, the mayor turned away. Night Glider stood, her jaw slightly agape, searching for words that weren’t coming as he strode back towards Modus.

No!” she thought, trying to form words. “That can’t be it! This is my…”

The mayor signalled for the gates to be closed again.

“I want to see my parents!” Night Glider finally shouted.

There was silence. The mayor turned to look at her, his eyes again narrowing. He trotted back towards her.

“Excuse me?” he asked incredulously.

“You heard me,” she replied. “I want to see my parents. It’s been a year since I have seen them, and—”

“There is a reason for that, Night Glider,” the mayor said. “You were exiled.”

“For a single mistake!” Night Gilder quickly replied. “And you know what? I’ve stayed away! I’ve waited a full year to come back and even attempt to contact anybody from Modus. I even stayed away from a friend who had contacts in town!”

“Exile is a very serious matter, and we intend to keep it that way,” the mayor said. “All that has happened is you did what we told you. If you’re expecting that we will simply welcome you back…”

“I’m not looking for some sort of grand parade welcoming me back!” Night Glider shouted. She could see a few ponies now watching her from inside Modus, and she tried to ignore their glares. “I don’t expect everyone to just forget what happened. All I’m asking is for a chance to speak to my parents, in my home. I barely had enough time to talk to them when I was exiled. I know you don’t like me—I know most of Modus doesn’t like me—but after bringing the flag back, I think that at the very least, a meeting with my mom and dad isn’t a whole lot to ask for!”

The mayor remained silent as he and Night Glider locked eyes. He took a long breath, then looked up at the empty flag mast above them. Night Glider waited, unable to take a breath, as time stood still for a moment. Finally, the mayor let out a long sigh.

“Sunfall,” he quietly said.

“Excuse me?”

“You did return our flag, and I suppose that is worth something. Come back at sunfall. I will allow you to come in and speak with your parents.”

Night Glider’s heart skipped a beat. “Y-You—”

“You will have thirty minutes, and not a second more,” he continued. “When you arrive, there will be guards who will escort you from these gates to your former home, and when you leave, they will escort you back. You are not allowed to fly, nor stray from the path.”

In the back of her mind, something was frantically telling her to just accept it. But the tone the mayor took, the look in his eyes, the rules he had implemented… something seemed to snap in her head.

“What?!” she yelled. “I don’t want to be treated like a criminal!”

“Well that is exactly what we are going to have to do for this deal to work,” he said. “And that is the only deal we will make. We will see you again at sunfall, but for now, I ask that you vacate the area.” The mayor turned around to leave.

“I can’t just go in and talk to them?” Night Glider said. “You don’t trust me enough to—”

Trust?!” The mayor spun around, anger burning in his eyes. “You were always an anomaly in Modus from the moment you were born. You are the direct cause of a group of ponies getting hurt, some of them nearly killed. We exiled you, we never attempted to contact you, we wanting nothing more to do with you. You want to talk about trust? I assure you, you are correct; we do not trust you.”

The mayor leaned in, pressing his nose into Night Gliders and staring a hole through her.

“I don’t know how much clearer I can make it that we do not want you here.”

Night Glider felt energy drain from her body, and she began to shake as the mayor’s stare didn’t waver.

“Thirty minutes at sunfall,” he repeated. “Take it or leave it.”

“I’ll take it,” she quietly said.

“Good,” he replied as he turned around and marched back into the town. “Be here at sunfall, because your thirty minutes begin then, whether you are here or not.”

The great gates slowly closed, and there was silence. Night Glider didn’t move for a minute, processing everything that had just happened. Finally she turned and walked back towards the forest. She glanced upwards at the sun hanging high in the sky.

“Sunfall,” she muttered to herself. “They’ll let me in at sunfall.”

She looked straight ahead.

“I’m going… I’m going back to Modus...”