• Published 10th Jun 2020
  • 753 Views, 31 Comments

Splintershard - TheSpoopyTechie



Once upon a time, Equestria flourished. That time is now long-gone.

  • ...
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2|1 ◈ Of Journeys

Roads may be blocked, but they can always be cleared.

Bridges may still burn, but things don't have to be as they are feared.

Bonds broken,

Bonds made,

It isn't where you began, nor where you end--

But rather the journey, where you'll find your truest friends.


"Three baskets," Emily grinned, brushing leaves from her hair as she stood behind the heaps of apples. "That enough for you?"

"Hm. Ah think that'd be plenty enough for the time being," the old mare nodded. "Ya got anythin' to hold your share of the harvest?"

Emily nudged the backpack on the floor beside her.

"Emi, do you really think you can cram a basket and a half worth of apples in that thing?"

Emily nudged the backpack on the floor beside her harder.

"...Nevermind."

"Well," Emily half-mumbled, transferring an apple into her backpack, "I guess I should probably head out now. Thanks for letting me stay the night, Mrs..."

"Ambrosia Cider," the old mare finished. "Say, Ah never caught your name, either."

"Emily Ashton."

Ambrosia snorted. "Huh. Kids these days an' their strange names. Well, Ah'll certainly wish ya luck on your trek to Canterlot!"

Emily nodded, trying to cram another apple into her now-bulging backpack. Geez-- how many was she able to fit? Five? Six apples? Was that gonna be enough?

"You look like you need some help with that."

Gee, thanks for the insight, Clippy. Emily turned to Ambrosia. "Er... is there any way--"

"Eeyup."

She raised her brow. "Wha--"


Emily gingerly set another tin of candied apples in her backpack. Honestly, in hindsight, she should've figured that Ambrosia was planning on sending her off with some sort of apple-based recipe. At least it tasted good. And hey, the empty cans could probably make for some good projectiles if she ever needed to clobber someone at a distance.

"You take care now," Ambrosia set another tray of candy tins in front of Emily. "Don't eat all of 'em in one sitting, or else you're gonna catch the diabeetus!"

Ok.

"So..." Emily packed another tin in her bag. "Mrs. Ambrosia, do you know anything about the train to Canterlot?"

Ambrosia Cider shrugged. "Ah just know that it ain't in service, that's all. Most of the travel's been either on hoof or by balloon these days."

"Oh? A balloon?"

"Eyup," Ambrosia nodded. "Big ol' flyin' thingamabobber that lifts up into the sky. Though if you're so dead-set on a train, Ah'd say you'd best head off to find Aero Wrench. He's a retired engineer that set up shop 'round here not too long ago. Arrived by balloon, of course."

"What about the balloon, then? Would it be possible to take one to Canterlot instead of a train?"

The old mare snorted. "With the schedules they have? Ah'd bet three pies that they'd forget thatcha even paid for a ride! The balloons always arrive during the night, and even then they only come 'round once a month."

Emily's hopes dampened. "So... when's the next time it's gonna co--"

"Do you have the bits to pay your fare? If so, there's gonna be a launch leavin' in two weeks."

Oh. Right. She was broke in both this world and her own. Fun. Also, two weeks was probably a bit too long of a wait, what with the chance of war breaking out relying on her. Kind of.

...

...

"Yeah, I'll just take my chances with Mister Aero then." Emily shrugged. At the very least, if her luck fell through with him, she could probably make the trek on foot.

"Yeah, I doubt it, Emi. You fell off the ladder while we were picking apples earlier."

"We don't speak of that moment--" Emi shushed, "--Whisper." She stood up, swinging her backpack over her shoulder. "Well, I guess I'll be heading out now. Thanks for letting me stay the night!"

Ambrosia waved her off. "You're darn right, sugarcube! Come 'round again if y'all ever want more apples, and tell mah grandchildren Ah say hi!"


...This was a train station? Emily read the faded sign in front of her. Ponyville Station, the thing read-- again, a bit odd of a name, but whatever. At least there was already a train at the station. It definitely was gonna take a bit of work, though, given how much of a rustbucket it was.

Wait-- Emily shaded her eyes, squinting at the train. Were those solar panels on its roof?

...If an eye-roll could be audible, she definitely heard one come from Starlight just then.

"Well, it's been at least a hundred or more years since I was last alive, sooooo... yes, those are probably solar panels on its roof."

Ouch. Thanks for the snark, Star.

"You're welcome."

Emily wandered closer to the train. The once brightly-colored side panels were now pitted with rust, and based on the amount of dust and other gunk caked on in some places, this thing had been sitting around for ages. But, it's what they had, so it'd have to do.

"Just be glad it isn't steam-powered. The damage doesn't look too bad-- wanna try taking it for a spin?"

A wide grin spread across the girl's face. She'd be stupid not to try it out. Stepping onboard the cab, she was immediately hit with oil-scented air. And... air freshener? She picked up the spray canister, raising a brow. Somebody's been in here.

Her eyes turned to the controls. Surprisingly, there weren't nearly as many dials and gauges and stuff as she'd imagined there'd be. Heck, for the most part, the control panel was surprisingly simple; just a brake-looking thingy, a throttle, and a little dashboard with some stuff being measured. She set her hand on the throttle, pulling the brake lever into its 'disengaged' range.

She took a deep breath, shifting the throttle forward.

...

...

Emily blinked, taking her hands off the controls. "So, uh... was something supposed to happen?"

"Beats me. You're the one that decided to try driving."

"And you're the one who suggested i--"

The train groaned beneath her. It was slow at first, making more grinding noises than movement. Dust rained down on her head as the entire vehicle shuddered. Another groan rose from underneath, a little higher-pitched this time. One final jolt set it into motion.

"Look outside! We're moving!"

Slowly, they began to pull away from the station, inching ever so slightly further forward with every second.

And then they stopped.

"Wha--" Emily pushed the throttle again, craning her neck for a better view outside. "--why'd it stop?"

"Ay!" a voice shouted from outside. "What're you doing with that railcar?"

Emily almost jumped at the sudden noise that followed. A metallic screech echoed through the air as a nearby garage opened up to reveal a lanky-looking stallion.

"You'd better have a good explanation for yourself, missy," the stallion grumbled, trotting up to the open cab door. "I've seen my fair share of ridiculousness, but trainjacking is on a whole new level. What gives?"

"Oh, we..." Emily trailed off, taking her hands off the controls. "We're kinda in a rush to get to Canterlot. Mrs. Ambrosia told us that we could try taking the train there, but... well, it's not exactly in top shape." She forced a smile. "But, we're trying!"

Her smile was met with a deadpan glare.

"Uh-huh. And what business do you have, heading up to Canterlot in such a hurry? It's rare enough for a human to be out and about, let alone one trying to get into the capital."

Great. How was she supposed to explain it? He'd never believe it! Not only that, but--

"My apologies. My name is Starlight Glimmer--" Starlight cut in, forcing Emily's consciousness aside. "--and I've recently been reincarnated into this human body. It is of utmost importance that I travel to the capital city of the Ashen Phoenix, lest war may arise between them and the Old Guard."

...The heck was that mumbo-jumbo?

"'Diplomatic' talk," Starlight slipped back into her mental presence, leaving the girl control of her body once more. "Don't ask. I hate it just as much as you probably do."

The stallion's glare softened, making way for confusion. "Starlight Glimmer? Last I heard of that name was from the history books! Tell me, what's this all-important task that you gotta do up in Canterlot? How can I be sure that you're really Starlight Glimmer?"

Emily looked around. It seemed safe enough around here to spill the beans.

"Emi..."

Not now, Star.

She turned back to the stallion, stepping closer to him. "So, this is something that I probably shouldn't be telling anyone else, but there's this time travel scroll that's apparently been discovered over there, and sh--I've made it my duty to find and destroy it. The Old Guard wants to send a force over to take the scroll for themselves, and the Ashen want to use it to get rid of the Old Guard, so--"

"Emi!" Starlight scolded again, "How are we supposed to know that he'll be willing to help us? For all we know, he could be another Old Guard spy!"

The stallion cocked his head. "Continue? Is something wrong?"

Emily shook her head. "No, no. I'm just worried that you or someone else might try to get rid of me or something, given how what I'm trying to do would be damaging to both factions."

A defeated sigh rose from Starlight.

"I..." the stallion made a face, staring between Emily and the railcar's control panel. "I... here, come with me." He turned away, gesturing to follow.


"Coffee?" the stallion mumbled, emerging from a greasy-looking kitchen with a mug. "Or are you a tea kinda creature?"

Emily shrugged. "I'm fine with either. Though, why--"

He'd already disappeared into the kitchen again before she could finish, leaving his mug on the stout table in front of her. He wandered out again not long after with a second mug, setting it down beside the first.

"--I'm sorry, what were you saying earlier?" he yawned, lazily reaching for his mug. "Kinda walked out on you there, sorry 'bout that."

"Why did your attitude change so quickly? There's literally zero reason for either of us to trust each other!"

"Emi, please don't make things worse," Starlight groaned. "I'd rather have another pony on our side, please. We probably have an entire kingdom's worth of former Canterlot nobles out to get us by now."

Well, nothing about the whole exchange seemed to be signaling certain doom at the moment, so evidently something was working.

The stallion took a sip of his coffee. "Well, the feeling's mutual. But, I've always been a helpful sorta pony myself. If you need to get to Canterlot, I'll get you there. Just don't expect me to do any more than that."

Emily's eyes lit up. "Really? I... thanks!"

"Huh. So it worked out after all. Lucky."

Alright, Starlight.

"Hmf. Well, I suppose we should probably get along to introductions. The name's Aero Wrench--" he held out a hoof. "--what's yours?"

Oh, so this is the dude that Mrs. Ambrosia was talking about earlier. Nice.

"Emily Ashton," she took his hoof, shaking it. "So... when can we leave?"

Aero shrugged. "Now, I suppose. I'm assuming you're in a rush, so let's get going."

"But how are we gonna travel? The train doesn't work. You even saw me trying to drive it!"

"Psh, I was planning on fixing the darn thing anyway. The line was retired ages ago, and all the bigwigs ever did to replace it was to put another dot on the balloon routes. I bought the Ponyville line after I retired with the idea of bringing back some sane transportation, since nopony's ever listened to my petition to build an airport here. C'mon, I'm pretty sure it's just some corrosion to the wiring that's holding it back."


"Okay, try again!"

Emily pushed the throttle forward, but once again, only metallic screeching and the buzz of electricity arose in response. She pulled it back, stopping the noise.

"Aight, let's try wiping some more of this crud away-- see if any of it is shorting something out. I'm just glad that all the high-voltage and high-current stuff's still sealed off and clean. That'd be a nightmare to work with if there was as much gunk in there as there is here! Heck, it'd be even worse if something happened to the batteries!"

It was a few minutes before he gave the signal again.

"Alright, try backing it up again!"

Again, she pushed the throttle. The noise was absolutely still there, but surprisingly, the railcar moved. And not just inching along like it was the first time, but moving moving. He'd fixed it!

Emily pulled the brakes, sending the vehicle to a screeching stop. Just out the front windows, Aero slammed the hood shut, tossing aside some oily-looking wires. How he was able to work with electrical components with nothing more than hooves was beyond her. He didn't even have a horn or wings!

"We ready for a trip to Canterlot?" Aero grinned, hopping into the open cab. "I can take over from here if you'd like; I've conducted these sorta railcars before. You wanna head back into the passenger compartment?"

"Yup."

The stallion nodded, taking a position at the control panel. Emily pulled the door open to the dusty passenger area, picking a nice window seat right up front. Hopefully, the trip would at least be scenic, based on what she'd already seen of this world. The entire vehicle jolted, easing forward towards a turntable.

Emily blinked. Wait-- how were they supposed to operate the turntable when Aero's the only one around besides herself?

They halted on the turntable. She watched Aero exit the cab, scurrying into a nearby building. An even louder mechanical creak suddenly hit her ears as the train began to turn.

And turn.

And turn.

It took more than just a few minutes, and she'd already finished a tin of candied apples during that time, but eventually, the train had finally turned in the opposite direction. Aero hopped back into the cab, waving at Emily as he took his position at the controls.

Once again, the railcar jolted forward, steadily accelerating past the station.

"Whoa--" Aero blurted, pulling the brakes. Emily braced herself against the wall in front of her to avoid smashing her face against the paneling.

"What hooligan thought it was a good idea to leave a freight car in the middle of the track?" the stallion grumbled, exiting the cab again. His voice grew increasingly faint the further he walked. "Did they really think it'd be a good idea to dump abandoned cars on these tracks? Holy crap. These ponies-- I swear they're trying to cut Ponyville right off the map with the things they do!"

Emily opened a dusty window, sticking her head out. Sure enough, a boxcar sat in the way in front of them, backed up against some sort of makeshift barrier over the tracks.

"--Dangit, we'll probably have to push the darn thing with us if we wanna get past. Though, if the batteries give when we get to the more mountainous terrain, then we're absolutely fu--"

"I could probably levitate it out of the way, y'know," Starlight commented.

Aero knocked on the siding of the car. "Hey, you wanna at least take a look inside? There's some unmarked crates sitting around inside. Even found this weird book-- here, catch!"

Emily ducked. A small, hardcover book flew in through the open window, bouncing against the seat across from her and landing on the floor. She picked it up.

"How to Write a How to Write a Book Book, by Redundant Press Press?" Starlight's voice snorted, "What kind of book is that?"

A book on writing book-writing tutorials, apparently. Emily tossed the book aside, standing up. She'd might as well take a look around if there was gonna be stuff as interesting as that.


"Question is, how are we gonna open 'em," Aero mumbled, a hoof on one of the crates. "No crowbar, no saw-- I think we'll just have to brute-force these things."

"Hey Emi, it's been a little while since we've done some magic. Want me to take over?"

Before she could even respond, the girl felt all sensation leaving her body again. Starlight cleared her throat, pulling Splinter from her pocket. "Well," she smirked, stepping up beside Aero. "Being a unicorn in my past life definitely came with some benefits-- magic being one of them."

Emily watched Splinter begin to glow once more with Starlight's mana. A similarly-hued aura surrounded one of the crates, tearing its lid clean off.

"Oh heck, it's crystals," Aero whistled, peering inside. "Whew, got plenty of demand for those these days up in Canterlot, what with enchanted amulets and totems being used more and more each year. You could make a good deal of bits off of this." He picked up one of the crystals, holding it up to the stream of sunlight coming in from the doorway. "Daaaaang. High-grade quartz like this would absolutely be snatched up on the market."

...

...

...Okay. Apparently they're rich now. Thanks, random abandoned freight car that Aero decided to loot. Pretty heckin' convenient for you to be around.

"Well then," Aero sniffed, tossing the quartz back into the crate, "I suppose we could load these crates into the unused space behind you in the passenger car."

"Oh geez, he's actually following through with the looting."

"Shush, Emily," Starlight mumbled. "Let's just hope he doesn't get too greedy. We could probably make good use of some of those crystals ourselves."

Aero turned to Starlight. "Hey, you can do magic. Wanna help carry some?"

"Uhhh... sure!" Starlight lit Splinter again, grasping several crates in her aura and hopping out of the car. It'd be a little tough actually getting the crates in, but this was something she could manage.

"What, are you gonna crack open the roof like a can of sardines, or-- ohhhh, okay. You shrunk the crates."

"Yup," Starlight hummed, reversing the spell once the crates were inside. "It's useful, but I'm pretty sure it's deadly if used improperly."

Aero's muffled voice echoed from the boxcar. "Huh. Well, that's neat," he poked his head out the doorway. "Some of these crates came from the company I used to work for!"

Starlight cocked her head. "Oh? And what's that?"

"Whirlwind. They were founded years ago as a manufacturing powerhouse during the war. Given how I was employed by 'em not too long ago, I can definitely say that they're still alive and kickin'."

"Ohhhhh--" she nodded, taking another crate from the car. "That Whirlwind. Wasn't their main product line some sort of airplane?"

"Yup, the Whirlwind Whirlybird, if I recall. I don't know my history that well, but I remember seeing a replica of one up on display somewhere. Biiig machines, I'll tell ya that-- I'm pretty sure their wingspan is longer than both our railcar's and this boxcar's lengths combined!"

Starlight nodded again, chucking the crate into the back of the train and letting it expand. "Sure sounds interesting, Aero. Does Whirlwind still make planes today?"

"Can you two please hurry up?" Emily groaned, "Just get the crystals and knock the boxcar off the rails or something! Hearing about all this history is interesting and all, but we kinda have something to do."

"Come again?" Aero hopped out of the boxcar. "Didn't hear all that well there. Something about Whirlwind still making planes, right?"

Another nod.

"Ugh! Come o--"

"Yeah, yeah they do. These days it's mostly passenger jets and stuff, though."

"Star, if you don't hurry up, I'ma try forcing back control of myself!"

Starlight rolled her eyes at the girl's complaining. "Neat. Uh-- anyways, how many more crates are there? We're... kinda in a rush still."

Aero glanced back, craning his neck for a better view into the boxcar. "Ehhh some two, maybe three more crates? It's hard to tell from this angle, but I think you grabbed most of 'em already. How's space on our own train?"

"Still plenty," Starlight walked past, grabbing the last few crates. "What are you planning to do with these? Besides just selling them, I mean."

"Keep 'em. Though, I might sell a few just to get rid of the surplus, given... y'know, how much we've got. We could split the spoils if you'd like, to be honest. I can't imagine ever needing this many crystals in my lifetime."

Emily nodded, feeling control of her body beginning to seep back. Starlight's magic fizzled away with one final flick of the wrist, sending the final crates tumbling into the railcar. "Thanks! I don't think I can fit very many in my backpack, thou--"

"You don't have to bring all of your share with you!" Aero laughed. "I'll just store yours away somewhere, and if you ever need more, just swing by and grab some from storage."

Starlight breathed a sigh of relief.

"Let's get going now," the stallion continued, walking past. "Canterlot's still a long way from here. Still need to figure out how we're gonna get around the freight car, though. Any ideas?"

"Any--" Emily paused, a wide grin spreading across her face. "Hey Star, can you explode things?"

"Making things explode is quite dangerous, Emi. I know what you're thinking. No."

"Whyyyyyy? C'mon, it doesn't have to be that destructive!"

"Ask Aero about it," Starlight grumbled. "See what he thinks about it. Though, I guess I'd best figure out the optimal way of removing the freight car myself in the meantime. Let's see..."

Starlight's words quickly devolved into a low muttering of ideas. As for Aero....

"Hey, you wanna go to Canterlot or not?" he called from the cab, waving a hoof. "Come on! We'll just shunt this thing for a bit 'till we have an idea."

Emily nodded, breaking into a sprint and leaping onboard. She poked her head through her open window, glancing at the freight car. Maybe they could float it off the tracks first, and then explode it!

"Riiiight. What's with you and being attracted to destruction? First, it was bugging me about fire spells, then it was the lasers, and now this?"

"Explosions are fun. Case closed."

"HHHhhhhhhfine. I'll explode the freight car. You happy now?"

"Yup!"

"I swear, Emi, you've got a thicker skull than even the worst of the nobles I've dealt with back in my day."

Emily grinned. "Hey, Aero--" she called, "How about we lift the freight car off the rails? I already moved a buncha heavy crates, so what's a few tons more of wood and steel?"

"Ar--" Aero sputtered, looking over his shoulder at the girl. "Are you sure about that? The weight difference between a crate of unpolished quartz crystals and the car that was carrying them is far more than just a few tons!"

"Sure I'm sure," Emily smirked. "Starlight Glimmer's got this handled."

"I... uh... okay then? Just be careful out there. It's a lot--"

"--heavier than I think it is? Yeah, I know," Emily brushed off the stallion's worries. "Again, S-I can handle it. Don't worry!"


"Emi, I'm worried for you."

Oh, be quiet, Star. This was a perfect opportunity for the mare to practice some high-level stuff, anyway! There's really nobody else around save for Aero, and if needed, he could probably report the explosion as some kind of railway accident!

"Whatever. I hope you pay me back with enough of those crystals to make me a new body. Don't mind me while I steal your body again."

Wait, what?

If the previous times when Starlight took over felt like going numb all over, this time felt more like she was getting sucked out of her own body through a straw.

"'Kay, gimme an explosion size," Starlight deadpanned, "I'll have to move it further away if you want a big one."

"If you want a small boom then make a small boom, grumpyhead. I'll be quiet for you."

Small boom it is, then. Starlight took a deep breath, focusing on the presence of the freight car. She'd have to be wary about the location of Aero as well-- there'd always be the off-chance that he could get injured in the process. Slowly, her mana began to leech out of Splinter, snaking over the exterior surface of the looted car. The tendrils flattened out once they connected on the opposite end, fully enveloping the structure.

She closed her eyes. Now came the hard part: lifting it. With how long it'd been since she last put herself under such magical strain, she'd have to be extra careful about it. One slip-up and it'd be the end of everyone here.

The freight car groaned as the mare began to lift. Rusty wheels long-since fused to the tracks broke free for the first time in ages with an ear-splitting screech, with one wheel even breaking free of the rest of the vehicle entirely! But that wasn't something to be focused upon. Starlight concentrated harder, cutting her attention away from all sense apart from the temporary bond she had with the now-levitating car.

And now, the part Emi'd been waiting for; Starlight attached a secondary spell to the levitation, resulting in the surrounding aura of the freight car growing even brighter than before. Tentatively, she set it off to the side, away from the tracks. It'd be a complete disaster if the explosion was set off by any sudden movement. It'd probably be safer if she could find some sort of pit or valley to nestle it in... there.

The car lifted again, floating to the other side of the tracks and settling into a ditch. Starlight dispersed the levitation spell, letting the remaining aura of the secondary spell sink into the freight car's surface.

"That's an odd place to put an abandoned car," Aero shaded his eyes with a hoof. "Did you have a reason for--"

The explosion rocked the landscape, rattling Emily, Aero, and the train behind them to the core. If it weren't for Starlight's quick thinking and subsequent casting of a sound-dampening spell, they all probably would've gone deaf. Flaming pieces of steel lay scattered on the ground, with the airborne bits quickly being taken care of by a volley of lasers. A dark plume of smoke rose from what remained of the freight car at the center of the blast.

"--Oh."

"Anyway," Starlight hopped back onboard, setting the wooden buffer atop the tracks on fire as she passed. "We should probably get going now. Aero?"

"Y-yeah. Right."


The ride was pretty quiet from that point on. Aero hadn't uttered a single word since the explosion, and combined with the already-quiet hum of the electric motors carrying the railcar forward, the near-silence of the trip made for a nice break from everything that'd happened earlier. Emily sat in her seat, peering out the window at the passing scenery. Patches of farmland dotted the landscape, intertwined with empty grassland and rolling hills that seemed to alternate every few minutes in visibility.

Emily popped another candied apple piece in her mouth. "Admit it, Star. You enjoyed that."

"I did not!"

"That's a funny way of saying you liked blowing stuff up. C'mon, I know you loved the feeling of letting loose on that thing. You even set the buffer on fire afterward!"

"...Fine. I... I do admit I went a little overboard with the explosion itself."

Emily leaned back in her seat, folding her arms with a smirk. "There we go. Now then, are you satisfied with what you did?"

"...Yes."

Author's Note:

Can you find the lil' easter egg I hid?

And so, we end off arc 2|1 of Splintershard. I'll be taking some time to update other stories of mine, as well as writing out the next arc!

And holy heck was this a doozy of a chapter. Oh well, time to visit Canterlot! :raritywink:

As always, thank you for reading. :twilightsmile: