• Published 29th Dec 2020
  • 297 Views, 64 Comments

Under the Black Moon - Cloud Ring

Solid Line, young unicorn with suppressed dreams of greatness and being closer to her chosen Moon, gets a dream, and answers the calling.

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Chapter 13: Confrontation


The future resounded and fluttered, collapsing — Gentle Touch remembered that the coffee would be too cold, but it would have to be drunk, because money might still be useful — and then it became present.

She stood at the train window, looking out over the low, flat-topped hills. As far as the eye could see, each of them was dominated by a snow-white arch of the power system, enveloped in a crystalline pink glow. Few of the ponies, knowing the risks, dared to settle here — even now pink lightning connected two arches thousands of steps apart, spilled needles along the channel it had found, and the thin snow cover melted along the line, exposing the scorched earth.

Melody was pink too... or will she be? She shook her head, remembering a tall not-quite-pegasus with slender translucent wings and a dull shimmering band of chitinous armor along her spine and sides; herself falling silent for a long time but then answering questions almost before they were spoken.

There were still three cycles left before the meeting — one and two thirds by train, the rest on hooves through the snow desert. Her left side ached; Gentle stepped over and looked at it — the laceration was not there yet, and in her eyes there weren’t any dancing blinding sparks from the snow that she never saw before; but still she blinked thrice, and the unease subsided.

She headed for the train compartment and bumped into Cursory Streak coming out of it; recalled this would happen and tried to step back before the collision, with no success. The pegasus darted to the side, took a befitting distance of five steps, and with slightly parted wings turned to face Gentle Touch.

“We should update our strategy,” Cursory said, her voice on the verge of faltering, like a solid enough lake ice that will be under Gentle's hooves two cycles later.

Gentle tilted her head, “I'm sorry, but what is there to discuss, again? We will get to her, take a look around the place and figure out what we can use for protection from the Red. As we were going to do.”

“And also on the way you’ll be injured,” Cursory crouched down on her front legs, spread her wings, and a barely noticeable pearly wave rolled over them, ”And I won't be fast enough to cover you.”

Gentle shuddered, stepped over with her left hind leg; there was no reason yet for the pain she felt, or will feel, and yet… she replied, stepping forward, “Yes. But you remember that I will be okay, and I will heal this scratch just fine.”

Cursory raised an eyebrow, but Gentle persisted, “A scratch, I said! And then…”

She blushed; Cursory did not look away, breaking the beat of silence, “That's it. I also remember what will happen next, and... that's why we should stray from the path.”

You dislike it that much? Gentle almost asked.

She lowered her ears and closed her eyes for a couple of strokes, looking into Cursory's web rainbow. The volition to correct the mistake, to be better than she is; the neverending desire to shield protected ponies from any harm; and the awkwardness of what was yet to come that they both shared. Gentle stomped, and replied with a huff, “Let's say I understand what you feel. But what do you suggest then?”

“Get off the train at the nearest station and go wake up Solid Line.”

Gentle shook her head, but Cursory continued, insisting, “Do you remember how Melody asked about Solid Line? This pony is important to her, so everypony will be better off if we return to Melody’s place as a trio; as a full team, not as two ponies arriving only to leave in vain.”

“But what about the protection? The doubles will find us, if not now, then...”

Cursory Streak smiled, “We will win. We've won already.”

Gentle Touch shook her head, “Even if we did, next time they will take past mistakes into account. And if we will attract the attention of the Red itself...”

“Then Solid Line may have her own word to say. Three of us will be stronger.”

“But how?! She has slept for square nines of rounds! In her time, nopony knew the common practices!”, Gentle cried in reply.

“Until you wake her up, you will not know,“ Cursory stepped closer, “She is the Black Moon’s Herald. Do you know anything about them?”

Gentle swallowed and looked away.

“I do not know either,” Cursory said, her voice soft in an instant, “But in my eyes, the team should be complete. This is right and... the way it should be. Even at my station it’s not recommended to fly for an issue with a roster that’s less than full. And then you will not be injured. That’s even more important.”

Gentle lowered herself, covered her head with her front hooves, and sighed; then quietly replied, “Well. Let it be your way.”

She clearly felt that they were making a mistake, but there was no strength to argue with the elder.

She was a small, weak and defenseless pony, and the coffee that Cursory brought her was ice cold, as she knew already.

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