• Published 12th Feb 2021
  • 607 Views, 37 Comments

When the Stars Sleep - Sea Gnash



Have you ever wondered what happens when the sun sets, but the moon doesn't rise to take its place?

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2. Rest

~*~ Chapter 2 ~*~

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~*~ Rest ~*~

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The gentle sounds of wheels on track filled the train car which was only sparsely populated by ponies. The rhythmic 'ka-chunk's helped Twilight relax after the trek to the station from the library. For reasons she couldn't place her hoof on, venturing through the seemingly everlasting night felt even more nerve wracking than before. Perhaps it was the lack of word from the princesses, which added up to four days by that point, that was finally getting to her. Along with waking up to that same dark sky for so many mornings in a row.

It was a strange feeling being on that train. Maybe it was the extra bright lights keeping all the cars lit and holding the shadows that completely blotted out the windows at bay, the crisp sounds of the wheels, the other ponies around her or maybe just the mere act of being on the move, but something helped her feel relaxed in that moment. Like whatever it was she had been feeling bearing down on her finally wasn't there looking over her shoulder anymore. The soft weight of Spike leaning against her as he napped helped her feel she wasn't alone, with that sense of safety.

Across the table from herself sitting in the other booth, Fluttershy still appeared noticeably nervous, but Twilight could still sense the ride was helping her as well. At least, she hoped it was. Fluttershy had been so quiet during the whole event it was beginning to get harder to read her.

A twang of guilt suddenly passed over Twilight at that thought. She hadn't exactly been the most comforting friend, either. So wrapped up in her research and studies to try and find an answer to what was going on. She turned her eyes downward towards the table, a little scowl coming to her face.

“Uhm, Twilight?” came the gentle voice of Fluttershy, pulling Twilight's gaze back up to her friend. “Are you okay?”

The moment of rest and feeling of safety allowed Twilight's mask to slip just enough to allow her stress to show through. She didn't want Fluttershy worrying about her while she already had so much else to worry about, but there was no helping it once it was out.

“No, Fluttershy, I'm not.” Twilight closed the book resting on the table in front of her. She hadn't been able to focus on it anyway.

“You're worried about the princesses, aren't you?”

Twilight nodded. “Of course I am. But, I'm also worried about our friends.”

A slight pause hung between the two. In that moment images of a haggard Applejack still harvesting apples alongside Big Macintosh and a sleep-deprived Rainbow Dash still leading the pegasus watch members flashed through Twilight's mind. She had asked if they wanted to come with her, but the predictable answer came back. They were too busy to go on some adventure to Canterlot. At least Pinkie Pie seemed to still be her usual bouncy self, even if she also denied her invitation.

“Hopefully this trip will be enlightening. The royal library is the best source for all information in Equestria, after all,” stated Twilight, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

What came from Fluttershy next surprised Twilight. “I'm sure once we get to the castle, we'll see that everypony is okay. We might even find an answer and let all of our friends rest, too.”

It was an odd feeling having Fluttershy do the comforting and encouraging in a stressful situation for a change, but she was thankful for it. The shy mare was pretty perceptive despite her quiet nature and Twilight couldn't help but gain a faint little smile.

Another moment of silence came over them, but this time it felt more at ease and less like both of them were struggling to find something to say. It was a welcome bit of calm in an otherwise chaotic storm.

“Twilight?” asked Fluttershy, pulling Twilight's gaze back to her once more. “Don't push yourself too hard, either, okay?”

The words hit Twilight like a strangely comforting buck to the face and her smile gained a little bit more confidence behind it. “I promise.”

A smile came to Fluttershy next. That simple sight was enough to make Twilight's remaining stress slowly melt off. Even if what waited for them in Canterlot was an unknown and the possibility that it too was shrouded in the same blanket of shadow, their little pocket of space in that train car felt like a nice, safe little bubble.

Twilight regarded the book resting on the table in front of her. For once, she didn't actually feel like reading. She had spent so much time uselessly digging through irrelevant information already that returning to such an activity felt like it would ruin the sense of comfort she had just found herself with. Research could wait until they arrived at the castle.

Instead, she took to finding a more comfortable position in her booth for the remainder of the trip. The ride up to Canterlot from Ponyville only took a little over an hour, but it was hard to see just how much time was left without a visual reference. May as well take the chance to relax while things felt the safest they have had for some time.

As Twilight tried her best to get some much needed rest, she couldn't find herself able to settle down. Despite the feeling of safety the train brought, the other ponies around her gave off plenty of nervous energy she just couldn't shake away. As much as she had been trying to ignore them before, the break in conversation with Fluttershy allowed the voices of a family in the booth behind her to register with her brain. She knew eavesdropping wasn't the most polite thing to do, but she couldn't help herself.

“Mom, why do we need to leave? It's not that scary, just dark! I promised to play with Kettle Corn tomorrow!” complained the voice of a colt.

An exasperated sigh came from the mare directly behind Twilight. “I already told you, sweetie, there's just something not right happening and I don't want as to be around when things get worse. I'm sure everything will be better once we get to Manehattan, it has to.”

Twilight turned her eyes back to Fluttershy, the saddened expression on her friend's face telling her she was listening in as well. The nervous denial of the mother could be heard clearly and it reminded her of a few things she had overheard while passing by homes to the train station. While there were plenty of ponies taking everything in stride, or putting on a brave face at the very least, the average pony must be just like that family. She had noticed homes gradually getting locked up and left behind as the days passed.

“I'm with mom on this one, Mint,” started a filly sitting next to her mother in the same booth. “I'm not scared of the dark or anything, though. That crazy librarian in the tree probably tried casting some spell and it went wrong again. Ponyville was fine until she moved in!”

The words stuck into Twilight like an arrow, but she had to force herself from antagonizing an already shaken up teen. That family was scared and she was admittedly not without fault; a particular incident with the Want It, Need It spell came to mind.

With a calming breath, Twilight decided to focus on somepony else. A lone stallion sat in the corner of the booth furthest towards the back of the train car. She believed his name was Caramel, would make sense given the color of his coat. He appeared to be nervously scribbling down some notes in a journal sitting in front of him, though she was too far from his position to have the slightest chance at taking a peek.

She quickly lost interest in pony watching after that. Most were much the same, scared and alone or scared with family or friends. Most ponies she recognized and all of them were most likely heading to a city in the corners of Equestria. Though, given how little has been heard from other areas, she wasn't as sure of their escape from the darkness as they all seemed to be.

“They don't know what to do.”

The sudden words easily grabbed Twilight's attention and she once again turned to stare at Fluttershy. She must have noticed her wandering gaze.

“They think heading somewhere else will help them, like somepony is calling out to them and telling them it'll be okay,” stated Fluttershy in that same quiet and calm voice she always carried.

Twilight felt her thoughts crash into one-another like a pair of runaway carts. Fluttershy seemed to catch her surprise and lowered her eyes down towards the table.

“Sorry. You looked worried about them, so I thought that telling you what they might be feeling would help.” Fluttershy apologized, shaking Twilight from her daze.

“Oh, it's okay, Fluttershy. I was just surprised.” Twilight reached a hoof out to try and regain her friend's attention. “You just sounded so confident in your conclusion, I'm wondering how you came up with it.”

Fluttershy looked up to her once more, those nervous eyes commonplace even when things were particularly normal. “Uhm, well I-”

“Next stop, Canterlot Royal Station! If this is your destination, please prepare to disembark and remember to stay safe out there!” The sound of the conductor's voice filled the room and broke apart the pair's conversation.

A little groan came from the seat next to Twilight. The announcement had woken Spike up from his slumber next to her and he sat back up. She wrapped a foreleg around the dragon when it finally struck her to look out the window.

It was still pitch black, save for the bright lights hanging from the station platform's awning.

Author's Note:

Slightly shorter chapter this time, but hope you all aren't disappointed!

I want to give a quick heartfelt thanks to all of you who are enjoying this and giving your feedback. I've always been very nervous about my writing, or any creative works I try to pursue, but all of your kind words have really been a big boost to my confidence and self-esteem. Thank you all so much and I hope to keep these chapters coming at a somewhat regular pace! :heart: