• Published 3rd Apr 2023
  • 1,941 Views, 162 Comments

A Change in Darkness - David Silver

Bat ponies were a convenient hiding place. Few knew of their true nature, if they even really existed, so he could pretend to be one and get few hard questions. A pity one princess knew more than most, and would not be casually brushed aside.

  • ...

1 - The Few, The Proud

He considered the poster, a line of four ponies with tufted ears and rough wings. Celestia's guard came from all tribes, but Luna's... They were all unified. Did she not hire any others? The poster offered no such information, just a call to join her elite squadron.

He shook himself out vigorously, keeping the flames to a muted rustle, like embers on a stubborn fire. His ears fluffed up near the ends and wings ruffled nervously at his side, furry instead of feathery. A cutie mark of a compass crossed with a screwdriver didn't change. He hadn't been born with it, but it felt right to him. "Maybe..." He turned from the poster and strode towards the proper street. "A new start."

The palace was in sight, glowing in the dark of the night. The rest of the city wasn't far behind. Canterlot was a true city, awake at all hours. Like him, the evening promised no rest. He spread his wings, as much to test them as restless energy within them. It would be his largest test... Maybe he should work up to it? He diverted away from the castle towards where sound thumped rhythmically in the ground.

A large pony stood in front, nodding at each party-goer in kind. He thrust out a hoof in front of a lanky one. "You're too young."

The colt drooped, called out. "Aw..."

"Come back in a few years, champ." The bouncer sent the young pony away. "Next." That meant it was Skyline's turn and he came up to be allowed inside. "Huh." The bouncer looked Skyline over piercingly. "Nice costume."

"Costume?" Did he know?!

"You look like one of Luna's guards." He laughed as if the very idea were outrageous. "Hey, nice look. Go on in." He stepped aside and waved for Skyline to pass.

Skyline trotted past him into the strobing and thumping interior. He was in a nightclub and the party was in full swing. Techno beats thumped so deep and loud that his bones felt like they were shaking. A unicorn mare came up to him with a big smile and light sticks shaking in her magic. "Hey! Looking good!" Some others might have agreed, but it was hard to hear them. "Let's party!"

Skyline hadn't come to party, but shaking and gyrating actually had a lot of perks. It meant he was moving his body around. It meant he had a reason to flap his wings, and learn to avoid slapping them against other ponies and objects. He could look the utter fool, and it would just be taken as part of the festivities. In short, as places to get a first grasp on his new form, it was a great place.

That he could feel a tickle of delicious affection was a nice little cherry on top. He supped on it and traced it back to the same unicorn that had greeted him. Her eyes were watching his dancing, locked on his exotic wings and tufted ears. She liked what she saw, and that was impossible to hide from a changeling. She had seemed friendly, perhaps a little supper was in order...

He danced with her. "Do you live close by?" She did, and wasn't opposed to a little visit. Food, in the form of snacks and a nice big bite of love, left Skyline to depart her apartment in early hours of the morning, satiated on many fronts. He didn't bother waking her up, that would just lead to more heartbreak. It was better she forgot about him as soon as she could.

It was about four in the morning, so he was sure of by a clock out on the street, ticking faintly. She would still be awake, in theory...

But did he dare to approach her yet?

He flapped out his wings in a sharp strike and brought them down, lifting into the air. Skyline ascended into the dark sky, alone save the few other flyers. Canterlot was a unicorn city, meaning the skies were often, relatively, clear of other ponies. A pity he wanted to see one... "Where are you?" he grumbled as he looked about in slow circles around the city. "You can't hide that well..." But he didn't see any. No bat ponies around, save for himself. Where were they hidden?

With not a single one in sight, he landed just in front of the castle, his wings coming to a smooth halt on top of him and tucking in firmly. "Well... Not many other choices then." He'd have to try, or give up, and he didn't feel like giving up. He marched up to the front door of the castle and its two Celestia guards standing stoically.

One inclined her head at Skyline. "Luna's?"

Skyline brought up a hoof to cough into. "I'm applying, to join her."

"Oh." One of the two guards, a male, turned. "Follow me. I'll be right back." The female nodded, and let him go to lead Skyline inside. "She may be dream patrolling at the moment. We can only check. If she is, you'll have to come back at a different time."

"Of course." Skyline looked left and right, taking in the art pieces on either side. Sometimes paintings or little statues, and other times, great stained glass displays that were muted by the late night, or was that early morning? It depending on one's view of it. They were pushing into a place with less windows. Lavender hung from the ceiling in a soft smell. "Nice..."

"She loves it." The stallion marched up to a door and knocked gently. "I have a visitor for Luna."

The door cracked open to reveal the shape of a bat stallion. "On what--" He slowed to a stop, seeing Skyline. "Hm? Hm. One moment." He closed the same door, his hoofsteps heard retreating.

Celestia's guard shrugged. "Sounds like you may be in luck. You know the way back?" He pointed the way they had just come.

"I can find my way out, thank you." Skyline dipped his head at the guard.

"Very good. I should get back to my post." The guard trotted off, confident that all was well.

Skyline sat on his haunches patiently, not that he had to wait long. The door slapped open, glowing with Luna's magic as it struck the far wall. The owner of that magic strode into sight. "What?" Her eyes fell to Skyline. "I see..."

Skyline scrambled to his hooves. "Your Highness." He dipped his head at her. "I saw one of your--"

"--And you thought to apply," she cut in, finishing the thought. "There are numerous problems with this... Let us start, as they say, at the start."

An armored bat pony, the first, pushed past her, taking up a defensive position in front of Luna. "I can have them jailed, Your Highness. Say the word."

"Let us not be too hasty." Her eyes wandered over Skyline. "First, what tribe of pony do you claim as your own?"

Skyline took a step back, just to have the bat pony match him exactly. Escaping felt increasingly unlikely. He had made a mistake... but what mistake? "I apologize if I have offended... I just wanted to join--"

"--Yes, yes." Luna waved that away. "I gathered that. Answer my question, kindly."

Skyline twirled his ears back. "I... have no tribe."

Luna perked her ears in kind. "Truly? Not the answer I expected. Every pony has a tribe, given to them by birthright. By what force can you lose yours?"

"He's lying." The pony drew a spear from his side, clenched firmly in his jaws. "I can draw the truth from him."

"I have no pony tribe," hissed out Skyline, raising his hooves. "That is the truth."

"At ease." Luna moved around her protective guardian. "I hear no lies. If you have no pony tribe, then what sort of tribe have you?"

Skyline shrank back. "Another... I am not an enemy."

"So elusive." Luna placed a metal-clad hoof on his quivering nose. "And so scared... There is only one creature I can imagine that could appear in that form, speaking of things the way you do... Are you a changeling?"

Skyline tensed, which was answer enough for her. She smiled gently. "Little lost changeling. Are you here to spy on me? Do you hope to gain the favor of your queen by whispering secrets to her?"

"Stand back," barked the guard. "I'll protect you!"

"He is far more scared of us than you could be of him." Luna was cool and collected. "Do you have a name?"

"Skyline," he admitted. "Are you going to jail me? Banish me?" He swallowed thickly. "Hurt me?"

"Why?" Luna tapped Skyline on the shoulder. "Also, liar. Changelings are named for insect things. Skyline certainly isn't that. who gave you that name? You?"

Skyline squeaked at that. "I am not lying!"

"Watch your tongue." The bat guard swung his staff dangerously close to Skyline. "You stand before Princess Luna, ruler of the night."

"Gentle." Luna pressed the spear away, carrying its deadly point away from Skyline. "I wish words, not blood."

"Your Highness." Though on guard, he lowered his weapon, glaring with clear intent.

Skyline swallowed audibly. "I... left. I don't like the queen, not even a little. She gives few reasons to like her... Ponies have pony names... I picked a pony name."

"A fine pony name." Luna brought up both her hooves to Skyline's cheeks. "Tell me what it means, to you. To nocreature else. It's your name, only the meaning you hold for it has any meaning at all."

"The sky, ma'am. It is the most precious place to me." Skyline dared to glance upwards, but only the ceiling was there. "That is where freedom is, the one line I couldn't pass, ma'am, until I took the name. I am Skyline, crosser of the line in the sky. With its passing, I am free... to try, to succeed..."

"To fail," added Luna. "Freedom is a terrifying thing, as is the sky. You can go so high, but fall so low. It is vast and empty, but so full of possibility..." She squeezed Skyline's trembling face gently. "What did you see, out there, on the horizon? What line do you imagine crossing, coming here?"

"I wish to join your guard, ma'am." He swallowed thickly, feeling so dry. "I wish to prove my worth."

Luna released him, allowing him to retreat a little from her. "Ask my guards, I am strict... but fair. I love them as my own, but they need to follow my directions and please me, or I will eject them." She brought a wing down on the guard that stood there, ready. "One thing... This is a unicorn."

The guard colored sharply. "Ma'am!" He didn't look like a unicorn. He had no horn. And unicorns lacked fuzzy bat wings.

"It is the armor," explained Luna. "Those who serve me are given it, and with it, the shape, which tells the rest of Equestria who they have sworn loyalty to. If, one day, I found disfavor, he would return to a unicorn, and I would reclaim his armor."

Skyline staggered back, falling onto his rump. "So..."

"So you gave yourself away before the first move, I'm afraid." Luna looked far more amused than much anything else. "You were trying so hard to be clever..."

"Ma'am, um... Does that mean... Um." Words were so hard to find just then. "Did I fail?"

"Mmm, I wouldn't go that far... Tell me, do you speak the truth? Do you wish to serve me?"

"Yes, ma'am!" He formed a sloppy salute, sincere but without practice.

Luna swatted the hoof down. "You'll insult them looking like that. Listen to the instructions of your new peers. They'll teach you how to behave. Finish learning, and you may serve in my presence. First, learn." She turned away, walking without further instruction.

The guard stepped forward. "You heard her. You're a recruit now. Finish and you will be given a set of armor and a chance to make your vows. Until then, you are just a hopeful recruit."

Skyline dared a little smile. "Yes, Sir." It would be the first of many times he uttered those words.

Author's Note:

Welcome to a new tale! Come, walk with me a little while. Do you remember Skyline? We saw him in another world, another place, but, like others, he exists in a few maybes. Let's see what he gets into, hm?

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