• Published 3rd Apr 2023
  • 2,170 Views, 177 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.

  • ...

7 - Trouble in the Ranks

Skyline smiled toothily at a fellow bat pony. "Looking good."

"Feeling good." Pointed, then a bat pony, paced in place with a smile of his own. "It's... No offense to her, but it feels like I'm a princess now. I got my wings." He spread those new parts wide. "Even if I don't have my horn right now."

Pointed was wearing the traditional night guard armor. The chest plate gave him the form, and took away his horn. They weren't false princesses or princes, having but one, false, tribe. "You already know how to fly." It took him but a moment. "You're a changeling."

"Guilty?" That hadn't been a new fact around there for a while. "What brings that up all of a sudden?"

"You knew how to fly the whole time." He hesitated then, considering that. "But changelings fly way different." He flapped his arms in his best, poor, imitation of a changeling buzzing their wings, then a more... batlike flapping. "Different. How'd you learn how to do both?"

"Practice." Skyline lifted an ear. "Did you expect some kind of crazy changeling magic? We don't have one for that. We turn into something, we have to figure out how it works. Like when I was Luna that one time, I didn't know how to Luna. I couldn't have patrolled dreams."

"Wait..." He prodded Skyline firmly. "That wasn't a drunken dream? You did that?! You mad idiot... She could have torn you in half for doing that! If we... The whole gang of us woulda been on you after she had a turn, if we were... thinking straight."

"Luna is a kind princess."

Piercing nodded at that idea. "She is... One of many reasons I signed up for this job." He flapped his new wings. "Stop distracting me. You're my hookup."

"Hook up?" He peered at his squad mate. "I won't break rules for you. What rule would you even want broken?"

"None of them." Piercing pointed back at his flapping wings. "Show me how these work."

Skyline spread his own wings. "One moment." Such training would require going outside, and he was on duty. That meant he had to put on his armor properly. With a fresh wash of heat, he was dressed for the occasion. "There we go. We should check if anypony else wants flying lessons."

"Did somepony say flying lessons?" came from about fifteen feet away, a gangly earth pony rushing to join them. "I could use one."

Piercing swatted at the new pony with a wing. "Not without your armor you don't."

"Oh, right. Be right back." He hurried off to get properly suited, and gain his wings.

Skyline led what ended up being four hopeful souls outside. "Now, being bats, the easiest way to start flying is to start from high up. But, we're not bats." He hopped in place. "We have strong legs. What can strong legs do?" He didn't really wait for them to think about it. "They can jump. A good jump is more than enough to get the whole thing going. Just like a pegasus."

One of them raised a hoof. "I've seen a pegasus take off without jumping." Another muttered in agreement.

"Practice, and strong wings. You can work to get both of those. Until you get there, a good jump makes up the difference. You all know how to jump, right?" That prompted most of them to try their jumping skills. None of them seemed unable to do that at least. "One thing..." He spread his wings flat. "Any of you know if you can strengthen wings you only... get with that armor, or do you start over each time you put it on?"

On the way out of the castle, Skyline stopped by their commander's office to tell him what was going on.

"Thank you for informing me, and the initiative." He waved them on. "Enjoy your flights. Oh, take Lemon Patty with you."

Skyline had never met a Lemon Patty... But one of his gang knew where they'd be. A mare staring in a mirror and flapping her wings. She was clearly new with them. "We're going for flight practice. They have assigned you to take part."

Lemon whirled on Skyline and the others. "Oh! Um... I'm not that good..."

"That's the point," laughed out Pointed. "None of us are, or we might not need the practice. Let's use these things." He jumped and flapped and even managed an awkward gliding flight of a few feet ahead. "Woah! I did it!"

Skyline patted his friend with a wing on the way past. "Exactly what I was getting at. A good jump makes starting this a lot easier. All things with wings have a few options. They jump, they run, they fall, or they do some combination of all of those. The ones with the strongest wings just flap, but don't assume you're starting there." He folded his leathery wings in tight. "We are bat ponies. Our wings have different advantages."

"Like what?" asked Lemon. "Um, sir?"

Well, he was the leading soldier of that drill. He accepted it. "We're maneuverable. We could outdo the Wonderbolts if we practiced hard enough. Once we're in the air, these bad boys can turn us around and make turns bird-wings just can't match. Unfortunately... That is not true of any of you right now. Let's learn the basics first."

So he had them running and jumping to get wind in their wings. False starts had them tumbling, often laughing it off and trying again, harder. The 'successful' launches had their own problems, with soldiers sailing without being able to properly stop or steer. They careened wildly out of control, with Skyline chasing and shouting orders at them.

Bruises were the call of the evening, but spirits were high. They had taken flight!

Piercing was one without many bruises, a fact Skyline noticed. "You seem to be doing well."

"I'm copying you." Piercing lifted his head into a proud strutting motion. "You're not the only creature that can copy what they see."

Skyline pointed away from himself. "Yeah? Show it. Fly to the castle." The castle wasn't too far away, across a clearing of grass. "Go on."

Piercing took a galloping step, but launched himself into the air on the second hoof fall, leaping into the embrace of his wings on the air. He was aloft, carrying himself on his own power. He flapped for lift and control, but he was controlling it.

Skyline clapped as he watched the basic flight across the field, and others began watching with impressed features. "Very good." He trotted over to meet up with Piercing. "You really were watching and learning. I'm impressed."

"Thanks." He folded his wings back against himself, on the ground properly. "That feels so good... How do you ever not fly?"

The demonstration got the rest of them back to trying even harder. Skyline watched with a little smile. He'd have them at least in the air at the end of the night, and that wasn't a bad bit of progress. "I'll be telling the commander how well you all did. You should all be proud tonight." They cheered as one, and one crashed with joy.

The practice would continue.

"Sister." Celestia considered her smaller sister. "Your guards."

"What about them? Are you jealous?" Luna adopted a smug grin. "They are very loyal."

"Very loyal... But also a bit... out of fashion."

Luna's smile turned into a scowl instantly. "What do you mean? They look regal and imposing!"

"Which are two qualities the modern Equestria doesn't strive for," gently argued Celestia. "These are kinder times."

"Your city was just attacked not long ago! Kinder times..." Luna stomped with a loud equine snort. "You're such an idealist, sister."

"Always was, always will be." Celestia didn't even try to argue that. "And it's got us this far..."

"I do not mean to belittle your accomplishments, sister mine... But my guards do not pose a risk to what you have built." She ruffled her wings on her back. "We have two guards, and they get along just fine."

"Sister... I understand what you are doing. You don't want to stand in my shadow."

"I am your shadow," hissed Luna, wings popping out. "I am the shadow to your brilliant light. It feels silly to even argue that.

Celestia took a soft breath, calming herself, and perhaps giving the moment a chance to deflate. "Poorly spoken on my part. You, dear sister, are a beloved shadow. You watch over our dreams, and guard the night."

"As do my guards." She inclined her head. "Or do you imagine all attacks will come when your sun is out to greet them?"

"Most..." She sighed out. "But that is aside the point. I'm not seeking to disband your guards. They are good ponies, and one changeling."

Luna huffed at that. "About that! The changelings demolished your guards, and I recruited one into mine. Where do you come off saying your way is better?"

"I wasn't trying to imply that." Celestia walked to a window and pointed through it. "Look."

Luna hastened to her side. "What am I looking at?"

"The city, our city." Walking along, smiling ponies went about their business, safe and happy.

"What... about them?" Luna raised a brow at the scene. "I am doing my part to keep them safe, sister. As are the guards."

"I made the same misake..." Celestia pointed harder. "Even this city carries that stain... I'm glad it's passing. Once, only unicorns lived here, if they weren't one of my guards. And my guards, a monolith, seemingly all one pony, repeated endlessly. Intimidating and strong."

Luna looked at the ponies with a new angle. Most were unicorns, but not all. Some pegasi and earth ponies were in the mix, all going about their day. "How did you change then?"

"I stopped forcing it. Guards."

The door swung open, two ponies poking their heads in. One was a unicorn. The other an earth pony. One a stallion, the other a mare. "My guards show what I want, and I want a unified nation, not of one thing, but of celebrating all that makes us grand, which is every tribe, and every gender."


Celestia gently waved for them to go, and they did. "This is a change. I was wrong, but I have admitted it."

"But..." Luna paced in place. "My guards are..."

"A lie," finished Celestia. "We can't celebrate a tribe that doesn't exist."

"There is another fix for that, sister mine..."

Celestia raised a brow at that. "What would the other fix be? You've... made me cautiously curious."

Luna brought her forehooves together. "Excellent. If the bat ponies were to become a true tribe, then we can celebrate them. All that remains is to make them a reality."

Celestia flipped her wings out, only for them to slowly refold. "Sister... How do you plan to do that? The making of an entire tribe is no small feat you are proposing... To start, you need a pony of the new tribe."

Luna cracked a coy smile. "I have one. You met him. A good and loyal pony."

Celestia went through the guards she had met. They were all fake... Except... One who didn't wear the enchanted armor. "They aren't a pony! No offense to them... But they aren't!"

Luna shrugged her shoulders. "Have we confirmed if changelings and ponies can make foals or not? If they can, and he remains as a bat pony... perhaps..." She cycled her hooves, working through the scheme in her head. "And then we have a new tribe, to celebrate."

Celestia deflated with the powerful sigh she pushed out. "Sister... Before you get too far into these dreamings, have you considered speaking to him? This is a matter that involves him quite severely. To do it without his leave is unthinkable. Without his willing consent, it musn't be pursued." She raised a hoof. "Actually... We can't get that consent."

"Why not?" Luna scowled as she stood up.

"We're his boss, Luna. This sort of question can't come from us. He may say yes to not be fired, and that is hardly the position to start this from... He would be your cherished guard even if he declined, I hope?"

Author's Note:

Bat flapflaps are complicated, but agile! Then things take a turn. What do you think of Luna's mad plan?

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