The Ballad Of Glass: Spring

by Sir Hat

Chapter 1: Train Ride South

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Train Ride South

My stomach fluttered gently as I watched people storm around the train station. "So...who is this mare?" I asked as I rubbed my hands together, trying to bite away the frost that clung to the air. I looked around the icy train station in Storm Side, the college towering over the town and station below. "Singer?"

"Seamstress." My little brother corrected, the normal looking earth pony nodded slowly. "I think her sister is a singer. Famous in Manehattan if it's the same mare."

I looked down at my body, my jacket pulled tight against me, my pony legs wrapped up in a thick pair of slacks with my hooves capped off in a pair of thick leather boots. "Angle, does it ever bother you--"

"Yes. Every day of my life." Angle nodded quickly. "What's up?"

I stared at my brother with a bit of a frown. "I meant that I'm--"

"My brother? Oh yes, a nerd like you, oh boy." He started laughing gently. "You're talking about dad right? Because he's a pony, and you're a satyr?"

I let out a long sigh as the train started to pull into place, shooting steam high into the air and causing a sudden miniature storm in the covered station. "Like...I understand you, but what the hell happened to me?" I looked down my arms, lifting a hoof to get a better view of myself. "It still bugs me...." My father was a pony, my mother, a pony all the same. Yet somehow I'd come out different, a satyr in a houseful of ponies. "I'm never going to get an answer, am I?"

Angle rolled his eyes. "Look at your tail. Look at mine." He swept his tail around to my hoof. "See that?" Of course he was my brother, of course, we were the same family, but somewhere along the line something had changed. "Why don't you just ask him?"

I shook my head and stood up. "What am I gonna say? Hey dad, did mom cheat on you at some point? Or am I a science project?" I grabbed my bags as a pony started blowing a whistle and herding everypony onto the train. Ponies mixed with the occasional provincial or hybrid. "I'm probably just over thinking it. Probably just... turned into a pony one day after I was born...." I scratched my head and looked towards the train. "I guess it doesn't matter."

"You're right, it doesn't matter. You're my brother, and we'll love you all the same, satyr, or pony, or whatever you want to be. We'd love you even if you're gay!" He started to laugh slightly.

I rubbed my cold nose, the very tip freezing to the touch. "That's screwed up man. And it just bugs me some times, being different--"

Angle hopped off his bench, stretching his hooves and shaking his mane. "Oh jeez, you finally leave home and suddenly you're all contemplative and stuff." He walked over to my and hugged my across my stomach. "Go on, Glass, go make something out of yourself." He pushed off and stumbled back. "I'll take care of mom and dad while you're gone."

I huffed softly. "Go make something out of myself? I'm going to Ponyville... don't expect too much."

Angle's face snapped to an unamused glare. "You're such a downer. Mom said, go out, explore, have fun, and you're just so damn negative!" He stomped around towards the snowy mountains to the north. "Do you really want to stay here with the same mares, with the same stallions, each and every frozen day?"

I rubbed my arm and looked out through the glass roofed train station. "I guess not. Just nervous I guess." I bit my lip, "No...I know I'm nervous...just, trying to take my mind off it I suppose."

Angle turned to me with a smile. "Why? Ponyville is full of satyrs man, put your mind on that! You could meet a mare, you could get a job! Who knows, you might even learn how to have fun, you god damn stick in the mud!" Angle started laughing into a hoof. "Dude, you're getting put up by a fancy dressmaker, for free--"

"Work for stay." I corrected, hoisting my bag up. "And if I'm late, she'll probably send me back, so... I'm gonna get going." I turned to the train, stepping over the stone platform and into the line. I looked back at my brother, the younger earth pony strong and strange as ever. But as I watched him, that niggling little doubt started to creep back into my mind.

Why was I different? I could have been happy as a pony, but now I was just different. I never got picked on, there were always enough kids like me that no one cared that I was different. But I didn't like being strange. I didn't like having to talk with my mom and try to goad the truth out of her. Was I some bastard? Was I just something born different just because? Why would my dad change?

My thoughts were cut off as a pearly white glove pushed into my vision. A smiling satyr with a bright pink streak in her hair just stood there, hand out. "Um... ticket?"

I felt my cheeks heat up slightly. "Oh, sorry." I dug my hand into my pocket and slapped my ticket into her hand. "Really sorry--"

The mare laughed slightly and punched a hole into the bottom half. "It's a little warm."

I felt the burning in my cheeks spread across my nose. "Uh, yeah. Sorry. ... Pocket." As soon as the ticket met my hand again I jammed it into my pocket and stormed onto the train. I could feel a tail sweep the back of my leg, causing me to trip slightly. I felt a shiver shoot through my entire body. "Hey- alright...." I mumbled to myself, hurrying into the packed cattle-call seating.

I hated it. Ponies everywhere, no seats, only one spot left open for me. "Oh great...." I started off towards the seat, trying to ignore the talking ponies surrounding me. The constant chatter and noises of ponies started to grate. I shoved my bag up into storage, just as quickly flopping down in the open seat. I settled in, ignoring the squeaky seat and the pony to my side.

"Oh... hi Glass." A stern, almost husky voice cut into my life.

I bit down hard, already sure of who I'd had the displeasure of sitting next to. "Marin...hello." I crossed my legs, pushing my hoof lightly against the next row of seats. "How are you?"

"Dating again." She shot back, the both of us still refusing to make eye contact. "He's a lot bigger than you."

I pulled a sharp breath through my teeth. "Well knowing you, you'd need something big."

I felt something grab my shoulder. "Did you just call me loose!?"

I pushed the hoof on my shoulder away and turned to face my green ex. "Yes, yes I did. Apparently you are, why else would you sleep around so god damn much?"

The tiny green unicorn puffed out her cheeks. "You know, I needed a little attention too! And all you ever--"

"Can we just sit here, endure this, and part ways as soon as possible?" I begged, scooting away from her as much as I could. "Let's--"

I looked out into the isle, a passing drink cart suddenly started glowing. "That's fine!" Marin shouted, magically flinging a bottle into my forehead. It pinged off with only a modest amount of pain, and much less than the mare stomping over my lap. "I don't have to sit here and take this from you anyways!"

I held my head as the tiny mare shoved a hoof into my groin. "Marin, you bitch!" I shouted, trying to keep the mare from ruining me any further. I slid towards the window, narrowly escaping an angry hoof to the hip. "Why can you not be civil?"

Marin bumped the drink cart out of the way, shoving the satyr who'd taken my ticket into a row of seats. "Civil? I'll show you bucking civil!" Marin lit up her horn, yanking her bag off the rack and flinging mine into another passengers head. "There's your bucking civility!"

I covered my head as the room exploded. Shouts and screamed filled the air as the mare from the drink cart pushed my bag onto my lap and took a seat next to me. "Uh...who--"

"My ex...." I grumbled, rubbing my forehead with my fingers. "Long story there...."

The satyr next to me looked back at the crazed mare storming towards the next car. "Oh... Well, congratulations on getting out alive." Her laugh was sweet, honest. It brought a small, bittersweet smile to my face. "So, would you like something to drink?"

I took a deep breath, my laugh quickly fading as I thought of what to order. I pulled a few bit coins out of my pocket. "Whiskey...." I rummaged around my wallet and slapped down my ID with my coins.

The satyr rung her hands together nervously. "We don't serve alcohol on the train. Sorry."

I looked the perky redhead over. "Ah.... Then I should be fine." I put my stuff away and plopped my arms down atop my bag. "This is going to be a long ride."

The same pearly white glove shoved itself back into view. "Well, sorry to hear that. I'm Geo, by the way."

I felt a small candle strength warmth rest in my stomach. I took the mare's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Glass Work."

Geo smiled at me as she pulled away, back to her cart. "Well I'll see you around then. Bye."

I waved the girl away as she wandered off. "Bye...." I turned to the window, the train car slowly getting back to normal after my old mate's explosive outburst. "Oh gods.... It's going to be a long ride." The train, in agreence with my sentiment, started off. I watched as the train hub slowly chugged past. Ponies and provincials zipping past as the arctic world outside Storm Side came into view.

Our home, nestled in the mountains, covered by ice and snow. It reminded me just how far north we were. A border town, on the border with literally nothing. Only cold, snow, and wind chill were left past our mountain home. Yet somehow the greatest college since Canterlot was stuck out in the northern most city. But, our town was by far the most diverse. I looked around the train, hippogryphs, ponies, satyrs, humans, even a traveler from the lands past the frozen barrens, a deer, were calling this train home for the night.

"Yo." A griffon carefully sat down next to me.

I waved at him. "Hello."

Things went blissfully quiet again. For all the trouble Marin had caused me, I now had a perfect view of the constant rush of white as the train plowed on towards the Crystal empire. It would take hours, hours stuck beside a bird man, hours of sitting in this uncomfortably springy chair, hours of watching white nothingness zip past. All of this, just to try living somewhere away from the frost which I was so accustom to.

"Oh god...why did I leave?" I asked myself, leaning against the wall and staring at the rushing winter plains. I turned and looked at the griffon next to me. "Excuse me...have you ever been to Ponyville?"

The griffon turned to me with an unreadable birdish expression. "No." He turned to face the front with a snap, completely snuffing my conversation.

"Oh...well, never mind." I tapped my fingers on my bag and settled in again. "Riveting as always, bird man." I watched the white roll by, turning to grey, then to black. Time melted as I swung between consciousness. The long winter nights seemed to grow longer without the mountains or the candlelit halls of Storm Side. And I couldn't help but sleep. The worries I'd held, the apprehension in my body, it was terrifying, and at least in sleep I could escape it.

I was leaving home for what might be the last time. I was leaving the life I'd known, giving it all up for a chance in the sun. Giving it all up for a little sand, for the smell of coal and oil burning up. I was giving it up for the mare I'd be helping, and for a chance at living normally after my life of cold seclusion in Storm Side.

And the hollow feeling in my gut grew more and more as the white faded away into green. Crystal shoots jutting out of the ground to replace the occasional ice blasted rock in the plains. They made me feel worse than ever before. I was born three years after the return of the empire, and seeing how tall the spires that were once only nubs on the ground had grown was maddening. Eight teen years, locked up alone in the cold. Left to play with the occasional magic student or scholar.

"Hey, are you alright?" A voice clearly forcing itself to be quieter than it usually was poked my ear. "You're crying."

I snapped around, finding a burly looking stallion hovering his head where the bird man had been. "What? Am I?" I reached up and dabbed under my eyes. Sure enough a simple bit of water was clinging along the bridge of my nose. "Oh...so I am." I wiped off my eyes. "Just thinking is all, I'm fine."

The stallion stared at me, his frown lightening only slightly. "Well if you're sure...alright." He turned to his seat again.

I rubbed my eyes, turning back to the window as the world slowly rolled to a stop. An awkwardly unfamiliar train station plopping into view. I felt myself pop upright slightly, jarred awake by the obnoxiously plain station. "Oh.... I thought it would be crystal." I rubbed my mouth, slightly disappointed at the display. I turned and watched as a load of ponies got off, another smaller group getting on.

Everyone was leaving Storm Side, almost no one besides students went up north. It burned my guts a little, but the free seats meant I could finally take my bag off my lap. "Oh, that seat's taken I guess?" A warm voice asked, turning into a satyr with a glowing crystal mane. "It's fine--"

"Oh no, no, no, it's my fault." I grabbed the handle on my bag and pulled it back onto my lap. "It's my fault, really." I let out a deep sigh as the mare smiled at me. "Sorry, it's been a rather long day."

The mare sat down next to me, wrapped up in a strange looking purple uniform. "Trust me, I totally get it." She leaned back into her chair, something white on her shirt catching my attention. I tried to read it, the wording at an awkward angle and blurry. "Uh... are you looking at the tag or my girls?"

I felt my eyes force themselves wide open. A burning sensation landed right across my cheeks. "Oh- no no no the tag!"

The mare smiled at me. "I was playing around. Don't freak out that bad." She turned to face me dead on. "Guard cadet."

I mumbled to myself a bit. "Just had enough female abuse for the day, not really trying to- oh! Oh, that's where that's from!" I clapped my hands together, pointing at her with both fingers. "Crystal guard?"

The mare turned and straightened herself out as the train lurched forward. "The one and only." She looked around, drawing my attention to the ponies in purple. "Training starts in Summer, so everypony is getting ready to head out there."

I looked around at the mass of empty spaces, only occupied by one pony. "Wait...so, why'd you sit next to me?"

The mare looked around again, this time with a gently smirk. "These ponies, they're not too happy about me going along. Obvious reasons aside, I used to tag the crystal spires in the city."

"Oh!" I laughed, "that makes a little more sense." I covered my mouth as I laughed. "Tagging? Like with paint?"

The mare nodded, snickering slightly. "Yeah. They said I could either join the guard or I could work until I paid off all the damages. I figured I'd get to travel a little more this way."

The train ride seemed to kick off, the crystal fields burning away into green, then again into the mountains. "I know the feeling." I leaned back and rapped my fingers on the edge of my luggage. "Trapped in the ice for eighteen years, really feeds the wanderlust."

The mare pulled her hands up. "Oooh, wanderlust." She laughed gently. "You lusty?"

I started laughing my nervous laugh. "Not exactly what I meant."

"Oh lighten up-" the mare shoved me slightly, "-I'm just teasing."

I rubbed my arm, the girl's punch a lot more forceful than she intended. "I'm sure." I let out a shrill whine as I stretched out. "If you don't mind though, I'm going to get some sleep. All I can really do to pass the time anyways."

"Oh, so you're just going to leave me here?" The mare asked, putting a hand on my thigh. "You don't think I'm bored too?"

I coughed softly. "I uh- I... I'll just ask, are you hitting on me?"

The mare cocked an eyebrow. "No, I have my hand on your thigh because you've got a pug face."

I sighed loudly. "Well sorry to say I'm not really interested." I carefully pulled her hand away and placed it back on her lap. "Just got out of a crazy ordeal with my last mate, not really ready to dive head long into the next potentially unstable mare."

The mare made a sharp hissing noise. "Damn, you don't hold back!"

I nodded, a bit proud in my bluntness. "No ma'am, no I do not."

The mare smiled at me. "Well alright, but I'd still appreciate the company. Everyone is a little nervous, and having someone--"

I slid my hand down my luggage and over her lap, landing swiftly on her hand. I grabbed her hand in my own, giving her a soft squeeze, and getting a rougher one in return. "Traveling really is a bit scary, isn't it?" I chuckled to cover my own shifting grip. "You're only going to Canterlot, and only coming from the Empire."

The mare smiled at me, starting to falter in her extremely happy show. "Yeah.... Were you already on the train?"

I looked out the window, the dim grey mountainside overtaking the green flatland on our way up. "Storm Side to Ponyville. Maybe down to Saddle Arabia if things don't work out there."

The mare squeezed my hand hard. "Oh... sorry." Her jewelish mane glimmered slightly as she looked out my window. "Wait, so you don't have a place to go? How old are you?"

I took a deep breath. "Eighteen."

The mare tried to pull her hand away. "Oh! I'm really sorry, I didn't know--"

"It's fine. How were you supposed to know? I look young, I know." I eased my grip slightly, but kept her hand in my own. "Just be glad you have everything worked out in advance. Things, things get that much more scary when you don't know what's going to happen next."

The mare looked out the window. "Yeah-" she wrenched her hand, touching her wrist to my own, "-I get it."

I looked away from the climbing mountains and towards the now fidgeting mare. "My name is Glass."

The mare looked up at me, starting to get that perky energy back. "Oh, uh, Ruby." She squeezed my hand. "Your hand is kinda sweaty."

I stared at the mare softly. "So is yours."

"Well I'm nervous," she shot back, scratching the back of my hand slightly. "So... you're not going to Canterlot. You think we'll see each other again after this?"

I let out a long sigh, the mountains giving way to the broad overlook of the northern half of Equestria. Grand vistas of white, green, and now a burgeoning yellow-brown were taking over the lands. "Honestly, probably not."

Ruby squeezed my hand. "That sucks."

Things went quiet, time melting once again before coming to a dead stop in the vast Canterlot Central Station. Ruby squeezed my hand as hard as possible. "Well, this is me." I let her go, enjoying the smooth texture of her fingers dragging across my palm. "Thanks for keeping me company."

"Oh it was not--" I was cut off as something soft pressed up against my cheek. No noise, no warning, only a single soft adolescent kiss on the cheek. "What?"

Ruby pulled away. "Bye." I watched the purple bound mare step out, joining a rush of purple wearing ponies. I reached out ever so slightly before yanking my hand back and putting it on my bag.

"Oh...." I grabbed my free hand and squeezed it, already starting to miss the security of another body next to me. "Hmm, I hope she does well." I flexed my hand, nervously passing time as I waited to arrive at the last stop. I hadn't even realized the train was moving until we started on the down slope down Canterlot Mountain. "Oh Gods.... I hope I'm not late."

I clung to the edge of the waking world as the sun dipped low over the western mountains and the great White Tail woods. The trip down from Canterlot to Ponyville would cap off my day, and leave me weary and alone in an entirely new city. Excitement and panic fought in my stomach as the outside world grew to dark to see. But soon enough I'd be in Ponyville, and soon enough I'd be flung headlong into a new way of life, in a new town, new everything.

The train lurched to a stop, waking me from my twilight stupor. "Last stop for the night, Ponyville!" Next Chapter: Arrival Estimated time remaining: 3 Hours, 52 Minutes

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