Trains, Carriages and Airships

by JohnPerry

Chapter 2: Chapter Two

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Chapter Two

“Welcome to Salt Lick City!” the station attendant cheerfully greeted the three travelers standing before him. “Granted, it ain’t much of a city now, but just you wait! This town’s gonna be a-booming and a-bustling before you know it!”

Twilight, Applejack and Rainbow Dash looked around at their surroundings. To say the town wasn’t much of a city was a colossal understatement. It was a fraction of the size of Ponyville, the entire town consisting of little more than a single street which stopped after only a couple of blocks. It was barely any bigger than Appleloosa – in fact, the layout of the town and the overall look were very similar, being located in the southwest region of Equestria.

But what made Salt Lick City notably different from Appleloosa was its namesake; salt. The town sat in the shadow of a series of pink and white cliffs which contained some of the biggest salt deposits in the world. And even from miles away, the smell of the Great Salty Lake was plainly evident to the three mares.

“Ugh…” Dash groaned, holding a hoof over her nose. “It smells so…salty.” Her eyes were watering slightly at the sheer concentration of the stuff in the air.

“Biggest salt producer in all of Equestria!” the station attendant boasted, beaming. We’ve got rock salt, sea salt, strong salt, light salt, white salt, pink salt and gray salt! Care for a free sample?” he asked, pulling out a tray with several cubes of salt, each with slight variations in crystal size and color.

“Um…maybe later,” Twilight answered uncertainly. “But right now we really need some help.”

After they had realized that their train carriage was moving in the opposite direction from last night, the three ponies had rushed up the train to find the conductor, who wasn’t even the same pony from the day before. He explained to the panicking mares that they had slept in a carriage destined for Salt Lick City, going so far as to point out a small sign next to the door of their carriage with the words “Destination: Salt Lick City” that the three mares had failed to notice the day before. Now they were standing on the platform, their luggage sitting in a pile next to them as they tried to figure out their next course of action.

“Shoot, I’m real sorry to hear about that,” the station attendant said sympathetically after Twilight explained their situation. “I always said they need to make ‘em signs in the carriages bigger, for ponies to see ‘em!”

“Well it’s no use griping over it now,” Applejack said sternly. “Could you tell us when’s the next train out of here?"

“Not for another week, I’m afraid,” the station attendant answered apologetically. “But there’s a couple of nice places to stay in town if you’re-“

A WEEK?!?” Rainbow Dash screamed, grabbing the attendant by the shoulders. “We can’t stay here a week! WonderCon is in only three days!

Applejack grabbed her friend’s rainbow-colored tail between her teeth and gave it a mighty tug, pulling Dash away from the attendant. “Calm down, Rainbow!” she admonished the pegasus. “Getting mad at him won’t do us any good!”

“But we can’t stay here!” the pegasus yelled, shuddering at the thought. “Twilight, you can teleport! Can’t you just zap us all to Manehattan?”

“I don’t think I can, Rainbow,” Twilight answered. “Teleporting more than one creature at the same time is very difficult, not to mention that the distance to Manehattan is immense! I'm afraid it's just not feasible.”

“Well then think of something else!” Dash pleaded. “You’ve gotta have a plan, right?”

Twilight rubbed a hoof along her chin, smiling slightly as an idea occurred to her. “Actually, I think I just might.” She turned to face the station attendant. “Excuse me sir, but do you have a map of Equestria with all the roads and rail lines?”

“As a matter of fact, I believe I do!” the attendant answered enthusiastically, reaching into his booth to retrieve the requested object. A second later he pulled his head back out, clutching a fold-up map between his teeth with the words Rand McNeighly Equestria Travel Map printed on the map’s cover. Twilight took it with her magic and unfurled it in mid-air, levitating it in front of her face. She spotted the main rail line that ran from Canterlot east to Manehattan (which Ponyville was a stop along) and then traced her hoof along a spur line that led southwest, finally terminating at a small dot labeled “Salt Lick City.” Rainbow Dash and Applejack watched their friend as her gaze followed a thinner line representing a road leading east to…

“Fillydelphia!” Twilight suddenly cried out, causing her friends to jump back with surprise. The unicorn laid the map out on the ground to show her fellow travelers. “Look, here we are,” she indicated, pointing at the dot representing Salt Lick City. “And if we follow this road it will lead us right to Fillydelphia. From there we can take a train right to Manehattan!” Here she indicated the main rail line connecting the two cities. “Now judging from the distance, and assuming this map is accurate, that’s about a day’s hike. If we started now and kept a steady pace, we could probably get to Fillydelphia by tonight!”

“I reckon that’s about correct, so long as you ponies are in good shape,” the station attendant nodded in agreement.

“Well then what are we waiting for? Let’s go!” Rainbow Dash cried.

Applejack spent a moment staring at the map, thinking over Twilight’s idea before giving the unicorn a skeptical look. “Ah dunno Twi, we could do that in a day if we were equipped for a hike. But loaded down with all this,” she paused, gesturing to the pile of luggage sitting next to them, “Ah reckon it’d take us a lot longer than a day.”

Twilight considered this for a second before turning to the station attendant. “Sir, is there a place in town where we could rent a carriage?”

An hour later the three travelers were trotting down a well-worn road leading away from Salt Lick City. They had rented the cheapest carriage available from a rental agency in town, a small flatbed two-wheeler just large enough to carry a few ponies or a small mountain of luggage. Now ready, the three ponies had tossed all of their bags on it and began making the trek. Being the strongest of the trio, Applejack volunteered to pull the carriage for the first leg of the journey. Twilight and Rainbow Dash trotted alongside, with Dash occasionally taking to the air for a brief moment or two, sometimes resting in the carriage for the purpose of annoying Applejack, who would shout at the pegasus to get off and maybe even threaten to stop moving if she wouldn’t.

“Gosh darn it, Rainbow!” the earth pony said angrily when this happened for the fourth time. “Ah told you before to cut it out already!”

“Aw, but it’s so comfortable back here!” Dash mocked, lying atop a couple of their saddlebags. “Besides, I got to be well-rested for when I meet the Wonderbolts!”

“With how much you rest, it’s a wonder you’ve ever been awake long enough to meet the Wonderbolts at all,” the farmer grumbled.

“Jealous much, Applejack?” the pegasus shot back. “Hey, Manehattan is a big town, maybe there’s an Applecon there where you can meet up with all the other apple farmers?” she chuckled. “You can get apples autographed and meet all the most famous apple farmers, and then trade apple growing secrets and sing songs about apples.”

“For your information, there is an Applecon!” Applejack replied, her tone completely sincere and mildly defensive. “’Cept we don’t autograph apples, that’s just silly and a waste of good eatin’. That an’ Applecon’s in Fillydelphia, seeing how sunny it is down there. If ya like, Ah can even take you,” she suggested, grinning slyly at the thought of the brash pegasus being stuck in a place she would have no interest in.

“Yeah, no thanks,” Dash said, idly waving a hoof and giving the earth pony an annoyed look.

“Ah still need you to get off, RD,” Applejack reminded the pegasus.

“I still don’t want to,” Dash replied indifferently.

Twilight, who was getting thoroughly annoyed with her friends' bickering by this point, rolled her eyes at their hardheadedness. “Rainbow, could you please get off the carriage?” she snapped at the pegasus. “I shouldn’t have to remind you that we’re never going to get to WonderCon if we keep at this pace.”

“Sheesh, I was just having a little fun…” Dash grumbled, but complied with her friend’s request. She fluttered down and began trotting alongside the unicorn. The pegasus sighed and looked around at the desert surrounding them. “Ugh…I just want to be somewhere already, you know? Are you sure we can still get to Manehattan on time? Cause we’re a long way from…well, anything,” she pointed out.

“We won’t just get there on time, we’ll get there with time to spare!” the unicorn declared. “Don’t you worry, we’ll get to Fillydelphia sometime tonight, and then all we have to do is take the next train to Manehattan! This is just a little delay, that’s all! We’ll be there by tomorrow!”

“Good,” Dash replied, speaking more to herself than to Twilight. “Yep, just a delay, that’s all it is…soon, I’ll be in Manehattan, talking to Spitfire and Soarin’ again, and meeting all the others…Fleetfoot and Speedster and…Mustang.” She spoke the last name with obvious reverence in her voice. “The greatest Wonderbolt of all time…oh, it’s going to be so awesome! I just wish we could be there already, you know? I can hardly wait!”

“Well, just keep focused on the goal Rainbow,” Twilight encouraged her friend, hoping to keep the pegasus’ mind occupied.

“Right!” Dash replied. “Eyes on the prize!” she said, a keen excitement creeping into her voice and her gaze becoming steely, as if she was about to take part in a race.

The sun rose higher over the desert plain they were passing through, roasting the ground the three travelers trotted upon. Cacti and dry, scrubby bushes dotted the dusty landscape, which stretched out to the jagged shapes of craggy hills in the distance. The three travelers passed by twisting red and brown-colored rock formations that towered over the surrounding plain beneath a gloriously blue sky. There was virtually no wind, which had the benefit of no dust being blown into the air but the drawback of offering the ponies no relief from the increasing heat.

Just as the sun began to reach the apex of its arc across the sky, Applejack paused, using a hoof to wipe the sweat off her forehead before pulling her hat off to use it to fan herself. “Whoof…” she panted. “It sure is gettin’ hot…” She squinted up at the sun, grimacing at its glare.

“Do you want me to take the reins for a while?” Twilight offered. Applejack nodded appreciatively and removed the harnesses tying her to the carriage. The unicorn levitated the harnesses over herself, strapping them on before trotting forward confidently.

Only to trip and fall into the dirt.

Rainbow Dash burst into laughter, nearly falling onto the ground as she watched her unicorn friend struggle with the harness, tugging at the carriage but failing to move it a single inch.

Grrfh…” Twilight grunted, straining to pull the carriage forward. “Applejack, you made this look so easy! How did you…hrrgh…move this?!”

“Ah won’t lie, it ain’t light,” the earth pony replied. “You sure you want to take over?”

“You’ve done enough for now,” the unicorn answered. “It’s time I helped out.” But despite all her effort, she couldn’t muster the strength to pull the carriage further than a few inches.

“So Twilight, still want to bring along all that light reading?” Dash snickered.

“Okay…” Twilight heaved, breathing heavily and ignoring the pegasus. “This isn’t working…hey!” she exclaimed, brightening up. “Why didn’t I think of this before? I’ll just use my magic to move the-“

“NO!” Applejack yelled, startling the unicorn. “Ah remember what happened last Winter Wrap-Up, when you used your magic on that snow plow and couldn’t stop it from crashing!”

“That was months ago!” Twilight replied angrily, blushing slightly at the embarrassing memory. “I’ve practiced the spell, I don’t think the same thing will happen!“

No, Twi,” Applejack insisted, glaring the unicorn down. “Ah ain’t taking that risk when all our stuff is in there.”

“Alright, alright…” Twilight muttered, giving in. “But I’m not going to be able to move this without magic.”

“Here,” Dash sighed, reaching into the carriage to pull out a second harness and strapping it around herself as she fluttered down next to Twilight. “We’ll pull it together. Honestly, I should have seen this coming.”

“Gosh Rainbow, that’s really kind of you!” Twilight exclaimed, smiling brightly at her friend.

“Hey, whatever gets us to WonderCon faster, right?” Dash began pulling the carriage forward. It took the pegasus and unicorn a moment to acclimate to each other’s pace, with Rainbow Dash being the stronger and quicker of the two. But soon enough they were pulling the carriage at the same rate Applejack had been even as the road began to get rockier and they crested a small hill.

But after another hour had passed the heat of the sun was taking its toll on Dash and Twilight, who had slowed considerably since they had started. The road was getting bumpier, the contents of the traveler’s suitcases rattling with each rock and rut the carriage passed over. The two ponies were sweating heavily, panting slightly under the heat. Both tried to keep their minds occupied to try to cope with the tedium of their task.

Just past that rock, and then I’ll ask Applejack to take over again…” Dash thought. “Okay, just past the cactus, and then I’ll ask Applejack to take over…” she thought after they passed the rock. “Okay, now just over the ridge, and then I’ll ask Apple-

Suddenly a horrible cracking noise filled the air and Dash and Twilight were violently yanked backward. Twilight landed hard on the ground and Dash fell on top of her in the midst of a sizeable cloud of dust.

“TWILIGHT!” The two ponies could hear Applejack’s scream over their own groans and a loud creaking sound that they couldn’t place. “DID YOU USE MAGIC?”

“No!” Twilight sputtered, coughing on the dust in the air and completely disoriented between her inability to make out anything around her and the pegasus atop her struggling to lift herself up. The dust settled just as the two ponies finally managed to pull themselves off the ground, looking back to see the source of the creaking noise. The carriage was now resting on one side, the other sticking in the air at an awkward angle.

Dash and Twilight removed their harnesses and trotted around the carriage to where Applejack was already standing. They instantly spotted the problem: one of the wheels had apparently rolled over a large stone before it snapped and detached itself from the carriage.

“You two alrigh’?” Applejack asked, receiving silent nods from the two of them in response. “Ah’m sorry I yelled at you Twilight, Ah shouldn’t have suspected you. Ah think it just broke and came off,” she continued, gesturing at the wheel. “Shoddy workmareship, Ah’d reckon,” she added darkly.

“So…either of you ever fixed a busted wheel?” Dash asked with a nervous laugh.

“Ah’ve replaced wheels,” Applejack replied, “But fixin’ one is a different matter. And we don’t have any spare wheels 'round here to replace it with. They ain’t supposed to break so easily!”

“I could try to fix it with my magic!” Twilight offered.

“Ah suppose it can't hurt to try,” Applejack said with a shrug.

Twilight bowed her head toward the broken wheel as her horn began to glow softly. The same glow appeared around the wheel, which rose into the air and began to fit itself back together, the cracks mending and vanishing as the wheel became a solid whole once more. The aura of the unicorn’s magic extended to the carriage, which rose slightly into the air, just enough to allow Twilight to position the wheel in place before she let the carriage rest on the ground again as the glow vanished.

“There we go!” the unicorn said triumphantly, turning to her friends and giving them a smugly satisfied expression as she placed a hoof on her chest and closed her eyes. “A little patch job, it’s an easy feat, and magic makes it all complete!”

The words were barely out of her mouth when the just-repaired wheel disintegrated, crumbling into dust and causing the carriage to crash to the ground once more, throwing up another cloud of dust as a couple of suitcases fell out. Twilight remained frozen in place, hoof still on her chest, but all trace of smugness now replaced by a horrified expression as she dared herself to turn around and examine the situation.

“Okay…” Twilight muttered, looking at the pile of wood shavings that had once been a working wheel. “I guess magic can’t help shoddy workmareship; that’s just treating the symptom. But no matter! I’ll just use…this!” she exclaimed, spotting a nearby rock that was about as wide around as the wheel had been. The unicorn’s horn glowed, her teeth gritted as she strained to cast a complicated spell. The rock hovered in the midst of the magical aura, shaking violently as if it was undergoing a spasm. Then with a bright burst of magical light, it transformed into a carriage wheel, similar in seemingly every way to the one that had just broke.

“There,” Twilight said, panting slightly. “It won’t stay a wheel forever, but it should do until we get somewhere where we can replace it.” She levitated it over to the carriage, using the same process as before to attach it to the vehicle.

“And now we’re good!” the unicorn said happily. “No problem whatso-“

With a loud crack, the carriage split into two, spilling its contents on to the ground. Several stray hairs in Twilight’s mane suddenly stuck outward and her left ear twitched as she watched her suitcase fall out and hit the ground, snapping open as it did so. The contents of the suitcase, which included all of the books she brought, tumbled out in an instant.

The three of them were silent for several moments, watching the dust settle around the completed ruined carriage.

“Well,” Applejack said, finally breaking the silence. “Ah guess we’re walkin’.”

Author's note: Seriously, go check out It's Always Sunny in Fillydelphia if you didn't catch the reference. It's an awesome story.

Next Chapter: Chapter Three Estimated time remaining: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
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