Trains, Carriages and Airships

by JohnPerry

Chapter 3: Chapter Three

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Chapter Three

“Okay, now that one. That’s gotta be a-“

“No, Rainbow.”

“But look at it shimmering, Twilight! And the size of it! Come on, it’s too big not to be a lake!”

“Trust me, it’s just another mirage.”


A scaly reptile opened one bleary eye, distracted from his afternoon slumber by this strange conversation. He recognized the language – pony, from the sound of it – but it had been years since he had heard any creature speak it. Ponies didn’t travel into this territory frequently, as only the toughest of animals acclimated to the harsh conditions could even survive.

Now make no mistake, this reptile wasn’t required to stay. He had heard from friends about the wonders of the green lands to the east, where the living was easy, food and good company were plentiful and ponies eagerly offered a helping hoof to their animal brethren. But this reptile preferred the hermit life, the simplicity of taking only as much as necessary and spending your time examining one’s place in the universe. It wasn’t always easy, but the reptile had grown used to his existence and found it suited him fine.

From his perch atop a warm boulder, the color of which his skin blended with perfectly, the reptile swiveled one eye about, looking for the source of the noise. It was at that moment that a dark shadow passed over him. The reptile paused, wondering if it was just a stray cloud overhead.

“Hold on, I need to rest for a moment.”

The reptile’s eye swiveled upward to spot a shadowy blue mass hurtling toward him. His small but strong legs thrust into action and the reptile barely managed to avoid getting crushed by the blue mass. Scuttling along the side of the boulder, he stopped in the shadow of a crack beneath the large rock. Maybe he wouldn’t be sunbathing today.

“Ugh, why does it have to be so hot?” Rainbow Dash moaned, laying atop a dark grey boulder and using one hoof to wipe the sweat off her forehead. “How long have we been walking?”

“About half an hour,” Applejack answered, the brim of her hat visibly wet with sweat.

“Aaaauuuuuuuuggggghhhhhh…” Dash groaned, her eyes squinted shut to try and shut out the glare.

Applejack rolled her eyes and turned her attention to Twilight, who the earth pony was growing increasingly concerned about. The unicorn was panting slightly, beads of sweat running down her face. She had volunteered to use her magic to levitate their luggage, but after her exertion casting the complicated spells to fix a wheel and transform a rock into another wheel, her magical energy soon began to fail her and the three travelers were forced to pull their luggage by hoof. This wouldn’t have been a difficult task if it wasn’t for the excessive heat of the afternoon sun or the awkward little wheels on their suitcases that weren’t designed for rocky terrain.

“Maybe we should rest,” the earth pony suggested. “Find some shade in one of those cliffs over there, and wait until evening when it’s nice and cool.”

NO,” Twilight suddenly said with such forcefulness that it caused Applejack to back away in surprise. “I am not letting a busted carriage get in my way. I said we’d make it to Fillydelphia by tonight, and I intend to hold to that.” Her eyes seemed to burn with a newfound determination. “Come on you two, stand beside me.”

“Um…why?” Dash asked as she looked up from the boulder she was laying on.

“I may not be able to teleport us all to Manehattan,” Twilight explained. “But I can at least try to get us across this desert.”

“Are ya sure, Twi?” Applejack said worriedly. “You said yerself it takes a lot of energy, and ya look mighty tired right now-“

“I’m fine, Applejack,” the unicorn growled. “Now come on, bring your bags over here. Let’s do this.”

Dash was more than eager to take up Twilight’s offer and was standing beside the unicorn in an instant, but Applejack was more wary of this plan. However, she too pulled her luggage over and took position next to Twilight.

“Right,” the unicorn said determinedly. “We’re aiming for that hill just in front of us. We’ll take this desert one line of sight at a time, all right?” Her friends nodded and braced themselves. Twilight gritted her teeth as her horn began to glow brightly, shining brighter and brighter until finally, with a violent burst of light, they vanished on the spot.

A few seconds later the three ponies suddenly appeared in a different spot with another bright flash of light, only now they were accompanied by the acrid smell of something burning. The three ponies staggered slightly, all of them singed, smoking slightly and utterly disoriented. Rainbow Dash shook her head to try and clear her dizziness while Applejack pulled her hat off to brush away the soot that had appeared on it.

“Alrigh’, let’s not do that again,” Applejack said firmly, placing her hat back on.

“Okay…” Twilight said, wobbling slightly, her eyes spinning around in their sockets. “That didn’t go quite as well as I would have hoped.” She looked around to see her two friends and all of their luggage had survived the encounter, despite the burn marks. “But we made it!” she proudly announced, gesturing at the hill they were now standing on. “Look how much ground we covered in just…“

“What is it, Twi?” Applejack asked, wondering what had caused Twilight to stop talking. It was at that moment that she spotted what had grabbed Twilight's attention. There were three sets of hoofprints and three sets of lines that looked an awful lot like they were made by three sets of very small wheels, such as those attached to the bottoms of their wheeled suitcases.

The three travelers raised their heads; their eyesight following the hoofprints and tire marks that lead down the hill and on to a desert plain before them, continuing onward until they abruptly terminated near a large boulder a substantial distance ahead of them - a very familiar looking boulder.

It was the same boulder they had just teleported from – only instead of behind them, it was once again in front of them.

The scream of frustration that erupted out of the purple unicorn’s mouth echoed across the desert plain, causing the reptile to fearfully crouch even deeper into his crack under the boulder. He definitely wouldn’t be sunbathing today.

The sun dipped toward the horizon, its rays illuminating a bank of clouds above the western horizon and casting them in fiery colors of red, orange and gold, while those clouds further to the east took on deep tones of purple and dark blue. Shafts of golden light pierced across the sky, like a set of gleaming towers set above shimmering waves of flame.

In short, it was another typical western sunset. And the only pony around to witness it yawned at the sight of it.

The pony in question was a tan-colored stallion lazing on a rocking chair on the porch of his humble ranch house. Nearby was the small town he called home. He had just finished a long day of chores and now was feeling rather bored. “Too early for dinner,” he thought to himself. “Maybe I could find Lemon Drop; she’s always in the mood to chat.” After resolving to seek out a conversation with Lemon Drop, the stallion picked himself up off his chair. It was then that a movement out of the corner of his eye grabbed his attention and banished his boredom.

It was three ponies – mares from the looks of it – who had just appeared over the small hill above town. They stood there for a moment, looking over the settlement before scrambling down the hillside in a strangely awkward manner. Even from this distance, the stallion could have sworn he heard one of them shout “Oh thank Celestia, civilization!”

“Hello?” he called out uncertainly, trying to get their attention. “Do y’all need any help?” Now that the mares came closer, the stallion could see that each of them were wearing heavy saddlebags and pulling a suitcase behind them, which explained their awkward trot down the hill. They came up to him, looking absolutely exhausted and sweating heavily.

“Howdy!” one of them, an orange earth pony, answered back. She looked like she could fit right in with the locals. “Boy, this town of yers sure is a sight for sore eyes.”

“Y’all ain’t from around here, are ya?” the stallion asked cheerfully, glancing at the heavy suitcases the three travelers were dragging.

“Gee, what gave it away?” another one, a blue pegasus with a rainbow-colored mane and tail, replied with heavy sarcasm in her voice. The stallion swallowed hard – apparently this wasn’t the group to be making jokes to.

“Err…y’all need anything?” he asked.

“Water would be nice,” the third, a purple unicorn, said in a raspy voice. She seemed to be in the worse shape of them all. Her face was flushed and her mane was disheveled – random hairs were sticking out at odd angles and her bangs were plastered to her forehead due to the sweat that covered her face.

The stallion led the mares around to the back of his house where he had an open tank of fresh drinking water sitting in the shadow of his house. The three travelers eagerly dropped their luggage and dived for the water, dunking their heads in the tank and taking massive gulps.

“Feelin’ better?” the stallion asked after the mares got their fill.

“Much,” the unicorn said gratefully, her mane now less disheveled even if it was soaking wet. Still, in this arid climate it would dry soon enough.

“So where are we?” the pegasus asked, splashing a little water under her outstretched wings to clear away the dust and sweat.

“Yer in Buffalo,” the stallion replied, gesturing towards the town. “Named for, well, the local buffalo herds, what else?” he chuckled before glancing at the heavy suitcases again. “Shoot, y’all look like you’ve been walking for hours. Why didn’t you get a carriage to carry all that?”

The unicorn and the pegasus shot him a look of deepest malevolence at this suggestion, with even the earth pony looking annoyed at this remark. It was enough to make the stallion gulp at the realization he had just said something very wrong.

“Actually, that reminds me,” the unicorn began. “Is there a branch of the Hayvis rental carriage agency in town?”

“Matter of fact, there is,” the stallion answered. “My friend ol’ Fortune Wheel runs the shop. For that matter, he lives there. It’s on the main street, can’t miss it,” he added, pointing out its location in town.

“Good,” the unicorn answered with a steely determination in her voice. “Come on girls, time to give somepony a piece of our mind.” The other two mares nodded and together they trotted into town, dragging their luggage with them and leaving the stallion to wonder if he would regret directing these mares to his friend.

Fortune Wheel turned out to be a kind-hearted pony, but as the sole representative of the Hayvis rental carriage company on hand, Twilight, Applejack and Rainbow Dash felt obliged to give him an earful after they managed to find him. After sending out a few stallions to retrieve the wreck, Fortune Wheel profusely apologized for the mishap and offered another carriage free of charge. However, the three mares were wary of getting another carriage of shoddy workmareship and demanded a full refund instead, which Fortune Wheel was kind enough to give them.

Which was why the three travelers were now sitting, tickets in hoof, beside their luggage underneath a bus stop sign labeled "PONY EXPRESS”, the largest intercity bus company in all of Equestria. Buffalo was a very small town – even smaller than Salt Lick City – and lacked a train line, but it was a stop along the Dodge Junction–Fillydelphia bus line. It was dusk now and there was one remaining bus for that day, which was scheduled to arrive in Fillydelphia early the following morning.

“Boy, you three look exhausted!” commented an earth pony stallion who was sitting nearby aside a large suitcase, apparently also waiting for the bus. He was a hefty figure with a sky blue coat of fur, a bushy mustache on his upper lip and a rather cheerful expression on his face.

“Mmm,” Twilight replied, not turning to look at the stallion, instead choosing to stare off into space. She wasn’t really in the mood to talk to any more strangers at the moment.

“We just had a long walk,” answered Applejack, who was sitting nearest to the stallion and decided a friendly attempt at conversation shouldn’t be turned away so sullenly. “We’re mighty plum tuckered.”

“Oh, I can understand that,” the stallion answered sympathetically. “Walking out here in the heat, I can see that ruining anypony’s mood.” He glanced around for a moment, casting about for another topic of conversation. “So…ever traveled by bus before?” he asked. Each of them shook their head silently in response.

“Well, your mood’s probably not gonna improve much, I’ll tell you that” he said, chuckling at his own joke.

“So long as we’re at least moving towards WonderCon, I’ll be happy,” Dash glowered under her breath, just barely audible to her two friends. Like Twilight, she too was not looking at the stallion but staring straight ahead. Only where the unicorn looked tired and indifferent to her surroundings, the pegasus had her front legs crossed and had an indignant expression on her face.

A few minutes later the loud galloping of many hooves signaled the arrival of the bus. The four travelers looked up to see a standard Equestrian bus, a long carriage outfitted with coverings to protect against the weather and pulled by a team of horses and buffaloes. The words “PONY EXPRESS” were printed in large letters on the side of the bus. It proceeded into town and slowed to a halt in front of the bus stop. The team of drivers unhitched themselves from their harnesses to take a quick breather while one of the horses trotted over to the four travelers to take their tickets and stack their luggage in a compartment beneath the seats.

Twilight, Applejack and Rainbow Dash climbed the steps up into the bus, where they saw that the inside of the vehicle consisted of a series of benches along both sides of the carriage facing forward, each bench just large enough to seat two ponies. The inside was illuminated by a series of small lanterns on both sides and was already mostly full with ponies who boarded at Dodge Junction, leaving only two remaining vacant benches near the rear of the bus. Twilight volunteered to be the one of the three who would have to sit separately of the other two, partly out of politeness but mainly because she wanted to be alone with her thoughts for a while. Applejack and Dash sat down next to each other while the unicorn shifted towards the window next to her bench.

Twilight had just managed to settle in when the stallion from earlier boarded the bus. The unicorn hoped against hope he would pick somepony else to sit next to, but luck would not smile upon Twilight. The heavy-set stallion decided to sit next to her, his mass taking up most of the bench and forcing the unicorn to squeeze against the window.

“Aaugh…” he groaned, leaning back against the bench. “Boy, these seats never get any softer, let me tell you. Oh, name’s Candy Ring, by the way,” he said, offering Twilight his outstretched hoof.

“Twilight Sparkle,” the unicorn replied, forcefully wrenching a hoof out from between her body and that of the stallion before shaking his hoof.

“Oh, now that’s a really pretty name,” Candy Ring complemented Twilight as the driving team reapplied their harnesses and the bus began moving once more. “So what are you three heading to Fillydelphia for?”

“Well, we’re actually trying to get to Manehattan, as it were,” Twilight explained.

“Ooh, Manehattan,” Candy Ring said admiringly. “Big city, big city…”

“Have you been there?” Twilight asked, hopeful this stranger might know something useful about their destination.

“Me? Oh no, not yet anyway,” he laughed, reaching down with a fore hoof to one of his rear hooves on the seat. It took Twilight a moment to realize he was pulling a horseshoe off the bottom of his hoof. The moment he successfully removed the shoe, it dropped to the ground with a loud clunk and a horrid stench assaulted Twilight’s nostrils, causing her to consider hanging her head out the window for the entire ride.

“Oooohhhh, that feels good…” Candy Ring groaned, removing the rest of his horseshoes and stretching out his hooves.

The hours wore by, Candy Ring continuing to make idle chit-chat and making Twilight feel increasingly uncomfortable. She had at least remembered to grab a book out of her luggage for the ride, but the bus jostled so much that she had a difficult time following the words before she ultimately gave up. Nightfall came in earnest and the lanterns were extinguished to allow the travelers to get some sleep, but between the hard seat and the bumpy ride Twilight was having an impossible time getting any. Candy Ring, on the other hoof, fell asleep immediately, his body leaning towards the unicorn and further encroaching on her personal space as he snored loudly, which only contributed to Twilight’s current insomnia.

The unicorn glanced back to her friends, who apparently were also having difficulty sleeping. Rainbow Dash was sitting upright and had her head resting on Applejack’s shoulder while the earth pony was also sitting upright, her hat pulled over her eyes and her head resting against Dash’s. But with each bump in the road one of them would stir uncomfortably, shifting enough that the other would be disturbed as well. As Twilight watched, Dash drooled slightly on Applejack’s shoulder, causing the earth pony to yelp when she felt the unfamiliar substance touch her skin. She made a frantic motion to brush off the saliva, instead catching the pegasus in the face and causing Dash’s head to slide off the earth pony’s shoulder and land on the wooden seat with a loud smack. Both ponies awoke with a start and looked around in shock for a moment before giving each other a vicious glare and attempting to return to sleep, this time with Applejack leaning against the window in an upright position while Dash lay down on the bench, her head resting on her front hooves.

Twilight glanced at Candy Ring again, who gave a loud, shuddering snore that seemed to cause the very bench he and the unicorn were sitting on to vibrate. She sighed and looked out the window with weary, tired eyes.

It was going to be a long night.

Next Chapter: Chapter Four Estimated time remaining: 1 Hour, 14 Minutes
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