With the egg safely tucked into what most resembled an old messenger bag made of brown leather, Flying took to the air again in the cloud-filled night.
The bag was hanging from a strap around his neck, the speed at which he was flying causing the bag itself to push up against his chest. He really only had to move it to the front a little upon landing, and make sure it did not slam into him upon taking off, but it certainly beat having to hold the egg with his forehooves!
His visit to Silent and Infinitely's home in the cave had been mostly peaceful, even with the thundering sound of trains coming by overhead, and he felt surprisingly well-rested. The fresh cavern air had been just what he needed to get the smell of farmer Barley's yeasty cottage out of his nose, and the quick bath he took in the underground lake had failed to produce a trio of earthponies wanting to kill him. Both were very good points in Flying's book.
It was really a shame of the cloud cover this night. It was tricky enough to fly over unfamiliar territory, not knowing the way the air moved above the landscape below, but not seeing the moon or the stars really threw off his sense of direction.
If it had not been for Silver Shade pointing out which way was South, Flying would have been flying blind until he would have flown above the clouds to check his direction, and then would have had to fly back below them again to check if he had not flown past his target already.
He knew he was looking for a forest area, and a clearing somewhere in the thick of it, but there were forests on either side of the valley! Following Silver Shade's directions, he flew over to the edge of what he hoped would be the correct forest and followed it further South.
He turned upon seeing a clearing ahead and hovered over it a moment as he realized it was just a small forest lake. Not the clearing he was looking for then.
This repeated a few times, with every new clearing being uninhabited and filled with rocks or bodies of water. In one case he noticed a few treestumps and it looked like somepony was building a log cabin for themselves. They were fast asleep in a tent set up beside the construction site, their campfire reduced to some faintly glowing embers.
Flying chuckled lightly at the pioneering ponies below and continued on his way. "Ponies will go wherever ponies want to go, I guess," he muttered to himself. "Bandit-plagued farmhouses, clay homes in caves, log cabins in forests.. what next?"
He amused himself for the next hour or so coming up with the most wild ideas for ponies to make their homes in, such as floating islands on the water, dangling bridges over volcanos, and even, with a longing sigh, homes on Luna's moon.
He was still smiling from the silly things he had come up with as he spotted a much larger clearing up ahead, some faint lights shining in the darkness. "Could it be?" he wondered, turning towards it and squinting his eyes at it.
As he approached, the lights turned out to be street lanterns set up on either side of the pathways leading between treehouses, log cabins, and one or two bigger buildings with flags on their exterior. There was even a single-platform train station with a few shops and a post office set up close to it.
As Flying started to make his descend, towards what looked to be the town's square, he noticed a few ponies rush into the area, and a Pegasus flew up to meet him. The supposed Unicorns and Earthponies below grouping together to watch him close in on their location.
Flying stopped his descend as the Pegasus neared, and simply hovered in the air to let the mare catch up to him. She was dressed in a simple leather uniform, with a leather cap on her head, and looked at him sternly.
"State your name and business, stranger," she demanded, and Flying felt the need to salute her.
"The name's Flying Thunder, ma'am. I'm a Nightguard visiting from the Lunar Republic to the North. I come to deliver a letter to one..." what was that pony's name again? Oh, right! "Carrot Mash."
The mare smirked at his reply, shaking her head at him. "Won't find him here. The old fool decided he wanted more peace and quiet. He went North into the forest and we haven't seen or heard from him since."
"North?" Flying repeated, pointing behind him.
"That's what I said," the mare sighed. "Look, we have enough trouble dealing with strangers coming from parts of the country we never heard of, ever since they built that damned railroad station in our town. If you have no further business here, would you mind continuing on your way?"
Flying blinked at the request, then looked back the way he came. "I did see somepony in the act of building a log cabin a bit up North.. I guess I'll see if that's the pony I'm looking for. I don't want to be any trouble, ma'am."
"Good," she replied, wafting a hoof in the direction he was looking. "I'm sorry for this, but I have to look out for my people."
Flying nodded. "I understand, ma'am. I will take my leave then."
"Please do," the mare offered.
"I will," Flying shrugged, turning for the North.
"Perhaps next time you can come here during the day, like a normal pony," the Pegasus scoffed.
"Point taken, madam. No need to continue hostilities," Flying called back, flapping his wings to make some speed and only half hearing her shouting something of a reply after him again. "Got to get the last word in, eh?" he sighed to himself, shaking his head.
The clearing with the log cabin was easily found again, and Flying dropped down near the dying campfire, the wind from his wings making the embers glow a bit brighter for just a brief moment.
As when he had first spotted it, the only sign of anypony still being around was the closed up tent next to the building site, and Flying sighed at the snoring coming from it. Whomever it was, Carrot Mash or no, they were fast asleep. Flying didn't feel like trying to wake them up and risk facing another angry pony.
To keep himself busy while waiting for morning to come, he started to gather some wood and relit the campfire. It only took a few timed flaps of his leathery wings to make the embers glow hot enough for the fire to jump onto the new branches, and soon there was a pleasurable warmth coming from them.
Flying sat down with his tail draped over one of the cut logs, his egg and backpack set beside him, and sipped thoughtfully from his flask. If he waited here for the sun to break, he might have to fly through the daytime. He did not have any way of shielding his eyes from the painful brightness of the sun, but if he flew to the South-West in the morning, and South-East in the evening, he would evade most of the direct sunlight.
He reached into his backpack and pulled his map out with his teeth. It was a map one of his contacts had sent him, showing the main cities laid out across the continent. Fillydelphia was South-East of his current location, but if he had to fly South-West in the morning, he could just as well head for the Capital.
He squinted at the paper and put a hoof down between the forest he was in and Fillydelphia. "Half a hoof.. so about half a day," he mumbled, then moved his hoof between Canterlot and Hollow Shades, over the Foal Mountain range. "One hoof. Full day's flight."
He sighed and looked up at the cloud-filled sky, trying to see the moon hiding behind it. "What should I do, mother Luna?"
The clouds above were unforgiving, and Flying drooped his head and ears down a bit. "I guess I'll see what morning brings."
"If you're going to be talking to yourself, would you mind doing so near somepony else's campsite, lad?" a mumbling voice came from across the fire, and Flying lifted his head up again.
"Woke me from a dream in which I had six mares fighting over me," the voice continued as the owner of it crawled out of his tent. "Can you imagine that? Six mares.. Such cute rumps."
Flying tilted his head sideways to look past the flames at the orange-coated Unicorn appearing, his mane and eyes a bright green.
"I'm sorry for waking you, sir," Flying offered, "but may I ask if you're Carrot Mash?"
The stallion looked up in surprise, then cantered around the fire and promptly turned his flank in Flying's face. "What's this cutiemark say, lad?"
Flying blinked at the cutiemark which showed a few carrots bundled together, and what looked like a potato masher lying beside them.
"I would say you were, sir," Flying coughed uncomfortably.
"Please, call me Mash," the other pony offered, turning towards him again and holding out a hoof. "What's your name and where're you from, lad? You don't look like anypony I've met before."
Flying got up on his own hooves and met the offered hoof in a quick shake. "Flying Thunder. I'm a Nightguard from the Lunar Republic, taking a trip across Equestria."
"Lunar Republic? Never heard of it. Where's about that's located then?" Mash wondered, sitting down on his haunches and rubbing his eyes with a forehoof. "Damn sleep. Always gets stuck in my eyelids."
"It's off to the North, sir," Flying chuckled. "We don't get many Celestial ponies to visit us, so I doubt a lot of ponies here know of us."
He reached beside him in his backpack and took out the letter, dropping it in front of the orange stallion beside him. "I have a letter for you from Silent Thought, though."
Carrot Mash flicked his tail at the name. "Who'd you say? Silent Thought? Man, I haven't heard that name in ages! How's the old bugger doing?"
Flying shrugged softly. "He looked alright when I saw him yesternight, sir."
"Mash," Carrot Mash corrected him.
"I'm sorry, Mash," Flying chuckled. "I'm a Nightguard, we're trained to say sir a lot."
"You said you were a Nightguard, yes," Carrot mumbled, using his magic to open the letter. "Got some interesting ears there. And those wings.. Not like any Pegasus I've ever seen before."
Flying chuckled a bit uneasily, looking away. "I'm a Lunar Pony, sir. We're descendants of Luna's Chosen and we have the Nightguard to stand guard.. over the night... I guess.. er. It makes sense where I come from."
Carrot Mash wasn't listening, his eyes scanning the paper in front of him. "Well, I'll be. He's actually gone and married the kid?"
"Pardon?" Flying wondered, missing the context entirely.
"Do you know what this idiot wrote to me, lad? He's gone and married that fool of an Infinitely Loopy!" Carrot decried, poking a forehoof at the letter in front of him. "I always thought something was wrong with him, but to go after somepony like that? I never could have guessed he was into those kinds of mares, you know?"
"I.. don't think I can answer that, sir Mash," Flying muttered, confused at the way the other stallion talked of his "friend".
Carrot shook his head while continuing to read. "Even got a foal out of it too. I hope she takes after her stallion, cause the world's not ready for two of Loopy's kind."
Flying shrugged idly and moved to fold up his map again. "Silver Shade seems like an okay kid. A bit preoccupied with nature, perhaps, but not overly so?"
"Yeah, hey. Don't tell him I said so, but his mare should be admitted to a mental hospital, you know?" Mash sighed, tossing the letter in the fire after finishing reading it. "You know what she did one day in school?"
"I don't think I shou.." Flying started, but it was no use. Carrot Mash had already started detailing about it with no sign of wanting to stop until the whole story was told.
The sun was already up by the time Carrot Mash stopped talking, and Flying now knew more about the stallion than he had ever wanted to know.
Detailed descriptions of the stallion's sex life, his friends' oddities throughout the years, and the way he was treated like a pariah just because he had offered to take a lost filly home with him so they could have some fun playing with his dolls until the guards could find her parents, it was a bit much.
Flying yawned and squinted his eyes at the bright light falling over the clearing, the clouds having slowly dissipated before sunrise. He raised an eyebrow at realizing the campfire had died out again in the time it took for Carrot to finish his life's story.
"Hey Mash?" Flying started, eliciting a nod from the stallion beside him. "I don't know about you, but where I come from we're usually up during the night, and sleep during the day. Our eyes are not used to Celestia's sun. Would it be ok if I used your tent for the day or something?"
Carrot Mash looked between his tent and the Lunar Pony beside him, then shook his head quickly. "No can do, lad. I don't share my bed with other stallions. Now if you were a mare it'd be a totally different thing, know what I'm saying?"
Flying nodded slowly. "Right. Well, I guess I'll try to get to Fillydelphia then. Will just have to keep my eyes closed for most of the trip."
"Or you could wear sunglasses, lad. That's what I'd do in your place," Mash shrugged.
"Sunglasses?" Flying wondered, "I don't think I heard of those before."
"Right, if you sleep during the day you don't have use of them, do you?" Carrot realized, pushing up on his hooves and wandering over to his tent. "I should have an extra pair here.."
Flying watched curiously as assorted items were removed from the tent to be placed beside it, more so than he would have imagined fitting in the thing. Containers of varying size, toys of sorts, and a doll or two were quickly placed on a wobbly stack, and a bunch of books soon followed.
"How did you get all that stuff in there?" Flying had to ask, pushing up on his own hooves and walking around the campfire to do a closer inspection of the stack.
"Unicorn hammerspace?" Mash muttered with a shrug, finally pulling out something that looked like two ovals made from tinted glass, strung together with leather straps. "Found it!"
"That's it?" Flying wondered, and raised an eyebrow at Mash's excited nodding.
"Yes, lad! It's just like a pair of goggles, but with darkened glass, see? You put it up on your head like this," he explained, pulling the strap over his head and sticking the pair of glasses over his eyes. His green eyes were barely visible now through the darkened glass.
"I see," Flying replied with a flick of his ear. "And you're ok with me taking a set with? I don't know if I'll come back this way on the return trip."
"Sure. I bought a bunch of these a few years back. They were all the rage back then," Carrot Mash offered with a chuckle. "But then some new models came out and these didn't sell half as well as I thought. Been giving them out left and right ever since."
"Sounds like a bad investment," Flying sighed.
"You have no idea. Almost went bankrupt over this fiasco," Mash sighed, pulling the goggles from his head and floating it over to Flying. "If it wasn't for my good looks I might not have bounced back as I did."
Flying nodded silently at that, agreeing for the sake of keeping Mash happy more than actually agreeing with him. He had heard the stallion's life story for Luna's sake! He knew the way Carrot seemed to spin the world around him to make himself look better. There were plenty of things in his story which did not quite match up to what the Nightguard knew of how the world worked.
"Now stand still, lad. Let me put this over your eyes," Carrot Mash muttered, pulling the strap over Flying's head and half pulling his right ear off from the way he tugged it down.
"Ow. Careful with the ears there!" Flying snapped, but then the world suddenly grew darker around him and he blinked his eyes at the darkened glass covering them. "Huh. This actually works quite well."
"Told you," Mash chuckled. "Can't get any better than this. Might look like crap, but they do work."
Flying looked around the clearing a bit to get used to the sunglasses. Where he had had to squint before just to keep his eyes from hurting from the brightness of the sun above, he could open them almost fully now that his eyes were shielded.
"What do you think, lad?" Carrot wondered, moving into his vision.
"I think this should help me get to Fillydelphia just fine, Mash. Thanks," Flying Thunder offered with a smile. "Now I just need to figure out which way is North without being able to see the stars, but that should not be too big a problem. The sun and moon both rise in the East, after all."
Carrot Mash nodded at that. "Hey, when you're in Fillydelphia, could you give somepone a message for me?"
Flying's ears fell flat. "Depends on the message. I'm trying to get over to the San Palomino Desert, you know? I can't be a messenger for everypony I meet."
"Just need you to remind a certain Earthpony they were supposed to meet me here a couple of days ago, is all," Carrot Mash muttered.
The Lunar Pony sighed deeply at that. "Are you sure they're not in the forest between Hollow Shades and here trying to get to you? Somepony without wings might find it a bit of a trek."
"They would have been here by now," Carrot Mash maintained, but then both stallions turned their heads as they heard some wood breaking under somepony else's hooves.
Flying blinked as a white Earthpony with a yellow mane and deep blue eyes made her way through the undergrowth, pulling a cart behind her. She wiped her forehead with a hoof and her honey-sweet voice came out in a happy sigh. "Ah, looks like I finally made it."
"Golden Ray! You made it!" Carrot Mash exclaimed, pushing Flying aside as he made his way to greet his friend.
"Right. That's my cue to get going," Flying muttered, moving to gather his bags and shaking his head at the excited babbling from the two ponies.
"Thanks for the goggles, Mash. I'll..." he started, but Carrot Mash was too busy with his mare friend to notice him.
"Right," Flying sighed, unfolding his wings to take to the sky.
With his new sunglasses properly fixed over his eyes, he could see Equestria's landscape in the full light of Celestia's sun and he looked around a moment to get his bearings. The sun rises in the East, so if he kept it just in front of him at his left side he would be headed South-East and should make it to Fillydelphia in a couple of hours' time, right?
"Here we go again, Flying," he muttered to himself, trying not to think of how tired he felt as he set himself in motion with a few strong wingflaps.