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Nocturnal, batlike wings
Vesper Ponies are a rarely seen, secretive tribe of pony. They have existed since the closing of the third age, having split off from the Pegasus tribe. They are so rarely seen that throughout history, they have been regarded as myth, tales told to frighten young foals into behaving.
Vesper Ponies, colloquially known as "Bat Ponies" were originally seen during in Equestria during the Fourth Age as the chosen ponies of Princess Luna, disappearing from open view following the rise and fall of Nightmare Moon.
The history of Vesper Ponies begins with the advent of the Fimbulwinter of Hate, during the Age of Wandering. As the majority of the Pegasus population fled their ancestral home, a group was left behind. These ponies were determined to wait out the winter in the caves far below the blizzard and refused to abandon their homeland.
They discovered huge networks of caves leading deep under the land the earth ponies had once tended. These caves proved to be much warmer than the freezing surface and were littered with several types of glowing fungi in all different colors. The ponies settled in for what they hoped would be a few days to many weeks of waiting for the weather to clear. Some would not survive this time though, falling to the claustrophobic conditions, their own instincts driving them back out into the winter where they were never heard from again.
For those who remained firm, this waiting proved to be in vain. By the time the Winter let up, the ponies had learned how to cultivate the fungi they found in the caves, both glowing and mundane. This made the surface seem almost uninhabitable as the cold had cleared away almost all life. There were no animals, ponies, or even plants left, so the pegasi refugees returned to their cavern homes, saddened by the loss of one home and determined to make a new one.
Over time, the pegasi adapted to their new home, becoming accustomed to the low light, their instincts conquered and tamed. Life in the caves was hardship for the late skyborn, but it was still better than what, to many, seemed like certain death in the wastelands of the surface.
This would change when, shortly into the Fourth Age, they were found by a pony as home in darkness as themselves. It was a chance meeting, a scouting party seen by a wandering alicorn. Luna. The two sisters had not yet decided what, if anything, to do with the foundling Equestria, but the unity of the Three Tribes could not be ignored. This led the sisters to begin exploring the new world that had formed in the wake of Discord.
These ponies who lived in the dark, who were as comfortable in her night as the other ponies were in the day, were a beacon to Luna, and she quickly struck up a friendship with them. She began to help them adjust further to a life in the dark, magically altering the community of pegasi. Their eyes became catlike, able to see in extreme darkness, and feathered wings, not suited for close quarters and the lack of air currents, were changed to become like those of bats. These changes were passed on to their children, who were born the first true Vesper Ponies. Over a few generations, the disorganized tribe, freed of some of the hardship of their lives, became a small but dedicated family who revered Luna as their matriarch.
Luna’s visits became a thing of celebration among Vesper Ponies. During each of Luna’s visits, knowledge was exchanged, and their culture grew. They learned about what went on outside, the fate of the other tribes, and Luna brought new plants to try to cultivate in the caves. That life still existed outside of the caves, that the Winter truly had an end, sent ripples and a spark of an idea grew that Luna encouraged. The desire to leave the wintry wastelands.
Under Luna’s guidance, a place was found, preparations made, and the Great Migration began under cover of night. The Vesper Ponies left the caves that had been their home for centuries, settling into what would eventually be named the Foal Mountains. Natural caves were found, and through hard work and time, they created not only a community, but a town hewn from the mountain’s heart. Enchantments were hewn into the rock itself by Luna, forever sealing it. Her favored children of the night would never fear the risk of collapse or cave in, deep in their new home.
In turn, the Vesper Ponies pledged themselves and their honor to Luna. When she came to them with the news that she and her sister had taken rulership of Equestria and the united Tribes, the bravest of the Vesper Ponies made their way out of the mountains, to become her closest guard in the new capital of Withersford.
The downfall of the Vesper Ponies’ influence coincides with that of Luna’s descent into shadow and the subsequent banishment of Nightmare Moon. The Royal Lunar Guard, now no longer with a Princess to back them and considered traitors by some, retreated to the Foal Mountains. Contact was still possible but the reclusive group had turned inward and shunned the ponies of the day. No explanation for Luna’s betrayal was enough for the honor bound tribe.
Though never going so far as to back Nightmare Moon, they shunned the outside world but for the most necessary comforts. And so that remained for a thousand years.
The return of Princess Luna has not gone unheard, in the Vesper Ponies’ city in the mountains, but unanswered under the weight of a thousand years of uncertainty and distrust of the outside. Yet, tales of bat-winged Lunar Guard eventually reached tufted ears. Not true Vesper Ponies, but established by Princess Luna in secret tribute to her lost children. Cracks have formed in the otherwise impervious isolationism, and a few have set out once more to see the outside. To find their Lady. Their Regent of the Night.
Vesper Ponies are not as sociologically advanced as the Three Tribes, due to their choice of remaining isolated from the rest of Equestria. History and knowledge are typically passed down from elder to youngling by word of mouth, while apprenticeship to a master of a skill once a Vesper Pony has earned their cutie mark is a common practice. The common Vesper Pony does not have a command of written language, a skill seldom needed when one lives mostly in the dark, however in each colony there is at least one family line who perform the role of "Lorekeepers". These families, and those who associate with them, maintain the skill and knowledge of writing, considering it both a duty and a privilege.
The average Vesper Pony reveres Princess Luna as a guardian and matriarchal figure, the alicorn who took them in as her own and brought them from the Winter Wastes. They are loyal to a fault when it comes to Princess Luna.
The information in this section is more the technical knowledge behind the race. This information is not necessarily things that would be known without proper research. Like all races and species of Equestria, this knowledge is known to vary between its members.
Vesper Pony society is primarily based around their colonies. The colonies are relatively small, considered equivalent to small villages or towns, no larger than Ponyville. The exception is their largest, the community within the Foal Mountains, although even that is only twice the size of Ponyville’s population. Vesper Pony colonies are typically based inside a large cavern where the civic buildings such as town halls, guardhouses, and stores are located. They branch out to smaller neighboring caves where most of the ponies actually live in homes carved out of the rock and caverns where farms are maintained.
Vesper Pony architecture is very similar to ancient pegasi styles. The grand columns and domed roofs lend themselves well to the caverns and caves the Vesper Ponies live in. Rooms tend to be very spacious and link to other rooms without hallways.
One common building unique to Vesper Ponies is the roost. Roosts are buildings carved into ceilings that are maintained by the entire village. The roost contains many rooms, each with several levels of shelves that are used as bedding for tired ponies that can't make it back home for their naps.
Each colony is ruled by five of the eldest mares living there. When one of the elders feels they are too old to continue leading, they and the other elders will select a pony to fill the spot. The pony will always be younger than the current elders, but the oldest in their family. Male elders are rare, but not unheard of.
In matters that affect the entirety of the tribe, each colony will select a pony to represent them on a colonial council. These councils meet at least four times a year to discuss current events and decide on any pressing matters.
Currently, the overarching dynamic between Vesper Ponies and the other tribes is ‘Isolationism’. Secrecy. However, this dynamic is rapidly breaking down with the return of Princess Luna. The common Vesper Pony does not have a mastery of Equestrian language, but can speak enough to get by. Individuals may possess more, or less, knowledge of the outside tongue.
Vesper Ponies on the surface bear a close resemblance to pegasi, as a winged pony. They tend to be leanly built with strong shoulders and a great deal of natural agility. Their coats are almost always raging from black, grey, or deep blue, although there have been rumors of albinos. Their manes and wings have a similar range of coloring. They also have many features unique to their tribe.
Vesper Ponies are lightly built with strong, leathery wings that resemble those of a bat. These wings allow them to hover much more easily than pegasi and allow for very agile and precise flying. However, they are unable to attain the high speeds athletic pegasi can.
The eyes of Vesper Ponies are unique among ponies, and are often colored bright orange or golden-yellow. They have vertical, elliptical pupils much like those of cats. These are able to let in or keep out much more light than the normal pony eye. Their eyes also contain a reflective layer, giving them excellent vision in nearly zero-light conditions. This tends to give their eyes a glowing appearance in darkness if light strikes them. They are very sensitive to light, however. Long term exposure to sunlight will often give a Vesper Pony severe migraines and eye strain.
A Vesper Pony’s ears are larger than those of other species of pony, and are sometimes tufted at the trips. They are very sensitive and can be used for echolocation. As a consequence, they have a weakness to very loud sounds. This has affected their language, changing it from the ancient pegasi tongue to something more lyrical, based just as much on tones as on words. Other tribes have trouble understanding the Vesper Pony’s native language as they lack the ability to hear the higher pitches used by native-born Vesper Ponies. These higher pitched sounds can also be by a Vesper Pony in echolocation if need be, going unnoticed by those of lesser hearing. This allows a Vesper Pony to navigate a pitch-black room while remaining apparently silent.
Finally, a Vesper Pony’s mouth bears pointed fangs to either side of otherwise normal pony teeth. Why this adaptation occurred is not generally understood, as Vesper Ponies are herbivorous. It has significantly added to tales and stories told by daytime ponies about them though.
Lifespan and Birth
The lifespan of a Vesper Pony is no longer than any other pony. However, studies of their lifespans have not been made for a thousand years and are therefore considered inaccurate.
Parentage is assumed to be the same as any other race. During the period of time between the formation of Luna’s Private Guard, and the rise of Nightmare Moon, pairings between Vesper Ponies and ponies from the Three Tribes were rare but not unknown. However the traits of Vesper Ponies appear to be recessive as no Vesper Ponies were ever born which did not come from two Vesper Pony parents. Children of mixed parentage were always of the non-Vesper parent’s dominant bloodline.
Contrary to lore and tales told to frighten young ponies, Vesper Ponies are herbivorous. They do not drink blood. Instead, the diet of the Vesper Pony mainly consists of many types of mushrooms and other fungi as well as cultivated berries grown in the dark caves, mixed with conventional fruits and nuts collected from fields and forests around their colonies.
Vesper Pony Magic
Like the members of the pegasus tribe, Vesper ponies have the magic of flight. The thin membranous wings of the bat pony has the distinction of giving the night flyer a more efficient means of transportation than that of a pegasus. This is traded off with a historically overall lower top speed than that of pegasi, as well as lower endurance than their feathered cousins.
The traditional weather manipulation magics of pegasi have, in Vesper Ponies, atrophied into nonexistence. Although they can walk on clouds and move and break clouds, other aspects of weather magic have been lost to the ages.
The common Vesper Pony possesses hoof-to-eye coordination rivaling that of Earth Ponies, although in Vesper Ponies’ case, the role of eye may be replaced by echolocation. They are fully dextrous and able to grasp objects easily. This has in some communities led to the humorous application of clinging to walls, and even hanging from ceilings. That they can sleep and remain firm in their hold only adds to the image they project. This tradition has mostly fallen out of style. Prior to the rise of Nightmare Moon, there were stories of the Solar Guard sending new recruits into the ‘empty’ Vesper Pony bunks without warning as a prank to see how long until they looked up.