Illusions of Peace
The sun tore through the sky, announcing the start of a bright, sunny day, a day that would also mark the beginning of the hot summer period in Equestria, when the first series of crops were going to be harvested.
The sunlight bounced from the surface of the small lake, reflecting onto the house near it. A distant scene slowly began fading away, the dream world shifting towards the real one. One of my hind legs twitched, as I felt a somewhat pleasant touch on my horn, my mouth mumbling away in an imaginary conversation from a dream. A soft nip at my left ear drew a wide grin on my face.
“Stop it, Twili-”
“What the?!”I yelled, causing the bird to flee from my face, as I pushed back into the bed, flailing my hooves in the air in panic. I realized I was no longer in the library, and looked at the raven with anger, as it was sitting back at her place on the desk.
“Just a dream . . . damn you, Raven!” I said, and then yawned loudly.
I got out of bed and trotted over to the other room, where my eyes fell on a small basket on the table that had a note on top of it. It was filled with some fruits, a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk. On the note, a surprisingly calligraphic writing formed up a short message: “Welcome to your new house! Enjoy your breakfast, it’s not much, but everything is from our farm, fresh and natural. Annabelle.”
“That’s so nice,” I thought, biting from a big, red apple.
Raven flew inside the room and landed on the table, looking curiously at the basket.
“What? You ruined a beautiful dream I was having. You aren’t getting any!” I said, smiling devilishly at the bird. She cawed back at me, this time a little more submissive and quieter.
I rolled my eyes, letting out a sigh.
“I’m just kidding, silly bird; here, have some of this.”
I ripped a corner off the bread loaf and put it in front of Raven and she immediately started eating from it, hungrily.
“Someone’s got an appetite! I gotta talk to Fluttershy to see what else I can feed you with.”
I put the basket away in a kitchen cabinet and left the house, leaving Raven inside to finish her share of the breakfast. As I was heading towards the lake, I took in a deep breath, enjoying the fresh morning air. Reaching the edge, I tested the water with a hoof, but it was too cold for a dip so I just lied there on the grass, enjoying the view.
Not long after, the sound of an approaching guest made itself clear, my ear automatically twitching towards the source of the noise in response. I turned my head, still lying on the ground, and saw Spike coming up to me.
“Hey Blink! How’s your new home?” he asked, darting his eyes from me to the small house.
“Hello Spike, it’s nice, can’t complain, double bed for myself, this is the life.”
“That’s cool, but I think Twilight misses you,” the dragon replied, smirking.
“She does?” I quickly asked.
“Ha! Gotcha, lover boy!” he said, laughing.
I frowned, giving him a somewhat angry look.
“Just . . . friends,” I hissed at the dragon.
“Relax, big guy, I’m just teasing you. Now let’s get moving, we have to go to Canterlot today, or did you forget?”
It had almost slipped my mind. I remembered how Twilight told me that Celestia wanted us to pay her a visit today. I still wondered what she wanted to talk to us about.
Spike and I started heading off towards the library, when suddenly, Raven flew on my back, having finished her breakfast.
“How did- guess I’m stuck with you for the rest of my life?” I asked, looking at the bird that was now sitting down comfortably between my shoulder blades as I was strolling alongside with Spike.
The dragon gave Raven a curious look.
“How did you get stuck with this strange animal again?” he asked, receiving an angry look from the bird in question.
“Well, she kinda’ found me, I guess.”
“I’ve never seen such a bird, which explains why Fluttershy was so stressed out about it.”
“I could say that both of us are strangers to these places, am I right, Raven?”
The bird softly cawed in response.
We soon reached the library, where Twilight was waiting for us, packing stuff for the trip.
“Hey Blink! How was your first night in your new house?” the purple unicorn asked, as me and Spike walked into the library’s main room.
“It was ok, I guess. How’s the itinerary looking for today?”
“Well,” Twilight started, levitating a list in front of her, “we’ll have to visit the princess first, and after that I can give you a tour of the city; something tells me that you’ll love it.”
“Something tells me we’ll die of boredom,” Spike added.
Twilight rolled her eyes in annoyance and went outside, through the back door.
“Come on guys, it’s already afloat,” she shouted, from the backyard.
I followed Spike, curious about where we were actually going.
“I hope you’re not afraid of heights,” the dragon said, as we got out of the house.
Immediately my eyes fell on the huge hot air balloon from the middle of the yard. It was bigger than I would have expected it to be and the basket could easily fit four if not five ponies.
“So legit,” I said, gasping at the huge balloon.
“So what?” Twilight asked while she was getting inside, her magic tweaking the burners.
“Legal,” I quickly said “I meant, is this thing legal?”
“Well of course it is, I even got a flying permit for it back in Canterlot.”
“Relax, we won’t crash or anything like that, I’ve done this a million times.”
The three of us got inside the basket and Twilight untied the anchor rope, letting the balloon gently rise into the air. As we ascended, the tree house became smaller and smaller, as the whole town of Ponyville revealed itself under us. Looking back, I could see the small lake and my new home near it. About a mile to its right was Fluttershy’s cottage, right in front of the huge Everfree forest.
Twilight’s horn began to glow and the balloon started heading towards a mountain region in the far distance.
“Are you driving it with your magic?” I asked, intrigued.
“Indeed, I am. It would take too long to reach Canterlot just by relying on the wind currents, so I’m just giving it a ‘push’.”
The balloon picked up speed and soon enough we were floating over Sweet Apple acres, Twilight taking her time to wave a hoof at Applejack and Big Mac, who were bucking the orchard’s first harvest.
My legs were shaking a bit, being the first time I flew in something like this, as a pony too. I had just gotten used to walking on all fours and I still had small adjustment issues with my new body’s weight distribution. There was a fun part to it though: even if the balloon wasn’t the fastest of aircrafts, the wind was still rushing into my eyes and through my mane, making me feel much better. In times like those I wondered if I would have been better off being a pegasus, and I even started to understand Rainbow Dash’s passion for flight.
“Are you all right?” Twilight asked, noticing my slight discomfort.
“Yea, sure, just… new to flying I guess. It’s wonderful though.”
After about half an hour, I could see the edges of a big city, located at the base of a large mountain.
“And this is Canterlot, capital city of Equestria,” Twilight’s voice could be heard, as I was amazed by the actual size of the city in front of my eyes; it was so much bigger than I could have ever imagined.
“This certainly beats the one from the show,” I thought, my jaw still hanging.
“Isn’t it beautiful? I sometimes miss living here, but then I remember all the friends I have in Ponyville.”
“It sure looks busier and more uhm, classy?” I said, studying from a distance what seemed to be a luxurious neighborhood.
“It sure is, and yea, most ponies here are a little more sophisticated. I’m happy my parents aren’t like them, which reminds me, I should visit pay them a visit, it would be a nice opportunity for you to meet them!”
“What?!” both me and Spike suddenly jumped.
“Twilight, I don’t think this is such a good idea,” Spike started.
“Yea, they may have other more important things to do than meet me, I’m sure,” I added.
“It was just an idea, what’s gotten into you, guys?” she said, rolling her eyes and then resuming guiding the balloon towards its destination.
I sat down near Spike, who was at the other end of the fairly large basket, and gave him a nod, appreciatively.
“Did she just suggest presenting me to her parents?” I whispered to the dragon.
“Yea, well you’ll have to understand her, she doesn’t go out much. Like not at all, except with the rest of the gang. So, naturally, she doesn’t know about stuff like this. Also, knowing her parents, that would have been so awkward for you,” Spike whispered back.
“Tell me about it.”
“No, I mean really, really strange. When we moved to Canterlot, her father, Night Light, made me promise I’ll take care of her and let no colts get near.”
“As any responsible father would say-” I stated, but Spike quickly interrupted me.
“Yea, that was when we left Canterlot, she was still a filly then. Now, whenever we visit her parents, they use every opportunity to talk to me in private and ask me if she has started seeing anypony. They’re worrying about her not going out like any young mare would.”
“So her bringing me to her parents all of a sudden would have gotten them the wrong idea,” I concluded.
“What are you two up to?” Twilight asked, turning her head towards us, noticing the whispering even though she was concentrating on steering the balloon.
“Nothing!” we answered in unison.
“Anyway, we’re almost there! We just have to land on that pad there,” she said, pointing towards a platform.
The landing area was sticking out of a tower which was guarding one of the main gates of the city. It was quite high though, and we weren’t ascending fast enough.
“Spike, we’re low on fuel, can you boost it a little? Not much, just to get us up there.”
The dragon quickly complied. While Twilight set aside the balloons burners, he took a deep breath and this time, the bubbling noises inside his chest were louder. A bright, red flame shot out of his mouth, dispersing inside the balloon, making it suddenly rise.
“Nice flame, Spike,” I declared, quite impressed. He gave me a wink in response, slightly puffing his chest out.
“Don’t encourage him,” The purple unicorn complained.
After a few moments, the balloon was at the right height, ready to land. Twilight pushed the aircraft down on the platform, while Spike threw a sandbag with a rope attached out of the basket. We got out and Twilight quickly secured the balloon, with the help of a guard pony.
“Good morning, Miss Sparkle, it’s a pleasure to see you again,” the guard said.
“Likewise, David. How are things around here these days?” Twilight asked.
“It’s pretty much the same old busy place you left when you were younger. Not much has changed since you were gone, I’m afraid. And of course, I’m still in charge with the landing tower’s security. All in all, things are going well.”
“I’m glad everything’s fine. I’m sorry though, I can’t stay any longer and we really have to get to the castle for a meeting. So, see you later, David!”
“Miss Twilight . . .” the guard greeted her off, bowing his head.
“Don’t tell me you know everyone here too,” I asked her rhetorically, while we went down the tower’s stairway, after a few moments.
“Oh no, we just know each other from all my travels with the balloon. He’s been working as a guard at this tower for several years.”
“I see, but can’t you teleport here?” I asked her.
Twilight let out a laugh and even Spike seemed to chuckle at my question.
“No silly, I can't. Even though I’m pretty good with the spell, it does have a downside: the greater the distance, the bigger the amount of magic needed. Even fully rested, my autonomy won’t exceed two, maybe three kilometers with maximum accuracy, or even up to five but teleporting at that distance is not precise and you don’t want to end up inside a mountain, do you?”
“That’s . . . awesome! When can I learn that spell?” I asked, eagerly.
“Not soon, Blink, you’ve barely managed to lift pebbles off the ground. You have magic, in ample supply I might add, but you lack technique and control. Also, you have a lot of reading and studying to do if you wish to proceed in a magic based career. That is, if we don’t find out who you were before that night.”
That reminder gave me cold chills, as I was still uncertain how my whole cover-up will hold out in the future. I could only hope she would give up searching for answers and just leave it be, which was unlikely, seeing as Twilight was quite persistent in all her endeavors.
We finally reached the bottom of the tower and trotted outside, right into a busy street. The main gates of the city were nearby and there was a lot of traffic on what seemed to be a main street. I took a closer look at the city’s gates and noticed they were actually bigger and a lot thicker than they seemed from the balloon. They were also wide open on the inside, with lots of shopping stands right next to them.
“Twilight, those gates right there, they don’t usually close, do they?” I asked.
“Why would they?” the purple mare casually responded. That made me realize a bitter truth: no matter how much I enjoyed being in Equestria and trying to fit in, there was no doubt of what my true origins were. I came from a world of conflict, lies and hate, where everyone had to be suspicious about the rest in order to pull though.
Equestria on the other side seemed to be a calm and nice place to live, with no insecurities or worries about what the next day might bring. Order and prosperity were the words needed to describe this wonderful place, and having an element of Harmony by my side just made everything even more surreal. Everything seemed good, too good actually.
As I was thinking about all those things in perspective, we kept walking across the busy street. Twilight suddenly lit up her horn, making me lose my trail of thoughts. A yellow carriage stopped in front of us, as I took a few steps back, not to be run over.
“You signaled, miss?” the buff, gray pony that was pulling the cab asked.
“I did, can you get us to the royal castle?” Twilight asked.
“Sure thing, miss, hop right in!”
The three of us climbed inside the small carriage, followed by Raven, who stormed inside after us, landing on one of Spike’s head scales, drawing a surprised cry from him.
“There you were, Raven! Thought I lost you in the big city,” I said, grabbing the bird off of what was now a pretty angry dragon.
I placed the bird on the window frame, and then we started enjoying the view together, as the carriage picked up speed.
The cab quickly made its way up the busy streets and the more it advanced inside the capital city, the more the building seemed as beautiful and imposing as the ones in my world’s old cities. After a few minutes we passed a huge round square with a monumental structure at the end of it. Its architecture was simply amazing, unlike anything I had ever seen, beautifully decorated columns standing tall at the side of the building, supporting a huge dome that in turn held three pony-shaped statues, representing a pegasus, a unicorn and an earth pony.
“This building on your left is Canterlot’s Auditorium,” Twilight started, noticing the wonder on my face. “It’s the biggest building in the capital, after the castle, of course. It took four years to build and the most talented artists of Equestria have performed here since it was inaugurated. I for one just love Octavia’s cello pieces, although lately she hasn’t had that many shows, especially since she’s started a relationship with that… mare, a unicorn DJ as the newspapers said, for weeks. Anyway, we should really go to a show sometime, it would be so much fun!”
Spike puffed and made a vomiting gesture; Twilight gave him an angry stare, which was soon replaced by a grin.
“Here they go again,” I thought, noticing the devious smile and just relaxed in my seat, enjoying the fight that was about to start.
“You were a little more willing to come to this place when you wanted to ask Rarity out, knowing that she might like the shows here,” Twilight said with an air of smugness.
Spike frowned but a reply was already on his mind, a comeback that would end that little fight with the dragon as the victor.
“So you wanted to do the same with Blink?” he simply retorted.
I quickly turned my head back towards the windows, trying not to look at Twilight and pretending I wasn’t even listening. The purple mare was already blushing, to Spike’s satisfaction.
“That… I didn’t mean it like…” Twilight stammered, but was quickly cut off by the cab’s sudden stop, as I literally felt saved by the small bell that announced the reaching of destination.
“Canterlot’s Castle, main arrival gate, that would be ten bits.” the gray stallion said.
We got out of the carriage and Twilight paid the driver pony, while I slowly approached the gates, my mouth open in amazement. The castle was towering above all other buildings, bringing great shame even to the huge auditorium we had just passed by.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Twilight softly said, joining me. “I sometimes miss it so much. Come on, you’ll love how it looks from the inside!”
The purple mare trotted through the entrance, Spike following her. Raven was making herself comfortable on my shoulder and now seemed quite absent, not sharing my amazement at all. I followed Twilight into the inner courtyard, guarded by defenders, all wearing golden armor pieces and Corinthian type helmets.
The outside wall was several meters thick, surrounding the castle all around. Small watch towers were situated every one hundred meters or so with guard ponies patrolling on top of the wall, between them.
We walked across the inner court on a cobbled pathway towards the main entrance: two huge, oaken doors rested opened, ponies going in and out of the castle. Everywhere I looked I could notice noble ponies, dressed up in expensive garments, trotting around with their heads held high.
We passed though the main entrance, finding ourselves in a courtyard about sixty meters square, with a beautiful flower garden in the center. Twilight went to the side of the courtyard and entered the building, the dragon and I following her closely. I noticed that most of the ponies that we came across looked at us curiously, and almost all the guards slightly bowed their heads when the purple mare passed by them.
“Do you know everypony at the castle?” I asked her, while we turned left into a long hallway.
“Well, I still know some of them from when I was a filly. I was Celestia’s personal student so they kind of got to know me and Spike after a while. It was so much fun when I could just sit anywhere I wanted and read all day long,” Twilight trailed off.
“Ohh yea, tons of fun!” Spike laughed, sarcastically. “I kinda miss the food, though,” he added, his tone nostalgic as well.
“Princess Luna, what a pleasure to see you again!” Twilight’s voice suddenly broke the dragon’s wistful moment.
The Princess of the moon was right in front of us and seemed quite in a hurry. We took a deep bow and she returned the gesture with a longer nod of her head, directed mostly at the purple unicorn.
“Twilight Sparkle, glad to see you too. I’m afraid I’ve got matters of great importance I must attend to! My sister is waiting for you in her study. I bid you farewell and I hope we can catch up soon.”
She then continued her trot, while we bowed yet again.
“Strange, I’ve never seen her hurrying before,” Twilight said, intrigued.
We continued our walk inside the castle, going up stairs, through halls and under archways until we finally found ourselves in front of a large door which was beautifully decorated: Celestia’s personal study. Twilight knocked twice at the door and a voice from within invited us inside.
The room itself was not that big, but three of the walls were covered with tall shelves filled with old books and parchments. The fourth wall had a large window with an amazing view on what seemed to be the castle’s gardens and I couldn’t help notice a strangely familiar maze in the distance.
“Princess Celestia!” Twilight said, taking a bow.
Spike and I swiftly followed her example. Celestia was standing on a huge cushion on the floor, having a book floating in front of her.
“Ahh, you’re here! Twilight, I’m so glad to see you, my dear student.”
She quickly got up, putting the book aside and headed towards us, lowering herself towards the purple unicorn, nuzzling each other.
“Spike, my little dragon,” Celestia then said, making him actually blush a little. “Not that little anymore, you’ve grown so much since we last met. Are you still giving Twilight a hard time?” She asked, jokingly.
“Well, If by hard time you mean having a little fun once in a while, then yea,” he answered, grinning.
“No matter what, he’s still my number one assistant, and I can’t really stay mad at him for too long,” Twilight added, smiling. “Although, his first growth spurt started this year and I’m concerned about how he’s going to fit in the library. He’s already taller than me.”
“I’m sure you’ll find a solution, Twilight. And about our last discussion, Spike, I take that you have made your mind for the moment?”
“Yes, princess, there is no way I am leaving Ponyville any time soon. Even when I’ll be bigger, the folks there will know it’s just me, Spike.”
“I’m glad that you have made this decision, then. You have a lot of friends here among ponies, and even though the last case of a dragon living among us was hundreds of years ago, I am sure everything will work out all right in the end. Sure, there will be challenges but I’m sure your friends will help you pull through.”
Celestia gave him a gentle hug, Spike wrapping his arms around the princess’s neck.
“I’m proud of you, Spike,” Celestia added.
“Thank you, princess,” he simply replied, with a slightly emotional tone.
Celestia then looked at me, resuming her royal posture and clearing her throat.
“Midnight Blink, I am glad to see you in good shape. The first time we met you were still weakened.”
I swallowed nervously, not knowing exactly what I should say to the princess of the sun standing in front of me. Deep inside I actually hoped she would not hug me or anything like that.
“Uhh, it’s a pleasure to see you too, your highness,” I stammered out.
“I noticed you’ve also improved your magic.” She then gave me a stranger, unfocused look, and then continued: “Quite impressive, I might add,” she said, apparently noticing my magic field.
“How the hell are they doing that?” I thought, trying to keep a relaxed pose.
“He’s still learning,” Twilight intervened, “Blink has a lot of work to do and unfortunately I still couldn’t figure out anything about his . . . origins. My scanning spells haven’t picked up any brain injuries or traumas that could have made him forget everything like that.”
“Also, it seems to be a strange case of memory loss,” she turned to me, having figured something out, “you seem to remember most of the basic tasks and have retained full speech capability; you also know about important personalities like Discord or the Princess here, are you sure you don’t remember anything else that could help me in my search? It’s safe to tell us, Blink, I’m sure the princess here would help you herself with anything she could.”
I noticed Celestia nodding in approval, then Twilight giving me a hopeful look, waiting for my answer. The princess was also looking at me in a strange, somewhat demanding way. She probably knew something about me after all, although I was not sure how much.
“I’m sorry . . .” I let out after a pause during which my eyes darted from Twilight to the royal figure, undecided. “I don’t remember anything.”
Twilight sighed in disappointment, but then smiled back at me.
“It’s ok, I’m sure we’ll figure it out someday.”
“I’m sure of that as well,” Celestia added.
“Anyways princess, is this why you have asked us to come in visit?” Twilight asked.
“Indeed, I wished to check up on your situation with your new guest. Also, congratulations on finding yourself a new place to stay, Blink. Twilight has informed me of your new job, although I take it that you will continue your magic studies as planned, am I right?”
“Yes, princess. I’m quite eager to learn about spells and magic, and Twilight has helped me quite a lot.”
“Perfect then, but don’t forget to take it slow, the art of magic is a mysterious and particularly difficult to master.”
“I will,” I simply replied.
“Before we leave, princess, there’s something on my mind,” Twilight said, remembering. “I’ve met with Luna earlier before arriving at your study; she seemed quite in a hurry, was something wrong?”
“No worries, my dear, it’s just a meeting with some gryphon and minotaur diplomats, which she was apparently late to. I’m glad though that my sister resumed some of her royal duties since her return, I can finally relax more and catch up on my reading,” Celestia said, smiling.
“I’m happy she’s fitting in nicely after . . . all that time spent on the moon,” Twilight said, an err of caution in her voice at the last part.
“Don’t you worry, my faithful student; that belongs to the past, and although tomorrow holds mysteries, today must be cherished as a wonderful gift, that is why we call it ‘present’.”
“You’re right, princess,” the purple unicorn said, reassured, “we’ll be off then, it was nice seeing you, I will send letters with our progress. Also, my friends wanted me to say ‘Hi’.”
“Tell them I appreciate the gesture, Twilight Sparkle, have a safe return journey!”
Twilight took a bow with Spike and I following her in example. As she got out of the room with the dragon behind her, Celestia approached me and I stopped, looking at her, curious of what she might have to say to me.
“I hope that when the right time comes, Midnight Blink, you will be able to remember your past, so we can know more about you. I sense kindness in your heart and your magic has great potential, but hiding away in the shadows around you is not always the best thing,” Celestia said, making sure her student and Spike could not hear her.
The look in her eyes was warm and understanding and I simply nodded, knowing that not only she knew about me but also understood my reasons to hide the truth. The feeling of guilt was still somewhere inside me, however, stronger than ever.
I left the study, following Twilight and Spike back through all the hallways and out of the castle. Raven was waiting for me outside the castle, irritating a guard pony, trying to hold on with her claws to his helmet. I hadn’t even noticed she had left me and I called her back before she could piss off the guard even more.
“So, what should we do now? We still have a couple of hours to spare,” Twilight asked, as we walked through the outer gates of the castle, into a busy street.
“I’m hungry,” Spike said, bluntly.
“That would be two of us,” I added.
Raven also cawed at the purple mare, as if to support us.
“Fine, let’s eat! I know the perfect place for a takeout,” Twilight said.
We traveled to a fast food cart a few hundreds of meters away, in a small square, where the purple mare stated they served the best hay fries in Canterlot along with the most delicious dip sauce ever made. And boy was she right. I quickly ate my portion, rivaling the dragon’s speed, while sitting at a small table in the square. Raven occasionally took a hay fry out of our plates, drawing angry looks from Spike whenever she took one from his.
Our small group enjoyed the rest of the time spent there by slowly making our way back to the air tower situated at the city’s entrance. The walk wasn’t particularly long but having just eaten, climbing the tower’s stairs proved to be quite a challenge. We reached the landing pad where our balloon was anchored, and with David’s help we managed to board it and take off into the skies. The guard pony was kind enough to refill the burners as well, to our surprise.
“I’m kind of worn out after this trip,” Twilight said, as we reached a reasonable cruising altitude. “I’ll just leave the wind currents do their job this time.”
“Fine by me,” Spike replied, shrugging.
“I have to admit, the view is quite nice, so I don’t mind either” I said, looking upon the city we left behind.
I spent the rest of the trip quietly looking at the scenery alongside Twilight, as we slowly floated towards Ponyville. Spike had dozed off on the floor of the basket, letting out small trails of smoke from his nostrils.
After about an hour, the sun was beginning its descent into the horizon, and the air was getting slightly colder. Soon, the burner became a source of light that cast shadows under us every now and then when it fired, keeping the aircraft afloat and on its course. A cold wind sent chills through my body, and I realized the temperature was getting pretty low at that altitude. A sudden touch made my heart pump faster for a couple of beats, but somehow I managed not to jolt in surprise. Twilight had slowly rested herself on my shoulder, probably because of the evening's cold air. I gave her a look, not turning my head, and noticed she was still looking at the sundown, her thoughts apparently in another place. My heart was racing and I could even feel the pulse ringing in my head. I slowly got closer to her, unsure if because of the cold or…
“Guys, we’re here,” Spike broke the silence from the other side of the balloon.
Twilight jolted, realizing what, or actually who she was leaning against and quickly shifted her weight back on her own hooves, giving me a quick, embarrassed look before preparing to land the balloon.
After a few minutes, the aircraft was deflating on the ground, in the library’s backyard, Twilight using her magic to pack the balloon back into its own basket.
“This was quite a fun day,” I said, still a bit nervous.
“Yea, at least we got out of this place for a while,” Spike added, heading into the tree house. “Good night big guy, see ya later!”
“Good night, Spike!”
I then turned to Twilight, a smile on both of our faces.
“Thanks for taking me with you, Twilight. Canterlot was amazing, especially the castle.”
“I’m glad you liked it, Blink and I hope we can do it again some other time. Good night.”
“Good night to you too,” I said, and we both headed our separate ways.
The walk to my new home seemed shorter than expected, Raven keeping me company. I reached the small house by the lake and went inside. Although I felt tired from the journey I couldn’t fall asleep just yet, so I went to my bedroom, retrieved my saddleback from a corner and dumped all the books from inside on the bed. I picked them one by one and placed them on the small shelf near the writing desk. I put the magic kit in a corner of the desk, opened it and took some quills, the notebook and Star Swirl the Bearded’s book about advanced magic. I gently grabbed a quill in my hoof and was surprised of how easy it was to maneuver it.
I then started copying Bellona’s notes into my notebook, doing a rough translation under each line, leaving some space for further corrections. It took a while, due to the fact that I couldn’t use magic so precisely to actually write with a levitated quill, but it was eventually done after an hour or so.
Flipping the pages, I ended up at a bookmark I placed, right at the instructions of the illusion spell I planned on trying out. I then realized the level of lighting in the room was getting close to none, as I couldn’t read from the book anymore. I looked around and saw a candlestick, then an idea sprung in my mind.
“Ok, you can do this, you read about it in that book for starters,” I said to myself, pulling the candle in front of me.
Focusing my magic to my horn, I held it close to the candle and after a few tensed seconds, I felt bright light hitting my shut eyes.
“Ha! Fire! I made fire!” I almost yelled out in excitement, then realized how silly I must have sounded.
I resumed reading the spell’s details and noted down the important steps. After what seemed to be an hour, the candle’s light faded, and it soon died out. I blindly searched through the desk’s drawers and found more candles. But after lighting the new one, I noticed the moon was high in the sky and my eyelids felt heavy all of a sudden. Raven was asleep on the corner of the desk, her head under a wing.
“Wow, lost track of time there,” I said to myself, noticing how much I had actually written up until then: about fifteen pages. “That was definitely more than an hour. Heh, reminds me of my gaming nights.”
I closed the books, blew the candle out and dragged my hooves to bed, where I fell asleep instantly.
The next day marked the start of a monotonous way of life, an awesome and exciting life, none the less.
I woke up quite late, had breakfast from the basket Annabelle left me the other day and rushed to Kazooie’s farm, where I started my work. The first day he was easy on me, as I just had to carry around tools and equipment, in preparation for the first harvest. Later that day I went to the library, where Twilight was already planning out my magic training, levitating a huge checklist around.
Unfortunately for me, the practice sessions were shorter, being replaced with theory lessons about the history of magic. She said it was a key aspect in fully understanding the field of magic, but I just couldn’t be bothered with all those dates and funny names of old pony wizards. Twilight seemed to be taking her teaching role quite seriously though, and made sure I was paying attention all the time. It felt exactly like being back in high school, where there was always that class that I loved but had to waste weeks, if not months with the basic, boring stuff first, and then start doing the interesting things.
Days passed and I got used to the routine: work at Kazooie’s farm in the mornings and magic lessons every other two days in the evening, at the library. I had dinner together with Kazooie’s family every day and I would always get a basket of food after finishing my job at the farm. Work was getting harder and harder, harvesting the crops using just a sickle, like the rest.
As my magic control got better and better though, I started combining work with practicing, levitating the sickle and making it cut the wheat on its own. Kazooie found my method ingenious, but quite amusing, having never seen a unicorn work the fields before.
One day I decided to finally try out the spell I’ve been studying for so long, having learned enough to understand the instructions. I went into the small kitchen-dining room of my house and moved the table and chairs to the side, to make enough room. I looked again through my notebook, which was by now half filled with notes, keeping it levitated in front of me.
“Ok, this is simple, I can do this. Focus… and channel the magic…” I repeated, closing my eyes shut, starting to concentrate.
The tricky bit about the spell was that I had to focus my magic from within and then try to map out an exact replica of my energy field to a targeted destination. After that, I had to keep a link with that field and ‘jump start it’ with a large dose of magic to make it turn into a visible shape that resembled myself, since the energy field clone was invisible to begin with.
As I concentrated, I felt my magic leaving through my horn, forming in front of me a shape that actually resembled a pony. I could now ‘see’ all that magic but just when I had my eyes closed. Twilight’s ability to see it whenever she wanted was truly amazing and I knew it would take me a long time to reach that level.
While finishing the magic clone in front of me, I started feeling cold chills again. Twilight and I had figured out that the strange and scary thing I felt whenever I used my magic for too long was actually a surge of energy. She wasn’t sure where it was coming from and why it ‘felt’ different than my normal magic but we decided it was too dangerous to try and use it, so I learned how to control and subdue it.
As the air was getting colder around me, I kept focus on the illusion, while trying to control the dark energy that was slowly spreading around me. After minutes of intense focus and with a lot of determination to not stop focusing on the illusion, I managed to push the darkness back, while keeping the illusion alive. I opened my eyes just for a moment just to notice that in front of me was a smooth blue mist. Going through the last steps of creating the magical field, I braced myself, gathering all remaining powers to ‘activate’ the illusion.
I let out the last magic I could muster through my horn and opened my eyes, hoping it was enough to complete the spell. At first, I had a small shock seeing the strange pony in my house, but as I closely looked at him, I noticed he was . . . me. The spell had worked, and a very realistic illusion of me, a ‘shadow clone’ as I decided to name it, was standing two feet away from me.
Raven started cawing at the image, having been besides me all along. I looked at it again and he seemed to have the same facial expression as before. In fact, it was not moving at all, just standing there, looking through me, his eyes focused at nothing in particular.
“Good, so this is the idle state, I guess I don’t have enough magic left in me to control it. Well, at least I pulled it off,” I said, satisfied.
I swung my hoof at the shadow clone and it passed right through it, leaving a trail of dark blue smoke. The illusion dissipated after a few more moments and right before it went away I noticed something strange about it.
“Hmm, no cutie mark on it. So weird . . . What the heck do you represent?” I asked, looking at the strange symbol from my flank. “I have to find out somehow, this is getting so annoying.”
A knock on the door made me jolt, having been used with the quiet atmosphere. I opened it and Spike was sitting in front of me, eating from an apple.
“Hey Blink, thought I'd come by and said hi. Here, have one!” he said, throwing another apple at me, which I barely managed to catch with the little magic I had left.
“Thanks, dude. Come in, make yourself at home. Actually, don’t. I don’t want this place to burn down or anything like that.”
“Ohh, come on, that was just once, and Twilight managed to put it out in time,” Spike said, angry.
He took a seat on the small couch I had, finishing his apple in one bite.
“Hmm, do you want mine back? I’m not that hungry anyway.”
“All right, thanks, Blink,” he said, hungrily.
“You seem taller,” I noticed, looking at him. “How’s the growth spurt going along?”
“I’m still hungry all the time, so yea, I’ve even had fights with Twilight about eating. The thing is that I know I don’t have to eat that much in order to grow naturally, but it’s just so hard not to. Dragons usually eat whatever they can lay their eyes on during their first growth spurts but that way they just grow too fast and turn into greedy, mindless creatures.”
“Well then, better lay off those apples. Hey, watch this.”
I concentrated, finding some magic that had regenerated in the meantime and focused it at the apple in his hands. After a few moments, the fruit exploded into a blue puff of smoke.
“Oh, come on!” the dragon protested.
I laughed, amused by his hunger-driven anger.
“What did you do to it, anyway?” Spike asked.
“Just something I’ve practiced with Twilight during my last training: teleportation; although I have no idea where I just sent it.” I answered, letting out a laugh.
“Nice, so how long until you can teleport yourself?” the dragon asked, slightly impressed by my progress.
“Still a long way. I can teleport small objects at no more than a hundred meters or so at the moment, but I’m slowly getting there.”
“Cool. Anyway, just remembered: Twilight wanted to invite you to come with us to Canterlot again; something about her getting some boring books from the castle’s library.”
“That would be nice, when is it?”
“Tomorrow morning,” the dragon replied.
“Perfect, I’m free tomorrow. Well, see you then! Now get out before you start sneezing flames in my house again.”
“Sorry dude, can’t help it, my methane chambers are maturing.”
“They can mature just fine outside of my house,” I said, rushing the dragon out.
Spike left, and on his way home, right near the library’s door, he found an apple sitting on the ground. He picked it up, recognizing it, then looked in the direction in which my house should have been, and stood there, thinking.
“Wow big guy, that’s more than a kilometer. Sweet . . .” he said, taking a bite out of the apple.
The next day I met up with Twilight and Spike in their backyard, the hot air balloon standing tall near them, fully inflated. The journey was shorter, as I took the opportunity to test my skills, helping Twilight with driving the aircraft. We reached Canterlot and landed on the same landing pad at the air tower.
“So, why are we here again?” I asked the purple mare, while trotting across a busy street, making our way towards the castle.
“I need to get some books from the halls of records. They might have something on your cutie mark. That would practically be the last place to check. I’m sorry Blink, but I’ve looked though all of my books and found nothing about it.”
“It’s all right, I really appreciate your effort to help me.”
“No problem, things have been quite interesting since you showed up,” she said, putting on a smile.
We reached the palace, but went through a different entrance, ending up in a different wing of the castle. After several turns in what still seemed to be a maze of hallways and staircases, we reached the library.
“Here we are!” Twilight said, her eyes glittering with joy. ”I haven’t been here in like, forever!”
Long, tall rows of shelves lay in front of our eyes, in a huge section of the palace, with a ceiling so high that you could easily fit Twilight’s balloon inside.
“Those are a lot of books,” I said, slightly amazed.
“And to think I might never have the chance to read them all,” Twilight added, genuinely saddened.
“Twi, you got issues,” Spike let out a laugh, drawing a chuckle from me as well.
“Anyway, you two just stay around here so I can find you, I’ll be right back, just need to find a couple of books,” the mare said, disappearing among the endless rows of bookshelves.
The warning was disregarded so me and Spike went on exploring the library.
I quickly found the magic section, which had a huge number of books written by Star Swirl the Bearded. I noticed most of the titles were familiar, Twilight having a copy of almost all of them back at Ponyville’s library. I trotted around, getting more bored with every shelf I passed by, until my eyes fell on one of the paintings on the huge walls.
The canvas seemed old, and it featured a unicorn pony with a large white beard and a funny looking wizard hat. The marking on the side said: “Star Swirl the Bearded”.
“So this is him,” I thought, taking a closer look.
Then, I noticed something in the background. It was a strange silhouette, resembling a pony. I took several steps forwards, getting as close as possible to the painting. The pony from the background was also a unicorn, standing to its side. It was wearing a strange, white tunic and had some sort of leather shoes on.
“I see you are interested in this pony,” a voice made itself heard from behind me.
I turned and noticed an old stallion with a pair of round glasses on his nose, dressed in a sort of uniform.
“Sorry if I scared you, I work here,” he said. “It’s strange to find young stallions like you here these days.”
“It’s ok. I was just looking at this painting, what can you tell me about this pony?” I asked.
“Hehe, well, this stallion was a great wizard by the name of Star Swirl the-”
“No, no,” I interrupted him, “I’m talking about this pony here, in the background,” I said, pointing my hoof at the pony in white dress.
“Ahh, that one,” the old librarian said, adjusting his glasses. “If my memory servers right, that there should be Bellona the Wise. Not much is known about her, just that she was close to Star Swirl, and was a very powerful unicorn.”
“That makes sense,” I whispered to myself. “The white tunic she is wearing, and the footwear” I said out loud again, “I suppose that is something ponies used to wear back then?”
“Oh, no, that is what’s strange about her, ponies never wore dresses like those back in that period.”
“Of course they didn’t . . . but Romans did,” I thought.
“Well, thank you so much for telling me that. I should be going now, I have a friend that’s probably searching for me,” I said, leaving the old librarian behind.
I found Spike after some searching and we both headed back to the entrance, where Twilight was already checking out a couple of books.
“There you are. I think I’ve found something useful. One of it might have something about your strange magic and the other one could tell us what your cutie mark means. Although I really hope it doesn’t, the book itself is about . . . death,” Twilight said, giving me a somewhat worrying look, “and there’s even a missing page, which is weird, who would take a page from a book like that?”
“We’ll figure it out, in the meantime, let’s get out of here, all these books make me wanna fall asleep,” I added, trying to change the subject.
Twilight decided it was a good idea to visit the royal gardens before heading back to Ponyville, so the three of us went out on a stroll. The palace’s garden was as amazing as it was huge.
Flowers of all kinds were on display, some of which I had never seen back home. The air around us was heavy in a combination of the most beautiful perfumes I’ve ever smelled in my life. Insects were flying all around in a sea of aromas and everything seemed just perfect.
We even visited the ‘living maze’ where Twilight told the story of how she and her friends confronted Discord for the first time right there.
On our way back, we passed through what was called the “Stone garden”, a small orchard that had different statues on display, symbolizing famous ponies from Equestria’s history.
As Twilight briefly explained what pony each of them represented as we passed by them, I felt a strange, growing sensation inside me.
“And this last one is Discord himself, which we imprisoned in stone over three years ago using the Elements of Harmony,” the mare concluded the small tour.
As I looked at the twisted face of the stoned draconic figure, I started to feel ill, my mind drifting away to familiar places: to home. But there were no happy images of my old world. Wars, fights, riots all came clashing in front of my eyes, as I felt my mind engulfed in the most dreaded times of the history of my world. I felt coldness, chaos, I felt . . . discord.
“Blink, are you all right?” Twilight asked, snapping me to reality. “You looked like you could faint right here.”
“I’m fine,” I said, after a short pause, “I just… I think I stood too much in the sun in the past few days at the farm.”
“All right, then, let’s head back home. We’ll get a carriage.”
The flight back home was longer but I started feeling much better when I got in the air. That was one strange experience I just had and I was sure it had something to do with the imprisoned creature from the garden. Good thing the Elements of Harmony made sure he will never escape, as Twilight has been telling me back at the garden.
“Hey Blink, do you want to have dinner with us?” the purple mare asked, still concerned after that previous incident.
“That would actually be wonderful. Thanks, Twilight. And I insist on helping with the cooking,” I said, giving Spike a wink.
“Don’t mention it. It’s been a long time since you last ate with us.”
We soon reached the library, had a nice dinner and then I headed back to my home, Twilight making sure I took with me some extra studying material. She also promised she would go through the books from the palace’s library, and will notify me as soon as she finds something.
Back in my house, I laid in my comfortable bed, a book gently floating over me, while the horn was emanating a bright bluish light, helping me read. Somehow I couldn’t forget about what had happened in the royal gardens that day, and I felt chills running down my spine whenever I remembered the images I saw. But everything was fine now and the whole of Equestria was probably sound asleep under the bright moonlight. I gently stroked Raven with a hoof, the bird now sleeping calmly on the top of the bedframe, near my head.
I fell asleep, a hard day of work ahead of me.
A guard pony was standing under the light of the moon. The stallion let out a yawn and trotted out of the Stone Garden, making his way to the next patrolling point.
The first statue in the line shook a couple of times and then, a crack formed on its head. A piece fell to the ground, revealing a closed eyelid. It suddenly opened, and the pupil shrank from the light of the moon, after three years of complete darkness. Under the now flimsy layer of stone, Discord smirked . . .