Authors note: I apologize for this chapter taking so long. Real life has kept me rather busy the last month. Anyway id like to thank Alfa995 for the new story image. Also i would like to make you all aware that the chapters previous to this one have undergone a rewrite adding some new elements to the story so I would suggest you revisit them. Anyway enjoy ^^
Twilight yawned as her eyes fluttered open to see the sun shining into her room through an open window. Smiling, the lavender unicorn pushed the covers off her and jumped out of bed before trotting over to the mirror hanging over her dresser. Levitating her comb Twilight brushed the hair out of her eyes to get a better look at herself in the mirror only to see… nothing?
“Wha?” she said in shock as the mirror in front of her reflected everything except the unicorn and the brush she was using. Instead the object appeared to still be sitting on her dresser untouched. Frowning, Twilight tried to comprehend what she was seeing before the events of the day before rushed back to her. It was an illusion, something conjured in her mind; like the rock hard mattress last night the mirror was only appearing like it did back at her true home and not actually serving its purpose.
With a sigh Twilight closed her eyes imagining the mirror reflecting her image back at her and doing its job at well... being a mirror. Opening her eyes she saw her own reflection staring back at her and imitating her movements perfectly.
“Much better Ms.Sparkle,” a voice said calmly from behind Twilight causing her to jump in surprise. Reflected in the mirror Twilight could see William sitting on the bed observing her.
“Don’t do that!” she replied catching her breath from the human’s sudden appearance.
“I’ll try not to in the future,” he replied non-committedly before getting up off the bed to walk over to her. “I assume you had a good night’s sleep?” William asked before walking to the window and looking outside.
“Yes I did…” she muttered grumpily before returning her attention to her mane “After I fixed my mattress.” William gave no response instead letting the silence between the two settle in. For what seemed like minutes neither mare nor human spoke until Twilight finally broke it.
“So… Are you going to answer my questions? I want to ask you about why Radiant was so…” She trailed off not exactly sure how to say it. To see somepony be so inconsiderate and snobbish to other ponies was jarring. There were times when she had lived in Canterlot where the ponies living there would act arrogant and superior to those who lived outside the city but Radiant’s actions seemed to be on another level.
“Racist? Bigoted? Self Centered?” William said completing Twilight’s sentence as he turned away from the window to speak to her. “You must understand that you were looking at her when she believed nopony was watching her and she could voice her thoughts,” Twilight nodded a bit but that still didn’t explain her actions and when William noticed this he gave a sigh.
“To explain this I need to explain what exactly occurred in the years following the Second Harmonic Summit,” he continued before walking over to sit on her bed again and motioning her to join him. “You see before moving to Equestria your ancestors had a very rigid caste system in place, Earth ponies worked the land growing food and giving a portion of it away as tribute to others. The Pegasi maintained a powerful fighting force to defend everypony from danger and influenced the weather. Lastly the unicorns used their magic to aid in tasks too difficult and intricate for hooves, at the same time they pretended to influence the cycle of day and night by moving both the sun and moons. The unicorn tribe believed this last service made them superior to the other races and set themselves up as an upper class of sorts.”
Twilight nodded her head in agreement as she listened to his explanation. At least this part of the Hearth Warming Eve story and her books was true but there was something about the way William told it that seemed off…
“What do you mean pretend?” she asked in confusion. That didn’t make sense; every book she had read explained that the Unicorn tribe had at that time the power to move the celestial bodies.
“Yes. There may have been a time when that claim was true and unicorns were able to affect the sun and moons but they certainly did not have the ability to do so when your kind immigrated into Equestria,” he answered, the human seemed to be deep in thought for some reason. “About five years after the initial settling of Canterlot, Trottingham, New Unicornia, and the moving of Cloudsdale, Princess Platinum and her consort Clover the Clever decided to make an announcement regarding the role of her race. She revealed, in the interest of equality and cooperation with the other tribes, the truth about the unicorns and celestial bodies. The admission changed everything, however any ill will directed towards the unicorns was deflected when the Pegasus government decided to admit that their race did not have total control over the weather. Soon after Chancellor Pudinghead decided to make public certain tomes detailing how Earth ponies cultivated the soil. It was a massive revelation that fundamentally shook their culture to its core.”
Twilight found it difficult to imagine what it would be like to live in those times, when everything that ponies took for granted was suddenly changed. The closest comparison Twilight could make would be if Celestia and Luna admitted to not being able to move the sun and moon.
“But pegasi can manipulate the weather…” she muttered musing over that single detail.
“You’re partially right Ms. Sparkle. Back then the pegasi were able to make small weather events such as watering a single field, but they could not create large scale events like thunderstorms. In those years Equestria and the rest of the world would naturally resist that kind of imposed order. I’m not too sure what could have changed to give present day pegasi the large scale control that you’re familiar with.” William replied. Twilight didn’t know the answer either, from time to time the pegasi could screw up and create something completely out of their control but it was rare. The pegasi that William spoke of seemed different.
How much have we changed since then? Twilight wondered. She knew that natural evolution occurred to all species however this seemed rather different, it was like Equestria itself had changed and ponies took up the positions as stweards of the land.
“As for Ms. Radiant she used to be known as Lady Radiant. The social changes affected the unicorns the most as members of the nobility had to give up their positions to make room for the lords and ladies appointed by the earth pony and pegasus tribes,” William explained. Twilight could already see where this was going… “Radiant was living a life of luxury before the founding of Equestria left her without a title and home. She was forced to learn a new skillset as a healer in the years that followed but she would also grow to resent the other two pony tribes who she saw as usurpers.” Twilight nodded in understanding. Radiant’s words and attitude might have been wrong but at least now Twilight could see the reasoning behind them.
“So she had a grudge? She went from living as royalty to having to work for a living,” she muttered, it would probably be the same as if Prince Blueblood was kicked out of Canterlot and forced to work at Sweet Apple Acres. Then again Twilight figured it would probably do the obnoxious unicorn good. Beside her William nodded in agreement before getting up off the bed to walk about.
The humans words also served to remind Twilight of another question she had, one that she should have asked sooner. “William, what about Cutie marks? I noticed nopony had one,” Twilight asked. In her time the marks were an important part of Equestrian culture as they helped guide a pony through life.
“Ah, yes. Cutie marks,” William replied with a bit of a grin before taking a glance at Twilight’s. “Would I be correct in guessing yours is linked to magic?”
The unicorn nodded “Yes. Why didn’t anypony have one?” she asked again hoping William would explain it.
“I can’t say…” was all he said before turning away from Twilight. He couldn’t say? Why not, this was a history lesson wasn’t it?
“What do you mean?”
“Ms. Sparkle, the appearance of cutie marks was always linked to the Princesses. They were the ones who bestowed that boon upon your kind. I’d elaborate more but now isn’t the time.” He replied just loud enough so that Twilight could hear him. Why couldn’t he tell her more? It seemed like he was trying to avoid the topic. “Anyway, shall we continue Twilight?” William suddenly asked turning around to face her. The sudden topic change caught the unicorn off guard, and already Twilight could see the library fading away to white.
“Wa- Wait, I have more questions!” she yelled panicking as the world began to grow brighter and brighter.
“In due time Ms. Sparkle but we’re on a bit of a schedule and must work fast” he answered before disappearing from view.
She was in a building again. Looking around Twilight could have sworn for a moment that she was back in Pansy’s office. No, the proportions were off, and the items that were strewn about were not the same that Pansy adorned his office with. A sudden cough from behind her snapped Twilight out of her thoughts and she turned to regard whoever’s memory she was supposed to be following.
Sitting behind a wooden desk was a human, a man. For a moment Twilight wondered why she had not seen any female humans but that thought was put to the side as she trotted over to get a closer look. The man was much more pleasant to look at when compared to three criminals Twilight had observed before. Where the others appeared like barbarians his black hair was cut short and face was clean shaven although it seemed to share the same rugged appearance of Joseph. The other difference Twilight noted was that he appeared to be older than any other human she had seen before, she could see small wrinkles on his face and his hair had some grey hairs mixed in with the black.
Tearing her gaze from his face twilight looked at what he was wearing. He wore a breastplate of steel armor with small engravings that spelled out something. “Vita Em populous” Twilight muttered as she read the words. It didn’t make any sense to her. Beneath the man’s breastplate he seemed to be wearing a finely tailored red tunic. He also was wearing a set of white trousers which ended in a pair of what appeared to be leather boots. Again Twilight found herself repulsed by the usage of animal hides for clothing.
“My Lord!” Twilight turned and watched as a soldier rush into the room before giving the man a salute. He was garbed in a similar manner to the man behind a desk, only his armor lacked the fine details and articulate embroidering of his superior. On his back Twilight could see a small kite shield which matched the sword strapped to his hip.
“Yes soldier?” The noble at the desk muttered not taking his eyes from what he was reading.
“Sir Hector has returned from patrol. They managed to capture a few bandits roaming the border.” The young soldier replied. Twilight was surprised by his demeanor; it reminded her of the guards stationed around Canterlot. Then again these were supposed to be soldiers; a certain amount of discipline was to be expected.
“Yes, yes, anything else?” the noble muttered in reply. He had yet to actually look at the soldier which had entered.
“Yes, one of the criminals brought back was identified as Bragg Telmon.” That did it, Twilight watched as the noble set down his papers to look at the soldier addressing him.
“Hector is certain of this?” he asked before getting up off his chair. Twilight watched as he grabbed a red cloak that had been lying nearby.
“Yes my lord, there is no doubt. That man is Bragg Telmon.” The nobleman sighed before grabbing a sword from atop a shelf and strapping it to his hip. Now that he was standing Twilight could get a good look at him. He wasn’t wearing that much armor aside from his breastplate. Now that it was on Twilight could see that the cloak was trimmed with fur at the shoulders and attached to the breastplate. The difference between the soldier and noble were rather stunning now that Twilight had a chance to see them both completely. Where one looked like he could easily blend into a group of his fellows the noble’s costume seemed to demand attention.
“That’s Lord Bragg Telmon to you soldier,” the noble growled. The admission made Twilight blink in surprise, Bragg was noble born? She would have to ask William about this later, the unicorn mused. Her list of questions just kept getting longer it seemed. “The Senate has yet to revoke his status so until they do I expect you to treat him the same way you would me.”
The soldier nodded “Yes my lord!”
“Good, now go and Captain Frederic that I’ll be meeting him at the cages in fifteen minutes,” The noble said before walking in front of the soldier “And grab the mage also. We’ll need him.” He added with a bit of obvious distaste as he said the word mage. The soldier gave a curt nod in response before giving a salute and marching away. Twilight watched the exchange a bit confused. Where was she anyway, a human military camp? And who was this noble. She had a nagging feeling that she should know his name but it escaped her at the moment. Her thoughts were interrupted as she felt herself being pushed to follow the noble as he left the office and then the building, a pair of guards flanking him.
It was definitely not a camp…
As Twilight stepped outside she got her first look at human civilization. Everywhere she looked she could see human soldiers marching around doing their tasks only pausing to salute the noble as they passed. There were a few wooden buildings and Twilight could see massive walls looming in the distance all around them. This place was massive in size, the number of humans living here must at least be in the thousands, if not tens of thousands. Looking around Twilight also got her first look at a female human fetching water from a nearby well. Unlike the males she had a more slender form and seemed much more femenine than any man she had seen. Her hair was also longer, like that of Joseph and his group, but unlike them it seemed styled much like a pony would with her mane.
Seems some things were the same in both ponies and humans, Twilight thought amused as they passed by her causing the human to bow. Whoever this man was he seemed rather important.
All in all, this town reminded Twilight of the paintings and images she had seen of old Equestria, especially of old Canterlot only a couple hundred years ago. She had even spotted a couple humans in full metal plate armor, they had been the only humans who had not bowed or saluted the noble. From atop the building ramparts and the walls surrounding the town Twilight could see large flags flying depicting a red rose held in an eagle’s beak.
Finally they arrived at their destination; unlike the multiple wooden buildings that she had seen this one was made completely out of stone and brick. Twilight had seen a couple other buildings crafted like this one, however they were all under construction. The building was about two stories tall with very few windows.
“Lord Rorik!” a voice called out from down the street. Together Twilight and the nobleman turned to see the same soldier from earlier followed by what seemed to be… William?
She didn’t recognize him right away but as he got closer she could definitely see that it was indeed the human mage. He was wearing a set of bright white robes emblazoned with specialized runes and around his neck Twilight could see he was wearing a necklace attached with what appeared to be a small pyramid with a stylized eye within.
“Ah good, you brought him,” Lord Rorik replied as he eyed William cautiously. William’s words about his species magic users echoed in Twilights mind. Humans distrusted magic, and for good reason given their past. William kept his head down the whole time that Rorik spoke; Twilight wasn’t sure if it was because of the noble man’s presence or because he was a mage.
“Very well, let’s get this over with.” Rorik continued before beckoning the soldier and William to follow him into the building. It was a prison. That much was evident from the moment she entered and saw over a dozen armed guards standing watch over many cells that lined the walls. The guards themselves were wearing similar clothes to the soldiers only instead of red clothing beneath their breastplates it seemed to be a light brown and they were all wearing fully enclosed helmets.
One of the guards snapped to attention as Rorik entered before making his way to the noble. Judging by his uniform and lack of helmet Twilight figured he was probably in charge of the prison or at least the guards.
“Take me to him” Rorik said before the prison guard had a chance to speak. The other man responded with a nod before turning around and leading them deeper into the prison. Twilight took the opportunity as they walked to get a better look at the people inside the cells. They were a mixed bunch, some looked as if they had been there for weeks while others wouldn’t have appeared out of place on the streets. Surprisingly a couple of the prisoners bowed to Rorik as he passed but if the nobleman noticed he didn’t give any indication.
“Right here my lord” the guard said as he stopped in front a cell. Looking inside Twilight could see Bragg sitting quietly in a corner. He seemed no different from earlier when she had seen him. Maybe a bit more haggard, and his eyes had a faraway look but he didn’t seem to be harmed.
Looking away from Bragg, Twilight noticed that the group had been joined by another soldier; like the guard who had escorted them here this soldier seemed to be a higher rank. Twilight stared at the man for a moment, he seemed rather familiar.
“My lord,” the man said before bowing deeply to Rorik. The sound of his voice was enough to remind Twilight who this man was. He had been the officer that arrested Bragg back in the forest. He hadn’t changed much since then, besides growing a bit of scruff. It seems a few days have passed since the encounter in the forest. He wasn’t wearing his helmet anymore and Twilight could see that he did in fact have short black hair.
“Well Sir Hector? Where did you find him?” Rorik asked glancing over at the officer before returning his gaze to Bragg. Now that she had more time to examine him Twilight could see more differences that seemed to make him more than an officer. Small crests and symbols were emblazoned upon his armor and it seemed to be of much finer make than the guard officer. It was as if Hector was something between an officer and a lord. That or the human military leaders were just different from the law enforcers.
“About a week’s journey from here my lord, the fugitive had camped out in some hills with a couple other criminals. When we arrived the camp was empty so we set up an ambush. A couple hours later he,” Hector nodded over at Bragg before continuing “returned to camp. He had this mad look about him, like he was fleeing for his life.”
The human lord listened attentively to Hectors words and after the man finished he remained quiet for a few moments before speaking. “And the other criminals?”
“When we took him into custody we performed a search of the area and found nothing. We got no information from interrogating the traitor, he kept rambling on about zebras and that his colleagues had been taken by them” Hector smirked as he finished explaining. Strangely Rorik did not seem to react to the way Hector spoke of the prisoner like that soldier earlier. It seemed that the relationship between the two men was more cordial than that of an officer and their subordinates.
“Zebras…” the noble muttered in thought and turned to look at Bragg.“And what do you believe transpired then Sir Hector?”
“My lord, you know as well as I do that the wilds here are filled with dangerous beasts. Me and my men believe that the criminals were simply attacked by one; perhaps a griffon or a manticore,” Hector replied “And knowing this traitors history it wouldn’t be surprising if -“
“I know what I saw!” Twilight jumped in surprise as Bragg suddenly spoke up interrupting Hector. “Hoof prints! About this big,” the man then held up both his hands a small distance apart “Whatever took Victor was not a damn-“
“Be quiet dog! We did not ask for your input!” Hector suddenly said his face contorted in anger.
“Enough, both of you…” Rorik said calmly. Even though he had not raised it Rorik’s voice cut through the room easily leaving only silence. A moment later he turned to regard William “Are you able to determine what really happened mage?” the noble asked.
William seemed a bit surprised when the man spoke to him but quickly recovered. “Um, yes my lord. However I will need direct contact with the prisoner…” He replied. Twilight was surprised by how different the man sounded. He did not seem the same as the confident wizard who she had spoken to earlier. This man was quiet and humble.
“Wait… You’re not going to let that spook near me are you?” Bragg suddenly exclaimed as he figured out what was about to happen.
Rorik didn’t seem to hear the prisoner’s words and gave the guard captain a nod. Without a word he produced a set of keys and signalled for a couple other guards to follow him into the cell. Bragg began to scramble about inside his cell and when the door opened he made a dash to the exit. His attempt at escape failed miserably however as the guards quickly had him pinned to the floor. “No! Don’t let him near me!” Bragg protested, his eyes widening in fear as William approached him.
Williams took the prisoners head in his hands and closed his eyes, his face frowning in concentration. At first Bragg struggled but that quickly subsided and his eyes seemed to glaze over. Twilight gasped as she saw William’s hands glow with a white magical aura that then extended to encompass Braggs entire head. She could feel the magic flowing between both humans and watched with excitement, it wasn’t often she saw another species using magic. Back home in Ponyville, the only form of magic she got to see besides that of fellow unicorns was Spike's dragon breath.. Twilight had read that every creature in Equestria possessed some form of magic however it wasn’t common that they be able to wield it like a unicorn or a human.
A few moments passed before William finally pulled away and opened his eyes with a troubled look on his face. “The prisoner is not lying my lord…” William stated and exited the cell. Behind him Bragg groaned as he woke up. The two guards pinning him to the ground had left with William and closed the cell door. Muttering a couple curses under his breath Twilight watched as the prisoner moved to a corner of his cell glaring at the group.
“Well?” Rorik asked a look of curiosity on his face. “What did you see then mage?”
William sighed and began to recount the story of what he had seen. It was the exact same one as the memory Twilight had witnessed only it was recounted from Braggs point of view. Everything about Josephs fight and capture by the pegasi was omitted. After finishing Rorik’s face was that of a man deep in thought while Hector seemed unconvinced.
“My lord… You can’t actually be thinking of taking the word of a spook and lunatic as proof!” he exclaimed. It was then that Twilight noticed how the human had been keeping his distance from William the entire time, as if the man’s very presence unnerved him. William just stood off to the side, if Hectors words unnerved him he did not show it.
“Despite what he is, I’ve known William long enough to trust his words, he has never led me wrong before” Rorik replied trying to calm the other man down.
“But what if it’s wrong? He took the information from a man who’s paranoid about the creatures! What if that altered his memory?” Hector persisted.
“I did not detect any strangeness in Bragg’s memories. If they had been fabrications brought on from his past I would have known.” Rorik and Hector both turned to look at William seeming a bit surprised that he had spoken.
“Besides, if this is true there seems to be some sort of village north of us. I would like to have that investigated Sir Hector, zebra or not.” Rorik added sternly before giving Hector a small smile. “Besides if these are zebras you can expect this place to become much more interesting.”
“Fine, fine. I’ll form a small scouting group and head out tomorrow.” Hector grumbled before turning to leave until the sound of William coughing caused him to stop and turn to the mage. “What?”
“That place is over week away, and I need this information as soon as possible.” Rorik said, before turning to regard William. “He will allow you to be back by tomorrow night.” William nodded in response but it was obvious that Hector did not like the plan one bit.
“You cannot be serious…” the soldier muttered staring at William and then Rorik in shock. “No… I will not …”
Rorik frowned a bit but did not seem troubled by the fact that his subordinate had just rejected a direct order. “You will go Hector, you swore an oath to obey me…” the older man replied calmly. Rorik’s reminder seemed to have the desired effect and Hector sighed before turning away.
“He better be at the traveling grounds tomorrow morning. Otherwise my men and I will set out without him.” Hector muttered before making a quick exit. Twilight watched him go along with Rorik before the world itself seemed to convulse and everything faded to white as the memory ended.