56w, 5dAussie Bronies
We had demolished about half of the pile of doughnuts and I was starting to have serious doubts about the wisdom of my challenge. No unicorn should be able to take on an earth pony in a contest of this nature but Twilight was matching me bite for bite and doing so with apparently little effort on her part. I put on a fresh pot of chocolate, it looked like this would be a long night and possibly one with a woozy aftermath in the morning.
Surprisingly, and despite her rumoured terrifying destructive powers, Twilight was great company. We were surrounded by old textbooks I had taken from the academy when I left. She made margin notes in several showing ways in which the spells had been modified over the years. My reserves of magical power are very limited so I was grateful for any way she could make the spells I use every day more efficient.
Our discussion turned to magical paraphernalia. Travelling magicians occasionally act as travelling salesponys supplementing their income by trucking magical knick-knacks or the latest scrolls from town to town, often hawking them during their performances. I had to disappoint Twilight by telling her that I was not well heeled enough to be involved in that game and had nothing impressive to show her. I winkled my nose a little in distaste. Some showponies were very unsublte with their pitches and their art suffered for it.
Seeing that I had nothing of great interest to offer her Twilight pulled the huge gem she had been consulting during my show out of her pannier. “This gem is a magical shield of sorts. Princess Celestia gifted one to the town of Ponyville to protect us from rouge magicians and wild magical beasts. We seem to see more than our fair share of mass magical destruction in Ponyville.” She looked a little sheepish here. I guessed that Twilight Sparkle’s residence in this very town was the primary reason for the princess’ generous gift and that not a few unicorns in the town would have been trained how to use it on her if the need arose.
Twilight tilted the gem so that I could see into the topmost facet, it was reacting to her presence with a steady lilac pulsing. “You have to tune the gem to the signature of the magic you wish to block. We’ve had .. problems .. with travelling magicians getting out of hoof and causing trouble before so I try to keep an eye on anyone performing in the village square and keep the gem tuned to them. Just in case I need to call a halt to the show.” I recognised it now. They were widely used in the academy to protect important buildings during major experiments like the ill-fated Great Magical Linear Accelerator. But this one was huge!
“I thought they were a lot smaller than that” I opined.
“Well, yeah..” She certainly looked uncomfortable now. “They made them bigger after I blew up the one in the training hall.” By this stage I was beyond surprise, simply nodding in agreement. Of course she was capable of decimating ancient safety equipment that had lasted the academy for the past ten centuries.
“But there’s something wrong with this one... You’re using ordinary unicorn spells but I couldn’t tune the gem to you at all. I was trying all the way through your show.” She turned to place the gem in her saddlebags and I thought I could see her sway a little..
‘Finally, the dougnuts are kicking in. She might be a powerful prodigy with a stomach of cast iron but she’s no earth pony.’ The problem was, I was feeling a bit under the weather myself. I had to keep her distracted, perhaps extract a promise to mention my show favourably to either of the Princesses, then get her the hay out of here.
Twilight was beginning to slur her words a little, but it seemed that she was still determined to question me. Honestly, if the conversation involved magic that mare could talk underwater.
“So, how did you get into the academy anyway? The stare was back, pinning me to my seat like a butterfly in a museum. “It’s hard enough for a unicorn to be accepted, I’ve never heard of an earth pony getting in.” she said. “.. or doing unicorn magic at all for that matter..” she added under her breath.
With each doughnut it was becoming harder and harder for me to separate safe subjects for conversation from those that would land me in prison but talking about the time I spent at the academy should be safe enough.
“Well, one year a certain talented filly-who-shall-remain-nameless blew the roof off one of the buildings. Restoring historical buildings is tricky work - especially if they are part of the castle complex which is inherently magical. You need one or two geomancers on the team to read stress levels through the structure and the ground below and you have to be sure that the repairs are properly distributing the load from the older materials around them. I was in Canterlot looking for work at the time and they took me on.”
Twilight was stuffing a large jam filled treat into her mouth around sips of hot chocolate. “So you were on the repair team after I blew up the Hall.. but how did you become a student?”
“I never became a student. They hired me as a groundskeeper and handypony. There was always some part of that building blowing up whilst you were enrolled. I spent seven years there, listening to lectures when I could, taking home books that were discarded each year and chatting with the lecturers. Living in Canterlot was a revelation, it gave me access to all sorts of things I couldn’t get back home.”
“Like what? And why did you move to Canterlot in the first place? Twilight leaned forward into my personal space, her eyes narrowed with suspicion. “I never saw you at the Academy and I knew all of the staff.”
“...” It was time to wrap this up. “Well, Miss Sparkle, the Academy was a big place. I was just a lowly groundskeeper, far beneath the notice of the Princess’ personal student. Now I really must turn in. Perhaps we can talk again tomorrow ..”
“You still haven’t told me how the hay you are able to use unicorn magic.”
I turned away to clear the plates and cups. “Maybe tomorrow, it’s getting late.”
“You’re avoiding the question! You’ve been doing it all night. Don't think that I haven't noticed.” Twilight stood up to confront me. She was unsteady on her feet and showed a definite list to the left.
“Tell me! How do you do it? I could tell that there was something wrong with your magic from the moment you started your performance! I need to know. My thesis! If you can perform unicorn magic you could be vital for my research!”
Poor Twilight, my magic would not help her thesis one little bit. She crashed back down to the cushion.
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have stood up so fast. Twilight? Are you OK?”
Twilight was out cold, her mane charmingly dishevelled and a tiny portion of tongue poking out of her mouth. Overindulging on Pony Joe’s finest will do that to a unicorn. He claims to have a secret ingredient in his sprinkles. It’s even funnier when a pegasus tries it.
It was a shame really, I do enjoy company when I’m on the road; Twilight was fascinating, but she was too dangerous and way too smart to keep around. Ponyville would not see tomorrow’s matinee or evening shows. I would be leaving first thing in the morning while she was still sleeping off all that cream and jam.
Luckily the stage was folded and the gear at least partially stowed. I could be prepped for travel and away in minutes.
But first I had this inebriated mare to deal with. Normally I’d just throw a blanket over her and let her sleep it off, it was certainly not the first time somepony had overindulged and passed out on my guest cushion.
Not this time. I opened my chest and located a sturdy little pewter box, about two hoofs wide by one hoof deep. I flicked the catch and cast a critical eye over the contents. I reckoned there to be about four days worth if I used my magic sparingly for the next few shows. I didn’t dare attempt to refill the box here in Ponyville. Not with Princess Celestia’s personal student in this very town. I would run a good chance of waking up on the moon.
I dipped my nose into the box and took a measured sniff, licking the white powder from my muzzle. Inhaling the powder gave immediate results but after using it twice in one night I knew I’d pay for it tomorrow with a blinder of a headache. ‘While I’m trying to pull the caravan too.. oh well, it can’t be helped.’
Well, locating Twilight's home would not pose any problems. The very odd combination of public-library, personal residence and bucking huge tree was visible from anywhere in Ponyville.
Was that a telescope on the deck? Classy.
Levitating Twilight’s body with newfound ease and a noticable sway, I carried her and the remaining doughnuts back to her strange abode. My magic had taken on a lovely mottled pink and blue hue tonight... or perhaps I was just smashed on rainbow sprinkles.
I was rather proud of the fact that I made it all the way without either falling flat on my face or ramming the oblivious Twilight into any lampposts.
The strange little dragon I had seen earlier opened the library door. His gruff demeanor brightened visibly when he saw just how many doughnuts I had brought him.