The Brightest Spark

by Arad

02 -- The Tower, The Traveller

You’re special. You were born to do great things. And you know what? They were right.


Purple. This much purple on a living creature can’t be normal, the Guardian thought as she eyed her reflection in the broken monitor to her side. The screen itself was cracked down the middle and completely dark, giving its undamaged portions enough of a reflective surface for self-inspection. The Guardian’s coloring ranged from pink to dark purple, the same colors as her armor. I wonder if the Ghost did this deliberately… or if this is what I really look like, she mused silently. It was a poor attempt for her to hide the thunder she felt.

“Do you have any other questions?” the Ghost asked, hovering a short distance in front of her expectantly.

The Guardian tore her gaze away from the monitor and locked onto the ghost. “Just to repeat what you told me… the Traveller was found on the fourth planet of this system, which led to the golden age of exploration and civilization. Then the Darkness came and wiped everything out, leaving only ruins and scattered survivors behind. Just before the Traveller died, it created the Ghosts and imbued them with the power of the Light to help their Guardians defend the Last City. Is that about right?”

The Ghost bobbed in place to mimick a nod. “That’s exactly right! Now, we’re approaching--” it started, only to be interrupted when the Guardian’s hooves shot out and plucked the Ghost from the spot it was hovering from.

“No, all of that is wrong,” the Guardian declared as she glared down at her captive. “Who was the Traveller… or what? And what exactly is ‘the Darkness’? Is it a single entity of immense power like the Traveller, or is it an organization or army of sorts? I’m assuming they destroyed everything because of the Traveller, but why? Did the Traveller do something to warrant such an excessive response? And what is this ‘Light’ that the Traveller gave you? Is it knowledge, or power? How can I use that to defend this ‘Last City?’ Is the Last City really the last still standing!?”

Silence filled the cabin of the jumpship as the Guardian’s barrage of questions ended with a deep breath. In that moment, the Ghost chose to reply.

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know!? Doesn’t all of that vague history and terminology irritate you?” The coat around the Guardian’s right eye began to twitch with annoyance as she continued, “Your explanation is about as useful as a storybook!” The moment the words were spoken, the image of an old and well-read book flashed before the Guardian’s eyes; a dark brown hard cover with a golden unicorn in profile… but just as quickly as it appeared it vanished from her mind’s eye.

The Ghost took the moment of distraction to extricate itself and retreat to a distance safely out of reach. “That was everything I was told… and to be perfectly honest, finding the answers didn’t seem important. Finding you was a much higher priority.” When the Guardian remained silent and unresponsive, it continued, “If it’s any consolation, the Warlocks of the Tower have a vast library and archive of information that they’ve collected over the years. I’m sure they’d be willing to let you visit to try and find the answers you’re looking for. The Speaker might also be able to help… but I wouldn’t count on it.”

So many questions… and that book, what was that? “Do you think their library might have information about who I am?” she asked, the roaring flames of curiosity that had previously driven her no longer present.

“I know you don’t like it when I say, ‘I don’t know,’” the Ghost replied, still hovering outside of grabbing distance. “So I think I’ll say, ‘I’ll help you look until you find the answers you’re looking for.’”

The answer wasn’t what the Guardian was hoping for, but it was enough to inspire a small smile on her face. “Thanks for offering… you mentioned ‘Warlocks’, right? Are they Guardians like me?” she asked.

“Well…uh, yes?”

The hesitant response was enough to warrant a flat look from the Guardian. “What kind of answer is that? Are they Guardians? Are they like me? How are these questions that you hesitate on?” Her posture drooped a bit as a thought occurred to her. “Have… have you been to the Last City? Do you just not know?”

“I haven’t been to the Last City since I was created,” the Ghost explained quickly, “...but I’ve met Ghosts out in the wilderness as well as Guardians too. I… am not confident I can explain the differences adequately. The last Ghost I spoke with said that the Guardians divide themselves into cadres based on a number of factors. How they channel the Light, preferred tactics, and the like. From some of the things I’ve heard, personality might even be a deciding factor. I think the Warlocks will be the best match for you, but I’ll defer to their decision.”

“I suppose the rest of my questions will have to wait until we get there, right?” The Guardian let out a tired sigh when the Ghost bobbed an affirmative. “Well, I suppose it’ll be nice to finally talk to my peers. And not getting shot at. Or being chased.” She closed her eyes before a thought occurred to her. “You mentioned that the Guardians defend the Last City to protect the Traveller’s resting place, but you wouldn’t have a city for a tomb. Are there others there that we protect?”

The Ghost bobbed again, its voice perking up. “Correct! It’s true that the Last City’s most noteworthy feature is the Traveller, but it is a city. Non-Guardians, the ancestors of the ancient survivors of the Darkness, take refuge there and try to rebuild a little of what they lost. We won’t be entering the city limits, but both the city and the Traveller will be visible from the Guardian Tower.”

An arched eyebrow was the initial response. “Let me guess, the Guardian Tower is a tower… for Guardians? And the Last City is exactly that, the last city on the planet. And the Speaker… speaks for somepony, right? Are some of these names that literal deliberately, or did the first Guardians just not have any imagination?”


The simple and unhelpful answer was enough to force a facehoof from the Guardian. “Now you’re just being unclear just to mess with me,” she moaned. A sound approximating a giggle from the Ghost was enough to confirm her suspicions. She fixed her Ghost with the best glare she could manage as she grumbled. “So, how long until we’re there? It feels like we’ve been flying for months.”

“Ah, yes, thank you for reminding me! I need to update the Jumpship’s IFF or the Tower defense guns will blast us out of the air…” The Ghost swiveled in place, small strands of light connecting its glowing eye to the bank of still working instruments of the Jumpship. A moment passed before it turned back and said, “There we go, all done! We should be reaching the Tower in the next two minutes.”

The Guardian blinked as she processed her Ghost’s statements. “...Are you saying that we were just moments away from being destroyed by the very people we’re going to see?” she asked, her tone flat.

“Oh, there is no reason to be worried! I updated the ship protocols with at least twenty seconds before the Tower defenses could have engaged us.”

The flat look persisted for several more moments before the Guardian’s gaze drifted to the nearly unassailable wall of instruments arrayed in front of her. “I don’t suppose there’s a window or anything I can use to take a look?” she asked.

“I’m afraid not at the moment. I got the Jumpship running well enough to get us here, but the fine instruments and displays will require some work by the technicians in the Tower,” her Ghost answered, its gaze looking downward slightly before rising again. “Have no worries, though! We’ll be there in just a little bit.”

The Guardian gave a silent nod, her eyes glued to one of the few displays that did work without a hitch: A digital clock. The seconds passed by slowly but surely before her eyes. A flash of light consumed her surroundings just as they had in the Cosmodrome; the cockpit surrounding her instantly replaced by an awe-inspiring view. Beyond the railing before her was a vast drop, giving her a completely unhindered view of the vast cityscape that stretched from the base of the Tower to the horizon itself. As her eyes looked to the distance stretches of the Last City, they were inevitably drawn upwards to the object hovering above it. A massive white sphere loomed over the city like an artificial moon, its surface scarred in places from damage or age… the Guardian couldn’t be certain. “Is that…?” she whispered, unable to complete the question.

“The Traveller, yes. It has protected the Last City with its presence for… centuries at least,” her Ghost finished for her, before circling the Guardian to get her attention. “We should go to the Speaker, I suspect he is waiting for us.” The Guardian was able to tear her eyes from the Traveller and took one step to follow her Ghost… and froze.

The sight of the Last City and the Traveller had demanded ever last bit of her attention. Now that the moment had passed, the Guardian’s gaze swept over rest of the Tower platform and she realised that she wasn’t alone. Dozens of figures were scattered about the platform, some manning booths or kiosks with what looked like goods on display, while others appeared to be browsing or speaking in small groups. Some were clad in heavy armor while others wore robes in much the same style as the Guardian herself, and their colors ranged the gamut from muted greens and grays to vivid pinks and reds.

The two details that took priority in her mind, though: The first was the fact that every last one of them was bipedal and upright in a way that seemed too similar to the Fallen she had just escaped from. The second was that every single one of them had frozen in place to stare at her. The only sounds that could be heard on the Tower platform was the rush of wind and the Guardian’s hoofsteps as she moved to follow in the wake of her Ghost.

It was only when the pair made it into a nearby hallway that she dared speak. “Ghost! You said that there were others like me here!” she hissed as she shot a look at her floating guide. “I didn’t see anypony--”

“They’re all Guardians,” her Ghost interrupted, before turning back to look at the Guardian. “Well, most of them are Guardians. Some are service personnel from the city to keep things running. The Guardians are just like you, though. They have their own Ghosts and the Traveller’s Light within them.”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” she growled back, her walking pace accelerating into a trot as the Guardians in the hallway froze and stared just as the ones on the platform had. A growing sense of self-consciousness and unease had taken root in the Guardian’s mind with every gaping glance she passed by. None of them… none are like me. I’m all alone… the Guardian realised as the hallway opened up into another section of the Tower platform.

The area that they had just entered had far less traffic than the first, with relatively few people selling wares to attract a wandering customer. The more likely reason was the spherical structure that dominated the vast portion of the platform’s space. It was only a few quick steps to the entrance, and for the second time in less than five minutes found herself awestruck. The chamber was dominated by a massive machine in the center, with rings of various sizes slowly spinning in some rhythm that she couldn’t immediately decipher. The wall immediately beyond it was gone, giving an unfettered view of the Traveller through the rings. The ceiling itself was vaulted and made of glass, which completely dispelled any feeling of claustrophobia that the exterior appearance had inspired. And then there were the books.

The Guardian’s gaze locked onto them like a hungry predator, memorizing the appearance of every single one on the shelves as her eyes continued to scan. The path of the bookshelves lining the walls led to a staircase and a raised balcony, where stacks of books punctuated the railing at regular intervals. A figure could be seen moving amongst the obstacles on the balcony but it was only when it moved to the staircase that the Guardian could inspect it further.

It was bipedal just like the others that she had seen in the Tower, its upright posture and position at the top of the stairs only adding to the impression that it was looming above the Guardian. A simple white robe covered its body, a stark contrast to the black hood that wrapped around its neck and head. A pure white mask hid any facial features that the hood might have missed and stood out against the black hood as much as the hood did to its robes. Its hands were clasped at its waist as it slowly descended the stairs one at a time.

“I’ve seen countless Guardians answer the Traveller’s call over the centuries” the figure said, the voice low enough to indicate its owner was male and soft spoken in the way that a doting grandparent would speak. “I had thought surprise lost to me, but I am once again reminded that there is still so much I do not know.” The mask turned slightly towards the Guardian’s Ghost and inclined slightly. “You have been gone a very long time… some had assumed your Light had been extinguished before you completed your task. Seeing your companion now, I suspect that you had to travel far and wide to find her.”

The Ghost levitated forward to hover in front of the masked figure, bobbing slightly in a nod. “I found her at the outer perimeter of the Cosmodrome wall. Speaker, I’ve been with her for less than a day and she’s capable of using the Light in ways I didn’t think possible.” When the mask tilted sideways in an unspoken question, the Ghost retreated slightly. “Well, I’ve seen how other Guardians use the Traveller’s gifts while I was searching and… she’s done things I’ve never seen before.”

The mask slowly turned downward to the Guardian as the Speaker descended the last of the steps. “Curious. Very curious,” he said as he knelt down so that the mask was eye level with her. “The Light is brilliant within you, child. Blinding, almost. But… your Light is different, isn’t it? No, your spark comes from a different place. Tell me, do you recall anything of your origins?”

“T-the only thing I think I remember is a book...” the Guardian finally managed to squeak out as she tried not to wither beneath the mask’s gaze. I feel like a bug about to be crushed under the hoof of a giant! He’s even kneeling down but I still feel so small... she thought, unable to tear her eyes away from the Speaker’s mask. It was devoid of any sort of features that might be associated with a face, save for two depressions in the center which went all the way to the top of the mask.

“A book? That may prove to be… troublesome,” the Speaker said as he stood and turned towards the bookshelves lining the wall. “Before the Golden Age, printed books were quite common and easily accessed. Now, like so much else, they’ve been lost to the ravages of the Darkness and time.” The mask panned from left to right to take in the wall of literature as he continued, “I know every word of every book in the Tower, and I cannot recall any describing one such as you. Very interesting…”

The brief memory of the book flashed before her eyes as she listened. The only thing I can remember doesn’t help at all. So I still don’t know anything, the Guardian thought, her heart sinking at the realisation. “If the book is gone then there’s nothing about me anywhere? Not even a name?”

The Speaker turned back, the unreadable mask tilting downward to face the Guardian squarely. “The loss of identity is something that many struggle with, and truthfully it is something that is rarely recovered. If you choose to pursue this mysterious book, I’m sure that many will offer you their aid. If you choose to focus on the present, I’m certain your efforts will be appreciated. Regardless of your choice, there is one thing I know for certain. Your future will be bright indeed, my little Spark.”