Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns boasts over twenty lecture halls, fourteen courtyards, and no less than fifty-seven independent study rooms, yet I am once again greeted with the sight of Twilight Sparkle sliding into the chair directly beside my own. Grudgingly, I use a copy of Advanced Magical Theorems to haphazardly shove my notes to one side of the table I've claimed. Twilight thanks me with a grunt.
"Your ability to consistently find me in Canterlot's second-largest castle leaves me astounded," I greet her.
"Everywhere else is full," she replies flatly, dropping a stack of books upon the newly-cleared surface with a dull smack.
A quick look around the room reveals she's not lying. The place is downright packed—not a single chair remains empty. It's a bit of a surprise that I managed to keep my table to myself as long as I did. Or maybe not, I think, as Twilight stands up to relocate the notebooks still occupying her seat. The pile of notes she sets them atop teeters dangerously, so I reinforce the stack with a few expertly-positioned pencils.
When she settles back down, I allow myself a glance at her current reading material.
"Is that one of Clover the Clever's?" I ask.
"Mhhm," she replies, opening it to a notecard-marked page. "Clover's Third."
"Clover's Third Treatise?" My tattered edition of Alchemical Practices for the Tenth Century suddenly holds as much allure as a foal's nursery rhyme. I lean over. "As in, Caprices and Cognizance?"
She flips to the title page and angles it toward me. "A Rumination on the Nature of the Equine Mind," she confirms proudly. "The Princess mentioned it during our last meeting."
Of course she did. "But how'd you get your hooves on it? The Royal Canterlot Library doesn't exactly hand out keys to the Starswirl Wing." I frown. "Was this even in the Starswirl Wing?"
"It was actually in the librarian's personal collection." She turns back to the page with her notecard, a smug smile tugging at her mouth.
"Tell," I demand.
Twilight shrugs, gesturing to the students around us. "Exams," she says. "The library's a popular place to be right now." We both shudder.
"The lines—" I moan.
"The mess," she groans.
"The noise!" I bemoan.
"But mostly the mess," she grumbles. "The lines aren't that bad, but have you seen the complete and utter lack of respect for Dewdrop Decimal System? Come on! How does somepony look at almanac of the San Palomino Desert and think 'oh, this looks like it belongs right here with these trigonometry scrolls'—I mean, are they even trying?"
"They aren't." I narrow my eyes. "But those lines 'aren't that bad'? Seriously? Madame Indent lets you check your own books out, doesn't she?"
"She'd probably let you, too, if you asked her." She snorts lightly. "It's not like you’re a stranger."
The Royal Canterlot Library is currently tied with Professor Sharp Wit's office for the title of Location Most Frequented by Moondancer.
I watch as Twilight pulls out a quill and notepad, then casually ask, "Pick up anything else worth reading?"
"Mhmm," she replies, bending over Caprices and Cognizance. I don't need to have my copy of Pony 101: Nonverbal Communication and Cues on hoof to recognize that the conversation is over.
I turn back to Alchemical Practices and continue reading about the evolution of cauldrons throughout the centuries. For some reason, the struggle to develop a kettle with optimum boiling thickness doesn't quite capture my attention. After half an hour of rereading the same three passages, I concede defeat.
I sneak a peek at Twilight, thoroughly engrossed in Clover's Treatise. I shouldn't disturb her. Being interrupted is so aggravating. I'm not going to disturb her. Even if I know exactly what to ask to impress her. I’m going to leave her alone. I really am.
"Did you pick up anything by Meadowbrook?" I blurt out.
There's a short delay, and then her head snaps up so fast I barely see it move. "Meadowbrook?"
Oh, she totally did. I raise an expectant eyebrow.
Twilight frowns, fidgeting slightly. "Moondancer, we aren't supposed to study Meadowbrook outside of class. His work is really advanced; even Professor Sharp Wit admitted she doesn’t really know what his spells do, exactly."
I roll my eyes. "If you want to enchant something, then yeah, it's stupid to try anything without supervision. But the theory itself isn't that dangerous."
"I never said it was dangerous," Twilight huffs. "Just complex. The only spells more convoluted than Meadowbrook's are Starswirl's."
"Well, hay." I heave an exaggerated sigh. "I just thought you of all ponies would've been eager for the challenge. I guess I'll swing by the library later and—"
Twilight cuts me off by slamming a battered, leather-bound tome on the table, flattening Alchemical Practices in the process. The book's filigreed title is nearly illegible.
"Historian," she says simply.
I grin at her.
The evening finds me cloistered away in a wardrobe, reading by the light of my horn. I haven't allowed myself to do anything more than peek at Historian's table of contents all day; I may be well-off in my classes, but it'd be academic suicide to completely ignore the fact that final exams are in progress. While I don't allow myself to judge books by their covers, I judge them shamelessly by their authors, and Meadowbrook is somepony whose work I've been anticipating since I first saw his picture in my Magic is Fun! arcane primer.
Well, since Twilight saw his picture in our arcane primers, anyway. But regardless of who admired him first, the fact remains that I’ve spent years dreaming about the opportunity to study Meadowbrook’s spells.
I yawn. A quick time charm informs me that it's nearing the point of no return for sleep, and an even quicker cost/benefit analysis concludes that while beginning to read Historian ranks close to infinity on the benefit scale, the possibility of falling asleep during my Intermediate Alchemy exam weighs in around negative infinity on the eternal mortification front. I know myself well enough to realize there is no way I'll want to put down Meadowbrook's work to go to bed.
But a quick peek couldn't hurt, could it?
It takes a bit of finagling to levitate the tome in the cramped space of the armoire, but eventually I have Meadowbrook's book three inches before my face and Alchemical Practices wedged somewhere behind my left shoulder. I feel a bit bad about breathing all over the former, but Historian's undoubtedly a reproduction; there's no way the original manuscript would be sitting in an office, gathering dust. I open it to the introduction—only to find that there is no introduction; a detailed drawing of a horseshoe-shaped mirror greets my eyes, surrounded by hundreds of equations.
I frown. Meadowbrook's eight enchanted artifacts aren't anything new, but considering that Starswirl the Bearded was a major influence over the Mage’s later works, I had figured that Historian would focus on time magic—something that Starswirl researched heavily. Even the title of the book lends credence to that theory.
Meadowbrook is still Meadowbrook, though, and I flip eagerly through the pages, finding illustrations, complex mathematics, and scarcely a scrap of proper magical theory. A hoofwritten paragraph litters the margin here and there, but I don't see any commentary or explanation for anything; the small sections accompanying the artifacts are complete nonsense. I wasn't mistaken when I called Meadowbrook a challenge, that's for sure. This is going to take ages. Another yawn reminds me that I don't have ages at the moment.
Only a few more days, I reassure myself, pushing the wardrobe door open and half-falling onto the floor. And then it's nothing but me and independent research.
I stretch out my legs, gather my books, and carefully straighten the clothes hung in the wardrobe before slowly easing the door shut. Then it's just a few tiptoes across the slumbering room, a rustle of sheets, and I'm in bed.
I dream of mirrors and thin-bottomed cauldrons.
I blow my bangs out of my eyes for the seventh time in thirty minutes, surveying my options. Five potential answers wait patiently on the exam sheet, awaiting my decision. It's not that difficult of a question, but the wording is a bit odd: depending on where you put the inflection, it could either be asking about the importance of adding dragonroot to a pre-prepared cold-remedy mixture, or the importance of adding it before the other ingredients. It doesn't help that it's been nearly three months since we brewed this in our lab session.
Beside me, Twilight rolls up her scroll and begins putting away her quills, ink, and scratch paper.
The offending question is the last on the exam, so I bite my tongue, circle a respectable answer, and hastily stow my supplies in my saddlebag. Levitating my answer scroll onto the professor's desk, I rush after Twilight, catching up to her a few paces down the hallway.
"So," I prompt, matching my stride to hers. "Question sixty-four?"
"Trivial," she drones.
I quickly bury my reservations about questions seventy-five and ninety. "Definitely," I agree. We reach the East Stairwell and begin the descent. Halfway down, our ears are assaulted by shrieks of "Moondancer!" and "Twilight Sparkle!"
My three roommates, plus Twilight's lab partner, Lemon Hearts, wave at us eagerly from the second-floor lobby. I give a hesitant wave in return, and am about to continue down to the main floor when they beckon us over. I turn around and climb back up the few steps to say hello, Twilight right behind me.
"We were just talking about you," Minuette giggles once we're in earshot. "We've hardly seen either of you all week."
"Well, aside from the light in Moondancer's armoire," Twinkleshine snorts. The tentative smile on my face freezes—is she laughing at me?— and Lyra must notice, because she grins and gives me a friendly nudge.
"Oh you, lighten up. We know you stay up late doing smart pony things."
"I'm just glad we aren't roommates with Trixie," Twinkleshine grimaces. "She's up until the crack of dawn playing with pyrotechnics. At least reading is quiet."
"I'm also pretty sure Trixie demands eternal servitude in return for tutoring," I state. They all laugh—Twilight even smirks, a bit—and the resulting flutter in my stomach isn't from nerves.
"Oh!" Minuette exclaims, clapping her hooves. "Like I was saying, Lemon Hearts here was just talking about how we should all get together and do something soon! We could go on a picnic, or a nature hike—Lyra's in environmental studies this semester and she's got a book about the local flora that you two might like—"
"Mhmm," Lyra affirms.
"—but we could also go to the opera or something. It'll be fun!"
Twilight scuffs at the floor with a hoof. "I'm sure that'd be nice," she says uneasily. "But... you know... Exams."
The group of mares bursts out into laughter a second time.
"Oh good heavens," Twinkleshine says, wiping tears from her eyes. "Not this week—sweet Celestia no." Twilight lets out a sigh of relief.
Minuette giggles again. I would chalk her giddiness up to exam stress, but I know better. "We were thinking sometime later this month," she says. "It'll give everypony a chance to wind down after finals, but it won't be too close to the Summer Sun Celebration." Her eyes widen and she squeals. "But we should totally go to the Celebration together, too!"
Lemon Hearts rolls her eyes. "We also thought that we could hang out on your birthday, Moondancer. After class, your sister mentioned that it's a few days before the Celebration."
"You have class with Moondancer’s sister?" Twilight frowns, turning to me. "I thought your sister was my brother's age."
"Stargazer's a year older than Shining," I correct. Her frown doesn't budge, so I offer, "Professor Stargazer? She teaches Astronomy."
"Oh, that's right! Sorry, I think you've mentioned that before." She grins sheepishly. I'm fairly positive I've told her six times already, but I'm not certain, so I shrug.
"So whad'ya say?" Four eager faces are looking at me.
They want to celebrate my birthday. The very idea of such a thing is foreign, terrifying, and maybe the tiniest bit thrilling.
Minuette cheers, Lyra and Lemon Hearts beam, and Twinkleshine grins. While I can't help but wonder if this is the setup to some practical joke, I find myself smiling back at them; their enthusiasm is infectious.
I scarf down dinner that evening, spending a grand total of fifteen minutes in the dining hall (eleven of which were sacrificed in line) before rushing off to the dormitories. As expected, my roommates are still eating, and I open the door to find a peacefully empty room awaiting me.
Closing the door, I gallop over to my bunk, hastily straightening the mussed blankets into something resembling tidiness, then dump the contents of my saddlebags onto my coverlet. I clear myself a space to sit—pushing aside my newly-acquired copy of Carneighgy's How to Win Friends and Influence Ponies— and then prop Historian up against my pillow. Turning to the page with the mirror, I begin reading.
I don't last five minutes before I have to dig out Advanced Magical Theorems and flip to the chapter on mathematical approaches. Biting my tongue, I go at it again.
It's tedious. I am reading Meadowbrook, arguably the most influential spellcaster in Equestrian history—excluding Starswirl himself—and it is tedious. I can feel my fillyhood dreams crumbling around me—visions of having my name printed beside Meadowbrook's in textbooks pass before my eyes, because how am I supposed to carry on his work in enchantment if I can't understand the spells he's already completed?
The truly great wizards leave half-finished incantations when they pass on into the great ether. It's the hallmark of a genius; their work is so monumental that it transcends their very life, and they can do nothing but throw themselves at their studies with a vengeance, trying to accomplish as much as they can before Time takes the notes from their hooves and the breath from their lungs. Famous names with unfinished masterpieces litter the margins of history: there's an entire wing of Celestia's School dedicated to spell restoration and completion. Other than Starswirl, every unicorn listed in Equestrian Magicians Throughout the Ages has an incomplete spell. Morari the Maneless had one. Clover the Clever had a few, too. But Meadowbrook?
Meadowbrook left hundreds.
Granted, most of them are petty charms, or ideas he never got around to mapping out, but the stallion is a gold mine of potential breakthroughs—perfect for fledgling magicians with an ambitious streak. Being able to finish just one of his smaller projects would be enough to establish my name in the academic community. Even Twilight would be impressed.
With a growl, I skip past the mirror. Then a detailed drawing of a tapestry. And then a tiara, and a paintbrush, and a sketch so messy it can only be Meadowbrook's unknown artifact. I recognize the other three objects —the Neverending Candle, the Cloak of Eventide, and Revelation, the legendary sword of dragonfire— and I'm about to concede that it's going to be years before I understand any of this when a single sentence catches my eye.
Scholar: (For use w/Historian; yet uncast)
Meadowbrook has a spell that's never been cast? It's scribbled on the unknown artifact's page like an afterthought, beneath an equation so convoluted that I doubt even Twilight would be able to make anything of it.
In the hallway, hoofsteps grow louder, accompanied by the high-pitched, unintelligible babble of my neighbors. They slam the door as they enter their room.
I reread the title of the spell, then look down for the accompanying equations. There are none dedicated to Scholar, just a small stretch of empty space surrounded by the math for the unknown artifact. Turning the page reveals a sea of cramped, slanted hornwriting that I missed the first time I scanned the book. The words are utter nonsense; I suspect it's a log of sorts, but the subject jumps from discussing arcanoconductors to ruminating on the composition of tapioca to ancient cosmic symbolism, all in the same sentence. I rub my head. Apparently Meadowbrook had something against punctuation.
A "Search and Find" charm comes up empty; "Scholar" isn't mentioned once in the single page of notes. "Student," "uncast," and even "Historian" are just as unsuccessful.
"Hist," though, sends the pages flipping as the charm directs me to the small section that talks about the tapestry. Within the span of three sentences, Meadowbrook manages to carry on a philosophical debate on the nature of cutie marks in between recording his findings on the enchantability of wool versus cotton embroidery thread. At first, I don't see "Hist" anywhere—the soft yellow glow of the searching charm pulses half-buried in the margin, easily overlooked. But then it catches my eye, and I frown.
Turning the book to the side, I squint at the highlighted section. There isn't any visible text within the glow. I take my glasses off, buff them, and look again. The charm continues to point to unmarked paper. It's unlikely that I screwed up such a simple spell, but I cast it again, just to be absolutely certain.
The only thing that comes of the recast is absolutely certainty that there is nothing there, but "Search and Find" is the magical equivalent of a sundial—if it doesn't work, you're looking at it wrong.
Or it's cloudy.
I chew my lip. Magical interference with the charm is a possibility—while the journal doesn't seem enchanted, any object that spends significant amounts of time near a powerful spellcaster is bound to acquire a layer of arcane residue. It's not unheard of for such items to react strangely to direct enchantment, especially a book that might have been present during magical experimentation. But this is only a concern if the book before me is Meadowbrook's original journal, and I just don't see something that valuable being stored outside the Royal Vaults.
Another possibility is that there is text, and it's been hidden through the use of invisible ink, or an anti-detection rune, or some camouflaging charm of that nature. Why somepony would go to the trouble of hiding something and then neglect to enchant it against basic examination spells, I have no idea.
Then again, I could have just screwed up something I learned when I was in magic kindergarten.
No. I'm positive I cast "Search and Find" correctly. Which means that I need to know for certain whether Historian is an original or a copy— I'm leaning towards the latter, but surety is a necessity when dealing with old tomes. If I try to cast something as rigorous as a revealing jinx on the original version, it's likely to blow up in my face.
A smile stretches across my face as I realize that I need to know the history of the book. I check the time; the archives are undoubtedly closed (like I'm going to jaunt in there and start asking questions about a book that probably isn't authorized for check-out), but there's a slight possibility that the Professor will still be in her office. And I have an excuse to drop by.
Scrambling off the bed, I throw Historian under my pillow and gallop out the door.
Five minutes later, I'm rapping a hoof against Professor Sharp Wit's mahogany office door.
"Come in," is the muffled response, so I push the door open and enter the cramped space. The familiar scent of parchment and pine greets me.
The room is cramped only because every inch of wall space has a bookshelf pressed against it—novels and scrolls and trinkets from Sharp Wit's various travels clutter floor-to-ceiling shelves. A desk and chair is crammed against the far wall, where the tip of a pale orange horn peeks out from behind a behemoth parchment pile.
"It's Moondancer," I announce. The horn glows, and then the pile of scrolls rises up in one massive wave and parts to reveal my former Arcane History professor. She smiles wanly at me. Her silver mane looks as though she tied it up a week ago and forgot about it.
"Moondancer!" Her voice possesses a liveliness betrayed only by the bags underneath her eyes. "Haven't seen you in a while! You'll have to forgive me for canceling lunch this week, it's been, well..." She gestures at the scrolls.
"Exams," I supply, earning a dry chuckle. It's not hard to recognize the scrolls as the fruits of her final essay prompt. "Oh, you don't have to do that," I say hastily, as she moves to clear the stool on the other side of her desk. "I just had a quick question."
She leans back in her chair. "Fire away."
"I was just wondering about book enchantments," I begin, trying to sound appropriately nonchalant. "Like, I know Tribald the Tricky was infamous for writing his journals in code, but what about Mage Meadowbrook?"
"Meadowbrook?" Sharp Wit frowns.
"Historically speaking," I add hurriedly.
She relaxes into a thoughtful expression. "Historically speaking, we know about as much of Meadowbrook as we do pre-Princess Equestria—very little. His journal is intact, and we have most of his artifacts, naturally, but historically?" She shrugs. "He obsessed over Starswirl, he loved the Princess, and he was completely insane."
She's dodging my question. My heart sinks a little bit. "Nopony's analyzed his journal or anything?"
Sharp Wit raises an eyebrow. "Is somepony thinking about applying for research permissions this summer? You're being awfully specific."
"I... I might." I scuff a hoof against the worn carpet. "I mean, if the Royal Archives is willing to grant access to his journal."
"We actually only have a copy of his journal," the professor corrects. Just as I suspected. "His apprentice scribed a backup in secret, shortly before Meadowbrook destroyed the original by force-feeding it to a dragon." She chuckles. "It's quite the tale, you can find it in Dusty Page's Royal Magicians." She tears off a piece of parchment and scribbles the title down before magicking it over to me, smiling. "If you'd like me to write a letter of recommendation for your research proposal, I'd be more than happy to send something over to the Archive Director. Just swing by my office after exams and remind me." She winks.
I beam at her. "I'll be sure to. Thanks, Professor!"
"Anytime," she smiles.
I turn to leave, then hesitate.
"Is there something else?" she asks, reaching for a scroll.
"Well," I push my glasses up nervously. "It's not really a question, but— ah— you teach summer courses here, right?"
"Well, my birthday's right before the Summer Sun Celebration, and if you'd like to—well, that's if you aren't too busy—" I can feel my cheeks reddening to match my mane, but I'm past the point of no return, so I forge on through. "I might be having a birthday party, and you're, uh, more than welcome to swing by and have some cake. Or just say hi."
She's staring at me now, and I'm beginning to regret opening my mouth when she grins. "A birthday party, huh?"
"Yeah." I nod vigorously. "I mean, it's not exactly official, but my roommates seemed pretty serious about throwing one, and I think Twilight Sparkle will be there, too." I wrack my memory frantically, trying to remember if Twilight actually said she would come, but all I remember is her expressing concern over exam schedules, so I shelve the worry for later.
"Your roommates? Twinkleshine, Minuette, and—who was the other filly?"
"Lyra," I prompt.
"That's right." She levitates another scroll onto her desk. "Well, good for you! I'll do my best to stop by... Have you mentioned this to Stargazer yet?"
I shake my head. Sharp Wit tsks at me.
"If I see her in the coffee room tomorrow, I'll be sure to let her in on it," she promises. "I know you're just as busy as I am, though, so I'll let you get back to studying."
I recognize my exit cue. "Thanks again!"
"Anytime," the professor says again, eyeballing the mountain of parchment behind her. "Excluding the next three days, preferably."
Though the visit to Sharp Wit's office didn't yield any information about the specific probability of Meadowbrook enchanting his journal, it wasn't a total bust. After all:
1) I learned that I needn't worry about the mage's secret journaling habits—if his apprentice made the copy, it's likely that the text wasn't originally hidden; "Word-Paste" doesn't replicate camouflaging charms when it creates the duplicate.
2) If the text was hidden after transcription, then it means that the information it contains is probably sensitive, potentially dangerous, and undoubtedly mind-blowing.
3) It might contain clues to Meadowbrook's unknown artifact, or it could be a spell so revolutionary, the Princess ordered it hidden from researchers, lest it destroy the fabric of reality!
4) I received reassurance that the Professor cancelled lunch this week due to her busy schedule and not a lack of interest in chatting with me.
There's a spring to my step as I return to my room. Rounding the final corner, I note with relief that my roommates still haven't returned. I enter the room, and am instantly assaulted by a neon-blue sticky note.
"AUGH!" I shriek as it batters me about the head, encased in a sparkling golden glow. I swat at it, but it evades my hoof and attaches itself to my horn, obnoxiously fluttering like a banner. With a growl, I magically seize it and yank it off. The note falls to the ground, its enchantment spent.
Summer Storm invited us to a last-minute group study session in the West Wing of the Library. We'll be there until maybe an hour past sundown if you wanna come!
-Minuette + Roomies
I toss the paper aside, glancing out the window. The sun is just now brushing against the horizon, leaving me a bit more than an hour to figure out what to do with Historian.
My first inclination is to go to Twilight. She's Princess Celestia's personal student; not a soul in Equestria is more likely to be capable of detecting a glamour charm than she is. I mull the thought over, then decide against it. Twilight has a tendency to get bent out of shape over exams, so she won't appreciate being distracted with side projects—and I won't deny there's a certain allure to the idea of uncovering the hidden text myself, which is my second option.
I collapse onto my book-strewn bed, wiggling a bit so Advanced Magical Theorems isn't poking into my side so much, then levitate Meadowbrook's journal out from under my pillow. I let it hover directly above my head, watching my pale pink magic shimmer across the leather cover.
It doesn't feel like there's any magical residue lurking upon the tome; my aura meets no resistance as it spins the book about lazily. Still, hesitation holds me back. Scientific procedure demands I perform all experiments in a controlled environment. School policy requires me to have appropriate supervision for said experiments.
I bury my face in my hooves, rubbing my eyelids. All of the laboratories are bound to be locked up, to deter students from tampering with the testing environment before their exams. The teachers are all busy, too. Nervously, I check the time again. There's plenty.
Do I dare? Am I bold enough to tamper with Library property? Am I ready to deal with the information I might learn? What if the hidden text is something dangerous, or involves a matter of national security? Will the knowledge be worth it?
Twilight would do it.
The thought sends me lurching out of bed. With a magical heave, I lift up each and every item covering the room's single desk, and levitate it over to a cleared section of floor. Historian looks fittingly imposing when I place it upon the bare surface.
I slide into the chair, gulping. The desk is pressed up against the window, and I almost close the blinds before deciding that the sunset is too pretty to shut out. Its golden rays highlight the dust-motes swirling through the air, giving the scene a faded, fairy-tale appearance. My horn-glow nudges some of the specks aside as I summon the energy for Poppy the Paranoid's revealing hex. In the quiet of the room, the magical current running along the fluting of my horn hums softly, barely audible.
Focusing, I envelop Meadowbrook's journal with the spell. I can feel the drain of magic as the hex moves over the book, a white glimmer marking its progress as it blasts away any glamours lingering in the pages. Ten seconds later, it's finished.
Hesitant to touch Historian magically so soon after such a rigorous spell, I manually turn to the page with the tapestry, then frown.
It remains a page about a tapestry. No hidden text has appeared, no secret code has been revealed, but a sloppily-cast "Search and Find" insists that there are words I am not seeing.
I try Poppy's hex again. Then I try Tribald the Tricky's enchantment reversal. Then Clover's ink color-changing charm—which doesn't work at all. And then I cast an inverse version of the oversimplified invisibility charm Twilight and I played with in kindergarten, all the while keeping a detailed log of my success:
2) Still nope.
4) More nope.
5) I hate magic.
The loud music that my neighbors have decided to turn on gives me an excuse to scowl at something, so I pause my frustrated genius act for a minute to tell the wall exactly what I think of their rambunctious thoughtlessness.
Satisfied that the universe has been made aware of my distaste for Sapphire Shores, I decide to throw Morari the Maneless' magical detection charm at Historian in a last-ditch effort to see if there's even anything within the book to be affected by my spells. Arcane residue is surface magic, like the ripples resulting from skipping a stone across a lake— it reveals nothing about the currents lurking in the deep.
I probably should have done this to begin with, I groan to myself, as my horn glows once more.
Morari's spell isn't complicated, but the time it takes to cast varies with the result: items bearing small enchantments can be analyzed and reported on within seconds, whereas an object attached to a large spell might take a minute or two to have its arcane potential gaged. It's like dropping a stone in a well, Twilight had explained to me. The deeper it is, the longer it takes.
Patience is key, I reassure myself. The fact that the charm doesn't bounce back immediately after I cast it is reassuring, and confirms my suspicions that the book has been magically tampered with.
It takes seven minutes of solid spellcasting before Morari's charm finishes sorting through the enchantment upon Historian.
When the journal's stored magic is finally revealed to me, I am half-thrown across the room with the immensity of it; raw power seizes hold of my arcane lifeline and physically repels me. I catch a glimpse of the book's enchantments before the connection is severed, though, and my mind is as equally stunned as my body as I reel across the room.
Historian is the single most magical item I have ever encountered. Its stores of arcane potential are huge—vast pools of simmering energy that seem to be eternally deep, all contained between two leather covers. I can feel my eye twitching. Slightly more worrisome is the grin creeping across my face, and the accompanying excitement racing through my veins.
I pull myself to my feet, noting in the back of my mind that my neighbors have turned their obnoxious music off. It takes five steps to move back to where Historian lies innocently upon the moonlit desk, silver ink shimmering like so many stars embedded within the page.
Silver? I cannot move fast enough; the seconds stretch out impossibly long as I slide back into my chair to examine the glowing paper.
Tiny glittering sentences crisscross the section about the tapestry, forming delicate loops and whorls across both pages of Meadowbrook's cramped writing. The minuscule letters practically sing with magic, pleading for attention, begging my eyes to read them. Sure enough, a tiny silver “for Hist” is inscribed near the spine, followed by some gibberish about ‘the final weeks.’ Across the page, one word shines brighter than the others.
Leaning closer to the literary lacework, I manage to make out the first part of a sentence:
With arcane endeavor
The lettering shines as I read it, and my glasses magnify the glare, obscuring the rest of my vision. I tear off the black frames, tossing them to the edge of the desk. Leaning in closer to compensate, I continue reading.
With arcane endeavor
Through centuries gone
Yon time-laden treasure
To consciousness drawn
Through centuries gone
The shades doth appear
To consciousness drawn
With intent to cohere
The letters swim upon the blurry page, but the words are as clear as if I had spoken them aloud. I cannot stop reading; even as my stomach begins to twist with the realization that this is an incantation, the spell drags my eyes along the burning silver lines.
The shades doth appear
Upon wavering tides
With intent to cohere
And reveal that which hides
Upon wavering tides
Doth arcane endeavor
Reveal that which hides
Within time-laden treasure
The final word sears itself into my eyes, and I fall back with a startled cry. Light explodes around me, and I cannot see. There is nothing but a sterile white emptiness, barren and unyielding. Distantly, I feel myself strike the floor, but my vision remains useless.
Abruptly as it left, my sight is restored all at once: I feel myself blink, and then I am staring at the cracked plaster ceiling of my dorm room, buried in a small pile of office supplies and notes. In the silence, I hear that my neighbors have started up a new song; its measured, heavy beat thuds rhythmically from the other side of the wall.
I lie there for a minute, sticky and covered in a thin sheen of sweat, as I try to determine whether it is euphoria or terror creeping through my heart. The uncertainty is nothing compared to the realization that I just performed Meadowbrook's uncast spell.
I stagger to my feet and lurch for the desk. Slamming shut Historian's now-dull pages, I shove the journal into my saddlebag, relocate the clutter from the floor back onto the desk, and collapse into bed.
I should record my results while they're still fresh, I realize as I pull my coverlet over my head. I should get examined, I should take the book to Sharp Wit, or Headmistress Smarty Pants, or—or Princess Celestia, and confess everything and make sure I haven't hexed myself—
But the spell was called Scholar. That doesn't sound like a hex.
The warmth of my bed soothes my aching nerves remarkably quickly. Lulled by the steady beat from the other room, my thoughts begin to slow. I lazily wonder what Twilight would do in this situation, but I am not Twilight, and I don't know. Sleep laps at the edges of my consciousness, and I succumb willingly to the sudden exhaustion weighing me down, slipping away into the awaiting dreamscapes without another thought.
My dreams flitter between crystalline laughter and a broken ceiling.