Sol Dilemma

by Andromidus

Chapter 1 - "Long way from Home"

Sol Dilemma - Chapter 1

“Long way from Home”

I’ve always wondered about my past.

Ever since my parents revealed what little they knew about my brief history on this world, it’s had a profound effect on my life. Mostly on the fact how it haunts my every waking moment—a specter hanging on the fringes of my vision.

I’ve gone great lengths to properly conceal my outward feeling on the subject. It turns out I can be impulsive, and my best bet was to… ignore the situation. Place it on the backburner, as someponies would say. For the sake of my parents, they did not need to know. This was a burden I decided, I would be carrying alone. An invisible pressure that belonged to me, and until I wiped the dust and grime covering the window to my history, would stay until the day I died.

Okay, a little dramatically overbearing, but that’s certainly what I felt.

And I wasn’t really sure whether or not my developing five-year-old psyche was up to the challenge. Nopony should ever have to bear the weight of something of this magnitude, let alone a foal who had yet to even go to school. Yet here I was, Dreading over the facts that I would never see my birth parents, my would-be home, or understand why I was orphaned in the first place.

Believe me, it's not like they didn't try, but the investigators didn't exactly put too much value in me anyways. It was a quick sweep of the available familial records and they were done.

Did it sting when I found out how little effort they put in? Yup.

Did I think they should've tried harder? Definitely!

Could they have actually done what I was thinking of? Tartarus, no.

I may be a foal, but I was far from uneducated and ignorant. I wouldn’t hold it against the ponies leading the investigations that the choice of giving up would be far easier.

My case was neigh-unsolvable. A recently birthed foal left in the flaming wreckage of what my rescuers recounted as a downed airship, with no identifiable bodies or clues that could give the slightest hint to my enigmatic history. I had no traceable DNA or MI records to connect to any equestrian relatives, and nopony claimed me as immediate family either. Trying to contact foreign countries about me seemed too much of a hassle, so that option went out the window pretty quickly.

The cruelest thing about the entire fiasco was my name. The rescuers thought it would be paying homage to my possibly deceased parents—since nopony in their right mind would abandon a barely day old foal—so after identifying the only thing they could in the crash, I was dubbed Sol Dilemma.

But…! After long and hard sessions of mental debate, I find I don't really blame them. I mean, I get a constant reminder of my past anytime anypony uses my name. Granted, the name was admittedly really cool, and I wasn't fazed too much by it. So… that's a win, I guess? I could still be bitter about what had happened, though. The name was pretty fitting too. It was my “sole” dilemma.

And it wasn't like I was destined to be left to spend my foalhood in an orphanage. After I was put up for adoption, one of the guardsmares who had custody of me during the short investigation adopted me faster than the Wonderbolts could do the Stormhead Circuit. She was absolutely smitten by me!

Well… that’s what she likes to tell me anyways. Mom always made time to take care of me and give the appropriate amounts of attention and love a growing filly would need. She sat by my bed while she regaled me with stories from her line of work, both the silly and the serious. Her voice was there to calm and place me to rest, the gentle tone and melody lulled me to sleep. Her concern and care were genuine to its core.

Her husband—my father—found it difficult to resist my foal-like wiles, and succumbed.

His job always allowed more leniency and flexibility, so whenever mother couldn’t make it, he made sure to remind me that I was his daughter, despite the lack of blood relations. Some bonds just happened to be that strong. We would play games, he would read and teach me many different things, often focusing on skills that could be applied to everyday life. He said that his father, a great stallion, acted as his guiding light, a stable rock in the storm, and he planned to follow in his hoofsteps.

And I most certainly returned their feelings, the same, powerful love a family shared. It was unconditional, they were the ones who held the most importance in my life.

So of course, fate had decided that happiness was not meant to last. One fateful evening, a conversation had escalated into an interrogation about my past, and once I was given that knowledge, it shook something loose inside me.

A nagging voice in the back of my head repeated it’s mantra; “Until you've found your kin, and you find your closure, they will never truly be your parents…”

Such a cruel and vicious line of thought.

So here I was, left with my burden. A weight I chose to foolishly bear alone.

My dad likes to think I'm an alien foal who fell from the stars and crashed here.

Sometimes I like to think that too because it makes everything so much simpler. To think that fate has something waiting for me, hidden in the shadows of space. That there is life beyond the confines of the planet, free-thinking, and sentient beings...

Hmph. That’s just foalish thought.

Everypony knows aliens are just stories.

I blinked my eyes rapidly before sitting upright. Stretching my limbs, I unraveled myself and hopped from the bed to lightly part the curtains. Behind them revealed the dark blue sky, tinted ever so lightly by the peeking sun. I snorted. Turning around, I lazily trotted back and jumped into my resting place. Pulling the covers over my head, I grumbled as I tossed and turned, attempting to go back to sleep. Why can’t I ever wake up when it’s actually morning?

I let out a huff of frustration and slumped against the pillow. My head shifted to the side and my eyes landed on the small chest tucked away in the corner. I shook my head side-to-side as I contemplated my many attempts to understand the objects held within. I had the time to go and look at it. Might as well try again. I sighed and rolled off the bed, taking my blanket with me. With a soft “WUMPH!”, I wriggled my way out of my fluffy cocoon, balled up the fabric, and with a jerk of my head, tossed it back onto the bed. Hehe, that rhymed.

I walked over to the chest and placed my horn against the lock. The runes glowed a bright yellow before they transitioned to a soft green, and an audible click echoed through the room. Pushing the lid open, I carefully levitated the three items out of my box. These three objects were given to me shortly after my parents told me about my puzzling past, and they believed I deserved to have the remnants—the last remaining connections—to it. My rescuers recovered them from the crash and gave them to my mother. Mom told me how they decided it was best that she’d kept it from her superiors, lest I never get the chance to see them again.

And, I’m also pretty sure they felt terrible, just like me, after our shouting match a couple days prior. So I guess they wanted to reassure themselves, and quite possibly me, that all was fine and our trust was still there. Win-win for all of us, I guess. Although it seems I benefit the most from the exchange.

As I held all three in my magical grip, I levitated the objects of interest closer to me. The first two were glowing dodecahedrons with a smaller dodecahedron held in its core by a… web of some sorts. Both were neigh-identical, save for the obvious color difference. One glowed a brilliant yellow, shimmering like the sun itself. The other was a calm, white light, shining like Luna’s moon. It was obvious physical observation was moot. They looked the same, had no imperfections on their structures, weighed the same, hay, if it wasn’t for the two colors I could’ve easily mistaken one for the other.

What purpose did they serve? Were they simply more than valuable gems, with sizes and cuts that made them impossible and coveted? Maybe a family heirloom? Or perhaps, a secret power source for a weapon that could end the world!? I was at a roadblock, ending at the same questions and theoretical conclusions, every, single, time.

Okay. Maybe except that last one. Hehe.

With nopony to actually confirm it with, all they did was sit, look pretty, and glow. They may as well be fancy looking night-lights. But with a connection to my past, they were far too important for me to just leave them alone in the open.

Interestingly enough, the two also happened to hold a level of familiarity and out flowed a feeling I couldn’t properly describe. It was filled with something, that I was sure of. For now, I was going to refer to the stuff filling the shapes as, “magic, but not magic”.

So by that conclusion, if it could be filled, then it had to have been open at some point, and if it had been open, there was some way to extract whatever was inside. This was just like a vault! Except, the vault has no doors, and is completely impenetrable. Also, somepony threw away the key.

The more I tried to understand the two, the longer they continued to baffle me.

The third was confusing in its own right.

It had no obvious physical connection with the first two, being made out of an entirely different material, and shaped like a flattened donut. Kind of like those records I see that DJ use! Except, it still happened to retain some level of spherical… rotundness.

Actually, it’s more like a frisbee than a record, now that I really think about it. Spinning it around, it was obvious to tell which side was meant to face down. The top side had ridges and a shiny-camera lens in the middle. The bottom half was completely flat, smooth, even. There were small nubs made of rubber, set in a triangle pattern that was probably there to ensure friction and prevent sliding.

I thought that was pretty genius.

Beside my praise for the use of rubber, my biggest problem was figuring out how to do anything with it. There was no obvious user interface like the newer cameras they were coming out with. The surface was void of any buttons, and I already attempted pressing anything that looked like a button. I wondered if it—


My heart leaped out of my chest and my weak concentration on the frisbee-record shattered. I instinctively moved one of my hooves over my chest and took deep breaths, before remembering what I lost grip of. With my butter-hooves, I fumbled the object, juggling it in an intense game to keep it off the floor.

With a grunt, I landed belly first on my carpet, with the frisbee-record grasped in my hoof, held precariously on its side. I took a deep breath and gave myself a little shake. What in Celestia’s multi-colored mane caused that? I levitated the…


Yeah! Discus, next to my other treasures.

Trotting back to the curtains, I forced them apart with my forehooves to see the sun halfway past the horizon, and the dying effects of a sonic rainboom. I stared mesmerized by the sight. There was only one known pony who could pull off something of that magnitude!

“I remember when that mare first broke the speed barrier. She scared the entire population of Canterlot, I swear!” somepony chuckled from the doorway. I flinched and spun around. A coat that rivaled the clearest sea and a poofy sea-foam mane leaned against my door frame. Not my motherstop that! S… She’s my mom, and I don’t have to have a blood relation for her to love me.

I put on the best fake smile I could. “Morning, mom! Did the rainboom wake you up too?”

Mom smiled and trotted over. She nuzzled the side of my face, and I returned her gesture of affection for the sake of keeping appearances, “Good morning, my little dilemma. And yup. Now that I’m awake-awake, I’ll get started on breakfast. What’d you think that little tummy of yours wants?”

“Hmmm… pancakes!” I cheerfully replied. At least I didn’t have to fake my smile there.

“Pancakes it is then! Blueberry or chocolate?” she asked, already halfway to the door.

I bit the bottom of my lip. “Uhm, blueberry!”

“Okay. It should be ready in half an hour, freshen up and be ready by then, alright?”

I looked back at the spot where the rainbow burst had originated. “Mom?”

She stopped, head turning towards me. “Yes, hun? Did you need something?”

“I… I just wanted to ask if you know why” – I shifted to point at the rainboom – “that happened, so early in the morning? W-Well, y’know, because you’re a guardsmare, and stuff!”

Mom stood still, and an almost unnerving silence seeped in. “Well… You know that mare; Rainbow Dash, always stubborn and sometimes foalish. It shouldn’t be anything to worry about—it should be nothing to worry about. Just…”

I watched her trail off, shaking her head and walking away. Her hushed voice made things hard to hear, but I could make out, “Check with—” and, “Speak to later—” out of her mumbles.

As I entered the bathroom, I wondered. Maybe if I showed it to my friends, maybe they could help? I splashed some water on my face, as I brushed my mane, tail, and teeth, I thought about the consequences of showing them. Which, there were almost none, aside from the fact they could accidentally break it. Perhaps a new set of eyes would be good!

In a happy mood, I trotted back into my room and moved towards the table. Pulling the chair out from the desk, I leaped up and sat down, eyeing the discus. There had to be some way to use it. At the very least…

I picked it up with my hoof and brushed the side with my other, free hoof. I rotated it in my grip, scrutinizing each and every detail. Maybe if I could…

I noticed the slight depression on the side.

With an eagerness I didn’t know I had, I pressed it. The plating pushed itself in, and I waited for something to happen. I laid onto the tabletop and rested my muzzle flat against the surface. Seconds went by and nothing happened. Confused, I picked it up again, attempted the same process. I tried this three more times before setting it down. What did I do wrong? What was I doing wrong? Did I have to hold it down or something? Why was this so confusing!?

I slammed my hooves onto the table (with zero effect, thanks to my amazing foal-strength), and my nostrils flared in anger. I jabbed my hoof at the side of the discus and sent it sliding across the top of my desk. Realizing the stupid mistake, I reached out and grasped the area where the button was. Just like last time, the button pushed itself in and did nothing. I yelped in surprise as I thought I lost my grip.

Except I didn’t. The spot where I pressed into previously, partially slid counter-clockwise into the device. I gasped quietly, startled by my discovery. I recentered the discus and stared at the opening I managed to create. Carefully hidden behind the shielding, was the set of buttons I had been looking for.

A smile crept onto my muzzle. Wedging the tip of my hoof into the opening, I followed the pattern of how it opened and pushed it back completely. I was rewarded with the shield clicking into place.

With foal-like wonder, I began my excursion. Holding the discus with my magic, I looked at the buttons. There were three in total, a funny looking almost-circle with a line going down the middle, and two hay dog reminiscent buttons horizontally placed side-by-side. I pressed the circle one first.

I sat patiently waiting, staring at the—

Hah! I gasped, nearly dropping the discus back to the ground. The discus projected a silhouette of a mare, striped with vertical and horizontal lines. Slowly, color began to move up, until I could tell the mare’s coat color.

Charcoal gray. Just like mine!

Her mane and tail flashed into existence, coming to rest as it flowed down her head. I grabbed a lock of my own mane and stared at the startling resemblance. Both of us shared the same two-tone shade of fiery-orange I had known all my life. I watched mesmerized as the details were added in. The lifeless gray eyes transformed into the embodiment of an inferno, as blazing orange found its way into the irises.

I watched as an invisible breeze moved her mane, and she stood ever confident. She looked like me! Except… she didn’t. The way she held herself spoke volumes, a certain fire burned behind her gaze, and an aura that demanded respect hung around her. Plus she’s also an adult and taller than me.

Just… who was this pony? My sister? My aunt? My… mother?

I reached out with a hoof to touch the image before me. I flinched and snapped it back as the image hazed and lost coherency. The image cleared up, and instead of her bare coat, she now donned a gray, almost black, robe, with elegant gold embroidery stitched across it. The flowing design looked like somepony captured the essence of a dying fire, the golden wisps of smoke curling along the edges of the garment.

The clasp above her chest held a beautiful gemstone, glowing with the radiance of a new dawn. Similar stones rested in the wings that hung from her back. Those three sets of wings stood at attention, set in a way that they did not hinder their wearer, but still retained a stylish look. Two chains held snug against her flank, and attached to one of them was a book with a spiked sun for a cover.

She wore a matching quartet of greaves, all carved with the same design. Shortly after, a white and gold helmet materialized over her head. The fins were swept back and then moved to point outwards. A black visor encompassed the rest of her face and muzzle.

In short, her attire was breathtaking.

And I absolutely just had to show my parents this mystery pony.

Holding the discus snug in my magical grip, I galloped through the hallway and down the stairs, all without missing a beat. The image flickered ever so slightly as the wind whipped around it. I carefully tucked it away in my mane, I wanted to surprise both of my parents.

“Dilemma! Food’s—Oh! You're here already.” Mom paused as I trotted to the dining table. She flipped the last of the pancakes onto the plate with her magic and brought the stack to the middle of the table. “Breakfast is served!”

As a growing pony with a ravenous appetite, I levitated half of the stack onto my own plate. As I prepared to drown the food in a flood of syrupy goodness, an aquamarine hoof calmly pressed down on the bottle. I looked up from my meal to stare at an unamused gaze.

“Dilemma, what did I say about food portions?”

In my head, the voice whispered once more. You’re not my real mom. You’re not the boss of m—stopitstopitstopit. I whipped my head away to hide my look of hurt and anger. Not to look weird, I quickly belted, “Only grab what you can reasonably finish.”

“Mhm. Take things slow, one at a time. Once you finish the first one, you can grab another if you're still feeling hungry.”

Agonizingly, I let Mom take the plate as she grabbed the two other pancakes and transferred them to her own, creating a stack that towered over my previous one. Mom caught my glare as she drizzled the syrup above her pancakes.

I looked up and down incredulously, “That’s not fair! Why do you get to have all those pancakes, while I only get one!?”

“It’s because mommy is a grown-up mare who needs all the carbs she can get. Guarding is very energy intensive, hun,” she said, shoveling a whole forkful of the fluffy goodness into her snout.

I mumbled quietly and focused on my own food. As I diced up the pancake into bite-sized pieces, I could hear the sound of hooves trotting along the staircase. I watched as a sandy-colored coat and a neatly-combed dark brown mane half-trot, half-fluttered on the trip down. Secured tightly to his side was a peach saddlebag. Stitched on its front is a yellow thunderbolt with a pair of feathery white wings; the symbol of the Wonderbolts.

“Is that breakfast?” the pegasus calls out.

Mother, with her mouth full, replies with a muffled “mhm”. I stare at my father, a look of fierce contemplation on his face.

“Ah, buck it, I’ll—” he grunted as his snout was smacked from the underside by mother’s hoof. Idiot. How can this be my father? I frowned at the voice’s thought. I watched as he was sent reeling back from the blow, rubbing the spot where the initial strike made contact. “Right. Right. No swearing around the foals—Gotcha.”

Remember next time, please? I know she’s smart for her age, but she’s still a growing foal.”

He harrumphed, pulling up a chair with a plate in tow, “It’s just crazy y’know? Dilemma here can hold an adult conversation better than most ponies I know! It’s easy to forget to treat her like a baby.”

I looked up every now and then as my parents idly conversed about their morning. At least, I think they were talking about their morning. I was paying most of my attention to finishing the rapidly disintegrating pancake sitting in front of me, and the rest to how I would introduce my mystery mare.

There didn't need to be any theatrics, just a simple, “follow me, and I'll show you” and it would be done and over.

But why did I feel hesitation? Why did my resolve falter? I was just showing them some random pony right? Not random. Somepony so incredibly important to my past. Gulping down the remains of my first serving, I decided to tune in on their chat.

“—so that’s why I’m being called in for today. It’s worrying, I know,” said Dad, twirling the utensil in his hoof. Oh. I… just missed something super important, didn’t I? “Well. I need to be heading out now if I want to make it to the HQ in time.”

My snout still facing the plate, my eyes trailed to Mom. Her eyes were full of worry, and her mouth curled into a frown. Just what did they talk about to get Mom riled up like that? Wait, Dad’s leaving?

I still have to show them the image! I shot up in my chair. “W-Wait! I need to show both of you something important!”

Dad didn’t even spare a glance as he moved piles of papers and books into his saddlebags. “Can it wait, Dilemma? Daddy’s really busy and needs to leave right now if he wants to make it to the meeting on time.”

The voice attempted to say something, but I quickly flattened its generically negative response. I stammered out, “B-But this is really important! Can’t you just stay a little bit longer? I promise it’ll be quick!”

I gave him the best puppy-dog impression I could muster. Widen those eyes, tremble that lower lip, and cock that head. It was an age-old tactic that melted the iron-resolve of even the most withdrawn pony. Luckily for me, my father had neither, and his defense crumpled like tissue paper against a rampaging hydra.

“I… I suppose I do have time. But, hah –” he shot a “please help me” look to Mom, who shook her head “– it has to be quick, alright?”

I nodded vigorously and led him to the living room. I repeated the exact same process to Mom, who still had a mouthful of half-chewed pancake, wearing a peeved expression. I guess Mom just really likes eating. As Mom sat down next to Dad, I pulled out the discus. The displayed image flickered back to life, and the three-dimensional model glowed once more. This time, it appeared to be simply wearing the robes sans helmet.

Mom blinked, leaning in. “Dilemma, was that one of the trinkets I gave to you?” I nodded. “This… who is this?”

Dad didn't know what to say, judging from his scrunched facial expression, trying to process what was going on. His eyes darted between me and the tiny pony model standing on the coffee table. “I’d hazard a guess and say this pony would be close family… considering how similar she looks to Dilemma…” He bit his bottom lip and shook his head. “Sweet Celestia… this really is important.” Dad crossed his eyes for a moment, tapping a hoof to his chin. “I've been using ‘really’ a lot.”

Mom had gotten up, lying near the table’s edge. She quietly rotated the discus in her magic, examining both the object and the model, which flickered ever so slightly. “In all my years that I've studied both ancient and modern magical orders, I've… I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Dad blinked, as Mom got up. He waved a hoof in the air to gesture, “Go on…”.

“No unicorn order has ever constructed robes like this, and the quality of the design is… nothing short of immaculate perfection. I… this… just…” she said, shaking her head in denial. “All this does is answers some questions, while creating a hundred more.”

“H-How are you sure it's a magical order? What if it's just a lone sorceress?” I asked.

“That could be a possibility. But I have a gut feeling that this mare was a battle mage. A pony of the highest caliber, who led others into situations with impossible outcomes… and came out victorious,” Mom said, trotting over to a bookshelf. “You can tell by the way she holds herself, and that fiery look in her eyes. But, still, with all of that, it perplexes me. This mare looks like somepony who would’ve left their mark on history.”

She pulled out a couple of old looking tomes, ranging from thin to “bigger than my head”. She lifted the discus in her magical grip, and with a flash of her cyan magic, replicated a still replica of the discus and the mare.

“Well, revelations aside, I’ll see you all later. I think Spitfire will understand that I had a…” he glanced at me, sharing a soft smile, “…family emergency. Take care, my little dilemma.”

And with that, he gave me a kiss on the forehead, ruffled my mane and trotted out the door. We both watched as the door clicked shut behind him. Mom turned back to the books.

Mom had gone full analysis mode, muttering thaumic jargon under her breath. I watched in curiosity as she completely reorganized the bookshelf in search of… whatever she needed. She sent a look my way, before returning to her work. “Dilemma, I’ve created a copy of the image so you can take… whatever this is back. I'll be in my study looking through some things, alright?”

She gently placed the discus back down onto the table before trotting upstairs, her stack following close behind. I snatched the discus and held it in my hoof. I sighed, pressing the circle with a line coming out of it, the glow faded and the mare vanished in a flicker of blue lines. I stuffed it back into my mane. I didn’t know that the discus would have such a profound effect on Mom. I briefly wondered “why?” and absentmindedly playing with my bangs. Does she think she’s responsible for finding my parents now that she has this clue?

The voice whispered a silent, “yes”.

I shook my head and snorted. Mom could do whatever she wanted, and if she wanted to help find my birth-parents I wouldn’t object. I paused. But if she does start wearing herself ragged… I’ll stop her. She may not be my biological parent… but… she’s…

There was a rapid series of knocks at the door. I blinked myself out of my stupor and eagerly trotted to the door. There was only one pony in all of Canterlot who would dare knock like that.

I carefully cracked the door open. I seriously did not want to be on the receiving end of another bone-crushing hug from Maverick. She may still just be a young filly like me, a pegasus—and definitely not an earth pony in disguise—but she had an absurd level of all-around body strength.

I spied another eye from the crack in the door, a glittery silver iris staring back.

“Hi, Dilemma! I came by today to see if you wanted to go to the park… Do you?”

I bit the right side of my lip and thought about it. I had a breakthrough today with one of the items today, and I felt like I was going to be on a roll! But then Maverick had personally come over to invite me to go… and Mom always encouraged me to go out more, since she vehemently agreed that exercise was good for the body. Plus, I did say I wanted another opinion with my stuff. Wait, maybe I could…

“Hey, Dilemma? You’re doin’ the ‘deep-thinking’ stuff again,” she said as she poked me through the crack. “You told me to stop you whenever you did that. So, uh… stop!”

I looked away blushing. I can't believe I just went off on a tangent there. “Yes, sorry, didn't mean to do that.”

“S’ kay! That's what makes you special, cuz’ you're so smart and stuff! But I still want to know if you want to go!” she replied, nudging her tiny snout in between the space. “If you don't want to go, that's okay. Big brother always says reading is important because that's where all the smart-pony stuff is. If you want to be a smart-pony, that's cool!”

“N-No! I’d love to go. I just need to look at some stuff. Before we go, that is!” I quickly blurted out. “Do you want to come in? I won't be long.”

“O-K!” Maverick half-shouted. I flinched back in surprise. I unlatched the chain lock and pulled the door open. Oh no, wait… I was then immediately tackled by a gray blur. I wheezed as the air was literally squeezed out of me by the world’s strongest filly. Ten seconds of torture drawled on, and she released her vice-grip.

I collapsed to the floor, gasping for air. Maverick trotted into the living room like her strength was no big deal. It’s… it’s probably normal for her, isn't it? I wonder if there was a prominent earth pony in her heritage? “F-Feel free… to… h-hah… make yourself com-comfortable…!”

I struggled to my hooves and shakily made it to the stairwell, Maverick, staring at the strewn books and rifling through them. Her murmurs about the lack of pictures quickly put the search through books on low priority. As I began climbing up, Maverick joined me, combining walking with small flutters of her wings, “So Dilemma, what’re you up to?”

“I… I want to test something. I made a major breakthrough earlier today and I want to see if it’s really that easy.”

Maverick’s mouth made an “o” shape, and she nodded. “Oh! You’re like those scientists… who study sciency-stuff. You’re pretty smart, Dilemma!”

I blushed and looked away. “T-Thank you. You’re… a great friend, Maverick.”

She giggled-snorted. “Bwaha! Of course I am! I’m gonna be the bestest friend ever!”

For some reason, chills ran down my spine when she uttered those words. Almost as if Maverick had spoken a challenge to a demon for her very soul. I anxiously looked around to see if anything changed. Maverick looked cheery as ever, and the sunlight that filtered in from the windows remained bright. Maybe I’m just being paranoid.

I ushered Maverick into my room and went to the chest. She stuck close behind, watching it go down. Levitating the two crystal-dodecahedrons onto my desk, I pulled out two chairs for the both of us to sit on. Maverick jumped into hers, body shaking from what I assumed was restrained excitement. “What’re these Dilemma? They’re so… pretty.

I took a deep breath and shrugged. “Honestly? I wish I really knew. My mom gave them to me a couple of days ago, and I’ve been trying to figure them out since.” I stared at them, checking for any imperfections running along their design. Rubbing against every single part of the surface, checking for the same depression that had been present in the discus.

“So uh… Dilemma, why’re you… doin’ that?”

I blinked. Yeah, this did look kind of weird without any context. “Oh! I forgot to show you. So my breakthrough earlier today,” I placed the crystal back onto my desk, and pulled out the discus, “I figured out how to activate this.”

Maverick watched with foal-like fascination as I pressed into the depression and slid back the cover. “Wow! That’s really cool! Whasit do?”

My lips curled back into a smile. “This!” I pressed the “on” button, and the mystery mare returned with her dramatic entrance. My friend’s reaction, however, was less than so. She stood still, shock running along her face. We both sat in silence, and I looked around as the atmosphere quickly turned awkward. I didn’t break her now, did I?

“She looks just like you!” Maverick blurted out suddenly. I “eeped” and almost stumbled off my chair. “And she reminds of Castere, the grand magus! Except,” – She pointed a hoof at the discus – “she’s real-er.”

“W-Well. So since this thing opened up when you pressed against the side, I was thinking that maybe these two also followed the same principle! It’s a little far-fetched, but it’s better than nothing. Do you want to help me?”

She gasped and placed her hooves on her cheeks, “Do I!?”

Maverick grabbed the yellow one and immediately set out to work. She rotated it in her hooves, while her feathers brushed along the exterior, copying what I was doing not moments ago. She probably did it better, since pegasi wings were sensitive to the point they could feel the minute changes in the air. I wanted to save my magic for later, but it looks like I’m getting nowhere.

“Hey Mav, I’ll be using my magic now, and it’ll take a lot of my concentration, so try to be quiet, okay?”

She nodded in understanding, leaning back and forth as she examined her crystal. Taking another deep breath, I closed my eyes and surrounded the white one with my aura. I quickly compressed it, attempting to see if there were any places that could be pressed to unlock. Sweat formed on my brow as I continued to prod it, and I could feel the mental exhaustion setting in.

I spun it in my grip and screwed my eyes further shut. I could feel every different ridge, no matter how small. I could sense every bump among the surface, decorating it in amazingly intricate patterns that were almost seemingly random. I couldn’t believe it! Today must’ve been my lucky day because it seemed everything was going good… I had figured out the discus, and now I was figuring out the dodecahedron!

Maverick cheered me on. “You can do it! I believe in you!” Thank you, but I thought I said I needed to have my full concentration on this. Nevermind.

My breathing had become labored now, but I could feel it! If I could just hold out a little longer… there… there was a pulsing feeling. I pulled on it. It resisted, conflicting with my magic. N-No! I’d come so far… I refuse to be stopped here by… my lack of a mana pool!

And with my remaining strength, I tugged with everything I had left. It refused to budge. I choked. My world spun, and Maverick said something. I think she was worried?

My brain was throbbing and my throat felt parched. There was a “thunk” in the background, as I most likely lost grip on whatever I had been holding.

Those were the early warnings of magical exhaustion, something that happens whenever a unicorn burns through their natural mana reserves faster than they could recover. Since I had such a small pool, it didn’t take a genius to know that my little stunt had quickly eaten it up. I should’ve seen that coming, and I shouldn't have pushed my body beyond it’s safe limit. I was smarter than that. Better than that.

I wasn’t sure if it was me, but I heard something that sounded like glass shattering, and a rush of air.

If I was a better state of mind, I would’ve realized sooner how I had lost the corporeal feeling, and I had become a disembodied blob of energy, floating in a massive black expanse. That same feeling from earlier now flowed around me, coalescing around my being like a blanket.

It was warm.

Is… is this it? Is this how I open it!?

It was powerful.

It feels so familiar…!

It was angry. The blanket that hugged me was set ablaze. It was a fire hotter than any mortal could conjure. It was a fire of the heavens, the power of the sun wrapped around me in a furious inferno.

And it boiled with a wrath unmatched and untamed.


I had snapped back to my body, and I screamed as I collapsed to the floor, writhing in pain as the anger of the sun coursed through every fiber of my being. I could hear shouting, screaming. Dull thuds in the distance told me something was happening.

Whatever it was, it didn’t matter. My world had become fire.

Maverick didn’t know what to do. She could only watch in abject horror as her friend thrashed about on the floor. She had tried to get close to her to maybe calm her down, but any attempt to do so got her smacked on the cheek, and a mark of singed fur. She gingerly patted the spot that had been scorched by something.

In fact, trying to get close to her now was a challenge, as she was heating up and turning her own room into a sauna. Maverick began backing off when it was getting too hot to stand next to her friend. Her heartbeat had turned into a war drum, each strike louder than thunder. Her mind had almost shut down completely.

What was she to do? She shook her head slowly, backing into a corner. Worry marred her cheerful attitude. She should’ve stopped Dilemma when she started looking tired and started sweating up, she should’ve stepped in. The pegasus dropped to the ground, hooves over her head. She didn’t know what to do. This was all too much. She wanted her big brother. He always knew what to do.


She had… she had to call her friend’s mom! She was a unicorn, and she would know what to do! Leaping into the air, she jumped to the door and spun the handle open, cartwheeling unceremoniously into the adjacent wall. Coughing, she jumped into the air.

She raced through the hallway, cutting sharp turns, and nearly nicking her face on a corner. But she couldn’t stop now. Her friend needed her, and she needed her mom to help! She spotted the doorway to where she needed to go. She didn’t know why it was the right one, but something in her told it had to be. She had to trust it. It was her friend’s life on the line.

She skid across the wood, pushing up the rug as she flapped her wings to slow down. She right herself, and quickly began slamming her hooves as fast as she could against the double doors. She kept going until they opened, and a concerned looking mare looked out.

Maverick didn’t need to say anything as she watched the mare’s ears snap in the direction of Dilemma’s pained screaming. There was a bright flash of light and a small bang. Maverick rubbed her eyes and blinked rapidly to dispel the spots in her vision.

She sighed in relief as her mission was accomplished. Her wings were sore, she had never gone that fast before! She weakly galloped back to Dilemma’s room. In her haze, she never even realized she had flown down to the ground floor, and made turns so tight they would’ve been almost perfect right angles. She crawled up the steps, huffing.

Dilemma’s door was wide open now, and a blue glow with what looked like sunlight going through a clear ocean, rippled across the wall. She peered inside and saw Dilemma’s mom combatting a roaring flame. A flowing dome of water was suspended over the adult unicorn, the surface rippling as wild energy slammed against the barrier. A similar shield surrounded the walls of the room, quenching the growing flames.

Steam was quickly turned back into water and chilled to be used again. Maverick watched in wonder as the guardsmare made her advance, slowly moving to the other end of the room. The pegasus pursed her lips. Just where was Dilemma?

N-No. Hold on…!

The roaring flame was Dilemma.

It was hard to tell, as the foal’s body had been wreathed in solar flames—but Maverick knew better. She could recognize her bestest friend anywhere! And she only felt shame and guilt as she watched, unable to do anything. Was she really the bestest friend when she couldn't even lift a hoof to help?

Maybe she wasn't really as great a friend as she thought she was.

She was too distraught to realize the magical combat had died down, and the flames that once lapped at the interior of her friend’s room had all since been choked out. A shadow cast over her as she buried her snout in her hooves. “Mav, what’s got you down like that? I hate to see a good filly like you all upset.”

“I… I don't want to talk about it!” She squeaked from her position on the floor. “I'm a bad pony…”

“Mav, what's that supposed to mean? You're the nicest filly I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.”

“But that's just it, Missus Barrier! I should've stopped Dilemma before she got hurt like a good friend would!” Maverick wailed. “A-And now she’s hurt because of me!”

Cascade Barrier scoffed. “So that's why you're upset? Alright, that makes my job way easier.”


Cascade’s glare softened and she scooped the pegasus filly into a hug. “Look. I'll be blunt. There was nothing you could've done that would've helped, aside from grabbing an adult. Now that, was the best move you could've made. Dilemma won’t blame you for not doing anything, this wasn’t something you could’ve easily stopped. You’re aware of outbursts, right?”

Maverick looked up. “Y-Yeah? Big brother talks about them sometimes. I’ve had one.”

“Dilemma here suffered from an outburst, as you can tell. Although it’s an outburst I didn’t even think was possible.” Cascade sighed, “Somehow, Dilemma managed to create a magical outburst without any mana left in her system.”

“Isn’t that bad? To have no mana in her body?”

Cascade nodded. “It is! A unicorn without mana can suffer dangerous side-effects, from damaging their natural reserve to harming their ability to cast magic. Outbursts also require some mana, as the magic within the pony harmonizes with the body. Except for Dilemma, who singlehoofedly defied everything I knew, and displayed such a powerful outburst with nothing left in her pool!” Cascade smoothed out Maverick’s mane before letting her down. “So it’s not your fault. If anything, blame the bad timing and circumstance, but not yourself. Besides, hindsight is twenty-twenty. You didn’t know she was going to do what she was going to do.”

Maverick said nothing but gave a slight nod.

“And I’ve been waiting on Dilemma’s first outburst for years. I would’ve been worried if she never had a single one—bad timing aside,” said Cascade as she began picking up any scorched objects. “Besides, your friendship isn’t going to deteriorate over such a thing. In fact, Dilemma may blame herself more than you. Just stick with her, and she’ll stick with you.”

“O-Okay!” Maverick shouted with renewed vigor. “I’ll strive to be a better friend, and be there to stop her next time!”

Cascade giggled. “I suppose you got part of my message.” Her eyes drifted to the not-so-blank spot on her flank. “And I think somepony may want to talk to their older brother about celebrating a certain right-of-passage.”

“Whu-!?” Maverick’s eyes widened as she spotted the cutie mark. “I GOT MY CUTIE MARK! DILEMMA LO—Oh. She’s…” Her eyes drifted to the ground before she got up and plopped herself next to her sleeping friend. The filly sent sidelong glances to her mark and then returning her attention to Dilemma. Cascade cringed, as she realized the implication and the realization of what she caused. Not your smoothest dance move there, Cascade. However, the mare was pleasantly surprised when Maverick wrapped her daughter in her signature hug.

The unicorn smiled and watched the display with a certain warm fondness in her heart. Those two will be great friends, that I’ll be sure of. With the burnt pile in her magical grasp, she slowly and quietly tiphoofed out of the room, shutting the door silently. Standing alone in the hallway, she stopped and thought aloud to herself.

“I just don’t understand. Outbursts from unicorns are magical in nature. So why didn’t any of the fluctuation soothing spells do anything?” she muttered to herself. “How did she even manage to cast a high-tier fire spell? It felt like the sun was right next to me.”

Everything about her daughter was a mystery. First the hazy circumstances of her birth, her weak magical abilities, and now an affinity with fire that didn’t even use magic! Today chalked itself up to be one of the craziest mornings Cascade had ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Was she to also report this to her superior? She held a hoof to her forehead and rubbed it. “I need some tea. I’ll think about it over some tea. Scratch that, I may as well make an entire teapot and chug it.”

Celestia was not a happy princess.

Despite everything, she never was a morning pony. Far from it, actually. If she didn’t consume the necessary amounts of caffeine to kick-start her mind, she’d be walking around her palace brain-dead.

It was just out of sheer habit that she got out of bed to raise the sun. She set up the spell array to slowly bring her namesake over the horizon and planned to return to bed, to be later woken up by her attendant carrying the royal gallon of coffee.

Celestia preferred to keep this routine. It was simple, it was efficient, and it kept it her happy and totally not ready to banish the element of loyalty to the moon. She could vividly remember the pegasus’s smug grin and declaration of “totally worth it”, and “this was the best prank ever, and you should see your face”.

Even worse, Celestia annoyingly encountered the problem when you tried to go back to bed after waking up, yet, you simply couldn’t.

Celestia had a high tolerance for many things. Try to blanket Equestria in eternal darkness, sure. Almost lose her kingdom to a mad god, alright. Embarrassingly get defeated in her own castle by a changeling queen? Alright, okay-ish. She still had her ego bruised from that one. Woken up in the most annoying way possible because of a prank? Rainbow Dash was coming off lucky. Try laughing now when you have mandatory community service for a year.

So now she sat at her desk, sorting through last night’s paperwork and this morning’s fresh batch. The door to her study opened and in trotted her sister. She looked up to meet Luna’s worried gaze. “I just got a report from the Wonderbolts, ‘Tia. They’re investigating some strange anomaly in the western region of Equestria.”

Celestia blinked and shook herself awake. “Anomaly? What kind? Please don’t tell me it’s Discord again doing something silly. We’ve had enough false alarms this past month. If my mane and tail weren’t magic, I swear by the stars they would be gray.”

Luna shook her head, eyes hardened with a serious look. “Initial reports tell us it involves heavy amounts of dark magic.”

Celestia stiffened at the mention. “Are they-Are they sure?

The moon diarch pulled up a chair and placed the folder onto her sister’s desk. “Honestly? It’s too early to tell, but usually the wide-range scanners are never wrong. I personally make sure to reinforce them and maintain them monthly. I wouldn’t hold my breath for a mistake, ‘Tia.”

The ever-graceful sun princess slammed her head repeatedly onto her desk. Her specially constructed mahogany table was enchanted for one of these specific reasons. A minute of cathartic face-to-desk later, Celestia straightened herself out and grabbed the folder in her magic. She rifled through the contents, and some scout drawings of the possible individuals. Her face contorted in confusion as she looked at the unfamiliar sight. Cracked chitinous exterior, bipedal form, tattered fabrics and unusually shaped triangular head. She pointed to the drawing. “Do we know what these are?”

Luna squinted and scowled. “I wish. They were spotted at the areas of interest, moving things, but nothing bigger than themselves or anything that looked dangerous outright. We haven’t attempted contact yet, since most of them spook the tartarus out of some of the ponies.”

“Haven’t attempted contact?”

“‘Tia. Look at me, I’m not a speciest pony, but nothing good usually looks like a deceased changeling thrown through a blender and sewed back together, hauling things through a forest at midnight.”

Celestia clicked her tongue and made a face of agreement. Luna has a point there. “I’ll send this to be processed by the royal guard and the EUP. I don’t want any unsuspecting pony to be coming face-to-face with these… anomalies.” She flipped to the last page, frowning as she noticed how little information they had on the situation. “Is this all?”

“Sadly, yes. The report was made last night and sent directly to me via thestral courier.” Luna admitted.

“We can’t act until we get the whole picture. I don’t want a repeat of Ramjey.” Celestia said, staring at the possibly sinister image of the mystery creatures. If she was paying any attention, Luna visibly cringed at the name. Celestia rubbed her fetlocks against her eyes. “I can’t believe it isn’t even early afternoon and my morning has already degraded like this.”

Luna giggled, and patted her sister’s back with an outstretched wing. “Oh hush ‘Tia. It’s not like this is uncommon.”

Celestia pouted and splayed against the chair. “Buuuuut whyyyy…? Why can’t I just have a normal morning?”

“Then life would be boring, dear sister. You know what the ponies say.”

The alabaster alicorn huffed. “Variety is the spice of life, blah, blah, blegh! What if I desire a boring life?”

Luna rolled her eyes, before moving to get up, “Then you wouldn’t be the diarch of Equestria.” She chuckled one last time and opened the door. However, she did notice a certain package wrapped in a thick white paper. Grabbing the box with her magic, she jiggled it tauntingly in front of her elder sister. “Ohhhh, ‘Tia-aahhhh…! You know what time it is…!” she glanced at the stamp before almost crying from laughter. “And it looks like it’s due in a weeeeeek…!”

The dark alicorn stared at her sister’s face and collapsed to the floor in a heap of laughter. The wide-eyed, mouth to the floor expression was priceless. “N-No! It can’t be, I…” Celestia shot a glance at the calendar, and back to the box shaking around Luna. “No…! NOOOO—”

A wave of solar energy passed through the room. Any regular pony may have dismissed the burst of energy, however the two present knew better. Luna stopped laughing immediately and locked eyes with Celestia.


“Yes, I felt that as well. Are you sure you aren’t having problems again?”

Celestia blushed and looked away. “That… That wasn’t me! It was something else!”

Luna sent her an accusatory look. “Right.”

“I’ll have to look into that. No pony, not even my dear ex-students could exert any magical connection to the sun.”

The moon diarch tilted her head. “Not even Sparkle or Shimmer? They were very gifted individuals, from what I observed and know.”

“My bad—let me reiterate. They did not have anything close to my level of connection. The ability utilize the solar energy and manifest it physically. That kind of feat was beyond them, as the strain both magically and on the body was too much. I doubt even Twilight could do it despite her position as a fellow alicorn.”

“That’s… worrying and interesting. Do you want me to mobilize my thaum-hunters?”

Celestia pressed a fetlock to her chin before shaking her head. “Have them on standby, but don’t send them out. It may spook the individual. Besides, I’ve got a gut feeling I may see them very soon.”

Luna scoffed, tail flicking in anger. “OH! Here she goes again with the ‘gut feeling’. Do you know what happened last time you did this? I had to regrow my entire coat!”

Celestia flinched. “I said I was sorry, Lulu.”

In the most dignified way possible, the younger sister stuck out her tongue, and one-eighty’d to face the exit. She slammed the door as she left. Celestia felt a pang of worry and excitement. One for her cakes that would most likely become mush by the time she arrived, and the possibility of a pony who shared her solar affinity.

She sighed and took the box with her levitation. How did she miss this? Now she had to organize the CSGU’s entrance exams in a week? A tuft of blue hair was stuck the near tape. She picked it up and ran a DNA spell.

That mare is dead.