"Stay back, you monster," snapped Shining Armour, the rest of the group staring at the wiggling mass of tentacles with varying reactions.
All three Alicorn Princesses watched it with trepidation, but were determined to stand against it should it prove hostile. Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and the newly arrived Spitfire glared on with threatening looks, daring this thing to make a move. Rarity, Fluttershy, and Spike looked to the limp Chrysalis, to her captive minions, then to the swirling vortex of black, wavy tendrils, terror in their hearts.
The three of them only had to look at Twilight's panting form in Cadance's hooves to dredge up enough courage to not panic and stay here and help.
Pinkie, however, hopped straight up to the wretched whirlpool and held out a hoof.
"Greetings, Mr. Mora," said Pinkie with a happy grin. "Welcome to Equestria."
Hermaeus Mora actually seemed to blink in surprise this time.
"Interesting, " mumbled the wretched abyss. "Are you not... intimidated by my appearance?"
"Not really," said Pinkie Pie energetically, lowering her hoof to the ground. "Your weaving tendrils are a little unnerving... but if you intended to hurt us, you probably would've already done that already. Plus whatever you did a second ago really helped calm me down, and since it was so similar to the weird shouting Twilight has been doing to battle that meanie changeling, she must have got it from you, and if she got it from you, you must want to protect Equestria too, and if that's the case, you must mean too..."
"Pinkie," snapped Celestia, seizing the party pony in her magic, closing her mouth and dragging her back over to the group. "We do not know a thing about this thing, or what intends to do."
"Pinkie is right about one thing," moaned Twilight, everyone looking to her. "I received the knowledge of the Thu'um from him."
All the ponies and one dragon puzzled as the strange word left her mouth.
"Thu'um?" Asked Rainbow Dash, fluttering over to her friend in Cadance's hooves. "What is that?"
Twilight gave a weak smile and dredged up what strength she could: 'MUL QAH DIIV'
A slight gasp left the throat of the other ponies as Twilight was surrounded by a swirling mixture of blue and orange transparent scales over her body, and shimmering orange horns above her head. Cadance could feel a slight tingling beneath her forehooves that she had wrapped around Twilight's neck and chest, her eyes transfixed like all the others as arcs of light danced around her friend. Twilight fixed them all with a warm smile, surrounded by the light.
"This is the Thu'um," explained Twilight, "an ancient form of magic that utilizes the language of the dragons."
"You mean all those shouting spells we saw you use," began Fluttershy, finally able to get up from Rainbow Dash's hooves."Is some kind of dragon language?"
Twilight gave Fluttershy a gentle smile and nodded.
"I have never seen anything like this," said Celestia, annoyance in her voice. "But I hardly believe it could have anything to do with dragons. Ponies known next to nothing about them, but we do know the kind of magic they can perform, and this is nothing like it."
All attention returned to Hermaeus Mora as they heard his laughter.
"The reason for that, your majesty, is because it doesn't originate from the dragons... you are familiar with."
"What are you talking about? " said Luna, glaring at the mass of tendrils before them. "I have yet to even understand what is going on fully."
"What all this is leading to, Princess," said Twilight, still surrounded by her strange dragonic luminance. "Is that Hermaeus Mora, the Thu'um, and the dragons from which it originated... do not come from our world."
A collection of gasps came from all around as they heard this, all of them throwing Hermaeus Mora a new look of trepidation.
"You mean he's an alien?" Asked Rainbow Dash, following Hermaeus Mora's tentacles with a rapt attention.
"Not really, Rainbow Dash," said Twilight, once again the center of attention. "Hermaeus Mora is a Daedric Prince, beings of immense power that hail from a different dimension."
"Hermaeus Mora? " contemplated Shining Armour, "I know that name."
"I do too, but from where?" said Cadance, looking confused, but never taking her eyes off of Hermaeus.
"You should," moaned Twilight, still tired. "This is not the first time I've told you two about him."
With obviously great effort, Twilight lifted her hoof to her horn. Cadance made to tell her to not move so she didn't hurt herself, but then her words died when she saw Twilight pull an object off her horn and hold it up for her to see. It was an object she had not seen for years.
"That ring," said Celestia, looking to the shining band sitting in Twilight's hoof. "It was the heirloom I gifted to the Sparkle family after Princess Platinum passed away."
"Really?" Gasped Rarity, coming closer to get a better look at the ring, then casting Twilight a look. "Twilight, you never told us your family was entrusted with an artifact that dated back to the founding of Equestria."
"Because they haven't, not for several years," said Celestia in a puzzled voice. "Twilight's parents told me it had been lost, during one of the many magic outbursts Twilight had as a young unicorn filly."
That is what ignited the dormant flames of memory within Shining Armour and Cadance. Now they remembered that day clearly, when Twilight vanished in a flash of unrestrained filly magic. Of how they both searched high and low for their little charge, but found no trace.
They remembered finding her asleep in the middle of the backyard of their house hours later, yet were certain they had searched there several times already. As well as scolding Twilight for losing the priceless family heirloom they had seen on her horn before she teleported. They remember digging through the house trying to find it.
Most of all, they remember Twilight telling them she had met a strange person when she found herself wherever she was, and that it had a name.
"No...no, it can't be..." mumbled Cadance, staring at the wiggling whirlpool with newfound clarity.
"He...he can't..." whispered Shining Armour, also looking at the vortex with a new look. "He was just a figment of her imagination, he does not exist."
Hermaeus Mora let out a low chuckle of amusement.
"I can assure you both...I am very real."
"Captain, what is the meaning of this?" Questioned Celestia, throwing Shining a questioning look. "Do you know what that thing is?"
"Not at all, your majesty, " said Shining, his professionalism resurfacing when addressed by his Princess. "I only that this confirms that Twilight came into contact with this thing many years ago."
"How is that possible? " asked the sun princess, looking at Twilight, who averted her eyes like she was ashamed.
"When we found Twilight after her magic outburst, she told us about a creature she met," explained Cadence, "a creature that called itself Hermaeus Mora. "
"And when I met him, he offered me studies," said Twilight, a lump in her throat. "And I accepted."
Another chorus of gasps filled the bubble Shining Armour was still maintaining.
"My student?" Inquired Celestia, a deep hurt in her voice, "Do you mean...all this time you have been..."
"Calm yourself, Celestia," said Hermaeus Mora gently, "Up until now, you have been her only mentor, for unlike your studies, Twilight could not begin her interactions with me when we first met, for she was far too young."
"What are you talking about? " Celestia asked, focusing on Hermaeus again.
"If Twilight had started when she first met me, the effort would have drained all of her life force, for her body was to young and frail."
"You mean she would have died?" Gasped Rarity, looking like she was about to faint.
"You monster," snapped Fluttershy, actually flying close to Hermaeus Mora's eye and staring into its unnerving pupil. " Why would you give something that could be life threatening to somepony? Twilight is our friend, and whether or not you have waited until now to bestow upon her these powers, she was still at risk, why I ought to..."
Twilight managed to pull her butter colored friend from the eye amongst the tendrils with her telekinetic grip, panting as she released her back amongst the group.
"I agree with Fluttershy, darling, " said Rarity, flicking her tail in aggravation. "If this thing put you at risk by giving you these strange abilities, it's totally atrocious."
"Yeah," said Rainbow, flapping her wings more aggressively. "Even if you did kick some serious tail with these, shouts, as you call them, it's not cool if you were in danger getting them."
Everypony plus Spike looked ready to start exchanging blows.
"Girls, please don't," said Twilight, everyone noticing the extreme despair in her voice. " You do not want to provoke him, it will only lead to more trouble than we can handle. Hermaeus Mora is far more powerful than Discord."
All eyes widened at that claim.
"What do you mean, young Twilight?" asked Luna, " Discord is the most powerful of entities in our realm."
"Yes, in our realm," stated Twilight, extreme worry in her voice. "But where Hermaeus comes from his power and the power of his kin reigns supreme, with power that makes Discord look like nothing."
"I have had enough of this," said Princess Celestia, flaring her wings and approaching Hermaeus Mora's vortex.
" Your name is Hermaeus Mora, correct? " She asked sternly.
"Indeed it is, princess."
"Who and what are you? " asked Celestia, her tone that of a strict ruler.
"As I have said before, I am Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Prince of knowledge and memory."
"Twilight said that Daedric Princes are beings of great power that hail from another world," said Celestia, all present watching in awe as she held a conversation with this thing. "But I want to know what that entails, what is your purpose?"
"You have a way with knowing what questions to ask, Princess," said Hermaeus Mora, great amusement in his voice. "My purpose is to gather knowledge."
"To what end?" Asked Celestia. "After you sent that wave of calm out, you mentioned you desire knowledge, why?"
"Because that is how it has always been for me," explained Hermaeus Mora. "For all of my existence, I have sought knowledge."
"I am afraid I don't understand," said Celestia, never breaking the stern look she wore.
"A Daedric Prince is not a being that is understood easily, your majesty. Each of us has a different origin that influence our actions. In my case, I seek knowledge... because I was born from it."
"Born from knowledge?" inquired Pinkie, saying her first thing since greeting Hermaeus. "What, did your parents have a cheap thrill in a library, or something?"
"PINKIE!" shouted half the ponies in unison, Rainbow shoving a hoof to her lips.
"Twilight told us not to provoke this thing," she said, Pinkie mumbling past her obscuring hoof.
"In the beginning, when the realm I come from came into being..." continued Hermaeus, unaffected by Pinkie. "A lot of wayward knowledge was discarded. From these rejected scraps...I was spawned. And since then, it has been my goal to gather knowledge."
"Born from the rejected knowledge from the creation of your realm?" Inquired Luna, joining her sister, but wore a intrigued expression. "Does that mean that you are as old as your own world?"
Twilight already knew most of this, having gone over every aspect of the Daedric Princes while in Apocrypha, but all others present looked on in shock. Discord, as powerful as he was, was not nearly as old as what Hermaeus Mora claimed to be. Even the Princesses had never heard of something like this.
All at once, they all had their own reasons why they thought what was told them could not be true, yet how it couldn't all be a lie.
The sun and moon were bathing everything in a crimson color, the sky a never ending red overhead. Tendrils jutted out of holes in the sky, several dwarfing whole cities. And this voice... a voice of power that could resonate across the entire kingdom, and quell the fear of all.
"Why here?" Asked Celestia, "Why have you chosen to come to Equestria, as well as why you gave my student these abilities? Why did you stand with us against the Changelings invasion?"
"I have come here for knowledge, as I have said before, and if Chrysalis successfully conquered your kingdom, her rampaging would have destroyed many a researcher," said Hermaeus Mora, Twilight perking her ears up to listen, she had never known what Hermaeus Mora gained, himself, in doing this."If she destroyed everything, it would have been vexing for me to gather information."
"But why did you bestow Twilight with these abilities?" Asked Celestia patiently, everypony watchin with wrapped attention.
"The same reason I choose to interfere with the invasion, to give Twilight what was required to stop her."
"Which I failed, in the end," said Twilight, everyone looking back to her as she looked at Hermaeus Mora. "I am sorry, Lord Hermaeus Mora, you warned me that I might not be ready, but I rushed it and came anyway."