Twilight would be hard-pressed to prove to anypony that just moments ago, powerful magics were being woven in Luna’s chambers. The room had returned to normal, no longer overflowing by blinding magic and the arcane Dreamscape imagery dancing to and fro. Twilight bit her lower lip and ruffled her feathers, bristling with frustration.
“This just doesn't make any sense!” Twilight said, frantically pacing back and forth, her mind caught in a whirlwind of panic as Luna looked on. “If you can't view the dreams I've been having, then… “ Twilight paused, her eyes betraying her worry. “They are dreams right? I'm not going crazy or anything... Am I?”
“'We are just as perplexed as you are. It is rather rare that a pony could shield his or her dreams from us; not even Celestia can do so with any ease. On the rare occasions it has happened, it is always behind the veil of intense emotions, usually fear. You're not hiding anything from us, are you?” Luna asked, her head tilted with her eyes narrowed. Luna trusted Twilight, of course, but she was most curious to learn more.
“No! I mean, I don't… I haven't had a good night’s sleep in days! It's like I said, I began this big research project, and that's when these dreams—no, nightmares—started,” Twilight replied, her pacing slowing as the adrenaline began to wear off. Her shock remained, however: why had Luna not been able to locate her dreams?
“Hmm... Perhaps you can explain to us just what it is you've learned. 'Tis a topic as old as Equestria itself, and much of the information has been fragmented and lost to myth over the centuries. Maybe we can find a clue to these missing dreams of yours within your research,” Luna said, her gaze flicking toward Twilight's saddlebag.
Twilight floated the book she had shown Starlight out of her saddlebag and placed it on the table, dust pouring off the worn cover. She turned to the same page which depicted the three pony tribes. She then followed with some of her scrolls of parchment, rolling them out alongside the book.
“Although the inherent magic differs among the pony tribes, I’m finding evidence of a deeper connection that involves each tribe, with alicorns at the center of these connections since they possess traits of all three. This could even tie into Equestria itself; if I could just find some answers!” Twilight snorted, stomping her hoof into the carpet.
“You theorize that perhaps alicorns are responsible for imparting magic unto the other three?” Luna asked.
“Well, maybe. It very well could also be the other way around. We don’t really know exactly where magic came from, it’s just always been there, like air and water. The alicorn tribe vanished long ago and—” Twilight caught herself on the faux pas and stammered. Luna’s stoicism relaxed as she smiled slightly and nodded, urging her to continue.
“A-anyway, there are almost no reliable historical accounts of what life was like for the other three tribes before unification. It's all myths and mare's tales. There’s simply far too much we don’t know,” Twilight said, her body sagging in disappointment.
“While your research is commendable, it does not explain why I cannot enter your dreams. I know this was not the answer you sought, and it may take some time to find the one that satisfies your dilemma,” Luna said with a grunt, lips pursed.
“We could ask Princess Celestia for help! M-maybe she can help us find a connection between my studies and this strange message in my dreams,” Twilight said with desperation.
Luna let out a curt, indignant snort. “We mean no disrespect, but if we can't find the solution to a conundrum involving my Dreamscape, what makes you think my sister can?”
Twilight chuckled nervously, her glance shifting side to side, from Luna to the book on the table and back again, struggling to come up with an answer. Luna gave another snort, her face scrunching up before letting out a most un-princesslike howl of thunderous laughter. Twilight couldn't help herself, and despite the anxiety hanging around her, she joined her fellow princess in a display of mirth.
Luna took a deep breath and then cleared her throat. “Very well. Our sister is still awake, so we should be able to seek counsel before we must raise the moon tonight. Come. She will be in the throne room.”
Luna took her leave as Twilight began to pack her notes back into her bag. The fit of laughter from earlier had given her the extra energy boost needed to return to her neat and tidy nature, allowing her to ensure her things were packed just right.
As she reached the threshold, she turned toward the broken tea cups on the floor. She shut her eyes in concentration, and deep within, a simple repair spell began to take hold. Far easier than transmutation, but a level above levitation, pathways of magical information began to flow from one nexus point to another inside her, creating a simple, yet beautiful canvas of esoteric art within her.
The magic completed itself and began to surge, projecting itself through her horn. In a matter of seconds, the tea cups glowed with a purple aura and levitated themselves back together, coming to rest onto the table as if nothing had happened—save for the spilled tea on the floor. She nodded with satisfaction at her repair job as she joined Luna, heading for the throne room.
The two princesses made their journey through the familiar castle, passing by the stained glass windows in the hallway that led to the throne room. Twilight had always been enamored with this type of artwork, for they told a special kind of story that couldn't be told in writing. Her pace slowed, her head turning toward the mural of her ascension to an alicorn. She mentally recounted her journey from student, to friend, and to princess. She smiled to herself, quickening her pace to catch up to Luna.
As Twilight and Luna approached, two sentries moved from their position in front of the double doors to either side and began to kneel, allowing them to pass through. The horns of both princesses came to life, their auras surrounding the massive doors as they slowly swung open. At the end of the room, seated atop her throne, was Princess Celestia. Twilight and Luna entered and made their way along the lengthy carpet to Celestia.
“Twilight Sparkle! It’s rare to see you visit unannounced, especially with Luna in tow! Is something the matter?” Princess Celestia asked, her wings unfolding to show not only her majesty, but her open love.
“Princess Celestia!” Twilight said, her tone perking up, feeling much more open with her scholastic anchor present. “I need your help with something big.”
“I would be glad to help, Twilight. Please, tell me what is bothering you, and Luna and I will do our best to assist,” Celestia replied.
“Well…” Twilight hesitated, rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly with her forehoof. “It involves a series of strange dreams I’ve been having lately.”
Celestia tilted her head slightly. The last time she had encountered the Dreamscape, she had almost literally burned a hole in Starlight's psyche. “While I am flattered you would seek my advice on dreams, Twilight, it’s not exactly my area of expertise. I assume this is something serious since you brought my sister along. Am I right?”
Luna cleared her throat, taking a few steps forward. “She actually came to us first. Though we are loathe to admit it, there have been… complications.”
“Complications? Come, tell me.” Celestia motioned at the two, beckoning them to her.
Twilight and Luna joined Celestia at the top of the dais, Luna taking her seat on the throne next to her sister. Twilight stood before them, trying to keep her balance as she wobbled back and forth, her fatigue getting the better of her yet again. Another yawn escaped her.
“As I told Luna, three days ago I began an in-depth study of the origins of magic and how it ties the pony tribes together. I’ve been finding evidence of some sort of deeper connection involving alicorns, but nothing conclusive yet. However, the night I began this study, I started having these dreams,” Twilight said.
“And what of these dreams? What happens in them?” Celestia asked.
“Well, truthfully, very little. I hear a voice calling out to me. I think it’s a mare, but I’m not for certain,” Twilight said, her body slouching, the mental exhaustion of recalling the dream taking a physical toll on her.
“A mare? And what does she tell you?”
“Just a message. I can’t quite tell the tone of voice, if it’s ominous, friendly, or even if it’s even a pony at all. All they say is…” Twilight gulped and sighed nervously, her legs visibly shaking as she recounted the words. “‘Seek, learn, know.’”
Celestia blinked. Her pupils narrowed as she gave a quick inhale.
“Princess? Are you okay?” Twilight asked, her voice wavering with a combination of exhaustion and unease.
“I am,” Celestia replied, clearing her throat and straightening her posture. “I’m just… concerned. Luna, you said there were complications involving these dreams?”
“Indeed. All dreams are subject to our jurisdiction, and Twilight’s are no different. However, we were completely unable to locate any traces of those dreams, or that she even had any dreams at all. In normal circumstances, I should have been able to locate it without any issue,” Luna said.
“That is most peculiar indeed,” Celestia said, furrowing her brow. There was a certain uneasiness in Celestia’s voice that Twilight wasn’t used to.
Luna turned to her sister. “Even our most powerful dream archive magic was unable to locate it. From our perspective, it was as if she had a completely dreamless night. Barring illness or some similar trauma, ponies always venture into the Dreamscape at night, even if they don't recall their journey.”
“Well, if Luna were able to view my dreams in normal circumstances, could they be abnormal circumstances? Like maybe a message from somepony?” Twilight asked.
“Well,” Luna said, “It's not an impossibility. Sometimes the dreams of two ponies can become intertwined and linked, allowing them to share the same feelings and emotions. Such links leave trails of magic behind that are unique to each pony, not unlike our magic auras when we cast a spell. Unfortunately, we saw no such magic signature lingering in any of the dreams we examined.”
“Hmm…” Twilight said to herself, her eyes drifting back and forth quickly as she considered various scenarios. “What about from outside the Dreamscape then? Is that even possible?”
“As far as I know, doubtful. If an outside message from the waking world made it into the Dreamscape, or if stars forbid there were an intruder, well, let's just say they would not escape our watch,” Luna said, wings spread and a confident smile across her face.
Twilight sighed, dejected. She was frustrated, tired, and cranky, but she tried her best to maintain her composure. She was a princess, and she needed to remain strong. “I really don't want to abandon my studies. I feel like I'm finally making headway, but I don't know if I can keep it up if I keep losing sleep like this,” Twilight said, fighting to keep her eyes open and her body straight.
Celestia smiled at her faithful student, doing her best to project an air of calming guidance with her words. “I don't think it will come to that, Twilight. While these visions are indeed concerning, I know if there is one pony who can not only decipher their meaning, but also probe deeper into the mysteries of Equestrian magic, it's you.”
Twilight felt herself stand a little taller, feeling Celestia’s words build her back up again. She could only muster an awkward halfsmile, feeling a lack of the self-same confidence her mentor had placed in her. “Thank you for the kind words, Princess Celestia, but I’m not sure if this is something that I can solve on my own.”
“My domain is of the sun and maintaining harmony in Equestria, and Luna’s is of the moon and to keep watch in the night. Yours is an intermediary domain, much like your very namesake: that of magic itself,” Celestia said. “I am afraid Luna and I may not be able to offer much direct assistance, but if this is the path your studies have led you down, then I have no doubt in my mind you will uncover its mysteries.” She approached her protégé, placing her hoof under Twilight’s chin, gently nudging her gaze towards her with a motherly smile.
“As such, might I suggest the restricted archives of Canterlot Library? If these dreams are something that Luna cannot pry into, then perhaps we are dealing with ancient magic that predates even ourselves,” Celestia said, provoking an irritated nicker from Luna. “It's very possible that the answer you seek is hidden away within its chambers.”
“The… The restricted archives!?” Twilight said, her voice rising into an audible squeak. She shot straight up and gave a little hop in place, grinning from ear to ear. The prospect of being able to once again do research in such an ancient treasure trove of knowledge was something she could never resist. “I haven't had a chance to do research in there since that incident with the memory stone!”
Celestia chuckled at Twilight's excitement. “Well, you certainly don't sound too upset anymore now, do you?”
Twilight's muzzle scrunched up as she blushed, looking away as she idly traced her forehoof in a circle in front of her. “Well, it’s just that…”
“I think this is your best course of action, Twilight. You are more than welcome to stay in one of the guest rooms at the castle tonight. We can escort you in the morning after sunrise,” Celestia said.
“Actually, Princess, I was thinking we could go to the library tonight… if it’s not too much trouble. If I’m going to end up having the same dream for a fourth night in a row, I might as well get a head start!” Twilight said, giving an awkward giggle-snort. It was a serious suggestion—but also halfway an excuse to get to the archives that much sooner.
Celestia smiled gently, narrowing her eyes playfully. “Part of me knew you would suggest something like that. Very well. There is ample time before we must begin the day’s sunset, so Luna and I will accompany you. You’ll need the two of us to undo the magic lock on the restricted section.”
Twilight let out an excited whinny and pranced in place. The giddiness and expectation was almost enough to make her forget about her fatigue. She was no stranger to pulling all-nighters while studying and being completely exhausted for days afterwards, so she took respite in the idea of tonight turning into an average weekend evening for her.
The alicorn trio departed the castle, making their way through the late-evening streets of Canterlot. As it was nearing sunset, many ponies were already home or in the process of closing up their shops for the night.
With night time approaching, Twilight let out another loud yawn, covering her mouth with a wing. She tussled with her thoughts: the notion of going into the restricted archives was exciting to be sure, but in the back of her mind she knew that at some point tonight, she would likely be subjected to another restless sleep. She let out a sigh as the sun was nearing its final position for sunset, needing only the final push from Celestia to end the day.
As the group trotted along, the Canterlot Library soon came into view. Its massive green glass dome that adorned the top of the stone-grey structure danced in the evening sunlight, reflecting its light down onto the princesses. One being nocturnal, and the other sleep-deprived, Luna and Twilight both reflexively shielded their eyes from the sudden brightness. Celestia, however, gracefully walked on without breaking stride, her mane and tail glistening in the light.
Twilight and the others entered the library through its giant, golden front doors, and evidence that the building was preparing to close its doors for the night could be seen all around. It was dim inside, with only scant sources of light still burning, and the stillness indicated all patrons had already departed. The librarian was organizing some late returns behind the front counter and ensuring everything was in proper order.
“I hope you don’t mind the unannounced visit just before you close, Ivory Inkwell,” Celestia said to the librarian, an elderly, cream-white unicorn with a greying brown mane.
The mare chuckled. “Oh, you know it’s no trouble at all, deary,” she said with a slight bow. “Anything for the Princess. Please, make yourself comfortable. Is there anything I can help you with tonight?”
“Twilight Sparkle has some very important research, and she cannot waste a single second. We’ll be coming by in the morning to check on her progress,” Celestia said with a sincere smile.
Ivory blinked, a tad surprised, but eager to help nonetheless. “Well, don’t let me be the one to get in the way of a good study session! I was just getting ready to close up for the night, but I can stay for a few minutes until you all get settled in. You three just holler if you need something!” She said with an upward trill to her voice.
The princesses made their way through the massive library, navigating through the maze of bookshelves to an isolated hallway. At the end of a small corridor was an unassuming bookcase, the majority of the books were of bland and drab titles such as The Taxation of Trade Routes: A Brief History of Imperialism or Three Hundred Twenty-Four Uses for Sand, intended to keep nosy ponies away. Nestled amid the shelves were a pair of books; a yellow one with a sun marking for its title, and a shorter blue one with a similar moon marking.
With a quick magical tug from each of the two sisters on their respective books, the bookshelf began to click and whir. It suddenly slid open, dust tumbling down as the musty and damp staircase to the restricted section revealed itself. Illumination was dim, a series of everburn torches dotting the walls along the downward staircase providing just enough light to see. At the bottom was a pair of of massive, oaken doors, half-torn cobwebs and spider webs dangling all about.
Another dual-cast from Celestia and Luna pried these doors open, flinging dust and dirt in every direction as the cavernous archives were revealed. Upon entering, on either side were a pair of staircases that curved back toward the wall and onto an upper balcony. The upper floor of the restricted section was clearly unfinished, with the smoothed over rock walls eventually giving way to jagged natural stone that jutted out. The ceiling was much the same way, with lichen-covered stalactites hanging downwards. On the opposite wall, a fireplace carved into the stone suddenly lit on its own. Golden pillars surrounded and contained the flames within.
Dotted all along the walls, in both hoof-made bookcases and within carved-out holes in the rock, were all kinds of books, scrolls, parchments, tomes, and even assorted knick-knacks—boxes, potion flasks, pottery, and other dusty relics. Some of the items were so old they looked like a stiff breeze would crumble them into ash.
Twilight’s eyes scanned the room as she entered, half of her mind wanting to explode in joy at the thought of perusing the restricted section again, and the other trying to remain calm and focused. She had a mystery to solve and secrets to uncover! Holding onto that thought, she trotted triumphantly toward the stone desk in the center of the room.
Aside from a thin film of dust, the desk was completely clean. Twilight placed her hoof on the surface, leaving a faint imprint in the dust, idly tracing it around as she continued to take mental note of the books and other items scattered throughout the cavern. This world of knowledge would be her domain to take hold of and tame. As Celestia and Luna had their own dominions, so too did Twilight.
She shut her eyes tight as she began to weave the framework of an intermediate spell, lavender energies sparking and glowing deep within her. Visible only to her mind’s eye, lines began to jut out like a cracked window, extending out and bending at a myriad of different angles, yet never intersecting each other. Over two dozen lines took shape and extended out, looking something akin to branch formations of a tree. Just as quickly as it began, the lines suddenly stopped, with tiny rounded ends glowing at each terminus.
The ghostly tendrils of energy hovered in place motionless for a fraction of a second, and then with a violent jerk, they suddenly retracted, each tether of magic shrinking with blinding speed back toward Twilight. As the spell finished, over two dozen books flung themselves toward her, coming to rest in neat stacks on the desk and to the side on the floor.
“There! That should be all the books on magical theory, history, definitions, and spell catalogs! Or at least the ones that I remember seeing the last time I was here! There’s still a whole other section to check!” Twilight beamed ecstatically, starting to unpack her own books and notes to cross reference with the archive’s own.
Celestia smiled to herself as she watched her pupil set up her study space. She trotted over to her, her shoes clattering against the hard stone floor with an echo. “You’re free to use the restricted section and anything in it for as long as you require, Twilight,” she said, putting her wing around her.
Twilight tensed up, her focus momentarily broken by the sudden brush of feathers. She then began to relax as she felt the warm, motherly embrace of the princess. She shut her eyes for what felt like a second, nodding off as three days’ worth of tiredness creeped its way back into her—but this time without the stress of the dreams. For that brief moment, she finally felt at peace.
“If you need anything, Twilight, please don’t hesitate to ask. I can tell just how devoted you are to this topic, and that you won’t let these dreams dissuade you. If anything, I imagine you’ll find even more answers to your questions once you decipher their meaning,” Celestia said, giving her a gentle face nuzzle as Twilight mumbled tiredly to herself as she come around again. “We’ll return tomorrow morning after sunrise.”
“Mmhf… Yeah…” Twilight mumbled into a yawn, stretching her forehooves into the air. Celestia smiled and joined a waiting Luna by the doors. By the time Celestia turned back to look at Twilight, she already had three books and two parchment scrolls open, digging straight into the task ahead.
“I can think of nopony better than her to dig deep into the roots of magic. Don’t you agree, Luna?” Celestia said.
Luna snorted, cracking a small grin. “We still think that if we’re unable to solve a nightmare, nopony else can.”
The two of them smiled and chuckled to one another, heading out through the double doors of the archive and closing them with a loud, echoing thud.