The early afternoon sun reflected off of the myriad of colorful structures, dazzling with radiant brilliance; a stark contrast to the mundane glasswork that was used in some of Canterlot’s non-royal structures. Towering over the city rose the gorgeous Crystal Castle, a glittering behemoth of a structure serving as a symbol of ponykind’s defiance to the deathly chills that lay outside the kingdom’s borders.
The seat of the Empire wasn’t Twilight’s goal, however, and her sights focused on the lower buildings—hoping to probe the land of its mysteries and unearth some answers to her magical dilemma. Twilight began her trek through the city streets, pausing every few blocks to take in the sights of the majestic buildings. Certainly a significant difference compared to the thatch-straw and wooden structures of Ponyville, but there was something that even further set the small town apart from the Empire. Most of the ponies that saw Twilight stopped what they were doing and bowed to her, recognizing her royal authority, for they were not as familiar and personal with her as her Ponyville friends.
Twilight still smiled and waved, showing her warmth and compassion despite the stress weighing on her mind. She was determined not to let her anxiety get the better of her and distract her from her duties as a princess—at least on the surface.
After wandering through one of the residential districts for a time, Twilight finally arrived at a colossal blue and green building—her destination. Two sculpted griffon statues flanked the stairway leading up to the double doored entryway. Each had their front left talon raised slightly, giving an air of sophistication that seemed to beckon knowledge and critical thinking.
She hesitated with slight trepidation for a moment before swinging open the twin doors using her magic. To her relief, no crazy arcane circles or sigils wove and danced through the air this time. She sighed. Of course there wouldn’t be, she reminded herself. These strange visions had never manifested on basic magic, only appearing during powerful spells.
The Crystal Empire’s library was a massive, multi-level structure housing thousands upon thousands of books. “I always forget how huge this place is,” Twilight said to herself. “Each book here was printed at least a thousand years ago—” She suddenly stopped as the gears in her mind clicked into place, her face broadening into a grin.
“If the Crystal Empire was frozen away in time a thousand years ago, then that means everything here is just as pristine as it was when it was first sealed away! Books here would technically only be a few years or decades old, not centuries!” Twilight exclaimed, her voice echoing through the multi-story chambers as she pranced in place. An unseen “SHH!” came from somewhere in the library, causing her to suddenly stop and scrunch her mouth up, a blush touching her cheeks as her ears folded in embarrassment.
“Right! Time to get started!” Twilight said to herself with a giggle as she leapt into the air, gliding towards the rows of bookshelves. She smiled joyfully as as she scanned their contents, her horn glowing to life and snatching up anything remotely related to the Crystal Heart, magic theory, or the pony tribes and their history. A perfectly clean and empty study desk had become a fortress of books as Twilight nestled in, her notes, parchment and quills at the ready.
“First things first!” Twilight said as she snatched the first book from the stack. “I’m so excited, I was actually able to find a copy of Crystal Magic: Revision 3!” She gently set the green and gold book down, quickly flipping through the pages and scanning them at a rapid pace.
“Oh, shoot!” She said in a hushed whisper. “The only thing in here related to The Crystal Heart and its Links to Equestria is the exact same text that I found in the first place. Everything else is just descriptions of the Crystal Heart and generic descriptions of Crystal Ponies.”
She grunted to herself and snorted, her bangs catching the air and flapping upwards. She turned to the front cover. “There is an author though, two of them even! Written by Star Glider, co-written by Emerald Dew... Yes! I just need to cross-reference what else they’ve written, and locate additional sources via that! Maybe with that I can find out who wrote The Crystal Heart and its Links to Equestria or maybe even find something better!”
Twilight looked up from her desk. Up on the floor above her caught a glance of an elderly Earth pony perched atop a sliding ladder, organizing and reshelving books. She took hold of the copy of Crystal Magic: Revision 3 with her magic and flew up towards her.
“Amethyst Maresbury!” Twilight suddenly blurted out, making the pony lose her balance and nearly fall over from surprise. Twilight put her hoof over her mouth with embarrassment to stifle her sudden yell. Amethyst held fast to the ladder, shooting Twilight a nasty glare that rivaled Fluttershy’s own. Her annoyance at nearly falling clearly paled in comparison to her disapproval at the noise Twilight was making in her library.
She adjusted her glasses and began to descend down the ladder, returning to the floor as Twilight landed next to her. She cleared her throat, “Princess Twilight, please, even though you are a princess, this is still a library.”
Twilight let out a timid squeak, shrinking away slightly and looking down in embarrassment. She knew better than to cross a librarian; despite her status as a princess, librarians were the true gatekeepers of knowledge.
“I’m sorry,” Twilight said. “I’ve been all over Equestria and back again trying to hunt down answers for this research project of mine. I guess I just got a little carried away,” she said with a sheepish smile.
“Well, it’s always an honor and a delight to have a member of royalty pursue higher learning. What is it I can help you with?” Amethyst replied, her tone shifting from that of a scolding aunt to an eager facilitator of knowledge.
“It’s a long story,” Twilight said, rolling her eyes a little. She really didn’t want to launch into the full explanation again. “But, I’ve been hunting down some books from the Crystal Empire and I think I’ve come close to finding what I’m looking for.”
Twilight brandished the copy of Crystal Magic: Revision 3 and held it in front of Amethyst. “What can you tell me about the authors of this book, Star Glider and Emerald Dew? I think their works might be a valuable clue in my research!”
Twilight could see Amethyst’s eyes widen and grow watery, exaggerated by her large glasses. “Well…” She said. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you much about this Star Glider, but I can at least help you with Emerald Dew.” Her voice began to trail off as she looked wistfully past Twilight, focusing on something not quite there.
“Is… Something wrong?” Twilight asked.
Amethyst came back, shaking her head sadly. “Oh, not at all. Just recalling some old memories from long ago. Emerald Dew was my aunt, you see. She and my mother were very close, so I spent a lot of time with her.”
Twilight’s ears lowered as she realized that given the age of Amethyst, it was very likely that Emerald was no longer with them.
“In her younger days she was something of an adventurer and explorer. Always poking around the snowy mountains, looking to find the next big secret across the horizon,” Amethyst said as she looked over the floating book, recalling the memories. “She spent her later years doing research on magic and other such things as a way to pass the time. It was just a hobby, so she didn’t publish much else besides the book you have. The only other book I can think of is she helped contribute to one of the book series concerning the Crystal Heart…”
“The Crystal Heart and its Links to Equestria!” Twilight yelled out, wings stretching as she arched back on her hind legs excitedly, kicking her forelegs.
Twilight fell back to all fours with a loud clop. She blushed and smiled nervously. “Heh, sorry… getting a little too excited again.”
“Anyway, yes. That was indeed a book she lent a helping hoof to, but I haven’t seen it in some time… I don’t believe we have it on our collection.” Amethyst said.
“You mean…” Twilight said proudly, turning back towards where her study table was, horn glowing as she pulled a book over. “This one?”
“Oh my, yes! I haven’t seen that in… Well, I guess technically a thousand years!” Amethyst said with a chuckle, adjusting her glasses as she looked the book over. “I can tell this one has seen better days. It’s been in Canterlot this whole time, hasn’t it?”
“It has, yes. I found it in the Canterlot Library. I was wondering though, do you know if Emerald Dew ever had… strange dreams? Visions involving words or anything like that,” Twilight asked.
Amethyst tilted her head, the unusual question catching her off-guard. “I… I don’t think so. She never mentioned anything of it to me, anyway.”
Twilight opened the book to its final page, showing the repeating pattern of a smudged trifecta of words. “So, you don’t know anything about this at all?”
Amethyst leaned in and examined the page, squinting her old, tired eyes, and rubbed her chin as she tried to make sense of the mess in front of her. “I’m afraid not. She never mentioned anything of the sort. Perhaps that page was written by Star Glider?”
Twilight exhaled in disappointment, her excitement deflating slightly. She had been hoping that this would bring her closer to unraveling the mystery of her tumultuous nights, but it appeared she hadn’t gained much ground at all.
“I’m sorry that this isn’t what were you looking for. I don’t know if it helps at all, but there was another book that the two of them wrote concerning Amethyst Hollow,” the elderly librarian said.
“Amethyst Hollow? Is she another relative of yours?” Twilight asked, her ears perking up, hoping this might be another researcher she could investigate.
The librarian laughed softly. “No, no. Amethyst Hollow is a place. It’s a tucked-away cave buried in the mountains to the North, somewhere near Mount Everhoof. It was one of the last places she explored before she retired from such adventures. They say there are…” Her voice grew quiet and hushed as she leaned closer to Twilight. “Strange things there.”
Twilight’s eyes grew wide. Maybe this would be where she can find more answers! “What sort of strange things? At this point I’ll take any lead I can get!”
“Well, I’ve never been there myself. All I know is it’s an ancient place frequented by unicorns from long ago. Something about lots of magic being gathered in one place causing strange things to happen,” Amethyst said. “Emerald was curious about her unicorn lineage, hence her attraction to it.”
Twilight’s face froze in a state of curiosity, the gears of her mind turning as they ticked over such a mysterious sounding location. “I absolutely have to learn more about this place! It could be a massive breakthrough for my research, particularly on unicorn magic. And if Emerald Dew and Star Glider knew it, maybe I can find a clue about these dreams!” Twilight’s face was beaming with excitement, her face widening into a huge grin.
“Well, unfortunately, if you’d like to read it, Sunburst has the book.” She grumbled, her annoyance plain as she raised her hoof and shook it.
“Oh! Well, if Sunburst has it, that shouldn’t be an issue! …Right?” Twilight asked.
Amethyst cleared her throat. “Let’s just say he has… a few overdue books, and The Unicorns of Amethyst Hollow is one of them.”
“Well, I know where I’m going next. Maybe he can offer his own insight too!” Twilight practically pranced in place like a filly at the prospect of this book.
“Well, if you do go, please remind him to return it when you are finished… along with the other eighty-three books he has checked out!”
Twilight giggled awkwardly to herself and smiled nervously. “Of course. I’ll give him a friendly reminder. I know all about getting wrapped up in studies, so I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm.”
“Oh, I know he doesn’t. If you need any more help, don’t hesitate to stop on by. Princess or not, I’m always happy to help a pony in the pursuit of knowledge.”
“I will. Thank you so much for your help. I really think I’m getting closer to shedding light on this mystery!” Twilight said as she flew back to her study desk, her magic already at work packing up her own books. As she looked over the stack of books she had pulled from the library’s shelves, she blushed a bit with embarrassment: In the end, she hadn’t needed any of them save for the one copy of Crystal Magic: Revision 3, and a little help from Amethyst. Regardless, she still had to return them to their proper spots.
Twilight wanted to test something new this time. She prepared a mass-levitation spell, but instead of closing her eyes to focus, she kept them wide open, trying not to blink in case she missed something. Her horn hummed and glowed with magic as the spell took root deep within, her subconscious extending dozens of glowing trails of purple and white from her mind. She concentrated, focusing on the empty slots on the various bookshelves to which the books belonged.
The beams of light within her mind’s eye turned and angled, suddenly stopping in one general area, not unlike that of oversized teeth on a comb. The endpoints glowed and pulsed, then suddenly each rocketed off in a different direction. Some stayed close, while others went far off and away, turning and angling at sharp angles but never intersecting, until finally each one abruptly terminated in a small ball of light.
She felt this magic building inside her, crystal clear just like recalling a recent memory. Fractions of a second later, this spell suddenly took physical shape and form, as the very same beams of light projected from Twilight’s horn in the same manner as did her subconscious, each one seizing hold of one of the library books on the desk. She gasped loudly at what she saw, but her concentration did not waver, her scientific inquiry overriding any sense of wonder in the moment. After the recent events, she didn’t want to get startled into losing potentially valuable data.
The beams of light suddenly rocketed off, mirroring the the same pattern her subconscious held, except each one was dragging along with it one library book each. They reached the myriad of terminal nodes, the books neatly shelving themselves as the beams of magic gently released their grasp, and slowly began to unravel and crumble away like flower petals dancing in the wind.
“I… I can’t believe it.” Twilight said to herself, wiping sweat from her brow with a fetlock. “I’m not seeing things! Luna’s dream magic, the teleportation spell, Celestia and Luna’s sun and moon magic, and now this. Ordinarily a levitation spell would simply envelop the object or objects in a magic aura, but this is… extraordinary!”
Twilight began to prance in place, her panic and confusion from her earlier magic mishaps finally giving way to enthusiastic glee and curiosity. “It’s like I could see the magic itself coming to life and grabbing the books! This is amazing, this is wonderful! This is—!”
“SSHHH!!” an echo came from somewhere in the library.
Twilight blinked hard and jerked her head. Her ears folded in as she fidgeted in embarrassment, giggling to herself.
“Right. Sorry,” she whispered to no one in particular. “Now there’s one more thing to test.” She looked at the copy of Crystal Magic: Revision 3 on the desk and concentrated. She could feel the spell construction take place as the straight line of purple magic shot forward and grasped the book. However, this sensation was only the spell forming within her. She felt it for certain, but she could not see it. The book merely glowed and then slowly lifted up above the desk, no indication of anything out of the ordinary, and certainly not mirroring the light show from earlier.
Twilight cocked her head and frowned, narrowing her eyes as she leaned in to look at the floating book. “That’s strange. I can’t see anything other than my normal aura, and anypony can easily see that. Hmm…” She thought to herself before setting the book down, then lifted a quill and parchment and began to write notes on her recent observations.
“Magic only seems to take shape on complex or powerful spells that requires a high degree of concentration. Examples include alicorn magic, teleportation, and mass-levitation. Basic spells such as levitation of one or a few objects do not exhibit this behavior,” she read aloud as she wrote.
She smiled at her notes and rolled the parchment up. “Okay! Next on my list is to go to Sunburst!” She beamed excitedly as she packed up the rest of her notes, trotting through the library projecting an air of excitement and thirst for knowledge that only Twilight could. She was close, so very very close, and the key to unravelling this mystery lay in Amethyst Hollow. She just needed the book in Sunburst’s possession.
Twilight bid her farewells to Amethyst and took to the sky. She flexed her powerful alicorn wings—born of pegasus magic—taking flight and beating down on the air below. As she made her way to Sunburst’s home, ponies on the ground who noticed and recognized her kneeled, even though she was above the rooftops.
Upon landing in front of Sunburst’s home, she quickly trotted up the stairs leading to the front door and knocked, refusing to waste any precious seconds.
She knocked again. Then once more. If she didn't know Sunburst, Twilight might have grown nervous. As it were, however, he was much more likely trapped in his studies—a feeling Twilight knew all too well. “Sunburst! Sunburst are you home!?”
Dull sounds emanated from inside punctuated by a terrible crashing thud, followed by a squeaky yelp. After a moment, Twilight heard the clamouring of frantic hoofsteps making their way closer.
The door suddenly flung open, colliding with Twilight and knocking her backwards off of the stairs and onto her rump. “Ow!” She yelled as Sunburst peeked his head out the door, frantically looking this way and that, clearly excited at the company, his unfocused eyes having trouble seeing through the large glasses that lay askew on his snout.
“Sunburst! I’m right here!” Twilight said, rubbing the back of her head with her hoof.
“Oh! Twilight! I-I didn’t see you there! I’m so sorry! I’m surprised you didn’t knock!” Sunburst replied, adjusting his glasses with the tip of his hoof.
Twilight stood, wobbling in place before dusting herself off with her wings. “I did knock! I just don’t think you heard me until I shouted your name,” Twilight said, her face blushing red and pouting, still reeling from the sudden door impact.
“Oh! Oh goodness, I’m so sorry! See, I was busy reorganizing my collection of books on the history of magic-based kitchen appliances, so I didn’t hear you knocking. Please, come in, come in!” Sunburst said with his characteristic hint of nasally awkwardness.
The two entered Sunburst’s home, the door closing behind them with the yellow shimmer of his magic. Scrolls and books were piled high in seemingly every nook and cranny of the house, reminding Twilight very much of a condensed and messy version of the library she had just come from.
“I’m sorry it’s such a mess... I wasn’t expecting such sudden company, but it’s always nice to have friends visit!” Sunburst picked his way through his living room, carefully navigating the stacked books, charts and other such knick-knacks.
Twilight couldn’t help but giggle. Every time she visited Sunburst she was reminded that their shared passions for knowledge and magic were nearly identical, though their outwardly expressions of them were not. “Oh, I’m not worried about the clutter. I’m actually here for a reason, Sunburst.”
“Oh?” Sunburst’s horn glowed as he cleared away a stack of books piled on a stool at his central table. “What reason would that be?”
Twilight quietly observed nothing out of the ordinary with his levitation magic, just like her own basic spells. “There’s a book I need that you have checked out from the library. Are you familiar with The Unicorns of Amethyst Hollow?”
“I am! I’ve got it buried around here somewhere…” Sunburst said as he began to search through the stacks of books. “At least I think it’s here somewhere…” he muttered, “What exactly did you need it for?”
“Well, there’s actually a chance you might be able to help me anyway, with or without that book, given everything you know about the arcane!” Twilight said, her eyes lighting up with anticipation.
“Really? Well, do tell! There aren’t many other ponies who appreciate magic quite like we do,” Sunburst said as he poked through a bookshelf, muttering to himself as he hunted the missing tome down.
“Everything started four days ago. I was in the process of beginning an in-depth study on the origins of magic and how it relates to the three pony tribes, and how that relates to the alicorns. The night I started, I began having strange dreams.”
“That’s not it… No, not that one…” Sunburst said to himself, tossing aside a pair of unrelated books. “Dreams? What sort of dreams?”
“It’s a message. A three-word message. Seek, learn, know. Have you ever heard of anything like this happening to any other ponies?”
“Can’t say that I have. Have you spoken to Luna about this yet?” Sunburst asked.
Twilight smirked. Even if he didn’t have an immediate answer, his logical train of thought was reassuring. “I have, yes; and Celestia too. I spent a night in the restricted section of the Canterlot Library, and some of the books I found there eventually led me to hunt down some books in the Crystal Empire.”
“Well, I’d be happy to help if I could just find it!” Sunburst said while he continued to search through his unorganized piles of books. Some of them fell to the ground open as Twilight noticed the stamped library sleeve in the front cover. She just rolled her eyes at the due dates.
“That’s not even the half of it, Sunburst. I can see magic!” Twilight exclaimed, her wings unfolding out as she reared back on her hind legs, excitedly kicking her forelegs until she landed back on them.
“Huh? I’m not sure I understand…” Sunburst turned to face her and adjusted his glasses, tilting his head. “Ordinarily we can see horns glow and the telekinetic aura… But judging by your tone, I assume you mean something else?”
“Yes! While I was watching Celestia and Luna raise the sun and lower the moon… I could…” Twilight hesitated, her eyes fidgeting around as she lowered her head, mouth working wordlessly as she struggled for words. “I can’t even begin to describe it! I could see this beautiful aura of magic, it was so warm and pure and gentle! It had aspects of all three pony tribes, all rolled into one spell!” Twilight’s face broke out into a huge grin as she continued to rapid fire her explanations. The more she prattled on about her strange new gift—and the more that she tested it—the more she was starting to embrace it.
“There’s also my teleportation spell, and my mass-levitation spell! When I cast them, it’s as if thoughts deep within my subconscious make themselves manifest for me to actually visually perceive! I can see grids and lines and runes and just so much stuff!”
Sunburst’s mouth gaped as his glasses slid down his muzzle, forcing him to adjust them back into place. “That’s… That’s incredible! I’ve never heard of anything like that before! This could change how we study magic spells!”
“So far it only works on very powerful or complicated spells. I can’t see basic levitation spells, but I’ve been able to witness anything from an intermediate-level levitation spell up,” Twilight said as she levitated a random book from the floor up to the table, even though she knew neither of them would be able to see anything special.
“Very fascinating… So you’re limited so far to just intermediate unicorn magic and alicorn magic. What about earth pony magic or pegasus magic? Have you seen any of that?” Sunburst asked as he leaned in and examined the book Twilight had set on the table.
Twilight blinked and paused for a moment. “I hadn’t actually considered that yet, but I’m afraid not. Their magic manifests in far more subtle manners, like plant growth or cloud manipulation, and I haven’t had the chance to witness any since all this started. I wonder if this has to do with me being born a unicorn.”
Sunburst suddenly stood proud with a triumphant “Aha!” nearly knocking Twilight off balance in surprise. “I found it!”
“You did!? Oh my gosh, hurry, let’s see it!” Twilight beamed, excited and eager that her clues were once again within reach.
Sunburst pulled out the book they were searching for, levitating it from one of the many book piles onto the table. It was in good shape: its red cover studded with gold gems, dulled slightly by dust from being left aside for so long. Emblazoned on the front Twilight read the title, The Unicorns of Amethyst Hollow: Written by Emerald Dew (with revisions by Star Glider).
“This is it! It looks like these two were partners in crime if Star Glider helped her edit it! That means it’s very likely Star Glider has been to Amethyst Hollow as well, in which case, there might also be a clue there about my dreams!”
The two scholars dove into the book, shutting off the outside world as they took in every single word about the mysterious location.
Twilight began to read aloud, her eyes steadily growing wider with each sentence. “Amethyst Hollow is located in a cave deep underground at the foot of Mount Everhoof. Characterized by its strong aetheric readings, unicorns are naturally drawn to its majestic crystalline structures that grow in the subterranean caverns. This pull is so strong that a group of powerful sorcerers used them as meditation grounds. These crystals were mined from hollowed-out passageways with great care and precision…”
Sunburst read from the next page after Twilight. “While it is not fully known what causes the growth of these crystals, or what gives them their magic-altering properties, it is theorized that they share similar principles on the composition of unicorn-based magic. Very young unicorns, or those with smaller magical reserves, found themselves struggling with even the most basic of spell construction while within the cave.”
They continued to pore over the book, sharing ideas and bouncing theories off of one another. Twilight was having so much fun studying with Sunburst that she almost lost focus on her goal. She couldn’t help but giggle, not really minding as it took the edge off to just indulge in simple research like she wanted to in the first place.
“So,” Twilight said, after having gone through several of the important chapters, “What we’ve learned thus far is even long before Sombra seized the Crystal Empire, unicorns at one point had been visiting Amethyst Hollow.”
“And it’s full of magically-charged, naturally growing crystals,” Sunburst said with enthusiasm, taking notes for his own curiosity. “At first the crystals would warp unicorn magic and make spells difficult to cast, but the unicorns adapted and were able to grow stronger with magic and develop more intricate spells. It was an ancient place of meditation and study for them.”
“The exact nature of the crystal growth is still unknown, but it’s definitely worth checking out. Judging by the way these crystals are described, it almost sounds like they are somehow made of unicorn magic. It’s just a theory, but if that’s indeed the case, then this place will be a veritable gold mine of knowledge!” Twilight said, her eyes practically twinkling with excitement.
“Are you intending to go there right now?” Sunburst asked, a bit of nervousness in his voice.
“After adequate preparation of course! Would you care to join me, Sunburst? I can tell you’re just as interested in this as I am!” Twilight asked with a pleading, rapid eye blink, hoping to have company with her on the trip.
“Well… I don’t know, Twilight. I’d love to, but if it’s really all the way out by Mount Everhoof, and that’s a pretty long trip outside the city. It’s very cold and mountainous that far north.” Twilight could practically feel Sunburst’s anxiety at the prospect of leaving the safety of his study—his sanctuary, even—and venturing out into the frigid unknown.
“I know it’s scary, Sunburst, and I won’t force you to go, but think of what we could learn! Not just for my research or my mysterious dreams, but I bet once we arrive there, you would have such peace of mind from just being in such a place overflowing with knowledge and secrets!”
Despite the stress and confusion of these dreams and trying to find answers, Twilight was finally back to herself. She was ready to seek out knowledge and learn more of the myriad mysteries of magic.
Sunburst hesitated for a moment, looking around at his various books and notes scattered around the mess of his home. His gaze turned back to Twilight, who wore such a serene and calming demeanor which did much to assuage his own trepidation. He smiled, knowing that she would be both a friend and a leader befitting her titles.
“Alright, I think I should be okay. If I’m with one of the princesses, then there’s really no danger at all aside from being a little chilly!” Sunburst said, Twilight’s confidence rubbing off into him.
“Good!” Twilight said. “Then let’s get ready!”