Magisight: Thaumaturgical Ocularity

by PsychicKid

Chapter 6: Towards Amethyst Hollow

The snow crunched softly under Twilight’s and Sunburst’s hooves as they made their way over the mountain range north of the Crystal Empire. The journey thus far had been cold, but largely uneventful. The terrain grew more and more dangerous the farther they traveled. The flatlands just outside the city eventually gave way to forests, which then transitioned to steep hills and jagged cliffs. Their destination: the mysterious caverns known as Amethyst Hollow.

The dreams had persisted each night of the trip, much to Twilight’s chagrin, but since she was slowly putting together pieces of the puzzle the dreams hadn’t been depriving her of rest as badly as they had the first few nights.

Twilight looked at her detailed map of the mountain range as Sunburst trotted ahead, surveying the area before them from atop a cliff face as he struggled with his oversized pack against the wind.

“Can you see The Withers plateau from there!?” Twilight yelled, barely audible as the blizzard howled over her voice.

“I-I think so! If we can cross this valley, then climb up to the plateau, we should be close to Amethyst Hollow!” Sunburst shouted as he scanned the immediate surroundings. He trotted back over to Twilight and shook his head in frustration.

“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked, leaning closer.

“I think it’s too windy for you to fly us over there. We’ll either have to wait for these winds to die down, or we’ll have to find a way down the cliffside, then back up again to reach The Withers. Even still, we’re going off of vague descriptions. There’s no guarantee Amethyst Hollow is even over there,” Sunburst said, shivering as he pulled his cloak tighter around him.

“Well, it’s the best lead we have to its location and it’s the closest. Even if this one doesn’t work out, there’s still three more potential places it could be. It just means we’ll have to hike deeper into the region. Mount Everhoof is just beyond The Withers!” Twilight said as she pointed to the circled parts on the map, indicating probable locations where Amethyst Hollow lay hidden.

“I guess our next step is finding the safest route to take, then,” Sunburst said as he put his hoof to his chin, squinting to get a better view of the map.

Twilight giggled proudly. “I don’t think that’ll be an issue! Stay close to me and I’ll teleport us there!” Twilight’s horn began to glow, a map of the nearby surrounding area made of lavender unicorn magic began to take form. Invisible to Sunburst, but both visually and mentally visible to Twilight, the map instantly completed itself. A fraction of a second later, two aetherial nodes, one purple, one orange, appeared on the map where the two ponies stood. The destination glyph of her spell appeared on the other side of the chasm on the plateau.

A moment later the two ponies disappeared with a crackle of purple and white magic, appearing on the other side. Sunburst yelped in surprise and stumbled, falling backwards onto his rump. Twilight turned to face the direction they teleported from. Just like her teleportation spells before, there was a magic leyline circle where they once stood.

She tilted her head in confusion, however, noticing something very strange about the arch of magic this time: Unlike the teleportation spell in the archives, the arch suddenly branched off from its original path, turning jagged and uneven as it staggered towards where they had actually landed. A clumsy and wavy circle surrounded them, a crude approximation of the teleportation circle.

“That’s strange… We’ve landed off-target by about sixty feet,” Twilight muttered to herself.

The intended path and destination were muted in color, their paths still visible, but clearly re-routed as the spell fired. As the high winds began to brush the magic away like snow, the ground below them began to shift and rumble.

“W-What's happening!?” Sunburst yelled out.

“I-I think we landed on an unstable piece of— Aaahhh!” Twilight screamed as the snow gave way from under them, sending them tumbling down the slope and into the valley below. Sunburst let out a shrill shriek as he fell down behind Twilight.

The giant chunk of snow they were once standing on landed on the ground below as Twilight instinctively began to cast a levitation spell in an attempt to slow the fall. She watched as her magic energy wrapped around Sunburst and herself, fighting against the pull of gravity. It was too little, too late, however, and it proved too slow to negate their fall. There was a loud crunch of wet snow as the two ponies embedded themselves into the remains of the miniature avalanche.

Twilight gasped and coughed, the force of the impact knocking the wind out of her. Once she recovered, she searched frantically for her friend. “S-Sunburst!? Are you okay!?” she shouted.  A muffled yelp came from behind her. Whirling around, she spotted him planted headfirst into the snow, his hind legs kicking and flailing uselessly. She used her magic to loosen and clear the snow around them, freeing her companion.

“Aaaaaaaaaahhhhh!” Sunburst screamed, his eyes darting to and fro in an unfocused manner as his legs flailed and kicked about.

“Sunburst! Sunburst! You're not hurt, are you!?”

“Aaahhhhhhhh— why am I yelling!? We're not falling anymore!” He rolled over as Twilight placed him down, laying on his back and panting from the rush of adrenaline. “Y-Yeah... I'm okay. I think. Ow-ow-ow...” He winced and twitched his front left leg.

“Are you sure? You don't sound okay,” Twilight said as her face wrinkled with worry. She wobbled over to him, rather dizzy and sore herself. She used her magic to gently hold his leg as she leaned in and examined it. Sunburst could feel magic pulse over his leg, much deeper than a standard levitation or telekinesis spell. It wasn't painful at all—it even tickled a little—making him twitch.

“Thank Celestia, it's not broken or twisted. I think it's just sore from the landing. Can you stand?” Twilight asked, gently setting his leg back down and ending the spell.

“I-I think so.” Sunburst said, bringing himself to all fours. His sore leg wobbled, causing him to grunt loudly in pain before settling back down. “Maybe not. Ow...”

“Don't force it then. Let's rest for a while. I couldn't in good faith ask you to press on with even a minor injury,” Twilight said as she surveyed their surroundings. The cliffs on either side of them were fairly steep, and the valley extended too far out of the way of their intended destination.

“Hmm... Let me check the map and see if we can find a safe place to rest for a while,” Twilight said, unfurling the map from her saddle bag. “Now, there should be a slope we can traverse about half a mile—” Twilight was suddenly cut off as a sudden gust of wind seized the map and yanked it from her magic grip.

“Twilight, the map!” Sunburst yelled, reflexively reaching towards it even though he was too far away.

“Hey! Stop, come back!” Twilight yelled as the map rustled loudly and folded in the wind, fluttering off and away. Her horn glowed as she attempted to seize it with another spell, her magic taking hold of the edge of the map.

The map began to straighten out and slow down, and Twilight sighed with relief. The spell suddenly began to peel off of its surface like a film, dissipating away in spite of her efforts. “What!?” Twilight yelled out, her focus broken as the map tumbled and blew out of the valley, out of sight.

“No! Our map!” Twilight yelled into the wind, pulling her foreleg over her face to shield her eyes from the snow being whipped up. She peeked out from behind her leg to make sure her eyes weren't playing tricks on her—but the map was indeed gone.

“Now what do we do?” Sunburst moaned out, ears folding back anxiously.

Twilight bit her lower lip in frustration, but she knew she couldn't give in to her emotions. Their safety needed to take priority, especially with Sunburst's injury. “Come on! I think I saw a nearby cave on the map just before it blew away!” Twilight said as she turned to face Sunburst, her horn glowing as she lifted him off the ground.

“T-Twilight, hey! I can walk, it's really not that bad!” Sunburst protested, adjusting his glasses as snow kept clinging to its lenses.

“I'd estimate it to be a good fifteen or twenty minutes away, and with this wind and uneven terrain I don't want to risk you injuring yourself even further!” Twilight said, an air of protective authority ringing in her voice over the winds. Sunburst merely nodded as Twilight set off, injured stallion and saddlebags in tow.

The princess slogged through the wintry weather, the random gusts of wind threatening to make her lose balance or her grip on the floating Sunburst. Every once in a while she made sure to pause and check on him. For a fraction of a second she could swear to Celestia that she noticed a very faint tether of magic linking the levitation spell to her being. Or perhaps it was the wind and snow playing tricks on her eyes.

“There! We're almost there!” Twilight exclaimed and pointed. Sure enough, a stony maw tucked away in the rock came into view as Twilight hustled inside, collapsing onto the ground into a sprawled-out mess. The spell holding Sunburst flickered and faded as he was gently set down onto the ground.

“Thanks Twilight... Really. I owe you one. I actually don’t think my leg is injured as badly as I thought,” Sunburst said, rubbing it gently.

Twilight rolled over onto her back and sighed, staring up at the rocky ceiling. “I'm glad, but if I hadn't dragged you all the way out here, you wouldn't have hurt yourself,” she said as she pressed her front hooves to her eyes in frustration. “Now we have no map or reference points to navigate with. I'm so sorry, Sunburst...”

“Hey, there's no reason to beat yourself up. I came with you because I wanted to. Besides, I think you handled yourself admirably. You took action in a dangerous situation and got us both to safety!” Sunburst said with a smile. He tried to stand on all fours, but after a few moments he sat back down. “Maybe I shouldn't overdo it just yet...”

“I... You're right, Sunburst. Thank you,” she replied, her arms flopping back onto the ground as she sighed in exhaustion. “We really should rest here for a while.”

“I agree. With the severity of the wind, visibility will be very poor. I wouldn't want to risk getting lost all the way out here in the mountains,” Sunburst replied as he curled up into his cloak, exhausted from the perilous hike. He started to nod off, dozing into a half-awake slumber.

Twilight stared up at the ceiling, her thoughts tracing back through the day’s events. She rolled over and pulled out one of her notebooks and a quill, setting them down in front of her. Twilight began to write, using her mouth in lieu of her magic. She needed a brief respite from all of the insanity they’d put up with as of late.

Amethyst Hollow Expedition Notes: Magic Anomalies, she began.

Item One: Teleportation spell misfire. I was able to see the three dimensional magic map again when I cast a teleportation spell (see previous notes in Canterlot). Somehow, the spell misfired and my companion and I landed off target, triggering a small avalanche.

Item Two: Levitation/grasp spell misfire. A sudden gust of wind blew our map out of my grasp. Normally I am fairly proficient at grabbing items in mid-air, even in motion, but I visibly saw my spell veer off into the wrong direction when I attempted to seize the map. Unfocused emotions, stressful situations, adrenaline, etc can all be responsible for clumsy spell use, but the way the spell behaved seemed to rule out all of the above.

Item Three: Levitation magic link. (?) While lifting Sunburst across the terrain to the safety of a cave, I  saw what I assumed to be the manifestations of visible levitation magic, but it vanished as quickly as it appeared. Possibly a mild hallucination caused by adrenaline and poor weather conditions.

Twilight sat the quill down and looked at a hoof-sized rock nearby. She focused on it as her horn glowed, bathing the rock in magic. She flung it left and right, up and down, but she could not see any kind of tether or link. Her levitation spell appeared as would be expected. She sighed and dropped the stone with a clatter, picking her quill up again with her mouth.

Observation: Ever since evening three, I am able to see visual manifestations of alicorn magic, advanced unicorn magic, and intermediate unicorn magic. Manifestations of basic unicorn magic currently do not occur. Cause of magic misfires currently unknown.

Twilight sighed again and closed the notebook, tucking it and her quill away in her saddlebag. “I just don’t understand what’s happening to me,” she muttered to herself, taking care not to disturb Sunburst. “Magic shouldn’t behave this way… All of these strange patterns and glowing magic lines… They’re similar to some of the notes I’ve seen in my advanced magic theory books, so I wonder...”

She stared off towards the back of the cave. She could feel a strange, almost heavy air about the surrounding area. She hadn’t noticed it before in her excitement, but now... She shivered uncomfortably, feeling almost dizzy—akin to trying to walk straight after being spun around in a circle while blindfolded. She rubbed one of her temples and shut her eyes tight, trying to shake the unease away.

Something about the cave just felt so… unnatural. Twilight couldn’t quite place her hoof on what. As she peered around in the darkness, a pattern almost seemed to form among the stalactites. She blinked, and suddenly everything came into focus in her mind’s eye. The realization hit her like the avalanche from earlier, and she gasped so loudly it echoed inside the cave. “Or maybe it’s too natural! Sunburst! Sunburst, wake up, I think we’re close to Amethyst Hollow! The map was right!” She shot up onto all fours with glee as Sunburst mumbled to himself, shaking himself out of a very rough slumber.

“Bwuh, huh…? What are you—” He said, punctuated with a loud yawn.

“Sunburst! The reason why my magic has been acting so strange is because we’re close to Amethyst Hollow! Don’t you remember, from the book? The naturally growing crystals react to unicorn magic, and without proper focus, can wildly alter spells!” Twilight said ecstatically, whipping out her notebook once again to quickly amend her previous entries.

“What makes you say that? Do you think this cave is the entrance?” Sunburst asked as he stood up carefully. He still felt a little shaky, but at least he wasn’t wincing every time he moved anymore.

“Well, I’m not one hundred percent sure if this cave is the entrance, but we are close. If the cave system extends underground, then it’s entirely plausible there are pockets or clusters of crystals buried below, which—if we happened to be traversing over while using magic—would explain why so many spells have been behaving oddly,” Twilight said as she read over her notes, her wings reflexively extending as she tossed the pieces of the puzzle around in her head.

Sunburst looked around, using his magic to lift a stone and swing it around. “Hmm, nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. I can lift this rock and move it without any difficulty,” Sunburst said as he put his hoof to his chin and squinted at the rock, as if expecting it to do a trick.

Twilight looked carefully at Sunburst’s manipulations. She couldn’t see his levitation spell either; it looked perfectly ordinary. “There’s a chance we might not currently be close to any of the crystals, but I don’t believe we’re very far from one of the potential entrances if I recall the map correctly.”

A chilly draft blew towards them from deep within the cave, ruffling their manes and tails about as they shivered.

“So now what?” Sunburst asked, pulling his cloak tight. “Where do you think the entrance is?”

“Well, we were heading for The Withers when my spell went awry… If my recollection of this area’s geology is correct, many of the cave systems here should be interconnected. If we follow the one we’re in, it should take us to the cave we were aiming for. That would put us right at Mount Everhoof’s base, and the entrance to Amethyst Hollow should be nearby,” Twilight said with confidence, stamping her front hoof down with a smirk.

“Well, if you’re ready to go, then I am! I think my leg is better now, so I should be able to walk,” Sunburst said, trotting around back and forth eagerly. “Just as long as we don’t have any more avalanches.”

Twilight smiled at Sunburst, making her way to his side. “I won’t let anything else happen to you, Sunburst. This whole expedition was my idea, and I will see to it that nothing bad happens. You have my word both as a princess and as a friend.”

“That means a lot to me, Twilight.” Sunburst smiled and sighed happily. He turned to face Twilight, his face changing to a sudden determined curiosity. “So, what are we waiting for then? We could have the discovery of a lifetime waiting for us!” Sunburst said, rearing back and kicking his front legs. He winced and dropped back to all fours, his foreleg buckling as his weight shifted back onto it.

“Are you sure you’re okay to walk, Sunburst? We can wait if you need to,” Twilight asked, leaning down to check his leg.

“No, I’ll be fine, honestly. I’ve strained myself harder carrying forty books out of the library at once!” He replied, his enthusiasm doing little to mask his pain.

She giggled happily, nudging Sunburst gently. “If you say so! Just let me know if you need to stop and we can take a break.”

The two gathered their saddlebags and began their venture deeper into the cave. It didn’t take long for visibility to diminish as they traveled the steady upward incline.

“It’s so dark in here!” Sunburst said, his voice wavering. “I can’t see my own hoof in front of my face!”

“Nothing a little illumination spell won’t fix!” Twilight said as her horn glowed. Although there is precious little to witness as an observer for such a spell—besides the obvious increase in illumination—her subconscious began to brighten. She felt the same way a filly does when walking alone in the dark but carrying a security blanket, only this time the filly is wrapped up in a gentle coating of internal magic.

The duo trekked through the cave for a time in silence, their hoofsteps echoing through the tunnel. As they navigated some twists and turns, Twilight noticed a surprising lack of forks or secondary passageways to be led astray down. Soon, natural light began to slowly trickle into the cave.

“We’re almost through!” Twilight said as she cantered towards the exit with visible excitement.

“Twilight, w-wait up!” Sunburst said as he tried to keep up, nearly tripping over his cloak in his haste.

As they approached the light, Twilight began to feel a strange, dizzy sensation. She wavered in place, losing her balance and coming to a sudden stop.

“Hey, what’s wrong? Why’d you stop?” Sunburst asked, panting as he caught up to her. Twilight lost hold of her illumination spell and the light dimmed, flickering and sputtering. She felt uneasy, as if her blanket was suddenly snatched away. With a pathetic sizzle, the illumination spell finally burned out.

“Ugh… What happened?” Twilight muttered under her breath. She shook her head and stumbled a bit, regaining her footing with some effort.

“What was that?” Sunburst asked. “Do you think we could be getting close?”

Twilight shook her head, blinking rapidly as her vision adjusted to the minimal natural light. “I… I think so. I felt dizzy and found it really hard to maintain my spell all of a sudden, so that must be a good sign.”

Sunburst breathed a big sigh of relief. “As long as you’re okay. If we’re getting closer, then we have to keep going!” Twilight nodded with a shaky smile, and they continued towards the slowly-encroaching light from the outside world. As they progressed, the incline rose higher and higher, culminating in a very steep angle upwards.

Sunburst was panting, already tired from the long journey through the cave. He looked up at the exit, the path before him sloped at an eighty degree angle and at least five shoulders high. His heart sank and his ears folded back as he looked at the impossible wall. “I-I can’t climb this! It’s way too steep!” He turned and looked his body over, his voice getting quiet. “And I’m not exactly the most athletic of ponies either…”

“You don’t have to be,” Twilight said. “I’ve got this!” Before he could protest, she scooped him up onto her back and took off into the air with a mighty wingbeat.

“Oooh!” Sunburst blushed brightly. He sprawled across her back, clinging to her saddlebags as they flew. “Are you sure this is safe!?”

“If I can’t shoulder the weight of a single pony, then who am I to call myself a princess?” She replied, tapping into her reserves of alicorn strength as she bounded up into the air, carrying Sunburst. A few short seconds later she found herself clearing the lip of the exit. With a crunch on the snow, she landed and set Sunburst down.

“There! Another happy landing!” Twilight said with a giggle, flexing her wings a little before folding them against her sides.

“Please tell me you’re not referring to the avalanche from earlier, are you?” Sunburst asked nervously, his heart still beating from the sudden uplift.

“Well, uhm, you see, ehehe…” Twilight laughed sheepishly. She was proud of her quick, easy, and practical solution to getting out of such a steep cave, but embarrassed all the same due to the teleport blunder from earlier. All she could do was sigh happily and collapse into a heap on the snow, grateful that they finally made it onto the plateau.

“It shouldn’t be far from here, should it? The closest probable location, I mean,” Sunburst said as he surveyed their surroundings. The rocky peaks of Mount Everhoof towered over them, rising impossibly high through the clouds.

Twilight joined Sunburst and looked around, putting her hoof to her chin as she squinted to try and figure out where they ended up. The wind had died down, so there were no more snowdrifts making vision difficult. “We’re not too far from where the first probable entrance is located. And if that’s the case…” Twilight said as she closed her eyes.

Her horn began to glow as a spell of unrivaled, exquisite beauty danced through her psyche. Her purples and lavenders gave way to blues and whites as her magic glistened like sparkling diamonds hidden in the blackness. Rhomboidal shapes danced and flickered in the strange three-dimensional space of her mindscape, some dazzling like jewels of unrivaled scarcity, others dim and distant.

Twilight opened her eyes once the spell was complete, and she watched a wave of sapphire energy radiate out from her horn. The magic wave swept through the area around her, working its way into every surface. As it bled through the snow and the earth, she began to see outlines of gem clusters and other precious metals illuminate.

“Oh! Is that a gem-finding spell?” Sunburst asked, his voice carrying up in pitch with excitement.

“It is! It’s a copy of Rarity’s spell, and it’s a special, unique variant tied to her cutie mark and special talent. If the crystals in Amethyst Hollow are of a similar composition to most gems or precious metals, I should be able to locate the entrance,” Twilight said as she focused the spell, expanding its range. “If I can just keep its range constant I can—Ahh!” She cried out as a sudden surge of magic knocked her off her hooves, disrupting the spell and forcing it to dissipate.

“Twilight! What happened!?” Sunburst yelled as he propped her up with a hoof to keep her from falling over… again.

“I-I don’t know! It was like somepony shone a bright light into my face!” She blinked and rubbed her eyes, her pupils shrunk to pinpricks. She shook her head and regained her refocus, scanning the horizon with earnest. “There! Fourteen hundred feet to the northwest, underneath the base of the mountain!”

“Is that where Amethyst Hollow is located?” Sunburst asked, squinting in the direction Twilight’s outstretched foreleg indicated.

“It has to be! While the spell was active, I detected a huge group of crystalline structures. At that point, the spell’s waveform suddenly collapsed and all of that magical buildup backfired and hit me,” Twilight said before closing her eyes to concentrate. She fired off another surge of the gem-location spell, and sure enough, it warped and de-stabilized as it approached the mountain before collapsing into nothingness.

Twilight glanced over at Sunburst. “With so many instances of magic failure, there’s no way this can be a coincidence. If the crystals in Amethyst Hollow can disrupt or otherwise influence unicorn magic, just like the book says, that explains such a catastrophic failure!” Twilight exclaimed, her face breaking out into a huge, nerdy grin.

“I see! Your spell overloaded the gems, which couldn’t handle such a not only potent, but also proximal, concentration of unicorn magic, which thereby prompted waveform instability!” Sunburst said as his face brightened and he adjusted his glasses.

“I know, right!?” Twilight let out a squeak as her grin grew. “We’re almost there!”

The two galloped across The Withers with renewed vigor and determination, kicking up snow behind them. The base of Mount Everhoof on the other side of the plateau grew closer as they approached, the pair coming to a halt at the edge of the cliffside. A massive, gaping entrance into the earth was tucked away at the end of the opposite overhang, leading into the mass of rock that made up the base of Mount Everhoof. Massive pillars of crystal jutted out from ground near the entrance blanketed by the thick snow. A faint, eerie glow of pink and purple bled from the cavern and into the air around it.

“We made it! That has to be it!” Sunburst yelled.

“Amethyst Hollow!” Twilight said, spreading her wings with anticipation.