Magisight: Thaumaturgical Ocularity

by PsychicKid

Chapter 17: A Bloom Untarnished

Applause and cheers filled the village as the yearlings dashed off of the stage toward the forest. Some pelted onward on their own, others stuck together in pairs, and a few hesitated at the edge of the forest before finally venturing forth. Hopeseed nodded to Twilight and Applejack before leaping from the stage, a determined glint in her eyes.

Some of the villagers galloped after the group, stopping just short of the forest’s edge to cheer them on. As the fillies and colts were lost to sight, the crowd began to disperse, milling around the plaza or returning to their stalls.

“What do ya think, Twi?” Applejack asked. “You think she’s gonna be okay?”

Twilight paced nervously, her eyes tracing the varied silver paths running through the ground. Wisps of magic bled from the ground where the surface was breached, gently following the source veins through the air. One of the trails lit up as it intersected one of the trees in the distance. “AJ, can you still see this?”

“You mean all this light?” Applejack sliced a hoof through a wispy trail. “Yeah, I can. Is this what you’ve been seeing? ‘Cuz whatever it is, it’s… actually kinda pretty.”

Twilight shook her head. “This isn’t quite the same thing. Something reacted to the Tree earlier, and I believe it was the catalyst for whatever spell this is.” Twilight knelt closer to one of the wisps. Despite its glow, Twilight found she was able to look directly at it. She waved a hoof slowly above it, then below it. Intriguing… she thought. This magic doesn't seem to cast a shadow. As she reached to touch it, a green and blue bolt of magic shot out of the stream and flew over her shoulder, making her gasp and stumble backward.

“Applejack! Did you see that?” Twilight said, frantically motioning her friend over.

Applejack trotted over, staring hard at the vein. “Uh, I mean… It’s glowin’, all right.”

“A spark came out of it. You didn’t see any—Look! There it is again!” Twilight pointed at the cracking trail of—now red and orange—magic as it flowed along the ground and into a silver vein, following it with her hoof until it vanished from sight.

Applejack sighed. “Look Twi, I’m real sorry, but I can only see what’s in front of my face. Somethin’ tells me that everypony else in the village is in the same boat.”

Twilight grunted with annoyance. She carefully pushed her hoof into the light and closed her eyes. She felt warmth flicker through her, and her perception expanded readily. She felt herself yanked away, a whirlwind of magic suddenly whisking her mind’s eye down the trail of light and into the forest.

Her sense of space was carried along like a leaf in the wind as sensations all around came into view. She saw a group of villagers, then a cluster of trees, then insects, then a lizard, a spider, more trees, a laughing pony, a mug carelessly knocked to the ground; all kinds of sounds and sights at once. Twilight struggled to maintain control, feeling her breath grow short. As threads of her perception peeled away, she felt a singular line of magic holding itself together. Carefully, she guided the thread around, probing the space.

She could see a young filly running through the forest, veins of silver casting shadows all around her. Twilight couldn’t tell who it was, but it didn’t feel like Hopeseed. As she turned the thread to search further, it suddenly shot off on its own and crashed into the ground, knocking Twilight back to lucidity.

“Twi! What in Equestria—” Applejack murmured, glancing around. She leaned in, whispering. “What did you just do? Your eyes got all glowy ’n stuff…” she lowered her voice further, “kind of like you were usin’ the Elements.”

Twilight shook her head, taking a moment to catch her breath. “I… I’m fine. It wasn’t Elemental magic. Remember what happened in the pool? I started to lose track of my physical body and—”

Applejack rolled her eyes. “I ain’t sure what’s more alarming: The fact that you ain’t bothered by it or that you wrote an essay about it.”

“It was the same thing!” Twilight continued on, unhindered. “Somehow I was able to ‘feel’ my way through the currents and I followed them all the way into the forest.” The sound of giggling drifted past, and she looked over Applejack’s shoulder to see two fillies bounding back and forth over the silvery trails. A gentle flow of magic arose nearby and one of the fillies jumped straight through it. Twilight’s eyes widened and she reached out reflexively, as if to catch her, but the young pony passed through unabated. She watched them as they continued around the plaza and out of sight.

“It looks like whatever magic this is, it’s not affecting anypony else,” she said, retracting her hoof. She looked around the now-empty plaza. Besides a few scattered ponies chattering—seemingly oblivious to the magic around them—the majority of the villagers had drifted off elsewhere in the village. She stood tall, raising her head high with a confident smirk. “Can you keep an eye on things for me?”

“Oh no, I don’t think I like where this is goin’,” Applejack groaned as her eyes narrowed suspiciously.

Twilight giggled. “Please, if I drown on solid ground, I hereby give you permission to publish an essay on it.”

Applejack smirked, resting a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “You just do your magic thing. If things get weird… I’ve got your back.”

Twilight smiled, planting her hooves firmly into the ground. She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she eyed a nearby trail of magic. When she reached for it, she found it drifting slowly toward her. It knows what I want, she thought with amazement as the stream smoothly enveloped her hoof. Almost instantly, she felt her consciousness whisked away once again into the aether.

Her perception frayed as she found herself pulled along an overwhelming current of magic—away from the forest.  She struggled in vain against the force, vaguely feeling her physical body drop to a knee with the effort. Her squirming shifted her focus along the path she was being taken, and as she turned her struggling ceased. A titanic pillar of magic loomed before her, bolts of colored magic running through every aetherial vein.

The Tree, she thought. Or more accurately, the Tree’s magic. She found the gentle aura alluring, allowing herself to drift closer. Despite the immense display of power—and a deep twinge of loss—she felt safe. Warm. This much magic in one place… Maybe Ivy’s stories about the Tree were true.

Sparks of colored energy caught Twilight’s eye, crackling along the Tree’s roots in a dozen different directions and cascading into a rainbow of magical hues. A pulse of energy whizzed past her, its trail radiating a familiar magical signature. As she turned to follow it with her eyes, she was pulled roughly behind it, as if tethered.

As Twilight let herself be dragged along, she felt her awareness splinter into a dozen fragments, each following a different trail of magic. The different vantage points fed into her senses, tumbling over each other and causing her physical form to drop again, now on both front knees.

I—I c-can’t control-trol it, control it, I control, can’t it, Twilight struggled, her thoughts echoing along the length of her perceptions. She could feel the magic signatures of hundreds of trees, an uncountable swarm of insects, roosting night owls, the dozen or so yearlings searching frantically in the underbrush—she was bombarded from all directions by shapes, sounds, and even feelings.

Her thoughts drifted, her “eyes” scattered throughout the forest. The yearlings… Twilight muttered internally, idly following a bright sparks along a beaten trail. I can watch the yearlings… I can—Hopeseed! A surge of clarity shot through Twilight, allowing her to realign her perceptions. If I can find her, I can help her. Her voice continued to echo but as each thought pulsed through her mind the echoes fell into alignment with one another. Soon she could think clearly again, her voice sharpening with a clarity she didn’t even recall from the physical world.

Her perspectives became clear in her mind, no longer competing for dominance but rather synergizing into a net of observation throughout the forest. Along this net, pulses of crackling rainbow energy continued to flow through the ground, deeper into the forest. A small bundle of magic came into her view, a mass of waving green that flowed into itself. She reached out to touch an outstretched stream as she realized—a colt! The form coalesced as she realized the shape of a young colt, barely shoulder-height. He leapt across the uneven terrain, effortlessly dodging jagged rocks and flares of red danger. Pulses of magic rippled out from where his hooves struck the ground. Twilight sailed along the aetherstream, barely managing to keep sight of him.

Together, they crested a small hill and the colt's magic flared with excitement. Before them lay a shining beacon of silvery rainbow magic. The silver-gold blossom! Twilight gasped. The physical characteristics of the flower were difficult to discern, but as the colt stepped down to the shimmering aura, she knew he had succeeded. The plant’s light shone forth as the colt plucked it, marching triumphantly back to the village.

As Twilight pushed her perception closer to examine the flower, she was suddenly yanked away and carried back along one of the many threads of her perception. He faded from sight as she hurtled up the vein of magic, rejoining with another thread. She was stunned for a moment, her other selves temporarily silenced. Only the sound of her heartbeat remained.

One by one, she carefully probed with each of her consciousness fragments back into the forest. She felt the presence of more foals, but Twilight had difficulty telling Hopeseed apart from the rest. She directed each fragment to release their own probes, the lavender auras flowing smoothly through the silvery veins. As her spell grew larger, she felt a dull pain rise up within her mind. She groaned, feeling small sparks leak from her horn as the spell threatened to dissolve. In spite of the pain, she held onto the thread as each pony’s aura shifted in color. Light blue, brown, yellow, green—the yearlings’ coat colors.

Where is she? Twilight strained desperately. She should be down one of these paths, but… Twilight panted heavily—was she sweating? She couldn’t be sure. With a grunt, she forced her perception into a wider range.

A familiar magical signature registered in the growing fog around one of her spells, rainbow magic rippling around the dull yellow form of a filly. Somepony else found one. She released her hold on that particular fragment—Hopeseed was not here. The split rejoined Twilight’s primary consciousness, bringing with it a gentle respite from her headache.

Each aura found their own blossom in turn, and with each found blossom Twilight’s observational load was reduced significantly. Finally, only six fragments remained, and as she turned her full attention toward one of them, the aura began to glow white. Hopeseed! Twilight breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

Her breath caught as she followed Hopeseed’s aura. Unlike the smooth flow of the others, this aura was ragged, each wisp jerking as they moved as if being pulled by an outside force. The center of her magical presence was marred by a dark ball of anxiety and pain, occasionally pushing its own tendrils out.

Hopeseed moved seemingly at random. She paused every few steps, looking around frantically. Waves of magic burst forth from her hooves as she trotted, and although they lit up in a number of different colors, none of them shimmered with the signature of the silver-gold blossom.

She can’t find it, Twilight realized. Two more yearlings found their prize together, and Twilight quickly recalled their probes. Only four auras remained, and all but Hopeseed were steadily closing in on their target. Twilight, called her name, but the sound wasn’t carried out to the extremities of her perception.

Hopeseed stopped at the edge of a clearing, prancing in place and muttering to herself. Twilight struggled but couldn’t make out the muffled words, and she watched helplessly as Hopeseed dove into the bushes, following a silvery vein.

Hopeseed, no, she tried to yell. There’s nothing down there but more trees! Her protests echoed along the magical stream and dissipated before reaching Hopeseed. Another yearling found their blossom with a flash of brilliant light, and Twilight knew time was steadily trickling away.

Hopeseed’s path grew thick with foliage and downed trees, finally coming to a dead end at the base of a large rotting oak tree. With an angry snort, she turned away and slowly plodded back, following the silver wisp as it shot over and around the obstacles. She grumbled something, the meaning muddied through the distance. Hopeseed’s ears drooped as she hung her head, the filly’s aura slowly becoming wrapped inside the black wisps.

One more flash of brilliant light, followed quickly by a second. Only Hopeseed remained. She let out an exasperated sigh and reached back to feel her bandana, a shimmer of grey magic springing from the cloth and gently embracing Hopeseed. Even across the distance, Twilight could feel… she couldn’t quite describe it. Another presence?

A moment passed. “No, not yet,” Hopeseed said. She took a step forward and closed her eyes. Bright emerald light spilled forth from her hooves, snaking across the forest ground and through the foliage. “This way!” she said excitedly, following the trail.

Wait, green? No-no-no, the blossom has a rainbow aura. Hopeseed! Her warnings evaporated into nothing, and she could only watch in disbelief as Hopeseed dove headlong into the underbrush.

Twilight pressed her perception outward in her pursuit of Hopeseed, but over time she began to feel heavy. Her vision blurred, and she began to fall behind. I—I can’t… keep… the spell…. Her surroundings shifted around her, and her vision began to spin. She could hear—A crowd? Noise and excitement filled her senses. A familiar—if muffled—voice reached through the haze.


“What’s happening to her?”

“Is she sick?”

“Mommy, I wanna see the magic princess!”

“Now just hold yer horses everypony!” Applejack said, holding her hooves wide and standing between the growing crowd and her friend to keep the nosy villagers at bay.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life,” Holly said, jaw hanging open. Her face remained unchanged as she ducked and jumped around Applejack, trying to get a closer look.

Twilight floated gently above the ground, trails of the silvery light being drawn into her hooves. Her eyes were wide open, glowing with white magic. Her mane and tail waved gently in the light, twinkling as magic ran along their length.

“Now, uh,” Applejack said, her eyes nervously darting around the crowd. “She’s uh, she’s just—” She looked up at Twilight. “She’s doin’ real big important alicorn princess… magicky… things?” Applejack stammered. “Yup! That’s our Twi, doin’ all that magic… stuff.”

Holly cocked an eyebrow, momentarily standing still to give Applejack a suspicious look.

Sweat beaded along Applejack’s brow as she looked at Holly, then at Twilight, then back to Holly. “Yessiree, this whole shindig’s ’bout the Princesses, right? Twi’s just, um, doin’ her part!” Applejack said, an artificially-wide grin creaking over her face. Come on Twi, get yer flank back here! she mentally pleaded.

“Hey! I think she’s coming out of her spooky magic-thing!” Holly squeaked. Twilight slowly drifted back to the ground, the aetherial tendrils sinking beneath the soil once more. Her mane and tail straightened and dropped back to normal as the glittering motes of magic winked out of existence. She blinked, the light fading as color returned to her eyes.

Twilight groaned loudly, wincing as she touched a hoof to her forehead. “What… What happened?” She shook her head. “Hopeseed! Where is she? I saw her running through the forest—I saw everypony running through the forest! Her magic! I saw it but—”

Applejack shoved her hoof into Twilight’s mouth, shushing her. “Now simmer down, Sally. Y’all don’t wanna make even more of a scene now do ya?” she said, leaning in close to whisper, “Look, I got somethin’ real big to tell ya.”

Twilight looked around, her ears flattening against her head in embarrassment. She hadn’t noticed the crowd—practically half the village had drifted over to none-too-subtly stare at her. “Why are they all looking at me like that? Did someth—” Twilight cut herself off. “Oh… right.” She could feel the heat in her cheeks rising. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Has anypony made it back yet?”

“Yeah,” Applejack said. “Everypony’s back ‘cept Hopeseed. But that’s the thing, the silv—”

“How much time is left?” Twilight interrupted. She looked up at the full moon shining through gaps in the canopy above, hard beams of light providing dappled illumination all over the village. “It looks like there’s only a few minutes left before it’s over. Ohhh, where is she?” Twilight groaned, taking a few nervous paces toward the forest.

“Twi! Listen to me! The silver-gold blossom, it’s—just look at the darned thing!” Applejack yelled as she suddenly grabbed Twilight and spinning her to face the stage. A number of hoof-sized blossoms filled the centerpiece, each shining golden petal shimmering with magic, surrounding their silver, heart-shaped stamen. A resplendent rainbow aura surrounded the bouquet, filling Twilight’s vision.

“That’s…” Twilight’s voice trailed off. She mouthed la arĝenta-oro to herself. She glanced at the sky. Midnight continued to inch closer, second by tortuous second. “We have to find her,” she said, face hardening with determination.

“There ain’t no time!” Applejack exclaimed. “I dunno how long you thought you were stuck in that magic thingy, but you’ve seen the moon! It’s almost midnight, Twi!”

“I know where she is, AJ! If I just teleport, I can—” She turned as a sudden commotion rose from the crowd. The villagers stood aside, revealing a panting, dirty Hopeseed. Mud caked her coat and twigs protruded from her mane and tail. Tears streaked through the dirt on her cheeks. To Twilight’s dismay, she was empty-hooved.

“Hopeseed! Are you hurt?” Twilight galloped to the filly’s side. “Listen, the silver-gold blossom, it's actually— “

Suddenly, a massive swell of magic slammed into Twilight’s backside. A brilliant display of blue and silver light engulfed the Tree as she stumbled against the onslaught. The canopy above solidified into a pitch-black mass, faint pinpricks of light appearing among the leaves.

“Twi?” Applejack’s voice wavered. “What’s goin’ on?” She gulped, shielding her eyes with her hat.

Twilight was stunned. The villagers erupted into a cacophony of yelling and applause as the magical traces shone brilliantly. Twilight squinted as the magic surrounding the blossoms wafted toward the Tree, merging with its light with a flash. As the different sources of magic mingled, she could feel the foundations of a spell begin to form. Thick aetherial vines arose from the junction and wove themselves around the Tree, crimson florets sprouting along their length. Stars and crescent moon-shapes danced all around the edge of the spell, flickering as they dove between the vines. With a deep thrum that echoed throughout the village, the vines suddenly grew taut and merged with the Tree’s silvery veins. A wave of light burst from the Tree, following its roots toward the perimeter of the village.

“It’s midnight,” Twilight said hoarsely. She followed one of the veins with her eyes, curiosity overwhelming her. As the magic reached with the forest, an enormous translucent wall rippled all around the village, stretching out of sight past the Tree’s highest branches. A barrier spell, Twilight realized. It shimmered with each surge of combined earth and lunar magic, growing ever stronger.

A frantic yelling pierced the crowd of cheering ponies, shaking Twilight from her daze. “Princess Twilight! Where is she? Where is Hopeseed?” Ivy’s voice carried clear across the plaza. She ran to Twilight and Applejack, her joints audibly creaking in protest. Her face was twisted with worry, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. “I lost sight of her once the Argent Moon began. She didn’t—she didn’t—”

Applejack put her hoof on Ivy’s shoulder. “Easy now, Ivy. Deep breaths. She prob’ly ran off, thinkin’ she failed.”

“But she did fail. Oh, by the Princesses, nopony has failed in generations. I don’t—I can’t—” Ivy wailed, color draining from her face as she hyperventilated.

Twilight looked through the crowd at the goblet on stage—and the plants within. A faint smile crossed her lips. “I think I know where she is, Ivy. And I don’t think she failed.” Twilight took a deep breath and closed her eyes. The magic cascading throughout the village made it difficult to focus, and she found herself struggling to keep her spell from being consumed by its roiling energies.

“Come on, just a little more,” Twilight muttered, her brow furrowing as she strained to maneuver her tracer around the magical turbulence.

Twilight sighed with relief as her probe pulsed with a soft white light. Twilight nodded, her eyes opening as she let go of her spell. “Just as I suspected. AJ, Ivy, follow me!” Twilight dashed toward the Tree without waiting for a response, while Applejack helped Ivy keep up as well as she could.

“T-The Tree? Impossible!” Ivy stammered. “The Tree would have rejected her. It won’t allow her to stay!” Her voice cracked as the trio entered. Streams of silvery light danced along walls, casting wavering shadows on the floor.

Twilight hesitated as the spellwork shone around her. Up close, she could see the lunar components of the spell merging seamlessly with the phytoid earth pony magic, creating a hybrid. Squinting against the light, she could just make out the basic framework of a barrier spell running through the aether—the very same spell components protecting the Crystal Empire. As the light approached the floor, it wove itself into a latticework that allowed for the safe passage of certain magical signatures. Twilight realized with a gasp that none of the gaps within the lattice were filled. The barrier had not been breached.

Twilight flashed a smile to Ivy. She stretched her wings proudly and stood tall, her shadow casting all around the room. “Trust me, the Tree hasn’t rejected her. She’s right here under our noses!”

Twilight dashed to the corner, throwing wide a familiar tucked-away door. Sure enough, she found the wooden telescope still resting on that particular desk. She quickly lifted it and pressed the button beneath. She galloped across the foyer, screeching to a halt in front of a wooden pony bust. She gave its head a quick tap, watching it spin into place with a click.

A loud rumbling filled the Tree and the ground shook, causing the shadows to dance and sway violently. “What in Equestria is happening?” Ivy cried.

“Something amazing,” Twilight said as she pointed Ivy toward the pool in the center of the room. The Elder watched in awe as the staircase slid into place around the pool. Ivy’s mouth hung agape as Twilight and Applejack helped her down the damp steps.

“What… I don’t understand…” Ivy sputtered as they descended. “Has this been here the entire time?”

“I don’t know how long it’s been here,” Twilight said, helping Ivy off of the bottom step. “I don’t think anypony knows. But Hopeseed has known about it for quite a while. You’ll see.”

“She what?” Ivy asked, dumbfounded. The magic of the Tree above had grown in intensity as they descended, and here it was visible peeking through every crack in the soil. Outlines of the Tree’s roots could be seen running through the ceiling and walls.

“You’re gonna be so proud of her,” Applejack said with a grin as the party made their way into the grotto. For a time, it felt as if the worry of Hopeseed had left Ivy, as she turned her head this way and that to gawk. Twilight and Applejack narrowly kept her from tumbling into the pond as they led her down the path toward the secret garden.

A glint of rainbow light shining down from the ceiling caught Twilight’s eye. A stream of magic flowed smoothly along the wall and into the ground, snaking its way through the soil and toward the garden along the same path she now walked along. All three mares gasped and stood enraptured as they stepped out of the tunnel into the garden.

“It’s… beautiful,” Ivy said, her voice trailing as she took a slow step forward. Twilight and Applejack looked around the garden excitedly. Standing in stark contrast to the dying garden of yesterday, the flowerbeds of Hopeseed’s garden had been completely revitalized. Every plant had nearly doubled in size, their vivid colors shining throughout the cave. As they wandered deeper toward the center, a beam of iridescent magic suddenly shot into the air with a brilliant flash.

“Well I’ll be,” Applejack muttered, removing her hat and placing it against her breast.

Twilight spotted the young filly as they rounded the last corner, sitting at the base of the Royal Gladiolus. “Hopeseed!” Twilight cried, dashing toward her. Hopeseed simply continued to stare upward at her crown jewel. Its golden blooms shone radiantly, bright wisps twisting around each other to feed into the column.

“I don’t believe it,” Ivy breathed. “I’ve never seen such a large collection of blossoms before!”

“She grew this,” Twilight said proudly. “All of this. All by herself.” Twilight gestured her hoof all around.

“She… grew all of this?” Ivy said, her voice cracking.

Hopeseed suddenly snapped from her apparent trance and scrambled back, away from the group. “I’m sorry!” she howled, tears streaming down her face. “D-Don’t send me out of the village! I know I couldn’t—I didn’t—I couldn’t find a—a b-blossom—” Her face contorted as she wailed, pressing herself against the stalk of the Gladiolus. Ivy swiftly stepped forward and pulled the filly into a tight hug, her own tears wetting Hopeseed’s shoulder.

“Hopeseed,” Ivy sobbed. “You didn’t need to. If I had known…”

Hopeseed pulled back, looking up with a look of confusion. “Wh-What?” she squeaked, sniffling.

“Congratulations,” Ivy whispered. “You passed. You have passed the coming of age ceremony. You found—or should I say, grew—your silver-gold blossom long ago. Your very own arĝenta-ora floraĵo.”

Hopeseed’s face shifted, her jaw dropping with dumbfounded shock. “But I thought—Princess Twilight said this was a… a Royal Gladiolus?” Hopeseed sniveled, her tears slowing.

“It is,” Twilight said, stepping up to one of the blooms and cupping it gently in her hoof. “What I call the Royal Gladiolus, your village calls the silver-gold blossom. Down here, they’re one and the same!”

Hopeseed stared at the flowers above her, their auras shining brightly. Pulling away from Ivy, she slowly stepped forward and plucked one near her height. Twilight smiled as a gentle wave of magic washed over Hopeseed, her mane swaying in its gentle warmth. A mote suddenly leapt from the center of the blossom and flowed into her chest. The filly shuddered, eyes closed, as a wisp of dull grey magic gently seeped from her bandanna and wrapped her in a soft embrace.

A shimmering noise from behind Twilight suddenly stole her attention. A warmth spread over her haunch and she knew—her cutie mark was glowing. She exchanged a grin with Applejack, their friendship mission complete.