Little Star woke, that was nothing out of the ordinary for her. She was getting quite used to the whole sleeping and waking up. The little she could remember of her dreams were of fire and violence. She was likely remembering rescuing her Mother from the temple. So she pushed the last remnants of the dream aside. As happy as it was that she was able to save her Mother, she really did not want to remember the details.
Focusing more on the physical world, she yawned and stretched, reaching out with her senses.
Something was wrong, something was missing. She looked around, taking in the room she shared with her Mother Twilight. She was alone, her Mother was not here. She lit her horn, trying to locate her. Usually, she would have gotten results immediately, but this time there was nothing.
’Zero’ seconds the Princess has slept here tonight. Grey helpfully added.
This was the second night that her Mother had slept somewhere else. A small part of her felt upset, but she did not listen to it. Star knew her Mother often had important things to do, she was a princess after all, but she always felt a little lonely when waking on her own. At least she still had Grey with her.
A grey aura picked up a brush and started to tend to Star’s mane. She smiled, leaning into the motions of the brush.
Using her own magic, Star lifted her coat brush and set about making herself look presentable, it was essential according to Rarity. Listening to the soothing sound of Grey’s level voice counting each brushstroke, she considered. Where was her Mother? Glancing around the room, no note or spell made themselves known.
She tapped her chin in thought. If something bad had happened, Grey would have let her know, and yet still, something nagged at her. She just knew something was wrong, something was different. She just could not place her hoof on it.
Perhaps she was too far away. Her Mother could teleport so she could be almost anywhere in the world. She remembered waking her Mother to let her know the moon was late. Maybe she was with her new friend, Emerald, the black-coated mare with the green mane.
Putting the coat brush down, Star lit her horn again, this time sending out a detection pulse seeking a different target. The magic returned a result within moments, Emerald was upstairs. Star used a simple scrying spell, disregarding Applejack’s rebukes about spying on ponies. I am not spying, I am looking for Mummy Twilight. She thought in order to justify it to herself.
The orange mare seemed to be very unhappy about the sensible use of magic. But still, she was one of her Mother's friends, so she must have a good point buried somewhere in all the nonsense.
Looking through the window of magic, Star could see Emerald was sprawled out in a bed, in a deep sleep. Star tilted her head, something about the sleep seemed unnatural.
With a pop of magic, Star was in the guest room. She could tell it was a guest room because it only had one bookshelf. She teleported again, blinking the short distance to now be standing on the bed beside Emerald. She was clearly under the effects of a sleep spell, a powerful one that would last a year.
Well, it was time to get up so most likely she had just miss cast the spell’s variables setting one year instead of one night. ”Never fear, for I am here!” Star said, doing her best impression of a comic book hero pose. She had read thirteen of Spikes comics since he had introduced them to her.
The spell was powerful, but had no protections on it. Star lit her horn, pinching part of the spell and twisting it. Magenta sparks filled the room as the spell harmlessly fizzled out of existence. It looked like fireworks. Star smiled, watching the show. She manifested a scroll and set to work, noting down how she could use this effect to make a new spell.
’Two’ seconds remain until Emerald awakens. Grey helpfully supplied.
“One, two.” Star counted in a whisper. “Good Morning!” Star enthusiastically bounced on the bed.
Emerald surged into action. Twisting, rapidly getting her hooves under her and lighting her horn with rippling green magic.
“Good morning?” Star asked, sounding sheepish, now standing still. She had not meant to startle her even a little. She definitely had not meant to scare her enough to bring a dangerous severing spell to her horn.
Emerald’s pose relaxed as she took in the surroundings, allowing her horn to fade.
“Do you know where Mummy is?” Star asked, voice filled with hope.
She looked at a depression in the bed. Not the one she had been in Star noted. So Star now at least knew where her Mother had slept. Emerald trailed a hoof over the impression, looking strangely conflicted.
Emerald shook her head, “I only know where she was, Little Star.”
“Ok… Thank you.” Star answered, trying to sound cheerful. She was starting to wonder if the bad ponies might have gotten her. “Where are you, Mummy?”
’One hundred and four’ body lengths. North by northeast. Grey answered.
Joy filled her heart as Star lit her horn to teleport. A flash of light and she was ready to hug her Mother. The room looked just the same as the one she had been in. This ‘new’ room even had Emerald in it, gazing at her bemused.
“What?” Star asked in confusion. It did not last long, her teleport must have been reflected. It was done so seamlessly that she did not even feel it. Star smiled in surprise, she had to get her Mother to teach her that spell. She galloped towards the door, teleporting a body length bypassing the need to pause to open it.
“What an odd little filly.” Star heard Emerald say as she headed to her objective.
Star raced through the halls, her little hooves hammering on the crystal floor along the straights and sliding almost out of control as she slid around the corners. A moment before she slammed into the wall, she teleported, exiting with her momentum now in a new direction.
Her magic and regeneration gave her the confidence to experiment. She laughed, adding more and more complex manoeuvres and magic to the simple task of navigating the castle. I guess the bit of running on the ceiling to just avoid a pile of books was a little extreme, but it was fun to see everything upside down. Sure she could have just laid on her back and rolled over, but where was the adventure in that.
She arrived at her destination, the little injures her mad dash had caused were long healed. The damp coat and unkempt mane were another story, but she did not care. She wanted to see her Mother, she wanted to show her the wall walking spell she had invented on the way here.
Walking up to the guest room, she knocked. Applejack would be proud, she did not teleport inside. With a wide happy grin, she waited.
Thirty-six seconds later, she knocked again.
Twenty-two more and she knocked again. Has Mummy soundproofed the room? Star’s mind was on all the different types of experiments she could think of that would need soundproofing.
Star started pacing. One hundred six seconds later, she could take no more. She had to know what was going on the other side of the door.
She lit her horn with her familiar scrying spell, she was determined to get her answer.
The scrying window just hung in the air, a blank pane showing nothing. Now a completely colourless void hanging in the air, blocking line of sight, was a novelty that Star would study later. The most important thing was her spell failed, she could not see into the room.
She cast a second copy of the spell focusing on Emerald. The pane flashed into existence. She seemed to be talking to some of her Mother’s friends, including Applejack. They seemed to be agitated, but that was not important currently. She cancelled it, not wanting to annoy that mare again.
So her spell was working, which meant the room was warded. She pressed her horn to the door. Rich, complex spell patterns rippled along its surface. It was her Mother's magic, and it was ingenious. Star could spend hours studying it to see how it worked. The stealth and obfuscation functions of the spell array were amazing.
’Ten’ minutes since starting your examination. Grey’s mostly flat mental voice seemed to have an amused rebuke to it.
“Opps,” Star said, lifting her horn from the door. She started to pace back and forth in front of the warded door. “So I could break the ward in few seconds… but I don’t know what Mummy is doing.”
The thought of interrupting a delicate experiment just for a hug seemed bad. A scroll flashed into existence, and she marked another tally under the heading ‘why Applejack was wrong about scrying’ section.
“No, I need another plan.” Plan after plan and spell after spell danced through her mind. All of them hinged on options she had to discard, just because she did not know what was going on in the room. She couldn’t use them because of the effects they might have on unknown magic that might be going on inside the room. There were simply too many possibilities.
She stopped pacing, tapping her hoof, she looked to the crystal wall. She wanted to face hoof, she has been gratefully accepting the help of the friendly castle since she had arrived here. She had gotten too distracted, trying to solve the problem on her own.
Star smiled and pranced over to the wall. Placing her hoof on the wall, she reached out with her mind to the castle. If it is safe, can you take me to my Mummy please, I would like to give her a hug.
Like every time the castle translocated her, there was no sensation. The world around her simply altered in less than an eye blink.
Her senses took in the changes but disregarded almost everything. Her Mother was lying on the floor. Star could feel almost no magic coming from her. Panic sunk its fangs into her, she almost teleported.
’Zero’ times it would be wise to teleport with the ward still functional. Grey said.
Star let her horn dim, banishing the teleport array she was about to use to teleport over to her Mother and instead walked towards her. She had been silly, like all things this could be broken down into smaller problems each with simple steps to solve them.
“Mummy?” Star’s voice was weak. No response to sound. She noted on her mental checklist. She walked closer and nuzzled her Mother. “Mummy, wake up, please.” Little Star pleaded. No response to light physical contact. She clinically noted in her mind. Despite her mind staying clear, she could feel tears starting to form.
Reaching out, she placed a hoof on her mother’s shoulder and shook her, There was no response. Heart falling, Star lay next to her and lit her horn with a few medical spells.
She was glad for reading the whole of the medical texts and not just the sections she had needed to tend her Mother's injuries. Each had their own checklists and spells she could use.
Breathing weak but healthy, heart rate stable, blood pressure good. No internal injuries, no poisons or toxins. Physically, everything about her body was in almost perfect health. She still had a little recovering to do from the Temple.
Star adjusted the focus of her spells. Mental activity and Magic levels were worryingly, but not dangerously, low. There was no new degeneration to her wellspring, no signs of anypony trying to cause damage to her soul or destroy her mind.
Star let out a shaky sigh. Her Mother was alive, there was no chance of that changing suddenly. But that still left the question of why she would not wake, and how she ended up in this state.
Her panic was now gone, wholly replaced with a small sense of worry and the focus that came with trying to solve a problem. Star started paying attention to her senses and the compiled lists that Grey had been diligently keeping for her.
A beautiful thick metal necklace with a large gem, with what looked like a calm flame dancing inside it, caught her attention. Which was odd, a fire aspect suppressor with fire inside it. Star tilted her head, looking at the fire, the flames seemed to lean in response. The fire seemed to blink, was something in there looking out?
She reached for it, touching it with a hoof, Star gasped. The whole thing was made of super-condensed magic, wrapped into a stable matrix. Just the thought of the amount of power that would have taken. Where her Mother's magic had gone was now clear. The question was how, why, and what to do about it.
All the furniture and items in the room were neatly placed against the walls. It was done deliberately, if not with the most of care. So if this was her Mother's work, she was not in a panic but might have been a bit rushed.
In the cleared space on the floor, a complex spell array appeared to be moulded into the floor. Her Mother was lying in the center of it. It took up nearly all of the room, so when Star had arrived, she was also within it.
Staring at it for a few seconds, it was clear that this is what had created her mothers new necklace. What she still did not know, was why and what the necklace was for. All she could tell was that it had something to do with energy redirection and storage, with a link to a higher dimensional plane.
Star got to her hooves and started to walk around the circle, there was some warping on the array. So clearly it had been used. A lot of magic had been drawn through it.
This was not quite an emergency, but she felt very much out of her depth. She needed help, she needed an adult. She went through all the ponies she knew, all the ones that her Mother trusted.
The crystal of the floor seemed to ripple. ‘Let me help’ it seemed to say. The memory of meeting her Mother's guard, the Nightchosen hybrid came to her. “Mummy Twilight and Mummy Luna both trust her. Can you bring her here please?”
In the normal seamless abruptness, Candice was there. Like when she arrived at the party, she rapidly assessed the situation, but unlike last time did not cast any spells. Star glanced at Candice’s wings for a moment, she wanted to see how she cast unicorn magic from them.
Candice’s eyes fixed on Mother and then looked back to Star. “What's going on Little Star?”
Looking at Candice’s face, Star studied what she saw. Her expression a mixture of worry and relief. The tear tracks in on her face and muzzle made it clear she had been crying at some point during the night.
“Mummy won't wake up,” Star answered, trying to keep the waver that was creeping into her voice away. She was good at solving problems, and she was solving this problem. There was no need to cry. Her Mother was going to be alright.
Candice put a reassuring wing over Little Star as she took in the room. Star could see she paid particular attention to the magical array and mothers new necklace. The flames seemed agitated, but Candice did not seem to notice.
After a few minutes studying things, Candice extended her other wing, and part of it became enveloped in a silvery light.
Candice sat there in thought for a moment before looking down at Little Star. Candice lit both of her wings and a complex twist of reality formed before her.
Star looked at it, it was the worst example of a Doom-of-Mages spell she could conceive off. Sure it looked like it could store a lot of energy, but it would not explode. She blinked and adjusted her view of it, it was not a war spell. Sure it was similar in concept, but instead of producing a cascade based explosion, this instead stabilized the energy it was holding.
If she was looking at it right, it even had a dimensional shunt. That would mean should it explode, most of the energy would harmlessly dissipate into one of the higher dimensions.
“Little Star, would you help me charge this?” Candice asked.
Star looked between the spell and Candice a few times. “Why? How will that help Mummy?”
“She is just very low on magic, she only needs…” Candice started.
Star, getting the point, lit her horn and got ready to infuse magic into her Mother.
“Star, wait!” Candice quickly barked out.
Star looked at Candice quizzically. “If all she needs is magic, this’ll be easy.”
“In theory, yes, but with Alicorns, you have to be careful when they are unconscious. If they are unaware they will actively drain the caster as well,” Candice said, it seemed that she was a little bit embarrassed.
“So hence the need for the Mana… Storage.”
Star turned her attention to the ripple in the air, lighting her horn again. She started slow just testing how sturdy the spell form was. When nothing broke, she increased the flow rate. She settled at a level that left her horn feeling warm but not smoking.
Candice recoiled, Star looked up. The air that the beam of magic was flowing though seemed to be rippling, almost as if it might tear. All perfectly normal for this density of magic.
Star tilted her head, looking questioningly at Candice. “Is this not enough?” she asked earnestly.
Candice looked back in stunned silence.
’One’ time that was hilarious. Grey commented.
Star watched as yet another of the magic stores was emptied into her Mother. The things collapsed each time as she ripped the raw magic that held them together away, and absorbed it, as well as the contents.
The first thing to change was the breathing, it deepened becoming more powerful. The next thing was the ears flicking this way and that. They settled down, one pointing at each pony in the room.
“Mummy.” Star stopped charging the Magic storage and leapt at her Mother, enveloping her face and neck in a hug.
“Errr… wweeerh… what happened?” Her Mother slowly opened heavy-lidded eyes. She lifted her head, seemingly not noticing the attached Little Star.
Candice moved in sweeping her wings around Mother and helping support the weight of Little Star. “Take your time Twilight. I'm here for you.”
Slowly a light of understanding entered Mothers eyes. She nuzzled against Star as she relaxed in the embrace of Candice’s wings.
“Feel free to take your time Twilight, but I am curious what you did,” Candice stated.
Mother shifted a hoof up, pulling Little Star into a hug. Looking down, she focused on her new jewellery. She placed a hoof to the necklace. "I appear to have overexerted myself." She laughed weakly.
“Does that hold your passion in check?” Candice asked.
It was a strange question, it was an item to suppress fire aspected magic, not emotional magic.
Candice continued. “That's the best I can surmise from what I saw of the circle.”
Mother looked at the gem in its center. “I believe so, or should I say, I hope that it will,” Mother said, nuzzling Star again. Mother looked up and studied Candice’s face. It was clear she was focusing on the tear tracks.
With a little bit of shaking of the head, she used her larger size and might to reposition Candice and start grooming her coat. Each bit of attention soothing away another mark of sadness.
Star had to do her best not to laugh. Seeing a full-grown pony being treated like a little foal was just silly.
"Everything will be alright," Mother cooed to Candice, a hoof stroking through Star’s mane, letting her know she was not forgotten.
“I hope so,” Candice said longingly before continuing in a more neutral tone. “I know now why that happened last night at least. Your passion took control. Whatever you call her or she calls herself, she was in control, not you.”
That sounded bad, an emotion just being able to take control. That was a recipe for disaster.
Candice glanced to the necklace. “That's what the flames actually are. Her, she's your passion, the flames are her.”
Mother’s eyes narrowed for a moment. "How?" She asked levely. But there was an edge of worry to her body language, a tensing of her wings.
Candice was still there "I was a wreck last night, a serious wreck. I didn't know what to make of you. I felt my feelings for you shatter when you teleported me away instead of talking to me. I thought you threw Insight and I away.”
Who is Insight? Star thought.
“You have pledged yourself to me. Only treachery would make me cast you aside,” Mother answered.
Candice snuggled closer to Mother, nuzzling her. It seemed she had been really worried about that. Star imagined she would be upset too if she thought her Mother had abandoned her.
“I hate Celestia,” Candice continued. “I hate what she did to you. I hate that she made you so vulnerable to this. I hate that she decided what you should be and I hate that you suffer for it." Her tears were starting up again.
Star knew she was right not to trust Celestia. She listened carefully trying to not interrupt the conversation.
"Luna helped me last night. I didn't even sleep in the castle. I was on a cloud outside. But Luna helped me through most of it. She asked me to let her see what happened. I just felt lost. I screamed out at Celestia, I screamed out at whoever saved us. I was wondering why I was saved and manipulated into loving you if I couldn't save you from your suffering. Then Luna told be about Alicorn Minds. That's how I know. It's also why I'm so grateful the Nightmare saved you. Nightmare Moon, thank you. Twilight, I still love you. That's why it hurt so much."
Nightmare was just another of Mother’s names, What is this all about? Star thought.
Mother leaned down and nuzzled Candice. “I'm so sorry, “ She whispered.
“I know what happened now. I can accept it as it is. I can accept you as well, all of you, Even Moon, or Night, Or whatever she's calling herself.”
Mother smiled, “You really don't know what you are getting yourself into.” She gave Candice a light kiss on the cheek.
“I at least have a better idea now,” Candice said. There was a moment of hesitation before she continued. “Is there a chance I can talk to her? Moon, Night, whatever she is calling herself?”
“You already are,” Mother answered.
Candice kissed Mother and pulled her into a hug. "Thank you. Thank you for saving her. Thank you for anything you've done to help her." She gave her another kiss before the tears started falling again.
Star watched, the tears did not seem to be sad this time.
Mother leaned down and nuzzled Star with a happy smile. “Then you also need to thank my Little Star. " Mother nodded her head to Little Star. "She did a lot of the saving herself."
Star could feel pride swell within her, yes she had saved her Mother. She felt one of the large wings of Candice wrap her in an embrace.
“Thank you, Little Star,” Candice said.
The problem had been solved, and everything was going to be alright.
Mummy looked to Candice and Little Star, “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. Shall we get something to eat?”
Mummy got up, placing Little Star on her back. To Star being back on her Mother's back was more supporting evidence that everything was going to be fine.
Her Mother advanced towards the door. Her magic reached out to the door of the room. The wards were cancelled as she hit all the right little spots in them. As she opened the door, Little Star heard the sounds of shouting somewhere down the hall.
She heard Rainbow Dash’s voice, “What the BUCK did you do to Twilight?”