The Quiet Place
[Disclaimer: I own nothing of the MLP franchise and all rights are reserved by Hasbro and the respective parties involved.]
Chapter 9: Legacy of Grace
Books danced in the air within the cocoon of Trixie's distinct blue telekinetic aura. She waved her hooves in a comical, emphatic manner while recounting her actions during the lonely down time in Ponyville. The apprentice enjoyed continuing her magic shows as a hobby now, rather than as a career path. Twilight smiled and nodded, enjoying the spirit of the display, always happy to assist her when they were together. As the night developed, she found herself ready to slip into the serious discussion she needed, even if Trixie's antics brought never-ending waves of pride and joy.
Trixie moved and shuffled her props around quickly and excitedly, unable to suppress her enthusiasm around her master. "...And then it was like,"--she clacked two of the books together--"and that was my grand finale!" she finished, and having all of the books spring open and flutter their pages simultaneously.
Twilight gave a cheerful clap, but inwardly cringed at the lack of care given to the reading material used. "Your magic shows are always the best, Trixie, and seem to grow in skill and elegance every time you do them. I'm happy you enjoy being such a devoted member of Ponyville's community now. I don't think it'll be that long before you're inducted into the royal court as an archmage yourself," replied Twilight while adding a boastful grin.
Trixie's ears perked up and her heart skipped a beat to the idea. Her stage name was still the more popular moniker for her, but Archmage sounded just as good for a new one. The weight of the title came bearing down upon her as she recalled how much more powerful and wise Twilight was when she received hers. The bitter memories that flowed back seemed like a silly anecdote to her now.
Drawing in a deep breath to collect herself, Trixie sat down and blushed while staring at her master. "Do... Do you really think I could?" she asked in wonder.
Twilight snatched the magician in her magic and pulled her into a hug, adding a gentle noogie with it. "Of course I do! You're my student and my recommendation has a lot of pull in the royal court. I know it won't be that long before you're ready, if you're not already," she said.
"Ohhh, I can't wait! Then I could be with you even more," Trixie squealed, daydreaming at the thought. "Wait," she said, stopping and blinking. She looked up to Twilight with curious eyes. "Won't I have to take on my own student?"
Twilight snickered and released her embrace. "Actually, no. It's completely optional. Celestia suggested I should do it and I thought it'd be a great opportunity to see you again, and..." Twilight blushed. "Well, you know. It couldn't have gone much better than I'd hoped."
Trixie giggled, then the shine of Telos caught her attention and she craned her neck to view the object. "Hey, you've been carrying that thing around for a while now. Is that a new staff?" she asked while pointing to it.
"This? Oh..." Twilight trailed off. This isn't too important to the mission, and I want... Hmm, why not? she thought.
"Trixie, allow me to introduce you--this is... Telos," she said as the staff moved to her and slowly rotated for a full inspection.
The magician's expression immediately lit up as she noticed Twilight's horn not emitting any magic. That design, the way it moves! All of the books she was levitating snapped shut and fell into a messy stack on a nearby table. "N-no way! That’s the Holy Wand of Telos? It’s actually real?" she cried in awe. "Oh my gosh, I can't believe my master is the master of Telos!" she continued to gush.
"Yes, it is. It's a gift for my... um... uh..." Twilight's eyes darted around the room as she attempted to come up with a reasonable explanation, "status," she finished with a doubtful sigh. "Perhaps some day it could even be yours," she mused aloud. The staff immediately transformed into a wand and sprinkled magical dust on top of Trixie that trickled down and disappeared in a small poof. Trixie squealed in delight at the demonstration nodding to her cutie mark. Telos resumed its inert appearance when it finished.
"Wow, that's amazing! What else can it do? I've only heard stories about it. Well, there are only stories to hear about it." Twilight found the magician to be overwhelmingly adorable to watch when she was excited about something, and she enjoyed the extra attention she now received, a playful smirk running across her lips.
"The wielder can will it into many forms and it will move on its own, without the help of magic, but it takes a lot of focus. That's enough for now, though," she said. "I have to bring up a more serious topic," she added. Her voice became much lower, hanging in the air just above a whisper. "Trixie, I know you will keep a secret for me, or for the good of all of Equestria. As such, I have asked Celestia and Luna for permission to reveal to you what is going to happen over the next few years," she explained, her words bringing a heavy atmosphere into the room. Trixie began to fidget, nervous at the sudden change in her master's demeanor.
Twilight stood up and Telos swiftly returned to her back. Her eyes closed, following with it a frightening calm. She opened her wings slowly through the melded duskweave. Trixie's eyes widened and she gasped, words escaping beyond her thoughts. She could only stare as the large wings spread from seemingly nowhere and expanded to match the wingspan of the princesses. Twilight turned to stare sadly at the stack of books on the table before continuing.
"In the next few years, the dragons are expected to declare war and attempt to overtake Equestria. I have... ascended into an alicorn and have been tasked, along with Rainbow Dash, to help stop this war as quickly as possible in a surgical strike. Telos was given to me to help with this, and I will be spending those next few years with Rainbow training in Canterlot. What I have shown you--my new body, my weapon--none of it, along with what I have said tonight, is to ever leave this conversation. Do you understand?" Twilight asked with a forced, hushed voice, turning to gaze into Trixie's shocked eyes.
The magician scanned her master's body several times during the long silence, processing all that she had just learned. "I... I... understand," she said finally, a meek voice being all she could muster.
Twilight's ears folded back and she placed a hoof on the magician's shoulder. "I know that this is so much to tell you all at once and I'm sorry for that. All of this was laid on me only just recently, and I'm still recovering from the ascension process. I came to visit my friends in Ponyville as well as to relax and finish resting up. However, I want you to come with me back to Canterlot permanently. I want you by my side through all of this..." she said, her tone almost begging the magician.
"Of course I'll come with you," exclaimed Trixie without a second thought. "Who do you think you're asking?"
"Please, Trixie, think this over. It's not going to be easy, and you can leave at any time you feel overwhelmed by any of it," whispered Twilight, moving closer to her.
Trixie could feel her breath on her face, and suddenly looked up with a confused expression. "Hey, did you get taller?" she asked while attempting to release some of the tension in the air.
"Yes, it’s from the transformation," Twilight answered swiftly.
There was long pause of silence as both mares thought. Twilight eyed Trixie up and down as she waited for an answer. Trixie stared into her eyes, already knowing what her heart wanted. Nothing would hold her back.
"I will follow you to the end of the world, Twilight Sparkle," she whispered back, a grin forming on her lips.
Twilight embraced Trixie once more and returned the gesture. "Friendship may be magic, but I’m sure love is something else entirely," she whispered into her ear through a smile. She wrapped her wings around her before Trixie nuzzled into the crook of her neck.
"I think just magic is good enough for me."
"Ah, you've returned, my faithful knight," greeted Celestia to the arrival of Rainbow Dash, a powerful gale flowing into the castle behind her as she landed in a central corridor.
Dash nodded and saluted. "Thank you Princess, and thank you again for letting us have some time off to visit friends and family. It was nice to get to spend some time with them, especially with Scootaloo," she responded.
Twilight flashed into the castle several minutes later holding Trixie as she stood on her hind legs. Setting her down gently, she returned to a casual stance and her cloak dropped down to cover most her body again. The height difference between them was slightly more noticeable as Twilight bore a proud stance.
"Sorry, we're late, Celestia. I've brought along another companion to join us, as I've requested as well," she said. Dash cocked an eyebrow to her.
"But I thought you said-"
"Casual appearance, Rainbow," the archmage interrupted.
"Don't worry about it. You've succeeded in convincing your protégé to come along after all, I see," said Celestia as she examined Trixie carefully. The magician brought her cape and hat and smiled back meekly, trying to maintain a worthy composure.
"H-Hello, Your Majesty," she said nervously, fastidiously adjusting her hat to perfection.
Celestia chuckled. "At ease, young apprentice. There is no need for formalities here. For example, has our new Princess, Twilight Sparkle, briefed you as to what is to come?” she asked teasingly.
Trixie snorted and Twilight gasped and blushed. "Uh, Celestia. I sort of left that stuff out..." she said in a hushed voice.
"Wait, so you're a princess now?" blurted out Trixie confusedly.
Twilight waved her forelegs in protest to the notion. "Shhh. No. Well... Technically yes, but still no. It's just because I'm an... alicorn now," she whispered. "And this mission is important, so they want to give me all of the privileges of one."
Trixie couldn't contain herself again and giggled. "Oh, so my master is that much more amazing," she teased, clasping her face with her front hooves and leaning against the faux princess.
Celestia cleared her throat loudly to get the attention of all three. "Yes, well. Twilight. While your training will exceed Trixie's maximum potential, you have all of the wisdom to train her in your hoofsteps as an archmage. She will follow along as best she can with you and Knight Dash. Come, Lord Devon is awaiting you three in the courtyard." The sun princess motioned for them to follow.
“Hey, who’s Lord Devon?” whispered Trixie, holding a foreleg to one side of her mouth as she spoke.
Twilight loosed an aggravated groan. “I’ll let you know if I ever find that out myself." Trixie raised an eyebrow as she followed along, replying with a confused, "What?"
The trio strode through the castle to a more privatized courtyard within. It wasn't something often seen in a typical tour, most of its usage coming from officials and noble scholars wishing for a place for private study or peaceful meditation. The stone path cut to an open area with well-tended grass. As they arrived, Celestia bowed and departed to attend to her regal duties, chuckling to herself as she left them with the mysterious Devon. He stood as still as a statue with his back to them, enshrouded from head to hoof with a sandy robe, and the magical book chained once more to his side.
"Greetings. Shall we begin?" he asked without turning.
Dash rolled her eyes and Trixie raised an eyebrow when Twilight bowed. "Yes, Lord Devon. We're ready," Twilight said respectfully, straightening her posture.
Devon turned to speak to them directly this time. "Very well then. You will practice wielding Telos as you would any other staff. I want you to utilize it to exhaust yourself and understand the drain of the Great Magic you will use. Below Canterlot and to the north are empty fields. Flash freeze the land and then defrost it without damaging the plant life. Teleport there and begin at once. I will watch over you and intervene should you lose control your abilities." His voice seemed faintly concerned as his eyes shifted between the three ponies.
"As for Apprentice Lulamoon and Commander Dash, they will remain here in the meantime and meditate in this courtyard," he stated.
With another bow Twilight vanished within a small flash of light. Dash's face reflected her disappointment while Trixie showed a bit more enthusiasm, and a tinge of confusion.
The pegasus loosed a loud groan. "Really? Meditation? C'mon, that's so boring! What else could I possibly want to spend my afternoon doing?" Dash blurted sarcastically, earning a glare from Devon.
"Um, ok. But what exactly are we meditating on?" asked Trixie. "Unicorns usually have a focal point when meditating."
Devon's expression shifted to a small smile. "Indeed they do. Focus on expansion and nature. You are to feel and synchronize with the world around you, and find a calm within that. Trixie, your magic will allow you to directly interact with the natural world around you. Gather in the energy within the life here. It will be an unusual experience, but I will know when you have accomplished this when the grass begins to react. Lie down," he said while motioning with a hoof.
Dash folded her forelegs across her chest while Trixie laid down on the soft grass, shuffling into comfort and closing her eyes. She let her mind wander freely to distracting thoughts, slowly tuning out the rest of the world in that moment. She could feel nothing new or different at first, until she began focusing on the warmth of the sun upon her body. Soon she began to feel... Green? Huh? she wondered. Suddenly, she was overwhelmed by the sensations of many things at once. She could feel the grass around her bending to every tiny sweep of wind or draft, or the heat upon all of them receiving the sun's radiance at once. Every new feeling that joined came with the same intensity as the last. The feelings soon began to suffocate her mind and she broke the meditation with a start, jumping and gasping for air.
Devon smirked at her. "You truly are an archmage's apprentice. It usually takes much longer for unicorns to interact with the nature around them," he said, motioning to a few newly blooming flowers around her.
"That... was... incredible," panted Trixie. She looked around in awe and noticed the flowers that began to poke through the grass were perfectly encircling her. That nature-lover Fluttershy would really envy something like this.
"Keep at it. In time, you will learn to sense more than just the grass around you. This is an ability that takes years for most to fully develop, but it also increases your magical capacity and spell focus. Find that attunement to nature and maintain its calm, and do not lose yourself to the feelings of everything. Control them, understand them, but do not attempt to breathe life into the world," he said with a cautious inflection.
"I made the flowers bloom, didn't I? Why shouldn't I try to grow a garden or something?"
Devon's eyes lowered and he began in a heavier tone. "Look again." He motioned to the flowers having receded back into the earth. "Creation or restoration of life is not something that can be forced. In theory, it is possible, but the amount of magic necessary is implausibly irresponsible at best, catastrophically dangerous at worst."
"And I have to do the same thing as her? She said that was for unicorns," chimed Dash disdainfully.
"Your meditation goal is for a similar calm. You are brash and hotheaded, yet you are a great flier, better than many seen in a long time-"
"Wait a minute! Just how old are you?" interrupted the knight, crossing her forelegs across her chest.
"That is irrelevant," replied Devon impatiently. "Now, lie down and focus yourself. I want you to build upon your instincts. For example, imagine yourself flying within your mind. The crisp air against your face, the wind beneath your wings. You will learn to maneuver with skill and precision, even under extreme stress. But this is still training of the mind," he explained with slight doubt.
"Fine, fine," Dash grumbled, pushing her hooves outward. She laid down and closed her eyes, her search to find her inner calm beginning without a real sense of direction. This is going to be such a pain, she thought to herself.
After settling into the grass and getting comfortable, she began to daydream. Her mind wandered to blissful memories, like achieving her fillyhood dream of flying with the Wonderbolts, only she wasn't a filly anymore. Eventually, Celestia herself picked her to serve the kingdom as an elite soldier, with some help from her friends. She began to imagine flying at high speeds, performing all of her tricks and signature Sonic Rainboom. Lastly, she imagined flying around trees and racing through a forest, snaking between every trunk she could at high speeds with someone she cherished more than anything else in the world. Try to keep up! they teased.
"Hey... hey! Wake up! This isn't a time for napping, it's for meditating!" barked Devon as he smacked Dash awake.
The pegasus shook her head and batted the hoof away, groaning and rubbing the side of her face. "But I was meditating! What the hay, man!?" she yelled back, wiping drool from her mouth.
"I'll be assisting you this time since it's significantly more difficult for pegasi to meditate on a whim," he said before placing his hooves on her forehead. "Lie down and try to relax once more."
She laid back down while he sat beside her, his hooves remaining in place. He began to channel magic through her, a quiet buzz moving through her head, and she went silent with the calm that washed over her. Everything seemed as if it were engulfed in darkness, but every part of her body felt as free in it as she did when she took to the open skies. After a few moments of wandering, the world opened up to a new light and atmosphere. She had gained perfect control over the vividness of her imagination.
A large flash of light boomed in the northern fields below Canterlot, a gust of air sweeping the grass outward from its point of origin. Twilight appeared and stepped away from the transfer point, exhaling loudly, then taking in a deep breath of the fresh air. Telos orbited her as she strode further towards a center distance between Canterlot's mountain and the far edge of the empty field. The white staff shined in contrast to the alicorn's dark, ominous attire, and her lonely presence itself stood out of place among the sea of green. Flash freezing is easy enough. But thawing without damaging the flora... It can't be that hard... Twilight gulped, peering around. Can it?
Twilight's horn began with a furious glow, and Telos raised above the ground in front of her. The gem within the spire began to emit a deep blue and the force of the energy it channeled ruffled her cloak. The grass bent to an invisible stream of wind as the energy culminated into a spell.
Telos came slamming down to the ground. "SHIVA!" called out Twilight, and the ground froze instantly from beneath the staff, spreading outward in an expanding nova that coated all of the earth around. The spell cut through the surface and penetrated into the ground creating an icy permafrost. Twilight glanced around to the now-stilled fields in awe. So this is the power of Telos. It looks like I went overboard. She walked around slowly, the frozen grass crunching and breaking in the wake of distracted hoofsteps. A vague picture of a pony;s head had been lightly imprinted into the frost by the spell itself. The sudden freezing brought forth a drastic temperature change and the alicorn found herself shivering as a wandering gust swept through. She pulled her cloak down and against the wind, her teeth beginning to chatter.
How do I defrost this without destroying the land? Celestia could do that with the sun and enough time... Hmm. That gives me an idea...
She stopped and Telos rose much higher than before, remaining at the epicenter of where the frost began. With a thought, it began to glow orange and the temperature around rapidly escalated to a sweltering heat. The ice quickly began to melt, but the frozen plants were wilting the moment the layer of ice vanished. Come on... Lower the heat... she thought, shifting her efforts into gating the powerful amplification of Telos with delicate precision. The plants stopped wilting as the ice melted away from them. Success! she cheered inwardly, unknowingly beaming. The field returned with only mild loss of plant life. She breathed out in relief as the staff went silent and returned to her back.
Clapping rang up from behind the alicorn and she jumped, turning around quickly to see who could've arrived at the field without her knowledge. "Most impressive. You possess an extreme aptitude for magic, but your goal was to flash freeze it, and then flash thaw it," Devon said with a placid expression and even tone.
"I didn't even sense you," remarked Twilight in disbelief. "You're quite skilled for somepony I've never met... or heard of. Tell me, just who are you exactly?"
"Who I am is of no concern to you. I am to train you for your impending mission and nothing more." Devon coughed and adjusted the chain around his neck. "It seems you have a grasp on your new powers already, however weak it may be. An impressive shift in control to go along with manipulating the climate of a large area temporarily. Such work would not be so easily possible without Telos or your alicorn traits. Come, your student also has a high aptitude for nature as well." Devon motioned for her with a hoof and smiled.
Twilight stepped closer to him and teleported them both back to the private courtyard in Canterlot. The flash of light failed to startle the two ponies lying on the grass. Dash and Trixie were idly meditating when they returned. They each opened their eyes to calmly greet them.
"Well that was fast," said Dash with genuine surprise.
"That's a pretty interesting compliment coming from you," mocked Twilight, earning raspberries from the knight.
"Yeah, I have a feeling I'm going to be saying it a lot..." Dash mused aloud.
"Hey, Twilight! I never knew there was this magic where you could feel nature and communicate with it all around you," said Trixie, still mystified by her experiences. Twilight's brow arched as she studied her apprentice's face.
"Communication with nature is a rarely developed skill and most unicorns are never able to perform anything beyond a simple touch," explained Devon.
"Am I right to assume I will learn it as well?" asked Twilight.
Devon nodded and pointed next to Trixie. "Yes, yes. Go and join your apprentice. With her having a head start, I wonder who will be able to utilize it first," he pondered.
Twilight pursed her bottom lip before laying next to Trixie. Dash stood up and backed away to watch. Twilight's body emanated a faint green aura and the flowers from Trixie's interaction began to flourish once more beside ones surrounding Twilight herself.
"There are... 327 guards, 72 faculty--excluding us, and of course, the princesses," she said with her eyes closed. "I can feel... so much," she added with awe. The drain on her magic reserves was staggering. Scrying all of the castle personnel at once on her first attempt took excessive amounts of effort.
"Wow~! You never told me about any of this, Twilight," exclaimed Trixie, breaking her concentration.
Twilight opened her eyes and began panting, a few droplets of sweat running down the side of her face. "That's... the first time... I've ever done... anything like this," she managed confusedly between large breaths of air.
"I believe Telos and your alicorn traits are to thank for that. It would seem they've given you an alignment with the natural world." Devon smiled as he studied the grass. "It would also appear that we can skip that part of your training--for now."
"Can we take a break? I'd like to stretch my wings a bit, and maybe race Rainbow Dash," asked Twilight. Dash's ears immediately perked up to the idea, and she smirked.
Standing up and placing her forehooves to her hips, the pegasus stared at the alicorn with pride. "You think you can beat the Rainbow Dash in a race?" Twilight laughed and Trixie snorted.
"What better way to test them out than a race? But first, you must disguise yourself to the prying eyes of the world," said Devon. "We can't have a new alicorn suddenly appearing from Canterlot."
With a nod, Twilight's body color began to shift into a white, complete with a mark from the royal guard. The duskweave finished the transformation with the help of her magic and she appeared as a bleached pegasus, complete with a blue mane and tail. The new lightness of her horn would be difficult to see in the distance during the day, effectively becoming invisible.
"Let's go, Rainbow." Telos, watch over my student, she thought. The staff laid down beside Trixie as her master took to the air, her large white wings appearing as angelic as Celestia's.
"Alright, first one to Ponyville and back wins," yelled Dash as she accelerated up and away.
With a deep breath, Twilight raced after her, her wings beating hard to catch up. Flying at maximum speed felt unusual, but she was surprised she could initially keep up with Dash's restrained speed. The frequent flier caught her in a glance and sped up, though, and the alicorn began trailing behind several hundred yards by the time the pegasus reached Ponyville. Dash was taking the race as serious as any other and pushing her limits with her armor on. Twilight began to draft her as best as she could, but on the return trip, she ultimately fell too far behind to make any use of the technique.
The knight landed hard and skidded along an outdoor stone path at the castle. "Aww, yeah! Still the best flier in all of Equestria," she declared triumphantly, striking a pose.
Twilight dropped in behind her, panting and wiping sweat from her brow. "Even with your armor on you're still much faster than me with just a cloak." She took in deep breaths and exhaled slowly, closing her eyes and sucking in the cool air through her nose. "Thank you, Rainbow," she said as she shrugged a little. Her wings furled back up and disappeared within her coat as it returned to its vibrant purple.
They returned to the courtyard to find Trixie had continued meditating again, a few more flowers blooming in the ring around her. Several sweat drops ran down her face, but she kept her shut tight.
"Telos can amplify any user's magic, if you allow it. It seems that your student has tapped into its latent abilities somewhat," Devon said to Twilight.
"I feel... some of them. The ponies in the castle, just like Twilight did. This is... unbelievable," breathed the unicorn in astonishment. Telos boosted her abilities like a generator into accomplishing a much weaker sense of the world around her. Without the natural talent and new traits her master possessed, she could do no more.
Twilight laid down and began to feel out the world again. She was able to do so, even without Telos's assistance, but the feeling was fainter. She could sense everything as small glimmers within her mind, each radiating dependent on how powerful their presence was. Unicorns appeared much brighter than earth ponies and pegasi, with the princesses shining as bright as her first attempt; however, the drain on her magic without the help of Telos forced her to stop.
"Your magical capacity is far beyond that of any normal unicorn now. Do not feel so surprised when it runs dry, though," said Devon. "Here," he said, disconnecting the chain around his neck and taking the book in his hooves. "Some homework for you and your apprentice." He passed the book to Twilight who took it in her magic. "I'm sure two ponies such as yourselves will enjoy the knowledge within. Study it well and you will accomplish many great things. Let us retire for today. I believe you have made much progress for a single session already."
Twilight stared at the book, as if it was the gateway to a new dimension of magical enlightenment. An absentminded hoof slid across the cover, its perfect creation and enigmatic presence inciting feelings of wonder and awe. Devon stepped to her and placed a hoof over the cover, snapping the alicorn out of her trance. "Knowledge is power, Twilight Sparkle, Trixie Lulamoon. Do not abuse it." The alicorn and unicorn exchanged nervous glances.
The trio of students split up for the rest of the day, the knight resigning herself to other obligations while the magical ponies returned to their chambers. Twilight's luxurious room had been outfitted with everything the princesses had. Trixie insisted that she share a room with Twilight, despite being offered a quality one for herself as an archmage's apprentice previously. Celestia was kind enough to oblige and upgraded Twilight's to accommodate the additional unicorn's preferences and needs.
The door to the chambers silently swung open to a meticulously organized room. Eager to study the mysterious tome, both mares plopped onto the bed and began scanning through its contents as soon as they were settled in. Trixie lazily tossed her hat and cape onto the floor, much to Twilight's chagrin, and she magically hung all of their garments onto a rack.
They poured their focus into the pages, quickly finding interest in the varied topics. The cover read, Gifts of the Cosmos, and delved into unusual and advanced levels of magic, some neither had ever even heard of before. Concepts like theories of natural interaction, Holy magic, alicorn powers and traits, and spell combinations were the first to be noticed. It was the codex for any master mage to study through and through. Twilight marveled at what the book might actually contain, ready to learn.
"Wow, we're really going to be learning all of this stuff?" asked Trixie in disbelief.
"Maybe not all, but I'm definitely interested in the Holy magic. The power to heal..." she mumbled aloud.
"What about your teleportation ability? You're the only unicorn--now an alicorn--that I know of that could. Is there any information on that?" asked Trixie, her eyes trailing from the book, and then down Twilight's body.
"I don't know if that's something that can be taught. I don’t see it mentioned anywhere in here, and Devon made it sound like it was a rare innate skill. It's not going to be very helpful, though. I can’t teleport anywhere far that I haven’t already been to. The mission is going to take us to the Brood’s territory and we’ll be hoofing it. I've never seen it and a picture won't work," replied Twilight, slightly agitated at the sudden limitations of her gift.
Telos propped up beside the bed and provided light for them to read. The book's concepts and theses presented were difficult to understand at first, but they continued to read further along. Twilight started to absorb the fundamentals while Trixie attempted to understand them by bouncing questions off of Twilight. The cosmic magicks Celestia and Luna used to control the sun and moon were mentioned, though it said the ability was natural and could not be taught through any normal means. Normal means, huh? Does that mean it's still possible? With this book, I bet anything here is possible.
The better part of the night was spent perusing the Holy magic section. Twilight resolved to study it as hard as she could, the abilities themselves requiring copious amounts of magic to utilize. Unfortunately for her, she needed to understand the ability to combine elements seamlessly to realize the usage of them. The two mares spent the night studying and giving first attempts at the basics--or in their case, master-level techniques. Neither could come close to achieving any of the goals during the first night.
"Arise, young ladies, for it is the morning," said Luna to the sleeping mares with a cheerful tone.
Twilight fell asleep drooling on the book with Trixie laying over, and drooling on, her. Telos was idle across the bed beside them, no longer emitting any light. The voice cut through their dreams and they began to stir and awaken. With some yawning and moan-filled stretching, the pair of mares opened their eyes to Luna pulling back the curtains, glorious sunlight washing over the room. The new light was quickly deemed unwelcome by the refreshed eyes, and they groaned and raised their hooves over their faces.
"Oh, man. I haven't studied until I've crashed in months," Twilight muttered as she wiped her mouth.
Trixie took a bit longer to respond, standing and swaying as she yawned several more times. "That's," she started while magically reaching for a mane brush, "a pretty cool book. I guess we owe Devon one." She seized the brush as it wobbled in the air and pulled it to her, but Twilight's magic overtook it, prying it from her grasp and she set to brushing her mane and tail first, the magician frowning as she was forced to wait her turn.
"Come. Breakfast has already been prepared. There is also a matter that requires Apprentice Lulamoon's attention. I believe she will be most intrigued," said Luna as she wandered out of the room.
The pair exchanged confused glances. Trixie snatched the brush from Twilight's magic with her hoof and groomed herself manually, fearing the alicorn might steal it again were she to let go. "I need to look my best, you know. You have all the credit and respect." She stuck her tongue out at Twilight, but the alicorn only giggled and kissed her on the cheek.
As they departed their chambers, Twilight slid the book beneath her cloak and straightened it. Telos moved to perch on her back once she finished. Trixie donned a more typical archmage's cloak instead of her usual, starry magician's garb. When Twilight gave her a surprised look, she stared back and offered an indignant, "What?"
The alicorn shook her head and stretched her wings before leaving. The trip to the dining hall was filled with laughter and playful shoving between the mares. When they arrived just outside of the hall, they straightened and recomposed themselves before entering, Trixie resisting the urge to make her better half falter in the process.
They arrived at the breakfast table to find Rainbow Dash, Devon and the princesses already dining on one end. Breakfast itself was uneventful, the party eating from the usual array of top quality delicacies, but Twilight noticed that Devon did not eat anything at all. She attempted to offer him food, to which he passed upon and said he wasn't hungry. Afterwards, he would follow up with furthering small talk among them.
Celestia stood up and cleared her throat, wiping her mouth with a napkin. "I'd like all of you to accompany me to the throne room today. There is something I'd like to discuss with your apprentice there," she said while looking at Twilight. Trixie began to fidget uncomfortably when Celestia's unreadable gaze fell upon her.
"What is it?" asked Twilight, casting a quick glance to her apprentice.
Celestia shook her head. "We will discuss it in the throne room only," she repeated with the same tone.
The princesses took the lead to the throne with Devon following directly behind. Twilight, Trixie, and Dash trailed behind, with the magician threatening to hyperventilate. "What do you think is happening?" she asked in a hushed voice to the others.
"I don't know, Trixie. Is there something you've done that would make you worry?" whispered back Twilight. The question brought a small sense of ease to her as she thought it through.
"Hey, are you two going to screw around all day?" Dash interrupted, a motioning hoof the throne doors hooking their attention. The princesses had already gone in, and Dash shook her head before following after, the sound of her armor punctuating her impatience.
"Trixie, if you haven't done anything you should worry about, you'll be fine. I'm sure it's nothing bad," consoled Twilight.
The magician nodded. "You're right. It's probably just nothing," she said, adding a nervous laugh to the end of it. As the mares entered the throne, they saw the magi council and Dash lined up near the throne, all watching Trixie as she entered. Twilight resisted the urge to crack a grin while Trixie resisted the urge to bolt for the door in a sudden, unfamiliar bout of stage fright.
"Trixie," started Celestia, straightening her stance to look as regal as possible. "The Magi Council, Luna and I feel as though you are ready to bear the title,"--Trixie gave a vain attempt at suppressing a squeal of delight--"of Archmage, though your ceremony must be put on hold for the time being." The magician's sunny expression cracked slightly, but she was still overwhelmed with a grin. "As you know, this isn't a decision that is made lightly and requires an eighty percent vote, as well as the approval of Princess Luna and I. To help this along, you have also come with Archmage Twilight Sparkle's highest recommendation, and despite being her apprentice, we trust her evaluation is unbiased and fair, and that holds significant merit."
Twilight beamed her congratulations to Trixie, but the magician still wasn't quite ready to speak. “From this day forward, I may proudly endow you with the title of Archmage... should you accept that is," Celestia said, her last words coming out in a casual teasing manner.
Trixie stared at her shaking hooves, unable to believe what she heard. I'm being promoted... she thought, to my master's level! She whirled around and latched on to Twilight, squeezing her as tight as she could and picking her up off the floor, though threatening to fall backwards from her new weight.
"Hey, put me down," Twilight protested as she was twirled around and ignored at the same time.
"Well, Apprentice Lulamoon?" interrupted Luna. "You must verbally accept before you can officially be recorded as an archmage."
"I-I accept, Your M-Majesty," she stammered, releasing her master and kneeling down as graciously as she could in a single motion. Her body still trembled and she was ready to collapse from the shock.
Celestia nodded and smiled warmly. "Then I hereby declare you 'Archmage' Trixie Lulamoon." Applause filled the air from the counsel, and Twilight playfully tugged Trixie's cowl down over her face. "You will need to acquire a staff of your own now," added Celestia, "as all archmagi are to bear one."
“Congrats, Trix!” chimed in Dash with a smirk, trotting down to roughly pat the newest archmage on the back.
Trixie leaned close and whispered, "If you call me Trix again, I will end you." Dash stuck her tongue out, earning an aggravated glare from the magician.
"We're all very proud of you, Trixie," chimed in Luna, if only to prevent the two mares from beating each other down in the throne room.
"Not to worry. I've already gotten her a staff," said Twilight in response to Celestia, ignoring the hushed disagreement. She turned to Trixie and met her now-piqued expression. "It's nothing like mine, but it served me well and will do just fine for you."
Twilight vanished for a moment and left her former apprentice confused. Upon reappearing seconds later, she was holding out her gift. The staff was wrapped in a black cloth with Trixie’s cutie mark embroidered into the middle. Trixie immediately levitated it into her own hooves, one of them distractedly running itself over the cutie mark. As she set to unwrapping it, she gasped and her eyes lit up as a metallic green staff began to come into view. It was similar in design to Telos's idle state, though it lacked many details of the artifact, and its spire did not bear any pieces that magically gyrated around it. She squealed in delight and hugged her master, the staff becoming sandwiched between them.
"Thank you, Twilight!"
"Now what kind of mentor would I be if I never got you anything, especially your very own staff on your inauguration as an Archmage?" Trixie pulled away and shot her an incredulous look.
"Did you know about this, or did you just have that staff prepared in case?"
Twilight rolled her eyes and beamed innocently, adding, "Just in case."
"Archmage Lulamoon," interjected Luna. "You will continue pursuing your current studies and we will hold a ceremony for you in due time. We have great expectations of you, so do not hesitate in furthering yourself beyond what you are now."
Celestia nodded. "Indeed. Now, why don’t you three go and celebrate a bit on your own? Take the day off to enjoy these moments."
Dash gave a hoof pump. "Aww, yeah!" she added, and the trio of mares trotted out of the throne, eager to party the day away.
Leaving the castle, Trixie was a huge ball of energy, constantly dancing around, hugging her gift, and excitedly recounting the of the events that had just transpired, despite her friends having been in the same room watching the entire time. As they wandered about the city discussing where they would celebrate, Twilight left the decision to the newest archmage.
"Anywhere I want?" asked Trixie, a sly smirk spreading across her face.
"Anywhere you want," echoed Twilight while following Trixie's glance.
"To the city plaza," she announced with comical determination as she pointed a hoof in a seemingly random directly.
Twilight arched a brow. "Really? You've just been given the highest and most prestigious position a combat-active unicorn can achieve and your idea of a celebration is a magic show you host?" Dash rolled her eyes and tried not to laugh.
Trixie gave an intentionally overdone whine. "But Twiiiliiiight. We can drink to celebrate afterwards, I promise," she said with the whine still lining her voice.
Twilight snorted and shook her head. "Alright, I can't wait to see what you can do now, though. You better not disappoint." She cracked a grin and quickly rubbed Trixie's head, ruffling her mane. The magician grumbled and straightened it before leading them onward.
They made their way to central Canterlot where the largest crowd of ponies would be moving about at any given time of the day. To Twilight's surprise, the area was lacking in space due to the sheer amount of ponies there were there so early in the day. Trixie took to a large fountain's edge and began barking and boasting her skills, her preceding reputation drawing in many that were already familiar with her name. Dash visibly gagged and all eyes settled onto Trixie. She smirked and began her show, her own eyes focusing on Twilight every chance she could confidently peel herself from a practiced display.
Each movement of her hooves weaved more intricately a vivid display of her magician's abilities, her showmareship forever unmatched and the help of her new staff amplified the potential within her work. Fireworks had become a thing of the past, and her new shows were composed of breathtaking creations of light, spectral imagery, and visual distortion. Twilight smiled through the entire show, occasionally winking in an attempt to throw the magician off her game. As the show began to wind down, the crowd broke into an uproar of cheers, whistles, and praise. A random fan even shouted a marriage proposal to which Twilight nervously laughed off when Dash broke into a fit of laughter.
Trixie bowed several times and left the fountain's edge to rejoin her friends. The party of three settled on a nearby bar to more appropriately celebrate away their free day. It didn't take long before Trixie attempted to flaunt her new title in an effort to acquire free drinks, but the bartender refused, citing that she had to pay "like any other privileged citizen," much to the magician's chagrin.
"Ya know... It's not entirely fair of you guys to drink in front of me, what with me being the Captain of the Royal Guard and all," said Dash sarcastically aloud.
Twilight scoffed and smacked a hoof lightly to her forehead. "Given that you're a Celestial Knight, and not a Captain anymore, you've already forfeited your captain's responsibilities to another pony when you accepted your promotion. That, and you're drinking anyway, you silly filly. I don't think there's anything unfair about it at all," Twilight countered before downing a shot of cider.
"That's-! But..." pouted Dash, her ears drooping as she took a gulp of a particularly frothy beverage of choice.
"Oh, lighten up, Rainbow. I'm only joking. You're a pretty lazy knight that tries to bend the rules anyway," Twilight added before taking another shot.
"You're not helping..." the knight added again with a downcast look.
The trio continued drinking into the evening before they finally decided they'd had enough. As they staggered across the streets of Canterlot towards the castle, slurring and joking about, they were hustled along by an occasional city guard, eager to dump the drunken ponies on someone else's watch lest they need to clean up a mess of vomit. The constant stumbles and occasional word salad made them an amusing spectacle for ponies out taking an evening stroll.
"Yah know..." began Twilight aloud. "That Devon iz a shtrange one. I think he'z hidin’ somethiiiiin’," she slurred, wobbling back and forth with each precarious step.
"Well... his timing is most... untimely," was all Trixie could contribute, her inebriation hindering her vocabulary. "I sound like Rarity," she added with a giggle.
"Whatever. C'mon, let's get back home before one of you passes out out here. We'll find out who he is eventually," said Dash, demonstrating a better grasp of her liquor.
Despite Twilight's heavy intoxication, she still couldn't help but dwell on the strangeness of the pony known as Lord Devon. Something about him felt vaguely familiar now, yet there were no clues as to who he was before the day of his first appearance. She pursed her lips and reminisced on his presence as a magic user. Empty, she thought.
She cast a hazy glance up to the moon, its white beauty full and charming. "You better keep look'n!" she shouted to it, earning more surprised and confused stares from the ponies nearby. She wasn't sure if Luna could use it to observe or not, but her drunken mind wanted to amuse the moon princess if she could.
"Dear sister, why did we not present Trixie Lulamoon with an archmage's ceremony? All of the appropriate counsel were summoned, even if its grandeur was not of Twilight Sparkle's or any other mage's own ceremony," said Luna, her eyes laying incredulously over her sister's. She paced slowly around Celestia's chambers, spending as much time with her eyes upon her as she could. A quaint blaze was dancing in the fireplace nearby, the only other source of light besides Celestia's horn illuminating a piece of parchment she was writing upon.
"Don't worry, Luna. Just her promotion is enough for now. I want them to feel at ease, and I don't need the extra paperwork of signing off on things she would normally require permission to access." Celestia sighed when Luna's expression remained unchanged. "There is no need for a full ceremony, but I do plan to give her one when I feel its secrecy no longer matters. Give it time," she added while continuing absentminded writing.
Luna stopped pacing and stood adjacent to her sister, staring at her back. "Will you be informing Twilight of who Lord Devon truly is?"
Celestia turned to speak to her sister, the dark mare's mane shifting ominously over her eyes every few seconds. "No. It's..." She hesitated for a moment. "It's not important. And I don't want to disappoint her." Luna appeared satisfied and moved to take a seat upon a rug drawn in front of the fireplace, Celestia returning to her writing.
"That old tome was a nice touch. Was that your subtle method of apologizing to her in advance for keeping his identity from her?" Luna asked, staring into the fire. The burning logs within crackled and occasionally spat embers among themselves.
"Something like that, I suppose. Again, I don't want to disappoint her, but it's unavoidable. When she finally learns she will understand, I hope."
"I would like to think he was an old friend of ours. Are you alright with passing such a noble legacy on, even at the risk of its dangerous potential?" Luna turned back and met Celestia's thoughtful look. The magic-grasped quill on the note ceased as their eyes met.
"Don't worry, Luna. It's in capable, trustworthy hooves. She will need it, especially if she's to battle the Brood's royal guard. I'm afraid she might not be able to accomplish the assassination without it." Celestia's heart sank beneath her own, brutal truth. There was a long silence between the two, and the sun princess wanted to look away from her sister, but the penetrating eyes of the dark mare hungered for more answers.
"Are you--we--to teach or forbid her of the usage of her other ascension? Even before she was an alicorn, she possessed the power, and the danger. I fear she will not be able to control it..." Luna looked back to the fire, the burning flames reminding yet calming her of a distant memory.
Celestia sighed as she quickly finished the last of her writing. Magically rolling up the scroll and stashing it within her desk, she rose and moved to face her sister.
"Luna, I understand your fears, but you must have more faith in Twilight," she began with a soft voice. "I will personally ensure she knows how to use it and control it, should the need ever arise. I know it's overwhelming even for the strongest and most level-headed unicorns. We will never forget how the Moon Lord succumbed to such terrible power. I believe in Twilight. Please believe in her as well."
"Alright, sister. Thank you, but I will be assisting you with that part of her training." She loosed a quiet yawn and smiled. "I look forward to teaching her of how to utilize the moon, and you the radiance of the sun."
Celestia let her eyes roam to the fire as her sister rose and began to head for the door. "Do you think this is the right path?" she asked suddenly. Luna froze and turned around, her sister prying herself from the fire to meet her eyes once more. "Was it wrong to lay this upon Twilight in our stead? It is... not the first time we have done this, but this is... the one time I wish we did not."
Luna stared at her blankly for a long while, formulating her answer from opinions, experience, and her moral compass. She tilted her head up to the ceiling and sighed. "I am here for her regardless of the path she now walks. Perhaps fate will guide us, or perhaps she will write a better destiny than even we can dare foresee. That," she said, tilting her back to her sister, "is my faith in her," she finished earnestly.
Celestia smiled, a tear welling in her right eye. "Thank you," she whispered before Luna left, the door closing quietly in her wake. Thank you.