Today’s spell augmentation course focused on the aims and intent of the spell. It’s the underlying framework that drives the magic and makes it happen. We all had to come prepared with an idea in mind; Cosma’s decided to go with an ambitious spell that reads a pony’s star sign and projects the appropriate constellation. According to her book on star magic, astrology actually does have a smidge of truth to it, the stars you’re born under have a small effect on your arcane matrix, or something? But it’s not like it dictates your whole personality, and horoscopes are still bunk. She seemed very into it.
Onyx Flash has gone with a rock farming staple, guiding geode growth with magic. When Ms Focus asked me what I was going to do, I froze up. I’d had it all prepared, but when put on the spot I just blanked it and blurted out 'spaghetti tree'. Everyone found it so bucking hilarious, and I went red as a beetroot.
So yeah, that’s my thing now, I’m growing spaghetti. Ms Focus just rolled her eyes, like she KNEW this would be the sort of thing I’d come up with. No fair! The book on farm magic I got from the library isn’t massively helpful; it has basic spells about scrying to find out what plants are good for (side note: carrots are apparently very good mathematicians?) but the bits about actually transferring those properties are really advanced. Way too deep for me yet. Besides, I tried to scry some of the leftover rainbow pasta I had and it was just a confusing, headache-y mess, like lots of shards of broken plants all molded together. Which I kinda guess is what pasta is? Wheat and then all those vegetable dyes for the colours.
But I’ll keep going, I guess. Maybe whatever Uncle Lasagna has will help, I’ll see on Wednesday.
Lunch was eventful. You know how Sweet Yam said he’d ‘take care of’ Dahlia? Yeah, apparently SOMEONE filled her locker with gooseberry and celery jam, which just so happened to be what Sweet Yam was making at Farm Soc last week. She was furious, because when she opened the locker it all sludged out onto her, and she was wearing a new coat. Somehow I didn’t get the blame!
She actually pinned it on one of the other ‘Reapers’ and threw his lunch across the hall. Obviously, that started a fight. Ever seen a milk carton golem? That was interesting. Prof Scarlet Star broke up the fight with a huuuge nullifying spell, which made things a little worse because it revealed that Dahlia’s friend Orchid has been magically altering her mane colour from grey to purple, so that started another round of screaming and tears.
I just sat under a table and tried to eat quietly.
Just back from dinner with Uncle Lasagne, and he did NOT fail to deliver! That was perhaps some of the best food I’ve had in months, and then he brought out a commission he’s been working on; some hoity-toity rich folk in town asked for a centrepiece for a party. Most ponies go to a sculptor and get an ice swan or maybe a baker for a tiered, novelty cake – but not this guy, and Uncle’s working on a replica of the castle made from ricotta-and-spinach stuffed pasta. Sounds weird, looks amazing. I’m sure it’ll be in all the gossip rags.
After food he took me into his study and showed me a hidden compartment under his desk with a safe in it. Inside was a book, not in the best condition – it looked like it had been scorched, clawed and possibly chewed. He handled it with reverence, and smoothed out the pages after opening it on the desk. He told me it was a genuine spell book, one they definitely didn’t have in the school library. I asked him why he was so sure, and he smiled when he said 'because your great-grandfather wrote it'.
I was shocked. I knew I wasn’t the first unicorn in the Pasta family but I didn’t know that any of my family had studied magic, let alone written a book on it. He showed me a few of the spells, many were no longer legible thanks to the extensive damage the book seemed to have suffered, but what was there was REALLY weird.
There were partial spells for farming. Spells for animating crops. Spells for talking to plants. Spells for CONTROLLING plants. Spells to change the weather and season. Even fragments of spells for messing with time on a small scale, to speed up or reverse growth. It was also filled with crazy diagrams and drawings, and sometimes a spell’s text would just stop and be replaced by a half-page artwork of a griffon fighting a giant snail or something.
Uncle Lasagne told me that he’d only met great-grandpa Farfalle once, when he was already very old and barely spoke to anyone. The rest of the family shunned him, called him crazy, but would never talk about why. Well, ‘crazy’ Uncle Lasagne was never one to back down from a mystery, so he snuck away from the farm one evening and walked all night to great-grandpa’s hut in the woods. When he got there he found the door already open and the old pony inviting him in, like he’d known he was coming, despite having never met his own grandson.
Uncle said that Farfalle had told him that even if he wasn’t a unicorn, he had the right spirit for one, and gave him the spellbook for safe-keeping until another unicorn came into the family. He swore Uncle Lasagne to secrecy, gave him food and money, and then sent him back home with the only neighbour he hadn’t scared off yet.
Uncle looked sad as he told me all this. Great-grandpa Farfalle had died only a few months later, and while the family did come to the funeral they wouldn’t really talk about his life, like he’d done something terrible. I asked Uncle if he’d ever found out more about great-grandpa, but he said he hadn’t for years, until he moved to Canterlot.
He looked at me with that slightly manic grin he always had when he was about to blow your mind. Great-grandpa had been one of Princess Celestia’s OWN COURT WIZARDS. The Princess herself had told him so, after the ‘angel hair’ fad, but she wouldn’t say more than that he’d retired and gone back home after an ‘accident’ in the castle gardens.
It was a lot to take in. So now I’m sitting here now, writing this, with Great-grandpa Farfalle Pasta’s spellbook. I’ll need some time to go through it, but it might completely change my project – and a new mystery to explore: what did he do that no one wants to talk about?
Since I wasn’t at Film Soc yesterday, Cosma came over and we watched a film together. This week we went with a new horror film, 'Summer Sun'. It’s about some really out-of-the-way village of ponies and these city folk that visit them, then they accidentally break a load of local traditions. It turns out the locals are all crazy and in some weird cult, and finally they kidnap the last pony, then she decides to join them and become their queen.
It was weird. I mean I guess it’s a horror? I like the old-style films, with the terrible plots and worse costumes, but Cosma seemed to really like this more ‘intellectual’ style. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, just not my favourite, I guess. Cosma said there’s another film by the same director we should watch, 'Inherited'. I’ll put it on the list. I should drop back to Five Spice’s place and see if he’s got anything else in.
Oh yeah, and today Sweet Yam opened his locker to find a decapitated carrot with a face drawn on it, ‘x’s for eyes and everything. It’s obviously the Flower Power lot, rubbing it in about Dusty.
He slipped me a note at lunch, and I’m very proud of myself for remaining composed. Said that after the society meeting tomorrow we'd talk about Dahlia. A little disappointing, I guess, but I’m also interested to know what he’s planning. Nightmare Night is rapidly approaching, and the school party’s going to be all out war if we’re not careful.
We had a guest lecturer at Farm Soc this evening, telling us about the exciting, cutting-edge world of corn. Yes. It wasn’t as dull as I expected, the lecturer brought in some really pretty ‘jewelled’ corn cobs that their farm had been experimenting with, though I think some folk were disappointed that they weren’t, you know, actual jewels.
I didn’t know this, but apparently graduates from the school are in high demand from some of Equestria’s more forward-thinking farmers and growers – while my family scoffed at the idea of using magic on the farm, it seems that here in Canterlot and Ponyville, it’s a ‘growing’ trend (ha ha). Might explain why both Farm Soc and Garden Soc are both so popular.
After the meeting, I met up with Sweet Yam once they’d cleared the hall. The other Reapers were there, too, and turns out THEY wanted to talk to ME about Dahlia. Their ‘mare on the inside’ at Garden Soc (I can’t believe there’s actual spies here, it’s wild) said that Dahlia was beginning to think I was behind the jam incident after all, but the other Flower Power guys convinced her it was actually Sweet Yam (weirdly, he denied it). But now they want to use that grudge in their favour.
At the Nightmare Night ball, Garden Soc normally provides most of the decorations, while Farm Soc does the food. It’s usually enough to keep them out of each other’s manes and stop a fight, but this year blood is running high. So they want me to be a decoy and draw Dahlia out into a trap the Reapers will set up.
I told them I was slightly more concerned with getting hurt by a crazy mare who’d already threatened me twice, and not very comfortable with being used as bait. They said they get it, but it’ll be REALLY COOL.
This was NOT a convincing argument, but I hate to disappoint, so I said I’d think about it. Yaaay. I can hear Papa now: 'You need to stand up for yourself, Penne! Don’t let the other foals push you around because you’ve got a pointy head. Poke them in the eye with it first.'
It also turns out that’s not a great way to win you friends growing up. Ugh. I guess I’ve got a week to mull it over.
Half way through Spell Augmentation 101, and I think I know what I’m going to do now. I’ve been browsing through Great-grandpa’s book, as well as the ones I’ve borrowed from the library, and I think I can actually do that flying butterfly pasta I was thinking about! It’s something small, but should be pretty.
As far as I can see there’s two ways I could do it. The school library books suggest animation by using a “path matrix”, kind of like a clockwork toy. You build the spell to include predefined movements and paths to follow, then apply it to the object. It’ll use the magical energy to move along the path. You can either set it to just rely on your own power (which would be more like letting a slinky fall down the stairs, it would move once but then stop) or to draw power from the world, which would keep it going until the matrix naturally decayed.
The other way, which is harder but WAY more impressive, is to make the object 'alive'. Not really alive, but mimicking it; like with the scrying spells I was working on last week, you could take the aspects 'fluttering' and 'flying' from a butterfly and imbue it into a butterfly-shaped pasta. Then it’ll move randomly, like a real butterfly! That seems to be how Great-grandpa did it in his book, but his notes are really hard to work out. I could ask for help from some of the teachers, but...
I kinda don’t want to show them this book. Uncle Lasagne was being Uncle Lasagne about it, but he’s not THAT crazy. If he kept it hidden he probably had good reason to. Also I find it a little weird that my Great-grandpa was a court wizard but no one’s told me that. Okay, there’s a lot of Pastas in the world, but there’s definitely not many unicorn Pastas. If my ancestor was a bit of a minor celebrity, don’t you think someone would have brought it up by now?
I smell a mystery. I’m going to have to do some sleuthing.
Busy day! I did a little digging in the school library but it wasn’t as simple as I’d hoped. Not as easy as just finding a list of former court wizards or anything (I mean, I guess those sort of records would be at the palace, not the school). One thing I did find was a note in a book on botanical magic that said: 'following an unspecified incident at the turn of the 10th century, experimentation into the grafting of vital properties to novel foodstocks was banned by Royal Order; this ban remained in place until 955'.
From what Uncle Lasagna told me, Great-grandpa would have been serving at the court at around the time of this ‘incident’. I’m not sure what it means about the experimental stuff, that’s a bit beyond me – sounds like trying to create a new type of food, or something? The school library doesn’t really have history books that aren’t about magical theory, so I couldn’t find anything else about it. Maybe I should drop by the palace on an open day.
Anyway, after school I went into town to do some shopping. Five Spice’s bazaar was open and busy, so I had a quick root around for any hidden gems and lucked out with a copy of 'One Moon Later', one of my favourite zombie flicks! I’ll show Cosma next time she’s over. While there I found this really cool spooky mask, so I bought it for my Nightmare Night costume. I’m going to be a plague doctor! Five Spice said it was genuine, from the 750 ‘flu outbreak, but since he let it go for twelve bits I’m pretty sure he just made that up.
I also saw something a little weird as I was on my way back to halls. At a café near the school I saw what looked like Sweet Yam, but when I waved they saw me and immediately looked away. They were at a table with another pony – I couldn’t see them clearly but they looked like Dahlia. Might’ve just been coincidence, though. I mean, there’s a lot of orange ponies around, and I couldn’t see the cutie mark clearly.
FInally, I got a letter from home today! Mama and Papa are missing me, they say, and a PS from Fusilli adds that he’s not. He also attached a photo of him sprawling all over our room, with his clothes on my bed. Smug so-and-so.
Film Soc tonight was another double feature: 'Lunatic' and 'Nightmare on Mane Street'. Both classics, but I prefer Lunatic overall, it broke so much ground and was really influential on the genre as a whole, plus who can forget the shower scene? Such great stuff. It’s the last meeting before Nightmare Night, but we’ve got the hall booked once more next Monday evening for an extra treat – a premiere of a new film! We got to see the flyers and posters today, the director used to be a member of the club in her school days, so she organised it all. Looks like it should be fun, it’s all about the Canterlot Catacombs. I wonder if you can actually visit them?
Cosma said she’d come over on the weekend to see 'One Moon Later', and I said I’d have a go with the butterflies – but like, in bat shapes, for added spookiness.
Schoolwork wise, my essays are racking up, they’re really hard! I don’t think I’ve ever written so much in my life, although I did find a spell in the library that might help with that. It’s meant to be a sort of auto-writer, so you can just think and the words get written down. I’m a bit cautious about trying it, but man, my horn aches. You wouldn’t think it would, but it’s just like writing by mouth, except there’s no muscles.
I guess I can give it a go.
Oh wow this is weird its like im thinking about writing and then the quill just moves by itself how do i do punctuation do i just think it question mark
Uhm hang on lets think a moment how would you mentally do a question mark arrrgh
Ha yeah thats it okay i need to practise on some blank paper
Diary dear Deer dairy Dear Hang on deep breath focus the mind
Today is my first fully thought-written entry exclamation mark wait no I mean !
As you can see this is going very well. It’s really hard to keep your thoughts clear when writing this. For example, there’s a bowl of noodles next to me, and they smell really good, but I’m trying to focus
but they really do smell good and I’m actually quite hungry no concentrate
Right, what happened today? Oh yeah, we did some alchemy practicals today. Simple potion making, and I got to use an
an uh oh mare I don’t know how to spell it All-emm-bick? Potion thing with a tube for boiling. Prof Snakegrass showed us how to set them up and then boil down the components in a solvent and distill out the ‘active ingredient’, which is how you make a potion. We made a flavour enhancer, which he said was one of the few potions you can’t accidentally kill yourself with. I added it to the noodle sauce and oh mare they really do smell good I should come back to this later Om nom nom nom noodles oh wait is this thing still going argh hang on
Okay, I’ve eaten now, let’s try and continue.
So yes, alchemy class and then after that I met with the Reapers. I decided to help them out after finding a poison joke in my locker this morning. Fortunately I saw it before picking it up, THAT would have been 'FUN'. Where did they even get one? They grow near the farm back home but I thought they didn’t grow near Canterlot, wrong sort of soil and climate. I guess Garden Soc are resourceful. Oh, then to top it off, Dahlia 'accidentally' knocked into me while carrying my lunch tray, which went everywhere. She’s got bony shoulders. It hurt.
So the plan is: at the Nightmare Night party, I need to 'accidentally' spill some punch on Teal Moonbeam, one of Dahlia’s friends, make a big fuss about her bumping into ME, and then loudly walk off out of the hall. Should entice Dahlia to follow me, then the Reapers spring the trap outside the hall and she gets a pail of picking vinegar in her mane. I’ve seen the stuff we work with, that’s gonna smell for DAYS. Though on the plus side, it’ll take years off her!
Tomorrow’s the last Farm Soc night before the party so we’re mostly going to be making the food. Once I’m done here, I need to head to the kitchen and make some pasta sheets to bring along. I was planning on some creepy filled pasta that explodes in purple or green 'gore' when you eat them. Might shape them like bugs!
Getting the hang of the whole thought-writing thing now, and it only cost me half a pad of paper currently in the bin. Making the bug pasta was great fun, I gave some of them spinach fillings and some of them aubergine, with enough creamy ricotta that when you bite into them they really squelched. Sweet Yam had been working on a 'starry night' blackberry jam, which glittered when you spread it on toast. Wouldn’t say how he’d done it but he looked pleased with himself.
Overall the spread looks amazing. The apple bobbing is possibly the crowning achievement, though – instead of plain, boring, normal apples we each took one, hollowed it out and got the freedom to fill them however we pleased. I put some of my bugs in mine, and I saw someone stuff theirs full of zap apple jam (which will give someone a nasty shock, I’m sure!), while another arranged a shaped block of cheese to look like a severed hoof. For added spookitude, instead of water we’ve gone with a weak jelly to make it all slimy.
After getting back I finished off my costume: managed to find a cloak on sale, did some touching up to the mask, and got a satchel with sweets in it disguised as old-timey medicines in jars. Oh, and of course, my patient-beating stick! Wouldn’t be much of a plague doctor without a stick to beat the infected masses away!
Cosma’s coming over tomorrow, so I need to prepare the butterflies for her. I think for this first attempt I’m going to go with the matrix, just to get the principles ironed out. It’s less impressive, but I also don’t really have the time to go catching actual butterflies right now so I can study their flight patterns. Also it’s, like, late Autumn. Admittedly I didn’t really think about that earlier. Maybe I could find a moth?
Tomorrow Penne problems!