Alicorn of Music

by Orthoros

8. Magic 101

I leisurely made my way into town while observing the ponies going about their lives. Ever since I had arrived here, I had been mostly cooped up at Fluttershy’s, except for a few exceptions, and when I was out and about I was always accompanied by an adult. As such I couldn’t really take in how ponies acted normally. 

Now that I actually had some time to really observe, I found things to be eerily similar to how things were back on earth, just with less technology. If there was a main difference to point out, it was that ponies seemed a lot more social with each other compared to humans. Although that might just be due to this being a relatively small settlement, if there were bigger cities, it was entirely possible for ponies to ignore each other as well. 

As it stands, most ponies in Ponyville seemed to know everypony else, which apparently already included me. On more than one occasion I saw ponies start a hushed conversation while looking at me. It would seem that my story, or at the very least rumors of it, were already spreading within this tight-knit community.

I tried to ignore the occasional hoof pointing at me as I strolled past the rustic buildings. There was little risk of me getting lost, as my goal was clearly visible over the thatched roofs. As it was already pointed out to me by Fluttershy, I knew that Twilight’s library was located in a big oak tree, which also served as a great landmark in Ponyville.

As I came ever closer to my destination I made sure to greet back every pony that greeted me, and before I knew it I was standing in front of the door to the Golden Oaks Library. Since I was told that the library also served as Twilight's house, I was unsure whether I could just enter or not, so to be on the safe side, I knocked to announce my presence and waited. 

It took barely a second before the door handle started glowing with a purple hue and the door opened by itself. “Come in,” a shout accompanied the magically opened door, and I walked in, just as prompted.

The inside of the tree was somewhat surreal to look at since this was technically the inside of a tree. The shelves upon which the library’s books rested were carved right into the wood, as were the stairs leading upstairs and every doorway in sight. Two couches facing each other with a table in between them occupied most of the floor space, and on one of the couches, a purple alicorn was reading a book.

My eyes widened in shock, as I didn’t expect Twilight to be an alicorn. I was told that she was supposedly a princess of Equestria, mostly in name only, but I wasn’t aware that there were other alicorns aside from the two sisters and myself. Kind of weird that a big detail like this wasn’t mentioned to me.

“Dude are you okay?” something pointy poked at my chest, causing me to snap out of it.

In front of me stood a bipedal purple lizard with a green belly and spikes on his back. Thankfully I was already informed of the baby dragon that was living with Twilight as her assistant, or I might have stared at him a lot more than I was doing right now. 

“Uhh… yeah,” I stammered while stealing another glance at the alicorn reading a book a few feet away from me. “You’re Spike, right?”

“That’s right,” Spike puffed out his chest a bit, apparently happy that I recognized him. “At your service.”

“Cool, my name’s Steady Beat,” I could see Twilight’s ear flick in my direction, as our small conversation apparently caught her attention. “I’m here to visit Twilight.”

“Sure,” Spike nodded at me happily before calling over Twilight and excusing himself to do some chores.

Twilight closed her book and made her way over to me while looking me up and down. “Hello Steady Beat, I’m Twilight Sparkle,” she introduced herself and offered me her hoof to bump. “I’ve already heard a lot about you. What brings you here today?”

“Well, I’ve found myself with some free time,” I began explaining. The way she was looking me all over made me start to wonder if she could somehow feel that I was an alicorn as well. The look in her eyes was friendly, but it felt like she was scrutinizing me more than necessary. “And since I was told that you would be my magic teacher soon, I thought I’d come by and introduce myself.”

“Oh yes, a very good idea!” Twilight perked up a bit, it seemed like I wasn’t the only one looking forward to our lesson. “I was also curious to meet you, since I kept hearing about you. Why don’t you come and have a seat and we can talk for a bit?”

“I hope I’m not intruding on anything, I saw you reading a book when I came in,” I tried being polite as we made our way to the couch.

“Don’t worry about it, I was just doing some light reading,” Twilight’s horn lit up as I curiously watched the book she was reading float back into an empty spot on a shelf. “Spike! Could you bring us some tea?” 

An affirmative shout came from another room, presumably the kitchen, and we settled down on the couches, opposite of each other. “So I’ve heard you’d like to learn some magic?”

“Yes,” I nodded my head. “Actually, it was Fluttershy’s idea, but I still would very much like to learn.”

“That’s to be expected of a young unicorn,” Twilight delighted in my enthusiasm. “And it’s actually good that you came by, as I would like to ask you a few questions in order to plan your lessons better. Would you be okay with that?”

“Sure,” I confirmed without a thought, excited about the prospect of learning actual magic.

“Great!” Twilight clapped her hooves together while her horn lit up once again, this time floating over a rather substantial list from somewhere. Assuming all of those were questions for me, my excitement died down a little. Just how thorough was she? “First question: What is your current knowledge on magic?”

I hesitated a bit before answering, “Zero.” 

The quill that had appeared at some point, stopped dead in its tracks as Twilight gave me a look I couldn’t quite decipher. “Come again?”

“I don’t know anything about magic,” I replied calmly. “I have no idea how to use this thing,” tapping my horn with my hoof for added impact.

Twilight seemed to be spacing out, just staring at me, as Spike arrived with two steaming cups of tea, setting them down before each of us. With practiced ease he turned around, making sure that his scaly tail bumped against Twilights leg, snapping her out of her daze.

“Thank you… Spike,” Twilight stammered out.

“No problem, Twilight,” Spike chuckled. “Just call if you need anything else.”

Twilight floated her cup to her mouth and took a sip of her tea, causing me to do the same, albeit without the use of magic. The whole time she was looking at me, and I could practically see the gears turning in her head as she was dealing with her new knowledge.

“That certainly puts a bit of a dent in my plans…” Twilight said slowly. “Fluttershy did mention that you didn’t know how to use magic and that you wanted to learn, but I didn’t think that we’d be starting from absolute zero…”

“Is that going to be a problem?” I put my cup back down on the matching plate and leaned back into the sofa a bit. “If it helps at all, Fluttershy taught me how to feel for my magic when she told me how to pick up things with my hoof.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem, it’s just… unexpected is all,” Twilight’s long list silently floated down and landed on the sofa, now useless apparently. A brief look flashed over her face, that I couldn’t quite place. Seemed almost as if she remembered something, mixed in with some suspicion and doubt? “Would you mind if I did a quick scan of your internal mana pathways?”

“What would that entail?” now it was my turn to turn suspicious as well as slightly paranoid. I had no idea if this scan could reveal my little secret, for now it would probably be better to just deny her, even if I seemed unreasonable.

“I’d send a quick pulse of magic through you, and it would send me back information about the pathways in your body, such as if any of them are damaged, or otherwise impaired,” Twilight seemed to recover from her slight daze as she went into lecture mode. 

“And what else would that spell tell you?” This sounded more and more like a thing I wouldn’t want. Seeing pegasi, and especially Rainbow Dash fly around, I got convinced that pegasi wings were definitely supported by magic, which would mean that some of these mana pathways probably ran through them. 

“Nothing, really,” Twilight shrugged. “The only information I could get from this is whether anything is broken or not, so if everything is fine, nothing would happen at all. IF anything is broken or blocked, the pathway would start to glow in a red hue, which we would be able to see on your body.”

“Even through my hoodie?” one of my eyebrows shot upwards. “Because I’m not taking it off.”

“Yes, even through your hoodie,” Twilight nodded at me with a smile, awaiting my answer.

Denying it even further would probably actually make me seem pretty sus, and seeing as my secret would probably be kept safe, there wasn’t really a lot of reason for me to refuse. That is to say, if Twilight was telling the truth. But if I learned anything about ponies, and especially Fluttershy and her friends, it was that I could trust them.

“Alright,” I sat up straight, preparing myself for what was to come while praying that my secret was kept as such. “Go ahead.”

Twilight simply nodded and gave me a reassuring smile before firing up her horn once again. It didn’t take long at all before a purple wall of light crept towards me, and eventually slowly passed through me. The feeling was strange, almost as if the parts of my body that were in contact with the spell fell asleep briefly, only to wake up immediately after it passed through.

I was being watched closely through the entirety of this happening, but judging by Twilight’s unchanged look, it would seem nothing went awry. After the spell dissolved, I patiently waited for Twilight to give her verdict, which eventually came in the form of a relieved sigh. 

“It looks like everything is just fine,” Twilight smiled again. “Your mana pathways seem to all be working perfectly.”

The tension left my body as apparently everything went well for me. Neither were my pathways screwed up, nor did my secret alicorn identity get exposed. It would seem that Twilight really did tell the truth.

“Well, seeing as we’ll apparently have to start from the very beginning, there isn’t a lot we can do right now…” Twilight adopted a thoughtful face. “We could find out your mana affinity if you’d like.”

“What’s a mana affinity?” I asked curiously. Now that the dangerous part of the introduction was over I could focus on learning about magic again.

“Oh right… we really gotta start from scratch,” Twilight had a slight smirk on her face, but explained anyway. “The world around us is filled with mana, we just can’t see it. And every unicorn that is born has a certain affinity for one of the six typed of mana that exist. Depending on which mana type you’re most attuned to, you’ll have an easier time casting certain spells.

“There are six schools of magic, each one associated with a certain type of mana. I, for example,” Twilight lit up her horn again, and this time I paid closer attention to it’s purple glow. “Am attuned to purple mana, which is associated with the school of magic.”

“The school of magic?” I couldn’t quite wrap around how there were six schools, and one was actually called magic. Weren’t they all about magic?

“Yes, as I already said, every type of mana has its uses, except purple,” Twilight pulled in a chalkboard on wheels from seemingly nowhere and started to draw on it with her magic. “Blue, Pink, Red, Orange, Green, and Purple, these are the different colors mana can have. They are associated with the school of Illusion, Manipulation, Combat, Energy, Life, and Magic.”

While she explained, a piece of chalk behind her was zooming around on the board, writing down and connecting the different schools to their respective colors, which made it quite easy to understand.

“As you can see they all have very specific compatibilities with certain types of spells, and while any unicorn may cast any type of spell with their inherent mana, they’ll lose efficiency when not matching the mana to the correct type of spell,” Twilight made a little drawing below what was written, showcasing the same pony casting a weaker and a stronger spell. “Purple mana is different, in that it doesn’t lose efficiency while casting any spells, regardless of what school they belong to. As such, the greatest mages usually have control over purple mana.

“Of course that doesn’t mean that you can’t become a great mage if you possess any other affinity,” Twilight smiled reassuringly. “A master of a certain school is usually a lot stronger in their field than a mage from the school of magic could ever hope to be. For example, Starswirl the Bearded had an affinity for the school of illusion, yet he went down in history as the greatest mage Equestria has ever seen.”

“That’s so cool!” I was honestly incredibly fascinated by all of this. After all we were talking about actual, honest to god magic here. I was actually living the dream right now. “So how do we find out what my affinity is?”

“Well, usually you just ask a unicorn to light up their horn and that will tell you everything you need to know,” Twilight stood up and walked over to a door. “But that isn’t the most accurate way to measure such a thing. After all, in some rare cases, a unicorn might have multiple affinities, and you wouldn’t be able to recognize something like that with just a visual test.”

The door opened before Twilight, revealing that it leads towards the basement. After swiveling her head around a bit, Twilight seemed to locate what she was looking for, before a small contraption floated out of the basement and onto the table in front of me. I curiously looked at the transparent gemstone that was resting on some sort of pedestal, with a ring attached to it via some kind of wire.

“What’s this?” I curiously asked, getting down from the couch to get a closer look. 

“This is a so-called thaumatic categorizer, or in layponies terms, a device that reveals the affinities a unicorn has,” Twilight sat down across from me again. “All you have to do is put the ring over your horn, and the device will do the rest.”

Not one to be told twice, I carefully picked up the ring in between my hooves. At this point, I was even starting to feel slightly nervous, since the result of this seemingly innocent test would define the path I would take while studying magic. I swallowed the saliva building up in my mouth, before sliding the ring over my horn.

“The mana pathways in your body circulate the same way your blood does, and while all blood moves through the heart at the center of its circulation, mana does the same with the unicorn horn,” Twilight explained, while the device was assumedly attuning itself to me. “The ring measures the mana traveling through the horn, and then extracts a tiny bit of it and makes it visible within the gemstone.”

Just on cue, something was starting to move within the gem. A thin mist was starting to form, which at first was colorless, before eventually turning a vibrant orange. I watched in fascination as the mist seemed to form a small ball of mana, which was eventually joined by a second and a third one.

“So what does that mean?” I looked up from the device to look at the chalkboard again, matching the color to a school. “Do I have an affinity for the school of energy?”

“Exactly!” Twilight clapped her hooves with a happy smile. “Congratulations Steady Beat, you now know what your affinity is.”

“Thank you,” I smiled back at her before looking back down at the gemstone and the mana floating around within. “Why are there three balls of mana in there, is there any significance to that?”

“Yes, actually.” Twilight drew another device on the chalkboard that had five gemstones in a row. “A few hundred years ago, there was another device used for determining a unicorns mana pool. They have at some point been combined into a singular, more accurate measuring unit. Now a unicorns mana pool is divided into ten units of measurement instead of the five it used to be, and this device here shows the result by forming up to ten balls of mana.”

“So my mana pool is on the lower end of size then?” 

“For now, yes,” Twilight nodded. “But you don’t need to worry about that. The amount of mana you can store grows with time and practice. In fact, most unicorns start out with one or two balls of mana when they are first measured around your age, so three is actually quite high.”

“That’s so cool…” I couldn’t help but whisper to myself, but apparently Twilight heard me, since she let out a hearty chuckle. 

“Well, at least I can now plan our lessons with a more concrete goal in mind,” Twilight removed the ring from my horn, causing the balls of mana to dissipate. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to assign you some small homework, even if we haven’t officially started our lessons yet.”

“Yes, please, absolutely, I’ll do anything,” I was hooked. And if there was even anything small I could do with my magic without the need to be supervised, I’d love to do so.

“You said earlier that Fluttershy told you how to feel for your mana, right?” I nodded energetically. “Then please do this as much as you can until we officially start with our lessons. It’ll help you get a feel for the mana within you, and how it moves.”

“Is that like some sort of meditation?” 

“In a way, yes,” Twilight delighted in the fact that I easily understood her meaning. “Once you feel comfortable enough, you can even try to redirect the flow towards your horn. You’ll know that you did it right when your horn starts to glow.”

“I’ll practice until I fully master this!” Now I couldn’t wait to get home in order to try this. The more I thought about using magic, the more excited I got.

“Why don’t try it right now for a bit?” Twilight gestured towards the couch behind me, causing me to hop back up. “Take your time, finish your tea, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask me.”

Twilight was already floating another book towards herself, which motivated me even more. So without further ado, I made myself comfortable and tried to empty my mind. At this point I had already used my hoof magnets enough to be somewhat familiar with the feeling, and it only took me a few seconds before the familiar feeling washed over me.

I could feel the constant flow of the mana within me, reaching every part of my body, and culminating within my horn before going outwards again. Now that I knew that there were specific paths mana took, I tried focusing on these singular paths instead of the whole. At first I wasn’t having much success, but after a while I managed to capsule out one of them. 

I mentally traced it with my mind, following it slowly, until I ended back up in my horn. I did this for a while, trying to find as many different paths as I could before something strange happened. I could physically feel the mana focusing somewhere to my right. Or maybe, focusing was the wrong word. It seemed like it lingered a little longer whenever it passed through a certain part of my body.

“Uhh… Twilight?” I asked, trying not to lose my concentration.

“Yes, what is it Beat?” I could hear Twilight’s friendly voice, ready to answer whatever question I had. 

“I can feel this weird kind of… pull in my mana pathways. Is that normal?” My words were said slowly, as the feeling grew more prominent. “It almost feels like my mana wants me to go somewhere…”

“That is rather curious…” Twilight's voice came closer, as she probably came over to investigate. “Would you say it’s uncomfortable at all?”

“Not really,” I shook my head. “But somehow I feel like I should go to where it’s trying to lead me…”

“Well, it’s not unheard of that mana has a mind of its own sometimes. I don’t think this is anything bad, so we should probably go and see what it’s pointing to. Your magic is still pretty weak, so whatever is going on should be pretty close.”

I opened my eyes back up and the feeling of my pathways slowly went away, yet I could still feel this faint pull, almost like a sixth sense. 

“Come, I’ll accompany you to make sure nothing bad happens,” Twilight nudged me with an encouraging face. “You never know, it could even be related to your cutie mark.”

“Then let’s not waste any time!” I got excited again and practically zoomed to the door. “What are you waiting for?”

“Don’t worry, I’m coming. Spike! We’ll head out for a bit, but I’ll probably be back soon!” Twilight followed me with a chuckle after Spike called out in agreement from the kitchen and we went outside. “Well, then, where to?”

I tried to focus on the pulling sensation as I spun around in a slow circle, until eventually, I zeroed in on a direction. “This way!”

With that we started out on our little adventure, navigating the nearby streets to go into the general direction of the pulling. As we presumably got closer to whatever was causing it, I could feel the pull become stronger and stronger. I practically raced towards my destination, with an amused Twilight following close behind. 

True to Twilight's assumption, we didn’t have to walk for a long time. While the pulling felt stronger than ever, I could start to hear something in the distance. It sounded almost like singing… like an entire choir was performing some song. Was there a concert today?

Eventually we turned a corner, and I came face to face with a scene from High School Musical. Ponies were filing the street, dancing and singing to some music that seemingly came out of nowhere. And at the center of it all was one mare, enthusiastically singing about how much she liked cupcakes.

Why she was singing about cupcakes, why apparently half the town felt the need to join in, and where that darn music was coming from was a mystery to me. What I did know was that I expected anything but this, and so I just stood there, mouth agape, watching on as an intricate choreography unfolded before me. Twilight sat down next to me tapping her hoof to the beat and generally looking like this was nothing out of the ordinary.

It didn’t take long before the admittedly pretty catchy song ended and the crowd started to disperse as if nothing happened. They were just talking with each other and I heard a few ponies mention how much fun they had. While I was still baffled by what just transpired, the pink mare approached us.

“Hi Twilight!” she was waving like her life was depending on it, while pulling out a cupcake out of her mane with her other hoof. How she was walking on only her back hooves was beyond me. “Cupcake?”

“Thank you Pinkie,” Twilight took the cupcake without question, bit into it and congratulated “Pinkie” on having created yet another tasty treat. Meanwhile I was just sitting there, wondering how many hairs had to be in that pastry.

“And who might you be?” Pinkie was suddenly all up in my face, which caused me to recoil with a yelp. “I don’t think I’ve seen you before! Are you new in Ponyville?”

“Pinkie?” Twilight seemed confused. “This is Steady Beat, hasn’t Rainbow Dash told you about him?”

“Steady Beat?” Pinkie seemed to really wrack her brains for this particular memory. “No, I don’t think she did. Anyway, hi, I’m Pinkie Pie and I’d just like to bid you a fantastical welcome to Ponyville!!”

The newly introduced Pinkie Pie pulled a whole ass cannon out of her hair, which she, much to my horror, aimed at me. Before I could even say anything, the blasted thing went off and I got a face full of confetti. I was growing more confused by the second, and to be honest, I had questions.

A lot of them,

Just as I was ruminating about which of these questions would have the honor of being the first, I felt a hoof on my shoulder. A quick glance revealed it to belong to Twilight, which had an apologetic smile on her face.

“Just try not to think about it too hard…” she said while giving me a few reassuring taps on my shoulder. “Rainbow probably assumed you’d know about him anyway, since your Pinkie Sense would tip you off. Didn’t you get the feeling somepony new was in town?”

“Now that you mention it… no, actually,” Pinkie seemed quite befuddled, yet still somehow managed to put another cupcake into my hooves. “Well, it’s not like my Pinkie Sense is perfect or anything,” Pinkie shrugged with a goofy smile on her face while alternating between looking at Twilight and me. “So anyway, what brings you here?”

“Stead Beat actually,” Twilight gave me sideways glance. “I was teaching him a bit about magic, and apparently his internal mana was pulling him in this direction, so we came to check it out. Are you still feeling this pull, as you described it?”

“Uhh… hold up a second…” I took this chance to calm down a bit and try to reboot my brain to working order, taking a bite of the cupcake in my hoof. Focusing on the delicious taste of chocolate spreading in my mouth, I tried to feel for my mana again. “Not really, no.”

“Ohhh, mysterious!” Pinkie settled down a bit, apparently intrigued by what was going on. 

“Well, it seems quite clear what it was that pulled you here, I think,” Twilight gave a sly smirk and paused for dramatic effect. 

“Really?” I interrupted her attempt at suspense. “Because I still have no idea.”

“Well, going by regular magic theory, the only thing that can cause a reaction like this to occur, would be something that’s magical in nature as well.” Twilight started explaining. “And since we just witnessed something that was extremely magical, the conclusion should be obvious.”

Twilight paused yet again, this time apparently to give me a chance to figure it out myself. But since I had no clue what could be considered magic here, I just gave her a shrug as my answer. 

“Well, the magic of music of course,” Twilight smiled at me. “A rather sizable amount of mana gathers whenever an instance of it occurs, so it would be big enough to attract any unicorn that was somehow connected to it.”

“Ohh! The magic of music!!” Pinkie was immediately excited. “I love that, I always feel so happy whenever it happens!”

“The magic of music?” I furrowed my brows, trying to recall if this was mentioned in Twilight's earlier explanation. “Is that a part of the different schools?”

“It’s a kind of wild magic, a very special one at that,” Twilight shot me another knowing smile. “But I’d say that is a lesson for another time. For now, I believe you should probably head home. It’s getting late, and we wouldn’t want Fluttershy to worry about where you are, wouldn’t we?”

“I guess…” I pawed my hoof at the ground, sad that we had to conclude the lesson just when it was getting interesting. Yet, I found myself agreeing with Twilight. “Alright, then I’ll head home. Thank you again, for teaching me about magic.”

“Don’t worry about it, Beat,” Twilight got up from the ground and dusted off her coat. “Suffice it to say, that I think I can plan some very exciting lessons for you in the future. I’m looking forward to what you can accomplish already.”

I nodded my thanks and turned around, towards Fluttershy’s cottage and was surprised to find that Pinkie Pie was apparently tagging along with me. I shot her a questioning look as I threw the last bit of cupcake into my mouth.

“I’ll accompany you until you get home,” she was keeping pace by bunny hopping next to me. “I haven’t seen Fluttershy in a few days, and I’d also like to get to know you a bit better! I just love making new friends!”

Chuckling at the pink mare, I turned around in order to wave goodbye to Twilight, which she reciprocated, and we went our separate ways. 

“Spike! I’m back!” Twilight called out while closing the door behind her. She leisurely trotted towards a desk to her right, floating out a quill and some parchment, intent on writing down some notes about Beat.

“Hey Twilight,” Spike came out of the kitchen, once again holding a cup of tea, this one for himself apparently. “How’d it go? Find anything interesting?”

“It looks like Beat might have some sort of a connection to the magic of music,” Twilight explained while jotting down her thoughts and plans for Beat.

“Like Pinkie?” Spike took a sip of his tea, sitting down on a small chair next to Twilight and glancing at Twilight's notes. “What do you mean by, “not a changeling”?”

“On the second day after Stead Beat came out of the forest, Rainbow Dash told me about how she was suspecting that he might be a changeling trying to infiltrate the elements of harmony,” Twilight absentmindedly replied. “I didn’t give the theory much merit, but since he was acting a bit weird earlier, I decided to just scan him anyway, just to be sure. Suffice to say that he is most definitely not a changeling.”

“And that’s a good thing, right?” Spike asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes, definitely,” Twilight nodded. “But while I was scanning him, I noticed some weird things about his mana pathways.”

“Nothin bad, I hope?” 

“I don’t think so,” Twilight tapped her quill to her chin while thinking about what else to write down. “They seem messed up somehow, quite different from what a regular unicorn has at the very least. But even if they seem weird, they seem to work perfectly fine, so unless anything out of the ordinary happens, I’ll just have to keep an eye on that...”