by Nova Critical

Chapter 1: Nothing to Worry About

Twilight was very, very happy tonight. It was Friday night, and after a fun, yet tiring, week of activities with her friends, she was looking forward to this.

Study Night.

Putting on her favorite lab coat, the lavender mare giggled to herself with nerdish excitement. This wasn't going to be like other Study Nights, albeit those she still enjoyed very much. After weeks of magical testing, equipment set-up, and a go-ahead from the Princesses, Twilight was going to perform what Princess Luna called a "transdimensional conveyance". The Lunar Princess stated she knew nearly everything about the stars and beyond, though she wasn't very forthcoming with the information.

"You would be better off in ignorance of the many of the happenings in the Dark Beyond, Twilight Sparkle. Trust me." The alicorn solemnly told her about two weeks ago when she came to inspect the equipment needed for the Twilight's special research project.

Twilight looked around her lab in the under-section of the library, the gear for her usual experiments was stacked against the walls, giving ample space for the unusual objects in the middle of the room.

It was a large glass cube, its corners plated with arcanite. Two blue metal disks adorned the cube. One on the top, and the other on bottom, both also made of arcanite. The upper disk had a dark azure pole jutting out of it and through the door into the main floor of the library, and from there it led out a second-story window and then straight out toward the stars. The lower disk had a flat metal bar leading from the box to an apparatus that held a brilliant white gem. The gem was the "Focus", where Twilight would concentrate her magic and pick out what to bring to Equestria to study. After reading countless tomes on the subject, Twilight was sure what she wanted to summon forth.

A tree.

Well, not a fully-grown tree. A sapling. The unicorn had everything she needed. Right outside the glass cube she had a large flower pot for the sapling, as well as a few sacks of very fertile soil, generously donated from Applejack. The side of the glass box facing Twilight had an opening so she could retrieve her specimen. Spike was waiting nervously near the wall.

"Twilight? What if you don't get the kind of tree you want? If it's not the right kind or size, will you send it back?" The dragon asked. Spike was barely entering what counts as adolescence for dragons and at his full height stood an inch or so taller than the purple mare. Over the years, Spike's intelligence had grown along with him, but he was rather impulsive and rebellious at times to Twilight, who was very much his mother. She had read books on it and knew it was just a phase so she didn't worry about it too much.

"Princess Luna only granted me the equipment for receiving a specimen." Twilight explained. Luna had told her that a two-way Focus created a "conduit" that drew the attention of unknown beings if wielded by a novice. Though Twilight never thought of herself as a novice in any regard, but apparently the Princess thought otherwise with the Focus.

"She made it very clear I wouldn't need to send anything back. If it isn't exactly the right one, we can still examine it, as long as it isn't too big. Don't worry Spike." She gave him a reassuring smile and made her way toward the metal apparatus.

Luna had given Twilight a detailed account of what she would experience once she was linked with the Focus. It didn't make very much sense, but Twilight had memorized all of the important points. Firstly, this specific Focus was already attuned to mark where Twilight would need to look.

The Princess had given many warnings. Do not concentrate too much magic into the Focus, or it will burn you out, concentrate too little and the glass cube would shatter, and to have another pony there in case anything goes wrong. Luna would have been there herself, but she said she had important business to attend to, involving the Canterlot Statue Gardens and a lake, whatever that meant. So naturally, Spike was there and versed in almost all manners of plant emergencies. The worst being a poisonous, carnivorous, pony-eating plant.

Spike had made that one up of course.

Out of all of the Princess's warnings, the most important was regarding which dimensions and worlds Twilight could receive a specimen from.

"As you are not familiar with the Dark Beyond, We have adjusted your Focus to show you where you can and cannot explore." The Princess's words rung in her head, "Only explore the areas of the multiverse that glow blue. They are the ones that hold the plant life you seek. Under no circumstances are you to peer into the planes or worlds marked by a yellow glow. To intrude in those regions is to draw the attention of The Eyeless. We cannot stress how important it is you do NOT venture anywhere near the yellow areas."

When Twilight asked of "The Eyeless", the Princess only responded that they would make the Changeling Queen and Discord look like gentle moths, and wished not to give young Twilight nightmares for years.

"Ready Spike?" Twilight asked, suddenly feeling as nervous as Spike looked.

"Yep. Go ahead Twi. I got your back." He responded.

Twilight mentally calmed herself down. She needed to be focused and alert, and she had no reason to worry. She had been living in Ponyville for years, her magical aptitude was vastly greater than it was when she first arrived. Twilight would even go to Canterlot regularly to give lectures and seminars on the use of magic and the spells she had invented. And as a result, it led to her developing somewhat of an ego. Nothing as major as Trixie's, but definitely something she never would've thought having in her younger years.

The procedure was safer than other experiments she had done over the years. Using the equipment the Princess had granted her, and her own intellect and amazing skill, she would transport a small tree sapling from another world to study the effects of Equestria's radiant magic on it.

She knelt down on the floor, closed her eyes and concentrated her magic on the Focus. Spike gasped as the arcanite began to glow bright blue and similarly colored lines began to connect along the glass in geometric patterns. The bright glow raced up the arcanite pole leading outside the library and shot up into the sky.

Twilight saw none of it, as she closed her eyes and was granted new vision.

She felt as if she had no corporeal form as she drifted in what was an endless expanse of whiteness. She was aware of her physical body back in the basement of the library, but felt disconnected from it in a strange way. In front of her was a countless amount of flat objects. There had to be millions. Millions of millions.

These must be the planes of the multiverse. The unicorn thought. Although seemingly endless in number, Twilight felt as if she could sort through millions one in a thought, like going through files in a cabinet. As she did, her hope was diminished at seeing that nearly every single of the planes was surrounded with a yellow glow.

The glow was very... disturbing. Its yellow light pulsed with malevolent energy that looked like it wanted to expand its glow, filling the white space with its baleful glare.

It felt like the very essence of evil emanated from those planes, and that the glow was... watching her.

She sifted through the planes until she found one with a soft blue glow and among the vastness of eerie yellow, it was an island of calming hope. She quickly chose it and it enveloped her vision, the whiteness disappeared, being replaced with black. She gazed upon the countless galaxies in this plane and would have frowned, had she the capability. As with the planes, nearly every single galaxy was ringed with a yellow glow.

For a split-second she considered venturing into the restricted areas, but the yellow ring around the galaxies was as haunting as the glow around the planes. She felt like they wanted her to come and explore, to venture into their terrible light. Mentally shuddering, Twilight was determined to keep her distance from those galaxies. So, she searched this universe, the sea of yellow-ringed galaxies so vast it seemed like they would swallow and hide any place Twilight could retrieve her sapling. But the plane she entered was marked blue, so there had to be a potential galaxy here she could venture into.

After an indeterminable amount of time, she saw a speck of blue in her expansive vision. In her excitement to retrieve her specimen and be free of the watchful yellow glow, she consciously poured magic into the Focus, increasing her speed toward the azure spiral galaxy. Suddenly she felt her head back in the basement was beginning to feel very hot and the heat was beginning to pierce its way into her mind.

Do not concentrate too much magic into the Focus, or it will burn you out.

In shock, Twilight remembered the warning and withdrew most of her magic from the Focus. A unicorn getting burnt out of magic wasn't a unicorn at all. And when you're special talent was magic.....

As she withdrew, her vision in the Focus began to shake and from her connection to it, she felt that the glass cube back in Equestria was slightly shaking and becoming extremely brittle.

Concentrate too little and the glass cube will shatter.

Carefully, the mare increased the magic she put into the Focus until it was at just the right level. Reminding herself to stay calm, she explored the galaxy.

The yellow glow she had come to fear wasn't present in the spiral expanse, but it didn't seem as if the blue glow of hope was there either. Among the billions of stars, there had to be the life she was seeking, and it would be marked with blue. Luna stated that if it held no glow, be it yellow or blue, then there was no sufficient plant life.

Maybe there was another blue galaxy in this plane, though she was loathe to face the yellow galaxies again. Twilight had all night to search and she hoped it had only been a couple hours back in the library. As she reached the edge of the galaxy, preparing to leave it, a tiny blue triangle caught her vision. She made her way toward it and reached a star system with eight or nine planets.

As she surveyed the planets, nearly all held no life. A moon on the largest planet seemed to hold immense aquatic life under its thick icy crust, but it wasn't what Twilight was searching for. She made a mental note to ask the Princess about that moon. Making her way closer to the star, she found exactly what she was looking for.

A blue marble of a planet. Mostly covered in water, with twin ice caps at both poles. There were large pieces of land like giant islands in the planet's huge ocean, some were loosely connected, others not touching at all. It was night on the side of the planet Twilight was looking, and the island she chose was dotted with countless lights. They were bright yellow, but not the same yellow glow of warning. It was like a billion bright candles that never flickered. The unicorn knew it meant one thing.


As fascinated as she was with this unknown civilization, she still had an experiment, she had to get her sapling. But she couldn't take a sapling from the towns or cities here. The denizens might miss them. Twilight knew she could be profoundly depressed if someone had taken her tree.

So she ventured into the wilderness of the continent and was astounded by the forests of the place. She could not see the trees as she normally would have. Vision of life was very peculiar in the Focus. Trees were a light green glow, marking them as living things. Twilight could not make out the smaller branches, but she could see the general shape of the larger ones and tell they were trees. But she needed a sapling.

It was harder than she thought. They barely showed up as glows alongside the larger green lights of the fully grown trees, and when she did find one, it was too close to another tree. She didn't want to accidentally teleport a large branch or section of a tree, possibly killing it. That, and as large as the glass box was, it wouldn't hold a tree more than about seven feet.

She found a clearing in the forest, nearly void of any trees, but the soft white-green glow of the grass and bushes was still present. Near the middle of the clearing, her heart swelled. She had found it.

She found the sapling she had been looking for, it was only a little under six feet tall, nice and straight, and only had two branches which were raised up at the sky, waving slightly. It must have been windy in the clearing.

The strange thing about the sapling was that it glowed a darker green than the other trees, and in its center was a very faint red glow. The lower trunk of the sapling also looked to be split, but the glow from it seemed to meld them together. The thought that it could be a different variation or mutation from the other trees intrigued Twilight, and she was determined to bring this sapling back.

"When you find the specimen you wish to research, to retrieve it, simply wrap it in your thought, and withdraw your mind from the Focus. But be mindful to keep the magic still in the gem." Luna's instructions echoed in her head. When she had first told Twilight it didn't make much sense, but now that she was in the Focus, she knew exactly what to do to bring back her precious sapling.

She concentrated on the area around the sapling, being mindful to bring a section of the ground beneath it so she wouldn't cut off its roots. Once it was enveloped, she withdrew from the Focus. Her vision expanded at break-neck speeds, it zoomed out from the planet, the star system, and then the galaxy. It continued until it brought her back to the whiteness of the planes. From there the flat objects of the planes began to shrink as they got farther away from her, and her vision began to black out.

All she saw was black. But it wasn't a true black, she was familiar with this darkness. She saw it every split-second she blinked. Opening her eyes, she saw Spike standing worriedly over her.

"Twilight? Are you okay...?" He asked wringing his claws.

Coming back to her senses, she looked up and smiled at the dragon, "Yes Spike, I'm fine. Sorry for worrying you, I must have been in there for hours."

The dragon titled his head and gave Twilight a quizzical look.

"Hours? That was barely even a minute!"

"Huh? What do you mean!" The mare asked, shocked.

"Well," Spike started, looking up with a claw on his chin, "you started putting magic into the Focus. Then you began to sweat and it seemed like you got really hot, but right after you began to shiver and the glass box started shaking. I was sure it was going to break, but then everything went back to normal. A few seconds after that, there was a huge thunderclap and the cube filled up with blue smoke. That's when you woke up, er, came back. It had to have been around forty-five or fifty seconds."

"That's strange, it felt like I was in there for hours." Twilight pondered why it would be like that, but stopped when she caught what Spike had said. She pushed him out of her way and looked toward the glass box. She couldn't see her sapling on account of the blue smoke, Luna hadn't said anything about blue smoke, but at the edge of the cube she could see some of the dirt she had transported.

Twilight had never thought she'd be so happy to see dirt.

"I can't see anything." Spike stated flatly.

"Let me get the opening," Twilight said happily, making her way to the glass door on the cube, "I'm curious to see how our tree looks!"

As soon as she opened the door, the blue smoke began to clear out the box and immediately Twilight nose scrunched up as a sick burning smell wafted out the glass cube. Looking back toward the apparatus that held the Focus, she saw the gem was still glowing, as was the arcanite on the box. She was about to take the gem out when Spike yelled.

"Twilight! What is that!?"

She looked at the floor of the cube and gaped. That was not a tree. It looked like a slender hairless ape. With horror, she realized what was making the nauseating burning smell. The glowing blue geometric patterns on the box were burning into the creatures flesh.

"Spike! Take the gem out!" She barked at the dragon, while in a panic, she levitated the creature out of the cube.

The purple dragon rushed past her and snatched the Focus out of the apparatus, but quickly dropped it when it burned his claws. It landed on the hard wooden floor and seemed to cool down, but left a blackened mark.

Twilight couldn't care less as she carefully carried the creature with her magic. She fought the urge to panic as she noticed that it wasn't breathing. It looked like it had been wearing a shirt of light cloth that was ruined and burnt, but the leggings he wore seemed to be made of a tougher material and weren't completely ruined. From its musculature and build, Twilight was sure it- he- was a male of his species.

Though the inspection would have to wait. She had to get him to start breathing again.

Going through the spell catalog in her mind, she remembered one that should work. When Rainbow Dash crashed into the lake while practicing tricks. The high-speed impact had dazed the pegasus and water had soaked her feathers. Applejack was able to get Dash out of the lake, but not before she took in a lungful of water and was unresponsive. Twilight was able to resuscitate her with a spell that expelled the water from her lungs and refilled them with air.

It should work... Twilight thought as she lowered him to the wooden floor. Once she set the creature on the floor, she gasped and took a few steps back as his light skin started to take on a mahogany shade. His short auburn hair changed to a very dark brown, almost black.

"W-why did it do that..?" Spike stammered as he looked between the limp form and the wooden walls of the library, noticing that the creature's skin matched the darker shades of the tree.

"Oh no... " was all Twilight said. She had a hunch of what was going on, but her "sapling" was still unbreathing. She took a deep breath in and a magenta glow enveloped her horn and began to cover the creature's chest, throat and mouth.

Her sapling needed to live!