Chapter 55: Invasion
“Come quickly! I want to show you the new books we got!” Luna giggled as she ran through the hallways, servants dodging out of the way and bowing as she passed. Quicksilver ran to catch up, out of breath.
“Hold on! You’re outrunning me!”
“Hah! I thought you guards were supposed to be physically fit! It must be all those late visits to the kitchen!”
“Wait, you know?”
“I know everything that happens at night! After all, I am the princess of the night~”
“Can’t a guy get privacy?”
“Not when you’re dating a goddess!”
It had been two months since Luna had appointed Quicksilver to be her personal advisor. Celestia had been somewhat wary of Luna’s sudden and major changes to her life, but she had slowly grown warm to Quicksilver and the positive change he brought out of Luna. It had been weeks since Luna had complained about anything that Celestia had done, and she was finding it most refreshing.
The princess and her newfound friend were enjoying it as well. “What kind of book is it?” Quicksilver huffed. He looked around the library, trying to find it before Luna pointed it out. They were alone, besides a maid that was dusting the shelves a few rows away.
Luna pulled a shining, obviously freshly printed book off of the shelf she had stopped at. “It’s a book on teaching magic!”
“Oh.” Quicksilver sounded a little disappointed. “The way you were giggling, I thought it must have been a sappy romance novel.”
“Hush. No, I’m excited because, well, I was wondering if you would like to give it a shot.”
Quicksilver’s ears perked. “Wait, you want to teach me magic?”
Luna nodded enthusiastically. “You are always complaining that the unicorn guards have it easier. It would be a good excuse for us to be together, and you’ll learn something practical too.”
Quicksilver rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, sure, I’d love to, but are you sure you’re up to the task? I’m a blockhead when it comes to learning new things. My parents gave up trying to teach me pretty early on. I guess it doesn’t help that I threw a fit whenever they tried.” When he saw Luna’s smirk, he added “Come on, I was only a foal!”
“I think I can handle you,” Luna said.
“In that case, thanks. When were you thinking of starting?”
“Right now right now?”
Luna raised a brow. “Unless you have better plans.”
“Well, no, but… I thought you might need some preparation or something.”
“I’m always prepared. Besides, the basics of magic are easy enough to teach without a book. I want to use it as a guide, not a crutch. Here, sit over there.”
Quicksilver did as he was told. Luna sat across from him, only a few feet away. She placed a few pebbles from a nearby potted plant between them. Quicksilver was excited, but unwilling to show it. He tried to maintain composure. After all, though they were good friends, he was still part of her staff, and he had a reputation to uphold.
“I will start you with the spells foals learn when they are first entered into school.”
Quicksilver cringed. So much for maintaining his dignity.
“Basic telekinetics. Your task today is to move the stones with your mind. Now, it’s going to be a bit difficult for you, since you’re not a unicorn, but that should only make any achievement you make all the more impressive.”
“How do I begin?”
“Focus your mind, and unfocus your eyes. At least for now, we shall focus on sheer power, not precision. As a non-unicorn, you’ll concentrate your inherent arcane energy through your eyes. They will be your horn. Much of magic follows a scientific progression, with certain procedures producing replicable effects, but it’s all founded on an understanding of the flow of magic, which has to be experienced, not lectured. Go ahead and give it a try.”
Quicksilver frowned in concentration, then widened his eyes at the stones, leaning forward. His mouth moved as he silently willed the pebbles to lift into the air. He sat like this for twenty seconds or so before he looked at Luna. “Nothing’s happening.”
“Keep at it. Eventually you’ll get it.” Luna took the book on magical instruction and began flipping through it, seeming disinterested. Quicksilver shook his head and gave it another shot. The blue alicorn watched him out of the corner of her eye.
Ten minutes later, Quicksilver gave a groan of frustration. “Nothing’s happening!”
Luna looked up from her reading. “Try something different, then. Approach from a different angle. If thinking of what’s physically in front of you doesn’t work, come up with some analogy in your head. Maybe the pebbles are actually leaves, and you’re a powerful wind, blowing them away.” She flipped the page over.
The unamused pegasus looked back to the tormenting pebbles. He knitted his brow, focusing his breathing. “Okay. Alright. You’re leaves. I am the wind. You’re nothing against me. You’re just blown aside as I pass by, hardly even noticing you.”
“Leaves don’t have ears.”
“It’s hard enough without you mocking me!”
“Sorry. I’ll be quiet.”
Quicksilver closed his eyes for a moment, saying nothing. He sat like this for almost a minute before Gemini began to grow impatient.
We could always try reading his mind, I suppose.
Twilight had to admit it was worth a shot. They combined their mental capacities, honing in on Quicksilver's mind. It was certainly more difficult than it was in the present day, but finally, like a whisper on the wind, his thoughts flowed over theirs. His thoughts were not of words, but of emotion and pictures. The feelings surged back and forth, like a wave, growing in intensity and frequency. With a final effort, the power was released from its restraints, pouring forward. And, behind the emotion came a spark of creation. The spark ignited the pent up frustration and desire, and with a flash, Quicksilver's eyes illuminated with understanding and arcane power.
The pebbles shot into the air, pelting the walls and bookcases, embedding like bullets. Luna instinctively threw up a shield, deflecting one of the projectiles back to Quicksilver, who caught it telepathically, causing the pebble to hover motionlessly. The light faded from his eyes, but a brightness remained. “I did it!”
Luna bounded over and hugged him. “That was wonderful! Oh, Quicksilver, you're wonderful! You're such a good student.”
“Well, it was only a child's spell, right?”
Luna nodded consent. “Yes, I suppose it's a bit early for celebration.”
“I don't mean to deflate you. I mean, still, that was exhilarating! Do you feel that every time you cast a spell?”
“Depending on the complexity of the spell, it can be very exciting. Try it again, see if you can get it under better control.”
Quicksilver's eyes glowed again, and the pebbles shook a little, but didn't lift. He smiled awkwardly. “Alright, so I'm not the prodigy I was hoping I might be.”
“The harder you work, the more sweet the reward. Here, now that you know what it feels like to control magic, perhaps I can give better advice.”
Alright, enough of this. It looks like somebody didn't bother to abridge this history. Lustrous' impatience was bleeding over. “Forward!” she yelled.
Images flitted past Gemini's eyes, largely many hours of magic practice during the night interspersed by rest and discussions in the day. Finally, an impression came over both minds. The main event was about to happen.
Luna and Quicksilver were in a magical laboratory of some sort. It was a simple room with a table holding books and a few components. Luna and Quicksilver were staring each other down, a circle drawn around them, each standing at an opposite end.
“Three, two, one.”
Luna's horn flared, and Quicksilver's golden eyes glowed with a white light.
The air in the room stirred. With a flash, Quicksilver was engulfed with flame, which spun around him rapidly, creating a perimeter. Luna took the sight in for a moment, then swung her head forward. A bolt of shimmering, almost liquid magic shot through the air towards the flaming guard.
Quicksilver manipulated the fire to meet the attack, neutralizing it. Luna threw three more bolts in quick succession. Quicksilver split the flame in three, catching each with little effort.
Luna nodded. “Good. You're progressing well.”
The light disappeared from Quicksilver's eyes, and the flame extinguished as quickly as it had appeared. “It's been a struggle every step of the way. It's taken months to get to this point.”
“Regardless, you've made remarkable progress. I'll admit, there isn't much precedence for teaching adults, but you're in about year three of magical studies. Not bad, considering it's only been months.”
“I have wonderful teacher. And, well, it's not just for me. I'll be a far more effective guard if I actually know a thing or two about magic.”
“I'd say you know a little bit more than just one thing or two. But yes, there's always more to learn.” The two stepped over to the table. “Like this, for example. Summoning.”
“That sounds useful.”
“It can be, yes. It's not to be toyed with, however. If proper precautions are not taken, it can prove disastrous for the summoner.”
“Well, I'd like to give it a try.”
Luna nodded, pleased. “I was afraid that you'd worry that you weren't ready.”
“Well, I've come to trust your instincts.”
“You'll have to, the further we get into your studies.” Luna flipped to a specific page of the book. “Here, draw these runes on the ground with the components I've provided. When activated, they'll summon a personification of your subconscious. It should be safe, and it's always fun to come to know the most influential part of you.”
Quicksilver got to work, tracing the symbols with chalk, as instructed. Telekinetics seemed to be second nature now that he had been practicing for so long, managing to balance both the book and chemicals without a second glance.
In short time, he had made a perfect copy of the diagram. Luna looked it over before nodding her approval. “It looks good. Now, you'll want to stand there, then read the runes out loud.”
Stretched his neck, vertebrae popping as he stepped over. He planted his hooves into the ground, analyzing the drawing he had just made. “Yr wyf yn edrych i mewn i fy meddwl a darganfod fy gwirionedd. Bod yn rhwym, ac yn siarad!”
The runes shone, the white lettering turning blood red. A ghostly copy of Quicksilver was pulled out of his form, into the center of the circle. It blinked, looking around. It reached out, trying to cross the edge of the circle. As it crossed, the runes below flared up, a red wall of light holding it back.
“What do I say to it?”
Luna sided up, placing a comforting hoof over Quicksilver's shoulder. “Anything. Things you've been wanting to understand about yourself. Confusing feelings, forgotten memories... things that you know you know, but can't recall.”
Quicksilver thought for a moment, then looked to his shade. “Answer me this; what is my greatest fear?”
“You are afraid of failure more than anything else, and because of it, you present yourself as unimpressive despite your talents.”
Luna giggled. “Well, that explains why you're always telling me that your achievements are nothing.”
“Are my achievements even worth noticing? I'm nowhere near the levels of the best mages.”
“Do you think they got to where they were by questioning themselves? They made mistakes, and they started from square one, yet they pushed on through all their doubt and the scorn of others. Only by doing so were they able to excell. That's how every pursuit works.”
Quicksilver turned back to the apparition. “Tell me, what is my greatest weakness?”
“You are blind. You follow, but you do not lead. You do not think for yourself. In short, you are holding yourself back.”
“You are content to be a guard. You are content to be a student. You are content to be subservient. You have no drive beyond your need for approval.”
Luna stepped in between Quicksilver and his subconscious. “You jumped headlong into this, didn't you? Usually ponies start with a little less... extreme questions.”
Quicksilver scowled. “I'm sorry, but this is important to me. It's right. I've felt a bit stepped on lately.”
“Did I cause it?”
“No, of course not, but...”
“You feel like nobody cares about your contribution? That you're living in somepony else's shadow?” Luna looked at him pointedly.
“Very well.” She stepped back after a short pause.
“Alright. I have one last question. Do I love Luna?”
“Without a doubt. You love her more than yourself.”
“Very well. Dismissed.”
The apparition vanished, pulling back into Quicksilver's form.
Quicksilver turned to Luna. “The apparitions don't lie, do they?”
They looked into each other, seeing past their bodies and into the soul. After a moment, they moved closer. “All we want is to be appreciated. To make our lives worthwhile.” Quicksilver brushed Luna's mane out of her eyes. “Even eternity is not time enough to be with you.”
Suddenly, a burst of light came from the summoning circle. The two turned immediately. In place of the subconscious' ghostly form was a strange, wavering, and yet entirely distinct shape. It was some sort of alicorn, made out of lavender energy, its wings and horn distinguishable. It looked around, seeing the only other two inhabitants of the room.
“I heard you are having trouble being taken seriously?” it queried.
“What are you?” Luna demanded. “We didn't summon you.”
“And yet I am here. I had to escape quickly, and there wasn’t time to pinpoint a location. Quicksilver, I don't have much time. My form will dissipate unless I can join you in your body. Consider me a second subconscious. That's all I'll be. I can explain in due time, but I will be able to give you the willpower to excel. It will help both of us.”
“What reason do I have to trust you?”
“You have none. But you need not fear me. Your body is not my own, and unless you allow me control, you will always have power over me. I am, by no means, more powerful than Luna. Should she ever decide that I am out of control, she has the means to rend me from your body and kill me.”
“You show up without warning and expect us to entertain such a ludicrous idea?” Luna stepped forward, her horn flaring up in preparation. “I do not care what you think you have to offer, we’re not interested.”
“Wait, hear me out–” The creature’s plea was cut short as Luna began blasting it with rapid fire bolts. Its mass was torn apart from its body, burning up as their energy source was disconnected.
“Luna! What are you doing?” Quicksilver stepped to her side, trying to get her to hold up for a moment.”
“Whatever this creature wants, it’s not telling the whole truth. I’ve heard enough liars to know.”
The injured form threw itself against the edges of the summoning circle, the flares of red light still holding it back. “Please! You don’t understand how important this is! If I die, your future is jeopardized!”
“Speak directly, or speak no more.” Luna stood strong, despite Quicksilver’s quiet objections.
“I’ve come from the future, the shade of a pony you’ll know and trust. If you do not heed my warning, you’ll both be killed!”
“Can we deny the potential importance of such a claim? Luna, let’s hear this being out. What is your name?”
“My name? My name is Seren.” A chill came across the room. “Please, there’s little time. I will die if I am not given a body.”
Luna shook her head. “I’m sorry, but there are none available, unless you’d like a golem or something…” Quicksilver held his hoof out, making her pause.
“Seren, you said that you needed my body?”
“Yours is the only one that can house me. Your devotion to Luna will ensure that our minds remain separate. Anyone less strong willed would fall to my influence, and a golem can’t support my lifeforce.”
“Anyone? Not anypony?”
“The phrase has evolved to include all the races. But we can speak of this later!” The creature was growing impatient, smashing its ethereal form against the barriers. “I have seconds! Break the circle, let me free!”
“I’m not sure of this,” Luna said warily. “I’ve heard of no precedent.”
“I’m willing to take a chance. This could be really important. Luna, I trust you. Promise me you’ll do what must be done to remove this spirit if it proves to be lying. Anything.”
Quicksilver stepped forward, hesitating for just a moment. Seren sparked impatiently, the luster of the energy composing its body fading slowly. Then, with conviction, Quicksilver scraped out a section of the circle. The electrical force surged forward, staring squarely into Quicksilver’s eyes.
“Thank you. By saving me, I now can save you.” The ghostly form lost its distinguishing details, flowing up into Quicksilver’s face. Quicksilver stepped back instinctively, wings flaring. Within moments, the shape had disappeared, enter Seren’s body through his mouth and nose. Quicksilver coughed and sputtered, shaking his head in confusion.
“How are you, Quicksilver?” Luna asked, stepping over to him in concern.
“I’m fine, I think.”
“What happened to this ‘Seren’?”
“It… I feel another presence in my mind. It’s separate, yet distinctive. It seems to be relaxing, like it’s relieved.”
“What does it feel like?”
“Like a memory. Distinct, yet detached.”
“Can you speak with it?”
“Jeez, so many questions.”
Luna sighed. At least she knew that Quicksilver was still Quicksilver.
“Hold on a moment, I’ll give it a try.” Quicksilver shut his golden eyes, focusing. Gemini did the same, hoping to get in on the telepathic conversation.
Can you hear me, Seren? Quicksilver thought.
I can… but my journey has exhausted me. I will regain my strength, and speak with you on the morrow. Thank you for saving me.
Very well. I’ll see you tomorrow.
“It’s still alive, just exhausted.”
“We should probably tell Celestia about this. Even if she can be snooty, it’s nice to have an outside opinion.”
“Yeah, I’d like that. If this creature’s telling the truth, we can learn a lot from it, but I’d like to know as much as possible, as long as it’s sitting in my body.” Luna stabilized Quicksilver and they stepped over to the door. They left the room as student and teacher, guard and princess, and most importantly, protectors and friends.
Gemini was just about to pull out of Quicksilver’s mind to follow them when she caught a final, subconscious thought coming from Seren.
I know you’re watching Twilight Sparkle, and I want to let you know, though it will take thousands of years, I’m coming for you.
The stream of consciousness detached itself coldly.