My Little Unicorn: Magic is Believing Redo
Rewrite By: Raising Shadows
Hello there all! And welcome back to another exciting(I hope it's exciting at least) episode of my version of My Little Unicorn. I've taken a quick break from the series just to get out and enjoy life for a bit, and now I'm back and recharged and ready for more. So I hope that you're as ready for this as I am! Because here we go!
Episode 4: The Painted Dreams of Ocean's Sorrow
-Twelve Years Ago-
“Easy... Keep it level with your target.”
A bright red target stood down at least a hundred yards from a pair of unicorns, one with a bright yellow coat with and a blue mane and tail standing next to a silver unicorn with a bright green mane and tail. The yellow unicorn held a small bow in his hands, drawn back as far as he could bring it back to as a practice arrow was nocked into the bowstring. Sweat ran down the younger unicorn as he continued to hold the bow as steady as possible, trying with all of his might to keep the target in his sight.
“Steady now Lightning. We don't want anything bad happening right?” The Silver unicorn asked, watching the lack of reaction on the yellow unicorn's face as he continued to hold the bow in his hands. “Well I'll be. He's got the hang of it finally.”
The unicorn released a gentle breath, before looking slightly up at the silver unicorn standing next to him. With a nod from said unicorn Lightning let the practice arrow fly, causing it to strike the second ring from the center.
“What! Come on!” The young unicorn snapped, lowering the bow and glaring at the sight. “I was perfect with everything too!” He heard the light chuckles from the unicorn that stood above him and turned angrily on him. “What's so funny Daddy?”
The silver unicorn ran a hand playfully through the colt's mane before getting down to look at him in the eye. “Well, it's your reaction. You've had everything almost right, it just wasn't time for a bullseye yet. You'll get it eventually.”
“But the other kids will laugh at me if I don't get one now!” The young Lightning wailed, turning back on the archery range and looking at all of the failed shots that were scattered along its length. He could feel tears welling up in his eyes as the frustration of only getting one out of what seemed like a hundred shots even close to the bullseye was near impossible. “It just isn't fair!” The unicorn finally said, dropping to his knees and letting go of the bow that he had.
“What isn't fair son?” The silver unicorn asked, sounding slightly concerned.
“I try and I try and I try, and I'm not even good at half of the things that other kids are. Like last week, Gem Cutter got her Cutie Mark in our school's talent show and all she did was juggle!” The tiny unicorn was shuddering, almost like he was sobbing slightly. He stopped, feeling a gentle hand on his shoulder and turned to see the smiling face of the silver unicorn, his tears almost stopping as instantly as they came.
“Well, answer me this.” His father asked, the same smile never leaving his face. “Do you want to find what makes you special? Or do you want to be like everyone else?” Lightning remained silent for a moment as he shook his head, looking away in disappointment. “I want you to remember something Lightning. Promise me, that you'll never forget this okay?” He asked, watching as the colt looked back up at his father.
“What do you want me to promise?” Lightning asked.
“That you are special, no matter what anyone else says.” His father replied gently, pulling the young unicorn into a hug. “Whatever happens, even if you don't have a Cutie Mark, you will always be my little colt. You have limitless potential, and right now you can be good at anything that you want to be. Don't let the fact that you have a Cutie Mark discourage you son. You'll get one eventually. Promise me that you won't forget that.”
The unicorn colt nodded into his father's shoulder, feeling the feather's of his wings tickle his snout. “I promise I won't forget that daddy.”
“That's good Lightning. That's really good.”
It had been a week since Titan's forces launched an attack on Redwood Valley. The damage to the city itself wasn't too bad, nothing serious was hit in the initial attack and occupation. And due to the fact that there were Gnolls involved in the battle, most of the architecture from the cities building's was still intact long after their makeshift fortification was brought down by Unicornicopian forces. But that wasn't the problem that was plaguing the nation at the moment.
Titan's Bio-weapon had seemingly successfully done its job. The attack, according to some of the Unicornicopian Generals that were involved in the war-effort and those that were called out of retirement said that it wasn't a random attack. It had initially appeared to them that it was just another raid on one of the smaller settlements in the area to gather a foothold on the planet's surface, when in all actuality the crops that were being grown by the farmers in the area were almost wiped out in most cases. This coupled with the fact that it was the major breadbasket in the entire nation, made it out to be a critical attack that had gone off with relatively fewer problems.
Lightning hadn't spoken with Grand Ruler Celesto since he helped the military repulse the attack on the city, and he understood why. Sure, there were plenty more places that would need to process more and more food for the army if their defense of the planet was to continue, but it seemed like this hit the Grand Ruler personally.
He also could see that Buddy Rose was taking it particularly hard, whenever he saw the earthy unicorn his gaze was filled with a hidden rage. He still had the same friendly look in his eyes, but Lightning could tell that there was something deep inside the unicorn that made him want to punch someone's lights out. No one could even get him to give a straight enough answer, making it impossible to guess about how he was feeling unless they looked directly into his eyes.
Ottavo was busy all that week, saying something about getting, “Inspired,” by the way they handled the battle that day and had almost disappeared and hadn't said anything to anyone else. Moonbeam was also missing as she had tried to make it so that the Astronomy Association would help the Unicornicopian Military track Titan's movements. Apparently according to her, none of them wanted to even comply with her requests in the first place and had to fight to even get them to listen to her proposal.
Drawn Out was officially indisposed as well, stating something about, “Lightning's training will need to be prepared better,” before he too disappeared for the week. Lightning was curious as to what that entailed, but the dark blue unicorn wouldn't say as to what exactly, and gave Lightning a look that said that it wasn't a matter that the yellow unicorn shouldn't be pressing at the moment.
It was a couple days after the battle that Lightning found himself practicing his telekinesis on heavier objects, starting with books as a supplement to his practice with the Grand Ruler, and found that they were a lot harder than that of a simple stone found at the bottom of a pond. However Lightning was stubborn, keeping up at the practice until he was able to lift at least one of the books on telekinesis that he borrowed from the local library. By the end of the week, his goal of reaching an hour on his telekinetic levitation was in-sight and closing in fast. Krysta had thoroughly demanded that they get a stopwatch to time the unicorn as he practiced, as most of the time he had stopped after the first or second passes. There was also some furniture window shopping that the fairy had done while they were out the day before, and thanks to Lightning's newly recognized position in the Unicornicopian Army, they were able to look around at the potential candidates for their home.
“Come on Lightning!” Krysta cheered, watching as the yellow aura around the book that he was reading and the stone that orbited him began to fade. “You have just five minutes to go! You can do it!” She said, keeping a close eye on the minute hand of the watch.
“I-huff-don't-think I can-huff-make it-huff-Krysta.” Lightning said, feeling the strain of his magical reserves beginning to pull on his body. Sweat ran down his face as he reached out and turned another page in the telekinesis book in front of his face.
“You can make it Lightning! You can and you will!” Krysta replied, staring at the watch as it passed the fifty-sixth minute mark. “Four minutes to go! You're gonna beat your record!” She said excitedly, her voice sounding like someone at a racing derby. She looked up from the watch, seeing the visible strain and the flicker of Lightning's magical aura on the objects that he was manipulating with his magic, but she could see his determination burning deep within his eyes. The unicorn was simply refusing to give up even though his body was telling him to do so. She watched as he reached for another page as several large drops of sweat landed in an ever-growing puddle on the floor beneath his hooves, turning said page and taking several deep and harsh breaths.
“What're-huff-we lookin'-wheeze- at for time?” Lightning asked, continuing to strain at the levitation that he was performing. The unicorn stole a glance at Krysta as she stared at the watch before looking back up at him.
“You've got about two minutes Lightning. This is the closest that you've ever been, you can do it!” The fairy said encouragingly, watching as the unicorn started wobbling slightly. The fairy then leapt into the air, only to have Lightning stop her, as she looked on with concern.
“Don't-huff-huff-worry about me Krysta. I'll-huff-huff-huff-be fine.” Lightning said through labored breaths, his entire form shaking and trembling as though his body were going through an internal quake. The unicorn watched as Krysta dropped back to the ground, staring at the stopwatch before counting under her breath, before he smiled with accomplishment. “Great, I'm almost there. I can do it! I can do it! I can-”
The thought was never finished. Just as Lightning saw Krysta leap up in victory after stopping the timer, the unicorn felt both the stone and book release from his telekinetic grip. The next few moments seemed to move in slow motion as Krysta flew out of the way from the heavy hard-covered book and watched with slight-horror as Lightning collapsed, landing on the floor with a heavy thud.
“LIGHTNING!” Krysta shrieked, flying over to the trembling unicorn and shaking him as best she could. Lightning's body was covered in sweat which forced his jeans and t-shirt to cling to his body as though it were caked in glue. His breaths were extremely heavy, especially after what he accomplished, and it masked the sounds of knocking on the front door. Krysta looked up, seeing that Drawn Out had shown up first, and immediately flew to the front door in a panic.
“Hey there Krys-
No time! Lightning's on the floor, and I don't know what's wrong, and you've gotta help him!” She exclaimed, flying out of the way as Drawn Out stepped past her and the front door before closing it. The dark blue unicorn stepped to Lightning's collapsed body and got a closer look, placing one of his hands on his shoulder. The paranoid fairy fluttered over the artistic unicorn's shoulder as he gently laid Lightning down onto his back before letting his horn flare up with a darker blue aura which summoned a glass from out of nowhere. The unicorn then calmly walked over to the sink in the kitchen, turning the faucet on and filling it up all the way before walking back to where Lightning lay and steadying him as he tried to get back to his hooves again.
“Easy there...” Drawn Out replied, passing the glass to Lightning's waiting arms as he guzzled the glass greedily. “Not too fast now.” He said, pulling the glass back as the unicorn took a deep breath and grabbed the glass again. He smiled as Lightning downed its contents before sitting up. “Feel better?” Drawn Out asked, watching Lightning nod.
“Yeah... Hoo, what the heck happened?” He asked, as Krysta landed back to where the watch was.
“I was about to ask the same thing myself Lightning.” Drawn Out replied. “You wore yourself out pretty quick. How'd it happen?”
“Eh heh heh heh... That's my fault.” Krysta confessed sheepishly, looking away as Drawn Out and Lightning looked down at her. “I said that Lightning was almost at his target of what the Grand Ruler set for him, and well...
It's okay Krysta.” Lightning said as he put a hand to his head. “You were just trying to help me get better with my training. I should have stopped before it got out of hand.” He said as Drawn Out chuckled a little.
“It looks like it got out of hand sooner than what you originally had expected.” Drawn Out replied, helping Lightning to his hooves. “It seems like you experienced a magical burn out. It's really common when first time magic-users try to do way too much way to fast.”
“Magical burn out?” Krysta repeated, watching Drawn Out nod.
“Yes, magical burn out.” Drawn Out replied. “Like I said it's something that's prevalent with magic-users, primarily with unicorns.” The dark blue unicorn explained, pointing to the horn on his head. “Unlike most users of magic, like elves or orcs, this is the source of our power. The horn on our heads allows us to do anything from basic telekinesis to summoning a hail of meteors on our enemies. But, even though it's the source of our power it is also one of the most vulnerable points on our body. It's the only point on our bodies where the bone is easily exposed, which covers what generates the powers for our magic.”
“Really, I never knew that...” Krysta replied before looking up at the dark blue unicorn. “Is there anyway to make it so that Lightning doesn't burn out again?” She asked, watching Drawn Out chuckle a little.
“Yeah, don't let him over-exert himself.” Drawn Out replied before looking at the puddle of sweat that Lightning was presently now sitting in. “I stand corrected, it seems like you really pushed yourself beyond your limits. Did you even take a break before you kept going with practice?” He asked, watching as Lightning remained silent. “You didn't... did you?” He asked, watching as Lightning nodded again. “Look Lightning, I know that you want to get stronger but it isn't going to help anybody if you are worn out even before the battle begins.” He scolded before smiling again. “Don't worry though, you have plenty of magic at your disposal. Just don't use it all at once.”
“I'll try not to.” Lightning replied, finding his hooves and getting up with help from the other unicorn. “So, why are you here Drawn Out?” He asked, watching the unicorn chuckle a little.
“Oh, well I was here to pick you and Krysta up for another training session today.” Drawn Out replied. “Though we may be running a little late... I mean with what happened here and everything...
I get the picture Drawn Out. I'll get myself cleaned up so we can meet with everyone else.” Lightning said, before heading to his bathroom. Krysta smiled, flying up to eye level with Drawn Out before the unicorn turned to her.
“So... Care to spill on what you're going to be teaching Lightning?” Krysta asked, watching as the unicorn shook his head.
“Sorry Krysta, but that's top secret.” Drawn Out replied, walking back into the kitchen and grabbing some towels. “But what I can tell you is that we can get this cleaned up before we leave.” He said, watching the fairy groan before beginning dry up the puddle from the middle of the floor.
Between Krysta and Drawn Out's work on the mess that Lightning made during his practice, and the shower that Lightning had taken, they were gone and out of the house in less than fifteen minutes. Drawn Out had suggested that they stay away from the main road into the capitol, as the traffic to and from Redwood Valley was still extremely heavy and would've made their trip five times longer.
An hour passed as they finally made it to the eastern gate of the city, passing it with relative ease before entering the Outer District. Even though they were in the poorest section of the Rainbow Capital, Lightning noticed that the eastern part of the Outer District was even more well kept than that of the southern or western portions of the city. The buildings seemed to be a little bit more evenly spaced out from each other and while there were still repairs going on from Titan's first attack from over a week ago, most of the District looked relatively unharmed.
“Uh, Drawn Out... Where are we going?” Krysta asked from underneath Lighting's mother's cloak. The dark blue unicorn smiled a little before pointing ahead.
“We're going to get Lightning outfitted for battle Krysta.” Drawn Out replied as both the fairy and yellow looked to where he was pointing. They could see that Buddy Rose, Ottavo Rima, and Moonbeam were all standing in front of a dark gray, but almost black, building that stood closer to the outer wall. It had the appearance of a fortress that one would see on the drawing of one who went to school, but the top of said fortress was lined with menacing stone beasts that gazed down on them as though they were in thought. Lightning was slightly intimidated by the sight, staring at the beasts with both curiosity and wonder until Drawn Out cleared his throat.
“I'm sorry, were you saying something?” Lightning asked, watching the unicorn shake his head.
“So you are awake.” Drawn Out replied. “For the most part at least. You've gotta love the orcish architecture. Simple, yet fierce. Effective, yet it has a source of elegance. Plus, it's where we're going to give you the chance to hold a real weapon in your hands.” He said as they finished making their way over to the heavy oaken doors of the fortress.
“Geez, what in the hay took you guys so long?” Ottavo asked. “My legs are killing me!” He said angrily.
“You could have sat on the bench you know.” Moonbeam said, pointing to the heavy wooden bench that was off to the door's right. “It's actually quite comfortable once you sit down.”
The pink unicorn shook his head. “Uh huh. Right. And so are the splinters that you can get from sitting on that rotten thing? No thanks.” He snapped back.
“I've told you this all ready Ottavo, the bench is fine. You don't need to worry about splinters.” Buddy replied, getting up from the bench and walking over to the group. “I am the expert on things that come from Nature you know.” He said, as the pink unicorn steamed a little.
“If you two are quite finished, we need to see if Lightning can get himself armed before Titan launches his next attack.” Drawn Out replied. “Of course, if you want him to go ahead and fight barehanded...
We get it Drawn Out.” Moonbeam said, speaking for the three of them. “Anyways, so did you fill him in on what this place was?” She asked, watching as Drawn Out shook his head.
“Well I was about to, but I figured that we would let what was inside do it for ourselves.” Drawn Out replied, watching Moonbeam sigh a little.
“Well all right.” Moonbeam said, turning to Lightning. “Shall we then?” She asked, her mood seemingly improving a little.
Lightning nodded to the white unicorn, stepping forward to the heavy door before knocking on it. His friends remained silent, watching as nothing seemingly happened for a few moments before the door swung inward and revealed nothing but darkness. As they stood there, their eyes seemed to adjust to that darkness as a humanoid shape rose in front of them, appearing to be able to tower over even the Grand Ruler himself. In the expanse of the darkness it boomed:
“WHO DARES DISTRURB THE SLUMBER OF THE GREAT GIANT SMITH! SPEAK AND BE RECOGNIZED!”
The force and volume of the voice was enough to bowl the small unicorns over, knocking them into a heap. Lightning quickly got back to his hooves again and stared at the figure that now stood in the doorway. “My name is Lightning Dawn, personal student to Grand Ruler Celesto, and member of the Unicornicopian Military,” His voice sounded as firm as he could make it, even though he was almost absolutely terrified at the figure which he presumed was the owner of the voice. “I was told that by my friend Drawn Out that I could be properly outfitted here so that I could do my job to better defend the kingdom from Titan.”
The voice's owner fell silent for a moment before the figure stepped to the side. “Well why didn't you say so in the first place?” A gentler, and more friendly voice asked as a light sprang to life on the inside of the building. “Come in, Come in! Any humble servant of Unicornicopia and her Majesty is a friend of mine!” Lightning's friends got up as soon as the voice changed tones, most of them save for Drawn Out were incredibly nervous before following both the yellow and blue unicorns inside.
They surveyed the room that they now stood in, a simply built reception area that looked out of place in something that involved the military. There were a few couches, and a smaller door off to the right and in front of where Lightning and his friends were standing, waiting to be used for those that would be waiting on someone that might have been deeper in the complex. A small end table sat in between the pair of couches as a coat rack sat in the furthest corner from the room next to the receptionist's desk that appeared to be little more than a used judges platform. The unicorns watched as the owner of the voice strode past them before tossing the huge black cloak that he wore and sat down before them in the massive chair that was behind the desk.
“Whoa...” Was all the sound that could be heard from what the unicorns beheld at the sight of the receptionist. He was tall, standing near eleven feet tall with huge bulging muscles and dark forest-green skin, and had a massive scar that ran down across his left eye. One of his lower fangs was missing, as a recently healed stump was in its place, as the giant's red eyes scanned the crowd of unicorns. His clothing appeared to be tailor made for his sheer size, appearing to be no more than a small purple circus tent that was sewn together into a one-piece suit which seemed to blend seamlessly with the militaristic half-cuirass that made up the entire left hand side of the suit. The giant seemed to take their silent reverence as a compliment before clearing his throat.
“I see that you are all here precisely twenty minutes later than what I would have expected.” The giant said, pulling out a pocket watch the size of a dinner plate and opening it before examining it. He closed it again before turning to his attention to Drawn Out. “Surely you know the importance of time Drawn Out? My superiors do not like it when I keep the office open like this. It attracts unwanted attention from those that do not work for our Majesty and the nation's best interests.”
“My dear friend Goliath,” Drawn Out began, taking several earnest steps forward before getting on one knee as though to show the giant respect, “You must understand that I was on my way here. But there were... Some complications that arose when I arrived to pick Lightning up for today.”
“And what would those... Complications be Drawn Out?” Goliath asked, raising a massive eyebrow.
“I can answer that one sir.” Lightning replied, stepping forward and watching as the giant's gaze turned to him. “I was practicing my magic, and it got out of hand. So much so, that I wore myself out. It took me a bit to get cleaned up and we were met with traffic on-
AH HAH!” Goliath shouted happily, knocking the unicorns to the ground unintentionally. “My apologies. I need to learn how to control my voice. Especially in the presence of new guests.” He said as the unicorns picked themselves up from the floor. “Now, you say that you were making yourself stronger and after getting a little carried away you drained your reserves up. I like you Lightning Dawn, nothing says anything better about a man than training like they have nothing left to lose. And for that, I may overlook this late oversight.” Goliath said, watching as the other unicorns smiled. He then reached under the desk, pulling out a clipboard that looked microscopically small in comparison to his great size and passed it down to Drawn Out who took it willingly. “I need you to sign this form here, stating that you arrived here a little later than the expected time. Don't worry about the Quartermaster, I'll deal with him before the day is out.” Goliath replied, watching as Drawn Out signed the form he was given before passing it back to the giant. The giant's eyes narrowed before nodding. “Okay, now there's one more thing that we need to clear up with and that's your cloak sir. We can't have you walking around the facility while concealing a weapon that could devastate our offensive capabilities now, could we?” Goliath asked, watching Lightning nod quietly before slowly taking the cloak off. His eyes spotted Krysta and narrowed slightly as she leapt onto Lightning's shoulder from within the cloak before the unicorn passed it over to the giant.
“Is there something wrong sir?” Lightning asked as Krysta got comfortable on his shoulder, watching the giant place the cloak on the coat rack.
“No... Everything's fine, just make sure that she stays out of trouble.” Goliath replied, before turning to face them all. “Now, you all are about to enter an area where we make our weapons to end the lives of those that would do us harm. As soldiers of the Unicornicopian Army, it is your duty to never use these weapons on the innocent. It is your duty to never turn them on those who cannot defend themselves. And it is your duty to bring your sword to defend this nation and Grand Ruler Celesto should the need arise. Do you swear to uphold these duties to the best of your abilities or until the Angel of Death takes you to the next world?” He asked solemnly, his glare piercing them as though he was staring into their souls.
A chorus of six shouts rang out in the receptionist's office as the smile of the giant returned to him, “We so swear!”
“Very well.” Goliath replied, gesturing to the door that led deeper into the facility. “Then proceed into The Forge. Unicornicopia's central-most authority on weapons and weapon making.” He watched as the five unicorns and the fairy walked towards the only other door that they had not been through before opening it and disappearing behind it. The giant smiled as the tail of the last unicorn disappeared before the door shut, and popped a joint in his neck. “They all seem pretty good together. I wonder how the Quartermaster is going to react, especially when the personal student to Grand Ruler Celesto is completely green in the ways of combat?” The giant thought before grabbing a stack of papers underneath his desk. “Heh, it really shouldn't matter. The guy owes me in the first place.” He scoffed mentally before picking up a pen the size of a telephone pole cut in half and beginning to write on the papers in front of him.
As the unicorns stepped into what was a simple stairwell that seemed to cut itself off from the rest of the top part of the complex, one couldn't help but notice how Drawn Out was going on about the architecture of the area. The stairs themselves appeared to be cut from the same stone, as if they were standing inside a naturally made cave, and as their descent continued said cave looked more and more natural as they went down. Several liberties had been taken, according to the artistic unicorn, to ensure safety for any unicorn that went down the steps that they were currently on especially if they were in the middle of the rainy season for the Rainbow Capitol. Metallic railings were put into place, almost seamlessly blending in with the stone walls as they continued their descent deeper into the rock. Krysta didn't want to see Lightning break his neck during their descent and had shouted at him twice unintentionally when he had let go of the railings to move around some boulder that was blocking the way.
“Is it just me... Or is it getting hot in here?” Ottavo asked as they continued their descent downwards.
“No, it's not just you,” Drawn Out replied, continuing to lead the group downwards before stopping at a heavy metal door, “This place is going to be extremely hot. Especially now that War has been officially declared against Titan. The smiths here are working extra hours to get our soldiers well armed.” He said before stepping towards the door. The other unicorns followed inside the small area behind him, watching as Drawn Out grabbed a black leather protective glove from the left hand side of the door and put it on before grabbing the black iron door knocker on it's face and banging it several times against the metal.
The next few moments were met with silence, as the unicorns watched Drawn Out replace the glove on its hook where it belonged. He then stopped, just as a small slot above the knocker opened up and revealed a pair of golden eyes. “So... ye've finally came. I though' fashionably late meant five minutes, not almos' an hour.” The owner of the the golden eyes said through a snarl, glaring at Drawn Out.
“Quartermaster Tall-ek, it has been a while.” Drawn Out replied, almost with as much respect as one would when speaking to the Grand Ruler himself. “I apologize for us being so tardy, my friend here was bettering himself a little too much and-
Save yer excuses Drawn Out.” The voice snapped, sounding a little bit gentler than before. “It don' matter why you were late. Yer' here now ain'tcha? Gimme a minute and I'll letcha in.” The slot then closed shut as the sounds of heavy metal grinding against the stone of the floor in front of the unicorns caused them to shield their ears. They all stepped back as the door swung out, revealing the Quartermaster and the massive workshop behind him. Lightning and Krysta were the only ones to stare in awe with the size of the workshop behind the Quartermaster, but that wasn't the only thing that impressed them.
Quartermaster Tall-ek was massive, almost as tall as Goliath with about just as much bulk. Where Goliath appeared to be more of a refined or retired warrior, Tall-ek was savage looking enough for the both of them. The Standard Unicornicopian Officer's uniform that he wore, which was normally a bright white and had the emblem of the country on the bearer's shoulder, was covered in black dust from what only Lightning could assume was the forges behind him. His dark green skin made him look like he lumbered out from a forest, as an even wilder mane of hair appeared to be hastily styled into a braid. A massive saber the size of a normal Claymore rested at his side, and appeared to be capable of cutting a boulder or two in half, as the iron gloves that he wore appeared to be the only thing that looked like they were taken care of besides the saber.
“Well, let's get this over with.” Quartermaster Tall-ek grumbled, stepping aside as the unicorns followed Drawn Out into the complex. From what Lightning could see, he appeared to be stepping into the core of a volcano, or of the planet itself, and stared in wonder as more giants appeared to be hammering out gigantic versions of Unicornicopian arms and armor. Several Unicorns and Orcs were down on the ends, shrinking the weapons down to a usable size as Goblins ran about as fast as they could, with completed weapons clutched in their claws, as they stacked them onto an ever-growing pile of weapons which would eventually be either carted off somewhere or stored in a cave that lead off from the main entrance.
“Yeh must be really green if'n you think this is somthin' special.” Quartermaster Tall-ek said quietly, stepping past the unicorns and heading towards a guided walkway. “It's like all I git now are green unicorns who don' know a thing about fightin' at all.”
“I know some things.” Lightning replied, in spite of himself. He watched as the giant stopped in front of him and gave him a curious look. “I know some of the basics and-
Basics! BASICS!” Quartermaster Tall-ek bellowed, causing everyone in the area to stare at the yellow unicorn. “Yeh think that blindly chargin' inta battle jes' because yeh can is knowin' the basics?” The giant asked, doing nothing short of letting out a huge guffaw. He stopped before turning on Lightning and getting down on one knee, almost as if to talk to him like a child. “Lissen ere' yer' a newcomer to this'ere game. These're the rules, you learn what you're gonna learn an' survive to the next engagement, or you lose an' you die. The basics I know and the basics you know are two different things son. You need to have instincts afore' you go an' hit the enemy with what yer' made of. It's the same thing that I told yer' friend that brought you here.”
Lightning turned as Drawn Out nodded earnestly. “Lightning,” Drawn Out began gently, “Fighting one-on-one is totally different than fighting in a war. You can't just look out for yourself and expect to survive. Everything that was taught to those of us who went into Military School was made so that we can understand how to think like a unit.” The unicorn stopped, waiting as the information tried to sink into Lightning's brain.
“As much as I'd like to disagree with Drawn Out, it actually is the truth.” Ottavo replied, watching as Lightning turned to him. “The whole point of Squad Tactics is just to make sure that as many soldiers survive the battlefield as possible. Everyone contributes a part to the squad no matter how small it is, and everyone is a small component in the machine.”
“It sounds like you memorized the whole introductory speech.” Drawn Out replied as Ottavo nodded. “Anyways, Lightning what we're here to do is get you your own personal weapon to use when we're out fighting Titan's forces.”
“And yer' not gonna be gettin' one standin' out here all day, so let's get on over to the armory.” Quartermaster Tall-ek said, lumbering on ahead of them and down the massive corridor in front of the main entrance. The unicorns all followed as close behind as they could, seemingly slowing down due to the heat of the forges, as the giant continued his march forward.
It only took them a few moments as the temperature went back to bearable levels to get to the armory. Lightning had to stop and shield his eyes for a moment as weapons of all kinds could be seen on hundreds of weapon racks that seemed to stretch on forever. There were swords that had blades polished enough to look like blades of light, Axes that were a size too big for any of the unicorns, spears that looked more like longer handled swords than anything, and all sorts of other weapons that would make even the most battle-hardened soldier cry with glee.
As Lightning and the unicorns stepped forward into the armory, Quartermaster Tall-ek moved one of his gigantic hands in front of Lightning as if to stop him. Lightning looked up at the giant and blinked nervously. “Is there something wrong?” He asked, watching the giant look down on him.
“I'm only going to tell you this once seeing as how yer' green. But civvies aren' allowed in th' armory.” He said, using a massive finger to point at Krysta. The tiny fairy looked like she was about to pass out, but appeared to be hurt at the same time. “She can wait in th' lobby here and cool off. I'll have someone come'n watcher for yeh.” Quartermaster Tall-ek said as gently as he could, pointing at a small office that sat to the right of the armory entrance almost a yard away.
Krysta looked up at Lightning, who nodded reassuringly at the fairy, before leaping down into the Quartermaster's open hand. It took the giant almost two and a half steps before he knocked on the door of the armory's lobby, passing the fairy to a waiting elf from the other side of the open door before returning to their group. “She's gonna be fine. Though I am going to have a talk with the receptionist about getting his eyes checked.” Quartermaster Tall-ek said, before watching Lightning follow his fellows inside. “Now, yer' mission is the find you somethin' that'll help provide yer squad somethin' that'll make them survive a lot better. An' don' come out til' you find somethin'. If I don' like it, You'll be sent back. Is that clear?” He asked.
“Yes sir!” The unicorns shouted before watching as the giant lumbered over to a chair near the armory.
“Come on guys, let's get this going. Lightning isn't going to find the weapon meant for him and for our squad by us not doing anything is he?” Drawn Out asked, grabbing Lightning and dragging him deeper inside.
“Uh... Is the Quartermaster not going to come with us?” Lightning asked, stealing a glance at the giant who appeared to be reading something in a manilla folder.
“Tall-ek's found out that if he just assigns soldiers weapons that they're not good with, they'd be a waste on the battlefield.” Drawn Out replied before stopping past the racks that carried the swords. “Besides, he has a hundred different things to do in running The Forge down here, and I don't think that helping new recruits or military students pick out their weapon is high on his list of things that needs to get done.”
“Why's that?” Moonbeam asked.
“Well... For one thing, a lot of recruits want to get swords or axes, or weapons that take years of practice to get the basics and master. Certain weapons that are handy, like a spear or a bow, get over-looked by unicorn or orcish soldiers. Elves from what I understand have incredibly picky tastes when it comes to weapons as if the materials aren't absolutely perfect they won't use them or sometimes can't use them. Goblins are also incredibly hard to give a weapon as they're noticeably smaller than any other soldiers in the military, but that doesn't mean much when one has your back.” Drawn Out explained, watching as some of it was understood.
“It's like dealing with different plants I guess.” Buddy Rose said, as the others turned towards him.
“How do you figure?” Ottavo asked, watching as the green unicorn smiled.
“Well, with different plants you kinda need to know how much sunlight one needs over another, how much water one can take, and when and how the flowers will bloom if any.” Buddy replied. “Plus, if you did measure them out all the same way, not all of them would grow the same way.”
“Right.” Drawn Out replied. “But another factor into why he doesn't watch those that enter the armory are the trained soldiers-” The unicorn pointed at three of what seemed like a group of heavily armed giants clad in full black versions of Unicornicopian armor march past them, giving them intimidating looks as they went past, “That can very easily and very mercilessly take your hand off should you so much as think about stealing a weapon here.”
“That's... Kinda scary...” Lightning said, gulping a little as the soldiers continued to march past.
“Oh, they're really friendly.” Drawn Out said quickly, in an attempt to reassure them all, “They'll tell you where everything is from where the maces and siege equipment is to where the nearest bathroom is. However they don't like it when you take their stuff without actually being a member of the military. Trust me, you don't want to piss these guys off.”
The other unicorns all shared a glance before being led by Drawn Out deeper into the maze of what was the armaments of the Unicornicopian Military.
Lightning really wasn't sure where to begin. With the hundreds of thousands of weapons that were there for him to choose, he was dumbfounded with all of the options that he could use to provide support and help his friends in the coming battles as his magic was still developing. The soldiers that were guarding the place were incredibly helpful, just like Drawn Out had said that they were, and in what seemed to be less than an hour they had assembled a wide assortment of weapons for Lightning to try in one of the practice areas that had been stationed near the front of the armory. This earned their group many a confused glance from the giants and the Quartermaster himself, but had not received any trouble for the assembly as they were still recognized as friendly.
Drawn Out had started Lightning on using a simple spear, as one of many had been selected by each of his friends. And while the weapon was simple enough to use, the ways that everyone else were showing him how to use it didn't, “feel right.” This was coupled with the fact that he appeared to be trying to hard to mimic their moves with the spears that they had grabbed for their own, and ended up with only a poor imitation of what they had done.
The same could have been said for the maces and axes that they had picked out for him with one of the maces, a very vicious looking one with jagged teeth on each of it's flanges around the top of the mace, nearly smacked into one of his waiting legs. Quarterstaves were no good for him as they required simple magic to make them even remotely effective, most of the hits barely even registered on some of his sparring sessions, and nunchaku were just as bad with the twirling end smashing into him several times before he got a decent enough rhythm flowing.
While Ottavo and Drawn Out agreed on some weapons that he needed to try, they were disagreeing on others. Primarily, his need for a pair of incredibly deadly looking swords or another go at the spears that sat down on the left handed end of the table. It was during their bickering that Lightning noticed something that none of them had gotten during their look through the armory.
It was a simple oak longbow, resting on a corner on a far wall that appeared to have been de-stringed and forgotten. There wasn't anything too terribly special about it, with it standing about as tall as he was though it appeared to have seen moderate use. It was polished to such a shine that made it glow slightly, and there were smaller chips on either of the ends from when it had apparently been banged on the floor of the armory, but all in all it looked pretty good to the unicorn. “Hey guys...” Lightning asked, seemingly sounding as though he were in a dream, “Do you know if we can get a couple practice arrows here?” He asked.
Drawn Out and Ottavo stopped arguing for a second just as Lightning gently picked up the bow. After taking special care not to damage it, they watched as he slowly but carefully guided the bow-string down it's length until he managed to attach the loop of the bow-string on the opposing end. He turned to the other unicorns, who just stared at him quietly.
“You seemed to know how to string that thing...” Ottavo said, getting whacked in the head by Drawn Out. “What?”
“That isn't just a thing, its a beautifully crafted instrument of war. Though it is simplistic it isn't as bad as the spear.” Drawn Out replied. “Lightning, are you sure that you can generate that kind of pull on your own? Maybe you could try something smaller?”
Lightning just simply shook his head. “No, I want to try using this one.” He said, watching as Buddy Rose nodded before leaving the practice area.
“That's going to be awfully hard to build a squad around, seeing as how most of us are melee fighters.” Ottavo said, watching Lightning hold the longbow as though it were a newborn child.
“It may not give us enough proper synergy to work well together.” Drawn Out added, watching as several targets appeared from underneath the flooring at least three-hundred yards away from where they stood. Buddy Rose walked back into the practice area, carrying a quiver full of arrows with him before setting them down on the table. The others turned to Lightning as he approached the table before picking up the quiver, sliding it over his back as it comfortably pressed against his body.
“Okay... Let's see if you can at least pull that sucker.” Ottavo said, watching as Lightning held the longbow out in front of him.
The yellow unicorn stared down at the targets off in the distance, and relaxed. He let the bow rest against his leg as he held it, thinking of only the center of the target directly in front of him. He couldn't hear anything coming from his friends, they were being as quiet as they could while Lightning readied himself to take a shot. Carefully, Lightning pulled an arrow from the quiver and knocked it, wrapping a finger around the end of the arrow that intersected the bow so it wouldn't move.
Taking a deep breath, Lightning brought the bow up to his level and had it go completely vertical as he pulled back on the bow-string. There was some resistance that came from the weapon, but he ignored it, looking down the line of the arrow as the string came near his face. The resistance of the weapon continued to climb as he held the bow in the position for a few moments, mentally calculating the shot before him. As his friends waited with baited breath, he maintained silence, focusing only on the target and the arrow that was going to hit it.
Without warning he fired the arrow, watching as it sailed towards the target with almost deadly efficiency. No one said a word, but only watched as the head pierced through the head of the gnoll-shaped target and nearly went all the way through. Lightning exhaled, disappointment leaving along with the breath. “Damn, I missed.”
There was nothing but silence as Lightning readied another arrow to take another shot. The unicorn pulled back on the bow-string with the newest arrow and fired, watching the arrow strike one of the arms on the target. The unicorn shook his head before drawing another arrow from his bow, and readied to take another shot. None of Lightning's friends made a sound as Lightning remained silent, closing his eyes as he drew the bow-string for a third time. To them, it appeared to be perfectly level with the yellow unicorn's right shoulder. Lightning exhaled a second time, letting the arrow fly.
The shot appeared to be perfect, Lightning's arrow flew true until it smashed just above where the heart of a Gnoll would have been standing on the target. Lightning's expression didn't change, at least to the other unicorns it didn't, but the unicorn finally cracked a smile after a half-minute of silence. “Still didn't hit the bullseye.” He said finally, his glare softening at the target. He turned, remaining silent at the stunned looks on his friends faces as he slung the bow over his shoulder. “What?” Lightning asked.
They remained silent for a few moments, each of them exchanging nervous glances. Ottavo was the first to speak up however as he cleared his throat. “Are you feeling okay Lightning?” He asked.
“Yeah, I feel fine.” Lightning replied. “Why?”
“You said that you didn't hit the bullseye on the target.” Drawn Out answered. “But those shots were flawless. And you hit the target three times.”
Lightning shook his head. “It doesn't matter if I hit the target a thousand times.” He said, turning to the target on down the range. “Hitting the target in the bullseye is what matters. Besides, that last shot was where I was aiming at for my first one.”
“You were aiming at the heart?” Buddy Rose asked, watching Lightning nod.
“Yeah, I was.” Lightning replied.
“But you hit it on your third shot though.” Moonbeam said gently, watching as Lightning nodded.
“Yeah, I hit it on my third. It's not great, but it's better than nothing.” Lightning replied, walking over to the table and setting the longbow down with the quiver of arrows. The unicorn smiled a little as he ran a hand down the length of the bow as a rush of memories went through his mind.
“Who taught you to shoot like that?” Drawn Out asked, watching Lightning turn back to face them all.
“My dad. Well, when I was still back living on my home planet.” Lightning answered. “It was sorta mandatory that everyone at least knew how to use a bow from what I can remember, but I struggled with it as much as I used it. My dad...” Lightning paused, his voice getting slightly weaker as his father's lessons continued to playback in his mind and refused to let him continue.
“Are you all right Lightning?” Moonbeam asked, watching as the yellow unicorn nodded.
“Yeah, I'm fine.” He replied before calming down. “Well, my dad was one of the best shots on the planet. It was partially because he was trained by our world's military, but he also had spare time to practice with it. I learned from him, but ever since I got here I've been... Getting a little sloppy with my own skills.”
Everyone else remained silent as Lightning turned back to the bow. They all remained silent until Drawn Out stepped up to the table and gave the weapon a look over. “You know...” The dark blue unicorn began, staring at the weapon closely as he appeared to be deep in thought, “I heard about this type of bow that can be used like a staff. It's probably not as reliable as using either weapon by themselves, but you can essentially have a melee weapon like the rest of us while using a bow.”
Lightning turned, looking at Drawn Out in the eye as the unicorn smiled. He then looked back down towards the bow and nodded. “All right, but so long as it works for you guys.” Lightning said, turning to the others. “I don't want to be the one who gets in the way when we're in a fight.”
“Don't worry.” Buddy Rose said, stepping forward. “You won't be.”
“We're a team right? So we'll help you so you won't get in the way.” Ottavo added.
“Well then I guess this is gonna get interesting.” Moonbeam finished, watching as Lightning slung the longbow back over his shoulder. “Especially now that we need to find this special bow too.” She smiled gently, watching as Lightning picked up the bow from the table again and held it aloft. The others could feel the warmth that radiated from Lightning as he held the bow, before watching as he picked up the quiver full of arrows and slung them over his shoulder. The yellow unicorn then turned to the rest of his friends and smiled, watching their once nervous faces soften.
“Well then, what are we waiting for? Let's go!”
A few hours had passed since Lightning and his friends had left into the armory. Quartermaster Tall-ek, who was busy carving something out of a log of wood with a massive knife that he had in his hands, looked up just as he heard hoof steps from inside. The giant looked up, watching as Lightning and the rest of his squad were marching out of the armory like they were some sort of band or parade. The giant couldn't help but grin, appearing to blink slightly from the view of the approaching unicorns as he saw the way Lightning's magic interacted with the string-less silver Longbow that he carried with him. “I didn' think he'd be able ta pick something so compatible with him...” Quartermaster Tall-ek thought as they approached, setting the knife down and the wooden log before getting up and hiking over to them all. He watched as Drawn Out stepped out in front of the group just as everyone else stopped walking.
“Mission complete Quartermaster.” Drawn Out said, watching as the Giant nodded.
“I see that Drawn Out. An' I also see tha' he's got 'imself a bow.” Quartermaster Tall-ek responded before extending one of his gigantic hands to Lightning. The unicorn relinquished the bow to the giant who then gave it a look over. “Hmm... I see...” The giant said looking really pleased at the sight. “And it's pliable but strong too... Tha's interestin...”
“What's he doing?” Lightning whispered to Ottavo, watching as the Quartermaster continued to examine his choice of weapon.
“He's checking to see how compatible you are with the weapon that you've chosen.” Ottavo whispered back. “It's something to make sure you've picked the right weapon for both the squad your with, and the skills you have.”
After another minute of examining the bow, he passed it back to Lightning before folding his hands over and looking down on them. “Yer' really gutsy fer usin' a ranged weapon in a melee squad.” Quartermaster Tall-ek said, looking down on the yellow unicorn. “But I know a good fit when I see one. 'Specially when there's a war goin' on,” He watched as the unicorns all shared hopeful glances towards Lightning's bow, “But I need yeh ta show me how good yer are with that thing. It's one thing ta pick a weapon out, but it's another ta be good with that weapon and have it pick yeh.” He said, snapping his fingers.
The unicorns all watched as a square block target appeared some distance hundred yards away from them in the middle of the bridge that led back to the surface. Quartermaster Tall-ek then made to move Lightning's friends out of his way before snorting. “Hit the target. If' yeh do that, you can have the bow. It's simple as that.” He said, watching Lightning nod.
Lightning turned, staring at his target that the Quartermaster had designated for him. His horn flared up, causing the retractable string to move down the length of the bow before attaching to the other end and pulling tight. The unicorn then pulled an arrow from his quiver, knocking it to the string before holding the bow level with the target.
Everything seemed to slow down for Lightning as he held the bow level. It appeared to the unicorn that he could see almost anything in the forges as he mentally ran through the shot. Continuing to concentrate, Lightning drew the bow-string back, lifting the bow ever so slightly upwards before inhaling. Everyone behind him stopped and watched with bated breath.
Then, without warning, the arrow flew. It was followed by a second, and a third even before they hit the target. Everyone in the shop watched as the first arrow grazed the top of the target before clattering to the floor behind it. The second struck the top of the target and buried itself relatively deep from where they stood where as the third managed to hit in the second ring of the target itself, burying itself deeper than anyone expected.
There was silence for a few moments as everyone in the forge was still registering what had happened in the seconds that Lightning fired his arrows. Not long after, Lightning lowered the longbow, his horn flaring up with magic again as he used it to detach the bow-string from the other end of the bow before turning to the others. “So... How was that?” Lightning asked.
The Quartermaster said nothing, looking down on Lightning before taking a glance at the target in the opposite end of the forges. “Well, it ain't perfect... But it'll have to do.” He said, looking down on Lightning. “Git' yerself a bit more practiced an' you'll be great with that thing.” He added finally, watching Lightning closely.
“All right!” Ottavo exclaimed, grinning as Lightning slung the end of the bow back over his shoulder and into the carrying case that went with it. “That means he can keep it right?”
“Yes Ottavo. He can keep it.” Drawn Out replied, chuckling a little before watching as Lightning gave the Quartermaster a respectful bow. The dark blue unicorn, seeing what Lightning was doing followed suit just as everyone watched them closely.
“Thank you for allowing me to use such a finely crafted weapon sir.” Lightning said, rising afterwards. The Quartermaster just chuckled.
“Don' worry about that.” He said, before giving the unicorn a serious look. “All I want fer you to do is jus make sure that you an' yer friends make it home okay. You are stronger together than you are apart, is that clear?”
“Of course Quartermaster.” Drawn Out said, watching as the giant received similar nods from the others.
“We're a team. And together, there isn't anything that Titan or anyone can do to beat us!” Lightning said enthusiastically.
Quartermaster Tall-ek nodded a little before turning towards the waiting room. “All right then. Lemme go an' get yer friend there an' we can get you registered as an archer for the military.” He said, striding over to the waiting room. A few moments passed before Krysta shot out from the room, landing on Lighting's shoulder like a refreshing bag of ice.
“So, what did'ya get?” Krysta asked, watching as the unicorns shared a laugh. “What? I've been waiting in that room for a few hours you know.” She said, before stopping to see the bow and arrows that were on Lightning's back. The fairy made an, “O,” with her mouth before falling silent.
“It's okay Krysta. You can see it once we get back home.” Lightning said, watching the fairy's face light up. He looked up, watching as Quartermaster Tall-ek began to stride in front of them all.
“Follow me, an' we'll git you registered as an archer.” He said, walking calmly across the bridge again. Lightning and the others followed suit, watching the giant's massive form lumber onwards. “It shouldn't take too long now.” He said, taking a right from the center of the intersection in the middle of the bridge and walking down into a deeper part of the caves.
It didn't take too long for Lightning to get his use of the Longbow registered for the Unicornicopian Army, nor did it take him and his friends long to get back outside in the sunshine. The yellow unicorn adjusted the bow on his back along with the quiver of arrows just as everyone else got finished stretching. After promising to meet up at one of the local archery ranges later the next day, Lightning and Krysta left the other unicorns, and began to head back home.
Later on that evening, as the Unicornicopian sun descended on the horizon, Lightning found himself calmly practicing his magic as Krysta was sleeping on a small pillow that he had gotten for her from off of his bed. The unicorn was glad that his friends had understood what the bow had meant to him, but he was also relatively interested in squadron tactics that they were talking about down in the forges that he had gotten his bow from.
As the rock he was practicing with was gently floating around his body, Lightning held a decently-sized book in his hands called, “Unicornicopian Squadron Tactics,” and was reading up on how archers could aid in turning the tide on a melee combat. It had several diagrams and examples of where an archer could go to get out from a situation where their combat effectiveness was least effective based on the terrain and how archers were really reliable members of any military in recent Unicornicopian History.
“In a situation where there is no room for the archer in question to maneuver, there are often times where the archer uses or has used their bow as a melee weapon. Noted that this sort of tactic is highly unrecommended, as bows are meant to be used for range and not for striking, their have been accounts of warriors capable of having their bows survive countless engagements with enemy troops without so much as receiving a crack to their weapons though this has yet to be truly proven in a sense of a fair-”
The yellow unicorn jumped as the sound of a powerful, but non-forceful knock echoed throughout his home originating from his front door. The unicorn turned, walking over to the door and opened it, revealing an orc in a very fancy looking white uniform with golden trim. Several patches of different colors were on the front of his uniform that Lightning couldn't identify, and in the Orc's hands was an envelope with a wax seal bearing the Unicornicopian symbol and a clip board beneath it.
“Lightning Dawn?” The orc asked, looking at Lightning with his amber colored eyes.
“That's me.” Lightning replied, looking at the orc as he simultaneously received the clip board from the orc's hands.
Lightning did as he was instructed, signing his name with a quill that came with the clipboard before taking the letter in his hands. He told the orc to wait a moment before disappearing deeper into his home before returning with a fist full of coins and placing them into the orc's understandably surprised hands. “For the delivery.” Lightning explained as the Orc nodded before walking off. Lightning then closed his front door, walking into his living room as he sat down and stared at the letter in his hands. Krysta, who had jumped due to the noise of the knocking on the door, looked at the letter with interest.
“Who's that from?” She asked, watching as Lightning began to open the envelope, gently breaking the seal and setting it down to where she could see it. The front of the envelope had a very fancy writing to it, with an almost regal appearance as Lightning read the letter. Krysta looked up, watching Lightning's expression change from confusion to shock to a simple smile in less than ten seconds before he set the letter down. “Lightning, what's wrong?”
“It's a message from the Grand Ruler, he wants me to meet with him tomorrow for my next lesson in magic!” Lightning said excitedly, nearly jumping at the thought. The unicorn could see Krysta's smile before picking up the letter with his magic and clearing his throat,
“Dear Lightning Dawn,
I have sent this to you because I have felt your magic grow significantly stronger since last we met. I said that in our last meeting when you are able to hold something in your telekinesis for at least an hour, we will continue with our next lesson together. I hope that you are as ready and prepared as you should be, as this lesson is going to go into a little more in-depth than what I explained last time.
I wish for you to meet me at the Copper Sunrise park at nine o'clock tomorrow morning so that we may begin our next lesson. Please do not be late as this is an important lesson as are any and all lessons that anyone may happen to learn. And before you ask, Krysta is allowed to join you like she did last time for this lesson. I expect to see you there and as willing to learn as you were last time.
Grand Ruler Celesto”
Krysta smiled as Lightning grabbed the envelope that the letter was sealed in. “I guess we had better get to bed so we can get up bright and early tomorrow huh?” She asked, watching Lightning nod.
“Yeah.” Lightning said, stifling a nod as he stretched. “Come on Krysta, let's get some sleep.” He said, walking over to where the fairy sat on the pillow before picking it up as she flew off of it. They both then made their way back to the bed room before getting ready for bed and their busy day the next day.
The next day had arrived without too many problems on the radar, and Titan's forces still weren't found on the surface of the planet. As Lightning got ready for his next lesson with the Grand Ruler, he looked over the book of Unicornicopian tactics again as he got dressed. He only made slight grunts and mumbles as he looked over the book, absorbing it's knowledge in greedily as though it were a pitcher of water that he didn't have access to for days. The unicorn hoped that when his skills were better, or at least when he was accepted as the team leader, he could implement some of the strategies that were listed in the book.
“Lightning come on!” He could hear Krysta shout from the front of their house. “We still have to get something to eat before meeting with the Grand Ruler today, and I'm getting really hungry!”
Lightning looked up from the book, having been completely dressed before grabbing it with his hands and releasing it with his magic. The unicorn closed it quickly and set it back on his bed before heading to the front of the house where Krysta waited.
“There you are!” She snapped impatiently. “What was taking you so long?”
“I was doing a bit of reading.” Lightning explained, “You know, to get ready for today?” He asked, watching as Krysta sighed.
“Well so long as it doesn't make us late, we need to get going. I'm hungry, and I know that neither of us can learn anything without food.” Krysta replied, watching as Lightning nodded before heading out of the house, the fairy leaping onto his shoulder as he threw his mother's cloak around him. After locking the place up, the pair set off to meet with the Grand Ruler.
After eating a filling breakfast on the way to the Copper Sunrise park, which happened to be on the west side of the capitol, Lightning and Krysta were both patiently waiting at a bench at the park, watching as a group of small children were playing catch some distance away from them underneath a shady bronze colored tree.
The Copper Sunrise Park was aptly named, the paths that led from the main road were all colored in a bright orangish-red as the green stretches of grass made it's color even more pronounced. The trees in the park were a darker color at their base, seemingly getting brighter as they reached up towards the sky with their branches and leaves fading into different shades of orange to gold. The light from the sun's rays made it seem like they were sitting in a park made specifically for fall, when instead they both knew that they were in the middle of summer.
“I see that you've made it Lightning.” A voice said, causing both the unicorn and the fairy to nearly jump out of their clothes. The pair both leapt from the copper colored bench that they were seated on and turned to see Grand Ruler Celesto descending down on them both, his mane and tail having taken a bright bluish tone as he appeared to wear a crisp black suit that one would wear in a business meeting. The alicorn's wings stopped moving as his hooves touched the ground, getting back into a perfect position as they were before.
“Grand Ruler Celesto, what was that for!?” Lightning asked, his hand over his heart as it pounded rapidly in his chest. The alicorn merely smiled as Lightning tried to calm down, his mane and tail going down a shade before the young unicorn completely calmed down.
“Well, it's not really fun if I just announce my presence to the whole world now is it?” Grand Ruler Celesto replied, watching as both the unicorn and the fairy shared a look. “Don't worry, I'm not going to try that on you two. Much.” He said, stifling a laugh before watching as both Lightning and Krysta still had dumbstruck looks on their faces. “Is there something wrong?” He asked, watching as Lightning shook his head.
“N-No... It's just that-
What, you think that because I'm the immortal ruler of this nation, you didn't expect me to have a little fun?” Grand Ruler Celesto interrupted, watching as Lightning nodded slightly. “My boy you have to understand, immortality is not as cracked up as it's made out to be. You have to make it interesting every now and then, otherwise you'll go stir crazy.” He said, watching as Lightning appeared to still not understand. “I can cut loose too you know.” He said, watching as Lightning and Krysta both made an, “O” with their mouths before breathing sighs of relief. The alicorn smiled, before looking at the children who were staring at them with their mouths agape. “I think we need to move our lesson somewhere else. Come with me.” The alicorn said, heading towards main street before Lightning and Krysta began to follow.
They remained silent for a few moments as Grand Ruler Celesto led them off of the main road and onto a side-street. After heading down said side-street for a few moments he turned down another, and then another, and finally a third until he stopped at a small looking square that was almost devoid of any of the liveliness that the rest of the city had. Several of the buildings that surrounded the square were scarred, as signs of Titan's initial attack on the planet had yet to have been addressed. Several doors and windows were boarded up, and there were several modestly sized boulders in the area from when the shards of the shield hit the pavement.
Lightning could feel the Grand Ruler's mood decrease as they continued to survey the scene, a colder breeze whipped through the air as they remained silent at the sight. The yellow unicorn remained quiet for a few moments, but watched as the Grand Ruler headed towards one of the smaller boulders and turned to Lightning.
“Now, we'll have a little more privacy between us for this lesson as this is something important that you need to know.” Grand Ruler Celesto said, watching as Lightning remained silent. “I assume that you want to know why you are here?” He asked, watching the yellow unicorn nod. “Well, we're going to see how good you've gotten with your telekinesis.” He said, watching Lightning stare blankly at him.
“My... Telekinesis?” Lightning asked, watching as Grand Ruler Celesto nodded.
“Yes, consider this as a test to see if you did your... Homework. Now, I want you to lift something from the road, and hold it there for as long as you can. We'll get to your lesson as soon as you are finished.” Grand Ruler Celesto said, watching Lightning stare blankly for a few moments at him before nodding in compliance. The yellow unicorn then took off his cloak, settling it down on a nearby boulder that went up to his knee and found a smaller rock down by his hooves. The unicorn's horn then it up with a bright yellow glow before his selected rock began to take on the same aura. After a few moments the rock was lifted from the ground and began rotating around him like a planet in orbit.
Grand Ruler Celesto smirked, watching as Lightning dutifully tended to his task, before raising a hand to stop the unicorn. “I expected you to lash out at me.” He said, watching as Lightning shook his head. “I mean, if I were in your situation and my instructor told me to show me what I learned based on the first lesson, I would be upset too.”
“I'm not upset Grand Ruler Celesto.” Lightning replied, continuing to focus on levitating his rock. “I just know that just because I've been able to hold a telekinesis for an hour like you told me to, doesn't mean that you're not gonna test me on it.” He said, watching the Grand Ruler smile.
“Well then, you've obviously got the point of this part of the lesson.” Grand Ruler Celesto said, watching as Lightning continued to levitate the rock. “You can set that rock down Lightning, it's probably straining you by now.” He said, watching as Lightning shook his head.
“With all due respect, I'm actually pretty fine.” Lightning replied, setting the rock down with his magic. “In fact I practiced by reading a Library book that I had checked out while levitating said book and that rock you had me use.” He said, watching Grand Ruler Celesto raise an eyebrow.
“Oh ho? So you're trying to push past your limits now that you know a bit of magic?” Grand Ruler Celesto said with a smirk. “You better watch yourself, as if you push too hard you may end up overdoing it.” The alicorn's own horn flared up in silver magic as several orbs, similar to the ones from their last lesson appeared in between them. “Now, let's get started with today's lesson.” He watched as Lightning attempted to take a seat on the pavement but found that it was still covered with plenty of rocks and debris that it made it incredibly uncomfortable. Grand Ruler Celesto smiled as his horn then flared up and made a pair of chairs appear for them both. As Lightning sat down, the alicorn smiled again before following suit. “Now, let me begin today's lesson by giving you a recap on the basics of magic. Magic, is an ability that all beings have in varying degrees which affects the world around them by manipulating Mana. Mana, which is the source of all things and the energy of everything, changes from source to source to maintain universal balance. Those sources are divided into six aspects which are Life, Death, Belief, Doubt, Harmony, and Chaos. And it is from those six sources that magic-users derive Light and Dark Magic from.” He watched Lightning closely as the yellow unicorn seemed to remember their last lesson together. “Now, for this lesson we're going to look at Belief and Doubt in particular, as they determine the strength of a spell from a caster. Now Lightning tell me, what would you say that if by the end of today that you would be able to lift a boulder about your size?”
The unicorn blinked as he tried to make sure that he didn't mishear what the Grand Ruler said. “I... Would honestly say that you would be pretty crazy. No offense.” Lightning watched as the Grand Ruler smiled, chuckling a little.
“None taken Lightning.” Grand Ruler Celesto said, “Life has made you a skeptic when it comes to magic, and if this weren't the case you would be a great Counter Sorcerer.” He smiled as the unicorn remained silent. “You would be able to stop opposing magic that would attempt to harm you or your friends. And most magics wouldn't affect you all that well.” He said, watching as both Lighting and Krysta made an, “O” with their mouths before smiling again. “But that is neither here nor there, as you will be able to choose a magical class that you're best in before we get into those kinds of topics. Now, back to the topic at hand. Belief and Doubt are the aspects in our world that affect magic the most here on Unicornicopia. Do you know why?”
Lightning remained silent for a moment before scratching the back of his head. “Because we're closely in tune with the Uniforce?”
“Not exactly Lightning.” Grand Ruler Celesto replied. “You see, most of the magic here on Unicornicopia is focused on Belief and Willpower. The traditions for all of the tribes of peoples on this planet have been focusing on these aspects ever since even before I arrived on the surface. The spells that were cast here before Unicornicopia as you know it were cast by Tribal Shamans and Priests who used their powers and abilities to help their small villages with tasks that they needed help with, from asking for rain when they needed to to hoping for a good harvest.” The Grand Ruler paused, closing his eyes as though he was recollecting a fond memory. “Yes, those that had abilities that could be influenced by the Shamans here, or those that could become Shamans were highly respected, even revered as gods by the time that I got here. And it all came down to one simple philosophy. Do you know what that is?” He asked, watching as Krysta and Lightning shared a glance. He smiled as neither of them could come up with an answer before turning back to the alicorn. “That philosophy is that Belief is Power. The more belief that one holds, not just by themselves but from the hundreds of others that believe in him or her, the stronger that they become.” He smiled as the knowledge of what the Ancient Unicornicopians did with their magic started to sink in. “Now, just because that Belief holds power doesn't mean that Doubt is powerless. Here's an example, taken directly from when I arrived on Unicornicopia. You see, the people of the planet were doubting their Shamans because they were convinced that some great hero would, “Descend from the Heavens,” to defeat Cystan, the tyrant that was around just before I arrived.”
“Yeah, I heard about Cystan.” Lightning said, watching the Grand Ruler smirk a little. “The Book of Sol says that you defeated him in single combat and had the people of Unicornicopia unite against his army. After wards Unicornicopia was created as a symbol of peace on the planet.”
Grand Ruler Celesto chuckled again. “You know that was exaggerated just a little.” He said, smiling at Lightning and Krysta's dumbfounded expressions. “Allow me to explain. You see, I did know that someone had to defeat Cystan in single combat. But after hearing that he was so much stronger than the peoples of the planet individually, I looked to their strengths. The population had a lot of belief in themselves, it was just being kicked down by an overzealous bully who wanted nothing but power. So I had to correct that.”
Lightning blinked. “What did you do?” He asked, watching Grand Ruler Celesto smile again.
“Well I noticed that the unicorns, as they were called on this planet, could change and develop a sort of body armor that was used to protect them and enhance their powers. It was almost like a second Cutie Mark.” Grand Ruler Celesto explained. “But those that discovered what that armor was, was kidnapped by Cystan's soldiers and pressed into his military. So I had the shamans from every village meet me at night and told them to train their citizens in learning how to discover what armors that they had. Sure some of them rebelled and said that it was a waste of time, but I told them how to use it as a way to disguise it.” The Grand Ruler said confidently. “And it was a matter of time before they taught their young how to disguise it and so on and so forth. But that's getting off topic, you see what I'm getting at is that they believed in me and after they began to believe in me I began to get control over the situation to make their lives better. It's an example of how you can use the belief of others to turn a bad situation into a better one, just as how you can use the belief in yourself or someone else to make your magic more effective.” The Grand Ruler smiled as a realization began to dawn on Lightning's face.
“So it's just believing in something enough to make magic really strong?” Lightning asked, watching the Grand Ruler shake his head.
“No Lightning, unfortunately that isn't the case.” Grand Ruler Celesto replied, watching as Lightning fell silent for a moment. “You see, you can believe in anything all that you want to. But it's what you do with that belief that makes your magic strong. It's the courage and the hard work it takes to make that magic of yours what it is and what it will be. Last week, you didn't believe that you could levitate that rock for a full hour right?”
“Yeah... I didn't but-
But you did it. And apparently you did it while levitating a book that you were reading.” Grand Ruler Celesto said, smiling as he did so. “You see Lightning, when you began practicing with your levitation you believed that you would get better, and so you did. As you practiced you got better and better until finally you were levitating two objects at once. Which I must say is a good job indeed.” He said, smiling as Lightning blushed from the praise. “Now, it wasn't just because you believed you could do it. It was because you wanted to prove that your beliefs weren't just ignorance. You wanted to make sure that you were right, and that you were going to do everything in your power to prove that you were right in the end. So I must say that you have the first part of our lesson down pat. Belief is Power, never forget that Lightning.”
As the yellow unicorn remained silent, Grand Ruler Celesto smiled, watching as he mulled over the first part of their lesson in his mind. The alicorn then turned his expression skyward, watching as a patrol of unicorns and Sky-riding Orcs and Elves were high above them in formation as he instructed. After a few more moments, he looked back down and cleared his throat as Lightning returned all of his attention on him. “Now, the second part of this lesson is important as this is going to prove both challenging and interesting at the same time.” He said, watching as Lightning's face brightened significantly.
“How so?” Lightning asked, watching as Grand Ruler Celesto gave a devious looking smirk.
“Well Lightning, you see we all know that Magic is influenced by how much we believe in something. Well, this part of the lesson is going to be a little demonstration.” Grand Ruler Celesto said, rising from his chair before turning to one of the boulders of rubble in the street. His horn flared up with a silvery light a second time, as the boulder began to glow with the same aura. After a few seconds it lifted off of the ground with no effort and landed on top of another boulder next to Lightning and Krysta perfectly. Both boulders merged into one as the Grand Ruler's aura enveloped them both before shaping into a perfect rectangular box about the size of Lightning himself. As soon as the aura disappeared, the Grand Ruler sat back down and watched the fairy and the unicorn marvel at his work.
“Wow...” Krysta uttered, staring at the Lightning-sized box.
“Am I going to have to do that before the next lesson?” Lightning wondered.
“No, you're not going to be doing something that complex.” Grand Ruler Celesto said, watching as Lightning and Krysta returned their attention back onto him. “However, you still are going to have to involve yourself with that box, as it will be your training partner for a while.” He said, watching Lightning blink nervously.
“Training... Partner?” Lightning repeated as though the Grand Ruler was speaking another language.
“Yes Lightning, Training Partner.” Grand Ruler Celesto said, watching Lightning pale slightly. “Oh this isn't going to be too terribly hard for someone with the powers that you're developing, but that will wait until I am done here.” Grand Ruler Celesto paused, taking a deep breath before continuing. “You see all of that magic that I just performed was based on my belief that it could be done. But that's only the half of the battle. Like we said earlier, just blind belief with nothing behind it is ignorance. Plain and simple. However, I was bound and determined to make that belief come true which compiled into the spell's strength, which in turn made me believe that I could do it which continued on until it happened. This is something I called the Belief-Work Effect. I believe that you've heard of it?” He asked, watching as Lightning nodded.
“Yeah, the more belief that you put into the work you're doing to reach a goal, the better the end result would be.” Lightning replied, watching as the Grand Ruler raised a curious eyebrow. “I read up about it at a Library sometime during the week. It caught my interest and-
It's okay Lightning, I know that you're trying, but don't try and pull a fast one.” Grand Ruler Celesto replied, watching as Lightning blinked. “Reading minds with the Uniforce is a two way street. Though how you managed to catch that snippet of data from my mind is something that I don't think a unicorn at your level could accomplish yet. No offense.”
“None taken.” Lightning said, adjusting a little in his chair. “To be honest I really wasn't trying at all, but it hit me as soon as you said something about that effect.” He said, watching as Grand Ruler Celesto nodded.
“Okay now... Back to what I was saying, yes, the Belief-Work Effect is something that makes magic so effective. You have to use your will to make the spell work even better than earlier, and even then there will be complications. There are forces out there that will try to force you to doubt yourself, and thus attempt to weaken your spell. And oftentimes, you are your own worst enemy.” The Grand Ruler paused, watching Lightning closely before speaking again. “There are a vast amount of emotions that can affect your state of beliefs, from anger to happiness, from sorrow to joy any emotion from under the sun can be used to make magic stronger and weaker. It's your job as a user of magic to learn how to control these emotions and make them work with you as opposed to being used against you.”
Lightning gave Grand Ruler Celesto a look of confusion. “What's that supposed to mean?” He asked, watching the Alicorn chuckle a little.
“What it means Lightning is that it involves your next assignment.” Grand Ruler Celesto said, watching as the unicorn's ears began to perk up. “You see, that block of stone that I created is going to be your training partner now. And what I would hope to see you be capable of by the next time we meet is for you to be able to carry that block with your magic for a hundred feet.”
Lightning deadpanned, staring right at the Alicorn. “No offense, but... You're kidding right?” He asked, watching as Grand Ruler Celesto's face never changed expression. “You mean you want me to lift this-” Lightning knocked on the stone block with his bare hand and felt that it was completely solid, “A hundred feet?”
“Yes Lightning I do. And take as much time as you need in moving it as you're going to need it to complete this assignment. Plus it will give you a chance to understand what I mean by Belief and Doubt constantly working against each other.” The Alicorn smiled before rising from the conjured chair and watched as Lightning continued to look nervous at the stone. “I'll get it back to your home so you can get started in practicing it, but that's all of the help I'll be giving you for now.” Grand Ruler Celesto said gently. After another flash of light the stone was gone, leaving Lightning and Krysta speechless. “I know it seems daunting, but just remember believe in yourself and make those beliefs come true with your own power. By the time we next meet you should be stronger than ever before.”
Lightning turned to Grand Ruler Celesto before getting off of the chair with his hooves. Something about what the alicorn said strengthened Lightning's resolve, causing the unicorn's face to appear to be filled with determination. “You really think that I'll be stronger?” Lightning asked.
“Only if you believe in yourself and set out to prove it.” Grand Ruler Celesto replied before turning to go. He smiled, casting a glance back at Lightning as his face appeared to be filled with hope, before spreading his wings out wide. “And I'll know if you've gotten stronger Lightning. So don't stress on overdoing it. No one wants to see you in the hospital.” Grand Ruler Celesto said gently before taking off. “And until the next meeting Lightning.” The Alicorn circled the small square for a few moments before flying off, leaving Lightning and Krysta alone, the fairy having landed on Lightning's shoulder.
“What now?” Krysta asked.
“Well... Let's head back home so we can get ready to meet everyone else.” Lightning replied, using his magic to throw his mother's cloak over him and Krysta before walking out of the square back towards his home.