Adventures in Equestria: The Quest for the Lost Art

by madgamer1228


Chapter 1

Chapter 1

A mysterious colt in a cloak wove his way through the crowds of Canterlot shoppers. Around him, he heard the many stall owners haggling with their customers, trying to make the most that they could and to earn more than their competitors.

“Cherries! Cherries! Get the best cherries you’ll ever find in all of Equestria! Only three bits! Get ‘em right here!” shouted a yellow mare whose mane and tail hair was almost as red as her merchandise.

“Wonderful quills! All sorts! Perfect for tons of writing!” called a pale orange, male unicorn as he used the magic of his horn to wave a couple of his more elegant writing utensils on the faces of the shoppers.

Yet, despite all the exotic stalls and their many fascinating trinkets and treats they contained, the colt just cantered right past them. He never gave a single one a glance.

“You sir, you look like you could use one of my many protection charms, hmmm?” an old mare said, stepping in front of him. She had a whole array of necklaces around her neck and countless bangles and other shiny objects around her legs. “I sense a dark time ahead of you,” she declared, “but it can be lessened if you buy one of my charms?” She looked at the colt inquiringly.

Without acknowledging her, he stepped around her as if she was just an object in his way and continued through the market.

“You’ll regret it!” she tried to call after him. He did nothing in reply.

As he reached the edge of the busy streets, the crowds began to thin and the deafening roar began to dwindle, until it dulled to a low murmur behind him. He stayed his steady pace, the saddle bag on his back jangling infrequently. He made the occasional turn down one road or another, but he never stopped to look at the street names. Nor did his head move.

The path he followed, the one that only he knew of, soon brought him to a solid, nondescript door in a narrow alleyway. The place was devoid of life, except for some plants growing in a few windowsill gardens.

Pausing at last, the colt raised his hoof and swung it against the door a few times.

THUNK! THUNK! THUNK!

The noise echoed in the narrow space.

It wasn’t long, a few seconds, until the door was opened by a male unicorn. His coat was white and his flank had no mark. His hair was a slightly reddish-brown and with a sort of curl to it. It also appeared unkempt and like it rarely saw a brush.

“It’s about time you got here, Swiftly! I contacted Ms. Sprout over thirty minutes ago with my shopping order! You know, I’d expect somepony with a name like yours to actual…” the unicorn stopped, “Wait a nanometer of a second! You aren’t Swiftly! Who are you?”

The colt at the door gave a slight chuckle. “I thought you had told me you could see through a disguise spell a mile away, Mad,” he said without moving his lips.

The unicorn peered closer at the colt. Then, with a slight start, he neutralized his expression.

“Would you care to come in?” he asked politely, without any sign of the anger he had in his voice a few moments ago.

Inclining his head, the colt responded, “Yes, that would be nice.”

Stepping aside, Mad allowed the strange earth pony to enter. When the colt was inside, Mad shut the door. He then turned around and exclaimed.

“Strong Heart! Of all the ponies in Equestria, you are the most annoying!”

There was a bright flash from the normal earth pony. When the light died down, the colt was gone. A young, male alicorn stood in his place. The alicorn was a light-brown with hair that was a darker shade. On his flank sat the mark of a heart that was made of iron.

“Better believe it friend,” he said, laughing, “I earned that title a long time ago, and I much want to keep it. By the way, speaking of titles, are you still allowing yourself to be called ‘The Mad Unicorn’?”

Mad smiled,” Ahhh, yes. That childhood name seems to fit me, no? Besides, it’s much better than my real name.” Strong Heart nodded his head.

“I agree, much better than Eugene van Scnicklestein,” he said. Mad cringed.

“I was hoping everyone had forgotten about my name. Honestly, I have no idea what my parents were thinking when they named me,” Mad gestured deeper into the house, “Come, though. I’ll take you to my kitchen. I need to put up those groceries you have on your back. Now, you should see what my latest research is on…” As Mad talked, he led Strong Heart through the house.

In each room that they passed through, the walls were coated with shelves containing thousands of books, scrolls, and the occasional nick-nack. As well, each room was a maze made up of piles of reading material. Sticking out of some piles were a few tired quills and an old alfalfa sandwich that had begun to grow a fur coat.

As they went deeper, the messes got worse. There were tables that bent under the weight of all the paper they held. Some of the shelves were sagging very badly, and one even gave a slight creak as they walked past it.

Eventually, they made it to a room that could be identified as a kitchen. It had cabinets that went around half the room, the space between their tops and the roof crammed with books and papers. The table had a single clear spot with a chair in front of it. The counter was coated with old dishes that had yet to be washed.

“Where should I set your groceries?” asked Strong Heart.

“Oh, just right where you are would be fine,” Mad answered, waving his hoof at strong Heart.

Letting the pack fall to the floor, Strong Heart then sat on the only seat and began to sift through the stacks of books on the table. Selecting one titled A Journey Through the caves of Equestria; he opened it and started skimming through it as Mad floated his groceries into the cabinets.

“So, what have you been up to Strong Heart?” Mad asked as he put away some carrots.

“Oh, you know, the usual,” Strong Heart replied, without glancing up from the book. Mad turned to him.

“No, I don’t know. And I’m sure you remember just how much I hate not knowing anything. Now, tell me just what it is that you do. I mean, you never write! What is it that can keep somepony so busy that they can’t even write a letter to their best friend?”

“Well, if you must know,” Strong Heart turned a page, “I’ve been busy flying all over Equestria helping the many towns and cities scattered throughout it. It’s quite boring really.”

“I’d think that getting to see all of Equestria would be quite an adventure?”

“You would think so, but it is very hard to enjoy the sights through clouds of parasprites and smoke from dragon fire.”
Mad nodded his head. Neither of them talked as he finished putting up the last of the items from the saddle bag. When he finished, Mad turned to Strong Heart.

“Now, what exactly are you here for?” he asked. Strong Heart continued to read.

“I just wanted to drop in and see how you were doing. You know, catch up and all that,” he replied.

“So, you expect me to believe that my best friend since magic kindergarten, which I haven’t seen for almost a year now, disguises himself as a delivery pony and knocks on my front door without sending any messages ahead to let me know about his arrival, just wants to visit?”

Closing the book, Strong Heart smiled at Mad and said, “Yup!”

“Humph! Well I don’t believe that for half a bit! Come on, Strong Heart, you were always such a bad liar, so what is it that you’re really here for?”

“He he. Nothing gets by you, does it Mad?”

“No, and I’d like to keep it that way. So stop beating around the bush and tell me or else I’ll, I’ll,” he glared at Strong Heart, “I don’t know what I’ll do!”

Strong Heart shook his head still smiling.

“Alright, alright, I’ll tell you. Just keep your horn on!” He took a deep breath, “Okay, I’m sure you are aware of our recent breach in security?”

“Breach in security!? You call Shining Armor’s protective shield spell going down, and us being attacked by thousands of changelings a breach in security?”

Strong Heart raised his eyebrow at Mad.

“What would you have called it then?” he asked.

“Well, I’d…,” Mad paused, “That is to say, with much thought and time to contemplate it, and I’d call it,” his face scrunched up in concentration, “A breach in our defenses.”

“And how is that any different than a breach in security?”

“Look, it doesn’t matter, okay? Please continue,"

“It seemed to matter just a few moments ago?”


“You’ve already humbled me, Strong Heart, and I get it. So please tell me your purpose for being here.”

“Fine. Well, with our recent breach in our defenses.”

Mad gave a harrumph. Strong Heart ignored him.

“We’ve been working on keeping the shield up. Now, despite the efforts of Shining Armor and Princess Cadence, they do not believe that they can continue to maintain it much longer. It has taken a lot of their energy to do so. As a result, they plan on teaching several unicorns the spell to help keep it going,” Strong Heart paused.

“Wouldn’t that greatly weaken the effects of the shield spell?” Mad asked.

“Yes,” Strong Heart continued,” which is why her majesty, Princess Celestia, sent me here. You see, she feels that your most recent paper on the lost art of artifact making could be the key to our solution.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Mad interrupted,” Princess Celestia wants me to attempt to replicate the process and make an artifact? But it was all just speculation and theory! I don’t even know if I’m close to being correct,” he shook his head,” The art of making artifacts has been lost for as long as we can remember, even past Star Swirl The Bearded’s time!”

“Well, the Princess wants you to at least try!” Strong Heart stamped his hoof,” If you don’t, it could seriously endanger all of Canterlot, no, Equestria! Look, aren’t theories meant to be tested? If they are, then why not just do so! Give this one a go, and if it doesn’t work we’ll just have to try something else.”

Mad sighed.

“Let me think on this then,” he said.

“No!” Strong Heart stamped his hoof again,” We don’t have time to think about it! We need to act now!”
Mad turned around and hung his head. Strong Heart was about to tell him to hurry up and make his decision, when Mad pivoted 180 degrees to face him again.

“Alright! I’ll give it a go!” he exclaimed,” But first, I need some supplies plus my calculations. Also, I want to talk to a colleague and ask their opinion about this,” he ran into the other room. Strong Heart followed him.

“Who is this ‘colleague’? I never thought that you’d be somepony that would work cooperatively with another being,” he asked. Mad glared at him.

“If you must know, I am talking about Twilight Sparkle, the only other unicorn who would know what I’m talking about,” Mad answered. He turned around and began to sift through a pile of papers and books. “Where are those calculations?” he muttered, “And that book. I’ll also need some ink and a quill. Arrggh! I’ll never find anything in all this. Isa!”

“Huh? What is it Mad,” a sleepy voiced called. An orange baby dragon poked her head out of a nest made of books and papers in one corner.

“Please rub the sleep out of your eyes, Isa. I need your help finding some things. You seem to know where everything is in this mess. As well, I need you to go get my pack,”

“What’s going on?”

“I’m going on a trip to visit someone.”

“Where are you going and who are you seeing?”

“If you must know, I am going to Ponyville to visit Twi.”

“Really? Why?”

Mad sighed.

“My, your inquisitive today. I want to ask her opinion and assistance on a few calculations for something. Satisfied? Now come help me!”

“’Kay.”

Strong Heart began to walk back towards the kitchen to continue reading A Journey Through the caves of Equestria, when he noticed the slight grin on Isa’s face.

“What is it that you’re so happy about?” he asked, curiously. Isa’s grin grew wider.

“I just never thought that these two miracles would ever happen, nor on the same day!” she replied.

“And what miracles are those?” inquired Strong Heart. Isa giggled.

“Well, the first one is that I never imagined Mad would ever leave the house. The other one,” she giggled again,” is that I also never expected him to actually ask for somepony else for their assistance in his work.” She began to giggle some more, then was soon rolling on the floor laughing. Strong Heart was a bit surprised at her behavior, but he started to chuckle, and then joined Isa in laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Mad asked, poking his head around a pile of books,” Isa! I thought I told you to help me?”
Isa, still giddy, stood up.

“Sorry, Mad,” she said, wiping her tears of merriment out of her eyes and off her cheeks.

“Good,” Mad turned around and dug through a different pile of books, “Now, where did I put that book?”

“Which one?” Isa asked. Mad continued to dig through the stack.

“Artifacts and All We Know About Them. Ah ha! Here it is!” He pulled a book out of the middle.

“Wait!” shouted Isa.

But her warning came too late. With a slight swaying, and then a creaking, the pile of books avalanched. Mad, who was in the way, gave a startled yelp and was soon buried in the deluge of knowledge. When the dust settled down, Isa and Strong Heart started to dig Mad out. They soon found him, the book he had been looking for in his mouth and his eyes out of focus.

“Are you okay?” Strong Heart asked. Shaking his head, Mad sat up and spat out the book. His eyes were still out of focus, however, when he answered.

“I never felt better, but I wish that I had thought to wear my helmet.”

“He’s okay,” Strong Heart said, releasing a sigh of relief. He and Isa led Mad to the kitchen and sat him down.

“How about you let us get your stuff for you?” Isa asked.

Eyes finally focusing, Mad glared at Isa.

“That wouldn’t have happened if you had done that in the first place,” he grumbled at her.

“Or if you had been patient,” she declared, crossing her arms. Mad shook his head.

“I’m sorry, your right. I should have been patient. Can you please get me the stuff I need?”

“Yes,” Isa uncrossed her arms,” And don’t worry, I already know what you need,” she turned to Strong Heart,” Come on, I can’t reach some of the shelves and I’ll need your help to get the things down from them,” Strong Heart nodded.

While Mad’s head stopped spinning, Isa and Strong Heart got his pack together. They put a few quills, some paper, the book that had caused so much trouble, and then some scrolls that were filled with numbers and other calculations. By the time they were finished, Mad was feeling much better.

“Thank you,” he told them, “Sorry about my impatience earlier. I guess I am kind of excited about this whole thing.”

Strong Heart smiled at him.

“It’s quite all right,” he said, “I’m excited too.”

“Hmmm?”

“I’m coming with you!”

Mad smiled too.

“Really? This is great, strong Heart! Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

“Actually,” Strong Heart gestured to Isa, “I got a letter from the Princess through Isa here. She’s discharging me of my duties for now so that I can help you.”

“Excellent!” Mad exclaimed, “What about you Isa?”

Isa waved the offer away.

“I don’t feel like going anywhere. Besides, it’s still light out,” she yawned, “If you’re done with me, I’m going to go back to sleep.” But Mad shook his head.

“Sorry, Isa. Not yet! If you aren’t coming, then I have some letters I need to send…”

--------------------

It was some time later that Mad and Strong Heart found themselves at the Canterlot train station. They had made their way over immediately after Isa had sent the letters Mad had for her. When they arrived at the train station and bought their tickets, they found out that it was still at least thirty minutes until the train for Ponyville arrived. So they had bought a couple of wheat shakes to drink while they waited.

SLUUURRP! Mad winced at the sound.

“Must you suck on your drink so hard?” he asked Strong Heart.

“What? I like it and I don’t want to waste a single bit of it.” He sucked on it even more. Mad sighed.

“Well, I think that it’s finished,” he declared, “Now can you please throw it away?”

Strong Heart gave one last loud slurp, and then magically tossed it behind him into a trash can.

“Impressive,” said Mad, “Too bad Isa elected not to come with us. I would have loved for her to see that.”

Strong Heart chuckled.

“And in Mad’s language, that means ‘I wish that Isa was here to record the trajectory of that toss so that I can later nit-pick it and find every little thing that affected that toss right down to the slight breeze.”

“Very funny. And so what if I wanted to do so.”

“I’m just making a point that you’re very predictable and that maybe…”

A loud train whistle blew from nearby, interrupting whatever Strong Heart was about to say.

“It’s about time!” Mad mumbled, “The train is exactly two minutes and fifty eight seconds late so far.” Strong Heart’s eyes widened in amazement.

“How did you know that?” he asked. Mad smiled and pointed behind Strong Heart at a large clock above the ticket station.

“It helps to know how to read what time it is,” he replied.

“I didn’t see the clock.”

“It’s okay, not everypony can have such amazing intellectual knowledge as me.”

“This coming from the same pony that thought a breach in defenses sounded better than a breach in security,” Strong Heart said, smiling as Mad’s smile disappeared.

“You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?” he asked.

“Probably not.”

“Ah well. Even if you do annoy me the entire time, I’m still glad you get to come with me.”

“Me too,” Strong Heart agreed.

As they were talking, the train pulled up to the station and came to a stop with a loud screech and a release of steam. A stallion wearing a vest with a gold pocket watch attached to it by a gold chain stepped off the center cart and called “AAAALLLLL AAAAABOOOAARRD!”

“You heard the colt. Let’s get on so that our adventure can begin!” Strong Heart exclaimed excitedly, rushing towards the train car directly in front of them.

Mad chased after him.

“Actually, I don’t think that it will begin just yet,” he said when he caught up.