The three stood before them glowering.
Amoroso, the rosy pony, shifted her gaze between them both, trying to decide upon something. As she thought to herself, one of her front hooves wandered up toward her neck where a lovely, red jewel hung from a black, satin ribbon. Starshot's brow creased at the sight. The necklace seemed to be an exact double to one that Amabile wore all the time. Glancing over toward the blue mare, he noted that she was dawning the same necklace as well.
"This might come as a shock to you," Amabile groaned, finally breaking the tense silence. She rolled her eyes, and with a flick of a hoof, tossed a curl out of her face, "but we don't actually have all night."
Biting her lip, Amoroso tapped decisively upon her pendant one last time. Her eyes then landed squarely upon Starshot. "You seemed eager enough, didn't you, plank?" she taunted the gray stallion. "Come here."
A single, ethereal soprano, soft and clear, resounded in the air. At once, it bore into Starshot, catching his heart upon a hook, and drawing him close. The details of the warm, sweet-scented room momentarily became sharp and glossy. His eyes met with Amoroso's purple pair, and upon realizing that she was the source from which that single, golden note emanated, his apprehension of her quickly fell away.
The stallion lumbered forward, never noticing Cricket doing the same by his side. When the singing mare directed him downward toward cushions that had been placed upon the floor, he and his wife both collapsed onto them, hoping that the promptness in their obedience might buy them both the Siren's favor.
Once seated, a curling alto joined in the melody, and it was then that all thoughts, all worries, all apprehensions flew from his mind. There was nothing in his world now but the voices and those two, lovely faces.
A third voice, piercing and familiar, bore through the others, and wrapped itself around his brain. It bid him to relax, and so he did. His eyes closed as he felt his face melt into a satiated grin. If he were made to sit like this, listening to their song forever, that would have seemed quite alright.
In a moment, he heard hooves approaching him. The song came a little louder now. His smile grew twofold. "Amabile..." he murmured to himself unwittingly. At this, he heard two distinct voices begin to giggle. Somehow, the melody flowed on. When he opened his eyes, the blue and fuchsia mare were seated before him, both passing him wicked grins. Still, nothing about this seemed to bother him. In fact, in the short time that he had known them, Starshot had come to realize that perhaps he adored them both, even the grim one.
Amabile forced a laugh from where she stood off to the side. Still humming, she proceeded to straighten her perfect curls in the mirror of a nearby vanity table. "My apologies, whoever you are, but did you see the size of that crowd this evening? No, I couldn't possibly make room for even one more puff."
These words meant something to him; he was sure of it. But if he were to be absolutely honest with himself, none of the intricacies of what Amabile had said mattered in lieu of her blatant rejection of him. Her refusal cut into him like a knife. It weighed down heavily upon his heart. "Oh," he breathed, his eyes going glassy with disappointment. "I had hoped that perhaps you... would..."
The yellow mare's head snapped about to face him. She let off a ridiculing guffaw. "Hoping for what?" She shook her head. "Oh, you poor, poor drained fool. You don't even realize what it is that you ask of me, do you? No worries. Your distresses shall soon come to an end." She waved her hoof in his direction, and then turned away, again.
Her words seared into the stallion. He loathed himself for disappointing her, for not being good enough for her. Swearing that the ache now coursing through his chest would bring a swift death, Starshot jumped in surprise when he felt a hoof catch him at the chin, and shake him back into something akin to consciousness. Gradually, the hoof forced his gaze toward his front.
"Don't you worry, plank," the pinkish pony cackled, staring into his eyes. "We two are still quite famished."
His smile returned. Their attentions, in whichever way they might come, was all that he desired. As their two, lingering melodies twisted and folded into each other, growing louder and louder, he felt his mind melt away completely.
"Close your eyes," the dour mare commanded, leaning his head back. Her touch felt as soft as he imagined a cloud might be, if he had ever felt a cloud, that is. Turning his head, he allowed his cheek to rest aimlessly upon her foreleg. At once, from beyond the blackness behind his eyelids, he heard a high-pitched giggle.
"I thought he'd be far more difficult than that. Let me near him," the voice chortled. Starshot could tell that she was now attempting to muffle her laughs as the fuchsia mare growled at her.
"Be at ease," Amoroso continued on after her bubbly cohort had calmed herself.
Give us your heart, Sir,
And lend us your ear.
Reveal unto us those delicious things that you fear—
"Most!" the blue mare interjected, her voice ringing like a bell.
Somewhere beyond, in the dark and dim, Starshot heard a loud 'SLAP!' and then a short-lived whimper. No matter. This beautiful lady had asked him a question, and he dared not be rude.
Actually, it was strange how heavy his eyelids had become as he attempted to open them, but eventually, he managed to part them just enough for Amoroso to see him gaze toward Amabile and then Cricket in the most sorrowful way. The rosy mare grinned deviously. By Celestia, how he loved that smile.
"I see," she chirped. And the singing came louder. "Well, I suppose I should be the first to tell you right now, Sir, that you are not exactly Amabile's type. Surely, she'll devour an entire audience for her fill, but when she is truly being selective... If she were truly hunting for a treat, I am sorry to say that you would not be it."
Complete anguish descended upon the stallion as all of his fears were confirmed. He was not good enough for her. Amabile probably hated him; in fact, he was now quite certain of it. Did Amoroso hate him as well? What about the blue mare? By Celestia and Luna, and every alicorn to come, never had he wanted to die more than he did at that very second.
Starshot imagined a flash of green, and for a moment, he could have sworn that something red had begun to glow before his dazed eyes. Amoroso inhaled sharply, and there was a stillness in the air before she sighed with content. This, coupled with the sound of the blue mare's breath, made his ear twitch. Even in the throes of nothingness and despair, the sound of them was still all-encompassing.
"I know, I know. It's just horrible, isn't it?" the gloomy one laughed. And the song bore deeper. "Even more so when you consider that she had only invited your wife in the first place. Then again, she certainly does seem to be Amabile's type; I can see it clearly. Accept it, Sir. Your wife is a fine cider. You're... grog."
Jealousy filled him up, hot and unbearable. That damned Cricket, again. Why was everypony always talking about Cricket as if she were the most spectacular pony in all of Equestria? What was so amazing about the mare that Amabile might favor her over him? After all, it was he who was the prodigy, wasn't it? Wasn't it he who was known as the heir of Star... Star... What was his name?
No matter. Cricket was still just a nopony, and in that moment, he despised her. Thoughts that he never dreamed possible entered his mind. He wanted to hurt her—badly. Maybe if she were gone, the three mares before him would have no choice but to favor him instead. Perhaps he should try to convince them, tell them who he was, explain to them that Kit was nothing at all when compared to him. Yet, when he attempted to open his mouth to speak, the stallion found that only an oafish groan was capable of leaving his lips. He decided quickly, then, that perhaps it was best to remain silent. These three sounded so much nicer than he did, anyway.
The rose-ish mare's forelegs began to shiver where they pressed against his shoulders, and he sensed the blue pony edging in closer. They now were both humming and giggling with delight.
"I know what he's thinking," the blue mare taunted in a sing-song voice.
"Shut it and feed, Sempre," the fuchsia one replied.
"Pfft! But look, there's so much of it now! I don't even know how I'll be able to catch it all!" the doe-eyed mare retorted, laughing out loud from somewhere beyond the blur of Starshot's mind. He heard her stumble to her hooves, and for some reason, begin skipping and dancing about the room. It wasn't necessary to be able to see her dance for him to know that it was beautiful; everything that these three did was perfection.
"Shut it, and sit down, will you?" the surly one barked. "You're going to upset the melod—"
"That's enough, Amoroso. Don't drain anymore from him," Amabile cut in, drawing the room into a sudden silence.
The songs all came to a complete stop, much to Starshot's dismay. Through his despair, and the empty hole left in his heart, he gradually began to regain control of his emotions. His anger and shame began to recede; yet, his head still reeled as he continued to sit in a state of blind confusion.
"He wasn't the one I brought for you, anyway. She was the one whom I wanted you to try."
For all the awful things he had been thinking about her just a few moments prior, Starshot had nearly forgotten that his wife had been in the room this entire time. How had he managed that?
His neck snapped to the side as the fuchsia mare shoved him away like a discarded toy. "Meh. He didn't taste particularly spectacular, anyway," she sighed, casually making her way over toward the sea green mare.
Starshot watched on as Amoroso hunkered down before his wife just as she had done to him a moment ago. The jealousy returned; the hole within him grew deeper.
Reaching forward the surly one raised Cricket's face toward the dim lamplight. Her gaze seemed to hover between the green mare's big, brown eyes, and for some reason, the empty space above her head. "Ugh. Another sweet and sad, little tragedy of a mare, Amabile?" she groaned, shoving Cricket's head away, nearly making the poor thing tip over. "I'll develop a headache, you know... a-gain."
"Oh, stop your whining, you little ingrate. This one's deceptive," Amabile chirped, flipping an orange curl over her shoulder. "Get a better smell of her. Go on!"
Cocking a skeptical brow at her cohort, Amoroso turned again to face Cricket, leaned in, and inhaled. Starshot could see clearly the shiver that proceeded to run up her spine. He wanted to wonder why, but found he couldn't care enough to try.
"Interesting," the mare gasped, staring Cricket over, wide-eyed. "Alright. Perhaps I was mistaken."
"Thank you. Yes, I am extremely good to you two, aren't I? It is so refreshing to hear you bring that up, for once," the yellow mare gibed, waving a hoof in her companion's direction. "Now, please do hurry up ...But, also go slowly. I'd very much like to watch."
The grin upon Amabile's face grew absolutely infernal as she watched her cohort loom over Cricket. The rosy one edged upward to whisper into the dazed mare's ear. Starshot, still lost in his trance, never thought to question why he had, again, imagined something elusive and green seeping and stewing about his wife.
There was a sudden rush of wind from his opposite side as something blue bolted past him, leapt forward, and landed squarely on top of the preoccupied, fuchsia mare. He watched his wife teeter, and then finally fall backward onto the floor, hitting her head so hard, she was nearly rendered unconscious.
"I want to try her, too!" the blue mare squealed, doing her best to get at Cricket whilst Amoroso shoved her away.
"You nearly knocked her out, you clumsy guppy!" she barked, fighting the blue mare off. "Just stay out of it! She would be wasted on a simpleton like you!"
"You're the simpleton, Aria!" the sweet-faced mare retorted, purposely screaming the last word as loud as possible. She then jutted out her tongue in Amoroso's direction.
"Are you absolutely mad?" Amoroso raged, reeling upon her at once. "Are you trying to have me killed using my name like that? I'll tell you what's what, Sonata Dusk. If I am to die, I shall be sure to drag your stupid, stupid face down to the very pits of Tartarus right along with m—!"
"Enough!" Amabile screamed, again cutting the room into complete silence.
Starshot felt himself smiling in her direction. He loved the way she was always able to do that, to take control of every situation.
"Amoroso, allow Sempre to feed first," the yellow mare bade her companion, casually inspecting her hoof. "You may have your fill afterward."
The surly mare stood there looking quite stunned. "What? Not a chance! Why should she be allowed to—"
Amabile's shiny, yellow hoof came down hard upon the old, wooden dresser. "Because I commanded it," she snarled, boring holes into the pinkish pony with those burning eyes of hers.
At once, the other mare's courage seemed to fail her. Starshot's lip twitched. He was no longer certain whether he should feel happy or sad.
The yellow mare straightened herself, and proudly hitched her shoulders back up where they belonged. "Besides, Sempre has already gorged herself on that one over there." She gestured toward him. "She shan't have much of her. Just a taste, isn't that right, Sempre?"
The blue mare nodded adoringly at Amabile, and then quickly bounced over to where Cricket was lying, stark still, eyes trained upon the ceiling. Crouching down over her, Sempre then began to sing quietly into the air. That lovely, curling alto grew louder, threatening to reach across the room, and weigh down upon Starshot's brain once more.
"Oh, she is very sweet," the blue mare cooed after only a moment. She passed a devious grin in the fuchsia pony's direction. "But there's something else there as well. Something like… earth? You couldn't possibly imagine it, Amoros—"
"Stop it, Sempre. Leave Amoroso be," Amabile chided her, preoccupied with studying the look of anguish that had begun to seep across Cricket's face.
The doe-eyed mare smiled at her superior. "Do you know what her energy is saying to me, Amabile?" she giggled, holding down Cricket's forelegs as the mare began to writhe in grief. "She wishes that she were as talented as you are. She wishes she was you. It tears her up inside, that you don't love her."
"Oh, for the love of all that is rotten, will you shut it and feed, already!" Amoroso snapped with a dramatic roll of her eyes. "Amabile's head is big enough as it is with all of that unmanageable mane. No need to help it along."
Clearing her throat, Amabile shrugged, and smiled a contented smile to herself. Sempre hunched back over to continue her song until the mare beneath her had stopped her struggling.
Amoroso, appearing rather dejected, turned suddenly to meet Starshot's gaze. She glowered at him dully, and crossed her forelegs. "We two castaways, ey?" the mare deadpanned.
Starshot felt his eyelids droop at the echoing quality of her voice.
Staring at him, thinking to herself for a moment, the rosy pony then reached forward with one, outstretched hoof. Everything in Starshot's line of sight became swimmy by the time she had touched his forehead, and shoved him backward.
"Perhaps you should lie down," she sighed boredly.
His head met the floor with a loud 'THUD'.
For a significant amount of time afterward—he knew not how long—the world flashed by the mage's dipping eyesight in a series of quickly fading images. He watched on as Sempre rose up to her hooves, rubbing a spot upon her chest. In a flash, Amoroso had taken her place, bearing down over Kit. He still couldnt fathom why. The song flowed on.
Eventually, only after Kit's whimpering had finally ceased, and Amabile had snuffed out the lamplight, did something akin to clarity begin to descend upon the stallion again.
"Out of my way! Let me see her. By Discord, did you have to leech her into complete oblivion?" a voice, distinctly Amabile's, whispered somewhere in the darkness.
"You said I could finish her!" Amoroso hissed. Even in his delirium, Starshot could still make out the distinct sound of a hoof stomp.
"I said you could have your fill of her! Not that you could sing her mad, you idiot! Just look at her! How is she supposed to function like this? She's too far beyond herself to recover, now!"
"How should I know? He shall help her, probably! What does it matter? She's only one, silly mare; nopony shall miss her."
"He shall miss her," Amabile snapped. "Didn't I tell you that I recognized this stallion? He's somepony important. I'm sure of it! Don't you remember our rule? We cannot finish important ponies this way unless we have a plan."
"I'm absolutely sick of your 'plans'! All they seem to do is benefit you!"
Starshot grimaced amidst his fading fog. Were these voices referring to him?
"You have some nerve, Adagio. I'll give you that," the gloomy voice continued on. "You fed upon an entire audience this evening, and have the gall to ask why a single mortal could not fill me? How could she? There was barely anything left after Sonata swilled half the little wench's vigor like the greedy pig she is!"
"Oi!" a high-pitched voice cut through the darkness.
"Ugh! Enough of this twaddle!" Amoroso growled. "I'm going to hunt down a proper meal."
There was a glow of red, and a rush of wind as Starshot suddenly sensed something growing, beginning to fill the room. A new sound began to echo in the air, something terrifying like the growling of a large, angry beast.
At once, the room's big windows burst open, and the cool night air ruffled his fur where he lay upon the floor. Again, the chamber glowed in red when suddenly, he was hit by the powerful sense that one gets when in the presence of a mightier being, the feeling that one's life was in very real danger.
Something large and fan-shaped swept out through the windows, and hovered just beyond its frame.
"May I join you, Aria?" Sempre inquired. Her voice was different now. It was fuller, more vibrant and strong.
Yet another fan-like something slipped through the windows. No, it wasn't a fan; it was too big, and was attached to something long. It looked more like a fin than anything else. Yes, an enormous fin.
"Oh, buck off, you whiny, little nuisance! Why must you have everything that I do?" another snarling, echoing voice came from beyond the window. "I'm going it alone tonight."
"No, we're all going together," Amabile cut in. "I want to return to the eastern coast by dawn, and there is no room for anymore slip ups in this town; not in the shadow of the princesses' woods."
Starshot heard another beastly growl.
"Very well, but you two had better keep up with me."
There was one more gust of air against his face. It worked to clear his mind a little faster. The last thing he saw before falling back into the dizzying darkness was something large, scaly, and blue zipping past the window, and disappearing off into the night. His head was swimming, fighting with itself for more clarity.
Get up, he told himself.
His limbs all seemed to be working fine now. The fresh silence urged him on.
"Get up," he slurred, pinching his eyelids closed. He shook his head, attempting to jostle the fog from his mind.
Upon opening his eyes, the sunlight hit Starshot's pupils head on, making him drop the lump of breakfast he had been levitating in his magic. Looking down, he caught sight of a plate, one of his own. Shifting his gaze upward, he noticed his own dining table before him as well. The light emanating from his sitting room's open window, again, shot into his face, making him wince.
Utterly confused, his mouth still working around the words "get up," he looked around, and realized that Cricket was also present. She sat across the table from him, smiling whilst sipping at her morning tea.
Had it all been a dream? Perhaps this was some sort of unforeseen, long term consequence of casting time spells. Had what he seen been an image from his future? "Not one more late night spent researching," he grumbled under his breath. "...Was probably casting spells in my sleep."
Cricket was still sipping slowly at her tea. She had yet to look at him.
Through the fog in his mind, something still did not sit right with Starshot about his harrowing vision. It wasn't because it seemed too real or too surreal, and it wasn't because his thoughts on it lingered on for far too long. On the contrary, what distressed him the most about this memory was how important it seemed in ways he could no longer remember. Running a hoof from his forehead to his nape, he tried harder to recall why this odd phantasm and those mares were significant, besides their rapturous voices, and how much he... how much he...
By Celestia, if he could just hear them sing once more, perhaps it might have helped to clear his mind, recall their significance. Still, if he allowed these worries to fall away, what he had experienced didn't seem to be an altogether unpleasant thing. Amabile was there, and Kit was there, though her purpose in the story remained rather foggy. There had been laughter, and something about food... Or was it cider? Instinctively, his gaze moved toward his wife. Perhaps he would find some solace in her. "Kit? Last night, D-did I... errr... Did you..." His voice trailed off upon his realizing that he had no clue of what he wished to ask.
Cricket had not attempted a reply, nor had she risen her head to look at him. Watching as she now nibbled at her breakfast, Starshot noticed that one of her hooves had traveled up toward her neck, and begun to scratch.
Deciding he had gone on about all this for far too long, the stallion let loose a loud sigh, and succumbed to the notion that, at least on this matter, he might need to reach out to his uncle for help. Of course, this would most certainly be a pain, a quality Starshot had long since learned to attribute to his great uncle.
Star Swirl lived deep within the Everfree Forest near the castle of the two sisters, and he rarely ever ventured outside of its borders anymore. Why should he when the castle was where his underground workrooms were located, not to mention the magic mirror that allowed him to travel through time and space at will? Who should care about the cobblestones of Canterlot if they could traverse through the stars? Still, the matter did seem important enough to make the journey to see him. Perhaps tomorrow the old unicorn could make some free time for a visit.
Pushing these thoughts away for the moment in lieu of enjoying his breakfast, Starshot moved to levitate a bit of the meal toward his mouth. Kit had done well this morning, having baked some fruit and grilled up something that resembled corn cakes. Though, upon further inspection, he saw that they were far too brown in color, the stallion shrugged this off as mere happenstance, and moved one of the cakes toward his mouth. Eagerly, he bit down.
The shock to his palate made him hack the entire bite back onto the plate. It was terrible. Whatever this all was, it barely even tasted like food. It was far too sweet, and held the sapor of bog water and molasses.
Starshot's mind reeled as he attempted to cough up something long and soft that had lodged itself in his throat. His bulging eyes trained upon Cricket who still refused to move an inch, look at him, or wipe that lackadaisical smile from her face. Hacking one last time, in desperate need of air, something finally came flying from his mouth, and splattered itself upon the table. Before him, squirming about in a pool of dark brown and masticated earth, was an earthworm. Fat and half bitten through, it attempted to work its devastated form toward the edge of the table.
Eyes wide with disbelief, chest heaving, Starshot's gaze shot up toward his wife. Sniffing back the tears and retch that had bubbled to the surface, the stallion passed Cricket an enraged glare. "Cricket! What have you done? What is the meaning of this?" he rasped.
Still no reply. Having had enough of being ignored, he pounded his hoof upon the table, nearly upsetting all of the dishes. "Answer me!"
"Oh, dear. What a mess you've made," Cricket sighed without looking up. She then moved her head to the side, and took a bite from her own plate. Starshot gagged again when, for the first time that morning, he noticed the earthworms and grainy bits of dirt that tumbled from her lips. Rushing over to her as she went to sip her tea, the stallion slapped the platter away onto the floor, and pressed his hooves into her cheeks, attempting to force her to spit up her mouthful of filth. Failing at this, he took her by the shoulders, and shook her violently until her head had no other choice but to bob upward in his direction.
"Kit, why? Tell me what is the matter!"
Those big, brown eyes finally pierced into him, and when they did, they showed no signs of affection, regret, or understanding. It was only now that Starshot noticed those orbs, once filled with life and hope, were ringed in a pale, sickly gray. The mare's overstuffed cheeks bulged around lips that slowly curled up into a maddened grin. As they spread apart, a rush of muddy tea seeped out to dribble down her chin. It landed with a splatter onto the floor.
"She likes things that are sweet and earthy. She said it. I heard her, and she likes me best that way," Cricket croaked, her shoulders bobbing up and down as she began to giggle. "Silly. You're always so silly about the most obvious things, Starshot. A simple genius. I've never liked that quality in you."
"W...what?" Starshot gasped as memories most sinister came rushing back to him through his lingering fog. Not a hallucination or glimpse into the future; it was a memory. Amabile not Amabile, but Adagio, the golden witch, the devourer of all rotten things. Not her companions or servants, but her wretched sisters, Aria and Sonata, the embodiments of pure rage and greed. And Cricket...
"Oh, Kit... " he whimpered pitifully, running a hoof through her sweat-soaked mane.
"With this, she will allow me to be near her. Then maybe I could be... be..." Kit rattled on staring into Starshot with those blank, empty eyes. Smiling wildly, she seemed to blink away her thoughts, and again lowered her head toward her tea cup.
As the golden sparks faded away, Starshot sat up in his seat, and bore down upon his desk. Closing his swollen eyes, he let out a long, ragged breath. He sat like this in the dark for a disturbing length of time.
Now recollecting with clarity the pandemonium in the grand hall, the vicious urges he had developed against Cricket, and Kit's own despair, the wizard felt nauseous. He remembered their conversation about leaving the hall, and their lack of will to do so. He recalled Adagio's burning eyes training themselves upon poor Cricket, drawing her away. Sonata and Aria had bored down upon her, their singing growing louder, digging deeper even after it was clear by looking at her face that there was nothing left in the poor mare but love for them and hatred for herself. They had destroyed two promising, young lives that evening. And for what? One, hasty, evening snack.
The worst part of it was that even now, after all of these years, the Siren song persisted. Caught up in a world of confusion and sorrow, it sickened the wizard to admit how much delight the memory of it still brought him. Now, every time he laid down to sleep, it took all of his might to keep himself from bashing his head in for want of freedom from the three sisters' lingering venom. Yet, in spite of all this, Starshot could at least acknowledge that he was still a time mage.
And they were immortal.
And he was a time mage.
And they would pay. He didn't know when or how, but one thing he grew more certain of everyday was that their end would surely come to pass.
A moment later, his eyes opened, filled with fresh purpose. Glancing about the desk, covered in his organized chaos, he spotted an enormous, brown, book, bound in thin wood, and worn with age. Pulling the tome closer, Starshot ran his fingers across the image on its cover: a depiction of a shooting star whose shiny, gold tail was aimed as straight as a royal guardspony's spear.
Flipping the large book open, and sifting through the pages by chunks, the stallion grimaced as he caught glimpses of personal notes, theories, schematics, equations, and plans long past. Looking back upon the earlier ones, they now all seemed so trivial.
Trial #1: Dissuade CG from becoming a singer (For complete proposal, see pg. 2) - FAILED
CG never relocates to Canterlot.
CG never meets traveler.
CG dies in entomology field research accident.
(Amended note: Traveler never encouraged to introduce Temporal Adjustment Initiative).
Void. This approach will not prolong CG's life. (Amended note: To interfere or hinder the creation of the TAI is not an option).
Trial #86: Dissuade CG from performing the Canterlot Grand Hall (For complete proposal, see pg. 172) - FAILED
Unavoidable. Grand Hall is an unalterable constant of CG’s thread (See pg 173-203 for complete trial breakdown).
From all 67 completed trials, it is deduced that CG will inevitably perform the Grand Hall, as the significance of the theater is either unalterable or easily replaceable within the city of Canterlot. Any further alterations should come after her first performance.
Trial #141: Confront the target before CG is consumed (For complete proposal, see pg.342-356) - FAILED
Difficult to maintain element of surprise or to confront target directly whilst target remains fully empowered. CG and (presumably) traveler consumed.
Seek more formidable means of confrontation(See Trial #179 results and conclusion).
Trial #179: Alert princesses of target's whereabouts before CG is consumed (For complete proposal, see pg. 401- 408) - FAILED
It is impossible to maintain an element of surprise or to confront the target directly whilst target remains fully empowered. Princesses consumed. 1,407 civilians consumed. 350 soldiers consumed. CG consumed. (Presumably) traveler consumed.
Any further efforts must focus solely on the target, and must take place during a period of their incapacitation (See pg. 721 for ongoing log of possible target origin eras and locations. See pg. 830 for ongoing log of possible allo-dimensional locations, post-banishment).
Failed, failed, failed. So many efforts to halt or destroy those infernal sisters, failed. So many threads of the pathways of the past cut for the havoc they would cause in the present and future. If his uncle had ever had the opportunity to read such a thing, he would almost certainly have given Starshot a rather vindictive "I told you so".
Once upon a time, this book had been dedicated solely to finding a way to save his wife's sanity. The day Starshot began the log had been the same day he stormed out of his home, and into the Everfree Forest to confront Star Swirl about his failure to do anything about the Sirens. Sorrowful though he was about his great nephew's wife, the old, stubborn wizard had stuck to his beliefs, and refused to further converse with or tutor Starshot unless he adhered to his rule that the past should forever remain unaltered.
Thus, Starshot left the royal castle, and the old wizard's presence, forever cutting all ties with him. To the young mage, Star Swirl's inability to find anything in the world worthy enough for which to change his dictates seemed heartless, but to allow his beloved Kit to suffer in her fitful state, all for some silly, self indulgent rule, was utterly unforgivable. It was easily something to be held against his uncle forever, and Starshot would, indeed, never speak to the old unicorn again until the day he bestowed upon the Sirens his unfathomable act of mercy by banishing the three to a different plane.
Fortunately, by the time Starshot had broken ties with the old mage, he was knowledgeable enough in his work to erect his own mirror, and continue his travels alone. This was meant to allow him the opportunity to hunt for the Sirens as long as and in whichever way he pleased, but, of course, their banishment to a completely different dimension inevitably made this task a far more daunting one to undertake. Perhaps Star Swirl had recognized that his great nephew wielded enough power and knowledge to successfully find the Sirens had they simply been sent to a different time instead of a separate plane, altogether. Still, Starshot couldn't help but wonder what in Celestia's name would inspire the wizard to protect those three from the deaths that they very clearly deserved, especially after witnessing their final, vicious plot against Equestria.
Regardless, sending them across dimensions did ultimately broaden and lengthen Starshot's search as it was intended to do. However, having previously viewed many worlds where magic had not existed, this also presented unto the mage a promising possibility: that the three creatures would end up in a place where their powers might be rendered either useless or benign.
It was in this way that Starshot's allo-dimensional trials began, and as they went on, even past the time of Cricket's death, the stallion found in his travels and studies a new and greater purpose to which he could dedicate his life. If calamity and chaos were mostly unpredictable, then he would use his abilities to be the individual who would stop them wherever he happened to find them. If the Sirens were not the first or last evil to spread terror about Equestria, then in whichever way he could, Starshot would try to alleviate his world of these types of woes for the sake of all innocents like his beloved wife.
His uncle's rules be damned.
It seemed plain enough, and he was as much of a genius as Star Swirl deemed himself. Thus, in time, Starshot added to his arsenal of inherited time spells his own unique creations. These included the ability to scan the past or future of any dimension as long as he was already aware of its existence. This would turn out to be his most frequently casted spell. It not only granted him the ability to search for the three sisters without ever having to travel through the mirror, but the ability to review events from any thread he chose from the past or future. His daily ritual of viewing his education and subsequent degradation at the hooves of his uncle made certain that this spell was quite often put to use.
In addition to this, he had learned how to create time and dimensional pockets in space whereas an object or being could be manipulated without disturbing anything around it. This was how he had managed to carry on himself a moveable portal which allowed him to use magic anywhere within a magicless world. It was also how—unbeknownst to him all that time ago—he would one day almost manage to kill the monster who had taken Kit's mind, the one who called herself "Aria".
"Bitch," Starshot spat as he leafed through a couple more pages. It seemed an offense that one so horrid, so deceptive, might take the name of a thing he had once found quite beautiful. It was almost as if the beast had sucked the life from the very word itself.
Huffing to himself, the mage shoved the book away, and leaned back in his chair. Rubbing his temples, he made an attempt to settle his mind through the headache he was now experiencing. Damn whatever noxious slop that dour whore had forced him to drink back in the woods. He knew well that his reasoning skills always became limited when he was angry, but whatever he had drunk seemed to incapacitate him even more. Surely, the little charlatan had known that this would happen.
"Clever. Very clever, little creature," he grumbled to himself, fingers pressed into his aching eyes. Looking around for some calming thought, the wizard's mind finally drifted to the inky blackness that surrounded him.
All of his spells were important creations and quite useful; however, they were all nothing in comparison to this place, a place that he had created—or rather discovered—purely by accident.
Starshot recalled the day he had been traveling through the portal on a mission, long forgotten, and caught sight of a flash of darkness at the center point between the two worlds. At first he thought nothing of this until he witnessed it happen again on a following trip. Each time he traveled between worlds, he would attempt to cast a spell to slow time upon his surroundings so that he might get a longer look at this strange, dark, "nowhere" place. Thinking himself a rather bold explorer, he soon grew tired of simply watching the space pass him by, and eventually concocted a plan to allow himself the opportunity to explore it.
On a subsequent trip, he brought with him an enormous mirror, a duplicate of his original back in Equestria. Upon it he casted a tracking spell, binding the two mirrors together into a dimensional pathway. Once this was completed, he dove headlong into the portal. Upon reaching that middle space, he paused time upon the looming darkness that surrounded him. Casting an equilibrium spell upon his floating body and the mirror, he was thus granted the illusion of weight, and for the first time, planted his hooves upon something which gave the impression of a floor. At last, he set the mirror down permanently so that he might always be able to return to the same place, the crossroads between all worlds and all times.
It was in this way that Starshot created the "Nowhere".
In the Nowhere, the vengeful wizard discovered that time and space could no longer touch him. He could exist there for as long as he wanted, and never again would he age for as long as he stayed in that space. The stallion recognized this as yet another theory his uncle had been wrong about, but quickly wrote this off as trivial after realizing that this place was the tool he needed to expand his search for the Sirens indefinitely. With the Nowhere, he could hunt them until the end of time. They would never be rid of him.
Struck by the profundity of this new understanding, the stallion bid farewell to Equestria and the life he no longer favored. He created a portal pocket, and removed his original mirror lest some future pony fool accidentally tamper with it. Then, he set up his new home within the Nowhere. There he would manipulate and traverse time as he pleased, to Equestria's plane and beyond.
Naturally, with his great uncle and the Princess Celestia also being traversers of time, Starshot had to live with the fear that one day, one or both of them would accidentally discover this place. Fortunately for him, this never happened, and after counting off a few decades, one day the inconsolable wizard finally found solace in the notion that his uncle was surely dead. The princess, as intelligent and timeless as her majesty might have been, would never think to suppose that a place like the Nowhere might even exist. Only a wizard who was a match to his uncle—or somehow got a hoof upon his books—would ever be able to find the Nowhere.
Starshot carried on in this way, year after year, traversing to and fro through time and space, changing what he could for the better, and regretfully leaving those calamities that he could not discover or had not the option to change without causing greater problems. As he did so, his endless search for the Sirens continued. Everyday—at least according to the illusion of passing time indicated by the enchanted clock upon his desk—he would pull up the thread of the three beasts' lived past, pondering upon their mysterious origins from out of an ancient, Equestrian sea, wondering about their magic, and how they had ever managed to become so undetectable. Everyday, he would draw countless threads of time and dimensional possibility from their future, and sift through them all, searching, searching for the place to which they had been banished until he could no longer keep his eyes open.
Imagine his delight when after sixty years of ceaseless searching, he just so happened to draw from the bunch of threads he had been looking for. It was in this sole vision of endless time and space, this mere hooful of sand, that he finally found those wretched three, scrounging about like sick dogs, hungry and near powerless in a world filled with odd, magicless creatures that called themselves "humans".
Success at last.
That one glorious thread was Starshot's salvation. It quickened him once more, filling him with renewed purpose as he watched the wicked trio live out their human existence lifetime after lifetime. He beamed at their suffering for want of their lost home, and was disgusted watching their indulgence in meaningless pleasures to keep their minds off of the days of their former glory.
Patiently, he ran the length of the thread, waiting for any sign of their expiration, the stripping of their power, or their own self destruction brought on by sheer frustration. The wizard prayed their choice would not be the latter, and grew anxious noting how close the one called Aria had often come to such an end. This type of conclusion could never satiate him. He wanted the pleasure of ending them all to himself.
When Starshot witnessed the final blow to the trio at the hands of a future Equestrian princess and her hoard of human companions, he nearly grew giddy. Not only was this confirmation that the art of time and dimensional magic would long outlast his uncle's era, but also that his pursuit of the Sirens was nearing its end. He had found the long awaited moment in which they lost their power. His time had finally come.
When this had all first occurred, about four months prior to his encounter with Aria, the wizard had immediately raced to his mirror, altering its refraction toward that of the human world. Using a spell he had long ago created to bend and shift the very edges of the Nowhere toward or away from other worlds, he then managed to transform himself into human form.
Starshot had to admit that at the time it had been a rather strange experience. Rarely had he ever deemed it necessary to transform himself into something unfamiliar since most of his "days" were spent in the Nowhere, scanning through time threads, or in Equestria, thwarting off chaos. However, it was during this small moment of victory that Starshot had surmised it wise to spend as much time in human form as possible. After all, the Sirens had spent an entire millennia getting used to their new bodies. He would have to at least be functional with his—despite all of its strange appendages and lack of fur.
Running over toward his tome to conjure up a fresh page, he had picked up a sliver of charcoal into his brand new whatever they were—he had not yet known what to call his fingers—and fumbled it around for only a moment before finally giving up.
"What in the ever loving— How can any creature function with these? I shall never get used to them!" he hissed before levitating the object in his magic instead.
Now taking a moment to glower down at the book these four months later, the exhausted Starshot gingerly picked up the charcoal in his hand. The nib now stayed steady in his appendage as he bore down upon the page.
Trial #344,739: Confront target directly following incapacitation. - FAILED
Traveler is disarmed and subdued. Target escapes.
1) Confirmed: Target wields the ability to detect malicious intent through an amalgam of passive, sensory perceptions, probably a form of both sight and smell. This could very likely double as the target's main predatory feature. The nature of this feature, be it magical or biological, is still unknown. Maintaining an element of surprise is impossible as long as the traveler holds any ill will toward the target (NOTE: Look further into target's visual abilities).
2) Unpredicted phenomena occurs when traveler approaches the target. Biological detection of Equestrian magic replenishes target's power (?) or ability to utilize power (?). It is presumed impossible to approach the target or utilize Equestrian magic without partially restoring the target's abilities.
Starshot grimaced after writing down these notes, and rolled his swollen eyes, more so at himself than anything else. "I picked the wrong thread, the wrong possibility."
In his haste to discover as much as possible, as quickly as possible about the three Sirens' disempowered lives, the mage had made the mistake of gazing only upon the confrontation between Aria and himself in a thread where he had defeated her. So excited to witness the vision of her bleeding out at his feet, it had never even occurred to him that he should pull any more thread possibilities. It never struck him that that Starshot, the one who had defeated her, was also one who had somehow managed to discover that Sirens could smell emotion and re-empower themselves whilst near portals. This current Starshot, meaning himself, had not.
He only ever had one close encounter with the three, and that was the evening Cricket had been driven mad. It had taken a very long time for him to regain his own senses after that evening, and even then, the exact words the monsters used had forevermore remained elusive to him. Even after all this time, he had only vaguely recalled a few words alluding to food or drink and not much else.
The threads of the Sirens' past that he had researched were hardly any more informative. The three rarely ever spoke about the nature of their abilities so much as they just used them upon mortals. Whenever they had been mentioned, the statements only consisted of a word or two in passing, never enough to decipher their full meaning.
Unwittingly, he had blundered into this confrontation unprepared, and had obviously paid the price for it. A new course of action would now have to be formulated. One that, preferably, didn't involve very close contact... or "whiskey". But how could one destroy a Siren without getting close, or having to do it in person? Zipping through the confrontation again and again, the mage pondered to himself.
Suddenly, he gasped. His swollen eyes strained open wide. "They must destroy each other, of course," he whispered into the darkness. Conjuring up a fresh page in his tome, he began to scribble something down upon it.
The Sirens, being chaotic entities and devourers of negativity, were prone to butting heads with one another. Starshot had witnessed this quite often whilst reviewing whatever pieces from their past he could find. He had concluded that their hunger for negative energy was a double edged sword. It satiated and nourished them, but also seeped into their own consciousnesses. The evil that the three devoured was the very evil that they felt compelled to occasionally wield against one another. Maybe this factor could be used to his advantage.
He could cast an illusion spell, perhaps, a spell that would make him appear as one of them.
"No, no, that would never work," he muttered, using his magic to rub out what he had just written.
Even if he did take on the form of a Siren, if what he theorized was true about their ability to smell and see negative energy, they would instantly know that he was really a mortal anyway. He didn't want to take anymore chances. Rubbing his chin, he ruminated upon the matter some more.
As he zipped through the illusion before him, he noted the moment that the red-hued man had come bounding through the woods to punch him unconscious. Starshot grimaced.
Who was that righteous oaf, anyway? In his attempt to rescue Aria, he had accidentally saved Starshot's life. Still it sickened the wizard to see the man calling the monster by her name, picking her up into his arms, and racing away. How could it be possible to befriend a thing so—
Starshot paused. His reeling wrist froze in its position. "...Huh. That's a thought," he murmured to himself. "A ridiculous one, and yet..."
They had been living in the human world for a very long time, hadn't they? Perhaps they had formed some kind of outside relationship that could be used to manipulate them.
"Feh. Utterly ridiculous. What kind of close bond could a Siren possibly form with its food?"
The mage leaned back in his seat, and ran his hand across the bright slash of blue that streaked down the top of his gray head. His golden eyes flickered with weariness and frustration. Feeling unsettled in his state of curiosity, he reached out with one hand, and changed the image of the viewing circle before him. "Starshot, you are officially out of your mind," he scoffed.
The image that appeared therein was that of a white house on a quaint, rather worn-looking block. It was night. Two humans were yelling at each other nearby. Peering at the image, the wizard spotted a dark-clad, fuchsia woman standing on the front step of the white house. It was her, the Siren, Aria.
Zipping through this thread of time, the mage watched as she entered through the doorway, and disappeared. What had happened inside of that house? Until now, he could only speculate.
Starshot, having been stuck outside of the house and only interested in tracking the witch, had not worried about what she was up to at the time. He figured that she was attempting to find a way to stir up negativity for whatever reason she might still have wanted to. When she had gone storming from the place, he assumed she had failed, and was likely trying to make a quick getaway. Now that he thought back on it, it did seem presumptive, perhaps a bit careless of him, to not try to get a little closer. Regardless, the opportunity presented itself to him, now.
Pushing the image's view in closer, moving a little bit further along the length of this thread, he managed to get a clear view into the living room of the house. What he saw shocked him so sufficiently that he lost hold of his spell. In an instant, the viewing bubble had collapsed upon itself, and exploded into splinters of gold.
"What? That cannot be... Th—that can't be right."
Sirens weren't capable of love. They were terrifying, scaly creatures made of conflict, enticement, and lies; surely they had want for nothing more. Yet still, Starshot knew that his eyes had not deceived him. The look on Aria's face when she and that woman... when they... That was a look that he had seen before, a heartfelt and quite relatable expression.
Despite everything, the increasingly nagging voice in the back of his head told him that if there was any method that could prove successful in luring a Siren that could feel a bonding emotion such as love, then getting to their loved ones would most certainly be it.
Still feeling extremely skeptical about the notion, Starshot scribbled something he had heard in the viewing bubble down onto a fresh page in his book. He then changed its image with a flick of his wrist, and immediately began searching through a new set of threads. After a few hours of work, the mage dropped his pencil, and grinned down at the page he had been writing upon. On it, scrawled in large script, were three names, three individuals who would inevitably aid him in destroying those wretched sisters once and for all.
At last, the question was answered. How does one go about catching three, overgrown, enchanted fish? With the correct bait, of course.