• Published 13th Oct 2011
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The Quiet Place - Aynine



Twilight fights against sinister manipulations, struggling to overcome a deep-seated darkness within. As she battles to preserve everything she cares about, she will sacrifice anything necessary to succeed. But the price of victory may be herself.

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Chapter 20: Eyes of Six Worlds

The Quiet Place

By: Aynine

[Disclaimer: I own nothing of the MLP franchise and all rights are reserved by Hasbro and the respective parties involved.]

Chapter 20: Eyes of Six Worlds

Nightmare's head spun, the world threatening to topple around her, and she clamped her eyes and mouth shut as nausea made her stomach churn. "Help me," she muttered, or perhaps thought; she couldn't be sure of her surroundings, or whether or not she was still conscious at all. In an instant, she was no longer feeling queasy or dizzy, but she felt hot, feverish. What—? She could feel herself again, but it was not quite her. Twilight? The feeling of control was too distant, but it was there just out of reach.

Her mouth hung open as she stared around to the carnage of a burning Canterlot. Flames climbed from the rooftops as dragons criss-crossed in the sky, cries of ponies and the Brood competing in symphonies. Twilight paid no attention to it as it fell to white noise, and her eyes trailed down to her hooves. They trembled as she looked at them for a moment, fear and disgust welling within her. It wasn't until Twilight focused on what was just beyond them that Nightmare could understand the moment. The eye of a dragon, or a dying dragon to be precise. His life faded quickly as the power of Twilight's Mjollnir had burned into him, his eye closing slowly. And then thoughts from the archmage flooded her mind in fragments.

***

I would do it; I would do it for them. I couldn't let them down. Her promise--no, my promise would make it right... for me. Even if I let it all go, even if everyone else let it go, she would never forget. Would I be letting her suffer? Would she be in more pain than me?

I stared into the dying eyes of that dragon with ones that could only know. He gazed at me, and sometimes I wonder if he was asking my soul for its secrets. It was only for an instant, just a few seconds, but sometimes I remember that moment over and over. Those eyes... Sometimes she has those same eyes. She will remind me, and yet allow me to forget at the same time. She is a reminder of how high I was... and how far I fell...

I don't want you to know, but you already do. You will always know, every time you look at me. You will see my pain, but you will never let me go. Others look at me with pride and envy. The ones I have wronged steal my security with eyes full of contempt, hatred, and animosity. But you—with absolute understanding—you see me for what I am: scared. Alone. The knowing observer.

I cannot share the conflicted void of that promise, but I will not burden everyone else with my sins. Not as you have done with me. You will atone with me. It's the only way. Look at me now, Celestia.

***

"Nightmare Moon, are you alright?" Trixie asked with concern, one hoof on the Id's shoulder.

In a rush of feeling, Nightmare was back to reality, and she took in mouthfuls of air as the others watched her uneasily. Her nausea and dizziness returned in full force, and she stared at Trixie's mouth as she continued talking. She couldn't focus on what the magician was saying, the sickness too overwhelming to concentrate. Twilight, what is happening to me—us?

Just as she was bracing herself to vomit, the robed pony swiftly moved to her and placed a hoof to her head. Her eyes widened and, in a few seconds, all of the ill feelings subsided, a pulse of magic unlike any other she had felt swept throughout her. She blinked in surprise and stared at him as she became comfortable. "Th-thank you," she rasped. "What did—"

"Unbelievable," he muttered to himself, "Two souls within in a single vessel. Could this mean...? No. This magic is... familiar. Lady Celestia, what is this one's status?"

"There is much to debrief you on, Telos, but there is just as much for you to explain to us. Why don't you start by explaining how you are still alive, thousands of years after you went missing?" She walked past everyone and stood at the steps to the throne, her eyes shifting between Nightmare and Telos.

"But of course, Your Majesty," he said, sizing up his audience. He stepped off to the side to better view them all at once. "Greetings, everyone. I am Oracle Telos, or rather, The Oracle, or so I was once called in the past." He carefully gauged the reactions of those in the room. "I see that some of you recognize me," he finished, his eyes shifting between Trixie, Dash and the princesses.

Luna moved to stand by her sister. "Telos. How do you still live?" she reminded.

"It would seem my staff was used, the fragments of my memory. I never thought much of myself as a teacher," he said, chuckling, "but ponies needed to be prepared in the absence of the queen and her younger brother in the event that the throne would be vacant, or fall into the hooves of those whom would do harm to our kingdom."

"Telos, at least elaborate on the situation with Aurelius," urged Celestia, her tone becoming impatient.

"That is for another time, Lady Celestia. It is of no immediate concern, I assure you. I shall fully explain all that you desire to know in due time. I have not eaten in eons, so that is where I shall begin." He turned to leave, but a hoof caught his robe.

"Tell me, why does Aurelius hate you so much?" Nightmare demanded weakly.

Telos stared at her for a while before sighing and allowing his eyes to wander to the nearest stained glass window. "He murdered my... someone very dear to me."

"That doesn't answer my question." The Id was met with an indifferent glance, and there was a long pause of silence before Telos continued. He removed his hood briefly and quickly tugged it back on, the others gasping in surprise.

"As you can see, I am neither unicorn nor alicorn, and therefore, I should be incapable of using magic as potent as one. The bond Aurelius and I share is one of blood and jealousy. In our time, Aurelius was the lord of the sun and ruled alongside his elder sister Astra, the ruler of the moon." He stopped and clasped his forehooves together, slowly pulling them apart. A white orb of faded light appeared and swelled until most of the throne room was consumed. He closed his eyes and details filled out the space within the orb. "This is Prince Aurelius during his reign."

The alicorn prince appeared a moment later, standing just under Luna's height in stature. His body was a deep crimson and his mane a subdued, almost fiery mass. His cutie mark depicted a partial solar eclipse, with half of the sun orange and the other half a charcoal grey.

"That's a strange cutie mark," observed Trixie..

"More like a brand of fate. The prince can control the sun and moon harmoniously, seamlessly."

Celestia chimed in. "Luna and I can both control the sun and moon. How is Aurelius any different?"

"Aurelius could not control the moon at first and practiced for years before he could. It will be a great deal of time before he can utilize his cosmic powers again." He paused and took a deep breath. "I suppose while I am still here I can answer your question about how we are both still alive." He clapped and opened his eyes, his memory vanishing.

"After the demise of Lady Astra, I sealed Aurelius in my staff to prevent him from rising to power in place of his sister. I used my body as the final seal and my staff as his prison. The only magic strong enough to break his prison was magic strong enough to stand against him. Magic as powerful as my own."

"But Aurelius has been around as an undead dragon this entire time," said Trixie.

Telos's eyes widened, but Nightmare spoke before he could. "So the memory fragments in your staff were to train a pony to kill him if he was ever freed."

"I said battle, not defeat."

"Twilight already killed Aurelius when she used Holy against him," the Id continued. "All of us watched him die."

"I don't know who you watched die, but it is impossible that it was the same Prince Aurelius that I once sealed away. There is no way he could have escaped my prison with his body and powers. As it stands, Aurelius will become more powerful than all of you once he regains all of his strength. But the most surprising thing of all is how weak your princesses are." The others gasped and Nightmare, Trixe, and Dash shot them questioning looks. "Yes, I know just how powerful you are not, princesses, and I would like to know why."

"We used the Rites to ascend Twilight Sparkle into an alicorn," replied Celestia, regret lining her voice.

Telos choked on a breath and adjusted his robe. "You have made a grave mistake, your majesties. With both of you at your peak power Aurelius would likely die trying to seize the throne with force. Unless... No, I will need more time to think on it."

"The decision was made years prior to knowing who Aurelius was or what he was capable of. What is done is done, and we need to focus on what is happening now."

"You," said Telos as he turned to Nightmare. "Where is the one who used Holy, this Twilight Sparkle?"

"She and I share the same body," she replied.

He raised an eyebrow. "The other soul? Then who are you?"

"I was formerly a weapon created and used by Aurelius. I am Nightmare Moon. Twilight attempted to save me from banishment when Aurelius tried to use the Elements of Harmony against me. While I was purged from Luna, I was transferred into Twilight instead," she explained. She hung her head for a moment.

Telos scratched at his chin and mumbled to himself as he stared to one of the windows again. After a moment, he turned to speak to everyone. "I don't know what these Elements of Harmony are, and I'm afraid I don't know any magic that can help you. The effects of whatever magic that caused your predicament may be permanent. If that is so then I am sorry."

"Twilight will find a way to separate us," Nightmare responded confidently.

"Your unique situation has piqued my interest, and I will lend a hoof where I can. After all that has happened I will need some time to think."

"Telos, we are not finished, yet," said Celestia. There was a sternness in both her voice and the way she looked at him, but he only offered her a half-interested glance.

"There will be time for that later, Lady Celestia. You should be gathering your strength and recuperating after all that has occurred. I shall be in your lovely city, though I'm sure you will have me monitored." He headed for the throne room doors. "I imagine much has changed in the world in since I last walked it."

Dash flew between him and the doors and brandished Nightfall. "Hey, the princess isn't done talking to you. We need to prepare for when Aurelius attacks again, and you're the only pony who seems to know what's going on."

"As I said, there is time for that. He will not besiege your kingdom until he is confidently strong enough to do so. Now, put that toy away and—" Telos's eyes fell to the black and green blade and his gaze darkened. "That... does not belong to you."

In an instant, a light blue glow enveloped the sword, tugging it away from the knight. "What the—!?" Dash blurted as the sword jerked. She maintained her iron grip on the hilt, and was lifted into the air before being thrown backwards into the throne doors. As she slammed into them, she released the sword as sailed backwards through the doorway, the onlookers giving cries and shouts in reaction. The sword levitated to Telos and slid into his robe.

He turned to face the throne. "I grow tired of repeating myself. There is time and rather than pestering me you should make use of it preparing your forces for the next attack. Now, I am leaving and I do not wish to be disturbed any further, Lady Celestia." He turned to Nightmare. "I will to speak with Twilight Sparkle when she is able." Telos shook his head and wandered towards the door, stopping to glance at Dash and shake his head again before departing. She glared death at him, but he was already moving down the corridor.

"What a jerk," muttered Trixie under her breath.

Celestia frowned. "There is nothing else we can do for now. He is not wrong, and we must gather our strength, but I cannot force him to ally with us. I will maintain order and the rest of you should take this time to recover." She leaned to Luna and whispered something. The moon princess nodded and walked out, stopping to say something to the knight as she picked herself up off of the door.

Nightmare murmured something as she fell to her forehooves and vomited on the floor. The others loosed sounds of disgust and worry as she finished and glanced up. They glimmered in her eyes as colorful smears, and she wiped her mouth before finally collapsing to the floor.

"Nightmare!" cried Trixie as she rushed to her side. "What's wrong?" She held out her hooves and mimicked the motion of Twilight's healing magic. "I-I can't use healing magic," she reminded herself, panicking. Celestia glided down the stairs and lowered her head to inspect the Id's form. Her breathing was shallow and labored, trickles of sweat running down the sides of her face. "Can't you do something, princess?"

Celestia's mouth twisted with regret. "I'm afraid I don't know. Her situation is unprecedented." She took Nightmare's body into her magic and started towards the door, several servants having gathered to see what all of the commotion had been. "You," she called to one, "come with me. You will be tending to Nightmare Moon." The servant trembled for a moment before giving a shaky nod. "And you. Tell Chancellor Leo to gather those of the Council currently present. It is of utmost importance." The second servant bowed and departed in a hurry, while the first trotted nervously beside the princess.

The trio entered Twilight and Trixie's chambers, laying the Id across the bed. The servant left the room and returned with a bowl of water and a washcloth a moment later, soaking and laying it over Nightmare's head. She moaned in her sleep as the cool cloth touched her, but she relaxed soon after.

"What do you think is happening to her?" asked Trixie.

Celestia shook her head, removing her tiara and massaging her temples. "I don't know, but it worries me. Perhaps it's a side effect of her fusion with Nightmare Moon. The only other pony that such a thing has happened to is Luna, but she refuses to speak about it."

"Maybe she'll talk about it now if it might be what's making them sick," bargained the magician.

"I'm afraid it's not the same, Trixie. Luna was possessed by Nightmare, not sharing her body with her. I will have the archmagi prioritize research on finding a way to heal her, but there is little we can do right now. Stay with her and let me know if there's any change." The magician stared at Nightmare with crestfallen eyes before nodding slowly. "Don't lose hope. Twilight is strong."

Celestia left the room, closing the door quietly behind her. She took a deep breath, unleashing a large sigh as she started walking again. Please, Twilight. Don't end up like Luna did. I know you believe in Nightmare, but I cannot allow... No. I won't give up hope, either.

***

It wasn't until Celestia bumped into a robed pony before she realized she had reached the royal court. "My apologies, I didn't—"

"Your Majesty," greeted the robed pony as he bowed, "the present Council members have been assembled and are ready for you. I was just on my way to inform you."

"Chancellor Leo... I'm sorry. You've already summoned them?"

"Of course, Your Majesty. I received your order only an hour ago," he replied, puzzled.

Celestia blinked and rubbed the side of her head. "Ah, forgive me. It has been a trying day. Let us begin at once."

They entered the court, the large room featuring a high ceiling and two large desks that half-circled to one another, gaps in between for ponies to walk through. On the far end of the room was a raised seat for a judge, and overhead the room was illuminated by the light of a large chandelier. Less than half of the seats at the desk had been filled, and two fully armored knights were present among the ponies from the various government branches. The princess braced herself inwardly as Leo moved to the far seat, herself to the center of the room.

She looked at several of the vacant seats with hidden pain. Dead. Some were for the warriors and archmagi that had died during the course of the war. She forced herself not to look at them, and instead to stare into the eyes of those she was speaking to and forget for a moment those who had died.

"Your Majesty, why have you summoned us so urgently?" started Leo.

"The undead dragon, Aurelius, was not vanquished by Twilight's spell," she began. There was an uproar of hushed whispers and the exchange confused glances, but it quieted down to silence after a moment. "That same Aurelius is Prince Aurelius, a ruler from many generations before Princess Luna and myself." The whispers threatened to start again, but Celestia's look became more severe.

"Y-Your Majesty," started Leo again, "how could any being survive such power? Archmage Sparkle's power far exceeded even my own in my prime. What evidence do you have that Aurelius still lives?"

Celestia released a short, heavy breath. "From the one who sealed him, Oracle Telos."

"What!?"

"How can this be!"

Gasps roared out and grew into unrestrained voices carrying questions, confusion and disbelief in all of them. Order maintained itself, however, and soon they fell to quiet again.

"Telos is among us, but for the time being refuses to cooperate," explained the princess. "He assures us that Aurelius cannot attack Canterlot any time soon, and while I have my doubts, I have no other choice but to trust in his word."

"Your Majesty," chimed in one of the armored knights. "What do you want us to do now that our previous mission is complete?"

"Until we receive more information you are to remain here. If Telos is wrong and Aurelius attacks I want to have as many of our forces at the ready as possible. I will not wait idly while a threat is just beyond our doors."

"As you wish, Your Majesty." The two knights saluted, standing up and leaving.

"It will take some time to gather the rest of the council. You are waiting for Telos to join us, correct?"

"Yes. He knows more about Aurelius than any of us. I believe he'll come around in time."

Leo's expression brightened as the remaining council members stood up. "It would be an honor to meet him, and perhaps we can even catalogue his exploits. Aside from his staff, Telos's legacy was thought to have been lost. To find out that he is still alive... remarkable."

"Priorities, Chancellor. I shall be retiring for the evening. Defer any matters to Princess Luna."

"As you wish, Your Majesty." Leo bowed as the princess departed before the rest of the council members.

Celestia carried herself with disappointment, walking slowly towards her chambers. Her head had begun to throb the further through the halls she moved. By the time she reached the doors to her chamber her head pounded. She opened the door and paused, staring into the dimly lit dwelling for a moment, and the crackle of her fireplace was a welcome ambiance. She closed the door behind her and laid out on the rug before the fire, staring into the dancing flames as she thought upon Telos's words.

The only magic strong enough to break his prison was magic strong enough to stand against him.

Her eyes slid from the fire to a picture on the mantle, a picture of herself and a Twilight when she was a filly. It had been taken after her graduation from magic school, and they were both grinning from ear to ear. The picture levitated down and sat in front of the princess, the fire lighting up the photo even more.

You have made a critical mistake.

Tears fell onto the glass in the frame, blurring the smiles in the picture, and Celestia removed her tiara and laid it on the rug beside the frame. Closing her eyes, she rubbed her temples before pulling the picture against her chest. "A mistake I'll regret forever. I'm sorry, Twilight. One day, this will all be over. I promise. I... promised you." Her eyes flashed open only to close again a moment later. A promise is a promise. I will not take back my word.

***

There was a wall of sound in the pub, radiating from the other customers, but Telos drowned it out with loud thoughts. He stared into his mug, the murky liquid reflecting back a distorted image of his own downcast expression. Weak, he thought. I was nothing before you. You gave me the strength, and here I am, continuing to fail you, my love. Forgive me. He took a deep breath and finished the last of his drink before placing an unusual coin on the bar counter.

"S-sir, this is far too much for... anything I could even offer," remarked the barkeeper as he inspected the coin.

Telos gave him a blank look. "A moment of respite from my solemn duties is a priceless thing. Spend your fortune wisely," he said as he turned and walked out of the pub.

He paused just outside as the ponies of Canterlot moved about the streets. The ponies were clad in odd jackets and dresses, and some wore jewelry or carried trinkets such as watches. It was all odd. The culture shock from Celestia's and Luna's current era had begun to wear away at him, and he felt out of place as they would look upon him with confusion and hidden disapproval. His robes did not resemble those of the esteemed archmagi.

The orange and purple of the coming eventide spilled into the sky and he looked to the horizon where the moon would be rising. Hurry yourself, Twilight Sparkle. Fate will come for us whether you are prepared or not. He started walking toward the northern parts of the city, and by the time he reached a park the moon was already in the sky. He glanced up to it and snorted, then burst out with a short laugh, startling nearby ponies in the quiet park.

"My apologies. I was experiencing a moment of nostalgia," he said while bowing.

"Does the beauty of my moon," came a voice from behind, "remind you of her?" finished Luna as she stepped out from the shadow of a tree.

Telos frowned as he gave her a sidelong glance. "I thought I was clear that I only wished to speak with Twilight Sparkle."

"And you shall. However, she is still recovering from all of the trials of Aurelius. I hope that you will make an exception for me." The princess sat down beside him on the grass and stared up to the moon, a wistful happiness touching only her eyes.

The sage rubbed his eyes gingerly and looked up to the moon. "I wish to make an exception for everyone, but she is the only one that requires my immediate attention."

"Oh?" Luna turned to him with a surprised look. "You will not even make time for my sister, who has had more knowledge of the situation than even myself? I pray that you are not gambling with stubbornness."

Telos held up a hoof and glared at the princess of the night. "It is none of your business," he took a breath, "however, I suppose it is not of any importance. Your sister bears a striking resemblance to someone important... too striking." Luna looked at him with thoughtful surprise, but he continued without acknowledging it. "She is a reminder of a life that I have lost, of what I can no longer have. My being here is, in itself, a reminder that I have failed in my own mission to preserve her legacy."

"And whom might you be referring to?"

"Astra, or rather, Queen Astra."

Luna's eyes widened. "Queen? Equestria was ruled under an absolute monarchy in your time?"

"Indeed, Your Majesty."

"My sister called her Soothsayer Astra. Why is that?"

Telos's eyes took on a regretful look. "Astra was a queen in status, but her chosen title was that of Soothsayer. It was a title given to her by her subjects. They say she could pacify any anger, any conflict, with mere diplomacy. I did not see it much for myself as her title was given before I met her. She was serene and soft spoken, and I do not doubt she could stymie any anger with her very presence." He glanced up to the moon again and smiled. "She was... perfect."

Luna opened her mouth, but hesitated as Telos disappeared into his memories for a moment. "May I ask... How did Lady Astra die?"

Telos allowed his eyes to fall to the ground and he sighed. "That is a story for another time, Your Majesty. I wish to enjoy my peace for as long as I can. The final days of my former life were nothing but turmoil. Do what you can to hurry Twilight Sparkle's recovery so that we may begin salvaging her."

Luna stood up and took a few steps in the direction of the castle, but stopped and cast a glance to the moon, then to Telos's back.

"Tell Princess Celestia that we can speak tomorrow."

Luna nodded. She chose not to fly, instead walking back to the castle, dwelling on her thoughts. What are you holding back, Telos? Why are you afraid to trust us? Nay. Why are you so interested in Twilight? It wasn't long before she returned to the castle. Celestia was long to bed by then, and she was tiring herself; however, she moved towards Twilight's chambers.

She entered with only the quiet moan of the door hinge giving way to her presence. The room was dark, lit only by the dancing flame of lanterns positioned on the nightstands on each side of the bed. Her mane illuminated the immediate area around her head and flank, but the light did not travel. She found Trixie laying in the bed beside Nightmare, holding one the sick mare's hooves in her own. The magician raised her head as Nightmare murmured something in her sleep and took notice of the princess entering.

"Princess Luna?" Trixie asked in a whisper. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to check on the two of you before I retire to my chambers."

Nightmare moaned and smacked her lips a few times before opening her eyes. "Honestly, I never would've thought you would care about what happened to me."

Luna tapped a hoof to her head as she let her gaze wander into the darkness. "Trixie, will you leave us alone for a moment?" The magician nodded and left the room, closing the door behind her. Luna watched it, waiting until she could hear her hoofsteps no more. "Our past... can never be forgotten. However," she turned her head back to the Id, "I trust Twilight completely, and she trusts you. I have seen with my own eyes what you have done since the two of you have been bound to one another."

"But?" asked Nightmare.

"I will not allow my personal feelings to impede Twilight."

Nightmare suppressed a dry cough, and she levitated a cup of water to her. Drinking it quickly, she chuckled as she the dryness vanished. "So, just like that? You can forgive me for everything I have done, everything that I forced you to do? I had once betrayed everything you stood for, slain your own subjects, and tried to murder your sister. As a result of my actions you were banished for a thousand years and virtually every subject you now rule over had forgotten who you were before Twilight purged me from you. You cannot tell me you don't feel animosity for any of our past, no matter how little it matters to those around us in the present."

Luna stared at her in silence, forcing herself to only cast indifference to the Id. The past still bothered her, but it was easy to forget when Twilight vehemently defended Nightmare against all of the atrocities she had committed when she possessed Luna.

"I didn't think so."

"Are you not linked to Twilight in everything now?" asked Luna quickly.

Nightmare stared at her incredulously. "Yes. Our... bond is absolute. For now."

"Then I do not need to be reassured beyond her words," said Luna as she turned and headed for the door.

"W-wait," called Nightmare. Luna turned to find the Id extending a weak, shaky hoof, and she gave Nightmare a wondering look. "Th-thank you."

"I want you to know that I never doubted her belief in you," added the princess as she moved towards the door again.

"Luna, one more thing." The princess looked to Nightmare again and found her staring away to one of the windows. She couldn't be sure, but she thought that she might be crying. "I'm sorry... for all of the pain that I've caused you. I... never wanted to hurt anyone. I never wanted... any of it."

"Do not mistake my love and respect for Twilight as my forgiveness." Luna up to the dark ceiling and remained silent for a while. "I know, as have I always known, carrying the burden of knowing your remorse and your guilt for over a thousand years."

Nightmare threw her head back to the door, but Luna was already gone.

***

The princess of the night walked the darkened halls of the castle alone, the shadows of the braziers and lanterns dancing along the walls keeping her entertained. She allowed herself to wander, loosely heading towards her own chambers. The Element bearers were all asleep now in guest bedrooms, and there was no one she could speak freely with at that hour. The tapping of someone else's hooves made her focus, and she rounded a corner expecting to see a night guard patrolling.

"I am surprised that you have chosen to return here of your own volition so soon," she said.

"I have preparations to make," said Telos quickly. "How fares Twilight Sparkle?"

Luna shook her head and sighed. "It is too soon to know. For now, Nightmare Moon remains dominant but weak."

"It will be too late if we do not act in haste. I cannot be sure of exactly when Aurelius will return if I laze away in the city. In the mean time, I will work with this Nightmare Moon, but I find her lack of confidence without Twilight Sparkle to be unnerving."

"It is understandable given all that Twilight has done for her. She will not speak of it to anyone, but her loyalty to the mare that saved her is undying."

Telos scratched at his chin before reaching into his robe. "I will need to create another one of these if I am to salvage her situation." He produced a dull, colorless gem.

"And what is that?" asked Luna as she stared at the gem.

"This is a gift from your predecessor, Astra. I like to call it a Philosopher's Stone, though this is merely the empty shell of one," he explained.

"An interesting choice of name for a gem," the princess mused.

"I assure you it is nothing of the sort that alchemists speak of. Simply, it's a magical vessel for great power." He placed the gem back into his robe and scratched his chin again. "Tell me, Princess Luna, did my staff... live?"

"What?"

"Did my staff move of its own free will, without the aid of an external magic source?" The sage leaned in excitement as Luna raised a brow.

"Indeed. Your staff was bound to Twilight, and it moved to her will," she answered.

Telos's eyes lit up with pride. "Splendid! My hypothesis has been proven to be correct then."

"What hypothesis?"

The sage collected himself and focused back on the princess. "Sealing a powerful magical being into one of these gems and using it as the catalyst of a staff would allow it to be linked to its wielder. I couldn't experiment as there were no ponies who would willingly sacrifice themselves for it. I'm not so sure I could conduct any even if there were."

"Such an experiment would require great magical prowess. How are you capable of wielding magic as an earth pony?" asked Luna, her curiosity rising.

"A story for another time, Your Majesty. You will have your answers in due time. For now, I would like to spend some time in the royal library."

Luna regarded him with a trace of awe. "You are an enigmatic pony. It is of no mystery why the archmagi are fascinated with you." Luna led the way to the royal library. The pair stopped just outside of the grand oak doors, and she prepared to ask one last question, her curiosity getting the better of her. "Telos, who's soul did you use in the philosopher's stone for your staff?" she asked, unsure she even wanted to know.

"Souls," the sage corrected. "The ones sealed and used for the catalysts were that of mine and Aurelius."

Luna's eyes widened and she stared at him. She couldn't tell if it was only surprise, or if there was fear in her mind as well. "If the gem of your staff remains intact and only the shaft broke, how were you both released of your prison?"

"The gem of my staff is still intact?" He marveled at the idea by shook his head to clear his rampant thoughts. "An extraordinary feat, though the reason is simple. The magic that Princess Celestia says slew Aurelius purged us of the stone itself." He opened the door but stopped before proceeding into the library. "Holy is a magic that is out of even my reach. I do not believe that you and your sister could create it by yourselves without something else. For an alicorn of the Rites to use it... I am both intrigued and afraid. It is not power a juvenile alicorn should be capable of, or ever use." Luna stared at him as he held a look of deep thought for a moment, but he finally disappeared into the library a moment later.

She stared after him in direful silence, her mind running scenarios she didn't want to think about. I pray that Twilight knows of herself. You are right, Telos, but you do not know her as her friends do. You cannot see her for who she prides herself to be. She trudged towards her chambers, dark scenarios continuing to play through her mind, and darker still, her imagination trying to make them believable. Most of all, I pray that you are not wrong, Nightmare Moon.

Author's Note:

8/2/13 - Initially, I dreaded rewriting this one, but I actually got a lot of opportunities in it and made it into something I'm very satisfied with. Enjoy the allusions and I'm sure it will cause many to ask more questions.

Special thanks to Peppy, a special EQD pre-reader, and Spacecowboy.

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