• Published 9th Nov 2013
  • 3,480 Views, 243 Comments

Adjacency - Frission

Obsessed with uncovering the magic responsible for creating the portal mirror she used to recover her crown, Twilight eventually manages to create a gateway to a series of worlds one step removed from her own.

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Chapter 12: Don't Look Down

Rainbow Dash grinned broadly, waiting just the right amount of time to deliver her punchline. A muffled snort of laughter from Twilight let her know that time had come. “So then Pinkie says, ‘Oatmeal? Are you crazy?!’”

Twilight exploded in laughter, rolling onto her back with her wings puffed out beneath her. Her hind legs kicked in the air with each fit of giggles as though pedaling an invisible bicycle. “I,” she gasped for air, “I f-finally get it!”

Trixie just tilted her head, completely lost. “I just… but… what? That doesn’t make any sense!”

Rainbow turned a smug smile to Trixie. “Try not to think about it too hard. Pinkie’s stories usually need a couple of tellings for them to really sink in.”

“I guess...” Trixie hummed halfheartedly, sipping at a drink from her spot next to Twilight on the cabin’s large, plush couch. For a cargo ship, The Harvester had rather comfortable passenger accommodations. “Trixie does appreciate the attempt to cheer her up though.”

“Hey, that’s what friends are for. But, uh…” Rainbow’s smile slipped, her brow tightening as she walked around the coffee table separating them and rested a hoof on the couch’s armrest. “You’re waffling in and out of third person again. Are you sure you’re gonna be okay?”

“Was I?” Trixie blinked, then rubbed her face gently. “I hadn’t noticed... I’ll be fine; it did help a bit to just get it all out.” She let out a slow sigh, leaning back into the cushions again.

By now Twilight had come down from her laughter, collecting herself in the face of the room’s change in mood. “You know,” she said, “I could help you learn to teleport once we get enough magic back for it.”

Trixie lips curled up a little. “That’d be—” she began, just in time to be interrupted by the overhead speakers.

”Hey there everypony! We’re just about to reach our destination, so come on up to the bridge if y’all wanna see!”

Trixie sighed at the interruption. “That’d be nice,” she finished, then drew her mask and hood back into place. “Well, why not? I think I can handle a walk across the ship now.”

Rainbow sat back and snapped her goggles back over her eyes as well. “Took us long enough. I could’ve flown there and back six times by now!”

“Well, it is a cargo vessel after all, I’m willing to bet there are faster models,” said Twilight as she followed suit with her own disguise.

Meanwhile, Trixie had already made her way to the door, stopping there to wait for the others. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths in the time it took the others to catch up. Her eyes opened, a nod was exchanged between the three ponies, and Rainbow pushed the door open into the light of day.

The sun was already beginning its descent as they crossed the deck. At this altitude only a handful of clouds drifted past the ship, but the group was treated to a spectacular display as one breezed through the slatted wind barrier, which protected the deck from gusts. The cloud split into ribbons which swirled around the deck, following the air currents as they streamed past. Twilight reached her hoof out into one of the cloud-bands as it blew between her and Rainbow, watching in wonder as the glittering mist furrowed around it.

“It’s still so surreal to me, being able to actually touch a cloud naturally,” she mused, even as her eyes followed the cloud ribbon’s path over and through the ship’s glittering metal wings.

Trixie stuck close to her side, looking up as they passed under the shadow of the crow’s nest. Steel Flight was still up there, eyes on the horizon. He looked down just as she looked up, a small smile gracing his hard jaw before his eyes returned forward.

“Huh…” Trixie muttered distractedly, but it went unnoticed.

The sounds of creaking wood timbers, the steady thrum of the engines and the blowing wind all kept them company as they made the rest of the way across the deck. Trixie shivered as they approached the door to the bridge, pulling her cloak tighter around her. Twilight reached the door first and pulled it open, but none of them were prepared for the sight waiting on the other side.

Beyond Big Mac steadily controlling the wheel, past Granny Smith adjusting dials on her metal box or Marmalade measuring a new line on her map, outside the glass windows Applejack stood before, was a city unlike any the three had ever seen before. It was Cloudsdale; at least, it was supposed to be. But in so many ways, it was something Cloudsdale could never dream of becoming.

The now massive city looked like someone had created seven copies of the original cloudsdale and linked them all together with cloud-sculpted roads, stairways and bridges in a beautiful Escherian image. The architectural style of the original remained, however, with its emphasis on open buildings supported by sculpted columns. Massive metal spires rose at random intervals throughout the city, each sending arcs of lightning from one to the next. Glass tubes curved and spiralled whimsically along the skyline, transporting neon colored fluids from district to district. Rivers of rainbows flowed throughout the city, spidering outwards in a network of colors.

One unique cloud house on the outskirts caught Twilight’s attention in particular. A river flowed through it with water wheels at either end, before falling off the edge of the city to the ground miles below. This had the effect of drawing her eye to the true elephant in the room, though nopony present could possibly have missed it.

Incomprehensibly massive mechanical platforms of brass, woodwork and silver now made up the foundation of the city, with equally unfathomably large propellers spinning lazily beneath each one. The propellers appeared to spin slowly to the naked eye, but she figured that considering their size, they must be moving at hundreds of miles per hour. There seemed to be one underneath each district, and could only serve one possible purpose: these platforms held the entire city aloft.

Applejack turned to the group and tipped her hat back, a self-satisfied smile finding itself at home on her face as she read her passengers’ expressions.

“Howdy, everypony! Welcome to Laputa.”

The last ten minutes had been spent with guests staring out the windows as the Harvester approached the city. Even Rainbow Dash had been uncharacteristically quiet, her face practically pressed against the glass whenever she fluttered from one vantage point to another.

“So, this is why everypony was acting weird whenever we brought up Cloudsdale?” asked Twilight, dragging her gaze from the windows with visible effort. “They changed the name?”

“That’s right,” replied Applejack with a nod. “This city’s been called Laputa for longer than I’ve been alive. I didn’t even know what you lot were on about with the ‘Cloudsdale’ stuff until Granny filled me in. Honestly, it’s kinda weird that you lot only know it by a name three decades out of use...”

Twilight froze, her pupils shrinking for a moment. "U-uh..."

“Heh, that is so like you, Horizon.” Rainbow Dash turned her head from the window to look back at Twilight, a smirk plastered on her face. “You’ve always got your nose so buried in the past, you forget to think about what’s going on now before dragging us along somewhere for your research.”

“Huh?” asked Twilight and Applejack at roughly the same time.

Rainbow’s smirk grew a half inch. “Horizon’s a scholar, Applejack. She’s out here to fill in the blanks for her history research on a place called ‘Cloudsdale.’ None of us caught on that it was really just Laputa. As for Wanda and I, well, she asked for help, so we came.” She shrugged nonchalantly in the way that comes so naturally to her. “S’what friends do.”

Rainbow let her smirk slip slightly and a wistful look overtake her eyes just long enough to be caught by the two as she turned her head back to the window. “Besides, it’s been a few years since I’ve been back home. Sure has changed…”

Twilight could only stand there and blink dumbly at her friend’s acting. It took her a moment to realize that Applejack was nodding, apparently placated by the improvised explanation. ’Wow, she’s good. Forget a Wonderbolt, Rainbow should try being an actress.’

“Shoot, that sounds just like a friend of mine.” Applejack briefly smiled and closed her eyes at the same time. “I think you’d get along with Twilight just fine, Horizon. I’m just sorry you wasted a trip.”

Twilight let oblivious silence hang in the air for just a moment longer than was appropriate, before her eyes widened just a hair. “O-oh! Well, I might as well dig into the whole story so long as we’re here. When life gives you lemons and all that, right? Eheh, heh...” she trailed off awkwardly, in the way that comes so naturally to her.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Trixie slap a hoof her face. Twilight did her best not to shoot her a dirty look.

Ahead the group could now see a ring of smaller floating islands surrounding the city at a distance. Most had at least one airship either coming or going, but the one theirs was heading towards was empty at the moment. Glowing white bridges connected the islands to the city proper, but the details were still fuzzy from this distance.

Just as the group had turned their attention to what was outside again, the box on Granny Smith’s table crackled to life with a sharp squawk.

A grainy voice cut through a noticable amount of static. “Tower to incoming vessel, please transmit identification.”

Granny reached over and pulled her mic closer. “Hey there, young’n! This is the Harvester, on approach.”

ksssh—Good to hear from you Granny Smith! Hey, did you bring that extra jar of Zap Apple Jam I asked for?”

“Sure did! We’ll have it ready for ya when we land.”

ksssh—Sweet! Oh, and uh, Harvester you are cleared to land on platform seven, dry-dock three. Thank you and welcome to Laputa.”

Applejack nodded in satisfaction before walking over to stand next to her brother. “You heard ‘im, Mac. Take us down.”

Big Macintosh nodded stoically, turning the wheel and adjusting levers to guide the ship on its intended path. The girls watched the descent, and within minutes the ship came to a stop on the outer edge of the cloud isle.

“Alright Bloom, we’re docked,” said Applejack, speaking into the brass horn by the wheel. A moment later the steady thrum of the engines ceased, replaced by only the gentle swish of air washing over the ship as the propellers spun down.

Orange Marmalade put away her tools, then rolled up her giant map in the amber glow of her horn. As the trio made to walk past her for the exit, she set a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder and gave her a reserved smile. “How about I show you around a bit?”

“Off to the Guild, Marmalade?” asked Applejack, making for the door herself.

“Indeed,” she replied, sliding her map into a capped tube she was strapping to her back. “This way I can at least compensate our guests by answering any questions they have along the way.”

Twilight smiled under her mask. “I’d appreciate that, thank you.”

The five of them made their way through the hull of the ship to the cargo exit, passing a grease-covered but cheerful Apple Bloom along the way. Twilight curiously spared a peek at Bloom's flank, but the oil and grease precluded any chance of seeing if anything was there.

The group reached the bottom of the stairs and reached the far side of the cargo bay in short order. While Rainbow helped Applejack open the double-doors at the end, Trixie decided to speak up.

“So, obvious statement, but three of us aren’t pegasi. How are we supposed to, you know…” She paled slightly, shifting her eyes nervously towards the growing crack of light in the doorway.

Marmalade gave Trixie a sideways look. She charged her horn, and before Trixie could respond an amber burst of light enveloped the room. As it faded, Twilight could feel a mild tingling in her hooves and recognized it as the cloudwalk spell she was familiar with—not that she needed it herself these days.

Trixie looked down at her own hooves, shifting from one to the other a few times. “Ooh, that… that feels weird. Tingly.”

“Customs normally will cast the cloudwalk spell on any non-pegasi that arrive.” Marmalade smiled, turning back to the door which was now fully opened, using her magic to extend the ramp for her cousin. “But it saves time to put it on us sooner rather than later.”

Their eyes quickly adjusted to the bright light outside as they walked down the ramp. The area the ship had come to rest on was a circular cloud plaza, roughly forty ponies in diameter. The ‘ground’ had been smoothed flat and carefully textured to look like it was square-tiled. Here and there the platform was dotted with small pony-operated cranes and other cargo moving equipment.. At the bottom of the ramp waited two pegasus stallions and a unicorn mare, all dressed in matching brown uniforms—brown suit jackets, striped vests, and bowler hats, each with a silver pin bearing the letters ‘LCA.’ The unicorn held a pocketwatch in her magic while noting the time on a clipboard.

However, they never got a chance to introduce themselves. Without warning a burst of blue light flashed between the customs ponies and the group. Just like that, Princess Luna stood before them, wearing the same regalia as ever.

“Greetings, fair Applejack!” she declared while smiling at the group, though it faltered as everypony began to bow.

“Please rise, there is neither the need nor the time for formalities. We are afraid something foul is afoot, fair Applejack, and we require thy aid. Come.” Luna opened a wing and motioned her to come closer, but Applejack hesitated.

“Princess? I…” She shook her head. “Now hang on, what about our shipment? I can’t just up and abandon my responsibility like that! Somepony’s gotta help Mac and Steel get everything unloaded.”

The lunar princess furrowed her brow. “But there is—hm, very well.”

Luna turned to the customs ponies, the three of whom dropped to the floor as her gaze swept over them. “Hear us now! The Apple family is to receive all available assistance in delivering their cargo this day! Please also inform them that we are taking lady Applejack with us on a mission of great importance! Are we understood?”

The three nodded rapidly and scattered without a word, off to carry out the orders of the Princess.

Luna turned back to Applejack, a satisfied smile on her face. “Is everything in order now?”

“Err, well, yeah I suppose,” she replied, tipping back her hat and scratching her hair.

“Excellent! We must be off at once. Our sister is gathering the rest of thy friends so that we might assess the nature of this new threat.” Luna stepped up next to Applejack and wrapped a wing around her. There was another flash of blue magic, leaving nothing behind save for a faint crackling noise in the background.

Trixie raised a brow, looking between the other three remaining ponies present. “So… that happened.”

Marmalade scratched her head. “Quite.”

Twilight blinked a few times, then shrugged to nopony in particular. ’It feels weird to be on the spectator’s side of that sort of thing for a change,’ she thought.

The group collectively shook off what just happened and took their first steps onto the cloud platform. Rainbow, Twilight and even Marmalade walked onto the cushiony surface like it was second nature. Trixie however was very hesitant to do more than poke it with her hoof.

“A-are you sure it will hold?”

“Relax, Wanda. The spell is clearly working on me, so logically it should be for you too. Even if it doesn’t, there’s a solid platform no more than a foot under the clouds, both here and in the city,” explained Marmalade.

Trixie shuffled on her hooves a few times, took a deep breath, and jumped out onto the cloud with a shrill squeak. The springiness of the cloud seemed to catch her by surprise and she stumbled to her knees with her eyes tightly closed. When nothing further happened after a second she let one eye peek open, then the other.

“I-i did it! I’m walking on a cloud!” Trixie cheered, shooting up a tiny light from her horn which burst in the air, showering them with blue sparkles of magic. Rainbow chuckled, while a gentle smile graced Twilight’s features as Trixie scooped up a bit of cloud in her forelegs and nuzzled it.

“Alright, come on Wanda, we need to get on with our research,” spoke up Twilight, while subtly tilting her head toward their escort. “Plus we shouldn’t keep Marmalade waiting.”

“Oh! Ahem—right, right.” Trixie stood up again, a slight flush painting her cheeks. The cloud she’d scooped up sprung back into place and smoothed out on its own.

Taking a right from the ship, the group headed for the bridge spanning the gap between them and Laputa. The bridge and its railings glowed a soft yellow-white, and as they got closer, there was a distinctive crackle in the air. Beyond that, the ornately decorated platform they could see under this part of the city silently did its work, its propeller spinning lazily just on the edge of vision. Up close they could actually see exposed bands of cogs and clockwork moving within.

“So I can already guess what Sp—Horizon’s first question will be.” She pointed out from where they stood, away from the nearby luminescent bridge towards the city in the near distance—specifically, the monstrous mechanisms rotating lazily beneath it. “What’s with the giant propellers?”

Twilight smirked. “Not quite how I’d phrase it, but good guess.”

Marmalade smiled, leading the group closer to the edge of the platform for a better look while speaking in her smooth trottingham accent. “Well, I did agree to play tour guide. I suppose a brief history lesson is in order.”

Twilight sat down so she could open one of her saddlebags by hoof before Marmalade began. “Wanda, could you take notes please?” she asked, motioning to her notepad and writing supplies inside with a wing.

“Why do—oh. Oh! Right, I can do that.” Trixie’s horn lit and the items lifted in front of her.

Marmalade sat down as well and began. “Well, it started about forty years ago, when the airship boom came into full force. Cloudsdale was facing rapid expansion, being the only high-altitude city in Equestria aside from Canterlot. Unfortunately, trading had to be done entirely ship-to-ship, because the weight from trying to store goods in the city would cause the clouds to start sinking. It was, well, less than ideal.”

“The city council commissioned Professor Nickel Coil of Coil Innovations to create a solution. It took seven years of planning, construction, and even inventing new means to make it possible, but the results are what you see before you. These floating platforms support Laputa’s weight through some esoteric combination of magic and science. I don’t know how it works; pretty much nopony does, but the propellers spin perpetually with no need for fuel. It’s a technology Professor Coil created specifically for the project. There’s nothing else like them in the world. The same goes for the lightning bridges, they’re unique to Laputa.”

Marmalade tilted her head, a contemplative look crossing her face while she rubbed a hoof under her chin. “I’m not sure why they never mass-produced or released the technology behind them to the public.”

The scratching of Trixie’s quill slowed as she finished writing. “Lightniiing… briiidgeees…” she muttered. Then her eyes widened and shot over to Marmalade, then to the softly glowing bridge behind the cartographer. “Wait, what?!

“Mhmm.” Marmalade nodded, walking the dozen remaining yards to the bridge with the group in tow. In the place of wooden posts one would see with a normal suspension bridge, there were an odd pair of metal coils on either side of the path. Between them lay a translucent, glowing ten foot wide road that looked like it was made from Celestia’s magic, solidified. It was perfectly straight, rather than bowing in the middle, and similarly colored railways of light stretched from the coils to the opposite side.

“Don’t ask me how it works. Something about captured lightning drawing in ambient magic hornlessly, bound mist particles and some such. I just know I never get tired of this.” She grinned impishly as she stepped out onto the bridge. Where her hooves touched it, electricity appeared to spider out beneath the surface.

“Wow…” breathlessly muttered Twilight.

“Yeah that’s pretty cool, but let’s get over there already!” announced Rainbow, who seemed to have run out of patience and was already trotting past Marmalade across the bridge. This caught their guide by surprise, who floundered for a moment before turning to follow her. Twilight and Trixie shared a look, then followed suit.

About halfway across, Twilight realized how still the air was around them. “The wind’s stopped…” she muttered, stopping to look around. The propellers were still spinning beneath, and above the city she could see plenty of pegasi flying about.

Marmalade looked back to Twilight for a moment. "That's right. It's an intentional side effect of the bridges. They nullify any and all air currents from below, so neither the city or it's ponies get sucked down by the prop wash."

Twilight just nodded, continuing to look around at everything. She was shaken out of her introspection when Trixie bumped into her. The unicorn’s eyes were darting about as she recovered, and her legs were trembling.

“Are you okay?” asked Twilight in concern.

“F-fin..n… no. No T-Trixie is n-not… It’s s-so h-high! S-so high...” she whimpered.

Twilight nodded and moved up against her, surprising the showmare.

“W-what are you doing?” asked Trixie.

Twilight wrapped a wing over Trixie’s back, smiling when she felt her trembling subside a little. “Helping, I hope. Princess Celestia would often do this for me when I was nervous.”

Trixie nodded. “T-thank you, Twilight.”

Twilight’s eyes widened a little, and she felt a warm giddiness inside her at hearing Trixie finally call her by her first name.

With her help the two managed to make the rest of the trip across the bridge without incident. On the far side they caught up to Marmalade and a barely self-restrained Rainbow Dash. Without further adieu, they set off into the city.

Marmalade lead the way for a while, pointing out landmarks and giving historical tidbits about how the city was re-formed, and how it came about being renamed. They traveled up and around through meandering paths and breezy boulevards, soon leaving the warehouses behind.

The first region beyond the docks was packed with multitudes of shops and marketplaces, all facilitating the trade of the incredible range of goods Laputa’s unique position in the world attracted. Silks from Saddle Arabia, the latest in household gadgetry from the tinkers of Trottingham, even exotic herbs and grasses from the wilds of Zebrica. It was difficult for them all to find an excuse to leave it behind, as every shop brought something new and exciting from the world both within and beyond Equestria.

The next district seemed entirely dedicated to the arts: Parks, forums and wide open spaces where ponies of all walks of life were out painting, sculpting, doing photography and sharing their work and ideas with one another. From here they could see wide swaths of the city around them, each district varying in architecture and style with their own unique purposes.

Their path climbed uphill, taking them through a sculpture garden where a master cloud-sculptor was giving lessons. Further along they found a mare who introduced herself as Sky Garden, when Twilight stopped to ask how she’d managed to find a way to transplant soil into the clouds in order to grow a small hedge maze.

Sky wiped her brow with a dirty towel and set her gardening tools down, motioning Twilight over to a bench where they and Marmalade had a seat. “Well, at first I thought I could just have enough soil hauled up that I could make a bed on the platform, but it turns out that wouldn’t work.”

“Why not?” asked Twilight.

Sky Garden gave a tired looking smile. “Well, come to find out the city is actually constantly shifting on top of it, a little bit back and forth at a time. This is construction-grade cloud we’re standing on, too, so in the end it would just push the soil all back and forth until it’s too spread out and my plants would uproot.”

“Ahh. So how’d you solve that problem?”

“Well, it wasn’t easy. First I…”

Trixie tuned out the conversation, wandering off a little with Rainbow while Twilight and Sky traded notes. She had to smile when she looked aside at Rainbow, seeing the pegasus staring all around them with wide eyes. She could tell Rainbow was anxious to fly, too, with the way she kept fidgeting with her wings.

“So 'Firebug', what do you think? How does this Laputa compare to Cloudsdale back home?” she asked.

Rainbow took a little while to come up with something to say. “Cloudsdale has always been a big, wide open place, but this? I just… wow.”

Trixie smiled, giving her a little nudge. “Go on, get up there and fly around. I know you want to. This stop is probably going to take a while anyways. You have some fun—I’ll send up a signal when we’re ready to go.”

Rainbow brightened right up, throwing Trixie an excited grin. “Really? Awesomebebacksoon!” She wasted no further time, shooting into the skies like a rocket and leaving a rainbow trail in her wake.

Trixie smirked a little as she watched Rainbow soar off. ’Silly pony.’ She shook her head and rolled her eyes playfully at the display, then turned her attention to the scenery around her.

A group of fillies and colts played around the hedge maze, with their parents keeping a close watch from above. Pegasi were free to flutter through the air overhead without the restriction of having to wear exo-wings here in the city. Many ponies took advantage of this here and simply soared overhead, just out enjoying the day.

Trixie sat down, enjoying how amazing sitting on a cloud actually felt. ’Wow that’s comfortable. I hate to admit, but it’s pretty nice up here… As far in as we are now, it’s easy to forget how high up we actually are.’ She snorted. ’Listen to me… When did Trixie, the Great and Powerful, start going so soft?’

As she thought about that, Trixie found her eyes drifting back to Twilight. She simply sat there for a while, watching Twilight talk animatedly with the gardener. She hardly noticed that she was smiling when Twilight finally said her goodbyes, then she and Marmalade got up and walked over to her.

“Hey there Wanda, ready to go? Where’s Firebug?”

Trixie kept smiling faintly. “Yeah.” She focused on her horn for a moment and sent a pink spark into the air, which burst into glitter above them. Within seconds, Rainbow came zipping down to land next to the three of them, and started chattering on about what she’d seen.

Soon the group began to pass structures meant for higher learning and education. The first they came across was a library, which took some urging to keep Twilight out of. Not far from there they approached the sprawling campus of the local university, nestled near the heart of the city.

Marmalade turned them in the opposite direction from the campus however, and a few minutes later they found themselves at a small building marked as the Equestrian Geographer’s Guild. It was here that Marmalade took her leave at last, bidding farewell to the trio before heading inside.

Rainbow Dash looked around once Orange Marmalade was out of sight, then made eye contact with Twilight. “Alright, let’s go find what we came here for.”

The girls walked into an empty alley a few streets away. As before, Rainbow Dash scouted it out to be sure nopony was watching or eavesdropping. Satisfied, she moved to stand lookout closer to the entrance.

“Alright you two, ready when you are,” she said.

“Right,” said Twilight, who then turned to look at Trixie. “Your turn this time.”

Trixie nodded, pink light starting to shine through her hood from her forehead. “Okay. Here goes.”

The sapphire gem on the end of Trixie’s necklace began to glow and hum as her magic trickled its way down into it. A matching deep blue haze appeared over Trixie’s eyes, and the world suddenly changed colors for her. Buildings became transparent and ponies disappeared from her view, replaced by translucent outlines. She felt herself drawn to look to her left, and when she acquiesced her eyes snapped onto something she couldn’t see in the distance.

All at once it felt like she was rushing forward; her sight shot into the distance as though she were flying through everything in-between. There at last they were, a pink and lavender mote spinning slowly around each other. They were on the far side of the district, but looked as if they were right in front of her face.

“What’s happening?” asked Twilight.

Trixie blinked and looked down, realizing that she hadn’t moved a hoof from her spot. “Wow, that is weird. I can actually see our motes from here.” She looked back up, her vision zooming out towards the motes again, then pointed a hoof towards them. “Out there, on the other side of the university. Hang on, there’s an alternate spell for this thing...”

Rainbow turned around to look at the two, then made a startled cry. “Uwaah! Whoa… freaky.”

Trixie tilted her head, oblivious to the starfield covering her face. From the outside, it looked like a piece of Luna’s mane was obscuring her eyes. She shrugged and went back to what she was doing, sending magic down to the pendant again.

The sapphire flashed twice in succession, and the starry substance vanished only to begin to flow out from the gem itself. It flowed into the air and off in the direction of the motes in a stream. After about thirty yards the stream vanished, only to flow out from the pendant and repeat its path again and again.

“Is that doing what I think it’s doing?” Twilight asked, stretching out her wings instinctively as she followed the stream with her gaze.

“Luna’s notes called it a ‘waypoint’ spell. It will keep showing us the path to our motes until we collect them or I stop channeling.” Twilight opened her mouth, but Trixie continued before she could speak up. “Before you ask, no, only we can see it. The spell for this makes me designate ponies for it first.”

Twilight grumbled, “There’s been a lot of interrupting going on lately, am I the only one who’s noticed that?”

“Well c’mon, let’s go!” Rainbow grinned, grabbing Trixie suddenly and zipping off into the air after the starlight, quick enough to leave her signature rainbow streak in her wake. Twilight groaned, now having to skip most of her pre-flight checklist if she had any hope of keeping up. With a wiggle of her tail and her tongue determinedly stuck out of the corner of her mouth, she leaped into the air after them.

Down below, a pair of golden eyes were watching.

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