• Published 1st Apr 2014
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Puppets of Tragedy - Iridescence T Wind

We all know the story, human from earth goes to Equestria from buying a mystical prop from a mysterious unnamed salesman to attend Comicon. But what you didn't expect was the prop to be a puppeteers crafting kit.

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Freedom of Expression

Starswirls considering look of interest reminded me of a college professor on the verge of retirement having his curiosity piqued for the first time in a long while by a middling student as he beheld the question brought before him. He didn't rush his response, taking several minutes as he mulled it over before addressing me, "The subject of mind altering magic largely depends on consent and circumstance." He conceded, "Between its practical use of removing unhealthy self habits or the harmful practice of brain washing, such magic is in itself incredibly rare, as one would either need a large amount of strength, or a talent in either such a magic or in magic in general to be able to cast such a spell without risking massive complications."

"Complications?" I queried, provoking on purpose a continuation of the matter, Starswirls own interest was vested here, and both of us could tell that I wasn't well versed in this type of magic.

"Despite what most people think, be it ponies, minotaurs, or otherwise. The mind is far more fragile than most people would think. Even mundane life can stress and break some people into inoperable condition, and that is before magic is put into consideration as well." Starswirl took a sip of tea just made on the spot before continuing, "This is not to mention that the longer lived the creature is, and more sentient, the far more riskier it becomes for someone else to alter their minds. As at its heart to change someones mind from within would require an immense dedication on behalf of the caster."

"So younger and simpler minds, such as animals or foals are far easier to change than elderly ponies or ancient dragons?" I asked, and starswirl responded within a moments notice.

"That is correct, though only half way so." He closed his eyes and nodded to himself, "Perhaps an example is needed... Pretend per say, that there was a unicorn who practiced this magic, who thought coffee was superior to tea, and that tea was gross, and was disgusted that someone else liked tea versus coffee. That unicorn would then cast the spell to try and impart that change forcibly on another. What would happen if they just cast the spell to change just that prefrence and nothing else?"

I considered it a moment, "A paradox?"

His flaming eyebrows shot up, "Oh, what makes you say that?"

"None of the memories connected to the preference, be it previous tasting or events related to tea had been altered, at the mildest I would think either confusion or worse would occur as suddenly they find their preferred stress relief object, tea, disgusting, or perhaps coffee being something he hated after witnessing an event related to it suddenly tasted good again, and meant subconciously he had become alright with an otherwise unforgivable situation, and not known why."

"Well thought," Starswirl commented, "You can then also see why this can cause huger baseline issues, for if someone can change the way they perceive taste, you could also mess with their life skills, make two plus two equal five, or that the correct way to fish was to use yourself as bait for sharks. This alas is the far more dangerous route of mental magic, as with any direct edits upon the brain requires one to be skilled enough to go through the entirety of someone elses memories, and alter every single bit that they had in order to not risk an eventual break in sanity of the individual involved. I've yet to see a case where something like that worked as intended, though I suppose a viewing into recent years magical history may be in order."

"You say that its the more dangerous route, implying there is a less dangerous one?" I asked, dialing the conversation back before Starswirl could mention more about delving into books.

"Hmm, you have a sharper mind than most I notice," Starswirl nodded to me once more, sipping his tea and causing me to sip some of mine own that he had presented me, cinnamon and orange? What was this abomination of a drink? He continued, "Mental magics can be recoursed into three broad categories, though none of them safe. Internal, External, and Emotive. Of the three, Emotive is the least dangerous as it simply causes an emotion being felt in the moment to become either present or drastically reduced, but of course certain emotions are key to survival, and removing too much can skew ones view on certain types of situations. Where as Internal mind manipulation is what we were just chatting about, where memory is edited and oft leads to others insanity, and occasionally the insanity of the caster."

I gestured towards him, attempting to prod him on in deference to his mastery of magics,"Then External is...?" I asked, as it sounded like the closest match to what I was seeing.

"External mind altering magic is to put an effect in place that can alter opinions or provoke a state of mind from either having it bound to ones person, placed on a visual proximity of an object, or act as a filter for ones true thoughts. Such as temporarily literally bottling up ones anger towards something else, making oneself more desirable, or setting a sense of doom and gloom over an area to convince people that they shouldn't wander into certain areas."

"Ah, like the want it need it spell." I spoke aloud the thought.

"Exactly like that." Starswirl nodded once more in agreement, "Is that the spell you wished to discuss?"

"Unfortunately not," I said shaking my head, "The spell I'm interested in knowing about I know not the name of, only that it is trying to affect my mind, and that others have it on them."

"You're aware of this spell?" Starswirls eyesbrows quirked again, "How did you become aware of its existence?"

"I first came aware of it when I found myself thinking unusually, which after digging at that thought, I found myself then seeing the spell around mysel-" I was interrupted by starswirls snort of surprise and coughing as he suffocated momentarily on his tea.

"I'm sorry, did you say, you saw the spell?" he asked after he recovered, "As in, you became aware of it and then began to see it without the use of a spell?"

"Yeah... Why, what's wrong?" I queried a bit automatically, a bit thrown off from the reaction, "Aren't most spells super visible, like the standard telekinesis?"

"That may be the case for run of the mill spells of the Arcane disciplines, but magic focused on the subversive tends to be nigh near impossible for the average person to detect, such spells usually requires a unicorn trained in divining out such spells individually tailored to detecting the type they are searching for." He paused a moment as he looked over his spilt tea, and with a slight disapointment over the wasted beverage began to clean it up with a bit of magic, "Let alone for a subject of such a spell, whom such spells tend to subvert the senses of in order to avoid detection. I take it you do not have formal training in magic?"

"My magic has mostly been provided by Discords blessing till recently." I conceded, not entirely true but close enough in the scheme of things, "Though it was more of self examination that revealed to me the issues involved."

"Then either you have a gift for magic, or are remarkably strong in mindset, be it willpower or sheer mental capacity." Starswirl nodded, "Tell me more details of this spell, and do you know who else you've seen with it affecting them as a second question to follow the first."

"Golden chains, and occasionally pink ones, leading from the body, varying from the head to the neck, and chest." I spoke first up, "The one around me is like a collar trying to limit non-harmonious thoughts, it seems, encouraging me to work towards its casters goals. As for those who are affected by it, I count every guard I've seen right outside of our room at the least having dozens of those chains and a pink one besides, whom I think I know the likely caster of, and you as well with a chain currently... Still sticking out of your face in an awkward spot."

"You know the caster of these spells?" Starswirl prodded as he tried momentarily to reach for where I described, the chain phasing through his hoof.

"I have my suspicions, but I've yet to see where the other end of the chain leads." intoned in my voice the words of caution, "Also your hoof just phased through it."

"Hmm. I do not know what it could be for... I feel mostly like myself, if it is there." Starswirl grumbled, "But then again that is the point of such a spell, to remain undetected by the target... It doesn't sound like a magic from my era, but then again, Luna had yet to become Nightmare Moon before I was turned to stone, so no telling what magics were discovered between then and now."

"If you want I can try to drive a wedge between you and it, so that you may become aware of it?"

"You can... touch it?" Starswirl shook his head as if to clear it, "Ah yes, I need to remind myself that you're one of Discords, the spirit of chaos and disharmony. Things that logically make sense don't seem to apply to you, if you can, you have my go ahead."

"Bear with me, This was more of a mental effort rather than a magical one and I'm still a bit new to magic, but here goes..." as my own hands would merely phase through the chains, I simply applied the same formula of tactics I applied to my own shackles, but with a fair bit more care as I did not know the fragility or lack thereof of Starswirl.

Like mine own, in the presence of magic trying to capture it the chain began to wither like a snake trying to escape my grip, but I was wise to the trick now, forming a ring first around Starswirls neck but a respectable distance of a foot or two away,l and then moving it in to enclose around the thrashing chain, only then did my magic force itself along the length, finding the chains for the next several yards bound, and seeping into them like hot butter into freshly cut bread.

Intangable now, as it was, I gave it a firm pull, as I felt my magic collide against something immense, presumably starswirl, and wedge itself between the collar and his mind with barely the thickness of rice paper, however once I had formed a layer, Starswirl took a sharp breath, and oblitterated the magic between him and the shackle, a new barrier pushing me, and it out and away.

"Really, Tia." He muttered, "Our disagreements on governmental styles of leadership and the superiority of cheesecake over cloudcake is what you decide to alter?" At my baffled expression he clarified, "Thank you for making me aware of it, I have it from here."

True to his word, his magic was already being put into action, as his horn lit up again, great tentacles of arcane energy easily as thick as my arm warping their way out from the bindings and ensnaring the chains within his own grip, as though reading my thoughts, he answered, "I could tell this was Celestia's magic from the hue and subject matter of the censor. This spell from what I can tell is an extremely enhanced version of one of my earlier scrapped projects from when I was far younger and by far, far more foolish."

"You know what it is then?"

"The general gist, though the depths of it would take study. Long in short, it is a reformation spell horribly altered into what I shall dub until corrected, a 'Compliance' Spell." he dismissed the name with an errant wave of hoof, as he glared at the chain, which while taunt in his grip had gone slack past it.

"From the name, it seems a magical form of coercion to alter ones thought patterns?" I shot the question for clarification.

"That is the understatement of the millennium, though accurate so half score on that." He responded, almost ignoring me, "It is a variety of effects each tailored towards adjusting the mindset towards the casters wishes, Similar to the reformation spell, which was meant to loudly interject the errors of ones ways into the mind of the subject and bring them from unreasonable villainy to reformed society, this one seems to go several magnitudes higher by encouraging good relations between it and who it is connected with, as well as resonate with other unconnected chains to keep everything in perfect balance and harmony over time and far more covertly."

One of my previous theories came to mind, "Is that why ponies break out into song and dance randomly whenever they're facing an issue?"

"They do... what?" Starswirl looked at me with a cocked eyebrow, his attention turned away from the chain to myself.

"Break out in song and dance, as if they're part of a stage play musical." I repeated slowly.

"Ah... Side effects... I'll... Really, you aren't pulling my leg?" He asked me for clarification, and I nodded affirmation, "Where have you seen this?"

"Ponyville mostly, though that is by far most occurant to the current bearers of the gemstones currently called the 'Elements of Harmony'." I reported, and starswirls eyes went blank and cloudy for a moment as if internally screaming, "Are you okay?"

"Really, the elements of heroism, Celestia? Corrupting my pride and joy project? It was just a seed back then..." he muttered, running a hoof down his face and through his beard.

"To be fair, in their current context, they seem to represent neither Harmony nor Heroism, but rather Order, but that is a discussion for another night." I argued.

"I concur, I should need to see Luna about this development, if-"

"I wouldn't recommend that." I interjected, "She was hit with those same said elements, and will be experiencing already massive amounts of spell induced guilt if they work currently anything like this spell. Given the brash nature of Luna when she's angry, she'd like demand an answer from her sister, and give away this game of her that we know it."

"Do not think me daft, I would figure out a countermeasure to see these chains on others by the end of the night, though the Elements themselves can hardly hide themselves from me. After all, Celestia may alter its magics as much as she likes but it is still spawned from my spell first." Starswirl snipped back, reminding me now less of an elderly flaming bearded grandpa, and more the master of magic that he was, "A wizard who comes ill prepared, is not a wizard at all, but a mere conjurer of cheap tricks."

Given my thoughts on lord of the rings in comparison to Star swirl thus far, I had to suppress an irrelevant grin as I thought of the Tolkien counterpart who had said something similar along those lines oh so long ago, but I rose my own hands as though trying to sooth his anger with the motion, "I am well aware of such, I just wanted to make astute that your judgement wasn't compromised by rash action. The Elements of 'Harmony' as they are oft referred to these days are a measure of gross overkill when it comes to how they deal with villains, that I worry to what other lasting effects they may have, and if those effects would be similar or even stronger than Celestia's own chains."

He hummed, neither vocally confirming or denying it, before changing the subject, "You said there were pink ones also?"

"Aye, though my suspicion on that part is Princess Cadenza, for her use of spells to alter minds to induce love and romance between individuals is well known to me, that and her tutelage and training underneath Celestia."

"That would be a reasonable theory, but leave it to me to figure out a conclusion. Leave me now, so that I may research this on my own, and do not worry. I shalt not bring this to attention quite yet until I have my answers."

Without waiting for a response, I was teleported back into the hall, and left to mine own devices, after a short time I returned to my room and checked the time. There was only a short while left until my next meeting with Luna. Made aware, as I was. I was quite dreading how many chains that Celestia may have applied to her sister. How horrifying, was it to learn the truth of the real depths of the situation I was about to walk into, that I would soon regret having taken so much tea.

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