• Published 25th Sep 2016
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Spectacular Seven - The Albinocorn


As graduation draws near, magic begins to awaken in the human world, drawing out old rivals and opening the doors to new adventures. It's up to Sunset and her friends to keep Canterlot safe, all while dealing with their looming futures.

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6. Of Myths and Monsters


Artemis’ study took up the tower added on to the back of the house. It was a circular room lined with shelves featuring an assortment of oddities, trinkets, and books. It looked like a smaller, more personal version of the emporium he ran in town. Artemis sat in a carved armchair behind a mahogany desk in the back. He fiddled with a half finished ship in a bottle.

“So, what can I do for the adorable little couple?” he asked, keeping his eyes trained on the back mast he attempted to set up.

Sunset and Twilight stood side-by-side, Twilight clutching some of her papers. Sunset cleared her throat. “So, remember when I told you about… you know… how I messed with some dark magic and six girls stood up to me and hit me with a rainbow friendship laser?”

Artemis snickered. “Yes. That’s also when you told me you’re a pony from another dimension. I still get a kick out of that. I’m playing host to a magical pony girl. Life is just full of wonders!” he said jovially. He looked up at the puckered expression Sunset gave him. “Ahem, but you were saying something?”

“Yeah, see, recently it seems five of those girls have kinda gotten some magic back.”

Artemis set the bottle down and gave them his full attention. “Really?”

Twilight nodded. “We’ve been trying to research it and figure out why based on Sunset’s knowledge of her homeworld’s magic. We were wondering if you could help us in any way?”

“Ha ha!” Artemis vaulted over his desk and landed with his arms spread wide. “My dear Miss Sparkle, I’ll help anyone with an interest in the mystical arts!” He slipped his black and white wand from his pocket and gave it a whirl. “Lulamoon!”

Beanbags appeared behind each of them, and a force of gravity compelled Sunset to collapse into hers. To her annoyance, it was pink.

Twilight sat comfortably and had a pen out for her notes. “First question: how did you do that?”

“First answer,” Artemis said, tipping his moon and star decorated hat down over his eyes. “A good magician never reveals his secrets.”

“But… I thought…”

Artemis laughed and wiggled his fingers, shooting off a few sparks. “Sorry, natural response. I can’t go giving my secrets out to everyone.” He tugged at his goatee. “Though that might be a moot point since you have to have magic to do magic. Regardless, that was a simple materialization spell. Beanbags are quite easy to make.”

Twilight scribbled on her notepad, her brow furrowed. Before she could ask her next question, Artemis said, “Now, tell me about these magical friends of yours.”

Sunset tried to get comfortable, but the beanbag kept trying to swallow her whole. “Well, erf, the thing is—” She punched the beanbag a few times before settling down. “The thing is, their magic only pops up when they play music.”

“Is that all that’s stumping you?” Artemis put his hands up. “And I thought you were a genius, Sunset.”

She growled.

“All right, all right, no need to get testy. Sunset, music is magic! It’s one of the oldest magics in the world! It soothes the savage beast, it tames the wild heart, it makes entire stadiums sing together in unison!” Artemis finished, dramatically lifting his hand into the air.

Sunset put a hand to her chin. “Huh, when you put it like that… In Equestria, we do have a tendency to break out into song. Things seem to get done faster when we do that.” Sunset shuddered. “It’s one of the few things I don’t miss.”

Artemis nodded. “See? Music is magic.”

Twilight paused from her furious scribbling. “But that doesn’t really explain why they’re transforming. Or how.”

“Transforming?”

The beanbag pulled Sunset deeper into it. “Yeah, the magic that they get gives them pony features. Ears, wings or horns, and a ponytail. We call it ‘ponying up.’”

Artemis let out a bark of laughter. “‘Ponying up! How cute! I love it!” He twirled a finger around his goatee. “Well, if I had to hazard a guess… You said that they first gained magic when a princess from your world joined with them, yes?”

Sunset pursed her lips. “Yes.”

“Well then…” Artemis sat up and lifted his wand. “Lulamoon!” A clear screen popped up between him and the girls. Artemis held his wand like a pencil and drew on it, starting with a straight line. He then made a girl in a simple dress. “I’d say, when you and your princess crossed over to our world, you brought some magic with you.” He made squiggles flowing from one side of the screen to the other. “Sadly, there isn’t too much magic in our world these days, and the magic that you originally brought was probably barely recognizable.”

He added five more simple stick figures with long hair. “However, when she and your friends made that ‘rainbow friendship laser’, I’m guessing that released a substantial amount of magic.” Artemis paused and scratched his head. “I wonder how I didn’t feel that?” He looked at Sunset. “Does this sound right so far?”

Sunset nodded. “Yeah, that’s where my theory started. The Elements of Harmony are pretty powerful, enough to leave a lasting impression.”

“Good.” Artemis drew music notes around the girls. “Now, when your friends were exposed to magic from your world, I’m guessing they managed to retain it if these Elements are as strong as you say they are.” He tapped his wand against his chin. “Magic has a tendency to attract more magic. But, since there’s so little magic in this world, that’s probably why nothing has happened since then.”

“Until this week when Rainbow started playing music really passionately,” Sunset said.

“Ah.” Artemis drew more squiggles flowing directly to the girls. “My hypothesis is that your strong pony magic has resonated with some of the last magic on earth—one of the most ancient ones.”

“Music?” Twilight guessed.

“Music!” Artemis threw his hands up. “Their residual magic has mingled with music and drawn out the effects of this Equestrian magic now floating through the world.” He tapped the screen, making it vanish. “That’s quite some deduction if I do say so myself. I amaze even me sometimes.”

Sunset rolled her eyes. Narcissism aside, Artemis had pushed more than one of Sunset’s hypotheses into theories. If her friends had residual magic from the Elements of Harmony, then Sunset was positive she had some of its corruption as well. And if they ponied up from crossing their magic with earth’s, Sunset shuddered to think what would happen if she did the same.

She kept her somber thoughts to herself. The solution was simple: just don’t do anything that would trigger her magic. Though, as the events of the day had shown, magic seemed determined to chase after her. Was she a walking danger to her friends? They couldn’t perform the whole rainbow, could they? They managed to release a small shock wave, but would it be enough to put her down if she lost control?

Sunset raised her arms to hug herself, playing it off like she was tightening her jacket. Twilight didn’t notice. Her rapt attention was on Artemis.

“Okay, that explains the why. What about the how?” Twilight asked. “How are they transforming? Does it change their body structure? Where does it go when they’re normal? Are there any side-effects to this? How does magic even work in this world?”

Artemis reached over and tapped her nose with his wand. “You ask a lot of questions; it’ll get you far in life.” He leaned back. “But, you’re asking questions I can’t give an answer to. I only know simple transfiguration, and this sounds like it’s leaning further to your Equestrian magic. Magic in the human world works because you believe it will.” He wiggled his fingers again. “And you have wizard blood in you.”

Twilight scrunched her nose, and Sunset could see a muscle tightening in her jaw. “That’s all you can tell me? Even supernatural forces have to work off of some sort of laws and principles!”

“Well, there’s a certain amount of work and concentration that goes into it. And there are certainly laws even magicians have to abide by.” A thoughtful frown dragged down his normally cheery face. “But I’m afraid, Twilight, you’re looking for answers I can’t give you. If you asked me how I pulled a rabbit out of my hat, I’d tell you it’s because I have a small pocket dimension stored in there and because I believed I had the power to pull it out. Then you’d ask me how I created a pocket dimension, and I’d tell you I made a sealed space and condensed it until it could fit in my hat. Then you’d ask me how again, and I’d tell you ‘magic.’” He turned his eyes to the ceiling. “Very few magicians ever asked ‘how’. ‘What’ and ‘why’ certainly, and even the fundamental ‘hows’.” He looked back at Twilight with respect and pity in his eyes. “You’re looking for the root ‘how’, and I think that’s an answer that doesn’t want, and possibly can’t, be found.”

Twilight made a frustrated sigh and pressed her papers to her head. After some incoherent muttering, she said, “Thank you for your time, Mr. Lulamoon.”

Artemis stood up and walked back to his desk. “Please, I told you to just call me Artemis. Mr. Lulamoon just makes me sound old. At any rate, I’m sorry I couldn’t give you all the answers you wanted.” He sat down and started playing with his ship in a bottle. “But sometimes, you don’t need a complicated answer for a complicated problem.”

Sunset helped Twilight up from the beanbag after struggling to free herself from its spongy clutches. Twilight kept her head bowed until they reached Sunset’s room, where Spot laid on the bed and chewed the Princess plushie.

Good boy, Sunset thought. She moved a hand to Twilight’s waist, wincing at the disgruntled aura pulsing off of her. “Listen, Sparky—”

Twilight snapped her head up, a determined fire in her eyes. “I want you to teach me everything about Equestrian magic.”

Sunset took a step back. Twilight rarely ever demanded anything. “Woah there, Twi. That’s a lot of information, half of which I can’t remember off the top of my head.”

“Then teach me the things you do remember. If you can tell me that, maybe I can figure out how magic in this world works.”

“Okay, hold on.” Sunset rested her hands on Twilight’s shoulders. “Twilight, take a few deep breaths and calm down.”

She did as she was told, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Sunset could feel the tension in her shoulders ebbing away. A shadow of a smile crossed Twilight’s face. “Usually I’m the one telling you to calm down.”

“Guess we’re rubbing off on each other.” Sunset guided Twilight over to the bed and sat her down. “Sparky, you’re brilliant, the smartest girl I’ve ever met… besides me, of course.” Twilight gave her a playful shove, and Sunset continued. “I get you want to figure this out. You like understanding things—that’s how you work. But maybe Artemis is right, maybe we’re looking too deep into this. We know why the girls pony up; do we really need to know how?”

Twilight hunched over. “I’d like to.”

“And what would you do with that information anyway?”

“I don’t know,” she said, her head hung in defeat. “It’s like you said, I just like knowing.”

Sunset ran her fingers through Twilight’s hair. “And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ll tell you everything I can about Equestrian magic if you think it’ll help you figure this out.” She turned Twilight’s head toward her. “Just promise me you’ll take this magical studies thing easy and won’t obsess over it. If something doesn’t make sense, it’s because magic isn’t supposed to make sense.” She kissed her on the nose. “Okay?”

The cheerful light returned to Twilight’s eyes, and she rested her head against Sunset’s chest. “I guess that’s fair. And you’re right, I have enough to be studying without adding magic to the list.” She nuzzled closer and lifted her head to Sunset. “Still, I’m excited to learn more about your home.”

Sunset smiled, hoping it didn’t look too pained. “Always happy to talk about it.” She supposed it gave her some closure. Talking about Equestria was the next best thing to being there.

Her thoughts became muddled by Twilight’s lips pressing on hers. For a brief moment, Sunset forgot what she had been worried about.

“Eegh, at least close the door. Trixie doesn’t need to see that,” Trixie said, walking past Sunset’s room.

Sunset pulled away with an annoyed grunt. “Now I know why so many people make out under the bleachers.”

*******

“So, the magic we got from Equestria and Princess Twilight is being triggered by the magic from this world, and that’s what’s makin’ us pony up?” Applejack summarized in a low voice.

“More or less,” Sunset said.

“Neat!” Pinkie said. “Twilight must be happy.”

Sunset wiggled her hand. “Eh… she’s still wants to learn how, but she’s content for the time being.” She walked with her friends through the rotunda and out onto the campus lawn at the end of their Friday school session. Twilight had already departed with Moondancer.

“So, no more experiments, right?” Fluttershy asked.

“No, I think were done for now.”

Rarity tossed her scarf around her neck. “It’s too bad. I was starting to enjoy playing that keytar. Oh well, I got plenty of fashion ideas out of it.” She looked at Sunset. “Though, remind me why we kept this all hush hush from Moondancer?”

Sunset shoved her hands into her pockets. “Because I don’t want to tell her anything.” She flinched at the withering glare Rarity cast. “I’m joking… kinda. I mean, do you want everyone knowing you have magic?”

“I suppose not. But Moondancer is Trixie’s cousin. Don’t you think she’d be able to handle that information?”

From Sunset’s other side, Rainbow spoke up. “I’m with Sunset. What Lunedancer doesn’t know, won’t hurt her.”

Sunset smirked. “You’re doing that on purpose now, aren’t you?”

“Oh, totally.”

They shared a subtle fistbump.

Applejack leaned past Rarity, copying her expression. “We get it, Dash, you’re mad that she called you a boy. Don’tcha think you’ve held a grudge long enough?”

“Ask me again next month.”

Applejack rolled her eyes and put a hand up. “Fine, whatever. Lord knows you can’t be reasoned with.”

Rainbow lifted her chin. “Don’t act all high and mighty. You don’t like her either.”

“Ah never said that. She’s an actor. Ah just don’t trust her ‘cause you never know when they’re actin’ or not.” She adjusted her backpack straps. “Anyways, she’s a friend of Twilight’s, so Ah’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.”

Rainbow jerked her thumb. “The last time we gave someone the benefit of the doubt, we got stuck with Sunset.”

“Hey!”

“Well, I like her!” Pinkie said, popping up between Rainbow and Sunset.

Sunset lidded her eyes. “Pinkie, you like everyone. That’s a moot point.”

“That’s not true; I don’t like everyone.”

Rainbow snorted. “Name one person you don’t like.”

Pinkie stopped walking and stared off into space, her head tilted to the side. As the girls watched her, Sunset could swear she could hear a small ticking noise.

“Well, as fun as this is, I should get home, Sunset said. “Homework to do and all that.”

Rainbow’s lips curled up. “You’re just saying that because Moontrancer is off with Twilight.”

“Nothing gets past you, Dash,” Sunset said listlessly. She gave a wave and turned at the corner.

She shoved her hands in her pockets and hunched her shoulders. Of course she was upset Twilight was with Moondancer, but she wasn’t going to give Rainbow, or Moondancer for that matter, the satisfaction of saying it out loud.

Besides, she did have homework to do. She just would have preferred to do it with Twilight.

Sunset grunted. “Stop acting so codependent. You managed perfectly well before Twilight walked into your life; you can manage a day.” Sunset smiled. “A nice evening of me time.”

Her plans fell apart the moment she walked through the front door. Artemis appeared in a puff of smoke, a frantic look on his face. He grabbed Sunset by the wrist. “Emergency family meeting! Now!

“Wha-”

When she blinked, Sunset found herself in the kitchen standing next to an equally confused Trixie. Across the table, Selena had her attention on a newspaper article.

Artemis relentlessly paced behind her, making wild gestures with his hands. “How could I have missed this… Doesn’t make any sense… This is what I get for not following social media!”

“Can someone please explain what’s going on?” Sunset asked. “You’re acting stranger than usual. Mind you, that’s a high bar to hurdle.”

Selena looked up from the paper, a grim look in her eye. “Artemis has told you the tale of our fight against the Sirens, right?”

Sunset tapped her chin. “ Sounds like something he would go on about, yeah. Something about Greece and a heart.”

“How did they get past my barrier?” Artemis shouted. “That was my strongest spell!”

Selena reached over and rubbed his arm. “Sweetheart, calm down.” She turned back to Trixie and Sunset and pushed the newspaper over to them. “You should read this.”

Trixie picked it up and cleared her throat. “‘Singing Sensations Spark Another Riot. The overnight pop phenomena, The Dazzlings, continued their tour across the country with their latest stop in Tall Tale. Like all of their concerts before it, the performance ended in a riot amongst fans. While no deaths occurred, several people were injured and hospitalized.

“‘When asked for a statement, bandleader, Adagio Dazzle—’”

Artemis growled.

“‘—had this to say. ‘We are worried that some of our fans might get hurt, but we’re just happy they’re so enthusiastic about our music.’ Neither she nor her sisters, Sonata Dusk and Aria Blaze, show any indication of stopping their one-hundred city tour. Some have likened their spontaneous and zealous fan base to a cult, showing growing concern over the devotion the youth culture has given them. They’re scheduled to play in Canterlot February 12th.’”

Trixie looked up, mouth hanging open. “The Dazzlings are the Sirens?

Sunset looked over her shoulder at the picture provided with the article. Three girls stood on stage wearing costumes the eighties spat out. The girl on the right had blue hair and skin, and a wide smile. On the left was a girl with purple pigtails with green highlights. She smiled too, but it was one of pure superiority. The lead singer was a girl with a mass of orange hair that put Pinkie’s to shame. Her smile was a combination of the other two, filled with enjoyment and superiority with a hint of sultry deviance. All three of them wore black necklaces with bright rubies at the center.

“Those are the Dazzlings?” Sunset asked, raising a skeptical brow.

“Don’t underestimate them,” Artemis warned. “They’re three of the most devious and dangerous creatures we’ve ever fought.”

“I’m sure.” She shrugged. “So they’re causing concert riots. What’s the big deal? Teenagers riot over a lot of stupid things.”

Artemis threw his arms out, nearly smacking Selena in the head. She glared at him while he said, “The ‘big deal’ is that they feed off negative energy! Their songs stir up negativity and tense emotions, getting friends to bicker over even the smallest of things! One second, you’re in a café with your friends talking about the weather.” He raised his arms above his head and waved his hands. “Then the next thing you know, you’re fighting over whether that cloud looks like a puppy or a turtle!”

Sunset’s eyebrow rose higher.

Artemis lowered his arms. “All right, that was a poor example. The point is, the Sirens create negative emotions, then feed on the emotions released. Feeding makes them stronger. Another caveat to their powers is that their voices have a strong influential effect, making the hearer susceptible to mind manipulation.” Artemis grit his teeth. “If they grew strong enough, I’m sure it would evolve into all out hypnotism.”

“Okay, now this sounds bad,” Sunset said.

“Even worse,” Selena said, pushing Artemis to sit down at the table, “is if they found the Crystal Heart.”

Sunset took a seat as well. “Why does that sound familiar?”

“Don’t you listen to anything my father says?” Trixie snapped.

“Is that a rhetorical question?”

Selena cut in. “The Crystal Heart is an ancient artifact of magical power. It amplifies and reverberates the strongest emotion emitted. For instance, if it picked up on happiness, it would double that happiness felt with everyone in its radius.”

Sunset nodded in grim understanding. “But if the Sirens got it and used it while they were feeding…”

“It would double the output of negative energy they were creating,” Trixie finished.

“That was their plan twenty years ago,” Artemis said. He proudly put a hand over his chest. “Luckily, I—”

We,” Selena said.

“—were there to stop them.” Artemis stood up, a heroic gleam in his eye. “Yes, it was quite the thrilling adventure, full of action, peril, sabotage, and intricate disguises. It all started when—”

Selena clapped a hand over his mouth. “Sweetheart, I love when you recount our adventures and I get to correct you, I really do, but for the sake of time, just give them the bare bones and skip to the point.”

Artemis deflated, his hat sagging to one side. He made a grunt, and Selena removed her hand. “Fine.” He straightened up and cleared his throat. “Greece. The eighties. Your mother, my sister, and myself came to the ancient country on the trail of the Crystal Heart and—can I at least make pictures for this?” he whined.

Selena rolled her eyes and waved a hand. “Go ahead. But again, bare bones.”

“Yes, yes, I know.” Artemis whipped his wand out. “Lulamoon!

A bubble appeared over the table, pearly smoke swirling inside of it until it formed three figures, their features growing more defined with each passing second. Sunset recognized the younger versions of Artemis and Selena; neither of them had any significant changes, save for Artemis’ missing goatee. The third girl Sunset had only seen in the pictures around the house. She looked like a female version of Artemis, or perhaps a grown up version of Trixie, only slightly less smug. She had waist length silver hair, bright green eyes, and the same mischievous smile Artemis always wore. On her head was a blue witch’s hat with a wide brim.

“There were the three of us,” Artemis continued, “three of the most talented and good looking adventurers in the world! We spent weeks following myths and legends about the Crystal Heart, finally tracking it to a city on Greece’s coast.”

He waved his wand, and the image changed to a town sitting by the water. It was grimy and dust ridden, with swollen grey clouds hanging overhead. It certainly wasn’t something to put on a postcard.

“Unfortunately for us, the Sirens had gotten there first, and were already spreading their magic. Everyone in town was on edge and ready to snap at the drop of a hat.” Artemis winced and rubbed his shoulder. “And I mean that quite literally. I walk past a guy, the wind knocks his hat off, next thing I know, I’m being assaulted.”

“You bumped into him,” Selena corrected.

“My point still stands. Anyway, with the natives acting extra hostile to tourists, it was hard to procure information on the Crystal Heart. Fortunately, finding the Sirens was a bit easier.” With another wave of his wand, the image in the bubble melted and reformed, depicting the three girls who hadn’t aged a day between the bubble image and their picture in the newspaper. They sat on three makeshift thrones made from white wood and pillows, and had a crowd of people surrounding them, offering baskets of fruit and bread.

Artemis wrinkled his nose in disgust. “They weren’t exactly subtle in their use of power. I don’t know how long they’ve been around, but they’ve been piggybacking off of a number of human conflicts, literally adding their voice to the dissent, then feeding off the negative energy. They had enough power to put the entire city under their thrall right when they arrived.”

“Hypnotism?” Sunset asked.

“Not quite yet. The people still had free will. Their will was just skewed to make whatever the Sirens wanted take first priority.”

“All while acting like complete jerks toward one another,” Selena added.

Artemis nodded and crossed his arms. “Needless to say, trying to boot them out the old fashion way was… ill thought out.” He lazily waved his hand, and the bubble showed the three adventurers fleeing from an angry mob complete with pitchforks and torches.

Selena took over. “We spent the next few nights sleeping on the outskirts of town. Since we couldn’t take on the Sirens directly or find the Heart, we would have to wait for them to make the first move.”

“It took time, patience, and some clever illusions from yours truly,” Artemis said with a self-important grin, “but we finally followed the Sirens out to a remote island. It was there, in an underground cavern, that we found the Crystal Heart.” With a flourish of his wand, a brilliant blue and white diamond appeared over the table. True to it’s name, it was cut into the shape of a heart, and gleamed in an unseen light. Just looking at it filled Sunset with a cozy warmth.

The image changed again to show the two groups squaring off against each other. “What followed after,” Artemis said excitedly, “was a death-defying battle for the ages!”

“It was a game of magical keep-away,” Selena whispered.

“A game that we won!” Artemis rubbed his ears. “Although I went temporarily deaf thanks to their maniac screeching. But our magic and teamwork trumped theirs! It was Apalla’s crafty escape artist skills that got us out of there.”

“Apalla?” Sunset asked.

“My aunt,” Trixie said.

Artemis sighed wistfully. “My sister could get out of anything if she wanted to. Because of her, we got off that island before the Sirens did, and I was able to put up my barrier spell. A spell that should have held as long as I drew breath.” The image bubble dispersed, and Artemis started pacing again. “Now they’re free, and I can only assume they’re going to pick up where they left off.”

Sunset hummed, processing everything she had been told. Perhaps I should start listening to him more. Sirens and magical artifacts. Sunset had thought the strangest thing to happen to this world was herself. Turns out she was just a new player in an old game. “So, where is the Heart?”

“I sold it to the Canterlot museum,” Artemis said casually.

Sunset gaped at him. “You sold a magical artifact to a museum?”

“Yep. Sunset, if you saw it’s beauty in person, you would understand why. Yes, it’s magical, but it’s also a priceless artifact of history. I can’t just keep it to myself. Besides, its primary function is to spread happiness and joy. It does a much better job doing that in a museum than in my store.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Just looking at the picture had made Sunset feel delightful.

Trixie asked, “So, what did you do with the money?”

Artemis ruffled her hair. “Put it into your college fund. You’re welcome.”

Selena stood from her chair. “We should probably put in an anonymous tip to the museum that someone might try to steal the Heart.”

Artemis ran a finger down his goatee. “Yes, that should make it a little harder on them. They’ll be here in a few weeks, which doesn’t give us a whole lot of time to plan.” He stretched a hand out to Selena. “Come, turtle dove. We have much to discuss.”

Selena giggled as he whisked her away from the kitchen, leaving Sunset and Trixie alone.

Trixie smiled from ear-to-ear. “Trixie has the coolest parents ever! Someday, she’ll go on adventures just like they did.” She glanced to Sunset. “You can be Trixie’s sidekick if you want.”

“Not in this lifetime.”

“Suit yourself. Trixie is going to see if she can assist in saving the world!” She sprung from her chair and sprinted after her parents.

Sunset looked at the newspaper again, examining the picture of the Dazzlings. The more she looked, the more they felt familiar, like they shared a certain bond with Sunset. She shook her head and headed for the stairs. Bond or not, this was one fight she had no intention of joining.