• Published 3rd May 2012
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The Powers of Harmony - CyborgSamurai



The Mane Six develop the powers of the Elements of Harmony and must use them to stop a new villain.

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Chapter 8: Progress Reports

Chapter 8:

Progress Reports

“Have you had trouble keeping a low profile?”

Blair sat in Twilight's small, cramped kitchen with Megnii, who relaxed across from him while enjoying a cup of a chamomile tea. The windows and kitchen door were enshrouded in a teal aura, and the only sounds that could be heard were being made by the two stallions.

“Not really,” Megnii said as he drained his cup. “She stays on her property and tends to her animals for the most part, so we just watch from the clouds or the trees.”

Blair blew on his own drink. “I suppose being a pegasus comes in handy in that regard.”

“True, but it has drawbacks, as well.”

Blair paused. “Such as?”

Megnii got up and began to stretch his legs, wincing as he did so. “Two words: fog sucks.”

Blair laughed and took a sip. “How about her powers? Have you seen anything?”

Megnii shook his head. “She seems completely normal, aside from being a little more introverted than most ponies. We've had a few hiccups, but otherwise it’s been uneventful.”

That doesn't make any sense. I know for a fact that I sent them to the right mare. Megnii isn't the most observant guy, but even he should have noticed... Blair pursed his lips. “What's she like?”

Megnii opened his mouth to answer, then slowly closed it and turned away. His eyes unfocused, and his voice grew soft and faint. “She’s… like a delicate flower; the very definition of innocence and beauty. I've never met anypony more good and caring in my entire life.”

Blair almost dropped his teacup. What in the—oh, wow. He rocked back in his chair. “Is that so?”

“Yes,” Megnii said. “I’m very happy we're here to guard her.”

Blair crossed his hooves on the table. “So you’re saying you want to keep her safe?”

Megnii jerked his head back around. “That’s what we’re supposed to be doing, isn’t it?”

“Technically,” Blair agreed, “but they don’t really need the protection, do they?”

“Fluttershy certainly does,” Megnii said without missing a beat. “She’s very weak and timid. I can't speak for the other Bearers, but she's definitely at risk of being taken advantage of. She was even foalnapped a few days ago!”

Blair raised his eyebrows. “Really?”

Megnii tilted his head and looked to the side. “Okay, that was a misunderstanding. Some of her friends thought that Spesci and I were stalking her. But still, if she was taken for real, she'd be at their mercy!”

Megnii stamped a hoof. “I won’t allow somepony as pure and gentle as her to be harmed!”

The enormous smirk that was trying to play on Blair’s lips was only kept in check by years of practice. He forced himself to breathe evenly. “That’s very kind of you.”

Megnii gave him a stony nod. “She needs us. To be honest, I don’t know why Celestia hasn’t sent… somepony… sooner…”

He stopped dead as his jaw went slack. Megnii stood like that for a full ten seconds while Blair pounded the table, howling with laughter. Finally, he wiped a tear away and gently closed Megnii’s jaw with his magic.

“You’ll attract flies if you keep that up.”

Megnii looked as if he was coming out of a daze. “I don’t even know for how long…“

“I’d wager since you first came into contact with her,” Blair stated calmly. “The power of Kindness is subtle, but as you’ve just realized, quite powerful.”

“This is dangerous,” Megnii hissed as he put a hoof to his head..“You told me what to watch out for, and I still fell prey to it!”

“It’s not like she’s controlling you,” Blaird said with a yawn. “You can resist it, now that you know what it feels like. Although it sounds like it's making your job easier, so you may not want to.”

“This is only stage one,” Megnii said. He began to speak faster, his wings twitching at his sides. “What’s going to happen when she reaches stage two? Or when she fully recovers? She could turn Spesci and me into her mind-slaves! And not just us, but then the whole town! She could raise an army, Blair! She could march on Canterlot to try and take the throne!”

Mind-slaves? Really? Where does he get these ideas? Blair was reminded of a hummingbird as Megnii’s hooves started to lift from the ground.

Blair rested his head on a hoof. “You didn’t pay attention to the briefing at all, did you?”

Megnii’s breath caught in his throat as his wings stopped, bringing him back to the floor. He blinked several times before looking away sheepishly. “It was kinda long… “

A tension began to build in Blair's head. I’d like to see you list off three stages of recovery for six different subjects in a timely manner. He stared hard at Megnii. “Does putting ponies unwillingly under one’s thrall really sound like something the power of Kindness would do?”

Megnii opened his mouth, but stopped midway and sighed in defeat. “No, I suppose not.”

“And even if it was,” Blair continued, “do you think somepony that you just described as ‘pure and gentle’ would try to stage a coup?”

Megnii bristled. “No! She would never—“ he stopped again and shook his head. “I mean, no. That is not something that is within Fluttershy’s character.”

“You really need to stop jumping to conclusions.” Blair rubbed the side of his face. “First off, like I said in the briefing, the longer you’re around her, the more susceptible you are to her aura. Second, yes, it will get stronger as she recovers, but it doesn’t override free will, or make you do anything you wouldn’t normally do. I assume that you want to protect others, don’t you Megnii?”

He raised his chin. “I wouldn’t be in the military if I didn’t.”

“Her power is accentuating that desire,” Blair said with a jab of his hoof. “She is literally strengthening your inclination to help and protect others—your inner Kindness. And judging by how strongly you’re being affected, I’d say you’re a very kind pony, indeed.”

Megnii’s yellow coat went bright pink. He coughed and suddenly became very interested in his teacup. “W-Well, um… I suppose that’s… um, well. But then, why… do I only feel this way about… her?”

“Stage one,” Blair replied.

The words hit Megnii like a ton of bricks. “Oh.”

Blair drained his cup and spoke in a sharp tone. “And that's nothing to say of the other abilities she'll develop, which you probably don't know anything about, either.”

Megnii hung his head. “Sorry.”

Blair ground his teeth. You’d think he’d try to improve his shortcomings...

“So then,” Megnii began, “now that you know I, uh, wasn’t paying attention, could you um… tell me what her other powers are again?”

Blair rolled his eyes. “Ace and Piro are waiting. Get Spesci to go over it with you. He was taking notes.”

“Fine, fine,” Megnii said in a monotone. He looked to the crack of the door, where he could see shadows moving outside.

“Do you have anything else to report?” Blair asked.

Megnii raised his eyes to the ceiling. “Does the aura affect animals, as well?”

Blair nodded. “Simpler minds are especially vulnerable.”

“That would explain her success in her profession,” Megnii said.

“Why?” Blair asked. “Is she a veterinarian?”

Megnii smirked and headed towards the door. “Something like that.”

Blair sat in silence for a minute, staring at the empty teacups. I hope he doesn't forget. We could have a problem on our hooves if Spesci doesn't remind him to get a shield cast on himself. Eh, Spesci isn't one to leave that kind of thing up to chance, especially with Megnii. It should be fine.

With a flare of his horn, the aura surrounding the windows and doors faded. Blair could now hear the sounds of talking from outside. He got up and walked into the library proper.

“—wouldn't work, the Dacrenzic Field needs to be powered by a gradual increase of magical power. The array wouldn't be able to withstand a surge like that.”

“True, but if you metered the surge by diverting it to each Catalyst Rune with a Valaric Filter, you could start with as much power as you wanted.”

Blair walked in to see Twiight and Piro standing in the center of the room. They were both looking intently at a large chalkboard that Twilight had brought up from the basement. It was covered with complex equations, technical jargon, and a hexagon with several interlocking lines.

Twilight shook her head and pointed to an open book on the table. “Valaric Filters don't work in Fusion Arrays. I would need to have one for each Catalyst Rune, and that would have the same result as a Dacrenzic Field, just not as efficient.”

Piro scratched his chin as he stared at the chalkboard. He picked up a piece of chalk and drew in the center of the hexagon. “What if you used a Hralivis Diverter in the center of the array? With a strong enough metal, you could transfer the energy to the Catalyst Runes all at once while still keeping the spells intact for the fusion.”

“Possibly,” Twilight said with a glint in her eye. “If such a metal existed. The surge needed to fuse these spells together would be too much for any metal known to ponykind.”

Piro stopped drawing on the chalkboard and turned to her. “Even Lunairium?”

Twilight laughed. “Lunairium would melt like warm butter.”

“Ahem.”

The two of them turned to see Blair watching them like they were performing a play. “Having fun?” he asked.

Twilight stared wide-eyed at him and pointed at Piro. “Why didn't you tell me that he was so knowledgeable about arrays?!”

“You seem like the kind of pony who likes to figure out things for herself.” Blair glanced at Piro, who was wearing an impassive mask. “Piro was going to be around, so I figured I'd let it be a pleasant surprise.”

“Pleasant surprise?!” Twilight excitedly rocked back and forth. “I would've asked him to come over every day if you'd said something! Do you have any idea how nice it is to have somepony who I can bounce ideas off of? I thought he was just a medic!”

“Everypony has hobbies, Twilight,” Piro said with a half-smirk. “I don’t just practice medicine all the time.”

Twilight stopped her rocking at his words. She leaned to the side and rubbed her forehoof. “Um, I've actually uh... been meaning to ask about that. Do you have an actual Doctor's License?”

“I have my Medical Degree, but I never did my Residency,” Piro replied, his posture relaxing. “Didn't see the point.”

Twilight cocked her head. “Why not?”

Prio eyes dimmed as he looked away. “I've had enough practice in the field to know what I'm doing.”

An awkward silence threatened to fill the room. Twilight spoke again in a halting, higher tone. “Well, um, if you have your MD then I suppose that's good enough. I've been having a... bit of a problem lately that I've been meaning to talk to somepony about. I was wondering if you...”

Piro snapped his attention back to her. His eyes became cold and calculating, sweeping across her like a scanner.

Twilight bit her lip. “Um...”

“What's wrong?” Piro asked, not meeting her eyes.

Twilight cast a glance to Blair, then looked back to Piro. “Could we talk about it somewhere else?”

Piro met her gaze, then nodded as his voice softened. “Let's go to the kitchen.”

Blair stared after the two of them walked as they walked away, closing the door behind them. She hasn't been acting like there's been anything wrong. Then again, I've been keeping my distance. I wonder if—

“Where's the dragon?”

Blair looked over to see Ace standing over by the History section. His face was half-hidden by a book as he looked around for the subject of his query. “I thought she had one living with her as an assistant or something.”

“His name’s Spike,” Blair said, “and yes, he's her assistant, although they treat each other more like siblings. He's out grocery shopping at the moment.”

The book Ace was holding slipped. “A dragon, grocery shopping...” He shook his head. “Never thought I'd hear that one.”

“Spike's a little more metropolitan than most members of his race,” Blair said with a chuckle. “He'll be an interesting one when he grows up.”

“Yeah, in a couple centuries.” Ace put the book away. “Well, now that we have some time, how go things here?”

“Well enough,” Blair replied. “Twilight spends more time looking like you just did than anything else.”

“I can tell,” Ace said, eyeing the scattered papers and the chalkboard. “What in the world is she working on?”

“Her thesis spell for her Arcana Doctorate.”

Ace did a double-take. “Doesn’t that take, like, ten years to get?”

Blair walked over to the chalkboard, inspecting the advanced formulas. “She’s getting it done in three. She’ll be a Magus of Abjuration when she completes this spell.”

“How old is she?” Ace asked incredulously.

Blair shrugged. “Early twenties or so.”

Ace looked to the kitchen door, from which they could hear muted talking. “That’s amazing.”

Blair began to pick up the scattered books and papers lying about, then thought better of it and left the mess as it was. “Not surprising, considering she’s the Bearer of Magic.”

“What’s the spell she's making?” Ace asked. “It certainly had Piro’s attention. His eyes almost popped out of his head when we walked in.”

“A very complicated array based off of the Elements of Harmony,” Blair said. “She theorizes that it'll make a barrier that breaks down all forms of magic.”

Ace raised his lower lip. “Interesting. Do you think it will?”

Blair turned to him. “Do I look like a Magus to you?”

“Well, no,” Ace said, “but you're the best spellcaster out of all of us.”

“This is different.” Blair looked over at an open book which currently displayed information about wards. “She’s doing academic research and pushing the boundaries of known magical theory. I can’t do anything like that.” Blair jutted out his chin and smirked. “However, I was still able to lend her a hoof.”

Ace blinked. “Oh?”

Blair pointed at the chalkboard. “See the six-sided diagram? She was originally trying to do it as a pentagon, and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. I realized it was because she was following the picture of the Elements of Harmony that your predecessor made. Apparently it became quite popular... so much so that even Twilight thought it had some kind of significance.”

Ace threw back his head and burst out laughing, leaning against the table as he put a hoof to his forehead.

There was a creak the kitchen door opened, and Piro stuck his head out to see what was going on.

“Sorry, don’t mind us,” Blair said, waving a hoof at him. “I just told him something funny.”

Piro rolled his eyes. “Clearly.” He withdrew and closed the door.

Ace sniffed as he regained his composure. “Ah, I never… or rather, he never thought it would take off like that. I guess it really is true: Some artists do become more famous after they die. I’d probably have a fortune on my hooves if I could claim any royalties on it.”

“All the more reason for you to continue where he left off,” Blair said. “Maybe you can do a piece on Twilight's work when she finishes.”

“Perhaps I can,” Ace said thoughtfully. “How’s her recovery, by the way?”

Blair shook his head. “It’s difficult to say. She’s always doing extremely advanced studies and she’s naturally a prodigy, so I can’t rely on that. I’ve been trying to monitor her magic levels, but I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary.”

“So she’s still in stage one?”

“As far as I can tell,” Blair said. “The Princess told me that Twilight would exhibit the signs first, though. I can’t help but think I’m missing something.”

“Maybe she’s just has really good control?” Ace suggested. “She's rather skilled with magic, after all.”

Blair tapped his horn lightly. “You remember having a magical growth spurt, don’t you?”

Ace fidgeted. “Well, yeah…”

“Were you able to control it at first?”

He shook his head. “When it started, I sent an entire jar of paint flying out a window. There was a beautiful green splotch out on the cobblestones for a week.”

A memory of a shattered lamp surfaced in Blair’s mind. “I did something similar, and she’s supposed to be experiencing something much stronger than that. Twilight’s clever, but I doubt she could hide something like this.”

Ace rubbed the back of his neck. “Maybe the Princess was mistaken, then? I mean, she can’t be right all the time, right?”

Blair hesitated and wrinkled his brow. “And how's your time with Piro going?”

Ace sighed, looking out the window beyond. “That obvious, eh?”

Blair walked over and put a hoof on his shoulder. “I know he can be a pain in the flank, but don’t let him get to you. Just let him stew in whatever negative emotion strikes his fancy, and go about your business.”

Ace looked at Blair’s hoof, then at him. “I can’t help but think that some of his concerns have merit. Piro may be paranoid, but he’s not stupid.”

“You’re right.” Blair stepped back and gave the kitchen door a perfunctory glance. “He's one of the smartest ponies I’ve ever met. Problem is, he sees only what he wants to see.”

“So what do I do?” Ace asked. “I’ve tried talking to him about the Princess, but he always turns it around on me.”

“Don’t try arguing with him,” Blair said with a dark laugh. “No offense Ace, but he’s better at it than you. I don’t even rise to his barbs if I can help it. Just let him believe what he wants.”

Ace opened his mouth to say something else, but as he did, Twilight and Piro walked out of the kitchen door. Piro was wearing a white doctor's coat and a pair of spectacles, and carrying a large heavy suitcase on his back. Both of their expressions were impassive.

He summoned his medical instruments? What the hoof happened? She's seemed fine since I've been here. Blair eyed Piro's new attire. “Something wrong?”

Piro sighed irritably. “Have you never heard of doctor-patient confidentiality?”

“You're not a full doctor,” Blair pointed out.

“You say that like it matters.” Piro walked to the exit. “I'm going back to the house. Coming, Ace?”

Ace looked to Piro, then back to Blair. “I suppose the others are coming soon.”

Piro opened the door to find Ras standing there, his hoof outstretched. He quickly withdrew it and stood back with a nervous laugh.

“Yeah,” Blair said dryly. “Ras should be here any minute.”

Ras waved. “Hey.”

Ace cast a quick glance back at Blair. “You know where to find us.”

Blair motioned Ras over to the kitchen door, then went over to Twilight, who was standing beside the chalkboard. Her eyes were closed as she muttered to herself.

“Is everything all right?” Blair asked her.

Twilight's eyes snapped open. “Huh? Oh, yeah. Piro said I'm fine. He's really nice. I wish you'd told me more about him! I asked if he could come over tomorrow to help me brainstorm some more.”

She seems less tense then she has the past few days. What did they talk about? Blair jerked his head. “Do you mind if I step out again for a little bit?”

“No, no, that's fine,” Twilight said. Her horn glowed as she picked up the chalk in her magic and started to draw on the board. “Do what you need to do.”

Blair nodded and headed back into the kitchen. He shut the door and recast the Silencing spell.

“Ah, so that's how we're doing this.” Ras tapped one of the windows. “Smart.”

Blair looked him up and down. “How’re you holding up?”

Ras' posture slumped as he turned to Blair. “You stuck me with an uptight prude and a playful prankster. How do you think?"

Blair winced. “Sorry about that. If it makes you feel better, I drew straws to see who would get Vigil. You just wound up being the 'unlucky' one.”

Ras grunted and flopped into the empty chair, which groaned under his weight. “You did that on purpose.”

Blair smirked and went to the other seat. “I take it she's manifesting her power of Luck, then?”

Ras nodded and rested his elbows on the table. “It makes me wonder how deep it goes. I mean, it took me a while to even figure out how it worked. But it hit me a few days ago. See, she goes into the Everfree a few times a week to learn herbalism from a zebra who lives there.”

Blair sat up straight in his seat. “You've been going into the Everfree?! And you're in one piece?”

“Yep,” Ras said with a smirk. “Not a scratch on any of us.”

“How?” Blair asked. “How are you doing it?”

Ras widened his elbows as his grin grew. “You're not gonna believe this. She takes a seemingly random path through, but she always meets up with these landmarks she's set up. I realized it the third time we went in: Her power of Luck is making her avoid the dangers of the forest. Best part is, she doesn't even realize it.”

She's avoiding the dangers of the forest? That would require her power to be aware not only of everything around her, but also what will happen in the immediate future... Blair shook his head. “Well, that would fit with the description the Princess gave me. Did you verify it?”

Ras laughed. “Oh yeah, pretty easily. I went off on my own, and a few minutes later, I ran into a sleeping cockatrice. Followed her pretty closely after that.”

“What?!” Blair rushed over to him, his horn glowing as he moved it up and down the length of Ras' lanky body.

Ras snorted, but allowed Blair to examine him. “I knew you'd overreact. I'm fine, Blair.”

“Petrification is no laughing matter!” Blair snapped. “Just being in close proximity to a cockatrice puts you at risk to its magic!”

His eyes glinted. “Even if I'd been affected, I'm fine now.”

Blair looked up. “What makes you think you can tangle with a cockatrice and walk away?”

“Because Pinkie's in stage two.”

Blair stopped examining Ras, who was wearing the biggest smirk he had ever seen on a pony. Any more and his face would have split in two.

“What’d she heal?” Blair asked.

“My nose,” Ras replied, reaching up and scratching it. “I fractured it the first day we went in the forest from tripping over a tree root. After I ran into the cockatrice, I asked her about why she was learning herbalism. She said it's because she wants to ease the pain and suffering of others. While she was talking, she got a funny look in her eyes, and my nose started to itch. Then it didn't hurt anymore.”

Blair concentrated on Ras' nose. Sure enough, it was completely whole. He looked back up. “Does she know?”

Ras put a hoof behind the chair and leaned back. “Nah, didn't even tell her I broke it in the first place.”

“What about Vigil?”

Ras made a derisive noise. “Please.”

Blair stepped away and fell into his chair. “I'm happy that you managed to find that out, but that was dangerous. There must've been something safer that you could've done.”

Ras looked away. “I’d like to think I was still being protected by her power. I don't know how much influence it has, but as long as I have her best interests in mind, it'll probably extend to me.”

He's given this some thought. Still, I don't like that he went so far. She hasn't fully developed her abilities, and if he starts to rely on it... Blair narrowed his eyes. “Don't go taking unnecessary risks. There's no rush yet.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Ras raised both his hooves and looked up at the ceiling. “So, how about the others? Is Pinkie the farthest along?”

Blair shook his head. “Tastar came over last night to tell me that Rainbow Dash is in stage two, as well.”

Ras leaned forward. “She's the Element of Loyalty, right?”

“Yes,” Blair said. “Apparently, she was talking to them about her past, and she used her Courage power on them.”

“Nice!” Ras said loudly. “Did he say what it felt like?”

Blair's skin tingled as he remembered the previous night's meeting. “I believe his exact words were, ‘In that moment I would've followed her into the depths of Tartarus, because I believed we could purge it of evil.’”

Ras raised a hoof to his mouth as he shook with silent laughter. “And he said that with a straight face?!”

“Straight as an arrow.”

Ras clapped his hooves. “I wanna trade!” He stopped for a moment. “Wait, it's not a compulsion, right? I remember you saying something about none of the powers overriding free will.”

“You should teach Megnii how to pay attention,” Blair said with a smile. “You're right, none of them do. Her passive Inspiration power draws out a pony's peak physical ability, and her power of Courage strengthens their beliefs.”

“So she makes you as strong as you can be and mega-courageous.” Ras eyed Blair's horn. “What do I have to do to make you cast a flight spell on me?”

Blair shook his head, but a laugh still escaped him. “I'm not going to let you trade, Ras.”

Ras put his hooves together in a praying motion, making his eyes as wide as possible. “Pleeeaaase? I wanna be a fearless super-pony!”

“Not fearless,” Blair corrected. “I said she strengthens one's beliefs. As Ambrose Redmare once said: 'Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.'“

“So then why did Tastar say he wanted to follow her?”

“Probably because she's very strong and courageous herself,” Blair replied. “As the source of the power, I'd think it strange if she wasn't.”

“All of that sounds so ridiculously cool!” Ras pounded his hooves on the table. “I wanna try it. Come on, Blair, you owe me.”

“I'm curious myself,” Blair admitted. “But that'd require a very different situation than the one we're in. Sorry Ras, can't do it.”

Ras slumped and pursed his lips. “Horseapples. She didn’t do it on purpose, right?”

Blair shook his head. “Tastar said she seemed confused by his and Esra's reactions.”

“Aww, that's too bad,” Ras said. He blinked and perked up again. “So, how many does that make then? Are Pinkie and Rainbow Dash the only ones in stage two?”

“I still need to meet up with Norric and Elo, but so far, yes.”

“Mmkay,” Ras said. He looked at the windows and doors. “We're not doing these reports every week, right? I don't wanna make you waste magic to tell you that nothing's happened.”

“No,” Blair replied. “I just wanted to make sure everypony had settled in. Since your Bearer is already in stage two, you don't have to see me again until she fully recovers.”

Ras poked at one of the teacups that still sat on the table. “By the way, have you thought about what to do if Vigil discovers any of this?”

Outside of using illegal magic on him? No. Celestia really threw a wrench in all this by sending him along. Blair took a deep breath. “Do you think he would be able to keep it a secret from your Bearer?”

Ras laughed. “Yes, yes he could. I have a hard enough time getting more than two words out of the guy. This is the most conversation I've had with anyone outside of Pinkie all week.”

Ouch, didn't think he was that bad. Blair nodded. “If he finds out, tell him to come see me.”

“How much will you tell him?”

Blair laughed morbidly. “I don't think I'll tell him about Horizon or the barrier. That might be a bit much for him to handle.”

Ras rose and gave him a bow. “Hail to the King of Understatements.”

Blair rolled his eyes. “Get out of here.”

The squeak of the door hinges accompanied Ras' exit. Blair got up and walked to the glowing window, staring in the direction of Sugarcube Corner.

There's not much we can do if Vigil finds out. I could order him back to Canterlot, but that's about it. I suppose I could tell him a few things, but if I'm not careful, that could lead to suspicions about us.

“Blair?”

He turned to see Ras' head poking out from beyond the kitchen door. “Hmm?”

“Strauss and Elo are here.”

Strauss? I thought Norric was going to deliver the report. And Elo is early, as always. Should've seen that one coming. Well, maybe I can save some magic here. Blair sat back down at the table and rubbed his temples. “Have them both come in.”

Ras disappeared, and a moment later, Strauss and Elo walked in.

Elo opened his mouth, but hesitated as he eyed Blair's glowing horn. “Need some help?”

Blair shook his head. “I'm nowhere near Magical Fatigue. I'm not going to refuse if you insist, though.”

“I do.” Elo's horn glowed a bright orange, and the windows and door changed color.

Blair relaxed. “Do you mind if I just have both of you do your reports together?”

They looked at each other and shrugged. “That's fine,” Elo said.

Blair pointed at Elo. “Good, you can start. What stage is your Bearer in?”

Elo smiled. ”Lady Rarity’s in stage one.”

Blair calmly nodded. “Has she been making any predictions?”

“At least a few,” Elo said. “We've only actually seen her three times since our arrival.”

They haven't been watching her?! What in Celestia's name are they thinking? We need to know her progress! Blair tapped a hoof under the table. “Is there a reason why you haven't been following my orders?”

Elo held up his hooves. “I didn't say we weren't monitoring her, we just haven't spoken much with her. She gave us each an earring that has a Scrying spell on it.” He motioned to a small jewel in his ear. “She's wearing a similar pair, so I can tell you exactly where she is right now. Not only that, but Grovi even modified the spell to track her vitals.”

Blair blinked several times. That's... actually pretty smart. “So,” he continued, “how do you know she's been seeing the future?”

“I'm getting to that,” Elo said. “She's an independent fashionista, and she makes her own designs. She's also a chronic insomniac, so she's often awake at odd times in the night. Since she can't sleep, she works, and then uses the dreams that she can remember as inspiration for her dresses.”

“Insomnia isn't one of the signs,” Blair said flatly, “and getting ideas from dreams for any kind of craft is not uncommon. Don't tell me that's what you're making your basis off of.”

“No, no, no,” Elo began to speak slowly, with large pauses in between sentences. “I'm making my basis off of something much more obvious. We met her for tea yesterday, and she mentioned that she'd seen an odd symbol in a dream that she couldn't get out of her head, so she decided to make a necklace of it.”

Blair cocked his head. “What was the symbol?”

Elo smiled knowingly. “I think you'll recognize it.” He then used his magic to draw the sideways branched figure-eight in the air.

Blair’s eyes lit up. “Oho...”

Strauss gave a low chuckle. “Can't get much more obvious than that.”

Elo put his shoulders back and raised his chin. “What do you think?”

Well that's evidence enough. There's no way she'd see the Symbol of Generosity in a dream by chance. Her power of Foresight must've shown it to her for some reason, but I’m even going to guess at what it might be. Blair regarded the floating Symbol. “You said she made it into a necklace?”

“Yes, but she accidentally broke it.” Elo glanced out the window. “We didn’t actually realize what it was at first because of it. Grovi offered to repair it, and he has it right now.”

Blair switched his gaze to Elo. “Tell him to hang on to it for as long as he can.”

“Why?” Elo asked. “It's not like anypony will know what it is.”

“Twilight’s looking for the Symbols of the Elements for a spell she’s making,” Blair said matter-of-factly. “She wouldn’t be able to resist looking into something like this, and all it'll take is an Identification spell for its true nature to be revealed. That would lead to questions that we don’t want to answer yet, so I need you to hide it for a while.”

“All right,” Elo said. “Grovi said that he would need three days to fix it. I'm sure he can say that he needs more time.”

Blair nodded and turned to Strauss, who was still looking at the floating Symbol. “Not that I don't enjoy your company, but what happened to Norric?”

Strauss gave a heavy sigh and turned to Blair. “He hurt himself a few days ago.”

Blair's lips parted slightly. “Was there trouble?”

“Sort of.” Strauss told him about the incident with the Rust Beetles.

Blair's face twisted into a grimace. “I imagine he's a tad sore, then.”

“He's got a nice limp,” Strauss said with a nod. “He should be better by week's end, though.”

“How are things, otherwise?” Blair asked.

Strauss looked behind Blair, his head bobbing slightly. “Just fine. Nice gal, nice family.”

“Do you know what stage she's in?”

Strauss met his eyes. “One.”

Blair raised his eyebrows at the immediate response. “Have you tried testing her to see if she—”

Strauss shook his head. “Haven't done anything yet.”

Blair tensed at his words.Why not?”

He sucked on his teeth. “She'd see right through anything we'd try.”

Elo turned and gave him an incredulous look. “You realize what you just said, don't you?”

Strauss slumped as he turned to him. “I wasn't being literal. I mean she's as sharp as one of Grovi's blades.”

Blair was about to say something, but Strauss cut him off. “I'm not trying to go against your orders. We're going to test her, but we need to be careful about it. It's hard being subtle around a pony that you can't lie to.”

Good point there. A realization came to him. “How have you gotten her to believe you were sent to protect her?”

“That's our official mission,” Strauss said with a shrug. “Don't need to think any farther than that.”

“Maybe you can use that rationale as a loophole,” Elo suggested. “If you say that you're doing things for more reasons than one, she won't know about your ulterior motives.”

Strauss laughed. “That's what I'm trying to do. Problem is, that takes time.”

He knows he can't mess up on this. Good. I've never known him to not take things seriously, but still. Blair cleared his throat. “I know you'd rather not, but maybe you should keep Norric out of this.”

Strauss grunted and looked away. “I was thinking the same thing. But then that's two ponies I have to mislead.”

“How do you think he'll take it afterwards?” Blair asked.

“It's not him I'm worried about.” Strauss swallowed and took a shaky breath. “Applejack's already the strongest mare I've ever seen. She took out a Rust Beetle almost twice her size with only two kicks... and I think she was holding back.”

And she's only in stage one. Blair cringed. “Take your time and do what you need to do. If Norric finds out, tell him I ordered you to do it.”

“Yes, sir.”

Blair had wanted to write to the Princess immediately after talking with Elo and Strauss, but just as Elo released the Silencing spell, Spike barged in the door, carrying bags of groceries and yammering about starting dinner. Blair had decided that a break wouldn’t hurt, and volunteered to help put things away.

The weather that evening was cool and calm, and after dinner, Blair moved out to the second- floor balcony to get some fresh air. The sun had not yet begun to set, so he decided it was a good time to write out his report. The thoughts of what the other guards had told him replayed in his mind as he lay on a pillow and sucked on a quill.

Two of the Bearers in stage two and Twilight isn’t one of them. Not quite what I’d expected. It’s been nine weeks since they used the Elements, and they’re not even halfway through their recovery. Ugh, this is going to be close…

Blair looked up from his musings to behold the cozy thatched houses and protective mountains beyond. Even now in late summer, their peaks were still capped with snow. He dipped his quill in the ink bottle next to him and began to write. As he did, his thoughts continued to wander.

Playing dumb about all of this is going to get trickier as they recover. The best thing would be to keep them away from each other, so that they don’t talk about the strange things that are happening to them. That’s against our orders, though. Well, would it really be so bad? I don't see a problem with them discovering their powers as long as they don’t find out we’re

“Blair?”

He turned. Twilight was standing at the entrance, staring at him curiously. “What are you doing?”

Blair waved the piece of parchment. “I’m writing out a summary of the reports I got from the other guards so I can send it to Princess Celestia. Spike kindly offered to send it to her for me.”

“Oh!” Twilight walked over to him and hovered behind his shoulder. “May I see it?”

He hovered the paper up to her. “Sure.”

Twilight hesitated at first, but took the paper in her magic and looked it over. Blair watched with a slow smirk as she narrowed her eyes and gave it back to him. “That’s a nice code you’re using.”

Blair chuckled. “Cryptography happens to be my special talent. Sorry, Twilight, but this is classified information.”

“You can’t tell me anything at all?”

I need to start gaining her trust if I’m going to get anywhere. How much is too much, though? Blair lowered his eyes. “I suppose I can tell you some things, but only if you allow me to say no to any question you might ask.”

Twilight walked over to the balcony, muttering something he couldn’t hear before turning to him. “Will you at least tell me why it’s classified?”

It’s so nice to be able to shift the blame onto somepony else for a change. Blair motioned to the north. “Princess Celestia’s orders. If you want to know more, you'll have to talk to her.”

Twilight sighed dejectedly. “I don't want to go that far. All I want to know is how the others are doing. I haven’t had a chance to get out this week.”

Blair relaxed. “That much I can tell you. From what I was told, they're all fine. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened.”

Twilight nodded and looked out over the town. “I’ve been pushing myself too hard lately, I need to go see them.”

“At least you’ve been productive with your time,” Blair replied. “You’ve made great progress on your thesis spell.”

“I know,” Twilight said, “but I don’t want to turn into a hermit again. It’s just that it's been so crazy lately!”

Blair frowned. “What has?”

Twilight started to pace along the edge of the balcony. “I wanted to go and do something with them all week, but I just couldn’t pry myself away. Every time I tried, I came up with a new idea, or remembered something I read in a book and kept going. I was afraid that if I stopped, I’d forget something and get stuck! It feels like my brain is on fire!”

“You’re just in the middle of a stressful time,” Blair said reassuringly. “I’m sure that—“

“But it’s also really exciting!” Twilight jerked up, and Blair could now see that a dim, glowing light was visible in the depths of her eyes.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for years. I’ve read so many books about the thesis spells that other Magi have made. Some of them have led to amazing breakthroughs in the Arcana community! And now I get to do it, and everypony is expecting me to make something great, and I feel like I really am on the verge of something really, really big! I don’t want to stop, but at the same time...”

Twilight shoulders slumped and her gaze fell to the ground as the light in her eyes faded away. “I don’t want to be a bad friend.”

Blair stood in stoic silence. So this is what the Thirst for Knowledge power is like. Interesting, I never took her to be insecure. Are these the first real friends she’s had? If that's the case, then this'll be easy.

He cleared his throat. “Twilight, you're being too hard on yourself, and in more ways than one. Your friends must know how important this is to you, and what's necessary to do it.”

Twilight looked up. “Well, yeah, but—“

Blair motioned to the door. “If you’re worried that they don’t understand, then invite them over and show them your work. I guarantee that'll clear things up.”

Twilight snickered. “It might be worth it just to see the looks on their faces.”

Blair smiled. “You're not going to be working on your thesis spell for the rest of your life. When you finish, your friends will still be here. Don’t give up when you’re this far down on the home stretch.”

“Not quite the home stretch,” she said with a wince. “I’m going to take a year off, and then go for my Arcanist’s Degree.”

Blair blinked, then covered his mouth with mock surprise. “What, being a Magus isn’t good enough for you?”

“Arch-Magus rolls better off the tongue.” Twilight winked at him. “Plus, you get to wear the brimmed, pointy hat. Always wanted that thing.”

They both laughed. Wonder how long it’ll take her to get that? I might have to keep tabs on her out of sheer curiosity… if I’m still around, that is.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been very receptive to you,” Twilight said. “It’s just that I’m still getting used to you being here, and what with my work, which you actually even helped me with and I—”

Blair shook his head. “I know what you’ve been going through. I don’t hold it against you.”

Twilight smiled. The first real smile she’d given him since he’d arrived. “I’ll let you finish writing your coded report.”

“I’ll be inside in a minute,” Blair replied as he lay back down on the pillow.

Twilight walked back inside and shut the door. As she did, Blair picked up his quill and wrote out the names of the Elements, putting a two beside Laughter and Loyalty. He chewed on his lip as he looked over the message.

It is what it is. Not like we really have any choice other than to wait and hope. I can’t think that the Princess would really just let Horizon die, though. She has to have something planned. Blair started to roll up the parchment.

“I'd hold off on that if I were you.”

Blair turned to see Piro calmly standing beside the door, which was still shut, and now glowed with a blood-red aura.

“What’re you—” Blair began.

“Twilight's in stage two.”

Blair dropped the quill and the parchment.

“Explain.”

“When Twilight was twelve, she triggered a Flare during the CSGU Examination that Celestia herself had to stop. Ever since then, she's been using a spell that only lets her draw from a small portion of her font.”

It took all Blair had to keep a straight face. “I take it she told you as much when you went into the kitchen with her.”

Piro nodded. “She's been going through a massive magical growth spurt since before we got here, but she hasn't realized it because the spell only needs to be updated once a month. Now, however, her font is growing so fast that it's causing the spell to go awry. She's had to update it every week, and even that's starting to not be enough.”

I knew there had to be something else. Blair's heart was hammering. “Did you verify this, or is it just your opinion from what she told you?”

“She told me that she couldn't feel the boundaries of her magical font anymore,” Piro said. “At first I used an Arcanometer to check it, but it wasn't giving me an accurate reading, so I did a Cornuoscopy instead.”

I had a feeling he had done some kind of procedure. He always wears the coat when he does. Blair leaned forward. “And?”

Piro took a deep breath. “Her font’s the size of a lake.”

Blair felt a chill. “What do you think her Hornpower is?”

“I'm not sure,” Piro said dryly. “The Arcanometer only goes up to five hundred and it immediately went in the red. If I had to guess, I’d say well over eight hundred, probably closer to nine. Either way, though, she has enough power right now to level an entire city block.”

And she's only halfway recovered. Blair shuddered. “How much did you tell her?”

“Enough to keep her calm,” Piro said. “She's more afraid of herself than anything else. I led her to believe that she's a late bloomer, and that what happened when she was younger was just an extension of her special talent.”

“So she doesn't suspect anything?”

Piro shook his head. “She's too focused on her studies to give it any further thought. That won't last for much longer at the rate she's going, though.”

No kidding. Blair took a calming breath. “From what you saw, do you think I should alert the Princess?”

Piro rubbed his bottom lip. “If it were anypony else, I'd say yes, but Twilight's been dealing with excess magic for years. She just needs to adjust to the new boundaries as her font grows, and she has the knowledge, control, and experience necessary to do that.”

Blair grinned. “Good work, Piro.”

Piro nodded stiffly in return. “You're lucky I haven't taken the Hippocratic Oath.” He vanished with a red flash.

Blair turned back to the parchment. He scratched out the number one he had put by Magic and replaced it with a bolded two. After a quick proofread, he rolled up the parchment and walked into the house to find Spike. We might just make it, after all.