• Published 10th Aug 2015
  • 2,787 Views, 147 Comments

Lost in the Mirror of Worlds - Meadow_Dawn

Four legs and magic. What kind of mess have I gotten myself into? I only wanted a full length mirror for home, and now I'm in a strange world with no friends or family. Who's this dark horse in my reflections and why is it blocking my trip home?

  • ...

One Step Closer to Home

I woke up slowly the next morning, feeling as comfortable as always, having had another dream of home and how things used to be. A small twinge of sadness crept into my heart, but I tried to push it aside. Memories of some of the harder times in my life floated to the front of my mind unbidden as I sat up and stretched. I shook my head to clear it, talking out loud to the empty room.

“There’s no point in being sad.” I said as I got out of bed. Then I walked over to the desk and started thinking quietly. ‘I know I can’t miss home that much. I moved away from family deliberately, and they didn’t want to see you when you were close as it was, let alone ignored any acknowledgment of my birthday’s existence… though to be fair, I never remembered any of theirs.’ I sighed as I stared at the book once I sat at the desk, starting to feel a cloud grow over my head. ‘I never saw my grandparents often, maybe every three years? Even if family was the issue, it’s not like anything’s different between now and then.’

I stared more at the book on my desk, seeing the designs and wanting to trace them with my finger, only to realize as my hoof entered my vision that wasn’t possible. Looking up, I saw the other books Stalwart loaned me. They still seemed like gibberish to me, even though I was following Starlight’s instructions, and I know I couldn’t make the leap in logic to understand just how any of it correlated.

My mind wandered from subject to subject as I sat at the chair, thinking of all the things of home that I couldn’t experience here. Playing games on my computer, or using a computer at all, no copies of the few books I did enjoy, none of the music.
Unbidden, a few different favorite tunes came to my mind, and I listened to the memory of them, letting my awareness of the room fade away as I clung to that tune and the feelings it brought with it. Soon though, with small noises coming through the door from other pony’s activities, I decided to make the music audible with my horn.

I played the music as best I could, slightly bobbing my head at times to a particularly good piece echoing off of the walls. My smile came back to my face as I realized how much better I felt, even feeling pleased that the music was coming through more clearly now than before, and started humming along to see if it diminished. To my surprise, it only grew more clear and loud.

I smiled wider as I closed my eyes and focused on the tune, tonally singing the notes of the main instrument, switching from game track to game track as they came to my mind and letting time pass by. It was a wonderful feeling, to hear my voice hit notes easily without cracking like it had before. Singing had been an outlet when I was younger, and now that my voice wasn’t fighting me on the higher notes I struggled with before, it was easy to lose myself to the tune.

I continued singing for a while, losing track of time as memories of games and the family I played them with surfaced. Right as I was finishing up one particularly energetic tune and the instruments faded from my horn, I heard a voice to my left.

“Don’t stop there, please, keep going!”

I opened my eyes instantly, feeling panic well up as I turned my head toward the voice. I quickly saw a sitting Stalwart Shield looking intently at my reflection in the mirror. Twisting more to see him directly on my left, I tried to pull back in my seat away from him, only to fall over the side and land sprawled on my back!

“Ow…” I manage to say, feeling so embarrassed. I never let anyone hear me sing as is, and to have him listen in for goodness knows how long only to fall over onto my back in front of him yet again made it all the worse.

“Are you ok?” He asked from my side, having quickly gotten up and rushed over once he saw me fall I presumed.

“Yeah, just a wounded pride and some deja vu.” I muttered, blushing. “So, how long were you listening?”

“Just a few minutes. I knocked but you didn’t answer. I thought I’d check in with you but then I heard you singing and I couldn’t resist listening in.” He said cheerily.

“I see.” I barely managed to reply as the embarrassment sinks in. It was bad enough being caught singing, it was far worse for him to have listened noticeably. I could almost swear my entire face must have been turning a deep shade of red, in spite of my normal coat of fuzz.

“What kind of music was that? I haven’t heard anything like it!”

“I… well… It’s kinda hard to explain.” I stammered.

“Ok, you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” He replied gently.

“Thanks,” I reply relieved, though wondering why he dropped it so suddenly. “I really don’t like singing in front of others.”

“That’s a shame,” He said slowly, “I was hoping to hear what else you could do.”

“Why?” I asked quietly, feeling confused as I get a pit of suspicion forming in my chest and starting to grow heavier.

“Oh, I don’t know,” He hummed coyly, “just might have something to do with having fun listening? Just a wild guess.”

“Oh stop it you big tease.” I chuckled, giving him a very weak shove on his flank. His flattery was always welcome, even if I did act otherwise.

“It’s not teasing if it’s true.” He smirked.

“Well, I’m going to need to stop singing for now and either study up on more magic or do some tests on that bracelet to see just how much it can do.” I said, starting to walk around the chair I fell out of. I lifted the bracelet off from its place on the desk and brought it to my hoof when Stalwart reached over and plucked it from my grasp.

“Wha-! Hey!” I exclaimed in surprise, looking up at him in confusion.

“Tell you what, I’ll help you test it more if you promise to let me hear more of your singing later. Deal?”

“Wait just a minute! I-” I started to protest, that sinking feeling in my chest returning.

“Deal?” he asked with a grin, holding the bracelet back from me.

I hesitated, knowing I couldn’t take it back from him without using magic, which would just seem cruel. In the same breath, while I didn’t want him to listen to me sing or hum, I needed to have that bracelet tested, and I doubted I could find another pony who’d be willing before dinner tonight.

“On one condition,” I say, looking at the ground and trying very hard not to feel embarrassed by sheer willpower. “you have to promise not to make fun of me if I do sing… got it?”

“Got it.” He said solemnly before giving me a hug around the base of my neck briefly, “I don’t think you’ve got much to worry about there though. I wouldn’t ask for your singing if I was going to make fun of it. Now come on, what kinds of tests do you have in mind before I pass out for the day?”

“Well, I didn’t have anything specific in mind per se,” I started to say, his hug making me feel a lot better. I couldn’t explain why, but he had a way of disarming my defenses, and as much as I hated to say it, I liked it. “If we could figure out how much you could lift or move with it and things like that, it’d be a great start.”

“You know, I’ve got just the place. Follow me!” He said, putting the bracelet on his forelimb. He then walked toward the door, opening it and holding it open for me like a gentleman.

I laughed and followed him out the door and along the halls of the castle until we reach a heavy wooden door, which he opened up and headed in. I followed suit, only to see a decently sized gym-like area. Various racks of weapons and padded armors lined the walls while three white rings on the floor marked what I could only imagine were fighting rings.

Two ponies were fighting in one of the rings, but stopped almost as soon as we walked in. Two more stood along the opposite wall and watched us curiously. I followed Stalwart to the nearby wall where some of the lighter weapons seemed to be lined up when the two sparring ponies started walking up to us.

"Oh ho! So this must be the infamous Ms. Dawn that's been keeping our Stalwart Shield so busy eh?" The white pony with a red main said, nudging a larger pony beside him. I looked at his foreleg where he laid a wooden longsword along his body like some of the guards had with spears. The pony he nudged, a light brown coated earth pony with a short-cut black mane, looked over at me and chuckled

“I think you’re right about that. Nice catch there Shield!” The brown one’s deep voice rumbled so deeply that it felt like it was tickling a bit of my own chest fur as he spoke.

“I am not a prize for someone to catch, sir.” I said, trying to put on a brave front. The brown one smirked, and I maneuvered myself to stand behind Stalwart, not feeling comfortable with these unfamiliar ponies as they closed the gap.

“She’s a friend guys, don’t get pushy about it.” Stalwart said, starting to sound annoyed as he turned to face both of them.

"You say that," the white pony laughed, "Yet you spend more time with her than you do training these days." The brown pony chuckled and slightly nodded as he looked at me from above stalwart, using his height.

“And that’s my fault. He’s been helping me learn magic, and that’s what we’re here for, to keep doing just that.” I said, trying to sound more confident than I felt.

"Magic eh?" the white pony said, raising a brow, "Odd thing that. Learning magic from an Earth Pony. But I'm game. Pray tell Ms. Shield’s shadow. Why come to our humble Earth Pony Barracks to practice Unicorn magic?"

“I, well,” I stuttered, trying to figure out what to say. I was caught off guard by being referred to as Ms. Shield. I knew we had joked back when rumors started about Stalwart picking me up as his date or as a couple, but despite us just having had a talk about how that wasn’t something I was ready for, it was harder to joke or play along. “I think I fixed this bracelet and now we’re just trying to test it.”

“That’s all there is to it guys. Come on, give her some space.” Stalwart nodded, speaking firmly to them.

They smirked and took a step or two back, and I slowly stepped forward to be on Stalwart’s left side, though still standing somewhat behind him. I looked between them both, wondering what was going to happen next.

“Timid little thing, isn’t she?” The white pony chuckled to the other.

“Mmhm.” He replied before moving to a nearby bench and sat down on it. “Gotta say, I'm more than a little curious as to how jewelry fits in with magic practice though.”

The white one nodded, looking intently at Stalwart.

“Well, Stalwart, mind showing them?” I asked, already feeling a little better as the focus moved from me onto Stalwart instead.

“We can try, that’s all I can promise. How does it work again?”

“Just picture grabbing hold of something like last time, and don’t move your body to do it…” I said, not sure why he asked how to use it when he had, albeit briefly, last night. I turned my attention from him to the other two, only to see them both raise their brows slightly. I realized then he might have asked just to clue them in, rather than for his benefit.

Stalwart nodded, moving over to the light weapons rack nearby and stopped in front of it. I watched as he stared intently at a dagger lying on its hook there before it started to glow a lime green outline around it, much like my own magic. It started to move and shake at first, then slowly floated up in front of him as he turned to face the others with a confident smile.

“And that’s why the jewelry matters.” He said, much to the stunned surprise of the two.

"Where in Celestia's light did you find something like that!?" the white one asked, clearly in awe.

I looked over at the brown one, hoping he would share in the amazement or surprise, only see him shake his head twice and stare between the bracelet and myself. I looked back at the white one and started to explain.

“Well, more like Celestia handed it for me to study, and since I want to fix something else that’s magic, I thought I’d try my hand at fixing it for practice.” I said, and then as soon as I realized what I did, closed my mouth. I haven’t heard anyone reference hands commonly, if at all. I felt myself tense as I hoped I didn’t say something too out of place.

"Alright, I can see why he's got his eye on you now," the white pony said, grinning at me, "A mighty impressive trinket Ms. Dawn."

I smiled at the compliment, feeling good about it until I watched as the white pony turned his gaze to the brown one and his smile straightened to a more neutral reaction. I looked over to him too, only to see how the brown one was frowning.

“And what’s got your reins in a knot?” the white one asked him.

"Earth Ponies shouldn’t use magic," he said slowly, "It's not natural."

“Why not? I’ve been seeing magic everywhere.” I asked. It didn’t make sense to not like magic in a world with it, especially having come from a world without.

"Just isn't," the brown pony insisted, "If we were meant to use magic, we'd have horns."

I narrowed my eyes at him in concern. He almost reminded me of the people who disliked some parts of science back home, yet was benefiting in all kinds of ways from that science just because it was different. I didn’t think less of him for it, but it disappointed me that someone could be that way toward magic too.

"Just ignore him," the white pony said shaking his head, "Boer's just stubborn about some things. Best to leave to him be when it comes down to it."

“I-” I started to say, not convinced that’s the entire explanation, but then realized if he was like those back home, no reasonable argument would change their mind anyway, “I don’t get it, but ok.”

I looked over to Stalwart, who had set down the dagger, and had moved on to a short sword, moving it around him slowly. I tilted my head slightly as my attention turned to how he always kept the point down. I was about to ask about it when I decided not to. He could be playing safe just to make sure he doesn’t hit anyone or himself as he gets used to it.

"I was unaware any such relics still existed in our age." A feminine voice said from nearby.

I turned around to see a pony behind me. I was a little surprised when I saw that she was also a light green pony, though her mane was a rich blue color and was parted to hang on either side of her face.

"Altai? When did you get here?" the white pony asked.

"I've been here the whole time Sable," she stated, "You should at least attempt to take your surroundings into account every now and then."

"Where's the fun in that?" Sable laughed, "Life's way more fun if you can be surprised every now and again."

Stalwart snorted, giving the short sword a couple of slow swings away from the group. “You won’t be having fun when an enemy surprises you and knocks you out cold.”

"Ha!" Sable laughed, "Like anyone could knock me out with you taking point, Shield!"

“And what do you think will happen if I’m not there to take point Sable? Some of us take our training seriously.” Stalwart said, starting to sound accusing.

"Hey, I can handle myself," Sable said confidently, "After all, you're the only one here I can't beat. You know that."

"And what about the Captain?" Altai asked, "As I recall, none of us has yet to best him with anything but a team effort."

"Yeah, but that's the Captain," Sable said, waving her statement off, "No one beats him but the other instructors."

“Not for long, not if I can help it anyway.” Stalwart chuckled. “Though I don’t think I’ll take to magical fighting anytime soon. How about you Dawn? You’ve told me you’ve dabbled in swordplay before. Wanna give it a go while you’re here?”

I thought about it, wanting to have a little bit of fun with swords for old time’s sake. Despite that desire, I didn’t know if I wanted to try in front of strangers right now.

“I’m not sure that’s a great idea. I’ve already told you, it was hardly often at all, and I have bad reflexes.”

“Come on, it wouldn’t hurt for you to know some self-defense. I’ll even try using the bracelet for you. That’d keep us on the same footing right?”

“I-” I said, hesitating, and then looked back at his face instead of his floating sword. I saw him smiling gently like he had when I was learning magic with him. Feeling better that at least he wouldn’t be making fun of me for it, I nodded, “Alright, try not to be too hard on me ok?”

“As long as you don’t pull a Silver on us, you’ll be fine.” Stalwart chuckled. “I don’t think I ended up asking earlier though, did you know anything about how he fights? We’re still trying to figure out what he did from rumors in the aerial guard.”

“Oh, no, I can’t really say for sure. He hasn’t talked to me about it. Why? What has he done?”

"Oh you know, that he one shot Black Mane, and has the sub under his wing," Sable said, "He knows some weird style of Karate that counters weapons." Then he paused. "Wait, what do you mean he hasn't said? You know him?"

“Well yeah, we both came to Equestria about the same time, about a couple hours apart.”

Suddenly I felt the gaze of all three of the ponies turn to me intently. I felt myself cringe at the attention and wonder just what I said wrong.

“That means you should know him too then Shield. Spending as much time with her as you do, and you didn't tell us?” Sable said, seeming to glare at Stalwart.

I started to open my mouth, wanting to make sure Stalwart wasn’t blamed for whatever was going on when Stalwart stared him right back and gave his reply.

“Yeah, I didn’t tell you.” He said coolly, “All I’ve done is talked with him, and he hasn’t brought up any of his Karate, so I haven’t asked. He might’ve taken Sky Flare under his wing, but we’ve not seen a feather of them since, right? So what makes you think he’d just casually talk about it just because I know Dawn?”

Sable frowned and looked to the others.

"An acceptable explanation," Altai said, "but should you get the chance, I expect you to bring him to meet us, or better yet, meet me. One such as he would likely prefer a more developed sense of conversation than these two would bring." She gestured with her shoulder at Boer and Sable.

"Hey now, maybe he'd like a good match or two instead, eh?" Boer chimed in.

"I know someone who's looking for a match." Sable chuckled as he nodded towards Altai.

“Come on Dawn, let’s go to the far end and get to work.” Stalwart said with a smirk. “Welcome to our chaotic rivalries. You learn to take things in stride here.”

“You mean this happens a lot?”

“More than you know. But that’s what happens when you’re in the guard.” He smiled as we headed toward the furthest ring. “You work with each other, and sometimes, you just have to razz each other a bit too, just to show you care.”

“I… see.” I said, pausing as I think of the military back home, and how similar things seemed to be there. Or at least, what I think was similar. I couldn’t really be sure.

“Yup. Those two over there?” he gestured to the two that used to be along the far wall, who had now walked over to the trio we just left, “they’re Petiso and Stang. They’re in a different squad than the rest, but their commander’s been out for a bit since he had to go home for their first foal.”

I looked over as he gestured at them, Petiso was on the slimmer side compared with the rest. He looked like he had a light grey, yet a dark blue mane. I wondered if he was related to the other green one, Altai, but shifted my gaze to Stang when he was pointed out. That one was well built, and had an almost ice blue color to him with a vibrant gold mane. I had to turn my gaze back to Stalwart quickly, since Stang was a bit too interesting to look at, and the last thing I wanted was for Stalwart to get the wrong idea!

We spent the next hour sparring lightly between each other. I was taking it slowly, getting used to the feel of holding onto a weapon with magic, where Stalwart was just trying to get a feel for using magic at all. Surprisingly, by the time that hour passed, we both became pretty adept at using magic for our swordplay. He had all kinds of tricks for me on how to block attacks properly, and I helped him with figuring out where or how to grip the sword.

He had me toy with the idea of sparring with the rest of the ponies after we were done, but I didn’t feel comfortable with it just yet. In the end, we left and headed back to my room for some discussion on how Stalwart did with the bracelet. Though, we didn’t manage to leave without a couple more ‘Ms. Shield’s Shadow’ comments.

Stalwart handed me the bracelet and reminded me of my promise to sing for him, but he wanted to sleep before he went on patrol duty again. I tried not to yawn, but with the sun shining through the window, I smiled, shrugged, and decided a nap would be just the thing for this lazy Sunday.

I slept well, lying in bed for a while before remembering that I had to have dinner with the princesses! I quickly got out of bed, rushed to the door, then walked the halls in search of a guard who could tell me the time.

“Excuse me,” I said to the first guard I met, “could you please tell me what time it is?”

“It’s almost quarter till five ma’am.”

“Oh. That’s a relief.” I said, letting out a sigh. “So now I know I’m not late. Thank you!”

I walked back to my room with a small smile, getting the sneaking suspicion the guard was now quite confused! I quickly lifted up the bracelet and put it on my left foreleg and paced as I started to try planning out how to introduce the bracelet when they ask about it.

I paced back and forth in my room until I couldn’t wait any longer and stepped into the hall and headed for the usual tower dining room. Much to my surprise, Silver was just ahead, and I trotted quickly forward up to his side with a grin on my face.

“Hey there Silver!”

"Hey there yourself.” He said turning to face me, “What's got you so excited?"

“Oh, you’ll see soon enough.” I smirked, feeling playful.

As much as I was now quite eager about the fixing of the bracelet, as well as knowing fully how it worked thanks to Stalwart, I wasn’t about to spoil it just yet.

Silver kept quiet the entire way up to the room, and once we were seated and requested our food, we ate. I had grilled cheese sandwiches with a cucumber salad to compliment it. It only just dawned on me to request it after seeing another pony eating it in the dining room for lunch. I was incredibly eager since it had been so long since I last had that particular vice, and as soon as it arrived, I ate it with enthusiasm.

“Gods… I can’t remember the last time I had cheese like this.” I finally managed to say after finishing off my plate, settling down on my seat cushion and smiling broadly at the princesses. “Seriously, I swear you have some insanely talented chefs here.”

"Indeed," Celestia said smiling, "Canterlot is home to a great many talented Chefs."

Silver chuckled. "I'm still a fan of the carrots."

"Canterlot is also home to a variety of gardens as well." Celestia chuckled back at him.

“Well, whatever the case may be, I’m really glad to have them available like this.” I sighed contented as I pushed the now empty plate forward. I looked down at the table, letting the feeling wash over me until my gaze landed on my bracelet. I took a deep breath and let it out. This moment was what I was looking forward the whole weekend. ‘Let’s do this!’ I thought before saying, “Well then, let’s go ahead and get right to business then shall we?”

I watched as everyone seemed to look my direction and sit up in preparation for my announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen...” I start to dramatically introduce.

“It's 'Fillies and Gentlecolts.'” Celestia gently interrupted.

“Oh. Ok, do over!” I paused, realizing my mistake as I let out a giggle. I was feeling too good about my progress to let this stop me! “Fillies and Gentlecolts, I present to you, a now working magical artifact!” I played a little drumroll from my horn while pulling off the artifact from my leg and placing it in the center of the table, stopping it as it was placed.

“Interesting.” Celestia said quietly, much less excited than I had hoped she would be. "I will assume that the full sum of the bits you were given was spent on this items restoration then?"

“Uhm, well, I” I hesitated, not expecting the subject to switch over so quickly. I felt my eagerness and excitement leave me as I realized in hindsight just how I didn’t resist spending every last bit, “no. I spent fifty bits on the necklace the gem was in, thirty to get it changed out, and the remaining twenty was spent… helping test it.” I paused, not sure what more I could say or do, then decided to bow in apology, "I'm sorry. I went a bit overboard.”

"I see." Celestia said, giving me a look I didn’t recognize. She fell silent a moment, but it felt like it dragged on forever. It almost reminded me of how my dad used to handle my misbehaving growing up. My thoughts returned to the present when Celestia replied, speaking sternly, but softly. “I thank you for your honestly, however I am slightly disappointed. When you had asked for some bits in order to repair the bracelet, you had stated that you would return what remained. Keeping one’s word is very important in Equestria. Please remember that in the future.”

“I understand.” I said, feeling deflated from the chastisement. “Again, I’m sorry, and it was my intent! If you like, I could find work to earn the money needed to replace what was spent.”

"That will not be necessary, Dawn," Celestia stated, a smile returning to her face, "Mistakes happen, to all of us. All we can do is learn from them and endeavor not to make the same mistakes again."

“You’re too kind.” I said, my mind still focusing on how I had disappointed her. I took a deep breath and looked around to see everyone still expecting me to continue, so I continued my explanation. “It’s now fully recharged, though for whatever reason it’s not nearly as potent as it should have been, for reasons I can’t fathom beyond possibly it being exaggerated in the past.”

“So what's it supposed to do then?” Silver asked, looking between the bracelet and me.

“Well,” I reply, starting to get a hint of a smile back on my face. I levitated the bracelet toward him expectantly. “why don’t you give it a try? Put it on.”

Silver picked it up slowly, then looked through it like it was a telescope. I looked at him confused, wondering why he didn’t just put it on his arm like I had done earlier yesterday and today.

“Not till you tell me what it's supposed to do.” He said as he held it between his hooves.

“Very well then.” I sighed, disappointed, “It lets you move things around with magic, as if you had a horn like me. Satisfied?” My last word sounded more biting even to myself, almost reflecting the frustration I started to feel for him not being willing to just try it and demonstrate a little trust.

Silver inched away from me a little at that, and I instantly regretted my having snapped at him. He probably hasn’t been around magic nearly as much, and he doesn’t know what it was Starlight and I fixed or what it did. Before I could apologize, I watched as he rolled the bracelet around between his hooves a few more times, then eventually slid it onto his left forearm.

I waited for him patiently, expecting him to try doing a few things, but all I could see him do is stare at it until he finally looked in my direction.

"Do I need to do anything, or...?"

“Well,” I said, taking another deep breath to calm myself and have patience with him, despite not seeming to try, “picture what you would do if you had an arm and a hand again, and try to use it without moving your leg. Just picture it, and want it to happen. That should at least get it started, even if not perfectly.”

I watched as Silver mumbled quietly, though what he was saying was a mystery to me. I watched his gaze shift from the bracelet to his cup and waited. Soon, the cup started to get a lime green outline around it, much like my own magic did, and a peek at the bracelet confirmed it was the one glowing in the place of a horn. My face let out a small smile as I saw him slowly lift the cup from the table!

"Okay, that's cool!" He exclaimed, just before he dropped the glass and it fell down on its side, rolling into Celestia's plate at the other end of the table, "Whoops."

“It was, if I had to guess,” I started to explain, feeling a little more confident. “probably used back when the kingdom was first made, allowing the earth ponies to move or break any giant rocks or obstacles in their way. Supposedly there were several gifts that the three groups gave each other, and this just happened to be the one unicorns gave to the earth ponies. I thought the records said that it could move boulders out of the way, yet I haven’t been able to move much more than about ten or so pounds of whatever with it, nor has Stalwart. I’m not sure I understand why.”

"That is most impressive, Dawn," Celestia said smiling, "and I see your history lessons are paying off quite well too. That is a very good assumption as to this items origins."

“Thank you,” I replied, bowing my head briefly, “I have to admit, the librarians were very helpful in narrowing down these bits of lore, particularly Moon Dancer. Though I'm not sure why this mark is necessarily Starswirl's. It only worked properly when we saw one key difference in the traditional mark and kept that difference during the repairs. Silver, would you mind allowing them to take a closer look?”

"Of course." Silver said, quickly slipping the bracelet from his wrist. He held onto it for a slight moment longer before placing it on the table for whoever was going to take it next.

Celestia floated the bracelet in front of her as the rest of us watched patiently. I felt my heart rise just a little bit as I see her study the bracelet closely, no doubt spotting that difference. Eventually Celestia set it down in front of Luna, who also took a close look while Celestia spoke.

“I know his mark well. You are right, it is different.” Celestia said while her sister had her chance to inspect it.

“Right.” I nodded, “It not only has the three stars on a spiral, it also has an outline of a star around the middle one. I'm not entirely sure why though. Starlight was invaluable in teaching me how to make this happen, but he won't tell me how he knew at all, and keeps deflecting my questions.” I hesitated at the end, only now realizing it was something that started to really bug me.

“It is interesting that Starlight would know of such things while you do not.” Luna said, her brows coming together slightly in what I could only imagine as concern. “And he has shared nothing to shed light on how he came to possess this knowledge?”

“No. It’s most infuriating. I keep asking if he knows more or if he can get us home, but he hasn’t said a word.”

Only then do I spot movement out of the corner of my eye, and once again, I see Starlight Dusk looking very seriously toward the Princesses.

“Not yet.” He interjected, quietly but firmly.

“Not yet?” Luna asked, turning to face him, "Explain."

“We aren’t ready yet to have her attempt repairing the Mirror of Worlds. Not even close, or so I’m told.”

“What do you mean not even close!? And who’s telling you this!” I asked, incredibly surprised. In all of our talks, he said nothing of this before!

“I want to tell you,” Starlight said with his usual ear flick, turning to face me, “but he tells me it’s not necessary for me to explain. I owe him a great deal for saving my life, so I will honor his request for now. He’s decent enough, if constantly cryptic. He teaches me magic, and seems to know a lot more about this than any of the books you’ve studied. Isn’t that enough for now?”

"Will you at least share the name of this teacher of yours?" Luna asked, though her tone seemed more like an order than an actual question.

"I can’t say I know his true name.” He replied, sounding slightly apologetic as he then faced Luna, “He has referred to himself as a teacher or guide for those that are lost. If it weren’t for him, I would not be here today. He kept me sane those long years in that abyss. I cannot tell you more."

I shifted nervously as I tried to make use of this new information. I was still frustrated at him for holding information back, in essence holding back ways for me to go home. On the other hoof, I realized that he just said we weren’t ready, and he said not even close to ready at that. It was disappointing to me to realize it, but I wanted to go back to what I was familiar with... or at least, I thought so.

I hesitated as I thought about home, as well as the struggles I had to be recognized as myself. I adopted a very silly crazy approach to anything that wasn’t work just to fit in, but here in Equestria, I didn’t have to worry about taking medication, nor paying for a surgery. Everything was built in just like every other pony, with its own ups and downs I was already getting used to. If I returned home, I’d be trading my magic and the convenience of a matching identity. And then there’s Starlight, who’d be left on his own, and I know I couldn’t handle being in his shoes if that happened.

I looked up in time to see Luna and Celestia looking at one another seriously and the faintest shimmer crept along their horns. It was clear they were discussing between themselves, and I couldn’t help but wonder what they noticed about what he said.

"We will discuss this 'Teacher' of yours further at a later point, Starlight Dusk," Luna stated, "For now, let us move on to the next topic of the night."

She turned her gaze to Silver Wing and cleared her throat.

"H-huh?" Silver replied, jolting upward in surprise.

"Your endeavors of late have begun to arouse a great deal of attention, Silver Wing," she stated, "First your defeat of Black Mane in his own class. Then your placing second in the Annual Canterlot Race while still being in Flight School. And now you are teaching an unknown style of combat to our very own Sky Flare. Do you have anything to say on this?"
Silver opened his mouth as if to speak, but no words came forth. He looked between all of us, settling his gaze on Luna before speaking slowly at first.

"Uhh, it all just kinda happened. I'm not really sure how?" He gave a slight shrug.

I snorted involuntarily, though kept it as quiet as I could manage, then smiled in his direction. It was far too amusing to think that him beating Black Mane, who from what I had heard everyone had a hard time fighting, and winning second place in a race already would just ‘kinda happen.’ I stayed quiet and paid attention to the conversation, getting the feeling this was leading somewhere important.

"Calm yourself," Luna said softly, "These are not bad things you have done. But we would like some clarification on some matters."

"Alright," Silver replied, sounding slightly nervous, "Fire away."

"We have heard many rumors about your growing capabilities as a flier," Luna explained, "And a great many more in regards to this unique method of fighting you have brought over from your world. But rumor and fact are two very different items. Factually, we know you defeated Black Mane and are now training Sky Flare in your techniques. Other than that, we know nothing."

"Ah, well," Silver said, scratching the back of his head with his hoof, "Sky Flare was there when I kicked Black Mane's a-" he stopped and I tried very hard not to giggle at him almost cursing in his reply. "when I defeat Black Mane, she offered to teach me how to fly better if I taught her my style in return. I hope that's alright? I didn't think it'd matter so I never thought to check with either of you first. "

"That is alright," Luna said, "but we are very curious about this style of combat that you use. What is it called in your world? What is its overall effectiveness, and how is it that you can use it in our world when your form is so unlike your original?"

"Well, I told Sky Flare that it was a form of 'Tai Chi' but that's not quite right," Silver began, "Tai Chi is a main aspect of it, but it's actually a mix of a few different styles I know. So it doesn't have a real name per say. It's just… my style. In terms of effectiveness, well, like any form of fighting, it's meant to hurt people. How severely one gets hurt is up to the intent and control of the user. I will be honest and say that I could very easily kill someone with it. However, I have never been put into such a situation. Even when I was a Law Enforcement Officer. It's main use for me then, was disarming and restraining suspects. And as for how I can still use it, well, I can't fully. You need hands for a lot of it, especially the weapon aspects, but this body is rather flexible and hooves work as good as a closed fist any day, so it's viable enough. I could show you whenever if you'd like?"

"So you would not be against a demonstration then?" Luna asked seriously.

"Well, no. I can show you some of it right now if you want?"

"That will not be necessary," Luna said, a sly grin appearing on her face, "but since you are willing, we would very much enjoy a demonstration at a later date. Perhaps you would be so kind as to spar with some of our guards? A tournament of sorts, to allow us a chance to witness this ‘Silver Style’ in action."

"W-well, what did you have in mind?" Silver asked a little unsurely, "I'm not that good a fighter anymore, remember?"

"Would you be against a stacking tournament?" Luna asked, "You will face three opponents, one at a time, then two, and if you have still come out on top, all three at once."

"Aha..." Silver said slowly, "I could do the one on ones, maybe even the twos, but I doubt I could beat three opponents at once. Not with just my hands- err, hooves."

"Then we would get a proper demonstration," Luna said smiling, "We would see you fight seriously come the end, and be able to get a true sense of your capabilities."

“What about using the bracelet?” I offered, realizing what he meant about the lack of weapon abilities. “It’d be a good stress test for it, and would let you use weapons like you had an arm and hand again. I know it’s not quite the same, but perhaps?”

"Thank you for the offer Dawn, but no," Silver said, shaking his head once, "It wouldn't be a proper demonstration if I didn’t fight with my body. And even if that weren’t the case, I know how to pull my punches like this. With magic, I have no idea, and I won’t risk someone’s safety just to win. It may make things harder for me if I only use myself as a weapon, but I won’t run the risk of accidentally killing someone by swinging a magical weapon too fast or something." He paused for a laugh before adding, "Or myself for that matter! Imagine how embarrassing that'd be, pulling a sword back to block, only to knock myself out with it?"

“Yeah, I doubt that’d happen,” I said, though not without flinching slightly at the thought of doing that myself. “with practice I’m sure you could get to your old skill level again easily. It just takes a shift in how you try to do it, but it’ll have the same outcome.”

“I am inclined to agree with Silver Wing," Luna said, "The purpose of this demonstration is to gauge his styles effectiveness. Utilizing a magical artifact would tip the scales unfairly in his favor."

“Yes, because if he fights a unicorn, their magic won’t tip the scales unfairly, but a limited telekinesis spell would. That makes sense.” I replied sarcastically, not seeing the point. If his opponent could use magic, why couldn’t he? I looked over to Luna and saw her frown and knew I had crossed a line. “Sorry, my tone was rude. I just don’t see how that would change enough! Either way, he made his choice, and I promise to try and respect it.”

Silver smiled at me for a moment appreciatively before he spoke again. "I actually have no idea how a Unicorn fights to be honest. I can imagine how they'd use a weapon, based off how I've seen you all eat, but that's about it."

"Then of the three you shall fight, one will be a Unicorn," Luna stated, "In fact... Your opponents will each be one of the three Pony tribes."

"So an Earth Pony, a Pegasus, and a Unicorn?" Silver asked.

Luna nodded. "It will be a most entertaining demonstration indeed."

"You will have to forgive my sister," Celestia chimed in, "In the old days, we used to hold tournaments like this to decide who amongst our guard would become knights and serve as our personal protectors. Such events have not been needed in these days of peace, but when they were, my sister was always very fond of them."

Luna looked away with a slight huff, evidentially embarrassed by Celestia's comment.

"Well, I look forward to giving you something new then," Silver said smiling, "Hopefully I don’t lose in the first round."

"Seeing as you defeated Black Mane with one strike, I doubt you will lose so swiftly." Celestia said.

"We'll see," Silver said, "I try not to underestimate my opponents. Especially when I've never fought them before."

"Do you have any further questions about the demonstration?"

"Not really, aside from when you're wanting it."

"Friday," Luna said with a nod, "That will provide you with four days to prepare if needed."

"Four days... Fun..." Silver said quietly, appearing to grow deep in thought.

"With that, I believe it is time for us to part for the night," Celestia said with a smile, "Take these next four days to prepare Silver Wing. Your opponents, while not at the level of Black Mane, will not be picked from common stock. You will be facing some of our best trained guards."

Silver nodded and got to his feet. "Right," he said, "Should be fun then." He walked out of the room, clearly lost in his own thoughts.

I stayed seated for a moment longer, staring at the table leg as I realized just how excited they were to see what Silver could do. I couldn’t blame them, since he managed to become known for his fighting prowess and for his speed in the race, but I couldn’t help but feel jealous at how he was able to make them feel excited for what he’d do next. And then there was me by comparison, managing to fix the relic to help ponies who aren’t unicorns do something that nearly any unicorn can do, and only eliciting intrigue or concern for reasons I can’t fathom right now.

A soft clearing of a throat brought me back to reality again, to see Luna starting to address me.

"A parting word of caution to you," she stressed, "There are a great many magics in this world, not all of which are good. Be careful from whom you glean knowledge.”

"What do you mean?” I replied, feeling confused and concerned at this warning. “Knowledge isn't inherently good or evil is it? Wouldn't that apply to magic as well?"

"You are correct in that knowledge in itself is neither good nor evil," Luna said, "However, not all magic is such. There are dark magics in this world, and knowledge gained through such means will taint those who seek it."
I narrowed my brows at what she said, not sure of what she meant by this. Celestia must have noticed my response, as she proceeded to address me as well.

"What my sister is trying to say, is that learning is never a bad thing, but you should be careful of who you learn from. Not all who seem friendly on the surface are. Be careful not to blindly trust those you know very little about."

“I think I understand.” I said, pausing briefly to think. I reflected back to my times growing up and how easily I was fooled, how gullible I’ve been told I can be, and had to ask, “but how will I know the difference then?”

They both sighed a little and appeared to look at me with tired eyes. I felt my heart sink a little lower as I realized they must have thought it was a stupid question, as if it should be obvious.

"You will not always be able to tell one from the other," Luna said, "all you can do is trust in your feelings. If something feels wrong to you, even if such feelings are not shared by those around you. Pay heed to them. A Unicorns instincts are a powerful guide, to those who choose to listen."

“I will try.” I said, growing worried as I knew I never had an easy time hearing my instincts if ever.

"That is all we ask," Celestia said with her usual comforting smile, "Now, off to bed with you!"
I smiled back at them briefly, still feeling disappointed, jealous, even a little confused. I stood up, trying very hard not to stretch like my now aching muscles wanted me to do, and headed toward the door.

"Dawn." Celestia’s voice called softly.

I jumped internally and paused halfway to the door, turning around to face them and unable to hide the confusion in my face.

“You forgot this.” She said, floating the bracelet from the table toward me.

“Oh. Wait, you want me to keep it?” I asked, even more confused, “but it’s an antique! Wouldn’t you want to keep it?”

"As you are the one who repaired it, it should go to you. You may do with it as you please."

“I’m not sure I follow.” I replied, being cautious about taking possession of it now that it was repaired and had some serious value. “It was mine to study yes, but you still had ownership of it that whole time, and if this were to exist in our world, it would be nearly invaluable. I don’t understand why you’d want me to keep it.”

“You were given a broken relic from an age long since passed,” Celestia replied with a broader smile, “However, it is no longer what it was then. You repaired it through study and the use of your own magic. A part of you, however small, now resides within it, granting it new life and purpose. It is now an extension of your magic. As such, it is rightfully yours to do with as you wish."

“I see.” I replied, feeling like a weight of responsibility had been handed to me, even if I wasn’t quite sure what that responsibility entailed. I took hold of the floating bracelet, and slipped it back onto my left leg like I had before. “Well, not quite if I were to be completely honest, but… thank you. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it yet, but I want you to know it’s very much appreciated.”

"Do not underestimate the magnitude of this accomplishment Dawn," Celestia added with a smile, "There are few in this land that could have done what you have. Remember that."

That sinking feeling that had grown through that dinner now left me with her saying that. She was telling me in her own way just how big what I had done really was, and that it mattered somehow. Relief started to wash over me as I tried to figure out how to reply.

“I… well, I… Thank you.” I said, almost stammering as I tried to relay that feeling to them, only able to hope they understood what I was trying to convey before heading out the door. Suddenly I was feeling on top of the world with their approval in tow, and practically floated out of the doorway to head down the stairs.

I stepped down onto the first steps, only to suddenly have a small blast of air tickle my neck. I involuntarily jumped up and looked over to the side, only to find Silver waiting for me!

“Oh! Silver, you scared me good there! What’s up?”

Silver dropped his head and groaned. "Sorry. That was supposed to be a whistle. "

“It’s ok.” I reply, trying to console before my good mood starts seeping through again, “Though now you’ve got me wanting to try to whistle.”

"I'll be practicing alone before I try it again," Silver said with a laugh, "but that'll be later. Right now I- I need your help with something."

“Oh? What do you want help with?”

"Well," Silver hesitated, letting out a sigh, "I need you to try to hit me."

“Wait. You want me to what!?” I ask, completely surprised by this question. Surely he doesn’t mean right now, and if so, why?

"In this demonstration the Princesses want me to do, I'll be fighting a Unicorn," Silver explained, my surprise fading to understanding, "I know how to fight pegasi. And an earth pony should be about the same, minus the flight. But I have no idea how a Unicorn fights with magic. You're the only Unicorn I know. So it'd be a huge help if you'd spar with me a little at some point this week. Even if it's just once."

“I see what you mean.” I replied with a knowing smile, thinking to the small bit of training I had done with Stalwart earlier today. “I used to occasionally do swordplay myself, but that was before the medication and as an excuse to keep in shape. I have no idea if I’m any good though, fair warning. Will that be good enough?”

"It'll be perfect," Silver smiled, "All I need is a sense of how fast you can move a weapon around, and what sort of ranges you have. I won’t even attack you. It'll just be you trying to hit me."

“I see. Well, I hope I can do you justice then.” I nodded, feeling good about being involved like this. I headed down the steps, wanting to talk as we headed to our rooms. “Where and when would you want me to be for your practice?”

"I'm good anytime really," Silver replied from behind me, "When would work best for you?"

“Well, ideally after breakfast would work. Stalwart’s rarely up, with the exception of this morning somehow,” I replied, starting to feel my face heat up at remembering the promise he forced out of me. I shook my head to clear that from my mind before continuing, “Yeah, after breakfast, maybe half an hour to an hour after? Actually, let’s just call it ten o’clock. That work for you?”

"Works perfectly thank you very much for this."

“It’s not a problem! Though now you’ve got me wondering if I could be a decent swordsmare.” I giggled at the prospect, “Probably not, I suspect I’d be better suited to focusing on magic for now.”

"Tomorrow will tell, eh?" Silver laughed, "Just don’t hold back, alright? I'd rather get a few knocks in the head, then a false sense of your speed."

“I…” I paused, remembering his comment earlier about whacking himself in the head, “will try not to. I tend to take it easy at first anyway, and gradually ramp it up, but I’ll do my best.”

"That's all I ask. With that out of the way though, do you need an escort back to your room? Or you good?"

“Oh I’m good. I don’t need Stalwart getting the wrong idea about us after our little talk last night!”

"Alright, take care then, and thanks again."

"See you tomorrow then. Oh wait! Before we split, where would we meet? We didn't say that part yet!"

"Ah, right. " Silver said shaking his head, "I've gotten so used to training in the forest, I just assumed you knew about it. Though..." He paused briefly and I watched him frown as I turned to him. "I don’t think you'd be able to get to the forest to easily without wings, so how about behind the palace? Near that big hedge maze."

“Yeah, fear of heights and all that.” I nodded, “How would I get down there? I haven’t seen a hedge maze yet…”

"Really?" Silver asked surprised, "Guess I forget sometimes that you haven't seen Canterlot like I have. There isn’t much I don’t know about its layout now thanks to all the flybys." He chuckled, "Just walk around the palace though, you'll see the maze eventually. It's big and green, and made out of a huge hedge bush."

“Holding… back… sarcasm." I replied in as deep and monotone a voice as I could manage, just to help him realize I knew what a hedge maze would be made of. I tried very hard not to laugh and smiled widely at him. “All right, no worries. I’ll find my way there eventually. If you don’t see me, well, I’m sure you could fly around and spot me. I don’t suppose you’ve kept tallies of how many other lime green ponies there are huh?”

Silver chuckled. "There's a few, but I think I can tell you apart from them from just about any distance." He gave me a knowing wink, making me chuckle.

“Oh really? I may have to test that sometime. Anyway, I’ll see you then, rest well!”

"You too Dawn, good night."

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