• Published 24th Nov 2015
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Harmony's Song - pchn00



A young orphaned woman discovers family in a very unexpected place.

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Chapter 4: Meet the Assistant

Meet the Assistant

"Princess Twilight Sparkle, welcome to Nocturne."

Twilight barely heard the thestral’s voice as she gazed over the balcony they had appeared on. A city that dwarfed even Manehattan in size sprawled out beneath her. Everything was carved from rock. In fact it almost looked like they had carved the city while the vast cavern was being hollowed out, so perfectly did the buildings blend into the stone. The city seemed to be split by large spans of stone connecting numerous plateaus. There was no sunlight that she could see, but the city was well lit by hovering globules of purple light.

"What are those?"

Argent stepped next to her. "The globes? We call it fey fire. You are familiar with the Umbra tribe?"

Twilight's smile widening just slightly was all the answer he needed. Umbra? What the heck was an Umbra? "Er... I'm afraid not."

The stallion nodded in understanding. "It is not surprising. Umbra and Prenumbra have, to my knowledge, never left The Hollows. "Umbra are to Unicorns what Thestrals are to Pegasi."

Twilight's eyes widened. "You have three tribes?"

"We do, yes. Umbra cast spells like unicorns. However they do not all possess the ability to levitate objects; instead, they can all create fey fire."

"One moment!" Argent flinched at the sudden burst of light as Twilight summoned some paper and a quill, hastily scribbling everything he was saying. "And the Prenumbra?" She looked to him eyes alight with excitement, though her smile fell faintly as she noted he seemed distracted. "Sir Argent?"

"....apologies, I was speaking with the Queen. She has given leave for me to answer any questions you have. The Prenumbra are like your earth pony tribe. They are the progenitors of the gem farms."

A head tilt in curiosity. "Gem farms? Why do you farm gems?"

"As tribute to the deep drakes."

Another note scribble. "And they are....?"

He nodded toward the furthest plateau. Twilight turned to regard it. "Oh my."

What could only be described as wingless dragons lumbered about the plateau. At least that was the only conclusion she could draw from the small sample size of three that she could see. "Why do you give them tribute?"

"They help protect us from the monsters of the deep, of which there are many. While we deep ponies are not without defenses of our own, the drakes provide more brute strength than we can muster. They protect our cities, we keep them well fed."

"Fascinating! A symbiotic relationship with wyrms! I haven't heard of such a thing since... since... ever!"

"Indeed. While I would ordinarily be happy to spend the evening engaged in conversation about my home, you have an unusual house guest you did not wish to leave alone long, correct? Let us move to the throne room."

Twilight was clearly torn, but ultimately she knew she couldn't just dump Harm on Spike. And who knows what would happen if the volatile human woman encountered Pinkie Pie without somepony to act as a filter. "You're right of course, I apologize. I can get a little... enthusiastic when it comes to learning something new. If possible I'd love to have you come by the castle for tea. Or I could come back and spend a day... or week. Or maybe a month."

Argent couldn't suppress a faint chuckle. "One step at a time yes? Come. The Queen awaits."

Twilight took a deep breath as she fell into step with Argent. "One more question?" As she noted something about the other ponies they passed.

"Certainly."

"Why does everypony wear a mask? The thestrals on the surface don't."

"Ah... at first it was a sign of solidarity for the Queen. Then over generations they became a part of our culture. The engravings on them are for our herd names, our professions, our special talents."

"Oh goodness, this is so interesting. So every member of your herd has a similar mask?"

"They do. Our herd engraving are the underlying lines. To show that our herd and family is the foundation of who we are."

Twilight opened her mouth to let loose the next barrage of questions, then recalled they didn't have time for her to fill a book or two worth of knowledge. Yet. But she would. Oh yes she would. "Why does the Queen wear hers?"

"Her face was badly injured in the Titan War."

"Ah..." That event Twilight didn't need elaboration on. The war between the Titans, where Luna and Celestia lost their parents and most of the creators of Equus died. "I see."

A pair of sentries pushed open the doors to the throne room. Twilight felt an immediate sense of familiarity. Stained glass windows illuminated by flickering fey fire denoted great scenes in the history of the deep pony tribes. The founding of their cities, over throwing of monsters by the heroes of their tribes, and other events Twilight could hardly guess at. Though the Queen wasn't seated at attention on a throne like Celestia tended to. Instead she was reclined in a great bed of plush cushions.

She was taller than Celestia by a bit, Twilight wondered if the Princess would still get bigger or if Radiant was simply larger by genetics. Her mane and tail undulated similarly to Luna and Celestia’s, however hers looked like roiling pools of pure darkness. The mare was more generous in the rump and stomach area as well. Though it was an attractive sort of plushness.

"Thank you."

Twilight yelped as the Queen's voice echoed throughout the throne room as she approached. She noted Argent was no longer at her side either. "Er... for what? Your Majesty?"

"Noting the attractiveness of my 'plushness' I believe you put it? A very kind way to refer to the extra weight I have not bothered to shed."

"Oh... you... you ah... read my mind?"

"Not exactly. It is a little like over hearing ambient conversation. When two ponies are talking to one another you overhear them yes? Even if you are not a part of the conversation. For the thestrals it is the same with thoughts. We do not need to focus on a pony to hear what they are thinking at any given moment. Now to see deeper into the mind requires action on our part."

"I see. There have been rumors Princess Luna's night guard could read minds but it was always something of a—ah... joke."

"I assure you, it is no joke, Princess Twilight."

"Just Twilight Sparkle is fine, your majesty. Or just Twilight I suppose. Ehehe... I'm sorry I'm a bit nervous. You're just um..." One of the creators of my entire species! I can't believe I'm meeting her! Oh my goodness she can hear all this can't she?! I must sound like a complete foal! Time to stop thinking.

Now.

Right now.

Why can't I stop thinking?!

A soft chuckle from the Queen. "Be at ease, Twilight. Please. I'm no different than either of my nieces, I assure you. My sister and her husband did most of the work on your tribes. The dark ponies were mine."

"Of course . Of course. This is just... unprecedented. I'm something of a scholar and well, I've always been curious but we're not allowed down here and we know so little about you and—"

"Yes. I am aware of who you are. Your actions have not gone unnoticed by any of us. Discord speaks quite highly of you."

"Discord? Speaks highly of me? To you?" The flatness in her tone made it clear, despite his reformation and their budding friendship, he was not her favorite person in the world.

"He does in fact. You are so much like Celestia when she was young, I'm afraid he's transferred his good natured torment of her to you. Do try to endure it however, it would seem you are a very positive influence on him."

"Er... right. Well despite my personal feelings it's clear he's been making strides in attempting to become a good friend. Though I could do without him rearranging my library all the time. It takes days for me to get it right again."

"And is one of your favorite activities, yes?"

Twilight opened her mouth, then her ears flattened. "Er... yes."

"Perhaps he does it not out of spite, but his own way of showing affection. Who can say?"

Twilight giggled. "You? Of all ponies in all the world couldn't you say?"

The Queen smiled as if the thought just then occurred to her. "Why yes, I suppose I could."

"Queen Radiant... if I may, not that I'm ungrateful but... why did you ask for me? Now of all times?"

"I believe you know precisely why I have chosen this exact time to call ask you here."

"...ah. It's because of Harm? I assure you she's er... harmless. Ehe he. No pun intended. Her magical core is entirely earth pony. Very potent earth pony, no doubt she has a very strong will and impressive physical abilities but I fail to see how she is in any way your concern. Er... your majesty."

"She is my concern because she is not to distantly related to me. She has the blood of the titans within her, Twilight Sparkle . And were she still in the world Star Swirl sent her to, she would not be my concern. However now that she is here and becoming in tune with the weave of magic she has been named for, you have unintentionally opened her up to very dark forces. She is far angrier and more violent than other ponies, yes?"

"Well... yes. She is, but while she may have a short temper and more inclined toward violence than a normal pony, she has a good heart. She wouldn't just attack out of the blue."

"Luna had a good heart as well, Twilight Sparkle. However she had considerably more negative emotion festering in her heart than other ponies do. And it attracted... evil forces, yes?"

Twilight's eyes widened in alarm as she realized what the Queen was speaking of. "A nightmare? You think she may attract one?"

"I believe it's a very real possibility. And if she becomes possessed and twisted by a nightmare as Luna did, horn or no horn the damage she could do would be catastrophic. Luna was sullen and jealous when the nightmare took hold in her heart. Young Harmony is violent and angry."

"I'm such a fool. I can't believe I overlooked this! I... I'm so sorry. I'll... send her home right away of course."

"That is not what I am suggesting. After all the young filly deserves a chance to meet her family, learn of the world of her birth, her people. I simply wish to take steps to ensure the safety of your tribes and mine. The typical safe guard for banishing the evils of the surface will prove less effective should she fall to evils embrace."

"You mean the Elements of Harmony?"

"Yes. They are still where you draw your power from when you become more ah... colorful."

Twilight flushed. While the rainbow power felt lovely and was undeniably a wonderful thing. The cosmetic... enhancements... were somewhat less than desired. "You don't believe it would work with her?"

"I do not. When Harmony was born it was felt all across Equus. It's how Star Swirl finally discovered my niece was pregnant after she'd spent the past eleven months magically concealing it. Harmony's unique parentage gave her an extreme overabundance of magic. Her mother asked me to assist in relieving the foal of some of the burden less she hurt herself or others unintentionally. I did so, and the excess magic was crystallized into six gemstones."

"So... the Elements of Harmony are... a very literal name? They belong to Harm herself?"

"They were a part of her at one time, whether they belong to her or not is up for some debate, yes? Nothing would please me more than for her to one day receive her birth right, but I believe at this juncture it would not be an appropriate time."

"Without the elements how are we supposed to stop her if she does become possessed by a nightmare?"

"I would like to send one of my subjects home with you. Officially she will be the ambassador of the Hollows to Ponyville. Unofficially she will be keeping an eye on Harmony. If she feels the filly is about to fall to a nightmare, she will place her in a mental coma until she can be removed back to the world she came from. There is no magic there and a nightmare would not survive in such an environment."

"I don't know if I like the idea of lying to Harm about all this."

"Then do not lie to her. In fact the dangers should be explained to her so she is aware that her actions have graver consequences here than her home world."

"Equus is her home world."

"I believe you of all ponies know that home is not where you are born, it is where you make it, Twilight Sparkle."

Twilight wanted to argue, but of course she immediately dismissed it. Ponyville was home. "You're right, of course."

The Queen wore the ghost of a smile, visible by the slight pulling of her face that wasn’t hidden by the mask. "I tend to be. Ambient?" Twilight couldn't help but start as a young thestral mare stepped seemingly out of the shadows. "This is Ambient Dark, one of my hoof maidens and an expert delver."

Twilight regarded the young mare, possibly old filly? It was hard to tell with the mask, curiously. She was smaller than the average pony, with a slate gray coat and well maintained deep purple mane. "Delver?"

It was Ambient who answered. "The term we use for entering deep into another’s mind, memories, or subconscious."

"Ambient’s older brother has served me very well for quite some time. She is young, but curious about the surface world and very skilled in her art. She will remain near Harmony at all times, if she detects a nightmare attempting to attack the mare she will halt its intrusion."

"She's that powerful?"

"Yes, 'she' is." Ambient responded, clearly somewhat annoyed at being ignored.

Twilight flushed in embarrassment. "I'm sorry Ambient, this is all just a bit of a surprise. How close will you need to be to Harmony?"

The young mare shrugged, her wings opening slightly at the motion. "Once I have spent an hour or so a hundred feet from her I will be able to attune my senses to detect her up to a half mile or so away. I doubt there will be any great troubles doing so."

Twilight was nodding in thought. "Can you ah... attune yourself while she sleeps?"

"Easily."

"Well then." The Queen cut in, drawing their attention once more. "I suppose it's time you two were off. Good luck, Twilight Sparkle. I look forward to speaking again soon."

"As do I, your majesty."

Ambient fell into step with Twilight as the pair exited the throne room. The Queen could already hear Twilight Sparkle throwing rapid fire questions at the poor filly.

===== Twilight's Castle =====

Harm sucked in her breath and sat up quickly, blinking around blearily at her surroundings. She was in the library laying in the massive bed of cushions near the fireplace. A stack of 'Power Ponies' comic books next to her. "Nnnn. I need a drink."

"What can I getcha?"

She whipped around at the voice. Staring in momentary confusion at the sight. It was a lanky reptile, purple and green scales predominantly. The voice sounded a good deal like a teenager going through puberty; that unfortunate state between boy and man where he'd get random cracks in it. "...what're you, the maid?"

He snorted, smoke curling from his nostrils. "No. I'm Twilight's assistant. Jeez she wasn't kidding when she said you could be rude. I'm Spike by the way, it's an absolute joy to meet you."

Running her hands over her face Harm got her feet under herself and stood up, causing Spike to crane his neck up at her. "Sorry. Bad dreams. And creepy horses spying on my bad dreams. Do ponies have alcohol?"

"They do, yeah. Twilight keeps a bottle of Apple Whiskey for her 'adult' parties. Or some nice wines for when she has dignitaries over but I don't think she'd be okay with me getting into that."

"Whiskey's good. By adult parties do you mean uh..."

The young dragon stared back at her . "...sex? No, gross. I mean like when she has friends over to discuss books or politics. Stuff like that."

"Gotcha."

"She doesn't like to drink when she has sex, makes it harder to enjoy apparently."

"Yeah that er... wait what?"

Spike shrugged and dropped to all fours as he padded across the library to a large oak cabinet. Pulling it open, he revealed a well-stocked pantry. "What what?"

Harm watched as he pulled out a bottle with an apple shaped stopper on top and poured a glass. "Sorry I just uh, have a hard time picturing her having sex. She's so... cute."

Offering her the glass Spike tilted his head. "And? Sister that's like half of what ponies do. They work, they play, they rut."

"That's three things."

"Yeah well between you and me the middle one kinda blends into the first and third."

Harm grunted softly in acceptance as she sipped the offered drink. "Oh this' good. So like, high libidos are a normal pony thing?"

"Pretty much. I guess your humans are kinda like the humans me and Twi visited before? Super embarrassed about talking about sex and stuff?"

"Pretty much."

"Weird. Twilight could probably explain it better but it's like... not a big deal here. When somepony gets an itch, they get it scratched. There's romance of course but that's about the inside stuff, not so much sexual attraction."

Another grunt as she settled back in the cushions. "I guess that's cool."

There was a long silence as she lightly sipped from the glass, holding it toward the dragon when it was empty and he obligingly refilled. "Sooo... you like comics?"

"I do. Comics, cartoons, video games. If it's something people look down on adults for liking, I probly like it."

"Why would they care?"

A shrug. "That my friend is an excellent fucking question."

She did notice he didn't flinch at her swearing. Was it a dragon thing or a teenager thing she wondered? "Well they have a little arcade in Ponyville, but I doubt the games are anything you'd be impressed by."

"Yeah shit seems pretty low tech here." As she tossed back the glass and held it out again. Spike raised an eye ridge but didn't comment as he just brought the bottle back and refilled for her.

"Well we have magic. That's pretty cool right?"

"Hrm." She downed this glass almost instantly. "I had my fill of magic back home"

It was very rare for a pony to give Spike the credit he was due. He was raised by Twilight Sparkle, one of the smartest ponies in generations. No small amount of that intellect rubbed off on the young wyrm. He tended to have more common sense to apply it to than his caretaker however. He refilled her glass without being prompted. It didn't take a mind reader to know there's a story there.

"I didn't think your world had any magic, besides you."

"Far as I know, it doesn't." Her eyes were losing focus just a bit as she nursed her drink. The alcohol potent enough to get the hardiest of earth ponies intoxicated.

"What happened?"

"...I don't like to talk about it."

"Did someone get hurt?"

He worried he pushed her too far when her nostrils flared and she tensed. But the alcohol seemed to have done its work and she relaxed almost instantly, her anger burning down to a faint simmer. "Yeah. A lot of someone's. Kids mostly."

Spike tidied up the comics strewn about, not commenting on them being out of their Mylar as he sealed them back up. "Did you do it on purpose?"

Harm blew out a heavy breath. "No... I was... shit, eight? Nine? Something like that. It was summer camp, a talent show." She paused to take a drink. "I wanted to sing. I used to love it."

"So what happened? They boo'd you off the stage and stampeded to chase you out?"

"Ha! No... no. That woulda been better." She lazily held the glass out for a refill, which he obliged again. "I never sang in public. My old man told me not to. Keep it to myself, sing to the woods... I grew up near this big forest." Another deep breath as she sipped from the glass. "So I sang the stupid camp song, I don't even remember it anymore. All the parents were there with the kids, y'know? To see the show. When I finished people just went... berserk. Clawing at each other, hitting, trampling to get at me on the stage."

"Why?"

She gave him a rueful smile. "They needed more. I guess I dunno, maybe my voice was magic? Made them feel good, really good? They all had this stupid smile on their faces while I sang. Fuck if I know, kid. I just know they wanted me to sing more, but I was too scared. They got angry, violent, attacked each other for who 'got to take me'. Lotta kids got hurt in all of it, one of them died. And... I never sang again."

"Oh." Was all he could think to say. "I'm sorry, Harm. I'm not a magic expert but I read in a book sometimes a pony is what they call a Bard and her music is really powerful."

"Well lucky me." The woman blinked and nestled back in the cushions again, the glass almost tipping, but Spike caught it in his tail. "...these're comfy."

"Yeah, the library is probably the nicest room in the castle. No big surprise given how..." He trailed off, noting the human's eyes had drifted shut. "...heh." He gently tugged her boots off and draped a blanket over her. "Hope you have better dreams, Harm." He finished tidying up before regarding her silently for a few moments, then slipping out of the library.

Author's Note:

I lost my editor! So like, expect errors galore. Sorry! Also I blame Undertale for how long this chapter took to get done. :x