• Published 7th Jan 2016
  • 895 Views, 66 Comments

Witchers Weed - Orcus

Just a few days before Hearth's Warming, an unnatural blizzard lays siege on Ponyville, bringing a strange character into town with it. Serendipity, Thoraxis and Petra's blind daughter, and her visiting friend, Charybdis, decide to investigate.

  • ...

Black Magic

Despite her original decision to have a quiet Hearth's Warming with just her nephew as company, Zecora greatly welcomed having more guests over to celebrate the holiday a few days early.

Petra, Zecora, Skia, and Zak were all having a wonderful conversation about how their lives had been going in the last month, and Striga remained in the corner by himself, working on his latest tapestry. The almost-done product bore the visage of a fearsome centipede crawling through a forest. While Thoraxis wandered about, visiting each person with a curious look in his eye and a talkative mouth, Serendipity sat by the house's window, listening to the commotion going on the other side of it.

Charybdis and her parents were outside, building snow ponies together. Though she could not see their expressions, through the glass she could hear their boisterous, mirthful laughter go out through the frosty air, and the occasional crunch of a snowball hitting something. At times like these especially, the young hybrid longed to see what the world was like, but settled for just listening to it. She heard the sound of hoofsteps approaching her, she turned and realized it was her father just from hearing him cough into his hoof.

"Enjoying the party, Seren?" he asked.

"Yeah, but... I'm going to need to head back home and water my plants in a few minutes," she said. "And don't worry, I'll come back afterword."

"Do you think you'll want your mom or I to get you there?" Thoraxis inquired again. Serendipity let out a small hum as she thought, before replying.

"I was actually wondering if Striga could lead me back," she responded. The pony in question stopped his work the second he heard her, lifted his hatted head, and peered over his shoulder to her.

"Meh?" he mumbled in an inquiring tone. "Why do you want me?"

"Yeah, why?" Thoraxis asked. Serendipity shrugged, closing her clouded, red eyes with a smirk.

"No reason. I'd just like him to do it, if he can find the time to do so," she replied.

"Oh," Thoraxis spoke again, before an overly-suspecting grin came upon his face and he bumped his elbow on her shoulder, whispering into her ear. "Is he... somepony special you haven't told us about, hmm?"

"What? No!" she whispered back, in a shocked voice. "I just met him two days ago! He's renting my house out. I want to know him better before he leaves."

"Oh! Oh..." Thoraxis said, backing his head from hers a small bit. "Sorry."

Serendipity smiled, before turning as best she could to Striga. "Do you think you're up to it, Mr. Phobetor? I can have someone else do it if you want."

He returned with a small sigh. "Why not. I'm almost done my last piece, and it's not even nightfall yet."

The two set out into the snowy forest several minutes afterword. As they walked in tranquil state of quietude, the only two sounds to go out were the wind and ice making their seemingly endless ethereal howling through the frozen and stiff treetops, or the snow that was practically cracking below their hooves. Finally, after what felt like an hour to Serendipity, Striga broke the silence.

"You... wouldn't happen to know of any ponies born under... "unlucky" circumstances in the last four years, have you?"

"Um... no," Serendipity slowly replied, before lowering her brow. "Should I?"

"Just curious," he responded, before repeating himself. "Just curious."

As he finished, Serendipity turned her head away, thinking of what happened a meager few hours ago, and that strange word he uttered. "That word you used earlier, do you remember using it now?" she asked. The second she spoke, Striga stopped in his tracks.

"You're not going to give up on that, are you?" he said. After looking over his shoulder, making sure no one was around to hear, he let out a sigh.

"Yes... I know some black magic. Is that all you want to know?"

Serendipity smirked. "Actually... I wanted to ask a few more questions about it, if you don't mind."

"Questions? Just... questions?" he inquired. "What, no gloating over being right?"

"I'm not interested in that kind of thing," said she.

"Alright then, ask away," said he.

"Well, first off, you said it was different then other forms of magic," the half-changeling started. "How?"

Striga let out a small chuckle, looking to a nearby birch tree. "To use it, you must first feel the magic that surrounds you. All life has magic in it, from the smallest blade of grass, to the largest ursa major. Your own body had magic in it, just not the kind that is used by your horn. And once one learns to sense this magic, they can use this magic. They can mold it like clay into whatever they want, as long as they have the right knowledge."

"Can anypony learn this kind of magic?"

"Yes, but your soul has to be in... the right place to truly learn more than the basics," he said. "It all depends on its "alignment." White souls can't learn a lot, but black souls can."

"Huh?" the half-changeling asked, obviously confused. Striga, shaking his head and sighing again, readied himself to recite another history lesson.

"Though the soul -- what makes you you -- has no definitive tint to it, black witches of the past created color-coded names for the two different types. Every pony you'll ever meet today... any creature for that matter... has what most would call a "white soul." Like the color they're named after, they absorb nothing, and are blank. Because of this, they make their own power, becoming reliant on themselves for energy only. A black soul, true to its namesake, absorbs everything instead, but also in an opposite fashion to its "colorless" counterpart, it cannot provide for itself; hence its reliance on its surroundings."

"Really..." Serendipity spoke, intrigued. "How does that factor in for one's ability to use black magic?"

"Those born with white souls can learn some black magic, but not at all that much. Likewise, those with black souls can learn some normal magic, but will never get past learning, at the most, basic spells," he said. "What defines white-souled magic users, is that they're like batteries, for lack of a better word. Their power comes from their own magic. Their own energy. Themselves. Unicorns, alicorns, and the like can run out of it if they strain their power too much, like a muscle. Black magic practitioners on the other hoof, due to being unable to use anything on the inside, instead use what surrounds them; moving, manipulating, and converting the magic and life energy to form what they desire. The majority of spells they use are just like the average spell you'd normally see, though. Like telekinesis, teleportation, turning one material into another, etc."

"How would you tell if a pony has a... "black soul?""

"It's simple, but nearly impossible to find today, due to what has happened in the past," Striga replied in a much more solemn tone. "To tell if a pony has a black soul... the first sign is that they would be the misfits, outcasts, and pariahs of society at a young age and beyond. Not just any misfits, outcasts, and pariahs mind you. They gain that status from the fact that they passively, and unwittingly absorb small quantities of energy from nearby beings they have no positive connections toward. Magic users are the ones most affected, typically going weak in the head from being near one. Fear against this kind of individual is sure to follow."

Serendipity went silent as he said that. After getting past the "outcast" line, her mind raced back to four years ago, when the final "symptom" he described happened whenever she was around unicorns. Quickly thinking of something to replace the subject, she thought of the upcoming holiday.

"Hearth's Warming is a time to be with family," she began again. "Why aren't you with yours?"

"I have no family," he spoke back, bluntly. "The only family I ever did have was my wife, Thysania Aisling. She died a while ago, though..."

"I'm... sorry," Serendipity apologized.

"You shouldn't be," he spoke again. "It was her choice. She was as fluent in black magic as me, possibly even more so. One day we came across a young foal who was dying from a terminal illness, and she took pity upon him. Deciding not to consult me beforehoof, she used her power to transfer her own life essence into the child before I could catch wind of her actions, saving his life at the cost of hers. Before she passed, she told me of a vision she had that said we would meet each other again, someday..."

He trailed off with a depressed sigh. "She was always stubborn like that, and I loved her for it. I just hope that her vision comes to pass. To tell you the truth, I've started losing faith in it..."

"Hope is something that shouldn't be let go of so easily," Serendipity remarked, in a serious voice.

"Yes, well... I've had that hope for a long time," Striga responded. "Long enough to let it become an unbearable pain. Long enough to have what is left of it in my heart shaken to its core."

""Long enough?"" she inquired, in a perplexed voice. "You don't sound very old."

"There's a great many things you don't know about me. That's another story, for another time," he sighed, before motioning forward, to the tree-shaped building they were nearing. "Your house is just ahead, Serendipity. You should get your business over with so we can get back to your family."

Princess Luna, Twilight Dusk, and Night Wish were in Luna's study together. Projected over the room was a magical map of Equestria, and scattered about on the ground were a great many books and charts, half of which had been opened and thoroughly read through by Twilight, who simply sat in the corner reading another. The two had attempted to help her the night before, though not for long due to the time, and had just arrived to aid the princess once more this day after getting their activities with friends and family over with.

"Not in Griffonstone... not in Fillydelphia... hmm..." Luna mumbled, reminding herself of the two main places she crossed off again on her list.

"So many places, so little time," Night Wish sang, as he looked at the shape of the Crystal Empire.

"Well, the search has been narrowed I must say," Luna responded.

"What about Ponyville?" the foal brought up. "Did you check there?"

"Twice, yes," Luna spoke. "Both times, I was unable to locate him, and found nothing.

"Hmm..." Twilight Dusk hummed, looking over the map herself, and noticing the precipitation over her hometown. "How long has that blizzard been there for?"

"A few days," she replied. "It was but a small snowstorm before your family left, but since then it grew. I can barely see through it with my magic without focusing it all at once."

"Well, that certainly seems peculiar," Night Wish said.

"It's nothing out of the ordinary. And I doubt he would try to hide in it," the princess spoke. "It's completely inhospitable in that kind of weather."

"I'm willing to bet that he's in Ponyville," the foal said again. Luna looked at him strangely as he shrugged. "Hey, he might be using his magic to create the blizzard in the first place. It would make the perfect cover for any crafty, secretive things he might be trying to do. Nopony know's what he's up to, so why not take a wild guess?"

"That does make sense," his sister agreed, shifting her glasses around again. Luna put a hoof to her chin as she thought it over.

"Alright," the Princess of the Night finally said, flashing a trusting smile. "I shall try focusing on Ponyville for tonight."

Even after ushering in the night, Luna continued to watch Ponyville with dutiful, unwavering eyes. Night Wish and Twilight Dusk had dozed off by this time, and both were levitated and tucked into Luna's own bed by the princess herself. She took a quick glance from her map to make sure they were both still comfortable, and smirked at how cherubic they looked.

But then, the moment she stared back to the map, Luna felt it. Like a quick jab from a needle, she sensed the Black Witch's familiar anti-magic. Like Night Wish had predicted, he was in Ponyville, without a shadow of a doubt. After getting over the surprising feeling, Luna shook her head and looked back to the two ponies in her bed.

"You both truly are your mother's children," she whispered with a smirk. Without another word, the alicorn silently teleported out of the room in a small flash, headed off to confront her enemy.

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