• Published 19th Mar 2016
  • 2,290 Views, 93 Comments

Astrum Nova - Solaris Hemera



Twilight Sparkle lived in a perfect Equestria where everypony was cleanly segregated, Unicorns in major cities, Earth ponies in the outskirts and those barbaric pegasi far away from the mainland. So why did she feel that this was all ... wrong?

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One Bad, Bad Day

"Okay, Twilight, are you all up for describing the procedures for setting up a basic Arcane Circle?"

Twilight Sparkle, eyes bleary with the amount of information she had just absorbed, set down her book, mind swimming with the complexities of binding spell structures. "Yes!"

"Ready, set, GO!" Sunset shouted.

"Arcane Circles are essentially containers or amplifiers of a pony's own magic, either drawn on the floor with enchanted chalk or created with a pony's mind using her magical prowess. There are three building blocks of an arcane circle: a Boundary (a ring drawn around the caster), a 'Sun' (a circle drawn within the Boundary), and a 'Moon' (a second circle drawn outside of the Boundary). Once a basic Circle is set up, the chalk lines should light up with the coloured aura of the caster's magic. Casters may choose to add more circles, layers or incantations to their Boundary, in order to strengthen its walls."

Sunset nodded. "Very nice, but--"

"Upon setting up the Circle, casters cannot step outside the Boundary unless he withdraws his magic from his Arcane Circle, as the boundary acts as a shield enchantment for any physical object that is within it. At this stage, the caster should bind a selected spell to his circle. If the Circle is drawn correctly, it will proceed to copy the spell onto the 'Moon' and 'Sun' circles and turn the circles as mentioned above into the secondary and tertiary colours of the pony's magic respectively. Now, when the caster performs the spell within the Boundary, the spell would become at least three times as potent, depending on how advanced the circle is."

There was an awkward pause as Twilight finished, throat dry and scratchy from her recital. Facing her partner expectantly, she watched as Sunset scanned the book, aquamarine eyes flitting over the crisp parchment.

"Correct as always, Sparkle," Sunset replied, a grudging smile forming on her lips. "If you're lucky this time, you may be able to get even better marks than what I got when I took the test."

It was 2 am in the morning, as the grandfather clock displayed, sun themed hands ticking their way into eternity. The two protégées of Princess Celestia were still awake in their respective beds across from each other, both still not asleep. Sunset Shimmer, combat magician and magical prodigy, was still skimming through the spellbook.

"Maybe I would, for the Arcane Theory Examination," she sighed. "I have no chance of passing the practical one, as you know. You've seen me flounder in front of the examiners for, let's see, fifty-two exams already!"

Her doctors had tried to explain her condition as having less magic than the average unicorn, but she didn't quite buy it. For one, it didn't explain the barrier-like sensation surrounding her horn every time she tried to use her magic. She had therefore lived with the excuse that she was a 'late bloomer', but that too didn't seem to cut it after she had passed her sixteenth birthday four years back.

"Thirteen years' worth of failures," Sunset quipped. "It's a wonder that you're still Celestia's student, you know."

"Right," Twilight continued, attempting to ignore Sunset's scathing statement. "You sure that you don't want to study for your entrance examination?"

"What's there to study anyway?" her housemate replied. "Just throw in some combat spells and I should be able to get the job."

Sunset had graduated from a personal apprenticeship with Twilight's father, Captain Night Light, three years back and had been living with Twilight in the Canterlot library since then. She had taken full-time lessons with Celestia during this period, and it was getting absolutely sickening, the way that Celestia casually referred to Sunset as "Her Most Faithful Student" and arranged one-on-one tutorial sessions. At the end of those three years, Sunset had emerged with thousands of new spells and a much, much larger head.

Now, as far as Twilight knew, Sunset was trying to enlist in the Hyperion Guards, Celestia's group of ceremonial honour guards. It was headed by General Lightfall. Apparently, she also had the strange quirk of setting an entrance exam for enlistment, comprising of a practical and theory examination, just like Celestia's format.

And how did Twilight Sparkle know about this? No, Sunset did not tell her anything.

She was Celestia's other student, the one whom many theorised her father had bought her way into the Sun Princess's apprenticeship, even though she had been her student since she was born. Obviously, she could get her own way in gathering information.

"Hey, are you okay?" Sunset asked. " You've been staring into space for a while there."

Mumbling a little, Twilight derailed her train of thoughts and flopped down onto her soft bed.

"Is a nap already in order?" Sunset asked, feigning a pout. "You only managed to last twenty-six hours studying this time."

"Just...wake me up in five minutes..."

--------*☆*--------

She was in a soft, comfortable meadow, a book (contents undiscernable) sat in front of her, and she was feeling the warmest sense of mirth that she had ever felt in her life.

Laughter. Yes, there was also laughter everywhere, blurry and ethereal and as bright as the afternoon sun. Despite the swelling happiness building within her, she wore a mock frown.

"Rainbow..." she sighed. "Please, I'm trying to read here!"

Her only reply was even more laughter, this time coming from somepony with an extremely raspy voice.

"Oh puh-lease, Twi. This is a freaking picnic! It's not for you to sit there and read!"

"Fine!" She had replied, but she was already trying to suppress her widening smile.

--------*☆*--------

12:04

Or so Twilight's trusty golden grandfather clock told her.

Her eyes were crusted over, and she breathed in the swooping feeling of being sucked out of a beautiful, joyous dream. Her mind struggled to reach for the final vestiges of it, collecting thin shreds of nothingness that immediately vanished. In the end, Twilight resigned to the fact that she had remembered nothing at all about the dream which floated through her mind during her slumber.

12:05

Strange, didn't I sleep at 2? Time couldn't have reversed itself.

Her eyes snapped opened suddenly. She was wide awake.

Unless...

Crawling right out of her mattress, Twilight stumbled towards the windows, squinting at the bright sun slanting its rays through her translucent blinds. Shifting her blinds open, she gazed upon the sprawling Ponyville Slums beneath Canterlot Mountain, basking in the rays of the sun. The bright afternoon sun.

Oh, buck me.

She turned to the clock.

12:07 p.m.

Her test! Three hours late!

Sprinting to Sunset's chifferobe, she practically tore the top drawer out telekinetically, spilling defective amulets and crudely done talismans everywhere as wood tablets and gemstone carvings shattered upon impact on the library floor. Soon, the whole place was gassed with multicoloured smoke from the combined destruction of dozens of charms. Sorry, Shimmer, but I had to hurry.

Amidst the chaos of coloured, foul-smelling vapour, Twilight finally pulled her choice charm from the base of the drawer: A hurriedly carved smiley face on the surface of a jagged shard of ruby, a crude but effective amulet.

Pushing her legs into a teleportation stance, she charged her horn with her aura, magical composition of the amulet filling her mind with the intricate bindings Sunset had placed on the ruby. Instantly, her mind pieced together fragments of a trigger spell, ready to activate the enchantment contained within the gemstone. Please work, please work...

She deployed the trigger.

Suddenly, the world around her caved into a vortex, yanking Twilight into it. The familiar rush of cutting straight through time and space burned through her veins as she exploded off, air combusting in flames of brilliant aquamarine light. As soon as the split-second implosion of entering the realm of magic sparked, it ended, dumping Twilight back onto cold, hard ground with another brilliant flash of light.

Steadying herself after the shock of teleportation, she resumed her stance, this time crushing the smoking ruby beneath her hoof after it had unleashed its spell.

Twilight found herself in a familiar room, one she had lived and breathed in for thirteen years: Celestia's Lecture Hall. It was made mostly of gleaming white marble, supported by classical pillars, with long golden drapes hanging above them from the high, domed ceiling, somewhat resembling the tent of a circus, built amphitheatre style. She had phased into existence at the third row of the tiered seats, leaving a smoking ring of burns in the marble and fabric. Oh, well, it could have gone worse.

"Twilight Sparkle, it is a pleasure to see you here today,"

She turned, ears drooping at the sound of that familiar voice. As she had expected, her mentor was positioned at her desk on the stage, levitating a tiny cup and saucer, and sifting through stacks of parchment papers systematically. To further accentuate her image as the governor of a nation, she was wearing her soft, carnation pink hair in a professional-looking hairstyle, the back half of her mane wrapped into a simple bun as the front section of her mane fell neatly over her forehead. As soon as Twilight drew her attention to Celestia's eyes, she found that they were already fixed intently on her.

Blinking, Twilight snapped herself out of her stupor.

"Oh Princess Celestia, I'm so, so sorry for coming here so late! I mean I knew the Arcane examination was today, heck, I was studying all night for it, but I guessed I thought I was only going to sleep for five minutes but then I–"

"May I know how you got here?" The princess asked, calmly, continuing to aim her magenta eyes evenly at Twilight's own ones. Oh, I got here by riding a magical, invisible chariot which flew through your window, of course! Heh heh...

"A one-time-use teleportation spell contained within a particularly powerful ruby, made by Sunset. It was linked to this room, I think, so that the activator of the spell would always land here," She blabbered in reply. "I activated it using a self-formulated trigger spell."

"And so, please tell me how you tricked the binds of the teleportation spell into allowing a pony who is not their creator to activate it."

Twilight could feel her heart swell a little in a brief flutter of happiness. The question just asked was an advanced examination question, one that should have been tested for the exam, stumping many a student. But not her.

"Well, I simply picked up and used Sunset's magical signature within the gem to disguise my own aura as I ran the trigger!"

With that, Celestia's countenance broke into a pleasant smile.

"Well done, Twilight," the Princess commented, taking a slow sip from her cup. "If it weren't for how crude the amulet was, your execution of it would have worked perfectly.

"Unfortunately, because of that, you've left some of the seats in quite a condition."

Flinching slightly, Twilight finally moved from the ground zero of the spell to the base of Celestia's desk. "I apologise again for missing the tests and the destruction of your hall... Princess."

"Do not fret, my faithful student. I will set another paper for you to take on another date, and the maintenance ponies should fix the seats later."

Twilight's mind ceased to function after the words 'my faithful student'.

"Your horn is lit, a sign of extreme ecstasy," Celestia remarked, dryly. A playful smirk was already forming on her lips. "It's either that or you are currently attempting to assassinate me with, ah, a shield spell?"

"S-sorry," Twilight spluttered, feeling cheeks flushing with her blood. The glow surrounding her horn blinked off.

"Should I not address you as my faithful student? You've been under my mentorship for years already," The Princess said. "It is time I stopped denying myself the use of your rightful title."

As soon as she had said the words, Celestia dropped her gaze, seemingly continuing to organise the parchment scrolls on her desk. Blinking, Twilight stepped away from the desk, attempting to ignore the quietly burning smoulders behind her. A strange, uncomfortable silence filled the air.

"I'll just... show myself out now..." Twilight murmured weakly.

As she stepped out of the imposing wooden door, she saw a pink blur from her periphery, and she glanced.

It was Celestia, burying her head in her hooves.

--------*☆*--------

Twilight's day definitely was not going to plan so far.

After returning to her house to retrieve her personal schedule for the day (finding it still drowning in magical fog), she had found out that she had missed two other events: Sunset's enlistment (which was partly Sunset's own fault for not waking Twilight up), and a lunch meeting with her Star-Swirl the Bearded Enthusiasts Club. She was, apparently, also late for a couple more appointments, like helping out with the preparations for the Grand Galloping Gala. With a sigh, she crumbled the scroll containing her practically useless schedule, before tossing it randomly behind her. She would just have to do without a timetable for the day.

"You do know that littering is prohibited in Canterlot, do you not? Even in your own residence?"

Yelping, she spun around, locating the position of the voice. Her eyes fell upon an off-white unicorn who was donning the uniform of a janitor, levitating a dirty mop disgruntledly over the crumpled parchment which once used to be her schedule. The janitor, rather uncommonly in ponies of her class, was wearing her single-coloured indigo mane in a set of extravagant curls reminiscent of the aristocratic Canterlot upper-class, but with frayed, jaggedly cut ends. Even her tail seemed to be done in a spiralling curl, except that it looked like it had been brutally chopped off midway through. Standing in front of the front door, she raised her head importantly.

Taking in the overall picture of the pony before her, Twilight realised that there was an unusually fancy cleaner standing in her residence, accusing her of littering.

"Uh..." Twilight struggled to find words to respond to this very bizarre sighting. "How did you get into my house?"

"Why, didn't you know? You've paid for weekly cleaning services for at least a year!" the pony exclaimed, her face scrunching into an ungraceful scowl. Twilight noted that her voice was graced with a seemingly authentic Classical Canterlot lilt, also unique for a cleaning mare.

She thought back to all the times she had returned to her residence, surprised to find it spic and span, dismissing it with the simple notion that her roommate had cleaned it.

"Did a pony named Sunset Shimmer register for this?"

The unicorn dropped her mop into her bucket, training her widened blue eyes at Twilight. "You're the roommate of the Sunset Shimmer?"

Averting the mare's gaze, Twilight released a sigh through her nose. "Yes."

"Then I'm the roommate of Celestia, you foal," she snorted. "Everypony knows that Sunset wouldn't live in such a dump!"

Just great, I'm getting insulted by scum.

"Anyway, please do dispose of your litter yourself, darling, as I will not pick that up for you," the unicorn snapped, muzzle wrinkling in distaste.

"Or perhaps I will!"

Suddenly, Twilight found the crumpled ball of parchment flying at her, and with a squeal, reflexively tried to form a shield around her. As usual, the familiar mental barrier closed around her magic, and she shoved against it, yet another pitiful attempt at breaking her walls.

The crumpled paper simply bounced off the side of her head, ricocheting onto the floor again. Twilight didn't care – she was still struggling to set up her shield.

"Are you okay?" the unicorn asked, cocking her head to the side. "You're going to lay an egg if you keep up that level of performing constipated faces."

Twilight proceeded to slam her head into a wall.

"Gerrout..." she mumbled, face still planted on concrete, so close to stabbing her own horn into the concrete. It smelt vaguely of faded flowers, or maybe disinfectant, from such an intimate distance.

"I beg your pardon?"

"I SAID GET OUT, WHOEVER-THE-HELL-YOU-ARE!"

"Fine! If you insist!"

There was the sound of trotting, and then a slamming door. Twilight pried herself away from the wall, heart pounding from the first 'H-word' she had ever said in the past year. This wiped out her longest-standing record. She had always consciously reminded herself to replace her 'hells' with 'hays', or perhaps even the longer 'Tartarus' (though, she had stopped using 'Tartarus' after Sunset laughed at her pronunciation).

But some ponies just deserved to receive...uh, hay... from her.

Lowering her head, Twilight levitated the crumpled ball of parchment from the floor and dunked it into the nearest paper basket.

--------*☆*--------

Author's Note:

Next: The Journal of the Ashes

A big thank you to anybody who reads this story! Honestly, I don't expect many people to read Astrum Nova, so I'm kinda grateful for the people who read this. This story is basically a tribute to great adventure stories of pony-based fiction: Stories like the Immortal Game, Fallout: Equestria, Five Score Divided by Four, etc.

Have a nice day!