• Published 15th Apr 2016
  • 9,832 Views, 93 Comments

The Pursuit of Academic Excellence (and Ice Cream) - Pineta



The events which took place at Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns in the immediate aftermath of Twilight Sparkle's entrance test.

  • ...
10
 93
 9,832

Part 1: The Cream of the Cream

In the staffroom of Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns Professor Rhetoric and Professor Square Cap relaxed on cushions, sipping cups of tea. They had completed all of their examinations for the day, and now just had to wait for the other examiners to finish the final assessments of the candidates. This gave them a short break in which they could enjoy the cosy environment of the teachers’ private refuge. Plush cushions lay around the room, next to coffee tables, ready to support the haunches of tired professors. On one side of the room, they could look out the window and admire the view of the city skyline. On the other, an antique hardwood dresser and cabinet displayed a selection of fine porcelain vases and other ornaments, as well as housing sufficient cups, saucers, and glasses; and supplies of tea, coffee, and stronger beverages to support the teaching faculty.

“So,” said Rhetoric, levitating an extra spoon of sugar into his teacup and stirring it into the brew, “how much time do you think Miss Sparkle will waste throwing spells at that old dragon's egg until she gives up?” Earlier in the day he had spent a stressful twenty minutes trying to improvise problems to test the apparently unassailable Twilight Sparkle with increasing desperation. He now smiled with the satisfaction of knowing that her final test would be conducted by other examiners.

“She didn’t seem like one who would let go of a problem.” Square Cap sipped her tea with a thoughtful expression. “I think she’ll be at it until they tell her to stop.”

“Surely not. She’s intelligent enough to figure out that it is beyond her ability. I say she’ll give up after five minutes, or—at a maximum—ten.”

Square Cap was not so sure. “I don’t think she’s such a quitter. She’ll want to try out every spell she can think out, and that could take a while.”

Rhetoric smiled. “Shall we make a bet?”

Square Cap thought this over and decided the odds were in her favour. “Yes—why not?”

Rhetoric used his magic to open a desk drawer on the far side of the room and levitated an old cloth-bound exercise book towards him. He dipped a quill in an ink well and, in view of his gaming partner, neatly wrote out the date followed by:

Professor Rhetoric bets Professor Square Cap one deluxe ice cream cup (flavour to be chosen by the victor) that Miss Twilight Sparkle will spend no longer than ten minutes engaged in efforts to hatch the dragon's egg presented to her as her third admission test.

The professors customarily recorded their bets in this way so the loser could not wiggle out of paying up. The quality ice creams made by the café opposite the school were the standard currency for such transactions. Looking up the page Rhetoric noted that earlier in the week Professor Arpeggio had lost a bet with Professor Empirical Logic that foulest was spelled with two L’s [1]. He closed the book and returned the historical record to the desk drawer.

[1] A disagreement which had arisen during a discussion on student report cards with no dictionary within reach.

“Now we just have to wait—”

His sentence was cut short by an almighty crash and flash of light at the window. The two teachers jumped to their hooves and ran to the window. Outside, behind the silhouette of the city towers, a brilliant white disk tinged with all the colours of the rainbow spread across the sky.

“What in Equestria was that?” said Square Cap.

“That-that was a sonic rainboom,” stammered Rhetoric. He swept a hoof across his face to brush back his white mane, then stared at the sky taking in all the detail he could.

“Isn’t that just a legend?”

“B-But it matches the historical descriptions spot-on. I did a translation of classical account of the story of the first rainboom made by the messenger Fillypedes—you remember the story of how she flew to Equestria with news of victory in the battle of Mareathon? I can recall the exact text in book nine of the Commentarii de Bello Equestri: After the passage of the Pegasus hero, the sky was filled with a brilliant light. And there was a sound as deafening as thunder. A white disk appeared tinged with every colour. And thereafter persisted a magnificent rainbow.

They both continued to look out of the window. The spectral blast wave had now dissipated. But above the city towers a magnificent rainbow was clearly visible.

“But surely that was just an old mares’ tale.”


In Lecture Theatre No. 2, on the other side of the school, young Twilight Sparkle had just been invited by Princess Celestia to be her personal student, and had thus realised a dream she had nurtured since she had watched the princess at the Summer Sun Celebration earlier in the summer. She had also just got her cutie mark. She was therefore, understandably, somewhat excited.

“Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes…”

The unicorn filly hopped around the floor displaying her new cutie mark, watched by the princess and by her tearful parents—both so overwhelmed with pride that they quite forgot their immediate memories of being turned into plants [2]. On the other side of the room, four examiners lay on the ground and tried to remember which way up the world should be.

[2] Although in the following days they would experience a lingering urge to bury their tails in the ground and hold their manes high to catch the sun.

“W-what happened?” mumbled Professor Crystal Clear. “And where are my glasses?”

“Urgh,” answered Professor Arpeggio. He closed his eyes and pressed a hoof against his forehead.

“Ouch!” added Professor Apple Polish, rubbing her flank, which had been bruised on hitting the floor awkwardly.

“My mane!” cried Professor Top Marks, running a hoof through his white hair.

The four of them stumbled around. Crystal Clear found her glasses and tried to levitate them to her face, but her head was spinning so much they just dropped to the ground. She tried to grasp them between her hooves and on the third attempt managed to push them up her nose. The blurry image in front of her came into focus and she found herself looking into the white regal face of Princess Celestia.

“Are you alright professor?” asked the princess.

“Err…” Where was she? Lecture theatre No. 2. How did she get here? Oh yes—the admissions exams—they were going to see the outstanding Twilight Sparkle—the genius idea of asking her to hatch a dragon's egg. What had happened? Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh!

The sovereign ruler of Equestria smiled with the grace befitting an eternal monarch. “I think you’d better go and have a rest professor. I’ll see you back in the staffroom.”

“B-b-but…”

“Don’t you fret. I’ll take care of things here. You look like you need a strong drink.”


In the staffroom, professors Rhetoric and Square Cap were continuing the discussion of the rainboom. Or at least Rhetoric was continuing to bombard Square Cap with quotations.

“The sonic rainboom is also referenced in the poetry from the pre-renaissance period. Remember that verse from the Noble Ballad of the Chevalier d’Arc-en-ciel:

I closed my eyes, prepared to die,
A sudden flash lit up the sky,
A burst of speed, a flash of light,
And so my lady saved my life,
No rain or wind, and yet behold,
A graceful rainbow did unfold,
The spectral colours all around,
A coloured arc from sky to ground.

His recited these lines in a voice tinged with emotion which betrayed his passion for Romantic poetry. Square Cap did not share his enthusiasm. “That’s a totally overblown fable, which was written hundreds of years after the events which it supposedly portrays. Don’t say you actually believe all that cheesy nonsense.”

“Well, I know it’s a story. But maybe there is some truth in it—”

Professors Crystal Clear, Top Marks, Arpeggio and Apple Polish stumbled into the staffroom and fell down onto the cushions.

“Whatever happened to you?” asked Square Cap.

“We… err… err… Twilight Sparkle…” Crystal Clear tried to articulate what had happened but the ceiling was spinning around her head too fast to let her find an appropriate verb.

“Can we get a drink?” asked Apple Polish.

“I’ll pour some tea,” said Square Cap.

“No—something stronger—where’s the sherry?” Crystal Clear put her hooves up to support her head.

“It’s a bit early for sherry,” objected Rhetoric.

“Somepony get the bottle—it’s in that cupboard.” Professor Clear pointed a hoof at the cabinet. Apple Polish rushed over and tried to undo the catch with her magic, but her head was also spinning. She gave up and bucked the door off its hinges then stuck her head inside.

“There’s a few bottles of Fino—”

“No,” clamoured Crystal Clear, “get the sweet stuff—the Armadillo!”

Apple Polish levitated a bottle of Amontillado sherry out of the door, but this required too much concentration. It fell to the ground and she righted it with her hooves. Arpeggio and Top Marks, in a similar state of mind, pushed some glasses forwards. Apple Polish pulled the stopper out of the bottle with her teeth in the clumsy fashion of a pony accustomed to doing everything by magic. She filled the glasses with the wine, spilling half onto the tiled floor. The examiners lifted their drinks and sipped at the liquid.

“I needed that.” Crystal Clear put her glass onto the table and wiped a hoof across her neck where the wine had dribbled onto her collar.

“So what—?” Square Cap tried again.

“We… err…” Crystal Clear looked at Arpeggio and Apple Polish for help. Arpeggio gulped down a mouthful of sherry and took a deep breath.

“Twilight Sparkle hatched that dragon's egg, turned her parents into a cactus and a potted fern, and lifted the four of us high into the air before dropping us on ground.” After finishing his sentence he took another sip of sherry.

“What?” cried Square Cap.

“I quite agree,” said Apple Polish.

“But… But that’s unbelievable,” said Rhetoric. “How could she do that? That egg must be hundreds of years old and dragon’s eggs keep like stone. It’s almost impossible to open. They only hatch if the magic inside them awakens and takes life—but that requires the heat and fire and magic of the mother’s breath. This makes no sense. It’s as crazy as… as… as a sonic rainboom.”

“But w-what happened then?” asked Square Cap.

“Then Princess Celestia showed up,” said Arpeggio.


“Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes—”

Twilight Sparkle continued hopping around Princess Celestia and bucking the air after the four examiners had left the classroom. Celestia noticed Crystal Clear’s clipboard and picked it up using her magic.

“—yesyesyesyesyesyesyes—”

“Twilight?”

“—Yes?” Twilight Sparkle stared up at the princess with a huge smile full of hope. Celestia looked back into those large foalish eyes illuminated with the sparkle of excited dreams.

“I expect you’re tired after this little adventure. There’s a lovely café just across the road. Why don’t you and your parents go and get an ice cream?”

“But can’t we get started on my lessons? You said you wanted me to be your personal student. I’ve got my quill and plenty of paper and volumes one to three of Intermediate and Advanced Unicorn Magic.” The young filly levitated a quill, paper and books out of the saddle bag she had just retrieved from her parents, together with a small pot of ink. She started magically unscrewing the lid of the pot while beaming at her new tutor.

“Twilight. The new school year doesn’t start for another six weeks.” Celestia smiled as gently as possible.

Twilight’s ears drooped down. The stars in her eyes disappeared. The airborne jar of ink tilted to one side and dropped a few spots onto the fresh scroll levitating below it.

“You’re going to be busy when you start school,” said Celestia, while using her magic to tighten the lid of Twilight’s pot of ink and roll up the scroll and return it into the little filly’s bag. “You should make the most of the rest of the summer and get out and play with your friends.”

“B-but I want to get started on my studies now! There’s so much to learn. Can you explain how you can tap into the energy of an infinite oscillatory incantation without disrupting the balance of the harmonic spiral spirits? I never felt that I really understood that.”

“That’s… a bit complicated…” said Celestia.

“Or can you at least suggest some books I can read? If it’s complicated I should get started as soon as possible.”

Celestia looked down at Twilight’s disappointed face. “Well I suppose I could give you a little tour of the school while we’re here. Would you like that? We can see the classrooms and the library—”

“The library!” Twilight’s face broke into a broad grin.

“Follow me.” Celestia walked towards the classroom door levitating Crystal Clear’s clipboard before her. She smiled at Twilight’s parents as she passed them. “Go and order the ice cream. We won’t be long.”

Twilight returned to her previous state of hopping in orbit around the sun princess.

“Yesyesyesyesyesyesyes!”


Back in the staffroom, Professor Rhetoric had started a monologue on How to Hatch a Dragon’s Egg.

“Dragon’s eggs are still very much a mystery. All the books I’ve read say that they will only hatch when exposed to an extremely intense magical field. It was reported that Indigo Paddock presented a paper to the Canterlot Academy in the 1740s in which he outlined how it could be done—”

The other examiners sat sipping sherry without comment.

“—he also planned to conduct an experiment to hatch a roc’s egg. But strangely there doesn't seem to be any reports on whether or not he succeeded. In fact there are no reports with his name after that point.”

“But how could a student produce the energy to awaken an egg?” asked Square Cap.

“Miss Sparkle clearly has some real power.”

“Or does she know some trick which we don’t?” said Square Cap. “Is there some sort of special magical harmonic tone which could penetrate the egg and awaken the life force within?”

“She clearly is a brilliant student,” said Top Marks, thinking back to earlier in the day. “I never met a foal of her age who could solve Nebula Dazzle’s Double Keyhole Enigma, and she did it in under two minutes.”

“That’s why Celestia wants her as a personal student,” said Apple Polish.

“Celestia is taking her as a personal student!” Square Cap threw her fore hooves in the air. “Oh no—not another Sunset Shimmer. The last thing we need is another Celestial protégé always wanting to roll up her sleeves and get her hooves dirty. I don’t think my nerves will take any more Friday afternoon explosions. And we’ve only just refurbished the science lab.”

“She didn’t seem quite the Sunset Shimmer type. She actually seemed very nervous and unsure of her abilities.”

“She was very nice and polite,” said Top Marks. “I hope she doesn’t turn out like Miss Shimmer.”


In the school foyer, a crowd of young foals and their parents were milling around, discussing how the exams had gone, and pondering whether they should now go straight home or first stop for an ice cream. A lively filly with a pale blue coat and blue and white mane had already forgotten about her exam experience, and was engaged in the more serious business of making friends. This involved running around the room, dodging the legs of adult ponies, until she spotted a filly of her own age, then rushing over to say hello.

“Hi I’m Minuette! What’s your name?” Minuette gave the potential new friend a broad smile showing a brace across her front teeth.

“I-I’m Twinkleshine.” The little filly with a pink mane curling around her horn answered quickly before looking away, apparently not wanting to say more. Minuette was not deterred.

“How did your last test go?”

“I-I don’t know.” Twinkleshine stared at her hooves.

“Hey don’t worry about it now. It’s over now. If you get in—that’s cool. If not—there are lots of other good schools.” Minuette gave the little ivory unicorn a friendly hug. “Have you met the other candidates?”

“I only met Sapphire Scrum. She wasn’t very nice.”

“Don’t worry. They told her she couldn’t play with her ball in the hall, so she went outside in a huff. Let me introduce you to Lemon Hearts and Lyra Heartstrings and the filly in the corner reading a book is Moon Dancer.” Minuette kept one forehoof around Twinkleshine’s neck, and used the other to point out the ponies on her rapidly growing List of New Friends. Lemon Hearts and Lyra waved back. “Hey—I heard there’s a lovely café just across the road—why don’t we all go and get some ice cream!”

While the young fillies were chatting, Princess Celestia entered the foyer accompanied by her newly appointed personal student. At the same time Professors Liberal Art and Empirical Logic arrived from the other direction. The charcoal-coloured stallion and purple mare were so focussed on reading their clipboards that they failed to notice the unexpected arrival of the patron of the school and ruler of Equestria until they walked into her.

“Your Highness!” The two examiners stumbled before the princess.

“Good afternoon professors. Have you finished examining?” said Celestia.

“Yes…”

“Professor Crystal Clear and the other examiners are now in the staffroom. Why don’t you go ahead and I will join you shortly.”

While the princess and the examiners were talking, at their knee-height, Minuette spotted another potential new friend and ran up to Twilight Sparkle.

“Hi! I’m Minuette. You look happy. Did your test go well? I think mine did but it’s hard to be sure. Have you met Twinkleshine?”

“Oh!” Twilight had been so busy hopping up and down that she did not immediately notice Minuette. “Hello, I’m Twilight. I just passed my test and got my cutie mark.”

“That’s awesome!” With genuine affection, the goodhearted unicorn hugged Twilight, who responded with a disorientated look. “So you’ve got a place at the school.”

“Yes,” said Twilight.

At this news, the other foals all ran up to join them.

“They told you that you have a place?” said Lemon Hearts.

“I thought we wouldn’t learn the outcome until next week,” added Lyra Heartstrings.

“Can you tell us if we have a place?” Minuette, Lyra and Lemon Hearts all rushed up to Princess Celestia and looked up to her face with hopeful pleading expressions.

“Oh!” Celestia flipped through the papers on Crystal Clear’s clipboard. She found the summary table with the names of all candidates, and a ‘Decision’ column marked with ticks and crosses.

“We are: Minuette, Lemon Hearts, Lyra Heartstrings, Moon Dancer and Twinkleshine.” Minuette recited the newly learned List of New Friends with the skill of a Good Student who deserved a place at the school.

Celestia hesitated. “I don’t know if I should tell you the examiners’ decision…”

“Pleeeeease!” The little fillies all sat down on their haunches staring up at the princess and broadened their smiles to maximum power. In the face of such an intense array of focused weapons-grade cuteness, the all-powerful protector of Equestria was defenceless.

“If Twilight knows she has a place, surely you can let us know if we have one,” pointed out Moondancer.

“Let’s see—” Celestia ran a hoof down the alphabetic list of names. “Miss Dancer—yes, Miss Heartstrings—yes, Miss Hearts—yes, Miss Minuette—yes—it looks like you all have places. Well done my little ponies.”

“And—Twinkleshine?” Minuette did not forget a friend.

“There’s no decision marked for Miss Twinkleshine,” said Celestia. “I suppose Professor Clear was waiting for the mark from your final test.”

Twinkleshine started shaking and nervous tears formed in her eyes. Minuette and Lemon Hearts both place a comforting hoof on her back.

“I’m sorry,” said Celestia.

“Well I can tell you.” Professor Liberal Art bent down to face Twinkleshine with a broad smile. “You have a place. Congratulations. That was a lovely demonstration of the Florentibus Crystallum charm you did for us. Well Done! You deserve it.”

“I did?” Twinkeshine’s face turned to a grin as she processed this information.

“We all got places!” shouted Minuette. “Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes—”

“Thank you,” said Twinkleshine quietly, making Liberal Art grin.

The fillies all hopped around the room in mad excitement. Princess Celestia turned to walk away, but found herself facing a tall mare with a pale green coat wearing a fancy frock.

“Your Highness, can you confirm that my daughter—Miss Sapphire Scrum—has a place?”

“Err—” Celestia scanned the list and noted that the line for Sapphire Scrum was marked with an X. “I’m afraid not. You will have to wait for the announcement from the examination panel.

A line of adult ponies formed behind Miss Scrum’s mother.

“And do you have the decision for my son? Eton Mess?”

“And my daughter Cream Cornet?”

“And Miss Rose Ribbon?”

The crowd of Canterlot parents pushed forward, all trying to be first in line to see the princess.

“I’m afraid you will have to wait a little longer.” Celestia clipped the notes back onto the clipboard and dismissed the further enquiries with a wave of the royal hoof. “I’m sure the panel will inform you of their decisions as soon as they can. Now, if you will excuse me, I must show my new student the library.”

Celestia split the crowd of ponies into two, levitating them to each side to form a pathway for her to walk with Twilight. But at the mention of the word ‘library’ a little pale-yellow filly with a red mane spoke up.

“L-library!” said Moon Dancer. “Can I come too?”

“Of course.” Celestia reached out a hoof and ushered the young unicorn along, then turned to Minuette, Lemon Hearts and Lyra. “Why don’t you all come?” She strode confidently across the foyer followed by the train of happy little fillies.


Professor Liberal Art followed Professor Empirical Logic into the staffroom. They both looked around, blinked, rubbed their eyes, and then looked again. Crystal Clear and the other three senior examiners lay on the floor with an exhausted look as if they had just been hit by a tornado. Around them were scattered empty glasses and a few bottles of sherry.

“What happened to you?” he asked.

“Twilight Sparkle… magical prodigy… special power…” stammered Crystal Clear, still having trouble with verbs.

“We told you she was good,” said Liberal Art. “She completed a four-dimensional abstract metamorphosis in seconds.”

“Yes—but—she hatched that dragon's egg—”

“Err—what?” said Liberal Art.

“Exactly,” said Apple Polish.

“As in—it broke open and a little baby dragon emerged?”

“Yes.”

“B-but how?” sputtered Empirical Logic.

“I entirely agree.” Apple Polish took a sip of her sherry. Nopony volunteered any more information.

“So that is why Princess Celestia was here?” said Empirical Logic.

Arpeggio and Crystal Clear nodded. “She said she will take Twilight as her personal student.”

“Oh no—not another Sunset Shimmer!” said Liberal Art.

“That wasn’t really Celestia’s fault,” said Square Cap. “We all thought she was a great student when we examined her.”

“Yes… but…” Liberal Art gave up trying to think of an appropriate response and just shook his head. There followed a short period of silence.

“Well,” said Crystal Clear with a small sigh. She picked herself up and straightened her collar in an effort to become presentable. “For better or for worse, that’s the admissions exams over for another year. We just need to give the final list to Pencil Point so she can send out the letters next week. Now—where’s my clipboard?”

“You left it in the classroom.”

“Oh no! That had all our confidential notes!” She threw her hooves up the air in despair.

“It’s okay,” said Liberal Art. “Celestia picked it up for you.”

“Thank Celestia.” Crystal Clear let out a sigh of relief. “I was just afraid one of the candidates might have read our decision table.”

Liberal Art frowned. “Celestia told a group of fillies that they have places.”

“She did what!” Crystal Clear jumped up on her hooves, knocking her sherry over for the second time.

“Well they asked very nicely. And as she had told Twilight Sparkle she had a place, she couldn’t very well not tell the others. So Celestia read through your notes and that confirmed that they had places. Except for Miss Twinkleshine—but I told her that she had a place—we had agreed that she would be okay provided she didn’t mess up her third test, and she did very well. She just looked so pitiful that I had to tell her.”

“Nononononononononono! This can’t be happening!” Professor Clear trotted briskly around the room shaking her head.

“What’s the problem? I know we don’t usually tell them so soon, but we had agreed to the ranking, and it’s not like anything is going to change.”

“No. You must never, never tell any candidate whether they have a place or not, while they are still on the premises.” The chairpony intoned her words with the authority of many years’ experience.

“Why not?”

“Because…” Crystal Clear paused and breathed in and out several times become continuing slowly. “Because if you tell any student that they have a place, then you can be sure that sooner or later—”

She was interrupted by the sound of somepony hammering a hoof on the staffroom door. Empirical Logic walked over and open it. In stepped Sapphire Scrum’s mother, flanked by two other parents. Behind them a crowd of ponies were pushing forwards, including well-known figures from the Canterlot elite. She stared at the school teacher with blue eyes highlighted by expertly-applied make-up.

“Good afternoon Professor. My name is Star Sapphire,” she said in a clear, cold voice. “These are my friends Jet Set and Upper Crust. We request that you inform us of the result of the admission tests.”

“Err—we will send the decision letters early next week. We must take into consideration the candidates’ performance in the written examination, as well as the three practical tests, and any other academic achievements before making a final decision.” Professor Logic recited the official prepared answer to this FAQ. This did not satisfy Ms. Sapphire.

“Professor I must insist that you tell us the results of this afternoon’s tests. It is quite unacceptable that we are being made to wait while some foals have already been told. And I remind you that our family has a long standing relationship with the school board—”

Empirical Logic shivered. Crystal Clear trotted up to the door to support her colleague. She propped a hoof against the door frame and tried to stop herself from swaying from side to side, but the room still seemed to be spinning. The mare in front of her stared at the sherry stain on the chairpony’s collar and raised her eyebrows.

“I am sorry that there has been a misunderstanding,” said the professor. Unable to meet Star Sapphire’s glare, she looked down at her hooves. “Of course we wish to be fair to all candidates. But we are not able to say any more at this time. We must discuss the matter with other examiners and—”

“Professor, if you are not able to inform us of the decision shortly then we shall be forced to—”

Crystal Clear tried to push the door shut, but the mare blocked it with a hoof.

“Please,” she pleaded, “we must discuss this privately—will you give us two minutes?”

The mare removed her hoof and looked at an elegant small silver watch strapped to her fetlock. “Very well. Two minutes.”

Crystal Clear pushed the door shut then collapsed to the floor panting heavily.

“What are we going to do?” asked Professor Top Marks. “She’s not going to go away until we give her an answer.”

“We could just tell her there’s no place for her daughter and she should buck off,” suggested Empirical Logic.

“We can’t do that,” said Crystal Clear. “We need to be professional—she could make a complaint to the Ministry of Education.”

“We should find Princess Celestia,” said Arpeggio. “Maybe she can do something.”

“She said she was going to the library,” said Liberal Art.

Liberal Art, Square Cap, Empirical Logic and Rhetoric teleported out of the staffroom with a bright flash leaving the four examiners who had just encountered Twilight Sparkle.

“Nonononononono!” said Crystal Clear. “We should sort this out ourselves. We don’t want the princess to think we can’t run the school.” Although she was not feeling as dizzy as she had when she entered the staffroom, her head was still spinning too much to let her cast a teleportation spell, which in any case, was neither advisable, nor legal, after drinking four glasses of sherry. She could see that Apple Polish¸ Arpeggio and Top Marks were in the same state. They sat in silence unsure what to do. After two minutes there was another knock at the door.

“Professor?” Ms. Sapphire’s voice had taken a distinctly menacing tone.

“Is it locked?” Crystal Clear tried to activate the magical lock but her mind couldn’t focus. She pushed a table under the door handle instead.

“That won’t stop her,” said Apple Polish in a panicky voice. “What can we do?” They looked around the staff room but there was no other doorway and no good hiding places.

“Out the window,” said Arpeggio.

“What?” replied Crystal Clear. “We can’t levitate ourselves down to the ground in this state. Or fly for that matter.”

“The ivy vines are strong and easy to climb,” said Arpeggio. “The library is one floor up.” He looked at Professor Clear’s flabbergasted face. “Hey—we did it all the time as students. Climb down from the library to listen to what the teachers’ were saying while they were preparing exam questions.”

Crystal Clear’s mouth fell open. “Nopony told me about this!”

“Of course not—it’s not the sort of thing you tell everypony.”

He pushed the window open and climbed out. Gripping the ivy between his hooves he pulled himself upwards and out of sight. Apple Polish followed.

“I’m going to get the gardener to cut back that ivy before the start of term,” said Crystal Clear.

“Be glad it’s here,” Arpeggio shouted down to her. “And don’t worry—our current students are far too well brought up to spy on us. But it was different in our day.”

Top Marks stuck his head out of the window then drew back.

“I really don’t like heights. I-I think I’ll just hide behind the door and hope she doesn’t notice.” He ran over to the side of the doorway and crouched down nervously.

Crystal Clear looked at the vines with some apprehension, then back at Top Marks quivering by the door. Then she heard the door handle rattling.

Professor!”

The clear cold voice made the head examiner shiver. She made a decision and climbed out the window.