• Published 19th Apr 2017
  • 1,660 Views, 60 Comments

Equestrian Conjurer - Lunafan1k

An archmage from another world is brought to Equestria to learn a new school of magic, the Magic of Friendship. While here she teaches conjuration to a select few citizens in response.

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Chapter 6

After a quick change, the morning after breakfast was busy and fast paced. The rest of Twilight’s friends arrived and focussed all their energy in preparing for the coming celebration. Applejack and Pinkie took over the extensive kitchen, working up a sweat to produce as many baked goods as possible. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy busied themselves with hanging decorations throughout the castle, strictly overseen by Rarity. Starlight and Trixie assisted with setting up the tables and chairs as well as a number of other small tasks. Twilight and Spike ran around with a large list, making sure everything is being completed properly and making sure there were plenty of supplies.

"Twilight, I know you asked for my assistance but I'm afraid you have everything taken care of." Phie commented to Twilight, watching her pace back and forth while Spike notated items on the list. "I am not a chef, I cannot fly to assist with decorations, I am not familiar enough with the castle let alone the town to assist with supplies or setup. What shall I do? What shall the changelings do?"

Twilight continued to mutter to herself before she suddenly jumped with a grin, "I got it!" She yelled, rounding on Phie, "You can be the entertainment!"

Phie was silent for a moment, as though waiting for her to continue or admit she was joking. No follow up was forthcoming. "I am not an entertainer."

Twilight scoffed, "No, not that kind of entertainment. I mean this is a chance you can show ponies what you can do and what you plan on teaching, this event is very high profile so I expect there to be a multitude of very influential ponies who might take an interest in your talents."

Phie thought quickly, if she was able to impress these ponies, essentially commoners who likely didn't know the first thing of magical theory, they would provide funding and possibly a position as an actual professor! A plan formed as she looked to the changelings for a moment, certain they would lend assistance if she asked. "Alright, I am interested. However, do not refer to my magic as mere entertainment. Do you have a presentation area?"

Twilight nodded, "Right, sorry. There's an auditorium a floor down, we never really use it, so it's all yours for now."

"That sounds perfect, I have just the thing in mind." Phie let Twilight show her the way, going down a wide set of steps that curved around and ended at a large set of double doors. Phie pushed the doors open easily. Once through, she took in the sight of the benches descending down to a large stage framed in red curtains.

"Yes, I like this. Think the place will be filled?" Phie asked as she mentally tallied approximately how many ponies can be shoved into the seats.

"Not that many outside of a few interested parties and the princesses." Twilight advised. "Do you need anything?"

Phie shook her head, "Thanks, but I have my own supplies." Twilight nodded and returned to her station. Phie addressed the changelings, "Ready to see some advanced magic?"

Chrysalis tilted her head, "How advanced?"

Phie chuckled, "Well, I'm going to be modifying a basic Familiar summoning spell to reach beyond the adjacent realms and search out an individual who would compliment the temperament of the summoner. Usually when forming a bond to a familiar one needs to establish a common goal that the familiar is willing to team up with the mage for a time to achieve. I figure that since the culture of ponies is mostly friendly I plan on playing to their weakness and summon a friend. A creature with which we compliment each other in various ways."

Chrysalis raised an eyebrow, "Friendship as a weakness? I used to think the same, but was never able to play it to my advantage."

"Used to?" Phie asked.

She sighed, "After having plan after plan ruined 'because of friendship,' I suppose I'm doubting myself. Suppose there is some power in friendship, something that is not so easily corrupted or turned around. I had those fools bickering and blaming and yelling at each other over alleged wrongdoing thanks to my changelings, but they quickly managed to overcome it and defeat me." Chrysalis explained.

Phie pondered a moment, "Honestly, if there is power in friendship in this plane, it would be foolish to attempt to thwart it. Mind you this is all hypothetical, but the key to great power would be to make friends, and to make a lot of them. Well, depending on the properties of this power, it could be that the stronger the friendship between the individuals makes the power stronger or it could be the number of individuals that respect or consider themselves friends with one that would grant the individual power. But based on your story and Princess Luna's, I would say that the stronger the bonds between a small group of individuals would be the key to this power. If that's the case, then this summon, which is to be a good friend where we would compliment each other, may unlock a great power within us."

Chrysalis' jaw dropped, "You can't be serious!?"

Phie raised an eyebrow, "I know I went on a tangent but what part of 'hypothetical' didn't you understand? That was all just wild speculation with no proof other than a pair of coincidences. Could you imagine if that were the case? It would be chaos. Groups of friends would rule the world in small pockets around the globe. Society of this level would collapse into tribes."

"Then don't talk about it so seriously!" Chrysalis yelled in frustration.

"I'm always serious." Phie replied, raising a finger to her muzzle. "Boop."

Phie twirled away with a jingle of her staff and headed down towards the stage as Chrysalis muttered in frustration. "Come on, let's get started." Phie called up to her.

"Fine!" Chrysalis stomped her way down the steps, "But only because I'm going to steal your secrets!"

"Whatever helps you sleep at night." Phie replied as she hoisted herself onto the stage. She made her way to the back left corner and just like that morning, she held up the miniature of her chest and focused. A moment later the larger version appeared at her feet with a dull thud. She opened it with expert ease and searched through it.

The changelings made their way onto the stage with a short buzz of their wings, "So what exactly are we doing?"

Phie pulled back from the chest with a few books held to her chest and a bag. "Are you able to draw steadily and accurately?"

A smaller changeling raised its hoof, "I can... I replaced an artist for several years. He died of natural causes..."

"Perfect, what's your name?" Phie asked as she approached.

The changeling looked nervous, being the center of attention, "Um, Rhene..."

"She's the short, shy one." Chrysalis advised her.

Phie nodded as she flipped through a thick book settling on one page in particular. "Well met Rhene. Think you can draw this?" Phie showed her the book, open to a page detailing a moderately complex summoning circle. Rhene looked it over thoughtfully, examining each minute detail.

"Yes... I should be able to duplicate it fairly easily." She confirmed.

"Perfect." Phie let her take the book in her magic and opened up the bag to show its contents, inside was a large number of sticks of chalk that seemed to faintly glow blue. "Use this chalk to draw it out, try not to waste it. The lines must be solid for the mana to flow through the lines properly. I want the circle drawn center stage, seven feet in diameter, exactly like it's shown here, understood?"

Rhene nodded and grabbed a few chalk sticks in her own magic. "Oh right, one moment." Phie ran to her chest and ran back a moment later, yardstick in hand. "Here you go, don't eye the measurements." Rhene took the measuring tool and set to work.

"Now, the rest of you..." Phie hummed in thought for a moment, "We need to get the word out. Make posters or fliers advertising the demonstration of conjuration magic and post them around town. I also need some help setting up the stage and some decorations."

Chrysalis nodded and appointed her followers to the appropriate tasks while she directly assisted Phie with the stage. The teams worked diligently through the day, breaking only for sandwiches and drinks during lunch, provided by Pinkie. Once night had fallen, the atrium was decorated and the center of the stage displayed a large, beautifully drawn magic circle. Phie looked it over, comparing it to her own personal set of notes and making minor corrections or additions here and there to tweak it to her desired specifications.

"There, that should do it for the circle. How's everything else looking?" Phie asked as she deposited the remaining chalk back into the bag.

"I finished setting up the stage for the presentation, the others are out hanging the posters, and the decorations have been set up." Chrysalis informed her.

Phie looked at the decorations, there was a banner over the stage that simply read 'World of Conjuration!' and a single streamer along the wall on either side. "Perfect, looks great! Good job everyone, let's get some food."

"Well if you say so." Chrysalis stated as they all filed out, heading back up to the main rooms of the castle. "Then again, I'm no decorator."

"It's professional. There's enough to show there's an event of some kind but not too much to be distracting." Phie reasoned.

They opened the door into the Great Hall, pausing in their steps to take in the sudden change the castle has undergone. Almost every surface was covered in flowers, streamers, balloons, glitter, and the exposed parts were polished to a shine. However, what stood out more than the decorations was a crowd of moth-like creatures fluttering around. They were all incredibly fuzzy and brightly colored much like the ponies.

"I assume these are your former changelings?" Phie asked the empty space behind her. She took a moment to glance around, unable to immediately locate the changelings. "Ah, not quite ready yet it seems."

Phie stepped forward, allowing the doors to close behind her as she studied the final form of the changelings. They seemed much more animated and happy than their counterparts, presumably due to the change in leadership. Unlike the ponies though, many supported multiple swirls of color randomly all around their bodies, no two were identical. Looking out over the room gave the illusion of a swirling mass of color that left anyone slightly dizzy. It wasn't long before she was spotted by the new arrivals, hushed whispers soon overtook the rabble of conversation.

Noticing the change of atmosphere, Twilight turned from her conversation to see Phie becoming the center of attention. She waved her over, "Phie! Come here, I want you to meet someone!"

The creatures murmured as Phie made her way to Twilight. "I noticed some guests arrived." She stated.

"Really? What gave you that impression?" Twilight asked sarcastically.

"Just a hunch." Phie smirked. She looked to the tallest moth-pony-changeling, roughly the size of Luna. "You must be the leader of this merry band."

"Phie, this is Thorax. He's the leader of the reformed changelings. Thorax, this is Phie, a guest from another world. She's the archmage of conjuration I was telling you about." Twilight introduced them.

"Oh! It's nice to finally meet you!" He said happily, putting out his hoof.

Phie reached out and placed her hand on his head. "Pat pat."

Thorax blinked in confusion, "Uh, right."

Phie backed up after a moment, "Well met. So how are you adjusting to being a ruler? I heard the shift in power was rather sudden."

Thorax rubbed the back of his head, "Uh, yeah. It was a bit rough at first, but I think we've come a long way. It was a lot of work but we're really pulling though."

Phie gave a small smile, "Glad to hear it. Most new rulers when suddenly in a position of power tend to let it go to their heads, it seems this is not the case. Well done." She gave him another pat. "However, what is your plan for the remaining changelings who did not join you?"

"You mean Queen-er, I guess she's not really a queen anymore... but you mean Chrysalis?" He asked, tapping a hoof against his chin in thought, "Well, we're open to discussions and meetings, but beyond that we haven't put much thought into it."

He put his hoof back down and gave her a quizzical look, "Why do you ask?"

"What does it matter?" Phie responded.

"Well, she is a war criminal, so there's that." Thorax said matter-of-factly.

Phie raised an eyebrow, "A war criminal? I was aware of the Canterlot invasion having its negative effects. I suppose it's in the realm of possibility, but it wasn't mentioned to me." She slowly turned to stare at Twilight.

Twilight nervously looked away with an embarrassed chuckle, "Must have... slipped my mind."

Phie poked her on the forehead, "You silly. No matter, it doesn't change much anyway. She's already a PR nightmare."

Thorax looked confused, "Wait... do you know her?"

"Let's just say I have an interest in her well-being." She said simply, "Will you and yours be attending my presentation?"

Thorax blinked at the sudden change of topic, "Presen-? Oh! That summoning demonstration, right? A few of the others mentioned it to me when they saw the flier. It sounds interesting to say the least."

"Wonderful, I look forward to demonstrating for you all." Phie nodded in a slight bow.

The great doors of the great hall opened with a boom, silencing the buzz of conversation. An escort of guards soon entered, their coats seeming to gleam and reflect the light of the castle as they moved into formation on either side of the doors. A brown unicorn played a flugelhorn for a moment before unrolling a scroll.

"Announcing the arrival of the rulers of the Crystal Empire, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, her husband Prince Shining Armor, and their daughter Princess Flurry Heart. Accompanying them is Sunburst, the Royal Crystaller." The unicorn rolled up the scroll and stood aside, revealing the rulers as announced.

Phie turned to Twilight, "There's an empire?"

Phie's inquiry went ignored as Twilight shot past her, running to greet the royals. Phie sighed and followed at a more sedate pace. She was soon joined by Thorax, "So, exactly how many kingdoms or nations exist on this plane?" she asked him.

"Plane?" He asked in confusion, but shook his head and continued, "Well other than Equestria and the Crystal Empire, there's the Buffalo Tribes, the Breezies, the Dragon lands and their Emperor, the Yaks of Yak-Yakistan, the Gryphons, though they don't really have a leader, we haven't thought of a name for ourselves yet, and you can't forget about the Minotaurs and their king, and let’s not forget the zebra tribes. Those are the more prominent ones, not to mention there's a lot of unexplored areas that might have their own people too, but that's about all that I can remember at the top of my head."

Phie nodded along as he spoke, absorbing the information like a sponge. "There's still unexplored parts of the world?"

"Yeah, there's a lot of places that are simply too dangerous for ponies to explore. There are a few adventurers out there seeking to uncover the mysteries, but it's not for the light hearted." He replied. They stopped short of Twilight and the royals, watching with bemusement as Twilight was making silly faces at the baby pony, much to her delight.

"That's certainly an odd way to greet a princess." Phie quipped.

Twilight shot up, face flushed as she realized that about thirty guests and guards were watching her, each one with various levels of amusement. They chuckled good naturedly before soon dispersing. She rounded on the prince, "Shiny! Why didn't you tell me I was making a scene?!"

He grinned in reply, "And ruin the moment between my daughter and her aunt? Never. I'll let you embarrass yourself in front of the world if it means you two are bonding."

It clicked for Phie, they were siblings. Suddenly other small facts and assessments clicked into place. The pink princess was the one replaced by Chrysalis for the changeling invasion, it was Shining Armor who she had sapped, and nearly destroyed their future together. Twilight was caught up in the events due to her relationship with her brother and noticed something was wrong which caused the invasion's plans to unravel at the seams. Phie smiled a bit as the information was coming together for her, though many more questions remained unanswered.

Phie stepped closer to get their attention and bowed slightly in respect, "Greetings, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, Prince Shining Armor, and Princess Flurry Heart. I am Archmage Phie of the Hidden Coven. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

They bowed back in acknowledgement, "It's a pleasure, but please, you can just call me Cadence."

"And you can just call me Shining." They both replied. Shining continued, "We've heard a bit about you in Twli's letters, and I'm glad we made the trip a day early so we could see you for ourselves, Archmage. I trust she's being a wonderful host?"

Phie nodded, "She is doing all she can to ensure at least a minimal level of comfort." She smirked teasingly, "You may simply call me Phie as well. And I assume you just like being the center of attention." She leaned to the side to peer at Flurry Heart in her harness saddle. She gazed up at Phie in curiosity, suckling on a drool-soaked hoof. "Had I known a little one was arriving I would have prepared a gift."

"Thank you, but it's fine." Cadence said understandably.

"Well, I can do something for her at the moment. It's not permanent but I'm sure she'll enjoy it anyway." Phie stood and stepped back. "I suppose it could be considered a sneak peek at what to expect downstairs tomorrow."

Phie focussed a small portion of her power, and with little fanfare, a flash and a jingle of her staff, a large white dog with fur that appeared to be as soft and fluffy as the clouds themselves was standing between Phie and Cadence. His tail waved around erratically in excitement.

"This is a Celestial Dog, a loyal and faithful companion." Phie told them before addressing the dog directly, "I want you to guard and protect the little princess, but more importantly, make sure she has a fun time."

"Woof!" The dog barked with acknowledgement, spun on the spot and immediately began assaulting Flurry with puppy kisses. She seemed freaked out at first, but quickly succumbed to a fit of giggles and hugged the fluffy dog. The assembled ponies let out an appropriate level of 'daww' at the scene.

Cadence chuckled, "Well I think she likes your little gift. So that was Conjuration then? It seems rather complicated."

Phie chuckled at their innocence, "It can be, what I have planned for the full demonstration is much more complicated and impressive."

"Speaking of," Twilight interjected, "you're all set up? Got your notes and everything already? Or did you need some time to rehearse? Maybe set up some flashcards?" She grinned, holding up a stack of several thousand crisp, new flashcards that may or may not have been sniffed and hugged by Twilight already.

Phie raised an eyebrow, "I have reviewed the spell to ensure accuracy. As far as the speech, I am comfortable enough with the subject to speak freely and coherently without prompts or cards."

Shining chuckled and elbowed Twilight, "Looks like she'll give you a run for your money, eh?"

Twilight roller her eyes, "Giving a lecture isn't a competition."

"I believe what you are referencing is a debate." Phie supplied.

"Right." Twilight agreed.

Shining looked slightly embarrassed as his cheeks reddened, "Ah, right, I-I knew that."

"Yes, we know dear." Cadence chuckled as she joined them. Phie was able to spot that she had left Flurry in the care of Sunburst, who stood by while Flurry and the celestial dog played.

"She is absolutly in love with that dog," She continued, "Shiny, think we should get her a puppy?"

Shining was smiling fondly at his daughter’s interactions, “I think that would be a great idea, but let’s wait until she’s a bit older and more in control of her magic.”

Cadence nodded in agreement, “You’re right, I hate to admit it but infants and toddlers can be… mean to animals. Once she knows how to play nice with them I don't think it would be a problem.”

“In comparison, human children need an incredible amount of care, they also tend to have very sharp nails and will oftentimes scratch their own faces hard enough to bleed.” Phie added, “Even while trimmed its a constant issue until they learn not to do that. Although looking at her now she seems more akin to a two-year old human, based on her cognitive functions and general reactions.”

“Ponies are able to crawl and fly on their own and even use basic magic within a few days of birth.” Twilight informed her. “Unicorn foals do tend to have magical outbursts which can even be dangerous if they have the mana capacity.”

“Yes, I can see that. Even among humans when their magic begins to take form it can lead to accidents, especially among a community that is unaware of magic and it's potential dangers.” Phie replied. “Most communities view magic as mere superstition while a few outright fear it.”

“That must be hard, I can't imagine something as natural as magic being feared.” Cadence glanced around, noticing everypony else had distributed to other parts of the hall. “Twilight, do you have any tea?”

“Oh gosh! You guys must be tired from your trip!” She replied.

She quickly ushered Phie, Cadence, and Shining into a study near the hall, offering various cushions and chairs. At the front of the room was a fireplace, above which was a large picture of Twilight and her friends in front of an odd house-tree. Lining the walls were bookshelves filled with books and scrolls, neatly organized by color. Phie felt her eye twitch, everybody knows books are sorted by topic in alphabetical order.

Twilight dashed away, only to return a moment later with a tea set on a trolley. Everyone waited patiently as she moved everything to the small table between them. Judging by the amount of steam, the tea had been recently heated but was left to slightly cool.

"I must say, you are all rather calm and accepting of the idea that I am a being from another world." Phie commented as Twilight distributed tea between them. She took a sip and nodded in approval, not too hot after all.

"It's not that foreign of a concept, really." Cadence said as she motioned to Twilight, "Twilight's been through a mirror portal to another world a few times before."

Twilight dropped her tea, thankfully Shining caught it in his own aura. "Oh my gosh!" Twilight grabbed her cheeks with both hooves as she proceeded to have a small breakdown. "That's right! I thought you looked familiar! And with the event planning I've just been so busy I can't believe I forgot to ask you all about your home!"

"Twilight, breath." Cadence instructed. Twilight immediately went to work taking deep breaths and rhythmically slapping her chest with a hoof. She continued for a few moments until she had apparently calmed down.


"Yes, thank you Cadence." Twilight sighed and turned her attention to Phie, "Would it be alright if we could sit down and discuss your world in the next few days?"

Phie finished her tea, then handed the cup and saucer to the empty air. The ponies watched as it floated to the kettle, which lifted and poured into the cup. It was set back down as the tea cup returned to Phie. She nodded to the unseen servant before taking a sip.

She leaned back in her chair, "I don't see the harm. This will allow you to organize your questions so you don't forget them or think of them after the fact."

"Yay!" Twilight cheered. She grabbed a scroll and inkwell and got to work immediately. "There's so much I need to ask!"

"Not at all." Phie turned her attention to Cadence and Shining Armor, "So, what is this Crystal Empire then?"

"Well, as the name suggests, it's the home of the crystal ponies." Cadence advised her, "Their magic has re-shaped the land and almost every aspect of the city. The buildings, roads, carriages, and even the food has taken on a crystal appearance."

"Plus the citizens themselves power the Crystal Heart, which protects the city against the constant winter." Shining armor added.

"It sounds beautiful, though I imagine the sun glinting off of every conceivable surface must be maddening." Phie commented.

"Yeah, definitely takes some getting used to. I don't quite get it myself but there's some kind of magic that diffuses the light, making the city seem to shine while reducing the reflected light. Or that's what Sunburst said." Shining said as he finished his own tea. Phie had the servant treat him as well. "Oh! Uh, thank you?" He said to the empty air as his tea was refilled.

"Sounds like an interesting place, must get a lot of tourism." The ponies nodded in confirmation, "Though I do have one question, forgive me if this is rude to ask."

Cadence motioned for her to continue, "We'll understand if it's a cultural difference or something silly like that."

Phie nodded in thanks, "Your guards appeared to have those crystal properties, yet you do not. And you, Shining, are Twilight's brother, obviously with no connection to the crystal pony bloodline. This means that for you to be the prince of the crystal ponies you must have married into the ruling family. However, your wife is also not a crystal pony. Normally such a thing is easily overlooked when the people, or ponies in this case, elect their leaders. However, when it comes to kingdoms or empires with princes and princesses, it's usually passed down by the bloodline. For that to not be the case here, as it seems, then I can only assume the previous ruling class was killed and the ponies had no choice but to choose an outsider as their leader.

"But why choose an outsider over one of their own? If the ruling family was killed, then the killer would have likely assumed the throne for themselves. It is possible that such an individual would be driven with power and would oppress the citizens of the empire, taking advantage of their shock to the situation. This could be stricter laws, militarization, or even enslavement. The other kingdoms likely noticed the power shift and intervened, dethroning the subjugator, then upon learning the demise of the previous ruling class Celestia likely suggested Cadence to be their new leader, likely as a temporary measurement until a proper leader was elected. It's most likely that she did a good enough job getting them back on their feet, hooves, that they fell in love with her and chose her to lead them.

"It is also likely that Celestia thought along those same lines and planned to have someone who would agree with her in charge of the empire, meaning that while on paper they would be allies but in reality Celestia has indirect control of the empire. I doubt she would abuse that position but it does allow her reach and influence to be extended, however benevolent." Phie set her empty teacup on the on the saucer with a sense of finality. She looked at each of them in turn, Twilight had stopped her writing to stare in shock with her brother and Cadence.

"I assume that my assessment is mostly correct?" Phie asked as her tea was refilled. "I feel I should apologize, my initial inquiry was supposed to be 'Why aren't you both sparkling like your crystal guards?' but I got ahead of myself."

Cadence was the first to recover, she looked slightly upset but repeated the breathing exercise Twilight demonstrated earlier, "While I don't appreciate the near accusation that I am under my aunt's hoof, I have to say you were very close to the facts. A pony known as Sombra named himself the king, the royal family is still declared missing until we have proof otherwise. He did enslave the crystal ponies in chains to work the Crystal Mines, and was defeated by Celestia and Luna over a thousand years ago."

Phie raised an eyebrow but remained quiet as she continued, "When he was defeated and sealed in the ice, he placed a curse on the empire, causing it and all the ponies to vanish into thin air. It was only recently it returned, I was already married to Shining at the time when we were sent to help them recover and hold back the evil that was trying to creep back into the kingdom. Twilight and her friends were the ones to recover the Crystal Heart, and when it was powered by the love of the crystal ponies the evil was destroyed for good, and with it any way for Sombra to return."

Shining chuckled, "In fact it was Spike who dove out of a window from the top of the castle, clutching the Crystal Heart as Sombra failed to capture him. He's seen as a hero to the crystal ponies now."

"And to answer your question," Twilight added, "The effects of the Crystal Heart can affect Equestrian ponies for a short time after it's charged with love, but only crystal ponies maintain their crystal appearance when outside the heart's affects."

"I see, thank you." Phie replied as she set her tea down. "The empire sounds like a wonderful place to visit."

"We'd be happy to show you around." Cadence said with a smile.

Phie smiled back for a moment, but it quickly formed into a frown, "If I may ask, what are your thoughts on the changelings?"

The others frowned as well, a silence filled the room broken only by the soft crackling of the fire. Shining Armor shifted, the first to speak up. "To be honest, that's the real reason we arrived a day early." Cadence nodded, "When we heard about the deal you struck with Princess Celestia and how Twilight and her friends were almost captured again, we had to see for ourselves that she was alright and see just what kind of... person, you are. Honestly, by the sounds of things, you left quite an impression on Princess Celestia."

"I'll take it as a compliment." Phie replied easily.

"We just wanted to make sure this wasn't some sort of revenge plot." Cadence added, "I just don't feel comfortable with her being so close to Twilight."

"My apologies for the stress, I understand why you would hold resentment for the queen after what she had done to you and yours." Phie looked between them, "You have my word, Chrysalis speaks from the heart about her intent to find a better way. I do not know what she may decide, but we should respect her wishes. She asked for help, this is the least we could do."

Cadence looked conflicted, but soon relented. "I have to agree... We did offer her a hoof in friendship and redemption, it would be hypocritical to turn back on that now when she's trying to reach out in her own way."

Phie nodded, "Thank you for your input. If you feel she is deserving of a second chance then I feel this won't be as difficult as I first imagined."

"Well, now that that's out of the way, can we hear a bit about yourself?" Shining asked. "I'm sure at the very least you have some interesting stories."

Phie sat back and thought for a moment, "Well, there are several that come to mind, although most of them I wouldn't consider appropriate for casual conversation."

The ponies glanced to each other briefly as she continued, "I suppose I could tell you about my companions in our merry little band."

Twilight prepared a blank scroll and a fresh quil, a wide grin on her face. Phie stared at her for a moment before mentally shrugging. "I suppose I should start with Morgan, as she is the one that most confuses and surprises me. She's about a head taller than myself, silver hair and magenta eyes, almost elf-like in appearance. While I may be old and wise, the technology of the world has recently exploded at a rate that I simply cannot keep up with anymore. So imagine my surprise when I learned the young woman I had just met was actually a machine, called an android.

"Don't ask me the specifics, I have no idea what most of the technical jargon means. Something about a personality core and a matrix of some kind." Phie waved a hand in exasperation, "Anyway, she was built for combat and when it came to combat she was... aggressive. To say the least. But outside of that, she was a kind and loving soul. She cared for those around her and was able to form bonds and friendships, she even fell in love."

Cadence raised an eyebrow at that, "A machine that can love?"

Phie nodded, "It's as real of a love as I've ever seen, and I'm not getting into specifics, this is an E-rated story after all."

They nodded for a moment before twilight perked up, "Wait, what was that about an E story?"

"What?" Phie asked.

Twilight sighed, "Nevermind..."

"Besides, that's not my story to tell anyway." Phie continued, "Then there's Arashi. He can be best described as a homeless freeloader with a sword. He's taller than Mogan, gaunt, dirty, and wearing tattered samurai clothing. He's a shaman with some control over wind and weather, but his sword is cursed. It has the soul of a demon sealed inside and he's the only one able to wield it and withstand its influence. He also says the sword hates him, and from I've seen it's true. I've never seen anyone throw their sword at the enemy or miss completely and get it stuck in a wall as often as him. Also every time we see him he's covered in his own blood."

"That doesn't sound... healthy." Cadence remarked with a look of disgust.

"He sounds... incompetent." Cadence shot her husband a look. "What? I tried putting it gently but I just can't."

"I would actually agree with that statement and he is often the butt of ridicule at times." Phie replied, "But for all his flaws, when the cards are down, he's there and doing everything in his power to save his friends or win the fight. Every other time he's getting into trouble. One time we were walking through a desert and he somehow managed to spring a trap. Spears shot up from the sand, which he dodged by moving to another trap. Again, spears. He dodged a third set, and there was a sound of a rope snapping. Nothing happened at first, but then we saw the shadow. We looked up in time to see a large whale falling from the sky. Arash managed to not get killed, somehow, but he was pinned under a whale. A live whale. In the middle of a desert. Miles and miles away from the nearest ocean, let alone any body of water."

The ponies stared blankly for a moment before Twilight spoke up, "... How?"

Phie shrugged outwardly with a chuckle, "That's the question, even I don't know how that happened. If that wasn't odd enough, that same whale was launched three more times and three more times he was merely pinned beneath it. We decided to just stop and rest for the day because we were concerned for the whale."

Phie massaged her forehead to ward off the incoming headache. "I still have no idea how it survived."

"Maybe it was a magical creature or a sand whale?" Twilight offered.

"I thought the same, but there was no trace of magic and it was a common, everyday oceanic whale." She shook the thought from her mind, "The last of our core group was Nefere, a tribal warrior of some kind. She runs around with barely any clothing on, or any protection for that matter. She says she can’t ‘move as good’ in cloths. She's really dark skinned with green eyes and short cut hair. She's easily excitable and completely addicted to candy and sweets. We encountered her in the middle of the desert and convinced her to be our guide. She just kept following us after that."

"A tribal warrior without a tribe?" Shining suggested.

"That was my thought too, but whenever it was brought up she would dodge the question or get distracted by something and run off. Personally, I think she's hiding something and playing dumb. Her ignorance is... too convenient." Phie trailed off in thought. "Her combat prowess must have taken years of dedication to master, she's far above and beyond 'tribal' in terms of combat."

"Maybe she's shy and doesn't like talking about herself like that?" Twilight offered.

"Maybe, but she's essentially our version of Pinkie Pie. I wouldn't attribute her silence to being shy." Phie pondered a bit longer and shook her head, "Probably best to not dwell on it too much at present."

Cadence nodded, "It's starting to get a bit late, perhaps we can continue this another time?"

Phie nodded and stood, her tea cup returned itself to the trolley. "Of course. I should turn in as well, I need to be at peak performance for my demonstration tomorrow. It won't do to pass out from mana deprivation in front of an audience."

Phie slightly bowed to them, "It was a pleasure meeting you both. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, see you tomorrow!" Twilight waved as Phie departed.

Phie meandered back to the hall, there she found that many more of the guests had dispersed, leaving only a few to be entertained by Flurry Heart and the celestial dog. They appeared to be doing some kind of rodeo show with Flurry riding atop the dog while holding what appeared to be a cardboard lance. Across from her was Sunburst with a teddybear on his back, a lance of it's own held in place with some tape.

They each let out a low growl and charged forward at a moderate pace, the tape failed and the bear lost its lance. Flurry managed to maintain a grip on her own as the dog closed the gap. Sunburst lowered his body, bringing the bear level with Flurry's lance. What followed could only be described as the most tragic turn of events.

Flurry knocked the bear to the floor. One of the guards exchanged some gold coins with his comrade.

"Hooray for Flurry!" Some of the onlookers cheered as she was pranced around. She was giggling and waving at them all. The festivities at such a complete victory came to a halt when the foal let out a large yawn.

"Well I think it's about time for someone to get to bed." Sunburst said as he made his way over and scooped her up. "Say bye bye to the puppy!"

Flurry looked to the dog with teary eyes, "Bhwy bhwy, pwuppy..." She gave a little wave.

"Woof!" The dog replied, giving her face some goodnight kisses.

Flurry giggled as Sunburst took her to their room.

Phie waited for the remaining ponies to disperse as well before approaching the dog. "You did wonderfully. Have fun?"

"Woof!" He responded, tail wagging happily.

"Go get some rest, I may need your services again tomorrow." The dog nodded, a moment later he faded into a pair of sparks which rose to the ceiling and vanished as well.

Phie moved to stand over the fallen bear. It landed with one of its arms over its face. "Weep not, mighty warrior. Thy wounds will heal as thy pride. Learn from this day, and rise again." The arm fell away, revealing a pair of button eyes that burned with determination. "I know you won't fail again, but failure is a part of life. Learn from it and grow stronger."

Phie bowed to it and moved to her own room for the night.

Author's Note:

Here we have the images that represent the tokens for Morgan, Arashi, and Nefere, for those interested.