• Published 24th Sep 2017
  • 1,534 Views, 80 Comments

To Bring Light to Eternal Darkness - scifipony



In the days before Equestria was even a dream, when mares are second-class citizens, a pony with a solar cutie mark tries to help her brother become a mage. She doesn't realize that she and the sun have an appointment with destiny. (EqD Story Post)

  • ...
8
 80
 1,534

Breathless

During supper, Da spoke about a new commission for cedar table legs. At the end, I pushed my bowl back and forth between my hooves waiting for him to ask what crime I'd committed, or to mention the Queen's broadside, but instead he dashed off to inventory the wood curing in the woodshed.

While I washed up, I stared at Summer, his eyes magnified through his spectacles as he picked at his food and read, typically oblivious to news that would affect him as well as Da and me. Suddenly he looked up and said, "I think I figured out Teleport. It uses the chaotic butterfly escapement you explained to me."

I gasped. The wooden bowl I had been washing bounced off the wall and clattered to the kitchen floor. Shaking, I rinsed the dishes and drained the suds away before barricading myself in the curtained-off extension to the house that served as my room.

For awhile, I amused myself with the elementary potion chapbook Summer had transcribed for me, fiddling with glassware to distill some sprigs of lavender in water into a glowing purple scent globe. Eventually, I shoved that aside because I couldn't concentrate; I kept thinking about "thaumaturgy and predilection to matters celestial."

I scrounged up my astronomy book, one of the first Summer had copied, full of funny typos, big words explained for young colts, and scribbled sketches that were just good enough to give the gist of what I hoped were faithful to the illustrations in the original book. I loved this book. I'd learned all the constellations and star names, the behaviors of the stars and nebulae that ebbed and flowed like friends and siblings in the sky, and how the seasons worked. I pushed open the shutters on a window, breathed in the chill air, and stared at the twinkling heavens and the smooth white surface of the moon. I had loved to lie on my back in the compound and stare up at the night, pointing stuff out when Summer would pay attention, but that had been before day and night had broken.

Thaumaturgy wasn't the science of magic. No. It was the performance of miracles.

Sure, I had heard of the spell Teleport. Everypony knew the Queen could do it. Even beginning magic books discussed it as a culmination of principles, the elements of which were a master achievement that almost nopony attained.

If Summer Daze said he understood what the spell meant that meant he would soon perform it. He would perform the miracle of transforming himself into pure magic and back again.

I looked at the sky and felt the hair on the back of my neck began to rise. It was almost as if I were surrounded by the mildest of caressing breezes that unsettled my mane and tail. I felt a connection to the stars, sensing more about them than my eyes could tell me: little unheard voices. A nonexistent touch of a hoof saying in gesture, I'm going to take that path now. More so for the baleful unmoving moon. And the sun... Thinking about it, I knew it brooded impatiently below the eastern horizon, radiating heat—as well as distrust of its pale ivory sibling.

My fantasy felt like an omen.

"Thaumaturgy and predilection to matters celestial," I said aloud. "The pressing matter of day and night."

Summer Daze would never ever learn to carve. One day a stallion would ask Da to have me marry him, and Da wouldn't refuse even though the loss of my productivity would drive the family into penury.

But Sunny Daze could perform the miracle Da required. The Queen's broadside was an advertisement for a wizard. The Queen paid her wizards—probably paid them very well. Right?

I made plans to take Summer Daze to the "examination"—and to somehow keep him on track.

#

Other than the small epicyclic movement of the wandering stars, dawn came in utter darkness. The town elders paid colts to run about town banging pots when the clock tower struck 6:00 AM. I'd heard that in the capital, the Queen's minstrels paraded through the streets singing and playing their flutes.

The clatter of copper pans worked well enough to make me dive out of bed, heart racing. Even inside, my breath formed clouds before my face. Day three of no sun. I folded my sheets, then raced around heating the cornerstone crystals using the household spell Friction, then rousted Da with hot tea, strategically letting Summer sleep. He'd passed out sprawled in a heap of books on a tattered carpet in front of his bed and would continue to snore for hours. Da wouldn't notice because I'd brought his carving tools and the blocks he'd stacked in the shed last night and got him explaining the new project, cutting a sample, and getting caught up in his art. As the hours passed, the goatherd came by with milk, the baker dropped by vending honeyed pistachio cakes (the ones with the powdery green crystal swirls) that Da ate absently, and I managed to washboard some clothes while loading his wagonette for today's delivery to Fenugreek, the village a dozen miles south on the road down into Heartstrings Valley.

I had Da packed and harnessed and clip-clopping down the road by 9:30 and dove to wake Summer, feeling like the veritable lord of time. The last time I’d met with my friends, at the Pistachio Festival, Green Leaf had overheard a stallion talk about how “uncomplicated” mare-work was.

Running a household, even without foals, requires a level of planning and juggling some stallions refuse to notice. Telling a mare she's invisible is both a compliment and an insult.

My filly-friends and I had exploded in laughter, as I did right now while beginning to manage my baby brother, levitating his bowl of oatmeal, nuts, and goat milk while heating it, arranging a spoon, chin towel, and hoof spoon just right so to signal to him he should eat and to prevent a tantrum, and selecting specific books while dragging him physically out of his book-pile to the table. I laid out the astronomy book, and the new one on escapements turned to the butterfly page, and a math book that had a chapter on calculating celestial epicycles. Summer cooperated by letting me dress him in a scholarly-looking black wool smock by pulling it over his head as he used the earth pony hoof spoon to eat while murmuring how interesting the pages I had opened for him were.

I was breathless.

Those combined achievements allowed me to throw on my mares-cloak and dash out. I found my friends, the sisters Dell (Bran, Fern, and True), amongst the other basket weavers in a circle warmed by the orangey glow of cornerstone crystals at Wicker Square. As I splashed the communal crystals with Friction, I learned that their brother Win had gone after dinner to the Council Paddock out by Brotherhood Woods to get a feel for the ley-lines near there so he would know how best to perform. Ferndell giggled that Win thought everything was a competition.

Yeah, but I wondered... what if more than one capable wizard existed in the High Desert? Windell might be right! Another worry.

I rushed off to the confectioners and bought a carob-cinnamon nut bar. Crunchy but filled with sedge honey, it was finicky Summer's favorite; one of mine, too, so I bought myself one to munch as I stopped for laundry soap and a smelly citronella pot to repel night bugs that began to swarm and buzzed maddeningly by your ears when you tried to sleep.

Back home, I found Summer waving a leg, the loop of the hoof-spoon still snug on his hoof, composing a spell mnemonic. His forced rhyme of "soar" and "far" made me cringe, but he continued with different words. I removed the spoon and went to wash the empty bowl, thinking it was best to see the examination as a competition.

As I dried the dishes, I asked, "Tell me about Astrolabe."

"That's why you wanted me to review epicyclic math! It's a star finding spell..."

I often made a study of ponies. It was how I knew that I could learn the location of the examination from Win by finding his sisters, who'd always be in the square this day of the week. It was how I got often-stubborn Sunny swiftly prepared for today so far as such could be done.

I packed up the books in his saddle bags, inserted the carob snack with an admonishment that it was for later, when hunger might make him cranky, and got him trotting out of the family compound behind me. Best to be early to see who arrived and to prepare ourselves, he and I, on site. I sensed the both of us needed to be ready.

Summer said, "School's that away."

It was, but I was headed for the south of town, near the downhill road. A natural bowl in the earth made a passable amphitheater within a circle of trees that helped muffle the noise of debates, military drills, and the occasional civic theater that the Queen deemed important for her subjects to watch, meaning stallions-only. Didn't the Queen, a mare, sense some dissonance in such restrictions? Inevitably, some mare reported the gist, probably from a brother or husband. Hiding in the woods would be dangerous.

I said, "There is an examination you need to attend."

"Awwwwwww." His monotone demonstrated he didn't understand the emotion he expressed fundamentally, but was practicing stating frustration and stubbornness in a socially acceptable fashion as I had taught him. It was better than the way he used to rock endlessly or make like a mule and stubbornly whine even in crowds. He added, "I'd rather be in school."

Which, considering how much he disliked dealing with the colts in school... I wasn't taking a chance Catseye Marble might think him too young to answer the summons. Summer was socially challenged but old enough magically. "It's a place where there will be lots of ponies who only want to speak about spells and magic. You might make some friends."

"Friends?" He scoffed and it almost sounded natural. "Ponies who talk about silly things and do frivolous things together? No thank you. I'm done playing."

I nudged him on the shoulder and he staggered a few steps ahead of me. "These ponies are different. You'll find them more like me."

"Really?" He turned and set his brown eyes on me. After about twenty steps, he looked forward and said, "There's nopony as smart as you, Sunny Daze."

That definitely wasn't true. It didn't stop me from breaking into tears, either. I quickly pulled the floppy-tipped hood of my mares-cloak forward so it hid my face and kept my sniffling to a minimum.