• Published 24th Sep 2017
  • 1,515 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
 1,515

Enchantment

When I woke, I found myself on the grass. I had... fainted.

I smelled strong tea before I opened my eyes, and found a stone bowl designed to be heated by horn filled with an oat porridge mixed with nuts and sliced hoof-sized red berries. I looked up to see that an itty-bitty cyan mare tended to me—somepony had lent her one of the mages' robes to protect my High Desert sensibilities. Her blonde mane kept falling across her eyes and I tried not to laugh. I felt dizzy and woozy and a bit giddy. She pushed her locks back repeatedly as she levitated me gently and set me reclining with my legs folded under me, the same way she reclined. She levitated a tea cup and urged me to sip an astringent concoction that gave off a sharp scent of ephedra and other medicinal herbs. I accepted that until I found the strength to levitate it on my own.

We didn't say much.

There wasn't much to say. I didn't want to learn how a shameless Unicornian mare lived—lest I end up hating the restrictions of my own folk... more. And I had good news to carry home! I didn't want anything to get in the way of that. The porridge was crunchy, milky, and sweetly fruity. I learned a new word: strawberry. I declined to be tested that afternoon. I'd have gotten up and headed back into the mountains that very instant, but I was totally exhausted, if at least no longer woozy.

I declined staying in one of their tents. It made me nervous that ponies here associated by a totally different set of social rules; I did not know what was and wasn't proper for them, or if they knew what was proper for me. With stallions wandering freely about, I'd never sleep comfortably.

I accepted a "boxed lunch" in a cute little black- and red-lacquered balsa crate (with a haystack inlay in golden oak wood) and a fine earthen jug of water, after the head mage politely and sternly insisted, and a simple blue fabric messenger bag to carry them in. I found myself a sheltered shady spot in the trees on a hill above their encampment. A cool breeze flowed up to where I lay as I settled, yawning widely. Pink and yellow butterflies fluttered around clumps of dandelions and orange strawflowers that proved tasty and sweet. The gentle hiss of the cool grass waving near my ears rapidly lulled me to sleep.

Sleeping during broken days is always strange. You could have been asleep for an hour; you could have been asleep for a day. You can't tell without a clock, which few ponies can afford to own. Certainly, the sun hadn't moved. The light filtered through my eyelids. Comfy, I didn't want to get up.

I got the clue it was afternoon a'clock before I opened my eyes. I heard a familiar chant in leader-follower phrasing and found myself skipping ahead, seeing in my mind—and reading—the magic cursive of Summer Daze's notes. I looked.

In a roadside field of grass, where the mages had formerly pitched their tents, I saw their wagons, the tables from a'yesterday, and the dozen blue-cloaked mages in front of a winnowed group of six ponies.

One was actually a mare! No chance she would win.

Today, however, over a hundred townsfolk watched, a mix of unicorn merchants in white or yellow linens and, segregated in a cluster off to the right, a sprinkling of earth pony farmers in red or grey flannel.

Wait…. What? I squinted.

One of the six contestants was an earth pony!

I blinked for awhile in disbelief. No, he really didn't have a horn. A set of brass and iron charms and the dozens of blown glass potion bottles uncorked before the brown-spotted white pony asserted something extraordinary from a tribe whose chief attribute I'd been taught was brawn not brains.

In the crowd, stallions and mares mingled indiscriminately.

I closed my eyes and shook my head. I didn't want to understand these ponies' challenging strangeness. I already knew how false hope could shred your heart. Da was right about hope and wishes. He always said, "Wishes do nothing except make the wisher crazy."

Very true.

I thought the chant might lull me back to sleep, but it did the opposite. I had used the branches of an oak tree to shade myself in relative darkness. Now my fur stood on edge with the feeling that the sun played peek-a-boo with me. I knew exactly where it was, and it had nothing to do with the pinkish light filtering through my eyelids. Though I could barely hear the words of the mages' ritual incantation, waves of magic buzzed like bees all around me. It felt like static on a very dry day. It made the hair of my mane crackle and spread.

"Ugh! So annoying!"

Covering my ears with my hooves didn't work either because, like an annoying ditty, it replayed in my head unwonted. With growing exasperation, I levered myself up intending to escape the magic's radius of effect. With my cloak snugged tight and the gifted messenger bag tight on my right side, I found myself unsteady. Worse, it felt that I swayed this way and that—influenced by the chant.

Absurd, of course. It was probably a lingering effect of exhaustion and the ephedra tea. As I braced against the oak, I caught a glimpse of a familiar shade of red through droopy branches that wasn't the red of a farm-hoof's flannel.

My heart raced. I shoved myself upright, frightened, suddenly convinced I'd seen a propoli. I stumbled into the sun, tripped and fell into a bush of brittle branches that made a cacophony of crackling noises as I scrambled erect and galloped away into the woods. With an embarrassing lack of grace, I threw clods of dirt and ripped up dandelions behind me.

My lack of grace made me certain that an enchantment was on me. I sensed its origin as I would a poke from a stick. It made no sense; I was more ready to think it was something in the tea.

Why would the sun enchant me?

I sensed... How could I know she wanted to shine 'benevolently' on me? How could she even seem like a pony-like presence? How could she be a mare?

Disoriented, I tripped over a gnarled protruding root and scraped my shoulder on the rough bark of a tree, ripping my cloak. My legs crossed. I went down and slid across a patch of ferns that made fizzing sounds as they dragged me to a stop.

I was going mad.

Imagine for a moment that you had told another pony a joke... A moment after delivering the punch line, her eyes grow big and she falls over laughing. In that instant you know exactly what your friend thinks and feels, demonstrably. This—this was that same certainty of connection implanted in my head, like a smile or a laugh without intervention of sight or sound. Mind-reading... mind-talking!

The presence sensed I understood her. She pleaded. This felt like encountering a friend in need—with friend being the frisson leading to recognition when you see somepony you know and recognize her need when you see her frown, an askance look, or a sigh when she is about to ask for a loan of a bronze bit to be repaid next week.

It was absurd.

It was madness.

I flopped amongst the prickly ferns desperate to get up. I tried to ignore what I sensed, but how could I? You can ignore a soiled smelly beggar jingling an empty cup; you can make him invisible... Sure, you can. You avert your eyes, you keep talking, colluding with your friend—but you know you're wrong because everypony feels something, otherwise why would you be ignoring it?

I felt this. I had tears in my eyes. By Platinum's Grace, I felt this.

It did not matter if I were a mad-mare or hallucinating. This felt as real and as right as ignoring the beggar and making him invisible was wrong.

I could play along or fight myself, and fighting this was already beginning to hurt. I felt a bruise tightening from my shoulder across my ribs from my fall.

I took a long deep breath. I rolled until I knelt and squirmed to orient myself in the dappled shade. The sun glimmered and blinked at me as the leaves above rustled. "What?" I asked.

This wasn't a pony; the sun did not speak. Instead, I felt her searching, like when you look for that word on the tip of your tongue, and you find it, and you associate it with a memory, and…

As a foal I'd knocked over the laundry wringer trying to master washing clothes. I'd jumped away but tripped. The wooden wash basin, weighted down by the iron wringer, trapped my tail.

Nopony was home. I wailed for what seemed like hours unable to move, sure that I'd lose my tail, that no pony would marry poor crippled me, and that I'd undoubtedly starve. I'd had nightmares for months.

The memory of the washer falling over with a bang and the subsequent drenching splash of hot soapy water was again vivid.

"You're… stuck?"

Huh! Of course the sun was stuck—and she knew I'd seen that she had been stuck previously, and she knew I'd helped unstick her.

Well, the sun was wrong about that. That was all a hallucination.

How could I have made a difference? I'd read in Summer's astronomy book that the sky was at least a hundred miles up (probably more). I raised a hoof and eclipsed the sun with little margin. A bit of trigonometry and a bit of algebra and... I could, and had, pushed a four-wheeled wagon loaded with dense hardwood logs using Motivate, but the disk of the sun was was not only out of the inverse-square range of my magic, it was city-sized.

I couldn't move that.

"How?"

I'd first lifted a broom with magic when I was three. Da was clapping his hooves together. He was so very happy with me because I'd persisted and persisted, trying until the straw lifted, and, wobbling precariously, the broom-head took the broomstick with it.

"Try?"

I felt a pulse of warmth. So she wanted me to try? I'd heard it whispered that Queen Platinum was a tyrant; the sun surely was!

I listened for the strands of the Mages' chant. As the breeze passed through the woods, so did the "music," growing louder and quieter as the woodland breathed. I felt my ears rotate and strain, trying to grasp what they could.

The stanzas of the music, the words that seemed suddenly animated and alive, struck deep into my head.

My reading of Summer Daze's notes flashed by behind my eyelids. Words. Letters. Numbers. My body went rigid. All my muscles locked. The arcanae that wove the spell Sun Rise on page caused the memories of the words once again to shift position, switch meanings, swim through deep seas of understanding, and hint at concepts that flitted away from my grasp—building power. I felt my horn heat up. My brain exhaled connotations and implications and allusions until it was…

…emptied. My body again relaxed and all at once my brain...

...inhaled the magic electricity I'd earlier sensed.

It slammed into me like a fast moving, sky-filling, sun-obliterating, desert lightning storm—the type you smell as moisture and ozone, and hear only moments before it drenches you, roaring like lions ready to eat you as it plunges you into midday night, working to shatter your eardrums with thunder. My heart raced anew as my fur rose, but the cryptic knowledge I'd learned from hearing the mages' song and reading Summer Daze's notes insulated me from the brunt of the magic. It was like hiding in a sturdy house with rain crashing against the shutters and hail rattling the roof. Immense power flowed around me; I sensed the rightness of it—and its accessibility.

Its origin frightened me. The enchantment drew magic from the sun. Was it the mages' doing? Was drawing magic from the sun their mechanism of control?

My legs unfolded and I found myself upright, lifted as my weight slowly evaporated. Wobbly though I was, I found myself dancing to a strange rhythm, an ethereal pulse in a swirling field of numeric magic potentialities that I saw in my mind, like burning cinders in digit form caught in a dust devil whirling around me.

The magic buffeted me physically like a wind, forcing me to shut my eyes. Calling it a wind belittled this; it was a scirocco, and like the arid scirocco screaming down a wadi, it grew hotter as it buffeted my mane.

I felt lifted, buoyant. My front legs rose. A strange joy filled me. I sensed the sun and the sky as if it were a place I could feel manually with the frogs of my hooves. To one side of the sun, I also sensed a brooding presence. A recalcitrant moon, which I had to ignore because I smelled smoke.

The heat surrounding me turned into crackling fire. Though it did not bite me, my cloak caught. I heard the fizzling sound of burning wool.

"Too hot!" I said as I fought against the enchantment for fear that the fire might next consume me.

Snap.

The direction of the magic switched. A cooler wind blew from behind me, though I still heard a crackle of flames. With it came the thick scent of burnt clothing, wood, and the scorched ferns below me. I shook myself, as to shake off the rain, and I felt my cloak part and fall away.

Enclosed in the magic pulse of this ethereal zephyr, my perceptions crystallized as my weight vanished. I was no longer earthbound. I peddled my rear legs but touched nothing; and I didn't care. I was in a dream. Or an hallucination. Why would I care?

Eyes still closed, I saw nothing.

But, with my neck stretched and my tightly shut eyes fixated on the westering sun, I saw far more than the pink filtering through my eyelids. I "saw" a celestial land that sparkled like diamond. I saw brilliant crystalline valleys and mountains all in parallel rows. I could not comprehend what I saw; the shifting spell words in my mind collided together and my virtual eyes quickly dazzled. Tears streamed down my cheeks, there to boil into salty-flavored steam.

But… I didn't need to see more. I'd seen cubes of crystal, piled oddly. I could see that the sun needed to go away from them, not towards them…

Again.

I cast Motivate, though how could I push a city-sized orb of fire—in a sky a hundred miles up but near the horizon many thousands of miles away—in a direction it didn't want to go? Perhaps it was the pulse of the zephyr of magic that beat my mane across my face and my tail across my flank. As much magic as I threw into the spell from the depth of my heart, magnitudes more from another source followed it as if I were a general calling the charge and the magic was my army.

And still the moon brooded, stubborn, unmoved, envious—insulted. It had never set yesterday. The mages had neglected that because, I guess, without the moon illuminating the night sky on the other side of the world what harm could result?

Together, the two celestial objects stood opposed, mutually stuck, the moon willfully obstructing the path. The celestial bodies rested on the same horizon, close to one another, jostling like resentful siblings.

And if one went this way and the other that way...

I reached out, found their ethereal surfaces, one cold and one scorching, one stony and one fluid, and… pushed… them… apart.

The petulant moon pushed back! The brat!

Nettled, I pushed again, shoving up on the moon and down on the sun, on and on and on, until something broke. (That something would be me.) All my magic, indeed my very essence, streamed from my body like water from a broken dam until, like the reservoir behind the dam, I was emptied. Via my magical view of the celestial world, I saw I'd flung the moon into the sky whilst the sun sunk gratefully below the horizon.

I sank back to the ground, drained, limp, paralyzed, the light beyond my eyelids now dark. I barely had time to worry that I might be dying before something hard struck me in the head.