• Published 1st Mar 2019
  • 2,290 Views, 233 Comments

Magisight: Thaumaturgical Ocularity - PsychicKid

A series of strange dreams and a new, burgeoning power sends Twilight on an adventure that will change her life forever.

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Chapter 14: Hunt For Hopeseed




“When all three—”

Twilight let out a soft gasp, her eyes opening as the gentle sunlight wafting in through the window washed away the last traces of her dream. She fidgeted under the blankets, her eyesight slowly adjusting to the light. She heard nearby snoring: Applejack was still asleep.

“Always the same dream,” Twilight murmured to herself, sitting upright. She quietly levitated her notes out of her bags and looked them over.

Day 7: Same dream as prior, but with additions. The message from Amethyst Hollow now plays after the original message: “When all three.” Despite this, I feel slightly less agitated and have awoken more well-rested than previous nights. The meaning of this addition is unknown, but I maintain belief that it is connected in some manner to the three pony tribes.

At the bottom, she added:

Day 8: No change from previous.

She stared at the parchment and sighed. She rolled it up and carefully placed it back in her bag. It was true, she had slept better, but the strange messages continued to gnaw at her mind. I’m not cursed, am I? She thought, twirling her quill about. No, don’t be silly. Maybe I’m just stressed—well, more stressed than usual. But that doesn’t explain the original message…

She groaned to herself, putting the quill away. I need to stay focused. AJ and I still need to solve this friendship problem. Twilight rolled over as a yawn broke the serenity.

Applejack rose, stretching high. “Mmm… Mornin’ Twi…” she said, yawning again as her back cricked. “Sleep well?”

Twilight’s eyes darted to her bag on the floor, then back to Applejack. With a blush, she replied, “More or less. Remember the message from Amethyst Hollow?”

Applejack nodded sleepily, rubbing her eyes.

“It showed up in my dreams again,” Twilight said. She sighed. “I’ve been hearing it since I returned from the north.”

“Wait a minute,” Applejack said, rolling over and out of bed. “Y’all didn’t say nothin’ about that dream changin’ up on you.”

“I didn’t want you to worry,” Twilight said, looking down and picking at a corner of her sheet.

Applejack sighed and rolled her eyes. “‘Course ya didn’t…” she mumbled. “Either way, we’d best get goin’ and see if Ivy found Hopeseed.”

“I agree,” said Twilight as she climbed out of bed. With a flourish of magic, their beds were made and saddlebags draped over their backs, much to Applejack’s surprise. They left the room and made their way to the base of the tree. Aside from their hoofsteps and the various water fixtures, the tree was still.

Upon exiting the tree, they were greeted with more streamers and decorations covering the village. The ponies of Peacegrove had clearly been busy: lanterns and small celestial effigies hung from ropes slung between rooftops and every wall and window seemed to hold some kind of ornamentation. Some distance away, a strange structure caught their attention as they made their way toward the main thoroughfare.

“Is that a stage?” Twilight said, craning her neck to get a better look.

“Sure looks like it,” Applejack said. “Pretty sure that weren’t there yesterday. These ponies really know how to get things done ‘round here.”

Ivy Bramble was perched on the edge of the stage, hanging firefly lanterns around a large goblet-like container. Its bowl could easily contain two or more mid-size ponies. Behind Ivy and the goblet, a curtain was hanging from a scaffold at the rear of the stage. Its elaborate pattern depicted an image similar to the mural painted on the tree’s entrance.

“Wow!” Twilight said, eyes twinkling as she leapt onto the stage. “What’s all this for?”

“Oh! Good morning, young ones!” Ivy said, finishing up a lantern. The large goblet was adorned with a number of colorful pink and green flowers running along vines connecting it to the corners of the stage. The pair were reminded of the streamers clinging to the buildings.

“Hoo-whee!” Applejack whooped. “Y’all sure got somethin’ nice here. Is that made of the same wood as the tree tree?” She asked, motioning above her.

Ivy chuckled warmly. “Indeed it is! An astute observation. It plays a very important role in tonight’s festival.” She took a step back to admire the wooden ornament, nodding. “Tonight at sunset, all fillies and colts who are of appropriate age must take part in the coming of age ceremony. By using their budding talents, they must each locate an arĝenta-oro, a rare flower that blooms only during the night of the festival.”

“I’ve never heard of a flower by that name,” Twilight said, tilting her head curiously. “It sounds Old Ponish.”

“An angry olive?” Applejack asked. “That’s kind of a weird—” Twilight cleared her throat loudly, interrupting Applejack and making her muzzle scrunch up.

“That’s because it is Old Ponish. Most ponies here call it the ‘silver-gold blossom.’ It only grows here in the Silverglade,” Ivy said, “and for only one night each year during the festival. During the magic of the Argent Moon and Aurum Sun, it shimmers with the most brilliant of colors, but only if placed in the goblet before midnight! That is every yearling’s task during the ceremony.”

As if from the aether, a pale green earth pony suddenly appeared next to the group. “Oh! Am I interrupting?” she asked, prancing in place. She quickly glanced between each member of the trio, her mouth curled into a frown.

Twilight and Applejack yelped, stumbling back, but Ivy was undisturbed by the mare’s sudden presence. “Holly Thicket!” Ivy said with a wrinkled smile. “What brings you here? You look distressed.”

“We’ve been searching high and low and left and right for her! And even backwards and forwards and sideways a little,” Holly said, her tail bouncing as she bounced.

“Simmer down, Holly, what’s got y’all ate up?” Applejack said.

Twilight gulped. She felt she knew what was going to tumble out next.

“We kept looking and looking and looking until we couldn’t look any longer! We just can’t find Hopeseed anywhere!” Holly cried out, the words somehow spilling out of her muzzle in the right order.

The color drained from Ivy’s face as she leaned against the stage centerpiece. “Oh. Oh dear me, that’s not good…”

“How can we help?” Twilight said, stepping forward. “The festival is tonight, right? You’ll need all the hooves you can get!”

“Oh, I’m not sure—” she paused, considering the offer. “You’re right. We could use the help. Thank you, young ones,” Ivy said, sighing. “I can’t even begin to tell you how important it is she succeeds tonight.” Ivy gulped, then exhaled sharply. Twilight spotted a bead of sweat trickling from her brow.

“Is something wrong?” Twilight asked.

Ivy sighed and turned away, staring at the goblet. An idle breeze ruffled their manes as she stood in silence. “It has only happened once… or so the legends say. Three or four generations after the village was founded, there lived a troublesome colt who refused to take part in the ceremony. He was exceptionally gifted, but his natural talent made him arrogant.”

Holly sighed, her ears and head lowering.

Ivy turned to face Twilight. Her heavy eyes spoke volumes no words ever could. “He was convinced he would be able to find his blossom with no effort, so he didn’t start looking until the Argent Moon was but minutes away.”

“I don’t think I like where this is goin’,” Applejack said with a grimace.

Ivy nodded grimly. “Indeed. He failed his coming of age ceremony.”

“So, what happened to him?” Twilight asked with a worried frown. She hadn’t considered a time limit with which to find Hopeseed.

“The story goes that the Tree rejected him!” Holly blurted out, gesturing toward the towering canopy. “With its magic treating him like an outsider, he couldn’t stay. They say he ran into the Silverglade, never to be seen again.”

Applejack couldn’t believe her ears. “That’s ridiculous!” She said, stamping a hoof. Everypony around the plaza flinched in surprise. “Why would y’all just abandon one of your own like that? Over some dumb flower?” she shouted with exasperation.

“Applejack, please…” Twilight said quietly, touching a hoof to her friend’s shoulder.

“It wasn’t their decision to make!” Ivy snapped back, her aged voice cracking. “Haven’t you noticed something about this clearing the village is in? About the tree?”

Twilight and Applejack looked at one another, then up at the tree, then back down to Ivy. They shook their heads.

“The tree protects us. No monsters can enter this hallowed ground, nor can any dangerous plants take root in its sacred soil! I know the story of the stubborn colt could just be a mare’s tale passed down through the centuries, but our society’s very existence is proof enough for me! I don’t want to take that chance of losing both that and Hopeseed!” Ivy cried, fighting back tears.

“I… I’m…” Applejack stammered, looking down at the dirt. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” she said, regret lacing her voice.

Ivy shook her head with a nicker. “It’s fine, young one. You’re right, you didn’t know.” There was a scathing bluntness in her tone.

“Why didn’t you tell us yesterday? We would have been more than willing to help search,” Twilight said. “And if what you’ve told us is true, why did it let us in?”

Ivy’s breath caught. “I don’t know. You’re here now, and that’s what’s important.”

“Oh! Oh! I thought she was Princess Celestia, so maybe the tree did too!” Holly piped up, bouncing in place.

Applejack rolled her eyes. “An’ what am I? Chopped oats?” She lowered her voice, whispering to Twilight. “I don’t like this. That story sounds like a bunch of hooey to me. Let’s find this Hopeseed gal and get the hay outta here.”

Twilight simply nodded. “As much as I would love to learn more about the myths and stories of your village,” she said, “I believe we have more pressing matters now.”

Applejack nodded. “Where do ya think we should look first, Miss Bramble?”

“I’m just not really sure,” Ivy said. “Her parents and a few others were looking late into the night, but if she still hasn’t been found then—”

“What about the tree?” Holly asked, perking up with a giggle as she pointed as high as she could.

Twilight and Applejack followed Holly’s hoof, their necks following the height of the tree. “Well, I reckon there’d certainly be a lotta hidin’ places for a youngin’,” Applejack said.

“Applejack is right. We didn’t notice anypony else last night, but there’s so many rooms she very well could be in there,” said Twilight, peering at the upper branches.

Ivy touched a hoof to her chin and thought for a moment. “Well, it’s worth a shot. We’ve never found her hiding in the tree before, but we’re running out of options.”

“The two of us can cover more ground in there. We can do something nopony else has tried!” Twilight said proudly, flaring her wings out. Ivy and Holly let out quiet exclamations of awe.

“Sounds like a plan to me!” Applejack replied with a confident smirk, straightening her hat.

“I’ll go with Holly and meet up with some others to check the rest of the village,” Ivy said. “It’s stretching us thin since the festival is tonight, but…” She bit her lower lip and shook her head. “I’m sorry. It’s probably just an old mare’s tale, but I can’t stand the thought of her—” Her voice broke, a quiet sob escaping her lips.

“Trust us, Ivy,” Twilight said, draping a wing over the elder’s back, “we’ll find her. If she’s not in the tree, we’ll let you know right away and go from there.”

Ivy looked up at Twilight, her eyes watering. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Truly, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Twilight smiled and hopped from the stage with a flourish of her wings. “Don’t worry. We won’t let you down.” She broke into a canter with Applejack back down the busy path to tree.

“Good luck, young ones,” Ivy said quietly as the two ponies turned a corner and were lost to sight. “I have faith in you.”

The deep thud of the closing door echoed through the tree as they stared up into the colossal trunk. Despite their night here, its dizzying height and web of criss-crossing pathways still held their awe.

“Oh dear,” Twilight said with a nervous gulp. Her vision wavered a little as her gaze continued to scan up, up, up. “I almost forgot just how big this place is.”

“Yeah…” Applejack said, drawing out the word. She bit her lip. “I think you’re right though. We should split up. You can fly up and check topside while I check around the lower rooms.”

“And then we can meet somewhere in the middle. Good idea, AJ. Let’s go!” Twilight said, leaping into the air. Applejack gave her a wave, then galloped to a nearby doorway to begin her search.

Twilight flew up, higher than she could have possibly imagined. After what felt like hours, she finally landed on the uppermost walkway she could find. She entered the first room in front of her: a spacious, multi-level study room tucked away at the end of the walkway. A quick mass-levitation of the books, furniture, pillows, desks, and all manner of scholarly knick-knacks in the room revealed no residents of the room—aside from a few field mice who scurried into the wall.

“Not in here,” Twilight muttered, carefully walking through the room. Taking care to duck some of the heavier items, she checked every nook and cranny she could find. Satisfied, she gently set everything down exactly as it was before her intrusion.

She drifted from room to room, checking inside and under every little thing she could find. Plants, behind the books in a bookshelf, behind the bookshelf, even underneath impossible items like a stray teacup. No item escaped her scrutiny.

“No,” Twilight said, closing a door.

“No.” Another door slam.

“No, no, no!” Slam, slam, slam!

Twilight groaned in frustration, hanging her head. “I’ve tried every bathroom, bedroom, study room, outdoor room, balcony, vestibule, pantry, hallway, closet, workshop, gallery, boudoir… I’m not sure she’s in here at all!” She stomped a hoof in anger, the loud clop echoing through the hollow.

As she fumed, she found her temper cooling as the sound of water greeted her upon opening yet another door. She paused, hearing the occasional door close down below—hopefully Applejack is having better luck than I am, she thought—but the persistent trickling quelled her annoyance.

She took a breath and held it, pushing it out with her foreleg as she exhaled. She closed her eyes, trying to purge her mind of excessive thought. The trickling filled her awareness, and her mind’s eye began to visualize the flow of water through the tree. Although it was relaxing, she couldn’t seem to break her focus from her singular insertion point. If anything, the constant motion distracted her. An odd tingling sensation made the hair on her back stand on end, and she finally let go of the spell as her concentration broke.

She sighed, taking one quick look around the room. “Guess that didn’t work,” she grumbled. She peered over the edge of one of the walkways, catching a glimpse of Applejack ducking into a room on the floor below. Maybe Applejack’s found something, she thought. I certainly haven’t. With a graceful leap over the railing, Twilight glided down to the next floor.

“Applejack!” Twilight called as she hustled through the open door.

“Oh! Hey, Twi. Find anything yet?” Applejack asked as she scanned the room, sparing just a moment to wave to her friend. Applejack cocked her head to the side and give a firm tap on the floor with her hoof. “Don’t seem like she’s in here either…”

Orange swirls radiated from Applejack’s hooves, curling along the grain of the wood to all corners of the room. Applejack gave another tap, the pathways pulsing brighter. Twilight followed the magic trail with her eyes as a few solidified: one streaking toward a bed in the corner, and another slipping under the doorframe of a closet on the opposite side.

Another tap. “Wait. Somethin’ is in here,” Applejack said, her eyes narrowing. She slowly made her way to the bed and began to dig up the sheets, then ducked to look under the bed itself.

“Not here…” Applejack mumbled to herself.

“I see, so your earth pony magic is—” Twilight began excitedly, but was cut off by a quick shush from Applejack. Twilight obliged, covering her mouth with a hoof as Applejack put her ear against the closet door.

Applejack motioned her head at the door, waving Twilight over. Twilight walked closer, doing her best not to make any noise. She cautiously stood behind Applejack, preparing herself for… well, she didn’t know what for. Applejack yanked open the door, and with a sudden shriek and the loud flapping of leathery wings, a giant bat tumbled out of the closet. It collided with Applejack, nearly toppling her backwards as it scrambled to escape. Another hiss, and the bat was gone, flying off deep into some other well-hidden cranny.

“Oh, horseapples! Just a bat!” Applejack said in frustration, slamming the door shut.

‘Just’ a bat?” Twilight gasped, panting. “That thing was huge!”

“Well, bat or not, it ain’t no Hopeseed. I didn’t feel no danger, so I was hopin’…” Applejack said with a snort.

A silence fell between the duo as Applejack fumed. Twilight stared at Applejack’s hooves, rolling her notes around in her head.

“What’s wrong, sugarcube? I didn’t step in somethin’, did I?” Applejack asked, looking at her hoof this way and that.

Twilight chuckled nervously, blushing. “No, I… No. I’m just still trying to figure out earth pony magic. Something seemed different and I can’t quite put my hoof on what.”

“Heh,” Applejack scoffed. “Still feels weird sayin’ I’m usin’ magic… But either way, it ain’t like lookin’ for a critter on the farm. Somethin’ about this tree is mighty distracting and it’s makin’ it hard to get a good idea of where stuff is,” Applejack said with another snort.

“Tell me about it. My best guess is that being inside a giant tree—a giant living organism—interfered with such magic,” Twilight said, pacing back and forth.

“How do ya figure?” Applejack asked.

“I think all of this living magic is blunting your—our—ability to feel our way around like we could outside. You remember trying to do farm work while exhausted?”

Applejack scrunched her muzzle and muttered, “Jus’ once or twice.”

“It’s kind of like that. I think. It’s harder to put the senses out there. All this water sure isn’t helping, either,” Twilight said. She groaned, willing away thoughts about her essay.

“Well, it’s dry as a bone in here. Maybe you could give it a go? We sure as sugar ain’t had any luck otherwise, and if not, we can go find Ivy and see if she’s had any luck,” Applejack said.

Twilight nodded. She breathed deeply and crossed her forelegs. As her eyes shut, she focused on the tree’s aura. With no running water to distract her, she could feel the tree’s natural embrace clearly. Golden wisps of magic danced in her mind’s eye, creeping in from all directions. They felt warm and gentle, yet Twilight could feel an ancient might resting just beneath the surface. There was power present, and it was growing every second. Her concentration wavered as images flashed in her mind: familiar images. The Silverglade Forest. The Golden Oak Library. And then…

Twilight gasped, staggering. She nearly tripped, and was her wings flared open for balance.

“Twi! You okay?” Applejack asked, gently steadying her friend.

“I… It…” Twilight panted. “I’m fine. I just got… lightheaded.”

Applejack huffed loudly. “Ya sure? I mean, that’s the third time you’ve—”

Twilight sighed, turning away. “I know, AJ.” she said. “Let me try one more time. I simply lost focus. Nothing dangerous this time.”

Applejack grunted a begrudging assent.

Twilight closed her eyes once more. Applejack’s right, she thought. There is something about this tree that… She shook her head, her face wrinkling as she tried to remain focused. You can worry about that later. Focus, Twilight. Focus…

She felt her perception fall away, her natural surroundings highlighting in her mind’s eye. She could feel Applejack’s warm presence… the spark of a few dragonflies on the wall… another family of mice scurrying away. She could even sense a very distant trickle of water—somewhere in the foyer—but this time, it didn’t pull her from her trance.

Her her tail flicked as something new caught her attention at the fringes of her perception. A faint aura came into view: still within the tree, but just distant enough that Twilight couldn’t quite bring it into focus. The aura flared a blinding white, flickering in and out of view. No—more like shaking. As Twilight approached through the aether, it darted off into the murky void.

Twilight’s eyes shot open with a gasp. “AJ!” She shouted. “I think I found her!”

“You did? Where? Is she in the tree?” Applejack urged.

“It was down in the foyer! Follow me!” Twilight said, streaking out of the room with Applejack hot on her tail. The pair galloped across the walkways, each ramp and stairway bringing them ever closer.

Applejack screeched to a halt as they reached the ground floor. “This is where we came in. I don’t think she’d be hidin’ in plain sight,” she murmured, glancing around.

Twilight was silent, slowly stretching out her awareness. White traces of magic lingered, but she could find no firm signs that they belonged to anypony. The trails persisted, running faintly along the floor. “Maybe it’s her, maybe it isn’t… but this doesn’t feel like an animal, and it definitely isn’t water.”

Twilight bounded into the air and spread her wings, gliding around the hollow—following the dim path of magic. As she flew, it led her to a small doorway tucked deep within a corner. She landed quietly and peered inside. To her surprise, the room was nearly bare—containing only one small desk, upon which sat a wooden telescope. The white energy she pursued led her straight to it, before veering off toward the wall. With a quick flicker of her horn, she lifted the telescope off the table to reveal a small button underneath. Twilight smirked and pressed the button with a loud click.

“What in the world are you doing?” Applejack asked as she trotted into the room. Without a word, Twilight zoomed over to the opposite corner—continuing her pursuit of the lingering magic, and nearly blowing Applejack’s hat off in the process.

Several rows of bookshelves were also carved into the wall, a multitude of books crammed into the limited space. Twilight scanned these up and down—trying hard to avoid getting distracted by the unfamiliar titles—until she spotted a small statuette of a pony’s head.

She seized it with her magic and pulled, a loud grunt escaping with the effort. It didn’t budge. Something was weighing it down, preventing her from lifting it. “Stuck…” Twilight mumbled through gritted teeth. She sighed and released the spell, moving to take a closer look. I don’t want to risk damaging it, she thought, but something’s not right here. I can feel it.

Twilight pondered for a moment before reaching into the shelf for it. As her hoof came in contact, the head easily gave way and rotated away, a familiar click echoing in the small space.

“There we go!” Twilight beamed, a low rumbling noise filling the air.

“Hey Twi? Whatever you just did…” Applejack called from the doorway. “I think you’d best get over here!”

Twilight hurried to Applejack’s side. “What is that?” Twilight yelled over the rumbling. The central waterfall began to shake, spraying water on the floor as the ground shook.

“Look!” Applejack pointed at the pond. The wooden planks that surrounded its perimeter sank beneath the floor, locking into place one by one as they spiraled farther down. As the cacophony subsided, a dark staircase descending below the pond was revealed.

Applejack squinted suspiciously at Twilight. “What did you just do?” She asked, her voice cracking slightly.

Twilight giggled nervously and fidgeted with her hooves. “Interior decorating?”

Applejack rolled her eyes with a sigh. “Right. Either way, it’s definitely as good a lead as any. Celestia knows we ain’t makin’ much progress up here!”

Twilight took a careful step onto the first wet step, conjuring an illumination spell as she picked her way down. Within minutes, the two were in total darkness, disappearing into the mysterious tunnel deep underground.