• Published 1st Mar 2019
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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 8: With Advancing Grace

The magnificent crystals that filled the main chamber provided ample—if slightly dazzling—light for Twilight and Sunburst. The two scholars-turned-explorers walked through the veritable forest of crystals. Their journey over the snow-capped north and spelunking into unknown, magically charged territory had certainly taken its toll on the two weary ponies’ minds and bodies.

“The sheer concentration of unicorn magic here is downright dizzying,” Twilight complained, sweat trickling through her bangs and down her forehead. “Not to mention it keeps messing with our horns.” She took a glance at Sunburst’s horn, which had been sparking and reacting randomly to the nearby crystal clusters. She could feel her horn doing the same.

“You’re telling me…” Sunburst said between deep, panting breaths. The poor unicorn was exhausted, his underused muscles aching from the journey and the back of his head pounding with magical energy. “I can only imagine what you’re going through... seeing the spells leaking from the crystals must cause quite a migraine.”

Twilight exhaled sharply, barely half a laugh escaping. Sunburst was right, of course; the myriad of crystals surrounding them were indeed making her eyes sore, giving off random blips of incomplete spells that only she could see. She didn’t want Sunburst to worry about her. Since the expedition was her own doing, Twilight felt obligated to keep charge.

She stopped and turned around, an errant spell catching the corner of her eye drawing attention to the fact that Sunburst had begun to fall behind. “Hey, Sunburst? You okay back there?” She asked as she trotted over, a look of concern spread across her face.

“Yeah, I’m… I think I’m okay. This is just more walking than I’ve done in at least a month. I don’t know how you do it, Twilight!” Sunburst whined, sitting back against a larger crystal to rest. It flickered and glowed in response, various incomplete spells worming their way out of the hardened unicorn magic.

“Well, I think it’s related to my earth pony stamina. I never was one for athletics, but being an alicorn definitely has its perks. That, and I know how to pace myself for long-distance travelling!” Twilight said proudly, her eyes closed with a cocky smile plastered across her face.

Sunburst chuckled awkwardly, his laugh giving way to a tired sigh. “It’s too bad this isn’t a place filled with earth pony magic. Maybe it would give me some extra energy so I could keep up.”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t quite work like that,” Twilight replied with a giggle. “Still though, some of the crystals here are more like boulders. Look how huge that one is!” She craned her neck to look at Sunburst’s makeshift seat. The rear side towered above them, easily five or six ponies high, bathing them in an aetherial lavender hue.

“I think if we keep following this path ahead, we can reach that large structure we saw from the cliff,” Twilight said, motioning with her wing.

“These taller crystals are making it a tad problematic to navigate, aren’t they? Are you sure we’re not just walking around in circles?” Sunburst asked, looking around nervously. “It’s almost like a house of mirrors!”

“I can do something about that,” Twilight said, launching into the air with a beat of her wings. She hovered in place as she surveyed the area around them, making note of the crystals in the near vicinity. Sunburst watched from below as the crystals shone on her; the dancing lights and shadows cast over Twilight gave her a otherworldly appearance.

“We’re close! We just need to keep going roughly the same direction we’ve been heading!” she said confidently, landing next to Sunburst. “Are you sure you can keep going? We can always rest a bit longer if you need to.”

“If we’re that close to the center structure, I can just rest when we arrive. We’ll have plenty of time since we’ll have all of this walking and adventuring finally out of the way!” Sunburst said, getting shakily to his hooves and trotting down the path. Twilight kept pace with him, resting a wing over his back in case he faltered again.

After navigating some particularly tall and cumbersome pathways, the pair at long last came upon the structure they had seen. The bowl-shaped building towered over them at over a dozen ponies high, glittering and sparkling in its own natural light.

“It’s absolutely gigantic!” Twilight cried, marvelling at its size. She leaned in closer, taking a careful look at its surface. “And it looks a lot smoother than the other crystals. It doesn’t look natural.”

“Indeed, it looks like this has been sculpted. I’ve never seen lapidary work this fine before!” Sunburst exclaimed as he placed his hoof upon the flat surface before him. Much like the other crystals, this one also hummed and rippled at the disturbance. The undulations were much more apparent on the wider surface, radiating outward until the energy dissipated and the structure was quiet again.

Twilight walked along its perimeter, her outstretched wingtip grazing along the smooth surface. The ripples and waves followed along her wing as she trotted, creating an expanding wedge-shape that grew wider and wider. Twilight grinned as she gaily pranced faster, flexing her wing up down, pressing harder against the surface of the wall. The flatness of the crystal produced much broader ripples, and her speed only increased their intensity.

Sunburst turned as he heard Twilight now approaching from the other side of the structure, nearly completing a full lap around it. “Twilight? What are you—watch it!” He cried out and ducked, throwing his hooves over his head as Twilight bounded high over him. With her wings outstretched, she began to glide around the structure, her wings continuing to make the crystal surface dance and ripple. Then, her horn began to spark.

Twilight glanced upwards at the droplets of magic falling in front of her, each sparkle glowing as shapes of unicorn magic formed inside the ripples. She couldn’t help but giggle at seeing physical validation for her theories of spell composition.

Sunburst peeked out from under his hooves and slowly raised his head. “Twilight? What in the world are you…” He said, cutting himself off as he caught sight of the freely flowing ripples unfolding on the walls of the amphitheater before them. His nervousness gave way to wonder mirroring Twilight’s as she soared around, rounding the bend and coming back into view as he stood.

She passed over him again, his mane and cloak fluttering in her slipstream. The rush of flight plus the magical shapes that danced and formed along the crystal made her feel warm and relaxed—nostalgic, even. It was one thing to see a spell’s theoretical “shape” printed in a book, but seeing them manifest before her eyes made her smile that much wider.

Twilight found herself laughing joyfully by now, the excitement of discovery dropping her inhibitions as she came to a rough landing next to Sunburst. The ripples continued to bounce and stream across the crystal, its entire surface brought to life in a dazzling display of color. The lights bounced and reflected off of the smaller nearby crystals, illuminating much of the large cavern as light and shadow continued to mingle and flit through the air.

“That was beautiful, Twilight! Seeing the crystals react this way is just… I can’t even find words for it!” Sunburst exclaimed, gently tapping a few times on the crystal to add his own flair to it.

Twilight’s mirth grew to a full laugh, her snoot scrunching as she snorted, trying not to fall over in her fit of joy. “I don’t—” she struggled out between breaths. “I don’t know what came over me! I just saw how the crystal reacted to being touched, so I thought I would experiment.”

She gazed upwards, admiring her hoofwork as the ripples persisted for a short time before finally fading away, the crystal glowing in calm serenity. The last of the spells set free finally began to dissipate, flashing and sparkling as they tumbled into oblivion. “You should have seen it, Sunburst! There were so many spells! I just couldn’t help myself, seeing them all flow so freely and naturally like that was simply… super!”

“The only thing I could see were the ripples, which were still impressive in their own right,” he replied, adjusting his glasses. “Were the spells you saw different from the smaller crystals near the entrance?”

“Strictly speaking, they’re exactly the same. But something about seeing so many at once just made something click inside my head. Something about it just feels right. Isn’t that what magic really is, deep down? It’s all emotion, made manifest. It felt like I could just reach out and touch it all,” Twilight said, her eyes shifting out of focus as she remembered.

She took a few steps along the edge of the wall, tapping it gently with her wing. Her horn flickered with magic in tandem with the ripples, and soon the spell-shapes that only she could see. “I honestly haven’t felt this way about seeing theoretical spell designs like this since I started learning magic for the first time. It’s amazing what you can take for granted when you become so used to something that it becomes routine. This new perspective on it makes me appreciate it that much more.”

Twilight sighed dreamily, slowly returning herself to reality, eyes still transfixed on the massive crystal. “It’s so unbelievable that this could be carved out of condensed unicorn magic. When I was reshaping the crystal blocking our path, I was really struggling with it. The magic that formed this must have been… I can’t even imagine.”

“I could tell. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when you started using magic on it!” Sunburst said, chuckling nervously and trying to suppress his anxiety.

“It’s not easy to explain, but these crystals all seem to resonate at a constantly shifting frequency. I think that might explain the random spells emanating from them. By focusing and trying to predict the shift accurately, I can keep my own magic in check and avoid disruption,” Twilight responded, lifting a series of small rocks with her magic. She grimaced as her magical grip faltered slightly.

“I see what you mean. Are you sure you’ve got a good grasp on those?” Sunburst observed.

“I keep having to… “ Twilight said, grunting and straining. “Readjust my focus to keep it… Steady!” She muttered, the stones tumbling to the ground in a clatter as her levitation faded away.

“The ancient unicorns here…” Twilight panted, catching her breath, “must have been extraordinarily powerful if they could adjust to something this distracting!”

“Celestia knows that I couldn’t do it, but I’m still fascinated all the same. I really want to learn more about this place,” Sunburst said.

“Well…” Twilight said sheepishly, drawing out the word. “There’s an entrance on the other side if we keep walking.”

“Wait, really? Why didn’t you say so sooner? Come on!” Sunburst whinnied excitedly, taking off with a merry gait. Twilight shook her head and took flight, following him in his excitement, eager to learn more about this mysterious grotto.

The two arrived at a very simple passageway carved out of the side of the structure. The square-shaped entryway was just tall enough to avoid hitting one’s head, and wide enough for two or three ponies to stand abreast. They carefully stepped into the crystalline building, the natural light of its walls and ceiling providing plenty of illumination.

“It’s a bit cramped in here, don’t you think?” Sunburst asked, narrowly avoiding catching his horn on a small divot in the ceiling.

“Maybe a little, but we’re almost there!” Twilight said. Sure enough, it didn’t take them long to emerge from the hallway into the interior of the structure.

“Whoa… This place is massive on the inside!” Sunburst exclaimed, the two ponies slowly stepping forward.

“It’s like a giant… auditorium or theatrical stage,” Twilight observed, taking note of a raised crystal platform in the center. She turned her gaze toward the sloped interior walls that surrounded them on all sides. “This place could seat thousands of ponies… If there were any seats!”

Sure enough, the convex walls were massive in scope, but they had no walkways, stairs, or seating to speak of. A pony would simply slide down to the bottom as if it were an oversized playground slide.

“What purpose does a stage serve with no place for an audience?” Sunburst asked, squinting to get a better view of the platform. It was a perfect circle—a full three hundred and sixty degrees—but what was most puzzling about it were the lack of walls, curtains, or anything else to obfuscate backstage cast or props.

“Sunburst, look at this!” Twilight yelled, her voice echoing off of the inclined walls as she pulled him closer to the edge of the stage before them. He yelped at being suddenly yanked off balance.

Twilight let him go in front of a part of the walls where a series of strange markings were carved into its surface. A myriad of drawings, shapes, glyphs, and other assorted pictograms seemed to tell a story of the distant past.

“Poniglyphics…!” Twilight said as her voice grew in pitch, starting to bounce and hop around in place. “Oh my goodness, yes, yes, yes! This is it! I knew we would find some answers here!”

“It looks like a dialect of Old Ponish. Maybe a proto-linguistic one…” Sunburst said and hummed to himself, instinctively touching the the wall to examine it closer. The ripple effect was somewhat brighter than the other crystals, making Sunburst stagger in surprise.

As the gentle refraction of light danced through the crystal, it shone brightly, yet distorted, against the upper sloped walls of the amphitheater. Images of the poniglyphics faded in and out of existence as the magic ripple echoed through the crystal, until everything eventually became still again.

“How fascinating! The text can display itself onto the walls! It’s almost like an ancient projector!” Sunburst exclaimed.

Twilight examined the inscriptions closely, her ears lowering in confusion. “That’s… Weird.” Twilight said.

“Huh? What is? You mean the projection?” Sunburst asked, trotting closer to get a better look at what she was poring over.

“Well, not exactly, but it is related. Tell me, what do you notice about the inscriptions?” Twilight asked, pointing toward one of the words.

Sunburst leaned in and squinted, putting his hoof to his chin. “Hmmm… I’m not exactly fluent in Old Ponish, but it’s definitely archaic… It’s also—” he gasped. “It’s backwards!

Twilight gestured with her hoof toward the walls that surrounded them on all sides. “So that’s why this structure is carved out in such a way. They’re not meant to be read as-is, they’re meant to be read up there!” She said while pointing at the wall where words had been projected just moments ago.

“Wait a second… Aha!” Sunburst said, rearing back excitedly at a new revelation. “If these poniglyphics,” he motioned toward the stage, “are meant to be projected, and that that means the ‘stage’ is for the audience… and the real stage is out there!” He said with a flourish to the walls.

Twilight let out a high-pitched squeak at how wonderful this strange auditorium was! “Backwards auditoriums and backwards poniglyphics! I wonder what’s next? Backwards spells?” She said with a giggle, rubbing her hooves together in anticipation.

“I can only imagine what that might look like from your perspective with your new abilities. But why did the ancient unicorns go through so much trouble? Are they trying to hide something? Like a message or a code or something?” Sunburst asked, slowly walking along the edge of the platform and attempting to read more of the text.

“I’m not sure. The carvings don’t exactly seem to have a breakpoint for beginning or ending a sentence. The fact that they are not only older than Old Ponish but also backwards isn’t exactly helping things,” Twilight murmured, furrowing her brow. “But I’m not going to let a few small layers of ancient security stop me!”

The two ponies continued their investigation of the writings along with the rest of the building. Twilight took to the air and began to examine the walls up close. “Nothing seems out of the ordinary…” She muttered to herself. “Well, as ordinary as this place can be at least.” She traced her wings along the edge of the sloped wall, and it reacted in the same manner as the other crystals. No new information here.

Meanwhile, Sunburst circled around the perimeter of the stage in his attempts to decipher the encoded message. “Let’s see… We have the glyphs for ‘magic,’ ‘spell,’ ‘focus…’” He idly stroked his beard, his eyes scanning quickly over the text. “I’ve never seen a grammatical structure like this before. At least, I think it’s grammar.”

As Sunburst mused, Twilight landed by his side, kicking up a small cloud of dust. “Any luck?”

Sunburst frowned and shook his head. “I can’t make out the particulars. Some of the words seem to imply magic training or magic lessons, but the nuances are lost on me. I’m afraid I’m just not familiar enough with this dialect to get a firm understanding of what’s written.”

“Well, that does corroborate with what the book said. I bet this is where the ancients held spell training! Now if we could just put everything together…” Twilight said, pacing back and forth, eyes locked on the glyphs.

After a moment, she paused and looked directly at the platform before her. She lowered her head and shut her eyes tight in thought. “Magic lessons. Training. Meditation. Backwards messages,” she murmured to herself quietly.

Twilight gasped suddenly and stood at attention, a wide grin spreading over her face. “I’ve got it! Sunburst, I’m going to try something. Stand back!.”

“What are you—Hey!” Sunburst’s protest was cut off as Twilight leapt into the air. She landed gracefully and gently onto the direct center of the stage. It was smooth like glass, completely unblemished. Ripples of magic extended out from where her hooves contacted the surface, just like the other crystals, but they faded away into nothing before they reached the edge of the platform. Soon enough, the surface was calm and motionless once more, like a puddle recovering from a stone.

“How strange… It doesn’t appear to be leaking out incomplete spells like the rest of the crystals,” Twilight said, tapping the crystal ground twice with her hoof. Sure enough, the inside of the crystal warped with disturbance, but no spells diffused out. “That aside, if it’s just like the crystal wall that blocked our path from before, then I should only need to match its frequencies and keep my emotions stable.” She stood straight and shut her eyes, her front legs crossed elegantly as she readied herself to summon her magic.

She decided to start with an illumination spell, her skin tingling as the warm sensations filled her body and lit her horn. Tendrils of unicorn magic spilled out from where she stood and snaked through the surface of the lavender floor. The beams of magic traced along an invisible path, finally reaching the edge of the stage and shining through the engravings in the side. Sunburst yelped and scrambled out of the way, allowing a number of words to be projected smoothly onto the walls.

The words seemed to be randomly selected: one from the side Twilight was facing, two from behind her, and one more from the right. Sunburst looked carefully at each one in turn, struggling to recall his knowledge of the old language.

“Keep that spell steady, Twilight!” Sunburst urged, carefully retrieving a quill and parchment. Carefully translating from Old Ponish, he managed to scribble down:

Kun beno, vi antaŭeniras.

Forward, Benediction, Steps, Self,” he read out loud, translating the strange text.

Twilight began to sweat, her forehead wrinkling in desperation as she struggled to keep the illumination spell steady. The shifting oscillations of the crystal were difficult to keep pace with, causing the poniglyphic projections to warp. Twilight fought hard to keep her spell’s balance in check with Amethyst Hollow’s own magic, but she felt her grip growing too tight and it slipped from her. She gasped and finally lost hold of the spell, a blast of energy arcing from the stage and flinging her onto her back with a dull thud that resonated throughout the chamber. The projections warped and faded from sight.

“Twilight! Are you okay up there!?” Sunburst yelled, peeking over the edge of the stage to check on her. She was lying supine on her back, panting heavily and dripping in sweat.

“I…” She managed to force out between gasps for air. “I’m okay! Just winded is all. I was too focused on the spell and I didn’t really see much else.” She grunted and continued to pant, rolling over prone. As her breath came back to her, she carefully climbed back onto all fours. “Did you manage to read the message?”

“Well, like I said, it’s a very old dialect. I was able to make out all four words and came up with Forward, Benediction, Steps, and Self as literal translations.” Sunburst said, scratching more onto the parchment as he muttered different variations of the phrase, trying to come up with something less cryptic.

“What?” Twilight yelled hoarsely, sending her into a coughing fit. “That doesn’t even make any sense!” She groaned, sitting down hard in spite of the magical disturbance. Casting a spell had taken quite a bit out of her, and she needed a few minutes to catch her breath.

“Ah-hah!” Sunburst cried out happily, standing up so quickly he had to adjust his glasses before they fell off. “I think I know what it means! Based on the verb modifier used for the word ‘Steps’ which turns it into a command, and ‘Self’ being an implied subject built into the verb, and if we assume that the order of the words forms a circle around the perimeter of the stage, I believe it says ‘By Grace, You Advance.’”

Twilight blinked. “Okay, I’m not sure which of those made less sense,” she said sarcastically, her eyes rolling.

“I’m just the messenger… Or translator, I guess. But based on the assumption of this being some sort of training ground, perhaps ‘advance’ refers to advancing in rank or grade?” Sunburst theorized.

Twilight thought to herself as she considered the new translation. By Grace, You Advance…

“I think attempting a different spell might produce different results. The words in the order as they are, backwards or forwards, don’t really form any coherent sentences.” Sunburst said. “It’s a shot in the dark, but maybe you could try a spell related to the words that came up?”

“It’s a good idea in theory, but I’m honestly not sure where to start. That’s not really not a lot to go on with just that phrase,” Twilight said.

“Well, assuming you don’t try anything extreme like teleportation, I imagine the worst that could happen is we get a bunch of gibberish,” Sunburst said.

Twilight smiled. She knew that her expertise with the practical application of magic combined with Sunburst’s intimate knowledge of magic theory would be instrumental in cracking this code. She took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. “Okay. If you think it’s safe, Sunburst, then I trust your judgment,” she said. Her posture relaxed as she loosened the tension from her muscles, taking a few deep breaths.

By Grace… By Grace… She thought to herself, coaxing her mind to become calm, letting the magic flow with neither restraint nor deliberate focus. She trusted her subconscious as her horn began to glow, the latent magic surrounding the crystals once again manifesting around her own aura. With her innate abilities as a unicorn—and her natural talent with magic—she attuned the invisible frequencies to align with those of Amethyst Hollow with astonishing accuracy.

By Grace… By Grace… The thoughts echoed around in her mind as the ground below her began to glow. Her own aura merged freely with the magic beneath her. Her wings remained folded, shut tight against her body as there was no focus on her abilities as a pegasus, earth pony, or even an alicorn.

You Advance! She took a mighty step forward. Her eyes flew open, glowing with a blinding white light. Lights shot forth from under her hooves and through the stage, slamming into the etchings on the platform and flinging themselves with blinding speeds as poniglyphic shapes onto the walls.

Sunburst yelped and recoiled back as the lights nearly blinded him. He carefully peeked one eye open. The images and words displayed on the walls were clearer than ever, showing no signs of wavering or hesitation from Twilight’s spellcasting. Not wanting to waste a golden opportunity, he frantically transcribed the message as quickly as he could.

“Okay, okay, gotta write this down…” he muttered as he hastily wrote with his mouth, too afraid to use his own magic lest he disturb the magical phenomena going on around him. He glanced back and forth rapidly as he struggled with the translation, barely aware of the magic swirling around Twilight on the stage.

Her link with the glyphs began to project their messages into her mind. She let them touch her, influence her, with no fear or hesitation. Although the words were ancient, with such an intimate link to this magic, the language barrier was utterly broken down.

Succumb not to the chaotic temptations of the aether
Only with a gentle stand shall one feel the flow of the land
Attune to the harmonic blessings of knowledge
For from within are answers to find, yielded only to one sound of mind

Twilight gasped as realization hit her, struggling to maintain the magical tranquility. A deep rumbling came from the rocks below the stage. A sharp hissing echoed through the chamber as the surface of the crystal platform cracked and splintered. Her vision began to return as she saw indescribable shapes and forms flowing chaotically out of the growing fissures.

“Twilight! Run! Get out of there!” Sunburst cried in a panic, backing away from the stage as it began to glow brighter accompanied by intensified shaking.

Twilight, however, found herself unable to hear Sunburst. As the magic flowed through her, she could feel her attachment to the physical world start to weaken. Beams of light even Sunburst could see started to pierce through the cracks, masking the spells spewing forth. The light grew in intensity, widening and shrouding more and more of the platform before bathing Twilight entirely within its glow.

Sunburst shielded his eyes with his cloak, wincing as he realized even with his eyes closed the light still got through. Although he could not see magic in the same way Twilight could, the piercing light of raw, untamed unicorn power filled the cavern, reflecting and bouncing off of each crystal in every imaginable direction.

He grunted in agony as the light dissipated, his vision hazy and blurry. He blinked rapidly and squinted, carefully wiping his glasses. Nothing remained of the spectacle that, just a few moments ago, had filled the entirety of the cave.

“Twilight?” He said, to no response. “Twilight!? Are you okay? Say something!” Sunburst panicked, grumbling as his eyesight adjusted. But still, nothing.


His voice echoed through Amethyst Hollow as her name rang out. His vision slowly began to return. He made out the form of the platform, and the general curvature of the walls, and yet, it seemed…

Sunburst’s heart pounded with imminent dread. Twilight was gone.