• Published 31st Aug 2019
  • 2,836 Views, 384 Comments

Magic of the Heart - Pegasus Rescue Brigade



In the final installment of the "Shipping and Handling" trilogy, Ditzy and Dinky once again wind up in the center of one of the greatest trials Equestria has ever faced.

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Prologue

Once, there was an old, old, old unicorn.

Well, not even a unicorn. Not exactly, anyway. But it hardly mattered.

The old, old not-quite-unicorn lived in a strange little home. It was made of wood, which most ponies thought was an odd choice at best. Homes made of wood were nothing more than a novelty, after all. Why, the last time whole villages in Equestria were made of wood was probably only a thousand years or so into the reign of Princess Twilight Sparkle. Considering she'd been ruling for several millennia now, the odd wooden house certainly stood out against the gleaming glass and metal towers of modern Equestrian cities. Countless generations of unicorn ingenuity, pegasus agility, and pure earth pony strength had shaped Equestria into something much different than it had been when Princess Twilight succeeded Princess Celestia and Princess Luna all those years ago. Even the oldest unicorns left alive would've been born centuries after the last settlements constructed in that traditional style were reduced to nothing more than ruins.

Not that the old, old not-quite-unicorn particularly cared. She was quite comfortable in her little wooden home tucked away off the busier main thoroughfares of the city. Sitting peacefully in her rocking chair, she waited patiently for the company she was expecting to appear any moment. She took a moment to eye the parlor to ensure everything was in its proper place. The books were neatly shelved, in case the visitor arriving shortly needed to borrow any for study. Her belongings had all been enchanted to prevent collateral damage in case of wayward spells during practice. The sign on her front door, which was slightly ajar, had been flipped to display the word "Open" in big green letters. Directly above it of course was a more permanent sign. It spelled out a short phrase in big brass letters.

"Ms. Doo, Magic Tutor."

All was as it needed to be. And so Dinky Doo, who was, as far as anypony knew, just an old, old unicorn, waited for her student.

The sound of hooves on the front walk reached her ears. A pair of bright, curious yellow eyes peeked through the slightly open door.

"Come in," Dinky called. Though her voice wasn't the strongest, the pony outside got the gist of her invitation and let himself in. He was a vibrant little unicorn colt, with an electric blue coat and white mane streaked with silver. His eyes, such a sunny yellow they almost seemed to glow, reminded Dinky of her own when she was his age.

The colt shut the door and sat down in the center of the room.

"Hiya, Ms. Doo!"

"Hello, Photon Flash," Dinky replied, unable to suppress a smile at her young student's enthusiasm. "How has your practice been going?"

"Fine, but I've got something way cooler to tell you about!" Photon Flash announced, his horn sparking to life and yanking out a paper bearing the royal seal. "It finally happened! I got accepted to Celestia's Academy for Gifted Unicorns!"

Dinky smiled at the mention of the oldest and most famous establishment of magic in all of Equestria, and of course, her old alma mater. Though Princess Celestia hadn't ruled Equestria in thousands of years, the iconic school still bore her name, such was Princess Twilight's respect for her. The study of modern magic had advanced so far, of course, that it was nothing like it had been during Princess Celestia's rule. That was fine though, Dinky often thought to herself; a school of such prestige had to make sure it stayed on the cutting edge of magical knowledge. Just because the Academy wasn't quite as she remembered it anymore was no reason to doubt its superiority in the field of magical education.

"I'm so happy for you, Photon," the old mare congratulated, returning her apprentice's beaming smile with a less flashy but just as sincere one of her own. "I always knew you were a truly special colt. I could sense all that magical aptitude in you from the very first day."

As Photon continued to gush about his acceptance letter, Dinky allowed her mind to wander, reminiscing about the day her previous apprentice, Coiled Spring, got her acceptance letter. And Ion Laser before her, and sweet little Titanium before him. And the seventy or eighty colts and fillies before that, she estimated, for she had lost count. Of course, nowadays, Coiled Spring was a successful magical engineer, Ion Laser had retired to a sunny beachside community somewhere, and Titanium and all those before her, well... they'd passed on. It was just the natural way of things for unicorns, and all ponies, really. Dinky had grown quite used to experiencing it happening around her. She knew her days were coming to an end as well, albeit after a much, much longer time than it took a typical unicorn.

In that regard, at least, it did matter a bit that Dinky wasn't technically a unicorn. She shrugged the thought aside and returned her attention to Photon Flash, who had just finished his excited spiel and was preparing to pepper her with questions.

"Ms. Doo, you attended the Academy as a foal, right? What was it like?"

Dinky laughed. "I certainly did, Photon, but I'm afraid telling you about my days there might not prepare you for the experience you're about to have there yourself," she admitted. "A lot has changed, and even if some parts of it are the same, who am I to spoil the surprise?"

"Aw, c'mon!" Photon whined, flopping onto his back in dismay. "I already know a lot about the Academy. I'm not worried about you giving anything away. I just wanna hear about what kind of adventures you had there! Everypony says you're a super powerful unicorn, and you must've learned a lot of what makes you so great right there at the Academy, didn't you?"

Dinky tapped a hoof to her chin. "I suppose there's always the story of my first year at the Academy. I haven't told it to anypony in a very long time. I wonder if I can still remember all the details..."

"Ooh, what happened in your first year?" Photon asked, sitting back up. "I bet it was really exciting!"

"Oh, it wasn't all that much," Dinky replied, rocking gently in her chair. "I made some new friends, learned some new spells, doomed Equestria but then saved it, so on and so forth..."

The elderly mare smirked as her student's eyes widened, but she shushed him when he made a move to reply. "Please, Photon, just give me a moment to brew up a cup of tea, and then I'll give you all the details," she insisted. "I'll need it; My voice isn't what it used to be."

The colt waited as Dinky slowly got to her hooves, wincing slightly as her own creaking joints struggled to support her. She shuffled into the small kitchen, each step a careful, calculated effort. Her tail, with a few strands of gold still peeking out from among the grey hair, trailed along the floor behind her.

This body's always been so much more resilient than any unicorn's would be, she thought to herself, but even somepony like me gets old eventually, I suppose. Sometimes I can't help but wonder when...

She reached the pantry before she could finish the thought. Levitating a teabag from the dusty old box on the top shelf, she placed it in her mug and set some water to boil.

Photon Flash stepped cautiously into the kitchen, looking around. "So, um, Ms. Doo, I know you mostly just teach foals the basics, but I bet you know lots of powerful spells, huh?"

"More than you can count," Dinky replied, chuckling. "My specialty has always been enchantments; those spells have captivated me since I was just a filly. But the, erm, circumstances I found myself in over the years made it necessary for me to become rather adept at battle magic too."

"Battle magic?" Photon asked incredulously. "You were a magic duelist?"

"I was a lot of things," said Dinky simply. "I have had a bit longer than most ponies to experience life, so the scope of my adventures in magic is rather broad."

Photon Flash looked her up and down. "I mean... you must be like, a hundred, so I guess that makes sense."

A hundred? Dinky thought, stifling a laugh as she floated the kettle of boiling water over to her mug. Ah, how grand it would be to be a hundred again for a bit...

"Anyway, Ms. Doo, you haven't taught me any battle magic during these tutoring sessions!" Photon continued. "I bet I could produce a mean lightning bolt if you showed me how!"

"I thought you wanted to hear about my Academy days," said Dinky tiredly, blowing gently on her freshly-poured tea.

"Well yeah, that too..." Photon admitted. "It's just, I've always been really interested in super-powerful spells! That'd be things like lightning and fireballs and explosions and stuff, right?"

"Good heavens, no," Dinky chuckled as she began to make her way back to the parlor. "Battle Magic is a bit tricky to learn, sure, but any old unicorn with a decent aptitude for magic can cast it once they understand how. If you want to learn about combative or destructive magic, then yes, those are the spells you want, but if you're looking for truly powerful spells, spells that draw on vast, unfathomable amounts of magic, you're examining entirely the wrong subject."

"Oh," was the only reply.

Dinky conjured up a coaster bearing her cutie mark and placed it on the small table beside her rocking chair, setting her tea down on it before gently easing back into her seat. She waited calmly for Photon Flash to speak again. She could almost see the question forming on his lips as he thought.

"...Well Ms. Doo, what is the most powerful kind of magic, then?"

Dinky smiled and paused to take a sip of her tea. "Before I answer, I'd love to hear your guesses," she told him, leaning forward and resting her chin on her forehooves as she gazed at him.

The colt thought for a moment. "Uh... transformations?" he asked finally.

The old mare shook her head. "Certainly more challenging than most battle magic, but no."

"Couldn't be teleportation, could it?"

"Way off, dear."

Photon suddenly brightened. "Oh, I've got it! It must be some kind of enchantment! That's why you like them so much, I bet. They must be one of the most powerful forms of magic!"

Dinky continued to sip her tea. "Alas, not enchantment either," she reported, watching the colt's ears droop in defeat. "Don't feel bad though; I didn't expect you to know the answer. The type of magic I'm describing isn't one they have a class for at the Academy. And it's even more special because earth ponies and pegasi can wield it just as easily as unicorns."

"Wha—" the colt began, looking more confused by the moment. "I know earth ponies and pegasi have magic of their own, but it's different from the magic unicorns have. Alicorns can wield all three, but..."

He paused, thinking hard. Dinky waited.

"Sorry, Ms. Doo. I'm stumped."

A pensive expression crossed the mare's face. "You know, I could just tell you all about the most powerful magic there is," she started, "but perhaps, rather than do that directly, I may be able to kill two birds with one stone."

Her apprentice's cocked his head. "How d'you figure, Ms. Doo?"

Dinky thought for a moment longer before replying. "It occurs to me there is a story I could tell that would satisfy both your curiosities about my younger years as a student at the Academy, and demonstrate to you the real strength and impact of Equestria's greatest magic. It's not a tale about my first year at Celestia's Academy, but my last."

"Oh, I'd love to hear that!" Photon announced. "I can only imagine what kind of amazing magic a fifth-term student would've gotten to cast!"

"Very well, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves," Dinky cautioned. "In order to get the full effect of this tale, we have to start a few months before my final term actually began. And, more importantly, this story isn't just about me, nor even my friends. There's one other very important mare who played a crucial role in those events. My own mother."

"Whoa, was your mom a super-powerful unicorn like you?" Photon asked.

"Not at all," Dinky said matter-of-factly. "She was a pegasus. But the most powerful magic in Equestria was just as important for her as it was for me."

"Now I'm really curious..." the colt mumbled. "Please tell me the story, Ms. Doo?"

Dinky leaned back in her chair, blowing a stray strand of her mostly grey mane out of her eyes. "Are you sure? It's quite long."

Her apprentice responded by promptly plopping down on the carpet. "I've got all afternoon."

"Well, alright," Dinky agreed, earning an eager grin from the young pony. "I suppose it's high time I bring this tale back one last time. It all started one snowy afternoon in December, just a bit before Hearth's Warming, if I recall. That was the day something happened that sent the whole lot of us falling headlong into what I can only describe as the most chaotic year of my long, long life."

As Photon Flash sat, listening with rapt attention, Dinky began an old, old, old tale about the greatest magic of all.