• Published 3rd Sep 2021
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Definitions - Techno Flare



I was hard on myself during my time as Princess Twilight's student. Nothing but my studies had mattered ever since she saved me from my own magic. When I finally burned out, Equestria was on fire.

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Chapter I

A sealing spell had many qualities, but taking it easy for a unicorn on her birthday was not one of them.

The thing wouldn’t budge no matter how many solutions I cooked up. The Guard’s key wasn’t working for only this door on this particular night, so it was up to me to break into a Royal Guard facility to access somewhere after dark that wouldn’t disrupt the peace in Canterlot while I practiced my spells. Working hard just to do more hard work was a perfect analogy to my daily routine, but tonight, a small nagging part of my brain wished I could have had some way to cut the corner. Hours ago, my friends slept in their beds and awaited morning. The sun never waited for me, the same as this lock.

I did love a good challenge, though, so my mental workbench once again rose to my mind’s eye. Twenty-two different counterspells had not cracked this specific lock. Just picturing myself finding another pointless incantation weighed my head down, so I glared at the marbled floor beneath me. Princess Twilight always said to go back to the basics— the components.

My horn outshone the lapping fires as it revved to life. Spells were logical things, at the end of the day. I had gone through too many complicated solutions, fused spells, and specific ideas when considering my options. Exhaustion allowed me to rely on basic strategies. The components of a spell, when not carefully constructed, were easily toppled. The spinning aura gathered around my horn while tendrils sprung out after each breath, after each new spell. Tension grew in the room as my heart beat faster, pressured under the weight of all this magic.

With a bent form and a small grunt, I lunged forwards and launched the spell from my horn. A flowery spiral of ethereal lights shone in slow motion as the massive spell rotated towards its target. My creation at last unleashed its potential when it made contact with the metallic door. The seal shimmered and pulsed before erupting in a white flash. It released the door to reveal an immense, dimly lit gymnasium.

“What did you do?” My onlooker stared blankly, clawing underneath his Royal Guard armor, trying to make room for a bit of sweat.

I passed him a sheepish smile when the hallways warped back into my perception. “I probably broke any seals attached to the door. It’s probably for the best, though, since whoever made that new spell didn’t account for overcharging.”

The opening held such contrast against the bright hallways, because inside, the deep and the dark reigned. I shifted my saddlebags and walked to my final destination at long last.

“Well, at least it’s not my problem,” the gryffon muttered, nearly out of earshot. “Oh and Luster.”

I quickly turned, bouncing my legs while blurting out, “Yeah Gallus?”

He scoffed, then quipped, “We usually don’t let tigers in there, so don’t go tearing up the place or Captain Berrytwist will have my wings.”

“The Princess has already granted me this birthday wish against her own judgement, so for her sake, you can count on me.” He gave me one last amused look and nodded before walking back to his post down the torchlit, white-bricked hallway.

Whatever he meant by tigers I completely missed, because the massive room in front of me with its assortment of monochromatic equipment held me captive.

Two large meshes hung down from the high ceiling, slicing the floors into three regions, but they allowed room on the sides for ponies to walk through. Skybound windows intermingled with the metallic bars of the roof’s structure, letting in thin slits of moonlight and revealing the cushions and cubbies against the walls. Along the ground at the edges of the room, small, dim, white lights masked the light blue clay in a grayscale hue and caused criss-crossing shadows along the large gray bricks of the walls.

I broke out of the trance with a head shake and quickly closed the door behind me. I took stock of my surroundings as I stepped into the middle of the first court and levitated my saddlebags into a cubby. The smooth floors were engineered with spellcasting in mind, so they could absorb rogue magic and keep me stable while practicing. I closed my eyes and flared my horn. The chilled room was brimming with enchantments, probably mostly containment and sound muffling spells, following barriers one-oh-one — the low light levels and crisp air was important for the longev—

An impact wave rippled from my left and met my haphazard barrier spell with full force. The world went white for a second.

I regained my balance and massaged my forehead before looking up. The strobing brightness of a new light show forced my eyelids to squint. Beyond the last mesh, neon yellow beams and bursts bounced off the the walls, forcing the divider to sway under the power of that cloaked unicorn’s magic. Fizzled out energy fell to the floor as their head and chest bobbed at the air. A stray curl of their tricolored mane hung down, covering their face from me.

Whatever face it was, I couldn’t have it disrupting me.

“Yo!” I exclaimed, trying to quell my fight or flight response. “I’m in here now, could you drop the power of those spells a bit?”

“M-my bad!” the mare shouted, not turning towards me. “Wasn’t expecting that much oomph. You know how magic can be these days.”

I had gotten through to her, so I accepted her mediocre apology with an, “All good!” and recentered. From that point, I couldn’t waste any more time.

An impromptu barrier spell was definitely a warmup, because I could feel the movements of magic like a warm breeze on the inside of my legs. My aura grabbed a scroll from my saddlebags and unfurled it during its journey to me. Fallo imagine, accelero, and practicing creative uses of fingo were all good places to start. My track record with illusion spells had not been stellar, and Sharp Hex swore that this one was easy to master.

Memories of last night flushed into my head. These competitions were unpredictable, especially when casting any category of spells on demand. The round had unfortunately been to my opponent’s expertise, yet I would have ensured victory if my lacking mental library had contained the words on this scroll. Eventually, I secured my funds for the week, but it had been close. Way too close.

I flipped the scroll to the backside where the accompanying incantations resided. I set down the page and swung my body back and forth a tad, oozing the tightness out of my muscles. Learning new spells always took a drawn out process, but this was the most effective way.

The incantation was short and sweet, easy to master. School taught us a simple mental checklist, and I stuck to it every time. Focus on the words and the poetry, because that invokes a feeling. This feeling formed the shape of the spell, then it just needed the fuel. Of course, maintaining a clear head was a given, so I parted my mouth just slightly and let the air fill the balloon in my lungs.

An image not plain, it fools others with no strain.

I let out the held breath. I felt my focus probe my mind, pushing down on different areas of my forehead. I breathed and played it over in my thoughts once more.

An image not plain, it fools others with no strain

There. I felt the resonance with the spell, like my heart singing to a timely song. A shiver shot through my shoulders and flourished around my mind, awakening it. The feeling seeped into the torso, where my heart pumped it to the extremities. The currents of magic against my coat whistled with renewed vigor. I could feel the individual hairs of my mane as the energy flowed nearby.

Fallo imagine.

I blinked once and opened my eyes to see a mirror set down in front of me. At least, that was my initial thought.

Splotches of less vivid pinks and unnaturally wiggling legs signaled my inaccuracies with the spell, and my mane looked like it went through a river. I huffed and dissolved the magical image in front of me.

After that frame of mind seemed so correct, I grimaced at the imperfections. It might have passed the competition’s judgement or even passed as me in a crowd, but I was baffled at the way this illusion would freak out anypony that got within a buckball field range. This spell was supposed to be easy, not pathetic.

As my head rummaged through some dejected thoughts, my aura grabbed the scroll in front of me. I looked up to find some strange spells and hornwriting that looked familiar, but not expected. The scroll swiveled to reveal its seal, and matching the hornwriting was the Princess’ cutie mark. Yet, these spells were ones I learned last year or earlier.

I could have double-checked, but I had been pretty sure all the scrolls in my bag were recent.

My head swung over to the end of the gym through the meshes, but stopped halfway when I saw the hooded figure levitating a scroll in front of her face and walking past the cubbies where I placed my belongings.

Major red flags were waving among that neon yellow aura.

This mysterious unicorn stopped at the edge of the divider, barely peeking out. “I think that spell I cast switched our scrolls, so that’s on me. I’m so sorry.”

She went to retrieve her scroll from my magic, but I held onto it. When I spoke, the mare’s body froze. “Are you a student? If not, how do you know the princess?”

My hoofstep towards her thawed her from the prison of social discomfort. “Listen,” she said in a light, clear voice. It was too professional, like it was trained to sound elegant. “I just want to get back to practicing my spells.”

Just as I closed the gap enough to see her face, she looked away and covered it with her hood. The grilling continued while my hooves stopped. “Those spells went through military grade protections, yet you are practicing the magic of a teenager. Who are you?”

She was taller than I, about the size of a full-grown mare. Her slim legs, from what I could see, curved in the arch of a bow as they locked in place once again. In the dim moonlight, maybe she thought she could hide within the shadows or camouflage like a chameleon. Yet, she cast no spells to hide herself. Catching her on the run wouldn’t have been an issue, but the statue stayed in place besides a few mutterings and shallow breaths. And again, that tri-colored mane poked out from behind its armor...

Armor.

“Princess Flurry Heart?”

She pulled back her black hood, letting the curls bounce around her disheartened face. “Auntie said you are sharp.”

My heart floated to the front of my chest. “Princess Twilight really said that...”

“Could you make sure that she doesn’t know I was here?” Her voice was soft, and although she might be a princess one day, she had the heart of a worried teenager.

“No worries,” I said with a hoof in the air. “I didn’t plan on telling her.”

Her form lost an inch, and a couple deep breaths calmed her down completely. “Thank you.”

I could see the map of Equestria in my mind’s eye, spreading rulers and lines across it to see what kind of journeys could get her here in under a few hours. There were mountains, rivers, and frozen plains to cross in order to make it to Canterlot on her own. Anypony would have noticed something out of the blue, especially those in the Crystal Empire missing one of their royal family. I might have gotten swept up in my thoughts a bit, because she chuckled when she looked back at me. “You’re probably wondering why I’m here, right?”

Inferring from her worries and the time of night (morning?), I had a confident guess. “Getting away from it all?”

She looked around at the still, soundless gym. “Mmhm.”

“Especially with the pressures of ruling, I can totally see that. I do appreciate Princess Twilight, but even I enjoy the calm hours of the night.”

“She does think highly of you.” Flurry Heart’s opal eyes looked at my grin with a jaded calmness before sitting down on the cushion beside her, tail poking through her forelegs. “You are her top student, Luster Dawn.”

A piercing thought split my joyous face into a frown. “How’d you know it was me all that time?”

She nodded, and grew a faint smile. “I was here in Canterlot when you shook the world.”

I couldn’t help pursing my lips and looking away. This same old song and dance always seemed to resurface, especially when meeting others for the first time. It really was my legacy.

“I helped tend to you with Auntie when you first arrived back at the castle. I could never miss that messy golden mane again if I tried.” A gulp echoed behind her words as she paused. “You were out cold. Everypony was worried about whether your body could handle it. I remember the day after, it was like a sigh of relief went through the entire castle when the papers made it to the Empire.”

I glanced up at the now descending moon. “Yeah, that makes sense then.” This conversation wasn’t going anywhere productive. “Well, Princess, I can only ask that you don’t somehow swap these scrolls again. Got a busy night of practicing spells ahead of me.”

The court plopped against my hooves as I turned away and walked towards its center. My lit horn swapped the scrolls quickly, and behind me I heard it fall to the floor. Although I hadn’t performed the illusion spell perfectly the first time, the second would at least be better. Practice makes progress. Just in the past year was the first time I had learned a proper telepathy spell, but over time I mastered it. Vigor filled my veins as the memory of overcoming those obstacles flooded into me.

Again I went through my routine, my checklist, and found my center. Repetitions became effortless after all this time. Autopilot took over my actions, especially at this hour, and I set my horn alight as I attempted to recreate my image.

Somepony watching, however, disrupted things. “Maybe you could help me.” Sparks crackled and colored the gym in a shimmering yellowish orange as the spell fizzled out. I did a double take out of utter confusion and side-eyed the young Princess. This time, however, she wasn’t phased. “I apologize for the interruption, but this is important.”

Setting frustration aside was tough, but opportunities like this didn’t present themselves often. I was lucky enough to have made the best of one already. I set down the scroll and began completing the lap back to her. “With all due respect, Princess, why me? I’m not an accredited wizard yet.”

“There’s nopony else of your caliber who has experienced an anomaly, and there’s nopony else who has any reason to figure out how to stop them.” From her place by the wall, Flurry Heart scanned me with overpowering patience, waiting for my response. A scoff escaped me as I stopped beside her, joining her at the cushions, but it did not satisfy her.

After years of reading the papers and hearing it from teachers, there was one widely assumed claim. “They’re normal at this point, so why would anypony else look into it?”

Colors shone in her eyes and in her mane as she confronted me, even in this pale moonlight. Like her aunt, she could sit still as long as was necessary, never budging unless through a concentrated decision. So, when she turned to me, I met her gaze. “What happened to you was normal? I’d like to see the studies supporting that notion.”

I’d seen tricks like this before, these psychological tactics. She was appealing to my emotions, preying on the irrational side of me. Whether or not it was actually working, playing along was in my best interest. “What are you trying to say?”

“There’s something wrong with the magic in Equestria, and like you said, nopony else is looking into it.” She closed her eyes then and bowed her head. This was no game. “Lives could be at stake here, just like yours was. There are more incidents occurring, ones that aren’t being spread out across the nation. It’s…” she hesitated and took a breath. “It will be my duty to keep ponies safe.”

Apprehension took over for a moment. Princess Twilight was my greatest ally whom I would never attempt to circumvent. Yet, here her niece escaped her watch and found somepony in order to solve a mystery of apparent national importance without approval. The confusion of the situation was not going to get easier if I agreed to help Princess Flurry Heart. Her emotions were genuine, anypony could see that, but more than that, she truly believed that I could help by uncovering my past and finding the missing puzzle pieces.

She passed me a small smile while she waited, and sometimes she tugged at her cloak a bit to loosen it around her wings. The youthful mare was slim, and she might’ve even been younger than myself.

Perhaps I would sort this all out during one of my biweekly meetings with my mentor, but I could not turn down an opportunity to personally assist another member of the royal family. Especially if this would resurface the story of the Mare Who Lassoed the Sun, this partnership had the potential to be a career starter as a researcher and respected academic, even if I were bucking way out of my weight class. Imagining solving a decades-long mystery gave me a pulsefire. Somepony was smiling down on me.

“I’ll help you in whatever ways I can, Princess.” She needed to hear that, to have that outside assistance withdrawn from the entanglement of royal duties and political constraints. The energy within the room changed right then, as the sheer presence of the alicorn’s emotions radiated into the ether.

She focused on the task. “We need to find something that can clue us in on what is really going on. The Empire’s libraries are full of surprises, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t banking on it.” I looked away from Flurry into the deep, criss-crossing shadows on the walls. Research wasn’t this simple, unfortunately, and although years of historical runes and research were being rediscovered in the Empire, I doubted if a random topic on recent events would show up there.

Like the shadows, the path which I had once traced out to look through Canterlot’s libraries unfolded. “Out of my own curiosity, I’ve done searches in the library here for any information regarding what happened, but it was always dead ends.” The pessimistic demeanor vanished when I saw the dismay on my new associate’s face. “Of course, new materials or ones I’ve missed are always worth seeking out. I’ll put my best hoof forward, like with anything else.”

She took in one breath before gnawing at the gray cloak she wore, rustling about and then checking the time within the descending moon. “Great. Let’s hope that others will listen to us, Luster Dawn.”

“Please, just call me Dawn.”

“Sure thing, Dawn, as long as you stop calling me Princess.” Flurry got up, shedding off her cloak and flaring her wings. She revealed the tall, slender form which carried her like royalty, and the cutie mark which precisely confirmed it. The Crystal Heart shone brightly, embroidered with the twelve point snowflake of the Crystal Empire’s flag. The intensity of her stoic visage permeated the area, just as I felt when in the same room as Princess Twilight.

She turned towards the cubbies where her own things were stored. “I should be going soon, I can’t go through the day on no sleep at all.”

I followed her past the two dividers through the shadowy gym. “We should make a plan,” I offered. “How does meeting back up in a week or so sound? We could try and make some headway in research by then. Nothing concrete until next week.”

“Hmm.” Her horn hummed along with her as she packed back up her scrolls and a glowing crystal. “I can only be away after nightfall, and even then I never know what time I will be let go from my duties. It depends on the day.”

Another indecisive group member. Even royalty can’t escape the salivating jaws of procrastination. “Honestly, that’s fine. I can write a note on my door whenever I leave home after nightfall starting in five days. That should work out. I’m three doors down from Donut Joe’s, the slim apartment with a white door.”

“Luckily, Auntie has taken me to Donut Joe’s one too many times.” Saddlebags girted, she turned towards me one last time. Flurry was honestly beaming, and the creases on her face made it seem like the first time she had done so in a while. “Dawn,” she told me, “thank you. I’ll see you again soon.”

I waved a hoof as she locked her legs. “You might want to back up,” she warned.

Her horn started sparking. Without thinking, I dove towards the mesh, and the pop that followed made my ears ring for the rest of the night.

The gym felt hollow without her here, but this was what I was expecting earlier. Solitude. Myself and my spells. This was what I wanted, but the chance to make a new acquaintance and research partner, especially one of that status, was an added bonus.

It had taken some time away from my studies, however. I’m sure that my teachers would not be pleased with me being up so late, but I needed to get these spells down.

I needed to make progress.

Accelero,” I whispered, retreating into my mind once again.