• Published 17th Apr 2023
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My Next Life as a Pony - Love_Bite



A human is reincarnated as a pony. Let’s hope he makes the best of it!

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Chapter 3: A Magic Block

“Lodie! Hey, suané, time to wake up.”

I open my eyes.

My room is different now. Where there was once a crib, now a small bed rests flush against the wall. The great bay window still lets in the morning Sun, but now there is a small writing desk before it with some unfinished drawings spread across the surface. A glass lamp resting on top sparkles in the light, casting a prism of colors on the opposite wall. A cedar bureau and shelves crammed with thick books take up the leftover space. I’ve gathered a lot more reading material in the past six years.

Turning over on my pillow, I see Mom peeking through my door giving me a warm smile.

“Good morning. Come on, brush your mane and teeth. You’ve got a big day today. Breakfast is downstairs.”

“Coming…”

Sadly, being reborn as a Unicorn didn’t make me more of a morning person. It doesn’t help that I was up late sketching in my notebook. Old habits die hard I suppose.

With a heavy sigh, I manage to force myself up from out of the cozy bed covers and down the hallway to the bathroom. Standing before the mirror over the sink, I see my mane has a serious case of bed-head. Brushing it thoroughly by hoof can be a real pain though.

I stare intently at the brush resting by the faucet, concentrating on its shape, its color and its form. A tingle grows in my chest and I direct it upward through my body to my head. In the mirror, I see a transparent teal aura slowly enveloping my horn. The same aura wraps around the brush and I feel its weight similar to if it was in my hoof.

Once I have a firm grasp on it, so to speak, I try lifting it up off the sink. This is always the difficult part; my success rate with levitating objects so far is around fifty percent.

The brush trembles, quivers and slides out of my magic onto the floor with a clatter. Grumbling, I reach down to grab it off the bathroom tiles when another aura surrounds it and floats it back up to me. I turn around to see Soothplayer—my Unicorn “uncle” of sorts.

His true name is Seuthe-Kuerdo1. I used to translate it as True Hearts, but after a few years of familiarizing myself with the language I settled on Soothplayer as a better translation. That’s still not fully accurate though.

The trouble is his name is a sort of pun. Lots of pony names work that way. Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details. The main point is that it’s complicated and Soothplayer works well enough.

“Thanks, Soothe.”

“Don’t mention it. And don’t worry about your magic. It takes practice for everypony when they’re first starting. You’ll get it and before you know it’ll be second nature.”

“I hope that happens before this afternoon…”

Soothplayer ruffles my already messy mane.

“It’ll happen when it happens. No use in worrying over it. You’re a smart colt, Lode. I could barely make a spark happen at your age.”

With that bit of encouragement and another mane ruffling, he leaves me, probably heading downstairs to get his breakfast. I take my time getting ready for the day.

By the time I make my way down to the kitchen, the rest of the family is settled and eating. A bowl of oatmeal is set at my usual spot.

Across from me, Bon Appetit is feeding Arabesque, my half-sister. She’s the daughter of my dad and Bon—the one I used to call Good Desire. When I was four years old, she and dad made Arabesque.

Unlike me, Arabesque is an Earth pony. She’s a lighter gray than her mother and has light pink stripes through her dark gray mane. The tips of her hooves are the same shade of pink. They remind me of ballerina shoes.

“Lodeeee! Lodeee!”

She calls my name and I give her a little wave. A big smile spreads over her cute little face. She’s adorable and she knows it.

Bon tries to get her to swallow another spoonful of mashed oats.

“Here comes the train, myné leuda-filla. Open up. Upaniné!”

Arabesque simply blows a raspberry and tosses the spoon across the table with a giggle. Dad deftly catches the spoon as though he was ready for it while taking a sip of his morning coffee.

Next to him sits Sunny Flare. She’s my other half-sister. Her parents are my mom and Soothplayer. She’s two years younger than I am, but seems so much more mature.

She neatly scoops her oats up and dabs her mouth politely with a napkin after swallowing. Her coat is bright magenta and her fiery mane curls down around her horn like a lick of flame.

“Good morning, Lode.”

“Morning, Sunny.”

“You and Mom and Bramble are going out today, right?”

“That’s right, deura. Me and Bram are taking Lodie to his entrance exam today. Isn’t that exciting?”

Mom sits down next to me with a wet comb and starts attacking my mane. Seems my own efforts aren’t up to her standards. Suddenly, I lose my appetite for oatmeal.

“Mom, it’s fine. I doubt the exam will be on how well styled my mane is.”

“Stellar, let the colt eat his breakfast in peace.”

“Oh, but doesn’t it ever just lie flat?”

“No.”

Dad skims through the morning paper while taking another sip of coffee. He looks up at me, studying my face.

“Something on your mind, Lode?”

“No, sir. Just—is it alright if I head over to Shining’s place now? We’re planning to go over together anyway. You guys can meet me there, right?”

“You’re not going to finish breakfast?”

“I’m full, Dad. Really.”

I think Dad can tell exactly what’s on my mind, but doesn’t question me further. He simply nods and goes back to his paper and coffee.

“We’ll meet you at Night Light’s then. Remember your manners.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you. Bye, Mom, Boán, Sunny.”

I kiss Arabesque on the cheek as I leave the kitchen. I get a cute little giggle for my troubles.

When I reach the front door, Aurora Sky is entering and hanging up her flying goggles. Aurora—formerly known as Easter Sky—works with the weather Pegasi over Canterlot. She tends to get the night shifts though.

“Morning, squirt. Heading out already? Thought your exam wasn’t until the afternoon?”

She lets loose a big yawn. Bags hang heavy under her emerald green eyes.

“Shame I can’t be there. I’d love to cheer you on.”

“Thanks, Sky. You look like you need a bed though.”

“Or a nice fluffy cloud.”

She stretches her purple feathers out as she heads for the stairs up to her room.

“Good luck, squirt. Haah, and good night.”

I head outside and down the street a few blocks until I see Shining’s house come into view. His place is much like my own, only not as many floors high.

We both live in Canterlot’s higher income residential district. This part of the city is called the Upper Crust. Most of the ponies who live here come from noble families or rich mercantile herds. Dad was able to land a spot here thanks to his job and rank in the city guard. I suppose it also helps to have multiple ponies in the herd bringing in the bits. I know Soothplayer gets big billing for his performances and Bon does really well with her cafe.

Shining’s family is well off too. Night Light, Shining’s father, works with the royal court mages. I think Twilight Velvet, his wife and Shining’s mom, also used to do something similar before she became a stay at home mother.

I ring the doorbell and Velvet ushers me in with a welcoming smile. She really is a nice mare and I feel kind of bad for referring to her as “Half-lit” before. I corrected her name around the same time I figured out Shining’s true name. At least I was pretty close with that one.

Shining is waiting in the living room playing with his little sister, Twilight Sparkle, on the floor. Twilight is the same age as Arabesque; two years old. She’s a little purple thing with a striped mane like her mother’s. She rolls around on the floor knocking over a tower of building blocks.

Shining gets up and greets me with a hoof bump.

“What’s up? You ready for today?”

“Totally. We’ll ace this exam and be back for dinner before you know it.”

Heh, yeah…”

An awkward silence follows. Clearly, like me, Shining has his doubts and also like me, he doesn’t want to voice them lest they become a reality.

“Oh yeah! Dad got me a new Paladin figure for our campaign. Wanna see?”

“Bet!”

He takes me upstairs to his room where we pour over his figures. They are part of a game called Ogres and Oubliettes, think Dungeons and Dragons. Being the nerd I am, it proved easy to bond over the game with Shining. Of course, it was a big surprise when I learned that dragons are actually a thing here. I wonder if I’ll get to meet one someday?

Together, the two of us spend the morning coming up with plans for our campaign. My character is a bard while Shining prefers the paladin. Neither of us bring up the topic of the exam. It isn’t long though before Velvet knocks on the bedroom door and tells us it’s time to get going.

Shining and I exchange a look.

“Guess it’s time then.”

“Yeah, guess so.”

“I wonder if we’ll need that levitation spell you showed me the other day?”

“Hope not. I couldn’t even float a brush this morning. Heheh.”

Heh, yeah…”

We head downstairs to find Mom, Dad, Velvet and Night Light waiting in the foyer. Bon is here too. Looks like she’s in charge of looking after the little ones while we’re gone.

“You colts ready?”

Dad searches both our faces like a sergeant inspecting his troops. Shining smiles excitedly as he does so. He likes Dad and the fact that he’s part of the city guard. Maybe because it reminds him of the paladin?

“We’re ready, Dad.”

Dad nods and our group heads out after saying our goodbyes to Bon and the little ones. We all stick to a tight group as we head uptown toward the school district.

Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. The name intrigues me and has done so ever since I heard it two years ago. A whole school dedicated to teaching magic. I wonder what it will be like?

The Sun is past its apex when we arrive at the school. I spot a few students heading inside through the great oak doors at the entrance. Above the doors is a motto; Oi-na kerdari kerna es’sa kerdari menda. “A heartful horn is a heartful mind.”

We enter after the students into a large antechamber. Paintings, friezes, and tapestries adorn every painted wall. Small vignettes of statues and furniture tuck themselves neatly into cozy nooks. To either side of the entryway, intricately carved wooden stairs swoop down from the upper floors, framing the hall ahead in rich mahogany. Our footsteps are muffled by an elegant carpet marking the pathway to the main hall.

I hear Mom and Velvet whispering excitedly to one another. Seems this is bringing back old memories for the two of them. Dad walks on stoically. Being in the city guard has made him used to such expensive settings and Night Light does his best to imitate the same air of quiet dignity. I do catch him sneaking glances at a marble bust of an ancient Unicorn general though.

Shining Armor and I drink in the sights like thirsty pilgrims. Everywhere and everything exude regalness and intellectual pride more so than any university or institute on Earth could hope to achieve. This truly is a place of higher learning.

We reach the receptionist’s desk at the front of the hall. An older looking Unicorn mare adjusts her reading glasses and magically straightens a stack of parchment as we approach.

“Good day. May I help you?”

“We are here for the entrance exam today. Could you direct us to the Starswirl lecture hall?”

Dad answers for our group. He stands at attention, back stiff and head held high. The mare studies him over her glasses. Her expression takes on a dismissive air when she notices his lack of a horn. At least, that’s how it appears to me.

“Yes, yes. New students here for testing, but not you, the Earth pony? It must be the two young colts hiding behind you and the two whom I assume must be their mothers. May I have their names? I need to check my registry for their appointed times and check them in if you don’t mind, sire?”

Shining and I exchange a look. We are definitely not hiding behind our moms like some scared little foals. Nodding, we silently agree that this mare is too stuck up for her own good. Dad plays off the slight as only a veteran guard can.

“Yes, ma’am. The two of them are the ones testing. My son, Lodestar, is the one on the right with my wife, Stellar Blossom, and Shining Armor is the one to the left with his mother, Twilight Velvet.”

“I am Night Light, Shining’s father. Pleased to meet you.”

Night Light offers a nervous hoof to the receptionist, but she is busy scribbling down our names in her registry and doesn’t seem to notice. After a minute, her eyes drift up from the book to Dad, a half-bored expression playing across her features.

“And you are?”

“Bramble Helm, first lieutenant of Her Majesty’s Royal City Guard. As stated, I am Lodestar’s father.”

“I see.”

Her tone is one of bemused disbelief. She sets aside the registry with her magic and rings a little bell next to her gilded reading lamp.

A younger mare comes trotting up to the desk at the sound of the bell. She’s also a Unicorn, but much less snooty-looking than the receptionist. Her light orange fur is accented by a black and yellow striped mane. On her flank is an image of an overflowing pot of honey.

“Yes, mistress Paper Pusher? Did you need me for something?”

“Honeypot, please escort these ponies down to the lounge by the lecture hall. They, by which I mean the two small colts, are here for the entrance exams today.”

“Of course, right away! Please, follow me everypony.”

Her chipper voice makes me think of an energetic honey bee zipping through a flower garden. She makes a beeline down the hallway and our group has to canter a few paces to catch up. As we head to the lounge, Honeypot gives us a small tour of the sights we see along the way.

“And this is a tapestry depicting the signing of the treaty at the Pasture of the Fleece of Gold. It’s very pretty… Actually, there’s a hidden passage behind it that leads out of the school to the Twisted Horn tavern downtown, but shh! Don’t let anyone know I told you that. It’s supposed to be a secret only the seniors know about, but hey, their secret is our secret.”

Mom and Velvet share a quiet giggle. It appears the secret hasn’t been much of one for a long time. Shining winks at me when Dad is looking the other way.

“Sounds like a good way to ditch class sometime. You in?”

“Definitely.”

My answer comes as a whisper when I notice Dad’s ear perk up. He turns to us with a stern look, but we put on our best masks of innocence and he goes back to listening to Honeypot’s tour seemingly none the wiser. It feels good to share secrets with a friend again. I can hardly remember doing it back on Earth.

Before long, we reach the lecture hall. A bronze placard above its closed doors reads, “Starswirl Lecture Gallery.” Across the hallway is a smaller room where I see other families seated and waiting. Presumably, they’re all here for the entrance exams like us.

“You can all wait here until they call you in. Shouldn’t be long now. Good luck!”

Honeypot waves goodbye as she turns back down the hall. I wonder how old she is? She looks only a few years older than Shining and me. Well, I suppose if I pass the exam I’ll get to see her again and ask her myself.

Waiting in the lounge somehow manages to take forever while also seeming to pass by in a few minutes. Anxiety is the most prevalent emotion in the room. Would-be students sit jittering in their cushioned chairs while their parents pace back and forth over priceless carpets.

Each applicant gets called into the lecture hall one by one. The doors must be sealed with a silencing spell since I can’t hear anything once an applicant enters. Minutes pass until finally the pony exits either smiling ecstatically or loping away in a dismayed stupor. Usually it’s the latter. Sometimes they’ll enter and exit on their own and sometimes they’ll be with family like me.

All of the Unicorns besides Shining and me are older, maybe around ten or twelve. I remember Soothplayer saying how unusual it was that someone my age was applying at all. I wonder if that’s a good thing or not? Will they single us out because we’re so young? I’m grateful I’ll have my folks supporting me.

“Applicant Gellaré Armo. Please enter.”

Shining Armor swallows in trepidation. I can see sweat beading on his brow and when he stands his legs wobble like jelly.

“Guess that’s us.”

Night Light doesn’t look that great either, but is clearly doing his best to keep a calm demeanor for his son. Velvet is a rattle of nerves. Dad puts a reassuring hoof on Shining’s shoulder.

“I’m sure you know, but no matter what happens in there, everyone here is proud of you. Do your best and you’ll be fine.”

Shining looks from the hoof on his shoulder to Dad and then to his mother and father. Night Light and Velvet smile warmly back, eyes full of pride and adoration. He turns to me and nods, determination settling on his face. I nod back.

“Go get’em, Army.”

“Yeah, see you on the other side, Lode.”

They exit the lounge and I hear the doors to the lecture hall open and close decisively. Mom and Dad and I sit in silence while we wait. There’s only a few applicants left in the room besides me and there were only a handful to begin with.

I know Shining will be fine. His knack for magic is no joke. As long as the test is something reasonable, like levitation or basic transformation, he should pass with flying colors. Surely, they can’t expect much else from untrained Unicorns?

But what if they are? I remember all the spell books stacked on the shelves in my bedroom. Most of the formulas I could hardly wrap my head around; divination, transmodulation, hydromancy, pyromancy, allomancy and even chrono-teleportation. And here I am barely able to float a hair brush half the time. What am I even doing here?

I feel a pair of hooves wrap around me; one from my left, one from my right. Mom and Dad hold me close until their warmth spreads through me. I smell their scents, a floral bouquet from Mom, an earthy balm from Dad.

“What I said earlier. The same applies to you, Lode. We’re proud of you no matter what.”

“We love you, deuro. You’re our bright guiding star. You’ll be fine.”

Mom kisses my cheek and strokes my mane soothingly.

There’s a part of me—the old Anthony part—that’s envious. When I was a kid I can remember turning in my application to art school and telling my parents all about it. How excited I was about pursuing my dream. I vividly remember how my father told me I should start searching for back-up schools and how my mother asked her friends if they knew of any job openings around in case my application fell through.

Certainly, looking back on it as an adult, I can see they were just being practical and looking out for me in their own way. But I wonder sometimes how I would’ve turned out if I was given the same level of support that Mom and Dad show me now.

I guess I wouldn’t be here. And I never would’ve met Faust or Mom or Dad or the rest of the family. So maybe things were just meant to happen this way?

“Applicant Leitherster. Please enter.”

All three of us stand and head for the door. Being so caught up in my own thoughts, I didn’t notice Shining exiting the hall. By the time I spot him and his parents, he’s already rounding a corner further down the hallway and I can’t catch his attention. His face is turned away so I can’t even tell his expression. Did he pass?

I don’t have much time to worry though. The doors to the gallery open wide as we enter. Rows of long desks and benches flow downward in tiers before reaching a semi-circular stage at the bottom. A podium is placed toward the back of the stage and behind it is a massive modular blackboard.

There’s a piece of chalk magically writing my name in large script on the board. The yellow aura surrounding it belongs to one of the four ponies sitting at the bottom tier before the stage.
All four of them are Unicorns2—two stallions and two mares—and all of them hold clipboards with parchment attached for note-taking. One of the stallions is collecting more parchment into a neat stack from the other three. It’s probably the scores and notes of the previous applicant, Shining Armor. Already, they are making glances at me and my parents and scribbling down comments with levitated quills.

I don’t take much notice of them however. Most of my attention is on the large marble sphere in front of the blackboard. Pieces of rubble surround the sphere where it meets the wooden planks of the stage. It looks like someone carved it right on the spot.

As we step down the stairs leading to the bottom, I can appreciate just how justly formed the sphere is. It reminds me of a computer model; completely smooth with no signs of being worked by tools. It’s a perfect geometric form. Euclid would be proud.

“May we ask the parents to confirm the identity and details of birth and residence?”

Dad heads over to where the four are seated and reviews a piece of parchment. I notice one of the mares eyeing Dad with an even more snooty expression than the receptionist from before. Her face oozes contempt and she rolls her eyes when he points out a mistake as if wondering why she has to deal with this Earth pony. Equestria lacks a lot of the shortcomings of Earth, but it appears racism isn’t one of them.

The sight makes my blood boil and I look to Mom to see if she’s feeling the same. Mom, however, doesn’t appear angry, but rather sad. She has a look of pity, but whether it’s for Dad or the snooty mare, I can’t tell. Perhaps she’s seen this too many times to feel angry about it anymore? Sadness creeps up on me the more I think about it.

For his part, Dad ignores the mare’s looks and stares her down with his unflappable golden gaze. If stoicism had a face it would be Brembé-Elmer. The stallion doesn’t let anyone or anything disrupt his calm. I can picture a rock holding steady in a fast flowing stream.

After reading through the parchment a final time, Dad gives a curt nod and returns to my side.

“Applicant Lodestar, please step forth.”

I want to, but suddenly my legs feel like they’re made of lead. I take a moment trying to remember how to walk. A quick nudge and wink from Dad and a hug from Mom help to get me moving again.

Boán na faustan.”

They whisper good luck to me as I take center stage in front of the marble sphere. In front of me, the judges stare down their snouts over their clipboards without sympathy. High above, I see portraits of past professors with austere expressions seeming to judge me as much as the four Unicorns.

“Another young one, it seems.”

The snooty mare’s voice is shrill and unwelcoming.

“Yes, just like the last. I wonder if these parents are making light of our school nowadays. Having a bit of talent doesn’t make you a shoe-in.”

One of the stallions answers her. His words come out as a bored drawl. On his cheek rests a monocle which he adjusts as he reads through my profile.

“Applicant Lodestar: age six. Born of a Unicorn mother and an—ahem—Earth pony father. When did you get your first spark, applicant?”

“It was half a year ago. I woke up one morning and my horn was glowing like a star. The books in my room were all floating around and so was I until Mom came in and settled me down.”

“Mmm, yes, I see. Nothing unusual as far as these things go.”

His tone isn’t as derisive as the snooty mare’s, but his aristocratic drawl doesn’t come off as amicable either. His orange eyes set against his dark blue fur give him a nocturnal appearance. The other stallion, gray-maned, brown-furred and bespectacled, looks to his colleague adding his own opinion.

“Come now, Gaslight, surely the boy's age factors into it? Half a year ago you say? Why, you would've been all of five years old then, correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You see? Levitation doesn’t normally form at such a young age—especially at an awakening. Of course, it’s not unheard of, but still impressive nonetheless should it turn out to be true.”

The mare next to the brown stallion offers her agreement with his assessment.

“Professor Fullproof has a point. I’d be interested to see how our school will mold such a young mind full of potential.”

Like her snooty yellow counterpart, she has a gray mane pulled up into a tight bun, but her fur is a light sky blue. Her blue eyes, while stern, aren’t shooting daggers at me. Instead, they’re full of appraisal, like a jewel shop owner inspecting a rough cut gem. She puts a hoof to her chin in consideration.

“Have you been able to replicate the feat since then, young one?”

“Sometimes I can levitate books and other small things around my room, but no, it’s never like the first time.”

“Hmm. A magic block, perhaps? It can happen in untrained Unicorns. The solution tends to be getting the pony to surrender their inhibitions to the magic. I’ve dealt with it before. Nothing that can’t be corrected.”

She speaks more to herself than to the room at large. Her quill jots down her thoughts, whizzing across the clipboard in a blur.

“Hexa, the foal’s parentage must be considered as well. Rarely do we see Unicorns of mixed heredity succeed as those of pure-blood. I fear their potential is…diluted, so to speak?”

I feel my eyes flinch. I'm getting really tired of Miss Snooty’s attitude.

“Professor Scones, you know as well as I do that there have been multiple studies done that disprove your viewpoint. Magic is only ever as strong or weak as the individual. And with proper training, raw ability can be raised ten-fold.”

At least the one named Hexa has a solid head on her shoulders. She strikes me as the stern, but fair type.

“Actually, the studies were more or less inconclusive on the matter, Professor Lulamoon. The statistical variances showed no strong correlation either way. Granted, there were many outlying variables that I argued against including as they were bound to muddy the data. I hope the Board will allow me and my own team to redo the experiment at some point as—“

“Yes, yes, Professor. We can all agree that further study will be needed.”

Gaslight cuts off Fullproof’s ramblings with a wave of his hoof.

“Gathering a history of the colt’s magical feats and determining his raw potential is all very important, but we must stay focused on the task at hoof. For now, we must judge the applicant’s abilities by what he can show us today, here in this hall where so many great magical minds began their journey.”

Gaslight points his quill at me with his orange magic.

“Before we begin, may I ask why you’ve come to our prestigious institution? What do you hope to achieve by enrolling?”

I take a breath, settling my emotions before I answer.

“Professor, I want to learn all I can about magic. I want to know how far I can go as a Unicorn and I think this place will help me with that. That’s why I want to enroll. I don’t want to regret not taking my chance while I have it.”

“No regrets? I see. Very well we shall hold you to that and test your mettle, are you ready to begin?”

“I am, sir.”

“Good. Now, Professor Fullproof, please explain the test to our young friend here and do try to keep brevity in mind.”

“Yes, Professor Glamour.”

He shows a chagrined smile to Gaslight and gives me a wink before he continues. He reminds me of one of my uncles back on Earth; sort of good-natured yet slightly bumbling. I don’t mind it, though. It keeps the whole situation grounded in a way.

“Now, Lodestar, was it? Yes, well, if you’re not yet as blind as me you’ll have noticed the large marble sphere behind you.”

“I have, Professor. Does my exam involve it somehow?”

“Right on the horn, myné kulte. Yes, you see we would like you to sculpt us something today.”

“Sculpt?”

“Indeed! With your magic, of course. Here, let me prepare your material first.”

A silver aura—the same shade as Fullproof’s eyes—envelopes the sphere and the rubble on the floor. Like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, the bits of debris fit themselves back together under the Professor’s magical influence. When the last piece is fitted snugly in place, the once perfect sphere is now a large rectangular slab of marble. There is no trace of the seams where the rubble reformed. It looks like it was cut fresh from the quarry this morning.

“Wow!”

The word escapes me as a breathless whisper. In my reading, I learned about repair spells. They require a very clear image of whatever object you’re hoping to reform in your mind’s eye. It’s a subset of transmutation magic.

I remember trying it out on a broken pencil once. After what must’ve been a hundred failed attempts, I managed to stitch the wood back together, though one look at it and it was obvious to anyone that it was once in two. Yet, the Professor managed a seamless reformation with brittle material separated into thousands of pieces. And he made it look easy.

“There we are. Now as I said, your task is quite a simple one in concept. We are not expecting perfect artistry from you. The last applicant chose a very simple form to shape. I’d advise on a similar strategy. A sphere, cube or pyramid should suffice, but I wouldn’t fault you for getting creative with it, eh?”

The good Professor’s words seem to come from some far away place as my mind kicks into overdrive. The first thought is relief. Shining Armor must’ve passed if he was the one who made that sphere. Way to go, Army!

Second comes disbelief. How in the world did he do it? With magic, of course, but I didn’t think he was that much beyond my own ability. In fact, I thought I was further ahead as far as magic was concerned… Reality is humbling no matter which universe you’re in it seems.

The third feeling is hopelessness. There’s no way I can do what Shining did. While it’s true that separating material is easier in theory than reforming it, making such a perfect shape on my first attempt is crazy. The most I could manage is maybe shearing off a piece of it using a slicing hex. I doubt that would impress them much.

Maybe my human mind isn’t cut out for magic? I always seem to have a hard time visualizing the outcome I want. The spell formulation becomes messy as a result and I get some half-baked version of what’s expected. I don’t blame my Earth pony genes. I know it’s a byproduct of being an old jaded human mind hiding in a young colt's body. But there isn't much I can do about it at this point.

“Don’t give up, Lodie!”

“You got this, son!”

I look up. I only just now realize I’ve been staring at the floor while having a small panic attack. I see Mom and Dad. Any doubt I’m feeling is absent in their eyes. They really believe I can do this…

I gather myself and take a deep breath. Maybe it’s not as impossible as it seems? Shining did it after all. Maybe there’s a trick to it?

“Do hurry up, applicant. We have more exams after this and I’d rather not be here all day, Celestia willing.”

Professor Scones is flipping her quill around with her sickly yellow magic as she stares disinterestedly down at me. I feel something light up in my chest. I’m not going to fail in front of this stuck-up mare!

Looking at the marble slab I think back to my spell books. All spells require on some level a basic visualization of the magic being performed. I have to see the form buried in the marble. It’s already there. I just have to bring it out.

Putting a hoof to one of its faces, I feel its smooth cut surface. It’s hard, but also brittle. Puffs of white dust flake off as I run my hoof over it. I need a full picture of it in my mind’s eye. I got to touch the marble, feel the marble, sniff the marble, date the marble… wait, what am I even saying?

Sighing, I turn back to face my judges. I see Professor Fullproof grinning eagerly, waiting to see what I’ll do. Simple forms will suffice, but I won’t fault you for getting creative.

Spheres, and cubes and pyramids are all easy images to conjure up, but they’re almost too generic. I can’t seem to hold any particular one in my head for long. Certainly not under this pressure. I need something more distinct.

I concentrate on my magic. The spark in my chest ignites and I channel the energy up to my horn. I need an image.

The magic pools at the base of my horn, shaping itself to my thoughts. Spell subset: transmutation. Base material: marmoré. Function: subtraction. Subset: sculparen. Product:____

An image coalesces in my head. It’s a memory. No, maybe a dream? There’s a statue. Some creature. A long undulating form with claws and talons and wings. It’s misshapen. Discordant. It’s face in agony. What is it?

I don’t know and don’t care. The vision is strong and vivid. This will work!

My magical potential strains at my horn. I can feel the surging energy reach out and take hold of the marble. I remember this power. It’s always been there. I just need to believe.

A swarm of colors crosses my vision. And then everything is white. I can hear my own breathing. I can feel my beating heart. It calms me. I sense the marble clearly as if I were hugging it. It vibrates. And then suddenly, it breaks apart and in its place a statue is formed.

My teal magic dissipates. I look round at the room. Mom and Dad are transfixed, staring at me as if I were someone they’d never met before. The four professors are all in various states of shock.

Gaslight lost his monocle at some point. Fullproof is about to fall out of his seat. Hexa is on her feet, eyes wide. And Scones is staring slack jawed, her bun starting to come undone.

Meran Superiari!”

Fullproof adjusts the small bow tie around his neck trying to catch his breath.

“My stars, I’ve never seen the like! Such detail! But how do you know of it? Have you been to the royal gardens, young one?”

I turn to face my creation. It’s a perfect replica of my vision; a strange mismatched creature writhing in agony.

“I don’t know… I—it just sort of came to me. I’ve never seen it before. What is it?”

Gaslight takes a moment to collect himself before answering with one word.

Dis-Kerda.”

Dis-Kerda? Torn Heart? No, it’s more specific. That’s too literal. I look up into the creature’s eyes searching for an answer and the word comes to me. Discord.

My parents run to me. Mom hugs me and I think I hear a small sob escape her. Dad puts a hoof on my shoulder, his normal stoic expression now a hodgepodge of confusion, pride and weariness. What did I just make?

The professors have more or less recovered by now. Hexa clears her throat before speaking.

“Well, that was certainly an impressive showing, Lodestar. Your subject, while unorthodox, shall we say, is nonetheless perfectly formed. In fact, it is the most impressive display of sculpture I have seen demonstrated today.”

“Uh, thank you, Professor.”

She looks to the rest of her colleagues. All three of them nod, even Miss Snooty.

“It seems we are in agreement. Applicant Lodestar, you have passed your exam.”

Now Mom is really hugging me tight. Dad joins in as well and I think I feel a rib crack.

“Way to go, Lodie! Oh, I’m so happy for you!”

“Nice going, Lode! You showed’em all!”

“Guys, can’t breathe…”

It takes a moment for the words to sink in. I passed. I really did it. I passed! Laughter escapes my lips. I can’t help it. Have I ever felt this way before?

“Yes, congratulations. You may exit down the hall to your left when you leave. Miss Paper Pusher will provide you with details on the date of your orientation as well as any books and supplies you will need to purchase before the start of term. We hope to have you back here healthy and ready to learn.”

Professor Lulamoon puts a check next to my name on the blackboard and gives me a small smile.

“Until then, mister Star.”

“See you then, Professor.”

I take a final look at the odd statue before we leave. It’s hard to imagine I made that. The professors are also still examining it as well. Fullproof even comes down to the stage to inspect it, mumbling something to himself as he traces over it with his magic. Well, whatever, a pass is a pass.

Our party exits the lecture hall with a skip in our step. The spacious hallways echo with the sound of our laughs and cheers. When we finally get back to the reception area we find Shining Armor and his parents still showering him with praise.

Shining and I exchange a hoof bump.

“Guessing it went well then?”

Pssh, piece of cake.”

“Are you two ready? We’re going to Bon Appetit's cafe to celebrate. She said she’s cooking your favorite pasta tonight, Lode. Shining, you and your parents are welcome to join us!”

Nice!”

Later that evening, I find myself back upstairs in my room. After dinner, Shining decided he wanted to sleep over. He’s lying on a mattress pulled up beside my bed. We spent a while talking and making plans for the coming days; what books we are going to get, what kinds of spells we should practice before term starts and which clubs we should join at school.

The excitement of the day puts Shining to sleep quick enough though. I also feel my eyelids getting heavy. The last thought that crosses my mind before I fall asleep is the marble statue.

Discord.

*************************************************

Hoofnotes:

  1. The first part, seuthe, is a portmanteau of seuthen—meaning “a soft truth”—and uthé—meaning “lute.” The second part kuerdo has a double meaning; it can mean “a string player,” but also has a homonym that means “heartstring.” So all together a literal translation might be, “a lute player who soothes hearts.”
  2. The four professor’s names are Professor Gaslight Glamour, Professor Hexa Lulamoon, Professor Butter Scones and Professor Fullproof.