• Published 9th Feb 2013
  • 11,262 Views, 43 Comments

The Next Level Of Your Studies - cleversuggestion

Twilight Sparkle gets a letter from Celestia that sets her on a quest for knowledge which will transform her more deeply and completely than she ever imagined was possible.

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15. Luna's Old Toy

CE 1215, after Luna's Return Banquet

Luna had dedicated extra care to her memory, finding enough space to store her complete sensory input for the entire banquet, not just the perceptions or concepts that had floated to her conscious attention. No doubt there were much of significance that she did not yet understand, which she would want to be able to notice when the other pieces of the puzzle came her way. Even without that, a public appearance like this with so much at stake would have been draining, and now that it was over she felt the need to do something recreational.

First, she had to meet with her advisors. One of the rooms in her tower made for a good conference room, albeit without a suitably impressive throne, and they were waiting for her there when she arrived.

"MY LITTLE PONIES," she began after she sat on the nicest chair they'd found in the tower, "INFORM ME OF YOUR EFFORTS."

First to speak was Fellwing, as captain of her guard. "Celestia's captain of the guard has transmitted the security of this tower to us, and we are discussing shared responsibility over the perimeter of the palace." He smiled toothily. "I get the impression that Celestia has leaned on him to be accommodating, and so I'm trying to snatch all I can."

Next was her chancellor. "I've investigated transporting the remainder of the lunar ponies from the Moon to Equestria. Celestia's ministers believe it will not be difficult to find them space, most likely in some sort of cavern system. There are several in the mountain beneath Canterlot that seem promising." He glanced at the others. "I am not sure how the adjustment will go, to be honest. I think there are some who would like to stay at the Redoubt, and others who would only like to visit Equestria. The days are... unpleasantly bright, and it just seems inefficient to all be on the same shift."

The Archmage nodded. "I've been going through the library and putting my Ancient Equestrian to use. I had to devise a spell to block out most of the light to be able to read under their lamps; I suspect we'll need to produce sunglasses and provide them to our ponies so that they'll be able to deal with it."

Her doctor spoke next. "There are permanent solutions, many of which we could implement shortly. But all of the ones I've thought of so far will also block the ability to function in low light, and so I'm looking for one that will be flexible." He grimaced. "There have also been a truly startling number of illnesses among the ponies here in the tower. I've been working with some of Celestia's doctors to treat those impacted and inoculate those who aren't. They've also expressed concerns about diseases moving the other direction. At the very least, we shouldn't have any more physical contact with the Redoubt until the situation is under control here and we've put precautions in place."

"CLEAN THIS TOWER AS WELL, TO REDUCE OUR RISK," Luna commanded. "AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT, WE MIGHT AS WELL REDECORATE. THIS IS THE NIGHT TOWER, AND WE WILL MAKE IT SO." Interior decorating sounded exactly like what she needed right now.

The new decorations--dark and solemn to match the Princess that dwelt within--as well as rumors of disease kept the number of gawkers and well-wishers to a minimum. Immediately after the banquet, there had still been many which she greeted briefly, most of whom quickly departed after hearing the Royal Canterlot Voice (how did her sister manage to be heard in that whisper of hers?) and seeing her guards, carefully bred to their new look during her long exile.

The interruptions mostly managed, Luna prepared to spend her days sleeping and her nights trying to rebuild her mind, locked inside her bedroom. She was a lightning-fast thinker, but she had over a thousand years to search for answers, and when she reached towards much of it she felt a friction slowing down her mind, pushing her back to other areas. She knew there were many more plans made on the moon than she could recall, but what were they? What had her goals been? It took concentrated focus to remember one plan, and the result was so mystifying it hardly seemed worth the effort. Her childhood had mostly faded, but that had always been the case. She could remember her parents after she had become an adult, but... some part of her wondered where they were, why they hadn't been part of the stream of important ponies here to see the exotic new Princess.

They're probably dead, she deduced, surprised she hadn't remembered that. Ponies die. A trove of medical knowledge, longevity research, and magical theory appeared before her mind's eye, but she focused on a much more pressing question, for which she could not find an answer: did I go to their funeral?

Other memories had just felt like she had to swim through molasses to get to them; but the memory of their funeral felt like she had to climb a wall with her wings tied down and her hooves slathered with lard to get to it. She frowned and concentrated on the feeling of friction, abandoning the memory and delving within her mind with her magic.

As suspected, the block was an aftereffect of the Harmony blast. But it was a temporary block, it seemed, already chipping and sure to erode with time. Luna breathed a sigh of relief; she was sure that was not a happy memory, and while she didn't feel up to learning it now she was sure it would be better to know a bad truth than let the knowledge be lost forever.

There was a sequence of timed knocks on the door which identified the guard outside. A brief clairvoyance spell confirmed that the guard at the door looked like the pony issued that code, and a brief brush against his mind confirmed there was no coercion or fear. “ENTER,” she declared.

He obeyed, entering and pressing his snout to the ground in the traditional bow of deference.

“My Princess,” he said in his gravelly voice, “a petitioner waits on your pleasure. He asked me to give you this.”

He slid a piece of paper onto the ground in front of himself. Luna glanced at it, sharpening her eyesight to correct for the angle and the distance, reflecting idly on how much easier the adjustment to Equestria was for her than for her subjects. It was a lattice of dots, with peculiar lines running from some dots to other dots- one of the codes she had devised, long ago. It did not take her long to decrypt it. The Horn's Tip brings buried treasure.

The Horn's Tip? More friction, but this must be important enough to know. She delved, draining her energy to find a path through the block. He was a servant of hers, here in Equestria; there were others. They had had a plan, once, but it was locked away in another spot.

She checked her internal clock. That tidbit had taken her thirty minutes to unlock, and the guard had been patiently bowing the whole time. She wondered how patient this Horn's Tip was. “BRING HIM TO ME,” she commanded. The guard nodded and departed at once.

After a brief wait, a unicorn stallion with an indigo robe and mask entered the room, carrying a black chest with his magic and flanked by two of her guards. Luna detached part of her magic in a gaseous form, drifting over him like a cool breeze- and getting a glimpse of what lay beneath the clothes. A unicorn whose white mane and dark grey coat flecked with spots of white suggested he was out of his prime. His cutie mark was points of reddish light on a black background- an oddly specific astronomical mark. I'll have to check the astronomy departments for a unicorn who specializes in distant galaxies. The chest was made of ebony wood, and inlaid with elaborate wards; Luna knew that she must have made them, but irritatingly, the memory was too distant to reach for now.

He set the chest down and slowly made the traditional bow; at least, as well as he could with the flexibility left in his joints. Luna was surprised to note a lack of annoyance at the frailty of his attempt at decorum and filed that away to introspect about later. Once, she would have responded sharply; she felt both her past self's surprise that she hadn't, and her current self's surprise that her past self would have. She rose from the bed, walking over to stand in front of his chest, studying the design. Mind, she thought to herself. That's what I would have decorated like this. The wards were still shining bright, even after a thousand years. I build to last, she thought grimly.

She reached out with her magic and the wards melted for her. The ebony chest opened itself, its tightly interwoven pieces uncurling like a flower, and she felt a chill wind rush out of it. Inside lay a sphere of pure night, its darkness drinking in the light of the room, with malevolent pinpricks glinting deep within.

She quickly shut the chest, restoring the wards. The wind ceased, but the room remained cold with the memory of the sphere.

She turned hard eyes on the robed unicorn. "WE SHALL KEEP THIS WITH US," she declared in a way that brooked no disagreement. She looked again at the chest, contemplating its contents. "YOU HAVE DONE WELL IN PRESERVING IT." The unicorn nodded quickly, then backed carefully out of the room, her guards shutting the door behind him.

Once, long ago, she had started a diary. But Luna was never one to do things imperfectly: no, it would be an external mental archive. It was as familiar as her hoof, but as distant as the stars: she knew that this was an artifact of the old Luna and that by reconnecting with it she might trace the same steps that led to a thousand lost years. But it would have the answers that her own mind seemed unable to give her as long as the effects of Harmony still locked her away from part of herself.

As she returned to the bed, tucking her legs under her once more, she pondered what it was she wanted. She had always pursued knowledge without question and without remorse, but look where that had gotten her. An odd part of her whispered to destroy the orb, or turn it over to Celestia, but that voice was small and easily silenced. She would keep it, but not use it unless she needed to. Eventually, she would have learned everything there was to learn while harmonized, and then she would learn her past. And record her future, she realized, cementing her resolve to keep it. Now, she just needed to figure out how to hide it. Plans raced through her head, a smile creeping onto her face.

Deep Field panted, trying to slow his racing heart. The guard, with his grotesque bat wings and tufted ears, looked at him with a gaze somewhere between caution and concern. “I'll be fine,” Deep Field wheezed.

The guard nodded and nonchalantly remarked, “If you were going to have a heart attack, you probably would have by now."

Deep Field didn't respond, deciding his lungs were better spent trying to force more oxygen back into his system. After the banquet, he had prepared a speech; drafted it, practiced it in front of the mirror, working out the paths the conversation could take and what likely outcomes were. But he hadn't predicted how terrible it would be to bow before the Princess of the Night in her sanctum, bearing an old treasure entrusted to a distant predecessor. His words had fled his head before that commanding voice, and it was all he could do to leave with his bladder intact, let alone ask her to declare them under her protection or take them into her service. Looking at the guard next to him, and remembering her presence, he wondered if he even wanted that anymore.

At least she didn't lock me up, he thought. He had worked through his plans and drafts on paper before consigning those notes to the flames, and that was the worst consequence he had imagined beforehand. He had stared at 'imprisoned' written in his neat hoofwriting on the scroll for a long, long time before making the trip to the Canterlot Palace to seek an audience, sneaking through the hidden tunnels to avoid having to explain to one of Celestia’s guards what a masked unicorn was doing carrying a box into the palace. Now he had to make the trip back, shaken and alone.

Comments ( 5 )

Nice to see this picking up again, and I'll be very interested in just where you're going with all this.

This story is a true joy to read. It needs more likes! :pinkiehappy: :twilightsmile:

A toast in memory of this story - it was looking so very much fun, too.


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