• Published 17th Mar 2013
  • 898 Views, 106 Comments

The Devil's Details - Carabas

Three stallions are hurled to the other side of the world from Equestria, and must survive the journey home across a vast and perilous continent. Worse still, they may even have to become friends.

  • ...

Falling Pebbles

A window exploded open over Canterlot, and a unicorn came flying out.

The unicorn came trailing through the cloud of glass shards, screaming and flailing to no effect against the green aura holding him suspended in the air. A purple aura coalesced around his horn as he desperately tried to draw magic in to dispel his bindings, and a retaliatory whip-crack of acid-green magic slapped against his horn to dispel the aura. A large rainbow-coloured clown mask, complete with red rubber snout, bobbed out after him.

The magic around him winked out once he was well clear of the window, and he dazedly hung there for a brief second. Physics, which had a rocky relationship with Equestria at the best of times, took a few moments to register the proper reaction to an unsupported mass in midair.

Remember it did, and there then came a drawn-out wail from the unicorn as he plummeted down the side of the marble tower to the stone sidewalk far below. His plummet terminated in a resounding thunk, accompanied by the patter of falling glass, multiple startled cries from the students who had been in the vicinity, and a decidedly under-the-weather moan from the unicorn-shaped hole in the stone. The mask plummeted down after him, bouncing nose-first off his skull with a unhappy parp.

From the broken window far above, at the topmost level of the dorm tower for Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns, another unicorn glared down.

He was of slight build, with a patchwork coat of white and dark brown, a black, combed-back mane, and pale green eyes that glowered out at the world from behind steel-rimmed spectacles. Three small stars glinted on his dark brown flank. His lip curled, and he brushed some stray shards of broken glass off the window edge after the defenestrated unicorn.

"Idiot," spat the unicorn, acid lacing the word.

His name was Skewbald Doul. He glared down towards the sidewalk, where a nearby gaggle of students were already rushing to the fallen unicorn. Some were staring up at the tower window and pointing. At him.

He glanced from the fallen unicorn, to the pointing students, to what looked to be a team of the school’s security galloping towards the scene. They’d see where the students were pointing.

It occurred to Skewbald that he might get into trouble for this. One hoof tapped a brief beat against the window edge. “Control,” he muttered to himself, his eyes closing as he did so. “Control, control. Think.”

He took a few steps back and summoned up his magic once again, winding out green spell-energies from his horn and exerting his will upon it so that it settled into a flat plane across the broken window. A further pulse of magic from the horn kept it in place, and made it into a reasonable simulacrum of an intact window, complete with light playing off the glass.

Reasonable, that was, so long as nopony noticed the draft, which was decidedly unmissable this far up. But that couldn't be helped. Fine control was his speciality; he wasn't enough of a magical heavyweight to create solid matter, however briefly.

Skewbald kept part of his attention on the illusion, keeping it active while he dealt with whatever was strewn across his room's floor. A quick sweep of his tail sent the remaining pieces of glass behind a curtain, which he pulled out to ensure their cover. He turned to his desk and shelves, from which several books and a sheaf of papers had been sent tumbling when he had started in alarm at Caballus's interruption. He plucked them off the ground with casual telekinesis, setting them back into their proper, orderly places while he paced, trying to think his way out of this.

He had plenty of room in which to pace. The room, large by dorm standards, was bare but for the basic furnishings: a meticulously-made bed, a desk topped with neat stacks of books and notes, an empty wardrobe, and shelves of carefully arranged library-marked books, the covers of which were the only splash of colour in the room beyond brown and grey.

From the city beyond, the rush of sky-chariots and steady throb of airships came as a constant drone. Distant wagons and carts clattered on cobbles, and the hubbub of the city's busy ponies came as a continuous mutter. The astonished cries of students and the pained cries of Caballus both rose in volume, and Skewbald wished they would all shut up. It was hard to think, for goodness’ sake. Did they have no consideration?

He had possibly overreacted, he was already telling himself, and merely returning the room to its normal state was as pathetic a deception as you could get when the evidence weighed against you was a unicorn embedded in the pavement and a multitude of witnesses. It could at least buy him a few extra seconds once anypony arrived to think of a convincing story.

He didn’t have the practice, but a convincing lie surely couldn’t be much harder than a good simulacra.

It had been Caballus's fault anyway for provoking the reaction; as far as Skewbald was concerned. If you were going to burst out of the wardrobe when other unicorns were trying to study, wearing that ridiculous mask and gurgling like an idiot in the name of 'fun', then you deserved whatever happened to you.

The school authorities would likely reject that notion, however. Assaulting another student with magic warranted immediate expulsion, as far as Skewbald knew. At the least.

Hurried hoofsteps were already sounding on the stairs, and Skewbald tapped one hoof on the surface of his desk as he tried to bully a story out of his skull. His fault … He came in here maddened, he must have had too much salt and he wouldn't calm down, I tried to defend myself … It was a magical accident, we were working on a rote spell mentioned in a lecture and something wouldn't click. There was a magical overload and he went flying … Just a bit of bother between students, sir, he'll heal quickly enough and I'm truly sorry if it caused any concern...

Two loud knocks sounded on the door, jarring Skewbald out of his train of thought. Keys rustled in the lock and the door flew open. The burly frame of the school's proctor loomed within the frame, flanked by a pair of equally burly assistants. Three sets of eyes blazed, and three horns glittered with pent-up magic. Behind them, wide-eyed students were craning their heads to see the source of the commotion.

Skewbald turned around, his expression cool and composed, his manner yielding nothing. A cool breeze and a growing cacophony poked past the curtains at his back. "Is there a problem, proctor?" said Skewbald.