A Dazzling Gem

by BrightIdea

First published

In an Alternate Equestria, Dazzling Sparkle aspires to be the world's greatest Illusionist, while Gem wants to know everything about rocks. Both of them and several new friends are thrown together on a quest to save Equestria from Nightmare Moon.

In an Alternate Equestria, Dazzling Sparkle (Twilight Sparkle) aspires to be the world's greatest Illusionist, while Gem (Rarity) wants to know everything about rocks. Offered to be the warm-up act for Celestia's Summer Sun Celebration Dazzling heads to Ponyville where Gem quickly catches her eye. Both and several new friends will be thrown together on a quest to save Equestria from Nightmare Moon's reign as they search for the missing Elements of Harmony.

Art by Egophiliac which I paid for.

In the Beginning

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First there was darkness. Nothing to be seen but a pitch-black void that totally consumed all sound and light. Then, there was a spark. Just the tiniest violet sparkle of light that despite its size seemed to light the entire void for the briefest of moments before it faded and everything was cast into darkness once more. That first spark was followed by another spark of light, then another, and then more each briefly lighting up before dying out in quick succession, each in seemingly different points within the void. After several more moments of darkness the points where the sparks had all appeared finally lighted up in violet embers of light that refused to go out. Each one first starting small before growing exponentially. Now any onlooker could see that the light formed a particular pattern, that of six pointed star.

If that wasn’t evident enough the growing embers of light erupted and then arced their light together to form a solid six-pointed star across the darkness, six additional white colored embers of light erupted at different points around the star pattern. The star pattern continued to grow in size, enough to fill the vision of any spectator but at the very center of the pattern different patterns and colors had begun to form new shapes. In no time at all the shapes solidified into several different things. A star and a moon. Grass covered land studded with flowers and trees. Even ponies of various colors but all sharing a simple design that was of a caricature of a normal pony. Then a voice shattered the silence.

“Long ago in a distant age, Equestria was ruled by Celestia and Luna, Princesses of the Sun and Moon.”

As the words were spoken two caricatures of two alicorn ponies emerged from behind the sun and moon. One radiating the sunshine of day and the other the light of the night’s moon.

“All was well in Equestria. The Princesses used the mystical Elements of Harmony to defend their little ponies from monsters from without Equestria’s borders.”

The shapes of several different creatures appear in the scene. One a twisted amalgamation of various animals. Another a centaur like creature with the horns of a bull. A shadow shaped like a unicorn in armor. A swarm of bug-like ponies.

Six different colored stones, the Elements of Harmony, appear and shine brightly around both of the Princesses. A rainbow-colored light erupts from the colored stones and sweeps away all of the creatures leaving the ponies unharmed.

“However, it was the monsters from within that the Princesses could not defeat. As Luna jealous of her sister, for the ponies loved Celestia’s day and shunned Luna’s night, sought to overthrow Celestia and bring about an eternal night.”

The scene of Equestria fades, leaving just both Princesses who proceed to fly around and fight each other. Both shooting each other with beams of magic or defending with sparkling bubble shields. To an onlooker it would seem like fireworks were erupting across a night sky with each burst of magic from the two alicorn caricatures.

“Finally, not wanting to destroy her sister, Celestia used the Elements of Harmony to banish Luna to the moon.”

The Elements of Harmony appear in a flash of light around the figure of Celestia, the same rainbow-colored wave of magic bursting from the Elements to swirl around the figure of Luna before sweeping her upward and into the shape of the moon.

“However, in doing so a great cost was paid. For the bonds between the sisters had been broken in their fight. It was this bond between the two that gathered the Elements of Harmony to them.”

The Elements of Harmony surrounding Celestia vibrate erratically for several moments, lighting energy splaying across the surface of each Element before without warning each Element exploded outward away from Celestia. Scattering in different directions the Elements of Harmony one by one disappear from sight.

“The Elements of Harmony were lost. Each scattering across Equestria or perhaps to unknown lands. For nopony knows where they went or where they are now. Despite searching for the Elements of Harmony they have remained lost for nearly a thousand years.”
Only the image of the Moon remains, now painted with the image of a mare’s head. The Elements of Harmony appear once more, slowly orbiting around the Moon.

“Which puts Equestria in great peril for a prophecy says that the stars will assist the escape of-“


The shout is quickly followed by each of the lights of the Canterlot Equestrian Theater turning on at the same time. This reveals the hundreds of empty seats of the theater as well as the stage where the shapes of the Moon and Elements of Harmony take up the space in the center of the stage. The images though quickly begin to shudder and collapse, dwindling to a central point on the stage where they disappear and reveal a purple, unicorn mare.

Beneath a black top hat on top of her head sits her violet mane with neat streaks of rose pink and sapphire blue, two lengths of her mane hang down to either side of her face ending in two curls at the tip of each. Similarly, her tail, completely violet, also ends in a single curl at the very end of it. She is wearing a close-cut tuxedo, a dark purple bowtie around her neck, the tuxedo ends in two coat tails that fall to either side of her tail in a fashion almost like a cape. In one of her hooves she has a magician’s wand which stops glowing with violet magic the moment the images of the illusion disappeared around the Unicorn completely. On her flank was the same image of the pattern from the beginning of the illusion, the six-pointed star was her cutie mark.

Her violet colored eyes stare out toward one of the back entrances to the theater for a moment before they rapidly shifted between looks of anger followed by petulant annoyance.

Then she took a deep breath of air and whined.

“Suuuuunset! You ruuuuined my performance! This was my latest masterpiece! Dazzling Sparkle’s tale from the darkest parts of Equestria’s history! Such bravo! Such drama!” Dazzling Sparkle stomped

“You mean, such baloney!” Sunset Shimmer said from an aisle when she trotted toward the stage, a quick burst of her own amber colored magic teleported her directly onto the stage.

Dazzling rolled her eyes. “Pardon? My illusions are not ‘baloney’ as you say. They are exquisite works of art! You may be Celestia’s apprentice but you must at least appreciate an artist’s work, no?”

Sunset Shimmer let out a frustrated groan. It sounded well practiced from dozens if not hundreds of similar arguments with Dazzling. “That story and prophecy are what is baloney. The Mare on the Moon? Come on, you could have come up with something better than it being Celestia’s evil, twin sister or whatever.”

Dazzling let out an exaggerated gasp of shock before she stamped her hoof again at Sunset. “I’ll have you know I found this story in a book! Within the Royal Library! Spike! Come here with the book!”

From above the stage the small form of Spike the dragon descended as if he was flying. Except, he was just falling, but with style. Both claws clung to a stage rope, a heavy book wedged between his teeth. He doesn’t quite stick his landing as he stumble several steps before stopping in front of Dazzling and Sunset. He spits out the book to Dazzling but all of his attention is focused on Sunset. His pupils had turned into small hearts.

“H-h-hi Sunset! Uh, looking-uh, sunny today!”
Sunset stopped herself in mid eye roll and instead smiled back at Spike, “Thank you, Spike. At least you are nicer than Dazzling here. I don’t know why you stick around with her.”

“Hmph. He is my number one assistant, that’s why” Dazzling said before she turned to Spike and smiled, “Thank you, Spike. The lightning was perfect, now please go find Octavia. I want to know if she has the sample music score ready yet.”

“Yes, M’am!” Spike saluted before he sped off, exiting stage left.

“More like he is the only one who is capable of standing your constant whining all the time. You may not be a student at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns anymore but I bet you didn’t get invited to Moondancer’s party.” Sunset poked Dazzling with a hoof.

“Hah! Shows how much you know! I will be at Moondancer’s party!” Dazzling said, but she had purposefully not added that she had been invited to Moondancer’s party as the entertainment. When she was creating the most wonderful and awe-inspiring illusions in Equestria who had time to make friends? Her cheeks blushed slightly before she shoved the book into Sunset’s hooves, “Here! See for yourself. Now if you excuse me, please let me rehearse. Surely, Celestia has you doing better things than being a bother to an ex-student?”

“Actually,” Sunset smiled triumphantly at Dazzling which immediately alarmed her. Dazzling had known Sunset for many years and she knew Sunset only smiled like that when she was right about something-which was much too often for Dazzling’s taste. “I was sent here by Celestia. She wants you to put on a performance.”

“A…performance?” Dazzling had become acutely aware of the beating of her pulse. Her hooves began to sweat even as she leaned closer to Sunset, her eyes wide as she carefully spoke her next words, “A royal performance?”

“Yes,” Sunset smiled even wider, it was the kind of smile a predator had when they were playing with their food, “a royal performance.”

“YES! I knew Celestia would change her mind! That she would accept my art! Yes! Yes! Yes!” Dazzling was so happy she literally bounced around Sunset, the tails of her tuxedo flapping in the air behind her with every bounce. She stopped in front of Sunset again but her mind was already ablaze with new ideas for performances and illusions. “I have had something oh, so special planned for just this occasion but now that it is here I know that I can do better and bigger! We should have the performance at night, that way when I light the room as if the sun had suddenly risen everypony will be so confused and amazed at the same time and-“

“Hold your horses! I said it would be a royal performance but not for Celestia or the court.” Sunset was absolutely beaming now, she had to hold a hoof to her mouth to prevent herself from laughing out loud.

Dazzling’s thoughts one moment were like a series of fireworks, every moment a new piece of inspiration building up to a grander display. Then the next they were nothing, like a bad cliffhanger that had ended everything so suddenly and without warning. Dazzling tilted her head at Sunset, her face emotionless. “…but Celestia…is royal.”

Normally so eloquent Dazzling struggled to piece together Sunset’s words for a proper response.

“The performance would be royal, but like I said it is not for Celestia. You have been asked to perform at the Summer Sun Celebration. In Ponyville. You are to perform one of your little acts before Celestia arrives to lower the sun for the celebration.”
Dazzling processed the words that Sunset had said. She ran them through her mind several times. Peeling over each one for any sort of hidden meanings or lies. As she placed them in order and turned them around inside her head she realized what the royal performance truly was and it filled her with anger.

“You mean to tell me…that Celestia wants me to go to Ponyville. A town in the middle of nowhere. To perform as not the main attraction, but instead to be the…the…” Dazzling’s voice had become so filled with disgust that she had to spit out the last words, “to be the OPENING ACT?”

Dazzling groaned and rubbed her hooves across her face. She slumped down to the floor and rolled in place on her back. She had, had enough practice to know how to roll without crumpling her tuxedo.

“The opening act! The warm up! Not the headliner! Not the main event! No, no, no. I can’t be too flashy or too astounding. I can’t be great or magnificent. I must be like some birthday clown or warm-up comedian, just good enough. I can’t shoot for the stars, I have to fly low to the ground. Straight and simple. Not mind blowing in the least!”

“Pretty much.” Sunset walked over to Dazzling and looked down at her, not bothering to cover her smile anymore, “So, should I tell Celestia that you want the job?”

Dazzling narrowed her eyes up at Sunset before she jumped back to her feet. Stamping not just one hoof but both of her front hooves. At the same time. She pressed forward, her muzzle almost coming to contact with Sunset as Dazzling stared at Sunset directly in the eyes.

“What kind of artist do you take me for? This is some kind of joke isn’t it? There is no way I am going to be the opening act for Celes-“

“If you pull this off well Celestia says she will offer you to be the main attraction for this year’s Galloping Gala.” Sunset said.

“-tia without knowing my audience. The Friendship Express goes to Ponyville doesn’t it? Tell Celestia I’ll have Spike book sets for us to leave first thing in the morning.”

A Little Experiment

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Once more Gem moved the shard of colorless zircon carefully. To test the full extent of her hypothesis she did not use her magic at all, she had the zircon clasped tightly in a pair of tongs which she herself held tightly between her teeth. To further isolate any unwarranted variables, she had made sure the zircon had been freshly dug from a site far away from any known magical crystal deposits. Even so, before she had moved the zircon close it had begun to tremble just ever so slightly and glow with a faint magical light. The light was not just one color, but all the colors of the rainbow. Gem did not need any further prompting and diligently placed the tongs down and went to write in her rock journal.


She looked around for her pencil on the table and found that it was not there. She wondered if perhaps it had rolled off the table when she remembered she had placed it. Her eyes went up to her purple mane, her bangs hung even and flat across her forehead but most of, her mane was done up in a bun except for a few curls here and there. She found it much easier to keep her mane from out of her eyes and mud when working in the field. In her bun was the pencil she needed. Gem did not even have to look as she scribbled several notes and hypothesis into her rock journal. Her eyes were filled with a mix of wonder and analytical focus on the stone in front of her.

After she had finished making her notes Gem peered at the subject of her experiment. “This zircon has absolutely no magical properties studied by any pony I know of. So, what is it that is so special about you, Tom?”

“Tom” was a bowling ball sized stone sphere. Tom was completely smooth across its entire surface except for a hexagon marking on Tom’s surface which did look like it had been perfectly carved onto Tom. Which is impossible. Gem thought and chewed on her pencil. I found you encased in several feet of solid granite!

Gem had found Tom two days ago while inspecting a recently opened mine not far outside of Ponyville. While most of the ponies in Ponyville knew her as the egghead who had too many rocks on her brains they did at least respect her knowledge of all kinds of minerals and had been asked to identify any rare gems in the mine.

“Rocks like you Tom are important to Equestria! Literally, all of Pony-society is built on rocks!” Gem said and nodded as if Tom had agreed with her.

Gem used her telekinesis to float a book titled ‘Rocks, Rocks, and More Rocks’ by Professor Stonecold and flipped through the pages. “You are something unique not studied by any Geologist that I know of in Equestria. Are you magical in nature or perhaps you were shaped by some sort of external magical force?”

Tom said nothing. Gem placed the book down and put her hooves together, lightly tapping them as she leaned toward Tom.
“I’m sure I have mentioned this at least once or twice, but I am studying for my rocktorate. I’ve talked with a colleague of mine and she agrees that a thesis on you would be just what I need to get my degree to make up for my…mmmmph, lack of travel experience.”

It’s not like I am afraid to leave Ponyville! Ponyville is the perfect place for my specialty given the number of magical gemstones in the area. Between my studies, experiments, taking care of Crystal Clear when my parents are away, and now you Tom I just haven’t had the time to fit in the field work prerequisite.

“I’m not some shut in who talks to rocks all day.” Gem puffed out her cheeks which she whenever she felt particularly petulant. She glared at Tom. “Don’t you judge me too, Tom!”

Gem signed and rubbed her head. She looked away from her workstation and peered around her dark work room. It was mostly filled with shelves or filing cabinets all filled with either rock samples or books on rocks. She was technically in the backroom of a storefront she rented which she did mostly to keep herself out of living with her parents and away from Crystal Clear who liked to ‘help’ with Gem’s studies-mostly by misplacing samples and accidentally setting things on fire somehow. A simple, straightforward sign out front labeled the store as “Rocky Go-Round” where she sold gems she unearthed in her studies and offered consulting services.

“Once I get my rocktorate I’ll be fully licensed and be able to move to anywhere in Equestria! I hear the mines under Canterlot have more unclassified magical gemstones than you could shake a hoof at. Er, if you had hooves that is, Tom.”

Thinking about her dreams re-energized Gem’s resolve. She focused back on the stone at hoof.

“I hope you don’t mind if I pry a little into your secrets? It is for science after all.” Gem waited several seconds for Tom to object. She let out a giggle when she heard no protests from Tom.

“Well, then I suppose we are going to have to see what is inside of you, won’t we Tom?” Gem told Tom matter-of-factly. This time she did use her magic to lift a small hammer from the table of her workstation. It was a small hammer that looked like it was the offspring of a hammer and a pick. The grip was studded with small white diamonds that glowed beneath Gem’s magical grip.

“Open wide, won’t you?” Gem asked politely before she brought her rock hammer down on top of Tom. THUD. An eager smile that had sprung on her lips turned upside down when her hammer seemed to have done no visible damage to Tom. She used her magic to hit Tom again, and again it appeared to have no visible effect on Tom. She switched the head of her hammer, turning it around so the pick end faced Tom and she struck again, but besides a small spark from the impact Tom stood (or perhaps laid) unscathed on top of her work table.

“Al…right.” Gem said and gently laid her hammer down on the table. She hoped out of her chair and trotted over to a metal cabinet. She proceeded to rummage around for several minutes before she let out a gasp of triumph, “Aha!”

Gem pulled out a large power drill that was half her size, the drill bit at the end of the drill however was cylinder shaped. It was a drill saw that Gem only used for taking core samples deep beneath the ground. Gem wheeled the core drill over to her work table and placed the drill bit next to Tom. Before she turned on the drill she made her to grab a set of goggles to protect her eyes from flying shards of Tom. “Safety first.”

She powered on the drill, the motor filling her ears was soon joined by the sound of metal on rock as she pushed the drill against Tom’s surface. Gem continued for several seconds before she judged the core drill would have been able to pierce Tom’s center and shut off the drill. She looked over the power drill and nearly banged her head against it. Tom was completely unharmed, but the drill bit had been completely sheared down.

Gem puffed out her cheeks again. She pushed the drill aside with her magic and trotted up to Tom. Looking for any fractures, she found none. Frustrated she stared at Tom for several minutes as her mind went over several calculations and courses of action she could take. Finally, she came to a conclusion.

“Well, then Tom. All geologists have once last resort when dealing with a specimen that will not crack under pressure. You see it is called the “Ruby Garnet Method”, pioneered by Professor Garnet.” Gem wrapped Tom in her magic and carried him out of her work space and up the stairs to the second floor of her house, “It is a fairly simple method or technique; however, you prefer to call it. She pioneered it in Canterlot and while this is not Canterlot as a scientist I learn to make do with what I have at my disposal.”

Gem opened a window, peeked outside to make sure no-pony was standing below and proceeded to drop Tom outside to the ground below with a promising sound. THUD! Gem raced back down the stairs and to the outside of her house to where Tom had landed.

“Oh, COME ON!” Gem shouted and stamped her hoof when she had seen Tom still appeared to be entirely intact. She floated Tom up with her magic and peeked over Tom’s surface but it was as smooth and unmarred as ever.

“Very well, be that way. If you are going to be like this Tom, I will just have to find a higher window!”

Gem looked away from Tom and realized several ponies had stopped to watch her shout at Tom. She glared and almost immediately they went back to whatever they had been doing, a couple whistling and trying to look inconspicuous.

Gem returned her eyes to Tom and weighed her options. The tallest building in Ponyville was the clocktower but she had been banned from setting hoof in the clocktower after her “induced, urban rockslide experiment”. Her proctor for her roctorate had been impressed with her findings but Mayor Mare had not. As had the window sales pony whose shop was next-door to the clocktower.
“Hmm, that does leave town hall. I have not been technically banned from there…yet.”

Gem again weighed her options and she knew the risk was high of being banned but she concluded this was for science. She had become ever more determined to unlock Tom’s secrets, whatever they may be. It could very well change the study of magical gemstones for all ponykind! She might even get permanent tenure with the Royal Rock Society!

After grabbing her saddlebags, putting Tom inside along with her rock journal and a few odds and ends Gem locked the door to her shop and had started on her way to the town hall. She had at first strode confidently and eagerly toward the town hall but before she had even reached halfway there her stomach grumbled. Loudly. Gem looked up at the sky and realized it was past noon, she flipped over several mental notes inside her head and realized the last time she had ate had been…the night before.

All this excitement has my head absolutely all over the place! A scientist should never work on an empty stomach. Gem thought to herself and looked around for something she could eat quickly so that she could return to the matter at hoof. She smiled when she saw a small vendor stand, it was piled high with the most delicious looking apples. Are they looking delicious because of my increased state of anxiety and food deprivation? Gem caught a whiff of the smell of freshly baked Apple pie and her stomach grumbled louder than before. Somethings are better left unquestioned.

Gem practically ran up to the apple stand, her eyes looking over the apples when an earth pony trotted up from the around the side and whipped off a broad hat from their head. “Howdy there m’am. Welcome to the Apple family’s apple cart! All our fine apple and apple products are fresh from the family farm, Sweet Apple Acres! See somethin’ you fancy?”

The pony, a stallion with a light-yellow coat, blue mane, and a cutie mark with a large red apple smiled at her.
Gem had begun to speak but a loud grumble from her stomach interrupted her words. She blushed and simply reached into her saddlebags took out several bits and slammed them on the stall. “Apples, please.”

The stallion seemed to take it in good stride as he placed several apples of different varities into a paper bag before he handed it over to her. “I put in ah couple extra. Look like you could use a good, late lunch.”

“Oh! Thank you, ah…” Gem concentrated and tried to remember if she knew the pony’s name. He seemed familiar, Sweet Apple Acres was a prominent local farm. She was sure she had visited at least once for their cider.

“Red Delicious is the name.” Red Delicious supplied his name and looked a little embarrassed himself, “You’re that eg-I mean that rock-o-ologist. Uh…”

“Gem.” Gem supplied her name in turn and tried not to blush even more, it wasn’t like she exactly socialized very much herself. “And I am a geologist, at least one in training.”

Before Red Delicious could apologize Gem reached into her saddlebags and pulled out two gemstones. One a round ruby and the other a smaller peridot. She placed the ruby on the stall and the peridot on top of it, from the distance the two gems looked a lot like an apple and a green leaf. In the sunlight, the gems gave off a glow that at least to Gem looked very pretty. “I can’t let your generosity go without something in kind. Um, some ponies believe rubies help improve good fortune and peridot can harness the power of nature…which I am sure will help with…your…farm! And business!”

Red Delicious looked delighted and he had meant to thank her but Gem had already continued on her course by the time he turned around to where she had been. Gem told herself she had not quite run away as she found a bench in the plaza outside of the town hall and dived her into bag of apples. Which really were delicious she decided as she devoured them. While she sat she looked around the plaza and noticed there were ponies everywhere and they appeared to be setting up decorations. “Is there something-oh! How silly of me. How could I forget tonight is the Summer Sun Celebration?”

She had been so wrapped up in finding out about Tom she had completely forgotten about it. Which means that the town hall will have ponies everywhere, doesn’t it? Gem bite her lip and ran several scenarios through her mind and ran additional options. Would she be able to try and toss-that is carry out the Ruby Garnet Method-Tom and unlock his secrets? What if she was spotted and stopped before she could do so? What if she got too worked up and accidentally hurt some pony? Doubt flooded her and she began to question if she would even be able to put a scratch on Tom let alone uncover his secrets this way. She felt like giving up hope when she remembered something about this year’s Summer Sun Celebration.

Princess Celestia will be, here won’t she? Not only that, but didn’t Crystal Clear say that her protégé would be arriving in Ponyville ahead of the princess? If I can show Tom to one of them…maybe they will be able to identify what Tom is? At least his magical signature. They are well versed in magic! At the very least they must have a spell to crack-that is excavate- his magical core for study! Oooh! Recognized by Princess Celestia herself for discovering a new element of magical gemstone! That would be my roctorate, tenure, and a position as Canterlot’s director of the Royal Rock Society, wouldn’t it?

Her doubt washed away Gem finished the last of her apples, with perhaps less than ladylike etiquette, and trotted to the doors to the town hall. She wondered what exactly Princess Celestia’s protégé looked like when she opened the doors to the town hall and was immediately engulfed by roaring flames.


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“Not the smallest stage I’ve ever performed on but most certainly not the largest ever.” Dazzling Sparkle said to herself, but Spike, as he often did, considering her small circle of friends consisted of only him, answered her question anyway.

“I don’t know, I kind of like it. It gives off a rustic charm, you know?” Spike returned to unpacking the stage equipment that had been provided by the mayor.

Twilight looked down over the stage equipment from her position on top of the stage. She groaned as Spike pulled out decorations from one of the boxes, from what she saw it consisted mostly of bunting from past celebrations. Upon her arrival in Ponyville, Dazzling had been shocked, if not flabbergasted, to learn that the town had been unable to find a pony to decorate main hall for Dazzling’s show. Though, that was just the icing on the proverbial cake. Apparently, Sunset Shimmer had suggested that Dazzling could handle it herself.

How does Celestia expect me to work like this? Yes, pageantry is not what brings a show together but it certainly helps add to the atmosphere! SHOULD I be surprised? No, Celestia never understood my art. Pushing her frustration aside Dazzling calmed herself with a long, slow breath and closed her eyes. Losing focus was the first step to losing control, Celestia had taught her that when teaching her to form her magic years before. She would never admit it to Celestia, and especially not to Sunset Shimmer, but she always repeated Celestia’s words when she needed to find her calm just like she had done so now.

“Let us see what we have to work with, shall we Spike?” Dazzling said and opened her eyes. Slowly she moved her gaze around the main hall, taking in every detail along the way. From the small stage where she stood to the space below where Spike was still unpacking. She looked upward, seeing the second level of the main hall where more ponies would no doubt be seated, the balcony where Celestia herself would appear and watch Dazzling perform. From its base to its peak the main hall was almost shaped like a circular gazebo, when she gazed upward her vision followed an invisible circle that she saw in her mind’s eye. Spinning and spinning upward toward the ceiling. Then, inspiration sparked inside of her.

“Ideeeaa! Spike, would you please take some notes for me?” Dazzling had already been building up the magical power for her illusion before Spike had even responded with an affirmative and had pulled out a notepad and pencil. Dazzling had compared her illusion magic more than once to that of a painter creating a masterpiece. She knew what many did not know was that masterpieces were not created without several, if not dozens of draft works. Dazzling was no different in this regard, she often got caught up in her own imagination and no matter what illusions she created she knew there was always room for improvement, or there would be errors. Spike, as her number one assistant, observed. From his feedback, Dazzling could take her magic to a new level of radiance.

“Imagine the faces of the ponies as they enter the hall. Excited to see Celestia, but even more so to see the young, up-and-coming illusionist from Canterlot! 'I wonder what she will do! I can’t wait to see!' They will say among themselves. Imagine their slowly building confusion as they see no decorations whatsoever! Then the lights go out, except for one…” Twilight conjured in her mind’s eye the image of the sun, and in response her horn flared with magic. In the center of the floor the sun appeared, a mirror image of the same ball of light she saw in her mind.

“Might want to adjust that for above the heads of the ponies. I’d totally freak out if the pony next to me was suddenly swallowed by a ball of fire.” Spike commented out loud as he continued to write notes. Dazzling smiled and nodded in response, she lifted the illusionary sun she had created from the ground and floated it upward toward the ceiling. The moment it was above the height of the second balcony solar fire erupted in all directions outward from the sun. The streaks of fire smashed into the walls and railings of the balcony above and instead of incinerating everything the illusionary fire changed. Some of it unfolded downward, changing into orange-yellow-pink banners with the symbol of Celestia’s cutie mark at the center. Some of the illusionary fire snaked around the balcony railings, leaving a trail of flames which after a few seconds changed into rows of blooming sunflowers, the center of the flower also emblazoned with Celestia’s cutie mark.

“I can almost hear their oooo’s and aaah’s, the thunder of their clapping hooves as they realize my plan all along. They go quiet though, as the sun continues to rise and then grows…” matching Dazzling’s words she imagined the sun she created expanding in her mind and as she did she saw the sun she had created do likewise. It grew and grew as it drifted higher above the second balcony until the entire ceiling was blocked by the image of a blazing sun. Looking closer she could see fiery coronas that danced across the surface of the sun, focusing her magic and mind she made them twirl and dance across the surface of the sun, finally making them form a glowing outline of what could only be Celestia.

“And then the climax…” Dazzling said, dramatically she stood on both of her hind hooves and thrust her front hooves toward the illusionary sun she had made. Next, Dazzling mimed tugging on an invisible rope or cord, before she mimed pulling the rope free and had fallen back on her front hooves. Above her the illusionary sun she had created exploded into what could be described as ‘solar confetti’. Sparkles of red, orange, yellow, and white light fell with illusionary ribbons and even a few falling fireballs. In her mind she imagined the scores of ponies cheering and looking upward with amazement. Inside of her chest, Dazzling’s heart soared at the thought, what she loved more than creating her art was seeing the wonder or joy on the faces of her audience. To know that she had sparked something inside of them…

Dazzling was completely unprepared when she heard the sound of the door to the main hall begin to creak open. In that moment as she turned from her illusion toward the opening set of doors she lost her focus and her magic went where her attention shifted. Instead of falling down, the fireballs and other effects she had created swirled into a tempest, funneling together and sweeping outward toward the set of doors.

No! No! No! No! Stop! Stop! Stop! Dazzling sucked in her breath and reared back her head again, miming like she was pulling on a rope. Her horn’s magic became a violet supernova as she worked to banish the illusions she had created, one by one the illusions faded out of existence. Above her, she saw that the sun she had created seemed to lose its buoyancy and had plummeted toward the ground.

“Mommy!” Spike shouted and toppled down to the floor, tossing out the contents of a box and hopping inside.

If that was a real sun, a cardboard box would not do you any good, Spike. It would probably burst into flames before the sun actually fell on you. Dazzling thought as her sun winked out of existence a few feet above Dazzling’s own head. She refocused on the doorway and cursed when she saw that she had not been quick enough to dispel all of her illusions, as one of her fireballs burst in the face of the pony who had opened the doorway.

The unwitting victim of Dazzling’s illusion spilled forward through the doorway with a panicked shriek, Dazzling saw saddle bags that the pony had been carrying fly off from the pony’s back and spill their contents across the floor of the main hall. Various gemstones scattered across the floor, including from what Dazzling could see, was a large bowling ball that bounced and rolled.

“Oh dear, I’m terribly sorry about that.” Dazzling apologized as she jumped from the stage and rushed to the pony’s side. She felt incredibly guilty at losing control of one of her illusions, and letting it run amok, especially that it had scared or even possibly harmed another pony. She used her magic to lift the pony back up to their hooves, Dazzling slid what she hoped was a pleasant smile on her face and that a calm appearance would stamp out any anxiety in the pony. “Just a little magical mishap. That was just an illusion, nothing to worry about, darling!”

“An illusion? Fascinating, I could have sworn that I felt actual heat from that illusion.” The pony in front of Dazzling composed herself, shaking her head and blinking rapidly which Dazzling guessed was so that she could re-focus her own vision. As the pony, a mare with triple diamonds for a cutie mark, Dazzling felt her eyes take a slippery slope as they picked out every detail of her new audience.

Know your audience and you will know how to wow them. The more she picked over the mare’s appearance however the more an inside voice inside of Dazzling seemed to squee louder. The mare’s appearance seemed to pull at several directions, the style of her mane wrapped in a bun seemed to suggest conservative but Dazzling spied a worn pencil tucked behind the mare’s ear that steered Dazzling’s impression toward an educated pony. However, looking closer Dazzling saw well-built muscle and even some kind of dust or dirt around the mysterious mare’s hooves which pointed Dazzling toward a more outgoing or outdoorsy impression. Dazzling was lead around again by the mysterious mare’s coat, it looked so soft and practically shined despite the smudge of dried dirt here and there. What intrigued Dazzling most of all however was the way the mysterious mare stared right back at her, behind beautiful blue eyes Dazzling sensed she was being studied right back. Wait, did I just think ‘beautiful eyes’?

“Excuse my intrusion, my name is Gem.” The mysterious mare, who Dazzling now knew her name, spoke before Dazzling could get out her next words. Gem’s lips turned upward into a sheepish, unsure smile at Dazzling, and to Dazzling it felt like a firework had burst inside of her chest. She felt her face start to blush, but covered it with her hoof, she hoped Gem would think she was just rubbing her forehead.

“It is a pleasure to meet you Gem, again I must simply apologize for my illusion. I did not think anypony would be coming to the main hall until later.”

“That’s alright, it isn’t the first time I have been surprised like that.” Gem’s smile shrank as she looked away as if recalling a fond memory, “One time I was digging through a sandstone deposit. I had spied a particularly unusual looking quartz formation, I was so eager to inspect it that I did not stop to check how deep in the water table I had gone and unleashed the stored water of the aquifer!”

Dazzling watches as Gem giggled, the words that Gem had spoken bounced in Dazzling’s head but for the life of her she could not make sense of them so she did the next polite thing and laughed along with Gem. Gem however stopped laughing and looked at Dazzling before something that looked like recognition appeared on Gem’s face.

“Oh, um, what I mean is-“Gem fumbled for her words but after a few moments her ears perked up as she seemed to find them, -“That I was digging in the ground and accidentally dug into an underwater lake…well, more like pond. You know. Kind of like the fireball but with water.”

Dazzling was surprised, perhaps Gem had far more experience recognizing polite and confused laughter and having to explain herself than Dazzling had thought. Perhaps, it was I that erred here? That would have worked on any of the stuffed-up nobles in Canterlot but not her.

“Oh, I see, that does sound like quite the surprise. Ahaha.” Dazzling felt the air between herself and Gem grow more awkward by the moment. Why am I feeling so tongue tied around this pony? Dazzling opened her mouth to speak but Gem’s gaze had drifted away, she gasped and then rushed past Dazzling to where her bowling ball had landed before.

“Is it cracked? Please, tell me if it is cracked or not!” Gem said as she wrapped the ball in her magic and twisted it around, inspecting the surface. Dazzling trotted beside Gem for a closer look.

“I haven’t played much bowling ball myself, but if it is cracked I will be happy to replace your ball.” Dazzling said and was surprised again when Gem turned and gave her a quizzical look.

“Bowling ball? What do you mean by that?” Gem turned back toward the stone ball and seemed to finish looking it over, she stamped a hoof hard into the floor, “No cracks at all! Not even a tiny fissure! Drat, why won’t you break, Tom?”

“Tom...?” Dazzling asked, Gem turned to say something to her but Spike beat her to the punch.

“Wow, look at all these gems! They look delicious!” Spike said as he tossed the box he had been hiding under aside, his eyes glued to the gems scattered across the floor. Without waiting a moment, he had already begun to pick up the gems one by one, “It’s not even my birthday, yet!”

“A baby dragon?!?” Gem gasped, freezing in place as she watched Spike waddle across the floor. Dazzling could practically see Gem running calculations behind her beautiful blue eyes as Gem stared at Spike. Beautiful? Not again!

“Oh, hey, are these your gems?” Spike said after finally picking up the last of the gems and seeming to also finally notice Dazzling and Gem. With the pile of gems in his arms he walked over to Dazzling and Gem, holding them out to Gem to take. “They look beautiful! Delicious too! I would love to have one… If that’s alright.”

“You want one of these gems?” Gem asked, using her magic to float one of the gems out from the pile and before Spike’s eyes.

“Yea, uh, that’d be great!” Spike nodded his head vigorously, practically drooling as his eyes focused on the gem.

By now Dazzling had deduced at the very least that Gem appeared to have some sort of great fondness for stones and gems. It was literally in her name after all. Dazzling didn't like the way she was so shocked by Spike’s appearance, dragons ate gems after all, and she knew from experience Spike could eat them by the bucket load. Perhaps, it is best if I let Spike down gently.

“…only if you let me watch you eat.” Gem replied.

“Wait, what?” Dazzling swiveled her head toward Gem, she felt her eyebrows arch with as much skepticism as surprise.

“Dragons are the only known species whose diet entirely consists on gemstones! It is far more important to them than it could ever be for ponykind. For one of the essays I submitted as part of my rockdorate I theorized how dragons gain sustenance from gemstones. Now I have a live dragon in front of me that I can study! Magnifique!” Gem gasped for air before she continued, “Your teeth! Yes, your teeth may be the answer! Here, please, take a bite out of To-I mean this stone. I must know the contents!”

Gem floated the stone ball down in front of Spike, it landed with a gentle thud at his feet. Dazzling had not noticed it before but on the stone ball she saw a strange design engraved into the stone. Spike for his part shrugged his shoulders and picked up the stone.

“Sure! I’m not the kind of guy to throw away a free meal!” Spike opened his mouth wide and chomped down on the stone. Gem leaned in closer, a tiny smile on her face as she stared intently. Dazzling knew something was wrong when Spike furrowed his brow and chomped on the stone again before he spit it out into his hands. It was covered in drool but it was also completely unmarked.

“Youch! I don’t know what this is but it makes my teeth hurt.”

“Noooo! How can that be? It doesn’t make sense!” Gem looked like she was about to cry, she dug her hooves into her mane, the perfect bun her mane was tied in began to fray with stray strands of hair falling out around Gem’s face.

“It’s alright! I can try again! Please don’t cry!” Spike voice sounded panicked as he brought the stone ball back to his mouth and made to bite it again. Dazzling however did not want to see her number one assistant’s teeth broken on the floor and whisked it out of his hands and into the air beside her.

“I’m sorry that Spike was unable to help you, darling” Dazzling extended her hoof to Gem and patted her comfortingly, “I don’t know what is going on between you and this stone, but I am sure you will figure it out.”

“You think I will?” Gem stopped tearing at her mane and turned toward Dazzling, her beautiful blue eyes accented by welling tears. Dazzling stamped down on her thoughts before they could make another stray comment and nodded her head.

“Yes, yes I do! I don’t know much about you Gem but you appear to be a capable mare.” Dazzling replied, ignoring how soft Gem’s coat felt and the stray thought of why couldn’t they make blankets that soft as she continued, “If not, then Dazzling Sparkle isn’t my real name and I’m a monkey’s sister!”

“Dazzling’s mom once told me she did want to name her ‘Twilight’ Sparkle at one point but changed her mind.”

“T-thank you, Dazzling and Spike. I appreciate it.” Gem wiped the tears from her eyes and used her magic to place Tom back into her saddle bags, “You can also have all of those gems, Spike. They are old samples anyway.”

“Aw, really? Awesome! Or should I say, aw-nom-nom-nom” Spike laughed at his own joke before he stuffed his face into the gems and began eating them.

“His appetite appears to be…healthy.” Gem said to Dazzling once she turned her eyes from Spike back to Dazzling. Dazzling sighed and nodded.

“Tell me about it. One time he ate the Sapphire of Starswirl from right on top of Celestia’s desk and I had to stick my hoof down his throat to get it back.”

“Princess Celestia? Oh, I think I know who you are. I heard you were coming to Ponyville.” Gem said, and Dazzling felt herself stand a few inches taller.

“Well, my reputation does tend to precede myself…” Dazzling said, putting every bit of pride she had into those words.

“It does! To have Celestia’s protégé here in Ponyville is an honor for the town no doubt.” Gem’s words pierced Dazzling’s pride like a sewing needle through cloth.

Dazzling’s throat closed, she made a sound but from the way Gem continued she must have not heard Dazzling.

“I don’t suppose you know much about magical gemstones? I was hoping to present this stone to Celestia, and well since you are Celestia’s apprentice…”

“Not…apprentice…” Dazzling muttered, she coughed and ground her teeth together.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. Could you repeat that?” Gem asked, a look of concern on her face as she looked at Dazzling.

Is there something wrong with my face? Do I look like Celestia’s apprentice or do I not look like Celestia’s apprentice! I mean, I am about to crush your hope and dream that I Celestia’s apprentice! That is what Celestia does, stomp her big hooves over a little pony’s dreams!

“I…am…not Celestia’s apprentice. What I am…is somepony MUCH better!” Dazzling stomped her hoof, her horn flashed and she was gone from the floor and back on the stage thanks to her teleportation spell.

“She doesn’t like it when other ponies call her Celestia’s apprentice.” Spike said to Gem, picking a stray shard of gemstone from between his teeth. Dazzling ignored Spike and focused her magic, behind her swirling lights appeared and gouts of illusionary light erupted in different colors.

“I am, Dazzling Sparkle! Illusionist Supreme! I wow and amaze, I make what is unreal real! I am a delight and my magic is radiance!” Dazzling stomped her hoof and a rainbow shock wave burst out from the stage, filling the main hall with multi-colored light that forced Gem to close her eyes before disappearing. Dazzling made sure to teleport to the exact same place she had been standing in before, she made sure a smug smile was the first thing Gem saw when she opened her eyes again.

“Oh. Nice to meet you.” Gem replied. Dazzling perked her ears upward to see if she would say more, perhaps squeal and giggle in realization at hearing her name but the silence continued to stretch. However, Gem did seem to pick up that she should say more and coughed before speaking again, “Well, welcome to Ponyville. Unfortunately, since it appears that since not even a dragon’s teeth are able to pierce Tom I have to think of some other way to discover his, I mean, its secrets.”

Gem made to turn around back toward the door and as she did so panic filled Dazzling. If she were to leave unamazed or even disappointed it would be like an arrow through Dazzling’s heart or more likely her ego. She mentally flung herself through her thoughts, trying to think of anything with magic that could get Gem’s attention. Finally, she squealed with delight when the image of a certain story book came to mind.

“Wait! You want to know about magical stones? Well, I may just have the right book that could help you uncover what eludes you!” Dazzling smiled when Gem stopped in her tracks and turned back to look back.

“You do?” Gem asked and Dazzling could practically taste the curiosity on the other mare’s words.

“I do, indeed.” Dazzling replied, feeling very much like the cat that had caught the mouse, and she continued, “I will have Spike fetch it from our lodgings. Would you mind meeting up in a few hours? I still need to finish up on the details of my performance.”

“A few hours?” Gem looked irritated as she spoke, but that expression quickly melted as she seemed to go over something in her head. She nodded, “Very well, a few hours. Please, come right away to my home when you can…”