Chapter Twenty One - The Long Journey - Part Two


[Summer 9, 996 – Day 1219]

There was no journal entry for yesterday, but we didn’t crash, or explode, or anything. My sixteenth birthday party was pretty exhausting in and of itself, and Twinkleshine gave me a particularly amazing, but tiring, gift for it after everypony else had fallen asleep.

Anyway, I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t get much done today or even in the morning with Luna; my thoughts kept straying back to last night. Fortunately, she didn’t object to an easy night of talking and gossiping instead of lessons.

I’d bet Twinkleshine had the same problem as me. She’d barely said two words to me today, and she was way too embarrassed to look me in the eyes. That was something we were going to have to work on.

While I’m on the topic, I’m not looking forward to my next conversation with Cadance. There’s no doubt that she’ll somehow know I’ve slept with somepony, and she’s not going to stop pestering me until she gets every last detail.

It’s not that I really mind talking about it, but Cadance can get a little…obsessive about this kind of stuff. I wish I could give her the same treatment in return, but I don’t actually want to hear about what she’s getting up to with my brother, as much as I tease her about it.

As far as other events go, the only other notable thing that happened is Pinkie Pie roped me into preparations for Spike’s birthday party a couple weeks early this year. And she told me I couldn’t give him a book as a present this time, which is completely ridiculous! I mean, does she know how much effort it takes me to find the time to write a book!

Bah. I guess I can come up with something else and give him the story I wrote as a Hearth’s Warming present instead. Sigh…

Nothing further of interest to report.


[Fall 97, 997 – Day 1407]

Today has been another reminder of how much I simultaneously hate and respect Dash. She’s like a…an animal, working purely off of instinct. If she’d just sit down with a book once in a while, she’d probably be the best pegasus spell caster that ever lived.

*sigh*

I’m just getting myself worked up over nothing. She’s annoying at ti – often, but there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with her. She’s frustrating but fascinating? Yes, I think that’s a better way to put it. I’d say I should ask her to help me learn pegasus magic in a couple years, but her learning style – and presumably her teaching style, if she can even teach – is more or less incompatible with mine.

Oh, and if you’re reading this Fluttershy, no offense meant about the animals and instincts thing. Although maybe that’s why you like her so much.

*snerk*

Since writing doesn’t preserve my tone of voice, I should probably mention that I’m only joking. Well, mostly.

Anyway, as usual, my day started off in the library.


“Hey, Twi!” Dash shouted. “I need your–”

It was an automatic response at this point. I glued Dash to the floor with my magic, ensuring that she didn’t knock over any bookshelves, scatter any piles of paper, or crash into me when she went flying around. I swore that all of those past incidents had to have been malicious despite Dash’s claims to the contrary. She was too good of a flier.

Grunting first as she slammed to the floor, Dash said, “You really need to stop doing that Twi; you put a crack into my left forehoof last time.”

And maybe you should stop flying in the library. That didn’t use to be rule number one, but it’d quickly risen up through the ranks over the years faster than even my brother.

“I already apologized for that, Dash. My magic just flared a little that time, and besides, both Fluttershy and I looked at your hoof, and we both agreed it was just superficial damage that you could have gotten from jamming it in a door. And I researched how to fix it for you anyway when it would have simply grown out in a couple days.”

“So what’s your point?”

Sighing in exasperation, I felt like yelling at Dash to not fly in the library, but the message never stuck no matter how I tried asking. Even Fluttershy couldn’t get Dash to remember for more than five minutes.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“Oh, right. I need you to cast a lightning proofing spell on me.”

After a brief pause, I sighed, placed a bookmark, and shut my book. Turning on my chair to look Dash straight in the eyes, I asked, “And just why do you need a lightning shield?” She had the magic to survive unharmed just about any sane voltage put into a lightning bolt. Anything more might start melting holes in my ship.

“Well, I was like, ‘Chamomile is the head of the night guard, right?’”

For now, at least. I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to poach her as a knight or not. She was certainly nice, and helpful, and a solid fighter with an excellent knowledge of chemistry, but… Well, those were all excellent reasons to make her my knight, but I was still uncomfortable with the idea.

“So she must be good at fighting,” Dash continued. “I asked her to show me her moves, but she said that unless I wanted to die, get really hurt, or get really, really sick, she couldn’t.”

Who would have guessed the assassin specialized in killing, nearly killing, and crippling injury? What a surprise.

“But I kept the pressure up and asked her again anyway, and she told me about how she can shoot lightning at ponies.”

“No,” I interrupted. “You’re not doing that inside my ship.”

“Oh, come on, Twi,” whined Dash. “You’ve got that heavy duty room separated from the rest of the ship that we never use.”

I facehoofed. I just couldn’t help it. “Dash, that’s the room I go to when I’m about to kill everypony with a flare. It’s not a playground.”

“Come on.”

“No.”

“Let us use it.”

“No,” I said, deliberately turning away from Dash and reopening my book.

“Why not?”

“It’s complicated. It’s not a nice place to be.”

“Chamomile and I are tougher than you.”

“Physically.”

“Come ooooon.”

I slammed my head into my book, barely missing another pile of books with my horn.

After a very brief blessed silence, Dash said, “Please?” She shortly followed it with, “You can join us,” nudging me with a knee.

“How long are you going to keep this up?”

“‘Till I get bored.”

Which could be a very long time when it came to shooting lightning at ponies. I hadn’t forgotten how long Dash had pestered me to drink my first, and only, glass of alcohol. Decreasing my IQ was the exact opposite of what I wanted, and I’d almost destroyed the ship in the process.

Fortunately, I was less stupid than Dash, and had Twinkleshine on hoof after making absolutely sure she could cast a sobering spell. In the future, when I taught other Flares, I’d have to remember that alcohol mixes very poorly with them.

Sigh. At least this time the whole ship wasn’t in any danger from Dash’s fun.

“Meet me on the bridge in an hour with Chamomile,” I said into my book. “I have to disable–”

I was cut off by a hug which knocked the wind out of me and pulled me up into the air.

“Thanks, Twi! You’re the best!”


Dash, Chamomile, and I appeared inside my isolation chamber with a small popping sound. I’d turned off most of the spells designed to suppress magical effects, so being here only made my horn tingle in protest a little bit.

The very first thing I did immediately after that was to teleport the magic suppressor stored nearby to me. I had no idea if it was still strong enough to stop one of my flares or if it would just break, but better safe than sorry. It would, at the very least, stall a flare long enough for me to turn the other protection spells back on.

Setting down a cushy chair I’d brought with us, I said, “You two have fun. I’ll make sure you don’t kill each other or melt my precious ship.”

Dash flew over and swept me up in her hooves as I tried to sit down. I had no idea how she managed to carry my weight without the slightest bit of strain, but the flight was as smooth as it was brief.

“Oh, come on, Twi,” Dash said, setting me down in-between herself and Chamomile, the latter of whom looked half-scandalized. After all, this was no way to treat a princess. “I know you can do this, too. I saw that time you used one of my thunderclouds to–”

Glaring at Dash, I magically whispered into her ear, “One more word, and I’ll ground you for an entire week.”

It was a bluff. Dash usually managed to overpower my grounding spells pretty quickly unless I went out of my way to keep them in effect – which I wouldn’t waste a week of my time on – but she didn’t need to know that.

“Not cool, Twi.” The two of us had a stare down until Dash randomly gave up and moved on. “You should totally join us, though. I want to see what a princess’s apprentice is made of.”

“Not happening,” I said. The next moment, I was relaxing comfortably in my chair after a teleport, a book already on its way to joining me. Unfortunately, Dash was back hovering over me a second later.

“Why not? You do this kind of stuff all the time with the princess, don’t you? It’s fun.”

“Dash,” I began, opening my book, “I spar with Luna in an environment where both of us have equal resources at our disposal, where I’m not responsible for making sure nopony dies, where I don’t have to constantly fear using too much magic” – that finally got a frown out of Dash – “and where I can let loose and have fun with it.”

To make my point final, I snuggled even further into my chair and wrapped a blanket around myself. “I won’t be joining you.”

I didn’t even bother to look up. Either Dash would leave or I’d put up a shield next time to keep her out.

I’d gotten through half a page when Dash finally mumbled, “Fine,” and flew away. “Alright, Chamomile, show me you moves!”

Sometime later, Chamomile called out, “Twilight! Is it okay if I damage some of the ground?”

Answering magically, I said, “Just try to avoid hitting me. It’s distracting.” I seriously doubted Chamomile could actually damage anything in here with lightning bolts, but it’d be easy enough to fix even if she did.

The thunderous crackle that soon followed left my ears ringing, having forgotten to protect them from the inevitable thunderclaps. How I wished I had pegasus magic already; I wouldn’t even need to worry about this kind of nonsense.

Mid-spell, a small pebble hit me on the horn out of nowhere. It didn’t really hurt, but it’d been annoying. After I fixed my ears and placed a protection spell on them, I glanced up at what was going on. There were still little sparks gently floating to the ground around Dash and Chamomile. Judging by the rocky ground below her – which Chamomile hadn’t damaged, just lightly scorched – Chamomile had just built up a massive charge and let is dissipate beneath her.

I watched Dash attempt to do the same but to far less impressive results. Her own scorch mark was barely even visible and nowhere near the size of Chamomile’s. The floor was rock a long way down for no other reason than to take abuse, but it was still rock. Dash wasn’t going to damage it with anything less than her best.

At least the cleanup would be easier than cleaning up after my flares. I cast a shield spell around myself in case of more wayward pebbles and returned to my book.


Pegasus-generated lightning had a tendency to go where its user intended it to go. This was as opposed to where it should go if it were to behave like normal electricity, namely nowhere interesting. The pegasus version of lightning was inherently magical until it hit something, in laypony terms.

And by hit something, I meant until it got close enough to something that it thought it’d had its fun ionizing air and wouldn’t it be a lark if it discharged into whatever caught it’s fancy. Books were pretty eye-catching, as were ponies reading them.

“Princess!” Chamomile shouted, reverting to Old Equestrian in her panic. Even with her being a lunar pegasi, the beating of her wings was easy to hear.

I just stared awkwardly in silence. My mane, and tail, and coat, and eyelashes, and nasal hairs all felt a little stiff, and I was pretty sure my book was emitting a small cloud of black smoke. But my chair wasn’t on fire, so that was something.

Chamomile scooped me up before I could react and laid me flat on the ground. She immediately follow it up by putting an ear to my barrel right above my heart.

“Ah…” I began listlessly. Despite how much fiction liked to portray it otherwise, CPR was not a pleasant experience, and I had no interest in going through it, no matter how stunningly beautiful Chamomile was. “I’m alright.”

At hearing me speak, Chamomile sighed and fell on top of me, which was not exactly helping. I gently lifted her off of me and levitated her to the side.

“Dear Luna, I’d never forgive myself if I lost you like this,” Chamomile panted. She wasn’t as fast as Dash, but she’d managed to reach me before I’d even blinked earlier. “And Princess Luna would have my legs torn off and the rest of me fed alive to a dragon if I’d lost you like this.”

Dash chose this moment to join us. “Sorry, Twi, my bad. You okay?”

“Yeah… Yeah, just – just wasn’t ready for that big of a surge in my magical output and a lightning bolt to the face.” I was a little worse off than I’d have hoped, but flaring was the worst that could have happened. “Just shocked. Nothing to worry about.”

“Pft. If you can make bad puns like that, you’re fine. Let’s get back to it, Chamomile. We’re not leaving here until I hit you at least once.”

Bad puns? What was – oh, I got it. No, that hadn’t been on purpose. Maybe I should have said I was dazed.

Seeing that Chamomile hadn’t so much as moved her wings, I said, “You can go. I’ll be fine. I’m sure I’ll get revenge at some future point.”

I might commission Pinkie Pie to do the deed for me. I probably wouldn’t even need to bribe her; she was behind in her and Dash’s endless prank war.

“Are you sure, Pri – Twilight? Dash put far too much magic into that bolt.”

“Yes, yes, I’ll be fine.”

I rolled over to my hooves to prove my point, casting a quick spell to unsinge myself. It wasn’t the first time I’d been burnt, although it was the first time it was from electrical burns. I was just glad it wasn’t dragonfire this time; that had been ridiculously difficult to fix, and I’d still lost half my tail.

The next time I looked to Chamomile – who still hadn’t moved – she looked almost more worried than before.

“May I ask an impertinent question?”

“Huh? Of course, but I really am fine, you know.”

“No, it’s…not that.”

“Hey!” Dash shouted. “What’s keeping you?”

I briefly replied, “Give her a minute, Dash.” Turning my attention back to Chamomile, I asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Well, I mean no disrespect to her. Dash is fun and enjoyable to be around.”

On rare occasions and in small doses.

“But… I once asked her what she does, and she said she was just a weather mare. However, she is too good for a weather mare. No disrespect to the profession, either, but she is far too overqualified.”

You could say that again.

“She never spoke with anypony on Equus through Queen Chrysalis, so I just ignored it. I know this is silly, but it’s my job to worry over these things. She’s learning from me too quickly, and in my professional opinion, looking back, there was always a bit of a…how should I put it…military discipline in her underneath everything else.”

Really? Discipline wasn’t usually a word I’d associate with Dash. Still, I thought I knew the source of Chamomile’s confusion.

“So you think she’s a spy?” I asked just to be sure that was where Chamomile was going with this.

“More mildly worried than think, but yes. I’m concerned that she has some means of ruining everything at the last minute, although I do not know what reason she or the sun princess would have to delay.”

I waited a moment to see if Chamomile was going to add anything else and then nodded when I was sure she was done.

“Alright, warning received. Honestly, though, if Dash is a spy, she’s hidden it so well that I’d be more concerned about being a spy myself. Long before we left Equus, we did a background check, and I made sure there were no unpleasant spells placed on her. Luna took a peek into her dreams as well, and even Chrysalis had no objections. So far as it’s possible for us to know, she has had no contact with Celestia or her agents in pony or by proxy.”

I may have also used some more underhooved spells to make absolutely sure.

“However, she did use to go on and on about joining the Wonderbolts when we first left.”

“Er…the Wonderbolts?” Chamomile asked.

“They’re a quasi-military organization of stunt fliers attached to the public relations division of the Equestrian military. They’re sort of part of the chain of command, but not really.”

And if I could have put that any more inelegantly, I would have won a trophy.

“She spent most of her life idolizing them and preparing to join them,” I added, “for whatever reason. What you’re seeing is probably an aftereffect of that.”

“Hmm… Yes, that makes sense. I’m sorry for wasting–”

“Nope,” I interrupted, “not listening to that. I’d rather have a thousand false alarms than miss a single problem as large as what you were concerned with. On the topic, the only pony here you could possibly need to worry about is Chrysalis, but her loyalty is not in doubt.”

Of course her loyalty which was certainly not in doubt was to the winner of this struggle. I couldn’t really blame her for that, but I did like knowing that Pupa, at least, liked me enough not to throw me under a coach intentionally.

“Anyway, keep up the good work,” I finished, giving Chamomile an appreciative pat on the withers. “And go have fun.”

“Thank you! I will!”

“And I suppose I wouldn’t mind if you roughed Dash up a bit to pay her back for her attempted assassination.”

Chamomile bowed, although I couldn’t tell if it was a genuine bow or a jesting one. “Your will be done, Your Highness. She certainly has been asking for it.”

I watched Chamomile fly off for a second or two before returning to my book and chair. Fortunately, there was only minor damage done to the book, so I was once again comfortable and reading within moments. I was having a hard time keeping my mind from wandering, though.

Dash had stopped talking about the Wonderbolts. I’d noticed, but I’d never noticed. I knew her pretty well by this point, I presumed, and I was almost certain that she wasn’t the kind of pony who would simply grow out of her dreams. I hadn’t prodded her away from the Wonderbolts, and I didn’t remember anypony else saying anything related, either. Strange, that.

Not that it was any of my business. Still, maybe I could talk Dash into sticking with me and reaching her full potential, whatever that turned out to be.

Heh. If I got one knight out of Chamomile, I might as well ask if Dash would be my second. If she agreed, the trap would be set. I could force her to do research into pegasus magic with me. Not the conventional use of a knight, sure, but certainly an effective one.

Ah, well, that would just lead to the quickest betrayal of knightly vows in history, but it would still be funny.

Still, what had made Dash stop talking about the Wonderbolts? Distance? That could certainly be a factor. Disillusionment, maybe? She was more talented then all of them, in my opinion; maybe she’d finally realized that.

Oh, actually, Fluttershy. If I remembered correctly, the Wonderbolts had almost yearlong performances all around Equestria. That didn’t leave much time for friends outside the group, and even less time for ground-bound ponies like Fluttershy. And forget about relationships.

Would Dash really give up her dreams for Fluttershy? Yes, of course she would. We were talking about a mare who graduated two years early just to stay with Fluttershy.

Hmm… Underneath all the annoying, Dash was a pretty good friend. A pony really could depend on her when it actually counted.

Not that I wasn’t going to rant about her later in my log to let out stress. Seriously, who hits ponies with a lightning bolt by accident? And she’d made me feel all the horrible nonsense she’d done with her magic while she was learning just minutes ago. If poor technique and sloppy, brute force execution could make me sick, I wouldn’t be able to eat lunch for a week.

Honestly, I was a bit surprised that Dash hadn’t blown herself up. She’d pretty much been casting semi-random arrangements of magic as spells until she’d gotten them right, which almost never ended well.

Oh well. She’d made it to nineteen years old without dying; she must have known what she was doing well enough to make it to twenty, too.


Nothing further of interest to report.


[Spring 46, 997 – Day 1556]

Chrysalis said the strangest thing today. We were nearing the end of dinner when she just started laughing for no reason. Like, uncontrollably laughing and pounding her hoof on the table, shouting, ‘I was right!’ over and over again.

Eventually she petered out, ending with, Of course she wouldn’t leave it up to chance. Decisive action. No negotiation.’ I think I also heard her mumble, ‘I might be in over my head,’ but I could have misheard.

I managed to extract a tiny explanation out of her once we were alone, but it was no less bizarre and cryptic. She said, and I think these were her exact words, ‘Some advice, Twilight. When you know there is at least one plotter involved and it seems like there are too many coincidences, then the situation was almost certainly engineered. I’ve had my hive looking for a particular little orphan, and we finally found her. And if I want to keep my head, I think that’s about all I can say.’

Yeah. Weird. I’m going to ask Luna if she knows what Chrysalis was talking about after I head to bed. I’m really hoping she can leave me less confused.

Nothing further of interest to report.


[Spring 47, 997 – Day 1557]

Not much happened today other than Dash clipping a wing on a particularly strong bolt of lightning. I know she and Chamomile have really grown to enjoy sparring with each other, but I really need to tell them to tone it down. Just two days before it was a severe case of frostbite on Chamomile’s right wing. One of these days they’re going to do something I can’t fix for them.

Anyway, I did talk to Luna about Chrysalis’s strange behavior yesterday. When I asked her about it, her eyes actually widened in horror. She tried to dismiss it as nothing, but in the end, I pressured her to the point where she actually said she didn’t want anypony to know about the filly Chrysalis had found, not even me.

I don’t really know how to feel about that, but I guess we’re all entitled to our own secrets…

At any rate, Luna confessed that she just wanted the mystery filly to live a happy, ignored life and that it would be best for everypony if nopony went and bothered her. And that was that.

My guess is Chrysalis found one of Luna’s descendants, probably one from a particularly well-loved suitor. It doesn’t really fully explain the rest of Chrysalis’s comment, especially the part about keeping her head, but I don’t really see why Luna would be so bothered by a random filly she’d never even talked to before otherwise.

*hmm*

Oh, maybe Luna had her original foal in secret, or something, and Celestia only recently – in the past two decades or so – managed to track down this descendant. That’s entirely possible, and it would explain both Luna’s and Chrysalis’s reactions if Celestia had tried to do something horrible to her. Luna must have pulled off something spectacular to get the filly out of trouble.

Oh well. Unless Luna asks for my help, I’ll let the matter drop. She made her wishes on the subject pretty clear, after all, and it’s not like there’s much I personally can do from the middle of nowhere, space.

Nothing further of interest to report.


Dear Luna,


It’s only been two days, but I’m missing you already. I knew this was coming, of course, but I don’t think I’d honestly understood and processed that Chrysalis’s hive mind would outrange your connection to dreams while banished.

Spike misses you, too, although he’s acting tough. I don’t even understand where he’s getting that from. It has to be from books, or at least I hope it is; the only masculine role model on the ship would be Dash, and she does not set a good example for foals, colts or fillies. Her actions and decisions are too complex to really explain to Spike at his age.

I mean, I wouldn’t want him taking Fluttershy, the opposite extreme, as a role model, either, but I do wish he wasn’t going to go through this whole ‘feelings are lame’ phase.

Well anyway, obviously I received your letter, and I found the books you asked me to read. I’m halfway through Pony Genetics, although I think I’m unfortunately going to have to read it twice to get a real understanding of it. Biology hasn’t exactly been a focus of my studies, but I think I can manage something this technical.

Speaking of Dash and Fluttershy, I’ve been meaning to ask your advice about something. A few weeks ago, Dash asked if that old – well, not old for you, but she asked if captains really could marry ponies. She never said why she asked, but only she would consider the reason anything but obvious.

The answer to her question was ‘No, of course not,’ but I answered her real question and said, ‘Both Chrysalis and I have the authority to marry ponies, but so far as I know, it’s not because of any captaincies we hold.’ I was assuming I do have that authority, being a princess; feel free to correct me if I’m wrong or if you never officially saddled me with that. I’m curious if Chamomile does, too, being a high ranking military officer, but that’s not really all that important.

Anyway, what I wanted to ask was if I should marry them if Dash asks. On the one hoof, I’m philosophically opposed to the idea, but on the other hoof, I don’t really want to say no to either of them over something like this just to make a point. Especially when they could just ask Chrysalis instead; I doubt she would refuse them, Fluttershy in particular, even if I asked her to.

In happier news, Berry Pinch cast her first successful real spell today. I know I was hesitant when you said I should try to teach her every field – yes, I know that’s a bit hypocritical – until we found something that stuck, but you were right, as always. It really was worth it. You should have seen the smile on her face when she flew around with butterfly wings, or the completely baffled look she had when they vanished and she fell flat on her barrel. She’s not a prodigy, but we got our hooves on her when she was young enough to make something great of her.

Really, the spell only lasted a few seconds, but she was so infectiously happy about it. Berry Punch might have been even happier. I mean, it was obvious to her that her daughter was learning under my tutelage, or she would have just tried to teach Berry Pinch herself, but the fake wings spell is the first big, fancy, impressive spell I’d taught Berry Pinch, not just another cantrip.

Of course, there was another reason for both of them to be happy, too. Berry Pinch finally got her cutie mark when she cast the spell! It was a golden horseshoe. I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean, but we had a party anyway. I still don’t know how Pinkie Pie manages to set them up so quickly, but she did.

Anyway, I suppose I’ll leave it here. I wouldn’t want to overburden my parents with memorizing my letters.


Twilight


Dear Twilight,


I cannot say I much appreciate letter based communication either. I know the post serves most ponies well enough, but it does little good for those of us capable of long-range telepathy or teleportation.

Unfortunately, I have little recent experience with parenting, so I will have to direct you to your own fantastic, wonderful, understanding parents who miss you everyday and whom you now have an excuse to talk to more often for advice.

In my experience, it is pointless to argue against marriage to those who are engaged in a happy one or who are about to propose. It strikes a sense of loyalty, which to reevaluate or revise, most would feel would be a betrayal and thus will hear you but not listen.

All things considered, marriage is not such a terrible fate in the present day, although the reasoning ponies give for pursuing it continues to baffle me. Divorce is not uncommon in Equestria ever since the fool in charge finally legalized it, although the frequency has ‘mysteriously’ dropped a significant fraction in the last decade or so since a certain pink alicorn appeared. In any case, ponies have a tendency to die before their feelings are strained beyond the breaking point.

Unless, of course, somepony involved happens to know enough alchemy magic for an age spell, which has been known to turn very ugly. I once kept the company of a handsome earth pony stallion for well over a hundred years – in secret, unfortunately. I was not yet quite old enough for ponies to overlook my actions as the whim of an ancient alicorn whenever I did something unusual.

The problem with age spells is twofold. First, they do not work forever; eventually, a pony loses their magic and dies. Second, a pony who should otherwise have already died becomes dependent on the pony casting the spell. I trust you can think of how unpleasant that can make an intimate relationship. Although the spell is naturally permanent unless additional effort is expended, as with all alchemy spells, it doesn’t eliminate the fundamental problem of aging. However, I have digressed from your primary concern.

It is certainly well within your rights and powers to marry whomsoever you choose. Since your friends are likely to marry in either case, I see no reason for you to refuse and darken their lives, however little, but the choice is yours.

As for Berry Pinch and her mother, it has been a long time since I have helped an ordinary pony with an ordinary problem, even if only by proxy through you. I could not say I wish to do so often or have the time to, but…it is not a bad feeling.


Princess Luna


P.S. Try teaching Berry Pinch the breezie transformation spell. It should be somewhere in a book called Faerie Culture. I suspect you have an alchemist on your hooves; she will need a lot of guidance from you if so. When you return to Equus, there is a pony named Quartz who she should meet to further her studies; he was the pony who gave you the replacement suppressor.

Currently, he lives in Manehattan, which is not very close to Ponyville, so you may wish to discuss the idea with Berry Punch sooner rather than later.

That said, as far as I know, Quartz is the only unicorn alchemist on Equus. He is rather crotchety, even for a two-hundred-year-old stallion, but he makes for good conversation, and I know he has always wanted an apprentice for himself. I owe him a rather large favor, and sending Berry Pinch his way would be the perfect opportunity to repay it.


[Fall 72, 998 – Day 1782]

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!


Today was the day. Today was the day I’d finally try to use real alchemy on myself instead of those ridiculous specialized spells that turned ponies into breezies and apples into oranges. Seriously, whoever thought a spell that specifically turned apples into oranges was important enough to invent was crazy.

No, I couldn’t lose focus now. This was too important. This was a moment I wanted to remember forever. This was a culmination of half a decade of studying and hard work.

A little bit of power here, a careful inscription there, and my magic danced before me as I wove together my spell. Directing the spell toward myself, I felt the effects wash over me, tugging at every part of me as the spell did its work.

I had no idea how changelings managed to transform so easily, although I was sure I’d learn after ascending. For now, I directed the second target of my spell toward a feather I’d borrowed from Fluttershy. If I did this exactly right, I’d find myself with a lovely pair of purple wings without any of Fluttershy’s other features, like an inconvenient lack of a horn.

With a final burst of magic, I added the finishing touches to make the changes all temporary. No matter what, I’d still have only unicorn magic, so I’d be able to get myself back to normal, but it would be hard without a horn as a focus. There was always the possibility that I’d messed up the spell in other ways, too; I could get really sick and maybe even die if I had and if I made the changes permanent.

My eyes closed, I performed an initial check of my body. I could still feel my horn. That was a good sign. I hadn’t accidentally lost all of my mane or tail or coat so far as I could tell. That was even better. I could still feel my legs, and I was breathing normally. My sides felt a little heavier than normal, and my back felt a little weird. I could tell I was moving something, and I dearly hoped that something was a pair of wings.

I took a deep breath and opened my eyes. I turned my head around to gaze at my back, and my eyes fell upon a pair of yellow wings attached to a yellow coat just in front of the strangest mix of colors I’d ever seen on a pony’s tail before, as if somepony had dumped a few of their favorite eye-searing paints into it and mixed them all around.

But never mind that horrible yellow and pink and red and purple monstrosity. I had wings! Real wings that I could move! I flapped them once just to prove to myself that I could. Sure, this hadn’t been a complete success, and my lack of pegasus magic meant I couldn’t leave the ground, but – but wings!

A thought struck me. I might not be too heavy to glide! I teleported myself straight up into the air in the middle of my library, and I gave myself a little telekinetic push to get me going. Pegasi gliding broke all kinds of physics rules, especially when Dash did it, but I could still try to fly like a regular bird.

That was the idea, at least. I was falling fast – not fast enough or from high up enough to be scared, but still fast. And naturally, being focused on the ground, I swerved right into a bookcase headfirst and fell to the floor with a thud, landing on one of my previously unblemished new wings.

I winced as I hobbled to my hooves. At least I hadn’t broken any of the bones in my wing. I just needed to preen a bit…and maybe wait a few more minutes for my wing to stop throbbing, and then I could try again outside the library. I really didn’t know what I’d been thinking. No flying in the library was the number one rule to begin with, and I was the one that had made it.

Actually, thinking about that reminded me of something. As counter intuitive as it was, I should probably go ask Dash for help. I’d learned to fly in a dream with pegasus magic – or how I dreamt pegasus magic worked – by watching Luna and using alicorn-sized wings. For all I knew, I’d been doing everything wrong in ways Luna hadn’t been able to notice or correct.

I scryed across the ship and quickly found Dash tucked away in Twinkleshine’s room with Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Chamomile, and, of course, Twinkleshine. It looked like they were watching an old Appleloosan flick, but I had no idea which one. At any rate, I teleported directly into the room with them and stopped the film projector on arrival.

“Hey!” Dash said, only to cut off when she got a good look at me.

“Fluttershy?” Twinkleshine asked, only for the real one to quietly nudge her with her muzzle. “Um… Chrysalis? What’s going on?”

“And who are you disguised as?” Pinkie Pie asked. “I love what you’ve done with your mane and tail! It’s like a bunch of cotton candy types all mixed together into one super swirl of sugary deliciousness.”

Before I could get a word in edgewise, Twinkleshine said, “She sort of looks familiar. I think I saw a picture of somepony like this back at Princess Celestia’s school, but the mane and tail were different. I think hers was…red, maybe? And her cutie mark wasn’t…Twilight?”

“Yes,” I said, sparing a quick glance back at my haunch. Apparently my cutie mark hadn’t changed to Fluttershy’s – not that it was an impossible change to make, despite popular opinion to the contrary.

It was, however, impossible to change a pony’s special talent. Well, probably. Kind of. A special talent was a laypony’s way to describe the magic that came naturally to a pony, and there were a lot of factors at play in determining what those magics were. It might not be impossible to change somepony’s special talent, but so far as I knew, nopony could. Maybe if you really injured your magic…

At any rate, the cutie mark was just an expression of a pony’s own magic on their body. In other words, it was a personal magic at work, not some grand magic of destiny enforcing its will upon a pony. Ponies, in theory, caused their own cutie marks to appear when they used their magic to the limit, whatever that meant for each pony.

That was why there were so many different cutie marks for the same special talent and why there were so many similar – or even identical – cutie marks for different special talent. Ponies grew up with certain expectations of what cutie marks should look like and what they meant, and only rarely would ponies get something fundamentally new, like a bowling ball, which was a relatively new sport in history.

As another example, my own cutie mark was a star burst. The usual cutie marks – in our current culture – for special talents in magic involved either the stars or the sun. In…in all honestly, I was kind of surprised I hadn’t ended up with a sun of some kind. It would’ve made a lot more sense than stars when on considered my filly years.

But I’d take a half-dozen stars on my flank over a sun any day!

“Hey, Twiliiiiight,” Pinkie Pie called out. “You in there?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. I just wanted to borrow Dash. I’m trying to make these things” – I ruffled my wings – “actually work.”

Slipping back into Old Equestrian, hopefully on purpose, Chamomile asked, “Have you managed to ascend already?” Her face showed a shock that hadn’t been there earlier, and all but one other pony shared it. I didn’t think they’d really processed that I had wings right now, considering how much of an eyesore I was otherwise.

At the same time, Pinkie Pie said, “Oh my gosh, this calls for a ‘my friend is an alicorn now’ party!”

“You’re an alicorn now?” Twinkleshine shouted.

“Wait. Quiet!” After the rabble died down, I continued, “This is just a spell. I’m still just a unicorn with just unicorn magic. These wings don’t even work properly without pegasus magic. I just want some help to figure out how to glide right now so I can feel the wind on my feathers and get that rush of laughing at the ground that thought it could tame me.”

Dash was openly laughing, and Twinkleshine and Chamomile were both snickering. I slowly put my raised hoof down and folded my wings back to my sides, ending my unintentionally dramatic pose.

Pinkie Pie, on the other hoof, was already in my face, asking, “Can you cast that spell on me, too? I love flying, and I had to leave my helicopter on Equus since there’s nowhere to use it on the Nebulous, but this would be a lot of fun, too, and much easier on my legs since I wouldn’t have to pedal.”

“Um… You left your what?” I asked, only to decide better of it immediately after. “Never mind. I guess I can cast it on you, but I’m still working out the bugs.”

“Is that why you look like Flutters after losing a fight with a rainbow?”

I sighed. “Yes, very funny, Dash. I used one of Fluttershy’s feathers as the base for my spell to build my wings from, and I didn’t manage to successfully filter out all of her other physical features.”

Fluttershy made a small little, “Oh,” from next to Dash.

“Ehem. Might I suggest you ask somepony else to teach you,” Chamomile said. “Dash can be a bit…”

“Hey!” Dash shouted, flying herself to land right in front of Chamomile. “What do you think I was gonna do, kick her off a cloud and tell her to flap?”

“The thought had occurred to me, and a big part of my job is protecting her.”

“A little fall never hurt anypony.”

Fluttershy tried to say something, but she was drowned out by Dash.

“It’s not like she’s going to break her neck or anything.”

“Just because she can heal herself doesn’t mean it’s okay for Twilight to get hurt.”

“Oh come on, it’s not like I’d actually let her hit the ground. I’d totally catch her.”

Chamomile just looked at Dash skeptically.

Why was everypony just assuming I’d hit the ground? I wasn’t a natural like Dash, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t a good flier. I just needed a few real life tips.

“Are you trying to say something?” Dash asked.

“No,” Chamomile replied calmly. I’d never found out if she was just hard to rile up or if she acted calm on purpose to make Dash lose her temper even more. “It’s just that you have a higher accident rate than I would like.”

Dash’s hooves crackled with lightning where she stood. I really wished she would stop doing that; it wasn’t hard to fix the damage she caused, but it was annoying.

“Come on, you and me,” Dash said, tapping her chest and Chamomile’s with a hoof.

“Must we? We were watching a movie.”

“Yes! I’m going to crush you this time for sure.”

Sighing, Chamomile turned to me and said, “If you would, Twilight.”

“Wait, but…I still want to fly, or at least glide.”

“Huh?” Dash turned to look at me like I was crazy. It was kind of scary how quickly Dash could forget what she was originally arguing about. “Oh. Don’t.” As I opened my mouth to protest, Dash added, “You’re too heavy without magic. Even I can’t make that work.”

“Wha? If that’s all, I can just make myself lighter…” Even as the words came out, I knew that wasn’t what I really wanted. “I mean, I could just levitate myself…but I’d have wings!”

I tried just that to see if it felt any different with wings, but it didn’t. It really didn’t.

Dash rolled her eyes, and Chamomile gave me a sympathetic look. I turned my gaze away from them as my hooves touched back down on the floor, only for it to fall upon Pinkie Pie eating popcorn. Typical.

“Hey, Twilight, are you okay?” Twinkleshine asked.

“No, not really. I was looking forward to flying.”

“I think she means your magic,” Chamomile added. “It was light-blue instead of raspberry.”

Nodding Twinkleshine added, “I know your magic changes when you…you know.”

“Dark magic is not evil magic,” I said. I’d tried to explain that to everypony on the ship for years now, but the only pony who had really listened – and learned – was Chamomile.

“Anyway,” I continued, “I doubt you want to hear about how normal magic auras get their color, but it’s not all that hard to change it. My parents once told me that my own aura changed from a light pink to a dark pink when I was… Um… Stars, I can’t remember, but I must have been really young. Three, maybe? Two? It’s not all that unusual for growing unicorns.”

“So if Fluttershy were a unicorn, she’d have light-blue magic?” Pinkie Pie asked. Even before I shrugged, she asked, “Can you do me? What color magic would I have?”

“Maybe later, Pinkie Pie. I’d have to figure out how to mess up the spell in just the right way to keep my horn but take on most of the rest of your features, which could take a while, given that I designed the spell to give me wings.”

What would it even mean to turn myself into an earth pony with a horn with only unicorn magic? That pretty much was the definition of a unicorn. Maybe I would have more muscle?

“Seriously, Twi,” Dash said, interrupting my thoughts, “don’t try flying with those things. You’ll just fall.”

I sighed, the wind completely taken out of my sails by this point. “Whatever. I don’t care anymore. Maybe I can use these things to write or something.” I experimentally tried fiddling with the tiny joints at the ends of my wings and successfully managed to move a few feathers.

“Pft, good luck,” Dash said. She reached into Pinkie Pie’s bowl with a wing and grabbed a single kernel of popcorn as if it were the most natural thing in the world, following it up by tossing the kernel into her mouth. “Three words, Twi. Years. Of. Practice.”

I turned to Fluttershy, silently asking for her opinion.

After biting her lip, Fluttershy said, “It is hard.”

“Great…”

I canceled my spell and reverted myself to my normal unicorn form. I fully intended to properly learn how to use my wings, but I wanted them to be my wings, which meant I needed to perfect the spell first.

“Well anyway, do you two still want to go at each other?”

“Oh. Yeah!” Dash said, smirking this time instead of snarling. “Let’s do this!”

I turned to Chamomile, and she said, “I’m fine with it.”

Nodding, I cast the necessary spells on the two of them and teleported them to what had long since become their sparring arena, rather than my flaring room. I kept a scrying spell up so I could keep an eye on them, although I wasn’t paying too much attention.

“No offense, Fluttershy,” Twinkleshine said, getting to her hooves. As she crossed the short distance between us, she added, “But Twilight is much cuter like this.”

I leaned into the kiss Twinkleshine gave me. For once, I knew Twinkleshine wasn’t just flattering me; I really had been an eyesore.

When we finally broke apart, I asked, “So what movie were you watching?”

Blazing Saddles,” Pinkie Pie said through a mouthful of popcorn. “You wanna watch?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Are – are there saddles on fire?”

Fighting back her laughter at my expense, Twinkleshine said, “No, that’s not what it’s about at all. It’s a comedy. I think you’d like it.”

“Eh, I think I’ll pass. I need to be getting back to work.”

“But that’s what you always say,” Twinkleshine said, looking at me with a pout and big, sad eyes, her lower lip quivering every so slightly, and–

“Okay, fine. I suppose I can work and watch.”

“Yay!”

Twinkleshine immediately busied herself with rewinding the tape reels while I took a seat next to Fluttershy.

“Thanks for the feather, by the way.”

“Oh, it was no trouble, Twilight. I was happy to help. They just fall out, anyway. The only other things they’re good for are quills and pillows.

Twinkleshine plopped down next to me as the movie started. She leaned into me, and we shared a brief nuzzle before settling into a comfortable position. This was the perfect pick-me-up after messing up my polymorph spell today.

I sighed contentedly as I leaned further into Twinkleshine.


There’s not much more to say about today. I managed to find the mistake I’d made in the spell after supper, and I have a wonderful new pair of lavender wings now. I wish I had one of Cadance’s feathers so I could make alicorn-sized wings, but normal pegasus wings are still great.

They’re really soft and warm, too.

Wha? Twinkleshine, what are you doing up this early?

I got cold.

I…

Nothing further of interest to report.


[Spring 85, 998 – Day 1995]

Nope, too tired to write a real log today. We had to make a huge course correction, and I am magically exhausted. Flaring twice certainly didn’t help. From now on, Twinkleshine doesn’t get to use less than six significant figures. Chrysalis is in charge for the next couple…couple…



[Winter 70, 999 – Day 2280]

She found it! She actually found it! I won’t go into detail of what we did after Twinkleshine showed me an image of Mona, but we’re almost there. I’ve seen it! It’s a real thing I’ll be able to touch with my hooves! Just – just – stars, I’m so excited! I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep until we’re there; I can barely stand still. I’m like Pinkie Pie after eating a cake meant for a hundred ponies.

Okay, okay, be cool, Twilight. You can manage this. Don’t trip at the finish line just because it’s so exciting! I’m finally going to ascend! I won’t even have to worry about being discovered and executed anymore! This is such a big change! Luna once said that adjusting to peace is hard, but I’m so ready!

Alright, in and out. In and out.

*whew*

Much better. Seriously though, as much as I want to leave everypony behind and teleport myself to Mona immediately over the next hour or two, we need to make a slow, careful approach. I need to make sure we don’t stumble into any magical traps or wards. I’d ordinarily say that there’s no way there could be any all the way out here without an enormous source of magic to warn Celestia back on Equus, but she could always visit Mona every few weeks, or far more likely, the Elements of Harmony could provide the magic themselves.

Honestly, I doubt that anypony who could make it this far would be unable to detect and dismantle any wards or traps, so in theory there would be no sense in placing them, but that itself could be the real trap. Just one little ward placed at the end of the journey to ruin years of work. It wasn’t like it would cost Celestia much to do so.

We did find out why Mona burned green when it passed by the sun, though. It turns out that Mona is not a real comet, but a giant lump of rock, dirt, and a few metals, copper in particular. Now that I thought about it, it seemed obvious in hindsight. It wasn’t that a comet without a period just so happened to fly by for Celestia to place the elements on. No, she took a lake-sized chunk of Equus into space with the elements and tossed it as hard as she could.

Well, maybe not as hard as she could, but certainly with far more than an escape velocity.

We have a little under half a year left before Luna’s banishment ends, and unless Twinkleshine begs me to write more, I think this is going to be my last journal entry. If she’ll have it, I want to put this log with the books Luna wrote about history back on the moon. I suppose that’s a lot like putting a crayon picture on a refrigerator in comparison to her art, but it would still mean a lot to me.

To whoever is reading this, may you have something of interest to report.


Prereader – Starlight Nova