Diaries of a Madman

When Discord breaks free of his stone prison, he proves to be much older and wiser than he was on the show. A being of ancient and unimaginable power, he forces Celestia to make a deal to save her little ponies. What she doesn't realize is that one of the terms of the deal is that she forgets ever making it. Enter Navarone, a poor human just trying to get by—or at least, to the ponies that's what he looks like. Pulled from his home by an accidental summoning from one Twilight Sparkle, Navarone is thrust into a world of ponies and more violence than he expected from such a peaceful seeming world. These are his adventures—with a few asides from everybody's favorite Lord of Chaos, of course.


122. Chapter Ninety-Nine—Take a look, it’s in a book... Part 2

“...Yes, I have,” she said. “I’m definitely going to have to ask the princess about it next time I see her.”

“Be careful about mentioning it,” I said. “She’s wiped Shining Armor’s memory about some things before. I don’t doubt she’d be willing to do it again, to someone else that finds things she wants hidden. I’ll let you read through the history books we collected from this place, but they’re staying with me as I travel.” And by that, I meant I’d be giving them to Bloodbeak so copies could be made.

“Would she really do that to her student, though?” she asked, concern coming through.

“I don’t know. She’s cleared stuff from Rarity’s mind before. And she’s removed a lot from the history books, like the true founding of Equestria, Reginald the dragon, Discord himself. It’s gonna have to be something you ask yourself. Risk it or not?”

“...I’ll think about it.”

“And I think I’m ready to go,” I said, stretching my legs one more time. After stopping to get my knife, we walked over to the next door. Above it was a quill and a star. “Thoughts?” I asked.

“The quills have been history,” she said. “The star…” She looked back at her ass. “It usually represents magic. So magic history?” she asked, turning to face the gate.

“Which means this is probably your show,” I said. “I’m following your lead.”

She took a deep breath and nodded. “Alright. I can do this. Let’s go.” Together, we walked through the portal.

I had about a second to orient myself in a brightly glowing room before the sound of voices dragged me out of my stupor. “And we told thee, there is no choice!” Celestia angrily said to some weird looking dude in a strange hat and a cloak with bells on the edges.

“And I said thy mind is taken by paranoia,” the stallion said. “Clover is a genius, a magical genius! And thou wouldst waste her on thy bastardized magic?” Looking around the room gave me a view of Twilight standing behind the weird guy. The actual room we were in was small and circular, with a large glowing crystal in the center.

“We would use her, Starswirl,” Celestia said, standing to her full height. At this point, her hair was still pink, but she seemed more regal and less angry than she had been the last time we saw her. “Thou knowest what happened, how the everlasting winter took the north. How one mad mage doomed thousands to starvation! Something must be done. And we have found a solution!”

Thou hast found a solution?” Starswirl asked. “Or was it thy sister?” When he asked that, he turned to me. Oh God, am I in that blueberry bitch?

“Semantics!” Celestia said, pulling his attention back. “A solution has been found, Starswirl. And we will teach thy disciple.”

“Thou art doing nothing but delaying the issue,” he said, shaking his head. “Anyone that has magic of any kind will be able to find ways to abuse it. Putting unnecessary restrictions upon it does nothing but make stopping the abuse harder for those that have to fix it!”

“It makes stopping the abuse possible, Starswirl,” Celestia growled. “Should we be the only ponies with true magic, we can fix any horrors others would bring upon the world.”

“Providing what oversight?” he asked. “When I die, when the last of the magi perish, what will the rest be left with? Thou and thy sister? Wilt thou lie to the coming generations as well, tell them thou doth raise the sun as thou told us?”

“Thou wilt cease thy slander!” Celestia hissed, her eyes narrowing.

“Dost thou thinketh me a fool, Celestia?” he asked. “Think thee that we all be fools? The council has known for ages! It was a convenient lie, for we needed the support of the earths and the pegasi. But shouldst thou thinketh to turn them against us, do not think for a moment that we will let your lie live any longer. Thou and thy sister are powerful and ancient, but without the support of the unicorns, how long dost thou thinketh thee will last?”

“We will start this revolution of magic, Starswirl,” Celestia darkly said. “With or without the council’s assistance. Thou may either assist us and have a say in how things progress or go against us and be lost in time. We last forever. Thy star is fading, even now. In two thousand years, who doth thou think will be remembered more? Us, who will still be living? Or thou, who will have faded millennia since? Join us now and help us or risk being left behind for eternity.”

“Taketh thyself to Tartarus,” he answered. “Clover, come.” He started walking to the only door in the room, Twilight following him in a complete daze. Celestia looked to me, narrowing her eyes. Hopefully taking the hint, I blocked him from leaving with an arm. “What doth thou want, Lady of Battle?” he asked me.

Celestia was looking at the crystal ball in the center, where a scene was playing out. “Look,” I said, pointing toward it. He set his teeth, but turned his gaze upon it.

“Doth thou know of Discord?” Celestia asked as Starswirl watched the scene.

“Of course,” he answered. “What doth that monster have to do with this?”

“We have reason to believe that he has no defense against the spells we would create,” Celestia said. “Discord himself is a magical being of immense power. But spells are only partially magic. True magic has many elements of chaos, something at which he excelled. But the spells we wouldst create are… different. They require order within thyself. They require a lack of chaos and a centering within one’s mind. And we believe that a world with much less true magic would decrease the risk of him escaping again. But we can’t know this without testing. Thou sayest that Clover is a genius, that she could truly change the world. What better change than being the building block of killing chaos itself?”

There was silence in the room for a few more seconds as we watched the images of Discord’s cracking statue stranded within a snowy wasteland. Not enough to completely break, but it was very obvious that the stone was damaged and weakened.

“...I shall discuss it with the council,” Starswirl finally said. “Clover, come.” Celestia let him leave, this time. The door slid shut behind them both with a gentle hiss, strangely.

“We detest lying,” Celestia sighed, shaking her head.

“You did the right thing,” I said, hoping I was as well.

“We know, Luna. And of course, thou knowest what must be done if they do not assist us?”

“Purge?” I asked.

“Make it quick, should the need arise. We do not want friends to suffer. Now, let us depart this unpleasant room.” Thankfully, the door suddenly took on the shape of the gate. I sprinted for it, not wanting to risk it disappearing.

Twilight and I appeared side by side. Before we could relax or get a good grasp on the next room, a single sheet of paper in the center began unfolding… and unfolding and unfolding. Soon, that single sheet of paper stood at twice my height, revealing a two-dimensional humanoid shape that was completely covered in a writhing text that upon trying to read hurt my eyes.

“What the hell…?” I whispered. As soon as I spoke, its head faced me. Then its arm shot my way, almost faster than I could throw myself aside. Thankfully, it missed. Not so thankfully, it seemed to be able to unfold even farther, meaning that it was able to follow me. A fiery spell from Twilight did nothing more than light up its runes and bring its attention to her, its other arm seeking her plump flesh.

Now, I wasn’t going to be having any of that. I snatched my knife out of the shitty scabbard it was in and slashed at the strange arm-like apparatus, slicing it down the center. But since this thing was made of fucking paper, all it did was give it more maneuverability as it tried to reach for the knife in my grip.

Unfortunately, continued dodging without really paying attention to where I was dodging put me with my back against the golem. One of its legs extended from its base on the ground, shooting past my thigh and giving me the most painful fucking papercut I have ever felt in my life. My leg jerked back and I quickly reacted, succeeding in cutting the extended leg from the rest of the thing’s body. The freed paper flopped to the ground, smouldering but not burning.

Before I could back away from its body, though, the arm that had been chasing me connected with my body, wrapping around my arm without the knife. Before I could cut its tendrils off, one of the pieces of the arm lit up bright red, emanating extreme heat. The other turned blue, turning bitterly cold instead. By the time I succeeded in removing its arm, I once again had no feeling at all in that arm other than pain.

The golem appeared defenseless, given that its other arm and leg were seeking Twilight, who was teleporting around the room and blasting it uselessly with whatever spell she could think of.

Be very wary when you think something defenseless.

I spun my dagger in my hand for what I was hoping was a killing blow against its body, trying to slash it in two, but its fucking head extended down, shooting straight toward me. Once again, only my quick reflexes stopped me from a whole world of hurt. Thankfully, it gave me a nice shot at removing its head. Not so thankfully, it jerked away as I tried slicing down on it. Even less thankfully, its head took on the shape of a fucking sword, folding and refolding itself to be as sharp and strong as copper, something I probably couldn’t hold my own against with one hand.

But hold I did, dueling with a single hand and a single dagger against something about twice my size. Thankfully, it seemed to have no idea what it was doing, so all it really had against me was its height advantage. And it also didn’t seem that intelligent, so I was able to slowly back away to make it continue unfolding its head, drawing it further away from its body. By the time I was about two meters away, it was no longer able to follow me, making me realize I had reached its limit.

Only about two feet of that head was converted into a saber, leaving the rest as some strange manner of arm, thrusting the weapon about. With its general lack of expertise, I was able to slide right through its guard and get close enough that I could jump up and slice, severing its head completely.

With an inhuman screech followed by the sound of a newspaper being crumpled and tossed away, the paper monstrosity collapsed to the floor, suddenly held together by nothing.

“What the absolute fuck?” I gasped, panting. Christ, I need some sun. I’m using way too much energy in this place!

“Sweet Celestia,” Twilight panted, falling to the floor. “What was that thing?”

“No clue,” I said, limping over to her. “But can you heal me? My leg and arm are fucked.”

“I can… try,” she said. “But I’m tired. I haven’t used this much magic in ages…”

“Worry about my leg first,” I said. “That thing fucking burns.”

She looked down at it and at my arm. “But… your arm is actually burned.”

“Have you ever had a papercut?” She blinked a few times before her eyes widened and she immediately healed my leg. “Ooh, much better,” I sighed, the horrid pain leaving me.

“Even with that as a papercut, it’s still hard to believe that it hurts worse than… that,” she said with a pointed glance to my fucked up arm.

“Oh, this is actually completely numb,” I said, lifting it. “Can’t move my fingers, can’t feel any pain anymore. I think the extreme hot and cold killed my nerve endings or something.”

“You think correctly,” Flo whispered. “I’ve been working on it, but no promises.”

Take your time. If it can’t get healed immediately, I’d rather not feel the pain.

“I can try,” Twilight said, pushing herself up. “But working with nerves is a lot harder than just healing cuts. I really don’t want to push myself too far because we don’t know what else is ahead.”

“Understandable. But know that if I’m at half-capacity, I’ll be about half as useful. If this thing lasts for too much longer, we might just have to risk a search party and rest for a few hours. My legs and good arm are still feeling wooden from that damn rag monster. This damn paper golem just made it worse.”

“I thought you were supposed to be a knight,” she said, her horn lighting up and moving next to my arm.

“Knights have armor. And swords. And armsmen. All I have right now is a fucking dagger. Hell, I’m lucky to even have that. Also, technically I’m retired from the knights.” As I was saying that, some magic was being done to my arm.

“That’s all I can do,” she said when I finished speaking. I could still barely move my fingers, but the burn and ice marks were gone. And ‘barely’ being able to move them was good enough.

“I can get Taya or Zecora to try their luck when we get back,” I said, flexing the digits as best I could. “Hopefully we’ll only have one more book world. Speaking of that, I need to get the book for this one.”

“Why?” Twilight asked. “It was obviously just some silly story.”

Thinking back to what Taya told me, I very much doubted that. “Eh. It’s still something that bears looking into,” I said as I walked over to the pedestal. “And if nothing else, I could use some light reading on the long trip ahead.”

“If you say so,” she doubtfully said. “You want to look around the rest of this room?”

“My bag is bulging already,” I said, finding a way to slip the new book in there. “I can’t carry any more. At all.”

“Well… there aren’t any tables in here anyway. But I wouldn’t mind getting a good look at the remains of that golem.”

“Go for it,” I said with a nod to the paper on the floor.

She walked over to the main body of the thing, walking around and examining the paper from several angles. “This… isn’t actual paper,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it!”

“Think it’s parchment?” I asked, walking over to the head.

“Parchment is paper,” she answered with a roll of her eyes.

“Not in my time, it wasn’t,” I said. “Parchment was very fine leather, or dried animal skin. It was used in old times before the invention of paper. I can’t identify it for sure, but this stuff feels leathery.”

“That’s… horrible,” she said, paling slightly. “But it would explain why my magic didn’t do as much to it. Well, aside from the runes. And I’ve studied magical runes many times but haven’t seen any like these.”

“Think Jak would know?” I asked. “Minotaurs are supposed to be really good with runes, right? I know I wouldn’t mind having one of these things on my side.”

“Hm… He might. But there’s no way we can take all of this body with us, even if we did have a bag large enough.”

“It died when I cut off its head,” I said. “Whatever activation stuff is in it has to be there. I’m sure someone that knows the runes could reverse-engineer the rest based off the head.”

“Well… its head is also pretty large,” she said. “About three meters long. There’s no way it’ll fit in that bag.”

“I’m carrying it with us, one way or another,” I said. “Let me see…” I knelt down to pick the thing up and started messing around with it. “Look around the room. See if there’s anything else of use here. Another bag would be awesome.”

She did as I asked, carefully setting stacks of books aside with short bursts of magic. As she looked, I began pulling and pushing the paper around, trying to figure out just how it folded. It took me a few minutes, especially with both of my hands sluggish, but I figured out how to fold it. After halving it four times, I wrapped it around my waist and slipped the ends into pockets, creating a belt of sorts. Paper armor equipped. -5 defense, -10 mobility. Hard mode activated.

“Rarity would be so disappointed,” Twilight said, coming forward with another bag. This one was in slightly better shape, but smaller than the one I had. Attached to its side were two canteens. “This was under one of the stacks,” she said, looking back slightly. “...And attached to its previous owner.”

“Good to see you’re learning to be more pragmatic,” I said, taking the pack.

“Well… it’s not like she needed it anymore,” Twilight sighed.

When I opened it, I found a few books already in it. “Looks like a seeker of knowledge,” I said, pulling one of them out. There was absolutely nothing on it that I could read. “We’ll toss some of these if we need the space,” I said, sliding it back in and beginning to transfer some items from the shitty bag I had into the new one, then threw them both back around my weak shoulder. “Shall we continue, then?” I asked.

“Might as well. But remember that we’re both weakened. So be ready to work as a team in case we run into anything else.”

“Noted. Hopefully this next world won’t involve any fighting.”

“Yeah…” When we walked up to the gate, though, it showed a skull, a slash, and a crystal. “What… could that mean?” she asked.

I had a very bad feeling that I knew. “A crystal might be Sombra. And a skull might be Grogar the necromancer.”

“N-necromancer?” Twilight asked, her eyes wide. “That’s been banned for ages!”

“Yeah, and he’s why,” I said. “Hopefully I’m wrong. Either way, we have to keep moving.”

She sighed and nodded. “Ready?”

“Ready.” With that, we both walked through…

...And appeared in a dark tomb, both wielding spears and flanking a crystally pony. Sitting in a throne made of skulls in front of us was a blue ram with twisted horns, red eyes, and filed-down teeth. “The great King Sombra demands you control your undead spawn!” the guy between us shouted.

“I created this winter expecting every living thing around me would leave,” the ram rasped, his voice a weary whisper. “And yet you remained, clinging to the ice and etching out a pitiful existence. Why should I even care if you foolish mortals complain? Wiping you from this wintery wasteland would be a favor!”

“If you don’t, it means war!” the foolish diplomat said.

Grogar answered with laughter, dark and dry. “War?” he finally wheezed. “For every one of yours that fell, I would grow stronger! The dead need no heat, no food, no sustenance other than magic. Should you attempt to strike against me, I would remove that city of yours off the map. And if you could somehow reach my lair and strike me down, my phylactery resides in the shadow realm itself! I would come back just as strong as I was before, while you will be weaker after every battle. Attack me if you dare.”

“And your undead attacking us isn’t already a declaration of war? They murder traders, attack caravans, eat townsponies… What would you call that?”

“They do so under no order of mine,” Grogar flippantly answered. “Failed experiments that were cast aside. If you want to kill them, destroy their heads. I make that the weak point of all of my experimental creations. I couldn’t care less if they never wandered back into my domain.”

“Do you truly expect us to believe that?” the diplomat hissed. “You said yourself that you expected us to leave! How can we know this isn’t just an attempt to force us out or kill us all?”

“Believe what I say or don’t,” Grogar replied. “But unless you wish to become one of my experiments, I suggest against calling me a liar in my own home.”

“You wouldn’t dare harm a diplomat! All the pony countries would be up in arms, rushing to assist us!”

“Perhaps you aren’t paying attention. I am unkillable. Destroy my body, it will regrow in the shadow realm and I will cross over again. Since nothing living can enter that realm and come out alive, you can destroy my body all you desire and I will come back every time.”

“You’re bluffing.”

“Strike two,” Grogar answered.

“Recall your undead abominations or suffer the consequences!” the diplomat shouted again.

“Should I have any desire to, it would be impossible. I cut them from my control and cast them out,” he casually answered.

“You liar!”

Without a word, Grogar’s hooves slammed together and the diplomat went stock-still, unable to move. Grogar’s head turned to me and he said, “You have until I count to three. I suggest you run quickly. One.”

My eyes widened and I looked at Twilight, who was also looking at me in fear. Before he could say two, my spear was falling to the ground and I was running to the door.

“Two.” Twilight joined me as the stallion we were abandoning began screaming. The two of us were out the door before anything else happened.

Then things… shifted and we were once again in the room, both wielding spears. “This is the throne room?” Sombra asked next to me. He was resplendent in a set of bright steel armor, glittering even in the unholy radiance provided by the infernal green flames.

“Yes, my lord,” I answered quickly. “This is where he was before.”

And he was here now as well, still on his throne. At one side was a very terrified donkey and on the other was the mutilated body of the diplomat we were supposed to protect. “So here you are,” Grogar said, not moving.

“Did you truly expect to murder a diplomat and get away with it?” Sombra demanded, stepping forward.

“It’s hardly murder,” Grogar answered with a shrug. “After all,” he said, waving a hoof forward. “He never died.” With that, the undead diplomat stumbled forward, shambling toward us.

“Disgusting,” Sombra said, actually angry. “Soldier, destroy this… thing.” Hopefully he meant me, since I was the one that moved forward. The zombie thing offered no resistance as my spear stabbed right through its head, impaling it easily. It slid off my spear with a nasty sucking sound as it fell to the ground, even deader than it was before.

“I suppose you want to kill me, now?” Grogar asked, seemingly nonplussed.

“That is the plan, yes,” Sombra replied, walking past me.

“I have a proposition, then.”

“...I’m listening,” Sombra answered, stopping.

“If you allow my servant to live, you may kill me with no resistance on my part. And when I come back to this realm in a month, I will find somewhere else to occupy, away from this cold area. You and your kind may return to a life of peace.”

“How am I to know this isn’t a trick?” Sombra demanded.

“Because if I wanted to kill you, that corpse your soldier just made would explode,” Grogar replied with a shrug. “Or I would just kill you.”

“Very well. You will die and your servant will live. Perhaps he’ll find a wiser occupation in what remains of his life.”

“Perhaps. Bay!” The donkey jumped, staring at his master. “You are free. Live as you would. You know where I will be if you want to find me.”

“Y-y-yes, Master Grogar,” the donkey whimpered.

Grogar nodded once and then twitched, his eyes losing their color and turning grey. His lifeless body slid from its seat on the throne, collapsing onto the floor. Then it began to rot before our eyes, the fur and skin quickly disappearing. Then the bones began to turn into dust before they, too, were entirely gone. Soon, all that was left was dust.

Sombra nodded and looked to the donkey. “You have three minutes before we destroy this entire dungeon. I suggest making the most of that time.” The fellow’s eyes went wide before he sprinted out of the room, the door turning into a gate as he departed. “Follow him,” Sombra told us. “Make sure he doesn’t take anything but gold.”

“Yes, my king,” I answered before we both started jogging toward the door.

Unfortunately, something caught Twilight’s foot and she tripped. I didn’t notice until it was too late and I was already going through the foggy wall.

As soon as I entered the next room, alone, I realized I might be out of my element: two diamond dog ghouls and a massive minotaur with two swords as long as I was waited for me in the very tight room. My eyes opened wide as they all started charging me, the minotaur in the middle. Since I had no idea what would happen if I went backwards, I dove into a roll between the left dog and the minotaur as the two swords slammed to the ground in the space I had been occupying.

The dogs recovered faster, both rushing at me as I regained my footing and drew my dagger. I was able to sidestep the one to the right, burying my dagger into the back of its skull as it tried tackling me. When I wrenched it out, I immediately dove to the right, away from the minotaur, not even looking to see what was happening.

My guess was a good one, as both of the swords sailed over where I had been, dicing the remaining dog and leaving me against the minotaur alone. Or not so alone, since Twilight came out of the gate at that moment. But her eyes only widened as she saw me jump forward before the minotaur could get its sword back up.

Slicing across its chest did nothing but make it angry enough to try slamming its swords into the ground again. I sidestepped and quickly jumped behind him, where I sliced the hamstrings on his left leg, forcing him to one knee and making him roar in pain and anger. Since his shoulder was now low enough to reach, I used my bad left arm to grab it as I jumped again, using my arm to give me the boost to get to its head.

The sharp naga steel actually glanced off the skull, giving it a chance to jump back up, ignoring its bad leg. One of its swords dropped to the ground and its meaty arm started reaching back before I could correct my aim and slice the thing’s neck instead, since not many species had any resistances against that.

Even with a mortal blow and ink raining from its neck, the thing still tried to fight, grabbing my skull with its large hands and ripping me off its back, then starting to slam me to the ground. Thankfully, Twilight finally woke up and grabbed me with her magic, stopping me very suddenly, though I was still slowly moving down as it struggled against her grip.

Thankfully, though, the blood loss was taking its toll, weakening the monster. But it still had a sword and Twilight was doing nothing to the arm holding it. So the minotaur lifted its remaining greatsword and let me go so he could swing it at me. As soon as he let go, I shot upwards from Twilight’s magic and her not being able to compensate quickly enough. The blade sailed under me and then flew into the wall as he lost his grip on it, then fell to his knees. With one final roar of anguish that was more a rasp because of his bloody smile, he fell heavily to the floor and was still.

Then I began slowly moving back to the ground until I was finally left there in a pool of ink. Twilight collapsed when she finally let me go. I pushed myself up, my skull still smarting from being squeezed as it had been, then walked over to her. “You okay?” I asked.

“Give me… a few minutes…” she panted, breathing as though she’d just been gang-banged by the whole royal guard.

“Take all the time you need,” I said, walking over to the pedestal with the book. There was no text on the cover, so I opened it up and immediately regretted it, the spidery writing inside burning my eyes. I slammed it shut and slid it into one of the bags without a second thought, knowing I’d need some magic to read it. Given how it was written, I assumed it was a personal journal or something of Grogar.

Since Twilight was still out of it, I walked over to the bodies and checked them to make sure they didn’t have anything worth looting. Sadly, they were all naked. The minotaur at least had some of his fur left, but none of them had anything. After one look at one of his giant swords, I didn’t even bother. The naga might be able to use them, but carrying them wouldn’t be worth the effort.

Aside from their bodies, there was only a single pile of books in the room and nothing else. I walked over to that pile and started tossing books aside, casually glancing at the cover each time. By the time I had gotten to the bottom, I had run into a single book that I could read, which was just a cookbook.

With nothing else to do, I walked over to Twilight and sat next to her, pulling out my knife and checking it for damage. Sure, it was naga steel, but that didn’t make it invincible. And it had been doing a lot of work. Work that showed, since there were a number of small notches on it from where I had stabbed through bone.

“Gonna have to get Jak to fix this thing up,” I muttered, testing the sharpness. Thankfully, despite the damage, it was still doing fine. Just means it’ll tear slightly instead of a clean cut. More pain for them, I guess. “You feeling any better?” I asked, setting the dagger down.

“A little,” she quietly said. “Rub my belly?” she asked.

“Roll over,” I answered. She did so with a smile and I started gently rubbing. It was the least I could do after she bailed me out all those times. “So what do you think this place is?” I asked.

“Pocket dimension packed away and stored in the book, guarded by traps that ensnare the unwary,” she answered with a silly smile, her eyes closed. “I can feel magic in the air, but I don’t know what kind. It obviously predates pony society. I can’t say anything else.”

“Maybe we’ll find some answers the further we go in,” I said. “Though it seems we’ve gone so far already…”

“And getting more and more tired after each fight,” she sighed.

“I’m feeling it, too,” I said. “No sun. I’m getting tired.”

“Maybe we’ll get lucky and the next book will have a scene where we have to sleep.”

“Even if it did, we might be on a timer here.”

“Yeah, I know… But I’m really tired. The books are mostly easy, but these rooms… Celestia, they’re awful!”

“I know. Hopefully whatever’s at the end will be worth it. If not, I’m gonna be hella pissed.”

“We can take it up with the librarian,” she replied with a weak chuckle.

“Yeah. Or we can light this fucking place on fire before we leave.”

Her eyes jerked open and she stared at me in horror. “All those books! I could never do that!”

“What, you plan on coming back?” I asked. “I sure don’t. This place can eat a dick. Maybe if I didn’t have to start at the beginning and go all the way through. Or I could bring more of my crew.” Man, the naga’s big, strong arms would be so nice right now… “But otherwise, I’m chaining this book shut and throwing it back in my chest.”

“That… might not be a bad idea. But think of all the knowledge in here!”

“If you can’t live to read the books, they’re useless. It’s taken us a long damn time and a lot of effort to get this far, with no telling how much farther we have left. Coming back probably isn’t worth it, unless you came with a small army.”

“Hm… But we still shouldn’t just light it on fire.”

“Eh.” We fell silent after that, just sitting there. Well, I was sitting and she was on her back, getting her belly rubbed. “We’re going to have to move on eventually,” I finally said.

“I know. You really need to let somepony give you a belly rub if you’re ever a pony again.”

“I’ll think about it,” I lied. “You ready to go?”

“For now,” she said, rolling back over. “But I’ll really need to be careful. That minotaur was strong.” She slowly stood, making sure her legs were working. “I don’t want to fall into a magical coma.”

“Sounds unpleasant,” I said, standing as well.

“It is. And it would render me useless for days, possibly. Most unicorns know their limits and stay within them. But sometimes, in a truly desperate situation, it’s possible to shoot past those boundaries. The consequences are swift and put you out cold for hours or even days.”

“Ever happened to you?” I asked, stretching. My arms were working better, thankfully, though my left one was still a lot more sluggish than the right.

“Once, during a test. I learned my lesson after that.” She looked at the ground and grimaced. “So much ink, it’s hard to tell where the road is…”

“Looks like it’s straight ahead,” I said, walking toward that door.

“Yeah. What do you think those markings mean?” she asked, looking to the top of our new gate. There were three marks this time: a wave, a fire, and a rock.

“No clue,” I answered.

“Elementals,” Flo whispered.

“But Flo thinks it’s something to do with elementals,” I added.

“Then this is going to be really interesting!” Twilight happily said.

“Maybe,” I answered. “Just be ready for anything. Remember that the elementals got their shit wrecked. Hopefully we won’t show up during the fight.”

That curbed her enthusiasm slightly. She just nodded and asked, “Ready?”

“Sure.” We both stepped through.

Thankfully, nothing too terrible seemed to be going on in the world we entered. I was standing in a row with two fires to my right. The one on the far right was actually female. Twilight was standing in a row across from us, next to two waters to her left. Both were female and all were facing us. In a third row, facing into the center of the little group we had, were three pillars of rocks.

“Not the actual elementals,” Flo told me when I saw the rocks. “They’re fairly large and heavy, so those are just proxies.”

One of which was speaking. “What say you?” it slowly asked, its voice like hearing a landfall.

“We are innocent!” something in the center of us answered. After concentrating, I was able to see an air elemental suspended between us all. “Release us!”

“After you betrayed us?” one of the fires growled, exploding in heat. “You’re lucky we don’t destroy you all!”

“What is a prank?” the air asked. “It’s just a short time and then they’ll all be free again!”

“Then you won’t mind sharing their fate,” one of the earths said.

“We have to be free!” the air answered.

“And so do they. But you did not consider that. And now you will pay for it.”

“It was just a joke!”

“You locked away our sisters!” one of the waters shouted. “Locked away fires and earths! All because of our true enemy!”

“He’s not so bad,” the air answered.

“Enough!” the center earth thing answered. “For your trickery and betrayal do we bind you and lock you away.” The air elemental began howling in anger, but the rock talked over her. “May you forever be bound in darkness, forgotten until the end of time.”

“You can’t do this!” the air shouted. But it seemed that none of those present cared. Several stones shot out from the rocks making up the earth proxies, surrounding the air elemental. The fires shot liquid flame from their arms as the new prison rotated until the rock melted, filling in all the empty spaces, completely enclosing the still-howling air. Then the water elementals shot some cool water from their arms, stopping the very hot rock from flowing to let the elemental out.

“It is done,” the central rock intoned. “The last we could capture is sealed.”

“But at what cost?” one of the waters quietly said. “Chaos is still free. All we’ve done is punish the airs…”

“It is the price they pay for betrayal,” the female fire answered.

“The location of their cells will be noted,” one of the rocks said. “If there is ever a time when they are forgiven, they will be freed. Take this one away.” The two fires looked to me and the two waters looked to Twilight. So I just stepped forward as the very large boulder slowly lowered to the ground. Twilight did the same. When we got to it, the gate suddenly appeared to our left, where I assumed we were supposed to take the boulder.

So we just stepped on through it, ignoring the giant rock entirely. That was a decision we quickly regretted, given that there was a giant blob of what looked like ink through the portal.

“Holy fu—” Its entire surface wrinkled and I took that as a hint that moving would be a good idea. I was correct, as a pure black spike shot into the area where I had just been standing. It quickly retracted and the blob began moving toward us. Seeing how fast it was, I tossed both packs into the corner behind me, knowing I’d need the extra speed. Twilight’s horn lit up as she tried maneuvering around it and soon a ball of heat hit it, doing nothing but being absorbed. Another spike shot at her and she yelped, jumping and just barely dodging it.

“What do we do?” she yelled, backing into the corner she was closest to. It responded by moving closer.

“Teleport around the room to distract it,” I called, making it move toward me. “It reacts to SHIT!” Instead of a spike, an entire wave of itself crashed down on me, absorbing me and burning like fire. Only Flo stopped me from screaming and poisoning myself with ink as I tried clawing my way out.

Thankfully, despite being completely unable to see, the blob was small enough that I could escape without too much effort. I broke the surface of the thing and gasped for breath, immediately regretting it as a torrent of viscous ink got into my mouth. I made sure to wipe the ink away from my eyes before I opened them, pulling myself the rest of the way out of the blob.

It didn’t seem to mind me leaving, given that it was more focused on Twilight at the time. So I crawled away, trying to recover and think of a way to fight this thing. Suggestions?

“I… have no idea,” she said. “You might have to just flee, but we really need that map for the air elementals.”

Grab the book, get Twilight, run the fuck away. Simple. In my crawlings, I reached one of the large piles of books. Since I was slippery from the ink, I used that pile to pull myself up. As I did, I noticed something. Where’s all the ink going?

“...Pick one of the books up,” Flo said. I did so and marveled as the ink running down my hands began slowly sliding up, toward the book. When I rubbed it down my other arm, it sucked all the ink right in. “Well then.” We both seemed to be thinking the same thing, a dark smile coming to my face as I chucked the book right toward the ink blob.

It shrank slightly, the book absorbing some of the ink. “Throw books at it!” I yelled to Twilight, reaching behind me and grabbing more of them.

“WHAT?! THAT WOULD RUIN THEM!” she yelled as I threw several books at the guardian. Thankfully, it was more concerned with the sound than my efforts to kill it.

“Yeah, and getting killed would ruin us! Fuck the books, we’re more important!”

“But—” Another spike slamming toward her shut her up. Luckily for her, one of my books absorbed just enough ink to shorten the spine so that it was just barely too short to hit her. In response, she just stood there with her mouth dropped, watching as the spine retracted and the blob continued inching toward her, shrinking as I tossed books at it.

Then she blinked across the room toward a large pile of books, grabbing the entire pile with magic and throwing it at the beast. It immediately disappeared, fully absorbed in the books. I let out a sigh of relief before I felt the ink still left on me beginning to flow down, pulling away from me. It started coalescing into another blob on the ground before I dropped the book remaining in my hands on it, destroying the budding menace.

“That’s that,” I said matter-of-factly, now cleaned of ink.

“All those poor books,” Twilight sighed, her morose eyes staring at the pile.

“Eh, fuck ‘em,” I said as I walked back toward the gate we entered from, grabbing the book on the pedestal. “Not like they were useful to us anyway. Probably just sports almanacs or literary criticism. You know, useless things that no one cares about.”

She sighed again and said, “Yeah, you’re probably right. So what was that book we were just in?”

I opened it and started poking through it, unable to read any of the text. “I can translate,” Flo said.

“Stuff about the elementals,” I answered, closing it and walking over to the bags in the corner. “The air elementals worked with Discord to imprison some of the other elementals. For their crimes, it seems that they were imprisoned as well. But not so well-kept that they couldn’t be released with my key. Hopefully, this book will have a map with the locations of more of them.”

“Do we really want them freed?” she asked.

“Not really, no,” I said. “But they might be useful later. I’ll put it up to the waters, when we get them together.” After making sure Aerie wasn’t around, of course. Or I might put it up to the humans, if I survive long enough to bring them forward in time.

“Well… At least it would be interesting,” Twilight replied as I slid the book into the bag and picked both of them up. “You see anything interesting in this room?” she asked.

“There was another chest in the pile of books I was throwing,” I answered, walking back over to it.

“You want me to check for traps?” she asked, making me stop.

“Go for it,” I answered, backing away from the chest that was barely poking out of the pile. It lit up with her aura and jerked out of the pile before safely opening. “Looks clean,” I said, continuing to walk over. She joined me. “Looks like a cloak,” I said, reaching my hand in and running it along the smooth leather surface of it. As I was doing so, my hand bumped into something metallic. “Hm?” I picked the thing up, finding that it was completely invisible. “What do we have here?” I asked, trying to look at it.

“What do you mean?” Twilight asked.

“Something invisible,” I said. “Feels like a ring.”

“Maybe it’s a ring of invisibility?” she asked.

I shrugged and slid it on. “Can you see me?” I asked.

“Yeah. Are you just joking, or is there actually a ring?” I reached up to her horn and tapped the ring against it, letting the sound answer for me. “That’s strange… Who would enchant a ring to be invisible?”

“An artificer that’s terrible at magic?” I suggested, pulling the ring off and sliding it into a pocket. “Maybe they were trying to make it a ring of invisibility and just made it invisible instead.”

“...Maybe. What else is in there?”

I pulled the cloak out and held it up, revealing nothing. “Simple cloak,” I said, tossing it around my shoulders and attaching it.

“...Or not so simple,” she said, reaching over and lifting up the hem. As soon as I put it on, it started shifting colors. “That’s… weird,” she said, mesmerized.

“And ugly,” I answered, not bothering to take it off. “This chest is interesting but… is anything here actually useful?” I reached my hand in again and grabbed a short metal rod. After looking it over, I quickly realized that it could be extended, like a baton. So I jerked my arm down, making it expand. Nothing really happened, so I just tossed it aside to look back in the chest.

“Whoa,” Twilight said, looking at it. I sighed and looked over toward it, seeing it balancing perfectly on its tip, standing straight up.

“Fucking really? What else is in here?” The next item I pulled out seemed to be a pack of cards. I shrugged and pulled one out before wincing and dropping the entire pack. “What the fuck?!”

“What?” she asked, grabbing the card with magic before it fell. “M-mom?!” The picture on the card was my mom in lingerie, which was just horrifying imagery. And apparently it was the same for her, since she threw the card aside with a look of disgust on her face.

“One more. I swear to God, if it’s useless…” I pulled out an amulet and looked it over, seeing nothing particularly bad about it. With a shrug, I slipped it around my neck and immediately felt… something coming from Twilight. “What the…” I pulled it off and the feeling went away.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I… don’t know,” I said. “Try putting this on, see what happens.” She pulled it from me with magic and her eyes widened slightly, looking up at me. “I feel… something coming from you,” she said.

“Huh. Flo?”

“It’s… an amulet for detecting thoughts, I think,” Flo said.

“It just got stronger!” Twilight exclaimed.

“...Flo thinks it’s an amulet of detect thought,” I slowly said.

“But I can’t tell what you’re thinking.”

“But you can tell that I’m thinking.”

She blinked a few times, realizing what I meant. “Well that’s useless!”

“Yeah, we’re done here,” I said, standing and grabbing the packs. As an afterthought, I grabbed the baton as well because it could actually be used as an alternative weapon to the knife, if I needed one. “Next door is over here,” I said, walking to the right.

“Yeah,” Twilight said, walking up next to me. She was still wearing the amulet, for whatever reason. Maybe she liked knowing where I was or something. “You ready?” she asked.

I slammed the baton into the ground to close it, then slid it into one of my pockets. “Sure,” I answered. The image above the gate this time was just a star. We stepped through it together…

...And appeared in another large room with books, though this one had a ceiling. And the books were much more neat, all aligned on bookshelves. “Now pay attention, children,” a griffin at the front of the large area said. All around Twilight and I were children of various ages and races. Most of the ponies were unicorns, though there were a few of other types as well. “Your first lesson in magic starts now.”

“Magic?” Twilight whispered. “A griffin?” I gently nudged her, shaking my head. She got the hint and shut up, thankfully.

“Now most of you have parents that can do magic, but not many of you know how,” the fellow continued. “The concept is simple and yet, so incredibly difficult. It’s belief. Cast aside the limitations that everyone says exists and force your own reality onto the world.”

Twilight muttered something, but I wasn’t listening since one of the kids up front was saying something. “I don’t get it.”

“As I said, it’s difficult,” the instructor explained. “It takes most students years to be able to understand it, though some can do basic things within a month or two of practice. But to truly become proficient takes a lifetime.”

“Can you show us something?” another kid up front asked.

“Certainly!” The griffin clicked one of his talons on the floor, looking up at one of the top book shelves. Three books pulled down, shooting straight for him. “Simple as that,” he said.

“Impossible,” Twilight whispered.

“What about something cool, like a fireball?” one of the others asked.

“I don’t really like using magic for anything violent,” the teacher said. “But as an example…” He lifted up one of his talons while the other clicked on the floor. A wad of fire appeared in his outstretched talon. He tossed it into the air and with another click, it went from fire to fireflies, flying around the classroom and lighting up randomly. The students watched in wonder and awe. “Truly, almost anything is possible with magic,” he said.

“...Almost?” one of the other students asked.

“We can go over the limitations later,” the fellow hastily answered. “But for now, let’s get started…” The scene shifted, showing a room full of kids that were slightly older, with the same teacher. “Welcome back again, students,” he said. “Last year you learned the basics, how to move things from here to there. Simple things. This year, we will begin moving into more difficult topics. Many of you will not see much need for most of them. If that is the case, it’s quite alright. Many practitioners don’t use magic for much other than helping with their daily lives. But for some, it’s a way of life, stretching the limits of reality for effects both big and small.”

“Like what?” one student asked.

In response, the professor’s talons clicked the floor again and he teleported across the room, much to the amusement of the students. “That is one of the benefits,” he said, teleporting back with a click. “But it’s much more difficult to master. It involves truly convincing yourself that you’re in another position, away from where you are. It might take the full year for some of you to master. And I’m sad to say that it’s likely some of you never will.”

“Why is that?” another student asked.

“Because not all of you will stay here long enough to learn,” he answered. “Many parents send students here for a minimum of two years, deciding they need little more. It’s a fair thought, since magic can be mastered on one’s own, but… disappointing. But enough of that. Does everyone remember their trigger?” The world shifted again. We were once more in the room, but about half the class was gone. The remaining half was older again. “Ah, it’s good to see you back,” the teacher said, himself seeming older and more grey. There was a multitude of replies from the students. “What do you think is left to learn here?” he asked, smiling.

“Combat?” one of the boys suggested.

“Well, yes,” the professor said with a nod. “But that’ll be later.”

“Healing?” a girl asked.

“That will be covered at the same time as combat,” the professor answered. “This year, we will focus on item manipulation.”

“Levitation was first year stuff!” one of the students at the front said.

“No, no,” the professor said with a gentle smile. “I speak of changing items. Transmutation.” One of his talons reached out and the other clicked on the floor, making a ball of dull metal appear in his hands. “Observe, lead to gold!” With another click, the dull grey began to shift into bright gold, turning the entire sphere into an object worth a princess’s virginity. “Bane of economies everywhere,” he said with a chuckle, dropping the ball. It disappeared before hitting the ground.

“Ridiculous,” Twilight muttered darkly.

“But it can be used for food and other purposes,” the griffin said. “So it’s good for everyone to know. Now let’s begin.” And once again, we shifted. There were even fewer students left and once again, everyone seemed older. “And here we are again. What do you think is the main subject for this year?” he asked. “And no, it’s not quite combat yet.”

“Conjuration?” one student suggested.

“Indeed!” the old griffin answered. “True life is impossible to create, but golems and other constructs can be brought forth to do our bidding… Or given a semblance of free will. And regular, everyday objects can be created out of nothing. A truly powerful mage can imbue special properties into his objects, giving them impressive abilities. Sadly, many of the runes used for the creation of truly legendary items have been long since forgotten.”

“Can’t they be recreated?” one of the students asked.

“Perhaps,” the griffin replied with a shrug. “But I’m merely a teacher. Maybe you can make that your life’s work, finding ways of creating new, powerful items. But such a thing isn’t part of this class. Now, you’ve all seen me create things before, but creating something with a semblance of thought is different. I’ll demonstrate, and then we can begin the lessons in earnest.” Once more, things shifted. We were again in the class. Less students, all older. “This year, we’re going to be learning how to manipulate living energy,” he said.

“Which means…?” a familiar male voice asked.

“Combat,” the griffin answered. “And healing. And other things of that nature. The first lesson that you must all learn is that it is impossible to simply will someone dead. Using magic against another person requires your will overtaking theirs, and even in the deepest of depressions, someone’s will to live is always stronger than their enemy’s will to kill them. That said, it is still possible to seriously injure or even kill somebody with what I am about to show you. Because of that, combat magic will never be practiced on another living thing. If I catch anyone here doing it for any reason, you will be sent home immediately and never allowed back in. The same is true of healing, until I decide that you are skilled enough to handle it unsupervised. Am I understood?”

“Yes, professor,” a chorus of voices answered him.

“Excellent. Let us cover the simplest of spells, then. A simple spike of ice taken from the water particles in the air…” Another shift, another year, another few less students. At this point, only five were left. “This is my last lesson,” the teacher said, seeming more old and grey than ever. “There is much more to learn after this. Necromancy, though that’s universally frowned upon and widely banned. Enchanting, though that’s very similar to creating new items. Runes, though you would have to find a minotaur to teach you many of those. Then there are just further and further fields of specialization. But this year, we will learn divination. Does anyone know what that is?”

There were no answers from the three ghost people, so I shrugged and answered, “Finding information?”

“Correct,” the griffin said with a nod. “The reason that this is saved for the last year is because many are unable to do much of it aside from the basics. Looking ahead into the future and seeking the truth in past events are both… difficult. Even I am unable to do it, though I can teach the methods.”

“How will we know if we’re doing it correctly?” one of the students asked.

“True foreseeing is impossible to mistake,” the professor answered. “But the number of seers in existence is truly small, so trust me when I say that any foresights you might make will be tested very ruthlessly by mages of all walks of life, each hunting for truth in the words. The best most can do is random shots in the dark, things that are true but with no context, no dates, nothing useful. But today is going to be an early day. My old bones are tired and teaching this subject will be fairly simple. I will see all of you tomorrow.”

Twilight and I shrugged and hopped off the floor, turning to face the door, which was thankfully our gate. The other students remained behind while we walked straight for it.

“You ready?” Twilight quietly whispered when we stood before it.

I pulled out my dagger and whipped out the baton, holding the blade with my good arm and the bludgeon in the weakened left. “Yeah,” I answered, stepping forward. We both entered the gate, thinking we were ready for anything.

And on the other side we found ten paper golems, each staring us down. Twilight gulped in fear next to me as the golems just stood before us, not moving.

“It isn’t often that patrons reach my room,” the voice whispered over the wind, tickling my ears. “Don’t mind the janitors. They’re harmless. Come, come! I want to get a look at you.”

I slowly looked down to Twilight, to find that she was looking at me, my confusion mirrored on her face. Seeing no answers there, I just shrugged, put the knife away again, grabbed the book—Magic and Its Uses: A Primer—and started walking forward, using the baton as a cane. Twilight slowly began following.

None of the golems reacted to our presence, not even watching as we walked past. Though one of them did walk through the gate we left behind, doing who knows what.

The room we were in was much nicer than the others we left behind. It didn’t have a roof, but there were no random stacks of books or any dead bodies around. All the shelves were neatly stacked and the books looked much newer and better taken care of than many of the others we passed. There was also furniture here, though most of it was simple. A few staircases leading to other parts of the large room, though we didn’t take any.

Finally, we came to a hunched figure sitting in a chair. The only piece of skin visible from where we were was a wizened hand. “So you found me,” she quietly said, the voice of an old, broken woman. “Congratulations,” she said as she slowly turned, revealing her disturbing visage. I think both Twilight and I flinched when we saw her face. Human… mixed with bird? What the fuck? “Relax, mortal,” she easily said, not standing.

Saying that is one thing, but doing it is something else entirely. Instead of hair, she had a head full of brown feathers that were about as long as my hair, hanging against her skeletal skull and going down her back. Her eyebrows were also replaced by feathers, the one on the ends resembling an owl’s, the way they stuck out. Her nose seemed more beak-like than anything else, though she also had a mouth.

Now that I got a better look at her, I could tell that her hand wasn’t so much wizened as it was changed, resembling something closer to talons than anything else. Her other hand had finger armor, covering them and ending in sharp points that seemed blackened by something, likely ink.

Her body was covered in a plain blue dress, thankfully blocking the rest of her. Several strips of either cloth or paper covered parts of her dress, each with black runes that seemed to pulse slightly with energy.

“What… what are you?” I asked.

“I was human, once,” she answered, slowly standing from her chair. “A long, long time ago. Then I became something else as I explored magic. I’ve been known by many names. One I believe you might recognize is Athena.”

“...Goddess of wisdom?” I asked.

“And knowledge. Though I am no god.” She looked behind me, under the cloak, and her head tilted like a bird. Suddenly she was behind me, pushing the cloak aside. “Something so beautiful, yet hidden and abused,” she whispered, caressing my barren wings and making me flinch in horror.

But to my amazement, as she moved her freaky hands over them, feathers instantly grew back. “Sweet Celestia,” Twilight whispered, her eyes going as wide as mine when she realized.

That got Athena’s attention, oddly. “Celestia, ruler of Equestria. Age, six thousand two hundred and forty-six. Threat level, minute. Power, waning. Influence, great. Status, worried.”

“Six thousand?” Twilight whispered, her eyes wide.

“Barely a baby,” Athena answered, appearing back where she was originally, standing before the seat. All of my feathers were once again returned, thankfully.

“Thanks for uh… the feathers,” I said.

“Did you find all that you sought?” the crazy bird lady asked.

“Not quite,” I answered. “Where’s the exit?”

“Upstairs. Book on pedestal. Did you find the knowledge you were looking for?”

“...Some of it?” I said, unsure of how to answer. After all, I didn’t exactly come here for anything in particular.

“The portal is always open,” she said by way of answer.

“What is this place?” Twilight asked.

“Pocket dimension. I created it as a way to store the world’s knowledge. Visitors come and either add to the collection or borrow from the collection.”

“Why is this place so dangerous?!” Twilight demanded.

“Knowledge has a price,” Athena answered.

“We could have died!”

I leaned down and gently snatched her hair, whispering, “Don’t antagonize people that can kill us!”

“Only those that desire knowledge the most may borrow from my library,” Athena said.

“But… there were so many husks!” Twilight said, completely ignoring my advice. “How many ponies have died here?”

Athena blinked and said, “Two thousand four hundred and fifty ponies have died within this dimension.”

“What about other races?” I asked, genuinely curious.

One of her eyes twitched. “Total count, 107,892. Humans, thirty-two thousand—”

“Enough,” I said, cutting her off. She stopped talking. “Do you know who Discord is?”

“Spirit of disharmony. Created before my birth. Origins and age unknown. Goals unknown. Threat level, immense. Power, waxing at an alarming rate. Influence, immense. Playful but dark. Must be destroyed.”

“Do… you know how?” I asked.


“Will you help us do it?”

“The main goal of my research is killing him. Many proposed methods. None succeeded. His own attempt closest, thwarted by Anonymous, human.”

“Wait, what?” I broke in.

“Death by suicide. Method: Kill all life, nuclear war. Pockets of humanity left. Science used to create new life. Research headed by Anonymous, human. Machines created to guard young races and ensure proper evolution. Suicide failed.”

“...Well then. Do you know if he still wants to die?”


“Well, do you have any idea where we can start looking for ways to kill him?”

“Continue present path. Check in periodically. Book will take you straight to me.”

“Awesome. Can you think of anything else we should know?”


“How do you do magic without a horn?” Twilight butted in.

Athena looked at her and blinked. Then she held up both of her hands, away from each other. “Magic,” she said, clenching one. “Spells,” she said, clenching the other. The hand for ‘magic’ enclosed the hand for ‘spells’. “Spells are a subset of magic. Magic is not a subset of spells.”

“...What?” Twilight asked.

I said, “Magic can exist without spells but spells can’t exist without magic.”

“Correct,” Athena said with a nod. “Magic is universal. Spells require components.”

“But… I don’t use anything for my spells!” Twilight said.

Athena blinked forward, standing right in front of Twilight, and tapped her horn with the finger armor things. “Component.”

“...Oh. But that’s silly! Why would spells exist… if…” She suddenly petered out, remembering some of the books we went through. “Oh Princess, how could you…?”

“Can you teach magic?” I asked the bird chick.

“Unknown. You have a primer. Learn. If you figure out the basics, teaching the rest is easy. Can you learn magic?”

“Probably not, no,” I answered with a shrug. “But it’s worth looking over.” Silence took over then, since I couldn’t really think of anything else to ask. So I just said, “Well, it was nice meeting you. I’ll check back in on you in a few weeks, I guess.”

“Bring fresh fruit,” she said before turning and moving back to her seat.

“Right. Come on, Twilight.” She was too shocked or depressed to do much more than follow me as we walked back the way we came. None of the janitors were present in the big open area that time. We just went up one of the staircases, since it seemed like they both went to the same place. In the center of the balcony was a pedestal with the mirror of the book that originally brought us there. “Thank God. Let’s get out of here,” I happily sighed.

“...Yeah.” As we walked, I collapsed the baton again and slid it into a pocket, happy to be almost free.

“Cheer up,” I said, patting her back warmly. “Almost free. Then we can both get some rest and food. Lord knows we need it.”

“It’s just… Celestia’s been lying for so many years!”

“Well, yeah. I could have told you that. Now, you ready to go?”

“...I guess.”

I nodded and opened the big book on the pedestal. Once more, inky tentacles shot out and grabbed the two of us, pulling us through. We suddenly appeared in the command room of my ship, in the middle of a group of soldiers that seemed geared up for war. They all stared at us in shock and confusion.

“Sup?” I asked with a nod.

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