Trixie’s Education (Twilight’s Education) Part Five by Ixy
Two workponies stood on ladders and moved a panel of clear plate glass aside. As soon as it was clear of the opening an owl flew in through the window frame. It fluttered down and landed on the back of a chair facing a large black desk. The workponies stared at it in disbelief.
“Good morning, Twi,” the mare at the desk said without looking up from her copy of Equestria Daily, “You’ll have to wait a bit. The princess already has someone.”
“Who?” the owl asked.
“I’m sorry, I can’t tell you that.”
“Who?” it said again.
“You’ll have to direct your question to my boss,” Shadow said.
The owl swiveled its head and looked around the room. The workponies were unpacking a large stained glass panel. The owl looked at the name plaque on the desk and ruffled her feathers.
“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable as a pony?” Shadow asked, looking over her newspaper, “We have coffee and donuts but no mice for snacks.”
The owl glared at her.
The mare seemed amused. “You can’t change back, can you?” she asked.
The owl puffed up and clacked her beak angrily.
Shadow snickered. “Oh Twilight, what would your mother think?” she asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm, “And your dad? He always told my dad he was an idiot for marrying an earth pony. Not for having a foal with one but for marrying my mom.” She took a sip of coffee from a silver mug.
The owl turned her head away. The workponies were watching the show more than attending to their unpacking.
“I guess I’m going to have little feathered nieces and nephews. I’ll bring them voles for holidays and birthdays. That would be pretty cool actually,” Shadow said. She smiled at the back of the owl’s head with her green eyes. The owl didn’t turn back around. She was busy studying a sculpture of Princess Luna raising the moon.
Shadow went back to reading the newspaper. The owl sat on the back of the chair looking uncomfortable as the ponies removed a wooden supporting frame from the glass panel. It revealed a scene of Luna at the harvest moon festival. The two ponies lifted it up, climbing a ladder on either side of their load.
The door of the inner office slammed open and a bright pink pegasus bounced out, nearly knocking one of the workponies off his ladder with her wing. “Sorry!” she shouted. She bounced past the desk.
“Hi Twilight, bye Twilight, bye Shadow,” she said then suddenly stopped. “Twilight, did you do something with your feathers?” she asked. She laughed, snorting through her nose, which made her frizzy mane and wings wiggle.
Shadow shook her head and asked, “Has she been like this for a while, Pinkie?”
“Yeah,” she replied, “She’s been an owl a lot lately. Not that I spy on her or anything.”
“I was just wondering,” Shadow said. The owl glared at them both. Shadow pressed the button on her intercom with her hoof. “Twilight Sparkle, transfiguration issue,” she said. Something by the door buzzed. “Go right in,” she said to the owl.
Pinkie’s tail twitched furiously. “Uh oh,” Pinkie said, “Byebye both of you. Don’t forget to drop by over winter break!” She leapt into the air and soared out the window. Her wings knocked both workponies off balance. The glass panel tilted. It hung still on the edge for a moment before plunging out of the opening and vanishing from sight.
• • •
Trixie cantered happily into the square between the school and the palace. The sounds of her hooves echoed off the walls of both vast buildings. She skipped along like a little filly. The thought of Shadow filled her with joy. She’d had a bit too much to drink the night before but the two had parted with a sweet kiss. She was certainly different from the mares Trixie was used to. So many bubbleheaded fillies wanted to get close to a performer even if only for one night. Shadow couldn’t have been more different.
Trixie tried to direct her attention to other things. She was running late. Thinking about Shadow had distracted her in the morning and cost her time. Now she had to get to a personal session with Miss Aurora. She had been practicing her focus for teleportation and tried again as she walked. She thought of the teacher and the tower room used for lessons. No matter how clearly she could visualize a destination she hadn’t been able to blink out on her own yet.
The blue unicorn passed a pair of students sitting on a bench talking. Both suddenly stared upward with their muzzles gaping. Then there was an enormous crash. A great noise like a clap of thunder echoed between the buildings and there was a flash of light. Everything around Trixie got darker. She was suddenly dizzy. The mare nearly fell over and ran into a wall. When she looked around she saw Miss Aurora standing at a lectern flipping through papers. The teacher looked at her over a pair of reading glasses.
“This certainly is an improvement,” she said, “but you really shouldn’t try blinking out without supervision yet.”
• • •
Twilight rested her head on her hoof. “It’s so humiliating,” she said, “to be stuck like that.” She sat on an overstuffed couch with laughing fillies carved on the ends of the arms. She took another bite of her donut.
Princess Luna touched her gently. “Don’t be,” she said softly, “It’s the greatest danger, especially to a pony who is good at it. The best can and do get lost much worse than you have. You never forgot who you really are.”
“I suppose I didn’t,” Twilight said, “I always knew I wasn’t an owl. I just couldn’t seem to be a pony again.”
“How often did you eat as an owl?” Luna asked.
“I-uh, didn’t eat as an owl. It’s just too gross to think about doing it. I was starving all last night and couldn’t imagine eating a living thing myself.”
“That’s a good thing. You’d probably have gotten sick when you returned to normal. That also means you hadn’t lost your sense yourself. You may have been a perfect owl on the outside but deep inside you knew who you were.”
“Yes, I see that. I was doing things I meant to, not living like an owl, and couldn’t bring myself to eat mice,” she said. She looked down and blushed.
“I’ve experienced something similar myself as you may know,” Luna said, “When I was Nightmare Moon there were many things I could have done with my full power. I could have destroyed anypony who stood in my way. Instead I led you and your friends on a merry chase straight to the instrument of my undoing.”
“Um, if I recall you dropped me off a cliff and interfered with us reaching the castle over and over.”
“Yes, but I didn’t drop a mountain on you all or unleash the Ursa Major.”
Twilight thought for a moment. “I never thought about it that way,” she said, “If you wanted to I suppose you could have done much more lethal things.”
“There are nastier things in that forest than manticores and scary looking trees. If I’d been fully lost in fury I may have led you to Sir Gilead for instance. After an encounter with him you would’ve been unable to catch the spark that unites the Elements. The whole adventure would have failed.”
Twilight gasped. “Don’t think I didn’t consider that at the time,” Luna said, “I did. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, the things I did challenged each pony and revealed the qualities that made them worthy of The Elements. I could have ended your quest or destroyed you all if I had used my full power.”
“Thank you for that, Princess. I think I understand better now. I lost myself a little last night. You were lost for centuries yet you were able to return to yourself.”
“Only thanks to you and The Elements. I was a little worried about you today. I didn’t bring you back. You brought yourself back. If you became hopelessly lost I don’t know what might have happened. You’re the pony who can wield The Elements now. I don’t have the power to bring you back if you really become lost.”
“The Elements brought me back from being lost in a cloud of rage. They have brought others back from madness. The Mares of Diomede for instance. Queen Bo and her companions used the Elements to return them to their true forms. They are the ancestors of many talented ponies today. Curing a little species confusion should be easy compared to that.”
“I don’t think I know that story.”
“I’m not surprised. In a land where history books start out with ‘Once upon a time…’ real history has been lost or transformed into so-called ‘pony tales’,” Luna said, “So much was lost in the Great Burning and what remains is trivialized and distorted.”
Twilight tilted her head. “You mean the burning really happened?” she asked.
“Certainly it did,” said Luna, sounding indignant, “It’s sad to say but I supervised some of it. As far as I know only one modest library escaped the burning and was enriched by volumes rescued from the flames.”
“I’m sorry Princess,” Twilight said, bowing her head, “I didn’t mean to doubt you but history books aren’t clear about just how so much of our history was lost. Even you were nearly forgotten.”
“It’s not your fault, Twilight,” she said, “Destroying so many books and murdering the scholars who could have written more was a terrible crime. I’m the one who should be sorry I participated such a horrible thing.” She levitated a book from a small shelf near her desk. “Some books have survived. I’ve retrieved books of history and magic from my study in the ancient castle. This is one of them.” The cover bore a six-pointed star on its cover with the image of a pony in each point. She opened the book to its title page. “I’ve had this since I was a filly,” she said.
Twilight struggled to read the title. “The Adventures of Queen Bo and her Penta…” she said.
“Her five companions,” Luna said. She flipped to an illustration of the ancient queen surrounded by five other mares, all with determined expressions.
“I thought there were more than five companions?” Twilight asked.
“Originally there were her five best friends and companions. They were the original wielders of the Elements who brought balance to the land. Later authors of pony tales have added many more and distorted the characters of the original five. Miranda the Brave, for instance, is portrayed as the image of timidity and cowardice today.” She turned the pages to a woodcut of a pegasus standing on the bridge of a dragon’s nose glaring into its eyes. “Her name wasn’t meant to be ironic. She was the kindest of them all and had an affinity for the creatures of the earth, despite being a pony of the air.”
“I think I know a pony like that myself,” Twilight said absently.
Luna smiled at her. “You certainly do.” She turned to an illustration of Miranda as a young filly surrounded by butterflies. “I think you would recognize the characters of all five if you read their stories.” She slowly closed the cover. “Today Calista the Strong is portrayed as an ignorant oaf, Azure Lightning as reckless…” the princess winced for a moment before continuing, “Alabaster as petty and vain, and Coral Rose as insane. They were anything but.”
“That book is a little too ancient for me,” Twilight said, “I’m no scholar of Old Equestrian.”
“Neither are many ponies. That’s why I’m having copies of these books made in modern language,” Luna said. She levitated another book that had been sitting on her desk. “I want you to have this,” she said. It floated into Twilight’s hooves. “It’s the first new copy of the complete adventures printed in over a thousand years.”
“Princess,” Twilight said, “Thank you!”
“Of all the ponies in Equestria I think you’ll appreciate it most. More copies are being printed and I’ll have them sent to your friends as soon as I can.”
“I can’t thank you enough,” Twilight said. She placed her hoof on the ancient book and looked at it more closely. “That cover isn’t made of paper, is it?” she asked.
“It was a different time,” Luna said, “when ponies thought nothing of using the skin of talking creatures to bind a book or to make saddles and tack.”
“I’m sorry again Princess,” she said, “I didn’t mean to judge…”
“Don’t concern yourself about that,” Luna said, “There were much worse things. Equestria’s past was unthinkably barbaric compared to the present. What Celestia has done in the last thousand years is amazing. Your princess turned a kingdom newly reunified by war into a pony utopia. Nature herself is under pony control everywhere but in one vast wild forest.”
“I guess we should be grateful for that.”
“I think you should,” Luna said, with a distant expression, “It’s far more than I could have or would have done.”
“Queen Bo was the first to unify Equestria, wasn’t she?”
“She was the first and it only lasted a short time before her untimely death. That was ancient history when I was young. At least she has survived more as true history instead of just pony tales. The queen was quite real and so was my father, her descendant and the last king of Equestria.”
“It is hard to believe the stories about her magic.”
Luna smiled knowingly. “Is it so hard to believe the things you’ve seen yourself?” she asked, “You don’t know the depth of your own power yet. Celestia saw it in you and took you on as a student. She knew how much power a pony can really possess. She has seen tremendous power and so have I. These magic ponies who change the seasons and make artifacts to deflect lightning are nothing compared to some of the ancients. Much of magic has been forgotten or become superstition.”
Luna rose and touched the base of a huge orrery in the middle of the room with her hoof. There was a click and a hidden panel in the side opened. She floated a massive purple book out of the concealed compartment. “What I’ve been teaching my students is the smallest introduction to true magical power,” she said. She placed the book on a stand that was obviously built to hold it. She motioned for Twilight to approach.
Twilight felt a creeping sensation on the back of her neck. The book cover bore the six-pointed star of Queen Bo surrounded by five smaller stars. Twilight looked at it closely. It looked similar to the cover of the other book but the mark didn’t look painted on like the portraits of Bo and her companions. “Do I even want to know?” she asked.
“You probably don’t,” Luna said, “It was a way of honoring her and embodying her magic in this tome.” She touched the cover lovingly. “This is a true treasure and a vast storehouse of her magical knowledge.” She opened the book. “Most of what’s in your little black textbooks came from here. That’s only the beginning. Even I don’t understand everything hidden in this book. Twilight peered at the mysterious text and diagrams and shivered. She felt a strange sensation in her horn.
“I’ve been working on translating it for modern ponies with a few assistants,” Luna said, “It’s taking a long time and it will fill many volumes before it’s all done. I’m sure it will take centuries more to understand it all.”
“I don’t think I understand any of this,” said Twilight.
“Not yet but you’ll be learning far more than you’d believe. Your power is limitless if you know how to use it,” she said, “and I want you to develop it to its fullest, not just learn to control your wild talent. When I have more translated and understood well enough you’ll have it in your hooves along with instruction in how to handle it in practice.”
She touched Twilight on the shoulder. “There’s a reason you were able to unite The Elements. The power chose you. Celestia discovered that when you were a filly. You let loose a tiny bit of the power and that mark appeared.” She touched Twilight’s flank, which made the purple unicorn shiver. “Her power is your power now. You have to learn how to use it and become wise enough to know what to use it for.”
“Luna,” Twilight said, “this is so much and so sudden. I thought you’d…”
“You thought what?” Luna asked, “That I’d keep this knowledge to myself and my student Trixie? I don’t believe in that. It’s even more ridiculous in today’s Equestria. I can sense your power as easily as Celestia can and you’re much more advanced in your studies than Trixie is. She’s still very raw while you’re educated in the everyday magic that has dominated for centuries. What you need is a more full education in the ancient power.”
Twilight bowed deeply and said no more.
“Feel free to tell Celestia about this in your letters. She likes to know about most everything I’m up to. You might want to try a better disappearing ink spell though. Study the spells used on your textbook. They’re ancient and not as easy to trick. I’ve been hoping some students would figure them out. There are personalized hidden messages that are unique to each book.”
Twilight looked startled.
Luna grinned. “It’s my goal to revive the ancient arts and rebuild them to their ancient stature and more. I won’t mess with the peaceful world that’s dominated for all these centuries. In ancient times this magical knowledge was essential in war. Today so much more has been developed in other areas. The ancient knowledge can enrich what exists now, not overthrow it. The last thing I want to do is plunge Equestria back into the chaotic land it once was. I’ve been keeping a close eye on your for a while now. I think I know you well enough now to have trust in you and I want you to trust me too. I won’t be prying into your business anymore.”
Twilight looked into Luna’s green eyes. “I believe you,” she said.
“I hope you learn to understand me too,” Luna said, “There’s another book you should read. It survived the burning in manuscript form and its author has survived the centuries as well.”
“So you wrote a history, Princess?” Twilight asked.
“Not me,” she replied, “My captain of the guard was quite a scholar. He wrote a history of the conquest, or reconquest, of Equestria, the petty wars and skirmishes my sister and I fought to unite the land in the name of our father. Lance was there through almost all of it and so was I of course. He’s been revising and expanding on parts of it and of course helping to rewrite it in modern language.”
Twilight shook her head in amazement. “An ancient history written by a ghost?” she asked.
“The history is being completed by one at least. The original manuscript was written not long before his death and never entirely done. Now he’s finishing it. I want to start sending you chapters from both books as they’re completed. Is that all right?”
“Princess!” she said, “I’d be honored.”
“Good,” she said, “And I hope you’re a good copyreader. I need as many as I can get and can trust with the material. This isn’t something for general consumption. At least it isn’t yet. It’s hard finding errors in the draft copy with so few trustworthy ponies.”
Twilight nodded. “I’ll do my best,” she said.
“Good. Stay in touch,” the princess said, “and please call me Luna from now on.” She moved forward and the two embraced. A tear formed in the corner of Luna’s eye. “I think you’ll be busy reading for a while,” she said.
• • •
Twilight cast one book aside and levitated another. “Spike,” she called out, “Where is Crank’s Compendium of Myth and Legend?”
Spike scooted up the stairs and returned lugging a volume larger than himself.
Twilight scribbled and added another note to one of the six expanding files full of references organized by Queen Bo and each companion and subcategorized by each adventure in the book Luna had given her. The book bristled with multicolored sticky flags with little notes written on them.
The purple unicorn shuffled through versions of ‘Coral Rose and the Sprites’, later known as ‘Parasprite Polka Party’ and stuffed them into the folder for that adventure. “Spike!” Twilight yelled, “Musical Instruments Ancient and Modern!” She shuffled through other notes while she waited for the tiny dragon to retrieve the book.
Twilight added another note to a growing pile that needed its own file folder already, despite lacking much concrete information. She grabbed a blank manila folder and neatly inscribed ‘Sofia’ on its tab. Then she labeled another ‘Dusk’. A scant few notes went into the Sofia folder and a few more, but not many, into the one labeled Dusk. Twilight levitated a book to the newly acquired magical copier. It buzzed and glowed for a moment and a copy of a page with a photo floated back. She looked at it closely. The only known image of Sofia was agonizingly incomplete. It was a statue in the forest five miles outside Trottenham. The head was missing and only fragments of a familiar six-pointed star remained on its flank. A detached ear and golden horn tip were in a museum but that didn’t help at all.
Twilight flipped through the scant information on Dusk. There was so little considering how important she was but more than there was on Sofia. Bo’s only daughter was cited in the genealogy of every family who claimed royal descent, including her own. She was the sole link to Bo herself. But she never had any daughters. There was no direct matrilineal line from the queen. But she had been a matrilineal descendant of the more mysterious Sofia, the mother of unicorn magic. Unfortunately Dusk had been the last known descendant of that line. All genealogies showed a dotted line from Sofia to Bo but no more. Were there other mares of her line?
There was also the question of who Dusk’s father was. The earliest stories of Queen Bo portray her as alone and pregnant. She had been thrown out of her father’s house when she was found with a foal and no stallion willing to take responsibility. Miranda, an outcast from her nomadic pegasus tribe, had taken her in. That was long before there was a Cloudsdale or any other pegasus city. The pegasi had been a warlike race of ponies carrying out lightning raids on settlements across the land.
Spike dropped a huge book with a picture of a tuba on its cover on the floor and collapsed, panting.
“Thank you Spike,” Twilight said, touching him gently with her hoof, “Why don’t you take a break for a while?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” he said and curled up on the book. Within a minute he was snoring quietly. Twilight smiled at him and put the parasprite folder away. She levitated a blanket onto the sleeping dragon.
She touched the genealogical chart. Her family name came down from Dawn Sparkle, Princess Celestia’s ancient companion and a descendant of both Alabaster and Bo herself. Her mother didn’t have any known link to royalty but came from a long line of magical unicorns. Her great-grandmother’s cutie mark was three six-pointed stars just like her own. It did hint at something on the other side. A link to Bo was unlikely but what about Sofia? Too much was lost to history. No matter who her ancestors were the power had chosen her. Why had it chosen? What was so special that made her worthy of wielding ancient power?
Twilight blew out her candle but didn’t sleep. She stood in the darkness and thought and thought and thought. She didn’t realize it as she gradually fell asleep on her hooves. In her dream she gazed into a mirror. Her reflection looked oddly wrong. The mare in the mirror smiled and reached out her hoof to lovingly touch Twilight on the cheek.
• • •
Fluttershy flipped pages in the book and continued to read. “It’s so sad,” she said, “An outcast living all alone in the forest among animals who can take care of themselves.”
“Doesn’t that mare sound familiar?” Twilight asked.
“Oh yes,” Fluttershy said, “She sounds like Miranda… oh wait it is Miranda but she isn’t the cowardly Miranda in the other stories. She’s kind and brave. She took in a poor outcast mare ready to give birth to a foal.”
“I never knew Miranda was an outcast from the ancient tribes,” Rainbow Dash said, “Or that Azure was her fillyhood friend. That sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it Fluttershy?”
Fluttershy nodded shyly. “They were all outcasts in one way or another.”
“Coral was so crazy,” Pinkie Pie said, “Miranda found her wandering in the forest talking to rocks.” She giggled. “I wonder if they talked back.”
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes.
“It’s so horrible,” Rarity said, “Azure Lightning nearly killed her captain with a prank.” She sipped sparkling cider from a crystal goblet, Spike standing by with a bottle to refill it.
Dash cast a nasty look at Rarity. “Not to mention mares getting tossed out of town for breaking up families,” she said. Rarity gave her a nasty look right back.
“What a terrible time it had to be for Callista,” Applejack said, “Being falsely accused of stealing from the family by her brother. I don’t know what I’d to in a situation like that. It’s just unimaginable.”
“They were all the victims of one injustice or another,” Twilight said.
“Ah still don’t see,” Applejack said, “How a band of outcasts like that could take back a kingdom and unite all of Equestria. Isn’t that the job of a whole army at least?”
Twilight said, “They built an army. It was the first army formed of multiple pony races. Unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies didn’t work or live together much in those days. There were earth pony kingdoms on the plains and unicorn kingdoms in the mountains and high valleys. The pegasus tribes lived in the clouds and raided the others. It really was a barbaric time. Queen Bo was the first to build alliances between them. Now there’s only one Equestria thanks to her.”
“It’s hard to imagine,” Rainbow said, ruffling her wings, “ponies not working together. Pegasi descending out of the storm clouds sounds awesome and all but that description of the raid of Hoofington is awful. They hung the mayor from a tree and…”
“It’s all horrible,” Twilight said, “and somehow Bo built those alliances and united them at least for a while. It was an amazing accomplishment.”
“They’re all so like us but so different,” Fluttershy said. She held the book open to an illustration of Coral Rose carousing in a tavern.
• • •
Luna gazed out at the beauty of the night. A thunderstorm was rolling toward Canterlot. The great anvil head of the cloud flickered with lightning. Pegasi could be seen in the distance guiding it into the mountains to replenish the city’s eternal waterfalls.
A puff of feathers appeared rising in the turbulent air. It glided toward Luna and fluttered to land on the railing in front of her. The owl bowed to the princess and held out a scroll in its talons. She looked at the seal on it and the address.
“Thank you, my pet,” she said, “but I don’t want to examine it. Take it on to its destination.” The owl looked puzzled. “I won’t need you to spy on Twilight anymore,” she said, “I think we’ve gained some mutual trust now.” She caressed his head with her hoof.
“Who-oo?” he asked.
“You can stay with her if you wish. I’ll have a supply of those special voles sent to the library tree for you,” she said, “You’ve served me well. I want you to be happy, my dear.” She kissed him on the top of his head.
The owl rose into the air, riding the air currents higher among the towers of the unicorn city.
Stealing the Mares of Diomedes was one of the twelve labors of Heracles. They were four carnivorous mares. I thought that would be apropos of the situation with Twilight getting stuck as a carnivorous creature. I considered using their names for some of the ancient queen’s companions as well but they don’t sound right as pony names.
I like to think the mark on Queen Bo’s book makes Twilight’s filly scene in Cutie Mark Chronicles and Celestia’s reliance on her in FiM Part I make more sense.
Aloysius was a spy all this time? When I first saw Owl’s Well That Ends Well I had the thought that perhaps Luna sent a creature of the night to help Twilight. He would make an excellent spy as well. One of the things about spying most people don’t consider is that spying itself can produce blowback if it’s discovered. In most situations it’s probably best to end it before it’s discovered rather than after or in this case reveal it as a matter of trust once there’s a mutual understanding.