It was a long journey. The train ride from Canterlot took hours and now you're in the small town of Brittleville, near the eastern coast. You're here to meet with Still Tree, the mage who your parents hired to develop your magical ability. According to the letter you carry, the school should be in this town and there should be somepony to pick you up. As the train leaves again, you're alone in the station however.
>>605431 Indeed, but where? You get out of the station. Brittleville is a small farming village, very unlike the splendor and crowds of Canterlot. The main street is empty except for a few farmers loading their wares and some mares talking.
You may roll an investigate check to ask around about Tree. You may use the bonus as stated on your sheet.
>>605441 "I'm sorry, sweetie. But he lives out of town, near that hill." She points to a hill in the distance. "That's about half an hour walk." The other mare snorts "What's wrong with that pony. Leaving a little mare like her all alone here? I knew he was a weird, but that's simply uncouth. Are you sure you need to see Lotus?"
>>605446 "Well if you see him, you better tell him that it's very irresponsible to leave a sweet girl like you on her own here." She rummages through your bag and hoofs you a few apples. "Here, for the road."
>>605456 It's a long way, you haven't had a good ol countryside walk like this since…ever. The mud, the heat, this is such a waste of time. Stupid Lotus or Tree or whatever his name is. Maybe go back to the station and make sure mommy and daddy get you a good teacher.
>>605458 Going back now with your tail between your legs might be shamefurr indeed. With renewed motivation you trot on. Eventually you find yourself in the cool shadow of the hill. There's a mail box at the side. It says "S. T." there's a path leading from it, but the home must be hidden behind some trees
>>605461 You follow the path to a small wooden hovel. There's holes in the roof and one look through the window shows the inside is a mess. In the garden next to the house, you see a red neighponese pony with a black mane and beard. His eyes are closed and his sits in a lotus position.
>>605471 You put your head to the ground and investigate every inch of it. It's a metal chain with a leather collar on it. Attached to the ground with a metal stake, probably used for a dog or something, though you don't see a dog around. As you're inspecting it, with one swift move, Still grabs the collar and presses it on your neck, with a click it shuts. "There we go." he turns around and walks back to the hovel whistling a tune.
>>605475 He chuckles as you shout to him, walks into the hovel and closes the door. You yank at the collar, it's locked tight. Then you investigate the chain again and notice that the chains are locked in a weird way. As you pull they become tighter, but as you come closer they loosen up, until they simply disconnect. When one disconnects, the others fall to ash as well as the collar around your neck. You're free.
>>605481 >>605482 "I do as I please. That's one of the perks of being a wizard. But you are mistaken. I did not do this for my entertainment, though your face was a little funny." He offers you a cup of tea.
>>605484 "No. I suppose you need a good sip of tea after all that. Let me tell you now why you didn't see me, for I was at the station, make no mistake. But I wanted to see if you wanted to learn or if you were just a spoiled brat here because mommy and daddy told her. You went looking for me of your own volition and were willing to do some climbing for your education, this is good." He takes a drink from the tea. "As for my little prank, I wanted to see what your temperament was. If you were agressive, you'd have yanked at that chain until it broke. If you were patient, you'd have waited until my tea was finished and I'd come get you. No, you are..cunning. You investigate and act."
>>605490 He shrugs. "If you feel at all uneasy about my methods of teaching. And trust me, before your apprenticeship is done you'll have to bear a lot more of my pranks, you're free to leave right now. Door is over there." With a swing of his hoof, the clutter on the floors flies everywhere arranging itself neatly in the drawers. "If however, you want to learn, I promise you, I don't have time for pranks, all I do is in the interest of you becoming more than just a mere pony. I can teach you the secrets of the universe, the power of the elements.." he swings his hoof again and outside the wind picks up drastically as if a hurricane was unleashed, the house creaks dangerously but with another wave of his hoof the wind dies and the sun shines again "the mysteries of the mind" he holds out his hoof and a bunch of small purple butterflies pop out and disappear again. "and more."
>>605495 "Perhaps for you it will be. Perhaps you will etch your name in the very fabric of Destiny itself. But such renown comes with a price. Wherever you go, ponies will have heard about you. They'll be ready for you, some will even seek you out. Me, I'm the outcast, no one knows me. And therefore they don't see me coming when I'm coming for them." He chuckles. "In the large scheme it matters not. Don't worry, I'm not here to make you into a mirror image of me. I'm here to open up your own inner knowledge and teach you how to make your own methods of dealing with magic and the world. Two things that are very alike. Look at how you escaped from that chain. I could spend a thousand years trying to teach you the value of patience and you'd still escape the same way you did now."
>>605500 "Patience is not the same as inaction, young one. Patience is the art of waiting till the precise moment to take the right action. It takes experience to know when to act to maximize your advantage. Would you say waiting till the water is the right temperature to make the perfect tea is inaction?"
>>605507 "It expends energy. You can only cast so much spells until you become weary and need to rest. Let's say I expend my last energy for a good cup of tea. And right at that moment a brigand stormed in the door, ready to cut off my head. Would that tea I just summoned protect me?"
>>605515 He nods, stands up and goes outside again. You test the bed. It's hard and you notice one of the holes in the ceiling is not too far from it. Still, a bit further is another similar bed for him, so at least you're not alone…
>>605519 >>605520 2 weeks later… The last two weeks have not been very comfortable to say the least. The wind picked up and rain started gushing endlessly. That wouldn't be so bad if there weren't holes in the roof, next to your bed. The endless ticking of drops of water in buckets kept you up at night. Cleaning during the day together with your master. And worst of all, he hasn't shown you any magic yet! All you've been doing was "meditating".
At least today the sky clears up and the Sun is smiling again.
>>606323 Eh sure why not. It's like alchemy. You make a reasonable batch of tea, your master is very precise on his tea however. He comes in and gives it a sip. "Let the herbs in the water a little longer next time."
>>606325 "We'll see today how well you studied the lessons I've given you for the last few weeks. If you pass the test, you'll get a reward. If not, we'll need to spend the next few days meditating more."
>>606336 After some good bread with veggies you both grab a waterskin and start on the path to the top of the hill. After about 15 minutes of silent walking, the master speaks up "Now if you're going to learn magic, you should know what magic is. Otherwise you're no better than those unicorns that float around some clothes and think they can do magic. So tell me, what is magic according to you?"
>>606346 He nods. "Not a bad definition. But a bit vague, isn't it? It's everywhere and we're all affected by it… Of gravity I could say it makes sure none of us are accidentally flying into space. What does magic do? If it is a force of nature, what is it's role?"
>>606369 It takes a while to breath and calm down. You just see black and emptiness. Then you become aware of something deeper, the beating of your heart, the soft rhythm of your lungs, the soft breeze of the wind against your face, the feeling of grass underneath your hooves. Somehow you feel as if all this is connected to the answer somehow.
You focus again on your senses and the rhythm of your heart. It takes a while but you suddenly become aware of the energy in your body. It flows through your spine to any part of your body. To your heart making it beat, to your lungs making you breath. As you feel it flowing through your body you feel the wind in your mane and you realize with a shock that the energy moving the air is very similar to the energy moving your lungs. That the energy in the grass is similar to the energy in your heart. You were always aware of this but somehow you were so busy chattering in your head to notice. You realize that the concious manipulation of this energy is magic. But that this magic in nature has the purpose of making things grow, move or break. It keeps the universe flowing, literally.
>>606384 "Oh… it's all connected. Everything is held together by it, but we can also manipulate it to make it behave in a different way as we please. That's why we can do so many different things with magic, because it's literally ingrained in everything!"
>>606390 He nods. "Very good. When the Sun and Moon and Nature still walked the ground, they created the mountains and trees, but they could not create them to grow or move. That was the task of the Tree of Harmony. It sends an extraordinary amount of magic energy through everything. In it's normal form it merely takes care of the processes of life. The only thing mages do is speed up those processes or even change them." He chuckles. "This is why it is so funny to me that mages are so often reviled while we do not do anything extraordinary. A pegasus flying uses magic, an earth pony planting trees or making food uses magic."
>>606399 "Hmm exactly. But that's one very special case. In any case, you passed the first real test. You have gained a first taste of what magic really is, which turns you away from just doing tricks to true understanding of magic. Now let's go further in this. He reaches into his pocket and throws you a rock. "Try to feel the energy of this."
>>606418 Just like the wind it holds a certain magic. You feel around it and suddenly you hear the voice of your Master, but in your head. "This is a message written by magic writing. By manipulating the energy in any object you can leave a message that can only be read by another mage. Very handy to deceive the average pony but beware if another mage gets it. I use an extra cipher just in case. This message is a voice, but might be made to be visual. That's up to your preference. Now that you've succesfully read this, write something of your own in the energy of this stone and give it back to me. Simply feel the energy and manipulate it, it is just as easy and natural as telekinesis once you can see the magic around you"
Roll a write magic spell to inscribe the stone magically.
>>606424 Easy as fuck. The DC for this spell is 13 so with your modifier you may take a 10 whenever you want to cast it, since your modifier makes you cast it anyway. I might still ask you to roll it if I feel there are situational negative modifiers attached.
>>606431 This goes a little harder than before but you manage to collect some water together from the air and collect it in the waterskin. "Water is the easiest to create or collect as you did now. Because water is so like magic. The magic flow is like a tide, you'll find as you become better that your magic will be stronger or weaker as the Moon shifts phase. A good magus always makes sure to know the Moon phase." He holds his head to the side. "I noticed it went less easy than before. This is what we call magic fatigue. As you get better it will take longer to become fatigued but make no mistake, even the best of magus can't cast spells indefinitely."
>>606448 You both walk down until you arrive down the other side of the hill. There's a wall here without any special markings. "Now that's a bummer, I forgot where the door is. Figure it out for me, Soothing." Roll Detect Secret Door
>>606456 You open up and see a big mansion with a lush garden before it, many flowers and some benches in the garden. There's a little pond. Your master walks in and sits down in one of the benches near the pond. "Ah, that's a lot better."
>>606471 "It was always here. You just didn't pay attention! Just like that door." He gets up again. "Now this is your new place to sleep. I think I'll take a little nap. My wife is inside. She can show you your room. Your bags should be there." He lays on the bech and starts snoring.
>>606478 The door is wood with all kinds of runes etched into it. Before you knock the door opens and a beautiful mare with a blue mane opens. "You must be Soothing." she gives you a hug. "Nice to meet you. I'm Bloom."
>>606484 She is. But she doesn't have any kind of Neighponese air to her. Your master has that typical neighponese dress and hairstyle. She seems to have completely integrated into equestrian society. She doesn't even bow until you say the words. She smiles and gives a little bow with her head. "Been a while since I did that."
>>606490 The hallway is decorated with small paintings of different landscapes. There's a very elaborate wooden clock in the corner. You can see the living room from here. There are 2 enormous paintings you can see from here. One depicting a fiery pony with a volcano in the background, the other a very small pony in a cave surrounded by gems and holding a lantern, each on one of the two walls you can see, there are 2 other walls you can't see from your vantage point. There's of course, couches, a desk, all kinds of mechanical contraptions in the living room as well. "You seem pretty well integrated. It took me a while to learn the r."
>>606494 They look so lifelike. From this vantage point you can see two more. Opposite from the fire one, a painting of a beautiful seapony in the water. Opposite the small cave pony, a painting of a cloud and small lines that if you look very closely outline a transparant pony. Bloom follows you. "What do you think?"
>>606516 "They don't set anything on fire they don't want to. They could walk on grass without it even being singed. But they like setting things on fire, so any mage valuing their mane would do well to bind them during an evocation."
>>606522 She looks at the painting again. "Summoning elementals or demons or even angels or gods can be a very educational experience to the budding mage. Those beings work with the powers we seek to understand every moment of their life.
>>606538 "Don't worry about it. You've worked your way up from the hovel to here. I think your training will become a lot more interesting from now on." The hallway upstairs is green with a long rug on the floor. There are a number of doors. Bloom walks you through them. "This is our bedroom. This is the bathroom." She skips a door, as you look at it, it sends chills up your spine.
>>606549 "Not at all. Through the proper magical seals there's no way anything can come in without our permission. If you're curious, I might show you the room now but you must promise not step a hoof inside the magic circle, nor go in there without either me or Still Tree."
>>606552 She opens the door. The room is far less impressive than you might have imagined. Blank walls and a few wooden cupboards. There are 2 major features: In the middle of the floor a very elaborate circle is drawn decorated with a number of magical sigils and a triangle in the middle. The epicenter of the circle is charred. You see a stack of candles nearby, probably used during a summoning. And on the wall opposite you is a large mirror with a completely black surface, you can barely see your own reflection in it. Despite no one being in the room you feel very uneasy. As if the room itself finds you unwelcome.
>>606555 She shrugs. "I don't keep track of what my husband summons in here. One day it's a Mothrazin angel, another it's a Duke of Tartarus, sometimes something from the beyond. I just tell him that if he ever starts making deals with demons again, I'll leave him." She smirks.
>>606558 She rolls her eyes. "Yes, some years ago, my husband got it in his head that it might be a good idea to make a deal with Gev'Oi, one of the great Demon Lords. We were having some money trouble at the time and the deal was that Gev'Oi would stimulate our business at the time, as he's a demon of commerce in return for a large amount of condensed magic, a hard treat to come by but a delight for demons. Everything went pretty well for a time, we made far more money…but we still ended up spending far more than we had. Until one day our debts caught up with us. So my husband demanded of Gev'Oi to make sure he got some money in 2 days. And we did, from the insurance when our house burned down. That's when I told still to never ever deal with demons again."
>>606603 It's a small room with a big window looking out on one of the garden trees. There's a big waterbed with glowing fishes inside and a desk with papers and a writing feather on it. Your bags have been put next to the cabinet.
>>606617 "He runs through the house every once in a while. If you hear somepony running through the hall at night, it's him. Just talk to him and he'll show himself if he wants. Air Elementals are very shy."
>>606622 "Oh they're very sweet once you get to know them. And smart, some of the brightest Elementals in existence are Air Elementals. Zim came here one day because he felt my husband and him were working for the same goal and he wanted to help. To be honest I'm still not completely sure what he meant by that. Ever since he's been in the house. You only see him rarely but he sometimes returns things I've lost or helps out when I have a problem." She waves to the room. "Or decorates rooms, however he does that. He certainly went all out for you. You should thank him."
>>606634 After you settling in your life becomes somewhat easier. Your training becomes more practical and you learn a variety of different spells You even stay up late more than once trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive Zim, but more than the occasional weird noise you don't see him. But as Bloom says, sometimes you come back in your room to find stuff you lost a few days ago or to see things ordened, with Bloom swearing she hasn't been in there.
You find yourself in the living room near a heartfire. It is winter and the snow is falling outside. Soon you'll take a few days to go back to Canterlot and celebrate Hearth's Warming Eve. It was a stressful day and sitting here with a cup of warm cider is quite nice.
>>606658 Take it. "Staying up late into the night and trying to ambush him. He's clearly too smart to fall for that. I just don't know enough about him to really predict his movement. I'm sure you could help me if you wanted, but that wouldn't teach me anything."
>>606664 "Do you think I'm chasing after him wearing a cowboy hat and a lasso like the ponies of the west? All I do is stay up later, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. I don't want to hurt him or make him nervous."
>>606697 "You are wearing clothing reminiscent of a bee and you are eating from flowers with an aesthetic value. This is highly illogical….unless it is some kind of pony holiday? I know that ponies like to dress up for parties."
You remember from those monks in Canterlot that the Tree of Life is supposed to be the first tree ever and the world sprang from it. Luna and Celestia are said to guard it against all evil. And the powers of Harmony protect Equestria. It is never pictured on top of a heart tho
>>610661 "Indeed. In Equestrian and many other religions with the Tree symbolism, the Heart has been wisely hidden. But I can assure you that this is in fact a far more accurate description. As most religions say, the Tree of Harmony was the first tree formed by mother nature, and this is somewhat true, but this half-truth hides a much more elaborate secret."
>>610664 "First you have to understand how this world began. Before there was this world, there was only one thing, the Void. It was from this void that the Sun, the Moon and their daughter Mother Nature came. But the void is a place of completely random unpredictable energy. That's why the first thing they made, was the Tree of Harmony, to anchor the world in the chaotic Void. Make order out of chaos. From the branches came first the place called the Labyrinth, essentially proto-reality and it further evolved into the world you see now."
>>610672 "Quite an unusual tree to spawn reality from it. It is a tree, and so much more than a tree. It is the base of this whole world. Should the tree ever be destroyed, this world would cease to exist. Through the Tree magic is spread to every part of the world. But it does not create magic. It merely organizes it, orders it, creates harmony in the chaos."
>>610691 "Of course not. To reach it, one would have to navigate its branches, the Labyrinth, all the way to the trunk. On the edge of the Void. Now this is where it becomes interesting. Because the Void itself also has an avatar. As you can imagine the Void rebelled against having a giant world in its midst. So the Void came into the world itself. That is Tirek."
>>610725 "It is said that when Tirek invaded he stole the magic from ponies, griffons and all kinds of beings. He proclaimed it was stolen from him. The energies of magic come from the void, regulated by the tree of Harmony." He grins. "All magic comes from Tirek, isn't that interesting?"
>>610742 "Isn't it, but he is a necessary evil. Tirekians call Tirek the Heart of the World. And there is some truth to that, without the magic of the Void feeding the Tree, this world could not exist."
>>610753 "Hmmm, those are the most dangerous. Their machines were remarkable amalgations of the arcane and metal. But their war nearly destroyed the world. In a way, it did more damage than the war against Tirek did."
>>611495 "How can one measure such a thing? It can only be said that once it was over, the world had changed. Large parts of modern Equestria, Trotantium, Vilitus, Saddle-Arabia were ash. The donkey Empire has turned into a sea. And so, so many were lost."
>>611497 "Hmmm, it is hard to know. There are many theories. The Lemarians were a pony race unlike any other since. It is said a fraction of them rebelled against the others who were loyal to Mother Nature. This faction came to be known as the Black Lemarians and they received arcane secrets from the fallen god, Kronox. Most theologians say those secrets corrupted the Black Lemarians and turned them against the True Gods. But I'm not a fan of corrupting. It seems like a lame cop out. No, I believe they were trying to reach the Tree of Harmony and claim it for themselves."
>>611502 "A regrettable condition. Though controlling the Tree of Harmony would imbue one with more power than even the gods. The gods are extremely powerfull, nearly without limits, but within their own domain. Love cannot dictate on matters of justice. The Sun cannot influence the flow of magic. Controlling the Tree of Harmony would allow one to control all of creation."
>>611511 "Nature was shocked by what happened, and ever since she speaks only to the most loyal of Nature followers. The Sun and Moon guarded Tirek to ensure Kronox would not attempt to break him out. Grogar and Discord did not exist, yet. In the end, the defense of the Tree came to the Harlequins and the loyal Lemarians. And Kronox was killed, but he still survived."
>>611517 "She had one, at one time. Because old texts speak of her throne in the City of the Gods, modern Canterlot. But I've yet to find what it was. Perhaps a deer? It is said deer were her first and favorite creation."
>>611520 "Could be. I like to think her first appearance might have been as an exceptional Treant. After all they became one of her greatest forces protecting nature. And even nowadays shrines to Nature often have a tree as a shrine rather than a pony effigy or something of the kind."
>>611547 "This has often been studied by magicians particularly those interested in divine energies. The case of Grogar has always been exceptional, when one goat toppled Kronox and became the Lord of the Dead."
>>611554 "You can only speak to so many dead. Those who were there have been dead for so long that they've gone to their next lifetime multiple times already. And the Ancients are not known for being friendly when they get summoned. It goes against their faith." He coughs. "What we do know is that sometime after the war of the Lemarians, the Underworld became the last hideout for Kronox as the other Gods searched him. But the Underworld was his domain and he felt himself invincible there. That was until a recently deceased soul of a goat met up with Ovrin the lord of the Ancients. It's said that Ovrin liked Grogars cheerfulness and lust for battle even in the Underworld and they formed a pact to take down Kronox."
>>611573 He shakes his head. "No…" He scratches his chin. Deep in thought. "Imagine for a second, the whole universe. Filled with magical energy in all forms. There is the energy of fire, the energy of water, the energy of the sun, the energy of death, etcetera. Now we magicians, we manipulate that energy. And because of that, we tend to assume gods are merely beings that can manipulate an enormous amount of that energy at once. I believe that is a incomplete view. I believe that when Grogar became the Lord of the Dead, he became one with the energy flows that regulate death. In a sense he could now control those forces at will, but at the same time, those forces would be part of him. Solemn, cold, calculated."
>>611583 "Are they puppets or the puppeteers? Or both? It is hard to say. There are other implications as well. Are the Sun and the Moon the original gods? Or did other ponies in their time replace them, but simply further behaved as these gods did? Are there even original gods? For in truth has anypony seen the Tree of Harmony or the Void? Or was this merely the design of one of these pony gods?"
>>612959 Your teacher leans back. "I met him when I was but a colt in Neighpon. Though I didn't know it yet, he had seen signs that I was to be his apprentice. Yet my parents were very simple folk. They would never allow me to learn about magic. So my guru had devised, as was so typical of him, an overly complicated scheme to trick me and my parents into learning magic."
>>612962 "He came to our farm one day, bloodied and wounded. I was with my dad picking rice in the fields when we saw him. When we waved to him, he shouted don't come close. leave me be… and limped off. We both saw he was terribly wounded and compassion and curiosity made us approach him. He limped away but collapsed on the ground, exhausted. We took him and brought him into our house. Now, we weren't rich folk like you. My parents lived on an old rice farm miles away from the nearest town. But my mother did her best to patch him up. When he finally awoke, he said we should have legt him there and started crying."
>>612965 He snickers. "There is one thing you have to understand about my guru. He might be one of the most intelligent ponies I've ever met. But before he became a mage, he was an actor, and his one hobby in life was to create ruses so overly complex, just to see if ponies would fall for it. And we did. He told us he had been cursed by an evil witch and had been fleeing her minions for some time now. He feared he had cursed us by us taking him in. My father thought the man to be quite insane. But the next day, me and my father went back into the fields and saw an oni. (Demon in weeaboo)"
>>612975 "Exactly. We ran home scared for our life. What could we do? And then my would-be guru revealed that he had been travelling to a far-off wise pony. Somepony who could lift the curse off him. My dad offered to come with him. But after some time, he convinced my parents it would be safest if I came along. And so I went. In my heart I was filled with a holy mission. To save my parents and myself from this demon." He shakes his head. "It was only much later that I learned that it was all a ruse. The Oni was a friend of my guru. And during our travel to this mysterious wise pony, he thought me many things about magic, supposedly so I could protect myself. I must admit, he was such a good actor, that when he finally told me the truth I did not see it coming."
>>612984 "Are you kidding me? I was mad as hell. For him to have fooled me for so long. I ran away, cursing his name. I traveled the countryside for a while, I renounced everything to do with magic and for a short while became a farmer help." "
>>612990 "Maybe. Let's just say that after a while, I realized magic wasn't so bad after all. Better than cleaning pig barns at least. And after a while I got to be in on the ruses. My guru had many students. And he was always plotting and scheming with all of them, against each other."