The Application of Unified Harmony Magics

by Amber Spark

Chapter 1: Studies in the Sunlight

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“So, why I am studying old pony tales again?”

Sunset Shimmer looked up with a faint smile and hoped she would be able to glean just a bit of insight from her mentor.

As usual, Princess Celestia’s face betrayed nothing, save for the tiny sparkle in her eyes. Even here in her lavish private study chambers in the highest tower of Canterlot Castle, she kept her poise. Surrounded by ancient tomes, exquisite works of art and an entire wall of windows looking out over the sun-drenched city of Canterlot, she was still the perfect pony princess.

“You of all ponies, Sunset, should appreciate being well-rounded in every aspect of Equestrian culture and history.”

Sunset glanced down at the book. The colorful illustrations looked like something more out of a filly’s storybook than an actual tome of Equestrian history. Though it was enchanting in a strangely simplistic way. And it obviously meant something to the Princess. Usually, that was good enough for her, but today, her curiosity was more insistent than usual.

“But this isn’t anything like studying Long Wind’s tomes on Equestrian civil law or Hot Air’s documentation of the first-era griffon treatises.”

“Just because it isn’t dusty and dry doesn’t mean it is without value, my faithful student. Even legends can teach us principles of wisdom passed down from previous generations.”

Sunset cocked an eyebrow at the Princess of the Sun.

“Princess, you are the living embodiment of wisdom from previous generations.”

Celestia laughed her faint tinkling laugh that Sunset loved hearing so very much and turned to the open door leading to the balcony overlooking the whole of Canterlot. It was another lovely fall day, and a faint chill ran through the air with the promise of the changing seasons in just a few weeks’ time. Celestia leaned against the doorframe and took another sip of the tea levitating beside her in a golden glow.

There was something off about Celestia today though. It had taken Sunset years to be able to even begin to read the Princess’s body language. Usually, the Princess kept her motivations and emotions in check at all times, the picture and pinnacle of a benevolent monarch. But the way Celestia rustled her great white wings—it meant there was something wrong.

“If I may ask, Princess, is there something bothering you?”

Celestia stiffened ever so slightly and turned back to her student with a different kind of sparkle in her eyes. This particular sparkle she wore whenever Sunset found some insightful answer to a particularly difficult question.

“Sometimes, I wonder if you spend too much time with me. You’ve become quite adept at your observations. You’ve even caught a few things Raven has missed.”

Sunset felt her cheeks flush and her ears flatten. “Princess, I’m not trying to pry or—”

Celestia waved off her protests with a hoof. “No, no. I never said that you were wrong, did I?”

“Well… not as such…” Sunset murmured.

“Then consider this…” Celestia smiled once more. “You do remember even the most fantastic legend has a basis in historical truth?”

“Of course,” Sunset replied. It took her only a moment to take the step Celestia wanted her to take and make the connection. “You’re saying there’s something in this book that ties to a major historical event?”

Celestia beamed at her, but the smile was more reserved than usual. “Precisely.”

“But there’s all sorts of things in this collection! Everything on stories of the gray ponies from Discord’s reign to the legend of the Children of the Night. Dozens of different legends.”

“Indeed there are.” Celestia took another sip of tea.

Sunset sighed. “This is going to be one of those lessons, isn’t it?”

Celestia quirked an eyebrow. “Whatever do you mean, Sunset?”

Sunset couldn’t help but laugh at her mentor’s antics. Celestia knew Sunset wasn’t buying the whole innocent act, but Celestia was still Celestia, after all. One had to play the game her way.

“One of those lessons where you give me nothing but breadcrumbs that eventually lead me to a huge, life-changing revelation that rocks the very foundations of everything I know.”

Celestia snorted in a rather un-princess-like manner.

“I’m not quite sure this particular lesson is that intense, at least at this juncture. Now, if I had tried to teach it to you a few years ago…”

Sunset blanched. “Can we not talk about that, please?”

Celestia’s eyes softened and a faint smile appeared, tempered by a faint hint of melancholy Sunset had come to know all too well.

“Sunset, how many times do I have to tell you? You are an entirely different pony than you were back then.”

“Always seems like one more.” Sunset rubbed the back of her mane with a hoof and didn’t meet Celestia’s eyes.

Celestia sighed. “That’s another lesson for another time. Today’s lesson is a bit more esoteric, shall we say. At least at present.”

“Are you going to at least give me a hint?”

Celestia’s teacup floated to her muzzle yet again. That was answer enough. It was incredible just how much Celestia could communicate with a sip of tea. Sunset laughed again.

“You really do enjoy this, don’t you?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Sunset rolled her eyes and smirked at the Princess of the Sun just as noon chimed out over the city. She quickly grabbed her cup of tea in her teal magic and swallowed it down to the dregs. The final kick of her Earl Grey brought a smile to her lips and she savored it for just a moment. Then her magic closed the book and slid it into one of her saddlebags near the doors of Celestia’s private study.

“You know, there was once a time when I had to all but physically throw you out of my study.” Celestia chuckled.

Sunset froze awkwardly just as she was standing up. “I’m sorry, was there something else we were supposed to be reviewing today? I had made plans with Moon Dancer for lunch today and—”

“My faithful student…” Celestia actually laughed out loud, the sound echoing off the high vaulted ceiling of the study, muted only by the innumerable pieces of literature lining the shelves. “Oh, no, not at all. Today was all about your new focusing techniques, Legends of Equestria and a general checkup on your most recent field of study.”

Sunset finally managed to get her hooves under her and grinned sheepishly.

“I still don’t know why you pushed me so hard on this, Princess.”

“I have my reasons,” Celestia answered in a cryptic way that was all too familiar to Sunset. “One day, you’ll see them for exactly what they are.”

The perverse enjoyment you get out of seeing me wrangling with a problem only to point out the blatantly obvious solution when I’m three hoofsteps away from a panic attack?

Don’t you ever shut up? Sunset mentally groaned. Even for a day?

The snarky voice in the back of her head was a remnant of that Sunset Shimmer she had left behind years ago. Despite the best attempts of her friends, the Princess and herself, she’d never been able to get that little voice to shut up and go away. It was always there, ready to needle her and pester her. To remind her of what she once had been.

Sunset did what she usually did: mentally bucked it into a closet in the back of her brain and slammed the door closed.

“Please, can you give me some sort of hint about this compendium?”

“I’m afraid not.” Celestia’s smile now bordered on impish. “You’ll just have to discover it for yourself. And I have complete and total faith you will find exactly what you need from it when the time is right.”

A weary sigh escaped from Sunset, despite her best intentions. Celestia’s eyes sparkled again, that mischievous little sparkle she wore most of the time, the one that had earned her the nickname ‘Trollestia’ in some of the more acerbic circles of noble society.

“There is one other matter before you leave,” Celestia said as Sunset lifted her saddlebags and placed them over her back.

“Yes?” She cinched the strap snugly around her middle with a tug of magic. “What do you need?”

“Next week, we’ll be starting a new subject about which I think you will be quite excited. It is something you’ve been asking after for a while.”

Sunset’s ears perked at this and she looked up into the Princess’s eyes. A thousand possibilities entered her mind, including one provided by that thrice-damned voice involving a stupid mirror she’d once obsessed over.

“Unified spellwork.”

Sunset rocked back on her hooves and gaped at the Princess of the Sun.

Really?” She had trouble keeping the squee out of her voice. “You think I’m ready for that?”

“You’ve been ready for it for quite some time, Sunset. Months, really. But after previous events, I wanted to make sure your eagerness didn’t overwhelm your judgment.”

Celestia’s voice was soft and completely without recrimination, but Sunset couldn’t help but feel another twist within her chest.

“No, don’t you let yourself walk down that road in your head,” Celestia chided. “I bring it up because this particular branch of magic requires a very specific mindset. You must be able to find that perfect balance of harmony between the two casters or else anything attempted using the framework will fizzle. That or fail in a most spectacular manner.”

“I know.” Sunset bit her lower lip, unable to meet Celestia’s gaze. “That’s why… well, that’s why I wasn’t really planning on bringing it up again after you said I wasn’t ready. I’m… I’m still not that good at this.”

Celestia’s forehoof lifted Sunset’s chin and forced the young mare to look the Princess in the eye.

“Sunset, I know that finding harmony with other ponies is still a new concept to you, but I think you give yourself far too little credit. For a normal pony to develop the relationships you have in the last few years is impressive. For a pony with your former attitude to do so in such a short time is nothing short of miraculous.”

“I didn’t do it alone.”

Celestia’s smile grew. “I know. At the very least, I have faith that Moon Dancer will be there to knock some sense into you if need be.”

Sunset snorted but laughed nonetheless. “Moon Dancer would probably agree with you, Princess.”

“I’m sure she would.” Celestia beamed. “Your friend aside, I need you to head to the Archives. There are several tomes I had placed on reserve, but I received a note earlier this morning informing me they were unable to locate a critical work by Nightsong.”

The curious pony in Sunset’s head reared once more. “A missing book? In the Archives?

“Considering how many volumes are in that library, I can forgive them mislaying a book once in a while. Nonetheless, The Application of Unified Harmony Magics is considered the seminal piece on the subject. You will need to locate a copy before we can begin.”

Sunset nodded. It had been far too long since she had just gotten to explore the Royal Canterlot Archives, hunting for some obscure scroll or book. She might even get to explore the Stack Vaults, something she hadn’t done in years. The very idea made her hooves tingle in anticipation.

“Don’t worry. I’ll find it for you.”

“Of that, I have little doubt.” Celestia beamed at her again. “Now, off with you. Go have a wonderful lunch. I’ll see you this evening after I’ve raised the moon.”

Sunset nodded, leaned forward to give her mentor a brief nuzzle and trotted out of Celestia’s study. Just as the door closed, she caught Celestia’s words, spoken so quietly Sunset wasn’t even sure she’d heard them.

“How far you’ve come… and how far is still left to go.”

Author's Notes:

You know, in recent months, I've started to imagine Celestia as a bit of a combination of Kosh from Babylon 5 and Lord Vetinari from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Cryptic as hell, giving just enough information to let the characters move forward but no more and always knowing far more than they let on.

It's interesting that this story is starting with a particular book. I vaguely remember a popular show also starting with a character reading a book...

Version 3.0 Edit: Numerous minor changes to the text, mostly grammatical.

If you come across any errors, please let me know by PM!

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