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Shores: Homecoming (Closed)

PostPosted: Sun Jun 23, 2019 4:46 pm
by Giovenith
The white sunlight of the early morning pierced through the windows of an empty home. It shone between curtains that no one rustled, on walls no one passed, and on floors no one walked across. The little dust bits danced safely in the beams in every room and abode throughout the quiet building — only dust and memories. Those were the things that called this place home now.

One home on the sandy isle was a rare exception. There, the pale young woman sat by one of the huge windows in her sprawling home and carefully packed several things up into a small package. Tins of treats, knitted trinkets, a stack of paper bound in ribbon. The stack was the most precious of all; it held all the watercolor paintings, drawings, and photos she and her best friend had created together. Into the care package it went with one final run of her hand over the crisp surfaces. She sighed quietly as she replaced the top of the box and tied the ribbon around it tight.

They'd sure had a lot of fun together, but now it was time for her best friend to pack up and go home.

The morning hadn't been wasted at all. She'd woken him up nice and early and insisted on being the one to make breakfast this time around. That had ended in burnt pans and batter all over the counter, but he hadn't been mad, he'd laughed and they'd cleaned it up together before settling for their favorite cereal. He was always a good sport like that. Then it was a matter of packing everything, or at least everything that was practical to take, something she seemed to keep forgetting.

"Don't tell me you're not going to take Black On Ice with you?" Giovenith insisted, gesturing to one of the canvases propped in the corner of Willow's bedroom.

"Black On Ice is three by four, Geo-puzzle," he reminded gently, rolling up some brushes in their sleeve.

"You've got your hammerspace bag!"

"Yes, but I won't have the space to put it anywhere when I get there." The grey pegasus zipped his bag closed. "They probably sold my house, so I'll have to go live with my parents for a while. Besides, I still need a nice space when I come back."

Come back. Giovenith didn't have an answer to that. Luckily she didn't have to remain silent for long enough to draw concern, as there was a knock at the door. The two went to answer it and were greeted with an identical figure to Willow, smiling in the hallway.

"You wanted to see me?" Sallow asked.

For once, they did. Willow nodded, stepped aside for a moment, and came back holding a small tabby kitten in his hoof. He handed it to Sallow. "Yeah, thanks Sallow. I'm going to be going soon, and I needed someone to take care of Kerouac and find him a new home. You wouldn't mind doing it, would you?"

The paper-pony held up the little kitty in his hooves, tilted his head curiously, and then to their surprise, shook his head. "Yes, I would actually."

This took the two by surprise. Willow raised an eye. "I, didn't think you'd be one to not like cats..."

Sallow laughed. "No, I love cats, they're the coolest little... well, cats!" He hovered over and gently placed the kitten onto his flesh-twin's back. "It's that he already has a home, with you."

Kerouac meowed, nuzzling both versions of Willow.

"Besides, me and the others will have plenty to look after while you're gone," said Sallow. "Me and Ms. Prism have started to plan our very own paper carnival in our world."

"That sounds wonderful," said Giovenith, smiling and nodding. "You don't really need us around, you've got everything under control."

"Sure do. Enjoy Equestria for me," Sallow adjusted Willow's beret more snug and tightened his scarf. "Tell everypony we love that I said hi."

Willow gave a strained smile, which melted into a more genuine one as he looked at Kerouac purring on his back. "Someday, you'll be able to tell them yourself."

PostPosted: Sun Jun 23, 2019 5:23 pm
by Northwest Slobovia
The Building, Apartment 2L
Just after Our Heroes Reunited 2018 and 2019, and Saved Galli

At the sound of the door opening, Sandy set the image in the holo-projector to the start of his now-holographic recording of Michael Grimes and his unit, made sure the family history was open to the right page, and called out to his wife. “I've got something for you, dear!”

Amanda hung her candy-stained jacket on the coat rack, propped the baseball-bat-sized lolly by Sandy's stick, and ignored him on her way to the left-over liquor from last night. She grabbed a bottle of whiskey from the tray, collected a tumbler from the kitchen cupboard, and plopped herself down in a chair opposite Sandy. In a single, practiced motion, she filled the tumbler and then gulped down half of it, before finally noticing anything else in the room.

“Amanda?? It's been years since you dran--”

“Hard day at the office. Don't ask.”

Sandy's expression mixed confusion and concern as he rose from his seat. He hustled around the table to hug her from behind. The difference in heights made it awkward, but Amanda appreciated it anyway, pressing his arms to herself with her free hand.

For a moment, they embraced silently, then Sandy sniffed, and Amanda turned her head to better talk to him. “Yeah, I smell like cheap candy. It's all over my hands, and my jacket's going to need dry-cleaning.”

But that wasn't it: Sandy smelled something sharp and faint but distantly familiar. He slipped his hands free to cast the Wolf's Nose, causing Amanda to turn in her seat: she knew what the chant sounded like. “Sandy, what are you doing?”

He sniffed again. There, beneath a half-dozen artificial flavors, anxious sweat, traces of Amanda's perfume and scent, was what he sought: smoke and the acrid odors of burned flesh and plastic. He hugged Amanda tighter this time. “Yes, you had a very hard day. But it's over... and you're home safe.” He kissed the top of her head.

She nodded wordlessly, and then as the silence extended, added “It's bad, Sandy. That was seven years ago, but for a moment, it was now. I still see--”

She started to raise the glass to her lips again, but Sandy laid an arm over hers; the glass stopped in mid-air. “That's enough already. More won't help you... not any more than it has over the last seven years.”

Letting her arm and glass fall back to the back to the tabletop, Amanda took a ragged breath, defeated. “It makes them go away, and the faster the better.”

Now what? Beyond returning to holding his wife, Sandy had no idea what to say or do next. We've played this scene before: she gets drunk, I put her to bed, and we wait for the next crisis. He stared into space. Eventually, his eyes refocused on the holo, still paused at the beginning of Michael's unit marching. “Do you like the holo?”

Amanda squinted at it. “A parade? Somebody here has an army?”

Sandy let go of her, took a few steps, and poked his finger into the holo. “You know this guy.”

Her intent study of the young man's face revealed nothing, and she gave Sandy a confused look. In reply, he slid her family's history book to her, and tapped a wedding picture. “Him.” After sliding her tumbler out of the way, Amanda pulled the book closer for a better looked, glanced up the holo, and then her husband, now completely baffled. “How did you...?”

“A D-Day parade, uh, commemoration on Main Street. All the men who died in all the timestreams there was a D-Day. If you watch, you'll see that the men are... semi-transparent: multiple overlaid ghosts... shades... souls. I think that's telling us how many different timestreams they died in: more ghosts, more deaths.” He started the holo going.

She stared at the holo, watching her distant cousin parade by with his company, then looped the clip and zoomed in on him. Her confusion intensified. “One of those Valentine's cupid-things had a gang. They messed up time, kidnapped Old Man 2018. The whole thing was their doing, and it – what's the term you use? 'Dissipated'? – when Willow set the bastard on fire. This shouldn't be possible.”

Sandy was suddenly very serious. “There's only one person who could return these spirits, and He lives in the basement. He may have just taken advantage of the... ummm, situation to do this.” Amanda gave him a look that held skepticism... and wonder, too. First the angel and now this?

So Sandy continued. “I talked to the medical detachment that's associated with most of the reports of the Balm. A few men recognized the biblical name; one asked me if I was a saint when I showed him the jar I carry. 'Tsa'-something. Sounded like German, so probably Yiddish. That would fit, and no -- I know what you mean... it's a Renaissance image, mixing Eros and cherubs – none of them would know anything about the Balm. Or D-Day.”

He seemed to look through the floor. “I wonder if that means He still hears some prayers, still rewards some worshippers for their devotion. I'm tempted to ask Him, despite the risk.” After a second, an afterthought. “Hopefully, He's gotten over the smiting... or just doesn't know.”

“No!” Amanda shouted, frightened for him. “He'll kill you! I saw the holos from Alexandria, what you gave Poseidon! He's killed pagans for less!”

“Maybe I'll see if Giovenith would ask for me. Her pantheon seems on better—”

“Sandy, no!”

A grin crept onto his face. “We could invite him to dinner. It's been a long time since anybody--”

Between her fear, anger, and the first effects of the whiskey, Amanda's carefully-cultivated neutral accent vanished, and one could practically smell the honeysuckle clinging to the veranda of her family's plantation house as she spoke. “We will do no such thing, Dr. Bela!” (It sounded like 'Wi weill do no such thing, Doctah Bellah!') “I'll get in an argument with Him, and I've already had one dinner ruined this week by supernatural nonsense! No more!”

“I'll tell him to expect engaging conversation.”

Amanda glared at him, about to flay him alive. She blinked, realization striking. Her tone returned to normal, but not her accent. “You're trying to distract me, aren't you?”

“It seemed to be working.”

She allowed a smile. “Bastard.” Another thought hit home. “But you're not wrong. Coffee, please.”

“That's not going to help with the booze.” He went to fetch a mug anyway.

“No, it won't. But the smell of burning flesh made it so intense. I just want a little, please. Your Viennese coffee smells like home, Sandy, comfort and home.” She picked up the mug set in front of her, and inhaled deeply. Was it helping? Maybe. But it was the aroma of home, of love: it took Sandy months of trying to find a flavored coffee she'd like, and then months more making it perfect; before then, just black and strong. She drank some. Still perfect. Of all the spellcasters in the world, she married the one with the most practical magic. “Can you extract the smell and bottle it? I've seen you make isolates, so why not isolate the essence of coffee?”

He stared at the mug, thinking. “It's not... There's no magic, but... I could try. I think that's a job for a chemist, not an alchemist, though. I'll see if I can find somebody at the University.” He turned towards his workroom door, then back to Amanda. “But I could grind a coffee bean to powder and add a drop of vanilla extract, and put that in a vial for you. That might do in the meantime.”

Amanda's smile grew and warmed. “Thank you. That's something I can do myself, which is better.” She set down the coffee to take a tiny sip of whiskey. “But you won't get my relaxation from me.”

Some Time Later

“Do we have everything?” Amanda looked over the pile of luggage on the cart.

Behind her, Sandy walked up with a small, padded box, which he gently placed on top. “That should do it. This is supposed to be a vacation in a civilized area, so we shouldn't need that much.”

Amanda turned to him, deadly serious. “Except that our hosts don't eat meat, and I'm not sure I can make do with just a little soup. Please don't give me the 'when in Rome' line.”

Sandy nodded, eyes closed. After a moment, he added, “I saw you added downloaded ebook on field-dressing birds. If they don't mind us hunting, we should be able to manage.

“We should get moving. Given how much time it took us to pack, the others are probably waiting for us already.”

With that, they collected Plutarch and left, heading out into the bright sunlight. Out of habit, they locked their door behind them, but there was little need.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 11:06 am
by Giovenith
Giovenith, Willow, and Sallow were waiting on the beach for the couple, making final checks to see if everything had been packed. Kerouac had been put into a small, cozy cat carrier now attached to Willow's saddle bag, and Giovenith of course carried everything she needed in her pockets.

"Are you sure you're ready?" Giovenith asked, putting a hand on the pony's shoulder supportively. "It's finally happening. You're going to have a lot to fix and deal with."

Willow exchanged a look with Sallow, who nodded. No doubt they were recalling one of their first conversations about this very matter. Sallow may not have been exactly like his original, but nonetheless, Willow knew that he represented something true about himself deep inside. He wasn't sure what, but he knew that in matters of understanding himself, Sallow could be trusted — painful as that was to admit. Willow nodded fiercely.

"Yes, I am." He looked out to the sea. "But how are we getting there?"

PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 7:01 pm
by Fvaarniimar
A cat formed of paper swatted one of flesh. "Get up, Nick!" Oh sure the sand was warm, but Spencer knew his counterpart would be very upset were he to miss Willow's departure. "Get up get up GET UP!

"Mwrrrr?" A paw tapped Nick's belly, waking his phone. Then the cat leapt to his feet. "We almost missed Willow! We need to move!"

Spencer flicked his ears. "That's what I've been trying to tell you, Sleepybutt! Come on - we have a bit of time, still! Move!"

The cat sighed as he shrugged on his harness and snake. "Thank you. I should have set an alarm." His tail twitched. "Last one there's a - hmph. Not so fast, you young upstart!"

"Don't push yourself, Gramps!

"Get off my lawn, whippersn -"

Spencer arrived, and thus spoke, first. "Willow, you're awesome. So is your art. Good luck!"

Nick wrapped himself around Willow's foreleg. "We'll miss you, but this isn't goodbye. Not yet, and not period. This is "see you later - because we will." Nonetheless, he was waxing nostalgic. "Remember when you talked me into trying apples? Those were gross." A surge of fondness spilled over - along with a bit of sadness, forcibly tamped down.

Meanwhile, two figures were walking across the sand, one in a linen suit and another in a chiffon dress. A certain Bielefeld resident had bussed over for the sendoff, and would soon enough bus home again - for her home hadn't been the Building for years now, and she'd never lived at the Shores.

"Rmwtyliin, are you certain about this? You don't need to be an Agent if you'd rather not. I'll have room for you."

The woman beside her - rather less young than she'd once been - nodded. "The start of my adulthood is only months away, Liismegweg Kwa'a. I have found a purpose to dedicate myself to, instead of clinging to attempts to represent my country - and I am ready for this. I know the Princesses for instance aren't exactly the same sort of spirits, but in the broad sense they are spirits worthy of my respect, and I shall record them as such. The windigos seem to be akin to nastier spirits, and may need to be recorded as the problematic sort. Besides, tis another world, and one of the kindest."

Hugging her adoptive great(great great great...) aunt as they stepped into earshot, the sixteen-year-old approached Willow. "You looked out for me when I was lost and confused. Thank you, we'll miss you, and it will be my honor to accompany you." With that, she took her place in the not-actually-a-delegation (but thinking of it as such helped.)

Stepping forward, Kwa'a held out a coppery Needle Nhezleeg box (which contained a loosely tailored ink-blue seersucker suit and a dark grey chiffon scarf.) "Willow Streaks, you were encouraging, when I really needed enough hope to follow my heart. I hope you can make your own dream a reality - and I hope having a nice suit will help you be taken seriously. I wish you the best of luck in your homeworld."

PostPosted: Sat Jun 29, 2019 12:31 am
by Giovenith
Willow smiled and gave a pet to both Nick and Spencer. "Thanks, you guys. We've all come a long way, haven't we? Always being underestimated. But we made it through together."

He accepted the package from Kwa'a, a bit thoughtfully, before smiling and nodding to her as well. "Thank you. I'll make sure to help keep Rmw out of trouble while we're there. Even if we've all got to be a little crazy at this age..." He winked at their new companion.

PostPosted: Sat Jun 29, 2019 4:44 pm
by Zarkenis Ultima
Meritari usually wasn't one for naps, but this time, after a long morning spent getting everything ready, she'd decided to treat herself to one. Now, when one considers that she had little practice with the timing, and that she also had little practice with those little boxes with moving drawings that the Belas called alarm clocks, it was only natural that she ended up spending a bit longer on her task than intended. It was further unsurprising that, shortly after realizing that this had happened, the young woman was spotted running out of the place where she resided with only a backpack in tow - after all, she had not lived here for nearly as long as some of the others, and thus hadn't had as much time to accumulate new belongings, the old ones left behind in her world along with her old life.

The now familiar streets around her quickly gave way to sand as she neared her destination, spotting the familiar figure of a young white-haired woman standing next to not one, but two winged equines - a cat and a teenage girl were with them as well, both of whom she recognized from their adventures in Kuat. She quickly made her way to them, relief written all over her face.

"Thank goodness you're here!" The Kemetian spoke cheerfully as she arrived by their side, taking a moment to greet Giovenith, Willow, Nick, Sallow and Rmwtyliin with a smile. "I lost track of time and was afraid you'd have left by now! I'm glad that's not the case." She stated with a nod, before looking around - it was quite obvious, but, caught up in her mad hurry and then her subsequent relief, she'd failed to notice the absence of two people. "So the Belas aren't here yet?"

PostPosted: Sat Jun 29, 2019 5:34 pm
by Northwest Slobovia
Sandy watched his wife powering the luggage cart across the sand, moving like she was out for a casual jog. Adonis' Boon was a great help for that sort of thing. They soon met the others, gathered where they'd been told they could leave for anywhere and anywhen in the omniverse.

Morning pleasantries exchanged, Sandy counted noses. “Is this everybody?” He looked around, puzzled: he saw neither gateway nor vehicle, and nothing on this stretch of beach Appeared to carry the sort of magic needed for any sort of travel. He turned at a sound, a mundane one, a soft whirring.

A newly familiar man drove up in an equally newly-familiar golf cart. It seemed he was wearing the same startlingly white suit he was wearing when he greeted the group a few weeks ago. He likewise appeared unchanged, grey-haired but well-muscled. “Ah, going on a trip? It's the simplest thing: whoever knows best where and when you're going just thinks of the destination, and then the whole group wades off into the water, and then you're there.”

He seemed to anticipate Amanda's half-formed question. “Yes, yes, you can push your cart with you. You can even drive into the sea, or push a boat out from the beach. Regardless, you'll end up where and when your guide is thinking of.” Sandy opened his mouth to speak, but the man who called himself Roarke caught his eye with his knowing glance, and said, “But to fly, you'll have to wait for sunset and then fly off into it. The sun always sets over the beach.” He ended with a firm nod, as though that explained everything.

“Getting back takes a little more work. You'll need to call for the Lifeguard to bring you home. Pick an object you always have with you. Touch it to show that's what you mean. You can then speak into it and ask the Lifeguard to bring you back here. You'll wash up again, along with whatever you had with you. The Lifeguard isn't the fastest about responding, so please, be patient.

“You can also ask for the Operator to pass on messages to others, and your recipient will hear your message in your voice. Just ask for them by name.”

Sandy shrugged and touched his wedding band. If magic was lightning, Sandy would have been blinded and electrocuted by the Power that passed into his ring in that instant: magic to bend time and space, draped in a Veil only Greater Beings could see through. Had Giovenith been watching, she would have momentarily Seen that the ring was imbued with a tiny fragment of Trelos, a minor avatar of some sort.

“It seems, um, that it should work as advertised”, Sandy said to the others. “Mind if I give it a try? I can get back under my own power... right?” His last word was addressed to Mr. Roarke, who replied with a mild, “You'll find it easier to ask for the Lifeguard to bring you back.”

Sandy gave him a puzzled look, but then faced out to sea, fixed his eyes on a point just above the horizon, and sauntered off into the waves. It was hard to say when he vanished, but it seemed that he'd done so when each person was momentarily distracted, and didn't get a clear look at what had happened.

Long seconds passed, and then in a crash of heavy surf, Sandy washed up some distance away. He rocked up onto his heels. “It works!” His childlike smile flashed at everybody. This will be the greatest tool for history since the invention of writing!

PostPosted: Sat Jun 29, 2019 8:10 pm
by Giovenith
Sallow lead those who were staying behind away. They had everything under control here.

Giovenith nodded at all the new arrivals and of Sandy's confirmation in the portal's working condition. She smiled down at and offered a hand to Willow, who closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and nodded. He placed a hoof in her hand and started to walk forward-

"Cheep, cheep, cheep!"

The two paused, surprised by the chirping. Quick as a dart, a tiny brown shape darted out of the bushes, scrambled in circles around Willow, and perched atop his head: Chippers the Chipmunk, ready to finally go home. Willow winced a bit at the tiny claws in his hair and smiled.

"Hey, old friend," he greeted, laughing slightly. "Where you been?"

Then they went through.

The ride wasn't a calm one. As soon as they hit the point, the group was thrown into a violent tumble of swirling colors and shapes that stole one's breath and confused the senses. It felt thick to pass through, as if the forces that be were running them through a filter for toxins. Luckily, it only lasted momentarily, as everything went dark and the motion stopped with an unceremonious but harmless thud against soft ground.

Giovenith's first impression wasn't one of sight, smell, or even sound, but of a deeper instinct in her core. The universe as a whole was made of the balance between chaos and order, and in some cases the two could be thought of as the extremities of a spectrum. Everyone was familiar with the extremities of chaos. You often heard of so-called "Eldritch" locations, worlds of concentrated chaos, the kind that twisted your insides and your mind, that would destroy you or at the very least put you out of sorts quite badly if you didn't pay close enough attention while visiting; it was easy to be terrified of them, and they were often gabbed about. Not many, however, considered the worlds of concentrated order.

Order was woven thick in every direction she pushed her senses. It was in the air, in the heat from the sunshine, deep down in the earth and rock as far down as it seemingly went. It penetrated and shook her with a terrible rhythm, as if she were standing among the gears of a titanic clock. Beat, beat, beat... went Order, primordial and uncompromising. If she were a different sort of being, more geared towards the opposite side of the spectrum, it might have made her violently ill or even insane. In fact, she thought she remembered the Von Eldritches mentioning that that indeed happened when raptorkind attempted to visit here.

That initial feeling faded into the background of her senses as she opened her eyes and was greeted with the most impossibly picturesque summer day. They'd landed in a park, where the grass was a perfect consistent green and in perfect consistent length. The sky was perfect blue and had the perfect amount of clouds, not too many, not too few. The sun was giving the perfect amount of warmth and light, welcoming, never enough to make you uncomfortable or hurt you with heat stroke or sunburn. Most of all she saw the faces, all paused and staring straight at their small group, their owners all mid-freeze in their many leisure activities.

Willow's eyes welled at he saw his neighbors for the first time in years. He kept it in. A hoof went low to let Chippers scurry off.

"H-Hi everypony," he managed to get out. "I'm back."

The Ponyville residents at the park continued to gawk at the gathering of a naked monkeys that had appeared out of thin air. They were seemingly unlimited in the amount of color combinations and patterns they sported, and they each fell into three distinct types: Pegasi, the winged horses, like Willow. Unicorns, the horned horses (most of them in the middle of some telekinetic activity), like Sterling. And Earth ponies, normal shaped horses without wings or horns. Unlike in pre-Equestria, they were all styled similarly and seemed to have no tension amongst them.

A light purple unicorn with diamonds for cutie marks finally spoke up, placing down the peanut butter jar she'd been trying to open for her picnic. "Willow Streaks?" She narrowed her eyes. "I thought you were dead."

Willow sweated and held his breath. "Nope. Was just... on an unexpected journey." He paused, taking in their shocked expressions, and turned to gesture to his fellow residents. "Uh, don't worry about them, they're good creatures. These are my friends."

Continued silence and shock.

Willow smiled awkwardly.

A switch seemed to flip, and suddenly many of the ponies in the park were cheering happily. It was a diabetic sight to behold. A small crowd of rainbow equines swarmed in on the group, keeping a respectful distance but getting in just close enough to gawk at the mysterious new creatures. A few pegasi hovered above, inching cautiously to get good looks at the creatures' flat faces, while a few of the bolder unicorns gently tugged on interesting extremities like their fingers and hair with their telekinesis in order to better observe, but only briefly. Others focused on greeting and hugging Willow, who accepted it all... just this once. Several of the airy and cheerful voices pipped up in question all over one another.

"Where did you go, Willow?"

"Why did it take so long?"

"We sold your stuff, sorry-"

"I took your coffee machine, sorry-"

All sorts of questions of, "What are you?" to the humanoids.

"Kitty!" somepony offered treats to Nick.

"Alright, alright, back up..." Willow waved some space open around his fellow residents.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 12:33 pm
by Northwest Slobovia
Ponyville, Equestria
On Arrival

The passage between Bermeja and Ponyville seemed strange to Amanda, but her only previous experiences with interdimensional travel were Sandy's ritual – instantaneous, after the long set-up and casting – and Galli's gateway to Corellia – eerie, but under professional control. The sensation of being studied and purged bothered her: somebody was powerful and suspicious.

But the park was pleasant, and the day was utterly delightful. They're both like they're freshly manicured, though that's an odd thing for weather to be. But Sterling did say his gods were doing the driving. They seemed to like the slow lane and obeying all the rules... or was it that they were the traffic cops, and made sure everybody else did? Either way, the result wasn't bad.

Blinking and uncertain of her balance, Amanda tried to get to feet. She reflexively reached for something to hold on to, and found Sandy's arm. He pulled her up, but his mind was clearly elsewhere. “Oh, wow!” His voice held a dreamy tone, and Amanda had to admit that if the locals didn't look like kids' toys, they looked like something from a good head trip: brightly colored with striking, contrasting markings. Years of being around Willow and Sterling hadn't prepared her for the incredible variety of them.

But Sandy wasn't looking at the Equestrians per se, but looking over everything: the grass, the trees, the clouds. His eyes traced paths to some of the pony-people, and he smiled at them with a big, slow nod. “This is amazing work, guys! We have nothing like this. Good job! Incredible job!” Belatedly, he thought of something, and shot a few sparkles from his fingertips, got a huge grin, and shot off a bouquet of fireworks twenty feet into the air. “But you do have a bit more to work with than we do!”

He looked back down at the ponies, still beaming. “Still impressive work. I'm Sandy, by the way. We're, um, human.” He extended a hand to Amanda. “This is my wife--”

She gently touched his arm, stopping him, and then turned to Willow. “Since you know everybody, perhaps you could make introductions? I'm a little unsure of the customs here.” She caught Sandy's mumbled “Uh... right, perhaps the big American approach...” behind her.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 6:58 pm
by Giovenith
The surrounding ponies backed up per Willow's requests, a few politely nodding along to Sandy's compliments, albeit regarding them as something of a non-sequitur. Many of them blinked at hummed at his display of magic — many non-pony creatures could do magic, though it was still an anomaly when put on top of everything else already odd about the primatish creatures.

"Hyoo-mun?" somepony repeated.

"Is that short for 'huge monkey'?" somepony else asked, before they were shushed for their rudeness.

"Well, it's uh-" Willow gently pushed somepony away from him, about having his fill with hugs. "It's kind of a small town, you see, where everypony knows everypony... it's called Ponyville." He began gesturing to various residents, who waved and 'Hello!'d in turn with their name: "We've got Amethyst Star, Berry Punch, Perfect Timing, Orchid Dew, Candy Floss, Lyra Heartstrings-"

"Hands!!" a mint-green unicorn grabbed at one of Giovenith's hands excitedly with her telekinesis before being dragged away and scolded by a cream-colored Earth pony.

"There's a lot of faces," said Willow. "And while it's very nice to see you all, I really thi-"

A grey of blur fell from the sky and landed on top of Willow, knocking him to the ground and scattering the surrounding residents. A grey pegasus mare with a yellow mane carefully got up and smiled sheepishly down at the crushed stallion.

"Oops! Ah, sorry Willow," the pony said. "I just don't know what went wrong... Oh, uh!" She turned to reach into her saddlebag. "I just heard you got back! Here's all the mail you missed!"

A barrage of unopened letters fell down in his face, a collection that had steadily grown over the weeks, months, years. Willow cringed as he sat up and took a quick sort through some of them — the less fun part about returning would be all the unfinished business to take care of. He winced harder and frowned when he saw several letters with a familiar return address, then quickly tucked them away and took a breath.

"Geo-puzzle, can you help me get these..."

"Oh, sure!" Giovenith started to stuff the letters into her pockets.

"Well uh, thanks everybo- everypony, for being so welcoming," he said, looking around at the crowd. "We should get going now though, a lot to see and do. One question, you said you sold my stuff, who did you give my paintings?"

"Oh we could have never just sold your work," said one of the citizens, holding a hoof to their chest sincerely. "No, we sent it all to your parents in Cloudsdale."

She pointed out to what appeared at first glance to a distant mass of cumulus clouds, piling high on top of themselves into the sky. On closer inspection, one could spot small shapes, spirals, and domes, and thin shimmering lines of streams pouring over the edges to the ground below.

Giovenith held a hand to her eyes and winced. "Is that a city?"

Willow pursed his lips. "Yes. And I'll have to be going there soon."

Walking through the streets of Ponyville was an experience in itself. By human standards, it was old-fashioned: the roads were mostly dirt and occasionally cobblestone, and many of the houses were of a design reminiscent of traditional German architecture, with lines crisscrossing each other over bleached white wood, thatched roofs, and upper stories jutting out over the lower ones for further space. Ponies set up their businesses in little stands or in carts, though there were plenty of shops and other establishments. The happy citizens who were out and about all paused to stare at the group, some waving friendly, others just continuing to stare, some with concern.

Eventually, they came to one of the more luxurious looking buildings, a tall but quaint series of close buildings with a wide front yard filled with tables: the local hotel, where they all checked in to a large room meant for several families.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 7:55 pm
by Fvaarniimar
Nick, now residing at the Shores, still used his old apartment key. Amongst his most treasured possessions, it had come to symbolize home - that he had found a home, that he was accepted and loved. With intent, he pressed a paw to it. What could be more fitting?

Upon his return, Nick sauntered up to Sandy. "You're pretty excited. Don't tell me where, let me guess....Crete?" Sandy replied that he'd of course gone to the Mouseion after they'd left, startling Nick. "It's on fire!" Except it hadn't been, not anymore. Sandy had arrived later, although not years later.

Squeezing his eyes shut, the cat followed his friends into water which easily reached his nostrils. Did he trust Trelos? Of course. Was the water a comfortable temperature? Yes. But he was seriously considering trying to fly himself out into the sunset on a tea tray in the future.

Griping aside, they arrived in the park. Thoroughly shaking off nonexistent water, Nick nodded. "Yes, I'm a kitty." After a careful sniff, he took the treat. "Thank you very much. My name is Nick, and you are?" Chuckling at the Huge Monkey comment - he'd have to remember that one - he murmured to his new acquaintance, "I think the etymology is different, but that's a good mnemonic."

After introductions and pleasantries, the group arrived at the hotel. The room was perfect, and Nick dragged a pillow into the nice dark space under a bed. "Willow? Wanna bunk together?"


T'was strange, mused Rmwtyliin as she walked down the cobblestone streets, to be told that for a time one was tasked with the having of fun, with neither agendas nor...any responsibility whatsoever, really. Her self-appointed little task in fact had lower priority; the only consequence of inaction might be frustration with herself. Delaying would be quite harmless - and, in fact, her duty.

Did I truly just talk myself into having fun? She sighed. This time, it seems as though there's no catch. This place is safe. Really safe. A world where spirits may act openly to protect their charges. I succeeded! I have become fluent -

Rmwtyliin groaned. She still was treating her 'duties' as a compass, and demanding that she meet harsher standards than anyone would have asked of her. "Yes, of course you earned a vacation, but you deserved one anyway."

She thought back further to three people who'd drag her into silliness no matter what, and pulled out her phone. "Your duty is presently to relax and have fun," she recorded in singsong Fvaarnimarn, and set it as her alarm tone. "And though quiet times reach their ends, you must let yourself enjoy life, and touching the many lands."

Starting with this one! The world was lovely, welcoming. It felt homey in quite a few of the important ways; the values fit, the tech wasn't too strange. Idly she imagined taking an ambassadorial position here before recallling that no, she wasn't actually a diplomat and was no longer forcing herself to fit the role. But there could be very few worlds nicer than this, or better for leisure.

Yes, tshe mused as they passed the front desk, the natives were rainbow magic pony people. Ok, that was a bit weird at first, but they aren't alien insect people, bull people, talking cats, spirits, paper... Rmwtyliin had definitely seen weirder people. Ones similar to her neighbors? She muffled a giggle. Neighbors? Wait, they used the same word! A diplomat could never get away with asking, but -

"Hey, Willow -" she chuckled. "This is a really silly question, and I don't want to be rude, but I've been studying English, which is really close to your language - I will peel my shell. Is "neighbor" ever a pun here?

- but Rmwtyliin wasn't a diplomat. She was herself, a curious teenager on vacation talking to someone she knew.

PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2019 4:58 pm
by Giovenith
Upon settling into the hotel room, Willow let Kerouac out of his carrier and prepared him two saucers of milk and food. The little kitten mewed and chowed down while his owner began to muse on how to proceed, but was caught from his thoughts by both Nick and Rmwtyliin.

He raised an eyebrow at the princess. "... I'm, honestly not sure what you mean by that Rmw, sorry. A pun on what?" He reached down with a wing and pet Nick."No problem, buddy. Though Kerouac likes to snuggle, so you'd have to share room with him."

Giovenith popped up beside him as well. "What are we going to do now, Willow?"

The pony looked between all three of them, watching him. Despite the weight of the situation for him, it was his job to keep them all comfortable and entertained.

"Well," he said. "I am going to have to head to Cloudsdale soon for personal reasons. I know that Geo-puzzle wants to come as support, so before we go, we'll have to stop by the library to get the cloud-walking spell from Twilight, since she's the only one I know who knows how to do it. Probably while we're there, I can pick you guys up a few guidebooks to the country so you won't be lost while I'm gone..."

They were interrupted by a something being slipped beneath the door. Giovenith leaped over to pick it up and bring it back.

"Look!" she unfolded a pamphlet. "The Summer Sun Celebration?"

"Oh, right," Willow gently took it from her. "Is it time for that again already?" Time was tricky. "Yeah, you guys could hang at that. That's a big festival with all sorts of summer activities. Food, displays, stories, partying, all the works. You'll stay up to watch the sun rise on the solstice."

PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 12:17 pm
by Zarkenis Ultima
Traveling through the newly minted method that Trelos had offered them was quite the wild ride, what with suddenly being thrust into a cosmic rollercoaster after wading into the sea and then being deposited in a strange place, though overall she didn't mind it - it was no more unsettling than being transported to a city that spanned an entire planet with a spire that reached into the sky, or being turned into a TV that constantly played Tom & Jerry before being dumped on an island. Arriving at a quaint little town during a perfectly pleasant afternoon, Meritari idly rubbed her jeweled bracelet, the same one she had used as bait in Corellia. It was one of the few belongings that she had kept from her past life, something that, fittingly enough, she always had with her - as she touched it without intent, however, it did not create any sort of connection.

Shortly after their arrival, the group was swarmed by curious ponies, pegasi and unicorns similar to Willow and his friend the librarian, who was not present at the time. While Sandy praised them and Willow accepted their greetings while trying to hold them at bay, Meritari simply greeted those that approached and tried to act in a friendly manner. They were visitors, after all.

Soon Willow's dramatic reintroduction to pony society was over, and the group was led to a hotel where they would've staying for the remainder of their vacation. While unfamiliar, the look of the local buildings was charming to Meritari, despite the odd discomfort caused by different anatomical considerations - some doors looked like she'd have to bow just a little bit to get through them, for one. As the group filed into the hotel, Meritari went to her room to get everything set up, which took surprisingly little time on account of her traveling light.

The Kemetian stepped out onto the common room of their suite of sorts just in time to hear about something called the 'Summer Sun Celebration'. Hearing Willow's explanation piqued her interest, and she walked up to the pony, cat and the two women nearby. "Is it happening today? I'd love to go take a look. I think listening to the stories of these people is a good way to get to know them better."

PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 2:14 pm
by Fvaarniimar
Giovenith wrote:Giovenith popped up beside him as well. "What are we going to do now, Willow?"

Whatever you're doing. It was really starting to hit: Willow was leaving. Sure he'd been away before, but...this was more permanent. They'd visit of course, but...Willow needed support? Nick hopped up, pressing against his friend's flank.

"I'd really like to come along and also support you, if that's okay. Also, that sounds like really useful magic - and isn't it pretty complex? Do you think she'd mind sharing? If Sandy could visit the library to learn it, we might leave more quickly. Assuming it's cast on one person at a time, that is."

PostPosted: Sat Jul 06, 2019 5:59 pm
by Northwest Slobovia
During the walk through Ponyville, Sandy's eyes seemed to catch every detail. The town was surprisingly familiar for a non-human society in another dimension. A similar climate might produce similar architecture, but they can control the weather. Is the archtectural style as atavistic as Roman Revival is at home?

The market looked interesting to both Amanda and Sandy, and they discussed returning to it once they were settled.

Golden Horseshoe Suite

Getting settled consisted of pushing their luggage cart into their room, eyeing the bed suspiciously, and deciding they'd deal with it all later.

Amanda pushed a disturbing bed-related image out of her mind, and turned to Sandy. “One question before we go exploring. What was with the effusive praise? The weather's nice, but--”

“They're controlling the weather. It's not natural. Some of them were sustaining spells to keep it nice. The weather, the landscaping, aaaand I think the, um, waterworks too: all magic. What we do with machinery and computers, they do with magic. Alexandria probably was the same at its peak – there were still vestiges of that -- possibly some of the Moslem Iberian cities too.”

Amanda goggled at him, speechless. A playful grin spit Sandy's face. “You haven't been in Kansas for years, Dorothy, and this is the Emerald City. We know there's a pony goddess behind one of these curtains. We just have find out which one.”

“Right. If there's going to be a yellow brick road involved, I'm going to change into a sun dress.” Here, take Toto--” She gently transfered Plutarch from her shoulder to Sandy's. “--and please see if the others have any plans for the day.”

Sandy stroked his parrot's head as it settled onto his shoulder, and left the room, pulling the door shut behind him. He caught the end of a sentence as he entered the common room. “What's this about a festival? Amanda and I were going to take in the town, see what's where.”

PostPosted: Sat Jul 06, 2019 8:15 pm
by Giovenith
"You can come, Nick," Willow gave his head a little nuzzle. "I really appreciate you being there."

Honestly, Willow was torn about what he really wanted. On one hand, his friends standing beside him would be a support through this, but on the other, he didn't exactly want them to see him... well, you know... get emotional. That was the biggest thing winding him up for this. He'd never been good with getting things out on a personal level — everything more sensitive came out in his painting. But there was no way to paint away this hurdle.

He was slightly grateful for a distraction when Sandy came out with his bird. He explained once again as he put away a few more of his things. "The Summer Sun Celebration is a two-day national festival for the summer solstice. It honors Princess Celestia, since she's the princess of the sun and daytime. Every year she picks a different city or town in Equestria to visit to let them personally watch her raise the sun, but Ponyville had its turn a couple of years ago, so she probably won't be here this time. Ponies celebrate by staying up all night in order to watch the sunrise, kind of like New Years. There's going to be all sorts of parties, and since you're all new and unusual guests, I'm sure everypony will want you at theirs."

There was a bit more to this holiday, especially considering what happened last time Celestia visited, but they were a bit short on time for that. Willow was sure somepony else would fill them in.

"I won't be able to join you though," he said. "I've got things to attend to-"

There was a knock at the door that caused Willow to pause. He exchanged a look with Giovenith before going over to answer. He opened the door, and once again the grey pegasus mare with her saddlebag, the one who had dropped all the letters on Willow, was standing there.

"Hi again, Willow!" she said, dropping a few papers from her mouth as she spoke. She scrambled to pick them up. "S-Sorry, am I bothering you?"

The other grey pegasus sighed mellowly. Oh, Derpy. "No, it's fine Derpy. What are you doing here?"

"Oh, uh! I had to come real quickly to give you these!" The mare reached into her saddlebag to pull out several copies of a shiny, pink, hardcover book and handed them all to Willow, who blinked in surprise when he looked at their covers.

"How did you know I wanted these?" He blinked at her, shocked.

"I didn't," the goofy mare flicked her ears with a smile. "But Princess Twilight, she's been dealing with so many new things in Ponyville, and since her and her friends aren't always here to take care of things, she decreed that visitors get free copies of guides to help them. You know how she loves her books!"

Oh, right. Twilight Sparkle was a princess now. He'd forgotten about that. For a moment, Willow felt a sense of displacement, but quickly shook it off since it had worked in his favor. "Well, thanks a lot. I really needed these, you saved me some time."

"No problem!" the mailmare saluted before turning down the hallway.

Willow paused. "Derpy."

"Yeah?" she turned.

He deadpanned and pointed in the opposite direction of the hallway. "The exit is that way."

The mailmare blinked slowly in confusion, before smiling with embarrassment and galloping down the other end. She briefly ran straight into a corner but brushed it off and went on her way. Willow shook his head and closed the door. Giovenith snaked up and took a book.

"Ooo," she remarked. "A Guide to Equestria!"

Willow smiled and handed them out to the members of the group. "These should help you while I'm gone, but you can still ask anypony else for help if you get lost. This town is a really nice place."

PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 5:47 pm
by Northwest Slobovia
Golden Horseshoe Suite

Sandy flipped through the Guide to Equestria, visibly impressed. It covered – summarized – much more information than a typical travel book at home, and did so with amazing concision. He wondered if this 'princess' didn't just decree them, but also wrote them.

A thought flitted across his mind, which was matched by a furrow flitting across his brow. “Do you get many, um, visitors... uhh, of our sort, from way out of town? How much do the... Equestrians know about the cosm-- about how things really work out there?” Years of living on Galli had made him cautious about mentioning the omniverse, and the terse introduction they'd gotten on Bermeja hadn't quite explained whether it still mattered or not. He didn't think so: they seemed to live in a free port now, not a world under siege.

As Sandy spoke, Amanda emerged from their room, now dressed in a white sun dress with floral embroidery. Sandy repeated the description of the night's festival, and Amanda's face practically glowed with her smile. “That sounds delightful! It's been years since we were darlings of the social scene, and longer since I've partied all night, but I'm game!” Her gaze at Sandy was somewhere between hopeful and insistent.

“Yes, of course we'll go. Foreign religious rituals are always revealing, and it's been close to two years since I've seen one! And if Celestia does put in an appearance, that... could... be-- Unless She thinks I'm here on official business from Olympus. Oooh, boy!” He rubbed the back of his head nervously.

“Er, I mean, Pegasus would be one of the more logical ones to send, and if it's the, um, same Tartarus, relations couldn't be that bad. But I'm in no position...” He looked uncertainly at Giovenith and Willow, not really expecting they'd have better answers. Giovenith had long since disclaimed knowing anything about the family business, and it didn't seem that the local deities had or wanted cults for Willow to be a part of.

[OOC: Amanda's dress looks like this one, but the embroidery is full color, with green leaves and many-colored flowers. Also, it has a waist, so it doesn't look like a sack. It fits her well, but was designed to flow rather than cling.]

PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:17 pm
by Giovenith
Giovenith and Willow exchanged a look.

"This planet is full of all kinds of beings and creatures," said Willow. "So it's not that odd to see some fantastical looking person. But as for other dimensions? No, not as far as I know, anyway. I know that apparently the magicians in Canterlot have experimented with dimensional travel, but I don't know how far it's gone. Average ponies definitely don't know anything about this whole cosmic order thing though, that was one of the major things that Geo-puzzle had to teach me when I first came to the human world."

"And I didn't know anything about a world of ponies before meeting Willow and Sterling either," Giovenith confirmed. "I talked a bit with my mom about it, and she says that she knew about Celestia and her pantheon, but hadn't personally met her." Which probably wasn't very helpful considering Giovenith's mother was omniscient. "I find it really hard to believe that the princesses, or at least Celestia, is ignorant about how the bigger picture works though. Unless a god is really young or dormant it's kind of hard to be, being aware of this stuff just comes with the package."

"If somepony asks where you're from, just say some far off land," Willow offered, putting away the last of his things before preparing to head out. "That will be good enough for them. I wouldn't worry about the Princess showing up, Equestria is a big country, there's a lot of places she needs to visit to make things fair." He flitted over to pat Sandy's arm reassuringly. "And even if she did, the Princess is kind, patient, and reasonable. She'd let you explain your situation, and she'd understand. She's not anything like..." He turned to exchange a questioning look to Giovenith, who nodded. "... not like the gods of your world. You have no reason to be afraid of her."

He checked the clock.

"We better get going before things start to pick up," he said, helping Nick up onto his back with a wing. "You know how holidays can get busy. I should be back by tomorrow latest. There are no telephones here, so it'll be hard for you guys to reach me while I'm gone, but you can depend on the ponies here. If you need help, they'll help. Trust them, they've probably survived worse."

With that, Giovenith, Willow, Nick, and whoever else was coming headed out the door.

"I know that we'll be able to walk on the clouds because of the spell," said Giovenith. "But how will we get all the way up to the clouds?"

"We'll rent the balloon," Willow explained, guiding them as they walked through the streets of Ponyville, which had started to bustle a bit with preparations. Some helped with banners, others with floral arrangements of various yellow blossoms, while others simply towed food and decorations to and fro the various houses where they planned to have their get-togethers. "Assuming somepony else hasn't already taken it. First we have to get to- Holy crap!"

The group had rounded a corner on a street that lead into a more communal-built area, largely inhabited by typical houses, except for the conspicuous presence of a giant, scorched ditch gaping right in the middle of the ground. It was surrounded by yellow tape and a few construction props, though there were no workers in sight and the set-up was more to keep fools from stumbling in. Giovenith didn't know what was supposed to be there, but blinked in surprise at something even being present in such an otherwise lovely and orderly town in the first place.

Willow shook his head. "What the fuck happened to the library?!"

A trotting passerby stopped a moment. "It got blown up when an ancient evil tyrant formerly imprisoned by Celestia escaped and tried to take over Equestria."

"Dammit, again?!" Willow sighed, frustrated. He put his face into a hoof. "Where does Twilight live now? I needed a spell from her."

The helpful neighbor pony pointed to a sight further off. "Princess Twilight lives in her new castle at the edge of Ponyville!"

"New castle?" Willow lifted his head.

There, in the nearby distance, stood a tall glimmer of purple and blue. It was a bit hard to look at from this distance and with the sun being so bright, but with some squinting and focus, what appeared to be a giant tree made of precious crystal came into focus. In its strong branches held a castle also made of the crystal, which spiraled up into a familiar, star-like pattern.

Willow blinked. "How did I not see that before?"

"It looks so pretty!" Giovenith exclaimed. "It's like a treehouse, but fancier. Let's go!" And she ran off, prompting her pegasus companion to chase after her.

The passerby blinked in confused thought. "... 'Fuck'?" He tried the foreign word quietly to himself a few times while going on his way.

After a brief jog, the group reached the base of the castle. It was even bigger up close, easily blocking out the sun if you stood close enough to it, making anyone who stood outside look like peanuts in comparison. Surprisingly, no one was guarding it despite it allegedly being the home of a princess. They could walk right up to the front door at the base, though Willow hesitated to do so. Would Twilight even want to speak to somepony like him anymore? She was never the snobbish sort, but he couldn't exactly schedule lunch any time he felt like with any of the other princesses.

With an encouraging nod from Giovenith, he finally worked up the courage to knock on the shiny golden doors.

A moment passed, probably taking a while for whoever was inside to even reach the door, but it did open a crack. The pony who stood there was not Twilight Sparkle though. In fact, she was somepony Willow had never seen before. She was a light, pinkish-purple unicorn with a dark purple mane with striking turquoise highlights, and indigo eyes that peaked round the door at the pegasus pony just as suspiciously as he was looking at her.

"Who are you?" Willow demanded, somewhat rudely. Too much confusion always drew his ire.

The unicorn frowned. "Who are you?" She creaked open the door slightly more to see the rest of the group, her eyes growing. "Are those humans?"

Willow was shocked at how she knew what his companions were. He quickly looked at them, back to her, and tried to once again put on a serious, unperturbed expression. "Maybe."

The mare rolled her eyes and opened the door wider with a sigh. "Well, it's not any stranger than anything else that happens here. Better come on in."

PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:51 pm
by Fvaarniimar
Being in contact, Willow was privy to Nick's immediate reaction to the crystal tree:

"I want to climb it!"  An image of Nick, harnessed to a rope and scaling a crystal slope flashed before the sheepish feline almost guiltily commented, "Er, not that I will.  At least, not without permission from your friend....Wait.  This must be pretty awkward.  If she's your friend, she'll want to see you, okay?  No matter how long it's been ( or how royal(princessydivine?) she's become -"

Nick was interrupted by a colorful unicorn stepping out of the castle.  "Hello.  I'm Nick, from the far off land of..."  Oh, crud.  They hadn't named the far-off land.  Why hadn't he waited?  But Nick had come up with the joke name of Megasimia.  It would have to do, unless he thought of something better very soon.  At least it wasn't a line-of-sight name...

"...Megasi -"  Nick's eyes alighted on the tree as he spoke.  It fit, for a land of monkeys and cats.


PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2019 4:37 pm
by Northwest Slobovia
Ponyville, Equestria

Giovenith wrote:"This planet is full of all kinds of beings and creatures," said Willow. "So it's not that odd to see some fantastical looking person. But as for other dimensions? No, not as far as I know, anyway. I know that apparently the magicians in Canterlot have experimented with dimensional travel, but I don't know how far it's gone.

Sandy blinked and stared at the set of incredible revelations. How much of the world did Sterling describe? How much does he know about? A world full of strange creatures? Sounds like legendary antiquity.

As does the magic. Strange that we should be so far ahead of them, since they have more magic to play with, and use it in preference to developing their material culture. But if they
have succeeded, and their navigation can be made to work with Hypatia's... He nodded to himself, even though he belatedly realized that Willow might take it as acceptance of his statements.

Giovenith wrote:"If somepony asks where you're from, just say some far off land, […] That will be good enough for them. I wouldn't worry about the Princess showing up, Equestria is a big country, there's a lot of places she needs to visit to make things fair." He flitted over to pat Sandy's arm reassuringly. "And even if she did, the Princess is kind, patient, and reasonable. [...] She's not anything like... [...] the gods of your world. You have no reason to be afraid of her."

Sandy was visibly confused as Willow left him. Condescension didn't seem like his style, yet... Could he possibly not know where I was for eighteen months, Galli time? Or that I had some dim grasp on how the pantheons work, that being the significance of my question?

No, of course she won't touch me if she knows: settling that with Olympus could take an eternity, especially since Poseidon bears grudges. If Giovenith knows the rules to their game, Celestia does, and it's only questions of protocol and misunderstanding.

The Belas kept lagging behind the group as they walked through Ponyville, as they kept being distracted by the Equestrians' activities and architecture. Sandy had turned on the holocam fish, even though the Guide provided a bit more meat to Willow's description of the forthcoming festivities: even incidental events could prove significant in retrospect.

As they walked, Amanda turned to Sandy. “This place is so quaint! It's like the tourist towns near Asheville” – she pronounced it like 'Aeshvul' – “or the little towns further up the Hudson from Poughkeepsie. It's making either one seem like a huge metropolis!”

The absent library drew only a single comment, Amanda mumbling “steel mill” to Sandy, who nodded understandingly, before they both turned to look at the new landmark.

Giovenith wrote:There, in the nearby distance, stood a tall glimmer of purple and blue.

Under her breath, Amanda muttered, “Oh, Lordy...” She tugged Sandy's arm so he'd lean down to let her whisper in his ear. “Not at all like our gods?? Oh, I know somebody who'd approve of the architecture: tacky and self-aggrandizing would suit Him just fine!”

Sandy grunted and shot her a dirty look; the building didn't match their cultural expectations, but may be a normal expression of rulership or majesty here. The wide lawn did make him wonder whether it served as a temenos or not. It certainly seemed set apart from the rest of the community, but that may have a different meaning, or simply be coincidental.

Giovenith wrote:She creaked open the door slightly more to see the rest of the group, her eyes growing. "Are those humans?"

Sandy mumbled to himself, “Well, well, well: it appears their research succeeded.” He glanced at Willow and then Amanda, and the latter met him with a serious look and a low hiss. “And they may ask too much. I'll call home for guidance.” Sandy's expression turned stony, and he nodded once as he followed the group into the castle.

Now that he was inside, he got an answer to something that had been puzzling him: the walls were magical; indeed, the structure seemed partially made of magic, explaining how it stood without more support. Which raised other questions about the directions their architecture and and civil engineering had evolved in, since they could substitute magic for material in ways that Earth's societies had lost twice.

Amanda stayed outside for a moment, raised her wedding ring to her lips, and cupped her free hand around it. “Opérateur?” She whispered rapid Academy French into it. “We need information ASAP. The locals may have interdimensional travel. What can we tell them? What can't we?” She moved the ring to her ear, trying to keep it covered. It would look odd, but better they wonder than know.

“One moment.” There was a long pause, then the voice returned, reading from a script in the same French dialect Amanda had used. “You may tell them where and when you're from originally. Otherwise, tell them nothing that they don't know already. Do not correct their mistakes or misunderstandings. Those who need to know more already know.

“Do you understand?”

Amanda was mystified by the last statement, but simply replied. “Understood. Thank you and goodbye.” She hurried to catch up with the others.

PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2019 8:44 pm
by Giovenith
Willow took a moment to smile and nudge Nick. "I'm sure she wouldn't mind, but stay here anyway, it's safer." Twilight and him had never really been 'friends,' at least not close friends, more acquaintances through proximity. He couldn't imagine she had changed much, but then again, he supposed he didn't really know what happened when a normal pony became an alicorn.

He took a moment to take in the crystal architecture himself before looking back at the lavender pony, who was, he was sure, wondering what it was they wanted.

"So, who are you again?" asked Willow, furling his wings in a somewhat protective manner to Nick (and to a longer degree, Giovenith.) "Where's Twilight?"

"Princess Twilight is on a friendship mission with her friends," the unicorn said, raising her own eye at the group. "And my name is Starlight Glimmer. I'm Twilight's... student." She rubbed her head somewhat sardonically at the introduction. "And who are you? I haven't seen you around here."

Figures. It wasn't at all unusual for Twilight and her friends to be gone. It was kind of what they were known for, actually. "My name is Willow Streaks, I used to live here in Ponyville."

"And the humans and talking cat?" Starlight pointed out the rest of the group, dryly.

Willow paused, uncertain how to explain it. "Long story."


"How do you know what humans are?"

"Long story."


"Walk with me," Starlight urged, leading the group ahead. She walked them through the halls, which were further decorated with root-like structures made of crystal, many doorways and windows made of stained glass. "I assume you're here for a book or something? That's usually what residents stop by here for, if not a friendship problem directly."

"Yeah, my friends here can't exactly walk on clouds, so I was hoping Twilight could cast that cloud-walking spell of hers on them," Willow explained. "They're coming with me to Cloudsdale."

"Unfortunately, a lot of Twilight's old books were destroyed with the rest of Golden Oaks Library," Starlight stopped by a door. "We've gotten a lot of them replaced since though, and besides, cloud-walking is pretty easy. I can whip it up for you myself since she's not here."

"That would be great!"

The unicorn opened two doors with her magic that lead into a massive library — it was the kind where the shelves stretched up to a tall ceiling and circled all around the room with no break inbetween them. Willow whistled quietly, impressed. Whatever else might have changed about Twilight Sparkle, her love for books stayed the same. He wished Sterling had been there to see it. He turned his head and freezed on the most conspicuous sight in the room: a giant contraption made of coils, tanks, levers, crates, and what appeared to be a very tall mirror. With the lack of noise and light, he assumed it was turned off.

"What is that?" Willow asked, pointing at the machine.

Starlight looked to wear he was pointing as she levitated a tea tray. She paused, considering. "That, is how I know about humans. Like I said, it's a long story. Just don't touch it, it's sensitive."

PostPosted: Sun Jul 14, 2019 4:14 pm
by Northwest Slobovia
The Castle of Friendship, Ponyville, Equestria

Sandy followed along with the tour of the castle, examining the building with interest but little reference. It seemed unnecessarily large, like the mansions of the extremely rich, and he wondered if Twilight rattled around in it, or simply lived in a small part of it, leaving the rest to dust and cobwebs.

As they entered the library, he spoke to nobody in particular. “I seem to have my answer: she lives here.”

Amanda, who'd just caught up with the him, figured out what Sandy was babbling about by the way he started to head for the nearest books: another bookworm.

Giovenith wrote:"What is that?" Willow asked, pointing at the machine. [...] Starlight looked to wear he was pointing as she levitated a tea tray. She paused, considering. "That, is how I know about humans. Like I said, it's a long story. Just don't touch it, it's sensitive."

Sandy turned to follow Willow's outstretched hoof, and the books were immediately forgotten. He made a rapid bee-line for the machine, stopping a few feet from it, and clasping his left wrist in his right hand behind his back. He started to walk a slow circle around it, inspecting it closely, Seeing how it functioned.

Amanda kept a respectful distance from the device. “Is that what I think it is?”


“How does it compare?” She gave a conspiratorial glance in Starlight's direction after making sure Sandy was looking at her.

He gave his head the tiniest of shakes as he went back to tracing the physical and magical connections within the machine. “I can't tell. It's doing something though.” Amanda took a healthy step back.

When he got to the machine's back, or at least the side opposite the mirror, he leaned closer to it and dropped into a low crouch as he tried to Look more closely at Celestia's book. “Wooow!” He caught Amanda peering around the mirror at him. “It's... running from, um, maybe stealing power from this book, and the book itself is...” He looked in Giovenith's direction just long enough for Amanda to guess at what he meant. “Like that.”

Even from the long distance between them, Amanda spotted the glint in his eyes. “Oh, no! Perhaps you should ask first, dear.” She could see his grin grow, and if Nick was near enough, he'd have trouble keeping Sandy's temptation to study the machine further out of his mind... studying it with borrowed ears.

PostPosted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 2:55 pm
by Giovenith
There were some nuances to the machine. The mirror itself was very, very old — well-polished and sturdy, but ancient, probably several millennia. There was a lot of deeper, complicated work put into it, and though it was currently dormant, the same clock-like beating energy was resonating within in.

The book by comparison was recent, only a few years old. Its magic was more simple, but it stretched out further, a long tethering reaching out into the aether to some unknown destination, like a piece of uncuttable wire attaching two metal cans.

Starlight observed the couple pointedly for a moment, and upon deciding they likely wouldn't break anything, turned to searching the shelves for the relevant book. Giovenith stood back and watched as the pony's turquoise magic enveloped one book after another. It shouldn't have been a very anxious task, and yet, that's quickly what it became the longer it went. A book would be pulled out, and her heart rate would pick up with a brief spike of dread; when it was put back, relief, but also more dread at the knowledge that it only meant one book closer to finding the right one. Then, it really would be the beginning of the end.

She looked back down at Willow, who had begun to converse with Starlight as she walked him through the steps and effects of the spell. He didn't stand out anymore like he normally did, this was his world. Even being the dark, grumpy, dry thing he could be, it was still clear to her that he was a product of Equestria, gentle, humble, and sincere. He belonged to Celestia, always had, and always would.

Giovenith wasn't that silly, or selfish. She'd always known that Willow would never stick around forever — in the literal sense. He didn't want big, stupid things like that. It's just... she had really wanted him to be there. She wanted them to see "Loving Vincent" together. She wanted him to show her how to be in an art show. She wanted him to be with her when she got married. She wanted him to meet her kids. She wanted to help him get everything he ever wanted in his own life for as long as it went.

But once they found that book, she was sure, none of that was ever going to happen.

Well, it doesn't matter that much, she tried to internally reassure herself. Most of that stuff was never going to happen anymore anyway...

She took a deep breath to stave off any more depressed thoughts and straightened. There was still time! They'd be here for a while, after all, and no one in Giovenith's life disappeared right away. Now that she knew it was coming, she could just make the best of it. They could have one last great time together, the best time, and then maybe, maybe, it wouldn't be so bad to lose him.

"Here," Starlight finally said, pulling out the book needed and rapidly skimming the pages with her magic. She briefly made eye contact with Giovenith, a bit confused as to what the sentient primate did and didn't know. "You um, just hold still, it won't hurt."

The godling nodded with a smile, wanting to be polite. "It's no problem."

The unicorn's horn alit again with the turquoise magic, and there was a slightly hum that reminded Giovenith of bowl music. The magic consumed her, Willow, and Nick for a moment, and then with a pop, it was gone. None of them felt any different.

"I told you it was simple," Starlight mused. "It doesn't wear off for a pretty long time, so don't feel like you're on tight deadline. Just be careful is all. Also, obviously, it doesn't make you fly, so don't go jumping off anything."

PostPosted: Tue Jul 23, 2019 5:41 pm
by Northwest Slobovia
Giovenith wrote:The book by comparison was recent, only a few years old. Its magic was more simple, but it stretched out further, a long tethering reaching out into the aether to some unknown destination, like a piece of uncuttable wire attaching two metal cans.

Intrigued by the machine's construction, Sandy barely heard Amanda's admonition. He nodded acceptance without really hearing what he'd agreed to.

Giovenith wrote:Giovenith stood back and watched as the pony's turquoise magic enveloped one book after another.
The unicorn's horn alit again with the turquoise magic, and there was a slightly hum that reminded Giovenith of bowl music. The magic consumed her, Willow, and Nick for a moment, and then with a pop, it was gone. None of them felt any different.

“Interesting...” Her telekinesis is like Sterling's: innate, like magery, but her casting is like nothing I've seen before.

He started to say something, but Amanda was quicker to find her tongue. “Could you cast your cloudwalking spell on us too, please? We'd like to join Willow as well.”

Sandy chimed in. “Yes, yes, please. I'd like to, uhhhh, See it in action, which... is easier if it's cast on me. You don't mind if I do, do you?” He paused: no, that wasn't quite what he said he'd do. Oh, right!

His gaze jumped between Starlight and Willow, not sure who to ask or quite how to phrase his question. “Are there... shapeshifters here? People or animals who can change form? I... um, can better understand your spell and your machine in another form. I don't want to surprise you with it, though.” He waved airily at the portal, though he had the sense to keep his hand away from it: it seemed to run on divine magic, and there was no telling how they'd react to that being messed with.

After a bit of a pause. “I have some questions about it. This book, for instance: it was made... written... enchanted... uh, by one of the Princesses, yes?” Another question: why 'Princesses'? Did they call their world's Greater Beings 'Kings' and 'Queens'? Why? Other than this castle, there's no sign of any monarchies, nor did Sterling mention any.

PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 10:36 pm
by Giovenith
Starlight snapped her attention at Sandy with a critical and suspicious expression, followed shortly by a brief panic from Willow. Seeming to understand what she might be suspecting, he moved in to clarify.

"He's a magician," he told her quietly. "He can turn into another thing, it's one of his specialties. That's what he means. You can test us if you want."

The mare shook her head, her expression relaxing a bit. "No. If you were Chrystalis' changelings, you wouldn't exactly be showing off your shapeshifting." She lifted her chin and smiled. "I'm just surprised that there are humans who know magic. Twilight told me that your world didn't have any and relied on technology."

"It's a bit rarer there," Giovenith added. "But there are a few who can do it."

"Well she'll be happy to learn that," said Starlight. "Maybe you should stop by Canterlot while you're visiting." She quickly searched for the page again. "The book is a magic journal that used to belong to Princess Celestia. She used it to communicate with one of her former students — when you write something in the journal, the same writing appears in its twin, and vice versa. The mirror opens itself once every few years, and during one of its openings, the student took the twin journal with her to the human world. The connection between the books is still there, and Princess Twilight figured out a way to use the connection to force the portal open any time."

The cleverness of the machine didn't surprise Willow, though the journals itself did. "Seriously?" he raised an eyebrow and wrinkled his nose. "Something like that exists and the rest of us are stuck with regular bullshit postal service?"

"They're hard to make and expensive," Starlight explained, though her deadpan expression and puckered lips hinted that she wasn't detached from Willow's sentiment. "You mostly only see them in Canterlot."

Willow sighed and smoothed out his bangs. "Of course you do."

Starlight's smile took on a wryness as she seemed to bite her tongue on something. She cleared her throat. "Anyway, let's hurry this up and get you ponies on your way. Don't want to keep anypony waiting."

The magic returned and overtook the Belas. For Amanda it would have felt as inconsequential as it had been for the others. For Sandy's senses, the information poured in: Starlight as an individual's magic was very, very strong. She was not a god, but she was naturally gifted and experienced. It surpassed most of the other unicorns in town, such that one malicious thought could make them all instantly regret even considering visiting the wholesome dimension, not that they had anything to fear from her — her will was simple and benign in that moment. It was clear, however, why a Princess might want to keep her close.

On a more general, deeper level was the essence of unicorn magic itself. It was conducted and aimed with the horn, willed by the mind, but generated from within and attached to something greater than the pony. This wasn't a magic you could replicate or bargain for, you either had it or you didn't. It, like most things here, was also timed with the powerful, primordial beat that seemed to be the song of this dimension, accompanied by a rhythm and melody of overwhelming, flickering majesty — it was the fire of the stars, of everything bright and brilliant and mysterious in the sky and far beyond it, burning inside each one of the little horned horsies. It was as if they had been shaped around it, living torches on earth, and they would continue to be so until whatever distant day there were no more unicorns in the world anymore.

In a quick instant, everyone in the room could now walk on clouds. It was as straight-forward as an invisible bubble of energy that would buoyant them when they came into contact with the air mass so that it would seem no different from walking on (slightly squishier) land.