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An echoes of the hurried hoof-steps could be heard across the empty halls of the School of FriendshipTM . The late evening hours left the building near empty, especially since Heartswarming Eve break was coming near - most students already left to reunite with their families for the holiday.

 

These facts wasn't in the mind of the unicorn visitor. He was there to meet with the Principal herself, bearing the most exciting news - the discovery that would certainly interest Princess Twilight Sparkle greatly. Enough that he came here all the way from the Itaily without a moment of rest. And how could he rest? He was exited himself, at the prospect of discovery and adventure.

 

Swift Squall was sure that by now Sparkle had studied the journal of Rye Wind that he presented her with very thoroughly. Or at least he hoped she did. For where they were going, the knowledge present in that book may turn very needed indeed.

 

His search led his to Principals Office quickly, even though he never was in the building before. Noblepony paused to take a deep breath and composure himself. Seconds later he knocked at the door, and without waiting for permission he entered.

"Good evening Miss Sparkle. It's been a while." he greeted the lavender mare.

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The School of Friendship was unusually quiet this time of year. An active hub for young minds to explore the emotional bonds that underpinned the world around them. it usually echoed and rang sharply with the din of young voices laughing, chattering, and learning through joy what Twilight had been forced to understand under duress. She was happy to provide such a service. The School was working to provide a better future for not just Equestria but the entire world, and it was something that could only have been spawned by the revelations and work that she and her friends had endured and undertaken over the years. Soon it would be up to the next generation to bring the world ever closer to the ideals that she believed in. To be the Headmare at such an institution was perhaps her greatest source of pride- even more than her accomplishments as a Princess. 

 

That was why she was always willing to put in the extra work required to keep the School operating at peak efficiency. She was working on a restructuring of Applejack's Honesty Class due to the mare's extra busy schedule when she started to hear the panicked- no, determined- galloping of a stallion. Had to be. Sounded heavier than other options and nopony she knew to expect was supposed to be here. She finished writing for the moment and put the quill away, her face wearing an expectant smile as she looked at the door. She would rather be allowed to work in her spare time but if somepony needed help, that would always come first for her. Hopefully nothing serious. She didn't want to As if on cue, it opened. She was shocked by who it was...if only because she was sure he would normally wait for her at the Castle for the sense of importance of it.

 

For all of her jokes, she liked Swift Squall. He was a good stallion and was always doing something he thought was best for Equestria. Made him an excellent member of EPIC and a truly great Equestrian citizen. He may sometimes be a little dramatic but at the end of the day everything he did helped Equestria. Not a pony she would ever ignore, even here. "Swift Squall! Happy to see you," she said as she trotted over and gave him a courtesy hug. A mug of cocoa was floating. "Want something to drink? Please, take a seat."

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"Thanks. I wouldn't mind." unicorn said with gratitude while near-slumping onto offered chair. Squall then proceeded to take his shades, revealing puffed eye-bags, before taking a big gulp of cocoa, all in complete silence. After emptying his mug stallion gave a sight of relief, before turning his gaze - now much more focused - gaze at the mare before him.

 

"We found one of Mycus Thrice-Blessed workshop-labs." Swift said, getting straight to the point, unlike the last time when they discussed the subject.

"I assume you know about weather order mix-up in Itaily. Funny how one wrong comma could cause so much trouble." swordpony mused.

"But I digress. As a result, Roam and it's close vicinity got much more snowfall than it got in prior two dozen centuries. Normally the weather ponies would take care of these, but since they got their hooves full with clearing the rest of the region - even with reinforcements from rest of the realm - they just cleared the skies and let the sun do the job. Predictibly that much water caused few landslides in the hillsides surrounding the city." Squall explained.

 

"Now, I happened to be in Roam for business reasons. My company was negotiating a contract of renovating St. Freesia Cathedral. In the middle of the negotiations one of my employees brought to me the information that one of those landslides uncovered something unusual. So I excused myself, and left wrapping up the meeting to my assistants." noblepony kept going.

"The place happened to be five miles out of the city. At first I thought that it was a simple sinkhole caused by the earth movements. But when I got closer I realized why I was called. It was to smooth, and the walls were laid down with stone. Also the remains of the stairs at the edge helped." he added, his words getting quicker, and quicker.

"But it wasn't until I inspected the obelisk-shaped newels that I realized what we found. On each one was engraved a sigil. Mycus's sigil, way too specific for anypony else. Because I studied Rye Wind journal so thoroughly before giving it to you, I recognized it right away. Realizing what it meant, I left Itaily at once." Squall said. Before reaching to his pocket. "While I hurried here, on the transfer I got report of scanning that survey team did in my absence." He said while hoofing the document to Twilight, so she could read the results.

"Bizarre isn't it? If I have to guess the whole place is magically sealed. Probably have a aeather screening against scrying as well, but , again, is just my assumption, I am no specialist." Swift said before pausing to catch a breath.

 

"But You are Miss Sparkle. So that's pretty much it. Now, we have to leave as quickly as possible. I already contacted my other employees. One of my airships will pick us up, while as we speak, others are transporting necessary equipment from depot in Germaney." he announced while standing up.

"Common Miss Sparkle, I help you pack up. We have no time to lose."

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Twilight sat down and listened to Swift Squall as he explained the situation. He got to the point this time, rapidly catching her up on what seemed like a potentially exciting discovery. Unlike Swift Squall, Twilight had her reservations about the modern-day importance of the projected discovery outside of the scholarly realm. Much of what had been discussed by Rye Wind and Mycus Thrice-Blessed were known in the modern-day thanks to the increasing influence of scholarly trade with Unyasi. Still, there were mysteries that surrounded both of them. Exciting, too. Somewhat tragic. But scholarly nonetheless. And the fact it was hidden away only made it all the more appealing. Sift Squall needed somepony with Twilight's arcanic knowledge and skill to help, and she was more than happy to help. The mysteries were simply too...mysterious to say no to!

 

"Hmm, if I had to guess based on this..." she muttered mostly to herself, her eyes scanning what information was laid before her, "Sarcana's Runic Time spell mixed with Latticed Shielding? No, no- there would be cracks in the lattice regardless, even if the strength of the barrier at large was kept up. Durango Aetheric Tide? Maybe, no residual evidence to show the ebb and flow. Starswirl's Arcanic lock? That could be it. Very powerful, but rather basic," she said as she popped several books nearby and started reading. "If it is though...and it has been revealed, then we actually don't have a lot of time. The Arcanic Lock, if not upkept, grows weaker with exposure to the sun. And while it was well hidden before, that weakening will only grow worse over time. Knowing what te Arcanic Lock is all about, however, this means a path won't just open up- it will open up and then parts of the area will start to rapidly age. So we need to get work with some speed," she said as she got up, placed the books way, and then teleported a small saddlebag onto her back.
"I'm ready, Swift Squall. Lead the way!" She said energetically, excited to see what magic awaited her.

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"See. That's what I was talking about Miss Sparkle. You see lines and numbers and you already could make hypothesis of what magic was used. I know the spells by name, but math behind them? My own studies focused on mathematical economics. What I know of arcane comes more from first-hoof experience than scholarly text." unicorn pointed out.

 

"Well then, let us hope that you analysis is incorrect - no offense to your knowledge. Miss Sparkle. We have little time as it is, without having to race against degradation of some ancient spell." Squall said while raising from the seat, only for his legs to start wobbling dangerously. Noblepony only saved himself from the fall by using his sheathed blade as a makeshift cane to lean on.

"I am....fine. Just tired. Didn't had much to sleep." swordpony said to concerned Princess while he straightened up. "I will catch some sleep when we will be  aboard the skyship." he added as they left Twilight's office.

 

As they were walking the School of Friendship's empty halls, Squall did his best to keep conversation going.

"My haste wasn't just because of the excitement of the discovery Miss Sparkle. While you analysis only adds to our need for urgency, I had much more prosaic reason for my quickness...." unicorn mused. "....Politics." he said, with a clear loathing in his voice.

"It was no coincidence that St. Freesia Cathedral that is getting renovated just now. That is idea that came from the Mayor of Roam you see...." Swift started his explanation.

"As you may know......he isn't very popular with his electorate. Some really poor decisions on his part, his management of public money being lacking...that sort of thing." stallion said.

"And of course, so it happens that his current term is coming to an end rather soon. So of course he is desperate for a opportunity to score some popularity points. What's better way to do so, then restoring  Roam's landmark, and Equestria's Site of Heritage to it's former glory? So he launched a call for tenders, and Tempest Corporation, My corporation, happened to win this one."  Squall added.

 

"Keeping this in mind, know that the survey site is at the very edge of Mayor's administrative power. If he knew a real reason why I left the meeting, he without the doubt would try to take control of both the survey and the excavation. All to earn a few more votes, competence be damned." businesspony snarled. "He would probably end up breaking something in his chase after higher PR score. And since this isn't the land I own, I couldn't sic my lawyers to keep him at bay. I needed somepony with authority big enough to put him in place. You being a specialist for the arcane, and already being familiar with Mycus's work made you natural choice." Swift revealed while they walked through the school's front door.

 

The last tether's of sunlight died out on the edge of horizon, and orange glow of dusk was replaced by the glow of the stars. The lights in the surrounding buildings indicated however, that it wasn't time for rest just yet.

"It should be here any minute now." Squall said into night sky before turning to lavender mare.

"You may wish to cast something sound dampening Sparkle. Bevel's latest creation can't really be called  'subtle'." he warned, just as the roar of engines started to be heard, still far away, but fast approaching.

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Twilight saw the slip and momentarily moved to help, but he had it under control. Of course, control was an overestimate of it. He was clearly tired and at the end of his rope. As he spoke, her face showed clear concern. Less for what he was telling her and more for his own well being. She had carefully selected each and every member of EPIC for their skills, abilities, and character. A certain level of grating tenaciousness was present in any of them, Swift Squall included, and she wouldn't disabuse her agents from pushing themselves until they felt they couldn't go any further. Especially one as prideful and forward-facing as the gentlecolt next to her. She would allow his physical issues to take a backseat for now, though she wasn't one to forget such matters. They would need to be addressed later.

 

For now, she simply ran over what he had said. The internal politics of Roam were certainly more intriguing than nations outside of the Provinces of Itaily, since there were actual elections there. She had heard about the mismanagement of the Mayor there, not that it was all that unique. Roam had a long history of incompetence in civil administration that it proudly upheld despite all of its great advantages. Tempest Corporation responding to such a tender was not a surprise, nor did it feel anything other than fated that they had done so. Maybe none of this happens if another company is at the helm of the project. She wouldn't have been called this early, that much was for certain.

 

"If it comes to it leave the Mayor to me. The limits of his administrative power end where the interests of Equestria as a whole begin, and this is certainly within the interests of Equestria. Most importantly, he wouldn't be able to get through the barrier, even weakened. At least not for a while. Mundane efforts won't drain the barrier not breach it, and even more advanced magical unsealing techniques won't do much. It requires an excessively inane knowledge of such matters," she said with a bit of a laugh at her own experience, "and somepony with the time to devote to very specific disciplines. Or somepony with even more time to devote to studying every discipline. Few ponies exist with those qualifications, and I know where they all are right now," she said as they breached the castle doors and waited outside.

 

She picked it up early, her Alicorn hearing being a few shades superior. It also kept the sound below a harmful level, but she knew better than most that it was likely to be an issue for others. Her horn lit up and a small beam fired off towards the source of the noise, enveloping it and dampening the sound many octaves. You could still hear it, but only faintly unless it was right on top of you. "I'm always excited by what Bevel has made. Such engineering creativity!" 

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"Thank you." Squall said gratefully when Twilight offered to take the political burden on herself. "I myself know how to play this 'game' but I take no joy from it. I guess it makes me an odd kind of noble, isn't it?" he asked.

 

"..........Not for a while you say. Does that means that somepony could brute-force thought the spell-fields after a while? And this aeather decay....if the sunlight is the cause, can we stop it by blocking further exposure to sunlight? Casing Reldar's Looming Shadow, Sphaera Tenebrae, Shield of Winter's Night or.....setting a giant tent over the shaft?" Squall inquired.

 

Twilight joked about how obscure some of the information she gathered was. Swift however, didn't found anything funny about it.

"There is no such thing as 'useless knowledge'. Only poorly utilized." he commented.

 

Unicorn nodded in agreement on Princesses comment about Gear's inventive skill.

"Creative she is, although I wish half of the things she make wouldn't roar like thunder. Thunder....." he repeated before giggling against himself as the boarding ramp extended down from still airborne vessel.

 

The insides of the aircraft were surprisingly quiet despite of the noise that the engines were making outside. There also shown that while it's owner was not above the luxuries that his fortunes brought, the practical uses were far more important than that. The pair were welcomed by spectacle wearing earth pony mare in uniform resembling a military one. There was something familiar about her....

"Welcome back Sir. And Welcome Princes Twilight aboard 'Découverte'. Please enjoy yourself during voyage." she said before raising an eyebrow at the poor state Squall was in.

"Long day, Sir?" the mare asked.

"Make that two. I will take a leave after this. Take a trip to Saddle Arabia with Moto...." he answered before realizing that he wasn't alone.

"Miss Sparkle, this is Alexandrite Annurca. One of most trusted and competent ponies under my employ."

 

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