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"It is possible you could, but...the void you saw existed for a reason," she started. It was true that she had expected the void from Rose, but nonetheless they had range to cover.
"It is based at least part on some perception, which tends to collect similar visions into wholes, as expressed in these infinite shared vistas. You perceived a void because death was an end to you. More importantly, harmony is not yet entirely within you. And without harmony, without the magic of friendship, you cannot truly be projected down here. I see that now; so many ponies, yet only recently have I seen numbers of other species come here. Once you have embraced these universal truths, perhaps you will find her, if she can be," she said, thinking of the recent arrival of Changelings, larger numbers of Griffons, and Yaks to name a few.

 

"I also know what powers this place. Afterlife or magical gestalt, it cannot exist without death. Because whether these vistas are a magical subconscious or an afterlife, it grows with death, checked by life," she said as they reached the metaphysical end of the hallway, back where they started. Replacing the doors now was a pulsing magical sensation that seemed to wax and wane with new heartbeats they could both feel- some starting, some ending.

 

"There is a magical balancing act that the world maintains naturally. The balance of life and death is delicate but it helps stretch magical energy in a sustainable manner. Too much of either and this place starts to fall apart. The weaker vistas, the weaker spirits, the weaker shades, they cease to be. Total oblivion," she looked down, shaking her head. "That, as much as the end of one's life, is why war is to be avoided. It doesn't take too much of an imbalance to sentence sections of this place to the oblivion of the void forever," she whispered with an unmistakable weight.

 

A pregnant pause, then she looked up. Replacing her motherly, warm aura came something different. Her eyes were steeled, if still full of love, now combined with purpose. She stood up, regal and imposing, if not aggressive, stern if not angry.
"Now, imagine there is too much life. The finite magic is stretched and stretched. And what happens when you stretch something too far, Rose?"
 

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That's right. Living creatures absorb and use magic throughout their life, releasing it upon death. If every creature were to live forever, there'd be a magical famine. In attempting to bring life eternal, she'd condemn the entire world as it was ran dry of the very essense that fuels it. Not only that, but in depriving this place of magic as well, thousands of souls would cease to be... 

 

"... All I ever wanted," she started in a small tone of voice, hanging her head under that steely gaze. She couldn't stand to meet it. "Everything I stand for is to promote life and perpetuate a creature's continued existence. But, perhaps..." Looking up, she saw that these beings did continue to exist, in some form or fashion, after death. If not the very concept of who they were. "Perhaps death isn't the cessation of existence I had thought it was. I still can't wrap my head around it- I want to hold on, but..."

 

Sighing, she returned her attention to Twilight, fearlessly locking eyes with the powerful alicorn. "I think I understand why you brought me here, Twilight. It was to show me that life cannot exist without death, and that in attempting to disrupt the natural cycle, I may very well condemn creation. I just wish it didn't have to be so..."


She thought, then, as she usually did. She thought on a solution. Her mind always turned to solutions when confronted with an unknown. Was there some way to create magic? Or was magic like matter and energy, unable to be created or destroyed. She could always draw magic from other realms- poke holes in the fabric of space and dip the metaphorical straw in, but not, that would only cause long-term harm to the target world.

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"Yes, you would. And you know now why you cannot pursue the end of your line of thinking. It is not possible to accomplish it and even if it were, you know now why you should not," she responded, her voice never wavering from a certain stony centrism that could come off as either overly stern or underwhelming in force, depending on the state of those that heard it. She softened as she started to walk into the void, the light blinking out behind them.
"Death is simply a transition," she nodded along. It was hard to stomach, having your world view challenged so and in such a way. "A transition to what is, as I said, up to perception. Applejack would look at her parents and absolutely believe it is their souls that inhabit that realm. That they are there, in as real a sense as when they were in Equestria, their feelings and emotions and memories informed by their lived experiences as honestly as any other life," she said before she came to a stop, the pregnant pause uneasy in nature.


"I'm not so sure I entirely believe that myself. I have too many questions to form a real hypothesis. I would love to say I expect to learn, but Celestia said it was something she could never fully come to understand herself," she ended with a laugh, mirthless as it was before a strange white pulsing at the edge of their vision lit the landscape. It died off, but happened again and again, the delay growing shorter.
"Though it appears we will be returning now- you didn't think I'd allow you to die for good, did you? We'll be returning to the pool before we started to sink. You won't remember much of the specifics of what you saw or heard, but you will remember what you learned. Ready?"

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Rose scoffed at that. Was she ready? Her entire world just got turned on its head- for the second time, no less- and now Twilight was essentially telling her this would all be a dream in a couple moments. She'd be back a slightly more informed, moping mess... 

 

Taking one last look at the doors, searching for something that she couldn't find quite yet, she sighed. There was nothing for it, nothing more she could gleam from this experience for now. "I am ready, Twilight."

 

'Swimming' over to her through the returning, slightly lighter dark, she grabbed the alicorn's hoof and braced herself for resurfacing. Heh, resurfacing into reality.

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Rose pulled herself in close to the Alicorn who willingly took the smaller creature into her. The air around Rose would grow thick for a moment before she physically ceased to be- again, if she ever existed in the first place. Twilight's eyes glowed a burning white as as she ascended from the darkened hallway that now ceased to be.


The veil between realities, between life and death, were as little more than thin membranes of ill-tempered water that an Alicorn parted as if it were the air. With eyes that only two had possessed or would ever possess, Twilight saw that which was and is and the variances of all that in between in a moment that lasted an eternity, an eternity that was and was not all at once, as she ushered what remained of Rose's magical essence along. Time itself was malleable and she played with it until the proper arcanic signature was found- the exact yactosecond it was cast. Twilight in the pool, Rose before she had entered, in a rare moment of silence before they started to completely submerge. She ushered Rose into her body and fell into hers. 

She took a few deep breaths, her body free of the timeline for a bit. She would have what felt like an eternity to wait before the spell ended. She took some time to mold Rose's magical essence into a more perfect fit for her past self. It was this that would rob her of detailed knowledge of what had transpired- she would have an understanding of the facts she had learned and the reality of them, but not how she had come to learn them. This was essential. Only the mind of an Alicorn was designed with the cosmic capability of rationalizing within the mind the co-existence of realities. She had tested this out on many creatures- the result was uniformly a complete breakdown in their ability to perceive anything, the destruction of the Id, the Ego, and the Superego at once. So, sad but true, but her experiences would be clipped.

 

When she was done, she allowed herself a zeptosecond of relief. Then she sped time up relative to her experiences until a nanosecond had passed after her spell had cast-

"This lake is one of several in Equestria that I have found and marked. They have special properties. To most creatures, the water here is little different from highly enriched mineral water. A little rich tasting for water, but otherwise not abnormal. However, that is not the case," she submerged all four legs in it, smiling. It felt warm, warmer than warm even. "This pool has water that is actually not water at all, but liquified aether, or aether in liquid form. Highly unusual and impossible to reproduce artificially. It is a wonder of our planet and nature alike," she went deeper in and looked at Rose. "Care to take a dip? We can just relax, the two of us. I'm interested in how you and Aloe are doing!"

A nice, friendly dip between growing friends. What could be more important than that?
 

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Rose stood there for a long few seconds, staring at the alicorn as she strode into the pool. Something was naggling at her... And she wasn't sure what it could be. Subtly, she cast a self-diagnosis spell on herself as she slowly approached the lip of the pool, testing the waters with a hooftip.

 

She wasn't sure what to make of what she found. Nothing seemed out of place... But she knew something had changed. Mentally pinging a simulacrum, she found a discrepancy, but decided not to make much of a fuss about it. Nothing had been removed, just... Altered. Or added?

 

"Aloe..." Now that was a topic she could focus on. Smiling, she cast aside her fears and doubts and confidently strode into the waters, seamlessly shifting into her piscine form as she approached the terrestrial pony. (Or would it be celestial?) "She is doing well, last I checked. Healthy, happy- the egg, too ~"

 

She giggled into a hoof, squinting at the mare with mirth as she stopped in front of her. Why had she so casually dropped that clue? She'd been wary of revealing too much before, but now... She felt they were a little closer. Hells, she transformed right in front of her, although that could be passed off as secretely being a seapony. "I was actually hoping you could bless it, when it comes out. Where I hail from, the blessing of a cleric or monarch brings fortune and favor upon the recipient, and I have great plans for her..."

 

Trailing off, that naggling feeling in the back of her head came back, and she zoned out for a moment. Children... She was a child, once. A child of someone... had that ever come up? Unlikely, there wasn't any reason to. 

 

"Twilight," she started, furrowing her brows. She wanted to ask... But that'd kind of ruin the mood, and she was quite content as things were. Smiling, she fully relinquished her worries for the day- she could worry later. "Thank you for bringing me out here. It's a beautiful sight."

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That small flash of recognition wasn't unexpected, not really. It took time for the magical conduit of the body to acclimate to being rebound, for the mind to rewrite the reality it existed in. In time there would be no confusion, no sense of being off. For most ponies this was rather instant- they'd never know at all that anything was strange. It took a greater connection to the various magical arts for that uneasy feeling to even exist. Still, it wouldn't take long for it to vanish, for her memories to correct themselves in a manner most befitting this reality. She'd help it along. "The water is lovely, but you'll feel a little uneasy at first. The magic here interferes initially with our our auras due to the sheer volume of it, creating a lot of false auric signatures and a sense of general unease. You'll get used to it quick enough and it shouldn't be a problem in future visits," she said as her tail flicked the water, watching her friend transform and allowing herself to grow more comfortable in her presence.

 

The comfort shared between them allowed Rose to ask Twilight to be part of something very special. It wasn't uncommon for ponies to ask the royals to bless unions, bless births, and otherwise give grace to important events in their lives. Such a concept existed beyond the borders of Equestria of course and she knew many customs- this would be a new one. "I'd be honored!" She said, touching her hoof to her partially submerged chest as her horn lit up, allowing a notebook and quill to flow into existence. After all, she still needed to get some information. "Tell me everything I need to know to do this for you, any unique customs or desires. And spare no details- we have time and I want to learn," she laughed as the water flowed around her mane, the flowing symbol of royalty losing cohesion and strand by strand spreading across the pool. It was as comfortable as she had been in some time.

 

And why not? What better way to spend the time, than to spend that time with a friend.

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Twilight's explanation seemed to put the young queen at ease. It made sense, in a way. A high enough concentration of magic will, inevitably, have adverse effects on a creature's psyche. But then why wasn't Twilight being affected by it? Was she resistant to its affects, or simply too strong for it to affect her? She knew alicorns were phenomenally powerful beings, so that logic could checked out, but it didn't explain why it caused symptoms in Rose herself...

 

Rose Compass, from the very first moment she gained any autonomy, was a researcher at heart. She studied, disected, and rationalized everything around her- specifically biology. Changeling queens were powerful entities in their own right, and with enough love, could theoretically possess unlimited power. She'd tested that theory out in her old life- which ironically nearly caused the death of her entire crew, and the creation of a legendary sea monster.

 

... Such was not the time for such ponderings, though. Twilight was eager and willing to understand an aspect of her culture, and she could respect that. "Well, Twilight, the ritual began as a way to comfort the citizens of Andalusia in war-times. The first Queen, Queen Moor I, would bless her knights before sending them off to battle, to keep them safe and ensure they return home to their waiting families.  When the Great Plague of Seville swept through our fair country, many of our doctors perished before we could even identify the cause. By the time we realized what was happening, hundreds had succumbed to disease, and hundreds more were sick."

 

"It was at this time that Queen Moor I approached a sick foal. The story goes that, with a few hushed words and her mere touch, the foal was cured. I'm certain there is more to it- probably an unreliable narrator and a generous amount of exaggeration- but I digress."

 

"In Andalusia, we first invoke the name of Queen Moor- "In the name of The Queen"- to garner her attention. We then state our request- "may this foal experience unending joys in life, and never be alone". It is customary to wax poetic as well, "May the sirens sing your praise in the halls of Antemusia"." When she spoke that last part, she put a lot more emphasis into it, her voice almost seraphic.

 

Raising her hoof out of the water, the magical surface swirled and glided up into the air in a graceful arc to land a meter above her hoof. It formed the shape of an egg, and similarly aquatic runes manifested around it, glowing a light blue. "This ritual may also include 'blessings' in a more literal sense, the sorts the Queen once placed upon her knights. Minor charms of protection and good luck to keep the foal safe, especially when they get into trouble."

 

She smiled at this, a warm and tender expression as the runes engraved themselves in the glassy surface of the egg, causing the whole thing to light up a brighter blue. "Oftentimes a pony keeps these their entire life, or until they replace them with a stronger version to preserve magic. A normal cleric's charm will only last until they're about five years of age before it begins fading, but it is said that Queen Moor's blessings were not only more potent, but could be passed onto their next of kin as well. More fables, of course, but you understand the sentiment."

 

Dropping the illusion, the egg and runes both collapsed back into the water, and she turned attention once again to the purple pony, swimming her way until they were just about nose to nose. She circled the mare once, briefly disappearing behind her- and then she would feel two hooves grip her shoulders and begin to softly knead them. Hopefully Aloe's teachings were not all for naught. "There is one last thing that may be bestowed upon the child, but it is an archaic practice even by Andalusia's standards. The bequeathement of a name. The parents have already chosen one by that point, but this is more akin to granting them a true name. When given by a particularly powerful cleric- or the monarch, obviously- it is believed to hold great power, much as my own cursed name which I shall not divulge, lest we attract unwanted attention."

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