Aurin, Grand Magus of Equestria, levitated his glasses off his muzzle and set them down on his desk. An aged unicorn with an off-white coat and a salt and pepper mane, he found himself with a splitting headache. He rubbed his aged and aching temples with his hooves, sighing and shaking his head. “Let me guess, Cobalt. Miraculously, the overhaul of the funding for Canterlot University has been brought back out of the Princess’ ash bin and has been passed.”
Cobalt, Aurin’s assistant, nodded a bit, smiling wryly. “Two guesses as to who proposed it, though I suspect you already know, Sir.”
Laughing, Aurin threatened, “Cobalt, come now. You’ve been my assistant for fifty years. You’ve been with me since before I even was elected to this position. You do NOT have to call me Sir. If you keep it up. I WILL research a spell to force you to call me by name.”
“Hah. You’ve been threatening me with that for as long as I’ve known you, Sir. You’ve never seen fit to do it yet, and I fail to see you EVER doing that.” Cobalt’s smile slowly slipped from his muzzle though, and his soft eyes gazed unhappily at his friend and Master. “What now, Sir? I’ve sensed in you growing discontent and sadness.”
“I can hardly be blamed.” Aurin sighed, gesturing with a hoof to the latest stack of paperwork. “I’ve submitted my concerns to the Princess, as per her request. Spelled out in no uncertain terms the problem I see, how I felt about it, and what I thought should be done. It disappeared off of the committee’s bucket list last week.”
“Again? Lost in committee again?” Cobalt blinked. “That’s truly absurd.”
“Hello, this is Canterlot’s bureaucracy. Have you met it?” Aurin rose, levitating his glasses back onto his muzzle. “Cobalt, I must ask you to wait here. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Cobalt nodded, watching Aurin walk slowly into his personal chambers. Aurin was not young any longer and hadn’t been for some time. Age and the weight of his duties had gnawed at him until he looked as timeworn as a field pony pulling a plow. He truly HAD known the stallion for over fifty years, and was a pretty good judge of what Aurin was thinking. He was up to something.
The Grand Magus walked slowly through his chambers. He’d been so focused on doing his duty to the Princesses and Canterlot that he’d hardly accumulated any belongings. The chambers provided were ample enough, and he’d not seen the need to spend any of his sizeable salary to expand it. He’d an absurdly large supply of bits on account in the bank, so he was fine financially. There was really only one thing he wanted from his chambers, and that was something that had been passed down from one Grand Magus to the other for over a thousand years.
In the rear of his chambers was a heavily warded door. It was so heavily protected that it was theorized that even the Princesses couldn’t casually look inside; it would take focused efforts on both their parts in order to breach the magical wards laid down in layers over that thousand plus years. In his mind, Aurin was convinced that this theory was true; for if the Princesses had gained even a whicker of a rumor as to what this room contained, surely they’d have been putting a stop to it a millennium ago.
Aurin approached the warded door, and it acknowledged him as its Lord and Master. It opened, and he walked slowly down the black marble corridor. The first Grand Magus had been a touch melodramatic during its construction. He had felt that a chamber such as this, meant for such a purpose, ought to look as grim and foreboding as possible. In reality, it just looked silly. The black marble corridor opened up into a black marble chamber with tapestries of black, red, and silver surrounding the circular chamber. Golden sconces *bamfed* into light, casting shadows around the room, all light focusing on the plinth in the absolute center and the parchment contained upon it.
The parchment was what commanded his attention. It drew his eyes as it drew his heart; a responsibility and duty passed down from one stallion Grand Magus to another. Aurin walked up to the plinth and gazed once more at the parchment. It fell to him to complete it, this, the Magnum Opus, a grand spell a millennium in the writing. With distinct reverence, he levitated the quill.. the ONLY quill ever having touched this parchment, and dipped it in the enchanted inkwell beside the paper.
It all fell to him, to draw the last glyph into place. As he drew with the skill and precision honed by his years of service, he felt a subtle building of energy and then a light ripple as if Equestria itself acknowledged the raw power contained on the paper before him.
Aurin reverently rolled up the Magnum Opus and slid it into a specially warded carrying tube, ensuring that it would not be detectable by any means until he himself withdrew it for casting.
Purposes served, the quill and plinth both crumbled into dust, drifting to the floor. Aurin turned and walked to the door, which opened for the last time for him and closed behind him. The wards faded, releasing their long held energy back into Equestria for their purposes had been served.
Aurin gathered his few possessions (a few books, several lab manuals of notes related to other research) and slid them into his pannier. He walked out back into the common area where Cobalt still waited him.
“Cobalt, you were with me when I took the Oath of Office. I am sincerely sorry you must see me abandon that post. You deserve better. Come with me; I go to the Princesses now.”
Cobalt swallowed hard. “You realize this is going to cause a bit of a stir, Sir..” his eyes tearing up a bit with sadness. To him, it was an end of an era; an end that didn’t have to happen this way.
Aurin grinned a bit to himself and thought, ‘Not nearly as much of a stir as what will come next, dear friend.’ Audibly, he chuckled. “I know, Cobalt. But believe me, there’s no other way.”
One of the privileges of being Grand Magus is that one had more ready access to the Princesses. It’s a shame that such access didn’t include permission to actually bring up the issues that had driven him to this extreme. He walked to the Audience Hall and checked in with Amber, Princess Celestia’s seneschal.
“Amber, I would like very much to speak to the Princess at her convenience. I am invoking Privilege, but can wait; there’s no need to interrupt what she is doing at the moment.”
Amber was the consummate professional; easily the equal of any in Equestria in terms of her organizational skills. She could juggle Ambassadors as if they were feathers drifting in the air for her amusement. She was also a kind soul, and smiled to the elder Magus. “Of course, Aurin. One moment, please.” She disappeared into the chambers beyond while the Royal Guard stood by impassively.
They didn’t have long to wait before the doors opened and he was led inside. This session was evidently a busy one; the entire chamber was packed with nobility and court messengers that flitted about. As the Grand Magus entered, however, respect was accorded his raw power and the position he held. He was, after all the third most powerful magician in the land with the first two being the Princesses themselves.
Aurin approached the thrones and bowed low, touching his horn to the carpet before the thrones in respect. Even though it was a grim task he did this day, he would do it with the love and reverence he still felt for the two Sisters he had served for his entire life.
Celestia’s warm voice washed over him. “Rise, Aurin. You have no need to stand on ceremony with me. Please, tell me what it is I can do for you.”
He rose, looking at a very warmly smiling Celestia. ‘Haystacks.. this is going to be more difficult than I thought.’ He cleared his voice, then looked down a moment. Mustering his courage, he looked Princess Celestia right in the eyes as Luna and all the nobility of Canterlot watched on.
“Princess, I regret to inform you that I can no longer in good conscience serve as your Grand Magus of Equestria. I regretfully resign my position, effective immediately.”
The room exploded into uproar. Never in Equestria’s long history had a Grand Magus tendered resignation before, and it threw things far, far askew.
Princess Celestia, for her part, looked totally blindsided. When things had calmed enough, she looked at Aurin with shock clear on her muzzle. “Might I ask why, Grand Magus, you wish to exit my service?”
Aurin lowered his head. “I have failed you, my Princess. I have tried repeatedly to warn you of a problem I have seen coming, but have never managed to impart sufficient importance for it to make it to your eyes. I am hoping that the next Grand Magus might serve you better in that regard.”
Princess Luna nodded slowly; failure to fulfill one’s duties was about the ONLY way a Grand Magus could be removed from his post. She chimed in, voice soft and gentle, youthful despite her age. “Would you do us the honor of naming your replacement, Grand Magus?”
Lifting his head, he smiled sadly to Princess Luna. She deserved one last chance, one last clue. “I do not see the point, Princess Luna. That suggestion surely will be lost in committee as well. I’m certain your Majesties will find the right pony for the position.”
Luna blinked, and Aurin’s heart sank. She didn’t catch the clue. “Then go, Aurin, with the blessings and thanks of all of Equestria for your dedicated years of service.
Aurin bowed to the Princesses for the last time, and turned and walked out the door. His hoof-falls echoed within the chamber, despite it being full of ponies. Nopony said a single word. There was no SOUND but for his passing. He took no satisfaction in the cacophony of noise that erupted behind him the very instant the doors closed. He knew Cobalt would be well cared for. His salary was quite sizeable, and he could, if he saw fit, stay on to assist the next Magus in his or her duties.
~~~ Several years later ~~~
Aurin, former Grand Magus of Equestria, was not an idiot. When he had retired abruptly, he knew full well he’d fall under the Princess’ scrutiny. One did not simply let the third most powerful mage in existence go off-leash entirely. He had taken his belongings and found a small cottage that suited his needs outside of Appleoosa where he instigated a research project of his own.
Being a Mage and intimately familiar with how the Princess’ magic worked and operated, Aurin was well able to detect when the Princesses were scrying upon him. It manifested itself as a mental itch at the base of his horn, and he chuckled to himself as he recalled how it had followed him from Canterlot all the way to his new residence.
The scrying had been maintained nearly twenty four hours a day, especially as he initiated his own research project; a way for two loving mares to have a foal with each other, WITHOUT having to beseech the Princess’ intervention. The side effect of that spell was that the foal being born would be female, but the mares didn’t seem to mind that at all.
He had also built up a fair practice of magic; he made himself available to the residents of Appleoosa and had garnered quite the following. Folks knew he was a Magus, so were a bit uncertain and hesitant about getting too close to him, but he did help whenever and however he was needed. When Appleoosa was nearly over-run by parasprites, Aurin had been there, deftly deflecting the scavenging little buggers and saving the town. He’d earned a position of respect for his efforts; he was old, and they helped look after him.
Gradually, through the years, the scrying got less and less frequent until it was but once a month that he was looked in on. The last such scrying attempt had just ended and so Aurin knew that he had about a month until he needed to be concerned again.
The time had finally come to unleash the Magnum Opus. He reverently withdrew the warded scroll case from its hiding place within the wall of his cottage. He unfurled the scroll and with a slight grin, paused a moment to consider the consequences of what he was about to do. It was a spell that ordinarily only the Princesses would be able to enact; it was of Divine proportions. He himself, though still the third most powerful mage in all of Equestria, hadn’t a chance to pull it off alone.
The document itself provided the power necessary, which was the very reason why it had to be concealed by wards until right before use. Almost without a doubt, the Princesses knew that an item approaching Artifact levels of potency was now in play. Though he had long since dropped out of their regular considerations, he would be an eminently logical first place to start looking.
With a deep breath, Aurin began to read from the Magnum Opus. The power was absolutely INSANE. The very air began to ripple with the energies he was summoning forth. As he progressed through the spell, the energies built, beginning to churn around him in a field of multi-colored light. Having consumed the energy stored in the parchment, the spell itself turned to the caster for the last remaining piece needed. With his last breath, Aurin spoke the remaining sentence, pouring the last of his life energy into the spell to set it off.
As his spirit parted ways from his body, the spell detonated, blowing his shack to splinters and disintegrating all his remaining belongings. It left a sizeable crater lined with glowing green and blue glass with licks of lightning flicking around just under the surface.
Aurin, now deceased, chuckled to himself. “Three.. Two.. One… Welcome, Princess Celestia. It’s a pleasure to see you again.” He could not keep the grin from his muzzle as Celestia appeared, looking at him intently.
“Aurin. What is it you have done? I did not suspect you capable of something of that magnitude.”
Another voice joined them, one Celestia hadn’t heard for a very, very long time. “That’s because he didn’t do it alone, Princess.” Another unicorn spirit came into view beside Aurin. This one was a brilliant yellow unicorn with a cyan swirled cutie mark and a flame-red mane.
Celestia blinked, eyes widening. “Shard? How…? I took you to the Summer-Lands myself, over twelve hundred years ago…”
Shard grinned impishly. “And I came BACK from the Summer-Lands, after Aurin unleashed our master project.” He turned to Aurin. “A pleasure to meet you, dear boy. I’m Shard.. the FIRST Grand Magus of Equestria. I see you’ve completed our project, then.”
Aurin nodded. “Indeed. Tried to tell her, but the notes…”
“Heh. Let me guess. Kept getting lost in committee? That’s what got me started on the spell in the first place. Allow me to explain to our mystified Princess, here.” Shard turned, and nodded his head in deference to his Deity. “Princess Celestia. For well over a millennium now, Grand Magi have been submitting the required reports to you, as you have requested. Originally, we were supposed to be advisers on things magical, political, et cetera, yes? But the problem is, all our ideas kept getting lost in committee somewhere. We’d suggest an idea.. perhaps you remember me recommending building the new Libraria Arcanum? That proposal got lost in committee where it simply disappeared off of the to-do list. And yet, not even a year later, your protégé of the day.. a mare, I might add, proposed the same project. You took it straight into production, and didn’t even look at the notes from the meetings you’d requested. It was this way for everything, your Highness.”
“Indeed, Princess. I tried to warn you,” Aurin said, softly. “I even submitted my concerns a month before I retired. I even included notation of the existence of the Magnum Opus in those notes. Yet even then, it disappeared from the bucket list for the oversight committee.”
Shard walked over to Princess Celestia and bowed his head. “It has been this way since my day, Princess. Every Grand Magus has come to this conclusion… the stallions, anyway. When a mare was elected to the position, the Opus simply was hidden, only to come forward if necessary. The spell was far too powerful for any one of us; it would take the sum total of ALL of us to pull it off. Each of the Magi left a portion of themselves inside the Opus to power it. Aurin here was the last of the line, and the one that saw fit to set it off.”
Princess Celestia turned to the two spirits. “What precisely did you do, Shard? Aurin?”
“Ah, Princess. We simply ensured equality in your eyes.” Aurin said plainly.
Celestia blinked, an uncertain feeling growing in the back of her mind. “Please elaborate. I wish to understand precisely what you two have done.”
“Not just the two of us, Princess. ALL the Grand Magi. We ensured equality in your eyes, Princess.. because now there ARE no more stallions,” Shard said simply. “Now you can listen to everypony. You won’t be able to tell which ones were stallions before, and you won’t risk simply turning them back incorrectly. No, if I know you, and I do.. you’ll look for the counterspell.” He grinned slowly and very mischeviously. “It’s encoded within the thousand years of committee meeting notes. ALL of the pages are needed to solve the counter-spell. You have about twenty years to piece it together before society acclimates to a completely female based structure. One generation to solve it. If you wish to, I suggest you get started. Oh, and by the by, Princess. Don’t try and circumvent the spell on a case by case basis. We planned for that too; if you even try it on a single subject, the gender changes become permanent. The counter-spell is the only way to undo it.”
“I will not take either of you two to the Summer-Lands, you realize. Not after this.” Celestia intoned gravely.
“We planned for that too, Princess,” Shard said with a wink. “Just as I came back here, so too can I take Aurin here back with me. We don’t abandon our own, after all. Good luck, Princess.”
Both Aurin and Shard faded away, leaving Celestia to stare where they had been, and into the still glowing crater that had been Aurin’s cottage.
A message appeared beside her, floating in mid-air. It was from Twilight Sparkle in Ponyville.
‘Dear Princess Celestia:
I’m sorry for bothering you, but I really must ask what that magical explosion was. Ponyville is in an advanced state of disarray, as the stallions appear to have been changed into mares. I include in this letter several odd occurrences that I believe to be linked to this magical explosion.
Applejack came by with her… big sister.. Big Mac. Big Mac did not look pleased by any stretch of the imagination. Spike nearly got trampled by him.. er, HER, because he couldn’t stop laughing.
Ponyville General Hospital has informed me that they have several patients in the mental ward now. They had been profoundly affected by this abrupt gender change. Evidently they had been.. well… attempting to procreate when that magic hit them and they lost the necessaries to accomplish it.
This is Spike, Princess. Twilight is yelling at Rainbow Dash, trying to get her to stop laughing at Big Mac. Dash has passed out three times so far, laughing like that. Sorry, but this might take a few minutes because Mac really looks upset. Ok, she’s back now.
The Royal Guards seem to have abandoned their posts as well, leaving piles of armor where they had once been standing. There were mares standing nearby, eyeing the armor almost wistfully, and each and every one of them were in tears about it all.
Rarity wishes me to send along a polite inquiry as if Princess Blueblood might need any new dresses and gowns to soothe her shattered nerves. I think she’s just still holding a grudge from the Gala, honestly, but said I’d ask at least.
Please get back to me as quickly as you can; ponies need to hear from you soon.
Your devoted student,
Princess Celestia dazedly took a bit of parchment from her carrying pouch and penned a quick reply to Twilight.
‘My dearest student Twilight:
Congratulations on your promotion to Grand Magus of Canterlot. Please report to Canterlot immediately to assist Princess Luna and I in going through a thousand years of Committee meeting notes to decipher the counter-spell to what has just occurred. You are to draft as many mares as you can lay eyes on to assist in the processing of this information. It is the absolute top priority.
*** To be continued in Part 2, due to popular demand and some excellent suggestions ***