The walk had been mercifully uneventful, with Chandra and Fluttershy chatting merrily about phoenixes and Cross admiring the greenery on the path. They were getting closer to Ponyville, and Cross could hear and smell the activity of the small town. He even swore he could smell a freshly baked cake in the distance.
'Probably for the party.' He mused, watching carefully for how everyone reacted as he approached. Chandra and Fluttershy's conversation fell to the back of his mind as he walked into town, taking note of the sudden silence many fell under upon seeing him. Chandra and Fluttershy noticed after a time, and the two moved to walk alongside him.
"Jeez, it's like they've never seen a wolf before." Chandra said, looking around with a slight scowl. Fluttershy tried to say something in defense of the ponies, but even Cross's canine hearing couldn't make out what she said, and decided to offer his own deduction.
"Most likely they're not used to a wolf striding into town like this. And besides, I'm not exactly a typical wolf, am I?" He motioned to the Boros insignia on his back. A wolf with white fur and a red marking was bound to be noticed anywhere, but it was the only animal form Cross ever felt comfortable in. He'd tried more subtle forms, even changing the fur on this form, but the magic behind it required more concentration than he liked.
"Yeah well, I think I'm going to go see this Rainbow Dash girl Fluttershy's told me about. Can you manage on your own?" Chandra asked. Cross nodded.
"That actually works well with my own plans. I was hoping to speak with Twilight Sparkle at the library. I'll meet you both at the party." He turned to leave before either could respond, walking directly in the center of the street. Ponies of every shape and color moved to the edges of the road, giving him a wide berth. It bothered him none, and he simply chose to keep his eyes forward.
'No different than the first time.' He thought, 'You can change the races, change the circumstances all you like, but an outsider is an outsider. At least here they have a real reason though. I can't blame them for fearing a wolf.' Cross kept his head high and his eyes on the road, letting the stares wash over him.
'Finally learning a few things, are we?' Jace's voice echoed in Cross's mind. At first he felt the hair on the back of his neck rise, but he relaxed when he realized just who was contacting him.
'I'm on my way to see Twilight now. You could try contacting me without making me jump out of my skin.' Cross responded mentally to the mind sculptor's question, 'And if you must know, I prefer being an outsider. It's easier to disappear when no one knows you. Given the lifestyles we lead, anything that makes it easier to leave is a good idea.'
'True. Have you discovered anything else here aside from her?' Jace asked.
'Not really, but that's what truly bothers me. If Bolas wants Twilight, then why didn't he send Vol or Tezzeret to take her from the start?' Cross tried to keep from appearing worried, his thoughts leading to several dark conclusions.
'Perhaps there's something else he wants, but he can't yet reach. Or perhaps he's simply toying with us. I cannot access his mind, and we have no other leads. The best we can do is investigate this plane and Twilight as much as possible. Keep your eyes open.' With that Jace terminated the mental link, and Cross was once more alone in his mind. He continued on to the library, smiling as he spotted Spike standing outside, busily sweeping off the front steps. He quickened his pace, stopping as he neared the library.
"Hey Cross. Twilight's been looking for you." Spike said, spotting Cross as he slid along the dust.
"Has she gone to the forest, or is she inside?" Cross asked, looking to the door.
"She's in now, she had to go get some things from around town." Spike said, "I'll get the door." Cross shook his head, a light blue glow appearing on the door handle. In moments the door was open, and Cross headed inside, leaving Spike to finish his cleaning.
"Oh, Cross, you're here. I had some things I wanted to ask you about the magic you showed us." Twilight had just finished sorting a small group of books when Cross walked into the library, and she quickly put them in their places on the shelves.
"I don't recall showing much of my magic, but I'll answer whatever questions you have." Cross moved to the center of the room and sat down, looking at the books on the walls before his attention was once again on Twilight, "I'm sorry, Jace has gotten me to appreciate books a bit more than I used to. It was part of how he taught me the patience needed to use blue magic."
"That's part of what I wanted to ask you. How exactly do you cast spells as a wolf?" Twilight asked, "I mean as a planeswalker, how does magic work for you?" Cross chuckled a bit, trying to think of how best to describe it all.
"Well, it's definitely different from Unicorn magic. I suppose you could say that a planeswalker draws his magic from the world around him. There are five major environments for a planeswalker to draw power from, and each environment has a different type of magic associated with it." Cross tried to keep his tone from sounding like some old scholar in an Izzit academy, but teaching gave one a certain air about them. It was something he'd never liked, and Cross struggled not to act pompous or condescending, as Jace would do when they sparred.
"So what are these five environments?" Twilight asked, pulling a book and quill from a desk with her magic. Cross shook his head, and in a flash of blue light a book appeared before him.
"This has all of my knowledge of Planar Magic, from my own experiences and from what Jace has taught me." Cross willed the book over to Twilight, a blue aura holding it aloft until she took hold of it with her magic.
"Thanks. This should answer most of my questions. Although, there was one other thing I wanted to ask you about." Twilight moved the book over to her desk, then turned back to Cross.
"Why are you here in Ponyville?" Cross could tell she was trying to ask without accusing him of something, but he still felt a slight sting. He had forgotten to explain his reason for being there to any one, and now he had to decide if it was worth it to tell her. The room was dead silent for several seconds, until at last he sighed.
"Someone, or should I say something, is on its way here. Jace sent me to find out why, and to stop it if I can." Cross said at last, "Nicol Bolas, an Elder Dragon and Planeswalker, has sent spies to this world, and Jace and I plan to stop him. We don't know what he's after, or even if there is something here he plans to acquire, but we know his agents are here, and that's enough for us." Cross turned away, looking at the window. He had seen Twilight's expression souring, the worry in her eyes. It was a sight he hated to see, from anyone.
"He's a Planeswalker, and a dragon? Is that even possible?" Twilight asked in a stunned whisper. Cross nodded.
"There was once a silver golem who gained the might of a planeswalker, by way of his creator's inventions. His creator was a planeswalker before him. Or at least, that is the story I have found in my rare visits to Dominaria, I know nothing else past that. What happened to the creator or the creation is not something I know. But if a Golem can become a planeswalker, then a dragon being born one is not so strange to me." Cross replied, "I have never seen or fought Bolas myself, but by Jace's description, and what I've uncovered in my investigations from working with him, Bolas is a Planeswalker of power beyond anything I've ever known. Jace can wipe a mind clean in moments, and Bolas was too much even for him." He looked to Twilight again, a fire in his gaze.
"If he is already that powerful, then anything that could make him stronger must either be kept from him or destroyed. From what I know, Bolas craves power, now more than ever. He is the only one of the old 'Walkers I know of who survived the creation of the new 'Walkers." Cross could feel his fur straighten in anger, but he did his best to calm down. Twilight was visibly shaken at the thought of Bolas's might, and Cross felt his own fear returning at the thought. However, fear was not enough to master a Legionaire, and Cross fought through his own terror.
"I'm sorry my reasons for being here are so dire, but it is the truth. I'm sorry if this worries you, but there is only one thing that can be done." He stated, "I must do what I can to stop Bolas. I do not think I can face him in open combat, but I doubt he will come here himself for quite some time. There is time to prepare, but it must be done in secret. Ponyville cannot know of what is to come."
"Why not? Shouldn't we ready the whole town, the whole of Equestria even? If that dragon is coming, shouldn't we ready everything we have for the fight?" Twilight was speaking out of fear, and Cross looked her in the eyes.
"If we act too hastily, then Bolas will know and react far more forcefully than we can handle. For now it needs to stay between the two of us and Princess Celestia. If your friends are able to help, then they'll be brought in, but this must stay quiet as much as possible. If this gets out, there will be panic and hysteria before Bolas even arrives." Cross's eyes were illuminated from within by blue light, his voice changed by magic. As he finished he blinked several times, the light vanishing from his eyes, and he shook himself.
"What happened?" Twilight asked, "Was that Bolas?"
"No, Jace. Sorry, he does that occasionally." Cross replied, "But he's right. We need to keep this quiet." He stood to leave, stretching and shaking himself again.
"I'm sorry if things seem bleak, but as long as Jace and I are able to, we'll keep Bolas from taking this place, or from getting stronger." He said, "I believe Pinkie Pie was throwing a party for me and a friend of mine. It would probably be a good idea to let off some steam and enjoy ourselves while we can."
"I don't think I can go to a party. I mean this is a lot of new information, new things to worry about." Twilight looked down and shook her head. Cross closed his eyes and walked over to her side.
"I understand how you feel. But I swear, on my spark, I will not let Bolas win." He said, looking Twilight in the eyes, "I never break my word." He started towards the door, opening it with another spell. He would go to the party at least, if nothing else to keep Chandra from setting something on fire. He didn't look back again until he was nearly across the street. Twilight was finally leaving the library, closing the door behind her. He smiled, and she hurried over.
"I thought about it, and you're right. We should enjoy ourselves while we can. Bolas can wait until tomorrow." Twilight was smiling as she walked up beside Cross, and he nodded. Together they headed for the party, and Cross tried as much as possible to put the dark news he had to bear at the back of his mind. He repeated to himself that there would be time to prepare tomorrow, that Bolas was not there yet, and that he would be ready when the time came.