"Okay, so, let's organize everything we know," Apple drew out a handful of diagrams. "And separate them from things that are only hypotheses, as well as options that we know for certain are impossible."
"Are you sure you don't want to eat lunch first?" Ginger suggested, nudging Apple's picnic basket towards her. "It's hard to think on an empty stomach."
"I think I'm a little too nervous to eat just now," Apple tried a smile. "It's like the night before final hexams and staring down an angry dragon all rolled into one feeling."
"At least an apple?" Ginger held one out, her eyebrow raised. Its shining, red surface called out to her, promising the sweetness of the fruit within.
"Well," Apple hesitated. "Mmmmmaybe just one. Or two."
"Besides," Raven nudged her, sitting cross-legged atop a blanket. "Multi-tasking is a thing. We can brainstorm while we chew."
"So what do we know?" Humphrey Dumpty's quick, jury-rigged projector displayed Apple's diagrams over a wall. "We can start with the big one: the world is ending?"
"West," Cupid suddenly remembered. "Isn't your mom the Wicked Witch of the West? Like... one of the really important professors who discovered this? Maybe you know something else about the situation!"
West swallowed a mouthful of sandwich. "I mean... I'm kind of surprised you guys didn't know about it already? My mom's been talking about the end nearing for almost the past ten years. Of course... nobody ever believes a Wicked Witch."
"Boy, do I know that feeling," Ginger patted his shoulder. "But we'll all believe you, here. Start from things you know for certain."
"Well... mom has a million copies of the manuscript for the Spell of Sacrifice at home... they're all sort of rough drafts," West pondered. "She had three feasible final translations when I left home, but she called and said she'd narrowed it down to one, just in case the peer review tries to publish an alternate version. She and Professor Goodfairy are... kind of frenemies? Though I would assure the Miss Goodfairy in our class that I carry no such sentiment for her."
"No need to worry about that," Farrah nodded. "My aunt specializes in spatial reconstruction, though... so if we get a copy of the original, we'll know for sure that it's exactly what it looked like way back when."
"Speaking of the scroll, I think we can trust its contents, at least to a certain extent," West postulated. "All of the translated storylines are roughly the same: the great tree of the multiverse, and the branch of our realm that grew sick. A wise sorceress who discovered a spell that could save it, and a brave queen who was willing to sacrifice herself to give power to the spell. And the Storybook of Legends-- the linchpin that prevented people from repeating their mistakes."
"The Storybook of Legends... the most powerful compulsion spell of all," Raven shuddered, remembering the brief time she herself had spent as a puppet of evil.
"The details are a bit fuzzy. I know that much," Farrah thoughtfully chewed a roll of bread. "Aunt Faragonda likes to call mom and complain about it. She was only paying attention to the first half of the scroll for a while, because she thought it was a forgotten fairytale that just happened to provide substantial proof for her whole multiverse theory thing."
"We definitely know what we learned in class," Dexter offered. "Whatever the spell might actually contain, the binding force is pseudogravitational-- probably across five dimensions, if my integrations are correct. It would have to be powerful on an enormous scale... at least four times ten to the six-thousandth magiwatts per fairytale revolution."
"Oooh! Riddlish! I've got this one," Maddie tapped her chin thoughtfully. "Why, that's the power of several million billion trillion Ever Afters!"
"You know what? Surprisingly, that's correct," Humphrey agreed. "The spell probably meant to keep Ever After around for several 'million billion trillion' years."
"I still need a translation," Raven shook her head.
Apple offered one as she prepared to start in on her second apple, "It means it created more power than seen ever after. The whole school, plus the entire town of Book End, runs on maybe six magiwatts of power for an entire semester."
Raven glanced towards her hands. "And my ancestor did that? Wow. And I thought being able to recharge my MirrorPhone with magic was a neat trick."
"Not alone," Apple reminded her. "The spell's power had a price... a royal price."
"Magic that kills is the type of knowledge spoken of only in legend," Alistair asserted. "Blood magic, the most ancient and evil of magics. A lost study... one that not even I seek to rediscover or explore."
"Maybe it's not just... the sacrifice thing," Cupid offered. "Many of the stories are about finding true love. And if I know one thing about the power of love, it's that nothing is stronger."
"We'll put both of those in the 'theories' section," Humphrey decided. "I don't know if we want to go around saying that it's one or the other yet."
"Headmaster Grimm mentioned two theories," Raven suggested. "One was that returning to our fairytale roots would fix everything... which he said was impossible, because the story of Snow White doesn't exist anymore, and the script's already been flipped."
"It hasn't been totally flipped," Dexter grimaced, knowing that it was a long-shot. "I mean, change around a few pronouns here or there, substitute Dwarves with Pixies... it's still salvageable, maybe. Even if the fairytales are only part of the original spell, we can look to the stories of the past and use Hexonomy to reverse-engineer some of the details as to why it worked."
"Anything's worth a try. If we can just glean a little more information about it... maybe it'll be easier making the second theory work," Raven tapped her nails against her picnic basket. "The second theory was that going off the script as far as possible would eventually lead us back to a safe path-- whatever that safe path might be."
"That sounds like total madness," Maddie gasped. She grinned, "I love it!"
"Loop Theory," Alistair nodded. "The belief that, if you continue down a single path long enough with any kind of methodology, you'll reach your intended destination eventually. Bunny's a big fan of it. With a little luck, I could see that actually working."
"So," Raven sighed. "It sounds like we always come back to the same story. Royals or Rebels. The traditions of old against forging a new destiny..."
"Maybe we shouldn't worry about that just yet," Farrah suggested. "Not until we know what limits us. Not until we know what we can't do."
"We wouldn't want to overlimit ourselves," Ginger warned. "I have faith in my classmates."
"As do I," Humphrey pushed up his glasses. "But we need to know what we're working with. Limitations on time, on information, on resources..."
"We can't time travel... that would involve movement in the fourth dimension," Dexter decided. "It would instantly displace the time-traveling group into a different world than the one we're trying to save, since undoing or re-doing a choice would necessitate creating a new timeline according to Multiverse Dynamics."
"And we can't allow for widespread panic," West interjected suddenly. "Most fairytale-folk won't accept it as truth until a state of emergency is declared. The professors are probably trying to have a meeting with all the fairytale royalty... but it can't hurt to make sure they've arranged something."
"Most importantly," Maddie sat up, raising her hat, "We can't forget about afternoon tea! Why, it's almost three o'clock!"
"It is?" Apple squeaked, glancing down at her MirrorPhone. "Oh no... I completely forgot to hext Darling about having to miss practice today."
"We had Dragon Practice today?" Raven hurriedly picked up her phone and began furiously messaging the team captain. "Hex, I can't believe I forgot... poor Nevermore!"
"Aw, gort-- I'm supposed to be filming Blondie's MirrorCast in less than half an hour," Dexter hurriedly stood. "I don't know what I'm going to tell her about missing afternoon classes!"
"Easy for you to say... I'm supposed to be broadcasting Blondie's MirrorCast live, and I still have to put the servers back together again," Humphrey wobbled from the force of standing, only caught by Cupid.
"And I'm supposed to be in the MirrorCast," Cupid groaned. "She'll find us first if we don't show. What are we supposed to say about the... you know...?"
"Just tell her there was a mishap in AP Fairy-Physics," Farrah assured them. "Headmaster Grimm gave us all a pass for the rest of the day to recover. Technically true."
"Dexer and Humphrey seem to know all the details about the pseudogravitational equations," West brushed his hair from his face. "If she cares enough to listen to a three-hour lecture on the influence of magic on gravity and similar forces, then she at least deserves the other half-hour lecture about multiverse theory, even if not the matter we are sworn to secrecy over."
"All right. We've got to keep quiet on this until morning, so-- if it's all right with you guys-- that's what we're telling our friends?" Raven looked at those around her.
Apple placed a hand on her shoulder, "I'm still not really comfortable with it, but it looks like that's all we can say for now. Until tomorrow?"
"Until tomorrow," Raven agreed, and that afternoon, they broke from their small coalition in the abandoned storage tower of Ever After High-- leaving no sign that they had ever met, save for a smattering of footprints in the dust.