A loud crash was all it took to wake Spike from his dream-vacation with Rarity. The thunderous sound had come from the library, where he knew Twilight Sparkle had been practicing some new magic, but she had said it was perfectly safe. He’d never hear the end of it from Princess Celestia if Twilight wound up injured. Wiping the haze from his scaly eyelids, Spike found his way downstairs. An orange miasma faintly permeated the room, and stung Spike’s nostrils with its acrid smell.
Through the fog, a distracted voice came through. “In a minute, Spike. I think I almost had it.”
As the cloud dissipated, Spike saw the purple unicorn standing in the middle of the library, its books in ghastly disarray.
“Wow Twilight. Did you have one of your Dewey Decimal Nights again?” Spike asked.
Twilight, already rummaging through piles of now-slightly-charred books, responded absently, “What? Oh – no, I was just practicing the time travel spell.”
“You mean the one you cast that made you go insa- I mean, had you worrying over nothing for a week?” Spike asked incredulously.
“Actually, yes,” Twilight responded matter-of-factly, still searching the piles of books for something. “I realized my fault last night – I had interacted with the past! I’m sure nothing could go wrong if I went farther back, but just to make sure nothing went wrong, I came up with a – AHA!” She pulled from the pile a smoldering piece of parchment. Spike noted to his chagrin it was the last piece of letterhead he normally used for sending word to Canterlot. Twilight trotted over and thrust the page in front of Spike. She looked as pleased with herself as Spike had ever seen her. “I came up with this.”
All Spike could see were some pentagrams, a constellation, some words too big to pronounce, and a technical drawing of a sphere. “What is it?”
Twilight knew she’d have to explain it more clearly. “It’s an isolation sphere! Anypony inside is rendered unnoticeable to those outside. You could even walk through it and never know it was there.” Twilight took the page back, studying it for errors. “I want to use it to go actually see history as it happens…but to do that, I have to put the sphere in place before I cast the time travel spell – don’t want to risk somepony seeing me as I appear in their time.”
Spike looked incredulous. “So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is it takes too much concentration to hold the sphere AND cast the time spell. I need another unicorn to cast the sphere, and then I can just transport both of us easily.”
Spike looked away, but Twilight could see his cheeks flushing slightly as he said “Well, uh, what about Rarity?”
Twilight chuckled softly to herself at the suggestion. She knew Spike had a crush on the fashionable unicorn, but it never ceased to amaze her when he tried to insert her into plans for the sake of seeing her. Still, Rarity had proved herself capable enough with magic to cast the isolation sphere. “Good idea, Spike. Why don’t you go ask her for me while I clean up? But first, I need to tell Princess Celestia of my discovery. Spike, take a letter.”
“Uh Twilight…” he said, looking disappointedly at the last piece of parchment.
“Ugh Twilight! We've been at this for hours. Can't we take a break?” Rarity slumped onto the floor, and levitated a glass of water over to herself.
Twilight looked quickly at the clock. “Eight hours isn't that long, Rarity. Besides, you're doing so well. I couldn't even see your hooves on that last try.” In truth, Twilight had been practicing all day every Saturday for the last month. Rarity had at first been reluctant to try her hoof at what seemed, at first blush, to be a very complicated and dangerous spell. But Twilight had won her over with something even the posh pony could not resist – the chance to give Twilight a makeover. Celestia knows the bookish filly could use it.
Today had been the most trying day yet, however. Rarity's attention was elsewhere, it seemed. Twilight decided a change of tactics was in order. While Rarity was nursing her water – and her pride, Twilight slipped into the back to find Spike. She found him, of course, right behind the door, listening with solemn intent. Twilight cleared her throat, and he screamed in fright.
“Everything alright, deary?” Rarity called from the next room. Twilight didn't respond. Instead, she addressed the diminutive dragon directly.
“Spike, I need you to go find Pinkie Pie, and bring her back here.”
“Aw, do I have to?” he whined. He pushed himself away from the door finally, and pulled out a large sapphire. “I was just about to have lunch.”
“I'm sure you can chew and walk at the same time, Spike,” Twilight laughed. “Besides, I need Pinkie Pie to help cheer Rarity on. And if Rarity knew you did that for her...” Twilight let the thought sink in, and already she saw the gears turning in his head. In the blink of an eye, Spike shoved the gem in his mouth and gulped it down. Before Twilight could even ask if he had chewed, a short green and purple blur zoomed out of the house, the door slamming on his way out.
When Spike returned an hour later, Twilight was flabbergasted. Pinkie Pie was in tow, of course, but so were Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Lyra, of all ponies. “Spike?” she questioned curiously.
“Well, I found Pinkie playing with the animals at Fluttershy's. On our way back, we ran into Applejack and Rainbow Dash in town.”
Lyra's head bobbed up from the back of the small herd. “I just saw Spike leading them all here. I wanted to see what the hubbub was all about.”
“Which is what ah'd like to know, sugar cube,” Applejack piped.
Twilight explained, in as simple words as she knew (which was still probably too complex), about the time travel spell, and the isolation sphere, and how Rarity had agreed to help.
“Well what are we waiting for? Let's take this thing for a spin!” Rainbow Dash cried.
Twilight cleared her throat. “Ahem. I’ve officially dubbed it ‘the Thaumaturgical Applied Retractable Dimensional Isolation Sphere’. And I agree, Rainbow Dash. We should totally try it out right now.” She took a measure of salt and made a large circle on the floor. “Everypony, inside the circle." Everyone filed inside, carefully stepping over the salt, chatting quietly to each other.
Fluttershy, always hesitant about new magic, fluffed her wings, and broke the salt circle. “Oh my…” she whispered. Twilight, who till then was still outside the circle, stepped over to comfort the bright yellow pegasus.
“Don’t worry, Fluttershy,” she chuckled. “The salt doesn’t actually do anything –it just let everyone know where to stand.”
“Thank heavens. I’m scared to think of what might happen if I’d disrupted the spell.”
Spike was the last to step over the salt, and as he did so, Rarity began casting the spell. A translucent bubble appeared at the tip of her horn, and quickly expanded outward, quickly encompassing Rainbow Dash, standing next to Rarity. When she tried to push it farther, however, the bubble began to gleam with more colors than the blue pegasus’ mane, before suddenly popping like a soap bubble against a straight pin.
Rarity slumped down again. “Darling, I told you. I just don’t have your fantastic talent for magic. You know my passion has always been the magic of” – Rarity lightly flipped her mane – “fashion.”
Twilight shook her head and looked back at her diagrams. “No, that’s not it. It’s a simple spell. I think the real problem is that there’s just not enough power for 7 ponies and a dragon,” she said, playfully mussing the scales on Spike’s head.
Lyra chimed in, “I'm sure I could lend some magic to help Rarity with the...whatchacallit.” A faint aura surrounded Lyra’s horn, and a thick band of energy arced from the tip of her horn to Rarity’s. Rarity tried the spell once again. This time the bubble ballooned out to past Applejack and Pinkie Pie before it, once again, popped in an instant.
“Oh my…Twilight, could you help, too, I mean, if you can?” Fluttershy asked. But Twilight was once again looking over her notes.
She finally shook her head in frustration. “It will take all the power I have to cast the time travel spell. No, we need one more unicorn.”
“We could have Spike send Princess Celestia a letter,” Pinkie Pie offered. “I even have some wedding cake stashed away for her – for cake-related emergencies.” Dutifully, she reached into a nook on the wall, and pulled out a piece of white cake, inexplicably still fresh, months after the wedding of Twilight’s brother and her former foal sitter.
Twilight brushed her curiosity about Pinkie Pie’s powers aside for the moment. “She’d take too long to get here. Girls, I’ll be right back. I’m off to go find another unicorn.”
She had reached the door, when a booming voice shook the library-house. “Would an alicorn be sufficient, Twilight Sparkle?” Princess Luna gracefully landed just in front of the doorway, her grand wings slowing her descent. Luna’s onyx coat gleamed in the waning sunlight, and her mane seemed to sway, even without a breeze. Alicorns are such an enigma, Twilight thought, even after spending years as the Princess’ student. “We’re sure that, whatever you need unicorn magic for, our magic can certainly substitute.”
“Well thank you Princess. But what brings you to Ponyville?” Twilight responded, perplexed. As smart as she was, she couldn’t figure out why the moon goddess decided to pay her a visit.
“You do, in fact, Twilight. You wrote last month to our sister of your enhanced time spell. It was our wish – our hope – that you might show us some of what we missed when we were…absent.”
Twilight’s heart melted a bit. She and the others, minus Lyra, had been the ones to stop Nightmare Moon from wreaking havoc on Equestria, and redeemed her to Princess Luna. Twilight agreed that it was only their responsibility to help rehabilitate her. “Of course we can, Princess – only don’t be so formal. It’s just us.” She motioned to the group just inside the door, who by this time were gathered behind the door, peeking out.
As Luna entered, the other ponies backed away, allowing her a wide berth into the home. Lyra, unsure of how to act in front of such royalty, kneeled on one leg. The rest bowed their heads dutifully. Pinkie Pie, however, was a different story.
“OHMYGOSHLunaitssogoodtoseeyouhowisPrincessCelestiaAreyouadjustingtolifebackinEquestriaHowareyouupatthishourareyoujustloadedwithsugarordoyoujustprefertobeupatnightdontyouhavetoraimhfffmmhmfmmmfmmhmffm,” said the pink earth pony, before Applejack covered Pinkie's muzzle with a hoof.
“Ah'm sure when we have the time, the Princess can answer all our questions. Innat right, Princess?”
“Indeed, Applejack. We – I – will take all inquiries when we have finished...whatever you need me for.”
“Oh!” remarked Twilight. “As it happens, you're just in time. We were trying the time travel spell just as you arrived...but we needed more magic for The Applied Retractable Dimensional Isolation Sphere.”
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Twi, you really need a better name for this bubble. Like an acronym or something.”
Twilight pretended not to hear the pegasus's comment. “Princess Luna -”
“Please, just Luna for the time being.”
“Right. Luna, if you'd be so kind as to funnel some energy to Rarity, who will be casting the Sphere.”
Once again, they all gathered within the salt ring, and this time, a second, ebon filament of energy arced towards Rarity's horn. With Luna's power, the bubble expanded even past the salt ring. Rarity signaled that she had the bubble stable, and Twilight began to cast the time travel spell. As she did so, she took a moment to take in this motley group. Two earth ponies, two pegasi, three unicorns, a juvenile dragon, and a demigod alicorn, all within a magical sphere that would effectively remove them from the world they would observe. Even as magic went, this was far-fetched.
Twilight's horn drew an aura of energy, first faint, and then almost opaque, then burning with purple-pink energy so bright, Fluttershy had to turn away. Nine entities was a lot of ponies to transport. But as long as nothing went wrong, she was confident she could pull it off. She released the spell from the tip of her horn, and the travelers felt themselves hurtling through time and space. A sound like rushing wind, torrential rain, and a migrating herd of cattle, all mixed up with each other assaulted their ears. When Twilight had travelled a week back in time to visit herself, it had seemed instantaneous. Now, it seemed to take longer – much, much longer.
“Hey Twilight! Why haven't we stopped yet?” yelled Rainbow Dash. Apparently she was sharing her sentiments.
“The travel must be relative. For every so many moments we feel, we travel back a certain amount!” Twilight yelled back, over the din.
“How far back did you send us?” yelled Lyra.
“I was aiming for about 500 years!”
At this, Fluttershy's nerves got the best of her, and she bucked a leg, hitting Spike squarely in the stomach. Spike's only response was to let out a ferocious green fireball, which though harmless to the ponies, burst the bubble. The magical arcs from Lyra and Luna dissipated, and the din receded, replaced only by the rush of wind in the ponies ears. The world they had seen (though it had been blurs and smudges through the bubble) suddenly went black. Twilight felt like she was falling. She screamed, but no sound came out.
Then she slammed into the ground.