“Yoo hoo! Snarky! Snarky Warky Snarkaloo! Snarkaluffigus!”
Twilight winced at every shout from her pink companion. “Are you sure attracting this much attention is the best idea?”
“Of course!” Pinkie chirped. “If we’re gonna find Star Swirl, we’ve gotta follow his Snark!”
“I thought you said you already know where Star Swirl is.”
“I do! He’s exactly where the Snark is going to lead us!”
Twilight facehoofed but said no more, keeping close to Pinkie’s side and throwing her eyes toward every sign of movement in the tulgey wood.
“Come on out, little Snarky!” Pinkie yelled with a charming smile. “We’re not gonna hurt you. Look! I’ve got sooooaap!” She pulled a bar of soap from thin air, earning a bewildered stare from Twilight.
“Soap?” the unicorn squeaked. “Why soap?”
“Snarks love to take baths!” Pinkie explained, tossing the slippery bar from one forehoof to the other. “Some of them carry bathing machines with them wherever they go!”
Pinkie gasped and pressed her friend’s head into the candy-flavored dirt below. “Twilight, get down!”
Spluttering, Twilight grumbled, “It’s not like you gave me any choice!”
Pinkie dropped to Twilight’s level, bulging one of her sapphire eyes closer to Twilight’s left one. “I think we found him!”
“What? Already?” Twilight tried and failed to get up, held down by Pinkie’s hoof. “But… we’ve barely been at this for ten minutes!”
“Wow, it must be our lucky day!” Pinkie giggled, crawling into a collection of tall, spiraling blades of grass. Licking the sugary soil from her face, Twilight followed suit, crouching next to Pinkie Pie and squinting into the dimness of the Wabe beyond.
A small, brown, fuzzy-looking creature was sitting upright in between a number of glass palm trees—taking a bath. Its miniature, porcelain tub was filled with clear, steaming water. Twilight’s pupils shrunk as the creature looked left and right with confused desperation. Its head, sitting atop an armless, elongated, pear-shaped body, was topped with huge round eyes and featured a wide, lid-like jaw. A row of sharp teeth poked neatly between its lips. It had no discernible nose, though it seemed to sniff the air, and Twilight was sure she could see feathers matted against its body.
She grabbed onto Pinkie’s hoof. “Are you sure it’s not a Boojum? It looks just like the thing that sent Bluish back in time!”
“Forward in time,” Pinkie corrected, “and yes, I’m completely sure! Look at its eyes!”
Twilight remembered the solid red eyes of the black-coated Boojum. This creature’s eyes were milky white with large, black pupils, totally void of any colored irises. Before she had the chance to ask Pinkie anything else, the party pony poked her head out of their hiding place and smiled at the tiny creature. “Hi!”
It squealed and dunked its head under the water of its tub, sending little waves splashing over the side. Twilight couldn’t help but giggle at the way it poked one eye above the surface of the water to observe Pinkie.
She stayed where she was with a smile on her face, waving to the Snark with a bar of soap cupped in her hoof. “Hey there, little guy! Were you looking for some of this?”
Its wide head rose timidly over the edge of the tub, gazing at the cream-colored soap with stars its eyes.
“Here ya go!” Pinkie said, tossing the bar into his bath. “It’s all yours!”
The Snark squealed again, this time with delight, and lifted the soap to eye level… with nothing. Twilight stared in shock as it ran the bar over its body as if with magic, though no colored aura of levitation twinkled around its form. “How does it do that?” she asked Pinkie.
“I dunno,” Pinkie replied, inching out of the twisted grass. “Maybe its arms are invisible.”
“That doesn’t make any sense!” Twilight hissed, unable to force herself out of the shrub even as Pinkie approached the Snark.
“I’m Pinkie Pie!” the happy pony introduced, leaning over the lip of the Snark’s bathing machine. “Do you remember me?”
It nodded jovially and continued to lather its fur with thick suds. Twilight tilted her head to one side. “Remember her?” she muttered.
“It’s so good to see you again!” Pinkie exclaimed. “If you weren’t all soapy, I’d give you a big hug!”
The Snark hunched and smiled as if it were blushing, scrubbing Pinkie’s gift beneath its own chin.
“I brought a friend along with me,” Pinkie continued. “She’s really nice and likes to think about stuff, just like you!” She looked over her shoulder briefly and leaned closer to the Snark, whispering, “Plus she doesn’t have the greatest sense of humor, so I bet you two will get along just fine. Wanna meet her?”
The Snark’s brow creased and it bobbled its head from left to right unsurely.
“Don’t worry, I bet you’ll really like her,” Pinkie said. “Come on out, Twilight! Show the Snark how nice you are!”
After a deep breath through her snout, Twilight climbed out of the shrub with a meager smile on her face. “Uh… hi,” she said, waving a forehoof.
The Snark eyed her up and down with a blank expression. Finally, it smiled and waved the bar of soap, tossing loose suds onto Pinkie’s mane. She giggled and dunked her head under the water to clear it all away. To Twilight chagrin, she dried within seconds.
“Twilight’s a biiiiiig fan of Star Swirl the Bearded,” Pinkie said, splashing her hooves in the water. “Isn’t that right, Twilight?”
“Huh? Oh… uh, yeah! I’ve read all the books he left behind, and I’m simply fascinated by the method he used to create new spells with nothing but—”
“We come from a time way ahead of Star Swirl, so Twilight’s never met him,” Pinkie said, curving her mouth into a pout. “Do you think maybe you could take us to see him? That would make my friend very happy, and seeing her happy would make me happy!” She switched to a full beam, nodding hopefully at the Snark.
The chocolate-colored creature set its soap aside and disappeared beneath the bubbly water. Pinkie stepped away as it wiggled out of sight, spilling waves of water onto the candy dirt below. Twilight watched in awe as little lollipops grew from the moistened ground like flowers.
When the Snark was done thrashing, it stood up in the center of the bathtub and knocked its head against a strange tube holding up a shower nozzle. Fresh water spewed down onto its head, clearing away any residual suds, while the water in the tub itself mysteriously drained away. In seconds, the Snark was sparklingly clean, standing at the center of an empty white bowl and nodding agreeably with Pinkie Pie.
She gasped. “Really? You’ll take us to him?”
It nodded again, leaping from the tub with a spray of warm water. After shaking itself of excessive droplets, it flashed a big smile at Twilight and started to run through the forest.
“Hooray!” Pinkie cheered, galloping after him. “This is gonna be so much fun! Heeheehee! Oh, I just can’t wait to see your face!”
With one last look at the senseless bathing machine, Twilight cantered after her friend and the Snark, wondering how it could move so fast on such tiny, adorable legs.
The tree was unsettlingly familiar.
“Pinkie Pie,” Twilight said in a hushed voice. “What is my library doing in the Wabe?”
“That’s not your library, silly!” Pinkie said, bouncing behind the waddling Snark headed straight for the thick oak tree embedded with a door.
“Well, not exactly,” Twilight allowed, “but you have to admit, it looks just like it!”
Pinkie squinted at the upcoming tree. “Hmmm… nope, sorry! I don’t see it.”
Twilight knew better than to argue.
The door was angled funny, painted dark, and bore the symbol of a staff topped with a five-pointed star leaning against a misty spiral. She gulped as the Snark knocked on the door with an invisible fist, followed by a long and terrible silence.
Pinkie didn’t seem to mind, bouncing happily in place as her eyes inflated like balloons.
Quick hoofsteps sounded beyond the door. After a brief rattling of the knob, it swung open with a burst of sparkly powder and light.
“Gaaah!” Twilight yelped, curling into a ball on the ground and covering her eyes.
“My dear Miss Pie!” a strong, gravelly voice announced. “What a pleasure to see you again! How long has it been?”
“What does it matter?” Pinkie asked, drawing a long, dry laugh from the voice.
“Well said, dear Pinkie, well said!” The stallion cleared his throat. “And, uh… who is this?”
“Stand up, Twilight!” Pinkie urged, nudging her with a hoof. “Meet my friend, Star Swirl the Bearded!”
“Your… friend?” Twilight squeaked, peeking between her hooves. Before her stood a wrinkled, grey-green stallion with a long, white mane and beard, both of which fell straight until curling slightly at the tips. “Oh my gosh…” Twilight breathed. “I-I can’t believe it!”
The blue-robed stallion bowed a little, tipping his pointy, bell-brimmed hat.
“St-st-st-st—” Twilight bumbled, scrambling to her hooves and brushing her mane out of her widening eyes.
“Ha! Look at that, Swirly,” Pinkie giggled, elbowing the stallion in the side. “Twilight’s a little… star-struck!”
“Haa haa! I suppose she is.” He smiled, showing his pearly white, though slightly crooked, teeth. “It has been such a long time since I met an aspiring magician.” He stroked his beard. “Or has it? Hmm… hard to tell in the Wabe.”
“In my time, sir, you’ve been gone for well over a thousand years,” Twilight said between deep breaths. “It is a real honor to meet the father of the amniomorphic spell.”
Star Swirl stood up straighter. “Ah-ha! A real admirer, I see! Well, young lady, I can honestly say it’s an honor to meet you, too… although that may not mean much. At this point, it would be an honor to meet anypony with all their wits about them.” He chuckled to himself and stepped aside. “Please, both of you, come in! I see my little friend has helped you find the way.” He patted the Snark on the top of its head with one hoof as he closed the door with his magic. The feathery creature purred and smiled under his owner’s touch.
Twilight marveled at the tree’s interior. Had the walls been covered in shelves and books, she might have mistaken it for her own home. The staircase and loft were in exactly the same place; Star Swirl even had a wooden bust of a horse on his central table. “I don’t believe this!” she said aloud.
“Well, it’s not much,” Star Swirl said, “but it’s my eternal home, so I might as well be decorative with it.”
“No, no, I mean… this looks just like my library in Ponyville!”
Star Swirl raised a bushy eyebrow at that. “Does it, now? Well, that is interesting.” He magicked a whistling teacup from another room of the tree. “May I tempt either of you with a beverage?”
Twilight blinked. “Uh… yes please!”
Pinkie shook her head politely.
As the wizard prepared two cups of tea, Twilight further examined the room while Pinkie tickled the Snark. “Who’s a cute little helper? Who’s the cutest little helper? You are! Yes you are!” It snickered and wheezed under her touch.
“Miss Sparkle, was it?” Star Swirl asked.
Twilight gulped. “Uh… yes, sir. Twilight Sparkle.”
As she took the cup of tea he offered, Star Swirl asked, “Tell me a bit about yourself.”
“Oh… well, I was born in Canterlot—“
“That old town is still around after a thousand years?”
Twilight blinked. “Why, of course it is! It’s one of the most beautiful cities in all of Equestria.”
“Hhhm… Equestria.” Star Swirl grinned and removed his hat, revealing a thick head of combed, silver mane. “I was never able to enjoy Equestria. I’m sure it’s a beautiful country now, but due to a number of unfortunate circumstances, I never saw peace since the nation's founding.”
Twilight’s entire disposition saddened. “I’m so sorry, Star Swirl…”
“It’s quite all right!” he exclaimed, taking a sip of his tea. “I may not have seen many bright days during my life, but the darkness of my world inspired me to create my own light. Without my circumstances, I never would have become the magician I am today.” He offset his jaw. “Or… was yesterday. Or will be tomorrow.” He shrugged, chuckling at himself.
“In my time, you are renowned and studied as one of the greatest magicians of the Pre-Classical Era,” Twilight informed him with pride. “There is an entire wing of the Canterlot Palace library that bears your name.”
The wizard’s eyes lit up. “Is there, now?”
Twilight nodded. “It’s where all the time spells are kept.”
“Haa haa haaaa!” Star Swirl stomped a hearty hoof. “How very appropriate! Heeheehee…”
A warm smile slipped onto Twilight’s face. “It really is incredible to meet you, sir.”
He waved a hoof. “Yes, yes, I’m sure it must be. But remember, I am also meeting you, and I would still like to hear of your life. Did you grow up in Canterlot?”
“Oh, y-yes. My father was an astronomer and professor at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, and my mother was an established children’s book author. My brother was just as influential on me as they were. He’s now the captain of the royal guard.”
“All unicorns?” Star Swirl asked.
“Yes, all unicorns.”
“Did you attend the school at which your father taught?”
Twilight blushed. “Well… sort of. During my entrance exam, I lost control of my magic and accidentally… damaged… the building.” She cleared her throat and scraped at the ground. “Princess Celestia happened to be nearby at the time. She was able to reign in my episode and took me under her wing as her personal student from then on.”
Star Swirl’s eyes widened. “Princess… Celestia?” he asked in disbelief. “She took you in as a student?”
Twilight smiled. “Yes. I am the princess’s faithful protégé.”
The sorcerer’s eyes darted to Pinkie Pie, searching for confirmation. When she nodded enthusiastically, Star Swirl’s countenance darkened.
“You’re certain it was Celestia?” he asked. “Your mind has not been clouded by the Wabe?”
Twilight stepped back. “What? No, of course not. Princess Celestia has been my mentor for as long as I can remember.”
Star Swirl’s jaw clenched for a moment. “Celestia? The eldest? The raiser of the sun? The bearer of the Element of Loyalty?”
Twilight’s horn sparked. “What!?”
Tiny muscles in Star Swirl’s face twitched. He rubbed them with the edge of his hoof while he asked, “You’re absolutely sure it wasn’t Beatrix?”
“Who?” Twilight squeaked.
The old magician sighed and set his cup of tea on the central table. “Oh, dear… I forget how much can change in over a thousand years.” He plopped to his hindquarters and invited Twilight to do the same with a slow motion of his hoof. “I expect our conversation might consist of many shocking questions.”
Twilight bit her lip. “Maybe you should just… tell your story, and I’ll ask questions at the end.”
Star Swirl blinked. “Are you sure?”
“Absolutely.” With a sideways glance at Pinkie Pie, Twilight added, “It will be nice to hear some straightforward information for a change.”
Pinkie blushed and twirled a lock of her mane around her hoof.
“Very well then,” Star Swirl said. “What exactly would you like to know?”
“Well… everything,” Twilight admitted, smiling sheepishly. “But I suppose it would be best to begin with your experience in the Wabe.”
“Ahhh, yes, Miss Sparkle. That would, indeed, be a perfect place to start.”
A terrible, wintery storm of unprecedented duration desolated much of our planet’s northwestern continent. I assume you are aware that the Windigos were responsible, feeding on the hatred between the pony tribes, but in the midst of the event we were unaware of the monsters’ presence. If only I had read the signs, the following disasters may have been avoided; alas, I was old, and though the Wabe has restored a great deal of youthful vigor to mind and body, I had not the full capacity of reason. My age, combined with the cold and hunger ravaging all unicorns, drove me to a state of desperation. I left my position as chief advisor to Her Majesty, Princess Platinum, leaving in my stead my most prized and brilliant pupil, Clover, in hopes of discovering a solution in some uncharted land. I will admit it was a foolish and insubstantial quest, but in that frazzled mindset I did not heed to my students’ counsel. I headed west, toward the sea.
I was surprised at how small a distance the storm covered. It was not three days into my journey that the untouched countryside became green and lush around me. A dark cloud did not dot the sky; birds of every sort and color flew and twittered past me as I trotted and smiled o’er hill and river. With every step, it seemed, my intellect grew clearer, until I was quite certain I had made a mistake. What use is a journey with no destination, no prize to win but some vague magic of a hopeful and sourceless breed? I was quite prepared to give up and return—not quite sharp enough to realize relocation as an obvious answer—when I came upon the coast.
There was a very small town erected there. To my surprise but, to my credit, not disgust, I found therein each kind of pony—winged, horned, and unadorned—living together in a state of love and harmony. I found that they spoke a language unfamiliar to me, and so I was unable to communicate with them more than my intention of crossing the sea. The lot of them seemed quite nervous for me, though nopony ever protested my advancement. They were a kind clan and even offered me a boat. I informed them that I would construct my own.
And so I did, for the next week or so, using the lumber in the forests north of that isolated village. If I were a younger stallion, I may have tried to learn their language, but as it was I focused all my efforts on magically constructing a suitable ship. It was not long before my vessel met the water and I was off, but not without accepting generous supplies of food for me from that interracial village. I never saw the town again, though I am constantly curious of its origin.
Having been a fervent sailor in my youth, the sea was no stranger to me, and even my old mind rekindled its friendship with that great frontier as I journeyed to unknown lands beyond the Pahoofic ocean. Of course, I never reached them, for on the fifth day of my lonely voyage I was attacked by nature’s blameless wrath. Had Fate not been guiding me, I know I would have died. As it happened, after my ship passed through the storm—battered and ruined beyond simple repair—I found myself within a league or two of a small, oddly colored island. Magicking together a simple craft from the remains of my ship, I hurried to its shore.
Of course you know, I had found the Wabe, though my own awareness of this fact would not come for some time. Immediately after my arrival, I was made aware of the islands more vicious creatures. It was also at this time that I discovered the islands peculiar effects on my mind and body, for though I knew I was quite old, I could think and move as if I were at my prime of life. This proved invaluably useful in terms of survival, especially during those first few hours upon the isle.
My newfound vivacity gave birth to courage, and when I found myself removed from certain unfriendly beasts, I moved deeper into the island. It was not long before I came across the first creature that did not try to kill me—only because it was actively avoiding its own demise from a freakish, serpentine predator. The prey appeared to me so innocent and fearful that I felt it my duty to ward off the hunter. With magic, I did just that, pushing the horrendous creatures away with all manner of offensive spells. It retreated permanently when I temporarily blinded it, and I was free to turn my attention to the quivering creature whose life I had saved.
It was the Snark, this adorable little animal who has scarcely left my side since. It is a remarkably intelligent and perceptive creature, despite its bizarre and irremovable quirks. Though it cannot speak, I feel that we understand each other rather well nowadays. At the time, however, I found the indebted look in its eyes rather off-putting and tried to shoo it away when it began to follow me, but after some time I decided to respect whatever duty it felt it owed me, hoping that its custom would not last for too long.
After wandering the island aimlessly for some hours, I began to talk aloud to myself—or perhaps to the Snark, I’m not sure. In any case, I asked aloud if there was anything on the island worth discovering or studying. The Snark leapt for joy upon hearing this and proceeded to guide me to the center of the island where I first beheld the enormous Sundial that there stands sentinel.
It became the object of my obsession for some time, the exact amount of which I could never calculate. How ironic that time was so far from my mind while I studied the most basic and primitive device for recording it. The oddity of its placement, size, and general existence so consumed my mind that I quite forgot about my home and the initial purpose of my quest. In fact, it was not until I discovered the Sundial’s power that I realized its potential to save my fellow ponies from their affliction.
When I had finally studied the markings of the Sundial enough to make some sense of them, I realized its ability to alter magic; that is, it was designed to amplify and minimize the intensity of spells cast upon it. I could understand the desire to amplify a spell, but its unique ability to negate magic was puzzling to me. I did not think much on the matter—at least not as much as I ought to have done—and once I believed I had mastered the function of the sculpture, I altered and amplified a teleportation spell to create a portal home.
Now, already within my tale I have made mention of the three factors which contributed to the disastrous nature of this mistake. Had any of three things been different, I believe ponykind would have been spared great tragedy. They are: my senile nature while away from the Wabe; the existence of ferocious creatures upon the Wabe; and my vast misperception of time.
While for me the portal opened on the side of the Sundial, its other end appeared at the foot of Canterlot Mountain, directly at the center of the newly founded Equestria. In the time I was gone—or whatever strange force replaces time on the Wabe—the pony tribes had come together in a new land south of our frozen nation. I assume that nation is where you now live, and I’m glad to know it survived the catastrophe I brought upon it.
I had planned to keep my magic focused on maintaining the portal all the while I was away from the Wabe. Unfortunately, the moment I stepped through the portal, my mind was once against burdened with its deteriorating age. I forgot my entire purpose within a matter of seconds. Startled by the glowing hole behind me and the strange creature at my side, I attempted to close the portal by means of covering it with a magic-induced avalanche. As I hope I have made clear, my reasoning in the real world is below a newborn foal’s.
The avalanche did not cover the portal, but instead widened it to the point that, on the other end, it created an unstable rift between the planes. This rift did not only allow the creatures of the Wabe to enter Equestria—it flung hundreds of them and, quite sensibly, enraged them. In almost every case, a creature of the Wabe, which is composed of far more magical stuff than ponies can comprehend, is troublesomely transformed within a time-governed environment. Most were gifted with grotesque, supernatural powers of chaos and destruction, but fortunately not with powers of reason. They were mindless beasts, mostly, wreaking confused havoc in every corner of Equestria. The exception—the one creature which was granted both godlike powers of universal manipulation and the mind of a skillful craftspony—was the Jabberwock, the same horrific serpent from which I saved the Snark. In his new world, the Jabberwock quickly became a creature of pride and greed. Within days of the rift’s appearance, he ruled over Equestria with the care of a newborn for its playthings.
I was largely oblivious to the chaos, demoted by my mental faculties to a bumbling amnesiac. Somehow I was located by Clover the Clever, who was at least twenty years older than I had left him, and he managed to coax enough information from me and the Snark to lead me back through the rift to the Wabe. Once there and cured of my madness, I relayed to him all that had happened and begged for his help in reversing what had happened. He asked me how, and so I revealed the primary power of the Sundial. It was, at its simplest, a machine designed to manipulate time from an island that was not affected by the phenomenon. While I had gathered this from the Sundial’s descriptive markings, I had not been able to access its temporal abilities. I asked Clover to help me save his new Equestria from sure destruction by turning back time. He eagerly agreed to help me try.
To make a long story short, we did not turn back time. In our attempt to activate the Sundial, we accidentally opened it. I cannot recall exactly how it happened, or even the precise events, but one way or another there was a bright explosion of mist-like energy from the base of the Sundial and then, when our eyes adjusted to the light, we saw six magnificent creatures standing before us around the giant structure. They spoke to us in a foreign, beautiful tongue, and yet we both understood with perfect clarity and answered question each in turn. We told them our names, positions, and races; then they told us theirs.
They were Celestia, Alula, Piedra, Calupan, Beatrix, and Luna, the alicorns of the ancient world, locked in a timeless void for longer than any of them could rightfully say. They did not reveal the reason for their imprisonment, and we did not ask. Their very beings exuded such tangible forces of pure power and righteousness that we dared not insult them, nor did we feel any reason to do so. We were astonished by their beauty, stature, and instantly apparent wisdom.
We told them of our recent experiences, our reasons for tampering with the Sundial, and our intentions so save our world from the rampant creatures of the Wabe. They conversed with one another—and only at that time, we could not comprehend their language—before asking to see the world of which we spake.
We brought them to Equestria through the nearby rift. After taking in the destruction, the alicorns displayed their inherent compassion by promising to help the ponies of our world in every way they could. Shocked and humbled by the turn of events, Clover and I returned to the Wabe (for my memory’s sake) and spoke of many things. Few of our thoughts were concrete, as so much at that point was up for speculation. Most of our words expressed only hope that the alicorns could succeed where I had failed.
In time, they did. The entirety of the Wabe’s vile creatures were herded back through the rift—except for the Jabberwock. His newfound intellect and immense power kept him out of the alicorns’ hooves. They understood the magnitude of his threat to the ponies of Equestria, and also that he was a different enemy than the other creatures of the Wabe. With what I now see as great wisdom, they decided to first seal up the rift before facing the Jabberwock.
I was faced with a decision… or so I like to tell myself. In reality, only one choice was actually plausible for a stallion of my caliber. Was I honestly expected to consider staying in Equestria where I could hardly remember my own name, and would likely exist in such a useless position for many torturous years? No! The Wabe, though dangerous, offered an endless life of clarity, and endless mysteries to engross my talents. I chose to stay.
Clover was displeased with my adamant decision and promised to find me. I told him that I did not think it wise to search for the Wabe, but even so we parted on good terms. I do remember a certain look of interest he cast upon my Snark, but I excused it as a gut reaction; Snark hunting had become something of a sport during the months of the Jabberwock’s reign, and, though cruel, some ponies had actually taken a liking to it. In fact, because they are not hostile, I believe many Snarks were left in Equestria when the rift was sealed, but I cannot be sure.
Either way, that is the extent of my knowledge, for I have lived here ever since with no communication with Equestria… though “ever since” is more of a phrase for your benefit, Miss Sparkle, as to me it feels as if no time has passed at all, even though a million new memories confirm to me that many years have indeed gone by.