Something troubled the Wizard as he stared out across Canterlot. Stars shone on a city asleep under the spell of night. All was in a state of peace - just as it had been for a thousand years. Still, the tickling in the back of his mind would not let up. The old stallion scanned the skyline, as if to check if everything was in its place. Catching himself with a chuckle, he turned his back on the city in thought.
The spell's bad reaction was another concern. The Wizard cursed himself for missing the subtle signs when he had cast - small warnings like a sense of "wrongness". As his student slept, he had pored over the layout of the spell, mending the damage done to it. It was if a piece of it had ripped off... and attached itself to Eventide. The piece was a particular mix of ward and anchor - now it guarded her. What was more - it offered her an unusual measure of control over each "story". Interaction with the ponies within—only suggested by the Wizard in a moment of panic—would have been impossible without it.
He summoned the old tome, and opened it to the entry. Dozens of the following pages no longer had shifting text - but what was written didn't seem right. The stallion could have sworn that the fire was too much to handle; he thought that not everypony had escaped. Yet here, as he read it again, there were no injuries apart from minor burns. Why did he remember a much darker turn of events? Perhaps his memories had been colored with time. His eyes searched for the patch of that ground - now a garden, though no pony alive remembered it's history. There was a stand of trees he used to tend there...
The book fell to the balcony floor, it's magic wards absorbing the shock. Shock, fear, and awe vied for control over his face. With a sweep of his arm, he warped down to the tower base in a traveling robe and hat. As soon as he touched down he sped into an ungraceful gallop.
"Impossible! Such a thing... how did she manage it?" He sputtered, fatigue catching up to creaky joints. Canterlot stood a good thirty minutes up the sloped road, but he would have to do it in three. This was urgent enough.
His horn shot light like a beacon and magic surged through every limb. The irises of his eyes took on a mirror's sheen, and his coat's color sharpened into platinum. Strength flowed through renewed limbs, and he surged high into the air. Focusing on Canterlot Castle, he willed it towards him. Magic bonded pony and stonework with an irresistible force.
A streak of silver bolted towards the curtain wall.
Impact left a bright shower of mercury drops hanging in the air. This mist hung still for a heartbeat, then moved against gravity. It passed over the wall, settled lightly to the ground beyond, and reformed into the galloping Wizard.
Princess Twilight's chambers sat just underneath the observatory. The tower stretched into the sky, dead ahead of him. His hooves struck the stone, and his magic took hold. The world to him swung, putting the wall underneath him. He sped up the tower wall, carrying the urgent news.
Calm, Twilight Sparkle thought, was a state of mind gained through focus and experience. Of anypony, she hardly expected him to freak out. Nonetheless, she could hardly make out a word of his, hyped up on this news of his.
"Now, tell me again. This time though, do it slowly."
The Wizard sighed, his coat and eyes paling as the magic left him. "Eventide has managed to take hold of my time traveling spell." His breath was long from returning to him though, forcing him to take a break.
Twilight's eyes softened in a smile. "So that's the news! You have her learning quickly - I didn't travel through time until after I had finished my study here in Canterlot -”
"Your highness, but -"
Slightly perturbed at the interruption, she rode over him. "Nonsense - it's perfectly safe. Time has that magical way of resolving itself." She paused in thought, "unless your spell was designed not to let that happen..."
Silence stretched long in the sitting room, dimly lit by oil lamps. The Alicorn's wings would occasionally twitch in ire.
Taking a long breath, the stallion explained. "The journal you gave me of a young colt who led a very unhappy life, filled with sorrow. As he aged and grew in his magic, he wished to prevent the horrors that had made him who he was. A spell was crafted, one that could ferry him back through the ages. The formulas he wrote in the journal show it was a sound method. It was up to the user to control how much or how little they could affect time."
"What happened to this colt?"
The Wizard sat down heavily. "His spell was flawed - he had no anchor. The resulting blast swept away his life and his friends."
The Princess pressed a hoof to her temple. "So that was it. You magicians and your secrets... Enough - you said we cannot stop the lessons until she finishes, and then we can go back to fixing any damage this may cause."
Dismissed, the Wizard walked towards the door.
"You can't continue to hide from Equestria, much less Eventide. Sometime, I want to see you go out and really live again - you're just surviving."
The old pony caught Twilight's gaze. Purple pools of concern regarded him, but he shook his head. "You know why I 'hide'. Soon, so will she: the filly is clever enough."
In the morning light, he could be seen slowly making his way down the hill.
The Wizard looked over the book again, preparing the spell to whisk himself and his pupil back through a millennium. The story he was so familiar with had changed, with small details snowballing as the years went by. This "Blue Ribbon" was an entirely different pony afterwards - but a better one. Having his family survive the fire (let alone rebuild) had changed so much...
A later entry piqued the old stallion's interest, as it was an alternate side to a lesson he had planned before. Indeed - the same outside influences came in, with global events continuing to affect this colt in similar ways.
It would do, he realized, as he shut the book. The past would continue to change as Eventide interacted with "Blue" - and so would everypony tied to this character - from one thousand years back. The spell was designed to hold against such a surge, but there was the issue: it may have been the only thing that could.
Sighing, the Wizard called in the young filly. The lessons had to continue.
The spell was cast without issue, and Canterlot-that-was materialized around them. Ponies of all types and colors filled the lively streets again. The sun warmed Eventide's coat as she took it in.
The Wizard motioned her over, and the landscape shifted as he spoke. "Blue Ribbon has had a good turn of events lately. His family, having survived the fire months back, has rebuilt their home and gotten back on their hooves. Blue himself has excelled in his studies; he now buries himself in books, learning ever more powerful magic." His pointed hoof led her gaze around.
Both of them stood within a small park, with fillies and colts romping in the summer air. A grove of trees offered shade and a plethora of hiding spots; swarms of young ponies would flee the branches as one who was "tagged" pursued. Laughter filled air, as sweet as the flowers that grew along the paths.
"You'll find him somewhere around here, snout buried in the pages of some old tome." The Wizard glanced at the position of the high, centered Sun. "You have until he returns home. Be yourself here, and feel free to play when you are done. Certainly, you have earned that right. Call for me when you wish to return."
Old Grey left her to her own devices in a field of unfamiliar faces. Nopony so much as glanced her way, and her suspicions were proved as one almost galloped right through her. These were only somepony else's memories to her. She moved on with increasing dismay.
She found herself in a quiet corner of the park, where an artificial stream poured over cobblestones under the spread of a massive oak tree. She pressed on, but the tingling of magic in use stopped her.
Up above, Blue Ribbon sprawled himself in the crook of several branches. One hind leg dangled from the mix, while his head lay on crossed hooves. Simple levitation held a small scroll in place for him to read, but as time passed he grew more and more frustrated with it. In a final break of ire, he rolled it shut and snatched it from the air. The colt wiggled into a new position, where his back rested against the bark of the tree. He lazily drew imaginary figures in the air.
"Excuse me, but what were you reading about?"
Blue woke with a start. His scowl could be seen from below as he searched for the pony who interrupted his daydream. "A very powerful sorcerer learned how to gain an affinity with an alchemical substance, and I have just found his thesis. It is a tiring read, and I would like to be alo-"
His eyes widened as he recognized Eventide. "You! From the fire? How - I never got a chance to thank you..." He swung down from the Oak, and approached her. "Ever since that, I have kept an eye out for you - we must go to different schools, but no matter. I've been wondering who you were, but now that you're here..."
Silence stretched awkwardly between the two. Both stood silently, him fidgeting under her stare. It was a wonder that she could interact with Blue - when nopony else could even come aware of her. She had to know. "Yeah, I'm here. You," she quickly reached out and tagged him, spinning about-face into a gallop, "are it!"
The colt stood dumbstruck as he saw her stop some distance away, then beckon him on. He thought of all the study he had to do, and how close he was to the next big breakthrough.
Eventide knew he would give in. Just another small taunt, and...
The scrolls could wait. Stretching out, he lunged into an easy canter. She led him over the creek, weaving through tree and bush with an agility the colt could barely match.
He started to lose sight of the filly zipping through the park. Thinking it over, he spun into the air, using a tether between himself and her.
The bond extended elastically, leaving Blue to fall. The tension in the line halted a galloping Eventide; she began to backslide even as she dug her hooves into the ground. An upside-down colt found himself gaining speed as he slid along the ground. The poor filly was bowled over as the two collided - sending both tumbling apart into a small clearing.
The two lay on their backs as they both tried to catch a breath. The dark red pony felt her irritation steam. "What did you think you were doing? You could have gotten us... What's so funny?!"
Blue could hardly help it. he clutched his sides as laughter became painful. Even as she regained her hooves, he still rolled with giggling. It was infectious too - as Eventide's fury cracked under the force of that mirth.
"That was," he paused in attempt to get a lungful of air, "the most fun I've had since I first met you. I have been doing some reading up on magic lately, but you will not find that spell in a book!" A small ripple of chuckling shook his frame again.
"You need to get away from those tomes once in a while, then. I can't see why bowling into a stranger like a cannonball is any fun at all!"
The colt wilted under this, still on his back. "I did not think it would do that - I just wanted to catch up. You are not a stranger, either. I just have not gotten a name from you. I am - "
"Blue Ribbon, I've been told. I'm Eventide"
This made the colt tilt his head to the side. "By whom? Nopony calls me that."
Her eyes widened as his blue tint faded - the remains of what was obviously an illusion faded from him. This pony had no color at all - but shined with platinum hair. His mane and coat shimmered as they caught and spun the light around, and she could see her reflection in his irises.
"My name is Silver String; nice to meet you, Eventide." His brought himself upright, extending a hoof. She took it in bemusement.
"I-I must have misheard. Why were you not playing with the others though - I'm sure they'd have fun with something like that."
Blue - no - Silver turned away, a front hoof grinding the grass underneath. "I had thought that they were my friends, but they are not. As my old house burned, they were only there to gawk. As we slowly rebuilt, they were only there to 'wish us well'. When I got back to school, they were there to condemn me - to say that some mistake of mine had started the fire. This is not the first time I have endangered my family though. I have to learn faster if I am going to prevent another. I must be stronger for the disasters that will strike. I need to know how not to fail ever again."
Eventide came around to see his face dipping to the ground. His horn touched the soil, and an expanding mirror filled with his face. A few tears dripped to mar its surface, and he splashed it away. Her touch brought his gaze upward to meet hers - both sets of eyes watery.
"You could use a true friend. You can't do this all yourself: it's too hard to do. Here," she held out her hoof, "you're strange, but much cooler than any colt I know."
Silver String wiped away the moisture in his eyes and accepted her invitation. He straightened up, tagging the filly playfully before dashing a short distance away. Shaking her head at such a turn, Eventide launched herself in pursuit.
From a distance, the Wizard watched as his student made the discovery, but accepted the young colt regardless. Another change to the timeline had been made, but his heart could only approve. The two now frolicked through the last hours before the sky would darken. They would have their time to play.
Phasing out of the spell slightly, he summoned the journal over. The latest page had been filled with words of a hopeful pony:
I had thought that I was alone in this world. Left to the results of my own failures, I could not see any way to make a life. Together, we could do it, though! Think of it: the secrets of magic uncovered, an unstoppable force, and names to be made!