Of the many emotions that formed a writhing coil inside of Twilight's belly, amusement had no part. Silver String had intentionally tossed away her advice. Cutting all ties to her, the stallion had ensured that Eventide would be free to do as she saw fit: something the filly was too young for. Teeth slowly ground as she sat listening to him calmly explaining how this madness was justified.
"... it is in her best interest. This new timeline offers her much more opportunities to learn and grow. We can only presume that these changes will be permanent, so this will also serve as a history lesson..."
In the end, she could not bear his talk. Gracefully rising from her seat, she stepped past him to the balcony. Equestria's land flowed between horizons, crisp mountains and lush valleys that still inspired her. For one thousand years she had shaped an era of peace, fighting everything that threatened her ponies.
Her gaze dropped to Canterlot's city proper. It looked more and more alien to her now, like having a changeling take a foaling from you. In the corner of Twilight's eyes, she could almost see pockets of reality shift into the new timeline. Could she but hold it back...
"Her best interest, perhaps - but what about Equestria's? She'll be introducing problems none of us will have any clue dealing with - eventually replacing us as well! How can you ignore this responsibility?"
"I cannot," he replied, "but I know that this needs to be done. Stopping her, forcibly removing the spell, is more dangerous than anything she could unleash. A wave of magic that strong would annihilate this city..." He gestured towards the vista, emphasizing his next words. "Besides, some part of you must relish this chance to see what could have been."
Objects of curiosity had appeared lately along the city walls. Massive spires lifted in regular intervals, and magic crackled between them. Ponies of all kinds passed through safely, but she knew the shimmering fields to be powerful wards.
A discrete request brought her a scroll detailing their construction: it was, in fact, by her order. Made in an effort to protect the city, this wall of energy was made just after a terrible disaster. The threat of changelings had returned, a short span after her coronation. Without her brother's protective barrier, a quick coup had trapped the castle Alicorns - leaving the city defenseless.
The rest of the document was mostly unreadable, letters flickering and shifting faster than the eye could follow. Could it be that events had the opportunity to change? So much seemed familiar, but why the towers?
"You remember what happened, Silver String. When they attacked again, you were there..."
"My Princess, I fought as they tore the city apart. I lashed the creatures with all of my power..." Here he paused, reliving a nightmare long-suppressed. "Were it not for your friends to break you free, we would be enslaved. Even still, Canterlot was crushed when you threw them out."
Twilight pursed her lips in thought. What difference could a filly so young make? The answer came as she looked back on her own foal-hood.
A world of difference
Eventide had spent a while back in the past - at first due to fear, then because she started to like this ancient city. Silver had been a good friend, and had given her a room in an apartment his family owned. The Greys were a "clan" of wizards that had served the Princesses for as long as they could remember. She had come over for dinner these past few days, and they seemed pleasant to her.
His father was a busy stallion that spent most of his time at the castle. Quiet, his few words carried a calm warmth to them. After complimenting her on her magical development, he was off to his royal duties. Silver's mother was off on a business venture, though a few aunts, uncles, and cousins were visiting. Many had their quirks, but all welcomed her warmly.
Silver String had been studying magic with her lately, and both had plenty to learn. While he found the most... unconventional solution to a problem, he rarely took the time to learn the details. Filly and colt practiced spells until they could seamlessly mix their efforts in a spell, communicating without sound as they wove spells of ever-greater complexity.
Time ground on in Canterlot.
A knock on her door brought Eventide over from her desk. The wood swung in to reveal a familiar colt bouncing on his hooves. He quivered with barely restrained excitement, and she could see he wore a formal robe over a just-brushed coat.
"Hey, Silver String, what's up?"
"Well, you have been making an impression on my family - a good one, I assure you..." He sputtered before taking a long breath. "Father has invited me to a dinner with the Princesses, and I wanted to know: would - would you accompany me?"
A cool thrill ran through the filly. The Twilight she knew had been reigning over Equestria for a long, long time. The Alicorn of this period...
She had to wonder how much a thousand years would change somepony. The Princess Twilight Sparkle she knew was sublime with a quirky sense of humor. History wrote her as a ruler who placed the safety and peace of her subjects first. Deeper inside, who was she?
Silver noticed her pause, and brought out a package wrapped in paper. "Don't worry - some of my cousins know an artisan seamstress. I hope you'll find this to your liking."
As if in a dream, she carried the parcel to her bed and unwrapped it. Fabric spilled in rippling waves: dusky rose, a salmon pink, and other autumnal hues spun into a bodice of undyed wool. It was a dress, she realized. Hoof-stitched seams ran in cleverly disguised folds. The feel of it was just right, and she could resist putting it on.
The colors were very unconventional. Their mixture struck the eyes, but Eventide slowly came to the realization that it perfectly complemented her. The deep reds of her coat and the oranges of her hair were accented and emphasized, and the wraps of cloth swept around her. Tight on the upper leg, but billowing out towards the hoof, the sleeves allowed a full range of movement. A small trailing of cloth ended just above the ground and would float on a whispering breeze.
She finished a slow spin she didn't recall starting to find the colt still in the door - his jaw hanging. Recovering, he tried to make an off-hoof remark. "Well, I suppose that mare is worth her salt. It suits you, really."
She quirked an eyebrow at the rising blush being refracted through his coat. He was now caught off-guard - and Eventide could not resist ‘lighting a fire’ underneath him.
“How do you like it?” A quick swirl of the fabric almost colored the colt with same hues her coat carried.
“I ah... It”s... Could...?” Silver String’s voice puttered out. A hoof reached up to scratch his mane, and he chuckled. “Stop teasing! Besides, remember we have a dinner to be at.”
Nodding once, she silently took stock of her room. Everything seemed to be in order, ready for a night out to the castle. Though, was she?
Canterlot's keep kept it's watch as dusk fell, silent towers and walls bathed in orange light. The Grey family patriarch led the young ponies up past gates and guard posts. Hooves clacked on ancient stone, echoing off the rising marble-work that lifted high into the chill air.
The castle was designed to please the eye - and this detail was taken to heart by the architects. Muted purples ran through the stone of the walls - set against the bright banners and tapestries hung along the way. Carpets split with the intersections as they trailed off into shadow. The trio passed through a bridge spanning two of the larger turrets. Stained glass from floor to ceiling stood set into stone pillars. The sun's light made a fiery light that burned through the windows.
Their route wound around and up, the corridors emptied into an open balcony. A lone table had been brought out, and three Alicorns sat around a meal laid on on it's surface. The smell of deft cooking reached the coming group, luring them out to meet the Princesses.
The largest, pastel-hued and wise, smiled warmly to the approaching ponies. "Court Magus, I'm glad you could make it tonight. So this would be your son, then? I hear he has come a long way in his studies. And who is this?" Her eyes turned towards the filly in her gown.
Upon his father's nudging, Silver stepped forward into a bow. "Princess Celestia, Eventide is a close friend. From the moment I met her, she has given much to help me. Even when I fail, this filly has been here to help me up."
To this, a navy blue Princess (with stars woven in midnight hair) stirred. "My sister, I think that he now proves as great as his brother. If this be her doing, I would welcome her presence here." She closed her eyes with this, a slight furrow in her brow.
These two were only legends where—or rather when—Eventide came from. Celestia and Luna supposedly had stabilized Equestria after the War of Chaos. With one to steward the day, and the other to guard the night, these sisters were powerful manifestations of order.
It was the third that threw Eventide off. Expecting the impressive figure that had led her into this adventure, this Twilight stood only just larger than most mares. Eventide had seen an image of her, her first time here with her teacher, but this pony was nothing like what she expected. Twilight Sparkle seemed less of a regal ruler and more of an older sister!
When the purple Princess looked over, she gave a double-take. She stepped around the table to inspect the filly. Eventide froze as she considered the impossible: did this Twilight know about her time-travel? Did she suspect? She was pinned by that sharp, searching gaze.
"You... that's Rarity's work, I recognize it! No pony I know could make a dress like that. You're quite the lucky filly - it looks like it was made for you!"
"T-thank you, Princess Twilight Sparkle. This was a gift."
Once the formalities were done, the meal proceeded as the Sun's disk dipped below horizon. Its setting light faded to deepening hues of blue, and then true night fell. Every now and again, Luna would cast her gaze suspiciously out towards the city, but settled into serene calm as she raised the moon.
Eventide watched as magic more vast than anything she had known spread out into the night sky. Tendrils of power reached out in a spreading tree. She was lost in the complexity of the working. The white lunar orb rose gracefully, lifting itself into the night sky. It slowed for a breath, though, as the Princess lost focus. Shaking her head, she resumed her work.
Celestia tipped her head. "Is everything all right, sister? You've been on-edge for a while now, lately."
“It is nothing - I felt a passing oddness come and go, but that is all. The night is a tricky thing: it loves to play with the mind." With that, Luna landed softly and walked back to the table.
Moonlight now bathed the balcony. It's color caused the the stone to glow in a soft, pearly light. Stars winked into existence slowly, and the conversation died as the group enjoyed the view.
That's when they attacked.
From above, dozens of dark shapes slammed into the balcony. Insectoid carapaces chittered as luminous blue eyes stared out from the host. From behind, the door burst out in a blaze of green fire. From out of the smoke strode a tall creature that was almost, but not quite, pony.
Silver's father conjured a mist that forced the youth safely to the side. Humidity squeezed into sheets of pelting spray, blasting the creatures back through the shattered frame. The Princesses lept into combat without a word, lashing out with beams of energy. More beasts came from above, blotting out the sky.
Along the side, Eventide stood in shock. These... things were out of a nightmare. They swarmed over the side and launched themselves at the Princesses. The Court Magus held the doorway, but was breathing hard.
Silver String took her hoof. Shaking her out of shock, he spoke with quiet urgency. "Come on. We have to help them." The words did not reach her though.
Dark magic blasted Silver's father prone, and the large changeling stepped back through the doorway. Light from the unnatural fires showed her face. A sneer twisted insidious features, green eyes flashing with power. A warped crown grew out of her head, a symbol of her dark rule.
"Chrysalis - you haven't the strength to take us!" Luna ripped away from the mass with a pulse of energy as Celestia formed a small star. Twilight teleported above the crush, and all three readied their spells.
"I was banished from Equestria, true - but the two who are responsible have gone far to the North. I have grown stronger in the lands leading back. Feel my wrath!" With this, she sent a stream of energy at Celestia. Luna and Twilight came to assist, but a wall of the monsters formed to block them.
Silver String shook Eventide more violently, this time. "Snap out of it, filly! They need our help!" The stunned pony came to, her eyes focusing on him. "We can take her down, together. Trust me."
With this, he started channeling magic. She joined in, unsteadily at first.
The colt's reflective coat shimmered as he dashed towards the changeling queen. She hardly turned her head, but fired off a wild bolt in his direction. The missile connected, but hit only the volume of mercury he had become. Liquid metal past Chrysalis and a pony re-formed on the other side. This distraction allowed Celestia to recover and break the wall that Luna and Twilight were hammering.
Silver String wasn't done though - he barreled into the tyrant's legs as he called for Eventide. The filly fired off a blast she had been charging, topping the unwary changeling.
Helpless, she cried to her minions, gathering them to attack the young assailants. Filly and Colt jumped into the air as a wave came head-on. Two magic "leashes" pulled streaks of red and mirror-grey out of the way. The changelings slammed into each other - falling onto a Chrysalis struggling to become upright.
A barrage of energy enveloped the pile, forming wards and runes around it. The magic sucked in nearby creatures, locking them behind a strong barrier. Both Alicorn and changeling alike paused to watch as Chrysalis was locked in a spell that could crush coal into diamonds.
After the initial fight, it was made apparent that this was a quick strike to disable the Princesses, while they were at their most vulnerable. In the transition between night and day, neither were "in their element". The changeling army had snuck out through the caves below Canterlot, waiting for the ambush. In the city, the rest of Chrysalis' forces were bent on sowing disorder.
While Celestia recovered, Luna and Twilight Sparkle flew out to clear the city. Catching her breath, she gestured the young ponies forward.
"I cannot thank you enough for your brave contribution. Even though she caught us off-guard, the changelings will not take Canterlot tonight.
She looked towards Silver, then Eventide, as she spoke. "You may have just saved us, you two."
From the side, Silver's father gingerly stepped over. Other than a slight limp and a few scrapes, he seemed no worse for the wear. He leaned up against his son, tossing a nod to the filly too.
"You foals make me feel my age. Princess, I am lucky they are not hunting for my job! Though," he chuckled at the thought, "you two make a good team."
That they did.