“I still can’t believe you convinced me to press it,” Celestia said with a flare of frustration, tapping experimentally at the smooth magical magenta force field that surrounded her. Everything outside the bubbles, Canterlot and the whole visible landscape of central Equestria, had gone to a standstill. “There should have been warning flags in my head the moment you showed up with that old magical machine of Star Swirl’s. Hmm, solid particles...”
Luna pouted her lips as she stared up at her older sister from a similar floating bubble of magical energy she shared with a certain towering and mismatched biped. “Dear sister, have you no curiosity these days?”
Celestia turned to her, irritated. “Apparently I do even after so many centuries, if you were able to appeal to it enough to get me to activate some arcane trinket and accidentally pause time itself! What were you thinking, Luna?”
“Thank goodness I'm not agoraphobic,” Discord muttered to himself, briefly studying the limited confines of his and Luna’s shared magical bubble with an appraising look. He then shrugged.
“That I’d found something interesting laying around in Star Swirl’s old study, and you would be intrigued by it like I was. How could pressing such a shiny button with an hourglass symbol possibly go wrong? That’s what I was thinking,” Luna answered. Discord chuckled beside her, now donning some sunglasses and studying something in Canterlot below.
“I see. Such sound reasoning.” Celestia rebuked.
Luna sat on her haunches and snorted. “Come now, we all know I'm not the only pony known for making a vast blunder or two.”
“Your Highnesses, please,” Discord interjected with a dramatic flair, taking off his shades. “Luna has a good, if rather sensitive point there, but besides, it would appear that trinket did more than just pause time and stick us in these oddly fashionable bubbles.”
Both alicorns looked at him with interest, and he pointed a lion’s paw to the castle balcony beneath them. To Celestia and Luna’s surprise, duplicates of themselves were standing with Discord on the balcony, staring at a golden box with a small red button on its top. Celestia’s hoof was moving away from the button, which possessed the gold embossment of an hourglass, inlaid with a much smaller - if quite antiquated -unicorn rune for 'reverse'.
".tsisni uoy fI" the second Celestia said with a conceding look.
“!nuf eb lliw tI" Luna’s duplicate uttered excitedly.
All three of the duplicates continued to converse in reversed Equestrian to each other, before Luna began walking backwards out of the balcony and back into the observatory tower with Star Swirl’s time device in her grasp. Celestia’s attention returned to duplicate Discord, and they resumed a reversed conversation.
Something about impolite nobles, not having long enough break times in the daily “eludehcs layor,” favorite desserts, and the recent output intensity of the Sun. Eventually, both duplicates made their backwards way inside the castle as well, still conversing.
“It…must have reversed time,” Luna stated, her jaw dropped in astonishment.
“Oh dear…” Celestia murmured, rubbing at her brow with a sense of growing dismay.
The day quickly began rolling back to early morning outside of their bubbles, and Discord summoned multiple bags of popcorn for everyone, shrugging. “Well now, looks like we’ll be here a while. Might as well enjoy the show, am I right?” Discord poofed into a toucan-like bird form and perched himself atop Luna’s head, then started popping popcorn into his beak. Luna attempted to eyeball him with annoyance.
Celestia sighed and sat on the floor of the bubble. “I don't believe there is any current way for me to reverse this spell, so I suppose.”
“Do attempt to keep your crumbs from getting in my mane,” Luna said sternly, taking a red stripe bag of popcorn for herself as she watched evenings give way to afternoons and the activity of bustling Canterlot rewind itself repeatedly.
Discord’s smiling face appeared on some kernels. “Of course, milady.” Luna huffed and promptly tossed the kernels into her mouth.
“Look, down in the valley, is that what I think it is?” Celestia said, pointing to a hilly part of the region.
Time’s rate of reversal was accelerating and decelerating apparently at random, and had currently just returned to real-time speed as the trio surveyed what was happening below. Two figures were trading powerful magical blasts at one another, one of which repaired a ruined Golden Oak in an implosion of dust and debris, and another that did a similar act to a massive boulder.
“!em ot sgnoleb taht gnihtemos evah uoY” a masculine thundered. “!thgiliwT ssecnirP”
“Yep, that’d be Tirek and Twilight’s initial battle,” Discord confirmed. Both princesses briefly paused from eating popcorn and took a second to frown at Discord over that particular incident. He grinned sheepishly. “What? I admit, he played me for a chump, that old scoundrel, him.”
The Sun rapidly set in the east several times, and Ponyville endured a number of uncommon phenomena, from its streets briefly turning gold, to a large breezy migration, a reversed winter that formed deep snow on the ground which gradually trickled its way back up into the skies during Winter Wrap Up, and then finally the arrival of Discord’s plunder seed vines that grew from rainbow bursts of magic.
The vines vanished and several more reversed days passed by in milliseconds, slowing down during a particular night.
A familiar six-pointed star erupted in the sky above Ponyville, and Celestia gasped. “We must now be entering the time just before Twilight received her wings.”
“What a bizarre feeling that must be,” Discord remarked, transforming back to his usual self and sitting down next to Luna. “Knowing that an alicorn princess somewhere nearby has just turned into a unicorn.” He summoned some soft drinks and offered one to Luna, who accepted as Discord started drinking the cup of another and ate the soda itself like cotton candy. “I wonder if this means I can be one now, by right of succession…”
“Very funny, Discord,” retorted Celestia with a rare show of sarcasm. “Something tells me this reversal effect is only temporary, and what we’re actually seeing is a strange flashback, maybe even the magical equivalent of a film of sorts.” Celestia stopped to think. “In which case, Star Swirl may just be the earliest cinematographer in history.”
“Of course! Why do you suppose I brought in popcorn, hmm?” Discord said, summoning more in a large pile at Celestia’s hooves. The tall alicorn moved the popcorn out of her way with a sigh of annoyance as she resumed watching Equestria below, causing Luna to stifle a giggle.
“I am still most fascinated by this modern art of moving pictures and recorded sound. Cinema theatre and overpriced buttery, salty sweatmeats? Simply ingenious!” Luna enthused, devouring more popcorn as days continued to roll past outside.
Ponyville is momentarily engulfed by a magical glass dome that vanishes as quickly as it came. Then, the skies lit up in a dazzling display of auroras that followed a circular wave of collapsing rainbow light that was lassoing around something lying in the far north.
Luna recognized the magical light and nudged Discord with a hoof to catch his attention. “Crystals….!” she whispered in his ear, mocking the Crystal Empire’s previous sovereign.
“Is it true that one fellow Gleaming Armor had to toss his own wife to help defeat King Doom Gloom?” Discord asked, snickering.
“As truly as I raise the moon.” Both started guffawing as the days accelerated again, much to Celestia’s displeasure.
The pair’s laughter was soon interrupted when a screaming noise that sounded like a hoof raking blackboards, drew their attention to the horizon. The after effects from yet another previous magical discharge were coming towards Canterlot. It was Queen Chrysalis and her Changeling Swarm, who were shouting and screaming as the unseen primal forces of time sucked them back into Canterlot like a great vacuum cleaner. The battle in Canterlot resumed, and damaged parts of the city were gradually repaired of all damage.
Luna sipped from the straw of her soft drink loudly as she watched, and Discord suddenly had a thought. “Say Celestia, I read up on this particular battle after dear Fluttershy told me about it. Where was this one,” He put a friendly arm around Luna’s shoulder. “During all the fighting?”
“Napping,” Luna deadpanned, not waiting for her sister to answer. “Beauty sleep; recharging after a long night of Dream Duty, court, and monster hunting in the Everfree, fair Discord. Not to say I wouldn’t have helped out, had somepony thought to rouse me during the commotion.”
“You would have been as dangerous as Chrysalis if forcefully awoken, Luna,” Celestia said. “And Chrysalis attacked as soon as her cover was revealed. But of course, not before giving the typical obligatory speech her kind seem to enjoy so much,” the sun princess added.
Discord chuckled at that as Luna rolled her eyes and started focusing her attention on a new incoming scene. Cloudsdale had temporarily relocated its weather facilities near Ponyville, and a small artificial tornado could be seen dumping water back into a dried lakebed. Discord turned himself into a telescope and focused in on the cyclone.
“Never thought I’d see the day that pegasi flew backwards,” he said, changing back. “Then again, I also never thought I’d see the day when they would fly forwards, either. Everypony knows sideways is the most proper flight position.”
That day faded out rapidly into the early morning, and was soon replaced by yet another reverse winter. The next day to slow down to normal time was one that Celestia recalled reviewing several damage reports over. She watched with displeasure as a fully grown dragon materialized in midair with a screaming white unicorn in his grasp.
Luna and Discord watched with rapt attention as the sneering Spike effortlessly freed the Wonderbolts from under a water tower top lodged in a cliff, returned dozens of stolen possessions to their rightful owners, repaired damage, and returned Rarity to safety. Spike then put the water tower back together, and shrunk back down to normal size near the town center, repairing the Sugar Cube Corner bakery as well for good measure. Cakes began reforming in the air near him, flying back into the clutches of Pinkie Pie.
Another time shift took place, ushering Ponyville back to Princess Luna’s first Nightmare Night.
“!...fo lufrednow tsom ,hO” a powerful, booming voice declared before trailing off, echoing across the region. Luna grinned and blushed in recognition of the all-too familiar voice. This was enough to elicit a chuckle form Celestia.
What came next was a particular favorite of Discord, as the visible landscape of Equestria changed radically several times while that particular day passed by. “Classic, so classic,” he chuckled to himself, his eyes sparkling and tears flowing up from his eyelids in the sunlight. “Isn’t this simply lovely to watch, Princess Luna?”
Luna pursed her lips into a frown, not finding herself agreeing all too much. “Needs more chocolate rain-producing clouds made of fluffy pink confectionary, methinks.”
Gazing at the mountains that were putting themselves back together, birds flying forwards, legions of possesed cleaning tools scrubbing the roads, and checkerboard fields that were reverting to grass, Celestia turned to Discord with a smirk. “You know, with time in reverse like it is, your shenanigans almost start to look like they could make sense, Discord.”
Discord blew a raspberry at her. “Oh, pshaw.” A sudden boom outside the magic bubble made him go wide-eyed for a second.
The outer shockwaves of a Sonic Rainboom materialized in the sky above in a great ring. The ring retreated inwards towards the distant silhouette of Cloudsdale’s coliseum, which now sat on the horizon during the current day. The light of the ring combined into a single point before fading out, and the sky returned to its usual tranquility.
“That must have been Rainbow Dash, I presume?” Discord inquired, twiddling his digits idly.
“Indeed,” Celestia nodded.
The next day revealed the scene of Pinkie Pie marching her posterior into Ponyville with blaring musical instruments, following a swarm of parasprites that proceeded to cough up entire objects as they went through the town.
In another day of the past, the entire harvested orchards of Sweet Apple Acres found apples floating back up into their parent trees, one-by-one, each more quickly than the last.
Celestia and Luna found themselves experiencing mixed emotions as they watched the previous days drift by at a slow but brisk pace and returned to real-time on one particular night. The ruins of the castle in the Everfree lit up with flashes of intense light.
“Nightmare Moon’s return…” Luna snarled quietly, exuding disdain.
“Never forget that it was also the night you were returned to us,” Celestia said, with a small smile at her sister.
Luna nodded, and Discord patted her hoof reassuringly. “If it’s any consolation, Luna, we’ll now be seeing everything we missed in the past one thousand years,” Discord told her. “If you don’t mind seeing Equestria develop backwards, that is,” he added with a chuckle.
The Princess managed a giggle. “I suppose its consolation enough. Celestia, what happened when I was away?”
“Why, a great deal many things, of course,” her older sister answered, watching with a radiant smile as a chariot drawn by pegasi took off from Ponyville and flew back-to-front towards Canterlot. “See for yourself.”
“Ooh, that’s new,” Discord said, pointing at something in the sky.
Flying saucer-shaped airships swooped down and dropped ponies onto the ground, or fired beams of light to erase glyphs in wheat fields by night.
“What in Equestria?” Luna said, puzzled
"Don't ask," Celestia said flatly. "Don't bother ever asking the Royal Air Force, either. That's heavy stuff, sister."
Luna flashed Discord a "Can you believe this?" look, and the Draconequus shrugged helplessly.
"Oh look, we're nearing the foundation of Ponyville," Celestia said. They all looked down at the valley again.
The face of the valley at the foot of Canterlot changed radically once more. Entire farms were unplanted, buildings were deconstructed, orchards sunk back into the ground, and Ponyville itself quickly shrunk in size until only tents, then caravans remain. Ever-more primitive airships and other aircraft flew backwards above Equestria until they were replaced by simple hot air balloons and chariots, and even the railway was eventually dismantled by royal engineers piece by piece.
“Ponyville…’tis there one minute, and gone the next.”
“Ponyville is just around a century old, Luna,” Celestia says.
Celestia’s statement was quickly followed by the sight of an army of shadowy creatures retreating in the wrong direction, forming up in front of Canterlot with their siege weapons and accurately collecting the projectiles that the burning city threw back at them, while they returned Equestrian bullets, arrows, and magic bolts to Canterlot, their artillery repairing itself in the process.
The inferno in the city spat water and steam at the fire crews who caught it deftly with many buckets. It burned out of control, then eventually died down and kindly repaired the scorching damage it had caused.
“Now that’s how a true army fights: with such gumption and confidence that they charge with their backs towards you,” Discord commented, clothing himself in a green general’s uniform whose decoration was upside down.
“Hilarious,” Luna jibed. She turned wide-eyed when Discord grinned at her and placed the four-starred helmet atop her head, her horn comically punching a hole clean through it. Her gaze only widened when several nondescript centuries for the capital went by and a more familiar time period in Equestrian history became visible. The Mare in the Moon was being shook in the sky from a large magical implosion, and the Moon itself was currently in a Lunar Eclipse.
“Oh dear…” Celestia grimaced. “I had been dreading seeing this particular time period’s arrival.”
Luna said nothing, and frowned thoughtfully as she watched the Moon fire a light back at the planet below. In a manner of a few seconds, the light reached the Castle of the Two Sisters. Celestia could almost hear Nightmare Moon many miles away, undoubtedly shouting in reversed Equestrian that made her sound even more terrifying. The castle was uncannily restored to its original glory by Nightmare Moon’s beams, then the day grew calm again as the eclipse ended.
From her own bubble, Celestia waited for Luna to speak, and even Discord remained quiet for the moment, giving her some space.
“Well,” Luna spoke finally. “Glad that unpleasantness is out of the way, finally.” Her frown quickly gave way to a warm grin, and Celestia let out an involuntary sigh of relief. “Onwards with this magical film!” Luna impishly slammed the punctured helmet back onto Discord’s smiling head, who summoned the military garb out of existence.
As if on cue, several more sunsets occurred in the east, and the trio saw a new event. “Look there, Star Swirl the Bearded!” Luna pointed out.
“It is nice to lay eyes upon him again,” Celestia said.
“Ah yes, that delightfully eccentric unicorn. One of the only ponies who ever truly got me on a fundamental level,” Discord, sniffling nostalgically. He wiped his eyes with a tissue box, then started snacking on the tissues with some marmalade.
Star Swirl was putting something resembling a bell back together with his magic before a goat necromancer on a flying carpet attacked him. The pair dueled, Star Swirl teleported out of the area, then the goat dismantled the gigantic bell and flew away.
There were many more oddities they encountered. Tirek emerged from Tartarus and became increasingly powerful, battling Star Swirl, Scorpan, and the past forms of Celestia and Luna, then summarily returning with Scorpan to their homeland. Past Discord is freed from stone by the Princesses' Elements of Harmony and makes the land increasingly chaotic, then returns it to normal when he leaves Equestria for his homeland.
Fireworks of the first Grand Galloping Gala implode in the sky, and begin bombarding down on Canterlot, until the ancient capital itself gradually begins to be deconstructed as the days pass by. Discord sniffled a bit and nudged himself a little closer to Luna as all three of them watched with fascination.
“How many ponies can say they've seen an entire city get taken apart piece by piece?” Luna thought aloud.
“I once turned an entire city inside out. Does that count?” Discord said curiously. "Life is always more fulfilling when you hang your clothes to dry inside, and let your library bask in the enriching rain and sunlight outside.
Luna tilted her regal head this way and that in response. “Possibly.”
In Canterlot, gold, stone, and glass disappeared under intricate systems of scaffolding and crowds of unicorn workers that gradually transformed the mountain shelf and waterfalls back into their natural shapes with hammers and spells. Eventually, only surveying equipment and a few work camps are all that remain of the capital before those too disappeared on reverse-moving wagon trains.
Star Swirl’s artifact took them back a few more years, and another magical implosion occurred, causing the blizzard of the Windigos to appear and both Tartarus and Equestria to freeze over.
The freezing cold and snow gradually retreated back up into the sky like a ‘normal’ reverse winter, and the heart of Equestria became the site of many awkward reversed battles, until the valley seemed to Discord, Luna and Celestia to be devoid of all inhabitants save for camps and villages of scouts and colonists from the three pony nations.
Seeing that the valley was now only recognizable thanks to the mountains, Celestia took a deep breath. “Yes, I think I can feel the spell beginning to fade away. I think we've reached the conclusion of this odd little foray through history, wouldn't you say?”
With that, the trio were brought back to the present. The magical force fields that contained them vanished, and they landed on the balcony of the castle’s observatory with a thumping of hooves and a taloned foot on marble, accompanied by dozens of uneaten popcorn kernels. There was quiet for a moment as everyone got their bearings. Discord ended it when he began slow, dramatic clapping after cleaning away the remaining popcorn with his magic.
Both alicorns stared at him curiously. “What is it?” Luna asked.
Discord continued his clapping, flashing an impressed grin all the while.
“What?” Luna pressed. She looked at Celestia, who merely shrugged.
“I just saw parts of my kingdom’s history between the first Hearth’s Warming Eve and now, in reverse, during what was supposed to be my only lunch break on an otherwise very busy day,” Celestia said with some frustration. “Stay and try to figure out the enigma of Discord if you wish, but I'm out for lunch. Twilight will cover for me.”
As Celestia walked away, she passed by the magical golden box that had just consumed an hour of her valuable time. She signaled the guards at the door, who had watched with befuddlement the entire time as the two Princesses and the Draconequus floated in two bubbles, pointing at random things and acting like rowdy moviegoers. Truth be told, they’d seen far weirder antics happen in the castle before.
“Would you kindly get this artifact locked in one of the treasury vaults, where it belongs?”
“Yes, Princess Celestia!”
The Royal Guards promptly carried the magical device away. Luna gave her departing sister a funny look, then turned to Discord, who finally ended his clap and smirked at her.
“What?” Luna laughed with incredulity. “Speak, Draconequus!”
“Why did the Draconequus cross the road?” Discord suddenly inquired.
Luna wore a look of pure confusion, confusion so thick that it could be spread on toast. Discord resisted the urge to do so. Deciding to go off some innate intuition unique to her people, she said, “To…get to the side they were on before they crossed the road?”
The Draconequus let out a squee like a filly, and put his balled fists to his cheeks, eyes growing misty from tears of joy. “My suspicion was correct, Flutters and Star Swirl aren’t the only ponies who understand me, after all! Oh, happy days!”
“I-I don't quite follow...”
Discord coiled playfully around her in a snake-like fashion, bringing his smiling face close to hers. “Oh, come now, don’t play silly with me,” he cooed. “You allowed me to watch Equestria’s chaotic history in one of the most chaotic and unusual ways possible: seeing it backwards! It was magnificent! Amazing! Amazificent! Positively the most romantic thing anypony’s done for me in millenia. Thank you!”
Luna could only blink her cyan eyes at him, absolutely dumfounded. Without warning, Discord summoned a coating of lipstick on his lips, and gave the Princess a lively peck on the cheek. The alicorn’s faced blushed as red as magma, and her heart did somersaults from sheer surprise, delaying any form of verbal response. Positively beaming, Discord gently looped his right lion’s paw arm around her neck and walked her back into the castle.
“Come on," he said, watching as a couple empty popcorn bags sprouted wings and flew away. "Let's see if we can beat your sister to the kitchen first. She no doubt intends to instruct the chefs not to make your favorites for you!"
"Uh...ok..." Luna finally recovered. "Wait, my beloved midnight blueberry souffle? Unacceptable! To the kitchens, Discord, posthaste!" As the duo broke into a sprint down the opulent corridors, Luna noticed the lipstick still on Discord's snout and did a doubletake on him as she recalled the kiss. "You and I, have a lot to discuss over lunch, Discord."
Discord batted his eyelashes mischievously at her. "!dethgiled eb d'I"