• Published 3rd Feb 2014
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TiM: The Truth in Meanings - Twidashforever



TiM #1: If you had the power, how far would you go to save a friend, and would they hate you for it? Would you hate you for it? Actions have consequences and we are not always the ones who pay the price.

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Define: Prophecy (R)

1007 years ago

Starswirl was missing. The old unicorn disappeared almost a year ago and no one took it harder than his three most faithful students. Luna and Celestia spent the better part of the year looking for him; they couldn’t understand why he would just take off. True, he had done stuff like this before, as his sabbaticals were the stuff of legend, but this was the first time he didn’t tell anypony where he was going, that he was going, or for that matter, when he would be back.

Clover the Clever took it the hardest of the three. Ever since Starswirl left, he fell into a depression. In truth, Starswirl was the only reason he was able to stand ‘Her Royal Ass’, not that he would ever call Princess Platinum that, well, not to her face anyway. Platinum had a habit of banishing ponies, then throwing them into a dungeon at the place where she banished them to.

Clover had personally seen her do it a few times.

That was the problem: the only way Clover managed to deal with a crazy ass ruler was with Starswirl's guidance. Clover had a feeling in his gut that the days spent in Starswirl’s council were long gone. Luna and Celestia would not find him; he was gone, maybe forever.

There is one spell, Clover thought, but no, he dismissed that idea as soon as it came.

Starswirl never taught him that spell, he didn’t want anyone using it, yet ever the documentarist, he still wrote it down. He buried it afterwards in his files, of course. Although that had not stopped a certain nosy unicorn from stumbling onto it while looking for the cookie jar one day. Back in his youth the one thing Clover loved more than learning was cookies, so for him it was a win-win.

The spell is madness, no that metaphor was flawed, the spell caused madness, or more precisely, the effects of the spell would cause its victim to succumb to madness. The physical limits of the brain would not allow the user to comprehend the effect of being able to understand and fully comprehend the natural flow of magic. The brain would seek to save itself by shutting off that which caused it such distress, which for a unicorn would be death. Yes, that was it; Clover always did like to be exact about such things.

Although if casted on the right pony, maybe… No, he dismissed that idea as well. If Starswirl didn’t use the spell then there was no ‘right pony’. Wait... did he use the spell on himself? Starswirl always seemed to know, well, everything about everything. The old pony had a knack for being right where he needed to be at the exact moment he needed to be there. Almost as if it was his special talent or something. Is it possible he was cheating? Well, not cheating per se but did he use this spell to help him? It would be within his power to do so.

Clover’s thoughts were starting to get the better of him.

Why was he hiding it? Most likely it had some side effect; obviously, it would kill the wrong pony, but what about the right pony? What would the side effect be for them? What would the reward be? Clover sighed; if he were capable, if he were the 'right pony', Starswirl would have noticed that. Maybe he did? Starswirl didn’t take on just any old student, in all his time he had only taken on five students and four were alicorns. Clover was the only one who was not. He was gifted for sure, but to be chosen to join the likes of Celestia and Luna to learn from the Great Starswirl the Bearded?

This line of thought was getting nowhere fast, and Clover knew Starswirl never did anything without reason. Did he leave it there for me to find? No… stop thinking like that; causality is a dangerous road to travel and often ends back where it begins. He needed sleep, but unfortunately a mind as gifted as his never lets go of a problem. The ramifications of the spell plagued his thoughts and dreams for the next few weeks.

***

A month later Luna finally returned from her quest, crestfallen over her failure. She’d tried to convince Celestia to return with her, but her sister was not ready to give up just yet.

Luna on the other hoof had a friend she wanted to see. Clover had been on his own for too long. She knew that it was time to go home. Despite her failure, seeing Clover's house over the ridge brought a smile to Luna’s face. Clover had wanted to go with them, but without wings, he would have slowed down the two sisters and made the search next to impossible. That didn’t even consider his advanced age.

Immediately, Luna could tell something was wrong. Clover was a pony of habit with meticulous attention to every detail. The yard in front of his house had a week's’ worth of growth on it, the windows lacked their normal shine, and the walkway needed sweeping. Most ponies never would have noticed, but Luna had been Clover's friend for years. Such details stuck out like a sore hoof to her.

“CLOVER THE CLEVER, WE HAVE RETURNED FROM OUR QUEST!” Luna prided herself on her ability to draw everyone's attention when she spoke; her Royal Canterlot Voice was by far her best asset.

There was no reply; this caused the hairs on Luna’s neck to stand on end. Something was wrong; something had happened while she was gone—something very bad.

Luna shattered the front door with her magic, too concerned with the safety of her friend to worry about something as trivial as a little property damage. She burst in, desperately looking around Clover's normally immaculate house. The house was in ruins, books and papers scattered everywhere, almost as if a weather pony caused a tornado in the living room. The sight caused Luna to fall into a state of shock, whatever happened had happened a while ago. Luna was too late to help her friend.

Luna would have started to cry if not for the slightest noise coming from upstairs. This broke her out of her melancholy and she took off up the steps as fast as her hooves could take her. Arriving quickly at Clover's bedroom, she opened it with slightly less force this time and stepped inside.

What she saw brought her little comfort.

Clover the Clever lay on his back; from the looks of the room he had fallen out of bed. The sheet and pillows that were not completely destroyed lay all around; his eyes were as wide as dinner plates, pure white, and completely devoid of pupils.

Luna raised her friend up with her magic, with a casual flick of her horn the bed, pillows, and blankets remade themselves. Stuffing and feathers flew back to where they belonged as the stitching reasserted their rightful place of dominance over the cotton. Gingerly placing her friend back on the bed, Luna began to hear his whispers in earnest.

“The night cometh and in such…”

“Banishment for a thousand…”

“Tears unsung, tells untold…”

"A princess's lullaby..."

“A curious deity, an unexpected birth…”

“The night returns, the friends defeat…”

“Chaos delivers, twists and turns...”

“Crystals in the dark change to beget the evil...”

“The land comes back from darkness…”

“A mortal personified, ascension…”

"Evil defeated, a castle created..."

“The impossible upsets the balance…”

“When the gods play, mortals lose…”

On and on they came from Clover's mouth, no sentence was complete, and none of them made even the slightest bit of sense to Luna.

The options here were limited, something had occurred and only a few ponies could actually accomplish something like this against one of Starswirl the Bearded’s students. In fact, Luna could only name four: Starswirl himself and that was preposterous, Celestia who was with Luna the entire time, Luna who she could vouch for ha, and finally something done by Clover himself. One of Starswirl's personal theories sprung to Luna’s mind: When you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth.

“Clover, what happened? What did you do?”

Luna couldn’t bear to watch her friend suffer, there were too many options as to what occurred and too few ways of fixing them. Clover was old, older than most, and the stress of this would see him dead before long. Sighing, Luna could only think of one way to help him in these moments. A lesson learned a long time ago: in the dreamscape Luna could go into Clover's mind and try to help him through whatever had caused this calamity.

Luna’s basic sleep spell seemed to do nothing, she had to resort to the more powerful ones before Clover was actually able to shut his eyes. Luna took one last look at her friend's sleeping form, fearful that this would be the last time she saw her friend's body alive. With that thought, she shut her eyes and joined her friend in his dreams.

Clover’s dreamscape was a mess, the kind that would normally send the stallion into a bout of cleaning for weeks. Books and scrolls lined the floor. None of them seemed to say anything at all, the ink on the pages forming a jumble of words that were incomprehensible.

A voice came from behind her. “LUNA!” Luna turned to see the stallion bounding up the hill of books with a smile on his face, the face Luna remembered from all those years ago. Clover seemed to prefer the look he had back in the days when he helped found Equestria to that of his current self.

A pity, his older form has a grace that we may never personally know.

Bouncing like a colt, Clover asked, “Did he come? Did he, did he?”

Luna didn’t need to ask to whom Clover referred to; Starswirl had knack for being exactly where he needed to be when he needed to be there. The look on Clover's face when Luna shook her head nearly broke her heart. “We're sorry,” was all Luna managed to get out.

He paused, a frown quickly upon his face. “It was an old fool's hope, once I realized my mistake I hoped he might come and save me from it, but it looks like he’s well and truly gone,” Clover replied. A single tear fell from his eye.

“Clover, what did you do?”

“There was a spell, Luna. Not one he taught us, but one which I found back in the day, it allows the user to see the magical plane. I thought I might use it to find him for you two. I was so wrong, please forgive me.”

Luna cried at that, “Clover we could never blame you, you were just trying to help. Forgive me, we never should have left you on your own for as long as we did.”

“How about we forgive each other our sins. No regrets, okay?”

Luna hugged her friend for the last time, “Okay Clover, no regrets.”

“You should go now, he’s coming.”

“Who's coming?” Luna asked inquisitively.

Clover just smiled. “Tell Celly I love her too, and that I don’t blame either of you. You two shouldn't blame yourselves either.”

With that, Luna left the dreamscape of Clover's mind. She paused and watched her friend's body slowly moving up and down, the rhythm of his sleep slowly getting weaker and weaker.

Luna was able to time exactly when it would occur; as her friend took his last breath, she at last let the tears fall from her eye and turned to leave.

Suddenly, Luna felt something grab her hoof and drag her back.

She was face to face with Clover, his eyes as white as pearl. Clover spoke for the last time at that moment.

“There will come a time when magic will seek to understand itself. It will do it through the same process that all beings use, in this form; it will do the unthinkable and disrupt the natural order to save the one it loves. Only it can set things right.”

With those last words, Clover fell to the bed. His eyes gently closed, never to open again.

Luna cried on her friend's bed openly now, the tears falling freely, and she could think of no good reason to stop them. She couldn’t bring herself to leave, just to stay there and mourn the loss of her friend. Her mind was completely empty of thoughts, she was grateful for this time to mourn in quiet. When unbidden, a history lesson from years ago sprang to her mind. A day that was no more noticeable than any other, but for some reason, she couldn’t stop thinking of it.

***

”Settle down, I won’t warn the two of you again.” Luna and Clover both turned to their master, with the preverbal ‘caught red hoof in the cookie jar' look on their faces. Celly just glared at the two of them.

Goody horseshoes Luna thought.

“Now ponies, what were we just talking about?” Starswirl asked, already knowing they weren’t paying attention.

“I don’t know,” Luna and Clover admitted. They both knew they were in trouble, and lying would simply make it worse for them. Celestia's hoof shot up like a bat out of Tartarus.

“Yes, Celestia,” Starswirl called out.

Celestia cleared her throat before starting. “The four primal forces of nature: Chaos, Gaia, Eros, and Tartarus. Each said to exist in harmony with the other three and said to have come into existence before the universe.”

“Correct, Celestia.” Celestia just grinned at that, sticking out her tongue at Luna in playful banter. “And what do the four forces represent, exactly?"

Luna knew the answer to this one and shouted it out before ‘teacher's pet’ had a chance to reply, “Chaos is the force of change; it exists to ensure that everything continues to evolve and improve, thereby reducing the threat of stagnation. Tartarus is the force of death and exists to ensure those forces that would disrupt the natural order never do so, it also exists to ensure that life would be sacred.”

“And how is that achieved, Luna?” Starswirl asked.

“By having it be finite,” Luna countered, grinning as Starswirl nodded at her to continue. “Gaia is the force of nature, the planet one could say. The one who grants us the magic we use and the spark that gives us life. The youngest, Eros, is the force of Love, it exists to help mortals overcome their own limitations, it’s in many ways the strongest and weakest of the primal forces.”

Starswirl grinned at her. “Well somepony has been studying. Good job, Luna.” It was Luna’s turn to stick her tongue out at Celly.

“But professor,” Clover interrupted, “aren't these all theories from old ponies back in your day?”

Starswirl laughed at that. “Young Clover, I may be old, but I'm not that old. To answer your question, yes. The ancient ponies thousands of years ago came up with these for the standard forces that they encountered all the time: Chaos to explain why things change, Gaia to explain magic, Tartarus to explain the dead or dying, and Eros to explain love. It’s much easier to assign Godly properties to things than try and figure them out yourself.”

“But Starswirl, we know that Tartarus is a real place,” Luna replied.

“Yes, dear Luna, but it is not a force of nature; it's merely a prison that keeps in the evil creatures that are locked down there.”

“That’s Cerberus’s job, isn’t it?” Celestia asked.

“Yes and no, Celestia. Cerberus is more of a gatekeeper, he guards the entrance from Hades to Tartarus. His job is to ensure that nothing that is in can get out, and nothing out can get in that shouldn't be in.”

“Wait, I thought Hades and Tartarus were the same thing?” Clover asked the old unicorn.

“Not quite, dear Clover. Hades is where the dead go. It's the afterlife if you will. Tartarus is where the monsters are kept, those beings that exist only for destruction and domination of all life and, more importantly, those that wish to disrupt the natural flow of life to death or the creation of new life.”

“New life?” Luna inquired .

“Yes, dear Luna, without the flow of souls from life to death, no new life can be created.”

"So, it's like resurrection?" Clover asked.

"No, imagine if you will, two large ponds, one higher than the other, connected by a pipe. Water flows from the pond up high to the one down below. Block off the end of the pipe at the higher pond and no water can flow. Block of the end at the lower pond and no water can flow."

Starswirl smiled as understanding crossed his student's faces.

***

Looking back on it now, Luna would swear that Starswirl didn’t truly believe the answer he’d given to her question. She didn’t believe the old pony lied about anything, but that there might be more to it than even he knew.

It would be another week before Celestia finally gave up her search for Starswirl and reunited with her sister. Unbeknownst to Luna, Celestia had discovered an empire in the north that desperately needed their help.

Before they left, Luna insisted they both make one last stop: Clover the Clever's tomb. The old pony had his gravesite already picked out. Luna felt honored to be the one to carry out her friend’s last wishes.

“I should've come back with you.”

“Celly, do not do this to yourself, you couldn't have known how close he was to death.”

“You did.”

“No, we didn’t, we only came back due to the length of time we've been gone. Had we known we would have brought you back too, with force if we had to.”

That made the two sisters laugh, the very thought of them ever fighting with each other for real was a fantasy only a mad pony could come up with.

With a somber mood growing between them, Celestia looked at Luna. “Tell me, Luna, honestly, did he blame me for not being there in the end? Did he hate me? I would've hated me.”

Luna chose to only tell her sister about how Clover passed and his last words in the dreamscape. Celestia took it well, with the knowledge that her friend found peace in the end. Any further grieving or storytelling would have to wait; as at that moment, they had a tyrannical king to overthrow, and a Crystal Empire to try to save.

Author's Note:

Glad thats over… Back to the story!!!!

Still looking for an editor, if you know of one or want to volunteer I would be most grateful. (I ask a 24 hour turnaround)

Hoping to get started on Chapter 6 today, if I get bored, or have some dumb luck, it might be out tomorrow.

My game plain is to have chapter 7 on here by Thursday. (save for RL crap that get in way)

As usual leave any comments below, they are appreciated.

(Particularly continuity errors, if you see something that does not look right ex. 'Unicorn Twilight when it should be Alicorn Twilight' point it out!)

Thanks goes out to ersmiller for help editing!
Thanks goes out to Crystal_Bombshell for his help in editing.

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