• Published 20th Mar 2017
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The Timestone - Bachiavellian



Star Swirl has found a way to keep touch with the Princesses even as the centuries go by. Its only cost was his life.

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IV. The Fourth Visit

***

The sound of fabric rending woke Star Swirl in a moment. When he saw the shimmering gash in the air before him, he bound to his feet. A lit lamp materialized in the air beside him with a thought, and he caught it with his magic.

“Celestia?” he called out.

A moment later, a dimly lit figure stumbled out of the portal. She tried to regain her footing, but slipped on a loose ream of paper and fell headlong onto the floor. With a bleary, painted moan Celestia did not try to get back up.

“Celestia!”

His heart racing madly in his chest, Star Swirl swept his light over her form, looking for any injury. He was about to flip her over and check her other side when he finally became aware of the stench.

Alchohol. Enough to make him want to cough.

“Celestia,” he said, tapping her sweat-drenched face with his hoof. “Celestia, by the Eight Glowing Hells, sit up! What in the maker’s name is going on?”

The great white alicorn stirred, shambling like a corpse into a seated position, flat on her rump. She turned sick, tired eyes towards Star Swirl, and they strained to focus on him.

“I’ve messed up,” she said in a small voice. “I really messed up, Star Swirl.”

Star Swirl conjured an icy-cold wet rag and pressed it against Celestia’s forehead, beneath her horn. Celestia took it in a hoof and wiped away the stale perspiration that had caked into the fur of her face. It seemed to help, marginally.

“Tell me what’s wrong, girl,” said Star Swirl as he sat beside her.

After a long moment, Celestia finally opened her mouth to speak.

“Luna’s gone, Star Swirl.”

A pang of icy panic pieced Star Swirl from his throat down to his heart. He tried to ask one of the thousand questions blowing around in his head like leaves in a storm, but he couldn’t coax his clumsy lips to form words.

“I banished her,” said Celestia before Star Swirl could compose himself. “I had to. She… she wasn’t herself.”

She’s alive. A measure of relief washed over him, even as more questions burned like hot coals in his mind.

“What happened, Celestia?”

At that simple question, Celestia’s breathing hitched. She sniffed and hiccoughed and panted brokenly for air before she finally spoke.

“It was my stupid arrogance,” she said. “I didn’t see. I was so caught up in making everypony like me. I thought I was just following what you told me. I couldn’t see how much it was hurting Luna. I couldn’t see it.”

“What did she do?” asked Star Swirl, his heart plunging hopelessly down like a sinking boat already.

“She let a Nightmare become her reality,” Celestia whispered. “I could barely recognize her. She refused to lower the moon for the sun. And I… I had the use the Elements on her. On my Luna. They sent her away.”

Star Swirl’s mind raced. “The Elements never do anything irrevocable. They exist to heal and mend; they would never preserve a wrong for eternity. Her banishment will not be forever.”

“I know,” said Celestia. “They told me. All this time we’ve used them, and I didn’t realize they could speak.”

“What did they say?” asked Star Swirl, when he pulled his thoughts together.

“They said that she’ll be gone for a thousand years. Until somepony who will save her can be born.” Celestia rubbed wetness out of her eyes before it could become tears. “They have written her destiny, and it is a thousand years of exile. And even then, I will not be the one to save her.”

Star Swirl took a deep breath.

“I see”, he said. “This was most unfortunate, but it is not insurmountably so.”

A glint of steel appeared in Celestia’s eye as Star Swirl spoke.

“If the elements have already prepared a path for Luna’s return, then we needn’t worry,” said Star Swirl. “After all, ageless as you are, a mere millennium would be nothing compared—”

“Fie to that!” Celestia snarled. “Fie to that, and to you. What do you know of being ageless? What do you know of the centuries? My heart has beat in my chest for four hundred years and twenty more, and I say it is enough!

“Have you no remorse?” Celestia’s voice began to crack as she continued. “It was our plans and schemes that led to Luna’s suffering. Our misguided machinations that have sentenced her to a thousands years more than she deserved. I, for one, will not stand to wait a thousand rutting years for destiny to fix this mess!”

Celestia’s body shook and shivered uncontrollably, like an animal lost and alone in a blizzard. Her breath came through clenched teeth, and her eyes, though tearless, had pain written into them.

Star Swirl reached out with a hoof and put it around her shoulder. When she realized what he was doing, the effect was immediate. The pained tension drained out of her bones, and she slumped into his embrace like a stringless puppet.

“If you did not come for my advice,” asked Star Swirl, as he held her, “then what do you plan to do?”

“I… I’m staying here,” said Celestia. “I’m staying here for the next nine hundred and fifty-three days. By then, a thousand years will have passed, and Luna’s savior will have restored her.”

“Celestia,” said Star Swirl, shaking his head. “You know you can’t do that.”

“I want to,” she said, burying her face in her wings. “I want to, and it will not make a difference anyway. Like you said, the Elements have already made her path.”

“And what of the path of the ponies you’ve left behind?” asked Star Swirl. “Have the Elements told you that each of their futures are also preserved? Is their safety and happiness also secured into destiny?

“We have spent the last four hundred years reforming and replacing their government,” he said. “We did it in the name of Harmony, and we cannot abandon them now.”

“I don’t care,” said Celestia. “I don’t care about them one bit.”

“You’re a liar, Celestia,” Star Swirl said with no doubt in his voice. “You’re a liar, and you’ve already wasted far too much time here. Your little ponies have already gone days without guidance; with neither you nor Luna to watch over them. Will you let them stay like this for weeks more? For months and years longer?”

Celestia took the wet rag in her hoof and screamed into it. The flimsy fabric did little to muffle the sound, which made Star Swirl’s ears ring and his heart jump.

“I’m sorry,” she said, when she had cried away her defiance. “I’m sorry for coming here. I’m sorry for wasting one of the stone’s charges on this.”

“Nay,” said Star Swirl. “This is exactly why I made it.”

He stood up and offered Celestia a hoof. Celestia took it, and with great effort from them both, they managed to get her back on her feet. Though her legs shook, her face was firm and determined.

When she made her way back towards the portal, Star Swirl paused for a moment, and then grabbed something with his hornglow.

“Here, take this,” he said.

Celestia took hold of a dark-covered spellbook. The very same that she had given him more than three hundred years prior. She flipped it open and found that all of the pages, which had once been blank, were now filled to the margins with notes and incantations.

“Maybe you’ll find something in there that can help. It will do you more good out there than it will to me in here.”

Celestia idly pawed through the pages a moment longer before she took it and clutched it to her chest.

“I’ll come back when this is all over,” she promised. “I won’t forget you in these next thousand years. I’ll let you know when all is well again.”

“Aye,” said Star Swirl as Celestia stumbled into the spacetear. “I’ll be here, waiting.”

***