• Published 23rd May 2019
  • 10,571 Views, 570 Comments

Timeless - RadBunny



When Princess Luna returned, the thousand years of banishment was a blur. It was merciful, in a way. Everycreature she once knew was there one minute, and gone the next. One stallion wasn't so lucky.

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Chapter Two: Unbalanced Scales

His words rang out across the throne room prompting a disturbed silence from the two Equestrian rulers.

“Explain,” Princess Luna stated as she and her sister now both moved to sit in front of the unicorn. “We wish to hear you say exactly what a Satyr’s paw is, and we will correct your statement should it be false. The use of such an artifact is a severe crime and we wish to confirm you know what such an item was, and is, capable of,” Luna continued, Celestia simply nodding.

Such a powerful artifact; to think it was found and used, I thought them to be rare beyond compare.

“I found it. The paw was washed up on the side of a lake,” Shifting Sands began, head bowed as he sat in front of the two monarchs.

Of course. Such an evil thing has a mind of its own.

“A Satyr’s paw as I understood back then, and more so now, is an artifact of unimaginable power. Each outstretched finger of the paw indicated a wish, usually three. I found it with two wishes left. I knew it could grant me any wish my heart desired but the cost would be great and horrible. It is a cursed item where no good can come from it, so it was said. That much I knew back then.”

“And yet you proceeded,” Luna said, Celestia letting her sister take the lead. This did, after all, concern one of her Knights.

Thank you, Sister.

“I had no other option to save them.”

“Who? Do continue your tale, Private Sands. We wish to hear of what you have been doing for the past one thousand years.”

The unicorn shook his head briefly, not in refusal, but as though a series of gnats were buzzing in front of his vision before nodding.

“It was during one of the plagues, common things back then. My family was stricken and nothing worked, be it the medicine I bought or the spells used. I was the middle child and the only one not affected. My parents were elderly and hit the hardest with the illness. My two sisters and two brothers were also near death. They could barely move, despite all having been strong enough to be working at their jobs not one week prior.”

The plagues. We remember.

He took a deep breath, sides shivering. The previously stoic Knight now looked rather disturbed, his forelimbs shaking. Shifting Sands’ eyes seemed to glow a rather sinister red for a moment before the strange affliction passed. “I apologize. Moments of clarity are difficult to process for me; it usually all blurs together. Magic and emotions surge and mix and cause that unsettling effect, so I’ve been told. I apologize for the unprofessionalism,” he muttered, not seeing the surprised yet knowing glance the two rulers shot each other, nor the immediate words they exchanged silently.

‘We’ve both felt this, haven’t we, Luna? That lack of clarity, a breath leaves our lips and a day passes?’

‘Yes, but not to this extent. That was when we were adjusting to our timeless nature, this is a different case. His eyes though; an interesting side effect worth watching.’

“I found the paw as though fate itself gave it to me when all other options were exhausted. I knew the penalty both legally and magically, but for my family I would suffer whatever the consequences were. I did not wish for them to be well though, for I knew the Paw would give unto them harm. No, I wished to gain the power to save them; the power of the Alicorns or otherwise. I wished that I could save them so that they would all live out full and happy lives. Then I knew with such phrasing that the penalty would likely fall to me, rather than them. Or at least, I hoped.”

A noble, even if an ill-advised choice. Luna mused.

Shifting paused, collecting his thoughts briefly. “It worked though. After I made the wish and stood over my family, I could have sworn I grew wings briefly and a power I had never felt before coursed through my veins. The healing spells I had previously tried now easily burned the plague from their bodies and they were healed. As soon as it was done the power faded from me, at least as much as I could tell. I then put the paw in one of the local forges, the fire incinerating it once and for all, and I waited for the ill effects.”

An artificial and corrupt form of ascending perhaps? If for but a brief moment? The Paw must have used that natural process to its own means. At least it was destroyed by fire, the only thing that could purge that artifact from the world.

The unicorn didn’t apparently notice or care as a few tears dripped from his eyes. “I didn’t notice the curse for a long time. I grew up to be strong, eating perhaps a bit more than normal without gaining much weight but I thought nothing of it. My strength seemed to be greater than average, as well as recovering from wounds easier than most but I attributed that to my constant training and good health. A few years passed and my parents died of old age. I didn’t notice anything as I buried them, nor after my siblings got married.”

Blinking, the stallion looked around and nodded as though reaffirming to himself that everything was in its proper place. His eyes seemed to struggle in focusing on the rulers for a moment before returning to their floor-focused gaze.

“The first thing to truly make me realize something was wrong was when I finally asked a mare to a dance. I fancied her and thought it proper, especially as a newly-sanctioned Lunar Knight. I seemed to blink, and the dance had long since passed and I don’t think I ever attended. The Knights had been disbanded and I was simply a guard for a town I cannot recall. I blinked again, and she now had a happy family, while I now commanded multiple soldiers of a local garrison. My siblings were now old and had families of their own. I then understood the curse…how insidious the magic was.”

More tears ran from his eyes, and the stallion seeming to sway on his hooves. Shifting now looked up to the rulers, eyes clear and genuinely horrified. “Is this what it is like, your Highness’? To see time and love pass away in an instant?” he asked, then looking away.

“I dared not reveal myself to you, Princess Celestia, for a strange fear had gripped me. Likely of death or other punishment; I do not recall the reason nor specific dread. I then finally and fully realized the curse. Not a wrinkle dotted my face, my limbs were always filled with vigor, and most wounds healed at a surprising rate, yet my mind was weighed with a great burden. I was cursed with a physical body that would not yield to time and age even as my mind struggled to comprehend it all. With that discovery, I made plans.

It is odd, I can remember everything between the times I seemed to blink, but it is muted, fuzzy at times. I remember it all, yet it seems to skip years in leaps and bounds. I can go through each moment in clarity, yet it is all behind a strange cloth, dulled somehow. And then I blink and the moment is gone.”

The Knight continued to speak, still not noticing the cracks that appeared in both Luna and Celestia’s impassive masks. To hear a pony describe such familiar events was disturbing and saddening on a level too personal for them to articulate.

“To continue, I went forward with my plans; bought emerging stocks, property, land. If I was to never age, I would make sure I’d live as comfortably as possible. And I did; I had enough bits to buy an island or ten after but a few decades. By now, I could probably purchase all of Canterlot I imagine, but I don’t bother keeping much track anymore. I lived a noble’s life for a time; a mansion, servants I treated with dignity and kindness…and then watched them grow old and pass away as well.”

Pausing to see if the rulers had any questions, the Knight then continued, the words flowing like a keg of cider uncorked after a century. “I lived a generation like that but I grew tired of that life, and that was it. My cutie mark seemed to itch, indicating such a life was not for me. The closest I felt at home was when I was part of the Knights after all. Wealth had little meaning for me then as it does now, so I did what good I could with it, and then let my estates run on their own. And so, I sold it all, founded dozens of charities, funded them, and began to walk and learn.”

A serene smile then meandered onto Private Sand’s face, the most peaceful the two rulers had seen him as of yet. “For hundreds of years I walked and I filled my mind with knowledge. I was guided to defend any creatures that I could. My cutie mark seemed to drive me to roads, to towns, to civilization in some way that needed protection or aid. At each destination I found a way I could be useful. Perhaps it was a town needing a leader of their guards, defending a besieged settlement from some ruffians, or even guiding a lost family back to the trail on the roads. I must have traversed all of Equestria and the wider world countless times, seen the heights of Mount Aris, the glory of Griffinstone, and even ventured into the uncharted lands, as brief as those moments were, all in my quest to quell the strange force that drove me onwards.”

The unicorn’s face settled, a strange determination shining through his brown eyes as the pony’s features continued to smile ever so slightly.

“Throughout it all, I trained with masters of combat and magic, expanded my abilities to their limits, of which I discovered rather quickly. I was able to improve and expand my talents but only to a point. My physical body, I painfully discovered, was susceptible to harm but at a lesser degree than many. I have been wounded countless times but have shrugged off other grievous injuries that would lay out any other pony. And yet I was not invulnerable by far. And so, with those limits, I learned as much as I could, trained as I wandered. If I was to walk this land for such a time, then I wanted to be prepared to help as many as I could, and I trained for such.”

Shifting seemed to sit a bit taller now, as though retelling that portion of his life was a torch in an otherwise black abyss of pain. “I could not escape my curse, but helping others seemed to lessen the impact somehow, gave meaning to my life. I had the bits to pour into those who were touched by poverty, the will to organize and build a school, but defending the helpless, instructing others how to do the same? That was the closest I felt to being alive ever since using the Paw. It was those moments I felt most present in the world, the most real.”

His vision then darkened, the Unicorn looking to the floor. “The world has always been broken though, and in so many ways. Lesser as of late, but there is always something to help with, as is life. I helped, and gave all that I could. And yet there was always a corruption, a disturbed pony who destroyed a family, a noble with too much influence over a town, or a rogue faction who delighted in pain and suffering. I tried to fix it, I did fix so much. That’s what I feel alive doing after all; helping, defending, guiding. But there was too much. The hurt, the death, it seemed to overwhelm the good I and others were doing, but is that true? I don’t know. The darkness has slowly grown, and I have trouble seeing the good at times, despite it being all around me. It is distant, as though my efforts have been shoveling sand through a gold sieve.”

The unicorn’s hooves began to shiver slightly as Shifting’s brow narrowed, eyes darting across the floor as though scanning over a dozen enemies set to beset him. “So much pain, it blends together. I have to try to remember the good, because everything else is clearer. The deaths, losing friends I made, times I arrived too late to save a life, and times I simply couldn’t do anything but watch. Perhaps that’s part of the curse or a millennium of memories crammed into my head, I don’t know. I tried to fix it all, but whenever I did, whenever there was a happy community, I blinked, and something had happened. After every happy memory is nothing but death. I couldn’t fix it all, not even close, and I…I think…”

He looked up now, staring at the two in what appeared to be confusion, and a strange, unsettled sense of self-realization. “I think something broke after a while, your Highness. Something inside me did at least. I continued to help but it didn’t feel the same. I then heard of the prophesy of your return, or the afflicted version of you at least, Princess Luna. And so, I sought to then ask for your help, and your judgement. I certainly had not given up my vows, and was determined to prevent those cultists from succeeding. That said, I hoped that perhaps the good I had done would lessen my sentence but would not shy away from the final judgement of it all.”

The Lunar Knight bowed, taking a deep breath and nodding to himself. “In a concise manner, Your Highness’, that is my tale. I submit myself to you for judgement, in whatever manner that may be. If nothing else I would beg for your assistance in lifting this curse, so perhaps I may experience my final sentence in complete clarity, even if it is but for a day.”

Luna could only blink, emotions threatening to choke her words.

I…

“Wait here but a moment. We shall deliberate for a moment, for your situation in our kingdom concerns both myself and my Sister since you lived under her rule for the majority of your life.” Luna managed to say, the two Alicorn’s walking to a magically shielded side-room, usually meant for highly sensitive diplomatic talks and adorned only with a large table and some simple paintings.

As soon as the doors closed, Luna let out a shuddering breath, the younger ruler shaking her head. “Sister, what do we do? I cannot bring myself to punish him, not for this,” she whispered.

Celestia lay a wing over Luna’s shoulders, nodding slowly. While a bit more collected than Luna, her impassive mask was cracked, and the elder sister let out a sad sigh. “Neither can I. That Paw has punished him enough, I think. But he is your charge, Luna. He may have lived under my rule, but he is still one of your Knights and he expects a punishment. This is, however, a unique case.”

Luna nodded in agreement, managing to compose herself after a few moments. “I believe I have an idea, dear sister, but it will take a bit more time to plan out. I do have a temporary measure that will sate both Shifting Sand’s expectation for justice yet take into account his works, however. I believe once we have both contemplated the matter further we can proceed. But to do so now, with so much to take in, I do not trust myself to make an accurate decision, not yet.”

Celestia’s eyes twinkled as she gave her younger sister a hug, nodding in approval. “I think that is most wise, Luna. I trust your judgement completely. We may want to inform him however, of the curse’s nature.”

The two returned, sitting in front of the still-bowing stallion. Luna took a step forward, wings slightly outstretched. Armor returned to the Alicorn’s frame, weaving around hooves, barrel and head as the Princess of the Night looked down on the increasingly fearful stallion.

“Stand, Private Shifting Sands, and hear us!” Luna barked, the unicorn snapping to attention despite his limbs shivering. “You are hereby charged with the usage of a dangerous and forbidden magical artifact. Your immediate sentence is thus; you are hereby expelled from the Lunar Knights, effective immediately. Your rank and name shall be purged from the records, as such a crime has no place among those swearing loyalty to me as a Knight. Surrender your pendant!”

Luna held out her hoof, and the insignia was levitated over by Shifting Sand’s magic, the item vanishing as Luna sent it to one of many magical storage portals.

She then smiled, armor fading away on the wind like mist in the morning sun.

“For helping so many of our ponies, and striving to do good even while cursed by an evil spell, I pardon you fully of any other penalties using such an item held. You are to stay here in the palace for a time as our guest, at least until my sister and I figure out how best to assist you. Or, if you wish to go and return to whatever life you see fit, that is acceptable, provided you remain in Canterlot for a short period of time beforehoof. We intend to verify your tale of deeds and life, of course, but I detect no lies from you.”

As the unicorn blinked in shock, Luna’s expression fell, the Alicorn shaking her head slowly.

“Shifting Sands, we must however regretfully inform you that the ancient magic placed upon you has come and gone,” Luna said sadly. “There is nothing to dispel, nor current curse to fix. Whatever the Paw did to you transpired in an instant and affected you permanently.”

The Ex-Private flopped to the ground, haunches hitting the stone floor rather heavily. His eyes looked to Luna, the briefest look of betrayal flickering across his features. “You cannot lift the curse?” Shifting asked, only sorrow filling his gaze now.

“We cannot. I am sorry, Shifting Sands.”

The stallion clenched his jaw, head shaking back and forth slowly, looking to the floor. “And the sentence? That…is it? I am not-I don’t understand.”

Luna tilted her head curiously, hearing only confusion in Shifting’s voice. “Thou were expecting something else I assume? Death perhaps? The dungeons for a decade?”

Shifting nodded, features quivering slightly. “I was expecting for death, or perhaps a lifting of the curse to live out my days in exile. I was not prepared for freedom, nor for the curse to never-I’m, I don’t…”

Luna nodded slowly, interjecting as she could see the stallion’s state deteriorating. “You are indeed free with limits for now. We wish to further discuss how best to help you after processing all of this. Now then, some Guards will show you to some guest quarters and on the morrow, my sister and I will discuss your predicament with you further.”

Perhaps…

The spinning of a certain rogue and rather devious idea continued to form in Luna’s mind, and she had to resist the urge to clop her hooves together with a knowing smirk. It would help this poor pony immensely, at least she hoped. “In the meantime, Shifting Sands, we would recommend thou prepare a resume. If we are to help you, knowing your skills would be most welcome.”

Such a statement prompted a confused look from both Celestia and Shifting, but the Unicorn only nodded as two summoned royal guards led him away.

A soon as the doors closed, Luna let out a loud breath and pressed her head against Celestia’s shoulder. “That was difficult,” she muttered, feeling her sister nod in agreement.

“Hearing the challenges we faced laid out in such brutal terms, it was saddening indeed. I do believe we can help him though. You noticed how he appeared to be distracted? And those glowing eyes, that could indicate a magical and emotional imbalance,” Celestia mused, Luna nodding slowly.

“I believe he is stuck in an adjusting phase, the result of a broken and artificial form of ascension. You remember those times, Sister? We thought we were late for a lesson but it had passed a week ago? It took time to acclimate to the sense of not aging after earning our cutie marks, not in a normal sense at least. I fear Shifting is stuck in that previous time and instead of it passing in a few years it has continued perpetually. His mind has remained ‘mortal’, as it were, and is unable to comprehend it all,” the solar Princess continued, prompting a nod from Luna.

“I would agree. Would not a grounding spell solve it if we were to both amplify the power? I know it has assisted many traumatized ponies with their nightmares. Perhaps it can re-orient Shifting to his current situation and break that cycle?”

“It is worth a try, Luna. I think that particular effect is not from the Paw and therefore can be helped, at least somewhat. If successful he’ll have to slowly adjust, as he should have done naturally. I think the Paw afflicted him to watch those loved die as he endured. I do not believe the ‘fuzziness’ is part of that, since we have both experienced such. Perhaps the fear of me was initially given by the Paw however, to prevent me, or anypony from breaking that vicious cycle. But that seems to have worn off, perhaps the Paw did not expect any users to continue with their lives this long…” Celestia added, finally sighing with a tired shake of her head.

“I will retire to bed for now, and perhaps you should stay in your study with your two loyal guards. I’ll keep my soldiers on high alert as well. It has been a very strange night indeed.”

Luna nodded in agreement as they hugged, parting ways to their separate rooms. The Night Princess’s thoughts spun even as she retired to her room to watch over the dream realm.

One of my Knights, showing up here and expecting punishment? That poor pony has been through so much…I am surprised he is still sane.

Her eyes narrowed as she went about her dream duties on autopilot, a single phrase refusing to leave her awareness.

‘I think something broke, your Highness.’


Shifting Sands stared at the guards, leaden limbs leading him into an extravagant guest room suite. The colors were muted, golds and blues mixing together with ornate curtains and drapings along the walls, dark wood furniture giving the room a slight homey feel.

“The castle is still under high alert due to the recent events. Do not leave this room until summoned for breakfast, do you understand?” one of the golden-armored ponies barked, Shifting nodding swiftly.

“I understand, thank you.”

The guard then relaxed slightly, his companion nodding in approval. “Good job, by the way. Saving the Princess that is.”

The two then left, leaving the Unicorn alone with his thoughts.

Alone with my thoughts as always. The only thing to not wither and pass away but occasionally lead me astray.

Removing his magically attuned armor, Shifting enjoyed a long, hot shower, scrubbing as much dirt and grime off his body as possible. The steaming room was also a place to think, and there was quite a bit of that to be had.

The world seemed to shift slightly, and what felt like a few minutes turned out to be an hour, according to the clock Shifting glanced to as he toweled off.

More time that slips away…

That was the worst part of the curse. There was in a very literal sense, no time, and too much time. Love was impossible, friends were made and lost in a flash…

Nothing endured.

No. The ponies I helped; my legacy endured. Towns that are still safe, however few. Families allowed to flourish, their children allowed to grow up…No, any chance of having any sort of relationships are lost, all from trying to save those closest to me.

But at least I can ensure some good may endure in this world, however little. I saved my family, and my siblings had their own children, a form of a legacy. I couldn’t keep track of all of them all after a time; it all blurred together.

How can I remember every failure so clearly, yet all the good I have done slips through my grasp?

He let out a shaking breath, a few tears in his eyes. Clear moments such as this were rare when his emotions were allowed to flourish and resonate. In many ways, he had never been allowed to cope. He could feel it all churning under the surface, occasionally rearing its head like it did in the throne room. A torrent of emotion; his eyes glowing as magic sought to correct some strange imbalance…and then it passed.

And there is so much to process; perhaps someday it will all come crashing down.

The face of the one individual eased a bit of the tidal wave, the unicorn shaking his head.

After all these years, finally seeing Her again. For the first time it feels like I don’t have to keep wandering, being here at this castle. Maybe she will be willing to listen, to help me understand how to cope. I would ask Celestia, but…it’s not the same.

A certain memory rose to the fore, prompting a slight smile. It had been the first interaction with Luna the unicorn ever had; and it still was an ever-fond memory.

A simple stumble, a trip, and then hitting a rather soft, fuzzy wall. A helping blue hoof had then been outstretched. “Thou must be more careful!” the filly had said, Shifting stammering his reply to the Princess as she giggled. “What? Do we have something on our face?”

Shifting had only smiled, shaking his head as he bowed. “S-sorry your highness.”

“For what? Thou tripped! We are fine, but thou must be more alert!”

Hearing someone summon her, Luna had waved, leaving a very perplexed yet happy colt behind.

I had quite literally stumbled into her. How I wasn’t beset by guards instantly, I still do not know.

I’ve always felt more comfortable with her, I suppose. That’s why I enrolled in the Lunar Knights and talked to the moon every now and again. I may not know her, but I can at least trust her judgement.

Everycreature else I could trust is gone…

A song lyric rose to the forefront of the Unicorn’s mind; a modern creation that had inexplicably stunned Shifting for a few long minutes. Music was one of the few things that could ground him and keep the world still for a time. Played at a late-light DJ event but a week ago, nopony had noticed the tan stallion in the back of the packed room abruptly burst into tears amid the festive dancing. Wet streams of emotion spilling from his eyes even now, Shifting whispered a few of the words as he curled up on a bed, alone in the guest room in more ways than one. A soft pillow was clutched between his hooves, a small gesture to try and make the surroundings feel a bit more permanent.

“Days turned into years, and into centuries…”

Author's Note:

'I wonder if people will like reading-OH SWEET BURNED MARSHMELLOWS!
Well, this exploded! I'm rather tickled so many individuals like it! Feedback is greatly appreciated of course, and I hope everyone enjoys the tale!

And now we have the curse is unfolded in all of its horrible glory. What worth is strength, vitality, and agelessness if anyone you meet vanishes in the blink of an eye? If, by the time you begin to register a connection with someone, they have aged a decade or more? In saving those he loved the most, he was cursed to be denied that connection for a millennium.

Concerning the Satyr's(Monkey's) paw and to clear up a few things- this is copied from the Wikipedia article concerning the story it is mentioned in, as to why it is a cursed item;
"An old fakir placed a spell on the paw, so that it would grant three wishes. The wishes are granted but always with hellish consequences as punishment for tampering with fate"

Hopefully I portrayed of how the seeming positives were now meaningless, in a situation which would otherwise be seen as a blessing. We get a bit of insight into the mind of a certain stallion too- the story will eventually balance in terms of viewpoints. (Half and half for Luna/Shifting)

And then there's parts of that aforementioned song that apply quite a bit to our poor pony. The Song