• Published 9th Jun 2021
  • 408 Views, 45 Comments

Seconds to spare - Hope

Princess Luna sends her student, Eris, to make friends in Ponyville.

  • ...

Ch.8 At the End of Our Rope

The six creatures crossed the bridge carefully, the pegusi making sure noone would fall, until they were all walking through what had once been the City of Everfree, capital to Equestria long long ago.

But instead of being fully abandoned, as the clock in the tower turned back, ghosts walked the streets of Everfree. Dressed in fashion long since abandoned, or in some cases wearing uniforms or outfits that had never been seen before, they would wave to the group or bustle by without a care just like any large city.

They were rebuilding the lost city around the group.

Buildings were being put up in record time, brick construction side by side with the steel beams of a skyscraper, a quaint shop window displaying rusted bronze swords and armor.

“What is this?” Rarity whispered as she looked around.

“It’s time. All of time,” Eris replied, dodging a cart being pulled by a motorcycle. “All… building.”

“Reckon Father Time’s got himself a plan,” AJ declared. “One that’s got a whole city in it.”

Pinkie hopped around the group, trying to take it all in, before giggling.

“Well duh!” she said, gesturing around. “He’s probably gotta have a city to make stuff for him! Like, does he have to eat? What’s his favorite comfy pillow? What if it rains!”

Eris nodded slowly. “He’s… a mortal pony, despite all the power. So he needs support. I’m curious why he isn’t having them stop us though, since we’re here to stop him.”

The group murmured their agreement, as they continued deeper into the city and eventually to the Castle itself.

There were no ghosts here, no construction being done. Instead, the flow of time was slowly repairing the damage that the castle had taken on, almost as slowly as it had been done. They watched a vine creep back from where it had dislodged a stone, and that stone settled back into place.

“Stick together, everyone,” Fluttershy whispered. “Was there… anything in that book about how to stop him?” she asked hopefully, half hiding behind AJ.

Eris got the Elements of Harmony, a Guide, back out of her backpack and flipped through it.

“Stars, escape, thousandth year… Okay here we go… According to the prophecy of Shattered Time, he was originally stopped by the Elements of Harmony. There are six Elements of Harmony, but only five are known: Kindness, Laughter, Generosity, Honesty and Loyalty. The sixth is a complete mystery, and various translations interpret it as a Spark, Unity, Force, or Happiness.”

Eris sighed, rubbing her face as she looked up at the clock tower.

“So we need to find the elements!” Pinkie said, gesturing at the slightly open doors of the castle. “Let’s get lookin’!”

The ponies all agreed as they started off, but paused when Eris stayed where she was. Rainbow approached her first, landing in front of her.

“You’re scared, aren’t you?” she asked bluntly.

“Yeah,” Eris sighed. “I… I’m not very good at Harmony. I… I’m scared that I’m going to mess this all up. That literally anyone else would be better at this than me.”

“It’s ok to be scared,” Pinkie said, trotting up beside her.

“But know we’ll give it all we’ve got, and that’s gotta be good enough,” AJ added.

“I’m just glad that… If it’s the end of the world we’re all facing,” Rarity said tactfully, looking around at all of them with a smile. “I’m just glad I was here with all of you for it.”

Fluttershy joined the group last, looking up at Eris, before looking back to the castle, frowning.

“Eris… We’re going in there. To try and find these Elements, and we want you to come with us. We want you by our side.”

Eris met Fluttershy’s gaze when she turned back, and she saw the truth in her words. Eris wasn’t second best, she wasn’t a failure, she was just another friend. A part of this group.

She smiled a little and nodded, as finally they all moved forward together, and into the castle.


Ancient stone walls and wooden beams still held up the tower above, with tattered tapestries telling stories long forgotten by mortal ponies.

The story they told was of a teacher, a great and powerful unicorn who had unlocked secrets of the universe beyond anyone else’s comprehension, secrets of time and space, energy and matter, and everything that lay between.

What the tapestries did not tell was the story of his frustration, when those discoveries didn’t produce the perfection he demanded of the world, and his obsession drove him to ruin.

The group of friends that entered the great hall didn’t know that last part of the story either, as they took in the tapestries and then the holes in the ceiling, and finally the complex mechanical apparatus in the center of the room. It looked like a clock broken open and warped into something new and strange, with gears and chains and flywheels frozen in place, and bronze cages containing stone spheres presented up towards the holes in the ceiling like offerings.

“You think those are the elements?” Rarity asked, lighting her horn to pick one up, slipping it out of its cage and bringing it down to rest on the floor in front of her.

“One, two… five of them, yeah,” Eris nodded, looking around as the group got each stone they could find and clustered them together on the stone floor. “But there is supposed to be a sixth one, I don’t…”

“Oh, I found it,” a low masculine voice said, drawing everyone’s attention to the shadows at the far end of the hall.

As the unicorn stallion stepped out from his hiding place, the tapestries on the wall repaired themselves, and the stone floor became bright and polished. His grey fur shimmered, while his white mane and tail sparked and smoked, a crown of literal burning stars hovering over his horn, and a cloak of them swirling over his back.

“Father Time!” Rainbow gasped, before she growled and began flying towards him, clearly in an attempt to take the stone orb that floated in his magical grasp.

But a star shot out and hit her, and everyone watched in horror as she was changed.

First she became young, a filly straining against the magic to fly, but that didn’t stop her. So instead she was made old, her breath coming in gasps as she finally landed, wings thin and tired, her mane and tail faded and grey, barely able to stand.

“No!” Eris shouted, running forward and jumping in between Rainbow and Father Time, before a flash of light surrounded her and...

She was alone, standing in a different room, the walls covered in spinning gears and winding springs. The massive face of a clock took up one wall, and she knew she was in the clocktower.

“No,” Eris whispered as she frantically looked around, unable to spot her friends or the Elements.

“I did find it first. Did you think that, after being frozen in a timeless void for so long, I wouldn’t go after the Elements first? Your teacher prepared you poorly,” Father Time scolded as he stepped out from the darkness, and dropped the sixth element on the floor, a thin crack running through it as Eris gasped.

“No,” he stated simply. “She will be improved.”

He turned his head and from behind a cog stepped a blue alicorn, that Eris only recognized by her cutie mark.

Princess Luna had been warped, her eyes black except for white pupils, her fur matted with sweat, and her simple crown replaced with one covered in sharp points, like daggers aimed at everyone around her.

“Destroy it,” he instructed.

“No, no, Princess Luna please,” Eris begged.

But with one blast of black magic, the stone sphere was torn into shards of stone and dust that swirled in the air and scattered across the charred floor.

Eris backed away, one hand on her mouth as she realized that she was no match for her teacher, or for this stallion, and she had nothing left to try.

“You’re alone,” Father Time stated simply. “No elements of harmony, no friends, no hope left. Bow down to us, and I will restore your proper place in the timeline. Resist, and you will be destroyed."

As Eris stared at them, contemplating her fate, she heard a distant sound. Hooves running on stone, and a soft voice.

“We’ve got to find her,” Fluttershy was saying.

Eris stood a little taller, and then looked to her former teacher.

“You’re right,” she said, smiling a little despite her tears. “She didn’t teach me very well.”

Luna scowled, but didn’t respond.

“But she was busy,” Eris said, looking down at her hands. “And I wasn’t a very good student. But one thing I do remember her telling me about was Artifact Permanency. If something is so powerful, so incredibly connected to the world that it becomes an artifact, then it can’t truly be destroyed.”

A star shot out at her, but a shimmering field of purple surrounded Eris, destroying it as it approached.

As tears poured down her face, her new friends poured into the room behind her.

“I thought ya’ll didn’t have any magic!” AJ said, laughing a little at the impressive shield.

“I don’t,” Eris said, her confidence renewed as she stood tall. “But I have all of you! I might not be full of destiny and magic, but I have Applejack, who was so generous, she would give her life for another without a thought!”

In a flash of light, a green shield surrounded AJ, lifting her off the ground a little as she gasped.

“I have loyal Fluttershy, who is scared to even talk to someone new, but who would face a Manticore for her friends! Rarity, who will do anything she can to see others smile!”

They were both lifted up as well by the magic building around them all.

“Rainbow Dash, who told the truth, no matter how much it hurt, and Pinkie, who is so kind she healed hurts we thought we could never recover from! And all of them, all of them are my friends!”

The building shook a little as they were all lifted together, side by side. Luna looked a little proud, but numb to what was happening around her, but Father Time was roaring in anger, flinging stars and horrifying spells at the group, only for them to splash harmlessly aside.

“That’s what it is, isn’t it?!” Eris asked, laughing gleefully. “That’s the lesson Luna was trying to teach me, that’s the sixth element, and it’s what I’ve been missing for so so so many lifetimes! It was friendship.”

The stone fragments on the floor evaporated into light, and reassembled around Eris’s head as a purple star, wreathed in gold.

AJ’s green apple became a necklace, as a red butterfly formed a bracelet on Fluttershy’s arm. Rainbow found a golden yellow lightning bolt on a chain around her neck, Rarity gained a light blue crystal circlet on her head, and Pinkie Pie found a dark blue balloon-shaped gem on a belt around her waist.

Their magic and light poured together and blasted across Father Time, Luna, and the building around them, while those six friends felt eachother’s dedication and their hope in the future. Eris was not alone.

When they finally touched hooves and claws on the floor again, an ordinary stallion was curled up on the floor, as Luna in all of her glory sat next to him.

Outside, the sun had finally set, and the moon lit the inside of the clocktower in cold silver light, now in disrepair and ruin once again, the great gears still and the city around them again abandoned.

Slowly, Eris approached, as Luna turned to smile at them all.

“He’ll be alright,” she said quietly. “But I must thank you all…”

“I’ve been a poor teacher,” the stallion whimpered.

They could finally see him as he really was. A tired old man, whose eyes were full of regret and sorrow, but no burning stars or eerie magic left.

“He was your teacher?!” Rarity gasped.

“Some teacher,” Rainbow snickered, checking out her necklace.

“He was, and still is, my teacher yes,” Luna said as she put a hoof to his side. “And I failed to help him before he became Father Time. Now the elements have given me another chance… A chance to help him again.”

Author's Note:

Well, this is it. The end of the story I set out to write. I hope you all enjoyed it, it clearly sets the scene for a lot of possibility, and I have some ideas for one-off bonus chapters. So if there's interest I may write those up as well, but thank you all for reading.

Comments ( 18 )

Loving the Luna and Eris relationship XDD

Thank you so much!

Woot! With the contest results posted, I can finally break my comment embargo I was under as a judge. To put it briefly, I absolutely adored this fic. But to put it more lengthily...

Calling Seconds To Spare a “retelling of the pilot episode” is like calling the Efifel Tower a “lump of iron ore.” The ingredients in this story have been picked apart, shuffled around, and recast in such intricate interlocking ways, the result is its own beast. To list every swapped role would be a disservice to the reading experience; the fun of this fic is mapping out a mental corkboard of who’s who as the story goes on. Still, notable non-spoilery showings include Celestia as a petrified but psychically chatty statue in the Canterlot sculpture gardens and a young gender-flopped Discord as Princess Luna’s gracious faithful student.

There are so many layers of intrigue to this fic, such as the initially unchanged cast of Mane 5 whose choices and slowly revealed backstories differ enough from canon to affect the climactic showdown. Add in a strong unifying motif of time and acceptance of change, and this is a terrifically crafted fic. It is only an honorable mention due to the other judges outvoting me; simply speaking from personal taste, this story gets the highest recommendation I can possibly give.

“All I ever wanted was to pick apart the day and put the pieces back together my waaaaaaaay…”

For added fun, I took lots of notes while reading this entry. They're a bit scattered, so I can delete them upon request if the author feels I'm cluttering up the comment section with them. Nevertheless, Here they are:

  • Full disclosure, this one’s length intimidated me so I saved it for last.
  • Ah, this fic doesn’t tip its hand in the summary. Mirage is a good opening element for the story.
  • Like setting aside your favorite sticks before a forest fire, a futile act meant to give yourself a feeling of control when it was all about to be lost. A memorable, character establishing line.
  • But she would have given her crown for a hug in that moment.  :(
  • Starswirl is our baddie instead of Discord, eh? The surprises keep coming. 
  • This fic plays a meta corkboard game as you read it. Keeping track of who is in what role, who is in their original role, and what characters are missing. So far, Twilight is the only character unaccounted for.
  • "You're two thousand years old and swore to protect me forever, I'm sure you'll figure it out," Spike is still Spike, no matter the continuity.
  • "I didn't bring anything to eat! This is all explosives!" Chekov’s gun, locked and loaded.
  • This is the entry I most want to see fanart of. Eris is a real dearie.
  • Ah, a reversal of the iconic AJ cliff scene. Though the “Apples give” line piques my interest. Are we teasing some Elements role swaps too? Very clever.
  • "She could harvest her entire farm on her own, but does she? Nope, she hires on folks from town who need work.” Applebuck Harvest this ain’t.
  • Per the manitcore scene, Eris’s reincarnation abilities are used to forward the plot instead of just being a flavorful character trait. Wonderful utilization.
  • The backstories and Pinkie’s song are very go-figure emotional rhetoric. But they’re also incredibly effective. I give them both a thumbs up. Especially Eris’s implied previous death at the hooves of this world’s Celestia. I’m also dead certain the Elements are roleswapped at this point.
  • The encounter with Stephen Magnet’s stand in resolves with a pleasant anti-climax. The band of heroines are here to vanquish a newcomer he finds annoying. So he helps them cross the river. After the complex emotional torque of the previous scene, it’s a welcome breather before the big showdown with Starswirl.
  • "If I'm not good enough for them, then I've got to be better," Rainbow whispered as she wiped the tears from her eyes and tied the rope. "Because unlike you… there's a point where they say I'm good enough. And that's good enough for me." It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Rainbow Dash. So it speaks volumes that I was moved by this scene. Giving Dash genuine emotional baggage and coping mechanisms that each fit her personality? Not even the show was able to do that.
  • The zombified helpers rebuilding the city has shades of Sombra to our Nightmare Moon stand-in. Very good, and much more communicative of the baddie’s baddiness than the actual show’s pilot where Nightmare just camps out in an abandoned ruin for the whole plot. 
  • The tapestries are, again, something the actual show’s pilot could’ve benefited from. A more complete retelling of the villain’s story than the one we got at the beginning. And right before the climactic fight with him too. Certainly makes the descriptions of his bottomless eyes more unnerving in hindsight.
  • And the denoument doesn’t last a paragraph longer than it needs to. We get our reveal of the roleswap Elements and our forgone conclusion of Rainbow Laser Meets Baddie’s Face. In and out, no fat on the meat.
  • This is a top three story. Very ambitious and it reached the many goals it set for itself.


I am thrilled with your notes and absolutely never want them to be deleted!!!!
Thank you so so much!
I'll be trying to add something new to the role swap community in the future, maybe based on this.

You have all my encouragement. Longform fics like this one are regrettably rare in the Roleswap Group. I myself have an unfinished one from last year's contest, and I think your entry has me inspired to revive it.

TIt Takes A Princess
Creativa's struggle against Order's tyranny isn't going well. Another humiliating defeat has her hurled her across time and space... and into the lap of a Moon Princess who was just starting to get bored of retirement.
Casketbase77 · 14k words  ·  83  3 · 1.3k views

Whether its a slice of life snippet or another awesome adventure story, I look forward to any future additions to the Swapped Roles group. And hey, not to be too presumptuous, but the winner of this year's contest first took a swing at submissions during last year's prompts. That could be you in 2022. Ya never know. :twilightsmile:


Hello, I am one of the judges for the Reunions Swapped Roles contest, and I'm going to share the scores that I gave this story along with the comments. Note that I was just one of three judges, so these comments do NOT reflect what the other judges thought of the story.

Quality 2 / 5

There were some errors in the writing. For example, the second sentence in the story is a run-on. (I believe using a pair of em dashes would work the best.) While the story was understandable, sometimes I had to slow down or re-read certain sections. 

I appreciate the song you wrote. Rarely do I find lyrics to read well, especially without music, but you did a good job here.

One of the issues I find with S1E01-02 rewrites that stick too closely to the original structure is that the pacing just doesn’t work as well in a written form. Everything just feels too rushed, and challenges are overcome too easily. 

Roleswap originality/utilization 5 / 5 

The way you made the magic here work is interesting. The illusions that your Mane 6 faced were all based time, and the city itself was suitably interesting. Luna and her time bunker were also good. The one thing I might have wanted more of was Starswirl doing some timey-wimey shenanigans, but that might have made the story needlessly complex.

Characters work was good. I like how everypony in the Mane 5 stayed true to themselves while embodying a different element. I admit I wasn’t able to figure out everypony’s element on my first time reading, but I chalk that up to my own inattentiveness. The situations presented were complex enough that multiple virtues were present in most of them, which I think led to the confusion. (Fluttershy’s loyalty, for example, could also have been her urging Eris to be honest.) Starswirl’s first appearance in the castle with Luna was honestly scary even if he just sort of loses in the end. 

The story of evil Celestia was also some good work. It’s actually one of the more intriguing parts of this story, especially her relationship with Luna.

Having a draconequus be in Twilight’s role was interesting. Eris wasn’t Discord, but a few of those chaotic tendencies were still in the backstory. 

Prompt utilization 2 / 3

Yes, this is a reunion between Luna and Starswirl, even though most of the story was focused on Eris and her adventures. That first scene with Starswirl was quite good. There’s so much history between Eris, Luna, and Starswirl (as well as Celestia), but we don’t get that much of those complex relationships in the meeting at the Clocktower. I think there is room to expand on the theme of reunions here.

I'll openly admit, seeing the quality at 2/5 hurts a lot.
But I knew from the day after I submitted my story and read the forum post that my story would not be approved of in the role swap community, so to save my own ego I'll just chalk it up to that.



Forum post? Nevermind that, I probably missed it. I found the swap itself to be one of the most creative ones I've read, on par with the third-place finisher. (The first and second place entries were, in my opinion, not as good as yours on the roleswap department.)

Don't let individual readers' opinions get you down, even my own. Especially my own. Write to tell stories you want to tell, and write to improve.

(I'm not even particularly good at writing myself, and if I were to judge my own published stories, I'd give most of them 3/5 and one of them 2/5.) Know that I didn't give a single entry 5/5 on quality, since I didn't end up reading anything that blew me away.

Also, I'm keeping an eye out on your story. (Fimfic better notify me if a sequel to a tracked story gets released.) I love this world you've built and think it has room for so many cool stories.

By forum post I mean the revelation that the role swap community has a generally poor opinion of episode 1/2 retreads. It makes sense in retrospect but I hadn't thought it through before writing the story.
Just for you, I'll post the first chapter of the next story in the series on Thursday hehe (okay, for you and for Casket)



the role swap community has a generally poor opinion of episode 1/2 retreads.

Oh. Hmmm. I see.

And first chapter of a sequel on Thursday? Cool, I'm excited!

I love seeing a new story by Hope. And it's such a good story!

And I put up the first chapter of the sequel!

Do the Mane Six still exist in this universe?

I mean, everyone but Twilight Sparkle. Twilight exists but isn't in this story.

This is excellent in all respects except not having enough Luna. But then the original two-parter didn't have enough Celestia.

Hopefully the sequel will rectify this. I especially hope to see some kind of hint why Luna decided to take Eris on as her personal student, what thing Eris said or did that gave Luna the idea that she might be redeemable. Because not even an immortal princess has the time to save everybody.

A fun spin on the opening. There's some outstanding bits here, from intriguingly shuffled Elements to tantalizing glimpses of the different circumstances that led each Bearer to embody a different virtue, to say nothing of all the other changes to the timeline. Father Time is a fascinating villain in how much impact he leaves given his relatively minimal screentime... and I suppose you could say the same of Nightmare Moon.

In all, a lovely read, though I have to wonder where Twilight fits into this timeline. In any case, on to the sequel!

Thank you! I'll continue working on the sequel, and I look forward to you reading it!

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