• Published 6th Dec 2012
  • 2,242 Views, 29 Comments

Starfall: Dominion of the Night, Part I - AuroraScribe

The course of time has been changed... and as the war of the sisters begins, will Star Swirl's involvement change things for the better, or has the mage doomed Equestria to an even more terrible fate?

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Chapter One: Fool's Gambit

In a distant future…

Beams of magic collide with such force the entire structure rumbled from the displaced air, the torrent of power creating an aurora of vivid blue and red light and sent tendrils of dust cascading from cracks in the elaborate dome ceiling. In a flash the spell energy dissipated leaving only tiny arcs of colorful static to flicker about until vanishing completely, returning the massive chamber to an ink-like darkness.

“Star... Swirl…” the voice spoke almost seductively, the sound of it reverberating from every direction. “This can only end one way. You know that.”

Star Swirl the Bearded – a title he had grown quite fond of over the years – patted dust from his robes then cleared his throat. “I find that rather odd,” the old mage chided loudly as he adjusted his large, pointed hat and peered into the void stretching out before him to search for his opponent. “There are, in fact, nearly an infinite amount of possible outcomes to how this may conclude... But even so, I do admit I only have one in mind. After all, I’d hate to think all this work was for nothing.”

“Oh, it isn’t, little pony. Soon I’ll be completely freed from that sorceress’s wretched prison… and when I am I will unmake everything she holds dear… all thanks to you.”

Star Swirl stood on his hind legs and crossed his forelegs across his chest. “Is that so? Well, I think you’ve done more than enough already...” a hint of anger crept into his voice as he waved a hoof, the motion summoning his staff next to him in a brilliant burst of light. The ornate weapon brightly illuminated his surroundings, each of the interweaving patterns and arcane symbols carved upon it glowing with their own power. With the destruction near him now clearly visible, he looked to the cracked tile and thick ash underhoof and briefly remembered a time when this chamber was once beautiful and presided royalty. With a deep sigh, his memories faded away to the current grim reality. “What you’ve done to Equestria… to the world… will be erased and you’ll be sealed away once again. Whatever you’re planning makes little difference... It’s never going to happen, I’ll be certain of it.”

There was no light yet the unmistakable energy of magic began to course through the dark air. Star Swirl cringed at the tainted, evil feeling it provided, as if it were tangible rage and hopelessness floating about. Don’t hold back, he thought. Attack me head on so that I may bring a swift end to your malice.

“What I’m planning matters a great deal,” the voice spoke again, but something about it was odd, almost as if two beings were speaking in synch. “You’ll understand… soon enough.”

Star Swirl tugged his gray beard as he tilted his head and pivoted his ears upward. It… can’t be? He shook his head certain he recognized something familiar about the voice but suddenly it was as if the sun had been summoned before him; the cathedral-like structure shook violently sending chunks of crumbled stone crashing to the floor as it filled with blinding light so intense he had to turn his head and tilt the rim of his hat to shield his eyes.

“Before that, however, first things first: You have something that belongs to me!” The voice resonated through the chamber with great power.

With the last words still echoing and his eyes still adjusting to the sudden change in light, Star Swirl could feel the ever so subtle hint that one of his various protection spells had been dispelled. Instantly his staff is ripped from his grasp and hurls through the air away from him. Instinctively he reaches out but being separated from his weapon was nearly impossible; he could return it to his side with a simple incantation. He let his foreleg droop and shook his head, more aggravated than concerned. That’s his plan? Did it truly take such powerful magic to seal this monster away?

“Yes… It did,” the voice responded to the mage’s musings coldly.

Somewhat startled, Star Swirl peered towards the intense source of light. Floating next to his weapon, Princess Celestia in her full set of golden armor gazed down to him, her eyes narrowed in anger.

“Prin… cess-?” Star Swirl couldn’t finish as a wave of power struck his barrier and flipped him end over end across the tile. Using his magic to land upright, he skidded to a stop sending ash and dust airborne into a thick cloud, the gritty air making him cough as he reeled from the attack. Please no… it can’t be her! He raised his head as he summoned an enormous amount of spell energy, his horn flaring bright blue as his hat and robes fluttered in the swirling air around him. Before completing the spell he waved a hoof before him and uttered one word, “return.”

But his staff didn’t reappear by his side as it should.

Confused and his horn still glowing intensely, he cut through the cloud of dust with a foreleg and blinked but Celestia was gone, his weapon with her. Behind me! He turned just in time to deflect a red beam of magic but the energy coursed into the floor and exploded, the blast hurling him high into the air. Before he could react he was paralyzed by a red glow surrounding his body, the evil magic briefly suspending him as if floating in water then slammed him hard upon the floor sending chunks of stone and tile scattering in every direction.

Celestia casually stepped forward and examined the small crater where Star Swirl should be, but wasn’t at all surprised he wasn’t there. “You’ve always been crafty,” she said as she glanced about. “I suppose that’s the reason you’ve lived as long as you have.”

Star Swirl reappeared in a flash of blue light behind Celestia and briefly considered using a spell but instead brought a hoof forward. “Return!” He loudly commanded, but again his staff didn’t obey. With a tiny shake of his head he recoiled and swallowed hard in disbelief, the small motion sending sweat trickling down his face onto his ash-covered beard.

“Oh… is this what you seek?” Celestia turned, her golden armor brightly reflecting her magical radiance as she glanced at Star Swirl over her wing. Smirking, she reached out and gently touched the pristine weapon with a hoof and it blackened, the intricate carvings bubbling and contorting into new shapes until the staff was completely twisted and gnarled. “Ailamyr. Luminisca. The Pillar of Light. Whatever name it was once given, it is that no longer,” she stated matter-of-factly, her smirk changing to a wicked smile. “Korlamyr… The Pillar of Shadow would be more appropriate now.”

Star Swirl stumbled backwards, his wide eyes fixated on the staff. “Wh-what have you done?”

“You’ve always lacked the conviction to finish what you’ve started,” she said as she caressed the surface of the weapon then suddenly clenched it with a hoof. “So I simply did what I should have long ago… Taken from you the source of your power!” Her voice rose to a shout as she spun sending her colorful mane and tail flowing around her like liquid then pointed the darkened-weapon at the mage with perfect grace. With a flash of energy the end of it erupted with magic sending a beam that struck Star Swirl with incredible force, the powerful magic hurling him clear across the massive room.

Still airborne, Star Swirl fought the pain and quickly touched his horn then waved a foreleg in a counter-clockwise motion. As he soared toward the far wall, it glowed lightly as a circle of spell energy appeared upon it, his magic instantly transmuting the thick stone into fine silt just as he collided and sunk into the soft matter. Aching from both the impact and Celestia’s attack, he shook his head as he stepped from the wall sending a thick cloud of the powdery dust floating down around him. I can’t do this… I can’t fight her! But… what choice do I have? With a groan his mind raced to find a way to get the upper-hoof as a familiar sound made him glance upward.

In a flash of red energy, Celestia teleported high above, her wings angled to dive and the staff aimed directly at him.

The name of a hundred spells ran through Star Swirl’s mind, but he couldn’t focus. His horn erupted bright blue but instead of deflecting the incoming attack or even teleporting to safety he only summoned a magical barrier and watched as she descended upon him, as if entranced by her assault.

There was a brief dance of light as the staff easily pierced the energy field and time seemed to slow as the bladed tip of the weapon glided through the air and stabbed deep into his shoulder. He blinked as the surge of pain struck then gasped and cried out as he tried to force the weapon away, but his hooves merely fumbled upon its charcoal-like surface as he crumbled to his side in agony.

“Your apathy leaves much to be desired, especially since you were so impressive before… tell me, has something changed?” Celestia gave a sinister laugh as she held the staff firmly and tilted her head pondering. “Don’t tell me it’s because you’re afraid you might harm a princess of this land?”

Desperate for his own answers he ignored the question and gazed into Celestia’s eyes. Around her bright purple irises was a soft flicker of red magic, but he noticed something else as well. Though struggling to stay conscious, he was certain a tear trickled down the princess’s cheek. Then the scrolls were true… there’s no limit to his foul magic, he can corrupt anyone. Even her. “Fight him, Ce-Celestia… don’t… don’t do this!”

In response, the staff began to trace across his side like a pen to parchment, the razor-sharp tip cleaving easily through his robes as it carved a horrible wound upon him. Through the excruciating pain he swallowed hard and began to summon every bit of magic he had left.

“And this is how the mighty spell weaver finds his end – not through a clash of power, but as a heap upon the floor, skewered by his own weapon. I almost find it sad, really… to have this carried out by two things you claim to care so much for. Still, it’s also somewhat poetic, wouldn’t you agree?” Scarlet energy danced across the staff as Celestia pulled it from the mage’s side and used her magic to raise it high into the air. “Goodbye… Star Swirl!” She clenched her eyes shut and brought the weapon straight down as if hurling a spear... But with a loud crack, it harmlessly struck the floor.

Only a fading blue cloud of energy was all that remained of Star Swirl the Bearded.

* * * * * * * *

Nearly two thousand years in the past…

It was midday in Canterlot and like most winter days, birds of the season preened and stood along the snowy roof of the central library watching the cobble street below, but their keen eyes and senses had them on edge. Something was beginning to frighten them and as one took flight others chirped and cawed in distress then quickly followed. Too deep in personal matters or their own thoughts to be bothered, the few ponies passing by gave little attention to the noisy distraction, completely unaware of the powerful magic nearby.

It began small – just a tiny vibration, something few would ever notice – but it quickly grew in strength until powerful enough that it began to shake even the walls of the long alley. A sudden burst of wind whipped snow and debris into a tiny maelstrom as the light and thunderous sound of a timejump spell appeared - then, almost as quickly as it had formed, the spell dissipated into a soft glowing mist and faded away, replaced by a unicorn with a long, gray beard.

Star Swirl stumbled forward and took a ragged breath of icy air then tripped and collapsed in a heap upon the snow. Exhausted and trembling in pain he no longer fought the darkness now clouding his vision; instead he closed his eyes and submitted willingly.

“Ce… lest... ia…” he barely sounded out the princess’s name then lost consciousness.

* * * * * * * *

…This can only end one way…

…You know that…

Hours pass until Star Swirl woke to the sound of sinister laughter. With his beard looking more like a frozen mop he weakly lifted his head from the snow and opened his frost-encrusted eyes as a spark of fear ignited within him, but as he did the dreadful sound changed to the innocent laughing of children. Confused and his vision still clouded, he blinked heavily and spotted a family passing by the opening of the alley in the distance, their children apparently having a snowball fight.

Somewhat relieved his chin slumped back onto the icy mound but suddenly felt an almost frantic need to stretch. As he started to shift he immediately regretted the decision and groaned; instead of relief the small movement caused a sharp stabbing pain to shoot through his side. He grinded his teeth and blinked away tears but otherwise sat motionless, briefly reliving the battle as the pain brought memories flooding back to him. I… lost. And with my failure, there may be little hope for the future.

For a long while he continued to lay still, both to contain his overflowing emotions and to work up the courage to look to his side – to the source of the incredible pain. With a grimace, he swallowed hard then slowly turned his head.

Aside from being filthy and matted, his velvety blue robes looked relatively undamaged for the most part. His eyes briefly looked to the pattern of golden moons and stars woven into the soft material – each enchanted to deflect or absorb an assortment of attacks – and began to wonder what else could’ve been done, but his train of thought is lost as he spots a thin blackened split going almost the full length of his body. Upon seeing it he winced then closed his eyes; he knew that even as bad as the damage to the robes looked, it paled to what was underneath. For a long moment he considered what to do next but a loud chirp surprised him and made him glance up.

A silver and white winter bird wheeled just overhead then landed and hopped on the snow in front of him, tilting its head left then right as it looked at the old mage. With another loud chirp it wiggled its tail feathers then hopped onto the edge of his hoof.

Star Swirl managed to smile warmly. Throughout the ages, nature had always been his favorite source of information since communicating with plants and animals usually had the smallest impact on future events. “Hello there... It’s quite nice to meet you, as well.”

The bird chirped then shuffled back and forth.

“Why yes, actually, I could use your help,” Star Swirl spoke gently as a thoughtful expression crossed his face. “Have you seen much of the city? Do you know if there is a conflict of any sort going on?” He remembered the family that passed by earlier and pursed his lips. “In my haste I may have come to the wrong place.”

The little bird flapped its wings and hopped down to the snow as it chirped a variety of notes, happily doing its best to tell all it knew. Once it finished it chirped a final note farewell then took off and flew clear out of the alley and over the rooftops.

Though somewhat shadowed from onlookers but not wanting to take the chance of another surprise visit, Star Swirl quickly drew a magic rune in the air as his horn glowed brightly, the spell creating the illusion the rear alley was empty. Then, with his lips twisting with uncertainty, he tugged his beard and considered everything the little bird had told him.

“There’s an aura of discontent… but the sisters aren’t yet at war,” he whispered and began to stroke his frost-covered beard thoughtfully. “Though it probably isn’t far off, possibly months… maybe even just days, it means my spell was inaccurate. I’ll need to find out exactly what point in time this is, but before that…” he turned his head as his horn glowed soft blue, the magic gently untying the straps of his robes then lifted them from him and neatly folded them upon the snow. “I have to take care of this first.”

Shivering and though it felt like his stomach was churning, he clenched his jaw and looked once more to his side. Even though he believed he was ready, what he saw made his eyes widen. The attack had left a long, blackened gape upon him; the gruesome wound went from a large gouge in his front shoulder clear to his tail and split his cutie mark in two.

“By my own weapon,” Star Swirl quietly repeated Celestia’s words. He knew that while his robes could be mended easily enough, an injury of this kind was another matter entirely. “It’s been cauterized…” he paused to fight back a very strong desire to gag. Seared and charred black… “But can it be healed?” He whispered aloud then took a shallow breath, a small exertion he now believed was probably not much dissimilar to inhaling fire.

“I… must try!” With renewed determination he wobbly pushed himself to stand as his entire body ached intensely from the sudden strain. Doing his best not to fall over, he focused and began to cast a spell of regeneration. As he did he shivered once more, this time not from the cold, rather from a sense of dread of what may lay ahead. His thoughts lingered on Ailamyr, the powerful artifact given to him by Celestia herself long ago, and how it had also been stolen and used against him by the princess. The weapon, at one time elegant and beautiful, was now twisted and its magic corrupted – something he never thought possible or even imagined could be done. Though the staff had been created to protect the world from evil, he had no doubt it now held the ability to slay someone with a kind heart, possibly even those believed immortal.

He sighed deeply as the throbbing began to dull, replaced by mild warmth that greatly masked the pain. Somewhat surprised, he looked to his side and took in a full breath and was relieved the endless stabbing sensation was nearly gone, but noted he had used his most powerful healing spell and the wound hadn’t changed in size. “My magic should stave off the pain for a time, but that effect is most likely only temporary... and so, Princess Cadance may be my only hope,” he considered for a moment what it would take to meet with the princess and sighed once more. “But for now, this will have to do.”

Thankful he could at least breathe normally again, he took a deep breath then slid his large hat off and ran a hoof through his shaggy gray mane. Beside him, his magic lifted the robes from the snow then unfolded and slipped them gently back on. As the final strap magically tied itself across his chest, he flipped his hat over and waved a hoof over the hole for his head making it glow then reached a foreleg inside. For a long while he sorted through various objects then with a smile pulled out an item which looked like an overly-large bit. To those without a discerning eye the item appeared to simply be a golden disk with a tiny hole in its center, but upon close inspection it was actually three connected rings all with various inscriptions. He lovingly rubbed a hoof across its shiny surface then gently laid it upon the snow and returned his hat to his head.

As he stepped back he looked to the shiny coin-like object and began to concentrate deeply. Taking a deep breath, he narrowed his eyes and waved a foreleg vertical. In unison, his horn glowed brightly as the motion magically lifted the disk into the air until it hovered almost at eye level. He then waved his foreleg horizontal and with a light click each ring began to rotate. As they quickly picked up speed, the nonstop whirling created a light, high-pitched hum and created a semi-illusion of a hovering golden orb.

Now to find out exactly where I am. Star Swirl bent his neck and in a flash his horn erupted in magic and sent a blue beam of energy that struck the orb and made it glow brightly. For a long while his magic weaved between each of the rings until a bolt of energy streaked into the evening sky. Suddenly, the area around the orb darkened as it sent pulsing streams of light onto the cobblestone and snow below, the magic softly projecting thousands of interweaving circles and multiple runes of various sizes and shapes.

For a moment Star Swirl wobbled then took a ragged breath; using the disk required an immense amount of power and he was used to having Ailamyr assist him. He shook off a sudden need to lie back down and moved forward to examine the threads of time but stopped as his eyes caught something out of place.

“That… cannot be!” He shook his head making the top of his hat flop back and forth as he spotted the rune for Night, a crescent moon with a tiny star in the middle. “I should've arrived in Canterlot just at the start of the war but my spell was off by nearly twenty years… if Luna is still here, then the course of time has been changed!” He frantically looked to other runes, some depicting loops in time and others showing major events that shape the future, many of which no longer connected to any of the various timelines. His eyes widen when he notices the new pattern. It has to be him... it's the only explanation. “Does… he intend to prevent the war of the sisters?”

He swallowed hard as he realized what that could mean. Luna’s role in Equestria is pivotal… the damage she was to cause is but a fraction of what could happen should the princess not face the evil stirring within, there’s too much at stake! “But… that’s exactly what you want, isn’t it, villain? But how are you doing this?” His voice lowered to a whisper as his mind raced. He’s only had one binding removed… surely there’s more to his plan.

Star Swirl suddenly stepped away from the glowing timelines and rubbed his eyes as another wave of exhaustion struck. “I’d be a fool to meddle with things in such a state… but that monster leaves me little choice,” he shook his head then glanced once more to the glimmering runes. It’s dangerous, especially with this large of a time shift… but I need to consult the princesses… do whatever necessary to get things back… on…

His thoughts drift off as he notices the orb flicker from the bright blue of his magic to red then flares intense white, shining brightly like a tiny star floating before him. An incantation quickly passed his lips - a reflex reaction to interacting with the unknown most his life - the spell creating a thin absorption barrier around him just in time.

In a blinding flash of energy, the orb explodes.