• Published 20th Mar 2013
  • 853 Views, 35 Comments

Ten Equestrian Afternoons - JetGrey

An old Unicorn's stories are lessons to an aspiring mage - teaching the young filly the principles of magic along with Equestria's past.

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Weaving Stories

The Wizard sat in a flux of shifting runes. Symbols and geometric shapes lifted off a stone floor and floated around him. Currents of magic tugged at the old stallion's mane and coat, swirling the grey-white locks. His long beard whipped in the blasts of elemental fury, but nothing could move his stoic face. Calm eyes endured the raging storm screaming between the walls. Magic boiled, increasing in intensity, until it threatened to pick up and hurl his light frame. The Unicorn shifted balance, then poured more effort into his spell.

Gradually, the winds died to a whisper. The air stilled in a room tingling with the residue of potent energy. The floating glyphs vanished as well, now that they had been expended. Silence stretched on.

As if awoken, he stirred from his spot in the center of the room. He pulled his mane back behind his face, straightening his tangled beard. The pony crossed the room to the product of his work: a porcelain cup filled with steaming tea. The spell had gone perfectly, he decided, as he took in the aroma of orange and cinnamon. An experimental sip brought herbs and cloves to his tongue, at just his preferred temperature. He basked in the quiet room, hooves wrapped around the fine china. His thoughts flickered like a wood-fire's sparks, flaring and dying, until the soft flutter of wings brought him out of his reverie.

"They told me you were busy working on great and wondrous magic, so I came to see. Now that I know you were only preparing drinks, I'm a little disappointed." A smooth contralto voice curled these words with a sauciness only she could manage. In contrast, the stallion's voice sounded like it had been filled with dusty riverbed stones. It was also just as dry.

"I bid you a good morning, Princess Twilight Sparkle: Star of the Dusk and Dawn. May your light bring balance to Equestria, like the Sun and Moon. May we all bask in the light of your radiant..."

The Alicorn waved away the sarcasm, lifting an eyebrow as she levitated the cup to her. "I'd love to see you try that with Luna, but I won't curse your sleep for irreverence. What is with you wizards and your childish tempers?" A quick sip silenced the princess; her purple coat glowed with constellations of sparks for a moment after the drink. On second thought...

"Disregard my first statement - I entirely approve! Perhaps I should visit you more often... No? Write the recipe down then: good work shouldn't be wasted.”

The Wizard looked at the rapidly draining tea with a sad sigh. He turned to face Twilight as he cleaned off his desk. "I would like to hope that you have greater reasons for coming here than drinking tea." The fight had left his eyes, now that he was bereft of beverage.

Twilight spread a wing, then pulled a scroll from under a few feathers."We have a filly that could grow into a mage of your caliber. The University can't handle that kind of strength, not anymore, and she isn't ready for an apprenticeship. You have experience handling high levels of magic..." Here the princess trailed off, waving with a now-empty cup. "...and too much free time anyway."

Babbled protestations were cut off as the Alicorn pinned him with a glare. "You are not allowed to fail her in spite. I will be watching both her and you for this. Besides, it would do you good to talk to somepony every now and then. You've been cooped up for far to long. Canterlot has changed around your precious spire." She walked past the Wizard, bearded head bowed in thought. As she pushed through a doorway out, his voice stalled her there.

"You give me little choice, but you have my word. I will teach this prodigy, though I will do so in the way I see fit. As you say, such a power released irresponsibly would be terrible for Equestria - and her. My methods are odd but you must allow them. Anything else will bring disastrous harm."

A small smile lit Twilight's silhouette; a quick nod, and she was off. The old stallion was left to himself again, but he had to prepare. Cleaning his desk again, he noticed an odd book sitting where none had lay before. It was bound in a leather now cracking from many years of wear and the pages were slowly powdering into a fine dust. The Wizard didn't need to open it, though: he could recite the text from memory. It was a journal of another colt or some past life - a gift from Twilight Sparkle. He lifted it gingerly, only to discover another item beneath it.

A cup lay on the desk, filled with steaming tea. Even he had to chuckle.

Eventide's breath was stolen from her as she passed marble gates that arched towards a noonday sun. Tons of stone hung suspended in sculpted curves and floating towers; magic formed bands of starlight where it held impossible masonry in place, hundreds of feet in the air. Her young eyes grew wide taking the architecture in. The University stood around her, the pinnacle of learning and reason.

Massive doorways opened into a thoroughfare flanked by gardens. The soft, lulling smells of lavender faded into the calming aroma of jasmine. She stepped forward with resolve restored, taking in the sights and sounds of a bustling academia. Off to her left, a group of colts laughed over a slip-up one had made in class - ending in a accident with warped gravity. As their conversation faded into the general hubbub, her attention then wandered to a student practicing their ability to levitate objects up into the air.

Carts pulled by her in both directions, shaking her back to her immediate surroundings. She slipped through the bustle to a clear intersection. Centered inside, a statue stood of the University's founder - Princess Twilight Sparkle. Her mane flowed like streams of ebony as alabaster stone formed a well-groomed coat. Details finer than hairs covered the immaculate replica, with life that made it seem to breathe.

The filly cocked her head to the side: it did breathe, and Eventide's shriek was preempted by a stone hoof shushing her. The poor soul looked up to see an illusion fade from rocky features - the living Princess stood before her, eyes bright with contained laughter.

"Now, I know this isn't fair - but I give all the new students a shock when they come to this school. You couldn't be left out on the joke."

Eventide nodded shakily, as she stumbled up. A large wing draped itself over the small pony, as Twilight steered them towards a lofty tower to the right. Twilight's magic quickly had them both ascending through the air - hooves resting on a swirling platform of colored mist. Eight points of a star pointed like a compass from the cloudy elevator: the symbol the Alicorn bore on her flank.

They rose to an open balcony near the top, platform dissolving over a floor of tiled stone. Eventide looked to her guide with wondering eyes as they both stood quietly before an oaken door.

"Eventide, I have found you a teacher. He can prepare you to use your talent, and he speaks from long experience. Give him time, and learn well; I'll be keeping tabs on your progress." The filly opened her mouth to object, but the older pony spread wings for flight. "I believe in you, I know you can succeed. Go ahead, and make me proud!"
With this, she took wing. The filly stood on the balcony alone, sunlight warming her back. Dark red fur shifted as the pony settled from hoof to hoof. Biting her lip softly, she pulled on the brass doorknob.

Inside was a circular room, edges covered with orderly bookshelves and desks. Light from shielded lamps cast a comfortable glow throughout. At the far end of the room, one desk sat away from the wall. Over stacks of papers piled on its surface, the tip of a conical felt hat could be seen. Shuffling sounds could be heard for a moment, before hooves grabbed a pile and shoved it into the desk's drawer. An old pony was revealed, a thin mane curled from underneath the cap. He had a coat that was bleached with age, and eyes that shone like polished metal. It was these that caught sight of her standing there.

Eyes regarded each other - his flat irises against her vibrant orange. Silence lingered...

It was the stallion who broke the stillness, his raspy voice surprisingly soft. "You are the one, then. So young they come now, all too anxious and ready for life... Tell me, what is your name?"

A voice so quiet it was nearly a whisper rode the pause. "I-I am Eventide, Professor. Good to meet you."

The elder pony simply nodded, getting up to pace a circle around her. "It is strange to exhibit so much power, so young. Unicorns as a whole have to work to bring out their talent: it is ironic that a few have to struggle to contain it."

The filly stood silent as he stopped in front of her. "It remains to be seen if you are truly ready. Magic is deadly without control, an impartial force that we wrestle into shape. Though I could teach you to shift mountains, it would do you no good if you landed them on yourself."

"You won't teach me then?" The whisper grew slightly in volume. Bright eyes flashed out from underneath burnt-red curls. To come so far for nothing was a rejection she could not handle. Not after -

"I will teach you - make no mistake of that - but not in the way you think. I will not shove theories through your ears just to have you forget, though. You will learn by taking from what I say. Now, are you ready?"

Eventide nodded, as she walked forward to a place in the room the stallion pointed at. Magic gathered around him, condensed, and pooled at his hooves. Ripples spread a layer of the pseudo-liquid across the floor, edges climbing the walls. Hoarse muttering filled a darkening room. The young pony was left in the middle of it all, shaken by the sudden turn of events


Her frightened face was lit by beam of light, coming from above. The beam widened, moving back down the outline of the room. Her eyes adjusted to the glare...

Eventide stood beside her teacher, in a boulevard leading up to what could only be the Canterlot Castle. Everything else, though, looked strange and unfamiliar. A clothier had wares that matched no style she had seen. Another shop sold a bunch of curious saddles, each with large cylinders on each side. Small advertisements said that these could fly.

"Your lesson is much better told in story form, and stories are much better experienced," the stallion supplied in explanation. "Here is the city you know - but before your time. Everypony here is celebrating Princess Twilight's fifth year of rule."

Eventide suffered a shock at seeing an image of the Alicorn - looking like a young mare! The mane was short and the face less serene, but the likeness was unmistakable. An urge to know rose up in the young filly's heart.

"Can we go see her? Could we visit Princess Twilight?"

The old stallion shook his head. "'Visit' is a good word for what we are doing. We are not truly here, and you'll find that this illusion fades the farther you travel away from where I keep focus. Nopony can tell we are here." As if to emphasize his point, a wagon drove right into him - and through. "I can give substance to a few objects I choose, but this spell is meant for viewing...and reviewing. Besides, now that we're settled, I must find where our story picks up"

The world flickered as the old stallion concentrated. Features blurred and slid away at great speed. Stone walls formed around the two. Eventide hadn't taken a step.

The scene before them focused into a classroom of Unicorn students, fillies and colts just older than Eventide. Each one poured over stacks of books as the teacher sat busy at her desk. Most noticeable about the class was a colt levitating his own chair just a hair's breadth above the floor. He slouched in his seat, trickling just enough power not to be detected. He lacked any sort of color to him - which caused the Wizard to frown. Azure tint crept into the coat and mane of the young colt as he continued to float his chair.

"This is... Blue Ribbon, our 'hero' of this tale. An aspiring mage, his talent is unfit for the slow pace of this class. He yearns to change the world with own brand of originality - et cetera, et cetera." The dry monologue faded into a drone, and the sounds of turning pages filled Eventide's ears.

"That will be all, class."

The fillies and colts snapped books shut, packing saddlebags and filing out of the stone room. The teacher herself left with a parting nod to those still sitting. Blue remained, along with several students he motioned to. They gathered together, one checking the door to ensure privacy. Each of them pulled badges from saddlebags, affixing them to the front of their chests. Being the apparent leader of group, Ribbon was the first to speak."

"Welcome to the weekly meeting of the Society of Higher Magic. Our last meeting ended with Volt here," he nodded to a filly with a coat of goldenrod, "suggesting that magic's true purpose is to change not only what is around us, but rather what is. During my time in the library, I found a spell that could prove this true."

Somepony to his left raised his hoof slightly. Blue acknowledged him to speak. "If that is true, then it would have to be a hypothetical or experimental! Those untested spells are unpredictable."

Slight murmurs of dissent went through the room, but the leader waved them down. "This is an easy one - I've checked. It won't require dangerous levels of magic either. What I will be doing is creating a milkshake." This caused a huge snort of disgust to go through the society. "Before you ask - this isn't a parlour trick. I'm not teleporting one, but bringing one into existence. It is a small, safe way to prove that we can alter reality."

With this, he motioned everyone back. Eventide drew closer, to see the spell performed. Magic swirled around the room, winds tugging manes but never touching hers. Light flashed in fits and flares, blinding the students around it. A constellation of bright lines grew from the focus, twining around the colt. His horn glowed softly from the channeling, but the spell was reaching completion. One last flash, and it was done.

Blue stood in front of a frosted glass, it's contents a soft pink of strawberry. Eventide could smell it from where she stood, the taste forming on her tongue. All of the other ponies were stunned - item synthesis was thought to be impossible.

He started shivering violently, then fell to floor. Sweat beaded on his hair, yet he was cold to the touch. Eventide withdrew her hoof and turned to find the Wizard. His eyes regarded the student in somber silence, but motioned her forward.

"Blue Ribbon had indeed made the shake, but he did not know that the ingredients were not in the spell. To make that treat you see there, he had unwittingly sacrificed small amounts of himself: namely sugar. He is lucky though - in such a place he has friends enough to carry him to healing hooves."

Eventide looked at the downed pony, time frozen in the instant the other students rushed to his side. She took in the confused suffering in those unfocused eyes. After several long minutes, an old hoof rested on her shoulder.

"Magic is... so frightening."

The Wizard nodded once, the room fading back into his study. "It is a tool, not a toy - a perilous battle, not a game. Remember this, Eventide..."

Author's Note:

It's always fun to dart in a direction you've never gone before. For instance, I elected to describe Eventide's teacher with his study, and had loads of fun revealing character through his tea! Don't worry if things seem cryptic at first - much of who the characters are and what this is about will get filled in (I have more chapters on the way).

Other than that, anypony have any questions or comments? That's half the fun, hearing back from my readers!