• Published 20th Mar 2013
  • 852 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.

  • ...

Loose Thread

The golden light of the morning shone on the balcony where Eventide sat, practicing her magic. The Stallion, whom she mentally termed "Old Grey", had selected a few rudimentary tomes from the shelves for her to use. These detailed basic tricks, like changing the color of small objects or concentrating magic in the tip of the horn. Sweat beaded on the filly's brow as she focused on a potted plant.

She could feel the life flowing through tiny lines within it and sense the sparks of growth it dimly emanated. Through closed eyes she could trace its outline. Maroon mist enveloped the small flower, urging it to grow faster. Buds formed to Eventide's channeling, lazily stretching out on slender stems.

Sparks formed in the air around the now sizable greenery. Blueberries hung from spreading branches, ripe for the harvest. The bush now sent off it's sweet aroma across a returning breeze. Success was hers - delicious like the fruit she plucked from it.

Eventide was done for the day, leaving quite some time before lunch. Boredom set in within the first five minutes. Wandering into the library, she idly checked ancient books that sat crumbling on the shelves. Lit desks hugged the stone walls, many stacked with reports and various scrolls. Layers of dust on some of these obscured tight scrawling - formulae of spells so technical they were in practically another language. Frustrated, she continued on.

A curious old tome lay on one such desk. It had been dusted recently, and the book magically restored. As she approached, the tome raised itself off the desk and opened towards her. Pages flipped in a blur, finally landing on - of all things - a journal entry. The script was smooth and flowing, it's arcs and curves flawlessly placed. Beguiled, she read.

...spell needs fixing. In order to create an object, I will have to find the ingredients from my surroundings. My stay at the hospital has given me time to fix that issue, though. Instead of simply drawing materials, I will draw a complementary form to convert the substance around me.

Eventide recoiled. This sounded much like the story character from last night. If so, this would be Blue Ribbon's journal. She checked the date - and received another shock. The notation on the page dated this book to be at least a thousand years old - before Princess Twilight Sparkle's rule.

Before her, the book again turned to a new section. Months later, by the date, a single stark line lay on the page.

Why couldn't I save them? I cast the spell right, and I had the strength... why couldn't I?

A quick vision of fire - a building collapsing - blinked before her eyes. Tears that were not hers surged forwards in racking sobs. She pulled away from the book and snapped it shut.

Flames rolled through her mind, and echos of hoarse shouts battered away thought. A rolling crash whipped the sensation of baked air and ash across her snout. The inferno raged on, threatening to consume her.


Panting gasps brought her back to the stone room inside the tower. Bright light filtered its way through the open door, calling her out. She made her way out unsteadily, and into the garden to think.

The Wizard sat in his study, brooding. Tripped wards had alerted him that the journal had been opened, but even he did not expect such a reaction. Judging by the reaction, the book released a powerful magical surge. It was a powerful artifact - that much was alarming. From what he knew, the book itself was benign. Had anything changed since he last held it?

Glancing out the window, he tracked a dark red dot. Eventide's magic was strong enough to stir the book, but she lacked mastery over it. With a gesture, the journal in question floated in from the library. He opened it, searching.

He found the date, but something was amiss. The words flickered slightly, as if attempting to shift and rearrange themselves. What this meant, the Wizard had no clue. Troubled, he shut the book again. The stallion's aged hooves massaged aching temples in thought.

"She's that hard on you? Must be getting old, now..." Playful banter greeted him from the balcony. Twilight stood silhouetted by the rising sun. In response, the Wizard drew a tea kettle towards him. He poured - two cups, this time - and waited on the Princess.

She sipped from the china as she stepped to his desk. Humor dropped from her face as she glanced at the book. "I felt the surge. What did the book do to her?" To this, the Wizard shook his head.

"The book did nothing to harm her - a vision, perhaps. Ask instead," he pushed the book towards her, opening it to the page, "what she did to it."

Concern fell into worry on the Alicorn's features. "What does this mean? I've never seen anything like it."

"We must continue, now that she has touched the book. As for the fallout, that is up to her. I am powerless to do anything but attempt to guide it." Twilight placed her hoof on a stooped shoulder.

"I guess only time will tell then. That, and Eventide."

The young filly sat in the center of the study again, dark red hair fountaining down her back. The Wizard faced her from his desk, once again murmuring the incantation. She braced herself against the gust of magical force that rippled from the mage, and stood still as the spell darkened the room. The filly's eyes were even shut in preparation for the coming flash of light.
The light never came.

A low rumble through the blacked stone sounded as the magic halted. Cross-currents of power whipped up, beating the air into a whirlwind storm. Eventide's eyes shot wide as she was tossed into a wall. At the other end of the room, the Wizard could be seen fighting the chaos swirling above. Mottled clouds of pulsating green fire writhed in an inverted funnel, sucking the two towards it's maw.

Wind rattled the Wizard, assaulting him at every angle. Powerful wards flashed bright as stars, turning each blow away. His magic was weakening, though - and he pulled ragged breaths through clenched teeth. The young filly huddled under a table as energy crackled from his horn.

Old Grey was struck by a blast of flame, bringing him to his knees. Dark magic burst from the maelstrom, barraging him further. Only the sputtering light of continued channeling came through the flashes of explosions. More trembling came through the floor as well, harking an end. Eventide choked on foul smoke, blinded and tearing from it's caustic fumes. The fire turned to her now, blasting the small shield she set up in haste.

Something within her broke loose. Magic surged from her own horn, bathing the darkness in the rosy light of dusk. Waves of rippling pulses tore away the storm's fury, and a beam of crimson shot into the gaping mouth above. Lines of force dug into the spell, growing constellations of lines along the inky black. Eventide lost herself in a sea of shifting runes...

"Wake up, we are safe here."

Blurry doubles of a looming shadow resolved into the face of Old Grey. He sat tiredly at the end of the bed Eventide found herself in. She rose to her haunches - and her whole body ached. The Wizard helped her to her unsteady hooves, before showing her to the window. Outside, an older Canterlot appeared - one she knew existed a thousand years ago.

"Well, that was an interesting ride into our story, wasn't it?" The old stallion shook his grey mane out, long locks whipping out before resettling around his head. "The spell should never have gone so awry - it was as if something interfered enough to rip a hole to the Void." He sat, musing on the events. The young Unicorn looked over her teacher, searching for burns or injuries. Though patches of hair were singed, he seemed unscathed. She herself felt the pain ebb from tired limbs. They survived that, but...

"What do we do now? Is that going to happen again?”

The old pony nodded sadly. "The spell has inherently changed. Now I feel that much of the story is slipping away from me. You may have to take a much more active role in this tale, and I doubt we will make it back until we are done here."

Eventide pressed more questions at him, but silence was her reply. The room blinked away, and they stood with their backs to a large mansion. Decorative iron-work in the shape of flowering vines formed a fence around it, and huge windows looked out onto the street. Its stately facade overlooked a main road down through the city.

"This," A grey-white hoof stretched to sweep over the property, "is Blue Ribbon's not-so-modest house. He was born to a wealthy family with a long heritage of strong magic, but today he will engage in a fight to save it all." He gestured again.

As if on cue, several windows exploded outward in gouts of flame. A wave of heat passed over the two as ash rained down from the explosion. Tongues of flame licked towards the roof, wilting the gardens around in the intense heat.

"A magical experiment gone wrong, this enchanted fire will destroy Blue Ribbons li - "
The wizard flicked in and out of existence, a bemused look on his face. Another stutter of reality, and his urgent eyes caught Eventide's.

"Run! Find Blue Ribbon - he is where the spell should be the most stable, so follow him. Be careful, though. Th-this-place-is-"

Old Grey had gone, and the fire continued to consume the opulent house. Eventide had no choice - she ran.

The path before her was laid out - a single cobblestone road lay suspended over a much larger version of the dark magic storm that fought them earlier. Hooves pumped as fast as she could manage, toward a lone building she recognized as the school from before.

The school's doors were open wide, letting loose a tide of students returning home. Sounds of laughter and shouts came as hollow echoes to her as she searched for a familiar face. Blue Ribbon walked with some of his friends, their faces and features greyed and blurred.

She shouted to the blue Unicorn as he walked towards her. Her voice hit a wall, sounding muffled to her own ears. She called out again in vain. His face seemed so calm - so wrong for what was happening around her. She cast a spell to amplify her voice, screaming out his name.

Time slowed, for a breath.

His eyes wandered to her, a question forming on his lips. Something pulled his gaze away, behind her left shoulder. Turning, she saw the plume of smoke above a row of ghostly buildings. His walk paused, as he took it in.

A bellow from the colt ripped through the air, as he threw down his saddlebags. Blue flew into a gallop, speeding down the road with Eventide in tow.

They both reached the mansion in flames, fireponies ready with hoses and buckets of sand. An officer stopped the young colt - words shouted with no sound.

"I need to get through! My family's in there!" More warnings failed to break the veil of silence.

It's not safe, the building will collapse soon

"I'll hold it up then! Get them out!"

He ducked past the officer, his magic spreading over the entire house. Ashen beams crumbled under his spell's grasp. He stood, shaking under the intensity.

Eventide watched in horror as the third floor started to implode. Blue strained, righting the chunks of stone - but his strength was fading. Sweat trickled down his brow as he stuck the mansion together. Another hall shook, timbers giving out. Magic now supported over half of the blazing structure.

"Hey, you! I need help, here. Lend a horn and hold this up with me." Eventide was shocked to see Blue facing her. "C'mon, I can't hold it alone! Just until they get everypony out..." More strain interrupted him, but his eyes pleaded still.

Unsteady, she sent out her magic to aid his. She took on Blue's burden, straining under the weight of tons of material. Sparks arched from two horns in unison, holding the shattered husk in place. Eventide threw everything into the support. Hours, or seconds, passed - each an agonizing pain. So much had to be shoved just so, or the building would topple.

The second floor gave in, her touch prevented a total collapse. She slowly maneuvered splintered planks and joists to the ground nearby - supporting other sections by propping intact pieces in place. She was juggling dozens of objects though, and she was fading fast.

Just before she blacked out, waved hooves in her face brought her to. The Fire Chief shook her, shouted without sound at her.

We're done - we've saved them! You can stop now, let it go.

Before her, a familiar scene played out. She saw a vision of fire - and the building collapsed. Her, and Blue's tears streamed until sleep claimed her.

With that, something shifted. Canterlot returned to it's old self (now with a smoldering wreckage). The Wizard flickered back. He floated the young filly into position across his back. A soft smile of admiration crossed his face, as he regained control over the slowly stabilizing world. Spelling the both of them back to the study, he delivered the unconscious Eventide to her bedroom.

"My dear, you may learn to control that magic after all..."

Author's Note:

Okay, I feel I will be asked: "Why would this teacher risk so much, potentially ripping a hole to the Void, to tell stories to a valued student of Twilight?"

Well, in my defense - he did spend horrendous amounts of power in making tea...

Right. Not a good enough reason - yet it'll make sense later, I promise.