• 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.

  • ...

A Knot in the Cord

As the beast stepped out of the colored glass, his sweeping look took in the room. His eyes shone like coals in the torchlight. Fixing his gaze upon the Princess, he let a broad smile fill his sharp face.

"Oh, Twilight! It's been - what - half a century seen I've seen you last? How have you been? No - don't answer. I can tell it's been another fifty years of painfully dull order."

Discord, the spirit of Chaos (and once of Disharmony as well), spoke with a slight formality this time. He had chafed under the relative calm of Princess Sparkle's later reign, and had all but vanished. It had been too long without incidents for her to keep an eye on him; as long as he wasn't disrupting her peace, she let him wander.

Twilight studied him. Despite the grinding of time upon Equestria, he seemed hardly changed. Those eyes were perhaps a little more somber, but the glint of mischief still shone. His body undulated as he reached the dais: grace had not left his movement either. A calculated, sweeping bow brought his head just to eye-level. Even a monarch - especially a monarch - would get no reverence from him.

"A pleasure, I'm sure Discord." Cooly, Twilight greeted him. "I apologize for the poor welcome, but as you can see - "

Outside the window, where the Alicorn stretched a hoof towards, was a city more fluid than water. Whole blocks flickered into and out of existence in a panorama that was ever-changing. Carts found themselves blocked on thoroughfares-turned-dead-ends. Ponies everywhere had seemingly stopped noticing, though. The magic had begin to set in memories...

"We have a mess here. Thanks to a time spell gone wrong, now my city is being replaced by another causality! I've looked through the archives twice, but no spell in there comes close to this."

The stress had been getting to her. It had been a long time since she had been so frazzled, and she found the recent insanity too much too soon. The breathing exercises she had put to use so often the past week had lost their effect through repetition.

"As if that was it. Now, a filly I had picked to become my student is trapped on the other side of this spell: one thousand years ago."

Discord had been nodding his head - almost complacently - until the last sentence. Eyes slowly closing snapped open with an intensity that startled her.

"Now... that is new. It would also explain why the the chaos hasn't subsided already. It generally takes but a moment for any changes to hold. You, my dear, have so many loose ends in time. Plenty of knots as well. But this is unimportant right now. If wha-"

"Unimportant!? A thousand years' work is far from 'unimportant'. This stability has kept Equestria safe from the threats that never seem to stay suppressed." Twilight Sparkle had begun to snort steam. Continuing to ride over Discord's conversation, she glared at him. "Even you should admire the centuries of planning that led up to now - ruined by this..."

Her pointing hoof swung to bear on a Wizard who was no longer there. He had slipped away, taking the book with him.

"You see? He can't even claim responsibility for this."

The draconequis shook his head. "Not that, my dear. I saw what has been happening - how could I not? You have a much larger problem. This is about Eventide, now. It is she and all she has touched who are risk. Time has changed like this before. As long as she is back there, none of us are safe."

Discord set himself on a large cloud summoned into the room. Her cold silence kept his mind free for a precious moment. He had made a mistake of his own, so long ago.

Well, how was I supposed to know he wouldn't give up on that foolish dream. That colt was a lot more stubborn than he looked. Those mirrored eyes hid more than they displayed.

Torchlight reflected in two mercurial pools as Silver String cantered through dark castle passages. The stonework echoed his heart: cold and hollow. Twilight's guest was certainly one of the reasons the mage had taken his leave. His blood chilled as recalled the face of that terrible beast.


Time had aged the vehemence in that word, and age had choked its anger. History had come full-circle now, as it had again and again. A hundred times before, he paced this night through Canterlot. The pony had memorized this moment through repetition. Differences clashed with his memory though; It struck him how much he had changed.

He had changed it, too.

Silver drew the book ahead of him, opening it with flickering magic. It's pages once held the findings of his predecessors. A few entries written by him had taken up the rest. Now, all it held was the wizard itself; Silver String's prison and curse.

He turned to a blank page - it was approaching time for everything to reiterate. Repeat... just like it had a hundred times over a thousand years. Now, though, it would not 'repeat'. He had made sure of that.

Reaching a balcony, he stood. A spell-form hung in the night sky like a shifting constellation. The spell would be broken, finally.

Time, being coiled into a loop by insidious and ancient magic, now attempted to straighten. In what was and would be Equestria's history, Silver String gazed into the night sky.

She's been really quiet lately, he thought. It just isn't like her.

Eventide had kept to herself more and more after the attack. What he had dismissed as lingering shock now seemed much greater. Jet had seen it too - homesickness was his guess - but nothing Silver had tried would work. The usual haunts had paled to her, and gifts no longer brought a smile to her. If she wouldn't speak, what was next? Worried, he considered recalling the family doctor.

It could be magical, as well. I can no longer sense that strange aura she had.

If it was related, then he was out of luck. Silver String's family held an extensive and exhaustive collection of magical studies, but nothing so far had addressed her problem. She seemed like a normal Unicorn now, but what was that magic felt before?

The young wizard blew out a long sigh. There were still places to check, scrolls to read... if only it didn't seem so futile.

Staying by her bedside, it was his goal to find the cure to whatever his friend had come down with. He took her meals, read storybooks from his family's library, and poured over magical tomes when the filly was asleep. Father and Mother no longer tried to call him away. Eventide had been there to help him, and now he could do the same.

Sleep sang to him. Care had taken its toll on little Silver. Too tired to fight it away, he let his head sink to the books and scrolls littering the table. He could almost swear that, just before his eye-lids fell, he saw her thrashing in her sleep.

Eventide dreamed.

In a maelstrom of clouds, she swept through flashes of light and bursts of sound. A kaleidoscope of colors arranged themselves to be scenes - scores of them. The filly watched somepony she knew stumble, time after time, through the panorama. To call his name could save him, but the name slipped away like quicksilver.

Hauntingly familiar green fire swirled into view, blasting gouts of it's energy into the air. In it's center was a sheet of parchment decorated with lines and diagrams. The flames that wreathed it shifted into a swarm of laughing figures. Grotesque, misshapen claws paired with hooves in claps, sending her far away.

At last, she dreamt of home. A father, proud of her, carried Eventide on a strong back. A mother, sorrowful at her departure, tried to hide tears. The filly called out to her, to tell her it was a good thing to be chosen for the school.

Eventide shook her head, confused. For a brief moment, the school mattered nothing to her. It was as if there was somepony she was forgetting, but she couldn't recall who. Name and face skittered away from her.

Her voice returned to her ears. Nothing had ever seemed so distorted and distant.

The sound echoed through the expanse of a thousand years.

Massive stained glass windows glimmered from magical torches. One, crowning the throne, held a purple filly growing wings in a sunburst of light. Twilight Sparkle stared at her effigy with eyes that saw more than glass. Memories of her life marched across the panes. Would her choices be as wise, in this new timeline? Would she have made as many mistakes?

Her reverie was cut short by a a snort of irritation.

"Twilight, he blames me for this. I saw a pony clinging to a false hope of rewriting his past. In truth, he still hasn't gotten over his power lust. I doubt it's conscious, though. His lies are so old they seem like memories."

Discord mulled over his next words. Still fresh from discovering friendship, the beast had made a few "slips". His way of helping others occasionally came with a price.

"I gave him that old book he clings to now, and told him he could travel back in his life. He wanted to erase his past mistakes. What a fool - time does not lend itself to bending. The spell was crafted in such a way for viewing - he'd only be reminded of his failures."

Twilight sighed. The truth was bitter, but it was unsurprising. "Well, most ponies would give up. It's a bit much, but dead ends like that teach a lesson. Your only mistake is that you gave that book to one of the most overly-stubborn ponies to walk Equestria. He's a Grey."

"Something the breed has learned while I was marble... Regardless, he has succeeded in modifying the spell to admit a pony not present in that time - and bound himself to the book in the process. Do you want to know how many times the stallion has relived his miserable life? How many changes do you think he has made already? Relax, my dear, none were so drastic as this. In fact, Silver's efforts caused more trouble for himself."

Princess Sparkle summoned a maid and requested a glass of iced tea. If what he said was true, then she had been fooled. Silver String would be much older than her - and would have had a stronger hoof in directing events. Perhaps he had manipulated her into hoofing over Eventide, or...

It was bewildering. She had lived just over a thousand years. If what she was hearing was true, Silver String must have been plotting for far longer. Had pain made him cold? Had bitterness had corrupted him?

"How ironic... and sad. Why does history repeat itself, Discord? Ponies forget too often that friendship helps to heal and carry on."

The beast swung around Twilight, draping an arm around her shoulders. That old spark of mischief shone in his eyes again. "Someponies, particularly those who feel they've discovered enough, simply refuse to learn. However, you may have hit upon the solution."

The young wizard pulled his head off the desk with the fragments of a half-formed thought. He dragged it over, despite a protesting neck, to orient on the room. Eventide lay in bed, occasionally murmuring.

What was that spell I sensed on her earlier?

Bleary eyes tuned out the world as Silver's magic spread over her. He hunted for a trace of that mysterious power, sifting through the complexities a pony body operated by. He combed through smells, sights, and sounds.

Nothing. Wait. Perhaps she'd know...

Here the colt had to strain. He formed a "ghost" of the aura - his best guess of it's feel. Slowly, he altered it and molded it's shape.

A spark! There - even in her state - the filly responded to the magic. She remembered it. Excited, Silver String gazed at his work. A constellation of sketchy lines and crude runes filled the room. It was poor work, but it could be enough to recognize the base spell.

To him, it was half of a binding - and a really old way to do it. Parts of it reached out too something - probably a physical object acting as a focus. Trying to mentally trace out the twisting arms of it gave him a headache though. Right angles shouldn't be able to do that!

Without the focus, he couldn't do anything - but he had just read something about that! Silver scrabbled over mounds of tomes until he found it. The dusty pages crackled softly as he read aloud.

"Notes upon the Warp and Woof: Continued studies into binds and wards have given me a most useful insight. It is possible to trace the minute ties between the focus and bound object. Ancient magi were most scrupulous about this - I suppose it was for this very reason.

"A curious anomaly: these binds "bend" magic around it. A willing assistant traveled 3 floors of the royal castle in a single pace!

No word from her, still. When Sparking Ember left on that 'line', she must have vanished from Equestria itself. Her signal amulet is not responding - I fear the worst has happened. I cannot further this research, but I will leave the basic formula in these notes. Take care, ponies."

With that, he committed the spell to memory. A mix of fatigue and desperation had long since killed rational thought. If he could save her - he had to.

He cast the spell, hoping it would lead him to the right place. The imitation bind he had made would imperfectly mirror the original - and that could spell disaster. Eventide seemed to react to it though. Maybe it was also reacting to her. As he wove, threads of his magic forced twisting lines apart. To the untrained eye, it looked as if he was opening a portal into another world. In truth - he might be.

Silver String looked towards his friend one last time. She had really helped him: he had grown so much. If he could pay her back for that...

The portal - or whatever it was - wouldn't stay open much longer. He sucked up one big breath, braced for a jump, and leapt through.

Author's Note:

And after four months, at least, I've returned to finish this.

I have to thank those who have been most patient with me. All of your comments and feedback has helped me quite a bit - something I needed dearly. Remember, input is always welcomed, if not embraced.

Comments ( 2 )

The end is nigh?

I’m very much interested to see how this goes. I sense it’s about to become very complicated.


Glad to see some faces again despite my over-long hiatus!:pinkiehappy: I've cut down on a lot of the tangled mess that the first edit was, but my biggest problem now will be in writing the convergence of two timelines without loosing the reader. I've had a ton of help, though.

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