Ten Equestrian Afternoons

by JetGrey

First published

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 long time has passed since Princess Twilight ascended. Her friends have grown into historical figures and heroes, harbingers of a peaceful era. Magic flourishes, with the elder mages teaching new apprentices.

One such filly learns the principles of magic from a wizard who has... unorthodox methods. He pulls stories from the journal of an ancient and powerful mage, teaching through the critical points in his life. She is immersed in the tales through powerful magic, able to see the events unfold with amazing clarity.

Something in the spell reacts to her, though - bonding to her in profound ways. She can interact with the protagonist to change events. What she doesn't know is that her teacher and these "stories" are not as clear-cut or simple as they appear. Her actions will change Equestria forever.

Weaving Stories

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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..."

Loose Thread

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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..."

Spinning Skein

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Something troubled the Wizard as he stared out across Canterlot. Stars shone on a city asleep under the spell of night. All was in a state of peace - just as it had been for a thousand years. Still, the tickling in the back of his mind would not let up. The old stallion scanned the skyline, as if to check if everything was in its place. Catching himself with a chuckle, he turned his back on the city in thought.

The spell's bad reaction was another concern. The Wizard cursed himself for missing the subtle signs when he had cast - small warnings like a sense of "wrongness". As his student slept, he had pored over the layout of the spell, mending the damage done to it. It was if a piece of it had ripped off... and attached itself to Eventide. The piece was a particular mix of ward and anchor - now it guarded her. What was more - it offered her an unusual measure of control over each "story". Interaction with the ponies within—only suggested by the Wizard in a moment of panic—would have been impossible without it.

He summoned the old tome, and opened it to the entry. Dozens of the following pages no longer had shifting text - but what was written didn't seem right. The stallion could have sworn that the fire was too much to handle; he thought that not everypony had escaped. Yet here, as he read it again, there were no injuries apart from minor burns. Why did he remember a much darker turn of events? Perhaps his memories had been colored with time. His eyes searched for the patch of that ground - now a garden, though no pony alive remembered it's history. There was a stand of trees he used to tend there...

The book fell to the balcony floor, it's magic wards absorbing the shock. Shock, fear, and awe vied for control over his face. With a sweep of his arm, he warped down to the tower base in a traveling robe and hat. As soon as he touched down he sped into an ungraceful gallop.

"Impossible! Such a thing... how did she manage it?" He sputtered, fatigue catching up to creaky joints. Canterlot stood a good thirty minutes up the sloped road, but he would have to do it in three. This was urgent enough.

His horn shot light like a beacon and magic surged through every limb. The irises of his eyes took on a mirror's sheen, and his coat's color sharpened into platinum. Strength flowed through renewed limbs, and he surged high into the air. Focusing on Canterlot Castle, he willed it towards him. Magic bonded pony and stonework with an irresistible force.

A streak of silver bolted towards the curtain wall.

Impact left a bright shower of mercury drops hanging in the air. This mist hung still for a heartbeat, then moved against gravity. It passed over the wall, settled lightly to the ground beyond, and reformed into the galloping Wizard.

Princess Twilight's chambers sat just underneath the observatory. The tower stretched into the sky, dead ahead of him. His hooves struck the stone, and his magic took hold. The world to him swung, putting the wall underneath him. He sped up the tower wall, carrying the urgent news.

Calm, Twilight Sparkle thought, was a state of mind gained through focus and experience. Of anypony, she hardly expected him to freak out. Nonetheless, she could hardly make out a word of his, hyped up on this news of his.

"Now, tell me again. This time though, do it slowly."

The Wizard sighed, his coat and eyes paling as the magic left him. "Eventide has managed to take hold of my time traveling spell." His breath was long from returning to him though, forcing him to take a break.

Twilight's eyes softened in a smile. "So that's the news! You have her learning quickly - I didn't travel through time until after I had finished my study here in Canterlot -”

"Your highness, but -"

Slightly perturbed at the interruption, she rode over him. "Nonsense - it's perfectly safe. Time has that magical way of resolving itself." She paused in thought, "unless your spell was designed not to let that happen..."

Silence stretched long in the sitting room, dimly lit by oil lamps. The Alicorn's wings would occasionally twitch in ire.

Taking a long breath, the stallion explained. "The journal you gave me of a young colt who led a very unhappy life, filled with sorrow. As he aged and grew in his magic, he wished to prevent the horrors that had made him who he was. A spell was crafted, one that could ferry him back through the ages. The formulas he wrote in the journal show it was a sound method. It was up to the user to control how much or how little they could affect time."

"What happened to this colt?"

The Wizard sat down heavily. "His spell was flawed - he had no anchor. The resulting blast swept away his life and his friends."

The Princess pressed a hoof to her temple. "So that was it. You magicians and your secrets... Enough - you said we cannot stop the lessons until she finishes, and then we can go back to fixing any damage this may cause."

Dismissed, the Wizard walked towards the door.

"You can't continue to hide from Equestria, much less Eventide. Sometime, I want to see you go out and really live again - you're just surviving."

The old pony caught Twilight's gaze. Purple pools of concern regarded him, but he shook his head. "You know why I 'hide'. Soon, so will she: the filly is clever enough."

In the morning light, he could be seen slowly making his way down the hill.

The Wizard looked over the book again, preparing the spell to whisk himself and his pupil back through a millennium. The story he was so familiar with had changed, with small details snowballing as the years went by. This "Blue Ribbon" was an entirely different pony afterwards - but a better one. Having his family survive the fire (let alone rebuild) had changed so much...

A later entry piqued the old stallion's interest, as it was an alternate side to a lesson he had planned before. Indeed - the same outside influences came in, with global events continuing to affect this colt in similar ways.

It would do, he realized, as he shut the book. The past would continue to change as Eventide interacted with "Blue" - and so would everypony tied to this character - from one thousand years back. The spell was designed to hold against such a surge, but there was the issue: it may have been the only thing that could.

Sighing, the Wizard called in the young filly. The lessons had to continue.

The spell was cast without issue, and Canterlot-that-was materialized around them. Ponies of all types and colors filled the lively streets again. The sun warmed Eventide's coat as she took it in.

The Wizard motioned her over, and the landscape shifted as he spoke. "Blue Ribbon has had a good turn of events lately. His family, having survived the fire months back, has rebuilt their home and gotten back on their hooves. Blue himself has excelled in his studies; he now buries himself in books, learning ever more powerful magic." His pointed hoof led her gaze around.

Both of them stood within a small park, with fillies and colts romping in the summer air. A grove of trees offered shade and a plethora of hiding spots; swarms of young ponies would flee the branches as one who was "tagged" pursued. Laughter filled air, as sweet as the flowers that grew along the paths.

"You'll find him somewhere around here, snout buried in the pages of some old tome." The Wizard glanced at the position of the high, centered Sun. "You have until he returns home. Be yourself here, and feel free to play when you are done. Certainly, you have earned that right. Call for me when you wish to return."

Old Grey left her to her own devices in a field of unfamiliar faces. Nopony so much as glanced her way, and her suspicions were proved as one almost galloped right through her. These were only somepony else's memories to her. She moved on with increasing dismay.

She found herself in a quiet corner of the park, where an artificial stream poured over cobblestones under the spread of a massive oak tree. She pressed on, but the tingling of magic in use stopped her.

Up above, Blue Ribbon sprawled himself in the crook of several branches. One hind leg dangled from the mix, while his head lay on crossed hooves. Simple levitation held a small scroll in place for him to read, but as time passed he grew more and more frustrated with it. In a final break of ire, he rolled it shut and snatched it from the air. The colt wiggled into a new position, where his back rested against the bark of the tree. He lazily drew imaginary figures in the air.

"Excuse me, but what were you reading about?"

Blue woke with a start. His scowl could be seen from below as he searched for the pony who interrupted his daydream. "A very powerful sorcerer learned how to gain an affinity with an alchemical substance, and I have just found his thesis. It is a tiring read, and I would like to be alo-"

His eyes widened as he recognized Eventide. "You! From the fire? How - I never got a chance to thank you..." He swung down from the Oak, and approached her. "Ever since that, I have kept an eye out for you - we must go to different schools, but no matter. I've been wondering who you were, but now that you're here..."

Silence stretched awkwardly between the two. Both stood silently, him fidgeting under her stare. It was a wonder that she could interact with Blue - when nopony else could even come aware of her. She had to know. "Yeah, I'm here. You," she quickly reached out and tagged him, spinning about-face into a gallop, "are it!"

The colt stood dumbstruck as he saw her stop some distance away, then beckon him on. He thought of all the study he had to do, and how close he was to the next big breakthrough.

Eventide knew he would give in. Just another small taunt, and...

The scrolls could wait. Stretching out, he lunged into an easy canter. She led him over the creek, weaving through tree and bush with an agility the colt could barely match.

He started to lose sight of the filly zipping through the park. Thinking it over, he spun into the air, using a tether between himself and her.

The bond extended elastically, leaving Blue to fall. The tension in the line halted a galloping Eventide; she began to backslide even as she dug her hooves into the ground. An upside-down colt found himself gaining speed as he slid along the ground. The poor filly was bowled over as the two collided - sending both tumbling apart into a small clearing.

The two lay on their backs as they both tried to catch a breath. The dark red pony felt her irritation steam. "What did you think you were doing? You could have gotten us... What's so funny?!"

Blue could hardly help it. he clutched his sides as laughter became painful. Even as she regained her hooves, he still rolled with giggling. It was infectious too - as Eventide's fury cracked under the force of that mirth.

"That was," he paused in attempt to get a lungful of air, "the most fun I've had since I first met you. I have been doing some reading up on magic lately, but you will not find that spell in a book!" A small ripple of chuckling shook his frame again.

"You need to get away from those tomes once in a while, then. I can't see why bowling into a stranger like a cannonball is any fun at all!"

The colt wilted under this, still on his back. "I did not think it would do that - I just wanted to catch up. You are not a stranger, either. I just have not gotten a name from you. I am - "
"Blue Ribbon, I've been told. I'm Eventide"

This made the colt tilt his head to the side. "By whom? Nopony calls me that."

Her eyes widened as his blue tint faded - the remains of what was obviously an illusion faded from him. This pony had no color at all - but shined with platinum hair. His mane and coat shimmered as they caught and spun the light around, and she could see her reflection in his irises.

"My name is Silver String; nice to meet you, Eventide." His brought himself upright, extending a hoof. She took it in bemusement.

"I-I must have misheard. Why were you not playing with the others though - I'm sure they'd have fun with something like that."

Blue - no - Silver turned away, a front hoof grinding the grass underneath. "I had thought that they were my friends, but they are not. As my old house burned, they were only there to gawk. As we slowly rebuilt, they were only there to 'wish us well'. When I got back to school, they were there to condemn me - to say that some mistake of mine had started the fire. This is not the first time I have endangered my family though. I have to learn faster if I am going to prevent another. I must be stronger for the disasters that will strike. I need to know how not to fail ever again."

Eventide came around to see his face dipping to the ground. His horn touched the soil, and an expanding mirror filled with his face. A few tears dripped to mar its surface, and he splashed it away. Her touch brought his gaze upward to meet hers - both sets of eyes watery.

"You could use a true friend. You can't do this all yourself: it's too hard to do. Here," she held out her hoof, "you're strange, but much cooler than any colt I know."

Silver String wiped away the moisture in his eyes and accepted her invitation. He straightened up, tagging the filly playfully before dashing a short distance away. Shaking her head at such a turn, Eventide launched herself in pursuit.

From a distance, the Wizard watched as his student made the discovery, but accepted the young colt regardless. Another change to the timeline had been made, but his heart could only approve. The two now frolicked through the last hours before the sky would darken. They would have their time to play.

Phasing out of the spell slightly, he summoned the journal over. The latest page had been filled with words of a hopeful pony:

I had thought that I was alone in this world. Left to the results of my own failures, I could not see any way to make a life. Together, we could do it, though! Think of it: the secrets of magic uncovered, an unstoppable force, and names to be made!

Warp and Hoof

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Princess Twilight Sparkle perched on a small stool in the Wizard's study – wrapping up a midnight snack he had prepared in advance. A silent pride flickered in her eyes as news of the previous day proved her right. An illusion was a petty trick, though neither of them could have initially expected Eventide to be be able to communicate with Silver String.

The filly seemed to be anchoring herself ever more deeply into the past each time, making an even larger impression in the past. Twilight had been browsing records: now monitoring the changes the young filly's forays had precipitated.

“I still believe that many of the 'effects' have yet to reach us. The very spell that protects her seems to be holding back the majority of it.” The Wizard shook his head as he mulled his words over. “Small things are trickling through, but time travel that far back should be causing more than what we have been seeing.”

In the city, ponies began to report odd occurrences. Houses changed – architecture completely different overnight. Many scholars swore they knew a history slightly different than what the scrolls said. Subtle magic fields now spilled from the journal. Old Grey could feel an... anticipation emanating from it.

“How much more can the spell hold? If it breaks now we won't know what will happen to us.” Twilight's voice was steady, though a hint of fear showed in the stiff, defensive shuffling of her wings.

“The anchor will most likely not break, but separate from Eventide. With this in mind, it may be possible to alter it to slow down the flux generated by temporal disturbance. As it progresses through one thousand years of existence, it will bleed off some of it's power to rectify time.”

Twilight objected: “This won't 'rectify' time, it will change it forever!" She took a calming breath, more unsettled than she had been in centuries. Her millennium of peace potentially ruined, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. "It is up to you to steer her in the right direction. If she makes a mistake, we may not exist anymore."

"It surprises me, how little trust you have for her."

A glare icy enough to freeze rivers hit the old stallion. Placing Equestria's fate into the hands of such a young filly was dangerous for everypony. This was more than a trust issue: she had lives to consider. Still, the Wizard continued.

"She has talent and a heart that continually amazes me. For so young, she has a natural sense of what is right. Eventide may not fully understand the impact of her actions, but she is not selfish. Silver String will live a better life because of her - and may better Equestria because of it."
"You told me," Twilight replied after a brief silence, "about a young colt who wished to change his past, making a spell to manipulate time. What kind of life would he have lived had he been able to make it work?"

"I do not know...but we may soon find out."

Eventide could not sleep. Her blankets lay in a churned mess to the side, while her mind spun around a riddle. Why would the identity of Silver String be kept hidden? Was she not supposed to know? Another set of questions bombarded her from another front: there had to be a reason for her lessons to be centered around him.

Old Grey had been acting strangely as well. Though he was never very social, his recent silence felt uneasy. Brooding thoughts seemed to darken the air in the study. She was clueless, though - and she hoped that soon he would tell her on his own. The restless filly was sick of being left out-of-the-loop.

Her curiosity only grew, and she soon found herself moving through the oaken study doors. He was there, pouring over various texts and scribbling little notes. Seeing her, the Wizard lifted his head from the scrolls on his desk, and waited silently. After a moment, Eventide summoned the will to ask.

"Teacher, why did you...."

Nodding with comprehension, the stallion got to his hooves. "Why did I lie about the colt? The question has haunted me for quite some time. He was only supposed to be a learning aid - somepony you could watch and learn from as he made mistakes. Due to your ability to talk with him, I suppose there is no more hiding."

With this, he removed his hat and cloak, channeling magic power. White hairs changed into a chrome coat, lustrous in undulating waves. The Wizard stood taller, and the age melted off of proud features. Eventide stood shocked though - for she saw herself reflected in his eyes - irises like mirrors regarded her back.

"The colt from a thousand years back became your teacher, Eventide." His voice lost much of the huskiness it once held, now its bass rattled the breath in her lungs.

"I hid him, as I hid myself - to turn from a past of shame that you would not have to repeat. Unstable, irredeemable, and impetuous, I served as the perfect example of everything undesirable in a mage." Disgust filled these last words with a caustic bite. Still, this only served to confuse her more.

"I don't get it - the colt I met wasn't evil. He just needed a little help. Bad things kept on happening to him, and nopony could lend a hoof."

Silver String knelt down so they both shared eye-level. "That, my student, is what makes you special. Each time you 'lend a hoof', you change the fate he is destined to meet. Without you, he would have lost hope already - but he may still. He is finding a much happier life, a life I could not live, thanks to you."

It would be terrifying to her if she knew the other consequences. If his past self had decided not to teach a filly named "Eventide"... No, that paradox would only shatter the small pony. She was now inexplicably tied to rewriting destiny, and he could not interfere. Bowing his head, he dispelled the anxiety she had been feeling.

"Eventide, be at peace knowing you have made a pony's life better. Rest, and be ready for another lesson. Oh," A stern frown creased the Wizard's brow, "remember that your learning needs top priority from now on - even if it means that I would take a fall."

As she left, Silver String knew this to be true: nopony ever got the chance to "redo" life. Those who forgot this wasted their lives - as he had.

Still, the Wizard had to wonder. What would he have been if he was given a second chance?

Student and teacher sat together again. In one moment, the study walls and it's assorted tables, desks, and shelves. Old wood shone dully; every surface had been buried under layers of dust. For one moment they existed, but gave way to another view. An ancient Canterlot stood proud around them.

"There is a dark day in each pony's life," the old unicorn began, "where he or she finds that inspiration fades. Passion wilts like last week's clipped flowers, and creativity atrophies. Today, I learned this lesson harshly."

With a gesture, the city blurred in intense motion. Buildings streaked by and through them, as ethereal as thought itself. Colors mixed in splashes of brilliant hues - then it was over.

A classroom came into focus around them, with young Silver String readying a spell for a small audience of fillies and colts. The young crowd gathered in a circle of cleared-away desks, standing around a tray of black lumps. It was coal - Eventide realized, as the mirror-eyed pony broke a piece apart to demonstrate. His words slowly gained volume - finally audible to her.

"A friend showed me that, deep within something so simple or ordinary as this, there lies an item of inestimable value. With patience and effort, anypony can see it."

With this, he channeled intense magic through the room. Strong wards built up slowly, lifting one of the lumps into the air between them. Runes appeared in small clouds of symbols, floating in a spinning circle around the inside. Static crackled through the charged air, and the whole thing began to constrict.

She watched as the coal began to glow with extreme temperature. The massive wards shuddered under the pressure, but held against the fury. The glow brightened into a beacon, then a star as it shrank in size. Bright flashes of released energy dissipated slowly through, and the barriers degraded. The finishing spell fizzled lightly as a stone dropped to the floor.

It was a hideous mess. Flaws ran through what could not be called a gem - flecks of black filled a yellowed mass. The sight of it was enough to turn the ponies' gazes. Young Silver String himself stood dumbstruck: the product of his work such a shocking failure.

One of the other colts nearby picked up the rock with a dark twist to his mouth. "Silver, is this all you've got? I'm not sure I see anything pretty in this at all. What'd you expect, trying out another "experimental" spell?"

He tossed it back into the pile, leaving the room with a crowd that anxiously peeled away from the crushed pony. Eventide watched as he trembled under the echoing laughter from down the hall. Wood walls shaped the sound into mocking jeers - and bounced back and forth through the large room. She leaped forward to comfort Silver String, but an old hoof barred her.

"Do not do this! Talking to him now would only cause him more pain. Besides, this is a lesson he must learn. Failure is inevitable; one must be able to cope. There are the weak, and there are -"

"That's not true! You can't just bring me here to help him, then turn around and leave him." She looked back to see his head downcast - eyes hidden in shadow. "He's you! Why do you have to be so hard on yourself?"

The Wizard would not be moved. "Eventide, these are my lessons: I pick what is in your best interest to learn, and you will accept tha—"

Again, he was interrupted. Eventide's horn sparked in the anger that sparked within her. Channeling her power, she cut through the illusion that hid her. The auburn filly knew that she shouldn't argue with him - that Twilight would be mad - but what he wanted was wrong.

"Teacher, I can't watch this. Even for the sake of learning, nopony should have to go through this alone." With her words came a quick flux of magic - forcing the old stallion out of the spell.

The Wizard sat in his study again, slightly surprised at his pupil's growing ability. Her outburst there, though - that spoke of a character that let him hope. Altruism was something more than a lesson he could give. Eventide would fight to help the young pony he used to be regardless of his direction.

A small smile lit his face. At the cost of his authority, he had confirmed her good spirit. What would Twilight think?

"What went wrong?" Silver String's whisper fell flat as he stared at the stone. What should have been a diamond was nothing more than another failure. His ability, his supposed talent with magic, were nothing against his chronic mistakes. After so much effort...

"Hey, I saw what happened. You spent a long time on that spell, didn't you?"

Blood turned to ice as he placed the sound of that voice. He spun to face her sitting next to him, looking at the object of his shame. No words came to him; he stood silent as she examined it.

"Perhaps not all of it had changed, and I think I see some stuff that made it's way in, but it's still a diamond. You shouldn't give up just yet."

Silver shook his head. "That looks nothing like the diamonds I've seen - or what the spell is supposed to make. I... I just can't..."

Eventide looked across at him. "Silly - you've only tried once, right? Nopony gets a spell like this right at first . Try again, you still have more coal."

The colt looked down at his hooves. He had gone through the components of the spell, just like the instructions were written. Almost everything had gone like it should have - even the coal was of a special density. All to no avail. He looked into her eyes as he held the stone.

"It was for you, you know. What you had taught me was that a pony could bring out the best in another. I wanted to surprise you when I saw you again..." He snorted as he spoke. "Though that wasn't the kind of surprise I wanted you to have."

Eventide smiled as she took it. "Thank you, but I think you've given up a little too early. Let's try the spell again - both of us - so you can see that you can do it. C'mon, now."

Together, they formed the wards that would contain the immense forces. They drew figures and signs with glowing horns, preparing another lump of coal to be transformed. Magic flashed through the room again, now lit with red-orange and grey fields of energy...

When all was said and done, the second diamond was only just a little bit better. Round, it was ashen in color - with many of the same flaws as the first. Still, none of this was so important to either of them. Throughout the evening, laughter again filled the room.

Yarn Unravelled

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Of the many emotions that formed a writhing coil inside of Twilight's belly, amusement had no part. Silver String had intentionally tossed away her advice. Cutting all ties to her, the stallion had ensured that Eventide would be free to do as she saw fit: something the filly was too young for. Teeth slowly ground as she sat listening to him calmly explaining how this madness was justified.

"... it is in her best interest. This new timeline offers her much more opportunities to learn and grow. We can only presume that these changes will be permanent, so this will also serve as a history lesson..."

In the end, she could not bear his talk. Gracefully rising from her seat, she stepped past him to the balcony. Equestria's land flowed between horizons, crisp mountains and lush valleys that still inspired her. For one thousand years she had shaped an era of peace, fighting everything that threatened her ponies.

Her gaze dropped to Canterlot's city proper. It looked more and more alien to her now, like having a changeling take a foaling from you. In the corner of Twilight's eyes, she could almost see pockets of reality shift into the new timeline. Could she but hold it back...

"Her best interest, perhaps - but what about Equestria's? She'll be introducing problems none of us will have any clue dealing with - eventually replacing us as well! How can you ignore this responsibility?"

"I cannot," he replied, "but I know that this needs to be done. Stopping her, forcibly removing the spell, is more dangerous than anything she could unleash. A wave of magic that strong would annihilate this city..." He gestured towards the vista, emphasizing his next words. "Besides, some part of you must relish this chance to see what could have been."

Objects of curiosity had appeared lately along the city walls. Massive spires lifted in regular intervals, and magic crackled between them. Ponies of all kinds passed through safely, but she knew the shimmering fields to be powerful wards.

A discrete request brought her a scroll detailing their construction: it was, in fact, by her order. Made in an effort to protect the city, this wall of energy was made just after a terrible disaster. The threat of changelings had returned, a short span after her coronation. Without her brother's protective barrier, a quick coup had trapped the castle Alicorns - leaving the city defenseless.

The rest of the document was mostly unreadable, letters flickering and shifting faster than the eye could follow. Could it be that events had the opportunity to change? So much seemed familiar, but why the towers?

"You remember what happened, Silver String. When they attacked again, you were there..."

"My Princess, I fought as they tore the city apart. I lashed the creatures with all of my power..." Here he paused, reliving a nightmare long-suppressed. "Were it not for your friends to break you free, we would be enslaved. Even still, Canterlot was crushed when you threw them out."

Twilight pursed her lips in thought. What difference could a filly so young make? The answer came as she looked back on her own foal-hood.

A world of difference

Eventide had spent a while back in the past - at first due to fear, then because she started to like this ancient city. Silver had been a good friend, and had given her a room in an apartment his family owned. The Greys were a "clan" of wizards that had served the Princesses for as long as they could remember. She had come over for dinner these past few days, and they seemed pleasant to her.

His father was a busy stallion that spent most of his time at the castle. Quiet, his few words carried a calm warmth to them. After complimenting her on her magical development, he was off to his royal duties. Silver's mother was off on a business venture, though a few aunts, uncles, and cousins were visiting. Many had their quirks, but all welcomed her warmly.

Silver String had been studying magic with her lately, and both had plenty to learn. While he found the most... unconventional solution to a problem, he rarely took the time to learn the details. Filly and colt practiced spells until they could seamlessly mix their efforts in a spell, communicating without sound as they wove spells of ever-greater complexity.

Time ground on in Canterlot.

A knock on her door brought Eventide over from her desk. The wood swung in to reveal a familiar colt bouncing on his hooves. He quivered with barely restrained excitement, and she could see he wore a formal robe over a just-brushed coat.

"Hey, Silver String, what's up?"

"Well, you have been making an impression on my family - a good one, I assure you..." He sputtered before taking a long breath. "Father has invited me to a dinner with the Princesses, and I wanted to know: would - would you accompany me?"

A cool thrill ran through the filly. The Twilight she knew had been reigning over Equestria for a long, long time. The Alicorn of this period...

She had to wonder how much a thousand years would change somepony. The Princess Twilight Sparkle she knew was sublime with a quirky sense of humor. History wrote her as a ruler who placed the safety and peace of her subjects first. Deeper inside, who was she?

Silver noticed her pause, and brought out a package wrapped in paper. "Don't worry - some of my cousins know an artisan seamstress. I hope you'll find this to your liking."

As if in a dream, she carried the parcel to her bed and unwrapped it. Fabric spilled in rippling waves: dusky rose, a salmon pink, and other autumnal hues spun into a bodice of undyed wool. It was a dress, she realized. Hoof-stitched seams ran in cleverly disguised folds. The feel of it was just right, and she could resist putting it on.

The colors were very unconventional. Their mixture struck the eyes, but Eventide slowly came to the realization that it perfectly complemented her. The deep reds of her coat and the oranges of her hair were accented and emphasized, and the wraps of cloth swept around her. Tight on the upper leg, but billowing out towards the hoof, the sleeves allowed a full range of movement. A small trailing of cloth ended just above the ground and would float on a whispering breeze.

She finished a slow spin she didn't recall starting to find the colt still in the door - his jaw hanging. Recovering, he tried to make an off-hoof remark. "Well, I suppose that mare is worth her salt. It suits you, really."

She quirked an eyebrow at the rising blush being refracted through his coat. He was now caught off-guard - and Eventide could not resist ‘lighting a fire’ underneath him.

“How do you like it?” A quick swirl of the fabric almost colored the colt with same hues her coat carried.

“I ah... It”s... Could...?” Silver String’s voice puttered out. A hoof reached up to scratch his mane, and he chuckled. “Stop teasing! Besides, remember we have a dinner to be at.”

Nodding once, she silently took stock of her room. Everything seemed to be in order, ready for a night out to the castle. Though, was she?

Canterlot's keep kept it's watch as dusk fell, silent towers and walls bathed in orange light. The Grey family patriarch led the young ponies up past gates and guard posts. Hooves clacked on ancient stone, echoing off the rising marble-work that lifted high into the chill air.

The castle was designed to please the eye - and this detail was taken to heart by the architects. Muted purples ran through the stone of the walls - set against the bright banners and tapestries hung along the way. Carpets split with the intersections as they trailed off into shadow. The trio passed through a bridge spanning two of the larger turrets. Stained glass from floor to ceiling stood set into stone pillars. The sun's light made a fiery light that burned through the windows.

Their route wound around and up, the corridors emptied into an open balcony. A lone table had been brought out, and three Alicorns sat around a meal laid on on it's surface. The smell of deft cooking reached the coming group, luring them out to meet the Princesses.

The largest, pastel-hued and wise, smiled warmly to the approaching ponies. "Court Magus, I'm glad you could make it tonight. So this would be your son, then? I hear he has come a long way in his studies. And who is this?" Her eyes turned towards the filly in her gown.

Upon his father's nudging, Silver stepped forward into a bow. "Princess Celestia, Eventide is a close friend. From the moment I met her, she has given much to help me. Even when I fail, this filly has been here to help me up."

To this, a navy blue Princess (with stars woven in midnight hair) stirred. "My sister, I think that he now proves as great as his brother. If this be her doing, I would welcome her presence here." She closed her eyes with this, a slight furrow in her brow.

These two were only legends where—or rather when—Eventide came from. Celestia and Luna supposedly had stabilized Equestria after the War of Chaos. With one to steward the day, and the other to guard the night, these sisters were powerful manifestations of order.

It was the third that threw Eventide off. Expecting the impressive figure that had led her into this adventure, this Twilight stood only just larger than most mares. Eventide had seen an image of her, her first time here with her teacher, but this pony was nothing like what she expected. Twilight Sparkle seemed less of a regal ruler and more of an older sister!

When the purple Princess looked over, she gave a double-take. She stepped around the table to inspect the filly. Eventide froze as she considered the impossible: did this Twilight know about her time-travel? Did she suspect? She was pinned by that sharp, searching gaze.

"You... that's Rarity's work, I recognize it! No pony I know could make a dress like that. You're quite the lucky filly - it looks like it was made for you!"

"T-thank you, Princess Twilight Sparkle. This was a gift."


Once the formalities were done, the meal proceeded as the Sun's disk dipped below horizon. Its setting light faded to deepening hues of blue, and then true night fell. Every now and again, Luna would cast her gaze suspiciously out towards the city, but settled into serene calm as she raised the moon.

Eventide watched as magic more vast than anything she had known spread out into the night sky. Tendrils of power reached out in a spreading tree. She was lost in the complexity of the working. The white lunar orb rose gracefully, lifting itself into the night sky. It slowed for a breath, though, as the Princess lost focus. Shaking her head, she resumed her work.

Celestia tipped her head. "Is everything all right, sister? You've been on-edge for a while now, lately."

“It is nothing - I felt a passing oddness come and go, but that is all. The night is a tricky thing: it loves to play with the mind." With that, Luna landed softly and walked back to the table.
Moonlight now bathed the balcony. It's color caused the the stone to glow in a soft, pearly light. Stars winked into existence slowly, and the conversation died as the group enjoyed the view.

That's when they attacked.

From above, dozens of dark shapes slammed into the balcony. Insectoid carapaces chittered as luminous blue eyes stared out from the host. From behind, the door burst out in a blaze of green fire. From out of the smoke strode a tall creature that was almost, but not quite, pony.


Silver's father conjured a mist that forced the youth safely to the side. Humidity squeezed into sheets of pelting spray, blasting the creatures back through the shattered frame. The Princesses lept into combat without a word, lashing out with beams of energy. More beasts came from above, blotting out the sky.

Along the side, Eventide stood in shock. These... things were out of a nightmare. They swarmed over the side and launched themselves at the Princesses. The Court Magus held the doorway, but was breathing hard.

Silver String took her hoof. Shaking her out of shock, he spoke with quiet urgency. "Come on. We have to help them." The words did not reach her though.

Dark magic blasted Silver's father prone, and the large changeling stepped back through the doorway. Light from the unnatural fires showed her face. A sneer twisted insidious features, green eyes flashing with power. A warped crown grew out of her head, a symbol of her dark rule.

"Chrysalis - you haven't the strength to take us!" Luna ripped away from the mass with a pulse of energy as Celestia formed a small star. Twilight teleported above the crush, and all three readied their spells.

"I was banished from Equestria, true - but the two who are responsible have gone far to the North. I have grown stronger in the lands leading back. Feel my wrath!" With this, she sent a stream of energy at Celestia. Luna and Twilight came to assist, but a wall of the monsters formed to block them.

Silver String shook Eventide more violently, this time. "Snap out of it, filly! They need our help!" The stunned pony came to, her eyes focusing on him. "We can take her down, together. Trust me."

With this, he started channeling magic. She joined in, unsteadily at first.

The colt's reflective coat shimmered as he dashed towards the changeling queen. She hardly turned her head, but fired off a wild bolt in his direction. The missile connected, but hit only the volume of mercury he had become. Liquid metal past Chrysalis and a pony re-formed on the other side. This distraction allowed Celestia to recover and break the wall that Luna and Twilight were hammering.

Silver String wasn't done though - he barreled into the tyrant's legs as he called for Eventide. The filly fired off a blast she had been charging, topping the unwary changeling.

Helpless, she cried to her minions, gathering them to attack the young assailants. Filly and Colt jumped into the air as a wave came head-on. Two magic "leashes" pulled streaks of red and mirror-grey out of the way. The changelings slammed into each other - falling onto a Chrysalis struggling to become upright.

A barrage of energy enveloped the pile, forming wards and runes around it. The magic sucked in nearby creatures, locking them behind a strong barrier. Both Alicorn and changeling alike paused to watch as Chrysalis was locked in a spell that could crush coal into diamonds.

After the initial fight, it was made apparent that this was a quick strike to disable the Princesses, while they were at their most vulnerable. In the transition between night and day, neither were "in their element". The changeling army had snuck out through the caves below Canterlot, waiting for the ambush. In the city, the rest of Chrysalis' forces were bent on sowing disorder.

While Celestia recovered, Luna and Twilight Sparkle flew out to clear the city. Catching her breath, she gestured the young ponies forward.

"I cannot thank you enough for your brave contribution. Even though she caught us off-guard, the changelings will not take Canterlot tonight.

She looked towards Silver, then Eventide, as she spoke. "You may have just saved us, you two."

From the side, Silver's father gingerly stepped over. Other than a slight limp and a few scrapes, he seemed no worse for the wear. He leaned up against his son, tossing a nod to the filly too.

"You foals make me feel my age. Princess, I am lucky they are not hunting for my job! Though," he chuckled at the thought, "you two make a good team."

That they did.

Not As It 'Seams'

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In an age long past, three Alicorns held counsel. Uneasiness and smoke made a thick shroud around them as they watched the last of the fires extinguish. Patches of the city now lay black as night with ashes. Stone walls made smoldering shells; lamps had been smashed in the attack. Here and there, ponies could be seen working through the web of roadwork.

Princess Twilight Sparkle stood analyzing the scene. "It won't be enough - driving Chrysalis out every time she returns is only going to get more ponies hurt. Still - we can't maintain the shield my brother keeps, and leaving the Crystal Empire open is even more risky."

"While that is true, Twilight, nopony else has come close to making a shield that could protect a city. The constant strain would be too much." Celestia turned away from the balcony's edge. Soot marred her pearly coat - she had rushed to combat the blaze as soon as her hooves were steady again.

Luna stirred from her spot to comment. "What could be done to soothe the coming nightmares, has. Sleep will not come easily, but they will find it." Her features shifted into puzzled thought. "As for the matter at hoof, could we not instill the spell within the city itself?"

"What spell could be sustained without a pony guiding it? I'll look through the library, and see if there is anything we could use. Spike will be around if you need me." With this, Twilight took off for the lower grounds.

Two exhausted sisters watched the embers scattered through their city chill. Tomorrow there would be burns to tend, structures to rebuild, and rubble to clear. For now though, they sat and kept vigil.

The sun rose over the city walls, shining molten light on two young ponies trotting down Canterlot's main thoroughfare. The splash of colors made them seem to be of the same hue, but shadows revealed a silvery coat in the pair. They passed by scaffolding, timber, and cut stone as repairs began in full swing. The commotion of the crowd did little, though, to cut through their playful banter.

It is a shame they ran." Silver String chuckled as he reared up on hind legs. "I was just warming up for a real fight! Thunder and lightening, fire and ice smiting the foul beasts..."

Eventide lifted an eyebrow at his boast. "Oh, really. How much of that have you used before? Blowing yourself up wouldn't have done any good."

"Blow myself up?! I would never... none of my spells do that." Head tilting to the side, he reconsidered. "Well, most of them would not explode."

Both laughed as they carried along down the road. Their task for today was to help rebuild a shop along the way. For some reason, Silver seemed unusually excited to get there. His trot became more flashy as he almost skipped through the air.

"What's up with you? Float any higher, and ponies will think you're a Pegasus."

He settled to the ground with a blush rising on his cheeks. “My brother is back in town - I just received the news! You see, this is his shop we are rebuilding. He flew in this morning. He has not been in Canterlot for two years now.”

Eventide nodded. She knew Silver String wasn’t an only child, but she hadn’t heard much more. The Grey family was large though - easy for her to forget a name or a small mention. Still...

“How’d he get in? I thought the Changelings took out the rails and the sky docks.” She stopped as she tried to sort the puzzle out. “He isn’t a Pegasus, is he?”

The colt’s mouth opened and shut with failed attempts at explanation.In the end, he shook his head. “Come on - it is just down the corner. It is better to see.”

The two rounded the bend in the road to see their destination. A large pile of ash and burnt timber lay in the road with wagons pulling up to cart it away. A stone foundation had been cleared out, and now several metal beams supported the skeleton of the new building. Construction ponies worked around the scaffolding.

In front of it all, on top of a neighboring building, a soot-covered pony monitored the proceedings. His colors were obscured, but he was easy to spot: on his back was a peculiar saddle Eventide thought she recognized. Two large cylinders hung off of it, suspended on either side, Various tubes connected these to a large tank nestled between them. The whole setup looked extremely heavy, and the pony shifted the weight of it every now and then. As workers gathered materials, he’d pass along instructions - making corrections to a series of sketches in front of him.

As filly and colt made their way through the bustle, Silver String called out to his brother. “Jet! Jet! We are down here, brother."

His words apparently reached the overseer's ears. The stallion lept from the building, and a high-pitched whine warned everypony nearby. Workers without earmuffs clapped hooves to ears as a louder roar ripped from twin gouts of fire. A roar bellowed from the back of his saddle. The dark pony's mysterious machine rocketed him toward Silver and Eventide; its inner mechanisms spun at blurring speeds. Before he struck the two, the accelerating pony swung the cylinders around, blasting hot air over their heads. He hung suspended in the air for a moment, then gravity slammed all four legs to the cobblestone road.

Stirred dust and ash settled around the filly, colt, and stallion. Three ponies stood in a low cloud, bustle resuming around them. Eventide had curled up in fright. She had nearly thrown up a magical barrier, and her heart still raced. This stallion was, she thought, just as reckless as his younger brother.

"How is the Grey family prodigy, now," the larger pony said as he tucked Silver under a leg, scrubbing the colt's fine-brushed mane. "When word came about the attack, I called in a favor from the rail company. Looks like I should have known..."

He trailed off as he tilted his head in the filly's direction. "Hey! And who is this lovely young lady?"

"JetGrey, this is Eventide." Silver separated to stand next to her. "With her help, we were able to stop the changeling queen. She and I have also been learning magic."

Jet smiled as he was about to reply, but an aide galloped up with a clipboard for him. Grabbing it in a hoof, he settled back on his haunches to skim its contents. His mouth twisted in distaste.

"I'm sorry, but we need to get this project rolling. Time to put young ponies to work. I will need you two placing timbers - all the cranes have been rented out. Can you both stay for lunch?"

Filly and colt nodded, and their morning began. A pile of heavy wood beams lay next to the site, and it took the combined magical efforts of both to lift one. Slowly, they settled each into prepared locations. As soon as one was down, a swarm of workers descended with hammers and nails. A pattern formed - lift, settle, hold, and repeat. Sweat beaded on the youths' coats as the strain became tiring, then exhausting.

After an hour, the last of the joists was in place. Another hour passed with panels being nailed to the walls. Now drained, Eventide and Silver String could not focus anymore. JetGrey called for a break.

The sounds of meals being prepared came from an improvised kitchen. Eventide and Silver String sat around a crate-turned-table, and the majority of the workers ate on the levels below and above.

Jet busied himself in the kitchen, visible through missing wall sections. Just as the two got settled, he emerged with a tray of sandwiches.

"I have yet to hear how you met this lovely young filly. Or how you fought off the changelings. Chrysalis is no push-over, especially since she has had time to prepare." The stallion glanced from Silver String to Eventide. "I'd bet strong friendship - love, even? - had something to do with it."

Silver blushed as deep a red as the pony sitting next to him. "I wrote to you about how my magic sometimes escapes my control. She's been here since the fire, always there to lend a hoof. She came around to play more often, and we have been learning magic together - like I said before."

"Eventide and I have also been working out our strong and weak points, channeling out magic through one spell, and some self-defense. We make a good team!" Gaining confidence, he reached for a sandwich as he explained. "That was why were able to take on the changelings. While Chrysalis was distracted, we used an old warding spell I learned to seal her inside - even with all of her magic."

Eventide sat quiet, still shy around JetGrey. She watched him over her plate, and studied the mixture of pride and awe on his face. These, though, faded with his next words.

"About Father... is he well?"

"Don't worry," her quiet voice chimed in, "I know a bit of growing magic - it'll heal as well. There're a lot of bruises and scrapes, but nothing broken. He'll need rest."

Jet's nod stopped as a dry cough left him sputtering. In a voice rough with more than just emotion, he asked for water. Silver String obliged, and the stallion chuckled.

"Between the shouting of the day, and this ash," he gestured to the city outside, "it's a wonder my throat hasn't given out already. Luckily, there's a mare I know who has better foresight than I..."

He rummaged through a saddlebag to pull out a pouch of dry, crushed leaves. Though closed, the pouch soon filled the room with a familiar aroma of herbs and spices.

Without herself knowing, Eventide had walked up to the pouch. Breathing in the smells pulled memory into sharper focus. Orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg - it could only be...

"...his tea."

Her teacher, one thousand years distant, was probably drinking a brew made from this mixture right now. Or would be, later. He never seemed to go a day without it, and claimed it was "good for his bones". It reminded her of the tower, of home. How long had she spent away? How long had it been since -

" -you okay, Eventide?"

She stood, holding the pouch as the two male ponies shared the same look of worry. Her eyes had begun to tear, and she must have let her homesickness show. Shaking it off, the filly turned to them.

"Would it be okay if - if I made the tea? I'm sorry, it reminds me of home..."

Two nods of assent met her, but she left for the kitchen before they could offer help. It would do her no good to be seen like this; tears would only make it worse. Inside, she busied herself by steeping the pouch in water magically brought to boil. The tea brought her back (or forward) to days in a Canterlot-to-be: life at home, and in the study.

Eventide had run away from her lessons, unable to sit back and watch Silver make his own mistakes. Now, more than ever, she wanted to return. Reaching for the familiar magical aura that surrounded her, she grasped...

She grasped at nothing at all.

The spell that carried her back and forth through time was gone. In it's place, only fading remnants held on to her. Feeling it now, she could tell that whatever enchantment it was, it was being drained away. The filly didn't have the journal - nor could she remember the spell's construction.

Would her teacher come looking for her? Could he? From what he said, he was unable to talk to anypony in the past. Now that she was no longer part of each "story", could he still reach her?

Coming back out of the kitchen, she served the tea. In doing so, she started a habit - a ritual - that would last for one thousand years.

If only she could get to the end of that millennium.

"Anything to report? I felt the traces, but I don't know what it means. How is she?" Of late, Twilight had very few calm hours. Changes coming through time had begun to arrive in a steady, growing stream. The city was in flux - but only a few ponies recognized any difference now. Her magic kept a small bubble of stability around her - yet it was being struck constantly.

"The anchor that kept her safely between times has failed, your majesty. I cannot seem to find her either - she held a vital part of the spell together." Silver String, in this age, was a curiosity. Through the effects of his and Eventide's "studies" continued to reshape Canterlot, he was unchanging. Magic from the spell swirled around him though. It was a storm that he didn't seem to notice.

Princess Twilight shook her head. His "hooves off" method of teaching was re-writing existence, but it was vital to get Eventide back.

"If you can't find her - the spell will reject her. She doesn't belong in that time, and I can't risk her being lost forever!" Catching herself before she started shouting, the Alicorn sighed.

"This is beyond my abilities..." He quickly rephrased as a glare struck him from down the throne room. " I mean, I will need some help from an outside source if we are to get her back."


Though the old Unicorn knew that anger, frustration, and worry boiled within the Princess, he shivered. This word was spoken with dead calm, and royal authority. It was less a question than a demand to speak. Silver was doomed, though.

"Of the events in my journal, it seems that one thing has not changed - and isn't changing at all. I am - was - 'destined' to cross paths with a powerful source of knowledge and magic." Here the wizard paused, clenching his teeth as he chose his next words. The measured tones of it tried to conceal acid. "He was the one who 'helped' me with my time-travel spell. The only one who'd have something to gain from it, it seems.

The ruler of Equestria cast her gaze on a stained-glass window. The colors were jarring, the shapes almost hard on the eye. It stayed in the palace due to it's reminder and warning, though the days of fear it inspired were long gone. The frame shimmered as she spoke, heralding a power still greater than hers.


A Knot in the Cord

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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.