Starswirl put down his glasses and rubbed the edge of his nose. The winter was receding a natural one, thankfully but it wasn't helping his sleep any. His position as the Chief Magician of the new nation of Equestria was one that meant many long nights, especially in these early months as the finer points of the government were being nailed out.
At least he still had Clover as his assistant. He smiled, remembering how she had served as Princess Platinum's aide when he was too sick to attend the summit of the three tribes so long ago. He would never have guessed that she would end up helping to unite them in their new home.
He caught a glimpse of purple in the corner of his eye. "Ah, Clover. Could you find my notes on temporal displacement? I believe I'm close "
He turned to see a very excited-looking purple unicorn mare. She looked very much like Clover a dead ringer, even but something about her behavior and her magical aura was decidedly different.
"Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh!!" The mare bounced like a schoolfilly. "I'm actually standing in the same room as Starswirl the Bearded! I've read all your books: The Tapestry of Time, Supernaturals, Practical Potions for Punctual Ponies oh, wait, you haven't written those yet, silly me! oh, it's just so good to meet you!"
Starswirl simply stared at the mare. "
who are you?"
"You'll have to forgive her, she's
like that sometimes." A brown suit-clad colt strode into the room. "You promised me you wouldn't do that."
"I promised I wouldn't act like, and I quote, 'a pre-teen girl at a Justin Bieber concert.' I have no idea what that means!"
The colt shrugged. "Well, now you do."
To add to Starswirl's confusion, five more ponies entered another Unicorn, two Pegasi, and two Earth Ponies. At first, he thought he was confused by what had already happened, but somehow, these ponies all looked exactly like -
"Seriously, Twilight," the blue Pegasus laughed, interrupting his thoughts, "You were like a filly in a candy store. Priceless!"
"What's going on here?!" Starswirl demanded. "You've brought Pegasi and Earth Ponies in this district? Five of them? You'll be arrested for sure!"
"Now that's interesting," said the colt, browsing the shelves before selecting a book and opening it to a random page. "You're implying that Canterlot has been segregated between the three types of ponies, and that breaking that is a strict offense. I thought you had sorted out your differences by now. What happened, I wonder - "
Starswirl snatched the book from the colt's hooves. "If you insist on invading my study, risk the arrest of yourselves, as well as me by association, by bringing Earth Ponies and Pegasi with you, ask strange questions and read my books, you may as well have the courtesy to tell me what this is all about!"
The colt held his gaze firmly before removing his glasses. "Fair enough. I'm the Doctor, and these are Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie. We're time travelers."
Starswirl frowned as his horn glowed and a small orb of magic appeared, flying around each pony individually. It focused the longest on the Doctor before returning to the tip of Starswirl's horn and disappearing.
His brows furrowed even further. "Such a high magical trace on you six, even the non-unicorns. But your chronoton signatures - that's not possible!" He faced the Doctor. "Especially you! What in the world have you been doing?"
"The chronotons are so agitated," Starswirl continued as if the Doctor had never spoken, "It would indicate direct manipulation, but to remain stable this long
no. It can't be, that's impossible
" He turned back to the group, eyes wide. "You are time travelers."
The Doctor sighed. "Yes. Yes we are. From the future. Time travelers."
"The future?" Starswirl gasped, realizing the implications. "Please, tell me! Does Equestria survive? Well, obviously, it does, if you're here together, but I need to hear it from you do we make it out of this intact?"
"What are you talkin' about?" Applejack asked. "Get out of what?"
this was not recorded?" Starswirl said.
Twilight shook her head. "From what I've read of Equestrian history And I've read a lot there's no major conflicts for over a hundred years after the crowning of the princesses."
"Then your history books are flawed to forget something as important as this," Starswirl said. "For the first few months after the Unification, efforts to establish the new government went smoothly. But our old grudges were not easily forgotten. As the quarrels grew more violent, Princess Platinum, Chancellor Puddinghead, and Commander Hurricane ruled that Canterlot would be split into three districts, one for each tribe. Taking after that decree, entire cities began to cordon themselves and only allow one species Cloudsdale was built specifically for that purpose. Even the council isn't immune to the hostile feelings between us." He sighed. "Personally, I think it's all foolishness. Can't they see the only way to have peace is to unite as we intended?"
"But what about the Windigoes?" Rainbow Dash asked. "They should've frozen this place a dozen times by now!"
Starswirl shook his head. "The Unicorns developed a spell to ward them off soon after Canterlot was built. It was one of the first things we did for the nation. Only now do any of us realize it was a double-edged sword."
"The council should be telling everyone to be nice," Fluttershy piped in, "not yelling at each other."
"I agree, but
well, see for yourselves." Starswirl cast a spell, causing a magical window to appear before them. "I use this to watch their meetings when I am unable to attend. They should already be in session."
The window cleared to show three ponies sitting around a table, each looking very displeased with her neighbors. And all of them looked frighteningly familiar
"Doctor!" Rarity whispered. "They look just like us! Or we look like them whatever. How is this possible?"
"Well, even a species as genetically diverse as yours can only have so many combinations," The Doctor explained. "Add over a thousand years in between, and anything's possible."
The room fell silent, save for the voices from the image before them.
"I am not asking for much," Princess Platinum said, voice level, "All I want is for the Earth Ponies to live up to our agreement and give us the food we need to restock our reserves."
("They even sound like us!" Rarity hissed, only to be shushed by Pinkie, who was happily munching on a box of popcorn.)
Chancellor Puddinghead frowned in a way that would have seemed comical in any other atmosphere. "Hah! As if you haven't taken enough! With all the food you and the Pegasi have gobbled up, we barely have enough to fill our own bellies!"
"I dunno," Commander Hurricane said skeptically, "You're looking pretty pudgy to me."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Puddinghead demanded.
Hurricane shrugged lazily. "I'm just saying, that maybe you've been holding out on us, Chancellor."
The earth pony gasped. "How dare you! How could we even do that with what little rain you've been sending us?"
"Pegasi don't give rain to liars," Hurricane said.
"And you!" Puddinghead turned to Platinum. "You promised you'd get us some enchanted seeds to make the plants grow faster. Well, I don't see any super speedy seeds, do you?"
"Research is slow," Platinum replied, boredly examining her hoof. "It doesn't help that it takes our best magicians to raise the sun and moon every day."
"Speaking of which," Hurricane said, "I could've sworn the sun came up a little later this morning."
Platinum scoffed. "I'm appalled, Commander! We unicorns strive for perfection in everything we do a philosophy both of your tribes would do well to copy."
"At least we pegasi would clean up after ourselves when we attack our allies."
The room froze. "What are you talking about?" Platinum asked.
Hurricane grinned as if she had revealed a winning Poker hand. "A week ago, a building in the Pegasi district was burned down. Eyewitnesses confirmed it was done by unicorns "
"Platinum, how could you!" Puddinghead interrupted. "The Pegasi may be a bunch of old meanie heads, but that doesn't mean you can burn down "
" and earth ponies."
"What?!" the Chancellor gasped.
"Are you suggesting we formed an alliance against you?" Platinum asked.
"I'm not suggesting," Hurricane said, "I'm flat out saying it! You two planned this together!"
Puddinghead scowled. "Well, how about this? Five days ago, the Earth Pony District was attacked, too by pegasi and unicorns!"
"Huh?! That's impossible!" the pegasi countered. "We would never team up with those snooty unicorns!"
"Hmph!" said Princess Platinum. "I was going to try and be the bigger pony and not pin this on you, but circumstances have changed." She leveled her eyes with the other two ponies. "Two days ago, the Unicorn District was attacked by earth ponies and pegasi." Her eyes narrowed. "And three of my people were killed."
(There was a collective gasp in Starswirl's room. Fluttershy started crying.)
"This is ridiculous!" the Commander yelled. "None of this would have happened if you two would have held up your end of the bargain."
"And we would have," Platinum replied, "if we had any indication that you would honor yours."
"That's how you wanna play it?" Hurricane said, baring her teeth. "Fine! From now on, until both of you agree to our deal, we will not deliver any rain anywhere outside of pegasi territory."
"Oh, yeah?" Puddinghead yelled, "Well, from now on, nopony's getting any food from us!"
"Very well," Platinum said, almost resignedly. "You two have forced my hoof." She stood up, holding herself high. "After tonight, until our demands are met, the unicorns will no longer raise the sun."
(Another gasp was heard in Starswirl's study, followed by silence as the gravity of the threats sunk in.)
Commander Hurricane narrowed her eyes. "Where I come from, we'd call that an act of war."
"It's only one if you make it," Platinum replied.
"Then for your treachery," Commander Hurricane announced, "The pegasi declare war against both the unicorns and the earth ponies!"
"And so do we!" Chancellor Puddinghead, "On the Pegasi and the Unicorns!"
Princess Platinum nodded firmly. "Then when we next meet, it will be on the field of war."
Twilight was already panicking as the window faded. "How can this be happening? Never in the history of Equestria has there ever been a full civil war! Surely the historians would never skip over something as big as that!"
" the Doctor tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Twilight, you said that the next important thing after the princesses' coronation isn't for another couple hundred years?"
Twilight nodded. "Yes, but that has nothing to do with a civil war."
"Oh, but it can!" The colt took out his sonic screwdriver and fiddled with the settings.
"What are you going to do now?" Starswirl asked.
"Now," the Doctor said, giving him one of his famous smiles, "we go find ourselves some alicorns."