The old wizard studied his reflection in the large hourglasses polished surface. Heavy wrinkles creased across his forehead, while bags hung under his faded violet eyes. Below his chin lay a mighty, snow-white beard, which he couldn’t help but smile at. It was his namesake, and something he took the utmost care of, because they didn’t call him ‘Starswirl the Bearded’ for nothing. After the momentary reflection on his title, he looked back to the rest of his features. One thing was certain: he was getting old.
“Tell me, Clover, how is the luxury of youth treating you?” he asked, glancing over the sands trickling into the bottom of the hourglass. A moment of silence passed before he looked to his side and saw his student huddled over one of the many library desks, poring over a book. With a slight smile, he trotted over to Clover.
The moon’s light poured through the top of the room, shining onto Clover’s pages. How resourceful... Starswirl thought, watching the young unicorn read. His eagerness to learn defies even the heavens. He coughed lightly, prompting Clover to suddenly look up at him and pull down his hood.
“My apologies, Master Starswirl... you know how focused I can get on my studies,” the unicorn said, with an apologetic smile. “Can you repeat the question?”
Starswirl chuckled, a soft jingling humming through the air as he shook his head lightly. “Your willingness to learn is why I chose you, Clover. But I digress, pay no mind to what I asked, it was merely an audible thought.” He then looked down to the book his student had been reading, “Tell me, what have you been researching?”
Clover glanced to his text and flipped through a few of the pages. “Well, I’ve been attempting to refine the time traveling spell you’ve devised. At the moment it only allows for several seconds of travel... but I think I can improve it.”
Starswirl raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Oh really? You, Clover the Clever, can improve on the great Starswirl the Bearded’s creations? Perish the thought.”
The young unicorn let out a soft laugh as he closed the book. “With all due respect, Master, you’ve been slipping in your duels lately. I’ve caught you with a simple magic missile on more than one ocassion.” He stretched his forearms out and yawned. “I may even surpass you in several months time.”
“Hmph, merely a side effect of my age, young one. Simply because I call you Clever doesn’t mean you’ll be trumping me anytime soon,” he replied, grinning. “Unless, of course, you have another hundred and eighty spells you’ve been mastering in private.”
Clover sighed, setting the book in his satchel which rested on the table. “Luckily, Master, I haven’t even completed the first twenty. You’re still superior to me... for now.”
One day you’ll be great, Clover... one day when I’m not here anymore. I think it may be time. “In time, Clover, we’ll see what you become. Now, however, there’s something I must teach you. Come, walk with me.”
The unicorn nodded and stood up, pulling the satchel over his body. Starswirl returned the nod and began to walk towards one of the many hallways that branched out from the center of the library, each lined to the top with bookcases. A small plaque labelled ‘Spells of the Mind’ greeted them as they passed into the hall.
“I’ve passed much knowledge down to you, Clover, and you have learned and understood it near perfectly. I am proud to call you my apprentice. However, I won’t be here to teach you forever.”
Clover nodded, but said nothing. So, you understand... Starswirl thought, looking to his student. “What I’m about to show you will be for when after I’ve passed on, so keep that in mind. You will not be able to use it until then.”
They approached the end of the hallway, where another bookcase lay. This one, however, was lacking the amount of texts and scrolls of the others and merely contained a few small books. Starswirl took one of the books and opened it, revealing the same hoofwriting that graced hundreds of other documents in the library: his own. This book, though, only had several pages worth, and a few scribbled diagrams.
“Master, what is this?” Clover asked, looking over the book in awe.
“This, Clover, is something I’ve been working on and perfecting for a very long time. I started this research many years ago, and only recently has it culminated into something more tangible.” He stroked a hoof across the faded page. “Something outside my mind.”
“What does it do?”
“To put it simply, it transfers the thoughts and memories from one pony to another. With a single flash of light, you can gain a lifetime of knowledge.”
Clover’s face lit up at this revelation. “Celestia and Luna, that’s brilliant, Master! With this... there are so many possibilities! So many chances for learning! I wouldn’t even know where to--” He was cut off by Starswirl raising his hoof and frowning.
“It is not that easy, young one. As great as my abilities have proved to be in the past, I still cannot perfect this spell any further. As such, it comes with a great cost.” He let out a deep sigh, as if he were taking a weight off his shoulders. “Unfortunately, with the sheer amount of energy the spell takes to shift the thoughts from one pony to another... the only reagent that can possibly power it is that of life itself.”
The unicorn apprentice’s eyes widened. “No, you aren’t saying... this spell will kill whoever it’s used on?!”
Starswirl closed his eyes and nodded. “I am afraid so, Clover. This is why it has to be the final thing that happens to me before I pass.” He put a hoof on Clover’s shoulder and gave him a stern gaze. “I’m leaving it in your hooves to carry on my legacy. Do you understand?”
Clover blinked several times, looking to his Master with both fear and worry. He opened his mouth to speak several times, but came out with nothing. This new information, this truth that he would have to eventually take his master’s life was too much.
“Y-yes,” the student croaked, gulping when finished.
Starswirl lowered his hoof and turned back to the small book. “Good.” A few moments of silence passed before he glanced to Clover again. “I know it’s hard to accept, Clover, but you’re the only one I trust with my knowledge. You will be the only living proof of my existence.”
“It’s... a great honor, Master.”
“And one you rightfully deserve... now,” he said, moving to the first page of notes, “it’s time to teach you how to perform it.” Clover moved closer to him, observing the notes. “Casting the spell is not difficult. No, the difficult part was making it all come together. You see, this spell mainly draws on the abilities of the mind. However, this is not nearly enough, so it also draws on life essence and latent magic. The energy to use it comes from you, the recipient, and the magic that exists in our world naturally.”
Clover gave an understanding nod.
“To start, you must open your mind. Focus. Concentrate.” Starswirl closed his eyes and breathed deeply, then continued. “After you have done that, channel the expanses of your mind.” His horn adopted a deep magenta glow, indicating the flow of magic. “Now, pluck the magic essence from the world around you. Use its energy to bolster your abilities.” The horn grew bright, now with small sparks crackling throughout the magic glow. “At this point, Clover, you are prepared to take the memories and thoughts. All it takes is the tap of a horn and the magic will take over from there.” The glow suddenly faded from the horn and the room returned to it’s regular light level.
“That’s amazing, Master. So simple to cast but so powerful...”
“Indeed, it is. But as I said, it comes with a great cost. You must use it wisely and sparingly.” The young unicorn nodded, then took the book and began to read. A small smile crawled upon Starswirl’s face. “Do you wish to try it?”
“Of course,” Clover replied, his horn already beginning to glow.
“Excellent,” Starswirl responded, observing his student. For a moment, he turned his head and looked back to the center of the library, where the hourglass rested. Its sands never ceased to fall, always counting down the seconds. The bearded unicorn smiled, then turned back to Clover, who’s face was scrunched up in concentration.
I am not afraid.