"Twilight, stay here." Shining Armor nodded to the guards while equipping his own uniform. Preparing to face whatever lie ahead, he darted out the door with his fellow soldiers.
"What's going on?" Twilight wondered, the tense feeling permeating the air as smoke began to fill the sky of Canterlot. "I can practically see the flames from here, what happened?" She looked to Pony Joe and Derpy, hoping for some kinda of assurance.
"Mister Doctor should straighten it out, Twily!" Derpy bit into her muffin gladly. "No worries!"
Twilight closed her eyes with a sigh, trying to fight the feeling of panic and worry welling up inside her. As she breathed, a sharp pain shot through her chest as a vision of a fiery stallion raced into her mind.
"Probably being taken care of as we speak." She could hear Pony Joe from the recesses of her mind. "I can't tell you how many times this place has burned because of a few kitchen fires." The fiery beast stood before her, looking into her eyes with a sinister smile. The horse appeared to be rotting away, its singed flesh torn off revealing more bone than coat as it stood, the flames licking her body and the air around her.
"Bring her to me..." It began to morph into a sphere of magical energy and back to its normal form, the fiery stallion began to shape into a mass of pure magic taking the form of an alicorn.
"Bring her!" It bellowed, shattering Twilight's sleep and ripping her back into conciousness.
"This is no kitchen fire!" She exclaimed before jumping out of her wheelchair, wincing at the pain of her body's full weight. "I've gotta go."
"Someone put some water on that fire!" Fancy Pants was the first one on the scene, using his magic to hand out buckets and hoses to the guards and fireponies who raced out to the burning building.
"Fancy Pants, what happened?!" Rarity galloped up to him, panting. "All that hard work..."
"I have no idea, Miss Rarity!" His airy accent bellowed among the commotion. "One minute I'm checking in with the manager, and the next the place is a smoldering mess! I barely managed to get the crew out in time!" He exclaimed, not faltering from his duty. Fluttershy and Applejack were the next to make it out to the building, both tending to the wounded and shocked ponies pulled from the construct.
Next came Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, barely making it in time to see the rest of the buckets being dumped onto the flames, finally quelling the blaze. The building lie in ruins, a smoldering ember of its former self, the sight nearly bringing Rarity to tears.
"At least everypony is alright." Rarity sniffled.
"How in tarnation are the fastest ponies the last ones here?" Applejack joked with Rainbow Dash, who brushed her off playfully.
"Yeah yeah, we weren't exactly closest to the corner, you know." She grinned. The Canterlot royal guard began escorting citizens home, with Shining Armor staying behind to tend to the remaining ponies. As he stooped down to check under the rubble, Princess Cadence dropped down beside him and embraced him in a hug.
"Dear, are you ok?" She said, worry in her voice. Her lips were met by his in an act of reassurance, his way of letting her know all was well.
"Never better, dear. Just glad you, sis, and everypony else is-" He stopped when he saw a familiar lavender unicorn limping her way down the street, filling him with rage. "Twily! I told you to stay put!" Twilight grunted as she limped towards him.
"Listen to me, everypony. You all have to get out of here, now." She panted the words out as her brother, sister-in-law, and friends galloped towards her.
"What's goin' on, sugarcube?" Applejack wheeled herself over.
"This fire, it's not-" She fell down, unconscious. Shining Armor picked her up and placed her on his back, trying not to fall down himself.
"I'll meet you back at the castle, Cadence." He kissed her once more and began his way home. Fancy Pants strolled about the wreckage of the building, making sure no pony was trapped anywhere.
"Hello, what have we here?" He noticed a small flame, slightly darker in color, burning weakly amongst the rubble. "Must have missed a bit, don't want another blaze breaking out, do we?" He raised his front leg and stomped on the flame a few times, putting it out. He smiled and turned around to trot back to the others, only to be stopped by another flame that seemed to pop out of nowhere. "Why you-" He stomped on this flame as well, only this time it did not go out. Irritated, he levitated a bucket of water over to where the flame stood, but as it got nearer, his horn ceased glowing as the bucket came crashing down.
"You shouldn't be doing that. What if someone came along trying to extinguish you?" A soothing voice came from a ring of fire that encircled him completely.
"We are so sorry for everything, Princess. Had I known there would be fire hazards-" Rarity pleaded with Princess Luna.
"Have no fear, Miss Rarity, the city of Canterlot will be glad to compensate you and Fancy Pants for the damages done to your facility!" She bellowed, forgetting about her last use of the Traditional Royal Canterlot Voice.
"Volume, please." Fluttershy muttered to an embarressed Luna, much to the amusement to the others. Rarity looked around, trying to figure out where Fancy Pants had gone. As she looked around, she noticed a silhouette atop the burnt roof of a large stallion.
"Ah, Fancy Pants, is everything ok? You had me worried." She called up to the shadow.
"Fancy! This is not funny, please desist with the jokes." Rarity called again.
"Fancy Pants! Come down here this instant! This is so unprofessional!" The silhouette finally obeyed as the stallion came tumbling down the two story building and landing in a burnt heap of rubble. The group rushed over to find none other than Fancy Pants, moaning and burnt to a crisp, with a pip protruding from his shoulder. The sight warranted a scream from Rarity as Cadence lowered her horn to try and heal the stallion.
"Fancy, dear, who did this to you?" Cadence asked in a hushed tone. Fancy Pants could barely breathe, let alone speak, but he managed to utter two words in what was barely a whisper.
"White...Mane..." He breathed before passing out.
Flames whispered among the group as they encircled them, each one seeming to have a life of its own. The building caught fire once again, this time the flames were a crimson red as the structure was reduced to ash. As the flames roared, an enormous stallion materialized in front of them, its flesh burning away and cooking as it roared an agonizing roar.
"What in the name of Celestia is that thing!?" Pinkie bursted out. "He could really use some sunscreen!" She tried to keep the mood light amidst the burning entity.
"Oh no." Luna gasped. "Cadence, listen to me, go find Celestia and Blueblood, right now. We need every member of the royal family here." Cadence nodded and flew off in the direction of the palace. "Face me, vile creature!" Luna summoned her magic, levitating a firehouse towards the stallion and drenching it with water. The stallion screamed in agony, but the more it screamed, the more the water vaporized until finally no water was hitting it at all.
"T...Tw..." It began to stutter between roars. It could not speak properly, but it still attempted to growl words as it lashed out with its burning tail at the other ponies.
"Pinkie! Take Applejack and get out of here!" Rainbow Dash darted at the creature, but as she did she pulled up at a ninety degree angle. She climbed higher and higher until finally she reached the top of the tallest tower in Canterlot. She looked down, swore under her breath, and dove as fast as she could towards the monster. Being a weather pony, things like heat and cold barely affected her, she knew if this killed her, it wouldn't be from something lame like being melted. Her vision narrowed, her teeth clenched, she kept flying and flying as fast as she could until she felt the sound barrier giving way just inches before the creature's back as the familiar Sonic Rainboom burst just above the fiery stallion. Its back crunched loud enough to be heard from Appleoosa as the creature roared in pain before it became consumed by a rainbow colored mushroom cloud. Rainbow Dash limped away from the sight, her head spinning, but still smiling her usual smile.
"This wreckage...just became...20% cooler." She grinned before falling over, exhausted. The ponies cheered as the fire quelled again, just before Celestia and Blueblood made the scene.
"I heard about what happened. Is everypony alright?" Celestia expressed her concern.
"All right? I kicked that thing's butt!" Rainbow Dash boasted from the ground. "Oh wow, any pony have some aspirin?" The group of ponies busted out laughing. Celestia looked over at the burned skeleton, tears in her eyes.
"It's not over." She whispered as an eye formed within the empty socket on its left side. The creature became engulfed in flames again, to everyone's shock and horror as skin and muscle began to form. The creature opened its moth and let out a moan, but this time it roared one word.
"Twilight!" The creature bellowed.
"I'm right here." Twilight Sparkle limped over to them. She could barely stand, yet the need to be near her friends not only let her fun from Shining Armor, but it kept her standing. Princess Celestia darted in front of her, her hoof extended to keep her back.
"Twilight Sparkle, stop." She demanded, but Twilight knocked her hoof away.
"I know what I'm doing, your highness, I knew from the moment I jumped off Shining Armor's back and bolted here." She limped closer and closer to the monstrous creature. "I know what I'm doing." She stood face to face with the beast, its mouth curling into a sinister smile as it whispered her name.
"White Mane, I know you can understand me. I don't know how you can take forms like this, or how you can control this...thing." She began. "But I know why you need me, why you can't fully come back without me, so I'm prepared to offer a proposal." The creature frowned as it knelt down to Twilight's level, its eyes meeting her's. Its forehead produced a large, fiery horn that shot a beam of magic at Twilight's, forcing her eyes to roll back into her head.
The darkness swallowed them as the old alicorn met with Twilight Sparkle once again, this time to negotiate. White Mane sat down upon his haunches and produced a quill and parchment.
"Make your proposal." He sighed. Twilight walked over to the quill and levitated it, writing on the parchment. White Mane watched as the lavender unicorn scribbled her terms onto the parchment. When she was finished, she let the quill drop to the darkness to be caught by White Mane as he read the parchment.
"What's this?" He said angrily.
"I surrender every ounce of magical power I possess, the power I inherited from Star Swirl, to you so you may gain your body back. In exchange, you are not to kill the Princesses, my family, or my friends. Doing so will result in my magic being returned to me. Do you accept my terms?" Twilight Sparkled stared him down, confidently, to which he sighed and signed his name.
"Agreed, but first let me add a little term of my own." He smiled as he began writing.
The ponies watched as the creature and Twilight stared at each other for several minutes, until finally the connection between the two was finally broken, and the creature roared.
"Twilight, what did you do?!" Applejack yelled as the fires began to roar again. Twilight looked over her shoulder to her friends, Cadence, Luna, Celestia, and finally her brother as he galloped towards them. Each of them pleaded with her in vain as she was lifted off the ground by a glowing light. Tears in her eyes, she looked at her friends one last time before she met the eyes of the fiery monster before them.
"Goodbye..." She finally said as the light engulfed her, Rainbow Dash looking up at the sight, trying to find the strength to fly up there and bring her down. But everytime she moved, she felt an agonizing pain in her wings. She could only watch as her friend began to fade out of existence as the monster became more real.
"Father..." Luna and Celestia said in unison as the light engulfed the fiery stallion, destroying it. In its place, however, was the most handsome alicorn stallion anyone had ever seen. Standing at nearly eight feet tall, wearing armor of a forgotten age, the ancient Equestrian smiled as he looked around at the land that was once his.
"Citizens of Canterlot, of Equestria, and to all beings within the sound of my voice." If Luna was considered loud, this stallion could break the sound barrier. "Let it be known throughout the known, free world, that the true ruler of ponykind has returned. Let the pegasi rejoice, let the unicorns give thanks, let the earth ponies revel in this revelation, for the age of the Equine has come." His voice thundered across the land, shaking every building and structure as countless ponies came to the street corner where he stood, out of fear and cowardice, and bowed to him. Tears in their eyes, the ponies fell to their knees before him, save for the friends of Twilight Sparkle, her brother, and the Princesses.
"What have you done with Twily?" Shining Armor stepped forward. "Where is my sister?!" White Mane looked down at him, a victorious look in his eyes.
"She made a deal with I, and I, being a merciful lord, accepted her offer." He smirked. "In exchange for your lives, and the welfare of the ponies, Twilight Sparkle offered her powers to her true king."
"You...you liar!" Rainbow Dash screamed. "Twilight would...she would never..." Rainbow stood to her hooves, fighting back tears from the pain in her back and wings. "The Twilight I know would never make a deal with the likes of you!" She bellowed, issuing a chuckle from the alicorn king.
"Oh, but she did, Miss Dash. You know, I see a lot of my son in you." He smiled. "Surely one as brave and daring as yourself would love to be a general in my army."
"Army?" Fluttershy whimpered.
"All in good time, my dear." He said with a smile. "But back to the business at hand, Rainbow Dash, for your bravery and clear skill and prowess, I would like to hereby extend an invitation to you to become my head general." He produced a contract and quill and levitated it towards Rainbow Dash, who eyed it with suspicion and anger. Her temper rising, she raised on her hind legs and stomped the contract into the dirt.
"I'd sooner kiss a dragon's behind." She spat on the parchment, a series of shocked gasps coming from the other ponies. The smile left White Mane's face as he turned to anger.
"Make no mistake, you little tomboy, I will break you. All will remember the fury of White Mane." He walked across the crowd of ponies, shifting to avoid being in his way. The alicorn flared his enormous wings and arched his head back, preparing another speech.
"Heed this day, citizens of Equestria, for this is the dawn of a new age." He thundered. He turned his head around and eyed Rainbow Dash and the other ponies one last time. "Savor it." He finally said before he flapped his wings hard, and shot himself off the ground.
"Twilight Sparkle..." Princess Celestia's horn glowed as she looked in every direction. "I can sense her life, but I cannot tell where she is." Rainbow Dash limped over to her, sinking down onto her haunches.
"It'll be ok, sugarcube." Applejack assured her. "Our little Twi's gone through tougher stuff than this." She tried to force a smile. Rainbow Dash, tears cascading down her face, couldn't even look up at her.
"Twilight..." She sobbed. "Where are you?"
"I've sent word to the castle, we'll have a small guard force of our own before White Mane takes complete control. Our top priority is finding her." Doctor Whooves finally made his way over to them. "I'm so sorry, I wish I had been here." Rainbow Dash still didn't respond to anypony, just simply looking down at the ground in agony.
"Twilight..." She continued to sob.
"Miss Dash, everything will be fine. I'll move space if I have to, but I swear we will find her." Doctor Whooves reassured her, but still warranted no response from the cyan pegasis. Rainbow Dash, stricken with grief, looked up at the sky, tears still flowing from her eyes. She swallowed hard and took a deep breath as she closed her eyes.
"Twilight! Where are you!?" Rainbow Dash screamed at the top of her lungs, before collapsing onto the cold ground, sobbing to herself.
"Hurry up, Stronghoof! We're almost there!" A young pegasis called behind him to a large earth pony. The two had made their way out of a small town in a heavily forested region. The pegasis marched onward to a small clearing in the woods, where the snow collected onto the body of a frail unicorn.
"This is where it landed." Stronghoof stated as he stared at her small body. "Strikes, you think she's ok?" He expressed concern for the young pony as she lay silently in the snow. The pegasis knelt down beside her and nudged her gently with his hoof.
"Oi, don't be dying on us." He remarked playfully. "Are you ok, Miss?" The unicorn opened her eyes and slowly raised her head as she felt a pounding in her brain. She was tired, hurt, and above all she was lost.
"Where am I? She asked, shivering.
"Outside Pine Village, just on the borders of Equestria." Stronghoof answered her. "Our village is just a mile away from here. Strikes here noticed the falling star and we came to check it out. Turns out-"
"It's not everyday a beautiful mare like yourself falls from the sky." Strikes commented, trying to flatter her as though to make her feel more at ease, but only succeeded in bringing her even more confusion.
"Who am I?" The unicorn asked, confused as ever.