And thus the ponies began their journey back home. Unlike the first time around they took a bit of their time and tried to travel back home in some semblance of leisure. Whether they did this to stall for the inevitable confrontation or to genuinely enjoy themselves in the landscape without concern for battles and conspiracies who can say? Either way it would take a few weeks for them to arrive back home and they decided to make the best of it.
Back home though their disappearance has put a bit of concern into the thoughts of some key ponies. One such pony was Applebloom who after spending what she would consider a lifetime of days waiting for Applejack to return is finally fed up. The sudden change in the environment was her sign that something was up and that matters needed to be taken into her own hooves. But she couldn't do it alone.
Chapter nineteen: The cutie mark crusaders and the curious unknown
Applebloom called to legs her greatest allies and friends. The Pegasus filly named Scootaloo and the unicorn filly named Sweetie Belle. Together they were the cutie mark crusaders a group of fillies who desperately attempt to get their cutie mark through any means other than waiting for it to appear on its own. They gather at the restored tree house once owned by Applejack and began to discuss of the topic of the day.
“Do you know why I brought you girls here?” Applebloom asked while she sat behind a makeshift pedestal. “No not really.” Scootaloo said. “You didn't tell us anything other than to meet you at the clubhouse after school!” Sweetie Belle said. “It has to do with my sister Applejack. She's been gone for like. A million years, and now I’m startin' to wonder where she went!” Applebloom said as she hopped away from the pedestal. “Well what are ya gonna do about it? It's not like we know where she went.” Scootaloo said. “Or do we?” Applebloom said getting up in Scootaloo's face. “No. We don't.” Scootaloo said backing away from Applebloom. “Well yeah. I mean we don't know. But I have clues! Applejack left with two ponies and a giant lizard. They said they were going to go beyond the Everfree forest and outside Equestria!” Applebloom said as she recounted the events in her head. “Hey. Hey wait! I remember hearing about that. I was visiting my sister Rarity for a couple of days when one day I came back from school and she wasn't there. She wrote a note saying she was on the trip of a lifetime and was being escorted by some bumpkins to foreign lands.” Sweetie Belle said remembering the note she read.
“Hey girls, do you think Rainbow Dash went with them?” Scootaloo asked now interested in the conversation. “I dunno. What does she look like?” Applebloom asked. “Tch, you’ve forgotten already?” Scootaloo said with annoyance. “Is she that pony you keep talking about, the one who's super cool?” Sweetie Belle asked. “Yes. And I’ve told you guys about her just about all the time!” Scootaloo said. “Oh. What does she look like again?” Applebloom asked. “She has a light blue coat with a rainbow colored mane and a cutie mark with a thundercloud lighting bolt with the lighting bolt being rainbow colored as well.” Scootaloo said with a sigh. “That sounds like a Rainbow Dash.” Sweetie Belle said nodding to herself. “Wait! I did see her! She was rude and mean to my sister and she called the lizard Spike! I think she was traveling with them!” Applebloom said remembering the event. “That makes sense. I was wondering where she went. They would need Rainbow Dash as protection.” Scootaloo said.
“I remember the lizard saying they were going to meet someone at the Sugar Cube Corner.” Applebloom said still trying to remember the conversation. “We should go there!” Sweetie Belle said excitedly. “Good idea Sweetie Belle! We could go there and search for clues!” Applebloom said. “Oh. Right, that too.” Sweetie Belle said noticing that they weren't on the same wavelength.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders left the clubhouse and headed straight for the Sugarcube Corner. They walk in and see two ponies talking. One had a grayish blue coat with an orange mane Mohawk with a pair of sunglasses sitting on top and a hair comb for a cutie mark. The other had a pale cream coat and a navy blue mane with a pink stripe. Her cutie mark shows 3 pieces of wrapped candy. “Come on Bon Bon!” the pony pleaded. “No Teddy, I can't!” Bon Bon said annoyed. “Why not?” Teddy asked. “I'm not supposed to give free samples to everypony that asks for one, Just new customers.” Bon Bon said. “You don't have to give one to everypony, just me.” Teddy said trying to sound sly. “No! Teddy. You have to be treated just like every other customer.” Bon Bon said getting very aggravated with Teddy. “What? I thought we were friends Bon Bon?” Teddy said. “Pft, as if, Take a hike Teddy!” Bon Bon said pointing at the door. “Fine, I wouldn't want you're crummy cookies anyway, Out of the way twerps!” Teddy yelled storming out of the store.
“That boy, how Sweetheart deals with him I’ll never know. Oh hey girls, you came here for some cookies? This week we have Strawberry Swirl and Copacabana Banana.” Bon Bon said acknowledging the Applebloom and the others. “Y-no, we came here to ask you some questions.” Applebloom said trying not to be distracted by thoughts of baked goods. “Oh, go ahead and ask then I'm all ears!” Bon Bon said amused by Applebloom's attempt at being serious. “Do you know of anyone who used to work here but hasn't in awhile?” Applebloom asked. “Yeah, Pinkie Pie hasn't shown up for work in a while actually.” Bon Bon said surprised by the particular question. “Do you know if she went with some ponies and a lizard to someplace?” Applebloom asked. “Well. The reason why I got this job at all was because Pinkie Pie hasn't shown up anywhere and she hasn't even been in her house. Her pet Gummy is there and everything. Kinda perplexing if you ask me, The Cakes know that she left with some ponies but they didn't mention where.” Bon Bon said taking the question seriously. “Why are you girls looking for Pinkie Pie anyways? Was she you're favorite baker?” She asked. “No it's not that. Some of the ponies have gone missing. My sister Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, They were last seen with a pony and a lizard. They were going to through the Everfree Forest into some place that no pony has ever seen before. Places beyond Equestria.” Applebloom said. “Hm, I see. Places beyond Equestria huh?” Bon Bon said concerned. She got from behind the counter and walked up to the girls. “A few days ago I would have found that a really weird thing to hear. But lately I’ve been watching the news and there's been a lot of talk of things coming out of nowhere from the Everfree Forest and ponies making treks outside the country and creatures making their trek inside our country.” Bon Bon said. “The weather's been acting really weird. The Cloudsdale pegasi don't know how to manage it. It's almost as if the weather moves on it's own without us.” Scootaloo said looking at the clouds outside. “Hey. Don't worry about grownup stuff like that. I'm sure you're sister will be back in no time. Do you girls want a cookie? Here have a cookie.” Bon Bon said trying to dissuade their concern by giving them sweets.
“Now go have fun or something all right?” She said.
Not sure on where to go next the Cutie Mark Crusaders walk around town. Their heads filled with thoughts. They wander all the way to the Entrance to the Everfree forest. Applebloom stops and looks at the forest. “Do you think if we go in there that I might find my sister somewhere?” Applebloom asked. “I don't think so Applebloom. Remember? Beyond Equestria, That's past the Everfree Forest.” Scootaloo said. “Well then we can just go and find them! We'll go out beyond Equestria and find them ourselves and bring them back home! It will be fun I bet we'll get our cutie marks and everything!” Applebloom said. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle look at Applebloom. Scootaloo took a deep breath and sighed. “I don't think we would really make it.” Scootaloo said resignedly. “Scootaloo, you don't mean that. You're always ready for action.” Applebloom said as she started to get upset. “Rainbow Dash and the others are either out and their just fine. Or there just gone. It's been weeks Applebloom. We wouldn't know where to go and we wouldn't probably survive a genuine encounter with a monster.” Scootaloo said. “I know you're worried Applebloom. I can see it on your face but it's too dangerous. I miss my sister too but what would she think if we got ourselves hurt or worse just looking for where we went? I thought about looking for my sister too but mom said that the best thing to do was to just wait.” Sweetie Belle said with a sad expression. “I can't wait anymore! It feels like I’ve been waitin' forever and she still hasn't come back! I don't want to wait; I want my sister back now!” Applebloom cried falling apart right in front of them.
Scootaloo tried not to get caught up in Applebloom's crying trying her best not to emotionally sympathize outwardly although Sweetie Belle did without hesitation. She looked up and saw that the weather was changing rather erratically. She saw the clouds were moving in a very odd pattern almost gathering in a specific area. “Sweetie Belle, Applebloom, look at that!” Scootaloo said pointing at the sky. They turn to see the sky was beginning to darken and the clouds began forming over Ponyville. “Land sakes alive what's going on?” Applebloom said as she looked at the darkened sky and clouds. “We should probably find out right? I mean it might be a clue or something.” Sweetie Belle said. “Yeah, that’s right! I bet it is one! Let’s go girls!” Applebloom said.
They run back to town only to find everyone gathered around the square where the clouds were converging. A bolt of dark lighting strikes the ground creating a pool of black goo. Suddenly a figure rose out of it. At first its shape was indistinct but it soon took shape. It had the body of a horse and the torso of a human-like creature. He had horns and a long beard. His coat was blue and his skin was red. Around his neck was a bag that pulsated ominously. He stretched his body and cracked his neck and his fingers. The ponies were frozen in terror and confusion over the sight of this creature. The Mayor of Ponyville cautiously walked up to this figure. “E-excuse me Mr...” The Mayor said with obvious fear in her voice. The figure lays his eyes on the Mayor. “I am Tirek. You're new lord and master.” Tirek said his voice filled with power and authority. “I-I am afraid that won't do Mr. Tirek. We already have a ruler. Her name is Princess Celestia. Perhaps you've heard of her?” The Mayor said shaking like a leaf. Tirek let out a chilling boisterous laugh. “You're princess is gone. And even if she was here I would crush her beneath my might. From here on out this land belongs to me. Its creatures belong to me! All things belong to me! Now bow! For I am you're new god!” Tirek yelled his voice causing the ponies to panic.
One Pegasus pony flew up to him. Her coat was pink and her mane was royal blue with two lighting bolts for a cutie mark. “Now listen here pal! Where do you get off saying things like that? I don't know where you came from but monsters like you aren't welcome in Ponyville so shove off!” The Pegasus said boldly to Tirek. Tirek smiled. “What is you're name young one?” Tirek asked. “Firefly.” Firefly said still keeping her confidence up. Tirek quickly grabbed her grasping her entire body in the palm of his hand. He gripped Firefly tightly to the point to where Firefly let out a painful yelp. “Firefly, you will be the first.” Tirek said. He then threw her to the ground with such force that she bounced a bit off the ground. He hand began to glow a dark reddish purple. He then hurled the blast at Firefly who was physically unable to dodge it. The blast consumed her body. Instead of destroying her it changed her. It turned her into a reptilian creature. Her nature was lost in the wake of turning into this creature. The ponies went into a full panic running and screaming.
Tirek laughed as he watched the ponies running frantically. “I knew I made the right choice making this my first step to conquest. I will have much fun shaping this land to my desires.” Tirek said. He opened the bag hanging over his neck and it let out a terrible wave of unmitigated darkness turning the skies black.
Tirek quickly squashed what little defenses Ponyville had turning most of its citizens into creatures to serve his will. Then he went on to do the same to other places. He blighted the lands with his magic and turned cities and towns into rubble. Countless ponies were lost or turned into monsters. At the very center of the country he created a replica of Midnight Castle. In a matter of weeks Equestria was lost.