The effect on the wendigos was immediate. The beasts screamed in agony as crimson life began to pour from every cavity and orifice, even leaking from their pores. The survivors stood in stunned silence as their fiendish adversaries bled out under the influence of some enigmatic outside force. Otherworldly screaming poured in from around the valley as the cannibalistic abominations were purged from Equestrian soil. As the blood continued to flow, howls cut off one by one. The wendigos seemed to deflate, crumpling to the ground as they lost their form. The ponies could only stare at the shriveled husks that lay in pools of watered-down blood.
For once, Fluttershy was the first to break the silence. "...What the buck was that?"
Big Mac and Derpy turned slowly, their amazement shifting from the dying monstrosities to their friend's uncharacteristic outburst. Fluttershy's face glowed an even deeper shade of red than that of Big Macintosh as she realized what she had just said. "S-sorry..."
Dinky giggled. Soon the entire group had been infected, until they could hardly stand from the laughter. Though perhaps infected was the wrong word...
Over the course of the following months, many changes took place around Sweet Apple Acres. The survivors continued to grow closer, Dinky even calling Big Macintosh and Fluttershy "aunt" and "uncle". The barn was torn down, its contents buried.Countless apples were bucked and eaten, long after they had grown sick of the taste. It was often remarked that without a bit of ingenuity on the part of Derpy and Fluttershy, they all may have starved or gone insane.
Once a week, an hour was set aside to mourn those lost. Pinkie Pie, Apple Bloom, and Granny Smith, who had succumbed to the infection early on. Rainbow Dash, the loyal daredevil devoured by one of her closest friends. Applejack, whose responsibility to her family had driven the honest farm filly mad, resulting in the tragic demise of dozens of ponies, herself included. Nopony knew what had become of Rarity or the other two members of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Twilight Sparkle had been in Canterlot at the time of the outbreak, and the small group presumed her lost. These were scarcely a hooffull of the names and faces fondly remembered during these times, though many were thought of day in and day out. Little to no thought was given to the stranger they had encountered their last night in Ponyville.
And so, for the next few months, life went on for the scant survivors of what was surely the worst event in Equestrian history. The days passed in labor, laughter, and reverence.
Until that time.
Roughly three months after the infamous wendigo plague, a knock sounded on the door of the old farmhouse. Everypony inside froze instantly, the breath catching in their throats. They were all inside, so who could be at the door? And at night, no less. The knock sounded again, accompanied by a gruff voice. "Royal guard!" it said. "Is there anypony alive in there?"
Big Macintosh stood slowly and shuffled to the side of the door, an ax in his hooves. He licked his lips nervously before answering, the thought of the demon that had so perfectly mimicked the voice of poor Carrot Top fleeting through his memory. "How do ah know you're not one of them?" he asked.
The stallion behind the door chuckled. "I come to greet you, not to eat you," he said. "We were sent here to search for possible survivors by First Sergeant Twilight Sparkle."
Big Mac's jaw dropped. "Twilight? She's okay?"
A high voice rang out from beyond the door. "For Luna's sake, open the door before Trixie breaks it down!"
Derpy had to answer her request, as Big Macintosh and Fluttershy had both gone into shock.
Ponyville, beside the garrison of Princess Luna's guards, was largely the same way they had left it. Buildings remained boarded up and abandoned, and an eerie silence pervaded the town. It was a small comfort that the dead had been gathered in the square for identification and the rain had washed the blood from the road, but it was still immensely depressing to see their home in such a state. They shuddered at the feeling that crept up their spines from being back on its once joyful streets. They could almost still see their friends and neighbors trotting passed them, ghosts in a fever dream that still had yet to fade.
For the first time since that fateful night in the rain, the wandering band was accosted by the sound of conflict as they neared Carousel Boutique. As they watched, a sewing machine on a silk rope was thrown from a second floor window for what was, apparently, the second time, scattering the guards on the ground. The small group of friends fought a losing battle as they struggled to contain their giggling. Ivory hooves began to drag the projectile back to its origin as a tangle of violet mane was thrust through the window of the impenetrable fortress. an all-too familiar voice rang clearly through the foggy morning air. "Back, you wretched creatures!" There was a slight pause as the speaker grunted in effort, obviously unaccustomed to lifting the heavy machine. "Vile abominations! You will not take this house today! I swear it!"
Being the closest to the obviously confused unicorn, Fluttershy was elected to lead the negotiations. When she flitted carefully up to the window, there was but the briefest of pauses before she was yanked inside with a flurry of white and a loud "Darling!" The Ponyvillians grinned broadly. She hadn't changed a bit. After several minutes of tense silence, a harsh scraping emanated from within the boutique, as if heavy furniture was being shoved around. Inch by inch, the door crept slowly open to reveal Fluttershy, Rarity, and Sweetie Belle. Their eyes glowed, a brilliant scarlet contrast to their tear-matted faces. One party trotted to meet the other, exchanging the proper greetings, congratulations, and condolences. Even as they wept, they were thrilled to see each other. Their small family had just grown a little larger.
When the party finally reached the town square, the Ponyvillians were asked to wait outside, which they did with much relief. The guards had correctly assumed that they would not want to see the remains of their decimated neighbors. All pomp and circumstance, however, was abandoned when Twilight Sparkle stepped out of a nearby building and was immediately brought to the ground by the mass embrace of her friends that had thought her dead, causing her to yelp rather adorably in surprise. She giggled cheerfully as, one by one, they finally managed to tear themselves away, tears in their eyes. "I'm glad to see you're all okay," she said.
Rarity struggled to untangle the knots in her mane. "Well, we're alive, at least, but far from all right. It will take weeks to get these out!"
Twilight's smile grew briefly before reworking itself into a pained wince. She lowered her head, gaze set on the ground. "We found Pinkie and Rainbow Dash," she said quietly. Sliding upward to meet his, her eyes pleaded with Big Macintosh. "Is Applejack...?"
Big Mac's face fell instantly. He shook his head, choking back the lump in his throat. Though, try as he might, this was easier said than done. When he finally loosened the tragic malady's grip on his tongue, his voice remained hoarse. "...Nnnope," he sighed. "Bloom, too... An' Granny Smith... What about Princess Celestia?"
Now, it was Twilight's turn to be struck silent. "I..." she began, voice cracking. "I'll tell you later. Fluttershy, Rarity, will you follow me to the library? Um... The rest of you can wait in there, if you want. Talk to the other survivors." She gestured to the building she had just emerged from. "I'm sure they'll be happy to see you."
Counting the Sweet Apple Acres survivors plus Twilight, Rarity, and Sweetie Belle, there was a grand total of 12 survivors from Ponyville. Those in the makeshift barracks included Lyra, Bonbon, Cloudchaser, Berry Punch, and Colgate. Derpy lay down on one of the makeshift cots while the others chatted and smiled to herself as Dinky cuddled up next to her. Finally, things were almost like normal again. Still, Twilight had seemed rather distracted. But even Derpy Hooves' hidden intuition chalked it up to the responsibility of rebuilding Ponyville.
She had no idea.