An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Midnight Shadow
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic © Hasbro and Lauren Faust. Please support the official release
Callisto laughed gaily as she ran through the ruined streets of Poniberg, burning torch in her muzzle, setting fire to all and sundry. Her flank proudly displayed her ugly-mark, a golden apple split in two by a swirling line. She hadn’t understood it until now. It was an old mark for an old story. It told of a beautiful princess, shunned by a neighbouring city in favour of another state, who had sown discord and caused a war. When the princess hadn't been invited to festivities where a grudge between the states was finally to be put to rest, the princess had given a single gift to be split between the two. An apple, made of gold, marked “to the fairest”. that mark, the apple of discord, bringer of chaos, was now upon her flank. And chaos she would bring.
The torch sputtered as she plunged it into the thatch. It momentarily threatened to go out, but the straw finally caught. In what seemed like seconds, the whole structure was ablaze. As it lit the night sky, Callisto spied a shape on the ground. She spat out the torch from her muzzle and clip-clopped closer, tilting her head as she did so. “Sis?”
“Cally? That you?” coughed Amanita, bending her neck, trying to look up. She shivered, it was cold and she felt numb. She'd crawled as far as she could, and no further.
“Well, well, well,” Callisto said, poking her older sister painfully in the ribs, “Lookie what we got here.”
“Help me up, Cally. I been done a mischief.”
“Me, help you? Why should I? When’ve you ever helped me?”
Amanita screwed her eyes shut, tears falling down her face, but not from the pain, “I bin done you wrong, sister, but it’ll all be diff’rent now.”
“I ain’t got no need fer pity, sister. You taught me that. It ain't nothing but weakness.”
“I were wrong, Cally.”
“And look where it got ya.”
Amanita coughed again, wiping the blood off on a hoof, but then started laughing.
“What’s so funny? Yer down there dyin’ an’ I’m up here runnin’ an army!”
“Ah din’t get it neither, sis, not until Selena showed me. I got friends now, real friends. What’ve you got? Ya ain’t got nothin’.” Amanita coughed again, laughing softly, as Mayor Ditzy Doo and a crowd gathered around the pair. A couple of unicorns started seeing to her wounds, their horns glowing softly. Amanita found she could breathe again, and move without pain. "Ya ain't got nothing but me, and them, if you'll let 'em help you."
Callisto hissed, backing away. This felt wrong; her sister was so close and... wanted her there. “What’re you doin’?"
“Come back to me, Sis. Please. Stop fightin’, t’ain’t no need fer it.”
“Never! You hear me! Twilight took me in, Ammy, she gave me power. She loves me.”
Amanita’s face screwed up again, her head shaking, “She doesn’t love you. She’s just using you.”
“Same as you ever did! An’ what did it ever get me!” Callisto shouted.
Ditzy moved forwards, nuzzling the injured pony, “Think you can get up now, Miss Amanita?”
Amanita coughed, struggling to get up. She shook her head, "Almost, Miss Doo."
The crowd parted and Selena walked serenely through. She dipped her head, her horn glowing brightly. The glow enveloped Amanita, all her fur seemed to stand on end and the earthpony’s laboured breathing grew normal and her eyes bright.
“Stand, brave soldier.” Selena ordered.
Amanita did so, blinking, before she looked down at Callisto, “Sister, don’t you see?”
Callisto hissed again, angrily, flicking her tail and casting her ears back. She retreated, her little hooves making barely any noise on the slick cobbles. “Get away!”
“I’m yer sister, Cally, but I ain’t like I was before. Now it’s... I cain’t explain it, but it feels good. I... I want you with me, not to boss around or spit on, but just to be, to grow, to watch you become who yer supposed to be, not... not this.”
Callisto whimpered, "But Twilight..."
Amanita dropped to her knees, "Please? I ain't never said please to you before. Please come back."
Callisto, trembling, took a step forwards. For a moment, her tense body relaxed, and then she hissed, and fled. Amanita watched her, eyes brimming with tears.
"She will return to you," Selena said softly, draping a wing over the softly weeping earth pony. "She and all the others will be healed. Chaos will give way to harmony, just as it always does in turn. It must, dear one, just as surely as harmony must fade, and we must eventually face discord once more."
"I cain't leave her." Amanita said, crying.
"Then go, find her and bring her home."
Vanity swooped through the blazing night sky, laughing as she loosed firebolt after firebolt, the flaring flames causing her pristine white feathers to glow with an ethereal beauty. Beneath her, the citizens of this tawdry little village of bumpkins fled screaming. The power of the Element within her burned so delightfully, and with it she felt more alive than she ever had before. Queen Celeste's gift had been... delicious, but it was nothing compared to the raw power of the Element of Lust. It enthralled her, excited her in ways few things could, and at every exercise of its formidable powers she felt even better.
It was this heady distraction that proved almost fatal. As Vanity fired off another thunderbolt, sending a hapless mare screaming into a burning building - she noticed the mare barreling out the other side, more than a little singed - there was a roar that split the heavens.
A claw hewn like the side of a mountain, burning pitch-like blood seeping through the holes in the dead and rotten hide, slammed into her, sending her plummeting towards the ground. The dragon slammed itself into the dirt, driving its prize downwards in a blow which would shatter the bones of any normal being.
Vanity felt something snap and she cried out as one of her wings was caught and bent at an ugly angle. The dragon for its part rolled off, spiked tail and limbs sending both ponies and buildings flying. Heaving itself to its claws, it roared, backhanding Vanity several feet. She hissed angrily, and spat blood. Readying herself, an arc of pure energy spun from her wings, sizzling through the air to throw the great beast skywards.
"Parlour tricks. Is that all this universe brings?" asked a new voice.
Vanity snapped her head around to glare at the newcomer. A purple figure, an alicorn like her, though the wings were wide and raggedly bat-like. "Twilight Sparkle, I presume?" She favoured her wing, gritting her teeth. A quick exertion of magic, and she was healed.
"That's not my name."
"Doom, then. So gauche, so petty." Vanity almost spat, laughing throatily.
"You dare mock a goddess?"
The pair were circling each other, Vanity's new senses telling her that the great undead wyrm even now righted itself, preparing for a new attack. She paid it no mind, she would be ready. "You are no goddess. I feel it within you a weakness. In this world you are a pretender, for all that you bear my former mistress' fetishes, four of them no less. I can hear them, you know. Give them to me."
"You want them, don't you?"
"You are unworthy," Vanity sneered, "soaked in kindness and friendship, you are a poor host."
Twilight Doom roared her disapproval, eyes burning violet, as she flung her dragon bodily at the white winged unicorn. "Burn!"
Vanity danced out the way, cursing her quick wit, as the semi-conscious burning undead lizard sailed over her head. She turned back, almost lazily, "A poor host, and a poorer aim."
"I find I have to agree, my former minion." Queen Celeste said, her voice cold and level, yet somehow rising above the sounds of battle, "I, however, am not."
"My Queen-" began Vanity, but her words were lost as the baleful breath of the queen's own pet washed over her. She screamed as the world around her became an inferno of light.
The magical onslaught proved too much, and Vanity fell from the skies. She wept as she plummeted, her mane scorched and sizzling. She could smell it, her mind dimly registered, she could smell her hair and flesh burning. There was no pain, just a searing weight that threatened to pull her mind with it. Faintly, the embattled pegasus-mage registered that she'd made contact with the ground. The sensation of pain returned as a hoof ground into what was left of her right wing. Teeth snatched at her primaries, and the Element she had so briefly held was gone.
"My dear Vanity," Celeste's voice dripped with honey as the alicorn bent low and whispered in her ear, lovingly, "the next time you try to cross your goddess, don't." The hoof that slammed into her head brought her darkness, and a merciful surcease from pain.
Celeste gloated as the feathers she had ripped from her ungrateful ex-general glowed with a sickly green light. Before the light could coalesce, however, a bat-winged alicorn slammed into the growing nimbus, shrieking with delight as she tore the fetish from the grasp of Queen Celeste.
Celeste stuttered, a choked scream rising in her throat, as Twilight soared skywards, bolstered by a fifth element of discord. As the queen set to pursue Twilight, boiling orange flame swept over her body. Growling in anger as precious seconds were wasted on such a trifle, she turned and with the merest thought, ripped the inner flame from the body of the undead dragon.
Howling in pain, Twister shuddered, tripping over her enormous claws as if shorn off at the knee.
Burning with an unearthly light, Celeste advanced on the dragon. "You would seek to harm me? You would cause me pain? Me, Celeste, Queen of all I survey? Mistress of this entire wretched realm? Regent of the sun?"
Twister moaned, the strength that had been flowing through her veins all but gone, she was now unable to move. Celeste, for her part, glowed brighter, exuding a powerful aura that was more than just palpable, it seared her very soul.
"Your arrogance knows no bounds, worm. Play with fire, insignificant wretch, and you will get burned."
Twister howled. The flames that had flowed through her body returned, but gone was the buoyant warmth of power. In its place was liquid agony, playing over every fibre of her being. As the ground beneath her burst not into flames but simply began to melt, Twister screamed until her roar dwindled to silence, and the ground pooling around her broken body cooled and solidified..
Celeste turned away, the stench of burning flesh causing her nostrils to flare. Now she was angry. That sniveling little wretch, that abysmal failure of a unicorn from an alternate dimension, that worthless finder of the four lost Elements of Discord, had dared to steal her Element of Lust. She, Celeste, would not stand for it. She tired of this game; the petty maneuvering, the mindless drudgery. If Estrosia would not come to her and abase itself at her hooves, then she would cleanse the wound. She would start again. She would purge the lands, raising her own thralls from the dust.
A small smile played on her lips. First order of business, destruction. There could be no rebirth without destruction. Reaching deep inside herself, she unleashed the final element, the Element of Chaos.
Her mane burst into sunfire, pink glow becoming incandescent as she poured forth the fires of the cosmos. It was beautiful, and terrible, and so very, very final.
All around her, the branded members of that pathetic upstart's 'army' were fleeing for their lives. Those that weren't quick enough, or somehow caught the attention of the queen of the world, didn't get very far.
She was Celeste, regent of the sun. She raised it every morning and set it every night. If the sun would not rise in the sky, then she would bring the sun to the land.
Luna stood in the marble-arched throne room, surrounded by the Elements of Harmony, as Celeste's personal guard dropped their weapons. Her friends visibly relaxed. She, however, did not.
"I will have your oath of fealty, Crash. You and all of your ponies. To a stallion, each and every one of you will swear undying allegiance to the Crown of Equestria. Here and now, or leave this place at once."
"Or?" Crash whispered the word, it hung heavy in the air, pregnant with dangerous pause.
"Or die." Luna looked long and hard at Crash. He blinked first.
"What's happenin'? Luna?" Applejack glanced from her princess to the enemy red pegasus and back, holding her breath fearfully.
"Applejack, friends, stand ready." Luna's voice was direct, calm.
"Please don't fight," Fluttershy whispered, cowering down.
"Let me at him! I can take that big bully." Rainbow Dash said, leaping forwards. Luna grabbed the mare's tail, however, and gently chided her.
"Rainbow Dash, now is not the time to prove your worth. You have done that a thousand times over," Luna smiled softly, "now it is time for lessons. Bow down, Rainbow Crash, and swear fealty."
The red stallion's reply was a guttural scream as he flared his wings and leaped for the princess of the night. She caught him by the metacarpals and twisted, throwing him bodily into the crowd of guards.
Battle was joined.
Bedlam and chaos replaced calm discussion as the clash and clang of weapons bouncing off of metal and hide filled the room. The Equestrians, as unfamiliar as they were with warfare, were quick studies. They grabbed pikes and tore them from their former owners, and wielded swords inexpertly but with gusto.
The battle, such as it was, was short-lived. Luna hunched down, drew power into herself and let fly with the Royal Canterlot Voice.
Her overpowering roar threw ponies through the air, slamming them into the walls and pillars. She pounced on Rainbow Crash, pinning him to the floor. "Dost thou now yield? YIELD I SAY! Yield or die!"
Rainbow Crash, captain of the royal guard of Estrosia, spat blood-flecked phlegm at Luna, princess of Equestria. Then he disappeared.
For a few seconds, Luna's countenance darkened and every pony in the room shrank back in fear, even her friends. Then the princess wiped the spittle from her muzzle and raised her head, "Most vexing. It seems I have forgotten not only unicorns possess magic in this realm. Well, sirs? I now offer the same deal to you: swear fealty to me, or I will turn you to ash. What say you?"
Luna stood there, hard expression on her muzzle as she glared around the room. This was past time for clemency, now was the time for decisive actions. To her relief, one by one, every pony in the room fell to their knees.
"Know thou now this very night, that you have pledged your lives in my service, for so long as I see fit. I give thee two tasks. One, secure my new castle. Two, share the light of friendship with your former compatriots. Show them a new way of living. Go now, go!"
Luna watched as her new guards rose to their hooves and shuffled out. She turned back to her five friends, "We have much to do, and little time to do it in. Come, friends, we must begin."
Slice'n'Dice could tell when things weren't going her way; there was a particular smell in the air. The way the birds flew, the way the animals creeped about. Right now, it was the way that the crowd of dark-eyed foals crowded in on her, smiling viciously. She snarled, fluffing out her wings as she turned in a small semi-circle, backing slowly away.
"So yer one of Celeste's Six, are ya? Big whoop." A foal watched her, eyes glittering.
"I know you, little worm. Sour Note, was it? I will give you one chance: leave now, and I may yet let you live."
"I don't think you understand, Slice," Slice'n'Dice fluttered her wings in shock as the foal took a step forwards, "this here is our town. If you want to live here, you answer to us."
Slice'n'Dice snarled, flaring her wings, "And you and this army are going to make me, huh?"
Sour Note grinned, "Naa, just me. And Creepalong."
It was then that a small orange pegasus attached herself to Dice's neck, via application of teeth. Slice'n'Dice screeched, whipping her head around and throwing the pegasus off her back. Sour Note rammed her horn into Dice's chest, piercing the yellow pegasus. As the gory wound opened, with Sour Note falling to the ground amidst a hail of kicks, the pelts of both became stained with red. Dice yowled, falling back, hissing in anger. She leaped to her hooves and clamped her teeth around Sour Note's neck. Breathing with heavy, bubbling gasps, Slice'n'Dice bodily lifted the young foal into the air, where she shook her head violently left and right until something snapped and Sour Note hung limp and lifeless. Dice dropped the now-dead foal to the ground, falling to her knees also. Creepalong took that moment to scream incoherently and grab at Slice'n'Dice's head. The pegasus foal snapped at Dice's eyes, ripping and tearing, her four legs holding the elder pegasus' muzzle shut and blocking her nostrils. Slice'n'Dice, already weak, fell to her side. She thrashed, but it was clear her attempts were becoming slower and slower. Finally, she stopped moving altogether.
Callisto found her like that. The little yellow foal had been running, and she had slammed into Creepalong, the tears that had been dropping from her muzzle all but blinding her. Worse, the earthpony didn't know where they were coming from. Everything had been... perfect. It had all made sense, hadn't it? And then... and then Amanita had changed, had wanted her as a sister.
Callisto picked herself up, "Creep! I'm... what happened?"
Creepalong hissed, nickering angrily, "Mine now! They're all mine! The dark herd is mine!"
"But... I... what happened?"
"I killed Slice'n'Dice, she killed Sour Note. Now I'm going to kill you." With a primal scream, Creepalong flared her wings and bunched up to jump at the little earthpony foal.
And that was when Amanita slammed her hind hooves into the little pegasus.
Amanita had been chasing her sister ever since the square, and had fended off myriad screeching horrors to get to her. A mere pegasus foal wasn't going to stop her.
Creepalong flipped herself upright, pawing the ground.
"You come near mah sister, and I'll end you, y'hear?"
"You and what army?"
"Ah don't need an army, featherbrain, Ah'm an earthpony. I'll snap you in two without breakin' a sweat, now git!"
The ponies faced each other for a few moments, then Creepalong slunk away, her minions following her. Amanita watched them melt away into the Everscream forest, before she turned back to Callisto.
"Cally, come back to me. Ah promise-"
"Ya really promise?" Callisto felt ill, strange, like... her heart was heavy and her stomach sick.
"Ah do. It'll be new fer us, Ah promise. Ah'll make it up to you, for the rest of mah life. Somethin' new's come our way, Sis, and I want to show you it."
At that moment, something inside Callisto broke, and the tears that had blinded her came back in full force. She leaned into her bigger sister's embrace, and for the first time in what seemed like her whole life, she felt safe.
"Believe in each other, my little ponies! Hold true to yourselves, for the ritual of ascension is not for the faint of heart. With it we shall claim this land and destroy the hold it has over its own people, and our dear Twilight."
The preparations had been few, the remaining guards respectful and distant. Now was the hour of Estrosia's rebirth, as a duchy of Equestria. Luna laughed bitterly, inside. A thousand years ago she had sought to conquer one world and failed. Now here she was, doing it again.
Luna closed her eyes, squeezing them shut. From her, flowing like whispers of wind, came a presence. It was like musical notes that were just too faint to hear, tinkling in harmony. Softly, but glowing brighter by the moment, the princess began to shine. Around her, the other five Elements of Harmony burst into joyous light. Luna felt no fear as the power grew within her. For a brief moment, she had wondered if she would. The last time she had been this close to the full power of Harmony, it had consumed her, burning away all that she was. But then, she thought wryly to herself, Nightmare Moon had been nothing but a shadow cast by the brilliant yet harsh light of other minds, other entities that had subsumed her own.
This, she realised, felt different. It felt wonderful; like a song rising to a crescendo, the musical voice of each Element was added to the whole as each pony lifted gracefully and easily into the air. With a sudden burst of power, a column of bright, multi-hued light shot clear into the night sky, vaporizing every floor and ceiling of the castle as it passed. High above, almost out of sight, it exploded into a rainbow-coloured blanket of sizzling flame that grew and unfolded like the petals of some titanic flower, covering the land beneath. The petals spread, twisting then turning and growing as they sought to cover all of the Realm.
Dripping like water, the torrential flow of friendship flooded through the ancient castle on the cliff as it fell from the sky in sheets, clearing away the detritus of the old order of chaos. It sank into stone buttresses and washed through scarred courtyards, obliterating them.
It permeated every square inch of the structure, the land, and the ponies within, and where it found disharmony, it abolished it. With an ominous rumbling, the castle itself and the mountainside it was carved from, began to crumble.
"Luna! What's happening!?" Applejack shouted, twisting and turning about in the air as she watched the once-firm ground ripple and melt. The guards, the few that had remained after pledging their allegiance, were in panic and scattered in shock.
"I know not, my subjects! Stand firm, though, stand firm! We must, for the sake of Equestria, for Estrosia, and for Twilight!"
"For Twilight!" Rarity affirmed generously.
"For Twi!" Rainbow Dash echoed.
They all redoubled their efforts, and the pillar of magic glowed all the brighter, lighting Estrosia for all to see.
The spirits of the Elements of Harmony were jostled by enormous protestations of the very ground itself. The castle had been raised upon a mountain, itself formed with the powers of chaos and destruction, and now those ancient magics were being undone. The castle, and everything in it or under it, was turning to dust.
"My new loyal subjects of Equestria," shouted Luna, "Flee! Flee whilst you can!"
"Milady-" one guard protested, leaping backwards, his eyes wide with the whites showing.
"Neigh, my good pony, nothing so minor as the ground itself being eaten can sway such as I or my friends," Luna chuckled as she floated, sculling about in the whirlwind, "But thou darest not tarry. Go, run, and urge everypony else to follow."
"Yes milady!" The guard fled, and not a moment too soon. As he ran, the very ground itself beneath the weightless hooves of the six Bearers folded in upon itself and evaporated, to reveal a huge gaping tear in the fabric of the world.
"Behold," Luna said, gaze firmly fixed upon the aberration, "the chaos at the heart of Creation. This, then, is that which we were maneuvered into uncovering. We were sent to strip the world away and lay its foundations bare."
"Woah, Nelly," said Applejack, and for once not much else was said.
Beneath them, as their magic ate away at the fabric of Estrosia itself, was a gaping violent maw of churning madness, burning like the eye of a mad god. Its gaze fixated upon the Bearers, and they shuddered, drawing closer to each other instinctively. As they met, one by one, their hooves brushing lightly. Sparks flew from their manes and tails, and the warmth of friendship and love flowed between them all the stronger. Before, when they had wielded the Elements, it had been over in a flash, a brief moment of ecstasy. Now, the wave of energy flowed through them, endlessly, cycling and recycling, growing and ever changing. It was a warmth that did not burn, it held them tight in an eternal embrace, and therein they knew safety, love, security and most of all, peace.
"What is that thing?" Rainbow Dash asked, gaze locked on the glowing monstrosity.
"It is the sun, dear Dash, the sun of Estrosia. Poisoned and sick, fed with the dark hatred at the heart of this land's queen. In my time, it was the moon which ran red as blood, shedding a baleful light upon the land."
"What can we do?" Pinkie asked, almost squeaking.
Many leagues distant, Queen Celeste screamed. Her head shot up as the incandescent pillar of magic rose into the sky, decimating her castle. She roared, growling in anger, throwing the amazed alicorn Twilight Doom off her as if she were a rag doll.
"No! No! You dare!? You will NOT!" Celeste roared, spreading her wings. In a single, titanic downbeat, she sprang into the air and vanished in an apocalyptic explosion as she teleported towards Trotagel.
Howling in rage at being ignored, Twilight followed without a second thought.
As the six hung in space, grasping at each other, they felt the presence of Selena encompass them. "Stand firm, little ones, the queen of all the world comes. You must meet her, face her, and give no quarter."
"What does she mean? We're going to have to-"
Rainbow Dash never got to finish her sentence, for Celeste came screaming through the ether, lunging at them. As she plunged into the beam of power, she screeched with such ferocity that it made the ground itself - what was left of it - ring in sympathy. Her flight faltered, and down she fell, passing through into the madness below.
"Is that it?" whispered Fluttershy.
"No," Luna's eyes glittered, "it has just begun."
Far below, the brightly-glowing form of Queen Celeste seemed to grow, flowing and changing, as she plunged into the heart of the dark, twisted star beneath the world. With a ferocious roar, a beam of pure purple-tinged energy surged upwards, meeting the six Elements of Harmony. The glowing, protective warmth which had surrounded them began to fail.
"I-I'm scared, Dashie." Pinkie Pie said.
"I'm not," Fluttershy's voice was quiet and soft, "I'm here with all my friends. Our friendship defeated Nightmare Moon, I'm not scared of that evil mean queen."
Pinkie's face brightened, "Queen Meanie doesn't scare me either, then!"
Celeste, or the twisted and bloated creature she had become as the maelstrom washed over her, rose up to meet them. Her body burned with bright fire and her limbs and wings were twisted and distended, engorged with power and fury. "FOALS! You seek to defeat me?" She threw back her head and laughed, reaching out a hoof to display her treasure, "This is what your Twilight seeks, and it is so much more than your puny Elements of Harmony. This is chaos itself, barely restrained."
Celeste displayed a gem, seemingly pulled from her body. Within it shone an echo of the burning star that hung beneath the world, "This is no mere rock, it is the stuff that realms are made of." Celeste leaned closer, and Luna flared her wings in defense, "even yours."
It was then that Twilight dropped, screaming, from the sky, her hooves outstretched for the last missing fragment of the Elements of Discord. Rather than screeching in protest, Celeste laughed a raucous, hawking laugh. "And now, pretender god, I take what is mine."
"No! It is mine!" Twilight screamed, and five shards of crystal manifested in the air around her, each glowing with a different shade of darkness. As the two titans tussled, a vision of Queen Selena appeared, a wavering puff of smoke that filled out into a regal blue alicorn.
"Now, little ones. With all your heart, call to your friend. Call to Twilight. With everything Harmony has given you, call to her."
As the two alicorns hissed and spat, throwing fireballs and lightning bolts, Twilight's friends began to speak. As they spoke, the column of rainbow energy that had been ceaselessly burning ever since the ritual of ascension had begun, turned towards Twilight, and slammed into her with full force.
"Come on back, Twi, y'all done enough." Applejack stated.
"Quite, we miss you terribly. You don't need to do this." Rarity added.
"Ponyville wouldn't be the same without you, Twilight," Pinkie Pie said, smiling.
"Me and Fluttershy, we'd... we'd really miss you, egghead." Dash said, chuckling weakly.
Twilight growled, her eyes glowing with fire, but that fire merely smouldered as Fluttershy whispered, "And Spike would miss you most of all."
"...Spike?" Twilight's voice changed, from the booming growl it had become, to the soft and hesitant unicorn they all knew. "Spike..? What would... Oh Celestia! Spike! What would he think of me?"
Twilight collapsed, her wings burning away to dust in moments, and Queen Celeste pounced. She ripped the five glowing shards from the air, dragging them into herself. The single gem she had coveted, avatar of chaos itself, seemed to swell, its aura expanding outwards in a powerful field that slashed at the Elements of Harmony, knocking their bright light out. With a cry, the seven ponies all fell, holding on to each other with everything they had. It was Luna, with a quick and easy spell of protection, that saved them from immediate destruction at the forces of the maelstrom beneath them. This didn't, however, save them from the looming form of Celeste.
"Oh, you little worms. Now, only now, do you see the full power of Chaos and Destruction. This day dawns a new era, the era of Discord! Feel my fury now, as I take up my true mantle as queen, not only of this world... but of every world."
As Celeste seemed to surge forwards, the seven friends cowered. At any moment, burning death would spill upon them.
"I... I'm sorry," Twilight whispered, "I don't know..."
"It wasn't your fault, little one," Luna stated softly, "now get behind me, I am not so easily cowed as Celeste thinks. I will not die this night."
Twilight, who had squeezed her eyes shut, whimpering, opened them slowly as crushing death failed to materialize.
"Indeed, sister," said a new voice, "you will not."
Selena had joined them, appearing in a blaze of magic. She stepped forwards.
Where Celeste was titanic, Selena was beyond description. Within her relatively small frame lay all of creation. The night sky above was reflected in every pore. The stars shone at the end of every strand of hair, the galaxies burned forth from her mane and tail, and her body encompassed the deeps of outer space.
Not just her horn, but her entire body glowed brightly, and that glow encompassed Celeste in a force-field that was entirely unbreakable. In moments, Celeste's screams and roars turned to exclamations of dismay and pleadings for clemency. They were ignored, not because Selena did not care to hear them, but because she had no choice.
"It is here, now, at the death of this world, that I can show myself. Be calm, little ones; I mean you no harm. my birth-sister seeks to rule this world as she once ruled the sun... but she forgets, as does your own birth-sister, little Luna, that you and I echo not just a single star, but all stars. Even the sun itself. Behold, the true mistress of creation, and regent of Chaos."
Selena stretched forth a hoof, and somehow grasped the six brightly glowly shards of crystal. In one swift movement, she slammed them down into the burning dark star beneath the fabric of the world, twisting space with a mere thought, where it was not consumed, but fused.
"Millenia ago, Celeste sought to control Chaos. My poor, foolish sister. Chaos cannot be controlled, not even by itself. It is at the heart of all things. As she sought to control it, she fractured the one that is many, into the six. Hurt, they sought absolution and reunion. I cast them from this world that they would not remake it in their fury until I had recovered enough to heal them. In so doing, I have done thee great wrong, dear Luna, for it was those shards of star-stuff that bewitched thee so long ago, and so recently took Twilight for their own."
"You mean to say," Rarity asked, "that we aren't looking for six Elements of Discord, but one?"
"Quite, my friends. Chaos is in all things, and yet it is nothing. Chaos builds as much as it destroys. Without chaos, there is naught but stagnation forever." The strange, glowing amalgam of all that was the world smiled wryly, "Without the touch of Discord, your world would be barren, and cold."
As Selena was talking, Celeste had returned to ranting and raving, but the grip of her sister's forcefield was too much. The elder blue alicorn turned now to her younger sister, "My sister spent those millenia nursing a sick power beyond her understanding, and so far beyond her control she could not see it. Now, it has made her sick in turn. But lo, in all things does the wheels of fate turn. The Element of Chaos has been made whole once more, the many that is at the heart of all things, and it once again returns to its rightful servant, me. And my sister... shall be banished. A thousand years, dear sister. I will ache for you every second, and upon your return, a new golden age shall dawn, just like the sun in which you shall wait."
Beneath them all, the dark sun burst into golden light, rising up from the depths. It burned through Selena's forcefield, and where it passed, Celeste went with it. As it came, the dark pillar of energy which had consumed the Elements of Harmony changed into a warm wash of power. It flooded over them, searing all that was before them, as it remade the world. Where moments before had been nothing but a sick tear in the world to some evil under dimension, grew fields, flowers, trees, ponds... and finally, the castle itself grew as if from a seed, reaching for the heavens.
Up, up, up the sun rose, high into the sky, and there at the apex, it burned all the brighter.
The night fell, and day came to Estrosia.
Selena seemed to fold in on herself as the final finishing touches to her new palace were placed by her unimaginable magics. Outwardly she changed very little. It was as if previously there had been a titanic presence, seemingly small as if impossibly far off... and then suddenly, she was just a pony.
She was just a pony, and she wept.
Luna turned away from Selena, unspoken words passing between them, and she walked up to Twilight Sparkle across the sparkling marble floor. The surface was pristine, perfect and flawless. It shone, reflecting the blue sky above in a dazzling aurora. The lavender unicorn was softly sobbing, eyes closed, collapsed on the floor in a heap.
"Leave me alone." came the muffled reply.
"Twilight," Luna was gentle, but insistent, "I cannot. I know what you're-"
"You can't know how I feel!" Twilight's breath caught in her throat the second she spoke the words. Twilight sobbed, "I'm sorry." Her voice was even quieter.
"Young unicorn, I alone of all things know what you feel right now."
"I caused... I caused so much hate, so much pain!" Twilight looked up, tears streaming down her muzzle, "How do you live with it?"
"Through forgiveness. Start with those most recently or egregiously wronged, and work back from there." Luna nuzzled the lavender unicorn, licking away her tears, "Your friends love you. They will forgive easily, as if they haven't already."
A weak smile graced the muzzle of Twilight, but then faded, "Then there is one place we must go next. Poniberg. Princess, can you take us?"
Luna looked carefully at Twilight, then up at Selena, "By your leave?"
"Of course. Go, I have much to set right here first, but I shall follow. Prepare the way, my friends."
Luna nodded, and then without delay her horn began to glow. "We go now, my subjects. Be not alarmed."
"Ah never did like telep-" Applejack began, and then they were gone.
The dragon was still breathing, albeit barely. A being of dark magic is not so easily killed by mere bodily trauma. Twilight stood before Twister now, head bowed.
"I'm sorry, Twister. I... should never have done this to you. I made you a promise."
The rumbling sound that tore through the melted clearing was barely discernible as speech, but the words were clear. "Release me."
"I do. Forgive me. I stand ready for whatever retribution you feel is necessary."
The words were simple, and softly spoken, but they had a profound impact upon the dying beast. Where it had previously been groaning and heaving, puffing like bellows with the miasma and stink of fire and brimstone heavy in the air, at Twilight's words it began to breath easier. And then, it stopped breathing altogether. The old, twisted bones curled in upon themselves, fading into dust and dispersing in the wind. In moments, the dragon that Twister had become was no more.
In the middle of the clearing, translucent and faint in the light of day, was the after-image of a foal.
"You said I could be with Mommy." the foal said, words echoing oddly.
"I... lied. She's dead-"
"I'm going to go to her now."
The foal turned, and trotted away into the forest. As she went, her form grew indistinct and hazy, as if she were trotting away through fields unending. She seemed not to pass into the forest, but into somewhere... else. Momentarily, there was a glimpse of otherness, a great herd of ponies, of all sorts. The throng parted, a single unicorn called out to the approaching foal, and with a great cry of happiness, Twister bound away, and was gone.
Twilight cried again, and for many long minutes none dared disturb her. It was Luna, once again, who nuzzled the unicorn.
"Twilight, it wasn't your fault. It wasn't you."
Twilight raised her head, and shook it, "Don't you see? I took her for my own, and I had to release her. It was me, it was always me."
"Then you must learn to live with that."
"How!?" Twilight wailed.
"With time and atonement, and friends. My sister was there for me. I, and all your friends, shall be there for you."
The sun went down, the moon rose and fell, and the sun returned. With it, came a new warmth. Trotagel was gone, the mountain it had been carved out of had been levelled. Selena, still mourning the loss of her sister, had sought out Poniberg for a new capital. Lives had been shattered, the village itself had been all but destroyed by fire and ravaged by armies, but with the coming of the new queen, all that was somehow in the past, even as they were rebuilding.
Ponies, who had just a few days before been mortal enemies, now worked together. The land was healing, and so was their new queen.
Eight ponies trudged up the hill, away from Poniberg. They waved goodbye to the strangely familiar hamlet, nodded somberly in greeting to Amanita and Callisto, and forged their way through the Everscream to the secluded clearing that had greeted them.
There to meet them, was Selena.
"Here to make sure we leave, are ya?" Rainbow Dash spoke up, baring her teeth.
"Indeed, Rainbow. With my sister gone, you are the only true threat to my rule." Selena laughed when the blue pegasus fell onto her rump, "Truthfully, silly pony, I wish to say thank you. And goodbye. When you leave, the Way will be sealed, most probably for all eternity. You will be remembered."
"With respect, sister," Luna said, "so will you."
"Touche." Selena smiled. "Go in peace, brave Equestrians, and know this: for as long as I reign, Estrosia is open to you, should you find our paths cross once more. Who knows, I may seek your help. My sister's dragon is loose, her former pupil's body is missing, and I hear tales of the captain of the guard and my sister's remaining underlings making trouble. In truth, I would gladly accept your help..."
Luna shook her head, "We cannot."
"Then go in peace, but be vigilant."
Selena's horn glowed, the power encompassing the small group, and then with a flash, they were gone.
Spike was cleaning the library. He didn't really need to. For some reason, books weren't being strewn about much these days. The ponies that did come and borrow books were kind and courteous. He suspected a lot of them didn't even read, they just... he paused, choking back a sob. Life had gotten back to normal in Ponyville quite quickly, for some. For most, to be honest. Sweet Apple Acres had been hit the hardest; they'd never been flush with workers, and with the... the loss, he shuddered again, the loss of Applejack they'd had to bring in other members of the Apple family to help. Angel had taken over Fluttershy's cottage, Sweetie Belle had gone to live with her parents, the mail had gone missing when Dinky had tried to cover for her mom... and over that all, the distinct pall of fear; What if they don't come back...
It was then that there was a hesitant knocking at the front door.
"I'm coming! I'm coming! Hold your horsefeathers..."
When the door opened, he didn't recognize the mare for a moment. She was thin, haggard, and the circles under her eyes were thick and heavy... but then a smile lit his muzzle, and he threw himself at her, hugging her for all he was worth.
"I missed you Twilight. Don't ever go away again! Promise?"