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An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Midnight Shadow
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic © Hasbro and Lauren Faust. Please support the official release
There was barely a lull in the fighting, nary a breathing space. Celestia was exhausted but still she barked orders. The battle had long since ceased to have any sense of order, it was pure chaos, blood, sweat and tears. Several buildings were on fire, Rarity’s shop was a wreck and the Cake’s cake shop had seen better days. She was doing her best to keep her people alive, but for every enemy soldier she or her people felled, there seemed to be another take their place.
“Third Battalion reports heavy skirmishing on the East side, Princess, but Intel thinks it’s a feint.” said the flier, a young, worried-looking cream-coloured Pegasus with light brown mane and tail. Whiskey Jack, the Princess remembered, supposedly a distant relative, but then many were these days. The boon and curse of immortality, a long Winter’s Solstice Card List but few to truly spend it with.
“Aye, that it is, Ma’am, their forces have been circling us around Eastward ever since the sun dipped in the West. That’ll be where they’ll be coming from next, you mark my wo-” began Stormbringer.
The general didn’t manage to finish his sentence before a bright, powerful flash lit the darkening skies, brighter than the sun, and a huge column of light rocketed skyward. Seconds later came the rumbling forces of nature as the ground was stressed and the air rent asunder.
Celestia narrowed her eyes, but General Stormbringer was faster, “The Everfree Forest?”
“It makes sense General; the pegasus-mage who was taking measure of my sister was headed off in that direction.” Celestia’s muzzle was troubled.
“Is your sister..?”
“Princess Luna is... she is safe.” Princess Celestia closed her eyes, feeling for the link with her sibling, “She is worried, frightened, but safe. She comes even now.”
Like a bolt of blue lightning, Princess Luna fell out of the sky in a glowing swirl of light and reformed, shaken, breathing hard, but otherwise unharmed, “We may..." she caught her breath, “we may have just got our Season’s Gift come early, dear sister, or otherwise we may already be doomed. The Nightmare army is here. Our foreign enemies just met our domestic, both seek to take what is ours. If ever your powers and mine, and the Elements of Harmony, are to protect what we hold dear, we must strike. Do not hold back.”
Celestia bowed her head, troubled, “Luna, so long ago as we battled, we decimated untold tracts of land, the very hell-hole that has spawned the second army on our doorstep was the result of our last foray into battle.”
“Celestia, if you do not act, all that you have fought for, all that I now seek to share - in friendship - will be lost.”
“Then gather your cohorts, my dear. We ride. General Bucephalus, I am promoting you to Field Marshal with all rights, privileges and responsibilities thereof. I trust you are worthy.”
Buck inclined his head, landing beside his Princess and bowing, one forehoof outstretched, “I shall do my utmost.”
“I know you will,” she gave him a tender kiss on the forehead, “keep your ponies safe. Keep yourself safe.” Then she rose up into the air on her great, white wings and flew into the thick of battle.
The fighting was desperate. The invading army, harried from behind by Twilight’s nightmare forces, surged forward unceasingly, without flinching even in the face of death. Celestia’s forces were hard-pressed to avoid complete annihilation let alone stem the tide, the first infantry battalion had already suffered heavy losses but would not fold, not whilst there was a mare or stallion left to defend their homeland.
Celestia and her reinforcements were just in time, though she wasn’t sure it would be enough. As yet another pony fell, the sight twisting a knife in her heart ever deeper, she leaped into action, bringing her power to bare. She lowered her head, concentrated, and shot a beam of pure energy from her horn at the battlefield. Where it struck, the light was incandescent, it threw her enemies across the field and her cheering, charging subjects surged into the breach.
“I grant you my boon, brave soldiers!” she called from on high, “May it carry you onwards to glory and victory!” she threw back her head as she swooped over the advancing tide and sang lightly, wings, tail and mane glowing with all the colours of the aurora, powerful in the darkness. As if in response, glowing brighter with every note, the hooves, mane and tail of her soldiers shone gold and they felt renewed vigour and health.
The advance was one-sided however, as bold lightning shot out from the sidelines. Groups of unicorn-mages attacked the princess, attempting to bring her down, or at least harry her and halt her attempts at succour. Celestia brought her wings together in one mighty downbeat, a thunderclap rent the air and a blast of wind assailed her opponents. They moved as one, shielding with a bright plasma-bubble and lunged out again with tendrils of fire. Celestia ducked under them easily and skipped across the pothole-strewn battleground, where her hooves touched burst bright flames seemingly without fuel, lighting the night with dancing shadows. Celestia’s own mages retaliated, with their sudden ability to see the previously-hidden enemy they could do more than rescue the injured or fend off the bold. With multi-coloured lightning streaking the sky, the battle was joined.
Bubbly Grime snarled and barked orders, choking the life from a hapless soldier too slow to move before she threw the body to the demons barely held in check by her magic and the spears and shields of those left behind to secure the landing.
The worst had been the zombie hordes, slow, stinking, filthy creatures; long-dead ponies, ancient boars, rotten wolves, they were hard to stop and almost impossible to kill. Enough bites infected the victim, and minutes or hours later, depending on when their own life-force faltered and died, they would rise again. Above this all was a whirling, cackling demoness, spewing green boiling fire from her mouth, slaying her own minions as indiscriminately as she decimated Bubbly Grime’s. Her abject hate of all existence was the only thing tempering her unnatural forces. Bubbly had had enough. She took to the skies and headed straight for the purple, glowing monstrosity, where she lashed out with hoof, teeth and wing, screaming incoherently with rage, stabbing with her horn.
Twilight Doom laughed, a deep throaty laugh and threw off the attack with one single swipe of her great torn batlike wings, “Foolish mare, to think you can touch me. You stink of dark magic but your power is weak, your spirit falters.”
“I will tear you limb from limb and feast on your entrails!” screeched Bubbly Grime as the pair slammed into each other, lofted fireballs and kicked, sliced and spat. The match only halted when a bright plume of red fire foamed down from the heavens.
“Dragons?” hissed Twilight, “you bring dragons?” she growled and fled from the startled mage-pegasus, heading towards the fireball with murderous intent.
“Those are not our dragons..." said Bubbly, dumbly, before swearing and heading back to the landing. She lashed out with her hatred and anger, searing burning wave after burning wave of liches and gibbering parasites before harrying her surviving minions towards Celeste the Sun Tyrant and the rest of the invading forces. Dragons were something new. Bubbly idly wondered what other surprises the resourceful, annoying folk of Equestria would come up with.
Celeste was furious, her triumphant emergence into Equestria had gone wrong even before the echoes of her first spells had faded. This land was supposed to be undefended! Pastoral! Instead she faced an army - a small and untested army, but an army all the same - of well-armoured earth-ponies, squads of powerful battle-mages and a barricaded, prepared populace. This was before she even contemplated the nightmarish horde which had severely impeded her advances. The only thing to go right so far was when she felt the answering vibrations from the other Elements of Discord sing in her blood, calling out to her. They would be hers, and when she had them she would crush these pathetic weaklings beneath her hooves, rip the sun from its orbit and dash it to earth, squeeze the moon until it burst... they would pay for not abasing themselves before her and offering up what was rightly hers.
She snarled, “find me that idiot Big Mouth and get him here, have Sky Reaver and Demon Claw bolster our aerial defences and whip those useless mages into order, I will not be denied my victory!”
“At once, my Queen.” The red pegasus was breathing hard, cuts and bruises marring his otherwise handsome, if cruel, face and body.
“Rainbow Crash... just what has happened to you?”
“War madame, war happened.”
“I heard a young sky-blue filly bested him in aerial combat,” suggested a rich voice, cruel laughter echoing with every syllable
Crash turned, snarling, “you keep your whore mouth shut or you’ll not look so pretty, Vanity, I don’t see you out there fighting.”
“A lady’s place is not on the front lines, some of us have more important work to do.”
“You wouldn’t know the meaning of the word.” spat Crash, and he flicked his tail angrily and took off, looking for the delinquent red earth-pony.
Celeste turned to Vanity with a smile, “as much as I adore our sessions when he is angry, I feel he is right. Make your mark, Vanity, ply your trade.”
Vanity looked in horror at the maelstrom beneath them, perched on her cloud, “Moi? Down there?”
“If you don’t,” added Celeste, “I will pluck out every single one of those glorious feathers of yours and line my seat-cushions with them. Especially the ones that don’t grow back.”
Vanity fluffed up and sniffed, “As you wish, my queen.”
Vanity was a pegasus-mage of Estrosia, well-trained in the darker arts. As she flew over the heads of friend and foe alike, her subtle magic wended it’s way into the hearts of the fighters. Her own were bolstered with courage, the enemy... the enemy felt despair, anger, hatred of fellow ponies. Soon there were swings of mouth-held swords going astray, hoof-kicks missing their marks and unfortunate accidents aplenty. She laughed a cruel, hollow laugh and readied herself for a second display.
Celestia was barking orders again, the furious assault of the invaders - she still didn’t know where they were from or what they wanted though their intent appeared obvious - had reached a crescendo and her own troops were in disarray. Fireballs sizzled down from the sky, igniting all they touched. Both sides deployed battle-mages; her own were purely unicorn, but the enemy seemed to be using unicorns and pegasus both, she wondered at that.
Her defences were crumbling, her forces scattering, the line would break... she was about to order a full retreat when with a screeching and flappng of wings, golden shapes dropped from the skies to tear and harry the advancing enemy earth-ponies, rage fuelling them as the hook-beaked, clawed monstrosities threw their might into the ring. One such shape alighted on the cloud where Celestia stood, he was standing proud though almost breathless. She half-spread her wings in surprise and two pegasus guards leaped forwards, but after a moment she waved them off with a smile on her face. It was a weary smile, but a smile nonetheless.
“Prince Valaar, I presume,” Celestia addressed the large, feathered and haughty-looking male griffon coolly for all she was inwardly relieved of his presence.
“Ah, Princess Celestia,” he intoned, accenting the princess as if it were an insult more than a title, “it is so good to see you again. What, pray tell, lead you to send the People of the Great High Reaches such a missive as I found in my claws this morning?”
“See for yourself, young prince, I invite you to war.”
“And why, dear princess, do you presume to think I or my people would have the slightest interest in fighting and dying for you?”
“Your father’s people, young prince, should be interested in only one thing. I offer you that which you most crave, but the offer is short and I am fickle of temper. I offer you horse-meat.”
The griffon blinked, momentarily taken aback, “How is this? You offer us your own, rogue subjects?”
“Those are not my subjects, dear prince, they are interlopers, vagrants, charlatans, pretenders and usurpers and they are yours to do with as you please whilst they lay arms against me or my people.” Celestia pointed with a wing, sweeping it across the devastation below, “but beware, prince; I feel every blow laid upon my people in my realm - and this is my realm - if you or any of your subjects so much as muss a single hair of a mane on one of my subjects it will not be turkey I offer to the meat-eating delegates at Midwinter’s Feast, is that clear?”
“You dare to threaten-”
“Young prince, I dare to gut you right now if you so much as raise your voice or look at me with impertinence... but calm yourself, we are all friends here and I have put on a candle-lit feast for you.” she gestured again, this time with a hoof.
The griffon-prince looked at the land below, dotted with walking hors d’ouevres and screeched loudly, “you have a deal, Princess Celestia. My warbirds and I, We will fight, we may die, but we will feed.”
“Agreed. So much easier than cremation, so much less mess.”
As the griffon and his forces engaged the enemy with a hearty, blood-thirsty vigour, one of the pegasus-generals alighted, “madame, our cause is dire but can they be trusted?”
“In all my time as your Princess, they have never reneged on an agreement. They are a strange, warlike race, quick to anger, quicker to strike. Many wrongs have been committed between them and us but when they have given their word they have never been known to cross it.”
“And the dragons?”
“The dragons are old allies, many of them as old as the hills and several older than I. The flights they sent are young, juvenile, but capable. We may yet see tomorrow.”
For a time the war had been going well for the Estrosian invaders - until the dragons acted. With searing bolts of red and orange flame, the dragons attacked en masse. They were seemingly impervious to the frantic mages of Estrosia, roaring their defiance and sweeping the unicorns and pegasi alike off their perches. They dove at the soldiers, scattering them like cattle.
The shape of the battle changed in moments. The screeching roar of the winged bringers of fire sent fighters from both sides scrambling for cover. In the confusion, the griffons struck. They fell from the skies, powerful front talons outstretched where they would land, piercing the flanks of the stunned earth-ponies. Some barely bothered to escape with their prizes and just dipped great, bloody hooked beaks to feed on the weakly-struggling ponies clutched in their death-grips.
Crash found Big Mouth, or what was left of him, struggling feebly to get up. His left rear leg was missing, nothing but a bloody stump to show for it. Great rents of griffon-claws had torn open his insides, spilling steaming entrails onto the slick, wet grass.
“I think you’ve finally found your niche, dear friend,” said Crash, weaving his head about as he checked for dangers. The wide, white and bloodshot eyes of his ‘friend’ spoke volumes, but Crash just sneered, “like all bad apples, only fit to feed the worms.”
Crash took off as vaguely pony-shaped gasts, hungry ghosts made of nothing but teeth, claws, shadow and and endless, hellish appetite, closed in, chittering and wailing, flexing fang-filled mouths to impossible angles as they began to feed. Big Mouth’s last breaths were spent screaming.
Rainbow Dash dodged the fluttering scratching batwings of some impossibly-skinny flying creature and barrel-rolled through the air trying to shake off three more. With a screech overhead, a dark shape collided with her and bounced off. Rainbow cried out in pain as feathers and flesh were rent free of her body, but the shape had torn off the biting terrors too, twisting them into flailing lumps of dead flesh before throwing them to the ground.
“It’s nice to see you, Lady Prism Radiance Windemere Silverhoof.” said Gilda, circling.
Dash’s mouth opened for a brief moment in surprise before a small smile graced her lips, “it’s nice to see you too, Lady Wildfeather Longwing Strongbeak of the High Reaches Clan... Titles, such a mouthful, can’t we just stick to you calling me Dash, and me calling you Gilda?”
“Just like old times in Junior Speedsters, huh?”
“No, no Gilda, not like old times. These are my people now.”
“You’ve never even told them who you really are.”
“I’m Rainbow Dash, the best filly flier in all of Equestria, I don’t need a title to be that. You don’t need a title to be my friend.”
“Still loyal to what we had, huh?”
“Still loyal to my friends, as long as my friends stop being such huge butts.”
“I... I missed you Dash. Call this payback for how I acted.” The griffon princess was hesitant, nervous.
“Apology accepted, Gilda.”
The griffon and the pegasus pony embraced awkwardly in the air and split, swirling around to rejoin the fray.
The fighting was sporadic now; the only army still more or less intact was Twilight’s and that was because she could raise the dead as animated meat-puppets dancing to her wicked whim. Applejack and her brother Big Mac found themselves in the middle of a circle, surrounded by the moaning, groaning, fetid walking dead. they were breathing hard, neither were uninjured, Big Mac had lost part of his ear and Applejack’s tail was noticeably shorter.
“Well, Big Mac, looks like it was nice knowin’ ya.”
They touched noses briefly before turning back to fight, but the universe had other plans. Pinkie Pie bounced in to the circle and gave her friends a huge hug. The coffee had worn off but she was unbowed. She was Pinkie.
“You here for the last goodbye, Pinks?”
“Last goodbye? Why, you going somewhere?”
“Oh, you mean goodbye to them? Hee hee! That’s a great idea!”
Pinkie was mad, Applejack was sure of that, she’d gone loopy, around the bend, batty, off with the fairies, she was... she was... she was laughing?
Pinkie bounced around the circle, spinning and kicking any undead horror that got too close, but somehow her demeanor was having a positive effect on the other two ponies.
“Don’t they look silly? I mean look at them! How can they stand up!” she giggled, “Every time the wind blows hard their legs fall off! And then... and then if their heads fall off they have to stop and pick ‘em up! Have you ever seen something so ridiculous?”
Pinkie laughed, and she laughed, and she guffawed, and she giggled, and pretty soon Applejack and Big Mac were laughing too despite themselves. The horde stopped, and stepped back, but it was too late. As Pinkie passed, giggling and chortling as she went, it was like a fresh summer breeze. The jewel on her chest glowed a bright rosy pink and as the hyerpactively happy pink party pony bounced, little flashes of light sparked from her hooves and the horde melted in their wake. They fell down into little neat piles of dust and bones, and despite themselves the trio found themselves laughing all the harder. Like a great wave of happiness, the laughter spread and everywhere it touched the nightmares faded away.
Celestia landed with a heavy thump, followed by Luna. The two monarchs lent their voices to the throng and as she spread her wings, Celestia began to glow with a warm golden light, banishing the darkness.
“Everything looks better in the morning,” said Luna softly, laughing still as day broke on the war, “even I, Princess of the Moon, know that.”
Twilight Doom was furious, she would not be denied! Her nightmare army was in disarray, those that weren’t simply annihilated by the ridiculous gem-bearers and their thrice-damned Element of Laughter. Celestia had called in powerful new allies and crushed those other invading fools with her magic. To round it off, her teeth were on edge. The voices were insistent now, louder, telling her she could be greater still if their siblings could be found.
“Leave me you demons! I am complete! I am powerful!”
“Still greater you could be... the Element of Chaos is calling out to us..."
“The Element of Lust would give you so much more... enjoyment.”
Twilight roared, “Then take me to them! They will be mine!”
Twilight’s advance, ignoring her army for all it’s hell-bent destruction, was halted by one thing. Six ponies. That pathetic mewling foal, Luna, had dropped to the ground and joined her friends, bringing all six bearers of the elements of harmony together. She would strike, she would triumph and she would rule...
“Woah Nelly,” said Applejack as the first tremors started, “are they openin’ another o’ them portal doodads?”
Luna shook her head, “I think not, this is something else... a portal perhaps, but not to any place I feel ponykind could flourish..."
The sky grew dark with roiling stormclouds, pregnant with rain and flashing with fire as the ground ripped itself to pieces before them, great gaping cracks split and earth, trees, soldiers and nightmares alike fell screaming into a black bottomless abyss out of which came nothing but a rancid, fetid stench like the recent dead, rotten meat from the kill of a carnivore, left in the sun.
“Step back my friends, I fear this is something other than mere theatrics. I recognize this creature, though I wish I did not... cover your ears, look away..."
Despite Luna’s warning, the ponies looked upon the very face of madness itself, a force barely held in check with Luna’s powerful magical shield. Out of the hole into some dark nether-realm of insanity and cruelty climbed the thing. It rose on slick tentacles with hundreds of fanged mouths, ripping and tearing at anything they could reach, and those tentacles could reach far. They lashed out, latching on to any warm, living creature within reach and, dragging itself out of the hole at the same time, dragged its victims towards it. The worst thing though was the sound it made. Mewling kittens, crying foals, lost lambs - it spun tales of woe and tragedy that tugged at the heart and blinded the senses, it whispered of carnal delights beyond fathoming if one would only stop resisting and just come closer...
There was no screaming, not even as horns and fangs slit throats and bellies, tore armour as it torn limb from limb, broke bones and devoured the flesh of everything it came into contact with.
Twilight Doom, the Nightmare Queen, was laughing; deep, burning, scornful calls that alternated between mocking and screaming as she circled up above, “Now you see, now you know the power of nightmares. I am the nightmares. I bring them to you and none can resist. I will lay waste to this world, render it nothing but fat and meat spoiling in the sun before I quench that senseless ball of light and devour it. Then, dear Luna,” Twilight flew lower, Luna pawed the ground and snarled in answer, “the night will last forever, but it will be my night, darkness and pain for an eternity!”
“When will you just learn to shut up!” came a defiant voice. A light blue unicorn with sky blue mane and shattered horn pawed the ground, “You already gave me my nightmares, and you know what? It has no power over me.”
“What is she... is she serious?” asked Rainbow Dash, turning in shock at the new voice of Trixie, broken but unbowed, injured but resolute.
“She’s serious alright, we gotta help her!” replied Applejack.
The six watched in horror as the hornless unicorn pawed the ground and charged the nightmare beast. She struck it full on, and the creature seemed unable to retaliate for a moment, the very idea that something would attack it seemed entirely foreign.
“We simply have to help her!” said Rarity, bringing her flying attack scissors to bear, harrying biting tentacles where she could.
“I’d laugh,” said Pinkie with a gulp, “but I’m not sure it could hear me! What do we do?”
“Muffins!” said Ditzy Doo.
“This ain't no time..."
Ditzy Doo shook her head, “muffins!” she said again, and pointed to her chest and then to each of their jems in turn.
“I... can we do that again?”
“We must. We simply must.”
Luna nodded and took a deep breath, her horn started to glow, as did her gem - as did the gems of her friends. All six, the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, stood as one.
“But... why? How? We have to do something!”
“I... I don’t know how!” sobbed Luna, panic rising on her face.
Trixie wasn’t stopping, she was cut, she was bruised, she was bleeding, she’d lost an ear, she’d lost half her tail but she was furious, “YOU THRICE DAMNED HELLSPAWN,” she screamed, “YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME! I REJECT YOU! I DEFY YOU! I FIGHT YOU! AND I WILL. NOT. STOP!”
“We have to help her! I’m not waiting! I won’t leave a friend!” Dash took off, and as she moved the gem glowed all the brighter.
It was Rarity who reacted next, “I am with you! I offer my help!”
Applejack twigged, and smiled, “In all honesty, I can’t stay out of this one.”
“I... I’ll help too. For the muffins!” said Ditzy Doo, which caused Pinkie to laugh harder than she had before.
“Oh Derpy, you so silly.” at that, her gem too was burning a bright cheery pink
“And now I see,” said Luna, a determined smile on her face, “the true magic of friendship.”
Trixie was screaming incoherently now, flashing hooves and teeth embroiled in a death-struggle with the beast from some unknown hell, and she was losing... until the glorious, burning rainbow summoned by the bearers of the Elements of Harmony sliced out of the sky like a titanic blade and bore it’s way into the creature, which threw back what passed for a head and screamed a rattling ululation as it dissolved to slime, then shadows, then nothing at all. The rainbow wake spread out, igniting the very air with multi-coloured sparks, burning away the nightmare army as if it had never been.
In the middle of the devastation was a unicorn, light blue, with a lighter mane, a magic wand sprinkling pixie dust as a cutie mark, and a pearly, pristine horn that glowed like the sun. She stood up, bathing in the multcoloured shower of magic and threw back her head and laughed, dancing for joy. She had faced her nightmares, faced them down, and won.
Twilight, burnt by the magic of the rainbow, screamed her defiance but once again found herself unwilling, perhaps unable, to intervene personally. Even the voices were arguing against it now; they whispered and wheedled. She was incomplete, with only four of her own elements she could not stand against the awakened six. She needed all the colours of the dark rainbow, and the last two were close, so very, very close... she fled in search of them.
Trixie looked up into the faces of her new friends and couldn’t help but smile, despite everything, “It’s back.” she said, eyeing her horn, going cross-eyed which only made Pinkie giggle, before she continued softly, “I’m back.”
“Y’all ready to be the Great and Powerful Trixie again, huh?” asked Applejack, with a frown
“I... I’ll take a raincheck on that one. I couldn’t have done... whatever I did... without you.”
“If you have learned that, then perhaps,” said Luna, “some good has come out of this.”
Celeste was mounted on her dragon, his effortless tonnage floating through the skies with raw magic boiling off of his great wings and she sneering down at the chaos beneath. If she couldn’t have victory, she would have annihilation. “I’ll see you burn..." she whispered, her horn glowed red and sheets of flame sprung up from fissures in the ground or rained down from the clouds.
“Two can play at that game, usurper!” yelled Celestia, finally coming face to face with her double. She stamped a hoof. The dragon Celeste was riding bucked in what appeared to be pain as flames shot out from his nostrils and behind his eyes, “dragons are not so flameproof from the inside, you know.”
Celeste hissed, focusing her magic on quenching the flames and simultaneously lashing out at her winged unicorn double. The red heat from the land below - hot enough to have formed glass in places - rose, buffeting the pair and throwing them around like leaves in a whirlwind.
“Your meager powers cannot hope to stand up to mine! I am no mere princess, no mewling foal still wet behind the ears, barely earning the throne I sit upon, I am a queen! I have the power of the Elements of Discord behind me!” Celeste spread her wings, and there seemingly tatooed on their undersides were two stars that glowed with their own unearthly light.
Celestia looked aghast at the winged unicorn queen before her, “What are you..?”
“Your worst nightmare..."
“I beg to disagree, ladies,” shouted Twilight with a cackle as she swooped down on the two, “but I believe I am the queen of nightmares, and you,” she turned to queen Celeste, her face a mask of hatred, “you have something that belongs to me, and I will have it and your hide..."
Celeste’s hackles raised, “Bubbly Grime,” she called, “deal with this pathetic princess whilst I deal with the bearer of my Elements of Chaos.”
Bubbly Grime, who had been fleeing from the combined dragon and griffon attack, turned to look up at Celestia.
“You... you don’t have to do this,” said Celestia softly, “renounce your queen and lay down your arms, I will give amnesty.”
“I don’t need any charity from you or your kind,” spat Bubbly, “I never have and I never will.”
“As you wish.” Celestia readied herself, closing her eyes - the power within her grew and she spread wings of fire that reached from horizon to horizon. When her eyes opened they were twin orbs of flame barely held in check by her monumental will.
Bubbly Grime screeched obscenities and with a roar launched a powerful blast of balefire towards the hovering princess.
Celestia spoke but a single word, and that word was “Now.”
With that, Philomena, the princess’ prized phoenix, swooped out of the heavens to take stanchion in front of the monarch. She raised her beak to the sky and spread her wings in a single glorious down-beat in time with the princess’ own. As her wing-tips met, the bright glow from the magical beast grew even brighter, Celestia channelling all of her power through the bird in a single fireball brighter than the sun. It grew so bright that none could bear to look at it. All save Bubbly Grime averted their gaze, even Celeste the Sun Tyrant. Like the finger of some enormous cosmic creature reaching out to touch the fabric of creation, heat and light bore down on the faltering shield of the distressed pegasus-mage.
Celeste snarled as she watched her faltering favourite fight back against the pillar of sunlight bearing down upon her, “You fool!” she called above the burning, crackling air, fighting off bolt after bolt of energy from the insanely posessed purple winged unicorn demoness, “You bring me here to face not yokels and dunderheads but a mistress of magic near my own might and glory! If it weren’t for you and your stupid schemes I would have bested this witch in moments. Now? Now you will pay for your lack of vision, your lack of talent and your inability to perform.”
“Celeste, Mistress!” squeaked Bubbly Grime, sweat pouring from her forehead, “Do not forsake me-”
Celeste withdrew her boon with the single slice of her horn through the air and the glowing plasma-shield which was already buckling under the furious assault simply collapsed and failed. For a brief moment, a brief incandescent moment, Bubbly Grime’s world burned brighter than a thousand suns, and then it, and she, were gone.
“So end all traitors to the crown.” Celeste snarled and flung a fireball at Twilight before calling out, “Fall back! Fall back I say! Retreat!”
Celeste opened the portal to her own world barely long enough to get her own prized minions through. It started to close almost immediately; straggling, desperate soldiers hurried as best as they could through it. The majority would make it, not all would be so lucky.
The tyrant monarch turned to the circling Twilight Doom, calling out, “Nightmare Queen! I am the bearer of the last two, and greatest, Elements of Discord! Come take them from me if you dare! I will rip out your wings and feed them to my dragons! I will boil your eyes for my servants and I will personally skin your hide for my throne you weak-willed foal! Come take them from me if you dare, you coward!”
The furious Twilight Doom slammed into the closing portal moments before it faded from existence, screeching like a banshee as she did.
It closed with a snap and a rumble of thunder, leaving the broken battlefield finally at peace.
Celestia surveyed the damage. Hundreds of brave fighters lost, maybe thousands. Buildings destroyed. Ponyville wouldn’t be in one piece for a long time to come and there were many lives that never would. Then there was the other problem, though that was hopefully simple to deal with and there was no time like the present.
She addressed the assembled ranks of prisoners, they flinched and shook under her gaze, but she spoke quietly and without malice, “Yesterday you were soldiers. This morning you were enemy combatants. Today I give you a choice. Tomorrow you may be citizens of Equestria,” she paused and looked up at the waiting griffon horde, “or tomorrow you may be lunch. I have no plans to repatriate soldiers, there is no cease-fire and I cannot be sure there ever will be. As absolute ruler of this realm, I offer you a free choice. Fulfill your original purpose or choose a new one as my subjects. Bow to me, open your hearts, and I will set you free. The alternative is one last, glorious battle.”
“Princess!” said Buck, hobbling - he had lost all the feathers on one wing and would likely never fly again, “That is monstrous!”
Princess Celestia stiffened, “I offer them what every warrior wants - a glorious death. I also offer them what every soldier wishes - a way home.
“But how can you..."
“Buck,” she said softly, “you of all ponies should know I speak truly. If they submit to me, they will be my subjects like any other.”
“What if they do not?”
“Then that is their choice. They will be given their weapons, they will be given their armour and they will be set free, but they will roam in a world hostile to them - my treaties with the griffons, the dragons, the sea-serpents - none of them are binding on alien invaders.”
One by one, the soldiers bowed their knees and swore fealty. Wordless, almost soundless. When they dipped their heads down, they were defeated, without hope, without life. When their heads came up it was as if a weight had been taken from their hearts. A murmur went through the crowd and Celestia eagerly stepped forwards, “If that is your choice, then welcome, welcome, thrice welcome, new sons and daughters of Equestria!”
A ragged cheer went up, echoed by Celestia’s soldiers who, only moments before, had been guarding prisoners and now found themselves welcoming brethren.
The glade was silent. The sun had long ago gone down, the moon still rising, when the grey pegasus entered. Mere hours ago it had been the scene of a climactic battle which still raged somewhere beyond the senses of mortal ponies. Ditzy Doo would have to face that battle still, but not tonight. Tonight she had to deliver a message.
The wall was all that was left of whatever building had been here in ages past. Until recently it had been a part of the Everfree Forest, overgrown and forgotten, but now that ancient and wild growth had been burnt away, quite literally. The floor was glassy smooth, the wall itself bleached white but for a fine, black shadow of soot, barely visible in the moonlight.
Ditzy Doo walked up to the wall and nuzzled it softly, the soot collecting on her muzzle. She took a letter from a bag around her neck - she was the mail mare of Ponyville but rarely wrote her own. This letter was different. No stamps, no address. She put it down on the floor, and then took out a muffin and put it beside it.
“I don’t know why you were mad,” said Ditzy Doo, “but you could’ve come lived with us, with Papa and Mama and me and Dinky. You would have made a good sister. I always wanted a sister.”
Ditzy Doo nosed the muffin and the letter towards what was left of Bubbly Grime, “I brought these for you. I promised you a muffin, I’m sorry it’s late. I wrote you a letter too, Dinky had to help because I don’t write too well, but she says it is as neat and correct as she can make it. I wanted the best for my long-lost sister. I just... I just wanted to tell you I love you. Some pony loves you, and I forgive you.”
Ditzy Doo looked around at a rustle in the bushes, it was Spike, “Hi Derpy... I mean Ditzy Doo... are you okay?”
Ditzy Doo sniffled, “Yes, I... I just came to say goodbye to my sister. I always wanted a sister. I told her I loved her, do you think she knows?”
Spike looked at the shadow on the wall and breathed a deep sigh, “I think she’d be pleased to have some pony love her as much as you do. I think she’d like the muffin, too. Come on, let’s get home.“
It rained that night, a cleansing rain, washing the fields and watering the grass, bringing new life back to the devastated countryside. When the wall was found as the cleanup progressed, it was bleached white as snow as if there had never been a shadow. The muffin was gone, so was the letter.
Most said the rain had washed it away, and animals taken the muffin and the wind the letter, but a few wondered, when their hearts skipped a beat, whether the message had been delivered and if it had set a troubled soul free.
In a faraway land beyond the veil of realities, Fluttershy was alone in a palace set deep into a mountain, it was cold in her cage and she hadn’t had food or water in what seemed like days. It was so like the Canterlot she had seen in pictures, but still the wrongness pervaded the air.
There were hoofsteps in the darkness and Fluttershy whimpered, “I’ll sing for you, I’ll sing, I promise, don’t hurt me again..."
She was preparing to open her mouth and sing like the caged bird she was, when the low hissing voice of the approaching pony reached her ears, “if you value your life, stay quiet... I’ll have this open in moments. Come with me if you want to live.”
The gilded cage swung open, Fluttershy was just stepping out when the guards cried out, “HALT! Who goes there?” A swift blast of lightning later and there were two thumps as the unconscious guards dropped to the floor.
“Damn, I didn’t want to alert anypony until long after we were gone. Come with me, now!”
Fluttershy, not wanting to stay in the cage a moment longer, did as she was bid. They slipped out of the throne-room into the darkness of the castle grounds and, hopefully, to safety.