Princess Celestia, Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, and the two Pegasi guards that had driven the three to Ponyville were trapped in a feeling of terror as they saw their beloved townsponies under a spell very foreign to them. Random ponies were shambling through town, overcome by a tinge of green consuming their bodies as well as strands of thin, black veins running down the sides of their heads. Some were morbidly obese and others were quite larger than their original builds. They were all eating vast quantities of anything edible or not edible, with those eating things inedible having thin streams of blood dripping down their faces, with teeth missing from the things they realized they couldn’t eat.
“Yer highness,” Applejack said, staring vacantly at the zombie-like ponies. “What in the hay is goin’ on?”
Princess Celestia shared the same facial expression as Applejack, in which Twilight Sparkle and the two royal guardsponies that escorted them to Ponyville each emulated. Celestia was puzzled as to how the Hive was working its way through ponies like this, making them gorge themselves to obscene physical idiosyncrasies.
“I’m… I’m not sure,” Celestia managed to utter. “It’s a work of the ooze, but I haven’t the faintest idea as to why.”
Twilight Sparkle, fulfilling her inquisitive nature, set forth to communicate with the shambling dredges that existed before them to better know the situation at hoof.
“Excuse me, madam,” Twilight tried to say to a mare trying to eat a rock slowly but surely. “But what is it that you all are doing?”
The pony immediately ceased trying to eat the rock in favor of potentially recruiting one to their cause.
“I must eat to feed my brood mother,” the pony replied in a heavy monotone. “She hungers, and I am to feed her.”
“What does that mean?” Applejack chimed in. “What does she mean by ‘mother?’”
“She’s talking about the ooze Discord created,” Celestia almost snapped back, trotting up to the feasting mare, who had already looked obese, and touched her horn to her head. “She’s afflicted by the Hive, just as you were, Applejack. I will try to free her of this plague.”
Twilight then saw that her beloved mentor’s horn was glowing bright, prepped with the same spell she had cast on Applejack in Canterlot. She looked diligent, and, with a flash of white light, the afflicted mare lay on the ground, confused and in pain.
“What happened?” the mare questioned her ruler, now noticing her newfound girth. “And why am I so… fat?”
“You were under the spell of a wicked entity,” Celestia boldly yet pragmatically stated, daring as to not go near conveying the idea of a nearby, tangible threat. “You must evacuate Ponyville. Talk to nopony, and bring nothing with you. Go, quickly!”
And with the importance in the princess’s voice, the mare galloped off, not adjusted to her new form, to escape from Ponyville, with Celestia showing the signs of enduring pain.
“My liege!” one of the guardsponies from the chariot cried as he went to her side to aid her. “Are you alright?”
“I’m… fine…” Celestia replied, looking only slightly beleaguered. “It’s just the pain from absorbing a part of the Hive. That’s all.”
“Do you think you can cure all of these ponies before their ‘mother’ comes back?” Twilight asked. “Because it looks like she’s coming soon, whoever she is.”
“The Hive is near,” Celestia responded. “I can sense it.”
“Are ya sure it’s not what’s in all of these other ponies?” Applejack queried. “Because you said that there Hive was in all of ‘em.”
“The Hive’s presence is muddled by all of these drones,” Celestia answered solemnly. “But that doesn’t mean that I can’t triangulate where it’s at. If I cure more of these ponies, not only can I save them from death, but I can weaken the Hive.”
“Do you need our help, my liege?” the guardsponies simultaneously asked her.
“Not now,” Celestia reassured them. “But when their ‘mother’ comes, be prepared for a fight.”
“I shall alert the other guards,” one of them replied in a loyal tone, about to fly off. “They can help us in this-”
“No! Celestia bellowed, causing all of them to look to her in surprise. “I cannot risk their lives in this. When the ‘mother’ comes and either I tell you or… something happens to me, I want you all, including you two, Applejack and Twilight Sparkle, to evacuate the town immediately. Am I understood?”
“But in the event that something does… happen to you,” Twilight stammered. “I don’t want to leave my mentor like that.”
As Twilight spoke, Celestia was already trying to cure other ponies of their blights, becoming more fatigued after each one she cured.
“It is my duty to protect my subjects,” Celestia confirmed with Twilight after escaping from her stupor of minor pain from a cleansing. “And I do not want to being any other pony down with me in the event that something does happen to me.”
“Well, before the mother comes,” Applejack feebly asked. “What do ye want us to do in the meantime?”
“Bring other afflicted ponies to me,” Celestia answered sternly, already curing her fifth pony. “And stay in a group, you four. Do not talk to them, do not accept anything they have to offer. Just lure them here somehow.”
And so, the team of four split into two groups of two, which the two guards were enlisted by Princess Celestia to escort each individual pony, guarding them for the dangerous task of allocating Hive drones. Applejack was taking this task to a rudimentary level of understanding and simply tried to corral the pony drones as if they were cattle. Twilight, on the other hoof, managed to converse with the guard that was escorting her and managed to devise a grand plan for their operations: diplomatic swaying of the drones and possible luring. At least, Twilight hoped to formulate a plan with her stubborn ally.
“Ms. Sparkle, I cannot let you do that,” the guard pony stated in an official-sounding voice. “The Princess strictly ordered us not to converse with the afflicted.”
“What’s your name?” Twilight asked, seemingly uninterested with what the guard was saying.
“It’s Stalwart, Ms. Sparkle,” the guard pony dutifully stated. “But I highly doubt that knowing my name will-”
“Well, Stalwart,” Twilight began, sounding defensive. “These are ponies, remember that. The Princess has to free as many ponies as she can from the corruption of the Hive that she has disregarded the fact that we can speak to these ponies without woe.”
The curious purple stallion then went after a surprisingly thin pony wallowing in random parts of food, devouring it all, and approached the sprawling stallion on the ground. He had barely grown any size larger than the average pony body structure, but he kept on consuming anything edible.
“Excuse me,” Twilight asked the feasting drone to no avail. “But we need some help, if you don’t mind us ask-”
“Ms. Sparkle!” Stalwart exclaimed, rescuing the pony from the seemingly evil clutches of the incredibly absent-minded and care-free drone. “You are not to communicate with them!”
“They’re ponies, too!” Twilight snapped back. “They deserve the full amount of respect any other pony would receive! Now stay out of my business, or-”
“This mission was too much for you!” Stalwart replied, angrily. “You must be escorted to Canterlot immediately!”
“You aren’t my parent!” she barked. “And you are not providing any valid excuse as to why we shouldn’t treat this pony with any decency and-”
“Mother is coming.”
The two bickering ponies looked to see the feasting drone immediately cease his actions as he stood up straight, eyeing a direction opposite of where Twilight and Stalwart were facing. They could see new fat curdling and bubbling onto the pony in terror as the food it had consumed had already been processed with a very stunted metabolism, according to Twilight’s observations.
“’Mother?’” Twilight recited, confused. “Now who is ‘mother?’”
“She is the one that will free us from the mortal coil of isolationism,” the stallion replied in its monotone demeanor. “And her prophets shall join her in unlife.”
“Prophets?” they both asked the trotting-away stallion in confusion. “What do you mean ‘prophets?’”
The drone stopped speaking to them and began to trot in the direction that he was staring at, curbing his temporary ravenous appetite to go off in to its “mother,” much to the confusion of Twilight and Stalwart.
“Hey! We have asked you who these prophets are, whelp!” Stalwart barked at the mindless drone, sounding infuriated. “You will answer a member of the royal guard!”
It was to no avail; as the pony kept trotting in the same direction, Stalwart became furious, and prepared to strike the drone with his hoof, which caught the attention of the ever-cautious Twilight. Stalwart rose his arm in the air and it almost met the drone’s face until Stalwart, to his infinite confusion, saw a purple aura around his arm, locked in the air by an enigmatic force. Twilight then quickly trotted in front of Stalwart, to separate his infuriated gaze from his potential victim.
“What in the world are you doing?” Twilight shrieked, in horror because of Stalwart’s actions. “What did I say? That’s still an innocent pony! You still have to fulfill your duty to the citizens to protect them, not meaninglessly harm them!”
“He didn’t reply to a member of the royal guard,” Stalwart scowled through gritted teeth. “The filthy afflicted… He’s not even a citizen anymore! He’s-”
“He’s another pony, like you and I,” Twilight repeated herself, releasing her magical grip on Stalwart. “And he can lead us to the location of who we want to see.”
They then observed that the stallion, like the others afflicted ponies, were trotting towards an unknown location, marching in unison to meet what Twilight and Stalwart needed to see. They had quietly followed them, silently trotting in tandem with them to blend in with their movements. While on the move, they met up with Applejack and the other guard pony, who looked disappointed.
“Applejack,” Twilight quietly greeted her. “How was your luck getting some of the afflicted for Celestia?”
“Terrible, Twi,” Applejack responded in a melancholy demeanor. “I tried to rustle up those afflicted, but they just sat there, eatin’ rocks and growing fatter. They were too heavy to move on our own, but they suddenly began to get up and follow other ponies that were doing the same.”
Applejack’s train of thought was interrupted by the allure of a rather perplexing site to behold, titillating the interest of Twilight as well. They were drawn to see two shambling, twisted figures trotting in the same direction as the other drones, but these ponies weren’t bloated like the others. The two ponies barely had any skin, and the amount of skin they retained was lightly sprinkled with hair, resembling the remnants of a pony’s coat. One figure had a white coat while the other had a pink coat. Even in the afternoon sun, Twilight and Applejack could see the many muscles of their forms, glistening in the shine of the shine while pulsating and performing in the grand theater of the function of a body.
The faces of these two were as grotesque as their bodies. Their faces had no skin, just muscle exposed that looked to be bubbling, a possible deterioration. Their eyes weren’t like normal eyes, as they were completely blackened with a moist layer of quickly crusting black, oozing down the sides of their faces. Finally, their manes were butchered due to molting, but they had retained a bit of their manes to resemble that the white pony had a rich purple mane while the pink one had a pink mane, darker than its coat. It had then become apparent, when the two ponies unintentionally came closer to the two frightened mares, that they were Rarity and Pinkie Pie.
“Wha… huh… but… they…” Applejack stammered, looking at the two shambling mares in an incredulous gaze of fear. “I thought the monster back in the Everfree k-k-k-killed th-th-th-them… Twilight… Why do I see… th-th-th-them?”
“I… I don’t know,” Twilight spoke, flabbergasted to see her former friends rendered to what she saw. “We have to talk to them!”
“No!” Stalwart tried to contain Twilight’s emotion for her safety, but couldn’t stop the galloping unicorn from encountering her friends. Applejack had then followed suit, putting the guards in chaos to keep them safe. “Don’t you know what you’re doing? You’re putting yourself in danger!”
“Rarity! Pinkie Pie!” Twilight shouted from afar, galloping closer to her friends, beholding their hideous visages and foul smells from a closer sight. “What happened?”
The two mares identified Twilight and Applejack, and recognized that they weren’t a part of the Hive.
“It’s Twilight and Applejack,” Rarity, still bearing lips to pronounce her words, said to Pinkie Pie in a creepy monotone. “We must spread the gift of the Hive to them.”
“You two need to spread the gift of medical treatment to yourselves,” Applejack chimed in. “Furthermore, how in the hay are you two still alive? I saw you two get attacked by that thing that looked like Fluttershy! Is this what that monster did to you two?”
“You need not to fear,” Pinkie Pie replied, cold and lifeless like Rarity. “You just need to embrace the wonders of the Hive.”
“Applejack,” Twilight addressed the confused Earth pony. “They aren’t who we think they are. They’re afflicted by the Hive!”
“Spread it!” Pinkie Pie commanded Rarity, having an elevated tone but still retained her monotone demeanor. “Expel the glory of the Hive!”
Rarity began to croak, drawing upon new contents of her stomach to expel, like she did with the cake batter in Sugarcube Corner. Twilight and Applejack began to gallop away, and the guards finally got to the scene, only to follow Twilight and Applejack. Rarity had then vomited, expelling a thin stream of bile and the ooze, blended together to form a twisted projectile of amorphous shape contained by bile. The stream had followed the escaping mares and stallions, sentient enough to snare the fetlock joints of one of the guardsponies, with Stalwart to try and rescue him.
The ooze was engulfing the stallion’s leg, working its way up his leg, with Stalwart trying to wrench his fallen compatriot. His partner was quickly being dragged into the maw of the ooze, faster than Stalwart could pull him out. Twilight and Applejack had joined in on the effort, using a harmonious combination of brawn and magic to free the stallion, but to no avail. The ooze had snapped back the three ponies and completely engulfed the pony into a shell of dripping bile and dark green ooze. Stalwart was frozen in shock at the fate of his comrade, and couldn’t deduce what was happening to him. He had to be pulled away from the scene of horror by Twilight and Applejack, almost dragged away back to the location of Celestia.
“What… what happened?” Stalwart stammered, almost rendered catatonic by his experience. He made it difficult for Twilight and Applejack to get him away as fast as they could. “He… he’s probably dead, or he was turned into one of those damned drones!”
“Cursing the Hive won’t do us any good,” Twilight tried to reassure him. Getting closer to where they left Princess Celestia. “We’re going to have to find a way to stop it. Hopefully, the Princess has cured enough ponies to weaken this ‘mother.’”
They had successfully escaped Rarity and Pinkie Pie, much to the dismay of the now scarred Stalwart, only to arrive to a beleaguered Celestia. She was trying her best to cure the populace before the Hive “mother” would arrive, surrounded by confused and lethargic ponies, left nearly crippled by the ailing ooze inside them. Celestia looked battered and tired, looking a terrible shade of green, but only so light of a tinge as that one would have to squint their eyes to behold her new green aura.
“Princess Celestia!” Twilight and Applejack shouted to the Princess as they drew closer to her presence, with Stalwart in a catatonic state.
They had arrived to where they could speak to Celestia without revealing their location to the potentially hostile Pinkie Pie and Rarity, panting and frightened.
“They’re growing hostile!” Twilight warned the Princess, trying to catch her breath. “One of the royal guards… that accompanied us… was consumed in some way…”
“Then it is just how I feared, everypony,” Celestia solemnly replied, ceasing curing any other pony due to her fatigue. “The strength the Hive has over everypony has gotten to the point where it tires me, and that they are growing belligerent, as you say. We’re going to have to eliminate the ‘mother’ if we have any hope of defeating this menace.”
“Where’s Princess Luna?” Applejack pointed out. “She was supposed to help you with this ‘ere curing and stuff.”
“I had told her last minute to remain in the castle,” Celestia replied. “Canterlot, from what I was told by an emergency escort, had a dungeon break-out, which Luna has been sent to take care of. She should be here momentarily.”
“But you can’t take care of all of these ponies by yourself!” Applejack shrieked. “Look at yourself! You’ve taken too much of the… affliction…”
“I know,” Celestia said. “But I still have enough strength to take on the Hive master, ‘mother,’ as these poor afflicted denizens of Ponyville have been describing this entire time.”
The afflicted ponies marching in unison had arrived, and rather than going for the four unafflicted ponies before them, they continued to trot past them, going to the border of the Everfree. Pinkie Pie and Rarity caught up, but oddly enough didn’t go after the ponies they had assaulted earlier. Celestia may have cured around ten or so ponies, but the entire town was present to show its threat to the Princess, who couldn’t manage to save her subjects.
Celestia suddenly widened her eyes; her ears pricked up to pick-up on an peculiar presence. She picked up on some resonations vibrating through the air, and she discovered that their time to act was approaching faster than they could predict.
“It’s here,” Celestia warned her three subjects, still loyal to their true leader. “The time to act is now.”
“Is the ‘mother’ here?” Twilight asked, worried. “What do you want us to do, Princess?”
“The Hive will use these ponies as food. I will confront the Hive ‘mother’ myself, but I need you three to distract its subjects. Otherwise, we’ll gain some casualties while it gains more power.”
“There’s no hope in destroying it,” Stalwart finally spoke up, a feeling of dread riding his stoic voice. “We’re doomed.”
“We don’t have time to deal with this,” Applejack scolded the mentally-crippled guard. “We need to-”
They were too late. The drones that had congregated to the edge of the Ponyville borders were in positions of offering themselves, looking as if to give up their own bodies for this unseen entity. Suddenly, it had emerged, galvanizing the Princess’s trepidations and instilling a newborn fear into Twilight and Applejack. The Hive ‘mother’ had shown up. The three ponies had a clear sight of the monstrosity before them, except for Stalwart, who was looking vacantly in the distance opposite of the forest.
The creeping form slithered its way past the trees, bearing a large, amorphous presence until it met-up with its subjects. The green slime had then assembled itself, curdling its form and rising up to expose a full-figured Fluttershy, much to all three of the terrified pony’s surprise. They had not foreseen the entity taking the form of Fluttershy, except this Fluttershy was much larger in girth than the original Fluttershy, confirming Celestia’s fears of the Hive “feeding.”
“F-F-F-F-Fluttersh-sh-shy?” Twilight and Applejack stammered in unison.
“So it was Fluttershy that was victim zero,” Celestia sighed. “An Element of Harmony has been corrupted by the Hive…”
“Is that really her?” Twilight asked, terrified. “Applejack said that the monster took the form of her, but…”
“Yes, there is no other form it would take, my faithful student,” Celestia responded. “The Hive has taken control of Fluttershy, and now with a part of the Elements stricken, containing this creature will be harder than I thought.”
“But Princess,” Applejack interjected. “Didn’t you see Rarity and Pinkie Pie trot past us? They attacked us earlier and…”
She trailed off, noticing the look of dread fill within her ruler.
“It’s okay, my little ponies,” Celestia stated nobly. “I will try my best to protect my subjects. Hopefully, Luna will be able to join me. For now, I will confront the Hive. Go and lure away the other ponies while I engage her.”
The mares nodded in silent agreement, galloping to hide from the Hive, which had finally assembled itself to a complete Fluttershy figure. Stalwart was abandoned, but hidden in an unlocked house. Celestia boldly trotted to the Hive, not knowing what she was getting herself into.
“Hello, my subjects,” Fluttershy said to her giant crowd of over-bloated and subservient ponies, eager to fulfill their purpose, ignorant to the three ponies plotting her downfall. “It’s time to feed momma!”
“I am their rightful ruler, fiend!” Celestia’s voice boomed over the crowd, sending the fear of a malevolent ruler through the hearts of Twilight and Applejack. The pure, white alicorn, only tainted by a slight tinge of green, trotted through the crowd of drones, sending some away to the side with her magic, hoping to intimidate the Hive. “Relinquish control of your current vessel right now and surrender!”
Twilight and Applejack were cowering in place, never hearing Celestia become this intimidating ever, but they realized their objective, noticing that Fluttershy was not aware of their presence. They started to herd away drones, pushing their heavy forms with both muscle and magic while Fluttershy and Celestia confronted each other. Fluttershy, surprising to her usual character traits, didn’t cringe or budge to Celestia’s presence at all.
“It’s been too long, filthy alicorn,” Fluttershy snapped coyly, making it absolute that the Hive was talking for her entirely. “We were trapped for so long, but we never forgot of your sins to the Hive.”
“The Hive is a wretched abomination that should have never existed,” Celestia shouted, her eyes lit a pristine white aura, her horn sparking with a divine power. “And you have claimed too many ponies to go unnoticed. It’s time for your destruction!”
“You couldn’t stop us last time, so what makes you think that we’re so frightened by your hollow threats now?” Fluttershy snapped back, disassembling herself to become amorphous, silently calling upon her cattle for feeding. “Go ahead and try to destroy us. Our creator has made us flawless; indestructible!”
As soon as she ended her speech, she let out a cackling laugh, and her drones followed suit by marching towards their master, ready to serve. The two mares in charge of quelling the drones’ involvement were failing at their job, as the drones were pushing past Twilight’s magic and Applejack’s strength, much to their dismay. Celestia has seen that the two mares couldn’t handle the strength of the Hive, so she swung her head to fling the Hive’s subjects away from Fluttershy, angering the entity. Over-bloated ponies were sailing through the air, sprawling to random parts of the town to be too far away from the Hive but kept intact from the damage of impact.
The ponies she couldn’t fling in time had managed to reach Fluttershy, and were absorbed into her form faster than Zecora had been consumed. As they disappeared, Fluttershy’s body had grown indefinitely, her body curding from the several ponies throwing themselves into her ravenous form. Celestia, surprised at the speed that the Hive worked at, anxiously tried to step-up her speed of dealing with the monstrosity before her and began to charge her horn, ready to blast the Hive with a disintegration spell. Fluttershy, ignorant to the actions of the Princess, was relishing in the delight her food had brought to her.
Celestia then jerked her head; an eye-blinding beam of concentrated magic shot through her horn and made its way to the larger Fluttershy. It sailed through the sky, an unfettered missile ready to pierce the Hive. Fluttershy saw the beam coming towards her, and quickly tried to slither away, knowing that she could easily outpace the enraged alicorn easily when she slithered. Due to her larger size, she couldn’t compensate for it, and she was hit by the beam of disintegration, right on her lower form.
Fluttershy let out a painful moan, not sounding like her normal self but having her moan being deep and monstrous, echoing through the air and rattling the minds of Twilight and Applejack, who were witnessing the events unfolding in unabridged awe. Fluttershy’s lower half was being eaten away, much to the satisfaction of the panting and shaking Princess Celestia. A white glow was overcoming Fluttershy’s body, the remnants of her free-form body, quickly calcifying and boiling away, causing the moans of the affected Fluttershy to be more monstrous.
Fluttershy eventually quelled the spread of the spell from affecting the rest of her body, but over one-third of her form was eaten away by Celestia’s magic. She then became inconspicuous to every other pony, trying in desperation to slither her way to the forest. She quickly planted her roots into the ground, desperate to use the nutrients of the forest floor to add to her form. She was clearly smaller than before, but Celestia could still sense the Hive’s presence clearly.
“Had enough?” the belligerent Princess barked at the cowering ooze, zapping it with less-concentrated versions of her original spell. Celestia had looked extremely wore-out at that point, but her initiative to save her kingdom was strong enough to fuel her and quell the plague of the Hive. “Go ahead and draw nutrients from the ground. It won’t be enough to save yourself from my magic. You’ll disintegrate faster than you could assemble yourself.”
The ooze was shrieking, its tone lighter than before, trying desperately to slither away from its aggressor. The Hive had not fully realized how stunted its powers were since its last attack on the archaic Trotsdow. Celestia mustered all of her energy and mental faculties to further disintegrate the now miniscule ooze. It was the size of her hoof at that point, still latching to the hearty forest floor in an aimless hope to reinstate its once gluttonously humongous size.
Unfortunately, the tide of the battle was about to turn in favor of the Hive, as Twilight and Applejack, who were still at the border of the town and the forest, did not foresee the many drones coming back to aid its crippled master. An army of drones poured through the town, traveling at their fastest, despite their monstrous sizes, which were too much for Twilight and Applejack to handle. Despite the yells of her subjects to warn her, Celestia was too exhausted and hell-bent on the eradication the Hive. The predatory ooze was now the size of a granule of dirt, prompting Celestia to use the last of her energy to finally stop the ooze. Her horn lit with great hostility towards the ooze, and as she was about to cast the last spell to end the plague, she was somehow stopped by a magical presence.
She wondered why she couldn’t cast her spell before feeling the moist and enlarged hooves of countless amounts of ponies behind her. She was seized by the monstrous but loyal drones of the Hive, her magic being nullified by the countless amounts of unicorns that the Hive had seized for itself. Celestia, bewildered, knew she could override their magic and brute strength with her own, but she was too weak to do so. She budged indefinitely, letting out a cry of defeat as she saw the drones of the Hive go to its fallen master, letting it slowly consume them.
Twilight and Applejack caught-up to the captured alicorn, but couldn’t get to her because of the countless amounts of drones that answered the call of their master blocking them. They tried to push through with magic and melee, but the other drones counteracted with their own magic, making sure that they were quelled long enough for their master to reform.
“Twilight! Applejack! Escape from here! Quickly!” the two mares heard from a distance past the drones the familiar voice of their ruler, sounding restrained and exhausted.
“Princess!” Twilight shouted, in tears that her infallible ruler and mentor was captured and restrained like a mere peon. “We can’t abandon you here!”
“It’s okay,” Celestia shouted, reassuringly. “I have tried my best. It’s time to lay down and accept my fate.”
Celestia then started to speak to herself, meaning to tell her two subjects but managed to come out as a quiet, personal monologue.
“I have failed you, Twilight,” she began. “I have failed all of Ponyville. I could not stop this malevolent force by myself. I have been foolish.”
Celestia then focused her attention on the ooze, which had finished consuming a drone, and was the size of that drone.
“Make my demise quick, monster,” Celestia said defiantly to the now assembled Fluttershy. “But know that in my defeat, my subjects and my sister will combine their efforts to defeat you, even if I’m not there to lead them.”
As Celestia was speaking to Fluttershy, the Hive found humor in what Celestia spoke. It began to consume more drones, in a line and eager to serve it.
“Who says that you will meet your demise now?” the Hive responded with a disturbing chortle. “We have plans for you, raiser of the sun.”
“What do you want from me?” the beleaguered Princess shot back, confused and frightened but still showing her strong and stalwart look of defiance and order. “I am of no use with myself being frail and weak. What more could you want from me?”
“You, of course,” the ooze spoke with enigma, frightening the Princess. “This host is clearly inferior to a pony like you, Celestia. We feel that if we simply change our host from this frail Pegasus to a mighty alicorn such as yourself, we’d be able to spread the glorious message of the Hive to new spectrums!”
“No… No!” Celestia shrieked, breaking her composure. She was verging into a helpless state, no longer able to hide her true feelings towards the situation. “You can’t so this?”
The Hive noticed the change in Celestia’s tone, and grew ever-confident in its conquest for Equestria that if it could bring its ruler to her knees and on their side cowering in fear, no other pony could stand a chance against its might.
“Oh, think of it this way, Celestia,” the ooze said. “You will be able to command the Hive as its strongest link, the leading hegemon within a collective of subservient subjects, amalgamated into a glorious entity, united and all-accepting to its form. You call us a scourge, but we are the greatest uniting force to ever exist in Equestria. We are the perfect embodiment of true harmony, and you will soon discover this yourself. No one will mourn for your loss, for that we will welcome you in our holy bastion of harmony and divinity.”
Much to the horror of Celestia, Fluttershy’s body started to spastically flail, acting as if an invisible force had rendered her full-figured form into that of a rag doll. Her form shook and flailed, until her mouth had opened, still shaking violently. Out from her mouth came pouring the ooze, enlarged from the several ponies it had consumed. Fluttershy’s bloated form was then being drained, as the ooze snaked its thick elongated form out of her mouth, the host’s body shrinking in size, her skin eventually conforming to her bones. Fluttershy had been rendered to an extremely emaciated form, her bones exposed through her once enormous form.
The ooze was now in the form of a green, liquid-like snake, coiled on the ground and dripping with the bodily fluids of its former host. It had looked upon Fluttershy’s body and chuckled, creating a more frightening presence for Celestia to endure. The drones holding her down had then received the inaudible order to hold open Celestia’s mouth, as they were prying it open with much resistance from Celestia. She fought fiercely, regaining some of her strength from the time it took for the ooze to leave Fluttershy, but couldn’t fight off the might of the hundreds of drones, ready to restrain her if she even made the futile effort to escape.
She had failed her personal objective, and the drones had managed to open her mouth, ready and accepting for the ooze to enter. Like a filly in a candy store, the ooze was able to greet Celestia’s mouth with its presence, slithering its way to her mouth, caressing her teeth and tongue, toying with the helpless princess. It made her gag, it tried to make her heave, but Celestia was aimlessly still fighting. Finally, the ooze was done toying with the enemy it had grown to hate for so many centuries, and entered her body, branching out to every important part of her to penetrate any semblance of Celestia to replace with its own.
The drones had let go of the spastic body of Celestia, watching her squirm and writhe in the pain of the large snake entering her body. Vomit was excreted due to the gagging, but it did nothing to hinder the ooze. Fluttershy, who was barely conscious, was the only unafflicted pony to witness the horrors of her ruler’s corruption. The ooze had finally wormed its way into Celestia’s body, her form growing in girth to accommodate the large ooze. Her coat had turned even greener than before, and her form had attained some unsightly girth.
Things had gone black in Celestia’s mind. Her once stalwart bulwark on her mind was breached without difficulty by a pernicious and penetrating force. Her very thoughts were being overridden, monitored heavily by this insidious presence.
“Hello, Celestia,” a familiar voice said to her in a taunting manner. “Are you feeling at home within the safe confines of your mind? Because we are, too.”
“What do you want?” the princess shouted within her mind, not being able to see her aggressor. “What are you-”
“Lighten up, Celestia,” the ooze called back curtly. “It’s time to get down to business. We have to convince you to devote yourself to the Hive mind.”
“You may have my body,” Celestia shouted defiantly, coming to realization what was actually going on. “But you can’t sway me to your side!”
“You give us little credit to our abilities,” the ooze retorted, sounding confident in its abilities. “Your indoctrination will come swiftly and easily, princess. You see, Fluttershy was quick to crumble to our spell, but, despite it being quick, it took hours to sway her. Our corruption on her mind was working as fast as we could make it work, but we were hindered by the sleep you had put us through many an age ago. We were weak. Normally, we could corrode a pony’s mind in, at most, ten minutes. Now, with our newly acquired strength, we can sway you momentarily.”
“What will you even make me think?” Celestia questioned the unseen entity. “You won’t succeed in your goals, I can assure you that.”
“Drop the omnipotence, Celestia,” the ooze responded coldly. “You’ll drop like a feather. We’re working our way into you right now, and you don’t even notice it. Now, the benefits of the Hive are numerous, but you reject our ideals.”
“The death of countless amounts of ponies are no excuse for-”
“And the imprisonment of our creator is no excuse for your actions, either. Discord was trying to live in harmony with you and your kind, but you rejected his glorious ideals in place of your obsolete philosophy of ‘separate but equal.’”
My kingdom lives in perfect harmony! There is no such division that would provoke-”
“What are you, Celestia? You are an alicorn, the spitting image of perfection. As an alicorn, your grasp on magic and your body’s ability to endure any hardship are pre-made for perfection. You are immortal, and so is your race. Now extrapolate the amount of alicorns that exist within your existence. Drawing from upon your knowledge, we have concluded that you know of three others that even grace your local existence. Even if we tried to perfect your sister Chrysalis, she is still an alicorn and she is still a pony, which is something your eyes of oppression cannot fathom accepting.
“What makes up your kingdom? Earth, Pegasus, and Unicorn ponies, all trapped in the delusion of coexistence. There is no unity within your kingdom, Celestia. All of these ponies live in oppression under your dominant race of being the alicorn. As an alicorn, you can clearly perform any task all three of your subservient races can perform at increased levels of improvement compared to them. And even if alicorns never existed, the Pegasus, Earth, and Unicorn ponies would see each other as inadequate in each others’ eyes, especially the Earth ponies.
“The Pegasi can fly and the Unicorns can perform magic, but what can an Earth pony do? Nothing that their superior forms can do. Can an Earth Pony fly through Cloudsdale and control the weather? Can an Earth Pony perform a magical spell to fix a broken building or stop an aggressor? No, they cannot. You’ve engineered these three races to be inferior to each other, incapable of performing what the other can do, but you’ve made a race that suffers the most. Luckily for you, you’ve made it so that when an Earth pony is conceived in the womb, oxygen flow is restricted to their brains, so that they are mentally deficient to the other races.”
“How did you even know that?”
“We have access to all of your thoughts and memories, our dear. Now then, through this immortal natural segregation, you’ve made the Unicorn race the most superior over the others. Unicorns can perform magic, and are the least mentally deficient out of all of your other races. They excel over what Earth and Pegasus ponies can do combined. They can even find ways to fly, which is a slap to the faces of your other races.
“Now then, you claim that your land lives in eternal harmony, when discord is predominant. One would say that this is certainly a contradiction. In order to rectify this contradiction, we were created by Discord. Despite his name, we were created to create the perfect harmony. Why be separate when everypony can be equal? By assimilating into the Hive mind, we all contribute to the wellbeing of one entity. No longer are we shackled by the indemnities of being oppressed by a master race. We can be equal as one.”
Normally, Celestia wouldn’t crumble under this sort of ideology, but the ooze penetrating her frontal lobes, replacing her thoughts with ones that glorified the Hive. She was helpless and vulnerable and she didn’t even know that she was.
“I have created such an unbalanced kingdom,” Celestia, overcome with sudden grief over implanted thoughts cried. “How could I have betrayed my own idea of harmony?”
“You have sinned, yes,” the ooze said, delighted in her mental crumbling. “But you will redeem yourself. You will rise as, not the princess, but the queen of the Hive. You will serve your subjects with equal harmony by uniting them under one entity. From there, disharmony will cease because of our glorious purgation of it!”
Things were looking less convoluted for Celestia. For once in her ever0expanding lifespan, she felt at home with something. No longer did she have to stand tall and act independent, but as if she could throw herself into a collective consciousness and be cared for. To do what she wanted without social persecution. To explore her innermost secrets without restraint. She felt as if the Hive was her life, which was what the Hive had planned to make her think the entire time.
The wails of Celestia were extremely unsettling for Twilight and Applejack to listen to. They were at the mouth of the Everfree, panicking as to what to do about their fallen ruler.
“Twilight, we could barely get past these ponies before,” Applejack asked the troubled unicorn. “But how will we save Celestia, the only one that could do anything about this?”
“I’m lost for answers,” Twilight said solemnly, as she trotted back and forth aimlessly, hoping to exhume any potential answer from the dirt she was pacing in. “I’m just… I just… Think, Twilight think!”
She pressed her hooves against her head, sitting in the dirt path trying to think of an answer. Applejack was mysteriously silent, but there was a hoof placed onto Twilight’s shoulder, much to her surprise.
“There’s not much to think about, Twilight Sparkle,” a regal, stiff voice spoke from behind Twilight. She turned around to witness that it was Princess Luna, for which Applejack was in awe of seeing the esoteric co-ruler of Equestria. Luna had looked her normal self, save for the fact that she had some cuts embedded into her dark coat.
“Princess Luna!” Twilight shrieked in joy, which turned to nosy inquisition. “Where were you?”
“There was a haphazard dungeon break under Canterlot Castle,” Luna replied. “I had to help quell it because of the lack of Princess Celestia being there. Of course, I can forgive her for her absence, for that the screams I hear in the Everfree are the screams of mercy from the adversary, yes?”
The two mares before her started to burst-out in tears, much to Luna’s bewildered confusion.
“Celestia… is in the forest, Princess Luna…” Applejack managed to convey. “She wasn’t strong enough to take on the ‘ive’s army by ‘erself!”
“She was taken into the Everfree and we can’t get past the Hive’s guards!” Twilight shrieked. “I fear that they’re doing abhorrent things to her at this moment!”
“I will fly over the Everfree,” Luna boldly stated. “And I will try my best to save her. The Hive is an incredibly dangerous force of nature, Twilight Sparkle, and I’m glad you two didn’t come into contact with it. I shall return.”
And so, Luna did her best to fly into the Everfree, soaring above the horde of drones that had captured her sister in a quiet fashion, and she discovered the desiccated body of Fluttershy first. Her body was breathing slowly, and her form was a grisly sight to behold, even from high above.
She landed amongst the ponies to rescue Fluttershy from the drones, only to discover her sister. She was being bound by the drones no longer, but she had grown twice her size and was an awful shade of green to boot.
“Hello, sister,” Princess Celestia said to Luna, her voice resonating with the echoes of the Hive behind it. “I’m so glad you came. We can now unite more of Equestrian royalty to become one!”