The air was primed to ignite from the tension in the air as Twilight and her friends gathered around the Cutie Map. Bone Marrow was also present, but the other ponies stood well away from him.
Starlight Glimmer pointed to a spot on the map of Equestria and the surrounding lands. "Here should be the one place in the planet where Bone Marrow can't hurt anypony. The Crystal Empire."
Bone hummed. It made sense, seeing as crystal ponies weren't affected by his magic. "There's one problem with that, Starlight. There are ponies there. I don't want to be anywhere close to anyone else until I can get myself under control."
"Yeah, because you work so well unsupervised." Twilight rolled her eyes and shook her head. "We can't let you wander around all of Equis, Bone Marrow. You're too dangerous for that."
The young necromancer dipped his head, letting his hood shield his face from the others. 'She reminds me of Celestia...'
"A better place to send him, I think, would be the old hive of Queen Chrysalis." Twilight pointed to the spot on the map. "Since the reformed changelings have moved in near Ponyville, they aren't using their old home anymore. Without the changelings there, their hive doesn't have the same magic that it used to when all of us were last there."
"The shifting walls?" Rarity shuddered at the memory. "I don't know if that was worse, or the echoes of chittering."
"The point is that there won't be anypony there for Bone Marrow to run into." Twilight continued her idea. "Aside from Appleoosa which is way outside of walking distance."
"You want to put him near Braeburn?" Pinkie Pie put her hooves on the edge of the cutie map. "The buffalo, too?"
The alicorn's lip scrunched. "Eh... right. Sorry Pinkie, it's been a long while since we were there last."
"Maybe we could go visit them?" The party pony was trying her best to avoid thinking about the recent deaths in Ponyville; especially the Cakes.
Bone Marrow continued to sit quietly and listen as he warred with the voices in his head that whispered hideous things to him.
Fluttershy's ears perked up and she looked towards one of the large double-doors that lead into the room. "I think somepony is coming!"
Sure enough, the doors opened to reveal not one, but two alicorn princesses. Celestia and Luna had arrived, along with a few members of the royal guard.
Bone Marrow's fur stood on end and he bristled with anger from seeing the pony who he had once looked up to. The Princess that had betrayed him and who had frozen him in stone for a thousand years. Cold fog radiated from his body and ice began to form at his hooves, but still, he restrained himself.
After Princess Celestia and Princess Luna had been brought up to speed on everything that had happened, Celestia told her guards to leave the room and close the doors behind them.
She shook her head as the doors closed. "Bone Marrow?"
The colt's glowing blue eyes looked up, shrouded by his hood.
The other ponies were very interested in what Princess Celestia would say as they waited with held breath.
The Alicorn's pause was long as she marshaled her thoughts. "I, Princess Celestia of the nation of Equestria, hereby banish you from these lands. You are exiled from this moment on, and you are never to return on penalty of death by volcano."
Twilight and her friends gasped. They'd never heard such a harsh punishment before, nor would they have ever expected those words to have come from the kind-hearted mother-figure that they had all come to know and appreciate.
"Sister, you--" Luna caught herself in her outburst, swallowing her protest and clearing her throat. There were things that were befitting of a Princess, and disputing a ruling right in front of everypony was not the correct thing to do at any point. Instead, she looked to Bone Marrow and nodded. "I second the decree."
Twilight was uncertain if she was included in this banishment process, but when the two Princesses looked expectantly at her, she knew what she had to do. "As witness to this banishment, you, Bone Marrow, have one week to leave the borders of Equestria."
Bone Marrow had remained silent through all of this, and though he seethed from being in the presence of Celestia, he knew an opportunity when he saw it. 'Banishment? I wanted to leave Equestria anyway!' The young Necromancer nodded, turned, and quickly walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him and leaving frost on the handle.
The ponies looked expectantly to Princess Celestia for answers or some kind of explanation as to why she had been so hasty and direct with her verdict.
Celestia waited a few more moments for Bone Marrow to fully leave down the hallway before she spoke. "I... have some explaining to do."
"I'll say!" Came a voice from the walls that everypony was very familiar with. The Chimera-like head of Discord phased up from the Cutie Map along with the rest of his body. "Stabbing a colt in the back after he saved Equestria, then banishing him a thousand years later?" Discord sucked air through his teeth. "That's harsh, Princess."
"He nearly destroyed Ponyville!" Rainbow Dash loudly pointed out.
"Yes, yes, a single town and miles of countryside were turned to ash and swamp." He held up two of his fingers, prepared to snap. "It was interesting to see how all of you reacted to him, though. Worse than Tirek, I believe you said?"
With a snap and a flash of white light... nothing really seemed to happen.
"Discord, what did you do?" Luna didn't trust the Spirit of Chaos for a second.
"It's rewind time, everypony." Discord chuckled to himself as reality began to distort.
Canterlot, One Thousand Years Ago...
Snow and ash fell from the sky like a morbid winter's night. The cobblestone streets of Canterlot were paved with blood, ice and the bodies of so many griffons, ponies, minotaur and others that it was hard to navigate. Spells of immense destruction were hurled in the distance and the cries of agony sounded out like the notes to a morbid musician's final piece.
Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Starlight Glimmer, Celestia and Luna all stood just a few steps above this bloody battleground with Discord laying on a shimmering lawn chair nearby. Each were ghostly in their appearance, both transparent and ethereal.
The ponies aside from Celestia and Luna huddled together, not being accustomed to the level of violence on display. Princess Celestia became stony-faced, and Luna's eyes widened at the carnage.
"You like the view?" Discord munched on some popcorn that he had tossed into his draconic mouth. "I got to see everything a few thousand years ago from my comfortable little stone prison in your garden, Princess."
"Why have you brought us here, Discord?" Celestia's eyes narrowed at the floating Draconequis.
"He should be coming around the corner any--" Discord paused and pointed at a rapidly approaching icy blur in the distance. "There he is!"
The blur zipped past, leaving a trail of snow and ice in his wake.
"That would be Bone Marrow, fillies. Up until this point, he's been doing fairly well with all of the maddening power in his hooves." This elicited a little chuckle from Discord. "Very soon, however, he is about to experience the worst day of his life."
The view of the ponies shifted to the Canterlot Palace. There, on the golden-trimmed steps, was an important scene unfolding right before everypony's eyes.
"Scenic!" Bone Marrow shouted with a smile on his face. He was surrounded by a maelstrom of icy wind and the ground froze like an iceberg underneath his hooves.
"Bone, look around you!" A filly very similar in appearance to Rainbow Dash called out, though her mane and tail were more of a soft purple in color. "Look what's happening to you!"
Bone Marrow shook his head, "It doesn't matter any more Scenic, you're alive! If you stay with me, I can keep you alive long enough so we can find your Soul Jar together!"
"Find my Soul Jar?" Scenic's eyes shot open, "Oh no!"
"It's fine, Scenic! We can find it together!"
The group would watch, almost as if in slow motion, the practiced descent of a bat pony with a dagger in his mouth. The stallion was aiming directly for Scenic's heart.
Fluttershy covered her eyes with her hooves, being unable to watch. Applejack used her stetson as a kind of screen to block out what she knew was coming. Rarity looked on with one eye open, Rainbow Dash's eyes were wide with the sudden realization of what was going to happen, and Twilight grimaced as she braced for the inevitable clash.
Bone Marrow saw only too late as the Bat Pony swooped towards Scenic. His heart nearly stopped as the Stallion collided with his friend, sending both ponies tumbling down the steps of the palace in a mass of feathers and blood and down onto the cobblestone streets.
"No!" Bone shouted, and time paused.
The munching of Discord's popcorn could be heard again. "Did you catch that bit?" Reality distorted a bit and rewound to the moment that the bat pony's dagger plunged into Scenic's heart. Discord held his lion-hand to his ears. "That's the sound of a pony's mind breaking."
Celestia was barring her teeth at the sight. "I already know this, Discord. I was there!"
Discord held up a claw. "Ah-ah, you weren't here. You saw the aftermath of this."
"What's your point?" Rainbow Dash scowled. "Why show us any of this?"
Discord skipped past the brutal slaying of the Bat Pony that had killed Scenic and showed Bone Marrow desperately trying to heal the wounds of his friend to no success. Soon after, time skipped forward yet again to a point that Celestia would be familiar with.
"This is what I wanted to show you, Princess." He tossed a single piece of popcorn onto the streets of Canterlot where Bone Marrow, Celestia, and a stallion were at a stand off. "After you chopped off Bone Marrow's head, you went on a rant about who the real villain was while he was coming back to life."
Twilight was both disgusted and fascinated by what she saw, though she stowed the analytical and scientific part of her mind away for the moment as she focused on the things happening in front of her.
"Yes, I realize that, Discord." Celestia looked to her sister to find her opinion, but Luna was more interested in the scene in front of her. By this point in time, she had been banished to the moon and was privy to none of this information.
"Did you ever speak with Bone Marrow about what happened while he was dead?" Discord jabbed a thumb in the direction of the paused standoff below the group. "Did you speak with him the moment he was unfrozen from stone?"
Celestia was supremely suspicious. This seemed a bit out of character for a Spirit of Chaos to be lecturing her about anything, let alone this.
Discord grinned. "I love seeing that face on you, Tia." He then waved a dismissive hand and time progressed to where Bone Marrow was being sealed in stone by the rainbow-energies of the Elements of Harmony. "You want to know what the point of this is?"
Time paused and Discord snapped his fingers, bringing everypony to the tomb that Bone Marrow had been sealed away in. Stone chipped away as Twilight and Rainbow Dash saw themselves carefully exploring the icy-cold underground where they had originally found the necromancer.
"My point is that you don't learn, Celestia." He cracked his knuckles and dusted his hands. "You might not wage wars anymore, but you control your ponies all the same. Not through fear or some kind of religious zeal, but through friendship and harmony. Really, how hard would it have been for you to leave a golden plate with a detailed apology note on the wall of the hole you stuffed your shame into?" He pointed over his shoulder at the frozen scene of Bone Marrow's return. "Even just that teeny tiny little bit would've been enough."
"Enough for what?" Applejack set her stetson back onto her head, seeing as the horrifying past had been put on hold for now.
Discord grumbled and crossed his arms, his body slithering over to the group as he rested his head on top of Applejack's hat. "I really have to spell it out for you? Bah, you were all a lot more fun in the maze if I recall." He lifted his head and cleared his throat. "I, the Spirit of Chaos, find your lack of change disturbing. In my own way, I want to see you change sometime in the next, oh I don't know, few months of time?"
"I'm not here to entertain you, Discord." Celestia was more than done with the Draconequis' shenanigans.
"Oh no, I wouldn't dare dream of you entertaining me. Guess how the last thousand years felt while conscious? Yikes. Not even so much as an afternoon hello!"
Starlight was feeling very jealous about the fact that Discord could so casually travel through time, and so precisely, too!
"How do you want to see Princess Celestia change, and more importantly, why?" Twilight was having a bit of difficulty wrapping her head around the thought process of the Spirit of Chaos.
"Also, how come we were able to beat you if you can meddle with all of this time stuff?" Applejack helpfully pointed out.
Discord patted the apple farmer on the head. "I can't defeat you in every timeline, can I? That would be far too boring and predictable of me." He then swiped Applejack's hat and wore it on one of his ears. "I don't really care how Celestia changes. The reason I want her to change is that if she doesn't, we're all going to get a new necromancer in the future that is going to do far worse things than simply destroy miles of land and damage a village or two."
He swiped his hand across time itself to glimpse and image of the far future. A future where the world was ice and death, where no living thing walked, and where there was only two glowing lights in the darkness.
A snap of his fingers later, and the group returned to Twilight's crystal treehouse-castle as if they'd never left. It took a moment for everypony to get reoriented and for their minds to stop spinning.
"W-wait, let me get this straight." Rainbow Dash placed her hooves on the Cutie Map. "You want to save the world by having Princess Celestia do things differently?"
Discord shrugged. "It's up to the Princess, really. How she goes about changing is no concern of mine, though it's probably a big concern for all of you." He then looked to Celestia with a smirk on his face. "Well then, Tia, what will it be?"
Bone Marrow had made good on his banishment. He had hurled himself into his running and left behind a trail of ice and hoof-prints in his wake. Where he would go was up to him, what he would do with himself was his choice, and he had a map thanks to one of the dutiful Royal Guard on his way out of the castle in Ponyville.
There was one stop that he needed to make before he did anything else, however. He wanted to see if his old home town of Scoria had been rebuilt, or at the very least if there was even a single piece of it left. Since it had been over a thousand years since he saw the scorched remains of his home, he very much doubted it.
Once he had someplace private, even if it was the same mines that he had been lost in for months, he would bring back his friend. He needed to see Scenic Sights after everything that had happened and he wouldn't forgive himself until he kept his promise. With the void happily gnawing on the little bits of sanity that he had left, Bone smirked at the morbid thought of losing himself before he would be able to figure out how resurrection worked. Would he just scream at the sun every time he saw it, eventually going blind?
Bone shook his head. This wasn't the time to get distracted and he'd managed to leave Equestria without being thrown into a volcano. Things were looking up, aside from his blunder with the Hydra. One of his cardinal rules that he'd forgotten returned to his mind. Expect the Unexpected.
Now, alone and on his own in a world he had no familiarity with, he needed at least one thing to keep him sane. Scenic could be that thing, but he worried that he'd only be pulling yet another pony into the mess that was his unsortable life. He could bring back Toothpick, that was clear, but on the other hoof, Toothpick's advice had gotten him into this mess in the first place.
'Well, that's not exactly fair. I just followed the advice of a reanimated skeletal bird without even thinking it through first.' Bone shook his head. 'Does that make me dumber than a bag of bones? Really?' He sighed at himself. 'I need to think more, that's for certain.'
"So... are we just going to let Bone Marrow wander around the world?" Starlight spoke up when Celestia, Luna and Discord had left. "That seems like a bad idea no matter how it's put."
Twilight tapped her hoof on the Cutie Map. "We still have his cutie mark showing up here, so we'll have an idea of where he's heading."
"But that doesn't tell us what he's doing, does it?" Starlight's lip scrunched with uncertainty as she looked at the map. "I don't like that Celestia was quick to banish Bone Marrow..."
Twilight shook her head. "I don't either, but he didn't seem to be too bothered by it."
"Why would he be bothered?" Rainbow Dash chimed in. "He got a get out of jail free card from it!"
"I don't think that's how it works, Rainbow." Applejack set her hat down next to her. "He can't come back to Equestria, right? That's a pretty terrible punishment if you ask me."
"Oh yeah, and why is that?" Rainbow raised an eyebrow at her friend.
"Well, um, don't you remember what the world is like outside of Equestria?" Fluttershy shifted the Cutie Map's focus away from the Raven Skull that noted Bone Marrow. Everywhere outside of Equestria was a desert wasteland or an icy wasteland. "There's really nopony else around that's doing well. Remember when we met Capper?"
The others blinked at Fluttershy.
"He was the cat-person that stood on two legs and who had his coat fixed by Rarity?"
Realization dawned on the group and Rarity spoke up. "We should really send him a letter, shouldn't we?"
"Anyway," Fluttershy refocused, "Anyplace that isn't Equestria is either sand, ice or lava. I'm... I'm worried that being Banished might have been a worse sentence than death."
Starlight grimaced in sympathy. The worst punishment that she'd received was training in how to be friendly to other ponies. Then a fact came to mind. "I don't think Bone Marrow can die unless it's by lava, so as long as he stays out of the Dragon Lands, he'll be alright."
Fluttershy set her hooves on the crystal floor. "It still seems like a harsh punishment; especially after what happened to him in Canterlot all those years ago."
Rainbow shook her head. "He killed our friends, Fluttershy. Our family. I can't forgive something like that no matter what a pony's life was like before they met us."
She was silent after that, as she couldn't help but agree with Rainbow's sentiment even if she was unable to bring voice to her thoughts.