Reaping Rainbow

by The Hat Man

That Good Night

Twilight had just finished practicing one of the ward spells that Celestia had sent her when Starlight Glimmer burst into her study, quickly shutting the door behind her while panting rapidly.

“Oh, Starlight, I’m glad you’re here!” Twilight said. “I’m definitely going to need your help with these ward spells if we’re going to defeat that lich! Here, look at this scroll… uh, Starlight, are you all right?”

Starlight shook her head. “No, Princess Twilight, it’s me: Mr. Waddle!” he said. “I’ve accidentally possessed Miss Starlight’s body!”

Twilight gasped. “What? Oh no no no, I need the real Starlight’s help right now!” she cried. “How did this even happen?”

Mr. Waddle glared down at Spike. “Spike stored my ashes in a coffee can downstairs—”

“Spike!” Twilight exclaimed.

“I was gonna put ‘em somewhere else later, I swear!” he cried, claws raised in mock surrender.

“—and then Miss Starlight brewed them into a cup and drank it,” Mr. Waddle finished.

“What? But I put a sign on the can telling everypony not to drink it!” Spike said. “You mean she just ignored it?! ...Actually, yeah, that does sound like her.”

“Starlight, I’m very disappointed in you!” Twilight shouted, glaring at Mr. Waddle.

“B-but I’m not Starlight!” he protested.

“I know, but maybe she can still hear us in there!” She took a breath to calm herself down. “Have you tried, um, leaving her body somehow?”

“I-in a manner of speaking,” he said. “Miss Trixie offered to help. B-but, um… I think she thought Starlight was playing a sort of… um… game.”

Twilight tilted her head to one side. “Huh? What do you mean?”

“W-well, I…” He looked over at Spike who was still looking up at them both. He then beckoned Twilight in closer and whispered something in her ear.

“Oh!” Twilight said, pulling away as a blush came to her cheeks. “Ah, well… did you try telling her that you weren’t really Starlight?”

“Yes, but, well… she just thought I was ‘getting into the part,’” he said. He reflexively went to adjust the tie he normally wore only to realize that it was obviously not present on Starlight’s neck. (For those wondering why he adjusted an item of clothing he obviously wasn’t wearing, you’ve probably never talked to someone who tried to adjust their glasses while not wearing them.)

“I eventually managed to get away, though. Um, I beg your pardon, Princess, but I feel more than a bit self-conscious in Miss Starlight’s body. Could I borrow a bow tie, perchance? I’d feel a bit more like myself if I had one on.”

“I’ve got you covered!” Spike said, snapping his fingers as he dashed off to find one of his bow ties.

Twilight swallowed. “Well, in the meantime, perhaps you can still help me,” she said. “Even if you’re not Starlight, she’s still got a huge amount of aptitude with magic, so maybe I can try to teach you these warding spells instead?”

Mr. Waddle blinked. “Um, I b-beg your pardon, Princess,” he said slowly, “but I’m an earth pony! I don’t know the first thing about casting magic!”

Twilight rubbed her chin. “We don’t have much time. I’m not certain that I’ll be enough on my own to fight a fully-realized lich, but even with Starlight’s natural gifts with magic, I’m not sure I can teach you fast enough to pull off a complex spell like this!”

“I suppose I could try anyway,” Mr. Waddle said. “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

“Well, the spell could backfire and kill you, or Berry Punch would be alerted to your presence and then she could kill you!”

“Oh no!” Mr. Waddle cried. Then he paused. “Wait… I’m already dead.”

“Yes, but Starlight isn’t!” Twilight snapped.

“Oh! Oh, of course!” He scratched his mane. “Well, perhaps - dear me, I’d forgotten what it was like to have this much hair - perhaps you could find somepony else with magic skills?”

Just then the door to the study burst open again. A very cross-looking Trixie glared at him. A noticeable bump was on her head.

“Starlight!” Trixie shouted. “I can’t believe you would hit me over the head with such a heavy spellbook! When I get my hooves on you—”

“Ahh! No!” Mr. Waddle screamed. “Not again!”

Suddenly his horn began to glow and he vanished in a flash of light.

“What?!” Twilight exclaimed. “Reflexive teleporting?! Where did he go?!”

There was a faint screaming outside the window which presently got louder until Mr. Waddle, still in Staright’s body, fell right past it before slamming into the ground below (at which point the screaming turned into loud groaning).

“Oh my gosh!” Twilight shouted, looking down at Mr. Waddle as he lay face down in a sizable crater. “Are you okay?”

“I think I broke my— er, Miss Starlight’s… everything…” he groaned.

Spike re-entered the room and saw Twilight and Trixie staring out the window at the ground below. A bow tie was in his claws. “Uh… what did I miss?”

“Mr. Waddle just teleported himself out the window!” Twilight screamed.

“What?” Trixie asked. “That’s not Mr. Waddle, Twilight, that’s Starlight!”

“No, Trixie, he’s accidentally possessed Starlight’s body!” Twilight said.

Trixie blanched. “The old funeral director?” Trixie asked. “Wait, then that means I was just… just…”

Trixie suddenly gagged and started spitting.

“Ohhh, I think I need a twelve-hour shower!” she shuddered.

“No time!” Twilight said, seizing her by the shoulders. “Trixie, I need you to help me cast some warding spells to stop an undead lich from destroying Ponyville!”

“Before Celestia has to do it instead,” Spike added.

“Yes, thank you, Spike,” Twilight said. “And you need to give this your utmost concentration because these are high-level spells that could very well backfire upon the caster, and we will probably only get one shot at this!”

Trixie stared back in silence for a moment. “Um… maybe you’ve forgotten that Trixie is more of a performance magic type of pony, so perhaps you could get somepony else to—”

“These spells are so complex that they require a second caster, Trixie!” Twilight said. “I would have asked Starlight, but… well, that’s no longer an option. There’s nopony else in Ponyville with enough skill to pull it off! I need you to help me defeat an undead horror or else everyone in town is doomed!”

Trixie blinked. She raised a hoof and opened her mouth to respond.

…Then her eyes rolled back in her head and she fainted, falling limply to the floor.

Spike and Twilight looked down at Trixie, then back to each other.

“Are we bucked?” Spike asked.

“Probably,” Twilight said. She heaved a sigh. “But we still have to try! Okay, get Star-er, Mr. Waddle to a hospital—”

“Thank… you…” groaned Mr. Waddle outside.

“—and I’ll try to revive Trixie and teach her these spells. It’s either that or sit around and wait to be turned into zombies and incinerated in a magical holocaust.”

“Or maybe Rainbow Dash will come through!” Spike said hopefully, offering her a grin.

Twilight bit her lip. “Yes, that’s true too,” she said. “But if she does what she’s thinking about, then… then she…” She swallowed. “Never mind. We need to get to work before it’s too late.”

“I sure do appreciate y’all comin’ to visit,” Applejack said, offering a weak smile as she lay in her hospital bed. “But maybe you should get back to the farm, Apple Bloom. An’ Scootaloo an’ Sweetie Belle should get back to their homes too, ‘fore this weird disease gets outta control.”

The three Cutie Mark Crusaders looked to each other.

“Are ya sure, Applejack?” Apple Bloom asked with a frown. “Everypony’s real worried about ya…”

“And Auntie Lofty and Auntie Holiday don’t live too far away,” Scootaloo added. “We could stay longer, if you want?”

“Honestly,” Applejack said, feeling her eyelids grow heavier, “I feel like takin’ a nice long nap. Feel like I could sleep… for…”

They waited for her to continue but then saw that she’d simply nodded off. After a quick glance at each other, they all quietly left the room.

“Wow… she doesn’t look so good,” Scootaloo said.

“Shh!” Sweetie Belle said, elbowing her in the ribs. “Now’s not the time!”

They saw that Apple Bloom was having trouble keeping the tears from her eyes as they made their way down the hallway at Ponyville General.

“It’s not like I’ve never seen Applejack sick,” she muttered. “It’s just that… somethin’ seems off about ‘er now. About everypony ‘round the hospital, actually. In fact… it seems like there’s somethin’ wrong all over Ponyville!”

Scootaloo bowed her head. “I’m sorry, Apple Bloom,” Scootaloo said. “I know how you feel. I mean, I keep paying visits to Rainbow Dash and… and she doesn’t seem like she’s doing any better…”

She froze.

“Wait. What if this disease gets to her, too?! She’s already in bad shape! What if she—”

“Hey, hey, just relax!” Sweetie Belle said, drawing both of her friends close. “Your sisters are two of the toughest ponies around! I’m sure they’ll both be fine!”

“Yeah… yeah, you’re right!” Scootaloo said.

“Exactly!” Apple Bloom added.

The three friends turned the corner to enter the lobby…

...and were immediately pulled behind the receptionist’s counter by Nurse Redheart.

“Shh!” she hissed. “Stay quiet, you fillies! Unless you want them to see you!”

“Who’s ‘them’?” Sweetie Belle asked.

Nurse Redheart held a hoof to her lips and gestured above the counter. The three fillies cautiously peeked above it and saw what Nurse Redheart was pointing at.

The lobby was filled with several ponies in hospital gowns. But they were all moving stiffly, groaning, their jaws slack, and there was a blind, empty look in their eyes as they meandered around, eventually stumbling toward the exit and awkwardly shoving themselves through and out into the streets.

Apple Bloom swallowed. “What’s wrong with ‘em?” she whispered.

“I know one of them,” Nurse Redheard replied. “One of them is old miss Spinning Wheel, the seamstress.”

“Hey, Rarity used to get some material from her!” Sweetie Belle said. “Maybe I should go say hi!”

“No, listen!” Redheart hissed. “She’d been a patient of ours until recently.”

“Until recently?” Scootaloo asked. “So… she got better?”

“No! That’s the point: she died last night!”

The three fillies stared back at Redheart.

“I don’t know how it happened, but everypony in the morgue suddenly came back to life and now they’re wandering around as those… those things!”

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle held onto each other, eyes wide with fear as they shivered.

Scootaloo, however, had a sudden faraway look in her eyes.

“I knew this day would come,” she whispered.

“Scootaloo? What’re ya—”

Scootaloo suddenly turned and dashed out from the counter and through the exit.

“Scootaloo, wait!” Applebloom cried.

“Wait for me!” Sweetie Belle called after them.

After a few minutes, they spotted Scootaloo dragging a wheelbarrow out of Barnyard Bargains. The wheelbarrow was filled with all sorts of gardening implements and, for some reason, sports supplies.

“What the hay has gotten into ya, Scootaloo?!” Applebloom demanded.

“Sorry for running off, you guys,” Scootaloo said. “But I just realized that this is just like all those horror movies Rainbow Dash took me to when Auntie Lofty and Auntie Holiday told me not to!”

Sweetie Belle raised an eyebrow. “Still not following,” she said.

“Ponyville’s being invaded by zombies,” Scootaloo said. “If all the adults are just going to run and hide, then it’s our job to help take them down before they eat our brains!”

Sweetie Belle’s eyes went wide. “Oh my gosh… Button Mash was right…”

Apple Bloom frowned. “Y’all aren’t makin’ any sense!” she shouted.

“Wait, look!” Scootaloo shouted.

Nearby, a group of groaning, shambling zombie ponies was making their way up the street. (These ponies were a mix of undead ponies from the Ponyville morgue, undead ponies from the hospital morgue, and one Miss Chelsea Porcelain, who was not undead, but saw a group of elders shambling by and thought they were part of a flash mob and figured it might be a fun way to freak out all the younger ponies in town. The zombies, for their part, saw her as so old and decrepit that they weren’t immediately able to discern that she wasn’t one of them and figured she was just really really freshly dead.)

“Now’s our chance!” Scootaloo shouted, grabbing a shovel and running at the zombies. “Cutie Mark Crusader zombie hunters, go!”

Apple Bloom picked up an axe. “Well… I guess if that’s how it is…”

Sweetie Belle picked up a cricket bat. “Sure, why not?” she said with a shrug.

They both turned to look at the zombies who were currently getting their heads bashed in by a tiny orange pegasus with a shovel.

“Cutie Mark Crusader zombie hunters, yay!” Apple Bloom shouted, running into the fray.

“Yeah! Buck-a-doodle-doo!” Sweetie Belle shouted, raising the cricket bat as she followed.

Rainbow Dash stepped through the rift into the midst of a mostly-deserted Ponyville. A moment later, Death stepped behind her.

“Ponyville… everything’s so… quiet,” Rainbow whispered.

Such a missed opportunity, Death said. You could have said ‘Deathly Silent.’

“Is your ego so big that you have to make everything about you?!” Rainbow snapped.

Is yours? Death asked, giving the impression that he would have raised an eyebrow if he’d had any to speak of.

Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Look, can we just focus on taking down Berry Punch before she zombifies the entire town?!”

Of course. But this place does not seem like the right place to look, Death observed.

Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Yeah, obviously,” she said. “Maybe we should try one of her usual hangouts.”

Such as?

Rainbow shut her eyes, considering the question. “Well… the Berry I knew was always at a party. If she wasn’t there, she was mixing up a nice punch or sangria or… I guess just hanging out at the local bar…”

She froze. “The bar? Is it really that obvious?”

Death chuckled. You mortals are often obvious.

Rainbow sighed. “Right, I get it, we suck,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Anyway, we—”

Oh, quite the contrary, Death said. You are often obvious… and yet, somehow, you never cease to surprise me when I least expect it. You ponies truly are, in your own way… wonderful.

Rainbow paused. “We… we are?” she asked.

Oh, indeed, Death said. Did you never wonder why it was that my home looks as it does? I have attempted, with some success I should say, to emulate your dwellings so that I can, in some small way, better understand you. The photographs and portraits, the trinkets, the small touches… all of it my own way of connecting with you. That is why I choose to come not as a spectre of destruction, but as a kind friend, an usher to help mortals as they pass on. If I did not care for your kind, do you think I would come and hear your tales with such patience?

Rainbow could only stare back at this. “We should… look, let’s go… I think Berry’s favorite bar is just down this street…”

Then, by all means, Death said, lead the way.

Rarity heard a pounding at her door. This was commonplace for her, as the Carousel Boutique often had eager customers who insisted on pounding at her door despite the obvious “Closed” sign she left hanging outside. The most egregious case of this occurred at 1 AM several months ago and she, thinking it was an emergency, rushed downstairs and answered the door only to be greeted by a very haggard-looking Berry Punch (back when she was alive and not a horrifying, necromancy-spreading lich) who greeted her with a lopsided grin and a button in her hoof.

“Oh gooood,” she’d cooed. “You’re open! Say hic Rarity, can you sew back on this button back on for me?”

Rarity had forced herself to smile. “Of course, Berry… though I wish you would have called during normal daytime hours.”

“Oopsie!” Berry had said, chuckling.

“Well then… where’s the dress?”

“What dress?”

“The… the dress the button goes on?”

Berry had looked down, noticed she was not wearing a dress, blinked, and looked around several times. “Huh,” she’d said. “I guess I forgot to bring it. Haaang on Rariry, I’ll be right back with the dress!”

She had not returned with the dress that evening or any other time.

But back to her current situation, Rarity was at this time not hiding from customers but from the undead she’d heard were roaming the streets. It wasn’t that different, really, save for annoyance being replaced with abject terror and the fact that she was hiding under her bed instead of on top of it.

The carton of ice cream she was stress-eating was unchanged, however.

Oh, those ghastly creatures must be trying to break in! she thought. Hopefully they’ll go away if they think nopony is home. If I can just stay quiet… wait, maybe they can smell me? Do zombies have a good sense of smell? But I practice excellent hygiene! Surely I wouldn’t be smelly enough to be detected upstairs… unless they can smell my perfume. Wait, but why would being dead make their sense of smell better? From what I know from all those dreadful zombie films Rainbow Dash enjoys, the undead certainly don’t care how fragrant they are, so perhaps their sense of smell really isn’t very powerful, or else they would—

“Rarity!” Fluttershy screamed. “Open this door, please!”

“Fluttershy!” Rarity cried, rushing out from her hiding place and down the stairs to her door. “Just a moment, darling, I’ll be right there!”

Rarity undid the various locks on her door and opened it for Fluttershy…

...only to be tackled by her and nearly run over by the herd of animals following her.

“Fluttershy?!” Rarity exclaimed. “What is the meaning of this? Why are all these animals with you?”

“No time!” Fluttershy shouted, immediately shutting the door behind her and her animal friends.

Rarity made a face. Sheltering Fluttershy was one thing, but rabbits, squirrels, a few goats, and Harry the Bear were quite another. And she was especially displeased about the snakes and spiders.

Still, there was no use crying over stained fabric, she reasoned, and it was obvious that Fluttershy needed some sort of shelter, so she let the matter slide.

“Rarity!” Fluttershy hissed, cowering with her forelegs covering her head. “C-can you check to see if they’re still out there? We didn’t look back since we ran from the cottage!”

“Oh no!” Rarity cried. She went to her and gave her a comforting pat on the shoulder. “I can’t believe zombie ponies would wander all the way out to your cottage!”

“Z-zombie ponies?!” Fluttershy exclaimed.

Rarity narrowed her eyes. “Fluttershy, dear… what exactly are you and your animals fleeing from?”

“W-well,” Fluttershy said, still quaking with fear, “I heard a strange sound and went outside, and that’s when I saw the big barrier going up over the town—”

“The what now?” Rarity asked, raising an eyebrow.

“—and when I went behind my cottage, I was walking by the graveyard, and—”

“Hold on,” Rarity said. “The… graveyard? You have a graveyard behind your house?”

“Well, I take care of animals, and most of them don’t live as long as ponies, so when one of them passes away in my care, I bury them behind my cottage. But… but today…”

The other animals shared a collective shudder.

Rarity heard a scratching at her door. She swallowed and went to the window. At first she saw nothing.

Then she shrieked in horror as a half-dessicated squirrel jumped up and began clawing at the glass. She looked out and saw a dozen or so tiny furry creatures approaching her door. It might have been like a scene out of a fairy tale, save for the fact that most of them were in various states of decomposition.

“I t-tried to reason with them!” Fluttershy sputtered, her gaze unfocused and staring. “Angel Bunny offered Mr. Bunsworth a carrot! He shoved it away and tried to bite Angel instead! Oh, and Mr. Bunsworth used to be such a polite little bunny!”

“Before he died, you mean,” Rarity surmised, still staring at the adorable horror show outside her window.

Fluttershy nodded. “Ohhh, Rarity, this is just terrible! No matter how hard I tried to tell them that we’d gladly give them a snack, the only thing they really seem to want to eat is our brains!” She seized Rarity by the shoulders and started shaking her. “And I need my brains, Rarity! They’re my brains!”

“Yes, yes, I quite agree,” Rarity said, keeping an eye on the window. “Well… until a solution is found, and I’m certain Twilight or the other Princesses are hard at work finding one, you and your animals are welcome to stay here. Fortunately, I have a fully-stocked pantry in the kitchen. Perhaps Opalescence, will be a bit miffed about having to share her cat food, but… wait… oh no!”

Rarity shoved Fluttershy away and ran to the kitchen. She was just in time to see Opalescence, her pet cat, stagger in through the cat door she’d installed in her back door. 

The white feline’s fur was disheveled and bloody and she had a blank look in her eyes.

Rarity swallowed. “Ah, now, Opal,” she said, “please tell me you’re just tired and got into a perfectly ordinary cat fight and are not slowly walking towards me because you’ve been bitten by zombie animals, thus turning you into one of them and, ah, you s-seem to be preparing to pounce at me! Ahahaha, well, if you’ll excuse me...”

She turned and bolted out of the kitchen just as Opal gave a yowl and pounced at her, claws drawn and jaws slavering. She slammed the door shut behind her and immediately used her magic to block it with her heaviest chaise longue. This was not her heaviest furniture item, but it made for convenient dramatic fainting a moment later as she flung herself onto it.

“Ohhh, poor Opalescence!” she cried. “If only I’d checked for you sooner!”

She then remembered that Fluttershy and the animals were still there as she popped open one eye and then stood up to compose herself.

“So, ah… it seems the pantry is no longer an option,” Rarity said slowly. “Unless someone is willing to ‘take care’ of my precious-but-decidedly-undead kitty cat currently occupying the kitchen.”

Angel Bunny raised a paw eagerly.

Rainbow Dash pushed open the door to the Salty Dog, Ponyville’s most popular pub, and very quickly spotted their target.

Berry Punch was sitting alone in the deserted pub. She was leaning across the bar with an entire bottle of applejack (the alcoholic spirit, not the pony, lest anyone think Berry had cruelly liquified and bottled her, because this isn’t that kind of story despite the preponderance of flesh-eating undead) and pouring it into a glass of ice.

“Well, you’re back,” Berry muttered as she turned on her barstool, glass in hoof, and took a long drink from the glass. “And you brought a… friend?”

Hallo, Death said, waving in greeting.

Berry smirked. “So, you’re him, aren’t you?” she asked. “You’re Death. The real one.”

I suppose that I am, he replied. And it seems you’ve been a rather difficult client for my substitute. I’m afraid that will simply not do.

“Okay, Berry, this has gone on long enough!” Rainbow interjected, readying her scythe. “Ponyville’s in a state of panic, the undead are roaming the streets, and I had to get the Grim Reaper himself here.”

You know, I never thought of myself as ‘Grim,’ to be fair, Death said. That’s more of a nickname ponies gave me. I find that a positive attitude will do wonders for your outlook on life. Or at least your outlook on the end of it.

“Well, no life is ending here, Death,” Berry said, taking another sip from her glass. “I’ve beaten you at your game, so beat it!”

“Berry, just give up!” Rainbow yelled. “I know we’re not very close or anything, but I know you well enough to know that you wouldn’t just sit here drinking while Ponyville goes to Tartarus in a tankard! I mean… does that stuff even do anything for you anymore?”

Berry sniffed, her smile fading. “Not anymore,” she grumbled. “That feeling… that pleasant warmth, that euphoria… I’ve lost all feeling, all sensation. You did this to me, Rainbow Dash!” She tossed the glass over her shoulder and slid off the bar stool. She began to walk toward them both. “I can’t feel anything except for this strange new power. It’s all I have left, so I’ll listen to it, not you.”

Swirls of black energy began to form around her hooves with each step. Her eyes blackened as the smokey energy began to pour forth.

Rainbow gulped. “Yeah… that’s terrifying,” she whispered.

It seems she’s not going to listen to reason, Rainbow Dash, Death said, lifting his scythe. If she will not listen to reason, then we’ll have to use force. Be on your guard and try to get through her defenses.

“Right,” she said, narrowing her eyes. “If you can get her attention, then maybe I can catch her off guard.”

Very well. Let us proceed.

A moment later, Death had rushed forward and struck at Berry with his scythe.

Berry, every bit as startled by Death’s speed as Rainbow Dash, barely formed a barrier in time, as the tip of Death’s scythe was mere inches from her muzzle. Her expression of surprise swiftly shifted into one of anger as she grit her teeth and black necrotic energy blasted forth, nearly engulfing her and ripping up the floorboards of the pub as it spread outward in a shockwave.

Rainbow quickly got over her initial surprise as well and tried to zip around to attack Berry from behind, but the black energy had blocked her before she could even swing her scythe.

“It doesn’t matter if you gang up on me!” Berry shouted, her voice a guttural, unearthly scream. “You’ll never take me alive… or dead!”

She shoved them both away with a blast of energy and, with a sweeping gesture of her hoof, blasted a hole in the wall. She seemed to melt into the very smoke that she was giving off and escaped through the hole as she made her way toward Town Hall.

“Is this normal?!” Rainbow demanded.

None of this is normal, Death replied. I would think that much would be obvious.

“I mean, is this normal for a lick!” she shouted. “She was totally normal this morning! Aside from being dead. Now she’s so powerful that not even the two of us can get through her magic!”

Ah, Death said. Then no. A lich is typically the result of a dark mage’s own machinations, not the fault of a poor reaping. Perhaps her power is the result of your mishap...

Rainbow sighed. “Okay, okay, I screwed up, you don’t have to keep mentioning it!”


Rainbow raised an eyebrow. “Or?” she asked.

Or perhaps she simply has such a will to live that it has expedited her transformation. And then, to Rainbow’s surprise, Death actually chuckled. She reminds me of you, a bit.

Rainbow looked through the hole in the wall that Berry Punch had escaped through. She felt a pang of guilt. “I… guess maybe you’re right,” she said.

Well, we should pursue her, Death said. It seems she’s made her way to Town Hall. Since it is the center of town, it would be an optimal place to spread her necrotic energy across Ponyville and infect anyone not already affected by it. If we aren’t able to stop her, far more may fall victim to her magic. And with every addition to her undead horde, she grows in power. She may even gather enough necrotic energy to survive Ponyville’s destruction, should we fail to stop her quickly enough, and then all of Equestria will be at risk.

Rainbow swallowed. “Then enough talking about it! Let’s stop her before it’s too late!” she exclaimed before dashing off in a rainbow-colored blur.

Death rolled his burning blue eyes in their deep sockets. Well, at least she’s decisive when she needs to be…

Twilight teleported along with Trixie and ended up a short distance from Town Hall.

“So… how are you holding up?” Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow as she cast a sideways glance at Trixie.

“Me? Ha!” Trixie laughed, sweat forming on her brow. “The Great and Powerful Trixie is more than prepared to deal with this threat!”

Twilight narrowed her eyes. “No. Really: how are you holding up?” she asked. “I’m sensing a lot of magical buildup from this place. Berry Punch must be nearby… I need to know how you’re feeling, Trixie.”

Trixie swallowed, her bravado fading.

“The Great and Powerful Trixie is… is… I’m terrified…”

Twilight softened. “Trixie…”

Trixie shook her head. “N-no… I’m fine, Twilight,” she said. “I… I know I’m not your first choice, but still… I’ll do my best!”

Twilight smiled. “Then let’s find Berry and finally put this to an end!”

As they approached Town Hall, the two felt a strange tingling in the air. A blackish purple haze seemed to settle over the area.

“Are you sure this is even safe?!” Trixie hissed. “What if we get ‘zombified’ just by being near this!”

“That’s part of the reason we cast a ward on ourselves before we left, remember?” Twilight whispered back. “It should repel ambient necrotic energy short of a direct burst from the source of necromancy.”

Trixie raised an eyebrow. “Uh, in Ponish this time?”

Twilight sighed and gave a roll of her eyes. “We’ll be fine as long as Berry doesn’t blast us directly.”

“Oh, good!” Trixie said, feeling her bravery return. Then, after a beat, she asked “But, um… what if she does?”

“Then we’ll be moaning and eating brains for the rest of our unlives.”

Trixie’s bravery had a second thought and started packing its bags again, this time planning on an extended sabbatical.

“Which won’t be very long, since Celestia will probably have to destroy Ponyville to save the rest of Equestria.”

Trixie’s bravery threw its hooves in the air, opting to forget the suitcase, turn tail, and run, and Trixie herself was about to do the same when Twilight put a hoof to Trixie’s lips and said “Shh! I’m going to teleport us up to the second floor! Let’s hope she doesn’t see us!”

“Mmmph!” Trixie tried to reply as Twilight teleported them both inside Town Hall to the second floor.

The tall, gazebo-like structure had several offices for the Mayor and her staff on the second floor which opened out to the ring-shaped walkway that overlooked the open floor where town gatherings and performances were often held. There was also a balcony where distinguished guests could sit and watch performances or be presented from behind its curtains. Twilight had teleported them both onto this balcony and, fortunately, the curtains were in fact closed, keeping them hidden.

“Okay, stay quiet!” Twilight hissed.

Trixie nodded and Twilight peered through the curtains and saw that Berry was standing at the center of the room and staring at the entrance. Her back was turned to them.

“Okay, Trixie, I’m going to part the curtain just a little bit so we can take aim. We may not get another opportunity like this, so stay focused. Remember, I can’t cast this spell without you!”

Trixie gulped, but nodded.

Twilight silently parted the curtain just enough for both of them to aim their horns at Berry Punch as she continued staring at the door. Their magic began to collect as the spell began to build. 

“Ah, there you are,” Berry said, as two figures burst through the front door.

Twilight continued to focus on the spell, but risked a quick glance to see that it was Rainbow Dash. Somepony else was right behind her.

Oh no, Twilight thought when she saw who it was. Well… maybe Trixie won’t be able to see him? Then again, if she’s skilled enough to assist with this spell...

“Trixie!” Twilight whispered. “Just stay calm! No matter what, don’t focus on the ponies Berry’s talking to!”

(This was a bad move on Twilight’s part, as it is very much akin to saying “Don’t think about cats!” to someone who will most likely be thinking about cats as soon as you say it. Yes, cats. Furry, whiskered, possibly striped, enjoys fish, and may be an undead zombie currently being murdered by the world’s most disagreeable rabbit.)

Naturally, Trixie glanced up. “Huh? Why would I—”

I really think you ought to consider your situation, Berry Punch, Death said. You see—

“Ahhhh!” Trixie screamed. “Death himself has come to claim Trixie! Ahhhhhh!”

“Trixie, no!” Twilight shouted.

Unfortunately, the spell destabilized and blew up in their faces, blasting them both backwards while thoroughly wrecking the balcony seats and setting the curtains on fire.

“What in the world?!” Berry shouted, whirling around as soon as she heard Trixie scream.

Death didn’t waste a moment and rushed at Berry, slashing at her with his scythe. Once again, though, she blocked it with her magic. She was forced back, however, and nearly fell prey to Rainbow Dash’s follow-up attack. The two reapers slashed at her repeatedly, pushing her further and further back until…

“ENOUGH!” Berry bellowed, releasing a massive burst of energy at them both.

The pair managed to block it with their scythes but still found themselves facing their now-enraged opponent.

“You thought you could ambush me?!” Berry shouted. “Are you so hell bent on denying me my immortality that you’d sneak around like that?!”

“Berry, will you please stop and think for a minute?!” Rainbow Dash shouted back. “For pony’s sake, you’re going to kill everyone in Ponyville!”

“No no no,” Berry said, waving a hoof dismissively. “Thanks to my new powers, everyone in Ponyville will live forever! Nopony has to die!”

This is not life, Berry Punch, Death said, his eyes burning. Nor is it death. It is undeath. You are not preventing anypony’s soul from leaving their mortal frame; you are only animating dead flesh with your corruptive power. It leaves them so bereft of life that their only yearning is to taste the flesh of those not yet deceased. This is not the paradise your magic has promised you. It is madness and a perversion of the natural order.

“And besides,” Rainbow added, “even if we can’t stop you, that barrier over Ponyville is keeping us all in here until we stop you. And if we can’t, Celestia’s going to use her most powerful spell to blow up the whole town!”

Berry froze. Then she took on a strange, twisted grin. “Is she, now?”

She raised her hooves to the air and released another burst of necrotizing magic, blasting a column of it straight up and blasting the roof to pieces. The column continued upward and slammed into the barrier. The thin, glowing layer of magic took on a dark purple glow.

“Well, when she does send that spell,” Berry said, giving them a twisted grin, “instead of containing us, I made it so the barrier will blast outward, bathing all the surrounding land with my power. Who knows… it might even reach all the way to Canterlot!”

Rainbow’s eyes bulged.

You really should learn to stay quiet sometimes, Rainbow Dash, Death said.

“I ought to thank you again,” Berry said. “Thanks to you, I gained this new power. And now, thanks to you again, I’ll be able to share it with all of Equestria!”

Rainbow swallowed. Then she raised her scythe again, narrowed her eyes, and spread her wings. “That’s it,” she said quietly. “No matter what it takes, even if I have to die with you, I’m going to stop you no matter what, Berry!”

With a guttural shriek she flew at Berry. She zig-zagged at the last second, hoping to surprise her, but Berry slapped her strikes away with almost casual indifference. Rainbow frantically struck at her again and again, without thought or even precision as hot, angry tears spilled from her eyes.

At last she missed with a strike that Berry simply dodged under. Berry struck her with the back of her magic-engulfed hoof, sending her to the floor.

Rainbow looked up to see Berry was about to administer the finishing blow.

Rainbow Dash, move! Death yelled, dashing forward to snatch her up and carry her out of harm’s way a second before Berry blasted a hole in the floor where she’d been a mere moment before.

Death leaped up to the balcony and tossed Rainbow inside next to Twilight and Trixie, who were still recovering from the effects of their failed spell.

Wait here, Death said. I will handle this myself.

He leaped back down to the floor to continue his battle against her.

“Death… no, I… nng, I can still help!” Rainbow groaned, wincing as she felt the chilling effects of Berry’s attack.

There is no point in having a mortal fight this sort of foe! Death shouted back at her. She is no longer the pony you knew, and so no mere mortal can stand against her!

Rainbow slumped back. “Oh boy,” she groaned. She shut her eyes, burying them in her hooves. “I really messed up this time. There’s no way I can stop her now! Ponyville’s going to be destroyed, Equestria’s going to be next, and it’s all my fault!”

“Rainbow,” Twilight groaned, getting to her hooves. “It’s not too late! Trixie and I could still use our spell on her. If we could just get a shot on her, it would immobilize her long enough for you to reap her! That would dissipate her magic instantly!”

“And if she sees you try, she’ll blast you both! And that’ll be my fault too! I… I don’t know what to do!” she cried. “If only I hadn’t messed up when I was supposed to reap Berry’s soul back in her room. I could have… I… wait…”

Rainbow paused. She remembered seeing something back in Berry’s room when she’d first shown up. She remembered all the bottles on the table by her bed. But there was something else there. A picture.

And then she remembered who that pony in the picture was. She’d seen her before when she’d competed in…

“The Sisterhooves Social!”

Twilight blinked. “Uh, what about it?”

“Okay, I think I know how I can solve this, but I need somepony to see me!”

“So just let them see you,” Twilight said flatly. “You… you did read that part of the book Death gave you right? I mean, it was in the first chapter.”

Rainbow blushed and gave a sheepish grin.

“Ugh! For crying out… yes, normally most ponies can’t see you, but you can allow them to be able to if you want. It’s like a filter to where they can either see you, see you but not recognize you as the Grim Reaper, or see exactly what you are (and probably freak the buck out).”

“Ugh,” Trixie groaned. “Did… did we get her?” she asked.

There was another explosion that tore a hole in the increasingly-wrecked Town Hall as Death swatted away a blast of necrotic energy with his scythe.

“No. No we did not,” Twilight said bitterly.

“Look, just sit tight here. If I’m right and this gets Berry’s guard down, be ready to blast her with that spell of yours.”

“And if it doesn’t?” Trixie asked.

“Well, at this point, it’s not like things can get any worse, right?”

“Please don’t tempt fate,” Twilight grumbled.

“Okay, like I said, I’ll be right back. Just be ready!”

With that, she used her scythe to create a rift and jumped through.

The house was quiet and dark, but relatively undisturbed. The living room had a typical bookshelf, chairs, and a sofa. There was a kitchen and dining room, and a wooden staircase led upstairs.

Okay, I’ll just have it so anypony who sees me will just see good ol’ Rainbow Dash, she thought to herself. If anypony asks about the scythe and cloak, then… um…

“H-hello?” called a small voice from up the stairs. “Is somepony down there? Mom? Dad? S-Sis??”

Rainbow followed the voice up the steps. “Hello?” she called back. “It’s me, your friendly neighborhood Rainbow Dash!”

“Rainbow Dash?” the filly’s voice called out. “Oh, thank goodness! My Mom and Dad told me to stay here while they went out to look for Sis!”

Rainbow finally found the young pony hiding under her bed in her room.

“Is it safe to come out?” she asked, poking her head out.

“For the time being,” Rainbow said, not meeting her eyes.


“Never mind, it’s safe,” she said.

The little unicorn filly came out and stood before her. She had a pink mane, a magenta coat, and yellowish green eyes. Rainbow didn’t know her very well, but she’d seen her at the Sisterhooves Social competition this past year competing with her older sister in the relay race.

Her name was Ruby Pinch, better known by her nickname “Pinchy,” and she was Berry Punch’s younger sister. It was her picture Rainbow had seen on the table next to Berry’s bed.

Rainbow swallowed. “So, listen… I found your sister, Pinchy,” she said.

“You did?!” she cried, her eyes lighting up. “Oh, thank goodness! I was supposed to meet with her today, but then Mom and Dad made me come home. Where’s Berry? Is she okay?”

Rainbow pursed her lips. This was harder than she’d realized it would be.

“She’s… okay, I need you to listen to me really carefully,” she said, “because I need your help, and we don’t have a lot of time…”

Trixie risked a glance out of a nearby window (or, to be more exact, a nearby hole that had been blasted in the walls by Berry Punch) and swallowed.

“Twilight,” she said, “I don’t mean to panic, at least not more that I already have been, but it’s sunset, Rainbow Dash is still not back, and Death still hasn’t taken down Berry!”

Twilight shut her eyes and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “I know,” she said, “but we just have to trust that Rainbow Dash will be back in time. Even if she did mess things up, she’s never the kind of pony to just abandon her friends or her town. She’ll come through.”

As if on cue, Rainbow stepped through a rift on the ground floor.

“Berry!” she shouted. “Listen to me!”

“You again?!” Berry growled as she deflected another of Death’s attacks. “I thought you left after your boss here saved your sorry flank!”

“Look, can we just call a timeout?!” Rainbow asked. “Just for, like, a minute?”

Berry glanced suspiciously from Rainbow to Death. “Drop the scythes first,” she said.

Rainbow immediately dropped hers. She looked over at Death, who was still clutching his. “It’s okay,” she said. “I know I messed up, but I’ve got this.”

Let us hope so, Death said, letting his scythe clatter to the ground.

“Good…” Berry said.

Then she fired a massive beam of necrotic energy at Death, leaving nothing but a few scraps of his cloak floating to the floor.

Rainbow watched in stunned silence. Did she just kill Death? she wondered. Oh man… if he doesn’t come back, I think that just means I inherited the role permanently… unless Berry kills me now, too…

“Care to quit while you’re ahead, Rainbow Dash?” Berry asked, a cruel sneer on her face as the necrotic energy gathered in her raised hoof.

“Berry, there’s somepony here to see you,” Rainbow said calmly. She stepped aside.


Berry froze. Her little sister was staring at her with a look of horror she’d never seen.

Rainbow glanced up at the balcony, meeting Twilight’s eye. She nodded and motioned to Trixie to begin casting the spell while Berry was distracted. Rainbow just hoped she would stay that way.

“Pinchy?” Berry asked. “What… what are you doing here, Pinch?”

“No, sis, what’re you doing here?!” Ruby Pinch cried. “Rainbow Dash told me that it was you that was causing everything. I didn’t want to believe her but… but, Sis, you… what happened to you?”

Berry swallowed but tried to smile. “Pinch, listen,” she said. “I… look, Rainbow Dash just showed up and told me I was dead. But I wouldn’t accept it. And now, thanks to me, nopony else ever has to die again! We can all just last forever!”

“As zombies?!” Ruby exclaimed. “Oh my gosh… Rainbow was right… you really are the one doing this to everypony! I thought maybe she was lying, but—”

She suddenly erupted in a coughing fit.

“Pinchy?!” Berry cried as she ran toward her.

“Berry, freeze!” Rainbow exclaimed. “It’s that energy you’re giving off; it’s making her and other ponies all over Ponyville sick!”

“I… I don’t feel so good, Sis,” Ruby said, suddenly feeling chills. She was becoming dizzy and sank to her haunches. “What’s… happening?”

“Berry, think about it for one minute!” Rainbow shouted. “Is this really what you want? Death thought you were already too far gone, but I think the real you is still in there, so just think for a minute: if you get your way, you’re gonna kill your own sister! Are you really okay having her as just another one of the undead?!”

Berry’s mouth dropped open. The black swirls of necromancy dissipated for a moment.

“N-no, Pinch, I… I just wanted to live a little longer! I just…”

There was a flash of light as Twilight and Trixie cast their spell. Suddenly Berry found herself frozen in place, unable to summon her magic, as ethereal magic chains suddenly bound her.

“Get these off me! Let me go to her!”

As she screamed in surprise and rage, Rainbow dove for her scythe, grabbing it and using her wings to propel herself at Berry, crossing the distance in the blink of an eye. She struck Berry in the chest with the scythe, hooking it into her soul and dragging it from her body as she sped past.

Berry’s body instantly began to topple over. The necrotic energy it contained poured from her lifeless eye sockets and mouth. As it hit the ground, a shockwave of light radiated out, banishing the dark mist that hung in the air, spreading out to purify all of Ponyville.

All across town, the undead suddenly went still and collapsed. In Ponyville General, the sick suddenly stabilized, and some began to regain consciousness. The dome over Ponyville returned to its normal color.

Rainbow looked up at Twilight. “Twilight, go get Spike and tell Celestia not to cast her spell!” she shouted. “Hurry! It’s almost sundown!”

Twilight nodded wordlessly. She grabbed a still-hyperventilating Trixie and teleported away in a flash.

“Ugh,” Berry Punch groaned as she sat up and rubbed her head. “What… what happened?” She looked down and gave a start when she saw the scythe blade that had gone through her chest.

“You seriously don’t remember anything?” Rainbow asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I remember… this morning,” she muttered. “I got back in my body. But it was cold… and then I heard ponies were getting sick…”

Slowly the day’s events came back to her. She was used to remembering things through a haze, but this time it was not through an alcoholic fog, but through the fog of being drunk on dark magic power.

“Oh no,” she muttered, her eyes wide in horror. “I did all that?! I almost… wait… where’s—”


They looked and saw that Ruby Pinch had gone to the fallen body of her sister. For whatever reason, Rainbow Dash was invisible to her, as, of course, was Berry’s spirit.

“Sis, wake up!” she cried, shaking her. “Sis! S-Sis… Sis, no…”

Tears formed in her eyes, and she collapsed once she realized the truth. Her sister wasn’t breathing, her eyes were utterly lifeless, and her body had gone cold.

“Pinch,” Berry whimpered. “No… no, please, I’m right here! Pinch, it’s me!”

She struggled to get to her, but Rainbow’s scythe held her in place.

“Let me go, Rainbow!” she begged, her eyes filling with tears.

“She can’t hear or see you, Berry,” Rainbow said solemnly. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry… but there’s nothing I can do.”

I’m inclined to think there’s nothing you can’t do after that performance, said a familiar voice.

They both turned and saw Death standing there, back in his cloak and holding his trusty scythe.

“Death! You’re alive!” Rainbow exclaimed. “Awesome! I thought Berry killed you!”

So long as there are beings in need of passing on, I will endure, he said. Though I appreciate your concern. You are, likewise, ‘awesome,’ Rainbow Dash. It seems you were able to get through to Berry Punch in the end after all. You mortals never cease to amaze me.

Rainbow grinned. “So… uh, since I did such a good job, do you think maybe…”

Death rolled his eyes. I suppose since you were the one to prevail in the end, it is only fair, he said. Very well, Rainbow Dash: I give you back your life. You will not be dying today.

“Yeah, woo!” Rainbow cheered, raising a hoof in triumph.

However, Death added, that still leaves this remaining loose end to take care of.

Berry stared up at him. “Wait… no, please,” she whimpered. She tried to scamper away, but Rainbow’s scythe held her firmly in place. “Please! I… can’t I just stay here?!”

As a wandering spirit you would merely exist without a body, Death said. You would be unable to talk to anyone, interact with anyone, or do anything other than watch as the world went on without you. The sad existence of a lost soul is a cruel one, and I will not let you suffer such a fate. And given that you already attempted to re-enter your body once, I cannot take the chance that you would do it again.

He raised his scythe.

“No!” Berry shrieked, looking around wildly. She locked eyes with Rainbow Dash. “Rainbow! Please, you have to help me!”

“Berry,” Rainbow said softly. “I… the thing is, I don’t really—”

“We competed in the Sisterhooves Social!” Berry cried desperately. “Remember? What about all those parties? Hearth’s Warming! Your birthday? What about that time I helped you study for the Wonderbolt Reserves exam? I was there the first time you flew with the Wonderbolts when you replaced Wind Rider! I cheered on the Ponyville Buckball team you helped create on their first game! I… I’ve always been there, Rainbow… p-please…”

Rainbow watched as she broke down, sobbing hysterically into her hooves. “Please… I want to stay… I d-don’t want to die… I just want to live a bit longer… I want to go to a few more parties… I want to go to more shows with my friends… I want to see everypony enjoy my latest punch… I w-want to spend more time with P-Pinchy… I want to see her grow up! Don’t let him take me, Rainbow Dash!”

She looked up at her through tear-stained eyes. “Don’t let him take me! Please! Please please please, I just want to live!” she screamed.

Rainbow looked helplessly from Berry to Death and back again. Death stood there, still as a statue. Ruby Pinch’s grief-stricken sobbing echoed throughout the hall.

Your zest for life is indeed admirable, Death said. But a life, once lost, cannot be returned. Such is the fate of all creatures, though at times, even I wonder why it must be so…

Rainbow shut her eyes and took a deep breath.


Death tilted his head. Yes? he asked.

“I… look, maybe she can’t have her life back,” Rainbow said, “but, I mean, since I’m the one who caused this whole mess and put everypony through Tartarus to set things right… what if she took mine instead?”

Death stroked his bony chin. An interesting proposal, he murmurred.

Berry froze, looking up at Rainbow with wide-eyed disbelief. “You… you’d give up your life for me? After everything I did?!”

“I don’t want to,” she said. “But Death gave me another chance, and all I did was mess it up. Maybe somepony else should have that chance.”

“But… I don’t want to take it from you, Rainbow Dash!” Berry exclaimed. “That’s not fair either!”

“Well, I don’t see any other alternative!” Rainbow snapped.

No, but perhaps I do, Death said, raising his hoof. Rainbow Dash, you wish to make amends? Berry, you wish for another chance? And, I believe, everypony involved would probably be better off if all this damage was undone?

The two mares nodded emphatically.

Then listen carefully, Death said. Rainbow Dash, rather than giving your life as a whole to Berry Punch, I will permit you two to share it. What that means, however, is that you two will live on the same borrowed time: when one expires, the other will perish  within a day.

Rainbow Dash and Berry Punch grinned.

“Yes!” Rainbow said.

“Sounds good to me!” Berry added.

Really? Are you certain, given the recklessness you two have shown in your lives?

Rainbow and Berry froze, glancing at each other.

“Uhh, I guess I could practice a little more moderation,” Berry offered.

“Yeah, yeah, and I could be more careful when I practice new stunts,” Rainbow said.

Hmph. Well… we’ll see if you two can indeed maintain your own existences… in the meantime...

Death raised his scythe, then brought it down, striking the ground.

For a moment, the world went white. Blinded, Rainbow Dash held up her hooves to shield her eyes. Then the light faded, and she found herself back in Death’s living room. Death was seated at the sofa, perusing a photo album.

“What the… what are we doing here?” Rainbow asked. “Where’s Berry?”

Death patted the cushion next to him on the sofa. Now, now, he said. There’s no reason to worry. Sit down and drink your tea before it gets cold.

“What—” Rainbow began, suddenly noticing the hot cup of tea in her hoof that had most definitely not been there a moment ago. “—tea?”

She slowly sat down next to Death.

You know, few mortals truly approach life with such a joy as you or Berry Punch, he said. That enthusiasm may make you reckless, but perhaps it is better than a life lived too cautiously. In any case, you should know that, as a consequence of our arrangement, Berry Punch woke up in her bed this morning with only subconscious memories of what transpired...

He pointed at a picture of Berry sitting up in bed, wincing as she rubbed her head. addition to a truly apocalyptic hangover, he chuckled. He pointed to another picture that showed her looking very ill as she lay next to the toilet in her home.

“Ooh,” Rainbow said. “I don’t envy her for that,” she said. “But wait… so, the zombies, the dome over Ponyville, Starlight zapping Mr. Waddle…”

All undone, Death said. He flipped through the pages and showed images of Mr. Waddle waving to his staff as he left the morgue, a healthy Applejack hauling an empty apple cart back from the marketplace, Rarity stroking a very not-undead Opalescence in her lap as she sat on the sofa, Starlight and Trixie examining a spell book, and even an image of Berry hugging Ruby Pinch as they met for lunch.

Rainbow cracked a smile. “Heh… well, how about that,” she breathed. “I guess it all worked out, huh?”

Yes, well, there is one last thing to attend to, Death said.

He stood and tossed his cloak and scythe aside, once again wearing his tropical shirt and straw hat.

A deal is still a deal, Rainbow Dash, he said. You still owe me one more day of vacation...

Rainbow swallowed. “Uh, see, the thing is—”

Ahem, Death said, picking up his scythe in one hoof and pointing at Rainbow with the other.

“I m-mean, I’d be glad to!” she said, mustering a smile.

Oh, I am so very glad to hear it, Death said. And, ah, before you carry on the work...

He tapped his scythe on the floor, and Rainbow’s copy of Reaping and You: The Dos and Don’ts of Death appeared on the coffee table. (Somewhere else, Twilight began yelling “Nooooo!” to the heavens when it disappeared from her hooves.)

...I suggest reading the manual carefully. His blue eyes momentarily burned brighter. I daresay you should study as if your very life depended on it. And no pawning it off on Twilight Sparkle, this time.

“Sure thing, boss!” Rainbow said, giving him a salute just a bit too quickly. “Enjoy your vacation! Hope you have a good last day!”

And you as well, Rainbow Dash, Death chuckled, creating a rift that would lead him to Las Pegasus. We all do indeed hope for a good ‘last day.’ Good luck with your reaping, Rainbow.

Rainbow waved as he went. She plopped down and flipped open her book and began reading intently. If she had to be Death for one more day, she would make certain to do a better job than she had with Berry, both for those who left this world peacefully, and for those who would not go gently into that good night.


Rainbow Dash sat up in bed. She’d been dreaming of that strange time when she’d first encountered Death, and how she’d been his substitute.

She yawned, wincing as she stretched the stiff joints in her wings. She knew why she’d been thinking of that time, of course. It all came rushing back when she’d heard the news…

She reclined on her pillow, glancing out the window, admiring the view from her cloud house. It was a peaceful day, the sky as blue as sapphires, and she smiled as a flock of birds flew by. If today was to be her day, well, she supposed that she was okay with that.

She brushed her mane out of her face. It was mostly white now but still had some telltale streaks of color here and there leftover from her wild and dazzling youth. As her hoof lowered, she felt it graze the wrinkles of her face.

“Jeez, I’m tired,” she muttered, shutting her eyes. “Mmm… but I should probably stay awake. I don’t want him thinking I forgot he was coming…”

Despite telling herself this, she nearly dozed off until she heard a voice outside her door:

“Yes, but… well, okay, if you’re sure… okay, I’ll tell her…”

A younger mare with a bright rainbow mane stuck her head through the door.

“Grandma, are you awake? There’s some skinny guy here who says he knows you.”

Rainbow grinned and sat back up in her bed. “Sure. Send him in, okay?”

The younger mare nodded.

“Oh, and Prism Dance?”

“Hm, yes, Grandma?”

Rainbow smiled. “I love you,” she said.

Prism smiled. “Heh. You’re getting sappy in your old age, Grandma.”

“Yeah, yeah, just send him in,” she said, rolling her eyes.

A familiar figure in a black cloak entered, his blue eyes dimly burning in their sockets.

Hallo, Rainbow Dash, Death said. Er, I hope this is not a surprise, but…

“No, no,” Rainbow said, shaking her head. “I, um… I heard about Berry Punch. They said she went late last night, so I figured you’d come sometime soon.”

Indeed. Once I collected her, she remembered our arrangement as well. She sends her apologies for some of the close calls over the years.

“Yeah, well, now she knows why I apologized to her that time I almost broke my neck doing that dive.” She chuckled. “So, uh… she didn’t put up a fight this time?”

If you mean ‘Did she try to climb back down her own body’s throat again?’ then no. No she did not. She was quite at peace with her death. But then, she has a lot to be proud of. As do you.

Rainbow smiled and looked around her room.

Seventy years. Seventy wonderful years of adventures had passed since that day with Berry Punch. Saving Equestria, advising Twilight after her ascension to the throne, becoming Captain of the Wonderbolts… and of course, the one thing she hadn’t anticipated in her youth: a family.

“Four generations,” she muttered, a serene smile on her face.

Death glanced in the direction she was looking and nodded. Soon to be five, I hear, he remarked. It was a similar story with Berry. So many children, so many grandchildren—

“No surprise with all the boyfriends she had,” Rainbow added, snickering.

Well, she was always one to indulge, Death said. At least she married one.

“Yeah, more than one, actually.”

Death shared in her chuckle. Ahhh, I do enjoy our chats, Rainbow Dash. I do apologize for calling on you to take up my scythe from time to time, yet you never seemed to complain.

“Eh,” she said with a shrug. “After that first time, the others were waaay easier.”

Well, giving me the chance to rest my bones once a decade or so was appreciated. He paused. Er, pardon me, but would you like to go for a flight? Perhaps even a race?

She raised an eyebrow. “I think my racing days are behind me, Death,” she said. “I mean, my wing joints are kinda stiff, and even if I'm still the fastest old nag in Equestria, I’m not much competition for most ponies anymore.”

Death held out a hoof. Oh, come on… indulge an old friend?

Rainbow sighed, rolling her eyes. “Oh, fine,” she said. “Not like there’s going to be another opportunity, right?”

She took his hoof and stepped out of bed. They went to the window. Rainbow gingerly stepped through and out onto the cloud which formed her house.

Huh… I kinda thought I’d be a little more sore, she thought. Well, maybe this won’t be so bad. And even if it is bad, it’s not like I’ll have to deal with it tomorrow!

“Okay, Death… first one to that cloud over there!” she said, pointing to a distant, white puff. “And no rifts this time!”

Death nodded and seemed to sprout a pair of bare, featherless, bony wings.

“Ugh. So creepy,” she muttered, even though she wore a grin. “Okay, ready… set… go!”

She rocketed forward, becoming a rainbow-colored blur as she moved with speed she hadn’t possessed in years. Her joints felt loose and her wings pumped with power that she’d only possessed at her peak. For a brief moment, she felt as though all the bygone years had simply melted away…

The sky seemed to crack as she broke through the sound barrier, a sonic rainboom bursting forth, spreading a wave of color and sound across the sky.

She skidded to a halt on the surface of the cloud. Death landed just behind her.

“Ha!” Rainbow exclaimed. “I can’t believe I just beat you! Oh man, I even managed a sonic rainboom! In your bony face, Death!”

Death chuckled. Yes, you’ve beaten me, Rainbow Dash, he said, even sounding slightly out of breath, which was all the more impressive when you realized he didn’t have lungs.

“Well,” Rainbow sighed. “Maybe we shouldn’t beat around the bush… when, um… when will I… y’know… go?”

About five minutes ago, actually, he said.

Rainbow froze. “W-what? No way! When!”

Just as you took my hoof, he replied. He pointed back at the house, and though the distance was great, Rainbow could see her body lying in the bed, so peaceful that she could have been sleeping.

She caught a glimpse of her reflection in Death’s scythe. She now wore the face of her youth, her muscles taut and her mane brilliant and shining in the midday sun.

“Wow,” she said. “I… guess I didn’t know what to expect. I… I mean, what happens next?”

I suppose you’re still against taking over for me and letting an old Reaper retire? Death asked, tilting his head.

Rainbow shook her head and held up a hoof. “No way. It’s not such a bad gig, but not something I want to do for life. Or, uh… well, you know what I mean.”

Then, in that case, Rainbow Dash, I suppose there’s only one way to find out what happens next. Are you frightened?

“Me? Pssht, as if!” she exclaimed. “Besides, who knows what waits on the other side. Big adventure, tons of fun?”

Perhaps. It will be… a pity to say goodbye, he said softly. We’ve truly become something like friends throughout these many, many seasons, both good and bad. I will miss that.

“Well, don’t get soft on me now, Bonehead,” she said. Despite that, she playfully punched him in the shoulder, remembering that it felt like hitting a sack of dice. “Mind if we hold off on the whole reaping thing for just a bit? I’d really like to see some friends first. Maybe we’ll see each other on the other side. What do you think?”

Death nodded. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Well, Rainbow Dash, it seems we must go together at last.

Rainbow took Death’s foreleg, and the two took off into the sun, traveling together into the light one last time toward a new, unknowable horizon under an endless blue sky.