Return of the Manticores

by MarcDaJohnson

Chapter 3

"Woah, what is this place Twilight?" Spike asked while carefully examining the corridor. The pair walked along slowly through the pathway, Twilight's horn guiding the way with a small orb of pink light.

"I don't know Spike, but I have a feeling this place hasn't seen visitors in quite sometime." Twilight said before running face first into a giant cobweb. The mare let out a small yelp as she frantically tried to clean her face off. Spike couldn't help but burst into laughter at the flailing mare. When she finally got free she shot the hysterical dragon an angered look before continuing.

Each wall of the corridor was covered in painstakingly intricate engravings, carved from what appeared to be solid gold blocks. Each panel showed a different scene from the dark ages, a time period filled with suffering and chaos before Celestia's rule. The first panel featured a scene from The Great War. At that time the three races were not unified and cared not about the other's affairs. The first strike took the unicorns and earth ponies by complete surprise. A dual operation conducted by the best pegasus and griffin flyers the skies had to offer left the land-dwelling races crippled. Tensions had been high for years, but nopony expected such a bold preemptive strike. In desperation the earth ponies formed a truce with the unicorns, although their horned brothers had something else in mind. Earth pony spies discovered a plot to assassinate numerous generals of their rebellion.

Needless to say, the truce was off. The ponies fought fiercely, unaware that their struggles were being fed on by an ancient evil. Greynor the Wicked was eagerly watching as they butchered each other, growing stronger with each soul destined for the underworld. When the time was right, Greynor ascended from Tartarus and unleashed a unholy wave of chaos across Equestria that lasted for over a decade. He used his sick necromantic powers to form an undead legion, shaking ponykind to its core. Villages burned, castles fell, and with each victory Greynor's force became more powerful. Pony society collapsed upon itself, leaving only the most cunning and resourceful ponies to carry on. Just when it seemed that Equestria was lost, a champion appeared to challenge the mighty beast. Arnok the Wise lead the final stand for Equestria, along with a group known only as 'The Protectors'.

"Twilight, I gotta bad feel--'

"Who dares to defile the Shrine of Temperance! Speak now lest we smite thou from existence!" The voice thundered from down the way. The two quickly reached the room to find a masterfully carved statue depicting three mares holding various weapons.

"I am Twilight Sparkle of Canterlot. I was sent here by--'

"We know who you are! Tis just a formality! Why have you came to this most holy of places? Do you seek riches? Or maybe tis unlimited power thou seeketh?"

"Maybe we should just let her tell us, sister," a much softer voice said.

"Stay out of this! I and I alone will deal with this intruder and that is final! So, speak now little mare and be judged before the power of the divines!"

"That's my sister, always the drama queen," a third voice chimed in, full of playfulness and cheer.

"I SAID STAY OUT OF IT!" the first voice boomed, the force blowing hard through Twilight's mane. The trio descended into petty quarreling; Twilight and Spike couldn't help but look to each other and giggle. After a few moments the arguing suddenly died down.

"Well, it looks like somebody needed a time out," the third voice said. "So Miss Sparkle, what brings you to our little corner of the universe?"

"Celestia sent me after a manti-. Wait, did you just say your corner of the universe?"

“Um, technically we're outside of what you would consider space time. This realm lies atop your own along with many others. A place where your laws of physics do not apply.”

Twilight let out a squeal of delight. "Omigosh, this is so exciting. I have you write a letter the princess..." She trailed off, thinking back to both the princesses disappearing. "So I guess that was why I'd never noticed the passageway?"

"Correct, Celestia did an excellent job of keeping it hidden. On many occasions she would enter our realm to seek our guidance, just as you are now. She was never alone when she shaped Equestria into the great nation it is today, she's had a helping hand since the start. You being here could only mean one thing, Greynor is back."

"Yes, and he's not alone. On the way here we saw at least twenty of them on their way to Canterlo,t along with a few that were already there. Why is this happening?" Twilight asked.

"Give us one moment to fully evaluate the situation in Equestria." The statue began to pulse with a blue light. Small orbs of colorful lights began to appear from the walls and began spinning around the statue. They began to move so fast the light stretched, giving the appearance that they were long strands of light opposed to orbs. They suddenly erupted from the statue's top like a volcano, showering the room in rainbow colored sparks. The raw orbs of magical energy hit the ground and regrouped a few feet in front of her. They quickly began shaping themselves into a large sphere that glowed and hummed quietly. After a few moments, the light show died down and the sphere just hung there, as if being held in place by invisible guide wires. The pair sat anxiously waiting for the statue's response for what felt like a century.

"So are you gonna tell us what happened or not?" Spike finally blurted out.

"Ah, yes. From what we can tell Greynor has broken the seven seals and is attempting to fulfill an ancient prophecy, much to the discontent of your princesses. I'm surprised your Celestia hadn't noticed his presence until now, she was always keeping a steady eye towards the future."

"That's just it, my last few years she's been teaching me destructive magics and other seemingly unnecessary subjects. I just brushed it off as things necessary for any mage to know, but now I see why."

"Correct, shes been shaping a hero Miss Sparkle. It appears as though she and her sister were able to teleport themselves and Greynor to places unknown, maybe a different dimension altogether, for we can't know for certain. This path you must walk is a dangerous one, but Celestia wouldn't leave the fate of Equestria to a mare she felt was incapable of such a task."

"So what now, where do I start?"

"Travel north to Frostborn mountains, there you will find the first piece to the puzzle. But beware, Greynor's mistress is the master of the dead. Her necromantic powers seem to have already taken hold."

"Ok, I'm ready. Question is, how do I get out of here?"

"I'll handle this!" The booming voice sounded as a thick stream of blue energy poured from the statue, smashing into Twilight and Spike and launching them towards the back wall. The two hit the wall and burst into tiny blue sparkles that seemed to disappear shortly after.


"Big Mac, we need more swords pronto!" Apple jack shouted as she armed the rest of the apple family. The red stallion took a quick look over his shoulder to see a wave of sinister looking ponies approach before mumbling 'eeyup' and returning to the forge. In all they had eight members of the family at Sweet Apple Acres, the rest were out in Appleloosa for a rodeo. The younger ones seemed scared and looked to the elders for courage. Apple Fritter should tall beside Apple Pie, her green mane poking through her makeshift helmet. The family had seen its share of hardship over the years, but now their own land was under attack.

The attackers were mix matched in color, but they all looked faded with a hint of grey. Their eyes were devoid of all life, the pupil and iris had completely disappeared leaving it white as snow. The legions marched side by side, and shook the ground as they did by their sheer numbers. Flying close overhead was a manticore giving orders in some ancient tongue, and seemed to be giving off a faint wave of purple energy.

"Alright everypony, time to show these creeps what the Apple family's really made of!" Applejack shouted, signaling the rest to assume battle positions. They truly embodied the sense of underdogs, standing confident in their crude metal plating they called armor, holding maces and swords at the ready to defend their land, or die trying. On Applejack's mark they charged into battle and clashed with the undead horde. Applejack slashed at the attackers, each kill blow reducing the target to a cloudy of ash. The only emotions the legion showed was pain with each strike, letting out a blood curdling screech as they began to glow red for a split second before bursting. Apple fritter swung her mace with great precision, earning multiple kills on a few superbly placed swings. After a few minutes they began to thin out the horde and gain a better hold.

"AJ, there's more coming from Ponyville, alot more!" Apple Bloom shouted from her lookout in the barn. Applejack looked to see troops as far as the eye could see.

"Everypony, fall back to the wagon, we gotta retreat!" She said while crushing one of the beast's skulls. The rest of the family fell back and boarded the wagon while Apple Bloom helped Big Mac and another large buck get hooked into the front. When everyone was on board, Applejack cracked the reins and told Big Mac to get a move on. She took one last look back to see the horde getting smaller by the second as they rode along.

What the hay has Equestria gotten itself into this time?