As Twilight was sent out the window, Shiva realized this wasn’t the first time this had happened. As her wings propelled her after the young alicorn, other memories invaded her mind: times where dragon lords had come seeking Equestria for themselves. Griffons, changelings, minotaurs and other creatures that thought Shiva was weaker than Celestia. All of whom were quickly proven wrong when Shiva had torn them apart. And as she noticed the crowd already gathered, watching with glee as Twilight struggled to balance herself in the air, Twilight was likely about to join all those challengers in regretting their choices.
“Please…” Twilight whimpered as Shiva glided down before her. “Please don’t…”
“You should have joined me, Twilight,” Shiva said. “I gave you a choice.”
“B-But can’t you just put us in jail or something?” Twilight insisted.
Shiva’s glower deepened. “In a cage?” she asked. “The same thing I suffered in; the same place I was tortured?” She shook her head. “Not even you deserve that kind of torture. Your death will be swift, and painless, as long as you accept it.”
But Twilight refused to accept it, and as she tried to dodge another blast of lightning, she was sent careening down the streets of Canterlot. With a cry of agony, Twilight hit the street, bouncing twice before coming to a halt.
Behind her, Shiva sensed Spike jumping out of the building as well. Briefly, he sucked in a breath, preparing to roast her tail. But Kodo shot out as well. And Shiva winced as his claws slashed through Spike’s scales, throwing him into the streets of Canterlot as well.
“The alicorn is mine!” Shiva announced to the others. “I will show her why I rule Canterlot!”
No one questioned it. The minotaurs, griffons and minotaurs even chuckled darkly as they watched Twilight struggle to her hooves. Shiva could feel their emotions through her links. They expected her to kill Twilight. She needed to, if she wanted to maintain their respect. There was no other option.
Shiva tried to force herself to focus on things about Twilight that had made her angry; her defense of the ponies that had hurt her. Her insistence that Equestria could do no wrong! The way she had tried to force Shiva to go to Canterlot…
No. The new memories washed those ones away. Twilight didn’t force me, Shiva realized. I forced her!
She could see it so clearly. The changelings and diamond dogs storming Canterlot. Changelings and Diamond Dogs ripping through any defense. Twilight herself trying to defend Celestia… only to be batted aside.
Shaking herself out of her memories, she saw Twilight rise back into the air. She looked around at the crowd, watching her with eagerness.
“You can’t want this!” she exclaimed. “This isn’t the way Harmony is supposed to be maintained!”
“And how is it supposed to be?” a griffon snapped. “With Celestia on the throne and ponies ruling over everything?”
“While everything else has to forge for scraps?” a dragon asked.
"I..." Twilight started to say, before pausing. "S-Scraps?"
“Queen Shiva offered us more!” a minotaur replied. “More than Celestia ever did.”
“But…” Twilight insisted. “I’m… I…”
Slowly, she fluttered back to the ground. Her gaze became broken. Horrified. “What am I doing?” she mumbled. “I’m fighting against the very thing I’ve always strove to study and protect.” She looked up at Shiva, tears brimming in her eyes. “How? How did you do it?”
Shiva lifted her tendrils. “Do you think it was easy?” she asked. “I know it’s hard to see, Princess, but no matter how scary the other creatures look to ponies... we're all living creatures.” Her face fell. “But you aren't wrong to be intimidated. Dragons, griffons and minotaurs and all the others have led harsher lives. They are used to taking what they want; fighting every day. I have to show that I am worthy of respect. I can't be kind and generous the way Celestia wants everyone to think she is.”
“And it… worked?” Twilight asked. "They listened?"
“It wasn't perfect,” Shiva admitted. “It didn't come without pain and sacrifice. But they listen to me. The species get along with each other. The world is united.”
Twilight stared around at the different creatures. “It… really is. Isn’t it?” she admitted.
Shiva’s look softened. In all the different creatures that had rejected her, none had actually considered her points like Twilight seemed to be doing. They had remained wrapped up in their own heads. Completely assured that they were right until the bitter end.
She extended a tendril again. “It’s not too late,” she whispered. “Join us. I don’t want to kill you.”
Twilight started to reach out for her tendril again. Shiva’s eyes filled with hope.
But she stopped. A wince went through her body, even though Shiva hadn’t struck her yet. Then she turned her head to Ponyville.
She turned to Shiva with betrayal in her eyes. “You sent someone to destroy the Cutie Map,” she whispered.
“I’ve made my home in this place,” Shiva insisted. “This is my world!” She charged up a spear of light, but kept her claw open to Twilight. “Please. This is what you always wanted, isn’t it? Harmony? A world run by friendship and mutual respect? Join me and help me maintain it. I don’t want to kill you, but I refuse to put you into the same cages I suffered in, and I can’t just let you go if you say no.”
Twilight gazed at her claw, and actually started to reach out and take it. Shiva’s ears perked up.
But Twilight’s hoof hesitated, inches from Shiva’s claw.
“I’m sorry, Shiva,” she whispered. “But even if I accepted… I wouldn’t belong.”
Shiva’s ears flattened. She let out a low sigh.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” she replied.
She threw her spear, but Twilight just barely managed to dodge. Diving low, Twilight shot towards Spike, who was currently being engaged in combat with Rainbow Dash. Kodo slunk along the sides, ready to jump in if Spike got the upper hand. Which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“Don't do this?!” Spike pleaded as Rainbow Dash battered him with blows. “We were friends, Rainbow Dash.”
“I have friends,” Rainbow Dash growled. “I’ve worked my way to the top, and I’m not losing all that for someone I don’t know!”
She moved to flatten Spike into a pancake, but Twilight shot into their fight. Seizing Spike away from their former friend, she deposited her dragon on her back. Banking her wings, she took back into the air. Rainbow Dash moved to follow her, before a tug on the links from Shiva halted her.
“No,” Shiva growled, her eyes glowing with power. “She’s… MINE!”
Twin bolts of lightning fired from her eyes like heat vision. Twilight spun in the air, her horn flaring as a shield spiraled into being. No sooner had it formed before Shiva’s bolts hit. An explosion rattled the windows of the city. But Shiva’s eyes narrowed; No ashy remains dropped out of the sky. No final scream of pain.
Her ears flicked as she picked up the beating of wings. Turning, Shiva growled as she saw Twilight desperately flapping for Ponyville, her horn flashing as she teleported closer and closer with every beat of her wings.
“No, you don’t…” Shiva snarled, pumping her own massive wings and taking off after her. The land-faring creatures could only groan as she left them behind, but plenty of winged creatures like the griffons, pegasi and dragons took flight after her, eagerly watching as she sent bolt after bolt towards the rapidly teleporting Twilight.
“Ember,” Shiva barked through the link. “Did you find the Cutie Map?”
“Yeah,” Ember confirmed. “Some weird hunk of crystal. I’ve been charbroiling it, but it won’t melt. I’m gonna see if I can just smash it after I get it hot enough.”
“Well, whatever you’re going to do,” Shiva said, focusing on Ember while summoning the power of every unicorn she was linked to, “It’s probably going to get interrupted.”
Ember paused. Shiva got ready to try and teleport to her location.
Then, just as the teleportation spell took effect, Ember commented. “Is that why a purple alicorn is coming my way.”
Rather than respond, Shiva focused on her magic. And with a flash of light, she found herself next to her dragon ally… and Twilight and Spike screaming as they hurtled towards her.
Yelping in shock herself, Shiva flared out a lightning bolt in defense… and winced as Twilight squealed in utter agony.
Despite her shot, Shiva still felt Twilight careen in her chest, throwing her off the Cutie Map from where she had teleported. Flaring her wings, Shiva forced herself to a stop, throwing Twilight down onto the burned but still standing Cutie Map.
Twilight shivered, clutching at a charred mark in her stomach. A similar exit wound suggested that Shiva’s beam had punched right through her. Scrabbling out from under her, Spike threw himself between Shiva and Twilight, his hands out as thought he was hoping he could shield her.
Shiva’s ears flattened in pity, but she still raised her claw, ready to deliver the finishing blow.
“Shiva…” Spike pleaded, tears brimming in his eyes. “Please don’t. We won’t hurt Kodo if you let us go back to the old time. We’ll make things just like they are here. Even better.”
Shiva grit her teeth. “Stop talking, Spike,” she whispered, the lightning charging in her claws.
“You don’t have to do this,” Spike pleaded. “You’re better than this! This isn’t who you’re supposed to be!”
“STOP TALKING!” Shiva barked, even as her claw shook, and the spear of light flickered and glitched.
“I… swear…” Twilight whispered.
Shiva and Spike paused. Even Ember leaned forward to listen as Twilight lifted her head up.
“I swear… on Celestia’s life…” Twilight whispered, even as she struggled to breath. “We… won’t… let this… be…” She took a rattling breath. “Just a dream.”
Then her head slumped against the Cutie Map. Shiva blinked, the energy in her claw fading. Did... Twilight just die?
“Twilight?” Spike whispered, shaking at her. “Twilight?!”
Shiva's claws trembled. She took a step back. This wasn’t right. This felt so… evil! Twilight had been irritable and annoying, but she was nothing like the other dragon lords and griffons and other beasts Shiva had killed. She had been just been trying to get back to her own timeline! Seeing Spike sobbing over her… it made Shiva feel like…
Like a villain,Shiva thought.
“Alpha?” Ember asked.
Shiva’s heart dropped into her stomach. And now I have to do it again, she realized, aiming her claw reluctantly at Spike. I have to kill him too.
To maintain peace. To keep my son safe.
To maintain… harmony.
Shiva shut her eyes. She couldn’t do it. She wasn’t sure how she was supposed to put down a crying baby dragon.
Then, as she opened her eyes… she noticed Twilight’s horn flickering with light. She noticed the Cutie Map glowing with something other than heat.
Ember and Shiva jumped back as a portal suddenly opened over the map. Spike looked up in alarm, before he gazed down at Twilight. Shiva blinked as she realized… Twilight was smiling.
“I promise,” she assured Shiva. “This won’t be just a dream.”
Even with a lightning spell through her gut, she had just enough energy to re-activate the spell. And as Shiva sent a panicked lightning bolt at her, the shot went wide as Twilight and Spike were sucked into the portal, and it vanished with a pop.
Twilight plummeted out of the portal. It took all her will power to flare her wings and keep from falling through the clouds. Starlight was already ahead of her, floating above her in a cloud of magic.
“Made it back, eh? Well, I… uh, huh?”
Starlight’s look of vindictiveness changed to concern as she took in Twilight’s battered body. She gasped as she saw what the lightning spell had done to her.
“You… What happened?” Starlight asked.
“Seriously?” a pegasus demanded, flying towards Twilight. “Are you alright, ma’am?”
Twilight struggled to step forward.
“Doesn’t… matter…” she muttered, flaring her horn. “Can’t… let you…”
But Shiva’s spell had done too much damage. And as Twilight slipped into unconsciousness, her last image was of Starlight, staring at her in horror.
When Twilight woke back up, she found herself in a hospital bed. The damage Shiva had done to her was mostly, if not completely, healed. A unicorn doctor tended to her, and Spike a group of other pegasi were grouped around her.
“W-Where am I?” Twilight asked.
“Shiva did a lot more damage to you than I thought,” Spike said. “We had to get you to a hospital.” He bowed his head. “I’m sorry, Twilight, I couldn’t stop her…”
“Stop… Starlight?” Twilight asked. But then she noticed one filly among the pegasi that had likely carried her. A cyan furred pegasus filly with rainbow hair.
“You alright, miss?” Young Rainbow Dash asked. “They told me I didn’t have to help, but… this pink unicorn insisted that we all pitch in.”
Twilight let out a frightened squeak, sensing the energy of the portal already building above her. With a tired sigh, she looked up as the portal formed above her, sucking her and Spike into another timeline.
“Sorry, Shiva,” Twilight whispered as she was pulled through space and time. “But my promise is going to have to wait a bit.”
Shiva almost found herself feeling gratitude for the sudden feeling of time altering.
As her mind flashed back to when she first dropped into Equestria, relief that she wouldn’t have to face the subjects she failed shot through her heart. However, it was quickly replaced by dread as she quickly found herself back in Beast Breaker’s pits.
Things flew by in a blur; her escape from Canterlot; Celestia looking oddly tired and weak. Luna even more oddly absent.
Then Chrysalis made her offer. Shiva accepted it, once again throwing off the timeline. But when Celestia fell, and Chrysalis and Shiva faced each other for the throne…
Shiva shrieked as Chrysalis got the first hit in. Her laughter echoed in Shiva’s ears as she was encased in emerald green resin.
“Thank you,” Chrysalis said mockingly. “For making this all too easy.”
With a final laugh, she blasted Shiva in the face.
When the white diamond dog recovered, she found herself strung up in a cocoon. Faintly, she made out other cocooned forms. A scared whimper escaped her as she recognized Luke and her diamond dogs. Celestia hung there as well, as did Shining Armor and Cadence. And Skippy…
By everything sacred, where’s Skippy? Shiva thought with horror.
But her view was quickly blocked, as she felt her pack link flare out against her will. Shiva tried and failed to scream as she felt her energy being pulled from her body. Coming into her view was Queen Chrysalis, a pack link wrapped around her hoof, turning a sickening green as she almost nuzzled up to Shiva’s cocoon.
“You have no idea how long I’ve waited for this,” Chrysalis admitted. “Your magic… powered by love?” She stroked Shiva’s face through the resin. “Oh, my darling; I may just keep you forever.”
And as she pulled Shiva forward into a disgusting kiss, Shiva began to fear that she would be kept there forever. With this loathsome queen leeching off her power and doing who knew what else to her and her pack.
“Twilight,” Shiva thought with all her heart, focusing on the fading memory of the purple alicorn. “Please… fix this!
It felt like an eternity before Shiva felt the pull of new memories again. But this time, when she was returned to a cell in Canterlot… something was different.
The dungeon had a different layout from the cells in Canterlot. It was made of what seemed to be obsidian or very dark bricks. And for some reason, even though a part of Shiva knew she had been in Equestria for several days, not once had she seen the sun.
Then Luna came to interrogate her. But it was far worse than the Luna Shiva remembered:
This Luna’s fur was a pitch black rather than a midnight blue. Midnight blue armor and regalia covered her figure, and her eyes, bluish-green and slit pupiled like a dragon, regarded her with the same intrigue a spider would show a slightly deformed fly.
“So,” the demonic version of Luna mused. “A diamond dog has managed to steal magic from ponies?”
“I-I don’t understand,” Shiva stammered. “I didn’t…”
“No creature in my kingdom should possess magic!” Luna boomed. “No one but the ponies!”
Shiva shivered as her horn cast a harsh black glow. Shiva felt the magic envelop her like an anaconda squeezing her prey.
“P-Princess Luna…” Shiva squeaked as she felt what seemed to be her very soul being sucked out of her body.
“Princess Luna died a long time ago,” the alicorn snarled. “You, dog of dirt, have the honor of gazing with your last breath upon Nightmare Moon!”
And that was the last Shiva heard before her consciousness was swept away in a vortex of magic.
When Shiva awoke, it was with another reset of her memories. Once again, she found herself back in Beast Breaker’s cage. Once again, she broke out.
But this time, she rejected Chrysalis offer. She beat Chrysalis with a tired Celestia by her side.
But when the time came for Tirek to arrive… it was horribly different. This time, a giant Tirek stomped into the Crystal Empire. And when Shiva moved to strike at him, he matched her with a beam of magic. Both of them found themselves tugging at each other, trying to drain the magic from their very beings. But he was stronger. Stronger than he should have been. Even with all her diamond dogs at her side, Shiva still felt herself losing ground.
“The Howlite Howler,” he boomed with amusement. “Did you think you were the only one with power like this?” He sneered as the space between his horns lit up with more magic. “Unfortunately, you place far too much trust in those you call ‘friend.’”
Shiva shook her head in disbelief, before Tirek unleashed his magic. Shiva was unable to stop him in time. Her magic faltered as she saw Luke and half of her diamond dogs vanish in a blinding flash of light.
In her despair, her magic failed. And she felt her magic pulled from her, disappearing down Tirek’s gullet. Collapsing to the ground, Shiva was barely able to lift her head as Tirek’s bellowed with laughter, her magic sparkling across his hands.
Come on, Twilight, she pleaded as Tirek's laughter deafened her. Reset this! Reset!
But the next two resets brought no hope. Again and again, Shiva had to endure the altered timeline.
First, she found herself in a world of chaos. The grass was like tentacles, and the trees grew cobs of popcorn. Beast Breaker didn't capture her; he was captured by Discord. And as Discord's eyes fell on Shiva, she found out first-hand how it felt to be turned into a diamond statue. Honestly, being trapped in ice was a better alternative.
And when even that timeline was erased, it was replaced with one where Beast Breaker instead brought Shiva to two strange stallions, who set her and the other diamond dogs to work in factories.
And even when Shiva attempted to break out with her magic, the stallions seamlessly transferred her to some sort of power plant. Strapped down and electrocuted on an hourly basis, Shiva’s life became one where her magic was used to power these strange stallions machines.
“Twilight, please…” Shiva found herself begging. “What are you doing?!”
Yet, even when the time finally came, and Shiva was blessed with the reset… she found herself in a wasteland.
No Beast Breaker. No Tirek. No Canterlot. Just… nothing.
The memories showed Shiva making her way through the wasteland. Finding a few diamond dogs who managed a small community. Managing to find diamond and gems in the ruins of an old town - Ponyville, she vaguely remembered. Her magic didn't show itself from some desperate attempt to escape. It came instead from saving another diamond dog's life. Luke. Celine and Kodo joined them not long after that.
Shiva sighed. At least these memories don't involve me dying or getting enslaved, she thought with relief.
But one day, as Shiva felt herself start to settle with this new timeline, she heard voices. With Luke, Kodo and Celine by her side, she found herself peeking out at two familiar ponies as they argued before a familiar crystal surface.
“Every world I come back to is worse than the last,” Twilight was saying. “I don’t know why my friends and I are so important to Equestria, but we are.”
“I don’t believe you!” the pink unicorn – Starlight, Shiva remembered with a burst of anger – declared.
“Come on, Starlight, look around!” Spike demanded.
“Like I said,” Twilight insisted. “Everything in the past affects the future. Even the tiniest act. And what you’re doing leads here! And for what?”
As she indicated the wasteland, Starlight glared around it, hesitation and doubt struggling to break free from her being.
That witch is the reason I had to go through all those timelines, Shiva realized. She started to pull herself out of the ground. The reason…
“Shiva?” Luke asked.
Shiva found herself pausing. The reason I got to rule Equestria. Suddenly, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with the pink unicorn.
“I was happy with what I had,” Starlight insisted. “Before you and your friends ruined what I built!”
Twilight narrowed her eyes.
“And what exactly did you build?” she demanded. “A ‘perfect society’ built on lies? You built a town where every pony was just your mindless puppets! Their lives and fates were strung to your hooves!”
“They were free!” she insisted. “Free of cutie marks that brought nothing but pain and misery!”
“Then why’d you keep your own?” Twilight argued. “If all cutie marks are nothing but a symbol of evil, what did that make you?”
“A victim!” Starlight insisted, jumping onto the map. “I’ll show you!”
"Hey-Hey!" Spike yelled.
Twilight and Spike jumped after her, and in seconds, the unicorns and dragon were gone.
“That was… weird,” Kodo commented.
“I’ll say,” Luke replied. “Ponies haven’t been around here in ages.”
Shiva sighed as she felt time start to ripple again. “I think… that’s about to change.”
Meanwhile, unknown to Shiva, Twilight watched, irritated, as Starlight’s past played out before her. She tried to be empathetic. She tried to give others the benefit of the doubt. But what she saw before her… was downright pathetic.
“Is this it?” Twilight asked.
“What?!” Starlight demanded.
“You were angry because your friend got his cutie mark first?” Twilight demanded. “Applejack’s little sister handled this better than you did.”
“But…” Starlight stammered. “I wanted…”
“What did you want?” Twilight demanded. “A world where YOU were the only important pony alive? Where words like ‘special’ and ‘talented’ and ‘amazing’ could only describe you?” She shook her head. “Now it’s my turn to show you something!”
Activating the time spell, Twilight brought Starlight to a familiar road. A carriage trekked along it, holding a cage with a familiar white diamond dog inside it.
“You see that?” Twilight demanded, pointing at the past version of Shiva. “That diamond dog had to suffer through actual pain. Actual agony. While you complained and whined about your friend getting his mark before you, she was caged and beaten and tormented by us. By ponies.”
“You’re bluffing,” Starlight insisted. “No pony would…”
But Twilight hit her with a new spell. One that she had learned from Shiva. And it filled Starlight’s head with the memories Shiva had shared with Twilight. The pain. The suffering. It sent Starlight to her haunches in horror.
“What…?” she stammered. “We… did that?”
“Yes,” Twilight said. “No pony should have blamed her for hating us. For letting us rot. Heck, thanks to your meddling, I found out that if she had let us fall to Chrysalis, she would’ve united the world. Actual equality; not your ‘excuse’ of a town.”
Starlight glowered at her. “Oh yeah?” she snapped. “Then what did she actually do, if you were still in charge?”
Twilight hit the time spell again, and displayed… Shiva standing triumphantly over Chrysalis’ changelings, the ponies standing in awe behind her. Almost… protected by her.
“She pushed past her grudge,” Twilight said. “She found something good in this world, held fast to it, and even found a way to help us. US, when she would have been more than justified to let us become changeling food. So, tell me, Starlight,” she said, before sending them back to the filly version of Starlight, fuming in her home like the pouting child she was. No cage. No whip. “Who’s the real victim here?”
Starlight tried to reply, but her retort died in her throat as she gazed at her younger self, now looking so much safer when compared to Shiva. Twilight sighed, her face relaxing by a margin.
“For too long,” Twilight admitted. “I’ve tried to make Shiva give more. I never considered the pain she was going through.” She looked up, her eyes narrowing and her horn glowing. “It’s a mistake I intend to correct!”
Beast Breaker’s cage.
The Cell in Canterlot.
Escaping to Diamond Dog Territory.
They all flashed by in a blur, but Shiva felt her heart settle as the events played out the way she remembered them first.
But as the memories drew closer and closer to Kodo’s burning of Filthy Rich’s home, Shiva felt her heart rate start to speed up. How was she supposed to stop all of that? How was she supposed to protect her son?
Maybe I can just set him up in Yakyakistan, part of her thought. Or just set up with him! We can leave and make a new home there.
But fate had other plans in mind for them both. For right when the time came for Spoiled Rich to confront them and lead to Kodo attacking her… something new happened.
The door burst open right in the middle of Spoiled Rich’s rant. Before Kodo could attack, Twilight Sparkle came in, Starlight and Spike on her heels.
“Stop!” she screamed. “Every pony stop!” She skidded to a stop, panting for breath.
“Twilight?” Cadence asked, rising in concern. “Is something wrong?”
Twilight gazed up at Shiva with a determined look in her eyes. “Yes,” she said. “And I intend to fix it.”