Ad Mortem, Ad Vitam

by Lady Aubernon

Act II

"Nervous, Twilight?"

"A little," Twilight nervously chuckled.

Arcana led Twilight through the Dark Magic Wing of the Canterlot Archives, a place that, if nothing else, needed a lot of dusting. Unlike other areas of the archives, the wing was minimal in decoration, with plain wood shelves containing tomes filled with arcane knowledge meant for a few to obtain, lest the contents fall into the wrong hooves.

"It's good to be nervous," Arcana began. "As a matter of fact, there once was a pony quite like yourself, though she never felt nervousness in herself or in her abilities. Her magic was so great that it caught the attention of Princess Celestia, who then made this pony her personal student."

"Just like me," Twilight said.

"Indeed. Her ambition and potential were great, though they were overshadowed by her lack of empathy, humility, and patience. This was not helped when her mentor mistakenly introduced her to a magical portal posing as an ornate mirror.

"When Celestia pulled her less-than-faithful student away from its reflection," her tone darkened, "the act only served to fuel her curiosity."

"What happened then?"

"One evening, that pony strolled into these very walls seeking the knowledge she thought she deserved to know." Arcana's voice iced over. "She learned a number of spells that were off-limits to most magic users, including a few meant for demigods and divinities such as your mentor. And of course, she did learn of that portal."

Arcana stopped in her tracks, turning to face Twilight with a dark look, her eyes veiled in teal and black smoke.

"Celestia caught her before she could learn more, but the die had been cast. The Princess denied the pony as her personal student, and was escorted through that door out of the castle.

"However, the rebellious pony used her newfound knowledge to subdue the guards when they made the error of walking past the room that held the portal.

"By the time Celestia discovered what had happened," she leaned in ominously, "her traitorous student had long since crossed through to the world on the other side." Arcana's eyes returned to normal as she resumed guiding Twilight in the latter's quest.

"Your teacher then had her guards bring the mirror to the throne room to serve as a reminder of her error, and in the hope that her protégé would one day return to face her fate.

"That said, you need not fear such retribution in your quest, not with the decree in your possession," Arcana finished.

"That's a relief, I guess," Twilight said, turning to look at the tightly rolled and sealed document thought to have been in her saddlebag, only to discover the opposite.

"Oh no! No! No no no no no!" she panicked. "I lost the decree! What am I going to do? I don't want to end up like-- "

"You won't," Arcana definitively stated, her voice reverberating within the wing similar to the Royal Canterlot Voice that had long since been relegated to the pages of time. The reverberation gave way to a low, beating sound that barely penetrated the thick walls, though audible enough for Arcana to acknowledge its source.

"Not if I have anything to say about it," she murmured.

* * * * * * * * *

Spike paced back and forth in front of the locked door, looking up now and again for a sign of life while tightly gripping the decree that fell from Twilight's bag. Pinkie sat still, concerned for their friend behind the door with that strange pony, and for the scared baby dragon in front of her.

"I'm worried, Pinkie," Spike said.

"Me, too."

"I wish we were with Twilight right now."

"I know, but Arcana said only Twilight was allowed inside," Pinkie reminded him.

"That hasn't stopped me before, though... " He paused in his tracks, looking upon the decree with growing curiosity.

"What's up, Spike?" she asked while bouncing over to him.

"Twilight mentioned that the writing looked funny."

"Arcana said Princess Celestia was in a hurry to get it to Twilight."

"I doubt that. She's always organized. She would have taken her time in issuing this decree."

A low, ghostly howl accompanied by rapid beating broke through the corridor walls, growing louder with each passing second.

"Dragonfly!" Pinkie jumped.


"Dragonfly, Spike! Oooh, I'm so nervousited!" She bounded around the hall until she caught Spike's eyes widening in disbelief, stopped cold by the glaring error before him.

"Spike, are you okay? What's wrong?" she asked, rushing over to her friend.

"That's not Princess Celestia's signature!"

"It looks like it to me."

"I know her writing, Pinkie, and this is a forgery," pointing out the specific flaw.

"You mean... changelings?" Pinkie panicked.

"Calm down! I don't think it's a changeling."

"Are you sure?"

"I don't know, but we need to let the Princess know right now."

"She might be in the garden! Hop on, Spike!"

Spike leaped upon Pinkie's back and held on as she galloped toward the royal garden, the unnatural thwack of the dragonfly's rotors increasing in volume the closer the duo were to their destination.

"Are you sure the Princess is in the garden, Pinkie?"

"Pretty sure, Spike! That dragonfly out there could only belong to the Princesses of Atlantis; Princess Celestia would be out there to greet her godmothers. Oh! And it's the only place where any dragonfly can safely land!"

"I'm not going to even question it. Charge!"

Pinkie pushed herself into overdrive, transforming the duo into a pink, purple and green blur of transonic speed rushing toward the royal garden outside.

* * * * * * * * *

Celestia followed the massive dragonfly's descent into the only open area within the garden walls large enough to accommodate the craft. Violent winds whipped through her mane and tail, disrupting their touched-by-the-divine movement. Philomena struggled to remain near her owner against the stiff breeze.

"Not much of a welcome wagon, Your Majesties," Star Tracer remarked, looking out through the windshield as the obsidian and neon blue monster powered down.

"It is to be expected, Star Tracer," said Minerva. Her twin sister then nudged her along toward the right side of the craft.

"Doors open," Pandora commanded.

A section of the dragonfly dematerialized, allowing the two princesses to deboard the craft. Minerva prepared for the worst for the damage she had wrought upon her goddaughter's kingdom, her head hung in regret with a distant look in her frail eyes. Yet, she wasn't prepared for the warm embrace Celestia gave to the clearly frazzled princess of dreams.

"Pandora told me you weren't feeling well," Celestia said.

"Tirek has broken through the veil into Astr-- " Pandora said before her sister's neuroses came to a head.

"Tirek decreed Equestria 'will shine no more!' The visions I've seen... you, Luna... Canterlot... annihilated under blue flame and bloodied skies! And his face, his disfigured, mechanical, cold face... he will not stop until all... until all... "

An eerie silence fell in the garden, broken by fearful sobbing.

"What has he done to you?" Celestia's voice trembled, tears pooling just below her eyes.

"Our royal doctors all said to leave her in Atlantis, but I was too afraid of what would happen if I did as instructed," Pandora lamented, her shattered sibling crying upon her shoulder.

"Princess Celestia!" Pinkie yelled from the across the garden.

Suddenly, the pink blur had come to a complete halt, flinging the purple and green blur upon his backside.

"Princess Celestia-- Oh, hi Princess Pandora and Princess Minerva," Pinkie got out between deep breaths. "Princess Minerva?! What happened?!"

"Pinkie? Is that you? My little reality warper?" Minerva meekly asked.

"Princess? You look like you need a lot of hugs."

"If that were my only need, Pinkie. Why the panic in your voice?"

"Oh yeah! Twilight's in trouble, and we need your help!"

"Where is she?" Celestia asked.

"Twilight's in the Dark Magic Wing of the Canterlot Archives with a strange pony, Princess," Spike urgently stated.


"The pony said you had given Twilight permission to enter the Dark Magic Wing through this decree," handing the document to Celestia.

It only took seconds to realize who went over Celestia's command.

"Ana," she coldly stated.

"We need to get Twilight away from her," Minerva ordered upon the revelation.

"Star Tracer, you and the others stay with the dragonfly," Pandora commanded. "If anything should happen to us, you know what must be done."

"Yes, Your Majesty."

The three princesses followed Spike and Pinkie back into the castle, galloping as fast as they could toward whatever fate awaited the quintet, and that of Twilight, on the other side of the locked door to the Dark Magic Wing.

* * * * * * * * *

"I wonder where we should begin in your research, Twilight."

"What would you suggest, Arcana?"

Pandora's hind legs smashed through the wing's door, catching Twilight by surprise. Arcana, however, was unfazed by the display, calmly replacing a book back into its spot on the shelf.

"Twilight, get away from her!" Celestia ordered, fire burning in her eyes upon the traitor in their midst.

"What took you so long, Celestia?" Arcana coolly remarked.

A spark of white magic descended from her horn, wrapping her body in its cold glow. Twilight quickly backed away from the spectacle toward Pinkie and Spike as the unicorn's power threw sparks of energy amid biting winds within the room.

"Wh-- what's going on here?" Spike yelled through the maelstrom.

Arcana's eyelids threw open, revealing the faded stone blue irises that were disguised until that moment. The magic arced around her body to burn away the deception, unveiling the gray alicorn hidden from view.

With the last trace of Star Swirl's cutie mark giving way to a blank flank, the magical storm dissipated as quickly as it formed.

"Wh-- who are you?" a shocked Twilight struggled to ask.

"I am Lady Ananke, the Divine Sovereign of Fate," her icy voice chilling the air within the room as she turned to face her protégé. "Has my most faithful student come to banish hers for being here under illegal pret-- "

"You did this!" Minerva roared with a bitter hatred never before expressed by the dream princess. "You allowed Tirek into our world, into my domain!" tears streaming from her haunted eyes. "Your failure to execute the monster when you had the chance took away my goddaughters' parents! And if Equestria falls, her blood, her spirit, will be on your hoov-- "

"Sleep," Ananke calmly bade the mad princess, plunging her into a deep slumber.

"A... a single-word spell?" Twilight gasped. "That's possible?"

"Why did you do that?" Pandora yelled, two of Celestia's guards restraining the princess lest she, too, be felled by the sovereign. "Tirek-- "

"Tirek cannot harm your sister where I have placed her, Pandora. She will wake when the spell has run its course. Perhaps by then, what is left of Minerva's fracturing mind will have coalesced into a more stable state.

"As for the rest of you," Ananke continued with a slight anger coming to the surface, "it would be wise to maintain restraint before your Sovereign.

"I will always win."

* * * * * * * * *

"Ar-are th-th-those-dr-dra-dragons?" a tiny voice squeaked.

"Whatever they are, they're pretty sweet, eh Fluttershy?" Rainbow said as the approaching squadron of dragonflies approached Cloudsdale. "Fluttershy?"

Rainbow saw two familiar eyes peeking from a pegasus-shaped cloud.

"Fluttershy, it's okay! They're not really dragons," she reassured her friend while one particular example landed yards away from the duo.

"But they look like b-big, scary, glowing, b-black dr-dr-drag-g-gons! Eeep!"

"Ugh!" Rainbow facehoofed. "They're from Atlantis! They're the good guys!"

"They are?"

General Firestorm and her corps of engineers exited the craft. Scanning the scene, the alicorn's grey eyes fell upon a rainbow-maned pegasus arguing with a cloud.

"The air must be really thin up here," she said to no pony in particular, shaking her head at the absurdity. "Listen up, soldiers! Skybreaker, Radar Rose, Whiteout, Skyfall and I will head over to the cloud factory. Windrunner, take the rest of the team over to the rainbow reservoir."

"Yes, ma'am," her charges said in unison.

"Fluttershy, trust me. They're not going to eat you. They don't even have mouths!"

"She does, though," Fluttershy said.


Rainbow turned to face their guest, craning her neck slightly to meet the alicorn's steely gaze.


"If it isn't the crazy thrice-exploding pegasus who brought us out of our warm, cozy, fluffy beds this morning," Firestorm remarked.

"Hey! It's not my fault Princess Minerva sent me a faulty speed suit," Rainbow curtly stated.

"Oh, please don't fight. It really wasn't her fault, whoever you are," Fluttershy softly spoke.

"A talking cloud?! Cool!" Whiteout said.

"Oh, I'm not a talking cloud. I'm Fluttershy," crawling out of her cloud blanket.

Firestorm rolled her eyes. "Oh goody. It's the yellow pegasus who broke Princess Minerva."

"Um, actually, it was Star-Swirl who-- "

"Who are you to talk to her like that!" yelled Rainbow. "Seriously. Who are you?"

"Firestorm, General of the Atlantean Royal Guard. To my left are Colonel Skybreaker and Captain Radar Rose. To my right are Master Gunnery Sergeant Skyfall and Staff Sergeant Whiteout."

"Let me guess: cloud-walking spell?" Rainbow asked of the lone unicorn in the group.

"Most dragonfly pilots are unicorns, so it's part of the training," Radar Rose explained. "Serves as a backup to the cloud shoes all dragonfly personnel wear on missions as part of their combat uniform."

"Combat?" Fluttershy repeated.

"Are you the pony who created the Sonic Rainboom?" a starstruck Skybreaker asked.

"Heh-heh! I sure am!" Rainbow confidently proclaimed. "I can pull one off in my sleep nowadays."

"As hypersonic triple light halos are her newest trick, apparently," mumbled Firestorm. Rainbow rolled her eyes in response.

"Anyway, where is the cloud factory? We were assigned to help rebuild that sector of Cloudsdale."

"Right this way, General," Rainbow sighed in annoyance, leading the group through the collapsed ruins of her city.

"Do you think you can show us a sonic rainboom while we're here?" Skyfall asked.

"Possibly. I'd have to warm up first, though. Carrying Radar Rose over would be a good start, seeing as we have to fly over to the cloud factory, and she doesn't have wings."

"Do you think you can teach me how to do a sonic rainboom?" added Skybreaker.

"Enough fangirling, you two," Firestorm interrupted. "Save it for the Rainbow Dash Air Show featuring Rainbow Dash and the Wondercolts!"

"Wonderbolts, General Firestorm," Rainbow corrected. Firestorm responded with a smirk and a slight gleam in her grey eyes.

* * * * * * * * *

"What in tarnation are those things up there?"

Applejack was helping Rarity with laundry in the latter's backyard when the they caught sight of the dragonflies ascending toward Cloudsdale, and the lone wolf speeding toward Canterlot as quickly as its engines could sustain.

"They must be Atlantean, whatever they are," Rarity said. "They look rather formidable, wouldn't you agree?"

"More like horrifyin'," Applejack replied, shivering briefly.

"Are you cold, Applejack? I can get you something from last season's rack to keep you warm until the weather is fixed."

"No, Rarity, I'm... I'm fine. Just seein' those things reminded me of what Rainbow told us after she woke up... " A wistful look appeared in her eyes before quickly changing the subject. "Anyway, I appreciate you hostin' me and my family until Sweet Apple Acres is put back in order. Our relatives should be here in the next day or so to help replant our orchards and rebuild the rest of our farm."

"What are friends for, darling," Rarity reassured her. "Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom seem to be making the most of it-- "

A crashing sound emerged from the second floor, catching their attention.

"Sorry," Apple Bloom said.

"We'll clean it up," added Sweetie Belle.

"Yes. Definitely making the most of it." Her right eye twitched.

"Heh-heh! It'll be fine, Rarity. I know Granny Smith and Big Mac are enjoying their break from the farm, too. Heck, Sweetie Belle seems to be learning a lot about cookin' from Granny... " Her voice trailed off as she looked in the direction of the family farm.

"Are you sure everything is alright, Applejack?"

"Oh Rarity. First, we nearly lose Rainbow in a freak accident tied to some strange techno-magical wizardry. And then, she comes back, only to tell us there's some kinda monster that had been locked up in a ruby who set everything in motion until now? And that it's up to us to fix it? I think we may be bitin' off more than we can chew, sugarcube."

"The ruby should have stayed with us," a weary, ancient voice spoke.

"What the... ?"

Before their eyes emerged a white dragon three times as large as they.

"Gahh," Rarity managed to eke out.

"I am Lord Chronos, the Divine Sovereign of Time," bowing before the two ponies.

"My heavens! I've never seen a white dragon before!" Rarity beamed.

"It is the form I choose to take in this world, Rarity."

"Well your form is quite fabulous, if I do say so myself!"

"Rarity!" admonished Applejack. "Anyway, you mentioned somethin' about the ruby staying with y'all just now. What do ya mean by that?"

"The ruby is an artifact from an eons-long conflict that, I am afraid, may end in your world," Chronos grimly stated.

"Well, isn't there something you can do now to stop whatever it is that's about to happen?" she implored the time lord.

"... No. We had our chance to resolve the conflict, but that is now out of our control."

At that moment, he sensed something amiss coming from Canterlot, a familiar cold gleam appearing in his blue eyes.


"Who now?" Applejack attempted to ask the sovereign.

"Ascend." His dark voice reverberated throughout the backyard.

Seconds later, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle walked outside looking for their sisters, only to find a mysterious scroll where two ponies once stood.

* * * * * * * * *

"Why are you here, and what were you doing with Twilight?" Celestia demanded, seething with anger aimed squarely at her teacher.

"I'm only here to speed things up, Celestia," Ananke began, staring down her belligerent pupil.

"If you're speaking of Star Swirl's writings on the Hope Ruby, it's in the Library of Atlantica Rare Book Vault," Pandora replied.

"Are they? Too bad it's not the whole story, now is it, dear Shepherd?"

"What are you talking about, Lady Ananke," Twilight retorted, "and how could you abuse my trust in the Princess-- "

"For your own betterment, Twilight Sparkle," venom entering her reptilian voice.

"'Divine' or not, no one messes with Twilight or my friends without going through me first!" Spike defiantly proclaimed.

"Spike!" his friends said in unison.

"As you wish," Ananke's voice reverberated as a cold, white spark of magic filled her eyes with the intent to destroy the baby dragon.

"You shall do no harm to the dragon," a familiar voice boomed and echoed within the forbidden room, freezing all in their place.

"Be still."

Ananke collapsed under the weight of the words spoken by her consort, his four companions emerging from the shadows.

"Girls! What... how... " Twilight tried to ask.

"Lord Chronos showed up in my backyard while Applejack and I were discussing the Hope Ruby when without warning, we arrived here," Rarity explained.

"What happened to Fluttershy?" Pinkie asked, seeing the yellow pegasus passed out upon Rainbow's back.

"The strangest thing happened, Pinkie," Rainbow began. "Fluttershy and I were showing some of the Atlantean Royal Guards the cloud factory when from out of nowhere comes this white dragon. Let's just say 'Shy here didn't take his entrance too well."

Chronos walked deliberately over to Ananke, a silent rage in his eyes meeting the stony glare of his consort.

"Enough foolishness, Ana. We have wasted enough time with your games as it is. They all need to know the truth about everything now."

"What truth, if you don't mind me asking?" Twilight nervously said.

"Tirek, his spirit, and the ruby, all are not of this world, Twilight Sparkle. They were cast from our domain... by order of Lady Ananke."

Silence fell upon the Dark Magic Wing.