“Woohooooooo!” cried Pinkie Pie as she went hurtling through the air. She fell down in a graceful arc. When she impacted the charred ground she did so rump first, and her spongy pink tail acted like a spring, bouncing her again into the air. She sailed another, shorter distance and then bounced again, flying even shorter now, until at last she just bounced briefly before settling upon her soft pink bottom. Rolling forward onto her four hooves, she swung her head around and let her blue eyes snap from place to place.
The scene around her was horrific. Buildings were destroyed, or else reduced to burnt out husks. Streets had been torn up; much of the old cobblestone had turned to molten rock, steaming up into the cloudy sky. The stench of burning oil and decaying flesh was heavy in the air. Looking back, she saw the solid wall of web that now blocked off lower Manehattan; the threads of spider-silk were flickering with magic, perhaps explaining why Twilight had not yet teleported in to join her.
Pinkie winced. “Man oh man, this place looks like it got a double whammy. No, a triple whammy!”
Even as she spoke she heard a mighty crashing sound. Her body trembled, and nearby a chunk of building crumbled to the ground.
“What's that?” What's that? Hello? No answer came. “Gotta find out!” She hurried off across the ruined landscape. She had to climb over some fallen buildings in her path, and had to bounce and hop through fields of shattered glass. It seemed forever that she moved, and the immense and awful shaking, crashing sounds got nowhere closer. Abruptly she was rocked off of her feet as one great smashing sound filled up the air. A burst of red light flared into the sky; the smell of ozone rose upon the wind. Pinkie gasped; she knew who it must be. She did not fear, however. Fear was alien to Pinkie, who could always find the ray of light within the deepest darkness. So she bounced up one great fallen building, crested its sharp corner, and looked down into a crater, not with fright but curiosity.
Reiziger and Falalauria were circling each other, antlers blazing red and orange, respectively. Pinkie watched them warily regard each other; one would step out and the other would step back, they'd knock their antlers up against each others', Reiziger would show his teeth and Falalauria would flash her white-backed tail. Suddenly they smashed against each other, venting power, sending rays of battle magic outward from their clash which blasted off great chunks of buildings all around them. Pinkie was close enough that she heard Reiziger when he proclaimed, “My goodness, half-breed, all my assaults and you're still alive. There must be more of the high deer in you than I had figured.”
“The high deer and the common deer are equal in me,” she replied. “As they were equal among the deerfolk before you spread your stain of bigotry!”
“Come now, half-breed,” he responded, “you esteem me even higher than I do myself! What bigotry I stoked already had its origins among the high deer. Why else would so many of them choose to follow me? I was a symptom, not a cause.”
“Liar! I have Seen into the past. The deerfolk lived in harmony, all six species equal to each other, until you started spreading your foul gospel!”
“You have Looked back with your Long Sight, but you did not live it, little girl. You did not experience the tensions that simmered between all the species by the end. You did not hear the disputes in the Parliament of Antlers. And you did not see how revoltingly crass and crude the common deer had become by that point.” His eyes narrowed, his lip curled up. “Always going out to the sporting events at the stadiums, always going to the gambling houses and the dens of ill repute! The common deer were lechers and intellectual midgets. They deserved a lower place by the time I emerged.”
“That is a lie,” said Falalauria, “a lie from you, the prince of lies.”
“The king of lies, thank you,” Reiziger replied. “I'll not have you demoting me.”
“All of this is futile. You are going to lose. I have foreseen it.”
“You know, I spent much time among the red deer. They were my allies til the bitter end, after all. I learned much about their Long Sight. It is a powerful thing, perhaps the most powerful of all the Gifts of the Elements. But it contains a cruel and crucial limitation: it must be used deliberately.”
“My Sight is all-encompassing, and highly accurate.”
“Oh, I don't doubt, it being mingled with the Truth Sense of the white-tails. But all the same, half-breed, you share the red deer's weakness: you cannot See what you do not look for. And behold, I have been operating just out of your Sight all this time, and all the efforts of you, and all your deer, and all the ponies here, have been in vain.”
Falalauria's star-studded eyes went wide. “What?”
“You must have Seen why I came here to Manehattan. Why, particularly, I wanted to come down here to the lower part of the island.”
“The old bison burial grounds,” she answered. “This is where the bison who once roamed all over Equestria buried their shamans and medicine men. Their natural magic has leaked into the land here and made it stuffed with power. That is part of why Equestria is such a strong trading and mercantilist nation, because the home base of its far-ranging economy is here.”
“Very good! Now, ping your magic. Is that power still here?”
Falalauria went flinching back. Her antlers shimmered, and right then she truly gasped. “But- I- I foresaw myself keeping you at bay!”
“Your wretched Sight was clouded by your hubris, half-breed! You thought that your own strength could match me because I was not yet at full power, that you could wholly battle me! That is because you have never bothered to See just how powerful I was at my full strength, and even how strong I was at half strength!” Reiziger's body smudged a little. The shadows round him pulsed, his eyes came flashing like two glimmering red stars. A crown of fire sat upon his head, he breathed out jets of flame from his black nostrils. “But I am very, very powerful, half-breed, more powerful than you could dare to dream. So powerful that I could pretend to battle you with all my strength while still keeping plenty of my power free to concentrate on other things- like draining all the strength of these old burial grounds!”
Falalauria sat down. She shook her head and gave a mournful chuckle. “Foolish.”
“Very,” Reiziger said, bearing all his white razor sharp teeth. “The power in these lands is mine now, half-breed, and I am nearly as strong as I have ever been. Equestria will fall soon. First, though, I think I shall-”
Both great deer swung their heads around. Pinkie slid down the gray slope into the crater, then came bouncing toward them.
“Hey, Lady Lala!”
“Pinkie!” Falalauria exclaimed. “Pinkie, stay back! Don't come any-”
With a blazing blast of red light she was shot off to a far building, smashing into it and making it collapse into a cloud of dust. “No,” said Reiziger, “no, I think the pony should come close.” He turned about and grinned. “Hello there, Pinkie Pie.”
“Hey there, you big ol' meanie!”
“Oh, you wound me,” Reiziger exclaimed. As he walked toward her shadows swelled about him. Blackened stars and dying suns were trailing in his wake, while crimson fire burned about his antlers. “I'm really quite nice once you get to know me.”
“You? Nice? Fuggedaboudit!” She smiled. “That was my impression of a Manehattan accent! Did you like it?”
“Charming. Actually, a tiny part of me is refreshed to see my species' Gift bestowed upon a natural trickster. You do excel at making ponies laugh, don't you?”
“I'm the best! Nopony is better.”
“But is it all a subterfuge?” A deflection?
Pinkie felt dark claws begin to dig into her mind. She summoned up the bouncy pinkness she had used before, but Reiziger was sturdy now, was not so easily repelled. “Wha... no, I really do love making ponies smile! It's what I'm called to do!”
Leaving aside the arcane business of your cutie mark, I think there is no small amount of self-deception here. You like to make ponies laugh, yes, but it stems from the time you couldn't make anypony laugh, doesn't it?
She tried to flinch and run away, but Reiziger had rooted her in place. He kept on digging, red eyes blazing as he stared into her own. Pinkie felt the layers of her mind be cut apart and peeled away, as though she were some specimen on Twilight's surgeon table.
Ah yes, there it is...
“What is this?” her father shouted, shooting Pinkie's eyebrows up. The little pony cantered to the main room of the house, where she saw the stallion standing by her project, glaring with an angry gaze.
“Hey Poppy!” Pinkie cheered. “Guess what guess what guess what?”
Her father's face grew no less stern. “I'm listening.”
“I'm making a puppet show! And this is gonna be the background! See, look, I'm drawing some mountains there, and there's gonna be a lake there, and-”
“No!” Pinkie wilted as her father yelled. “This is our best bedsheet, Pinkamena, and you've ruined it!”
“I- I didn't-”
“And what's this? Coal? You've been drawing with fine, high-grade coal? You've been wasting rocks?”
“W-We didn't have any crayons! I didn't mean to-”
“Pinkamena, I don't know what's come over you. First you start wearing your hair so unruly! Then you start going on about that... that f-word...”
“Yes! Pinkamena, fun has no place on this farm, do you understand me? The only thing that lives here is good, Celestia-blessed hard work and piety! And if you're going to destroy property, I have no choice but to teach you a lesson.” He grabbed her underneath his front leg.
“No! No, Poppy! Poppy, please!”
He did not listen, though. Instead, he bent her on his lap and spanked her, spanked her til she cried. And that night she was forced to watch as the bedsheet was burned.
Pinkie's eyes were leaking tears. “But... but...”
Everypony thinks that of you, by the way. No one thinks you're funny, or clever, or amusing. They think you are annoying, Pinkie, and they only laugh and smile at your antics so that you'll go away.
Perhaps you ought to oblige them, then? Maybe you should go away for good? Reiziger grinned with all his teeth. I can help with that, of course.
Pinkie breathed hard in and out. Her mane and tail began to lose their bounce, her bright and brilliant colors started fading in their shine. She seemed poised over eternal despair. But then... she remembered. And she smiled anew. “Oh boy! You almost got me!”
You almost had me sad remembering one of my worst times ever! And you were keeping me from remembering what came after that! But you just can't! Because what came after was one of my best times ever!
The party in the barn was winding down now. All the games were played, all food was eaten, nearly all the dancing had been done, though Maud was still engrossed in her strange rhythm. Pinkie sighed, a massive smile on her face. Her first party had been an absolute success!
She turned around, and then her smile dimmed. Her father stood there, firm and steady as he'd always been. And yet his eyes were... different, somehow. Less unyielding. She remembered her spanking from some days before, and winced away a little. “H-Hello, Poppy.”
“Pinkamena, I...” her father trotted to her and sat down beside her. “Pinkamena, this... what's it called...”
“Yes, this... this p-party has been wonderful. It's brought your mother and your sisters so much joy, joy I haven't seen from them in ages- maybe never before. And it's brought me joy also. I never before realized how good it is to have... to have fun.” He sighed. He took his hat off. “A few days ago, with the bedsheet... I wanted to say I'm sorry.”
“Really?” Pinkie's smile spread again.
“You have always been... different, Pinkamena, different than the rest of us. Not just in looks but in the way you act, the way you think, the way you see the world. For a time, I was worried you were cursed in some way, afflicted by some demon.” He smiled down at her. “But now I see that you were merely blessed in a very unique way. Thank you, Pinkamena, for sharing your Celestia-given gifts with us.”
“Oh, you're so super welcome, Poppy!”
He drew her close and wrapped her in a hug. “I promise never to spank you again, Pinkamena. I was wrong to do it before. And from now on, provided you still do your chores and duties, you may have as much fun, and throw as many parties, as you wish.”
Pinkie hugged her father tightly, tears sprung from her eyes. “I promise I will, Poppy! I'll make this farm the funnest farm that's ever been!”
“Hmm, we shall have to start inviting more of my relatives over, then, mine and your mother's...”
“So you see? In the end my Poppy did love me, and so does everypony else!” Pinkie pressed her mind on Reiziger, pink and bouncy brilliance pushing up against the wall of blackness in her head. And that's because everypony loves to smile, everypony loves to dance! We all want to feel happy! And if we can make other ponies happy, that makes us happy, too! So that happy ponies make happy ponies, until everypony's happy! Her cutie mark was glowing. And no matter how much YOU try to stop it, you'll NEVER stop ponies from being happy!
Cease this, thought Reizgier. He flung his mental strength at her- but with a gasp of shock he found he was repelled. Indeed, instead of pushing into Pinkie's mind, she was pushing into his! Stop this!
Why ARE you such a grump, anyway? You're the biggest, meanest meanie I've ever seen! You're even meaner than Nightmare Moon before she turned back into Princess Luna! Come on, SHOW me! Pinkie shoved her thoughts upon him. Her cutie mark was shining like the sun, her eyes were gleaming, blazing white.
No! Get back! But for the first time in more than five thousand years, Reiziger felt powerless. Pinkie's bouncy brightness smashed apart his old and mighty mental shields, diving deep into the corners of his thoughts that no one else had ever breached.
Two deer children were playing by a stream that flowed through rolling hills. Caribou the both of them, they were both occupied with different toys. The older played with a strange crystal thing that floated in the air and glowed within. The younger bounced a ball about, and looked decidedly unhappy to be doing so. In the distance, a great tent city rose, its pink banners aloft and fluttering in the soft breeze of spring.
“Oy!” said the younger one. “I want to play with the aleph now.”
“You had it for almost an hour,” said the older one. His right hoof touched the aleph, made it pulse and rotate, crystal arms spinning in all directions while the colors of the center swiftly changed. “Let me have it at least a little.”
The younger brother rolled over and scowled. “I don't see why I should ever have to share my toys. Isn't that what being a prince means?”
The elder brother chuckled. “Well, you may be a prince, but I'm the crown prince, so even you have to share with me.”
The younger caribou looked back upon his brother with a glare of deathly hate. He breathed out, then he breathed in, always keeping that same terrible intensity. At last, he rose and quickly trotted to the elder. “Oh yeah?” he asked, and swung his hoof. The older caribou was knocked back toward the river. Before he could react the younger was upon him, punching at him yet again. The older brother stumbled, nearly fell into the river, and that's when the younger brother made his move. He shoved the older brother down, then rolled him over, and with all his strength he shoved his brother's face into the river.
The older brother struggled mightily at first. It took all the younger brother's strength to hold him under- all his strength and all his hate. But after a few minutes those same struggles started dwindling. The older caribou went slowly limp, strength retreating from his limbs. Pressing as he was against his brother's back, the younger caribou could feel his heart slow down, and finally stop.
He pulled the corpse out of the river. “Oh yeah?” he said down to it. “Well I'm the crown prince now.”
Oh my gosh!, gasped Pinkie. You were even a meanie when you were a kid!
With a mighty mental shock Pinkie was forced back to the real world, staggering from all the power she had felt.
“Wuh-oh,” Pinkie said.
“Pinkie!” she whirled and noticed Falalauria now running toward her. “Pinkie, get on! Hurry!” Pinkie dashed to her and crawled up on her back. As shadows swelled and crimson fire came down from the sky, Falalauria took a soft step, and disappeared.
In a corner of the Bronx the deer and ponies mingled, resting, healing, being happy they'd survived. “General,” said Stirrup, “is that everypony?”
“Everypony who's alive, I think,” said Shining Armor. He glanced across the river at Manehattan. Buildings had been toppled. Smoke and shadow lingered still in all the battlegrounds. Fires burned. The streets were filled with dead changelings and other creatures, along with fallen deer and ponies. He sighed. “It's going to take months, maybe years, to restore this place.”
“Why do all our victories against Reiziger seem to be fake?” asked Rainbow Dash.
“Likely because he seems to get stronger no matter what we do,” said Rarity, leaning up against her.
“We just have to keep fighting!” Twilight Sparkle said. “Keep fighting, and keep strengthening our Elements of Harmony. We'll beat him, I know we will.” She chuckled. “Besides, for as powerful as he keeps claiming to be, I haven't exactly seen him do any-”
A telepathic ROAR filled all their heads, making many of them crumble to the ground from mental pressure. In that instant a blaze of crimson light filled all the air and all the ground and all of everything. There was a sudden smell of burning and destruction. A horrible crash that nearly deafened all of them rose through the air. Then, an instant later, all was still. They glanced across the river yet again... and gaped.
The middle of Manehattan was gone. A two-mile-wide chunk that ran the whole length of the island had been utterly destroyed, leaving only a great blackened scar. Steam was rising from the charred remains, buildings that had been but half-annihilated toppled over with great clouds of dust and soot.
“Oh my gosh,” whispered Fluttershy.
I AM GOING TO PEEL THE FLESH FROM YOUR BONES, YOU STUPID PINK PACK ANIMAL
“Pinkie!” the five friends cried aloud, and hurried off.
Falalauria glanced back upon the ruins of Manehattan and was shocked. Even when Reiziger had battled her and Luna and Celestia amid the Broken Lands, he had not done that. “By the Wills,” she whispered.
“No! Not FAO Horse! I never got to go!” cried Pinkie. “I never got to cuddle the giant teddy bear! I never got to ride on the rideable train! I never got to blow the giant bubble blower!”
“Pinkie, we must go. We... we have to leave, we have to-”
Reiziger appeared beside them and then dug his antlers under Falalauria. He raised both her and Pinkie off the ground and flung them far across the Bronx park where they'd teleported. Pinkie fell off and bounced hard against some nearby grass, while Falalauria went flying into a great building, crashing through the glass facade.
“Lady Lala!” Pinkie shouted. She started moving, but Reiziger teleported right in front of her. She scowled at him. “What do you want now, you great big meanie?”
He was... unstable. His blackened form was pulsing, flickering, as though it were some plastic oozing from its mold. His antlers seemed occasionally to be too large and have far too many tines, while blackened tendrils wafted like a candle's flame from edges of his fur. His eyes were burning- literally burning, crimson fire blazing from the sockets. His mouth seemed far larger than normal, the razor teeth in them unusually long. As he walked, the buildings shook.
“I... confess I am at a loss,” he snarled. “There are so, so many terrible things I wish to do to you, and I want you to suffer through all of them. But even one of them will kill you in the end, so I must be selective. And yet... so many choices.”
“Well, it's like my Uncle Pinkerton always says: if you have a lot of choices, you really have none! He told me- AH!” Pinkie cried out sharp as Reiziger lunged down and bit her. His massive jaws clamped down onto her back, sinking deep into the pink fur and pink skin. She screamed yet more as he pulled back and shook her back and forth, as though he were a bigger dog and she a smaller one. At last he flung her from his bite, smashing her against a nearby tree.
SHUT UP!, he thought. “Always,” ALWAYS TALKING. “Do you” EVER “ever cease your mindless, brainless prattle?” His tongue ran out along his teeth. “At least you taste good.”
“Heh... I... I sure hope so!” said Pinkie, staggering onto her hooves. There were black stains around the bite marks on her back. “Do I taste like cotton candy? I've always hoped I did!”
“Not quite,” said Reiziger, sharp teeth glinting as he stalked to her. “But that doesn't mean I won't eat you alive.”
“Oh no you won't!”
He whirled. “Oh, spare me, Twilight Sparkle. Actually, I'm glad you're here. You can watch her die!”
“Leave her alone!” cried Twilight, standing poised and regal not twelve feet away.
“As I said, spare me. You are going to watch and you are going to-”
He did not finish. A blast of white and purple power rocked him off his hooves, sending him flying into the park and breaking several trees along his way. Falalauria emerged then from her crater, and she gasped. Twilight's eyes were glowing, and so was her cutie mark. Her horn was flashing, sparking, blazing with great power, far more power than she'd ever used before. “Twilight?”
“Lady Falalauria!” she shouted, not turning around. “Come on, let's get him!”
“Twilight, where on earth did you learn such magic?”
Where indeed?, asked Reiziger into her mind. Show me! And in that instant he brute-forced past all her shields. Memories flew by across her thoughts, all of them awash in one great instant. Reiziger reappeared nearby, and he seemed far more stable... and in strange good spirits. “Fëanor?” he asked. “You've been training with Fëanor?” He laughed. “That old schemer! Ah, seeing him still skulking about and weaving his creaky cobwebs makes me smile. I have recovered my good humor!”
“Twilight, you've been training with Lord Fëanor?” asked Falalauria.
Twilight flinched. “Well... I...”
“We're here!” cried Applejack. She and Rainbow Dash and Rarity and Fluttershy came surging next to Twilight. “Pinkie!” and immediately toward Pinkie Pie, who trotted slowly up to meet them.
“H-Hey girls,” she said, wincing at each movement.
“Pinkie, what on earth happened?” Rarity exclaimed.
She tastes delicious, by the way.
Dash shot up with lightning in her eyes. “You!”
“Stay together, Dash!” cried Twilight. “Gifts on!” Her cutie mark began to glow as she channeled the Element of Magic. Applejack began to focus on her Element of Honesty, Rarity upon the Element of Generosity, Fluttershy upon the Element of Kindness, and Pinkie, fitfully, upon the Element of Laughter. Dash fluttered back down and flipped on her own Element of Loyalty.
“None of you are strong enough to summon the Rainbow without your gems, not yet!” cried Reiziger. Yet even as he watched, the air began to shimmer faintly. The ghost, the whisper of a rainbow started winking in and out, and barely became stable for perhaps a second. “Not yet!” he repeated, though for the second time today he was uneasy.
“Do you want to take that risk?” asked Twilight. The six of them were facing him with firmest resolution.
Reiziger walked gently backwards. “No,” he said, “no, not yet. I have time still. As I mentioned to the half-breed, I've gotten what I came for. Farewell, my little ponies.” He took another step and vanished.
The rainbow utterly went out. Twilight breathed out slowly. “I... he's right. We're not strong enough yet.”
“But the rainbow! It was there!” cried Dash.
“Not as there as it looked. I used some color contrast spells to make it more visible than it really was. It was barely there... which isn't nearly enough.”
“Still, dear, that was brilliant!” Rarity exclaimed. “We actually frightened him! And with more effort and more practice, we shall be able to beat him for good!”
“I'm gonna count that as a victory,” said Applejack.
“I just wish it hadn't come at such a high cost,” said Fluttershy.
“Victory?” Dash snapped. “Manehattan is destroyed, Reiziger's more powerful than ever, and so many ponies and deer died today! You call that a victory?”
“Cheer up, girls,” said Pinkie. “It's like... like my Nanna Pinkie says... you...” she was swaying, “you... you can't...” her eyes rolled back and she fell to the ground.
“Pinkie!” her five friends cried for the second time today. Pinkie lay passed out upon the street, pitch black fluid leaking from the bite marks on he back.