Reiziger, the Lord of All the Herds, skittered down a mountain. He turned round when he reached the bottom and there came a blast of crimson and of shadow- and the mountain vaporized, crumbling away to dust and ash. “Where is he,” he snarled, spinning round. “Where is he,” WHERE IS HE, “where is he, where” IS “he?” He breathed out hard. It had been far too long since he had been this angry. It had been far too long since he had been this out of sorts. He had been humiliated by that Wills-forasken chimerical thing! “Enough of this!” he snapped. “He has clearly gone off after having his fun. I shall deal with him later.” He smiled, curling back his blackened lips to show his white and razor teeth. “Now I think I shall go kill Celestia and Luna, and Schwarzkreig, and all the Deer Elders. Of course I shall kill all the ponies, too, and all the deer. Indeed, I think the time has come to kill and eat this whole entire-”
He spun around. There they were, standing staggered on the crags and boulders scattered up and down the slope beside him. There they were, manes and tails whipping in the wind. There they were: Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Twilight Sparkle. Reiziger beheld them all and snarled. “Well, well, well, if it isn't the Elements of Harmony.”
“Yep!” said Pinkie brightly.
“It's been a while, but we're all here now,” said Fluttershy.
“Not for long. I shall presently have you and you, Rainbow Dash and Rarity, back under my control. That is assuming I would not prefer to finally devour you.”
“No,” said Rarity. “No, not this time.”
“Who are you to defy me?” roared Reiziger. “I am the Lord of All the Herds! I am the Death of all that Is! I am-”
“Look, sugarcube, we've heard this before,” said Applejack.
“Don't you get it?” said Twilight. “This is it. It's over.”
“Maybe if you surrender now we'll go easy on you,” said Dash. Her face twisted in wrath. “Probably not, though!”
“Surrender?” He bared his fangs, his eyes became red flames. “Surrender? You sub-deer filth! You are less than nothing, less than worms! How dare you speak to me of surrender and defeat! I have come to butcher you, and all you love!”
“So I guess that's a 'no' on the surrender thing?” said Pinkie with a grin.
Reiziger howled and crimson power flashed. The mountain the six friends were standing on was vaporized. However, in a flicker they appeared upon the plain nearby, Rarity and Twilight teleporting all the others. Reiziger erupted crimson flames out of his antlers but Rarity threw up a shield to block. Dash's body wrapped itself in lightning and she threw a mighty bolt at him. He batted it aside, but Twilight next erupted magic from her horn. This too he blocked, and hurled infinity of crimson at the six of them. Once more Rarity and Twilight teleported all the rest away, leaving the great spell to vaporize another mountain.
Pinkie dove down at him, pink wings folded tight, she dove down at him and she thought and made him cower. He skittered backward. Fluttershy came flying in and clamped around him with her healing Gift erupting pinkish waves out of her hooves. Reiziger cried out in pain- for an instant, brownish fur appeared amid the infinite black shadows, and around it smoke and hissing sizzled as though it were in a cauldron. He bucked off Fluttershy but Applejack came in with twirling lasso. She roped him and she dragged him down, crashing him into the mountain dirt as dust clouds from the mountains he had blasted rose and billowed in the dark and faintly ruddy air.
He tossed her hard aside, but Rarity erupted blasts of magic at him as Pinkie came down and thought at him again. Quailing under Pinkie's blasts of mental might, Reiziger could not resist the battle magic Rarity was firing, so he withdrew. Dash came flying in. She whipped her wings and drew a storm out of the sky, spinning up a twister that came howling down and smashed hard into him as he was finding better footing. The cyclone tossed him off into another corner of the valley; he fell like a black comet and sent rockslides rolling down the granite slopes.
Twilight flew above him, and she cocked back, reared back, cutie marks were twinkling as she bent all her focus on the blast. Her horn shone white and a great noise came forth as power shimmered out of her. She struck the mountain with her spell; however, she did not destroy it. But great technique- by knowledge she had learned from drawing on the Gift of Magic, which held technique as well as power- she reserved all the destructive focus of the spell for Reiziger alone. He bounced and writhed amid the surging energies, bubbling down into a fluid shifting shadow. Dash flew up beside Twilight and focused lightning on the space as well. Dash's lightning, unlike Twilight's magic, still did damage to the mountainside, so rocks were scorched and charred to black by all the power there.
The lightning and the spell at last gave way. Reiziger went sliding down the mountain slope, only to meet Applejack there waiting for him at the bottom of the gorge. She bucked him hard and kicked him down the way into the valley. Fluttershy was on him yet again. This time she beamed her healing waves out at him, pink echoes of love and warmth that made him howl in agony when they were bent upon him. He teleported far away, across the valley, but the six ponies were hard behind him, Rarity and Twilight teleporting all of them to harry him again.
Pinkie dove down and she thought with all her might. She blasted power from her mind, bent her Gift of Laughter. Reiziger had long since become utterly unable to withstand her blazing mind. She spread his blackened heart apart and filled it up with happiness and sunshine and balloons and cotton candy, cake and pie and pink, so much pink, all the pink in all the world. Reiziger erupted magic from his antlers, but Twilight summoned up her shields and blocked the power, then absorbed it, then directed it back down on its original creator. Dash came in and flashed her lightning bolts and flung her windstorms down. Rarity went galloping toward him and her magic flashed bright blue from off her horn. Fluttershy projected out her healing waves, Applejack kicked boulders more than thrice her size upon him, and Pinkie all the while kept her constant mental punishment on him, prying open all the corridors and chasms of his mind to fill him up with brilliance and with love-
A blast of crimson radiance erupted from the center of the gorge. It spread like death. Hate, fury, wrath were in it, too much, too great. Twilight knew instinctively that she could not repel it. She flashed her horn, and her five friends went vanishing in eyeblinks, she herself next disappeared as well. The wave of power turned all in its path to ash. It swallowed cliffs and peaks, ate up streams and scraggled trees, became a hollow crimson sphere of nothing and destruction. It gobbled down the world and left nonbeing in its wake.
When it faded, finally, land for near a mile was a blackened waste. All the nearby mountains had been flattened. Every valley had been filled in. Nothing stirred but billowed clouds of ash and dust and fire.
“Do you think you can toy with me?” snarled Reiziger, glancing round to find his hated foes. “I am not some two-bit villain of the week to be played with, to be patronized! I am Reiziger! I am the Lord of all the Herds! I shall not be disrespected!”
“You want us to stop toying with you?” He glanced up. The six of them were standing on a cliff. “Fine!” cried Twilight. Her horn flashed, and the six of them were suddenly surrounding him. “Now, girls! Now!” They closed their eyes. Their breathing slowed, and deepened. They settled into gentle, steady stances. One by one, all six ponies immersed themselves within their Element of Harmony. Applejack dove into Honesty. Fluttershy immersed herself in Kindness. Pinkie delved deep into Laughter. Rarity was one with Generosity. Dash became a paragon of Loyalty. Twilight fell deep into Magic, the Magic at the heart of all reality. They thought. They felt. They were.
Reiziger snarled. “Pathetic. You expect me to just stand here?” Fools! His antlers burned with crimson flames. He loosed another blast that was destruction, that was Nothing. It flashed out-
The nightmare power suddenly recoiled. It bounced back on him; he was forced to suck it back into himself. He swirled around. His crimson eyes went wide. Each pony's cutie mark was floating as a ghostly phantom in the air above her head. Around them was a shimmer in the air, that, as he watched, took on the colors... of the rainbow. And Reiziger, for the first time since escaping from his prison in the Archbacks, was afraid.
No... NO! He broke up and became a thing of Shadow, a wisp, swirling, coiling, thrashing like a dancing liquid or a snake. Do you think even Harmony is strong enough to beat me? I have faced stronger powers than this!
Shafts of bright white light shot from each of the six ponies' flanks and tied their cutie marks together in a hexagon. Reiziger erupted in a ROAR that could not properly be heard, could not be understood, a primal howl that only could be felt. He became a Thing, a Thing of Nothing, the thing that had been floating in the air by Cloudsdale, the thing that had become the terror in the heart of everypony's nightmare, a thing with far too many antlers, far too many eyes, and far, far too many teeth. He lashed out with his Fire and his Shadow; black and crimson danced like fire and like water through the air.
You are fools, all of you! The universe began to tremble, as a rainbow began shimmering into reality. Do you know me? DO YOU KNOW ME? I am the Lord of All the Herds! I am the Scourge of the Red Deer! I am the Butcher of the Elk! I slew the Sun and the Moon! White light came from everywhere and nowhere. Reality began to seem a distant thing. I am Death itself! I am Nonbeing, the final Void that waits there at the End of everything! I am all that is Old and Grand and Awful! I am BEYOND reckoning!
Time and space were rainbow. The six ponies opened their eyes and those were gleaming white. The rainbow radiance erupted and emerged from every corner, every fold of being.
I am Death! I am the Undoing! I am beyond your comprehension, you stupid pack animals! I am...
White light comes, and then goes. When Reiziger regains awareness he is in a place both light and dark. He is in a place both up and down and all around, that seems at once above, below, and to the sides of things. He glances round. For half a moment, all seems dark. Then there is a swirling infinite triumphantness of RAINBOWS. Not just the rainbow- every color, every hue and shade is present in a glimmering and ever-moving haze of color. He turns around and round. He can see everything, and Nothing. A step raises a sizzle- he looks down and sees that in between the color patterns there are crackling, blazing channels of the Lightning.
He knows this place, of course. The Dreaming, he says. He spins around. Even in the Dreaming, I cannot be stopped! I am DEATH ASCENDANT! I am... I am... The Dreaming swallows up his words. They do not even seem to travel past his antler tips.
A terror tremors up his spine. He turns, dread growing. He turns and turns and turns and turns and turns and turns, for from six sides he is surrounded.
There is an alicorn approaching him. She is a gentle Autumn orange, and her mane and tail seem spun from finest gold. Her barding- her jewelry- is neither gold nor silver but instead is rich red leather, wrapping round her chest and round her legs and even in a diadem around her head. She smells of harvest- and of apples.
Near to her there is another alicorn. This one is somewhat taller, and is thinner, too. Her coat is pale and gentle yellow, like the flowers blooming in the verdant fields of Spring. Her mane and tail wisps, are gossamer, and their color is pale soft pink. White flowers and Spring-green vines are woven in her mane and tail which billow in the breeze. She smiles, and she terrifies him.
However, the third alicorn is the most terrifying, to him, because he can feel her long before he turns his head. She radiates unceasing happiness and joy. It seems as though it is impossible to feel sad in her midst, and that makes him despise her. Her coat is pink like bubblegum. Her mane and tail are hotter, brighter pink, magenta-hued, and unlike all the other alicorns, her mane and tail do not flow- instead, they bounce, shifting, squeezing, stretching, almost in an imitation of his own ever-shifting Shadow. However, he knows she is not the imitation- it is he who copies her, though somehow she came later.
The fourth alicorn is a lovely alabaster white. Her wings, unlike the others', are not feathered bird's wings but the lovely colored gossamer wings of a butterfly. Her mane and tail are deep ringlets of violet; they glitter like an amethyst fresh mined out of the earth.
Another alicorn is bright blue like the midday sky, and on her is a brightness that erupts like midday sun. Her mane and tail are colored all the colors of the rainbow. As they flow, they crackle and they snap with lightning. The Dreaming seems to know her well, for it rejoices in the stepping of her hooves.
The final alicorn is colored the soft violet of evening. The dawn and dusk are with her. She seems the most majestic; she seems first among equals. Her mane and tail are deep, dark purple like the night sky, that night sky that is not an empty black but is instead alive with stars. They flow and billow as she walks, and in both of them is a pink streak that is shining bright, like sunrise or sunset, like the sun's triumphant start or ending gleam as it either emerges or retreats on the horizon.
The six of them- each alicorn- now come unto him. Howling in his rage, Reiziger draws forth all of the power he possesses. Crimson flame erupts around him. Shadows rise. For a moment all the Dreaming bends and buckles from the strain of Wrath and Death. Reiziger becomes a Thing from which no thing escapes, and in his anger and his violence he surges power forward. He wheels his viciousness around and vents his wrath upon the alicorns. His power surges- all the Dreaming shakes-
The purple alicorn steps forward. Reiziger's red power only comes up to her ankles as it surges- and Reiziger then notices that all the alicorns are huge compared to him. The purple alicorn strikes out with her front hoof- and the red magic is brushed away like billowed clouds of dust. Her crystal filigreed hoof is not even scuffed.
N-No, he stammers. No! Impossible!
The voice seems to engulf reality.
Or should we call you Annatar?
Oh! I prefer Elbert, actually.
Elbert, then. The glowing eyes grow narrow. You have done terrible things.
He screams in rage and flashes off a blast of power yet again, and then another, then one more, over and again the Dreaming thunders with the fury of his magic and his Hate. Yet all of it is nothing to the alicorns. They stand around him as he spins and fires, standing gently, letting all his power wash upon them like the gentle waves upon the beach. Finally, he trips upon one of his own hooves and he clatters to the crackling Dreaming floor that is the ceiling of all things. I, he whines. I... it's not my fault! It was the deerfolk! They drove me to-
Silence. The Dreaming shudders. He skitters backward. He slips and falls again, landing on his stomach like a doe first learning how to walk. You have done terrible things.
You're a monster! You've caused impossible hurt and pain!
You have destroyed Equestria, and killed ponies by the thousands, maybe even by the millions.
On top of that, you were responsible for destroying the deerfolk. For all their faults, you killed an entire civilization, an entire folk, an entire culture.
You destroyed the Sun and the Moon, and plunged the world into darkness!
You so completely destroyed the Earth, in the old days, that The Wills That Draw The World had to come down from on high and fix your damage.
No, no! I-It wasn't my fault! It was... it was my brother! He abused me, he would never let me feel safe and at home! It was his fault!
You know that's not true, Elbert!
You've been cruel and ugly from the start, and it's nobody's fault but yours!
Your crimes are nearly beyond speaking, and you fully deserve a terrible punishment.
You... he fidgets, what do you mea-
We could wipe you out, you know.
We could undo you.
Not merely kill you...
But erase you from all of time and space...
Rewrite history to remove you from it...
Make it as though you never existed at all!
No... n-no! Impossible. No creature is that powerf-
DO YOU DOUBT US?
He falls again, and this time he does not get up. He cowers, whimpering as though he were a babe. The Dreaming shifts and sizzles, color, light, shadow, and the Lightning. Silence billows out a bit.
But... killing is not the way of Harmony.
He looks up.
As long as you exist, there's some good in you.
And we're not meant to destroy the goodness of reality. We're meant to enhance it.
He stands up, feeling hopeful. So... you forgive me?
Oh, of course we forgive you. That was never a question.
You are, of course, still condemned.
The Dreaming groans and strains and suddenly cracks open. Amid the color and the Lightning, the pulsing gleaming maddening engulfing of Reality, there is a hole- a tear. It looks into an infinite abyss. It is a Dark so dark that even Reiziger, in all his shadow, cannot hope to match it.
Into the Void you will go! That is a fitting place for a dark lord. There you will go, and there you will stay!
Only the Wills, and the Power of the Wills- the Power of Harmony- can place things in the Void...
And only that power can take things out, too.
No... no! I don't want to go!
I'm sorry... but you have to.
Don't worry, we'll visit you!
Yes, we will come to you. We'll try to help you.
Perhaps in time your cruelty and ugliness will be unlearned.
You might become kind and gentle. I doubt it, but you might.
If you can mend your ways- if you can embrace Harmony- you can go into reality again. Until that day comes, however- if it ever comes- you are imprisoned. That is your fate.
Reiziger turns round in all directions. There is nowhere to run. He wishes for Gothmog- for Metamorph- for Trixie- for Niccolo- for Beinion- for any of the servants and the hangers on he has accrued across the centuries. There is no one. He is, at last, alone.
Face twisted in wrath he turns upon the alicorns. You cannot hold me! I shall never apologize, I shall never repent! I am the Lord of All the Herds! You are worthless subdeer creatures and I shall never bend the knee to you! I hate you! I hate your wretched Elements! I hate the Wills that give you strength! I hate you to-
A rainbow blast erupts through all the Dreaming. It becomes a wave of every color. It seems as though the Dreaming is itself the wave, a rolling tide of hues and shades laced all about with Lightning. It surges from the alicorns and catches Reiziger- catches Annatar- catches Elbert, Crown Prince of the Caribou, killer of his own dear brother. He seems so small and weak upon the wave of color- like a scrap of shadow, snatch of blackened fabric floating in a rainbow sea. That is the way of things- the shadows never are as big and nasty as they seem. The wave goes sloshing, splashing up into the tear in all existence. Nothing of the Dreaming goes into the Void- but Reiziger is flung into it. He gives a final scream as he is lost amid the Nothing, as the hole seals shut, trapping Reiziger, the Lord of All the Herds, inside the Void.
And that is where he remains, for he has not yet learned to love.