A pony dressed in hunting gear ran through the woods in complete panic. Never upon a time, he would've been a simple fisherstallion who caught fish to sell as animal food or lunch for griffins, but a fisherstallion wouldn't fit as well as a hunter in the rumored spread about his neck of the woods and the details of those supposedly never-heard-from-again, so the needed changes had been wrought.
Not that it did much good against an invisible entity chasing him through the woods. He finally hid behind a tree, panting heavily, hoping he'd lost it...when three red dots appeared on his chest. He prepared to dodge...when something tackled his attacker out of its perch and began fighting with it. This was before a strange mare with a star cutie mark grabbed his hoof.
"Come with me! Hurry!" she yelled, pulling him along and away.
Rising from the fallen leaves was a strange armored bipedal monster with two gauntlets, each housing extending wrist blades, dreadlocks hanging next to his head.
The other was a very predatory-looking griffin; her fur a dark red. She threw away a sparking, damaged weapon of some sort and cracked her neck in preparation. One of her front claws was made of stone.
"Normally, I would love to fight one of you," the griffin said, seeming INSULTED before dodging a claw slash from the creature with expert precision. She then ducked under another, causing the beast to drive its claws into the side of a tree and allowing her to slash through the tendons of its arm with one of her own claws with the opening. "But you're a mere mockery of one of my favorite species...a disgrace."
The creature tried to slash with his other arm, only for her to duck underneath and deliver a well-placed slash to its legs to sever the tendons. As it fell to its knees, she hurried behind it with surprising speed and put one claw on its chin and the other on top of its head. With one swift motion, she wrenched its head down towards its shoulder while twisting it in the direction of the opposite shoulder, earning a loud snap.
The beast turned to smoke as it fell limply to the ground. "Extinct."
The bubble would simply 'reveal' another one was there. Or spawn some other monster. But that wasn't the point now that the victim had left the story.
The griffin turned to see the mare with the star cutie mark run back. "Is he safe?"
The mare nodded. "With the others in this bubble...At least somepony's managed to make some safe zones to take ponies to."
"Indeed, let's move onto the next one," Strife replied, turning and beginning to walk away.
"...Strife...may I ask...why do you seem so unusually motivated? Normally you detest such...interference," the star mare said, continuing beside her.
The Spirit of Natural Selection scoffed in disgust. "This isn't life being challenged. This horror doesn't even pretend its targets have a chance of survival. This is not Survival of the Fittest. It's a shooting gallery for our cousin's spawn, never mistake one for another."
"I understand...according to your sister, Nyarlathotrot was vanquished."
THAT seemed to get Strife's attention as they exited the bubble. "By whom?"
Strife actually gave laugh and clapped her paws. "And to think, that one's previous incarnation was such a disappointment to me. That's my concept for you. Life always finds a way to surprise me."
"We just rescued my sister from...what they did to her husband," said Lemon Hearts on a console of the TARDIS, with what seemed to be ANOTHER TARDIS behind her.
"Bank you, Lemon Hearts," Derpy replied.
"I'll keep you posted...and tell Doc to invest in some posted notes, his next self seems to have a bad memory."
Derpy turned to Doctor Hooves, who was at the console with eleven other screens going.
"So this world is normally less of a disaster?" said an older looking blue pony with a white mane and tail.
"Yes. yes, why do you think we make it our safe house eventually?" 'Time Turner' replied.
"He's right, you know," replied a grey pony with a blue bow tie and a top hat. "No Daleks, no Cyberponies, no Master. I'd tell you more about that last one, but spoilers. At least apples are the big thing here, would be awkward if it were pears."
"Indeed. Though I am annoyed I don't end up ginger when I become you," 'Time Turner' replied with slight annoyance.
"You and me both!"
"Whatever the case, we're about to reach our next destination, see you gents later," he said and logged out.
"So all of those are blue?" Derpy asked.
"More or less. I'll give Discord and company credit, they did a bloody good job of making the world a living Tartarus for there to be twelve of me trying to fix this, and we're STILL running ourselves ragged!"
A pony clearing her throat came from one of the monitors.
"Sorry, twelve of me and a Time Mare. Still getting used to you being a thing."
"Thank you," replied Minuette's voice. "Good thing HE thought to store a TARDIS somewhere...I'd hate to be stuck in this and not able to do anything."
"I can respect that feeling, now come on, let's get back to work."
A young doe ran through the woods, finding herself chased by deer wearing the outfits of the old Deer Empire regime. Or had it ever left? Had it risen again or simply always been hiding in the shadows? She seemed to have conflicting memories. Finally, she ended up running right off a cliff! She was so high, from this height she'd certainly die...until trees hanging from the sides of the cliff subtly wove themselves into a net, catching her safely and curling up to hide her. The Hooviet soldiers looked down, and being mindless drones as many of their kind, turned and headed off to continue her search.
"Malen'kiy odin, vy v bezopasnosti." she heard in her head. "Sleduyte tsvety, oni budut derzhat' vas bezopasnym."
The fawn was lowered down to the ground gently and flowers began sprouting in front of her. She did as was told and followed them.
Deep below the former Deer Kingdom royal palace, a massive, blue crystal tree stood, roots spreading out. Its own power seeming to cloak its presence. After all, it was half spawned from Chaos itself, which cloaked its Harmony well enough. The roots spread far to project the thoughts and power over nature, even across bubbles. It wasn't that difficult when she could project parts of itself into newly created timelines that shouldn't exist.
Before the curse's apex
Mother Deer gasped. She could feel it. The world's harmony...its status being torn to shreds. History being re-written into something vile and ugly.
And she could feel something coming. Coming for her...or rather for Mother Deer. She was consciously aware of changes in reality...but she didn't want the one who she could only now feel in the world's magic to realize that as the fog exploded from the center of Equesria to all of Equus.
The goddess seemed to dissolve into the earth and emerge in a cavern deep below the palace.
"I never thought I'd need to assume this form again."
Her hooves seemed to turn to blue crystal roots, her antlers nubs growing out into crystal antlers, then into branches. Flesh and blood became blue crystal as the Mother of All Deer returned to her true form: the Tree of Harmony.
And with it, the rumors meant for her had no target to infect. After all, the Tree of Harmony had only been known by a handful of mortals in all of this world's history, so how could a rumor ever exist about it?
"And so you can see, the defendant can only be guilty of the crimes of which they are accused!" proclaimed a prosecution lawyer with a bug net cutie mark in a court which was presided by a judge with a kangaroo as a cutie mark. The entire jury was also composed of ponies that looked strangely like the Maneiac from the Power Pony comics, right down to overly long manes.
"OBJECTION!" shouted a stallion with a scales of justice cutie mark, his mane being surprisingly spiky. "Saying a pony is a changeling because they have a bug name or cutie mark is preposterous!"
"All changelings have bug names!" replied the prosecution.
"But if all PONIES with bug related names and cutie marks were changelings, that would mean you, Mr. Bug Hunt, would be a changeling!" the defense lawyer replied, earning a court room wide gasp.
"Well...well, I can't be a changeling!" Bug Hunt replied.
"I never said you were. But if your logic for condemning my client was correct based on her cutie mark being a ladybug, then your bug net cutie mark and having bug in your name would be proof you're a changeling."
Bug Hunt began sweating. "Well...I..." the guards grabbed him and began dragging him away. "Wait a minute! No! Stop!"
The judge gave an annoyed sigh. "That's the third lawyer this trial! Recess while we find another one!"
'Scales of Judgment' looked a bit sickened by that. 'Bug Hunt' was nothing more than a rumors made replica, but false accusations sickened him.
"Thanks," said the blue Earth Pony with a lady bug cutie mark, Bitta Blues. "Who knows what they'll do to me if they find me guilty."
Scales of Judgment gave a reassuring, but notably fatigued smile. "You're welcome...now please excuse me, I'll be right back," he said, and rushed off.
Judicium had quite the tiring job: keep every false court rumor tied up in knots and delayed, and if possible win the case (which was incredibly unlikely, and so far he'd yet to succeed.) It was worse because the rumors MADE the pony themselves believe they were guilty, because they were guilty by majority vote of the perception of reality! Scales of Justice was technically lying. Crimes had indeed been committed, but not truly of the criminal’s own free will.
In this case, it had been being guilt of being a minion of Chrysalis on account of being a changeling. And unlike Lyra, Bon Bon, and Moth, his client wasn't a relative of 'Equestria's great Princesses' to get them off the hook.
Thankfully, a court needed fixtures, so by tying up ONE court, he tied up multiple rumors at the same time. But Even the Concept of Judgment could only keep this up so long when the very laws of reality were written against him.
Lovestruck swooped down and snatched a filly right out in front of a serial killer with a hockey mask. "Hang on, kid! I'll get you somewhere safe!" the demi-goddess yelled, pulling her up through the dimensional barrier trying to keep the filly in, heading up to Cloudsdale.
The filly held onto her for dear life. "Thank you! Uh...why are you wearing a diaper?"
Lovestruck panted. While she did recharge a bit from going to Venus' dimension, she was still a hybrid. She didn't have infinite stamina (merely far more than a mortal), and she couldn't keep this up forever. She shook her head to get that thought out so she could just focus on the rescue. "Comes with my job, now hang on!"
Wavedancer braced herself, blocking with the trident as one of Dra-gon's tentacles slammed into her and launched her. A wall of bubbles caught her and her fellows lowered her down.
The waters were fogged with Dra-Gon's blood, his wounds slowly sealing back up. The sea ponies were growing tired. Working together they'd avoided losing somepony, but there'd been plenty of close calls and many of them were already badly hurt. "YOU CANNOT HOPE TO DEFEAT ME, CYANOBACTERIA."
The behemoth began gathering some kind of energy into his maul...when a massive roar echoed through the sea.
The Old Great One turned just in time for a large creature resembling a green and red fish with a lion-like head, two golden horns atop his head, slammed into his 'stomach' with the force like a freight train, moving so fast a water cone formed around him. Even though Dra-Gon was many times larger than his attacker, it seemed the sheer momentum and force refused to be stopped by his bulk and the impact carried him backwards, straight through a rock formation as its eldritch beam missed its target and towards the waters' surface.
The King of the Sea had an ornate golden trident in his fin and flourished it before rearing back and letting out a roar. "LEAVE MY DOMAIN MONSTER!" he announced in what seemed to be the Royal Canterlot Voice. "YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!"
A little sea pony filly floated down next to Wavedancer. "I finally reached King Leo!" the little child exclaimed.
Seaswirl took one look at King Leo, and felt the memories flowing into her, remembering her King, who had guarded and ruled the sea ponies as far back as their 3002 years of history went before it became legend and then became myth.
"Well done, Tiny Bubbles," replied Wavedancer, nuzzling the little one. "The king has arrived! Long live the king!"
"LONG LIVE THE KING!"
"DEEP PONIES, COME FIGHT FOR YOU FATHER!" Dra-Gon bellowed as deformed mixes of aquatic and equine life swam out of the depths of the deepest darkness, looking like to the Sea and Mere ponies, like changelings were to Flutterponies. Or Orcs to Elves.
"Come, my little ponies! It is time to free the seas!" King Leo announced.
Assembling behind their ruler, the sea ponies joined the charge against the fazed leviathan.
Princess Trixie slammed into a monster and blew it back. "Get to the city center!" she called to the pony behind her.
"Yes, Princess!" the mare said, running off while Princess Trixie covered for her to aid her in escaping.
Princess Starflower watched her friend pant, clearly looking tired. "Are you okay, Trixie?"
"Yes, Trixie is fine," she said. "Just a little tired..."
"...We can't keep this up forever."
"I know...but we'll keep up as long as we can."
"Well..." Said the pony who had served ice cream to Princess Animatia Erroria. "That should about do it." Several wooden signs enchanted to misdirect the sight anyequus who looked at them were now posted all around the bubble of existence containing Rainbow Falls. "Be safe with your wife my little ball of creativity." She clipped a hole in a punch card. "Dang... Discord is really making me fill up my divine intervention card... I won't be able to directly intervene for... 1000 years? Why is it always 1000 years? Why? There are other numbers in the universe, Mom! I mean I know it sounds more ominous than 962 years or something, but still! Dang I'm late for my appointment!" She vanished into thin air.
"Pensilis, there's a pony at this location in need of swift rescue," Mortis said, standing at what seemed like an infinite number of hour glasses. Or was it an infinite number of clocks? Candles?
"On it, brother!" replied a telepathic voice.
Mortis, being the concept of death, knew whenever somepony's time was coming close, even in this terrible twisted soup of realities.
"Okay, I got a filly with a good and noble heart and a brilliant mind to become Prancy Drew, but I don't know if I can do anymore 'make heroes come to life!'" Pandora said, teleporting in.
"Good, that will be helpful," Mortis replied. "Rota will likely help make sure she gets to where she needs."
"There's also the problem that since they're independent beings now from the curse, they'll STAY that way if the curse is undone, along with their villains. I don't know if I DARE do anymore!"
"I don't tell you how to enact yourself Imagination."
"So...brother-in-law...uh...couldn't you just...you know...take a vacation?!" Pandora questioned. "That way no pony can die? I mean I know you don't WANT to normally, but we don't have many options!"
Mortis' expression didn't change. "...Could? Yes. Yes I COULD...but if I did, it wouldn't stop ponies from suffering fatal situations, merely stop them from DYING from them. Which means everypony who's caught in a death trap or torn to ribbons or even burned to ash would not be able to die. They'd remain trapped in their ruined body, unable to pass on. And even as dire as things are, that fate is NOT one I am going to doom billions to."
Pandora winced. "...Point taken...So we just keep trying to stop everymortal from dying?"
"Yes...for as long as we can... Even if Shub-Neighurath's brood is defeated and more of them do not come, ponies' reality will remain a disconnected soup filled with bubbles. We have to trust in our apple."
"...They can do it...I believe in them."
"...I wouldn't have married your sister if I didn't either...now continue helping. It’s all we can do."
In a grand cosmic expanse, so far out the universe looked like a map of a brain's neurons, countless outer 'galaxies' swirling around in the vast reaches, each a multiverse, the unimaginably vast forms of the Four Greats Foundations stared down on creation, entire universes around them, looking as if they were the rest of this system's galaxy. While each were extending their reach in an Avatar (except Entropy's Avatar that had been retconned into an Incarnation), they were always here. How this could be so was beyond mortal comprehension.
The universe appeared black and tainted, twisted in knots.
In the distance, the black formless, insanity inducing mass that was Azerhorse floated aimlessly, not involved in the situation or even noticing it, merely EXISTING in this realm beyond everything.
"For Once, I Am Upset It Takes Us A Literal Eternity For All Four Of Us To Agree On The Set Up For A Universe," Havoc said. "Then We Wouldn't Have To Put The Weight On Them."
"THAT IS WHY WE RESERVE THAT FOR THE TIME BETWEEN ENTROPY'S DUSK AND MY DAWN," Fauna Luster lamented.
Fear/Tartarus, Sanity/Elysium, Beginnings/Life, and the End/Never Was were the grand Clock-Makers of creation. And designing that clock was possibly, maybe one of the reasons they were so perfectly contrasting to one another. Perhaps, who knows when it comes to beings literally older than time?
For the 'final version' of a universe's foundation to be properly set in place required no room for error, and the discussions to do so would take eons a piece. Life constantly reminded Fear and Nothingness of Life's needs, Nothingness constantly reminded the others of when things NEEDED to end for things to be stable, Wisdom ran countless beta tests and calculations in His mind with each change made, and Fear reminded the others of when something was needed to be frightening for good reason. These are not a mere one trillionith of the ways the Four worked with one another when making the blueprints that would be the foundation of the new universe. For this reason, the Four Elders saved their discussions on such things until the Heat Death had occurred and they would have an eternity to plan. And above them, was something else, but she does not come into this story.
For the Four Elders to personally take into account remaking the universe in the event Discord's gambit was defeated, would require time it wouldn't have.
Even now they knew if they began debating how the universe to be repaired would be, they knew it would be an eternity.
"I Will Ensure The One Who Chooses Will Have Access to What They Require," Sane Reality replied. "It Pains Me To Pass This Burden To A Mortal, It Is Not Theirs To Bear, But To Repair And Change What Is Is Much Less Of One, And One Which One Mind Is Better Suited To Handling. A Mortal Knows How The World Should Be, And Has The Experiences To Know What Should Be Changed."
"And Let's Face It," Havoc said. "The Kids EARNED A Reward After What They've Done, And They Won't See The Grand Stained Glass Window Reward Room Of The Gods Until They Die."
"IT IS STILL A BURDEN," Fauna Luster added.
"A Promotion Means New Responsibilities, But It's Still A Reward," was Fear's reply. None saw reason to argue, as each had come to this conclusion on their own with their own viewpoint.
"HAVOC, YOU GAVE THE CHILD A CHOICE ON GIVING THIS A SWIFT END," Entropy said. "WHY?"
Havoc shrugged. "Well, Personally, If It Was ONLY My Choice, Then I'd Have Told Her It's What She Needed To Do, Simple Solution, But Little Diamond IS My Grandniece after All, And They Made A Good Argument. Besides, Like ALL Four Of Us Could Agree On That."
"I COULD NEVER ASK A MORTAL TO FORSAKE THEIR LOVED ONES AND BONDS," Fauna Luster replied.
"It Makes Logical Sense...But Without Diamond Tiara And Discord's Influence, Things With Chrysalis May Have Gone Worse. If They Had That Knowledge, They May Be Able To Find A Third Option, But It Is Outside Their Context."
"See?" Havoc asked. "Let's Be Honest Cosmic Entities Here, Nature's Fury Is Pragmatic, Nature's Law Is Compassionate. There's A Reason She Made Us That Way, And It'd Be Far Worse If It Weren't The Case."
"...Havoc, You Did Properly Shield The Souls Within You, Correct?" Heaven asked of Hell.
Havoc nodded. "Don't Worry, Buddy. None In Tartarus Felt The Waves Of Reality Shifting."
"Good," Heaven said, then looked to the two none Afterlives. "When Reality Shifts, All Souls Must Adapt Or there Will Be A Great Divide Between Them And Those Still To Join Them...We Have Turned That Adaptation Off, So Those Who Are In Me."
"And Me," Havoc continued.
"Are Not Pulled From That Which Their Choices Have Brought Them Too."
Entropy rose up, looking down on the planet below. "...SO SURPRISE IS STILL IN YOU, REALITY?"
"Yes. She Is Safe...Why Do You Ask, Entropy?"
"...THE END OF THE JUST SHOULD NOT BE TWISTED INTO THE END OF THE WICKED, SUCH A THING IS BEYOND REVOLTING," Endings replied...looking at something in Her claw that was incomprehensibly small compared to Her. A rock. As was to be expected, Her face did not betray Her thoughts.
Havoc merely gave a knowing smile. "Alright, Fellow Top Beings...It's Almost Time For My Son To Get His Spanking And End This Fear That Has No Meaning."
"TO FREE LIFE FROM THIS HORROR," Fauna Luster added.
"To Restore Sanity And Rescue All Things," The Father of All Alicorns continued.
"TO NOT LET THIS ENDLESS SUFFERING CONTINUE ANY FURTHER," Entropy ended.
The four Elders nodded, turning their focus back to the poisoned universe.