After the initial shock of the sudden boom, and a slight dim to the brightness, every pony, changeling and draconequus had their eyes locked on the source of the disturbance.
An enormous sphere of fiery magic plummeted towards the center of the stadium, aimed towards the middle of the field, where the dumbfounded contestants stood.
Instinctively some of them began to retreat, for all the good it would do them. A meteor of that size would engulf them all anyway, and deprived of the magic, they had nothing better than their hooves to escape with.
Even as some of them uttered what they 'thought' would be their last words, the brilliance and size of the fiery ball shrank as it neared. With a strangely harmonic crescendo the wreath of magic burst apart to reveal a single luminous figure. A giant equine with wings the span of four albatrosses, and a horn the length of a normal pony's height, slowly glided over the populous. Initially her eyes were closed, and when they opened a brilliant ray of colors beamed from the irises. Her mane and tail were a deep crystal blue, laced with bright gems, and her body was an alabaster white.
Both Celestia's and Luna's jaws dropped and their pupils shrank to pinpricks, disbelief and recognition was written in their faces and stiffened postures.
Meanwhile Discord had suddenly become uncharacteristically nervous, the newcomer's eyes were locked on to him, and the slow glide of the enormous sky pony was in his direction. True fear didn't rise in him until he saw something familiar, something utterly dreadful.
A set of rainbows animatedly twirled from strange yet familiar alicorn, she swooped in very close to the chimera, so he had a good look at the judgement etched into her cold expression. He raised his paws in terror, as if they would actually shield him from the rainbows , the terrifying rainbows!
"nononoNONONO NOT A THIRD TIME!"
The draconequus was gone, and the stability of the rest of the area immedieately changed as well. The massive stadium which had stood for the duration of the "Discord Games" began to recede and shrink, like a deflated ballon. The sports field dissolved from a marked field to the grassy plains it had been before.
The departure of Discord wasn't the only significant change. As soon as the spirit of chaos left the large harmonic alicorn also shifted her features. She shrank, and her hide darkened, and changed from fur to chitin. The crystal blue mane changed to orange and violet, and the spectral eyes became jaded green.
Confused recognition spouted from Chrysalis's and Crone's mouths, and both of them bounded over to her. The elder queen held up a hoof and looked past her little royal(s) towards the equines nearby. Yet more recognition and confusion burst from the other changelings.
"Shellish? You're alive?"
Specter held a surreal expression, and blinked rapidly to make sure his vision was clear.
"Oi Shelly? HAHA grrreat trrrick therrre spookin' that annoyin' oaf. Wherrr've ya been all these yearrrs?"
Armor's grin was genuinely cordial, and he began to trot over.
"Shellish? It can't be..."
More shook her head as if something made it ache terribly. She slowly started to back away, and avoided every equines attention.
"So the little thief survives! I suppose those two brats are yours? No matter, you'll give me my well Shellish!"
Came a roar from the center, where Monarch stood tall and proud. Another side effect was also readily apparent. Every equine had their wings and horns back. Something the murderous queen quickly took advantage of.
A lethal lance of energy, wide enough to engulf Shellish, Crone, and Chrysalis, shot out from Monarch's horn. Shellish responded by conjuring up a shield. Silver magic relentlessly beat down on the shield and burned the air nearby. Chrysalis charged up her own horn, while Crone shrieked and dropped to the ground with her hooves over her head. Before any of them could interfere with the dangerous situation, a brilliant pulse came from Shellish, and her chest glowed.
The fiery green shield she conjured expanded, rapidly, but it was focused, and advanced towards Monarch like an ominous wall. The silver maned changeling's eyes went wide moments before she realized what was about to happen, there was no time to enact an appropriate response.
The shield advanced forward as Shellish did, and it collided with her opponent explosively. In a brilliant flash Monarch was launched high into the air with great velocity. She kept going, and going, and going... until she disappeared far off into the horizon. The space she was last seen twinkled briefly, before that vanished too.
For good measure, Shellish fired out an additional blast, which blinded every equine in the stadium while it was emitted. Several moments later an explosion erupted in the horizon that left giant smoke clouds, and radiative aurora-like tendrils. A mild earthquake also followed some moments later. The queen with curly orange locks snarled at the distance.
"You'll never touch them! Gaw, evil... black hearted witch!"
Both Chrysalis and Crone had dropped their jaws in bewilderment, Chrysalis had never seen, and Crone couldn't remember their mother figure ever act like that.
Everypony and changeling took a deep breath, scared to make any sudden movements. Shellish gave out a winded sigh herself, before she turned towards the group with a business-like tone.
"Discord will be back, very soon. We need to act now, before he realizes I can't actually contain him. Princess Celestia and Luna, I'd like to have a quick word."
She came close to the sisters in a few short strides. By this time they had gotten over some of their bewilderment. Luna started to snort into an angry fit, while Celestia took on a gravely serious stance. The while alicorn spoke in a very demanding tone.
"Where did you learn of that form?"
"Yea fiend, who are you to desecra-"
"Harmony sent me! I have a message from her to both of you!"
Shellish cut Luna off as she shouted out in urgency. Neither alicorn still seemed quite ready to accept what she said, but atleast Celestia tempered herself.
"Both of you need to go south immediately, before Discord can follow you. She said you need to find Shy."
Celestia was confused, and Luna rolled her eyes. The night princess pointed an angry hoof at Chrysalis, who sneered at the gesture. The blue alicorn spoke as if she stated the obvious.
"Discord wouldn't be a problem if SHE gave us back the elements of harmony!"
For the first time since she arrived, Shellish actually cringed a little in embarasment. She absentmindedly rubbed her chest with a hoof as she explained.
"That's a bit, complicated. The elements aren't fully available right now... Besides, Harmony has another plan to deal with Discord. She just emphasized your need to find Shy, particularly you Celestia. Take your ponies and try to shelter them the best you can, and find Shy, before he does! I'm sorry but I have other instructions I need to follow. Goodbye princesses."
Before either alicorn could edge another word Shellish already bolted over towards Chrysalis and Crone. First she embraced them both in a tight hug, and whispered to their ears.
"If I'd known I wouldn't have let you out of my sight, I'm so sorry."
Then her words switched from tender to harsh in a heartbeat. The hug broke apart and she rapt a hoof down Chrysalis's nose, who flinched violently.
"And don't even think about hurting the princesses little royal! You have no idea what you could have blow out of balance!"
Chrysalis put both front hooves over her stinging snout, and replied in an angry muffled voice.
"That's not my name anymore Shellish! And that really hurt..."
"Anyway, gather up the swarm right now, and the crystal ponies. We're going to buckle down in the empire before I tell you what I've heard over the last few days."
Crone and Chrysalis just stared for a moment blankly, still in states of relative shock, before Shellish gave them an encouraging shove.
"Go on, get moving! I'll be right along with you, but I'm not attuned to the swarm anymore."
Shaken out of their momentary stupor the twin queens immediately started to throw out mental instructions. A few moments later Chrysalis's horn ignited and she opened a portal to cross through, as thousands other miniature portals erupted all over the fields.
Crystal ponies were being instructed and prompted to hop into the portals along side the changelings of Chrysalis's swarm, which many of them eagerly did. The fear of chaos had outstripped the fear of neighbors. For those who weren't comfortable enough to jump into a portal, Crone rallied a group that marched towards the empire, her wings a twitter as she shouted out instructions.
Orange and violet locks twisted and whirled in a little breeze as Shellish's wings buzzed in preperation for flight. Two voices called out to her before she could leave though.
Specter and Armor raced towards her, both of them spoke at once so it was hard for her to decipher either.
"You're alive ho-"
"Wait just a bi-"
"STOP! One at a time! I need to get going!"
The two changeling kings looked at each other for a moment, Specter bowed gracefully and gestured for the other to speak.
"The crrrystal ponies arrre as good as family to me. They arrre to the gerrrmane, so they arrre to me. I came herrre to-"
"Reunite, yes, I promise they will be kept safe, but the best place for your swarm and ponies Armor would be back in Germane right now. Discord isn't really gone, besides your ponies are going to want an explanation before they'll follow you further."
"Aye, they would... I- I'll trrrust you forrr now Shelly. I'll trrrust you to keep my family safe. Unlike some parrrties of the past..."
Armor shot a foul look towards Specter, who hung his head in shame. The large armored changeling turned about and bellowed in his thick accent towards the glittering hosts.
Shellish turned her attention to the remaining individual.
"Yes I'm alive Specter, but I don't have time for stories right now."
A glint of desperation stretched over the king's luminous eyes, and the veins on his cheeks pulsated.
"Then let me accompany you, I'll help, I was already trying to help Chrysalis and Cr-"
Without patience for another word Shellish took off and hurried towards the empire, with a determined Specter on her heels.
Within the hour the fields around the Crystal Empire were clear.
- In another dimension ... a very strange dimension where the world is crayon and paper, and inhabited by sock-puppet creatures.
Discord shivered in traumatic shock, the image of a twirly rainbow burned into his mind. He clutched pathetically to a large, living red sock puppet. The crimson object of entertainment wailed in surprise.
"Ey amigo! What's the problem my friend?"
The googly eyes of the sock puppet whirled crazily around in their plastic sockets as the draconequus continued to scream in terror.
"Holy maracas calm down amigo!"
The red sock puppet bit Discord on the nose, which strangely enough calmed the chimera down. A moment later he yanked the sockpuppet off and slowed his breathing, he wriggled his muzzle, for the bite of the sock puppet was strangely ticklish.
"Huh, my chibas say that too. But hey, what's got your goat friend?"
"Oh the most horrible thing, I was about to be turned to stone aga- ... wait a minute."
"I wasn't able to escape to other dimensions the previous times. I-I wasn't able to run away. But why now?"
"Dunno amigo, sounds like you've been duped!"
"Me? The spirit of chaos duped?"
"Happens to everybody sometimes friend."
This caused the draconequus to hunch over angrily, and crack his fingers, and muttered to himself. Smoke sizzled out of his nostrils and ears, and lightning struck down from the crayon colored sky. Fire burned in his eyes.
"Dupe me? DUPE ME! Thought they would trick the master of tricks did they! Just wait til I-"
"wo-wo-wo calm down amigo, its lunchtime anyway. Want to join us? My chibas made chimichangas!"
The lightning disappeared and the smoke coming from Discord disappated. He turned thougtful and stroked his goatee.
"Chimichangas you say? Very well, revenge can come after lunch..."
As soon as the last changeling and crystal pony crossed the threshold into the empire Shellish let out another massive burst of magic, and a radiant flame-licked shield expanded over the empire. A good portion of the green fields were included as well.
Chrysalis observed the craftship, and noticed a few slight alterations. The tongues of fire were small and not terribly imposing, and they flickered with various other colors that occasional highlighted the green. Doubt still danced across the younger queen's face, she turned to her former mentor.
"Are you sure that will keep him out?"
Shellish grunted in split attention, and she pulled her eyes away from the sky and towards her inquirer.
"It should be good for now. But It is not a solution. Do you still have that golden spoon?"
Chrysalis thought back in recent memory, and remembered the satchel. One focused spurt of magic later, and she pulled the golden utensil out of the satchel.