• Published 17th Oct 2011
  • 31,780 Views, 1,194 Comments

The End of Ponies - shortskirtsandexplosions



A lone pony of a Wasteland future Equestria finds a way to visit her dead friends in the past.

  • ...
65
 1,194
 31,780

PreviousChapters Next
Chapter Six: The Refoaling

The End of Ponies
by shortskirtsandexplosions

Chapter Six – The Refoaling

Special Thanks to Demetrius and Vimbert for Editing

Extra Special Thanks to Valhalla-Studios for Cover Art

A crusted white glacier of ice covered the glossy surface. Under the constant howl of bitter winds, a hoof rose up and planted its metal sole against it. With a light scraping, then a harder scraping, the hoof carved a clear path across the surface. It was a curved line, a rainbow arch. After a few more strokes the glacier broke away and the last of the frost fell loose from the surface of the glass. The reflection of a brown mare's face emerged, her goggles glinting unemotionally as she suddenly regarded herself. Leaning in closely, the pegasus stared tightly past the window's reflection in an attempt to gaze inside, but she could only make out the vaguest shape of tattered velvet heaps piled up in the center of the building's sealed atrium. With a fogging breath, the last pony stepped back and stared up at the crumbling height of the Carousel Boutique.

The boutique's top spire had collapsed in on itself, and from the resulting implosion there lay a scattered ring of debris around the cylindrical clothing shop. Both mahogany pony figures that had once graced the third story of the structure were miraculously intact, only now they were lying flank-deep in the snow by the building's foundation. Several icicles hung off their lifeless snouts as their wooden hooves lingered under decades' worth of piling ash.

The mare took a deep breath. Turning away from the building of former extravagance, she padded across a powdery, wind-blown field towards the heart of Ponyville. On either side of her, long-collapsed tents and storage huts lingered in the frosted mire, their canvas bodies forever flapping in the wind like war flags left behind a hasty retreat.

In mid trot, the pegasus raised a hoof to her goggles and refocused the lenses to a specific tint in order to highlight any hue of green that might show up across the barren landscape. Part of her felt immensely silly; she had rarely used that specific lens setting before. Many times she wondered why she even bothered to possess it. In the world of the Equestrian Wastes, the only green thing was the greed that bled out of the eyes of sky pirates and swindlers. The only time she ever saw plants was in the miraculous cargo that Bruce somehow scrounged up from time to time. In nature, the last time she saw vegetation was the first week immediately following the Cataclysm, and it all turned to the color of her coat faster than she could comprehend starving without it.

Green flame, on the other hoof, was a whole different matter. She knew that it existed, along with all of the other elemental fires that dotted the Wasteland. Acquiring it was no easy task, not so much because of the danger involved but the scarcity of finding it. Even if it did exist anywhere in the Wastes with salvageable deposits, it would have been a miracle if such a source hadn't been tapped into already by any and all of the mercantalist factions that spun their zeppelins under the twilight.

The reason Pitt was willing to pay so much for it, she knew, was that even the tiniest fume of green flame would put the mangy baboon ahead of the pack when it came to economic competition.Goblins, ogres, wolverines: all would come to envy Pitt's possession if he stumbled upon such a substance. Some things in the ruined world were actually capable of turning murder and bribery into a work of art, so long as the treasure was valued highly enough.

The one consolation the pony gave herself—aside from the incalculably grand score it would be to land herself some green flame—was the fact that she wouldn't have to be slaying or imprisoning anything to extract the substance this time. In the history of Equestria, green flame was something akin to a magical essence, not a natural phenomenon. So long as Canterlotlian magic existed, green flame did as well. So when Pitt made it clear to her that green flame had been sighted, and in Ponyville of all places, it shook the ghosts in her attic twice as hard.

She was prepared, doubly this time. She wore two fresh bracelets of unicorn horns, one on each hoof. If there was any green flame to be had in Ponyville, the magical bones tied to her limbs would find it, especially if her lenses failed her, which they very likely would. The mare was prepared for a light, any light—be it from the horns or from the horizon—to alert her when she was near her goal.

Until then she had nothing but sacred ground to cover. With each hoofstep she took, she felt like she was driving a knife further down her own chest. Gazing left and right, she shuddered to find the rows of houses doubling, tripling. She knew that she was now deep into the thick of Ponyville, deep into the frosted mane of yesterday's shadow. The wind settled in a calm gasp, so that the bitter howl gave way to a gentle flutter of snow that punctuated the melancholy of the last pony's long delayed return to the land of her foaling—and dying.

The pony softly pattered to a stop on the edge of Ponyville's former town square, now a scattered bed of random wooden shards sticking out of piled-high snow. Bits and pieces of carts and wagons and merchant stands were splayed all around her, as if the petrified splinters had rained down from the sky. She squinted her eyes through her goggles and made out what looked to be a bent metal arch. Stepping slowly towards it, she realized that it was the town's flagpole, a memorial established to the settling of the village by Earth Ponies twelve decades before the beginning of the Fourth Age.

At the base of the lewdly bent flagpole was a concrete slab, and in haunting legibility the pony could spot writing carved long ago into the dried surface with a haystalk: “Faustmare and daughter.” Alongside the cursive words of the village's founder were two hoofprints: that of an old mare, and a tiny mark belonging to a little foal. The lone pegasus reached forward through the drifting snow, and instinctually placed her hoof over that of the foal's imprint first, quite visibly dwarfing it. But that didn't induce her to sigh as much as when she next raised her hoof over the founding mare's imprint and found that her hoof was larger even still.

Gulping, she shuddered to look up across the panoramic desolation of her former home, buried in time and ashes. The post office had been shattered in half, its eastern side crumbling and exposing a skeleton of ramshackled cabinets and billowing seas of papery scraps deep inside. The town's central fountain with its life-sized statue of Princess Celestia had been bent savagely by age, so that the Royal Effigy leaned precariously towards the side, its perforated alicorn wings frozen in mildew and acidic deterioration.

Along a brick wall flanking a garden there fluttered a tattered poster featuring the ghosts of three goggled ponies garbed in blue, a discolored squadron of pegasi soaring impressionistically past their proud profiles. The two-story bed and breakfast that sat, hunched and bowed, at the corner of main street still maintained an iconographic silhouette in the pony's mind. She stared at it, up past it, and briefly blinked her eyes. In that sharp blink, the sapphiric haze of Cloudsdale hovered in a sunny blue sky, just a nose's tilt above the roof of the inn and the lush trees waving gently behind it. Then the blink ended, and the northern sky was once more gray madness, howling coldly over the frozen holocaust.

There was a sudden whining sound—like foals giggling; the pegasus gasped sharply and flashed a look to her right. A guild sign was hanging by one last rusted chain from the front entrance to a hollowed-out store. The hinge upon which the sign dangled was creaking in the cold wind, piercing the pony's ears from afar.

She exhaled long and hard, feeling a heartbeat ricochet up her armored chest and thrash against the sore lump in the scavenger's throat. The mare paced her breaths, trying mentally to stitch herself back together. She was here for the green flame, nothing more. There was no point to this... to this lingering.

But as she padded down the abandoned alleyways and torn streets and shattered courtyards of her place of birth, her hooves slowed and slowed, as if the white fields she was wading across were really pools of ivory tar, weighing her down, forcing her to convulse and twitch until her neck craned about and fed her eyes more, more, more...

The town library. The tall and twisted tree was, miraculously, the most intact structure in the entirety of Ponyville. In perfect irony, the only things devastated about the treehouse were everything pony-made about it. The front door had long fallen off the thing. The windows had been shattered. The miniature observatory platform constructed at the apex of the tree had completely vanished. The only thing in relatively good shape was a lower balcony ledge, now a gaggle of haphazardly angled planks struggling to stay aloft a widely stretching branch that reached further than the pony remembered it. It was almost as if the tree had still grown past the Cataclysm. But no single leaf could be seen upon the gnarled, burnt-black limbs of the thing. From a distant glance, the treehouse was about as hollow as the pony felt at that very moment of melancholic sightseeing.

Sugarcube Corner. Nestled in the thick of Ponyville, just north of downtown, was a jaded spectre of its former self. All of the bright paint had been stripped from the building's exterior, as if by a giant blow torch. The ground beneath it was positively scorched, suggesting a horrible fire had consumed the building, along with the rest of Equestria from the ground up. The higher story windows had caved in, positively melted; and in place of shades of pink were instead brown fluffs of matter as several bits of tattered furniture leaked out from the second floor like a bursting bud of rusted cotton.

The Toy Store. The pony's heart started, for she had completely and utterly forgotten about the place up until that very moment of awestruck gazing. Brief flashes of recollection pelted her mind, of a merry structure built into the absurd shape of a jester's cap with bright colors merrily criss-crossing the surface of the building. The novelty shop was now a tangled mess of exposed concrete and steel supports. Trotting up close, the pegasus could spot a veritable sea of tin shrapnel, the remains of several hoof-crafted wind-up toys that used to line the shelves of the enchanting store. She remembered late winter evenings when she used to hang out inside the place for hours, the store's interior stove toasting the young mare's coat as she beat her infantile wings to get a bouncing look at the place's fantastic wares surrounding her.

By the time another hour had passed, the pony found herself haplessly wandering the halls of collapsed hotels, navigating the run-down corridors of empty apartment buildings, shuffling through the gray-misted kitchens of dark-lit restaurants infested with hives of pests and vermin. She saw paintings, photographs, portraits of dead ponies from an Age forever gone. And then, the very first moment those faces started to become familiar, she buckled under a sudden nausea and swiftly galloped her way back out into the blinding snow.

Leaning against a collapsed wagon, its wheels still hauntingly spinning in the wind, the pony fought to catch her breath. She knew that this was going to be an unpleasant sojourn, but the last pegasus in no way expected this degree of collapse, of the sensation of twenty-thousand atmospheres hammering into her lungs from all sides, of how torturously cold the world suddenly felt, even at sea level. She was there in search of green flame—true—but unlike any other trip into the ruins of Equestria, she couldn't bring herself to pilfer anything, not even scavenging one speck of debris. She could have sworn she strolled by a record disc or two in one of the apartments, but even that she refused to indulge herself in. This was Ponyville; her saddlebags were empty.

Glancing up from the wagon, the pony finally caught her breath, only to lose it again as she realized that she was no longer staring at Ponyville anymore. The entire north side of the village—which should have been at least five blocks thick with buildings—was nowhere to be seen. Trotting cautiously forward, the pegasus squinted through her goggles and glanced down past her hooves. Indeed, as she discovered at the end of one last, crumbling hoof-step, the landscape dipped down below the edge of a vicious drop. The mist cleared momentarily in a harsh breeze of cold wasteland wind, revealing a gigantic ravine at least one hundred meters deep. At the bottom of this inexplicable canyon was a splattering of demolished buildings that looked as if they had been thrown viciously straight into one another.

The pony remembered, as she so often did, that the Cataclysm which consumed Equestria was not only a vanquisher of pegasi but of earth ponies and unicorns as well. While Cloudsdale fell in crumbling chaos and ruin, the world buckled underhoof everyone else, so that whenever she swung the Harmony low enough to see the naked bosom of the Wastes she would occasionally stumble upon these terrestrial scars, these savage dips and breaks in the crust of the world. And one such tremor had happened right there, in the heart of Ponyville, right under her nose. There was no telling what the moonfalls did to the rest of the village that she had yet to see...

But this wasn't bringing her anywhere. She was losing her focus. She lost her focus the moment she had set flight coordinates to these sacred grounds. What was worst—or perhaps best—was that she knew it. Of all the unprofessional mistakes the last pony could possibly have made, coming to that nightmare afterimage of a life long gone was quite possibly her worst choice. At that point, she told herself, actually spotting and getting green flame would be a consolation prize. Walking out of Ponyville with her sanity would be the only true victory.

With a hardened resolve, the mare turned completely around, her flank to the ravine, and trotted swiftly back in the direction from which she woefully came. She would have made good distance between downtown Ponyville and the Harmony, only a bright strobe of light emanated suddenly from both of her hooves. Gasping, she stopped in time to gape down at both of her front limbs. The necklaces of horns were frothing with a fine purple mist, the brightest she had ever seen them glow in all her days of tomb raiding. Something in Ponyville was emitting a magical surge so strong that almost every unicorn bone on the pegasus' articles overloaded at once. The energy was of such intensity that twin ovals of snow melted beneath where her horseshoes had been planted.

“What in the hay... ?” she obligatorily murmured. “That can't be right! The ravine must have ruptured and exposed a leyline—”

Her exclamation was cut prematurely short by a winged shadow sweeping over the white snowbank within which she stood. She let loose a sharp gasp and thrust her saddlebags forward, clasping her rifle while it was airborne and extending it with a clak-a-clak and a glare.

Her goggled eyes scanned the snow-pelted sky above Ponyville's ghostly buildings towards the south. Squinting, she adjusted the lenses with one hoof while leaning against the rifle with her other. Every possible shade and tint flickered across her gaze, bathing the Ponyvillean wastes in several different colors, until an aura appeared, faintly, then disappeared. With a frustrated grunt, the mare all but tore her goggles off and blinked her naked scarlets at the source of the brief light...

The bold round structure of town hall—the tallest building in Ponyville—stood straight before her. It was remarkably intact, with only random sections of the uppermost stories crumbling off towards its west end. Less than half of the windows were shattered, and the outer doors still hung perfectly in their frames. With a steady breath, the pony lowered her goggles once more, keeping her eyes locked on the sight of the building. She flicked one last time through the different lenses, and again she caught it, like a shadow of a hide-and-seeker peeking in and out from behind a huge tree stump. An aura had faded from view, a green aura, and all was once again dull and clear, with town hall at the epicenter of the passing phenomenon.

The pony's brow furrowed. In direct opposition with her throbbing pulse, she padded bravely forward, her rifle slung over her shoulder. She shuffled up to the front steps of the town hall building, stopping briefly to gaze from its dilapidated outer railings up to its grand height of half-shingled overhangs and peeling paint. If there was a source of green flame inside this structure, she could detect no hint from that proximity. But in the graveyard of a city where she didn't want to be, she didn't know any other place to go. So, with a grunt of determination, she marched up to the double doors, protruded a golden blade from her left horseshoe, and pried into the space between the hinges, pulling with all of her might.

After a strain, the doors flung open into a chasm of darkness. Ash and dust scattered like a curtain, blanketing her goggles. She wiped them clean with the side of her hoof, glanced inside—and immediately wished she hadn't. A painful wince ripped across the pony's features as she wrenched her gaze groundward. After a few shuddering breaths, she bravely looked ahead, trotting forward as she approached a veritable heap of dead bodies—skeletons and husks and grainy piles of former Ponyvilleans, stretched across the floor like a necropolitan carpet.

She had seen sights like this in so many ruined cities: the Temple of the Sun in Stalliongrad, the University at Baltimare, even some of the fallen structures of Cloudsdale. Dozens if not hundreds of ponies had run for cover under the roof of a large interior building where their remains would be petrified en masse by the blast wave of the Cataclysm. But every one of those sights were mere curiosities, things to glance upon and then unemotionally rummage through for resources. None of those sights, however grim, viciously gutted her—none like this.

The air tingled with perpetually sterile rust, and yet as she marched deeper into the cornacopia of bodies, so many haunting scents came to her, riding the flanks of hundreds of cheerfully giggling voices in the vestiges of her mind, recalling ponies going about their business in the warm afternoon breeze, of foals playing games with each other along the beaten path, of loved ones nuzzling in the park and families picnicking on the hillsides. Against her better judgment, the pony found herself gazing down at the forms, her heart pulsing sharply with each successive body she glanced at, possibly seeing or possibly not seeing one tell-tale hint after another of somepony or something that she would recognize: a hairbow, a lock of sapphires, a cowgirl hat, a mailbag, party streamers, or anything whatsoever. None of these appeared to her, but the mare was too miserable to be relieved. If anything, she felt a pang of shame wash over her because of her anticipation.

There were several unicorn skeletons amongst the pile, more than she had ever expected for the likes of Ponyville. In the cold pale light wafting into the dark cavern of the town hall, several fresh horns glinted before her goggled gaze. She knew that the magical channeling of her two bracelets had almost entirely worn out, but she couldn't goad herself into sawing off new horns, not this time.

She trotted into the center of the building, above a peculiar pair of skeletons. The body of a middle-aged pegasus—its skull still splotched with a faded mat of blonde straws—was cradling the husk of a tiny unicorn mare, barely past its foal years. Since the first day that the lone survivor began exploring the graveyards of Equestria, she was granted tiny snapshots of the Cataclysmic Horror, much like this one. In spite of all her years of scavenging, she could never quite avoid the deep pit that such sights burned in her stomach. The fact that this was Ponyville brought her nausea to brand new depths. She feared opening her mouth, not sure what would come out first: sobs or bile.

Gazing up, the pony stared into the tall stretching shadows of the Town Hall building, its balconies and upper floors reaching at least a dozen meters high. She remembered another moment with another horror: when Nightmare Moon returned to this very spot, promising an Age of endless night. She remembered seeing the event with her naked eyes, and how her tiny body trembled upon the echoing cackles of the unholy harbinger of doom.

And yet it was a brief horror, an event that was resolved by the Elements of Harmony within the space of a day. If there was a lesson in life that the last pony could etch into the annals of irony, it's that the true apocalypse is always, always unannounced. Nopony could have foreseen the endless twilight, and in a matter of decades nopony would know it had ever happened.

She sighed heavily. All that the town hall offered was memories and darkness. There was no green flame.

Ever exact, the pegasus nevertheless reached a hoof up to her goggles and re-scanned the shadowy interior. She looked for all possible, flickering shades of her elusive target. From the ceiling beams down to the floorboards and the platforms in between, she gazed at everything, but found nothing. Even her horn bracelets had dulled.She was just about to turn and leave with a disgruntled breath when a rustling noise pricked her ear from the side.

Jerking to her left, she blinked at a pile of bodies along the wall. Everything was still, and then the rustling resurfaced. Cautiously, the mare trotted towards the shadowy corner. The rustling stopped, but there was definitely something ahoof. The last pony's sight zeroed in on one skeleton in particular, an earth pony of elder years—judging from the brittle bone structure. Aside from the usual ash and skin flakes, the skeleton was sporting what turned out to be a pair of eyeglasses and a faded white collar with a tattered green neckerchief. Before she could reflect on the finer details of this corpse, the pegasus narrowed her goggled eyes and bent low to inspect it closer.

The skull jumped out at her, and in place of its jaws was a foaming mouth brimming with razor sharp teeth. A pale, snarling creature exploded from beneath the skeleton and chomped its maw straight at the pegasus' unguarded figure.

The last pony barely jerked her body to the side. The teeth of the pouncing creature missed the flesh of her face and shredded into her goggles. The mare slid back, yanking her neck to uncoil herself from the goggles now in the bright figure's claws. She gazed with bright scarlet eyes as the four-limbed cretin thrashed the article in its jaws, crunched them solidly, and hissed towards her.

A troll. She gnashed her teeth and reached back for her rifle, only to experience a thick leathery weight diving into her from behind. Several clawed limbs stabbed and groped at her. In a gasp, she bucked and kicked the thing off into a crashing pile of splinters. She spun her sweating face over her flank and saw three more shadows darting out from hiding and charging straight at her across the carpet of bodies.

Trolls. She yanked her neck down, grabbed the first legbone she could find in her teeth, and unceremoniously flung the entire half of a molding corpse at the advancing trio. They collapsed in a pile of bones and soot as another scream filled the air behind the pegasus. She blindly somersaulted in time to avoid the pounce of another attacker. Rolling into the edge of the town hall's front stage, she unsheathed her rifle and took aim, only to be staring down the sight at no less than four dozen trolls bursting darkly out of the woodwork, hissing and slithering hungrily towards their lonesome prey.

An ambush. They had waited for her. In an age without ponies, they had taken claim of the homeliest village in Equestria and had turned it into a death trap. The earth belonged to the trolls, and Ponyville's town hall was their biggest snare.

“By Celestia's mane, I've been gone for too long.” Snarling, she breathed into the glowing runestones and cocked the weapon. “H'rhnum!”

The first manabullet sailed into the chest of one of the advancing trolls. As the pale creature's body fell down with a splat, its uncountable rows of brethren scampered forward at full speed, claws raking the floor. She barely got a second shot out when they were leaping upon her, beady eyes forming murderous starlight against the canvas of their leather pale flesh.

She kicked up to two hooves and waved the butt of her rifle out, smacking two of the attackers with one throw. Three more clamped their jaws over and wrestled with the brass body of the rifle. The pony struggled and wrestled with them before hissing into the festering pile of sweat: “H'rhnum!” The rifle fired directly into the mouth of one of the creatures. Warm musky liquid splashed through the shadowy air. The pegasus roared and kicked back against the stage, shoving her entire weight into the rifle and plowing her way through a pile of shrieking and flailing bodies.

The pony barreled forward. Her panicked eyes spotted the gray rectangular shape of the exit. The mare’s entire mind and body were now pressed on escape. But as soon as she started galloping over the bodies, something came down from the ceiling and impaled her.

The last pony screamed. Her body throbbed under the most intense agony she had experienced in years. There was a glint of twilight. She snarled to see a troll squatting on top of her, having driven a meter-long beam of steel straight into the brown flesh just beneath her left wing.

The hissing creature snarled and twisted its grip on the spear for added torture. Howling, the pegasus angrily leaped to the side, throwing the creature off so that it fell through a suffocating banner of tattered velvet. She tried galloping away, but the impalement screamed into her flesh, melting her wings and legs into putty. She groaned and slithered—one knee after another—towards the doorway, her breath coming out in awkward squeaks.

Then the clawprints behind her increased to a deafening degree. She spun to see four sets of glinting, sharp teeth. The trolls were dogpiling on her—impaled spear and all. She thrashed and kicked and fought through waves of numbing agony to buck them off. After four or five blinks of adrenalized horror, she realize that she was successful. On ghostly limbs, she summoned the strength to get back up and bolt out the door.

The dull light of the snowy wasteland was like a cosmic blast. Without her goggles, her twitching eyes had to deal with blinding snow and salty ash pelting her from all angles. She didn't bother looking where she was going—so long as she was gone, limping at the fastest possible canter, putting as much distance between her and the town hall death trap behind. Just as her breaths grew to their most ragged wheezes yet, she fell flat on her face, plowing through a snowbank as the intense burning of her torn flesh returned to her in a muffled scream.

Wincing, she glanced towards her left, eyes twitching over the glint of the metal beam lodged under her wing. She heard the slobbering howls of the murderous trolls; she felt the powdery earth vibrating from their incoming stampede. She had no time to hesitate.

Eyes shedding snowflake tears, she twisted her jaws back and clamped her teeth over the stalk of the beam. After a few concentrated grunts under her throat, she pulled and pulled and yanked until the invasive object was ripped out from her flesh, revealing to her dazed eyes a trail of crimson leaking through the white earth behind her... and then an inbound figure charging on four clawed legs.

With a muffled yelp, the mare rolled over onto her throbbing backside, spat out the beam, and lifted it with her front-hooves to take the charge of the first troll head-on. The creature lurched, its eyes bulging as the beam found its way into its throat and came out through the top of its skull. No sooner was this horrifying image burned into the mare's retinae than were two more bodies upon her, snarling and whooping and snapping at any limb that presented itself. She panted, and struggled, and kicked at her attackers before finally offsetting one's balance with her right wing outstretched.She next bit its front paw with her teeth and flung it into the other attacker. Once they were tossed aside, she rolled back onto her hooves, literally bled into a full gallop, and ascended the top of a snowbank.

She then leaped high, stretching out both wings. She shrieked in mid-air, and fell stupidly back to the earth. The pony whimpered; her left wing was on fire. She could feel the blood pumping out of it, draining her, pinning her helplessly to the breast of the cold wasteland.

She couldn't fly. Gasping and wincing, she limped back up to her feet and stared ahead through the blinding mist. The bulbous, copper body of the Harmony lingered ahead, like a phantom in the fog, at the top of a hill that suddenly seemed impossible for any pony to scale. She crawled and hobbled towards it, wheezing for breath, her leather armor feeling like lead weights that squeezed more and more of the blood out of her, forming a scarlet trail that even the dumbest troll could track. The creatures' ravenous cries echoed like banshees, filling the barren alleyways and courtyards of Ponyville with a grim chorus of bedlam as they gained the distance and closed in behind her.

“Stupid stupid stupid!” She choked back sobs and gnashed her teeth with each limping bound. “Should n-never have come! Should never—” Her voice was silenced when her face was suddenly shoved into a mound of powdery snow. She felt a leather body pressed down on top of her. The attacker's weight shifted, and the pony took a chance and dashed her neck directly to the right. The snow next to her face exploded as the jaws of the pouncing troll missed her by a few millimeters. She twisted her face, bit into his ear, and—with the awful sound of snapping cartilage—flung his entire weight off of her. She rolled sideways in time to dodge another pounce, jumped to her hooves, rear-kicked the first body she could find and bucked away another, only to have two more from the impossibly large pack of monsters grab her by the legs.

Synapses fired like they had never fired before in her mind. The first thought was a realization: that she had dropped her rifle several oozing seconds back at the Town Hall when she was first stabbed. The next thought was that she wasn't entirely defenseless. Hooking her hooves with the attackers' limbs in order to offset their balance, she took the moment to reach back into her saddlebag and grab her second magazine of runestones. Clamping them in her teeth, she roared mightily from beneath her ruptured gut and flung the entire, purple-glowing ensemble behind her head. As she did so she screamed skyward: “M'wynhrm!”

The magazine flew directly into the meatwall of leather bodies, and as it did so the magical command caused the entirety of the runes to flicker, dim, then explode as one. Limbs and shrapnel went flying under an explosion of white ash, and as the blast wave reached the pony's form she lunged mightily out from the grasp of her attackers. Spreading both pained wings out, she rode the hot current of air and glided for five heart-stopping seconds, only to slam hard into the crumbling face of central Ponyville's water fountain.

“Unngh!” She slumped down to her hooves, discovering that her two front legs were on fire. The magic in the bracelets had overloaded and the horns had literally burst into flame. Shrieking, the mare flung the two articles off her steaming hooves. She struggled on shaking legs to stand, and at the sound of several whooping voices she looked up and paled to realize that she was surrounded. The entire village's worth of ambushing trolls had formed a solid wall around the circumference of the fountain, and were slowly, menacingly closing in on all sides of the pegasus.

Her left wing was a quivering mess. Even if she could take to the skies right then and there, she might never fly again, and that would spell doom for whatever short life she had intended to live in the twilight of the Equestrian Wastes. But this was her home town, her place of birth, her only place of significance in a dead and lonely kingdom, and she was not about to let her existence end there under the fangs of these leathery freaks of the underworld.

Frowning, she gazed up from the shrinking circle of foes. With a hissing breath, she climbed up the alicorn statue, her body leaking red all over the stone wings of Princess Celestia. With her teeth, she clasped onto the weathered horn and pulled... pulled... pulled. With a snap, the alicorn's spike broke clear from its crown, and the pegasus hung off the Princess' effigy while raising the razor-sharp horn high and proud in her grasp.

“You want the last horse flesh in all Equestria? Huh? Do ya?” She shouted and spat blood at the surrounding creatures, her eyes aflame with scarlet fury. “Come and get it!”

They leered and hissed at her. Smiling fangs and lashing teeth. Beady eyes and snow-raking claws. They clambered up towards the edges of the fountain, skittering and snickering and leaping towards her.

“Come on!” She roared and raised the horn bloodily to strike...

Then, straight from the zenith, a scaled foot the size of a tree trunk flattened four of the beasts in a blink. Pulp and teeth clattered across the exposed cobblestone of the courtyard as a monstrous thunder resounded from the blow. The pegasus gasped. The trolls turned and shrieked as yet another foot—immaculate claws glistening—roared its way down and reduced several more leathery bodies to paste.

The pony looked up, her eyes twitching at the sight of a hulking form blotting out the twilight. From the dangling mists above, a thickly-armored torso bowed and a long neck hovered low to reveal a rigid jaw structure, titanium-solid crests that glistened from beyond the shadows, two slitted emerald eyes, and a pair of nostrils brimming with smoke.

“Oh Goddess...” the last pony murmured. “A dragon.”

The aptly labeled monstrosity roared, rattling the buildings of ruined Ponyville off their hinges.The great winged beast reared up on its hind quarters, spun about, and flung its mighty lashing tail through the entire length of the courtyard. The bodies of trolls went flying, shrieking, before they were clasped mercilessly in midair by draconian claws and flung earthward like shattered pebbles. The leathery bodies ran and clambered each way, only to be pummeled and knocked aside one by one from the muscular limbs of the thrashing drake.

The pony panicked. Her bleeding flank was now an afterthought as she leaped off the fountain and galloped for her life. Trolls dashed left and right in front of her, being pounded and knocked aside by the fitful wrath of the sudden dragon. The pegasus veered in a serpentine fashion, begging that her agile maneuvers could somehow save her from the menacing creature's mighty limbs.

To her utter shock and beating heart, she made it far enough to escape into the side alleyways of Ponyville. With foalish fright, she glanced behind her in time to see the dragon squat down beneath the mists, spread its leathery wings outwards, and spout forth a great plume of billowing flame—green flame—across the lengths of Town Square, roasting several of the squealing trolls in one horrendous breath.

Looking ahead, the galloping pony cursed under her frowning teeth. “Green flame!” she hissed. “Of course! When it's not elementally occurring in Equestria, Green Flame comes from the organs of several species of dragons—Idiot!” She barely had time to snap at herself when the air around her burst with searing hot, gale-force winds. She looked up, and once again her scampering form was covered by the darkening shadow of beating wings. “Oh n-no...” she squeaked forth like a panicked child.

Suddenly, there were several hissing noises ahead. She glanced forward and skidded to a powdery stop as she found her alleyway blocked by a line of razor-fanged trolls. They leered at her and made to leap when—fatefully—the winged shadow swallowed up the entire alleyway, and four legs of iron-thick scales landed in the midst of them, smashing two rows of buildings into rubble. The Dragon lowered its sulfuric maw and finished off the last few screaming creature, who collapsed beneath a seething pile of debris.

She didn't dare look the noble monster directly in the eye. She flung herself to the right and immediately burst into a run-down apartment building. Panting and bleeding, she stumbled over furniture and chairs and cabinets as the entire structure rattled around her from the rampaging footsteps of the dragon outside. It was baiting her, keeping up with her, looming just beyond the rattling window panes. It was a smart thing, and her life was in its hands—unless she moved, and moved now.

Shrieking, she burst out of a door and ran across a garden overrun with snow and thorn bushes. Limping through several brambles, she stampeded her bleeding way through the kitchen door of a tiny cottage just as the dragon's footsteps smashed into the yard behind her. With half of the building's foyer collapsed with clumps of debris, she numbly propelled herself up a stairway and bounded down a long hall upon the second floor. She was halfway towards the far side when a window right in front of her smashed open. A giant scaled hand reached in, grabbing for her. The claws were retracted and the palm delicately felt around for any sign of the pony. The last pegasus paid these details little heed, bounding over the hand and bolting towards a window on the far side which she promptly cannonballed her body through.

With a shower of glass, the pony landed in the middle of Main Street, rolled forwards, and limped onto her hooves once again, just as the earth shook with the utter demolishing of the cottage behind her. The dragon smashed effortlessly through the building and stomped steadily, patiently, after the flightless pegasus, its four limbs sending great tremors through the bowels of Ponyville for the first time since the Cataclysm.

The pegasus limped and crawled away from the creature with all her might. As her scarlet eyes searched in vain for the sight of the Harmony, her heart sank under the numbing reality of her situation. There was no way out of this. This was a dragon chasing her. She was dead—as good as dead; it would be a horribly bitter lesson learned for the inane stupidity and impulsiveness that brought her to those coordinates in the first place. But as long as there was blood left in her coursing veins, she outran her destiny and bolted straight towards a ghostly familiar three-story building looming directly in sight.

“Nnngh!” She grunted as she rammed hard into the front door of Sugarcube Corner. The frame barely budged. The world shook and screamed as the dragon stormed on top of her. “C-come on!” she howled and shoved again. The doorframe gave way and she barreled inside, tumbling into a bloody heap against a shattered stand of petrified crumbs and bread flakes. Waterlogged wooden architecture in the shape of candied sweets bowed on either side of the last pony as she shuffled towards the far corner on her knees, hyperventilating. Then—in mid crawl—she froze, her scarlet eyes blinking under a matted coat of frost and bulbous sweat. The rumbling had stopped. The thunder was replaced with a deathly silence. The dragon was nowhere to be found. Had it gone away... ?

A vicious tear: Cold gray twilight billowed into the room as a good half of the Sugarcube Corner's rooftop was torn from its foundation. The mare gasped and covered her armored self as flakes of ash and splinters rained down on her. She looked up—twitching—to see the iron claws of the dragon pulling the walls apart as its razor-sharp snout gazed down at her. Smoke and glistening emerald eyes: the dragon lowered its maw.

The girl stifled a sob and flung her wing muscles outward in one last attempt to fly. Her left feathers tore on their sockets, sending waves of paralyzing agony through her. She reared up on her hooves, only to fall over pathetically and curl up against the corner, shivering and scrunching away from the reach of the leering dragon.

She wasn't ready for this. It wasn't supposed to end this way. Not like this. The legacy of ponydom, the last blossoming soul of Equestria, all of the Celestial Family's history and accomplishments: it was about to be snuffed away in the strangling jaws of draconian happenstance. It was all her fault, and she shuddered and sputtered forth the most pitiable of voices, begging.

“Please. Pl-please don't do this!” the last pony sobbed through her last sweat and drops of blood. “Have mercy! You don't know what I am—What my life means! I beg you; I'll do anything! My fortune, my airship, my runestones—They'll all be yours if you just... let me live... please—!”

The dragon paid no heed. With a vicious slam, its left hand clamped over her twitching body, pressing her against the tile floor of the Sugarcube Corner like a vice. She gasped and struggled against its claws, watching in confused horror as it grasped a jar in its other hand, popped the container open, and shook the jar over her. In a sudden deluge, the pony was covered from tail to snout in a fine ivory dust, like soot from the bottom of a crematorium.

She coughed and sputtered through the mess with horrified eyes. “Wh-what are you doing—?” She then buckled under its gaze as its jaws came down to encompass her. “No...”

Its mouth opened, and the room's temperature increased as vaporous gases began expelling from deep within its glowing throat.

“No no no no no—!”

Green flame erupted, out over the dragon's tongue, through the gaps in its unbreakable teeth, and enveloped her.

The last pony screamed. The last pony burned. Through billowing waves of emerald plasma, she felt her skin melt away and her bones dissolving with it. Then something happened in the death-blink of utter howling that she did not expect; the pain underneath her left wing disappeared as well.

All pain disappeared. A numbness cascaded over her limbs and she was surprised to blink and see a grand, winding tunnel of jade hues, dancing and vibrating like a birth canal stretching into infinity. The only sensation was that of a centripetal force pulling at her extremities, like she was being flung backwards at impossible speeds along the tongues of emerald ashes. The world was a rubber band, stretching and buckling at a fever pitch from beyond the forested miasma of flickering lights.

Just as quickly as the whole confusing kaleidoscope began, it ended with a jolt. The pegasus' body was shot towards the earth core like a meteor, and yet she was lying perfectly still. Under clenched eyelids she heard the miraculous sound of her heartbeat... alive and well.

The first thing the pony felt was the warmth. Soft, oozing, real warmth. It kissed her from all sides, gently softening her already moist coat as she murmured into a forest of springy grass blades and stirred from where she sat. A pair of eyes opened—groggily—and flashed a thousand reflections off shiny bulbs of dew strewn across a sea of harvest green grass. Something fluttered across her peripheral vision. She blinked wearily at it, then widened her eyes to regard a dangling insect of black and gold wings—petal soft—settling onto her nose, beating its plumage softly, then fluttering off into the golden aura beyond. The pegasus marveled at the thing, until the dark recesses of her mind finally recollected the appropriate name for it: “butterfly.”

A chorus of happily mewling voices pricked at her ears. She gazed across the forest of dew-laden grass as several bounding forms came into focus: with glistening bright coats and pastel-colored manes, bright eyes and giggling wide mouths, hooves trotting gaily and tails a-swishing in a toasty warm breeze.

Ponies. Dozens of tiny, bounding, laughing, living ponies. They were foals, barely past the age of cutie marks, and they were chasing each other and cavorting, playing games in an open field that bordered a playground full of swingsets, slides, and climbing bars. A scarlet red schoolhouse stood in the distance, and as the breathless pegasus tilted her snout up—

She was blinded. She exhaled sharply and shaded her eyes with an outstretched hoof. She was ever so briefly stunned by the queer sensation of a long flowing mane billowing from her scalp—but she ignored it, instead sitting up on wobbly haunches to gaze dumbstruck at the horizon before her. The twilight was gone, the fog was gone, the ash and snow had all vanished. And there, in its burning glory, climbing majestically skyward, was a sun. The Sun. Celestia's gift of life to all of Equestria.

Equestria: with its brilliant white mountains stretched over a glittering lake of pure sapphiric blue that shimmered in the sunrise. Mist hovered gently over the placid waters at a meter's length, as flocks of geese cruised overhead and a random fish or two plopped playfully out of the mirroring surface. The sky was a haze of crisp golden hues, all melting together and forming a sheen of vanilla richness that breathed life into the throbbing, glistening world.

The pegasus' lips quivered. Her heart started as she heard a shrill bell ringing. She tilted her gaze away from the blissful sunlight as she watched a fuchsia-haired mare step out of the entrance of the school, smiling and chirping pleasantly towards all of the foals gathered in the yard. “Alright, students! Time for class! Hurry on, now! There'll be plenty of time for play at recess!”

Ms. Cheerilee ...” the pegasus exhaled before she could stop the strange voice coming out of her. She watched as the giggling children all lined up—tail to snout—forming a single file of bouncy souls that scampered joyfully into the rich atrium of the school building. “Snails ... Silver Spoon ... Snips ... Twist ...” Her eyes narrowed, and then a breath sharply escaped her shuddering jaw. “...Apple Bl-Bloom?”

Something sparkled in her eyes. She looked up, and all of the years of nightmares left her in a single jolt. The mist over the waters had cleared, evaporating into the crystal blue sky from the rising Sun's rays, and there, arched from the purple mountain tops to the rows upon rows of crisp emerald forests beyond, was a beautiful rainbow, lighting the golden morning hour with every color of the spectrum, reflecting off the lake's waters in prismatic glory.

The pegasus hiccuped, her hooves covering her face as every feature she had melted into a tearful sob. Between each sharp breath, her muscles forged a deeper and deeper smile, crackling around the edges as every bit of weight ever stacked on her shoulders shattered through her skin in an instant.

“Oh Goddess... Oh Goddess alive, it's so real. I can't believe I forgot... I forgot how beautiful...” She shuddered, sniffled, and ran her hooves through her flowing mane as her eyes remained locked on the rainbow, the wind blowing the Sun's kiss over her trembling body once more. “It's real. It is real. Oh thank Celestia above... Thank—”

Just then, everything flickered. The playground buckled, the schoolhouse spread under a ripple of distorted light, and the cascading mountains peeled away, along with the glistening waters. Finally, the rainbow itself shattered as bright green flames burned through the entire landscape—from horizon to sky—with the sizzling fury of a melting photograph in front of her.

She gasped, her brimming eyes wide and ghostly. “N-No...

Then the erupting world burst through her as the fingers of emerald flame cradled her once more and throttled her forward along the dancing tunnel of green tongues.

“Nnnnngh—!” Her mane disappeared, her coat bled, and a torturous pain knifed its way back into the muscles beneath her left wing as she was flung once again onto the cold, ash-laden floor of Sugarcube corner. “—No!”

She slumped down onto the ground, twitching and hyperventilating while the gray haze of the world snowed in everywhere from the dead Wastes of Ponyville.

For an interminable space in time, her pain-wracked body convulsed against the frigid tile, as every ounce of the schoolyard’s warmth that had ever so briefly kissed her body sunk away with each choked sob. As she curled up into a fetal position, a gentle limb of purple scales reached down and stroked her, then palmed the stab wound under her wing. A deep murmuring voice and a cloud of green smoke billowed down and covered the injury. An enchanted fume filled the room, and suddenly the knifing pain in the pegasus' flank dissipated.

Shivering, she opened her eyes and gazed forlornly at her left wing. She blinked in disbelief to see the wound slowly and magically closing up on its own, leaving dried blood and a pure brown coat in its wake. The pegasus' breath slowed as her senses attempted to process all that was going on, and then a rumbling voice from above thunderously reminded her that she was not alone:

“It's been a long time since you've been... home, hasn't it?”

The mare gasped. Taking advantage of the healed wound, she leaped back onto all fours and looked up. She immediately shrunk back, trembling from the towering sight of the dragon. But before she could think of any way to escape, the hulking beast lowered its snout gently, revealing purple scales in the dim twilight, and a violet pendant hanging from a gold chain around his neck. Green crests shook as his heavy, bass voice drifted warmly into the hollow of the room.

“Then again, did you ever really allow yourself a home to begin with?”

She gulped and murmured confusedly towards the noble creature “Wh-what...?”

The dragon cocked his iron head to the side and spoke knowingly, “It's time that you stopped running, Scootaloo.”

The last pony gasped, her scarlet eyes wide and moist. Her jaw hung in disbelief as she gazed over the length of the dragon's hulking presence and shuddered: “What... Wh-what did you just call...?”

His jaws locked into a soft grin; his razor sharp teeth were suddenly harmless and friendly. “Simply a name, a piece of time forgotten, something that makes us both real, that makes us old friends, nothing less.”

Her eyes darted back and forth. Her wings wilted as a pitiable warmth washed up to her cheeks. She gazed up at him and murmured: “Sp-Spike?

Smoke billowed from the purple dragon's nostrils as he raised a gentlemanly hand to his torso and half-bowed. “Your ever-handsome devil, in the flesh.”

She gulped. Trembling, she made a few meager trots towards him, her neck tilted up to take in his impossible height. She planted a hoof against his front hand, which was twice the size of her meager form. The moment one of his claws welcomingly folded over her grip, she lost all composure. Eyes brimming with tears, she tossed herself forward and hugged his chest, her lonesome body wracked with sobs as she buried her face into his warm scales. He knelt down and wrapped his tail around, engulfing the two of them gently about her collapsing figure as his other hand stroked her shaved mane.

Her voice came out in indecipherable words beneath a cascade of much belated wailing. She shook her face against him, struggling to smile as her tears coated his scales with a glistening purple shine. “I never stopped hoping—I never... never never never...” She broke down once more, overcome with hiccuping convulsions.

The elder dragon nudged her gently with the green crest of his chin and hummed: “And your presence here is a testament to that, Scootaloo. Be at ease.”

For several minutes they huddled together, in the gnarled sarcophagus of yesterday's memories, christened with the ashes of all their long dead friends. After a heavenly blissful release, she sniffled, wiped her face with a foreleg, and gazed up in numbed amazement. “But h-how...? Wh-where was I? Where did you just send me?”

Spike's emerald eyeslits softly reflected her. “To the past, child.”

Her face curved in disbelief. “To the past?”

“Yes.”

“But...” Scootaloo gazed out into the snow-drenched ruins of Ponyville beyond. Her moist eyes tried in vain to recreate the sunrise and rainbow that still burned blissfully at the edges of her soul. “I-I don't understand.”

“You will.” He smiled and patted her lovingly. “You will.” Uncoiling his tail and taking a bold step out of the hovel of Sugarcube Corner, Spike effortlessly lifted the breathless pegasus onto his back and spread his wings wide. “Come with me, my little pony, and I shall give you healing.”

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
PreviousChapters Next
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!