• Published 16th Apr 2014
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Besides the Will of Evil - Jetfire2012


A shadow from the deep past returns to threaten Equestria, along with all the world. Can Twilight Sparkle and her friends be a light in the dark?

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Chapter 28

Author's Note:

I'm back!

Luna gently rapped her hoof upon the door. “Sister?” she said softly. Silence followed. Luna knocked upon the door again. “Celestia, wilt thou not come out?” This time she spoke louder; still there was not any answer from within her sister's chambers. “Tia?” Luna asked, this time the loudest of them all. Finally, when she this time was not responded to, Luna sighed. She tried the door, but unsurprisingly she found it locked. She used her magic, felt the lock within the door's mechanics, and undid it. Pushing the door open she walked into the softly carpeted antechamber.

It was splendidly decorated, as was most of Canterlot and all the Palace of the Sun. Gentle overlays of gold and blue enamel wrapped around the pillars, a large and lovely fireplace was carved from stone, furniture of ornate make was scattered through the space. Still, Celestia was not here. Luna trotted through the room, to the other door, and entered into the next room, the bedroom.

At last, here was Celestia. She lay flat on her back upon her giant pillared bed, long white legs drawn up against her chest and hips. Her shimmering aurora mane and tail were 'leaking' off the bed, rippling upon the carpet like twin fountains never ending. Luna drew up to her sister's side. “Sister?” she said gently.

A few moments of silence followed. Then, Celestia said softly, “We are fools.”

Luna tried to say something. Then she reconsidered, and almost said something else. She reconsidered that as well, and finally, she sighed. “Yes,” she said. “Well-meaning fools, but fools regardless.”

“I am an idiot!” Celestia threw up her front leg. “I am an absolute idiot. I may as well have been holding an orb, a magical orb that makes its holder into an idiot- and I may as well have been holding it for sixteen hundred years!”

“I would not be so harsh. All the same, our errors- yours included- have been vast.” Luna climbed upon the bed, laying down beside her larger sister. “Tia, why didst thou not tell the truth about the deerfolk in my absence? I have always wondered that. I understood keeping it from ponies in the early days- things were too chaotic, the deer were too close at hand- but surely, some time in the past thousand years it became safe for them to know?”

Celestia stared deep into the ceiling paintings. “I suppose... because it was convenient,” she said softly. “I kept lying because I had lied in the past, and nothing bad had happened as a result. Oh, it wasn't physically convenient- I had to keep on wiping memories and rewriting history books and covering up archaeological sites- but it was... spiritually convenient, I guess. Equestria was peaceful and happy not knowing ponies were once slaves. Why change things?”

“I can understand,” said Luna.

“But all it did, in the end, was make things worse,” said Celestia. “I think, in fact, that our lie has done more damage than the deerfolk's slaving.”

Luna glanced aside a moment, wincing as she did. “I... called a meeting of the Royal Council. Almost half did not show up, and those that did told me they did so only to relay their displeasure. There have also been reports of guardsponies leaving their posts.”

“I can't blame anypony,” said Celestia. “Their rulers have lied to them for one and a half thousand years.”

“At the very least they are not forgetting about Reiziger,” said Luna. “They seem to be organizing defenses of their own cities and towns at a local level. The Council likewise. They seem at least to be determined to keep fighting the war- just without us.”

“Maybe it's for the best. Maybe we deserve to be forsaken. We are the greatest sinners in the land.”

Luna scooted closer to Celestia, moving til she was right up against her sister. Leaning in, she put a gentle kiss upon her sister's alabaster cheek. “Well, Tia, know that I shall not abandon thee.” She chuckled. “I have nopony else to turn to, after all.”

Celestia gave a bitter laugh. “We're all alone again, Lulu. Maybe more alone than ever.”

“As long as we are not apart, we shall not be alone.”

Celestia nuzzled up to Luna. “I suppose thou art correct.”


The white-tails formed a ring around their camp, hundreds strong and wearing all their silver battle armor. Ines stepped forward, scarlet eyes reflecting all the fires of the torches carried by the mob. “Please,” she said, soft but firm, “disperse.”

“Or what?” an earth pony cried out. “Are you gonna enslave us again?”

“Get out of our town!” a pegasus exclaimed.

“Technically we are on the outskirts of your town, on land that the princesses have given us.”

“So you admit it! You and the princesses are in cahoots!”

“I bet they're conspiring to enslave us again!”

“Get out!” a pony threw a bottle; it flew and smashed against Ines' antler. She winced from impact, but she held her ground.

“Listen to me!” Ines cried. “The Herd Lord has wormed himself into your mind. I have researched this about caribou: their telepathy can plant thoughts so persuasive you believe you have thought them yourself. You must resist! You know we mean you no harm.”

“Liars!”

Another bottle flew and cracked upon a deer's long antler tines. The pony crowd was growing ever more unruly. <Shall we attack?> one of the white-tails asked, speaking Laewtil.

<No,> said Ines. <No, we... we must... we must- I know!> her eyes began to gleam. The other deer caught on her plan and stood more firm against the ponies present. A gleam of orange energy began to build amongst them, growing just as all the anger of the ponies reached its apex. They were about to charge, they started forward- but the white-tails burst out arcs of orange that came out upon the ponies, washing them in dawnlike light.

The ponies skidded to a stop. Bon-Bon shook her head. “What were...” she glanced at Ines yet again. Her eyes grew narrow. “You... enslaved...”

“Please, return to your homes,” said Falalauria, coming up behind the deer. Tall and golden-hued and lovely now she stood above all others, ivory antlers shimmering with power. Her starscape eyes were gently drifting over all the mob. “Please, I ask you. Do not make things difficult.”

Grumblings rose from unicorns and pegasi and earth ponies; however, all the fight was out of them. One by one they drifted off at first, until at last the mass broke totally apart, sloughing slowly back into the edges of the town.

Falalauria let out a sigh. <I am glad there was no violence.>

<Lucky, too,> said Ines. <I'm just happy we were able to cut their wrath through our Gift of Honesty.>

<I doubt the effects will last long, however,> said a white-tail buck. He loudly sniffed. <The air is thick with the stink of the Herd Lord's magic. He has woven his spells powerfully. No deer and nopony can trust anyone now.>

<I can hardly blame them for being upset, either,> said a white-tail doe. <Their princesses have lied to them, and all this time they have been harboring those who once used them as chattel.>

<They should be furious,> said Falalauria. She sighed, and turned away. <We have much to answer for, even now.>

<Was it really that bad, my lady?> Ines asked. <Were we that bad?>

<We were,> said Falalauria. <Indeed, Reiziger glossed over the more vicious details. He did not mention the experiments, the breeding programs, the pogroms, the herd cullings.> She sniffed. <Sometimes I think the Wills That Draw The World allowed the Herd Lord to rise.>

<My lady!>

<Allowed him to rise and allowed him to bring about the end of the deerfolk... to cleanse the Earth of us.>

The white-tails gathered did not speak a while. Finally one said, <The ponies will be back, that much is certain.>

<My lady,> Ines said, <perhaps we should leave.>

<No. We promised to protect these ponies, and protect them we shall. We must, if we are to balance the scales.> Falalauria turned back toward her tent. <Keep a guard around the camp. I must consult the future further.>

<What have you Seen, my lady?>

<Shifting,> she replied. <I still see a happy ending, a defeat for Reiziger... but it seems less stable now, and other futures are now growing in coherence.> She shook her head. <It's very strange, really. I've never been so uncertain, even when I still maintain some certainty.> She chuckled. <I suppose I shall have to have faith. Isn't that what Tia says?>


The clouds that bunched and bundled over Ponyville were thick and not-quite-white. No rain had been scheduled, but those clouds, so many of them now, did carry in them hints of thunderheads. Uncertainty was in them- danger too. They were the clouds, as any weather pony might attest, that were most difficult to manage. They liked to snarl, to bite.

Rainbow Dash could feel the lightning in them, waiting to be birthed. She was enmeshed in one right now, covered everywhere in cloudy shrouding silence. Even as she laid there on her back, she batted at the cloudy siding with her hoof, drawing up some sparks, running those in currents up her leg and down her chest and withers. It was a good reflection of her mood. She wanted, now, to throw some of this lightning at most anypony- especially the princesses.

Absurd- to hit the princesses? It was madness, and was probably illegal. “I don't care!” she cried. They'd lied to her! They'd lied to everypony, and who knew if they had only lied about the deer? She should have been more trusting, should have thought upon the many times Celestia and Luna had been truthful, but the snakes of doubt were sinking fangs into her heart, filling it with poison that had blackened all her judgment. “Who else is lying? W-What if Twilight's in on it?” It was a crazy, wild thought, but it deserved consideration.

It may be said that some of Dash's own true spirit worked against her here. She was the Element of Loyalty, and now the loyalty she'd shown to so many around her- friends, rulers, allies- had been shaken. The power in her heart, the piece of Harmony she bore, was flaring, flashing, writhing in confusion and in pain. She could barely think straight now; she rubbed her head, she struggled and she snuggled up within her cloudy catacomb. She dragged her hooves against her face.

“How could they?” Was Reiziger, after all, the true face of the deerfolk? Were they nothing but a bunch of tyrants and destroyers? She couldn't believe a thing, she couldn't believe anypony now, no matter what they said. All she wanted was the truth! The truth, the truth, the-

Truth.

Dash's head snapped up; she raised an ear. “Wha?”

You are only able to hear my words right now if you are thinking a certain sort of thought; all others cannot hear. You are thinking that you can trust no one, least of all the rulers whom you so long believed in. You are thinking you are tired of being lied to. You are thinking that you want the truth.

Dash winced as images came streaming through her mind. Even as they started in a jumbled mess, they swiftly spread out and aligned. She could discern what they were doing: showing her a place, and landmarks and directions that would help her get there.

Well, if you want the truth- if you want an end to lies- I shall give it to you! Come to this place I am showing you. Be here by midnight. I shall strip the lies away, and reveal the honest nature of things. Tick tock.

Reiziger's projected voice dispersed. His words, however, echoed deep through Dash's mind. She could not banish them and their seductive offering. Standing up, she flapped her wings and fluttered to the edges of the cloud. “Crazy,” she muttered. “There's no way I'm gonna-”

Even as she watched, however, a bunch of ponies far below stopped speaking to each other, turned, and galloped off, heading out of town. She knew instinctively where they were going.

“I... they have no idea what they're getting into,” she said, ignoring that she did not know much better than they. Writhing indecision gripped her but she finally arrived at a conclusion. “I guess I'd better go see that they don't get hurt.” This, at least, was what she told herself.


Fëanor began to pace. It had been half an hour since the usual time when he and Twilight Sparkle trained, but she had not appeared. He bounced his head from side to side, glancing ambient magic off his antlers. He could feel a general unease, a tide of darkness swelling at the edges of perception. That, of course, was not surprising, given how the Herd Lord had infected all the land. Still, he thought he could detect some sharper currents of concern. What was the matter?

“You!”

“Ah, Twilight,” he said, turning. “I am glad-”

A blast of purple power hurtled at him. He only barely threw a shield up; even so the sheer force of the shot caused him to fly across the clearing. Rolling spinning twisting he bent round and forced himself to stand, antlers flared with golden light. “Twilight!” he exclaimed.

“You!” and there she was, graceful and resplendent and supremely terrifying in her semidivine way. Her eyes were flashing white, her horn was crackling with its magic strength. She flapped her wings and snorted from her nostrils; was there fire there?

“Twilight, whatever is wrong?”

“You enslaved my species!” She fired off another burst of magic, scraping off the grass and burning up the air. Fëanor this time remained in place, shield sufficient to absorb most of the blast; what burnt around him, though, went on and vaporized the trees for several measures back. He arched an eyebrow- she'd grown powerful indeed.

Still, there were more pressing matters. “Ah,” he said, “so you found out about that.”

Twilight's jaw dropped open. “You mean you're not even going to deny it?”

“Why should I? It's the truth.”

“But... but... you... everything I...”

Fëanor teleported beside her, glanced fatherly down at her. “I told you about this, Twilight, remember? That day outside the zebra's hut?”

“You... you...” she slowly shook her head all back and forth. At last, at length, she turned and stared into his golden eyes. “You said you just shared your culture. You said you advanced it, that was all!”

“And I also said that the things we did would, to lesser cultures, have seemed oppressive. You all- not just ponies, but zebra and antelope and giraffes and griffins and all the rest- were in substantial need of education, education and edification. That is what we provided. Our methods, admittedly, were harsh at times.”

“You think forcing ponies to work as pack animals is education?” Twilight snapped.

“We exposed you to concepts and ideas you would use later- and you have!” Fëanor swept out his front leg. “Think of this grand country you have built, this great Equestria. It would not have been possible without the things that ponies learned from the deerfolk. The whole of the modern world would not be possible without the deerfolk's intervention.”

“But... but you put us in chains, you whipped us, I saw it from Reiziger!”

“To a certain degree this is true,” said Fëanor. “However, Twilight, consider our perspective. At the time our civilization reached its apex, you ponies were primitive. You had not learned to speak or write or reason. We wanted you to have a role- wanted all folk to have a role- but you were not suited to be full participants. We gave you roles that were proper to you, given your evolutionary level.”

“I...”

“Consider the dogs you ponies keep. Would you let them operate a post office, or run a farm?”

“I... no, but ponies were sapient back then. Dogs aren't.”

“Sapient, but not competent. Not ready- not yet.”

“It just... it just doesn't seem right...”

“I know you see it that way, because it was your species on the receiving end. But if you had been in our position, and we in yours, you would have done the same thing. I assure you.”

Twilight swiveled up a purple eye to him. “Did you own any... ponies? Any slaves?”

“Yes,” said Fëanor. “My household kept a staff of about fifty. I treated them well, I assure you.”

“And you wouldn't try doing it again, would you? Enslaving us?”

“Oh, heavens no! Not now,” he said. “You are a competent race now. You can speak and write and reason. You deserve to be approached as equals, and so that is how we now approach you. Circumstances have changed, and so the behavior of the deerfolk has changed. What was once acceptable no longer is. Surely you can appreciate that.”

“I... I guess so.” Twilight sat down hard, and sighed. “If I had asked you, point blank, if the deerfolk had been slavers, would you have told me?”

“Yes,” said Fëanor. “You deserved to know. All ponies deserve to know.”

“Well you're right! We do!” Twilight stood up and began to pace. “We should have known more than a thousand years ago! Right at the start of Equestria! At least you wouldn't have lied to me!” Her eyes grew narrow. “Not like Celestia...”

Fëanor sighed in a patient, paternal sort of way. He came close and he patted on her shoulders. “Celestia... has often thought she knows best. Even when she was a student, when she became confident of something it grew very difficult to change her mind. It is a flaw of hers.”

“It is... I guess.”

Twilight could not see the smile on Fëanor's face. “Now, now, Twilight, I certainly don't want you angry at Celestia- even if she has lied to you for your entire life.”

“I know, but it's just so hard not to be.”

“Well it's only natural, that is true.” He drew her up against him. “For now, however, I should at least like to resume your training a bit. The Herd Lord has landed quite a blow upon Equestria. Worse attacks should soon follow. You must be ready, and you cannot rely on anyone but me.”

Twilight's eyes grew hard. “No, you're right- I can't.” She pulled away from Fëanor, but only so that she could bow. “My lord, what's next?”


Twilight in its oranges and purples was now falling on the field amid the high and craggy peaks. It was a mountain field with heavy ranges all about it; however, it had an easy trail that led to it, so going up was not so hard. As Dash descended from the clouds her sharp eyes saw a steady stream of ponies coming up the path into the open space. Unicorns and pegasi and earth ponies of every size and shape and hue came up the path not knowing what might come upon them. Dash, for her part, landed on a ledge that overlooked that open space. A whisper in her heart held back her full participation.

No, not a whisper- it was a yelling that was screaming in her heart, telling her that she should not have come. But then again another part of her was eager to observe what might transpire. What could she do? What should she do? At least now she was here. Applejack would tell her to turn back. Fluttershy would not even have come. Pinkie Pie would wait with eagerness. Rarity would have considered, but turned back. Twilight would have sensed the danger long ago. But now there was just her- just Rainbow Dash, bold and brave and lover of the lightning. She would dare the darkness, if she could.

The lightning. She clicked her tongue and felt the sparks upon it. The lightning had not ever left her, not since Niles Nigellus and his pronghorn friends had opened her up to its sparking flashing crackling radiance. The lightning- which was being- which was The Dreaming- which was lightning- sometimes came to her in odd occurrences, like when Scootaloo was talking to her about gentle things, or like when Twilight invited her over for tea and she was drinking a soft cup from Spike's proffered kettle and all of a sudden everything was sparkling and ablaze within her eyes- the lightning curled and sparked around her life, as it had for years since she had first become aware of it. She could feel the lightning now, read its moods as it went snaking through the heart of all the ponies gathered far below. For all things were a part now of the lightning, of the Lightning.

“Welcome!”

Dash's eyes came swiveling around into the center of the gathering, a clear spot where had suddenly appeared “Trixie?”

“Welcome, welcome, one and all, I say, welcome to the beginning of the End.”

Yes, there she was, or there was what was left of her. Dash winced. Trixie was a wreck. Her coat, a gentle blue, had darkened to the shade of midnight, and Dash could even see the craggles of a blackness on her hooves and on her forehead which then stretched up to her horn. Her teeth, so white, were sharp now, and her eyes were glinting with a redness much like they'd possessed when Trixie had obtained the Alicorn Amulet, though now the red was brighter, and much more infernal. She wore a pitch black cloak upon her back, and as she threw her front legs wide it billowed and it blossomed to display her drama.

“So many!” Trixie cried, one hoof on her heart. “It warms our bones to see that so many would forsake their princesses. But then, the princesses have forsaken you, haven't they? They forsook you long ago!”

“Yeah!” cried one pony aloud.

Trixie's horn went sparkling, and the brush about her caught into a blazing flame. “So you've come here because, at the end of the day, you had nowhere to turn. That's it, isn't it? You dove into the very teeth of your enemy because everywhere else, everypony else, had abandoned you.”

The ponies scattered all around her did not say a word. They glanced with sideways worries at each other, fearful and afraid, ashamed, to some degree, of what they'd done. Yet none of them went galloping away, instead they kept themselves all rooted to the space. They stood in place. They stood in place and did not move as all the space and fire blazed around them beckoning them all to run because what was transpiring within this space was utterly unholy. Yet all their desolation and despair kept all of them in place.

“Well far be it from us to keep you from your prize,” said Trixie. The flames reached higher now, and wrapped about her blazing and were also now a violent red, casting scarlet radiance upon the blackened space. Trixie turned onto the flames and bowed. “Come, my lord!”

The flames went flaring, and then Reiziger stepped out of them, blacker even than the blackest reaches of the night. Fire licked his hooves and burned within his crimson eyes and flared upon his forking, bramble-nested antlers. He grinned, showing all those awful razor teeth. “Hello, my little ponies.”

“Bow!” cried Trixie, horn alight with flickering red magic. “Bow before your lord!” The ponies gathered round her did not wish to bow, but with a blazing of her horn she forced all of them to their knees.

“Oh, my poor, dear little ponies,” Reiziger said, tut-tutting as though he were a disappointed father. “How out of sorts you must be to have turned to your greatest enemy for comfort in this time of lies and deceit. You cannot trust your princesses. You cannot trust the Elements of Harmony. You certainly cannot trust the deerfolk. What can you trust? Who can you trust?” He let the silence hang, then said, “Well, me of course! Because I shall be honest with you, in a way that none of these others will.”

“Hooray!” cried Trixie, gesticulating wildly.

“You've come this far for the truth, after all, and so the truth is what I'll give you. The truth, then?” His burning eyes grew narrow. “The truth, ponies, is that you are worth nothing.”

Dash's heart dropped to her stomach.

“Twilight Sparkle was right about one thing: we could have done all the labor we used you for with magic. It might not even have been hard. I believe we did do it with magic, once upon a time. So then, of course, you ask yourselves: why? Why bring an entire race under subjugation? Why treat every other hoofed species so poorly? The answer is that we treated you- treated them- only as well as they deserved.” He chuckled. “You ponies were an accident, a mistake the Wills made. Look at you, stupid stunted miniature horses. Small of body, small of mind, small of spirit, serving no vital function in the grandness of the world! You ought to thank the deer when you see them. We gave you purpose where you had none, because you have no purpose.”

“Fill our hearts, O Reiziger, O Herd Lord!” Trixie cried.

“And I find it important, for a creature's self-worth, that they know their purpose, their telos as the old philosophers might say. The reason they exist. You ponies were created without purpose, so purpose is what the deerfolk gave you. But other things- better things, higher things- are assigned purposes directly by the Wills That Draw The World. I, of course, am among that rank. Even so, I confess my thoughts have been changing of late. Once upon a time, when I first set out to consume the world, I sought merely to rule it. I fancied myself a dark lord, one of a number of dark lords who had come and gone over the millennia. Why, you ponies even had a dark lord up in the Crystal Empire. Dark lords are nothing special.”

“Tell us more, my lord! Enliven our hearts!”

“I have realized now that my purpose is far greater, far grander, than any mere dark lord's.” His eyes grew wide. “Do you dare to guess what it might be, little ponies?” He bent low to a trembling, weeping unicorn and cupped her 'neath the chin with his black hoof. “Do your lowly minds conceive of such radiance?”

“Tell us, we beg you!”

Reiziger smiled. “My purpose is to be the End of everything. I am Hunger, the endless hunger that devours without replenishing. And I am... Death. I am the True Reaper, the Unlife that was always destined to come.”

“All hail the End!” cried Trixie, eyes ablaze and wild. “All hail Death!”

“That's not to say I can't have a little fun in the meantime. In the end, however, I am the End. I am Not. I am the sunset and the moonbreak of this world and all worlds, all stars, all galaxies! All will disappear into the dark, and at last there will be nothing left.”

“All hail Death!”

Reiziger stood up to his full height, shadows surging all around him. “So then, my little ponies... that is the truth. That is what you came for, is it not? Enjoy it, for it is the last that you will know. This is your end, too.”

Shadows burst and rippled out of him, and then he was not caribou was not a deer at all but was a darkness without ceasing and a form that had no form and there were far too many eyes and far too many antlers and too many too too many teeth- Dash looked away.

When her instincts told her it was safe to look again, she peered over her hooves. The shadows drew together and formed Reiziger again. Where the blackness left, the ponies lay, stone dead, dull gray, gaunt and thin and drained of vital life. Reiziger's eyes flickered, and he smiled. “Ah, full strength- how long has it been since I was this powerful? Not since that final battle, all those years ago.”

“All hail Reiziger, Lord of All the Herds!” cried Trixie, dancing, gibbering and slobbering with wild eyes. “We are blessed to bear witness to the End!”

“Ugh!” cried Dash, galloping off of the ledge. “What was I thinking?” She'd truly been a fool to even consider listening to Reiziger. She'd just seen what happened to anypony who put any trust in him. “I've gotta get out of here.”

Oh, no, please stay. I went to all this trouble to lure you here.

Dash jolted. In a flicker Reiziger was standing right in front of her! “You!” she cried.

“Hello, Rainbow Dash. I'm glad you got my summons.”

“Yeah, right!” a snarl of lightning up her wings. “I only came because I wanted to protect those other ponies!”

“Well you failed,” said Reiziger with a wide smile. “Moreover, you would not have known where they were going in the first place if you yourself had not received my message- if you yourself were not having the same thoughts as they!”

“I... I...”

“Perhaps the Element of Loyalty is not so loyal as she thinks.”

“I'm loyal enough to turn away from you! I'm outta here!” She flapped her wings and hovered up-

“Do wait a bit,” said Reiziger. “I have found favor with you, Rainbow Dash. You are bold and vigorous and arrogant. You remind me of me, in a way. So I have an offer.”

Dash kept hovering- but she did not fly away.

“You heard me, just now. I spoke the absolute truth, as I said I would. I am Death, and my victory is assured. Equestria will fall very soon now. I have dithered and bided my time, but it was all so that I could focus on regaining the strength I had lost. Now that I am at full power I have no further use for this country, and I shall presently wipe it away. Then all the planet will fall, then all the universe! In the end I shall see to it that everything dies. Even you, even Trixie.” His head cocked to the side. “But, as I said, I am fond of you. So I make this offer: become my servant, fight for me, and I shall not drain you dry, I shall not wipe you away. My annihilation of the cosmos will take a long time yet- decades, centuries. You could be at my side all the while. It is very likely that you would live out your natural life and die your natural death. You would die, but in your own time. It is a luxury few others in the universe will be afforded.”

“I...”

He smiled. “There is no escape from me, Rainbow Dash. I shall see you die in time. But I offer you a kind of freedom, in exchange for your service.” He smiled broader, and his eyes glowed crimson. “What do you say?”

“I...” but then the image of her friends all bunched together came to her. “I say no way! The Elements of Harmony are gonna take you down once and for all!” With that she blasted off in streaks of rainbow, hurtling at blinding speed so far and fast away that none could catch her, none could hope to-

Regrettable, but predictable.

A band of shadow suddenly appeared around her middle, clamping closed her wings against her sides. With a scream Dash fell, hurtling downward-downward through the sky. A crimson glow then overwhelmed her and it caught her up, causing her to slow, making her descend more gently until finally she was just dozens of feet from the ground-

At which point the glow winked out. Dash fell all of the remaining distance and then landed hard, her back leg popping as it broke. She howled in pain, rolling over as her body curled itself in agony. Reiziger came stalking toward her.

“You ponies think you're so great,” he hissed. Crimson lightning crackled in-between his antler tines. “You change the weather.” That reddish, hellish lightning blasted out and coursed all over Rainbow Dash, causing her to writhe and scream in pain. “You grow the plants.” More lightning and more pain. “You shepherd the animals.” More lightning came.

Dash suddenly rolled up onto her hooves. Even on three legs she hurtled off, a flicker and a blur. But Reiziger's red magic caught her and then jerked her back.

“So fast! Do you know why pegasi are so fast? Do you know why earth ponies are so strong? Do you know why unicorns have such great magic?” The crimson power smashed her in the ground and covered her in dirt. “It's because my kind, my civilization, found those traits desirable, so we controlled each pony type's reproductive patterns!” His eyes went wide. “We bred you! We bred you like dogs!”

More lightning. Dash could taste the sizzling electricity within her mouth and tongue, so different than the lightning that she knew. This lightning had no life, had nothing at all was nothing had no spark no breath no brightness was but death.

“You are pack animals and beasts of burden and it's all you'll ever be! Indeed, you are better slaves than even I could have hoped. You ponies hold the powers of the environment in your hooves! You control the natural world, and you could change it however you wish. But you haven't! You've kept things exactly as they were in my time, in the time of your owners! Only the best of slaves continue to serve their masters when they're dead!”

“P-Please,” Dash cried between her groans of pain. “Please!”

“And all this time and trouble has only revealed how pathetic you are, and how much you deserve the bridle and the harness and the yoke! In fact, when Equestria is mine, before I eat the survivors I think I shall re-enslave them for a decade, just to be cruel!”

At last, the lightning stopped. Dash's body steamed as she rolled over, looking up at Reiziger.

He smiled down at her. “But I have something special in mind for you. I am in need of a destroyer, something that can wield considerable power. You fit my desires perfectly.” A crimson shimmer appeared next to him. Out of it appeared a silver bit and bridle, glittering with malice. “So come then, my faithful steed: let's get you harnessed.”