• Published 28th Feb 2015
  • 8,957 Views, 577 Comments

Spiders and Magic III: Days of Friendship Past - Maximus_Reborn

Peter finds himself in a far future where Empress Chrysalis and the changelings have taken over the world. Is the future truly set?

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Once Perfect. Now Lost

Chapter One: “Once Perfect. Now Lost”

Peter sat in the confines of the Treebrary’s cellar, keeping his hazel gaze fixated on the collection of jewels scattered across the desk. The cellar had long been transformed into his personal workshop over the years, housing all of the stallion’s inventions. A steel door, keypad, and a retinal scan worked as the room’s point of access. With reinforced walls laced with makeshift vibranium and anti-magic crystals, nopony could enter the workshop without permission.

Only Peter and Twilight had access to the laboratory. It was a necessary precaution to prevent others from seeing, using, or stealing his inventions. This work was both advanced and dangerous, capable of disrupting Equestria’s technological balance. Peter knew he couldn't risk exposing his inventions to the world until he was sure it was ready for them. Twilight understood this fear as well, occasionally keeping JARVIS down in the cellar whenever she didn’t use it.

The stallion arched a brow as the gems emitted a harmonic tone, each frequency different from the other. “Fascinating,” he whispered, turning his gaze to the open book at the end of the desk before flipping to a specific page. “So that’s the magical frequency Starswirl was able to create in order to travel back and forth through time. Replicating that specific energy transfer, Twilight was able to generate it for a brief period.” Positioning two of the jewels together until energy began to glow from their surfaces, Peter pursed his lips together. “There has to be a way to use various materials to copy and make the spell more efficient. It nearly drained Twilight, and she only went back a few days in time.”

Peter tapped his hoof impatiently against the table, exhaling. “This type of power can be really helpful in an emergency, like if I missed a business meeting or forgot Twilight’s birthday. I can warn myself in advance.”

Peter’s ears perked at a knock at the door, prompting the stallion to turn away from his desk. Tumblers clicked into place as the door unlocked, and the room’s security precautions turned off. Two sets of hoofsteps descended the staircase slowly. Before long, two ponies entered the lab, and Peter’s eyes softened before a tiny body hopped into his waiting hooves. Mayday giggled warmly once her father tightened his embrace, leading the filly to lightly bump the tip of her nose against his. Peter couldn’t contain his smile. This was their way to greet each other daily, and even now that his daughter was four years old, she still filled his stomach with butterflies.

Twilight slowly joined the pair, smiling sweetly as she levitated a plate over to the desk. Peter acknowledged the mare’s presence with a grin, managing to capture her lips in a small kiss once she was within range. They had been married for over three years now, and Twilight’s kisses remained as sweet as honey. Peter chuckled as he parted from his wife. Mayday settled into Peter’s lap before playing with the teddy bear that once belonged to her mother. The filly had named the toy ‘Benny Bear,’ at her father’s suggestion.

No matter what anypony said, life was perfect for the Parker-Sparkle household

Peter shared a glance with Twilight after she took a seat next to his position, their flanks brushing against each other. “So, what brings you two down here?”

Twilight smiled, lifting the sandwich from the plate via telekinesis before hovering it over to her husband’s mouth. “You’ve been working on your experiment since noon. Mayday thought you might have been hungry, and I know you are.” Before Peter could respond, his stomach growled lowly , confirming the mare’s accusation. Twilight grinned smugly once the stallion took a bite out of the sandwich. “Your wife and daughter can read you like a book, Peter.”

Peter mock-frowned, forcing a pout. “You say that as if it’s a bad thing.” He paused to chew, sighing contently as the sweet taste melted in his mouth. “Peanut butter and jelly. My favorite.”

Mayday reached out, taking a tiny bite out of the treat. “Mine, too.”

Peter arched a brow, mimicking exasperation. “What has Daddy told you about being a cutie?”

Mayday playfully bumped her nose against the stallion’s. “Don’t stop?”

Peter smiled sweetly. “Exactly.”

Twilight glanced at the scattered array of notes over the desk, arching a brow at one of the equations. “You’re still working on Starswirl’s spell? Are you close to a breakthrough?”

Peter shook his head. “Yes and no. The magical properties are difficult to match. The closest I was able to get to replicating the spell you used was here.” The stallion pointed to a passage in his notes. “The properties of this gem were able to channel the energies of that crystal into this ruby, and because I used a quarter of an ounce of the anti-magic crystal dust here to negate some of the effects, I managed to send a pencil back exactly twenty-five seconds in time.”

Mayday ran a hoof over a piece of paper, giggling. “Sounds really hard, Daddy.”

Twilight’s eyes widened. “That’s because it is, sweetie. You managed to do that without using your magic?” She cupped the stallion’s face with both of her hooves, pausing to plant a kiss over his forehead next to his horn. “Peter, you’re a genius!”

“Not really. I only got this far because you provided the fundamentals. Really, I’m just trying to mock what you did,” Peter murmured, earning a baffled expression from the princess. The stallion cleared his throat, pointing a hoof at a pile of ash resting in a small bowl. “I’m doing something wrong. I’ve sent five pencils back twenty seconds back and six pencils forward thirty, but none have made it back in one piece. I’ve got to make an adjustment somewhere.”

Twilight was slow to respond as concern formed on her face. “I should’ve known better. The spell is dangerous for many reasons. Legend states that it took Starswirl several decades to perfect the spell. The two times I used it, I was still uncomfortable after the fact. Maybe…” She trailed off, placing a hoof on the stallion’s shoulder. Her glossy, violet irises stood inches from his hazel gaze. “I’m sorry, Peter, but could you just stop working on this? I just want this to stop before something bad happens.” Her voice was soft, delivered through a whisper. “Please?”

Peter cringed, his wife’s puppy dog eyes putting Ursa’s to shame. The stallion could only shrug and chuckle. “How can I say no to that face? All right, honey. You win,” he said with a grin, earning a relieved sigh from the princess. Peter ran his hoof through Mayday’s violet and pink mane, twirling the filly’s braided ponytail about playfully. “Time travel magic is sticky business, anyway. I’ll just stick to my strengths: science, physics, and mechanics. I’ll leave everything magic-related to you.”

Twilight smiled contently, nodding. “Thank you, Peter. I’m really happy that you’re willing to do this. I hate being a worrywart, but--”

Peter waved a hoof dismissively, gently placing Mayday down before standing from his seat. “It means you care. That’s one of the reasons why I married you.” Without a hint of hesitation, the stallion took all of the gathered notes, crumbled them up into balls, and threw each into the trash. “It’s not worth the risk. The experiment as a whole is nice in theory, but it’s too dangerous for any real world application. I guess I just wanted to see if I can actually do it.”

Twilight smiled sweetly. “I’m sure the next experiment you work on will be just as groundbreaking as this.”

Peter nodded. “Give me a few minutes to get rid of all of this. After I’m done, we should totally grab a bite to eat.” A coy grin formed on the unicorn’s face as he held his mouth over Twilight’s ear. “How does a date at the Rose Diner sound? We can even book a room at the hotel for the night.”

Twilight shivered involuntarily as Peter’s hot breath brushed through her fur. “That sounds nice, but we’ll need somepony to w-watch over Mayday.” The stallion nibbled on her ear, sending the mare’s mind into a blissful frenzy. “T-there’s P-Pinkie or D-Derpy-- Ah!” Twilight released a pleased moan, hitting her husband’s shoulder once he relented in his attack. Her face burned. “Just clean up this mess! We’ll be waiting upstairs.”

“Mommy’s face is red,” Mayday pointed out, oblivious as she placed her teddy bear down on Peter’s seat.

Twilight shot the stallion a playful glare as Peter poked her flank. In spite of her embarrassment, she managed a smile. “Your daddy does that to Mommy,” she whispered before sharing a brief yet affectionate kiss with her husband.

Peter smirked. “It means Daddy is doing something right, honey.”
The alicorn led the filly upstairs, pausing to give Peter a suggestive wink. “Don’t take too long.”

Peter smirked. “I won’t.”

Once his family closed the door behind them, the stallion turned his attention to the remnants of his experiment. He turned each knob underneath the beakers, cooling the temperature of most of the gems. Before Peter could do the same for the remaining three, Mayday’s teddy bear fell from the seat and bounced underneath the desk. The stallion lowered his body to retrieve the toy. However, as he did so, the temperature within the ruby continued to rise, and a surge of electrical energy coursed through the other gems until most of them combusted, shattering to pieces.

Peter’s head shot up from underneath the desk at the sound, his widened gaze falling on the remaining jewels as they emitted a bright light. “What the heck…?”

The effect was instantaneous, light spreading across the entire room. An explosion erupted, sending tremors coursing through the walls of the cellar. Twilight rushed down the stairs in a gallop and skidded to a halt. Her wide eyes flashed over the scene before settling on the burn marks etched into the floor. Mayday’s teddy bear sat inches away from the spot, virtually unharmed. Twilight cried out, desperate to find her husband, but there was nothing to find.

Peter was gone.


The days that followed were agonizing, reminiscent of a blade slowly cutting into the heart. Twilight stayed in the cellar for days as many attempted to learn what could have happened. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. No matter the means, Peter could not be sensed or found. Luna’s link to the stallion had been lost, meaning the princess of the moon couldn’t assist in the search. Zecora could not sense Peter’s presence in the Web of Life, although the strands remained intact. Everypony searched diligently, but it was for naught.

Slowly, but surely, the world was forced to accept the possibility that there was nothing to find. Peter Parker, knight of Equestria, was thereby pronounced dead, his funeral held in Canterlot exactly a year after his disappearance. Countless ponies had gathered from across the world to pay their respects, filling the streets to capacity.

Peter’s immediate family, closest friends, and associates sat along the front rows before a coffin at the end of the aisle. Shining Armor consoled both Cadance and Spike, the mare weeping while the baby dragon sobbed. Their brother was gone, his laughter taken from the world. Fluttershy bawled uncontrollably, leaning into Rainbow Dash’s shoulder for support, but the hardened pegasus was the worst, her own face stained with tears. Velvet struggled to console May, who had grown hysterical since losing her nephew for a third time. The pegasus was escorted away, her cries echoing throughout the walls of the castle. They had lost their friend, a bridge of support in this time.

Applejack rubbed a hoof over Apple Bloom’s head, sniffling as the filly cried for her second brother. Rarity shivered involuntarily before letting out a sob, managing to place a hoof over Sweetie Belle’s. The filly clutched at the scarf she made for Peter years ago, burying her wet face in the silky material. Scootaloo brushed a hoof over her eyes as the eulogy was delivered, letting her tears fall. Peter was their mentor, but above all, he was their friend, one who offered a hoof whenever it was needed.

Derpy’s tears streamed down, prompting Dinky to place a hoof over her mother’s, even as she herself sniffled. The friend that had given her a chance and supported her in her low times was gone. Pinkie Pie’s normally poofy mane was deflated, hanging over her shoulders. The earth pony had always smiled, no matter the circumstances, but she could not today; the pain in her chest too great to ignore. She never wanted to lose anypony special, not like this. Not ever.

Princess Celestia approached Luna, as if sensing her thoughts, and the smaller alicorn burst into tears, unable to hold back any longer. Even Felicia stood among the masses, wearing a dress and shades to conceal her identity. She, too, wept openly, dropping a rose over Peter’s coffin. Little Mayday sat in Trixie’s hooves with her face buried in the older mare’s chest. They were family, and their pain was the same, shared between them. Trixie tightened her hug on the filly, her own tears beginning to run.

Twilight stood before the coffin, numb to the outside world. Her eyes were unfocused as she stared at the portrait of her beloved husband, his bright smile etched into her heart. Time continued to pass, yet Twilight was immune, unmoved by the outside world as the last few months flashed through her mind. She was lost in the past, unable to free herself from the blissful memories her husband had given her. Images of those days came and went, disappearing as quickly as they came, but their effects were timeless. Overwhelmed, the princess could only articulate one feeling, from the depths of her heart.

“I love you, Peter…”

Peter’s eyes fluttered open as the stallion inhaled deeply, but dust rushed into his mouth, causing the unicorn to cough roughly. Steadily and carefully, he collected himself before glancing at his surroundings. The cellar’s walls had deteriorated, cracks and mildew having formed all across the surface. Water dripped from a small opening in the ceiling onto the rotten wood of the desk. Peter shivered involuntarily as the chill of a draft brushed against his fur. The stallion was slow to respond, his mind struggling to piece together the events prior to his loss of consciousness.

“The experiment,” he murmured, planting his hoof firmly against the ground before forcing himself to a standing position. Peter found the gems on the desk, but their forms were dull, lifeless. The stallion took hold of the ruby, inhaling sharply as it disintegrated into dust. Peter furrowed his brow at his neglected surroundings. “What’s going on? Twilight! Are you still upstairs?” No response was earned, adding to the unicorn’s bewilderment. “Honey? Mayday?” he called out more frantically, his voice filling with concern.

After a brief duration, Peter rushed upstairs and found that the door had remained sealed in spite of the rust spread across it. The stallion lowered his gaze, prompting a small blue glow to flash over his eye.

Peter exhaled. “At least the retinal scan still works.” The tumblers of the locks clicked, allowing the door to slide open, but it stopped halfway, earning a hard scoff from the stallion. “What else can go wrong?”

Peter pried his hooves into the door, straining as he forced it open, and dust fell from the outside, covering the stallion. Broken chunks of stone and wood fell into the opening, giving way to gravity. Peter managed to climb out, but his eyes shot open at the sight that waited. The once clear blue sky was black, but not because it was night. The clouds were lifeless, more like puffs of smoke than real clouds. Peter’s heart sank to his stomach as he brushed a hoof over the rough terrain he stood on. Skeletons of ponies rested nearby, their bones brittle and fragile. The grass had withered away from the earth, drying to a husk.

The stallion’s mind spun, attempting to make sense out of the entire situation, but all thought vanished into a haze of despair when he spotted the broken remains of his home, the Treebrary. Its leaves were gone, and its windows were cracked. The tree’s exterior had rotted completely away in places, exposing its interior in sections. Nothing remained, as if it had been abandoned for some time. Peter turned his gaze to the village of Ponyville, finding it in similar shape to that of his broken home. The buildings were condemned, cracked shells of their former glory. The streets were empty, devoid of life.

Peter dove back into the confines of the cellar before rushing to the supply closet. Fortunately, the items contained within were still intact, particularly his crimson and blue heroic attire. Albeit, some of the possessions had faded.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but I have to find out,” Peter muttered grimly, swiftly slipping into his costume. Dust escaped from the suit, causing the stallion sneeze. After checking the capsules in his web-shooters, Peter rummaged through the closet before exhaling. “Oh, come on. My mask was just here. Where could it be?”

Snorting, the unicorn slammed the closet door shut before exiting the cellar. He paused, spotting Mayday’s teddy bear still near the seat. He grabbed the toy and hopped out of the cellar, sealing the entrance before barricading it with debris.

Peter inhaled deeply before sighing, as he set out to explore the remains of Ponyville. “I hope I can find some answers.”

He walked through the streets of the village, gazing upon the destruction that had taken place. He searched every building, hoping to find some form of life, but it was for naught, emptiness being Ponyville’s only inhabitant. Peter walked into the Cakes’ abode, the front door falling off of its hinges. He called out for somepony, anypony, to respond, but only the echo of his voice did, as it bounced off the walls of the crumbling foundation. Peter eventually left the building and traveled to the center of the village.

Dismayed, Peter stood over the remnants of the fountain, its water supply long dried out. “What happened here?”

Suddenly, a bright light shone from one of the rooftops before centering on Peter’s entire body. The stallion instinctively lifted a hoof over his eyes as a swarm of beings filled the area. They resembled ponies, in terms of stature, but their bodies were dark, without fur and full of holes. Some bore wings like pegasi, hovering in midair over the intruder while others remained on the ground, baring their fangs. Peter stole a glance at each creature, arching a brow at the bug-like beasts. His mind summoned up information from his time reading books in the Treebrary, and he concluded that these things were changelings, a race that Twilight and Cadance had encountered before he had come to Equestria.

Before long, another dozen of the creatures appeared, surrounding the stallion from every angle, all hissing venomously. Peter lowered into a defensive stance as his Spider sense tingled at their malicious intent. However, one of the changelings was snatched into the shadows of a building, drawing the collective gazes of everypony in the area. A loud snap echoed from within the house before the vanished creature’s lifeless form burst through the window and landed on the ground outside. Several of the changelings roared in response, some aiming their glowing horns at the building.

They opened fire, unleashing countless bolts of magic, each piercing the stone, until an explosion erupted from within the building. The house’s foundation crumbled, and the structure collapsed. However, even as it fell, somepony climbed onto the rooftop and gracefully leapt high into the air before they could be buried, landing at the center of the crowd. All of the changelings rushed past Peter, ignoring the stallion as they swarmed the shadowed individual. Spider-Mane only managed to catch a brief glance of the attacker, their long, black leather jacket concealing most of their form.

Three of the changelings approached the individual from behind with their fangs bared, but the mystery pony retrieved a sheathed sword from inside their jacket and jammed its hilt into the underside of the nearest creature’s muzzle. The other two bug-like creatures swept in, but the attacker ducked out of their range, following with a diving kick. Their hoof drove the changeling’s face into the ground, and a crack echoed through the air. Just as the third bug-like creature spun around, the mystery pony took their sheathed blade and bashed it across its foe’s face several times until green blood flew from their skull. Peter’s eyes widened, catching a bright shade of pink underneath the jacket before recognizing the slightly brighter shade of the mane.

“Pinkie?” he whispered before the mare pulled her sword from its scabbard, slicing through several changelings in one fearsome slash.

One of the enemies lunged at the mare from the side, but Pinkie swayed, capturing its neck under her hoof. She delivered a swift kick to a member of the swarm before tightening her hold, snapping the creature’s neck coldly after jerking her foreleg. The remaining enemies descended from the air, zeroing in on Pinkie. The mare retrieved a second sword from a scabbard on her back, placing its hilt in her mouth. Gripping the blade with her teeth while tightening the other’s hilt in her hoof, the earth pony hopped into the air to meet her foes.

Each slice was clean, as swift as the wind, while both blades cut through the wings of each changeling. All of the hive died on impact except one. It hissed out in pain as it struggled to crawl to safety, but Pinkie trotted over to its position, and she drove her blade through the creature’s torso until its movements ceased entirely. Peter stood still, slack-jawed. Pinkie’s form was still concealed in the shadows, but there was enough revealed to show her silhouette sheathing one of her blades before she turned to face the stallion, all while maintaining a sound grip on the second.

A relieved smile finally formed on the stallion’s face. “Whoa, Pinkie. Am I glad to see you! Where’d you learn those moves--?” His Spider sense blared, prompting Peter to duck the blade as it narrowly missed his face. A second attack followed, forcing the stallion to sway his neck from the sword’s tip. Peter raised his hooves defensively. “Pinkie! Will you stop?! It’s me!”

Pinkie snarled, clutching her blade tightly. “Liar! I’m sick of you changelings impersonating my friends, especially the ones that are dead!” A dark glint beamed from her narrowed eyes. Her apparent intent to kill was astonishing to Peter. “Die!”

Peter stammered, slamming his hooves together to capture the sword in his grasp. “Dead? Die? What the heck are you talking about?! I’m still trying to figure out when you started using swords! It’s like you became a samurai overnight! Did you read a manual or something?”

Pinkie blinked, staring intently at the stallion. “Hang on. You’re not like the rest. I almost wanted to laugh just then.”

Peter smirked. “Well, you’re the only one who usually laughs at my jokes. That makes you the weird one.”

The mare let out a dry huff, staggering back. “I’ll be damned.” She placed her sword down, its tip embedding into the ground. The mare stepped from the shadows, fully revealing herself. Pinkie’s mane was straight, falling over her face and shoulders. A scar crossed her left eye, which had become glazed and milky. Standing upright, the mare coldly stared at the stallion with a dark expression. She was almost unrecognizable. “Look who crawled out of the grave.”

Peter’s eyes shot open as his gaze fell on the dark scar carved into the mare’s face. “Oh, my God. Pinkie… what happened to your eye?”

The stallion reached out, only for the mare to slap away his hoof. “You’re the one who has some explaining to do. Where have you been all of these years?” Her voice was low, dry yet mature. Pinkie kicked the ground, freeing her blade from the ground before holding its tip against Peter’s neck. “For all I know, you’re a changeling. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t slit your throat for impersonating my dead friend.”

Peter blinked. “All of these... years? That's impossible! How long has it been?"

“Very possible and very true. You’ve been gone for over twenty-five years, Peter. We thought you were dead,” Pinkie whispered, her voice lacking humor. A few moments passed before the mare gritted her teeth, breaking her stoic expression. “How could you just abandon us like that?!”

Peter shook his head, lowering Pinkie’s sword with a hoof. “No! I couldn’t--!” He straightened his posture, glaring. “I would never abandon you or anypony. Not ever.”

This seemed to have worked, as Pinkie huffed in response and sheathed her sword. “Then humor me. How the heck am I talking to a ghost right now?”

“I don’t know,” Peter murmured, placing both hooves over his throbbing cranium. “I’d just stopped working on my Starswirl experiment. Right when I was throwing everything away, there was a loud bang and bright light. I blacked out, and I woke up here.” The stallion began to pace, matching the rush of his racing mind. “I just don’t understand it. I was barely able to send small, inanimate objects back and forth a few seconds in time. How-- Just how did I send myself two and a half decades forward?! It doesn’t make any sense!”

Pinkie let out a dry chuckle, the corner of her lips forming what appeared to be a smirk. “Well, this is a surprise. The local genius finally doesn’t have all of the answers. Who would have thought?” The mare’s ears perked at a sound in the distance. She turned to the side, running to the edge of the village before returning her gaze to Peter. “We need to talk, but not here.” The sounds of hoofsteps grew louder, sending small tremors through the ground. Pinkie stepped into the shadows, motioning a hoof. “Come on.”

Peter simply nodded, his Spider sense chiming in agreement. “Okay. Lead the way.”

Both ponies entered the Whitetail Woods before diving into a cave. Pinkie ran a hoof along the wall, pressing a concealed switch, and an underground passage opened in response. Once they entered, the mare pressed a second button on a different wall, covering their tracks. Dozens of changelings had filled the forest they had departed, clamoring for the heads of those that had slain their kin. Peter quietly watched Pinkie as the earth pony held her silence and waited for the pack to leave the area. Her silky long mane hid a majority of her face with the exception of her good, royal blue eye. The Element of Laughter’s gaze was distant and cold, far from the joyous and oblivious stare he once knew.

“They seem to have left,” Pinkie murmured before turning to face the long empty hallway. “We can’t stay for long. They’ll have an extra patrol here and near the exit within a few hours. Let’s move before we’re boxed in.”

Peter bit down on his lip. “Pinkie. What--?”

The mare closed her eyes, cringing. “Don’t… Just don’t call me that. My name is Pinkamena. Start using that instead. Or Diane. I don’t care, just so long as it’s not… Pinkie.” The latter of her statement was barely audible, delivered through a strained whisper. The expression in her steel-like face faltered, momentarily matching that of pain. The mare brushed the tail of her jacket to the side before galloping down the passageway. “Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?” Peter questioned, following the earth pony.

Pinkamena dove over a pit in stride. “I’m taking you to see Twilight.”

Peter managed to mirror her action, closing the distance afterward. A light sensation simmered at the center of the stallion’s chest at the mention of his wife’s name. A lingering thought remained, evident by Peter’s arched brow. “What about Mayday and the others? Are they with Twilight, too?”

“Some are. Some aren’t,” Pinkamena coldly declared, glancing off to the side. “Applejack and Rainbow Dash.” She trailed off, scoffing. “Those two aren’t with anypony right now.”

Peter’s blood ran cold. “What happened?”

Pinkamena shook her head. “Let’s just say that they got in a really big fight that nopony could win.”

The stallion’s eyes softened. “How?”

Pinkamena skidded to a halt upon reaching the darkest point of the passageway. She retrieved the lamp hanging from the wall, pausing to pour fuel into it. “We were friends, but above all, we were a team. When you disappeared, it all just fell apart. Twilight just wasn’t the same. She barely talked to anypony. You made her feel complete.” Once the container was full, the mare struck a match and lit the lamp. An empty smile formed on Pinkamena’s face. “I guess, in the end, she really needed you to balance her out, and… we needed that level head of Twilight’s. We were just lost without her. She was our center. Without her… it just didn’t work.”

The pair trotted through the cave, Peter staying close to Pinkamena. “Where is everypony?”

“Everypony that’s still alive?” Pinkamena bitterly questioned, causing a look of horror to surface on the stallion’s face. “They’re all being held in concentration camps as food for the hives. Changelings feed off of positive emotions, mainly love. Those that are captured are put under heavy hypnosis and live a life under hallucination, unaware that their minds and bodies are being deprived and starved. Once their body begins to shut down, they’re locked away in a pod and forcefully rejuvenated… if they’re lucky. After that, the process repeats: live, feed, and regenerate.”

Pinkamena stopped in her tracks, pointing a hoof at the ceiling. “The entire world has been drained by this point. Chrysalis and the changelings have been feeding for over twenty years now. Anypony that is viewed as a threat is killed on sight. There are only a few of us left that resist, but we don’t stand a chance against their strength and numbers. With so many years to feed, Chrysalis is probably ten times stronger than she was during the invasion, and she’s the catalyst for the other changelings. The stronger she gets, the stronger they get. The reverse also holds true.”

They reached the end of the cave, prompting Pinkamena to place the lamp down and run her hooves across the ceiling. She eventually revealed an opening that she climbed through. Peter followed the mare’s example, flipping to his hooves once reaching the top. The stallion could only shake his head at the sight of jagged rocks and countless dead trees. It seemed the entire world was a barren wasteland. Peter exchanged a brief glance with the mare before they galloped through the unrefined path in the woods.

“Canterlot was the first to fall before the rest of Equestria crumbled,” Pinkamena continued, the wind blowing through her mane and jacket. “The other kingdoms didn’t stand a chance either. The Griffin Empire. Saddle Arabia. The Crystal Empire. One by one, they all fell. Now, the entire world knows only the rule of Empress Chrysalis. She even had the gall to put her throne in the Crystal Empire. It’s nothing but a slap to the face.”

Peter readied himself to respond, but an electrical current surged through the stallion’s body before he could do so. He paused to gaze at his body while the energy emitting from him glowed. “What the heck?” he whispered, shaking his head once the electrical energies dissipated. Pinkamena glanced back after him, but Peter waved his hoof. “It’s nothing.”

Pinkamena nodded, making her way through a row of bushes before returning her gaze to the stallion. “We’re here.”

Peter forced the lump in his throat down with a swallow. His heart raced as he joined the mare’s side, searching for his wife eagerly. They had reached the remnants of a forest meadow, tiny traces of light seeping through the dry leaves in the trees. “Twilight?”

Pinkamena’s eyes softened, the mare sighing desolately before pointing a hoof across from her position. “She’s right there.”

Peter’s eyes followed the mare’s direction, settling on a small stone. The stallion’s heart sank as he read the words inscribed into the rock, ‘Here Lies Twilight Sparkle Parker. A wonderful wife, mother, and friend.’ Peter walked to the grave, collapsing to a kneeling position before bursting into a sob. His tears ran, falling from his face and sinking into the dry earth.

"You mean Twilight is...? No--!" Peter cried out.

For all of his strength, he felt completely drained, unable to face the world. Peter clutched at the pain swelling in his chest before striking the ground with enough force to crack the surface. His worst fear had come into fruition for the second time in his life, Twilight losing her life just like Gwen had. Yielding to his guilt and sorrow, Peter ran a hoof over the inscribed name on the makeshift grave.

“Twilight… I’m so sorry,” Peter whispered, his voice cracking.

Pinkamena closed the gap between herself and the stallion, standing a few hoof-lengths behind him with a somber expression. “Do you recognize this place, Peter? It’s the Winsome Falls… what’s left of it.” Peter’s shoulders stopped trembling as he lifted his gaze, staring blankly at his surroundings. Pinkamena let out a somber sigh. “Twilight told me that some of her fondest memories were here with you. It’s not the safest place, but I thought it’s where she might have wanted to be buried. Spike’s here, too… as well as some of the others.”

Peter rubbed a hoof over his sore eyes. “How…?”

Pinkamena stood on her hind legs and folded her hooves. “About three years after you disappeared, Chrysalis and the changelings invaded Canterlot. They slaughtered so many, including Princess Celestia and Luna. Twilight gave her life so the rest of us could escape.”

Peter forced himself to a standing position, managing to finally face Pinkamena before his gaze shamefully fell to the ground. “I wasn’t there to protect her, you, and everypony else. I let everypony down. I failed as a knight of Equestria, and this is the result.” The stallion pulled Mayday’s teddy bear from the inside of his costume and brushed a hoof over its mangled tie. “Why’d you bring me here?”

Pinkamena huffed. “Twilight died waiting for you. I only thought it was right that she at least got to see you.”

Peter nodded, his gaze never leaving Mayday’s toy. “It’s horrible here.”

Pinkamena softly nodded. “Yeah, it is, but what can we do? It’s just the way it’s meant to be.”

Peter glanced off to the side, as if contemplating the mare’s statement, and the stallion shook his head defiantly, shoving the toy back into his costume. “No. This isn’t the way, and I refuse to let it stay like this!” He turned his back to Pinkamena, staring intently at the rocks where the waterfall used to stand. “I know I’m in the wrong timeline. Nothing is written in stone. I may not be able to change the past, but that doesn’t mean I can’t change the present and shape this future. I’ll find a way back to my timeline later.” Peter gazed at the blackened sky. “Right now, we’re going to find Chrysalis and take her down.”

Pinkamena stared blankly at the stallion before letting out a laugh. “And just how do you plan to do that, Peter? We already tried...” She trailed off, rubbing a hoof over the scar on her face, “more times than I want to remember.”

“We’re going to try it again, Pinkie,” Peter declared without hesitation, placing a hoof over the mare’s shoulder. He managed a small smile. “Are you with me?”

Pinkamena frowned at the name the stallion used, but she brought herself to smirk, albeit barely. “I suppose I am.” The earth pony’s expression stiffened. “Do you at least have a plan?”

Peter hesitantly nodded. “I’m working on it. I do know that we’re going to need help. That includes Applejack and Rainbow Dash.”

Pinkamena scoffed, shaking her head. “You’re only back for a few minutes, and you’re already asking for the impossible out of me.”

Peter chuckled. “Oh, come on. When does the word ‘impossible’ come out of your mouth? You defied logic all of the time. Why stop that now?”

All humor left the mare’s face. “It’s still a lot to ask for, but…” She nodded, her face inches from Peter’s, “I think I know somepony who can help.”

Deep within the throne room of the Crystal Empire’s castle, the changeling Queen sat with her eyes closed, opening them as somepony entered the vicinity. Their form was concealed, hidden beneath a cloak and hood. Chrysalis opened her emerald, slitted eyes, recognizing the individual’s sky blue fur coat and the black and crimson amulet that hung around her neck. The Empress waved a hoof, prompting the pony to pull back her hood via telekinesis. A beautiful, aged mare was revealed, her silver-blue locks glowing in the surrounding darkness. She knelt to the changeling Queen and bowed her head respectfully.

“Empress, I bring urgent news,” she stated, her voice monotonous and lifeless.

Chrysalis huffed. “Speak freely, Trixie.”

Trixie nodded, standing from her knelt position. “A squadron of changelings was sent to investigate a disturbance in Ponyville. There was a battle, and the squadron was annihilated. Reports indicate that two ponies were involved in the skirmish. The one at the center of the attack was the rebel Pinkamena Diane Pie.”

Chrysalis scowled, gritting her razor-sharp fangs. “That pony remains a nuisance to my cause.” Malevolent energies spiraled around the tip of her horn. “I should have finished what I started long ago with her eye. How many more of my children have to die by her hoof?” The changeling Queen exhaled, returning her gaze to Trixie. “What of the other pony? Who was it? Another rebel?”

The amulet flashed a bright shade of green before reverting to a crimson tone. Trixie’s expression remained lifeless. “It is said to be Peter Parker.”

Chrysalis didn’t respond right away, chuckling under her breath before lapsing into maniacal laughter. “So, the great hero returns.” A wicked smile formed on the mare’s face. “Notify all of my children. Should any of them locate Spider-Mane, I want them to bring him back to me… alive or otherwise.”

To be continued...