• Published 23rd Jun 2017
  • 1,321 Views, 39 Comments

The Ones Who Returned From Stone - Skijarama

Equestria has fallen. The Crystal Empire is all that remains of organized pony society, and the survivors want their home back.

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Chapter 5 - Awake at last

“Oh, You can hear me in there now? I guess they found you.”


Dust and ashes swirled across a mauled and desolated landscape. Fresh blood made up the numerous running streams that carved twisting paths through the decayed soil.

“They’re all dying out there, you know. All of them. Every last one.”

Screams sounded in the distance, accompanied by thrilled and excited howls of bloodlust. A pony tried to pull himself from the river of blood, only for an unformed mass of claws, teeth and eyes to surge after him.

“Stop… stop it…”

The poor fool was dragged helplessly back into the crimson river, his body shorn into pieces, his miserable and panicked cries for mercy falling on deaf ears before going silent. The monster enjoyed its feast.

“Not yet…”

More ponies tried to clamber out of the river and, like the first, they met gruesome ends. Either they were forcefully dragged back into the waiting maw of the monsters hidden within the gore, or their bodies shriveled and dried when exposed to the ash and dust that rushed by. More than a few mummified corpses now peppered the shores of the rivers.

“PLEASE! Stop this!”

They were screaming… all of them. Every one. They screamed and cried and begged for their lives, only to receive agonizing deaths. The river bubbled and gurgled in satisfaction as it consumed more and more and more, eating and eating and killing and killing...

“Why should I stop?”

Bones were becoming one of the only things visible on the shores. Bones, discarded flesh and smatterings of blood. Death was everywhere.

“They’re all going to die!”

Death was everywhere.

“...Isn’t that the point?”

The fiend hungered, unrelenting, unending, unforgiving. All that tried to escape died, being devoured. The screams and crunches and cracks and squelches began to blend together.

“They don’t deserve this! The ponies that wronged you are long gone! Please, stop this! Spare them, let them go! No more!”

Death... so much death...

“You’re asking me to let them live because they’re innocent…? Hmph. Enjoy the ashes, princess.


A scream, shrill and pained, echoed across the land of death and pain.

The river hummed, content.

Twilight screamed at the top of her lungs as her vision and mind came rushing back in a terrifying onslaught. Her eyes snapped open, only to slam shut again when a bright, flickering orange light struck her retina, blinding her. She screamed again and her forelegs flew up to cover her eyes and head. “STOP!” She cried out, curling up into a ball on the hard cave floor. “JUST STOP! PLEASE! STOP!!!”

“TWILIGHT!” A new voice shouted, hooves reaching out to touch her shoulder. Twilight jerked away and lashed out with her hooves, striking whoever the speaker was in the face. A feminine yelp met her ears, but the high pitch only served to send a sharp spear of pain through Twilight’s panicking mind.

“GO AWAY!” She wailed, trying to crawl away. She found that she had very little strength in her body, so she made no progress. Her desperate gasps, pants and cries grew worse when she realized just how little progress she was making.

“Psh! You three go away!” The voice said again, muffled somewhat, as if a hoof or something similar were smothering the speaker’s mouth. For several long moments, each one feeling like a terrible eternity, Twilight continued to wail, scream and cry before trying to open her eyes again, slowly this time. Everything hurt to look at and the world was blurry and washed out with glare. A few seconds passed before, at least, she could see properly. “Twilight, it’s okay…” Twilight’s eyes shot over to the speaker, spotting a grey thestral mare with a bloody nose and bandages covering her forelegs almost completely. “It’s alright. It’s me. You’re safe, alright?”

Twilight gulped down another lungful of air, her throat ragged and her body shivering horribly. Slowly, she looked around and examined her environment a bit more thoroughly. As she took in the cave around her, she began to calm down somewhat. She recognized this place… she had been here before, just after she had met... Her eyes turned to the thestral- no, to Drifter, again. “Wha… D-drifter? Drifter, is that you?”

Drifter nodded slowly, a disarming smile on her face. “The one and only…” she replied gently, inching a bit closer to Twilight. Twilight, in turn, twitched away involuntarily, a sharp inhale of fear rocking her system. Drifter stopped and shrunk back a bit. Deja vu… she thought, remembering how terrified Twilight had been of her the day they had first met...

“I… I don’t… w-what…” Twilight stuttered out nervously while shifting slightly. Her body, now that the adrenaline was beginning to wear off, felt unspeakably stiff, making any movement, including speech, difficult. She shook her head slightly to try and clear away the fog, though this only succeeded in making her dizzy. She began to topple over, letting out an alarmed yell.

“Woah, there!” Drifter quickly moved and caught Twilight before she could hit the ground. In response to the physical contact, Twilight jerked away, her breath once more accelerating into fearful gasps. Drifter backed off and raised her hooves to show she meant no harm. “Twilight, it’s just me. It’s fine. You’re fine. you’re okay. You’re in a safe place and I’m going to protect you. Just try to relax for right now, okay? Princess Luna is still thawing. She’ll take a few more hours to be released and wake up… then we can talk.” Drifter said gently, glancing back at the still petrified Luna towards the back of the cave. The mixture was slathered all over her and, thankfully, a few cracks were starting to appear on the stone. A few pieces had fallen away to reveal blue fur underneath.

“Wait… thaw…?” Twilight asked in confusion, trying to remember. “What happened…? How long was I out?”

“Twilight, please. Just relax for now, okay?” Drifter tried softly, but Twilight didn’t seem to hear her. In a frenzy, Twilight hurled herself at Drifter and grabbed her by the shoulders with her hooves.

“Drifter… what did Horizon do to us? How long have we been out? Days? Weeks?” Twilight asked loudly, her voice going hoarse as her volume went up. “What happened at mount eclipse!? Is Shining Armor okay? Tell me-! ACK!” Twilight let go of Drifter as her voice failed her. She fell to her haunches, a hoof on her chest as a violent coughing fit worked it’s way through her.

Drifter flinched back, her ears falling flat against the sides of her head. She reached out for a moment, then thought better of any more physical contact and set her hoof down again. For a time, Twilight’s fit continued before, at last, the coughing subsided and she met Drifter’s gaze.

“Drifter… please, tell me.” Twilight croaked, her voice barely a dry whisper, her eyes clearly conveying her desperation.

Drifter sagged as she saw her friend in such a horrible state. She bit her lip for a moment, then sighed in defeat. “Twilight… I want you to relax and brace yourself, okay? This isn’t going to be an easy story for you to hear…”

“...Is anything easy anymore?” Twilight sighed before lowering herself into a laying position and nodding to the hybrid.

“No, but… we’ve gotten used to it,” Drifter grimaced before sitting down in front of Twilight. “I want you to save your questions until I’m done, and i'm going to give you the very abridged version here, okay? I’ll go into more detail when Luna’s awake… I really don’t want to tell this story more than once.”


Drifter took a deep breath, then launched into her recap of the last twenty years. “...When you and Luna were petrified, Horizon made use of some pretty potent dark magic to instill fear and doubt into every single soldier and pony at the base of Mount Eclipse. It… it became a slaughter. Only a few dozen made it back alive. After that, Horizon launched a full-scale offensive on Equestria. By and large he disregarded the crystal empire, though nopony knows why for sure. For months, the fiends infiltrated, attacked and destroyed town after town, working their way up and slaughtering everypony in their wake.

“Every town that was destroyed had one of those gardens planted inside, bolstering the number of fiends Horizon had to work with. This went on for a while… I tried to slow him down, to give ponies a chance to get away, but… there’s only so much I can do when his forces are attacking from every possible angle and growing in number no matter how many I killed. Without you and Princess Luna, Equestria was disorganized and in chaos. For a time, Shining Armor and Cadance tried to fill in for you two, but… they wound up having to fall back to the crystal empire after only six months.”

“Six months?!” Twilight shrieked before her voice hitched and she began coughing violently again.

“Twilight…” Drifter called gently, coming over and touching a hoof to Twilight’s back. “Easy… easy,” she said softly. Eventually, Twilight calmed down and peered up at Drifter miserably. Please, let me finish…”

Twilight , with a pained expression, nodded to Drifter and said no more.

“Alright… About a year after you and Luna were taken, we… we lost Canterlot. The fiends found several points where the city connected to the mountain and… undid the supports. Violently. The city fell with thousands of ponies still inside… the pegasi that survived were swiftly picked off. Ponyville wasn’t far behind- don’t worry, your friends are all alive!” Drifter quickly added when Twilight looked to her with despair. “...The element bearers and their families are, at least. I… don’t know about anypony else. I’m sorry.”

“I… r-right.”

“Anyways, after that… well, it’s become a game of survival more than a war,” Drifter said solemnly. “There isn’t really any organized resistance in Equestria anymore. No government, no military… It’s not even a nation anymore. Just a bunch of bands and groups of ponies struggling to make it through every day. Over the first six months of the second year, the crystal empire was actively taking in refugees who could contribute something. But… well… they had to stop letting just anypony with a skillset in. Too many ponies, not enough food. They would have starved themselves.

“Plus, the crystal heart had to be modified just to keep the empire’s defenses up. I… won’t go into specifics. It’s something that Shining Armor should tell you.” Drifter finished before sighing and closing her eyes, knowing what Twilight was about to ask and dreading having to tell her.

“How… how long were we gone, Drifter?” Twilight finally managed to croak out in barely even a whisper. Drifter didn’t answer at first. For several long moments, the cave was quiet. “Drifter…”

“...Twenty years.” Drifter finally replied slowly before opening her eyes and looking sorrowfully at Twilight. The lavender alicorn looked back at Drifter with her eyes slowly widening in disbelief and shock. A hoof found a place on her chest to try and quell the sudden ice filling her heart. For almost a minute, the only sound was that of the fireplace crackling and spitting out embers not far away.

“Twenty… twha… wha… you… you can’t be… but that’s… that’s…” Twilight managed to mumble before she reached a hoof up to the side of her head, a migraine coming on. “This can’t be… this can’t…” Suddenly, Twilight was on her hooves and rigidly limping towards the mouth of the cave. Drifter was up and moving to stop her immediately.

“Twilight, please! You’re still weak from being petrified!” she pleaded, but Twilight ignored her and shoved past. Her footing failed her at the last moment and she collapsed at the cave entrance, gazing out disbelievingly into the crimson-colored, snow smothered land beyond. The red ring hung overhead, bleeding darkness across the sky. There was nothing alive for miles, and the air was as cold as the grave.

Twilight made a small sound, little more than a small gasp or a whimper. Her eyes were wide and unfocused, her jaw hung slightly loose and her body had gone rigid. Drifter came up to her side slowly, a freezing breeze causing the bangs of her mane to sway and swing lazily in the air.

“...I’m so sorry.” was all she could say to the young princess.

Twilight could do no more than look on and despair.

Author's Note: