• Published 8th Jan 2020
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Golden Age of Apocalypse - Book III: Legacies - BlueBastard



Everything is finally ready for Sunset Shimmer to be crowned a ruling princess of Equestria, but not all is as it seems as the Covenant make their move and the history of Equestria itself is called into question as GAOA reaches its explosive end!

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Chapter 30 - End of an Age

Golden Age of Apocalypse Chapter 30

End of an Age

She prayed.

She prayed every day for the Megami to hear her plea, to rescue her before the forces of darkness closed in, if only so that she could get her beloved grandfather to safety, so he could pass in peace.

Each day, she prayed without fail.

Each day her hope grew dimmer.

For now, they were safe; her grandfather had the idea of hiding where they would least expect: in the shadow of Mt. Sakurajima, right under the noses of the enemy while they fruitlessly searched for them amongst the Japanese diaspora of the world.

But it wouldn’t last. Eventually their ruse would be discovered and eventually the battue would lead to them. It wouldn’t last.

Her only option at safety now was the Megami, as unknown and mysterious as she was.

Please...you’re my only hope, the girl mused silently, hoping that her words to the beyond were not in vain and that she would be heard.


A distance away, in a pristine traditional Japanese estate, an old man grinned.

Let the child and her doddering grandfather presume they had a modicum of safety. Let them believe that their so-called “goddess” was coming to save them.

He would ensnare them all and become all the more powerful for it.

After all, was he not the very demon of all Japan?

After an obscene amount of reasons that had kept the humans in Equestria, the day had finally come to return home.

As they all gathered, ponies and humans, one last time in the great auxiliary ballroom where Platinum’s Mirror sat, it occurred to them how much things had changed between them and their understanding of their places in both worlds with relation to Sunset Shimmer. It likely would be the last time that so many cross-dimensional duplicates would be in the same place—Twilight, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Celestia, Luna, Spike, Velvet, Night Light, Adagio, Aria, and Sonata. Additionally, the pony Octavia Melody had been invited both in part due to her close friendship with Blu but also simply because she had the unique distinction of the only pony with a present human counterpart and not being part of the unofficial expanded royal family.

For some, this was not a return to their native home, but a journey to their new lives. The members of the SIREN Advance Training Group—Sunny Side, Ekene, Moonblazer, Embiggen, Tomahawk, Ushanka, and Whiskey—would finally get to put all their “human” training to use in trying to blend in with another civilization that mirrored their own. Softwing and Blu, now officially part of Sunset’s support staff, were also looking forward to their new lives in the human world—the former being able to escape her father’s clutches once and for all; the latter to experience what it was like to not play the royal fool constantly.

And largely hiding behind Ms. Celestia, the former queen of the Changelings, Chrysalis a.k.a. Crisalide della Lucca, was being more of a wallflower than the human Fluttershy had once been, given her conflicting emotions between being able to leave Equus after a thousand years...and her uncertainty at what lay ahead.

For some, however, it still was a complete shitshow regarding the whole nature of how they could spend nearly a month in Equestria and return less than two days after their departure in the human world.

“So, let me get this straight,” said human Rainbow Dash, struggling to wrap her head around the logic of it all, “You and the triplets have been running back and forth between this world and our own world over the past three weeks, but when we get back it’ll just be the Sunday of the weekend we supposedly all spent at your place?”

“Yup,” said Sunset, “we set the mirror up so that whenever anybody needed to come back, it’ll bring us back at a time of our choosing. We could even set it up to return us to the exact second right after the last person entered if we wanted...though in this case that wouldn’t make much sense.”

“How does that even work?”

“It’s magic, I don’t need to explain shit. Well, I actually could but you wouldn’t understand it.”

“Believe me,” said Twily, “I actually had Sunset try to explain it to me and it’s all gibberish to me.”

“If anybody had my vote to understand magic,” said Fluttershy, “it would totally be you.”

“Whatever!”

“It just dawned on me,” said Rarity, “but we were supposed to have spent all weekend up in Klamath Falls. However, we don’t have any souvenirs to prove we actually went there, let alone actually recount what we did there. Does any of us even know what’s there or what the given reason was for our trip in the first place?”

“It’s just your typical outdoorsy tourist town,” said Aria with a shrug. “Hiking, bird watching—the usual stuff.”

“Basically, what Fluttershy would think of as paradise,” added Sonata with a grin.

“She’s not entirely wrong,” admitted Fluttershy. “I would find it very relaxing.”

“Besides, Rares,” said Pinkie sidling up to Rarity, draping her arm around her shoulders, and then waving her other arm wide in front of them as if gesturing to the disguised members of the new SIREN, “the real souvenirs were the friends we made along the way!”

“That is the most Pinkie thing you’ve said this entire trip,” said Tavi.

“And you also got a reverse Brazillian!”

“I would kick you with my ‘reverse Brazillian’ if I believed it could actually hurt you,” grunted the musician, “but honestly, I think you could probably survive a meteor hitting you in the face given this whole ‘Swordbearer' business.”

“God, I don’t even know how any of us are going to approach telling Cup and Carrot about that,” sighed ex-Principal Celestia.


Off to the side, the gathered ponies largely said nothing, and instead simply watched with amusement. Despite how different and alien the humans appeared, there was a certain familiarity to them, and not just because they were counterparts. Some things simply transcended realities, and it seemed that love and friendship was one of them.

“It’s been wonderful, really,” said Tavi, interrupting the various conversations of humans and ponies with a tone that belied the fact that for her, at least, the experience had been lukewarm, “but I think it's about time we finally started heading home.” She sighed, adding, “I still need to learn how to get around the house with hooves.”

“I think the population of Equestria would agree we’ve overstayed our welcome,” said Sunset, before turning to the pony delegation. “They need to handle the change in government, if nothing else.”

“That would be for the best, yes,” said Luna, who then lit her horn and adjusted the Platinum Crown—it was still unusual having to wear a full blown crown in lieu of a tiara now and she swore to herself that as soon as ponies had adjusted, she’d switch back to the tiara once more.

“Alright, then, let’s move out!” said Adagio, nodding to the other SIRENs before she readied her gun and walked through the portal.

She was followed by Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Applejack, and the first three of the ATG: Embiggen, Tomahawk, and Moonblazer, with the last of the initial group being Rarity and Sonata.

“Ms. Celestia, Admiral, you’re next,” said Aria, hooking a thumb over her shoulder at the mirror.

“Slight change in plan, Cmdr. Blaze,” said Sable, who then turned to look at Chrysalis, still hiding nervously behind Celestia. “I think it would be best if Celestia went with our daughter-to-be.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” said Chrysalis, glancing between Sable and Celestia. “I mean, I’m physically not the human who passed through Sombra’s Mirror. There’s absolutely no telling what could happen. I don’t want my condition to...do anything to harm you."

“There’s an infinitesimally small chance of anything bad happening,” said Princess Twilight, stepping forward. “Really, there was more risk of you going through Sombra’s Mirror all those centuries ago. The egotistical maniac basically carved a hole through space-time with absolutely nothing in the way of keeping it stable.”

“Platinum's Mirror is also considerably newer, given I personally bored the hole after Grandmother’s time shenanigans to fix everything shattered the original connection,” added Sunset.

Chrysalis nodded, but kept eying the mirror with fear. She then felt her hand taken in Celestia’s—the love Chrysalis could feel from the woman whose age was hidden behind youth had become so familiar to her now—and she looked up at the woman looking down.

“We’ll go through together,” Celestia said. “There’s a reason, I feel, that our lives became intertwined. I’m not about to let reality rip us apart.” She then chuckled, adding, “The line between these worlds is so very thin...let’s cross it together, alright?”

Taking strength—literally—from Celestia’s love, Chrysalis nodded and gripped onto Celestia’s hand tighter with her left hand—the one that was her magically transformed forehoof, almost symbolic in representing what had become of Crisalide della Lucca.

“See you on the other side, dear,” said Celestia with a smile, and then hand in hand with her daughter from clear across time and space, the two entered the mirror.

“As morose as it may sound,” said Princess Celestia, “the fact stands that part of me is glad to see an ancient enemy of Equestria no longer standing upon Equestrian soil.”

“That’s a terrible thing to say, Auntie,” said Princess Cadence, “especially given what that poor girl went through.”

“I know,” said the former monarch with a grin, “but I’m also no longer the leader of the country so I can actually speak my mind now.”

“For the record, I certainly will not be sugarcoating what I say,” said Queen Luna, rolling her eyes.

“Yes, Lulu,” said Celestia as she rolled her own eyes. “We did fight a civil war over it.”

At the same time, Sable saluted the powers he served before he too departed.

“Oh, before I go,” said human Luna, turning to Sunset. “Is it possible to set up some kind of cross-dimensional LAN?”

“Why would that need to be set up?” asked Sunset. “I can call Equestria from home using a dragonfire candle, since magic is able to carry my 4G network.”

“Even better!” Luna then turned to her royal equestrian counterpart. “I’ll have to have the girls bring over a Playstation for you—that way I–”

“While the offer is generously appreciated,” said Queen Luna, “I’m afraid now that I’ve, to quote some of the nobility, ‘usurped the throne by having done nothing except exist,’ matters of statecraft and whatnot will preclude trying to set up a cross-dimensional, ah, ‘frag fest’ as I believe it was called?”

“I’ll send one anyway, so that if you do ever get the chance, pass a message though Sunset and we’ll co-op. There are more than a few knuckleheads out there who probably wouldn’t believe that their ass was kicked by a magic horse.” Luna then took her leave of Equestria, departing through the mirror.

Next was the trio of Softwing, Whiskey, and Blu.

“I know you’re leaving to escape the lie you’ve upheld in the name of your duty to the country,” said the now former Princess Celestia, “but do come back to visit.”

“Oh, of course—Equestria will always be my home, dear aunt,” assured Blu, “but even though I am a unicorn, it’s time I spread my wings and live the life I’ve always wanted.”

“You’ve certainly earned it.” She then snapped her head to Softwing, adding “And Miss Softwing, do make sure he at least writes.”

“Consider it done, your highness,” the griffoness-turned-human said with a smile. With nothing else to add, the three left as well.

The room emptied out further as behind them followed Sunset’s human family: Velvet, Night Light, Spike, Cady, Shiny, and the all-too-happy-to-leave Octavia alongside Twily. Behind them was the second trio of the ATG: Ekene, Ushanka, and Sunny Side.

In the end, all that remained of humanity in the room was, ostensibly, Aria Blaze, for Sunset was a child of both worlds and Pinkie was...Pinkie.

“You go ahead Pinkie,” said Sunset, who would have liked Aria to have gone as well but...the SIRENs would be SIRENs and insist on operational security.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’d like a moment with my fellow alicorns.”

“Oki doki Loki!” the girl said, before promptly bouncing out of the dimension.

“Is it just me or is Pinkie finally acting more like herself and not horribly lusting after you constantly?” said Aria, “because I think I speak for literally everyone in our circle, Sunset, in that I much prefer cocaine-for-blood Pinkie over aphrodisiac-for-blood Pinkie.”

“Maybe she’s just really happy again?” suggested pony Pinkie, who in truth had easily figured out what had really gone on, but it was not her place to say it.

“I suppose you could say that,” said Sunset with a shrug. “Of course, surviving getting stabbed in the heart twice is also a raison d’etre.” Knowing Aria would still insist on not leaving before Sunset, the girl simply magicked herself back to pony form before facing her fellow winged unicorns. “I just have to say thank you, all of you, for putting up with my human contingent. They can be quite a handful.”

“Oh, yeah, because being the counterparts of this lot certainly didn’t prepare us or anything,” sarcastically replied Twilight, gesturing with a hoof to the rest of the assembly.

“I’m just glad everything worked out for the best,” said Celestia, stepping forward and nuzzling her daughter. “Do take care, my child.”

“It is nicer going into the mirror with your blessing as opposed to...well, the past isn’t today.” With a kiss on the cheek, Sunset then turned and with one last look at her pony friends, walked into the mirror—she didn’t bother turning back human, as the default ways of her adopted home dimension would handle that.

Aria, in turn, simply gave the alicorns a cursory nod and followed after. Once she was through, Twilight lit her horn and closed the mirror.

“And just like that, this whole grand adventure finally comes to a close,” said Rarity.

“At least until the next bad guy shows up and tries to destroy the world,” suggested Razz.

“Oh, please, we obliterated Tirek, quote-unquote ‘executed’ Chrysalis, and before that destroyed Sombra,” said Twilight with a laugh. “Who else out there would even think about trying to stir up trouble now that Luna’s in charge?

Within a great old dining room lit only by candlelight, twelve figures sat around the table, six a side. To any casual onlooker they would appear to be nothing more than wealthy men and women having dinner together. But Areca Palm knew better, of course. Standing rigid and silent next to the regal empty chair at the head of the table, the masked girl could sense the arcane power filling the room.

Each of the individuals seated represented one of the twelve main families of their Order. Many were immediate members of said families—children or relatives of the matriarch or patriarch—but a few were merely subordinates, acting as the voice of their masters. Even so, everyone seated at the table were, for all intents and purposes, the most powerful people on the planet. As such, egos frequently clashed.

“All I am saying is, if you’d only allocated more funds to my family, perhaps the situation in Tokyo would not have grown so far out of hand!” said the young Japanese man perhaps louder than necessary, pointing a finger at the man seated across from him.

Adjusting his glasses, the man he was addressing calmly replied, “My employers asked me to remind you that your family had ample resources to nip this in the bud, but someone has been spending irresponsibly.” He raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps you know something about it, Fujitsu?”

The young son of the Ninth Family tightened his grip on his drink, but only sipped from it while silently glaring across the table. “I don’t see why you bother with that ‘my employers’ nonsense while you’re here. It’s not like any of us don’t know who the heads of the Sixth Family are, and no one on the planet has the power to listen in on us here.”

Except perhaps for her, Areca thought to herself. Although she was the Grandmaster’s protegée and practically his daughter, she knew better than to involve herself in a talk between representatives of the Twelve.

“My employers would rather not take chances. Business in Manhattan is messy enough without the added scandal,” the representative for the Sixth Family said. “Besides, you’re deflecting.”

Fujitsu rolled his eyes. “What does it matter anyway? As I understand it, we have an alliance with the Setsuma Rengo-Kai now.”

“A temporary alliance, while we work out dealing with that ‘Child of the Sun,’” an older woman with an English accent interjected. The sister to the matriarch of the Fourth Family, if Areca remembered right. With a snap of her fingers, a flame flickered from her fingers which she used to light a cigarette. “The real point is that you need to buck up your ideas. No son of mine would cause such trouble for our Order.”

“You dare speak to me like–?!”

The sound of the doors to the dining hall opening silenced Fujitsu immediately. Indeed, where the large room had been filled with conversation a mere moment ago, it was now silent as a graveyard. The Grandmaster of the Ordo Duodecim, the Blind Sphinx, entered the room followed by his right hand, the giant Cacus, their footsteps resonating through the room. Every one of the incredibly powerful men and women at the table instantly stood from their seats, bowing their heads respectfully. If the magic power filling the room had been considerable before, now it was nigh incomprehensible.

Wordlessly, Areca pulled out the chair at the head of the table for him to sit. As he did, she noticed that the cloth bandages wrapped over his empty eye sockets looked freshly changed; a sign that he’d had another vision.

Only when the Sphinx was seated did the rest of those gathered return to theirs. Then, flanked by Areca and Cacus, he spoke.

“The time has come. We take the first steps toward the Child of the Sun’s destruction today,” the Sphinx said with a smile like a grinning skull. He then turned his hollow gaze toward the representative of the Ninth Family. “Fujitsu, tell your family they no longer need to intercept the messages from the girl and her grandfather. In fact, why don’t you help them along?”

Fujitsu bowed his head low. “It shall be done, Grandmaster.”

“The rest of the pieces are very nearly in place….” The Blind Sphinx seemed to stare off into space for a very long time, and no one else at the table dared speak. At last, the Sphinx turned to the spectacled representative of the Sixth Family and asked, “How fares our wayward unicorn mage?”

Areca wondered if he really needed to be told. The Sphinx seemed to know more about that unicorn than any of them. With the power of seeming omniscience, Areca wondered how much the Sphinx even needed most of them.

“Our man in MTU reports no changes in her activities,” the Sixth representative reported. “He surmises that she’s given up trying to oppose us.”

“Does he now?” the Sphinx said with a single dry laugh. “Well, regardless of what that fool surmises, inform him to continue surveillance. Young Jade Lily still has her role to play in our plan.” He then turned to address the entire table. “The rest of you need only to continue operating as usual. Only take greater care. Our enemy may be at a disadvantage, but she is still powerful. We must not underestimate her.”

With that, the Blind Sphinx dismissed the table, and one by one, the representatives of the twelve families of the Ordo Duodecim stood, paid their respects, and left the room. With a wave of his hand, he summoned a meal for Areca and himself, and she sat down to join her father at dinner.

“Is there something you’ll be wanting me to do for your plan, Da?” she asked.

“Not quite yet. But in a few months’ time, a visitor will be arriving in Portland. I’ll want you and Cacus there to greet them.”

Areca nodded, knowing better than to ask for more details. The Sphinx was more than just the riddler: he was a riddle in and of himself. Even Areca didn’t know how old he really was, or whether he was even human. She remembered once when she’d asked him how exactly his Gift worked.

“Que sera, sera,” had been his answer. But unlike all the other times, the Sphinx followed up his riddle with an explanation. “In this world, everything is interconnected; every living thing affecting the other. Thus, time can flow only towards a single inevitable point. People live and die completely oblivious to their roles as cogs in the cosmic engine of fate.”

Areca remembered smiling as she said, “But not you, right?”

With a smile of his own, the Sphinx had answered, “I exist a step above mortal beings. With my Third Eye, the path of fate lies open to me. Therefore, I can change its destination.”

Areca had been awed. “So...does that make you like...a god?”

“If one believes in such things.”

It was in remembering that old conversation that Areca felt prompted to ask her father a question that had been bothering her since finding out the true nature of the Child of the Sun.

“You said that this Sunset Shimmer person is like a goddess,” Areca said. “Does that mean she can do what you can?”

With a resonant chuckle, the Blind Sphinx said, “It would be more accurate to call her a demigoddess. She’s powerful—likely the strongest nuisance I’ve dealt with in some time—but she’s still limited to acting within the margins of fate.” His non-eyes boring through her, the Sphinx smiled and patted her hand. “You need not fear, child. The only other being capable of rivaling my power has already played the last card in Her hand, and wasted it.”

The expression on his face turned grim. “As for Sunset Shimmer, perhaps eons from now she’ll be capable of ascending to true godhood, but she will be dead long before then. She is not the first demigod I’ve dealt with; only the latest.”

Midnight. The pair stood before the mirror, flanked by their respective retinues. “I wish you didn’t have to go,” Luna said in a voice that bordered almost on the foallike. “I’m not ready.”

“Nor was I,” Celestia said. “But we all must grow sometimes, sister. And it’s not as though I’ll be gone forever, or even a thousand years.”

Luna rolled her eyes. “Rub it in, why don’t you,” she drolled. “But are you sure about this?”

“You need time for the ponies to see you out of my shadow, and the only way to do that is for me to depart for a while. I cannot hide forever, especially if I wish to live my own life now.” Celestia brushed a strand of her hair out of her eyes; being human was definitely going to be something to adjust to, even if for just a little while. “Besides, as I said, I do plan to return.” She looked at Raven. “Any news?”

“I’ve found suitable homes in Manehattan, Oatmaha and Hoofalulu, per your request,” Raven replied. “I’ll be checking them out while you’re gone and will send you as much information as I can. Of course, the real estate agents are being told that the buyer is a wealthy socialite from Neighpon province, and we’re hinting that the real buyer is a celebrity. We’ll make sure that they get no idea that you are the actual interested party.”

Celestia smiled. “I trust you. Now, you take time for yourself as well. When the flashcat’s away, the crystal mice will play, as the old saying goes.”

Raven laughed. “I promise.”

Luna looked at her sister one more time. “At least you took the time to say goodbye to Sunset.”

The woman nodded. “I had to, as I don’t know when I’ll see my Little Sun again. She knows I’ll always be there for her; nonetheless, I want her to live her life without having her mother constantly intruding; there will be plenty of time for that later. Furthermore, Sunset’s parents and I have an agreement: On Earth, she is still a minor and that is their responsibility. Here, she’s not, but I will always be her mother. And regardless, if I’m going to give some motherly advice...I need to get into some trouble of my own, correct?”

Luna moved over and tried to hug her sister as best as she could; she could see how the difficulty could arise from the variation in body shapes. “Then take care and I will see you when you return, sister.”

“I’ll bring you back a souvenir or twelve.” With that, Celestia and her Hooves stepped through the portal. Per the travel plans that her counterpart had made for her, she would head towards “CJV” (whatever that was) and board an “airplane” (again, whatever that was) and head off to the first of many planned destinations, courtesy of the SIRENs and their own network of plans.

Luna watched, from the moment her sister first moved through the rippling mirror, to the moment it grew still after the last Hoof had passed through. A wave of fear passed through her, followed by a crushing loneliness. Back when she had been Nightmare Moon, she had always wanted this moment—for Celestia to be gone and for her to rule. Now that it had truly come to pass, the lunar alicorn felt nothing but shame and a gnawing sense of anguish.

“Your Majesty,” Raven began.

“Raven, we are friends. You know you can relax protocol when we’re in private.”

The unicorn nodded. “In that case: chill the buck out, Luna. She’ll be back. You be you.”

“That...sounds entirely like something my niece would say.”

“You spend enough time around Sunset and you end up picking up her habits, whether you like it or not,” the younger mare noted.

“Whether we wanted it or not, we stepped into a war with the Cabal on Mars?” Luna said gleefully.

“I have no idea what that means,” Raven groaned and the alicorn merely giggled in response.

One Week Later

It was the final day the exhibit on Baldassare di Cavalcanti, Italy’s so called “dark sorcerer”, would be at ECMAH. Originally, it was planned to ship off to the next showing at a museum in Vancouver, but recent events now required that the exhibit be returned to Italy immediately. That reason, according to the press release, was that the earthquake from a couple of months back had done serious damage to Cavalcanti’s mirror, and as it was the centerpiece of the whole show, it would need to return for emergency restoration. Likely it would be years before the exhibit would start the world tour once more, and for a trio of girls present, locking the mirror away in Italy couldn’t come soon enough.

On her day off from work, Sunset was surprised to get a call from Chrysalis, who had asked the older girl if she would be willing to go with her to the last day. As both Celestia and Sable had other plans that day, Sunset agreed, especially since Celestia had arranged for her older sister to take them out to lunch afterwards. But what was equally odd was that Chrysalis had also requested that Octavia go as well. While Octavia would have preferred to spend time with her boyfriend, unfortunately, Blueblood was busy researching a report and wouldn’t have time for her that day, so she agreed to tag along.

At the moment, the girl gazed at a cracked ivory comb, eyeing the ancient artifact with a mixture of wonder, caution and bittersweet nostalgia. “I’m surprised this survived,” she said to the others. “This was a birthday gift that my older brother had given me, and I guess Baldassare gave it to that earth mare Sombra had given him as a second wife—Bruyere was her name, as I recall.”

“Figures he’d do something like that,” Octavia said. At the moment, she was rifling through a guidebook on the exhibit that she’d picked up in the museum gift shop. “Did you know her?”

Chrysalis nodded, brushing her blonde bangs out of her eyes. Even a week after her return to Earth, she’d mostly resumed her physical appearance from her “pre-Rose” days, and only some teal locks and turquoise eyes made her stand out from that; a “scarlet letter of sorts” that she said she neither could nor would ever get rid of. Still, it was uncanny; Sunset had commented that while Chrysalis had looked on her old self-portrait from centuries ago, it looked more like a descendant of Crisalide della Lucca gazed at her ancestress rather than the truth of the timelost girl looking at her earlier self.

“Not well,” the teen admitted. “She was...well, to use a modern term, she’d be in the special education class. From what I recall of briefly seeing her human form thanks to Sombra’s spell on her, she was everything that Baldassare ever wanted in a wife: beautiful and stupid. Nothing like the mewling girl I was...or the brave mare...woman...your ancestor was, Tavi.”

“I still can’t believe that Musica Allegra was your close friend. I mean, I know that now, but to me, she was always a historical figure I was related to.”

“No. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have survived. And even her memory kept me going. Sombra told me that she’d abandoned me, and maybe for a while, in my madness, I even believed it.”

“I can imagine how that feels, Chryssie,” Octavia replied.

“No, you don’t. I hated everyone and everything. I wanted to hurt you not just because of Sombra, but I think because it was clear that you were related to one of the mares that got away when I couldn’t. It wasn’t fair to you and I’m sorry for that.”

“And I forgave you. Besides, like I said, I know how it goes as well: When there were times that Melody had control over me, I thought that I hated Sunny because she had come in and stolen everything from me. My mind was clouded, just like yours was. But like you, I was freed from that, and now I know what’s important to me.”

“And now so do I: Musica was there for me and she was my friend. And I’ll never forget her for that.” Chrysalis flashed Octavia a genuine smile. “And I’m glad that her great-times-whatever granddaughter is there for me, too.”

Octavia returned the gesture. “I think she’d like that, actually.”

“So what’s next then?” Sunset asked. “History barely recalls Baldassare di Cavalcanti as anything more than a failed contemporary to the great mystics of his era, and Crisalide della Lucca is little more than a footnote in his life, his first wife who may have been murdered by him.”

Chrysalis took one last look at the life of Crisalide della Lucca: a tragic story about an unloved girl who had, despite her noble blood and family’s wealth, been used as nothing more than a pawn in political games and, as far as humanity was concerned, died under circumstances that were still unknown to this day. They would never know the further suffering she’d endured, the madness that overtook her or the hell that life had become.

Crisalide della Lucca, one way or another, was dead: either at the supposed hands of her husband, or at the righteous hooves of a queen of another reality who had put an end to the warped being Crisalide had become.

Chrysalis’ life had nothing to do with that person. She was, now and forever, her own identity.

I made it, girls, Chrysalis said to herself and the ghosts of her mare friends from so long ago. I’m finally safe.

“Chryssie?” Sunset spoke again.

She hadn’t even realized she was crying until she wiped the tears from her cheeks. “You’re right: Crisalide was nothing more than a footnote, and there’s no further point to looking at the detritus of someone else’s life.” She looked finally at the empty pedestal where the mirror had sat before it had been pulled from display. It was symbolic: it would no longer be used for harm and as such had been removed from the metaphorical chessboard.

She turned and smiled at her two older friends, the ones who would be a part of her life now—part of her future, one she’d finally received at last. “I think we’re done here. What’s next?”

“Well, we still have an hour before we have to meet your aunt for lunch, and then after that, the tickets she got us to ECoPop.”

Octavia looked at a nearby museum directory. “Well, on the second floor, there’s that new exhibit of musical instruments from 18th century Bavaria, if you two don’t mind.”

“Sure, sounds like a plan,” Chrysalis said with a smile. “Let’s get going.”

And with that, Chrysalis stepped away from the life of Crisalide della Lucca for the last time.

“I want to thank you for coming along for this,” said Razz, trotting down the path through a well maintained grove of oak and maple trees. For reasons she refused to disclose to anypony, during the week following the departure of Sunset’s human contingent Razz had been making inquiries regarding some of the victims of Sombra’s “indentured servitude”. Having been centuries, she fully expected most if not all of them to end up being dead ends given historical record keeping wasn’t the greatest due to low literacy among the population at the time, and the civil war probably didn’t help. But amazingly, the one mare above all others whose descendants she’d wanted to track down not only had a perfectly preserved family tree, but they had in fact moved at some point to a parcel of land only an hour or two away from Ponyville proper.

The main problem was that it was private property and given the absolutely horrible things the family had suffered back then, having her show up at their doorstep had a chance of going south very fast. After all, she knew for a fact that some ponies still called her the “Second Coming of Sombra” after her…“momentary lapse of control” during the trial trapped all the alicorns in crystal, and the recent business with the Covenant wouldn’t help matters. But much to her surprise, when she had mentioned the issue in passing with Rarity, the fashionista informed her that she personally knew the family and would be happy to help smooth things over should the need arise.

“Oh, darling, it’s no trouble at all,” said Rarity alongside her. “And while I do understand your concern given the circumstances, I’m sure you’ll find that they’re quite an agreeable folk.”

“Certainly feels a little like home,” admitted Lockbox. Given this was, unfortunately, Sombraic in nature, Razz had requested the presence of her fellow Scions. The human Octavia was excused given she lived a reality away, as well as the fact it was still uncertain if she truly had been the fourth Scion or it had really been her unborn evil twin Melody. But Melody had been destroyed, an unintended victim of the Alicorn Amulet, and had she lived would not want any part of what was going to happen on this day anyway. Lockbox and Corner Shot, in contrast, readily agreed and had met Razz and Rarity along the way between Ponyville and their destination.

“What’s with the tools?” asked Corner, eyeing the saddlebag Razz was carrying. She knew them to be related to Razz’s side hobby of crystal sculpting, something she’d used to do before getting a regular job working at the Retreat, and then again as one of the most senior magical experts in the country.

“You’ll see,” said Razz.

“Look, the last time somepony tried keeping answers from me, a lot of ponies died for pointless reasons. Mainly by my hoof.”

“I didn’t bring you along to kill anypony, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“That’s a relief,” Corner Shot stated. Since she began working for the Agency, they’d mainly assigned her to espionage duties instead of assassinations and she was more than happy to keep it that way.

As the three unicorns and the pegasus continued along the trail, signs of settlement began to appear such as fencing and, ultimately, the sight of ponies working in the oak groves.

“Hey!” suddenly shouted a young stallion, who seemed to appear from the trees. “This land is private and this road doesn’t connect to any towns in the direction you’re heading, so may I ask what you lot are–” His eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets when he finally got a good look at the group of mares. “M-Miss Rarity, this is a pleasant surprise!”

“Why, hello, Pistachio!” warmly replied Rarity, “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Sweet Acorn Orchards in full bloom before.”

“Yeah, Ma and Pa were worried we weren’t gonna be able to keep the farm after the damage from the war, and the Winter didn’t help matters, but the trees came back stronger than anypony has seen in years. It’s like the land itself heard and wants the Acorn family to stay.”

Corner Shot, for her part, looked the young stallion up and down: pale lime coat with bright emerald eyes and two-tone green mane that vaguely reminded the mare of celery. The styling of his mane certainly seemed cut from the same cloth as Rarity, but beyond that she couldn’t conceive of a single situation where a pony of his social standing would be able to justify his existence when standing next to the sheer class that was the fashionista.

Then again, one of Rarity’s best friends was an apple farmer so….

“Oh, is this the young colt from that Hearth’s Warming Helper incident?” asked Razz.

“I wouldn’t call it an ‘incident’, per se,” said Rarity, “More like the intervention of fate. It isn’t often that Derpy manages to deliver something to the wrong address but to the right person, even if it wasn’t the original intended recipient.”

“Am I the only one who thought that sentence didn’t make any sense?” said Lockbox.

“All in good time, my darling,” said Rarity, turning back to Pistachio. “My dear Pistachio, may I introduce to you my friend Raspberry Beryl, Archmagus of Equestria; and her cousins Lockbox and Corner Shot.”

“A pleasure to meet you!” he said, bowing his head. “I take it you need to talk to Ma and Pa?”

“Yes, it concerns business with your entire family, actually,” said Razz. “In the meantime, while we’re walking there, Rarity can explain how she came to know the Acorn family.”

The full moon hung over the Anaya resort in Bali, Indonesia, beautiful and serene. The skies were clear and seas were placid, a picture perfect location.

For the past week, the resort had been descended on by a group of incredibly beautiful women, and based on their accents, were likely from America. All of them were model perfect and all of them seemed to be both friends and servants of the tallest of them, a stunning beauty with long dawn-pink hair and lilac eyes. Was she a celebrity? Royalty? She was clearly extremely wealthy, sophisticated and appeared to be the kind of person who had it all. In any case, she had reserved a good portion of the resort for both herself and her entourage and the staff were intent on making sure she had the best service for the duration of her stay.

Many of the other girls had spent time talking with some of the other tourists, especially the single guys from Australia. From what it was clear, there was a chance that at least a couple of the girls that had come as part of her group probably would not be leaving with her, and that was fine. They were entitled to their own lives and for the woman, that meant a lot.

At the moment, she sat in the gazebo overlooking the sea. It was a view unlike anything she had ever seen before and likely wouldn’t see again. After all, next week, she and her “entourage” were headed off to another vacation place, this time a resort in Madagascar.

It would likely mean another round of departing Hooves, she knew, but of course, that had been the plan all along.

She smiled; she had never told her sister or her daughter what she’d really been up to. Now that humanity had been fully revealed to ponies, somepony had to finally find out what made them so...well, human, to use their terms. And even though she had given up the throne, she was still a princess and she had to look out for her ponies. And what better way to lay the groundwork for a grander alliance with a species that could be there for them if ponies ever needed the help? Humanity certainly had the technology and the ability to do it. She just needed to make sure they had the will.

“And it’s done,” a girl said, sitting down next to Celestia. She had red and orange flaming hair and bright green eyes shone from her dark skin. “Babendil Slam tendered her resignation today—she’s going off with that guy from...New Zealand, I think it was called?”

“Third one already,” Celestia said, sipping from her glass of some alcoholic drink. “That’s a start. Make a list for the OAE, and then we can send it to Softwing. Then I want you to contact the Hoof office and let them know we need two more volunteers.”

“Your sister’s going to find out what you’re doing eventually, Princess,” the Hoof said. “I don’t think she’s going to complain—knowing Queen Luna, she’d probably do it herself—but I think she’ll get on your case for ‘not actually taking a vacation during your vacation.’”

“Maybe. But something that both Blueblood and Divine told me stuck, and I couldn’t do anything about it until now: I was treating my Hooves unfairly. When you were all ready to retire, you were all well past marriageable age and old mares, like myself, with no chance to live your lives. Now, thanks to that list I was able to put together, I have an opportunity to at least make it up to some of you.”

“Some several hundred of us, if not more,” the Hoof laughed. “That guy I spent last night with probably will never know I’m not a 23-year-old human woman but instead a 78-year-old siren mare. And personally...I think I kinda like it that way.”

“Then why are you here with me and not with him, Harpsichord?” Celestia asked her.

Harpsichord Flame looked at her ruler. “Because I serve you, Princess. Because I am the last in the bloodline of Queen Cantata and I owe you for saving us from my ancestor.”

Celestia shook her head. “No, that’s not the way you should look at it. I read a book I picked up in the airport in Canterlot. About a man similar to Cantata; I suppose you could call him her equivalent. Der Fuhrer and the way he destroyed the human country of Germany and caused a world-wide war here on Earth. But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I am talking about was that he had nephews that fought against him. And then after that...they all made sure to never have offspring, so that their bloodline would die off.” She paused in thought. “That wasn’t fair to them, and it isn’t fair to you. I know that you turned down several offers of marriage, not because you didn’t want to, but because you didn’t want to give birth to a potential future Cantata.”

The look on Harpsichord’s face said nothing and yet said everything and Celestia took that as a sign to continue. “You are not your ancestress. Nor are you that of Princess Guadioso, who came to me and asked to fight against her mother and free sirendom from her tyranny. You are beyond those times and you should not suffer for what they did. All my ponies deserve a chance to love—whether as ponies or not.”

Harpsichord looked at her ruler, then at the distance, where the resort lay.

“Right Proper asked me to come with him,” she admitted. “He leaves the day after tomorrow to head back to where he came from, and he said he wanted me to be a part of that.”

“Then go. Love. Find a life and teach your children to be the best they can be. Tell them about ponies and about yourself and about spreading harmony. That’s what we do...and it will be the best thing for both ponies and for humanity.”

The girl nodded. “Then...this is my resignation, Princess. I’ll be leaving tomorrow.”

“I know. I spoke to Clavinet Strike and she said she’ll take over as the head of my security detachment. I also had her leave a small bundle of things you’ll need for the rest of your life. And if there’s a problem, you can always contact the OAE.”

Harpsichord gave a loving, tender smile, the kind of grateful response that Celestia had known all too well. “Then...goodbye, Princess. And thank you for everything.”

“You mean, goodbye, Celestia. I have too many subjects. I don’t have enough friends.”

“You’ll always have one in me.” And with that, Harpsichord left, another neo-human bound for a life that was never lived...and very much deserved.

Now alone once again, Celestia gave herself a private smile, and finished off her drink. Maybe she was too much of a workaholic for her own good, but...well, it was good to have a job.

“...and that’s why I didn’t have a present for Applejack during last Hearth’s Warming,” said Rarity, concluding her story right as they got up to the homestead.

“That was awfully generous of you,” said Lockbox, touched by the story. As the unicorn and pegasus discussed further, Pistachio went ahead and fetched his parents, bringing them to the door and brief introductions were had.

“We usually don’t get unicorns coming out all the way here to Sweet Acorn Orchard,” said Butternut.

“And we haven’t gotten any hats from you, Miss Rarity,” said Oak Nut with a laugh.

“I’m afraid there is something to be received,” said Razz, a formal tone in her voice, “but it is much more somber than a Hearth’s Warming gift.” She cleared her throat before continuing, “We’re here to bury the remains of a pony who was part of your family.”

“Oh...oh, no…” gasped Butternut, “we lost some family during the war against Tirek, but I thought they were all accounted for?” She looked at Oak Nut worryingly.

“It isn’t anypony you know,” quickly added Razz, defusing the situation.

“Then how do you know this poor soul was related to us?”

“Genealogical and historical records.”

“I...I’d heard stories, family legends, really,” said Oak, “you understand. But...are you saying they’re real?”

“The fact that three mares stand before you as the descendants of Sombra, which in conjunction with other evidence that I’m not at liberty to divulge,” she said, thoughts flashing back to the first time she read through The Rose with the Broken Neck, “would suggest they are.”

“And...there’s something left to bury, then?”

“A burial that has long been overdue. I can understand if you and your family don’t wish to be part of this, given what you must have been through because of the war, but–”

“No, we’ll be part of it. A good funeral is deserved after all.”

After the Acorn family quickly got cleaned up, they led the precession of ponies to the well tended burial plot of the Acorns. It was somber to see a few graves that decidedly looked much more recent than others, judging from the relatively undamaged state of some of the gravestones, but it wasn’t as many as Razz had feared.

“How, uh, big are we going to need?” asked Oak, who had the foresight for him and Pistachio to bring along a pair of shovels.

“The smallest will do—there will not be much to bury, unfortunately,” Razz replied.

Then, at last, the ponies arrived at a small plot near a rock outcropping, much too small for even a foal’s coffin, but it would suit their needs.

“Why did you all come, anyway?” asked Butternut. “Surely you didn’t know her, did you?”

“I don’t even know who we’re burying, to be honest,” said Corner.

“It was the crime of our ancestor that took her from her family,” said Razz, ignoring Corner for the moment, “and as the only members left of House Sombra, we are gathered here to lay one of his victims to rest. Lockbox, if you could help me, please?”

“Of course,” the blacksmith replied.

Together, Razz and Lockbox quickly dug out a little hole in the ground, large enough for a small box. No sooner had they done so then Razz returned the shovels to the Acorn stallions, then promptly summoned a fancy box emblazoned with a cocoa pod cutie mark.

“A thousand years ago, Cocoa Bean was kidnapped from her family and forced into slavery at the behest of Sombra. And then when she tried to stand up for another victim of Sombra, she met her end in a cruel manner—I shall not divulge the details beyond that all that was left was her pelt. But even in death, she served to provide comfort to her friend as long as it was possible, until Sombra took that away too by sealing it away in secret under his crystal castle. It was hidden down there for all this time, until a voice from the past divulged its location to me with the request to do what she could not, as a final service in the name of friendship. And so, in the name of House Sombra, we lay thee to rest, Cocoa Bean, in hopes that you finally may reach the Great Pasture.”

She lowered the box into the pit, which Pistachio and Oak quickly filled in. And then, after Razz beckoned them to move away, she lit up her dark horn and summoned a moderately sized pillar of crystal.

“Is...is that dark magic?” gasped Pistachio.

“Yes, it is,” said Rarity reassuringly, “but Razz is capable of handling it safely, it is part of the reason she is the archmagus, after all. You have nothing to worry about.”

Saying nothing, Razz finished her summon, and then began lacing the stone with an illusory charm so it would look like pure crystal instead of the more primordial, wild essence within. And when she was done with that, she pulled out her tools and from the hard surface carved a nice little headstone of crystal, with a respectful epitaph.

“And it is done. It may only be one of the innumerable crimes against all ponykind that Sombra committed, but it is one more that justice has finally been delivered to.”

Everypony nodded respectfully, and then turned to leave. However, Razz held back, and once all the ponies were in front of her, she quickly turned around, pulled out a human smartphone, and snapped a picture of the fresh grave.

As requested, thought Razz, quickly tucking the phone away before anypony else noticed, I’ll send you the picture later, Chrysalis. Your friend is at last buried among the family she was taken from.

The next day, Razz was back to manning the guest service desk at the Retreat. She rarely had time to do this given her duties as Archmagus these days, but it felt nice not running around fighting the forces of darkness. And doubly so when seeing a familiar face come up.

“So you guys only came back to the Retreat just to check back out?” asked Razz.

“Yep,” answered Rough Edge. “It’s about time the Four Footed PerFormers got back on the road—no idea what Trixie’s up to or if she wants to roll with us again, but doing the stint in Canterlot got us a lot of publicity.”

“Yeah,” agreed Meadow Brooks, “we got ponies asking from all over the country if we’ll come perform at their establishments!”

“Not to mention Versatile and I should head back home to Nightshade soon, too,” said Stage Fright, Versa nodding agreement. “To check in on the family and all that, y’know?”

“Well, the least you actors could do is take all this mail with you!” angrily spat the suddenly appeared Spic, who along with Span carried in two large sacks of mail and unceremoniously dumped them onto the performance group.

“They filled up the mailroom to the point we couldn’t do any cleaning in there!” added Span.

“What is going on out here?” came Cashmere’s voice, followed by her trotting out from the back to see the unfolding chaos. “Spic! Span! What have I told you two about dumping mail on guests?!”

As the angry yelling increased, Razz merely sighed before sharing a knowing look with Heliodor perched by her side as always. “After that insanity with the Covenant, this peace of mind at home is so relaxing, don’t you agree, Heelee?” The phoenix chirped in agreement.

Three Weeks Later…

With a hiss of steam, the train pulled into the station of the small mountain community of Clydesvale. The ponies that stepped off the train onto the platform all seemed completely ordinary, many of them greeting family and loved ones with loving embraces. Only one of them, an unassuming unicorn mare, kept to herself. Sommerset had no family waiting for her here. The closest thing she had to one she left behind when she departed the circus she had traveled with for months.

The circus had been nothing more than a necessary camouflage that allowed her to travel Equestria with little scrutiny, but she could admit to herself that she had started to enjoy their company in the end. Sapphire Essence in particular had become something like a sister to her. It pained Sommerset to wonder what she would think of her when news of who she really was and what she’d done would find her, wherever she was now. Pushing back those useless thoughts, Sommerset returned her focus on the present, reminding herself of her mission.

It was exactly one month ago that the coronation of Princess Sunset Shimmer took place, during which time she had succeeded in stealing a very important artifact from the Church of Alicorns: a book of arcane knowledge. Getting it had taken literal blood, sweat and tears, and to top it all off she hadn’t even had time to so much as take a cursory glance at its contents before she teleported it away to her mysterious benefactor.

Sommerset knew her only as Empty. After first joining the circus in the wake of her encounter with a certain purple menace, Sommerset had been contacted by this “Empty” with the promise of assistance toward her cause. Although Sommerset had never met Empty in person, her mystery patron had made good on her promise: Sommerset’s little church heist wouldn’t have been possible without the funds that appeared mysteriously in her accounts.

Now, one month later, Sommerset was in Clydesvale just as Empty had instructed. Of course, she now had no idea what she was supposed to do or where she was supposed to go. It would have been nice if Empty had bothered to give more specific instructions for this meeting….

“Hey, you there!” a hard female voice called out. Sommerset assumed they were talking to somepony else, but then they said, “Yes, you. The unicorn looking around like a lost foal!”

Sommerset turned to confront the voice and saw a pegasus mare with a white coat, yellow and orange mane, and red eyes focused directly on her. The pegasus stepped closer to her and said, “You’re Sommerset, right?”

Right away, Sommerset could sense an immense wellspring of power coming from the otherwise average looking pegasus pony. One look at the insignia on the bomber jacket she wore was all it took for Sommerset to realize she might be in trouble. Had the Equestrian military really managed to catch up with her already? Sommerset considered running, but another look at the Wonderbolts sigil on the pegasus mare’s jacket reminded her why that wouldn’t work. Sommerset began preparing a spell, but the other mare just sighed.

“I’ll take that as a yes, then,” the pegasus said. “It’s okay, you can relax, I’m not here to book you or anything. Our mutual friend just sent me to collect you.”

Sommerset powered down her horn. “So you work for Empty?”

The pegasus looked around, a hint of panic on her face for a moment. “You shouldn’t use that name. Not in such a public place.”

“Sorry,” said Sommerset, not particularly sincerely. Most of the other ponies on the platform had since left, and what few remained weren’t quite within earshot.

“It’s fine, whatever. Come on.”

The pegasus turned and led Sommerset into the train station. Curiously, rather than lead her out to the road, the pegasus instead brought her deeper into the station itself, until they came upon a rather neglected looking restroom with an “Out of Order” sign on the door. The pegasus opened the door to enter, then turned back when she noticed Sommerset hesitating.

“Well, c’mon. Don’t just stand there looking clueless!”

Thinking more and more that this was all some elaborate joke that the authorities were playing on her before arresting her, Sommerset nevertheless followed the mysterious pegasus into the restroom. Inside she found more or less what she expected: a shithole.

“Wow. Cool digs.”

“Shut up,” the pegasus groaned as she reached into the saddlepack at her side.

Right away, Sommerset realized where the immense power she felt was coming from when the pegasus pulled out a blue orb roughly the size of a bowling ball, glowing with a mystical energy. Is that…?

Then, the pegasus turned back to the restroom door through which they had just entered. After doing something to make the orb in her grasp glow even brighter, she pulled open the door again.

“After you,” she said, gesturing through.

Sommerset was shocked to find that through the door was not the dusty old train station she’d just been in, but a rather luxurious looking apartment suite with a view of a sprawling city. At the center of the room, seated at a fine wood table idly stirring a cup of tea was another unicorn mare wearing a fine dark dress under a fashionable black cloak. Her coat was ash-gray and her mane and tail a sharp magenta.

“Hello, Sommerset,” the unicorn said without looking up from her cup. “It’s nice to finally meet you in person.”

“So, you must be Empty, then?” Sommerset asked, stepping further into the room to look out one of the windows.

“No, but all of my proxies go by Empty. Makes it harder for the authorities to find me if they think they’re only searching for one pony.” Taking a sip from her cup, the gray unicorn mare finally looked up at her. “Now that we’re in private, you can call me by my name: Chrysoberyl. And you’ve met my associate, Skystreak.” She nodded in the direction of the pegasus who had escorted her here, who was putting her glowing orb back into her saddlepack.

Sommerset looked from it to the view from the suite’s window. She could see skyscrapers and bustling city streets as far as the eye could see; a far cry from the small town of Clydesvale. Off in the distance, she saw a harbor and what looked like a familiar statue.

“Are...we in Manehattan?” Sommerset asked, gobsmacked.

Chrysoberyl gave her a grin. “Would you prefer the train station restroom?”

“I’m just...a little confused.”

“Naturally, but that’s why we’re having this little meeting. We’ll all need to be on the same page if we’re going to be working together.”

Chrysoberyl motioned for Sommerset to take a seat at the table, and seeing that Skystreak was already seated, she did so without delay. Chrysoberyl then proceeded to pour a cup of tea for each of them and passed it out. Sommerset wasn’t particularly thirsty, but took it without complaint.

With a content sigh, Chrysoberyl leaned back in her chair and surveyed her two guests. “Look at us. We really are four of a kind, aren’t we? A Manehattan divorce lawyer, an up-and-coming Wonderbolt…” Chrysoberyl gave Sommerset a knowing look before she said, “a circus acrobat….”

“Is there a point you’re getting to?” Sommerset asked. “I didn’t come all this way for idle chit-chat.”

Skystreak hmphed, “On that, we agree.”

Chrysoberyl regarded Sommerset with a frown; clearly this was a pony not used to being interrupted. “The point is, we are all united by a common goal: revenge.”

It was at that moment that Sommerset happened to glance past Chrysoberyl, and spotted a familiar tome resting on one of the shelves.

“The Book of Alicorns!” Sommerset exclaimed, at once remembering the reason she came here in the first place. “Did you manage to find what I was looking for?”

Chrysoberyl frowned, glancing back at the book in question. “Unfortunately, the book has proven to be far less insightful than we had hoped. It did, however, help me figure out the secret to unlocking the power within my associate’s family treasure.”

Sommerset could only assume the treasure in question was the orb Skystreak had in her saddlebags. The one that Sommerset was now certain she knew what it was.

“Right. Well on that note, you should know that I’ve done my own fair share of research into magical artifacts,” she said, looking over at Skystreak. “So how did you manage to get a hold of one of the Celestial Spheres?”

Pulling out the orb again, Skystreak showed it off with a hint of pride. “A gift to my late father from the Inariese emperor.” The look of pride then gave way to anger. “That is, before Sunset Shimmer ruined him!”

“Sunset Shimmer ruined the emperor?” Sommerset asked, seemingly confused.

“No, not him! I mean—AAARGH!” Skystreak snarled as her face contorted into a mask of hatred.

“Relax, I was just making a joke.” Tapping her hoof on the table, Sommerset looked at Chrysoberyl said, “Anyway, getting that Sphere working’s all well and good for you and your associate here, but it looks to me I’m still out what I was promised!”

Chrysoberyl raised a placating hoof and said, “Relax. The book turned out to be a dead end, but there are other ways to unlock the secret to time travel.”

Her impatience with Chrysoberyl’s calm, smug attitude growing by the moment, Sommerset growled. “Like what?

Taking a long breath through her nose, Chrysoberyl gave Sommerset a long, hard look. “Like I said before, if we’re all going to continue working together, we all need to be on the same page. We can’t do that if we’re not all being honest with each other.”

Feeling Chrysoberyl’s eyes penetrate her, Sommerset began to worry. Does she know? How could she possibly know?

“How do you expect me to share my secrets with you if you won’t even tell me who you really are?” Chrysoberyl continued calmly, like a teacher chiding a misbehaving student. “I’ve known your true identity all along, of course. It was why I reached out to you in the first place. You made quite a name for yourself with your radical ideas on cutie marks, and even more so when your little attempt at rebellion ended short courtesy of the Court of Friendship.

“With that in mind, I understand why you’d want to travel under a false identity, Starlight Glimmer, but really. I expect more honesty between us.”

Sommerset—or rather, Starlight Glimmer—was silent. She had been hoping to keep her true identity a secret from everyone until the time came, but it would seem that was not an option now. So, she wordlessly dispelled the illusion around her, shifting her colours back to their natural pinks and purples.

“If you knew all of that, then you understand why utilizing time travel is the only way to guarantee my revenge against Twilight Sparkle,” Starlight said. “She’s too powerful for anything else to work!”

“Don’t worry, I’m confident we’ll be able to uncover the secrets you seek soon enough,” Chrysoberyl said. “Thanks to some…creative accounting with the funds belonging to the Covenant I was until recently a part of, I now have vast resources at my disposal. But even better than that was what I managed to find in the rubble of their hideout.”

Chrysoberyl then unclasped the cloak she wore and parted it to reveal the object around her neck. It was a black amulet inlaid with red glass, moulded in the shape of a dark alicorn. Starlight had felt an imperceptible dark presence ever since she set foot into Chrysoberyl’s apartment suite, but until this very moment it was like her mind was actively trying not to think about it of its own accord, as if subconsciously afraid of the dark power within. But now, Starlight couldn’t stop herself from looking deeply into the dark artifact, and her fur stood on end when she looked deep enough and felt someone or something looking back.

“The power in this amulet is far more useful than anything some old book could teach us,” Chrysoberyl continued. “And what’s more, it’s given us another ally: a melody of hate recently confined to the amulet. She too has someone she wishes revenge on.” Then with an unsettlingly friendly smile, Chrysoberyl said, “So you see? All four of us will have our revenge on the ones who wronged us.”

Starlight looked at the other two ponies at the table. She thought she understood Skystreak’s motives well enough, and that brief view into the abyss of the amulet made Starlight decide that the less she knew about the entity within, the better off she’d be. But she still didn’t know as much about Chrysoberyl as she would have liked.

“And what’s your motive in all this?” Starlight asked. “Who is it that you want revenge on?”

Skystreak leaned forward a bit in her seat, indicating to Starlight that she was just as in the dark on this matter as she was. Chrysoberyl just frowned, and went back to stirring her tea.

With a grin, Starlight said, “We all need to be on the same page, don’t we? To that end, I expect more honesty between us!”

With a sigh, Chrysoberyl said, “Very well. The target of my revenge runs with the same crowd as the targets of yours…she’s my half-sister. And yet, somehow she is the one who ended up with all of the dark powers of our ancestor while I have nothing!

“So, nothing is exactly what I will leave Raspberry Beryl with when I’m done!”

Author's Note:

And with that, the Golden Age of Apocalypse is a wrap! I want to extend a huge thank you to all the readers who have put up with the time it took to get to this point, between the delays and other problems with real life among everybody here on the BV Team, this thing proved to be a bigger challenge than we ever could have imagined initially. And just to underscore what kind of undertaking this has been, reaching all the way back to Seven Days in Sunny June, I preserved the Steam chatlog from YEARS ago when Shin and I were still planning out 7DSJ book 3 (as the end of the then-planned trilogy), and the file creation date is March 21st, 2014 so it would be around that time when this was sprung on me:

BlueBastard: morning
Shinzakura: Heya. You're going to like what I've got planned.
BlueBastard: Sunset returns after the week...except she's still a pony
Shinzakura: Nope; I'm actually giving a real-world tie in to the story so that it adds an extra dimension. Remember that I said that Celestia and her family are originally from an Italian town named Cavalcanti?
BlueBastard: yep
Shinzakura: (nice town, by the way - visited in the 90s.)
Shinzakura: Well, last night after we logged off, I had a hunch and did some extra research and dug up some information on the town's most infamous resident, a 16th century nobleman named Baldassare di Cavalcanti.
(7DSJ Book 1 snippet, bookstore scene where Sunset finds and buys the Cavalcanti book for Twily's Christmas gift)
BlueBastard: whoa whoa whoa, did he actually SAY a black unicorn taught him stuff through a mirror?
Shinzakura: Historically, yes.
BlueBastard: holy shit
Shinzakura: Gets better. Crisalide translates into English as CHRYSALIS.
BlueBastard: you're shitting me
Shinzakura: Nope.
Shinzakura: I'm glad I played my hunch.
Shinzakura: the only thing that's false in the above is that he knew Giordano Bruno; there's no proof that he did and I added that, since they lived around the same time.
BlueBastard: goddamn that's amazing
Shinzakura: Truth is stranger than fiction.
Shinzakura: so now we actually have a mirror on the human side we can genuinely use - I was going to use a mirror owned by John Dee in the Canterlot Museum of History, but this is much better.

As I recall, I was still in my sophmore year of college when this conversation happened, I distinctly remember it being a really goddamn bright Sunday when Shin first mentioned Baldassare di Cavalcanti and this completely insane story about a guy who traded his wife for magical power

I think the only thing more insane is that somehow, I managed to track down a single reference that confirmed the guy actually did in fact exist in real life, though it was likely he was a devout man of the cross and absolutely nothing like what the legend says, it being probably just bullshit invented to smear him. Crisalide also likely was a real person, though she probably died young due to illness or childbirth, though a reference to any children was not found.

Now, as you all may have guessed, this isn't the end of the 'Berylverse' as it's become known, and there still is much more planned, so please stay tuned for more development because the BV Team hasn't learned a damn thing and we're going to be trying something even more ambitious in the future!

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