• Published 16th Jun 2021
  • 928 Views, 41 Comments

The End of an Era (Series Finale Rewritten) - StacheHand

Twilight Sparkle is about to be crowned ruler of Equestria, but on this day of all days, the peace is disturbed by the ultimate threat: Emperor Grogar and the Horses of the Apocalypse.

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Part 3 - Chapter 1 (9): Lost and Without Home

Previously on My Little Pony...

Shook up by Discord's fall and Grogar's unimaginable power, Twilight Sparkle and her friends, along with Princesses Celestia and Luna, had no other option but to run as fast as they can, hopefully to find a safe haven away from the continuous mayhem. The young alicorn didn't believe their chaotic draconequus ally to be gone forever, and the group could unanimously agree that this was just another epic adventure, and another day for their friendship to shine.

"Grogar and his gang may have knocked us down, but what villain hasn't? We never let that take our hope away, and we're not starting now."

The Horses of the Apocalypse held the other heroes and heroines of Equestria prisoner inside the caverns beneath the decimated Canterlot, drained, helpless, and placed next to pieces of Chrysalis' former throne for good measure. When they learned of Discord's defeat from Grogar, he informed them that the Chaos Magic core he obtained, which he actually created by accident, was so wild that even he would find it troublesome to control. Chrysalis thought that she, by virtue of her maddening thirst for vengeance, could handle it. It seemed she was playing the ram sorcerer for a fool, but the real sucker was herself.


The last familiar place the last defenders of Equestria could find to feel safe was the Castle of Friendship in Ponyville. Sadly, of course, Grogar's Malice Magic taint on the Tree of Harmony and the world's core spread to everything directly tied to it, and the castle was among them. They couldn't go inside it without making contact with the poison, so they had to leave their ruined longtime home behind for the open plains past the train station. Out there, they got a better look at how bad the divide between the pony clans was getting. Earth ponies and unicorns were fighting, and the pegasi were staying away from the land below the clouds.

Determined to get to the root of the problem, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, decided to work with Sunburst to reach the other protectors and acquire some info. Meanwhile, the non-pony students from the School of Friendship took off towards their homes to carry out the Tree of Harmony's worldwide alliance order. Trixie stook with Sandbar and the rest in Equestria to get the Princesses involved.

Twilight and company, even the respected rulers of the whole country, failed to get it through the deceived ponies' heads, and making things worse was not only the continuing monster and zombie attacks, but the sudden occurrence of a snowstorm on what was supposed to be an exceptionally hot day. They had nowhere to go, almost nobody left to turn to, and the villains were keeping watch over their struggle. The only things they carried on their backs, besides hope of shelter, were an earth pony, pegasi and unicorn that got horribly injured from some collateral damage, thus they couldn't ignore. Or so they appeared to be.

Grogar, with the focus and energy he could apply to Chaos Magic, created a dark capital city over the burnt debris of Canterlot. A place for monster and - eventually - pony sanctuary; Tambelon. In it's completed form, his children and the zombies gathered. Eventually, as he envisioned, he would be met near the premises by Celestia, who chose to leave Twilight's group after a terrible battle that resulted in the sun princess exploding and transforming into her hidden dark side, Daybreaker. Even if she couldn't hurt or even distract him, she was confident about sending a hopeful message and sure it was best for her friends' safety.

"I'll spread the word of your sacrifice, princess."

In the end, Celestia was effortlessly beaten and stripped of her magical core. As her symbol in the sky faded, Sunburst and the CMC infiltrated Tambelon thanks to some luck with spellcasting and classic teamwork. They were coldly welcomed by cockatrices, but managed to quickly befriend them, gaining their help with navigating the city, a bigger and more unreasonable creature, and collecting supplies they were going to need in the underground.

At the heroic group's next stop, Dodge City, Luna tapped into the deepest depths of her dream walking magic to bring the group along for the ride across the subconscious realm. They wound up on Mount Everhoof, in the home of it's guardian, Rusty Bucket, when they were chased by Grogar's swarm of dream demons. Finally, a place to crash and take everything in was found.

"Everypony's become so lost in their suspicions and fighting, they don't even remember what friendship is."

Turns out Tirek, Cozy Glow and Aurora Eclipse followed them. And the trio of pony victims? Chrysalis in disguise. All the six friends had to do to win was come together and ignite their Elements of Harmony. They were spread apart, so a desperate battle for the upper hand was waged between the two parties. At this moment, it would be discovered why there was a fierce blizzard. The Windigos, the icy, hatred-empowered spirits of Equestrian legend, appeared in the sky. Their destructive storm would send the pony clans into panic, and into overdrive on their measures against each other. A return to ponykind's darkest age was nigh.

Victory was close one moment, and then far off the next. When their attempts at outdoing each other came to a head, Grogar showed up to deliver the crushed Celestia. As a bonus, he brought the word that he, from the stars, watched the ponies their entire lives and secretly, with what little of his power remained on the surface, pulled strings to set up most of the challenges they overcame in their adventures, all to break the cycle of dominant Harmony.

"You know what's stronger than friendship, Twilight? FEAR!"

"That's right, because when you have to protect yourself, you have no time for anycreature else!"

"The moment doubt takes over, it comes to light how "different" and "unique" you small folk can be really be!"

"And you don't even need a pinch of dark magic to know it!"

"Too bad you never taught that in school, ex-Headmare!"

Still, the power of the Tree of Harmony and the Elements would protect the good ponies, except when Grogar blasted Twilight with his magic, knocking her out cold. The villains finished the fight, but Luna's magic whisked the heroes away to parts unknown. Grogar tried to find them, but his crystal ball, Arimaspi's Eye, was blinded by something: a heart-shaped force connecting to the Tree and forming a barrier around Equestria. By this point, Chrysalis, Tirek, Cozy and Eclipse were satisfied with how their enemies ended up. So finally, the evil quintet went their separate ways to their kingdoms. Grogar contemplated a new monster.

Within minutes, the Horses of the Apocalypse took over the changeling hive (where Chrysalis loyalists waited for their queen's return the whole time), the dragon lands, Mount Aris and Yakyakistan with their own malevolent agendas in mind. Pharynx, Ember, General Seaspray and Prince Rutherford barely got away from the takeovers and headed for Equestria, which was facing the apocalypse by the Windigos and Malice's toxicity. The fearful and angry ponies were officially going to war, and natural disasters were inescapable. The end of their unity spelled the end of their home, and on top of it all, a dreadful new gateway was opening.

"Now Phantom Zone, accept these offerings! Doom this tainted magic to eternal intermixture!"

♫ My Little Pony, My Little Pony
Ahh, ahh, ahh, ahhh...

I think I see a better way to be bad
Just put me in charge, make me queen, you'll be glad

No! Listen to me,
I'm the best of us three

Then you'll see a better way to be bad

Wait! This is my thing,
a better way to be bad

You shall do as I command,
I will rule this triad!

Hey! This is my song!
Sorry, not any longer!

A better way to be bad
Now you're making me mad

Won't the ponies be sad?
That would make me so glad

Now we've got a better way to be baaaaaad! ♫

A pony of oh-so-little size wandered a featureless land, holding a dirty cloak over her body against the strong wind threatening to blow it into the horizon. Where she was coming from, she had no clue. Where she was bound, not even with foresight could she tell. The only sure fact known to her was that she was alone, lost, devoid of hope, and probably forgotten.

Her name is Twilight Sparkle. She was a beloved alicorn, a figure representing the virtues of friendship, trust and love, in the pony country of Equestria. As of now, out here, she didn't know who she was anymore, beyond a wanderer covering her horn, wings and right eye from the elements.

A moment came when she considered giving up her fruitless walk, when the corner of her eye caught the first interesting sight along this path of desolation. Reinvigorated by curiosity, she moved over to what she saw and immediately found out what it was. It was the body of a pony, lying down in the dirt. That was unsettling enough, but what struck Twilight's nerves was four things: the greyed out colour, the absence of a Cutie Mark on it's flank, it's eyes being total white voids, and it's mane; yellow, tied and rested upon a stetson hat.

"Applejack?" Twilight said under her breath. She figured that the farmer pony would wake up with a little shake, but the body was indeed lifeless.

Her head gazed back and forth, she prepared to call for help, but another sign of a lifeless creature was detected. This one a pink-maned pegasus with a look of unfathomable sorrow.

"Fluttershy?" Twilight squeaked. Knowing what someone as gentle as her had been going through, she couldn't believe that the poor dear was reduced to this.

Suddenly, in a spot where she could swear there was nothing there before, the husk of a pink pony with a drooping mane, which was better known to be cloudlike, appeared.

"Pinkie Pie?" Twilight gasped at seeing it. She wishfully thought that the party pony would at least spring back to life when she came near and gave her a tap. No such thing occurred.

Right behind the young alicorn, something landed on the ground with a gravelly thud. When she turned around, it turned out to be a white unicorn with wildly confused hairs.

"Rarity?" Twilight murmured, holding her hoof to her mouth. By now, she wizened up to the fact that her friends... weren't going to budge. Or speak.

She noticed a hint of a pegasus feather sticking out of ground next to Rarity. Without checking the area, she dug it out and discovered a rainbow mane attached to it's owner.

"Rainbow Dash?" Twilight whimpered, officially shedding tears that couldn't be held back after all their buildup. This tiny speck of a pony didn't want to believe it, or look at it.

It was pretty clear as day, regardless. She made a terrible mistake, and her friends had to pay the price. She absorbed all of this horrible information, held herself tightly and closed her left eye for a moment, crying beyond all control. The precise instant she opened up and looked at the wasteland ground again, something manifested on it to her shock. Communicating with Twilight, as if on some film projection, was the face of Grogar. He gave a most malice-fueled smile to her, and made a glowing circle around the six ponies.

"Figured it out, dear princess?" Grogar spoke. "We're all leaving behind the Equestria we knew. Without you, it'll be the ideal we deserve. No more Elements of Harmony, and no more friendship in the name of figureheads." Twilight repeatedly stomped on the ground face to no effect. At last, he added "Remember, proof of your insanity is one of my own." The ram sorcerer's face, as his sentence finished, morphed into the chortling mug of Discord.

Within the circle, the bodies of Twilight's friends rose up on their hind hooves and transformed into demonic apparitions, baring fangs made from their coats and emitting yellow and black light from their eyes. She thought to run away, but she was caught in five energy beams, each being spewed out by the monstrous impostors. They drained her of everything. Her magical power, her wings, her horn, even her growth, until all that remained of the friendship princess was a colourless, blank blob that evaporated.

Twilight's vision changed. Not only was half of it pure darkness, but the other half was extremely blurry. She moaned, trying to lift her heavy eyelids. However, the right eye wouldn't open up, no matter how much strength she used. Her head tilted and she began to hear the sounds around her. Someone was reacting to her awakening and movement. It took a bit for the sight to sharpen, but once it was halfway there, the alicorn recognized the creature watching her as the young dragon, Spike.

"Oh, Twilight!" the reptile exclaimed, coming in for a hug. "I thought you were a goner!"

"Uh, hi... Spike." Twilight whispered. Her thoughts gathered until it was clear that she had woken up from a nightmare. A turn of the head put Princess Luna into view.

"This may not be luck, but rather, it is thanks to the Element of Magic within that you have lasted this long." Luna commented. "I am grateful to see you okay, Twilight."

"What... happened?" said Twilight, still trying to gain her voice. Rising off the sleeping mat she was lying down on, she felt a burning pain around the whole front part of her body and groaned. Strangely, her sides were a lot lighter than usual.

"Steady there, sugarcube." Applejack advised, holding stocks of food on her back. She and the rest of Twilight's friends were all present, alive and physically well.

"Thank heavens!' Fluttershy cried out in relief. "Twilight, I was beginning to think you were never going to wake up."

"It was horrible." Spike mentioned. "When Grogar struck you with that blast, you were out like a light. Then before anypony knew it, we were swept away by Luna, and we've had to carry and protect you all this distance, far from Equestria."

"You have no idea what we did to get this far." said Rainbow. "This isn't even the first of our temporary safe zones."

"The M-Malice... it touched me." Twilight whispered from that distressing realization. She then asked "H-how long was I out?", trembling at the answer's inevitability.

"We've been surviving out here, in the forbidden wilderness beyond, for days now." Spike explained. "A week, in fact."

"I counted the hours. It's now morning." Pinkie added.

"A w... a week?!" Twilight squealed, gritting her teeth in disbelief. She got on her hooves, to find that they were like jelly. Her body never felt this weak before. Balancing was rather tough. Taking just a mere step stung like a bee stinger. She tried to telekinetically grab some food from Applejack, but nothing was happening. She focused despite the poisonous sensation, tried so hard, but the pieces of sustenance wouldn't move.

"That nasty ram's magic has done a number on you, darling." Rarity remarked in distress. "I can't stand the thought of you hurt so bad, or what it did to your..." She stopped herself from saying any further words, hoping to seem sensitive.

"My what?" Twilight inquired in fear. Nobody was willing to answer. "What?!"

"Come." Luna requested. Pointing a hoof towards a pond, she slowly guided the injured Twilight. They stopped at the very edge, where the water met the land. The night princess ignited her horn and used telekinesis to lift up the pond water in a tall, reflective pillar. Twilight flinched and covered her face at the initial appearance of the water pillar as droplets hit her.

If only I hung on to a mirror, just to spare her the suspense, Rarity thought.

When Luna got the water pillar stabilized in her magical grasp, Twilight stopped cowering behind her fore hoof and took a hard look at her reflection. At what she saw, she wanted to scream in agony, but some force kept the sound in. This was not another nightmare; not even in her worst dreams could she see this.

Her chest was scarred, her right eye was blackened and covered up in bandages, her mane was unkempt, but even worse, her horn. It was broken. All but the bottom part, snapped off. It was basically a crater on her head with serrated edges now. The very appendage from which she channeled her gift for magical talent, which she had been born with as a unicorn, and it would never cast a spell again. Not even anything stupidly simple. That wasn't it either. Her pegasus wings, both of them, were nothing but tiny, charred feathers. Her gifts from Celestia for her alicorn and princess ascensions, incinerated, no longer movable. She couldn't fly anymore. Grogar's attack did more than blemish and taint her body, it literally tore it up.

Though Twilight could only tear up in one eye, that was all it took for get her face all wet, even without the aid of droplets from the pond water. Her friends approached her as Luna solemnly, and carefully, lowered the pillar back into it's natural state.

"I know it looks bad, but we'll work through it. Together." Pinkie assured softly. "So, let's save Equestria."

"I failed." Twilight sobbed.

"I think she needs a moment, then she'll come up with something." Spike said, motioning everyone to walk away and give the young alicorn space.

"You've lived a whole week and made it all this way in the wild without my help, right?" Twilight muttered, choking up. "If you didn't need me then, why the heck would anypony need me now?" She ultimately walked away herself, continuing to feel the horrific feeling of Malice coursing through her like fire.

"Make that two moments." Rainbow gravely declared. She and the rest sadly watched Twilight, who was wallowing in despair-filled defeat unlike any seen in the low points of the past.

The changeling hive, once brought to a state of lush beauty in Thorax's reign, was returned to the ugliness that Chrysalis remembered it best as, now that she was back in power. She may not have had a magic-disabling stone throne these days, but she did have something new with the same function, plus anti-changeling properties: a dark stone alchemy cage sent to her as a present. Changelings who genuinely changed their ways thanks to Thorax's influence and Starlight Glimmer's rationale were kept in this cage down below the hive, while the Chrysalis loyalists enjoyed eating love with their queen. That's where Thorax came in.

For a whole week, the good changeling leader was hung from the ceiling underground and used to sustain Chrysalis and her faithful subjects. It was torture, having his deep affection for his friends, broodmates and home extracted from his head for breakfast, lunch and dinner while the others could only watch.

"A whole week after your downfall, it's still cathartically delicious." Queen Chrysalis commented sadistically. Thorax had no reply to give her.

"Poor little grub." said one of the rogue changelings. "Could've just stayed in the corner, played with his dollies, and avoided all of this." On his body, as well as the other rogues, were markings made of black paint to distinguish them from their friendship-embracing brethren - the traitors. They were worn proudly. Thorax didn't have anything to say to them.

"What's with the silent treatment, Thorax?" another rogue asked mockingly. "No soft and fuzzy feeling speeches left?" She took a moment to slap his face a couple of times. "Come on, say something cheesy and pathetic, I need a laugh." Nothing.

"I wonder where Pharynx went?" said yet another rogue changeling. "He loved our old ways. Dude's really missing out."

"Never mind that, my dears." Queen Chrysalis interjected. "We've got big plans. My revenge is complete, the ponies and their goody-goody protectors are broken, the creatures in the other lands have certainly turned their backs on them by now, and we're about to aim even higher on the pecking order. A whole week of scheming is about to pay off."

"Aw yeah, I can't wait until we can make our own monsters to command!" a rogue changeling cheered.

"Evolve to our maximum potential!" another yelled.

"Expand our hive!" one more shouted.

"Just bare in mind: my fellow Horses of the Apocalypse will be spared. Grogar is our sole target." Chrysalis clarified. "Once his Bewitching Bell is mine... everything, outside those three kingdoms, will be our hive." On that thought, a sinister chuckle was let out through her grin.

"Yes, your majesty." all of the rogues said in unison.

King Tirek's iron-fisted rule over the dragon lands, now dubbed "New Midnight Kingdom" as per his decree, came with it's own drastic alterations. Another dark stone cage was used to hold some dragons. Inside, they couldn't breathe fire, use their physical strength or fly; this was a new property not seen before. Any of the mighty reptiles that were not imprisoned were forced by their wyvern cousins to either give them combat training or craft something from the diamonds and metal found in the soil. This product of their labor appeared to be a horned, winged, horse-drawn carriage, big enough for a multitude of creatures to sit in.

The gigantic centaur himself relaxed on his tall, wide throne, his fore hooves stretching down to the ground up front. The sight of the activity around him brought a smile to his face, for how it brought back childhood memories of his father's reign. But then a noise broke the immersion.

"King Tirek, sir!" a female wyvern called at the arm of the throne. "Your Chariot of Midnight is almost ready, and Stratadon Squad is preparing for takeoff!"

"Well now... for all their reluctance, your dragon cousins work fast." King Tirek remarked.

"And we made sure none of them goofed off or put any kinks in the structure, your majesty." the wyvern added, kneeling before her master.

"Excellent." the centaur said in satisfaction. "On my mark, me and the Chariot will go soaring through the skies of every land across the world. No exceptions. One night, one trip to deliver everycreature of extreme ambition one present: the gift of a perfect remedy." His hands glowed blue, the colour of his centaur healing magic, as he boisterously laughed. Lastly, Tirek whispered "Happy early Hearth's Warming."

It was hardly better at Mount Aris. While storm clouds covered both the sky and ocean, an overpowering overgrowth had covered the surface, ruining all structures and spreading spores like gas, thanks to Eclipse's magic. Hippogriffs, including Queen Novo and Princess Skystar, were rendered unable to fly or change to their seapony forms in the dark stone cage stationed in the middle of Hippogriffia. The Crystal Royal Guard, now outfitted in heavy black and purple armor with teal streaks, worked tirelessly to serve the whims of their empress, whom their brainwashed senses mistook for Cadance ruling with benevolence and fairness.

Eclipse made herself a small crystal tower over Harmonizing Heights, overseeing every spot on the mountain from her many balconies. Speaking of which, she was out on one of them today, using a replica of a magical item known to hippogriff and seapony society. In her telekinetic grasp, the Pearl of Transformation activated.

"Now, let's see if picking all those shards off the bird ponies was worth my time." said the dark alicorn, waiting for the end result of the pearl's glow. In moments, her body underwent changes that were easy to notice. Her backside and hooves felt different. She rushed to see her reflection on a crystal wall. Her fore hooves had hippogriff claws, gills were on the sides of her body, her tail was that of a seapony, and her muzzle became a beak. She beamed.

"Highness, your physiology looks different!" a guardsstallion watching his leader's business exclaimed. "Does this mean..?"

"Yes, captain. By distributing replicas of this to our horde of guards, monsters and zombies, they can take whatever form they want, for land, sea, sky and underground." Eclipse explained, transforming back and rubbing a wing on the Pearl. "Even better, anycreature without innate magic will soon be able to learn and harness some, under my tutelage."

"For the Crystal Empire, I accept the responsibility this Pearl presents me." the guard captain announced proudly. "What's your next order?"

"Now that I know it works, it won't be long until the implementation ritual." Eclipse replied. "All you can do for me, at the moment, is return to your post."

The captain nodded with a salute and said "Affirmative!" before leaving into the tower.

"Oh, my pretty, you will make a bigger statement than any Cutie Mark could." Eclipse thought out loud. "We'll truly have an empire of equality. Above the prisoners' tier, of course."

Cozy Glow's School of Friendship over at Yakyakistan was always high on activity. Said activity, however, mostly involved the filly's monster and zombie squadron threateningly supervising the teachers and students, pony and yak children alike. The Roc was monitoring the halls from the observatory. The Chimera, the one willing teacher, taught strength and intimidation. Trixie, as a magician who always dubbed herself "Great and Powerful", was forced to teach a class about deception. Sandbar, as an experienced student, was sentenced to giving survival lessons. Lastly, a copy of Cozy lectured students on the value of superiority.

The children all missed the old School, but whenever they defied the rules, they'd go in the dark stone cage in the basement for detention, or worse, be expelled into the cold. Meanwhile, Headmare Cozy sat in her office, enjoying the tributes they fearfully gave her over the past week, like toys, cards and jewels. Someone knocked on her door.

"Come in!" Cozy pleasantly called in response.

The door opened to reveal a timid colt, slowly sliding in with trepidatious anticipation. "Headmare Cozy Glow?" he spoked up.

"Please, call me Super Executive Mistress Headmare Cozy Glow." said Cozy pedantically.

"Uh, Super Executive Mistress Headmare?" the colt repeated back. "I want you to have this." Shivering, he held out an envelope with his left wing. It was decorated with hearts and horseshoe prints. In a matter of moments, a shadow wing stretched out of evil filly's body, grabbed the envelope and pulled it over to the desk.

Cozy squinted at the envelope, noticing that it looked rather old. She asked "Junk mail?"

"I made it... a long time ago. For you." the colt confirmed. "Even... after you... y-you turned out to... to be evil, I... I-I-I... held on to it. Thought you... should know... w-what I... wrote." Too nervous to stand in her presence any longer, he bolted out of Cozy's sight and closed the office door.

"Eh, it might be amusing." Cozy murmured, figuring it'd just be another one for the tribute pile. Quickly, with her shadow feathers, she tore the envelope up and opened the letter inside. She looked at the colt's writing, raising an eyebrow. "Dear Cozy Glow..." She started.

It read this:

"Everyday I see you,
I feel a cozy spark.
On Hearts & Hooves Day,
will you be my glow in the dark?"

She didn't read out the bottom part, where the colt signed his name. Her derisive expression turned into one of surprise. Those rows of words hit Cozy somewhere sensitive, making her feel something warm she hadn't before. A sensation like Summer's warmth over her frigid heart.

"Aw." Cozy moaned, sounding a bit nostalgic. Suddenly, like lightning, her hooves scrunched up the letter and threw it over her head. "Really cheesy! Ha ha ha!" She turned her chair to the window at the back of the office, looking for another tribute to caress. In seconds, she was interrupted by a ringing sound, coming from the self-portrait on the desk. She turned back around and shouted out to the whole School through a magical intercom. "Everycreature, a business call is in progress! None of you are allowed in the Headmare's office until further notice! Thank you!"

A shadow wing set the locks on the office door while she spoke. Then at last, she tapped the self-portrait to answer. A sparkling flame manifested above it and formed a portal-like oval.

"Long time, no speak, Horses of the Apocalypse." Grogar formally greeted from his throne in the Tambelon Castle council room. Around him, four of the same kind of sparkling flame oval appeared around the table, each displaying the faces of the other villainous conquerors; Chrysalis, Tirek, Cozy and Eclipse answered at the same time.

"I'm in the middle of something, so this better be good, Grogar." Chrysalis hissed.

"Boss! What timing, I was about to visit you on my Present Run." Tirek said. He looked around and gave a compliment of "I like what you've done with the place."

"Queen Chrysalis, King Tirek, worry not. We'll be quick." Grogar assured.

"My emperor, glad you called, I just made a new magical breakthrough." Eclipse confidently stated. "You're all going to be surprised."

"Mister Grogar, the school's a complete success." Cozy delusionally claimed.

"Thank you for coming, Empress Aurora Eclipse, Executive Mistress Headmare Cozy Glow." said Grogar jovially.

"Super Executive Mistress Headmare Cozy Glow, please." Cozy corrected in a more respectful tone. "I added the adjective today."

"Ah. Sorry." Grogar apologetically took note. "Anyway, I call you four today to give you some... bad news."

"About the shiny dirt in Arimaspi's Eye?" Chrysalis snarkily guessed.

"I traced this blinding light back to it's power source." Grogar explained. "I found out it's been coming from the Frozen North. To be precise: the place where the Crystal Empire once stood. Deep beneath the ice is that very same light. It has formed a connection with the world's core, and what's more, I heard the echo of a baby's cry from it's general direction."

Chrysalis, Tirek and Cozy directed gazes of exasperation at Eclipse, who they knew had been taking care of the Crystal Empire when they began the invasion.

"Well, he had to have dealt with it by now, right?" Eclipse defensively remarked.

"Now now, let's go easy on Empress Eclipse." Grogar rationally ordered. "This is an unexpected inconvenience for everycreature. Princess Flurry Heart is gone, but it seems she has undergone a transcendence into Harmony Magic, and extended her essence to protect her beloved aunt from imminent destruction. I blasted the light with all my might, but nothing has changed."

"What about your assimilation spell?" Tirek reminded.

"Oh, no, I cannot use that on such a force." Grogar confirmed. "It's primordial Harmony Magic, the one rival to the power of my Malice. Only the Tree of Harmony has ever wielded it, and it would clash with my core and tear me to shreds if I put it in the Bewitching Bell. But, back on topic, with no way to get rid of Flurry's energy spike, I relied on my children to sniff out Twilight's gang - no luck yet - while I-"

"Sounds to me like you've been sitting in your castle home all day, twiddling your heels." Chrysalis commented. "You're more powerful than Discord, right? Just find them yourself!"

"Not like there's a big hurry. Not when their friends are so far off, and Equestria's a frozen, war-torn dump." Cozy pointed out. "You just relax and go with the flow after you hang up."

"Don't tell me what to do." Chrysalis whispered darkly.

"I've been working hard for 7 days now, getting to the bottom of that light mystery, giving you those cages, transferring food and protective magic to your kingdoms, and controlling the Windigos." Grogar described. "But my biggest project was completing Havoc."

"Wanton destruction?" Tirek surmised. "I think the Windigos do enough of that."

"That sounds really different from your proven tactical patterns, my lord." Eclipse mentioned, confused.

"What do you mean by completing Havoc?" Cozy inquired, seeming to understand better than the rest.

"I don't mean that havoc. I speak of my latest child, Havoc: the Spirit of Destruction." Grogar specified. Right next to him, a bright, brief flash of light burst onto the scene, not unlike the entrances of a certain draconequus defector. Except it wasn't white, but purple. When the flash was gone, a figure stood next to the ram sorcerer. A familiar, but new creature. It was, lo and behold, a draconequus.

"DISCORD?!" the four Horses of the Apocalypse shouted in shock.

"Don't be alarmed, this is my proud prince, built from my newfound knowledge of Chaos Magic, and with none of his predecessor's emotional vulnerability." Grogar affirmed.

Havoc didn't say anything. He only grimaced, and growled like a large dog. He had the same animal parts as Discord, but his wingspan was greater, he had two big teeth sticking upwards out of his mouth, rather than one sticking downwards, the beard was instead a full, bushy goatee, he had a third horn, which protruded from his forehead, his body's colour scheme was dark purple, black and teal, and his eyes were blank and red. Any feature that could be considered unassuming on the reformed Lord of Chaos wasn't present on this monster.

"Well, he's handsome. Sounds like a warrior type, too." Tirek opined.

"Golly, sure might come in handy." said Cozy.

"His programming is focused more on devastation than creativity, but he can travel and locate at the same immeasurable pace. Our lingering worries may soon end." Grogar stated about Havoc. "But now, I believe it is your turn to take the torch." As he finished his sentence, he conjured a Malice Magic ball out of his Bell and split it into four.

"Ooh hoo hoo, a promotion!" Cozy cooed.

"What do you mean? Retiring?" Chrysalis asked, raising her eyebrow.

"In these four orbs are the thought waves for my Monster Creation spell." Grogar defined his action. "Take them and create ferocious servants of your own vision." Flicking his pasterns, the orbs disappeared from the council room and popped up in front of the Horses of the Apocalypses, at their respective locations.

"Yes, new magic! I've been waiting for something fresh!" Eclipse excitedly yelled.

"My own vision, eh?" Chrysalis murmured, then chuckled.

"Alright, perhaps this can build me a Chariot puller that can light up a foggy night." Tirek mused.

"Thanks! My school is a little understaffed." Cozy cheerfully said.

"Didn't you say it was a complete success?" Tirek reminded.

"In spite of it being understaffed." Cozy stressed reflexively.

"I await reports of the end results." said Grogar. "Good day, your worships." Without another word, the Horses of the Apocalypse were dismissed, the communication flames dying out to signify the end of the conversation. Content, he looked up at Havoc, and told him "Help your brothers and sisters find Twilight Sparkle and her team, however you can. The sooner their cores are in the Phantom Zone, the better for Equestria's evolution." Though the ghastly draconequus seemed feral, he understood his father's wish and disappeared in a literal flash.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders and their adult supervision, Sunburst, were basically lost at this point. They had gone deep into the caverns beneath Tambelon, but they hadn't even gotten close to the prisoners. The way they came in was far behind them, and they were down to their last rations. Good thing the cockatrice gave them just enough for the length of time they spent in this dark labyrinth.

"Our last crumbs of food. Let's make them last." Sunburst recommended, exhausted.

"What is it, Crusaders, like, Day 7?" Apple Bloom asked, her mane getting unkempt.

"I don't know." Sweetie Belle answered, grumpy. "I haven't seen the sun in so long."

"Whatever the case, we can't give up." said Scootaloo, trying her best to stay energetic. "We've got to be close... ish."

"Sunburst, probably should've asked earlier, but do you know any spells that can give us directions?" Sweetie Belle queried.

"Sorry, not a single one." Sunburst regretted to reply. Sweetie Belle hung her head in disappointment.

"Ah, shoot. We're stuck down here." Apple Bloom groaned. "And going hungry. This cannot be how it ends for the Cutie Mark Crusaders."

"Apple Bloom, don't say such things!" Sunburst barked. He wouldn't allow a kid to have that defeatist attitude on his watch.

"Hey girls, Sunburst, do you hear that?" Scootaloo uttered with an outstretched hoof. "Ssh! Listen! Do you hear that"? They listened to her and lended an ear to the cavern. There was a short pause. Then, the silence was broken by the sound of something flapping. Flapping wildly. But what was flapping in here?

"I hear it, too." said Sunburst.

"Tell me that's not an untamed cockatrice." Apple Bloom whined.

"Only one way to find out. Let's go!" Scootaloo declared. She took off, her friends following behind.

The four ponies navigated around some crystal walls, made some tight turns and crawled underneath some rocks to get to the source of that flapping sound. What was previously faint was soon becoming as loud as a strong breeze, as if there was a giant bird in that cavern. Whatever they would find when they got to where it came from, they didn't expect anything nice. After turning right one last time, they found it. The sound was from flapping wings. The wings of two phoenixes, to all of their surprise. Their feathers lit up the darkness around them.

"Phoenixes!" Sunburst exclaimed. "How did they get down here?"

"They must've flown in here from that hole we made." Sweetie Belle deduced, looking up at the ceiling for a moment.

"But why are they down here? That's the question." Scootaloo wondered. As soon as she said that, she noticed the two phoenixes were desperately clawing at a rock in the wall, as if they really wanted to get past it. "Do they think there's something behind it?"

"Wait." Sunburst suggested. Through the phoenixes' glow, he spotted a crack around the rock, as if it were a door. Putting his chin up, he gave a command. "Let's give them a hoof."

The four worked together to shove the rock. With some exertion of the strength they could muster at that moment, they successfully moved it inwards. Turns out another part of the cavern was behind it. The very instant it rolled away, the phoenixes entered the room. Sunburst and the CMC walked in, tumbling when they set foot on a slope that the rock went down. Nothing broke, though.

"What's this place?" Apple Bloom questioned. She looked up, saw the phoenixes rise to the ceiling, and then she and the others saw it. They found the cocoon prisons of all the ponies that were defeated and held captive by the Horses of the Apocalypse. After such a long search, they did it.

"Oh my gosh, this is it." Sunburst gasped in horror. "These are Chrysalis' cocoons. Then that means..."

"Sunburst?" a familiar female voice hollered from above.

"Starlight!?" Sunburst cried as soon as he heard her. "Starlight, it's you!"

"Up here, Sunburst!" Starlight called. Her voice was followed, so the ponies below knew where to look up.

"Starlight, you're okay!" Sunburst called back, elated that he could hear the voice of his childhood friend after endlessly worrying about her.

"We came all this way to find you, and the others!" Apple Bloom explained.

"We took forever, though! I'm surprised you're holding out!" Sweetie Belle added.

"Apple Bloom? Sweetie Belle? You're here, too?" Starlight delightedly shouted.

"And Scootaloo!" the flightless pegasus filly pointed out.

"I was drained for a while, but then all of a sudden, my magic came back... for all that's worth." Starlight clarified. "A piece of Chrysalis' throne is attached to this thing."

"Don't worry, we'll get you down. Somehow." Sweetie Belle promised.

"Hey, you brought phoenixes?" said Starlight, seeing the two majestic birds perched on two other cocoons. From within hers, she couldn't clearly see which ones, but she noticed that their glow began to widen. "What are they doing?"

The fiery light from the phoenixes got larger and larger. Sunburst and the CMC took notice, and were just as curious as Starlight about their next action. The cocoons those two avian wonders landed on were the ones containing Star Swirl the Bearded and the earth pony form of Discord. They both cried glimmering tears before they gradually evaporated into their increasingly magnificent radiance.

The Windigos' storm may have been contained within the boundaries of Equestria for now, but the effects of Malice Magic could easily reach the lands outside the Tree of Harmony's barrier. The terrible quakes had an effect on a place not occupied by an evolved despot, thus the only one unprotected by Grogar's offering. The city of Griffonstone. What was already in disrepair for generations had been dismantled down to the foundation by the violent rumbling and earthly explosions. Fortunately, the now homeless citizens managed to survive, but there was nowhere to go.

"Anycreature see anymore scrapes of food?" Gallus asked an adult female griffon, the one named Gilda.

"Not one." Gilda replied sadly. "Every source we can find has wilted." Just then, the land began to shake. Another quake was about to hit the griffons like a ton of bricks.

BOOM! The ground over a large mound of rock, which used to be the formation that held up their city, blasted out like a volcanic eruption. Stones, small and large, flew up into the air and tumbled downwards, towards the hapless, starving griffons, who ran for their lives. They were showered with embers, stinging with every landing. That was distracting enough to keep them in the path of crushing doom heading their way.

Swiftly, help came. Silverstream, General Seaspray and two giant bugs swooped down and pulled the griffons out of the way. Yona and Prince Rutherford jumped into the boulders, smashing them into harmless pebbles. Smolder and Dragon Lord Ember flew in and melted the rock shower down with the hottest flame breaths they could exhale. It was over, but the quake didn't end, only pass by.

"Hey, watch the coat!" Grampa Gruff could be heard complaining about his insect savior.

Gallus was let back on the ground by the hyperactive hippogriff, and took a moment to realize what had just happened a moment ago.

"Silverstream!" Gallus cried happily when he turned to see his schoolmate.

"Hey, Gallus!" Silverstream greeted in her bright and bubbly fashion. "We finally found you!"

"What a coincidence. After Griffonstone was demolished, me and the griffons have been traveling all over, and i've been looking all over for you and the others." said Gallus.

"You mean we've had a hard time tracking you down because you didn't stay put?" Smolder incredulously commented, flying over.

"Smolder!" Gallus exclaimed, the nervously laughed. "Sorry to worry you. Hey, did you get all the leaders?"

"Yeah, I got Ember." Smolder confirmed, who was then joined by the Dragon Lord within minutes.

"Hey." Ember casually said.

"General Seaspray's here." Silverstream stated as the adult hippogriff approached.

"Seaspray? Where's Queen Novo?" Gallus queried, scratching his head.

"My dear boy, her majesty Queen Novo has elected to remain at Mount Aris to keep up her subjects' morale. She sent me to aid Equestria, and I shall join this meeting of the clans Silverstream speaks of on her behalf." Seaspray explained. "Wherever it may be held."

"Smolder was talking about the same thing." Ember noted.

"Gallus!" Yona yelled, joyfully running to and pouncing on her griffon schoolmate.

"Oh, Yona! Oof!" said Gallus, happy, but a little sore from the impact. "Good to see you, too!" He saw Rutherford behind her, silently standing authoritatively. Then, next to him, one of the giant bugs landed, giving him a small fright. It shapeshifting in a burst of flame, revealing itself as his changeling friend.

"I hope we didn't cut it too close." said Ocellus so meekly. Her friends, all of them, smiled at the changeling child, happy to see her once again.

"No worries." Gallus assured her. "So, who's your friend?"

"That's gotta be Thorax." Smolder guessed, waving to the large, purple bug. Everyone watched it change to it's true form, expecting the good changeling king. But what they were presented with instead was Pharynx, smaller, darker, and with shorter antlers. The students looked at him in surprise.

"Huh? You're not Thorax." said Ember out of confusion.

"You must be Dragon Lord Ember. The name's Pharynx, Thorax's older broodmate." the adult changeling introduced himself, not offended by the impression he unintentionally made.

"You small for substitute." Rutherford opined, earning him a glare from Pharynx.

"Are you, perhaps, a spokescreature?" Seaspray wondered.

"No. When Chrysalis attacked and seized back control of the hive, she defeated my brother and took him prisoner, along with many of the others." Pharynx answered solemnly. "There was nothing I could do except fly away, and I was lucky to get all those beasts off my tail."

"Oh no!" Silverstream shrieked.

"I'm... i'm so sorry to hear that." Ember somberly expressed.

"Many of the others? You mean there are other changelings besides you who escaped?" Gallus queried hopefully.

"I wish. Before I fled, I overheard that some of the changelings remained loyal to Chrysalis all along." Pharynx affirmed. Everyone gasped in response to this information. "They were hiding among us, and we never noticed." He growled.

"That sounds like our cousins, the wyverns, back home." said Ember. "They came out of their den and pledged allegiance to that creepy centaur, first chance they got."

"From the looks of things, we might be on our own." Ocellus groaned at the reality of what she and the rest have learned, beside herself with dread closing in like moving walls.

"But at least we're here together now." Silverstream pointed out, trying to keep the mood lighter.

"Yak saw Equestria, not good." said Rutherford. "Strong storm, ponies not give warm welcome from other side of glowing wall."

"Same. It's gotten nuts there." Ember complained.

"It's because of those Windigos." Gallus stated. "I thought they were just a story, but now they've appeared thanks to all the fighting going on between the pony tribes. Their war is like a feast to those things."

"Is that a fact?" said Seaspray.

"So, what are we to do about that?" Pharynx inquired.

"I think all we can do is keep uniting our leaders." Smolder suggested. "Right now, we're just missing Sandbar and Princesses Celestia and Luna."

"Well, Smolder, actually..." Gallus nervously objected.

"You talked to Grampa Gruff about the whole thing, didn't you?" Smolder asked.

"Yes, but I kind of, sort of... didn't." Gallus slowly described his process. He sighed. "I don't know what to do with him."

"Well, you should!" Smolder proclaimed. "You know how much this means to the Tree! What have you been doing, Gallus?!"

"I tried. I've tried every approach I could think of, but he won't budge. It always ends the same: with me crouched down getting an earful about how much he doesn't care." Gallus cleared up, hanging his head at the end.

"Well, you're not gonna get through to him with that attitude." Smolder told him, approaching the blue griffon boy. "You're strong, and you know it. Show that grump some gumption for a change."

"How?" Gallus questioned, shrugging.

"If he tells you "no", don't take it. If he wants you to shut up, don't listen. Make your voice heard, and take any assault he throws at you with your chest held steady, like a shield." Smolder advised.

"Friends back Gallus up, if needed." said Yona. "Grab yak by horns, we cushion fall if grip lost."

"And hey, just look at it this way: there are way scarier things in the world right now than some old griffon with anger issues." Smolder encouraged. After that boost, Gallus felt a slight surge of confidence. Perhaps he was ready to face Grampa Gruff again.

"Hey, gramps!" Ember hollered.

"What?!" Grampa Gruff snarled from many feet away.

The students and their guardians moved away to make a path between Gallus and the grouchy elder. The young blue griffon gazed upon, bearing a neutral expression. Before he took a step forward, he breathed in for a good few seconds, then breathed out in preparation. This was a moment he did not want to waste.

As the blizzard, lightning and other natural disasters raged on, the earth ponies had built underground bunkers, using the ruined houses in the abandoned village as doorways to safety. No pegasi or unicorns had found it out. Well, no unicorns besides Sugar Belle, whom Big McIntosh and Granny Smith had to put under a disguise just to avoid raising any unnecessary alarms. Sadly, they had a new dilemma on their hooves.

"Our food supply's geting low." said an earth pony stallion farmer. "We've protected all the crops we can, but the land's no good for growing them anymore."

"Nnope." Big Mac agreed.

"What about Canterlot?" Mrs. Cake suggested, not aware that the corrupted royal city was now called Tambelon.

"What about Canterlot?" the farmer stallion retorted.

"Word has it the place is bustling, and folks are visiting it." Mrs. Cake explained. "Maybe there's some new food there?"

"Too risky!" an earth pony mare rebuked. "The pegasi and unicorns will be after the reserves as well, if it's true!"

"Well, personally, I think we have nothing left to lose." said Mr. Cake.

"Are you crazy?!" yelled that same mare. "It'll take days to hike there in this weather!"

"Not if we've got some carriages, and some coats, and some strong-legged stallions." Granny Smith argued.

"Eeyup." Big Mac seconded, recognizing that his grandmother's words meant him.

"I agree. We've got plenty of carriages for snow." Cheerilee added. "Just make sure they come back in one piece." Many big and burly stallions in the bunker rose up and silently volunteered to take on this task. They would make a squad big enough for support, but small enough to sneak under the eyes of the pegasi and unicorns.

"So be it." Mayor Mare accepted. "We're on the verge of starving, and our space has been barely holding together. Plus, we've got colts and fillies to think about." She turned to all of the earth pony children that were keeping snug in their makeshift sleeping bags, including the baby Cake twins.

Meanwhile, over in a dark corner, Rusty Bucket sat next to the immobile, devolved body of Princess Celestia, keeping a constant vigil, never moving from his spot, never shifting his focus.

Big Mac and others, suited up for the blizzard and carrying out traveling equipment, opened up the cellar door in one of the torn houses to go outside. As soon as they came out, a visitor greeted them, and flew past them down the stairway. A lost phoenix, looking for shelter. They were surprised to see it come at them like a torpedo, and gazed at each other, puzzled by the fiery bird's behaviour.

The pegasi, when they weren't taking shelter to protect themselves from the snowstorm and lightning strikes, they were looking down at Equestria from the safest observation towers they can make out of the mountainsides. One of them, the Wonderbolt Thunderlane, has kept an eye on Tambelon, and just took notice of something.

"I see a marketplace down at Canterlot!" He reported to his superior, Spitfire.

"They have a marketplace down at that scary new city?" Spitfire uttered, stupefied.

"It's true, and everything's up for grabs!" Thunderlane stressed.

"Hmm... sounds like it's now or never." Spitfire commented with interest. "Wonderbolts, set a course for Canterlot!"

"Yes, ma'am!" said Thunderlane respectfully.

"Finally, a positive development." Zephyr Breeze sighed.

The unicorns put all of their magical power into forming defenses against the neverending storm and quakes. Even with the trees in pitiable states, the forest was thick enough to keep eyes from above off of them. Still, they had sentries watch the world outside through telescopes, just to be safe. The one named Moon Dancer was peeping up at Tambelon.

"No sign of the Cutie Mark Crusaders." she relayed to her circle of unicorn friends. "But it seems that place is getting shipments of food."

"Oh my gosh, that's where it's growing!" Minuette shrilled.

"Now it's a matter of who's going to investigate." said Moon Dancer, holding up her hoof as a signal to calm down.

"Of course, this is a job for royalty." Prince Blueblood sang. "I'll lead the way, and be back with the food before lunch." He clapped his hooves smugly. "Fillies, gentlecolts, be my bodyguards!"

"Does he even know he's not that high in the hierarchy?" Moon Dancer whispered to Lyra Heartstrings, who shook her head in response. Sitting next to the green unicorn was her girlfriend, Bon Bon, wearing the most convincing fake horn they could craft. Even in these times, some relationships had to survive.

Author's Note:

And so, another part opens with another long recap. I'm sure it could have more brevity, and I could be better with my choice of past dialogue, but i'd like you folks to give me some hints on what exactly I could do to improve it, since i'm going to be doing it one more time in the future, for Part 4.

Okay, so, about Twilight's disfigurement. I've been waiting years to implement this and talk about it with you all. Here's the backstory. Back before Season 9 of FiM was even given a trailer, I thought of a now-cancelled fan fiction where Twilight and her friends received a call to a forbidden land with a demonic artifact. Spoilers: at the end of that story, the villain of that story was supposed to destroy Twilight's wings and Starlight Glimmer's horn in the climax. Yeah, since it was supposed to take place after events I predicted would happen at the end of the show, that sounds pretty dark, and after the actual ending aired, it didn't make sense to go such a route anymore. Though I cancelled that story, I still wanted to use that kind of "wham" moment, and it turned out to be a perfect way to create Twilight's darkest hour(s), both physically and mentally, so I repurposed it for this rewrite, with the two grim fates combined and thrown onto one character.

Another thing to note about Twilight's scarred state is that it's a callback to the episode It's About Time, from all the way back in Season 2. Same messy mane, same eye damaged. However, now she looks even worse, and a big calamity has come to pass for real. Moral of the story: kismet is a female dog.

Tirek's plan is something that I came up with because the idea made me chuckle. I mean, big, red, bearded, super old, had a flying chariot in a past incarnation, and possesses something that could bring happiness? Yes, I thought that now he's retired from kingdom conquering, why not become a dark analogue to Santa Claus? Reminder that back in Part 1, when he first used his healing spell, Chrysalis pointed out that it technically wasn't a just act, because he restored the energy of known malefactors. I think you can clearly tell now where he's going with the "Present Run", if you couldn't already.

When it came to Cozy Glow's reign, I gave my own answers on what "Friendship is Power" would entail when it came to hiring teachers and giving out lessons in class. Strength is about growing numbers, intimidation is forcing respect out of peers, deception is about needing to fool your friends and your enemies for preservation, survival is about proving the fittest and least cowardly, and the class about the value of superiority encourages arrogance so long as it's fully backed up. Why am I telling you all this here? Simple. Because I don't intend to go into those details in the story itself. Now, regarding that colt's Hearts & Hooves Day letter. I mean, she put on such a convincing performance (to the characters, mostly) as a sweetheart back in Season 8, I believe somebody in that school might've developed a little crush. You'd likely expect him to have disposed of his message a long time ago, but as a child, i'd say his wishful thinking comes naturally.

If any of you were expecting something along the lines of Cosmos from the IDW Publishing comic books with Havoc, sorry, but the point of this creature is to be an enforcer for the main villain and his army, and he'd suit that role best as a beast that existed to destroy, near-mindless and completely mute. Sounds like a proper evil counterpart to the formerly evil Discord, doesn't it? At least i'd say so.

After where I left the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Sunburst, the Student Six and the Tambelon cavern prisoners at the end of Part 2, I admit that it may come off as a little questionable how they're all still holding it together, especially an entire week after the villains succeeded and the entire MLP world went to Heck. For those first two, I just used the food justification, since I never really made it clear how much those tamed cockatrices gave them exactly. For the students and the clan leaders, I reasoned that they would run circles around every land surrounding Equestria, delayed in their travels by the Malice-made natural disasters, and missing each other every now and then. Something like you'd see in An American Tail. Lastly, let's just go with the idea that these fantasy cartoon creatures have amazing longevity, alright?

By the way, I want you to think about what phoenixes symbolize before the next chapter.