• 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.

  • ...

Part 1 - Chapter 1: Coming Together

All of Equestria was gathering at the heart of the country, and preparations for Twilight Sparkle's coronation were just about finished.

An earth pony baker, Mrs. Cup Cake, was helping her baker husband, Mr. Carrot Cake, ship loads of pastries and sweet refreshments, all lovingly made in the comfort of Sugarcube Corner, from Ponyville to Canterlot for all the attendees. She left to grab one more crate of their goodies, when suddenly, a "psst!" was heard in the nearby bushes. In them was another earth pony mare, this one having a violet and fuchsia colour scheme.

"Oh, hello there." Mrs. Cake politely greeted.

"Looks like i'm not too late." said the mystery mare.

"For Twilight's coronation? No, dear, there's plenty of time left." Mrs. Cake warmly assured.

"It's not that. I have a message that you need to hear." the mystery mare corrected. She looked up, down, left and right for any witnesses, and saw none. Then she closed in on the blue baker mare. "It's about the pegasi and the unicorns."

"What about them?" Inquired Mrs. Cake. "I know they were difficult during the last Summer Sun Celebration..."

"That's the thing. Ever since then, they've been discussing how they could "easily take over our roles in society", to quote one." said the mystery mare. "I fear that we have become disposable to them."

"That sounds awful." Mrs. Cake said. However, she rubbed her head with a hoof in skepticism. "But are you sure?"

"Would you put it past them, especially the unicorns?" the mystery mare asked, with a very subtle smirk of mischievous intent.

"Well, I always did think many unicorns were quite the upstaging types." Mrs. Cake admitted as her mind drifted off into memories of magic quickly performing feats that earth ponies such as herself put hours of work into. She felt such power was extremely threatening to her business. "But I have a unicorn foal, and a pegasus one, too. They couldn't be..."

"Think of all the advantages those races have, and the vanity they give them. It's not too late to make your foals different." the mystery mare advised. She smiled confidently, like a seductive spirit.

Mrs. Cake spoke no more words as she stood in place, contemplating the matter of the pegasi and unicorns' alleged opinions of her people.

In Cloudsdale, Zephyr Breeze, the brother of Fluttershy, the pegasus whom embodies kindness, was conversing with a pegasus filly wrapped in a robe and wearing some white and blue paint on her face, concealing her identity.

"So what you're saying is that earth ponies and unicorns are starting to realize we pegasi are "incompetent at our jobs", because they think we can just stop storms before they begin?" Zephyr echoed to the one who gave him this information. "The nerve! All this over a slight mishap."

"You better be careful, mister." the painted filly warned in a squeaky voice. "Before you know it, our whole weather-controlling system will crumble, and those unicorns will gain the favour of the princess, leaving us all on the streets."

"But earth ponies don't have the kind of fancy, sparkling magic unicorns do." Zephyr noted.

"Yes, and after all these moons, they may be learning to predict the weather." said the painted filly. "Who's to say they haven't been observing our techniques closely to adapt accordingly? Even if chances are slim, we have to take that as a possibility."

"I see your point." Zephyr stated. "I know how the earth ponies have gotten on sudden rainy days. In fact, this may have something to do with the recent pegasi disapearances."

"Disappearances?" the painted filly queried, this whole thing being completely new to her as suggested by her tone.

"Oh yeah. For example: one pegasus is with this other pegasus, one turns around for 2 seconds, and poof! The other's gone, and they're nowhere to be found in town, as if they left to another dimension." Zephyr explained.

The painted filly put a hoof to her chin, smiling with interest. This discovery was a happy coincidence that would work in her favour.

Up in the beautiful city of Canterlot, a unicorn stallion with a mane fit for royalty was talking to Starlight Glimmer, the former evil equality activist turned student of Twilight Sparkle turned School of Friendship Headmare. She was speaking to Celestia's nephew, Prince Blueblood.

"What have you heard about these unicorn disappearances, your grace?" Starlight asked.

"I heard that some friends had a falling out, probably over something silly like the size of their formal attire." Blueblood informed his fellow unicorn. "And the next day, before they can reconcile, one of them just vanishes off the face of Equestria."

"That poor mare." Starlight said with sympathy. "I really thought we ponies had fully embraced harmony."

"Well, world peace wasn't built off of saying things!" Blueblood exclaimed. "Looks like we unicorns are the superior race after all. If those earth ponies and pegasi want to stage a rebellion out of their screaming insecurities, then it's war!"

"Careful, you could be next, your majesty." Starlight added. "Frankly, with the power we possess, stamping them out is something we should've done moons ago."

"Indeed." Blueblood agreed. "If we want something, we can only count on ourselves. Especially me." He finished with a vain grin.

Starlight smirked and chuckled at him as if he had told a funny joke. She took hold of the prince's hoof in respect. All too easy.

"Somepony told me that her husband went to work, and after he left, he never came home." Mrs. Cake explained. "A few moons have passed since then. I thought it was an isolated incident, but the earth pony disappearances just keep piling up." The mystery mare put a hoof on the distressed baker.

"Then I think you know what to do, my friend." she said. "We earth ponies have to stick together, for Princess Twilight's sake."

Mrs. Cake nodded in agreement, a look of determination flaring up in her eyes. The mystery mare released her, and the blue baker returned to her duty of getting the last crate of sweets for the coronation. A pegasus came into her view and she eyed her, saying "i'm watching you." warningly. Then a unicorn walked into her line of sight, carrying a crate with his magic, and she yelled "especially you!", causing him to drop the crate out of fright.

The mystery mare dropped all pretenses of compassion when everyone's back was turned on her. She let out a quiet, sinister laugh while brushing her mane and sneaking away.

Inside a room within Grogar's lair, the notorious centaur lord, Tirek, was sitting on a stone chair in front of a stone table, on top of which the ram sorcerer's sought after artifact, the Bewitching Bell, rested. He was reading the large tome that his three comrades stole from the Canterlot Castle library, learning how to work the ancient item.

He turned his head away from the pages as the mystery mare, the painted filly and Starlight Glimmer walked into the room.

"Had a successful trip, ladies?" said Tirek with a smile.

The mystery mare's irises glowed green, and she was engulfed in a rising green flame, revealing her true form: the former queen of the changelings, Chrysalis. The painted filly wiped off the white and blue substance on her face with a cloth and tore off her robes, unearthing the figure of the wicked young prodigy, Cozy Glow. Starlight used a magical aura to reshape her mane into the style she wore during her days of running the nameless village, and wipe away her cutie mark, revealing one that was like it, but with the star below the two streams of magic replaced with an equals sign, like two javelins, piercing through them. It was actually Aurora Eclipse, Starlight's doppelganger based on her past self.

"Soon, the pride of those unicorns will be their own destruction." said Eclipse.

"The pegasi are going to keep some eyes open for days." said Cozy.

"And earth ponies shall campaign for their rights." said Chrysalis.

"Excellent!" Tirek exclaimed.

"We can crush Twilight and all of her friends a hundred times over, but as long as they know there are ponies all over, united in their faith in them, they'll always come back from the brink." Eclipse hypothesized. "The first step to beating them for good? They need to experience the failure of their lives' work."

"Once we've made them suffer, and shifted the ponies' opinions, we can piece it all back together to make them adore us!" Chrysalis stated, lifting a hoof triumphantly.

"It was lucky for us that some ponies have inexplicably disappeared." Cozy commented.

"Is that a fact?" said Tirek with widened eyes. "What a happy accident. They'll be pointing hooves at one another in no time." The tetrad collectively laughed in malevolent pleasure. Then Cozy flew up to him, beaming.

"So, what have you found in there, T?" She affectionately addressed him with a nickname.

"I had to brush up on a lot of my old Ponish, but you'll love what I deciphered. According to this tome, the Bewitching Bell has a spell that can absorb the magical power of any creature or enchanted object." Tirek answered. As he spoke, he put the tome on the table for everyone to see and pointed to an illustration of Grogar, wearing the Bell on his collar, stealing energy from multiple creatures and placing it inside the item in the form of yellow and black streams.

Chrysalis, Cozy and Eclipse looked at the centaur in disappointment. "So, basically what you do already." Chrysalis snarkily pointed out. For a moment, it felt like they wasted their time on something that just did something they've had at their disposal all along.

"Not exactly." Tirek responded, sneering at Chrysalis for her tongue. "I absorb exclusively from living creatures, and only the circulating energy that powers their abilities; their vitality, which I convert to raw strength. This Bell takes that away as well as the core magical essence within, the foundation where the knowledge and mastery of spells lie, adding them to the wearer's skill set and assimilating it into Grogar's special brand of power. He dubs it... Malice Magic." He finished with a dramatic tone.

Chrysalis, Cozy and Eclipse's previous disappointment changed into genuine interest, the three of them now seeing the true value of the Bell. "So, what makes this "Malice Magic" so special, compared to other kinds of dark magic?" Chrysalis queried.

"It's completely poisonous. It says here that any bearers whom don't have hearts blackened by thoughts most unjust and impure will be slowly drained of their core essence, struck with escalating pain and sickness until they permanently collapse." Tirek described in detail. "And any magic returned from the Bell through this other spell becomes unstable and too dangerous to use. This in turns puts the victims' at it's mercy..." his tone then rose up into a shrill of excitement. "...which means the magic shall be all ours!"

"I have to admit, Grogar may be a thug, but he was ahead of his time in this field." said Eclipse, impressed with the description.

"We've gotta get Twilight and the others with that spell." Cozy vigorously cried out. "I doubt even their friendship powers can resist that kind of corruption. What else does the Bell do?"

"Shadow spells, mind control spells, protection spells, monster and zombie creation spells most of all." Tirek continued. He turned the pages of the tome and pointed at an illustration of Grogar and the Bell evolving some creatures into bigger and scarier looking forms, gazing down at them like a giant. "Here's a good one: it's called Malice Evolution. Provided we truly fit the criteria of unjust and impure thoughts, this will transform us into the best versions of ourselves we want to be, unlocking the latent potential of our clans."

"Well, me, you and Chryssy kind of almost had a friendship realization a while back..." Cozy reminded him, worried that what occurred between her, the magic-eating centaur and the rogue changeling on Mount Everhoof would throw a wrench into any plan they could have with this enticing spell.

"But we resisted, and nothing has come close to drawing us back in since." Chrysalis asserted, hanging her head up high with pride. "Don't call me 'Chryssy', by the way."

"And I haven't felt any negative effects the whole time i've been in this form." Tirek pointed out, recalling the little ball of Grogar's magic he ate to achieve his quasi-buffed state.

"Remember, a necessary evil to reclaim sovereignty is unjust and impure intent all the same." Eclipse clarified.

"Fair point." Cozy acknowledged.

"If just a sample of Grogar's magic can buff me up by one stage, then with this i'll go straight to my final form so I can have my dream body again." Tirek assessed. "And break free of these bands. They chafe." He looked at his silver arm bands disdainfully, remembering how good it felt to have them removed when he last accessed his ultimate state. "But my magic draining ability won't be of much use if we have the Bell. Hopefully the spell can make it reach out further, like a toxic gas cloud, to drain vitality magic more sneakily?"

"If the spell does what the tome says, I could uncover the secret art of changeling shapeshifting. Yes, the ability to turn into two creatures. Three creatures. FOUR creatures!" Chrysalis squealed with increasing volume, her thirst for blood on full display. "Starlight won't stand a chance!"

"Do you think it could make me an alicorn?" Eclipse asked, her face alight with curiosity and wanting. "My magic talent is already great, but if I ascend, it'll be perfected. I'll even wield the power over the soil and the weather that earth ponies and pegasi are so proud of. I know Star Swirl never became one, but he was allowed to choose his form."

"I think you answered your own question." said Tirek with a thumbs up to Eclipse. Then he noticed Cozy's tiny form come into the room with a mirror and place it on the table next to the tome. "What's that for, Cozy?"

"The tome says that spell makes the best version of yourself, and I know what my ideal form would be." Cozy replied. She pointed to her shadow and her reflection in the mirror. "This... and that... are technically part of me. They're like my closest friends ever. As they are, though, they just mimic what I do and nothing else. For my evolution, I want them to evolve, to protect me and play with my enemies. Can it be done?"

"Huh." Tirek uttered, scratching his head. "Perhaps we can make that work. I did say shadow, control, protection and creation magic were possible."

"Wouldn't have much combat value, child." Chrysalis muttered with doubts.

"If you're going to utilize spells anyway, evolve to alicornhood, and i'll teach you." Eclipse offered.

"Hey, don't get me wrong. Having a horn and laser powers is tempting and all, but i'm a trickster, not a fighter." Cozy stressed. As megalomaniacal as the filly prodigy was, her weapons of choice were, and always had been, her intelligence and her outward charm. Wielding a mighty pony hybrid's magic, with all the destructive capacity that entails, would fly in the face of her character. Eclipse grunted with respectful acceptance of her decision.

"Whatever. Let's use the spell before Grogar gets back, and once we've evolved, we'll deal with him first." Chrysalis demanded. "I'm sick of waiting for that old goat's "master plan", whatever it is." Her patience with the ram sorcerer had grown so thin, she became convinced that he didn't have any idea what he was going to do with the tetrad he assembled beyond forcing them to cooperate. Thanks to him being out for so long, finding an artifact to replace the Bell, she and the others had time to put their plans together.

"I'd say his usefulness ran out quite some time ago. He thinks he's all that, but if Gusty the Great has taught us anything, he's a spineless coward desperately compensating." Tirek mentioned with a laugh. "And after this, even Princess Twilight and her posse will be worms to us. Now, all together, girls." He called for them to stand united. They stood close in anticipation.

"At least with the knowledge of our unification, that washed-up wizard can fall proud." Eclipse remarked. On that note, she declared "Our pact stands. What we do next, we do as a team. Once we defeat Equestria's protectors, we can claim it, spread our venom to the outer lands, rebuild our empires and rule our shares of the world alone once more." Extra emphasis was placed on the word 'alone', signifying that this alliance would be reaching an end soon, but by that time the tetrad would leave each other in peace; no tricks, and no conspiracies.

"I'll hold you to that." Chrysalis said in a low voice. Wary of the others, she was thinking heavily of keeping her guard up around them at all times.

The tetrad smiled, thinking of the forms they were going to take upon their evolutions. Tirek and Eclipse hit the Bell with non-violent orange and turquoise beams, activating the desired spell. The artifact emitted a bright, white light and floated up into the air in front of the four. Each of them grinned at it in excitement, not just for their imminent rise to ultimate power, but for the fact that they'd finally be able to remove it's owner from the equation. The way they saw it, this was their show. They were the ones with scores to settle, not him. The Bell made a ghostly ringing sound, the white light turned yellow and black, like Grogar's Malice Magic, then the bottom of it pointed at the four creatures and fired a series of energy bolts.

The evolution process caused the room to rumble and crackle. Rocks fell as a towering mass grew all the way up to the ceiling, almost too big for it to contain. The mirror on the table shattered into pieces and was drawn into the energy bolts, travelling in the direction at which they quickly flew, while a shadow was changed into a giant puddle of black liquid, lifting off the ground to join the flashing light. Burns were felt, like flesh wounds were being cauterized by a blowtorch, and loud crunching sounds were heard, as if many bones were forcefully realigned. Lastly, a plume of fire engulfed the tetrad, followed by a massive burst of lightning that consumed the entire cavern. The one thing left untouched was the tome.

After that, the energy bolts ceased. The Bewitching Bell gently lowered itself back down on to the table. There was dead silence, broken by none of the tetrad. The spell was complete.

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

(My Little Pony)
I used to wonder what friendship could be
(My Little Pony)
Until you all shared its magic with me

Big adventure,
Tons of fun!

A beautiful heart,
Faithful and strong!

Sharing kindness,
It's an easy feat!

And magic makes it all complete

You have my...
(My Little Pony)
Do you know you're all my very best friends? ♫

Outside the front doorway of the lair, Grogar, after what felt like moons of absence, had returned from his latest trip. Having sought an item he never specified, and still unaware of the tetrad's deception, he walked in with a look of confidence.

"Attention!" Grogar called, jumping across the stone footholds over the murky waters in his lair. "Twilight Sparkle's coronation is today, and we're going to give her a commemorative gift."

With a telekinetic spell, he pulled up an item wrapped in a yellow and black ring of magical energy. The item appeared to be triangular and gray, with a crimson red, diamond-shaped gem in the centre, and what looked like the head of a dark, red-eyed unicorn chiseled on top in-between two red and black pegasus wings. It was the Alicorn Amulet, the dark magic charm that granted ponies great power, but also corrupted their minds. It was sent into hiding after it was last used, but now, somehow, Grogar managed to find and acquire it.

"I have retrieved the artifact I desire, and it will serve us well once I apply it's magic." Grogar announced with a smile, continuing to step across the stones with perfect precision. Then it changed to a scowl. "But to achieve our ultimate victory, you must use what you've learned. You must. Work. Together!" He stopped at the last of the small footholds.

"One step ahead of you, Emperor Grogar!" Chrysalis proclaimed from the shadows in a mocking tone. Hanging from one of the cavern's stalactites, she twisted her head around in a neck-breaking motion and eyed the ram sorcerer with a look of sadistic glee. Immediately, she spat two balls of sticky changeling slime at his fore hooves, his collar and his horns, trapping him on the stepping stone he stood on and negating his magical power. It also hurt him, as he yelled in agony from a burning sensation. The Alicorn Amulet, released from the spell, fell onto his foothold.

Grogar reacted to his sudden entrapment with shock and confusion. He felt his magical power fade, and he struggled to move even a centimetre from his current position. He looked to his left, and through a stone doorway crashed Tirek, now in his gigantic, muscle-bound final form, with his bracelets removed and white hair on top of his head. He pointed his right hand straight at Grogar, and engulfed him in an aura of the centaur's orange magic, which made the ram sorcerer grow weak and look ill.

Cozy Glow flew in from another doorway, looking no different from before, until her eyes went blank and she was enveloped in a blanket of amorphous darkness, transforming into a shadowy, pony-like monster. Her new form was a Pony of Shadows, only unlike the darkness that took over Stygian for a time, this one was small, feminine-looking, didn't have a horn and wore a three-pronged, light grey peytral, shaped like a chess rook. With barely a look at the Alicorn Amulet or even any care to question what it was for, she threw a big rock at it with the strength of her shadow wings, crushing it. Grogar winced at the rock's impact.

Next, a tether spell was cast from seemingly nowhere, grabbing Grogar by the throat, pulling his head up and torturing him like a tight dog leash combined with a shock collar. As his guttural sounds of suffering echoed, Aurora Eclipse, the one responsible for the spell, made herself visible like a ghost atop the table where the goat eyeball-like crystal ball sat, now sporting a longer horn, a pair of large wings and a body like Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker with a darkened coat, a mane and tail that were like interstellar clouds, crackling with plasma, and dark regalia. A grin of delight spread across her muzzle while she simultaneously levitated the Bewitching Bell above her own head, giving the ram sorcerer a good view of the prized possession he was denied.

Chrysalis dropped down into plain view to show off her new form. It was like the form that the changelings had taken on ever since they rebelled against her, only this was coloured to look more sickening and terrifying; more like demonic battle armor, befitting of the rogue former queen. Also, her horn was straightened. She stared at Grogar with a low chuckle.

Grogar's eyes bugged out at the sight of his precious artifact. He had realized here and now that his minions, the ones he assembled to help him defeat their common enemy, had found success behind his back, keeping the Bewitching Bell for themselves and accessing it's amazing powers. The tables had turned: now he was the one sitting helplessly before a greater power, unable to fight back at all. Now he was afraid.

"My Bell! Traitors! You had it all this time!?" Grogar snarled chokingly in disbelief. "Why didn't you tell me?!"

"Uh, we're power-hungry malefactors out for revenge, and you literally directed us to the ultimate weapon." Cozy Glow replied in a smug, singsong tone. "Duh! What did you expect?"

Joining their magical powers together, Chrysalis, Tirek, Cozy and Eclipse pointed the Bewitching Bell at it’s panicking owner and activated it’s magic absorption spell. The yellow and black light surrounds the Bell, and it causes a stream of magic bearing the same colour scheme to rapidly leave the ram sorcerer’s body, flowing into the opening on the artifact’s bottom. Grogar screamed and groaned in a lot of pain, struggling to break free from Chrysalis' slime or reactivate his powers.

The four double-crossers watched in euphoria as the one who intimidated and abused them for months on end had his remaining magic taken away, soon to be left a powerless husk at their hooves. It was cathartic for all of them to have successfully pulled this off, to play the most dangerous and powerful overlord of Equestrian legend for a fool and claim his power for themselves. At the same time, doing so proved to be so easy, they almost felt sorry for the poor sucker. After 6 seconds of enduring this agonizing process, Grogar’s face - unnoticed by the tetrad - suddenly went from a scrunched up, pained grimace to a devilish, cocky smile, and through the noise of the Bell's absorption spell he hollered a single, sudden word.


In the blink of an eye, Grogar’s horns glowed and unleashed a magical energy wave, disintegrating the slime on them and blowing the treacherous tetrad into the cavern walls behind them with a painful crunch each. Their eyes were bugged out from what had just happened. Meanwhile, the Bewitching Bell stopped glowing and fell to the floor. The spell had no effect; Grogar looked barely injured, like he merely stubbed his hoof and got stung by a bee. As the ram sorcerer eyed his four shocked followers with a low chuckle of his own, he easily freed himself from the slime on his fore hooves that seemed to effectively hold him in place earlier. Even the molten crater in the foothold made by the slime was a minor inconvenience. With one last hop he set foot on the centre platform in the chamber.

"Well, that was unexpected." Tirek moaned in his now deepened voice, dazed from the shock wave and sore from his impact. He let out a grunt of pain as he slid off the stone wall and fell to his centaurian patellas, the weight of his body only supported by his open hands. To be caught off-guard here, evolved to his peak yet weakened by one blow was a lot for him to unpack.

Chrysalis fell to the floor of the higher platform, baring a look of agony and complete incredulity. "How..?" she managed to utter. She expected her slime to cancel out Grogar's magic, but if his horns could still do what they just did , then it clearly didn't work. Cozy was left a trembling heap, knocked out of her shadow form and moaning from the damage she took. Eclipse looked like she had been put under the spell that mixed 'Fiducia Compelus' with 'Cogeria' and 'Persuadere', but with tears dripping from her eyes.

"For your information, I didn’t cheat. Theatrics are a legitimate strategy, my friends." said Grogar, not with an annoyed frown like the tetrad had come to expect from him, but with a composed, neutral expression. “And this was no stroke of luck, either. I simply used the power I naturally have, like any good wizard. I know it’s heartbreaking; you had all been so confident since you came back from Mount Everhoof.” With his telekinetic spell, he moved the four villains right next to the crystal ball’s table.

Chrysalis, having registered the last part of Grogar’s sentence, instantly realized the implications behind it and felt a new wave of fury building up inside herself. “You...” she hissed, pointing a hoof at his bearded muzzle. “You knew what we were up to, didn’t you!?” Tirek and Cozy looked on in horror, while Eclipse covered her face in embarrassment.

Of course. Did you truly take “I don’t trust anything any of you say” for hot air?” Grogar inferred. He pointed a hoof towards the crystal ball. The black rectangle in the centre changed into a pitch-black circle, and then a moving image showed; an image of a past event, which was none other than Chrysalis, Tirek and Cozy at Mount Everhoof's peak, plotting against Grogar after retrieving the Bell. “I check Arimaspi’s Eye here regularly.” He stated matter-of-factly.

“Let Grogar think we’re his loyal servants. In the meantime, we’ll hatch our own plan.” said Chrysalis in Arimaspi’s Eye’s magical recording.

“Ooh... I love a good backstabbing!” Cozy in the recording cooed evilly with a wicked smile to match. Then the recording ended, returning the crystal ball to it’s normal state.

ARGH!” Chrysalis roared with frustration, her rage having reached a boiling point. “I forgot about the stupid ball! You would use..!” She was fuming so much, she snarled like a beast and lunged at Grogar. Reacting incredibly fast, he sent the rogue changeling a few yards away from him by casually throwing a piece of teleporting Malice Magic at her. She stopped in mid-air for a moment, looking confused, then she eyed the ram sorcerer again. When she tried attacking once more, Tirek and Eclipse gripped her with magic to stop the rampage. Seeing them shake their heads with concern, she reluctantly ceased her assault.

“But even if I hadn’t spied on you, or predicted your treachery, I can sense my own artifact when it’s within my vicinity.” Grogar added, pointing a hoof to his head. “If there’s Malice Magic, I don’t even need to see it.”

“Oh... in hindsight, we should’ve accounted for something like that.” Tirek remarked, feeling defeated.

“Additionally, as Malice Magic’s pioneer, my vital energy and core shall never leave my body unless I, and only I, command them to.” Grogar continued, pointing at his chest with an air of authority. “When she took my Bell, Gusty the Great and her unicorn warriors literally had no choice but to seal me inside the stars." He laughed quietly over that memory.

"You told us you only had a fraction of your power." Eclipse mentioned.

"And that's the truth. It didn't mean i'm helpless against my talisman's enchantments." Grogar affirmed.

“Tch, what fools we were to think we could outsmart you that easily.” Eclipse admitted, hating herself for agreeing with a doomed-to-fail-miserably backstabbing plan. She bowed to Grogar, recognizing her place. “We don’t deserve the power the Bell has given us.”

NO!” Cozy yelled, flailing her fore hooves around. “Please don’t take away my new powers, Mr. Grogar! I’ve barely gotten to test them!” She hugged her shadow on the ground.

“Don’t worry, i’m in a good mood.” Grogar said in an uncharacteristically soft tone. He then used his magic to lift up the Bewitching Bell and levitate it next to his head. “Besides, if I didn’t know of my Bell’s presence, I wouldn’t have gone out...” He simultaneously used his magical grip to take the Alicorn Amulet out from under the rock Cozy threw earlier. He showed it up close to everybody, the item still in one piece. “...for this.”

The tetrad looked at the dark charm. Chrysalis and Tirek were confused, as they didn’t see what was interesting about this pony-shaped item. Eclipse and Cozy, however, recognized it immediately, now seeing it up close. “The Alicorn Amulet?!” the mare and filly said with collective surprise.

“I read about that thing in the school library.” Cozy commented. “Very powerful.”

“And corruptive.” Eclipse added, thinking about how perfect the charm would be for her and Cozy, since their hearts are already consumed with unjust and impure thoughts. Then she raised an eyebrow at Grogar. “But, doesn’t it only work for ponies?”

“That matters not. As the tome says, what magic I absorb becomes my magic.” said Grogar with a roll of his eyes. Eclipse and Tirek responded with only a frown of awkwardness.

"Why go to the trouble of obtaining this pony trinket of all things, anyway?" Chrysalis asked, unaware of how the Amulet works besides granting ponies power.

"Let's just say the Amulet has something that'll keep my Bell close." Grogar stated while marveling at the dark artifact.

“Another thing...” Cozy started with a raised hoof. “If you knew we were keeping the Bell to ourselves, you could’ve just pulled it out of where we hid it and claimed it sooner.”

“Oh, Miss Glow, where would the educational value in that be?” Grogar replied.

“Educational?” Tirek inquired. He and the other three looked on in bewilderment.

"Using a persona, I let you get this far with your own preparations to improve your chances of success through crushing failure.” Grogar explained. “See how overbearing pride always comes before a devastating fall? It wasn't only Twilight Sparkle and her allies' teamwork that have won them every battle, you always grew complacent when you thought they were at your mercy; then you made that same mistake in underestimating me, never suspecting that I could throw a wrench in the works any minute. There's a word for that: insanity." He then gently set his fore hooves on Arimaspi's Eye's table. "If you're going to use the gift of Malice Magic, it's vitally important to let nothing get to your head. Remember this wake-up call, expect the worst from this world’s protectors, and approach every maneuver you pull wisely while putting your faith in one another’s capabilities. Let the knowledge of your failures strengthen your judgment! Only then can you reach your full potential and finally win!"

As the ram sorcerer spoke, Chrysalis, Tirek, Cozy and Eclipse stared at him, stupefied by his personality. Grogar seemed like a different creature from what he was before. For so long, he gave them the impression that he was just a grouchy, old brute and out-of-touch has-been who relied too much on intimidation to get his way, something they thought would be his undoing. What they saw now was a wise, seasoned veteran who read them like open books and spoke a harsh truth, recognition of which terrified and impressed them more than ever.

"But, I know I can't rush you." Grogar sighed. "Freedom is too precious for one to sit on their vengeance."

“He’s right. Well played, Grogar.” Tirek admitted with his head hanging. “Now I know how Discord felt when I played him." Now knowing what it was like to be on the receiving end of a ruse, he put a hand to his chest with a look of resolve. "I accept my failures, and for the good of our team, i’ll remember to use my body and my mind for whatever trouble comes next.”

“He does have a point. I've gloated, laughed and awesomely walked away way too prematurely.” said Cozy, recalling when she thought her seemingly foolproof plans had gone off without a hitch. “Can't beat your enemies without beating your demons; it's actually pretty obvious when you think about it." She then tapped the side of her head with a hoof.

“Well, we have only one chance to do this right.” Eclipse noted. “Looking back, I was this close to falling into the same traps that Sombra did. To exact justice for what I lost, i'll strategize, i'll be patient, and i'll watch them fall before I let any hubris control me again." Then she, Cozy and Tirek looked expectantly at Chrysalis, whom was the most resentful of this experience.

“Your preaching disgusts me...” the rogue changeling growled. Her pride was in pieces. “...but if it will ensure my victory against Starlight and that turncoat Thorax, then i'll comply.” With a heavy sigh and a hard glare, she begrudgingly nodded in agreement to her four associates. Tirek gave her a thumbs up, Eclipse nodded back with a smile, and Cozy clapped her hooves.

“I foresee you will leave this cavern stronger, wiser conquerors.” said Grogar with a look and tone of satisfaction. He deactivated his powers to put the Bewitching Bell and the Alicorn Amulet on the table, clearing his throat afterwards. “Now, it’s about time I explained my master plan.” His face then changed to an exasperated expression, as if he was absolutely done with something, and he added “So you'll never question me about it again.”

The tetrad, having no other choice in the matter at this point, gathered around to listen to this long-awaited explanation they once doubted was even established. None of them were particularly happy to play second fiddle to Grogar, but for the time being, perhaps they would all be better off if they humbly followed his example. He would be the star after all.

Author's Note:

First thing's first, yes, I am seriously calling this Part 1 - Chapter 1. Since this is imagining the story as a four-parter, I am treating each set of chapters for this thing as the hypothetical episodes they would span (Season 9, Episodes 22, 23, 24 and 25). I plan for each part to be comprised of four chapters, though the length of each will greatly vary.

The second thing I want to talk about is the betrayal scene. I must be of a strange, limited population of the planet that actually wanted the villainous team's backstabbing of Grogar to fail, because the moment when they hit him with that magic absorption spell (and revealed what he really was) was a moment where I was like "please say "psych!"". I think it would've been a good way to show what the heroes would be up against, and be fun to see how Chrysalis, Tirek and Cozy Glow would react to being humbled so hard before they even began their invasion. So, for this rewrite, I made exactly all of that happen. In fact, it was the very first sequence I did for this rewrite, and it felt so cathartic.

From this first proper chapter, you may see what i'm going for with Grogar's character. The idea is that he's spent millennia not only regaining his power, but also growing wiser from everything he has seen throughout the entirety of the series. What he tells the tetrad is that he had been replicating the tendencies he had when he was ruling over the farms and pastures that would become Equestria, making a "persona" out of the person he used to be. It may not be a "super shocking plot twist", but I loved the recontextualization factor because I think Grogar had the potential to be that kind of enemy. Many folks, myself included, were guessing that to be the case back when Season 9 was going on, after all. Besides that, I just have a high fondness for eloquent, wise master planner-type villains, and I was disappointed that Friendship is Magic never had one.

And yes, for fans of the IDW comics, Grogar's whole thing about being imprisoned in the stars and possessing power called Malice is taken directly from the villain named Cosmos. Remember that the comics are their own separate continuity, so as far as the show is concerned, Cosmos never existed, so I saw it fit to deem Grogar the embodiment of Malice in this world. The properties and capabilities of Malice Magic were inspired by the malevolent substance prominently found in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

I found it pretty boring that all the Bewitching Bell did in the original episode was steal magic. They already had Tirek for that. Yeah, it stole the abilities of it's victims as well, but the Staff of Sacanas from The Movie also did that, and the fact that we never saw the Bell attached to Grogar, and that we never saw the Legion take full advantage of those power-stealing properties just made it feel like an inferior rip-off of that item. At least the Storm King got to use Celestia and Luna's magic. Not to mention, Grogar was known as the Father of Monsters. Shouldn't making and controlling monsters have been part of the deal, even if they always intended for the guy to be an impostor? So, while I kept the magic absorption spell, I gave it an extra catch to make it more of a stake-raiser, because if you're going to do that kind of threat a fifth time, it'd help to do something new. Anyway, sorry about the rant.

I love the idea of the villains powering up from the Bell, making it their equivalent to the Elements of Harmony, but I did it in a way where they're not only rewarded for all of their hard work, but the scenario puts a dark spin on that story trope where characters gain something useful that they can only have if they're pure of heart. Chrysalis is nearly the same. I had Tirek change to his final form because it was obvious, he had been fantasizing about it, he strived to reach that level of strength, he deserves it. Plus, his third form was already shown twice in Season 9. I gave the alicorn transformation to Aurora Eclipse to realize the idea of Alicorn Starlight in some fashion, and because an evil alicorn with legitimate magical skill is something one could have plenty of fun with. I wasn't a fan of Cozy becoming an alicorn that goes "laser, shoot, pow, pow!", because she was at her best as the team diplomat, opposing the forces of good by just being an adorable, unassuming sweet-talker. I like to believe that, in-character, she'd realize this and want an alternative not based in violence. Revenge shouldn't equal stupidity.

Now on to something minor. For the characters the villains manipulate, I wanted to use named secondary characters that we had come to know, because it felt more effective to see familiar faces have seeds of distrust planted in them than to see it happen to some random no-names. I picked Blueblood as the unicorn representative to bring back a character who hadn't shown up much since the early years of the show and because of his vanity, I picked Zephyr Breeze as the pegasus representative for his connection to one of the series' main characters and because he's not very bright, and I picked Mrs. Cake as the earth pony representative because she has pegasus and unicorn children and the fact that she has shown an aversion to long, complicated earth pony activities being done quickly by those with more abilities. Remember how she reacted to Starlight Glimmer's magically prepared cake back in Season 6, Episode 6?

For the mysterious artifact that Grogar retrieves, I wanted it to be a pre-established item rather than some brand new no-name gem, and considering how he was defeated in the ancient past, the Alicorn Amulet was the perfect choice, in my opinion. Additionally, I made it indestructible, explaining why it's been hidden away instead of smashed or blown up.

And yes, I altered Chrysalis' motivation a little so that while she's still about getting revenge on Starlight Glimmer, she hasn't forgotten about Thorax. You know, the changeling who fell victim to the "disease" of friendship, defied her, helped Starlight defeat her and turned the other changelings against her, even taking her place as the hive's leader?

Final note here: in the original episode, it surprised me that the fiasco that almost ruined the final Summer Sun Celebration in Season 9, Episode 17 didn't factor into the ponies' disharmony at all. It was never brought up a single time. I made it important here because it felt, to me, like it should've been a catalyst for the growth of hatred and paranoia that the villains would be all too happy to capitalize on. The whole thing of ponies disappearing is just an extra element I threw in to twist the knife in further.