• Published 16th Jun 2021
  • 924 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 2: Royal Gathering

Princess Celestia and Princess Luna guided Twilight Sparkle and her young dragon friend Spike to their throne room, revealing some renovations that have been made to the massive seat that the sun-moving alicorn sat upon for centuries. The smaller throne of her moon-moving younger sister had been conjoined with it to make it appear even more impressive. On top of it was a star, shaped exactly like the ones that make up Twilight's Cutie Mark.

"Aw, you shouldn't have." said Twilight as her face glowed red from the sentiment.

"Go on, my faithful friend. Sit upon your throne. You've earned it." Celestia suggested.

Twilight nodded at her former teacher and walked up to the marvelous chair from which she would soon rule all of Equestria. Once in position, the soon-to-be-retiring monarchs took note of how she looked. From where they stood, there was a beautiful, sweet and wise pony looking downwards from the top of a regal podium, watching her subjects like a guardian angel and representing all that is friendly and virtuous in the world.

"Our little Twilight is all grown up." Luna commented with tears in her eyes. "It's like it was only yesterday that she saved me from that eternal night phase of my life."

"I've never seen such an adorably majestic sight in all of my days." said Celestia, putting her fore hooves up to her cheeks. "I don't think I could contain all this pride."

"Princess of Equestria and friendship. How exciting!" said Spike, flying next to the young ruler-to-be. "So, you freaking out yet, Twilight?" He proceeded to teasingly ask.

"Eh, not really." Twilight confirmed so casually in no time at all. "If anything, i'm relieved. After so many moons of travelling Equestria and beyond, fighting evil and amending problems, I get to enjoy a coronation and the next level of princesshood in peace with the friends i've had since the beginning."

"You're right. It's like we're finally getting a true happily ever after." Spike remarked happily.

"You don't feel as if having our responsibilities of running the country placed upon you is of concern?" Celestia inquired.

"Why would it be?" Twilight returned jovially. "It's been proven time and time again that with the support of my friends, and all the creatures we've touched in our adventures, we're always going to come out on top. If there's any magic that's actually more powerful than friendship, than I certainly haven't heard of it. I know we're more than up to the challenge of keeping Equestria safe and peaceful for moons to come."

"I know I haven't been occupying my throne for as long as Celestia has hers, for obvious reasons..." Luna reminded, recounting what she did so long ago to receive imprisonment inside the moon. "But I wish to remain at her side, wherever she goes next. So, I trust you'll have somepony to help with royal delegations."

"That reminds me." said Twilight, her eyes widening. She turned to Spike with an enthusiastic smile. "As of today, i'm giving you a special promotion, Spike."

"A promotion?" Spike responded with interest. The young alicorn hovered a small, red box over to him, gesturing at him to open it. He did so and found a golden medallion attached to a purple ribbon. "Royal advisor?"

"Royal advisor?" Celestia echoed. "I've never considered one of those."

"Really?" said Twilight to her former teacher.

"Well, I always had Luna, so the idea seemed quite redundant to me." Celestia explained. "And in her 1,000 year absence, no advisor I could enlist would've ever filled the void." Luna was touched, thus adding to her stream of tears.

"I see." said Twilight. "Consider this another development for Equestrian royalty then. None are more fit for the position than Spike."

"Wow. You mean that?" Spike asked, nearly choking up.

"You've been with me on this journey since before it began, staying at my side every single step of the way. I've had the strength and resolve to grow and succeed thanks to your loyalty and chivalry. If I had never hatched you, if you weren't there for me to count on, I doubt I ever would've gotten as far as I did. I am forever grateful to have you in my life, Spike, my little brother." Twilight explained truthfully from the very bottom of her heart.

"Awww." Spike sounded from his mouth, getting all misty-eyed. He hugged his equine friend and wiped his face with a smile. "Thanks, Twilight. You can count on me now to be your right-hoof dragon until the end, big sister."

"If you have any questions before the coronation, feel free to ask them now." said Luna.

"Just one." Twilight replied. "When you retire, who's going to move the sun and moon, or patrol dreams?"

"If you're suggesting we're going to have you handle all of those jobs, don't worry." Celestia assured. "Since the old days, magic has evolved tremendously and the unicorn population has grown a lot. I'm sure there will be many up-and-coming wizards and witches ready to take on these great duties. And remember, you've still got the amulet as a backup plan for the former." She and Luna bowed their heads. "Now, we release you."

The two sisters walked towards the throne room's great doorway. They looked at each other rather mischievously, their minds somewhere else. "I can't wait for after the coronation, when we show them that we redecorated our royal suites so they could move in." Luna whispered into her older sister's ear. The great doorway opened, and the soon-to-be-retired royal sisters were eventually out of sight.

"Alright, my right-hoof dragon. There's plenty of time left before the festivities kick off, and we have some preparations to oversee." Twilight declared while lifting off the giant seat. She and the dragon flew off towards the grand doorway together. When they went through, they were quick enough to fly past Celestia and Luna heading for the castle's conference hall.

In the middle of the city of Canterlot, the generous unicorn Rarity was carrying some designer supplies. Activity on the streets was way less bustling than usual. As a matter of fact, there wasn't any activity at all. They appeared to be abandoned. Stores usually lined with items were now empty and featureless, houses were boarded up, and restaurants were devoid of any business.

"Whatever has gotten into everypony today?" Rarity asked herself in confusion. One look up afterwards, she caught Twilight and Spike towards her.

"Hey, Rarity." Twilight greeted.

"Ooh, Twilight!" Rarity cooed. "Glad to see you, darling. I've made all of my pre-coronation stops. You're going to love the finishing touches to your dress."

"Good to hear." said Twilight. "But i'd be happy to wear something simple. I like the thought of just wearing a great, big cape to go with the slippers."

"That's what I thought, actually. After the coronation, we need a beach day." said Rarity excitedly. "WIth that on the mind, I decided that the dress will reveal plenty of your dazzling figure. The royal balcony shall be your royal runway."

"Thanks." Twilight responded. "Just leave a little to the imagination."

"Joking and having a simple conversation on the day of her coronation? You really have come a long way, Twilight." Spike commented. Twilight blushed over the praise.

"Say, where is everypony?" Twilight wondered, turning her head to observe the empty streets and alleyways.

"If I had to guess, they're probably unpacking the princesses' retirement privately." Rarity pondered. "A thread shop would still let me buy something, but not open their door." She turned around and saw the kind-hearted pegasus Fluttershy come her way. "Fluttershy, darling. What's new?"

"I've been trying to buy some blackberries for Pinkie Pie's coronation dessert, but every store owner has been hoarding all of the produce in stock." Fluttershy explained. "All they had on offer was rotten, smelly taters. I ended up having to find some in the wild."

"Must've been some rude store owners." said Rarity at the injustice done to her friend. Then a cloud hovered above, and pushing it was the loyal pegasus Rainbow Dash.

"Weather for the coronation: sunny skies all day!" she called out, kicking the cloud away and landing on the ground next to the others. "Hey, girls. Weird thing, very few pegasi have been helping me out with the clouds. They were kind of on edge today." Right behind her, a unicorn mare rushed into her house as she caught sight of the pegasus.

"It's not just them, methinks." Spike noted.

"To be fair, it's the very first shift in power in over a millennium. Drastic change like that can have such effects on creatures." Rarity rationalized. She then saw her alicorn friend frown over her choice of words. "Don't take that the wrong way, Twilight."

"One thing's for sure, they aren't worried about you. They adore you." Fluttershy assured her.

"Yeah! Thanks to you, Equestria has changed for the better, and moreso in mere moons than it has on Celestia and Luna's watch in a millennium." Rainbow pointed out encouragingly.

"Well, I can't take all the credit, but you're right." said Twilight. "Once everypony's had their time to process everything, tensions will lower and the coronation can proceed as planned."

"Pretty high tensions, if you ask me." Spike puzzled over the matter.

They approached the castle grounds and found the honest earth pony Applejack, pulling a cart full of apple cider and accompanied by a pegasus stallion guard, who was staring at her coldly.

"For the last time, I ain't after your silver." Applejack growled at the guard. She turned to her friends and pointed a hoof at the paranoid pony. "Twilight, there you are! Mind telling him that I don't need an escort? Especially if he ain't gonna help?"

"You can release my friend now." Twilight civilly ordered the guard.

"Yes, Princess Twilight." the guard replied, bowing down before taking off.

"So he refers to you by name, but he kept calling me "Earth Pony", like i'm some outsider." Applejack mentioned.

As if on cue, the big doors in the middle of the staircase burst open and a mountain of sweets flew out like a tidal wave. A pink ball rolled down the castle grounds past the girls before they had a chance to identify. Soon enough, it uncurled, revealing itself to be the laughter-loving earth pony Pinkie Pie. Nobody knew what to make of this.

"Word of advice: stay out of the kitchen!" Pinkie yelled. She was covered head-to-hoof in chocolate and multi-coloured icing, ruined pastries sticking to her like mud.

"Are you OK, Pink?" Rainbow asked, greatly worried for the curly-haired party planner.

"I'm dressed in baking casualties, but otherwise unscathed." Pinkie answered with a quick shake of her body to remove the mess. "Everypony is super grouchy lately. Mrs. Cake and that one unicorn chef got into a food fight. I tried to calm them down, and got caught in the crossfire for my trouble. At this rate, we'll have to cancel the coronation buffet." She finished with a sigh. Her saddened face lit back up when she took notice of another figure in their presence. A tall, slim, bipedal figure made of parts of many creatures. It was the chaotic draconequus himself. "Oh hi, Discord." She greeted him pleasantly.

"It's worse than grouchiness. Ponies are turning against each other; earth ponies, pegasi and unicorns have grown paranoid and hostile today." he stated.

"So much for your pre-coronation nerves theory." Twilight said to Rarity, not in a scornful tone, but in one of anxiety. The white unicorn scratched the back of her head in embarrassment.

"Oh dear, do you know how this happened?" Fluttershy asked the spirit of chaos.

"From what i've heard, a bunch of ponies from all the clans have been mysteriously disappearing in the past few moons. So many gone without a trace." Discord explained. The reception to this was a gasp from the 6 ponies and the small dragon. "And apparently, they're using the fiasco at the last Summer Sun Celebration as a way to exchange the blame and undermine the unity they've had for the past millenia. A whisper there, a rumor here. Destroying some crops, causing some damage. Nasty designations flying everywhere, like "blundering pegasi", "useless earth ponies" and "arrogant unicorns", just to name a few."

"Of all the times for Equestria to fall apart around us, why now?" Twilight moaned.

"It is indeed fractured, and the kind of chaos I take zero pleasure in watching, but no doubt it'll piece itself back together when you step up, your highness." said Discord with a bow to Twilight.

Twilight wanted to believe that when she took the crown of Equestria and officially became the new leader of her people, the broken bonds between the feuding races would go back to the peaceful state they were in before. But as things were, she feared the consequences of the rapidly building conflict, and wondered if Discord meant something more by "step up".

Celestia and Luna sat privately in the castle's conference hall to think about their retirement plans. They were blissfully unaware of the conflict rising between the pony races, their minds lost in thought of the free time they could be spending, released from these royal responsibilities they've had to take on for the longest time.

"Silver Shoals is closer than ever before. I can smell that salty ocean air already." said Luna.

"And just in time for the hottest time of the year." Celestia added gleefully. "If one thing hasn't changed in a millennia, it's our killer bods. The other retirees there will be so jealous when they see us take to the beach in bikinis."

The two sisters shared a wholesome laugh over the thoughts of their wonderful beach days to come. Even in retirement, they could tell they were going to be treated like royalty just for how gracefully they've aged, thanks to the miraculous gift of immortality that they were blessed with in their alicorn ascensions all that time ago.

"You know, though, a big part of me is going to miss this castle." Celestia admitted. "I've spent pretty much my whole life here, taking care of our dear subjects. These walls are filled with precious memories, and the grounds will always remind me of the amazing celebrations we've had. But Twilight has accomplished even more in these past many moons than I ever did in centuries. She built friendships, gave the Elements of Harmony power again, brought our family back together, restored the Tree of Harmony, united the tribes outside of Equestria with our fellow ponies and permanently defeated our greatest enemies. No doubt i'm doing the right thing, giving her the throne."

"We can visit every now and again, just to join Twilight for dinner or some future parties." Luna remarked. "It's always a letter or a flight away, so it'll never have to be gone. A happily ever after is merely a fresh start, and with those six, life is a journey with no definitive destination. We'll never have nothing left to-" Something stopped her. An unsettling feeling inside her head. She closed her eyes and held a hoof up to her face. "Ugh..." she moaned.

"Luna, what's wrong?" Celestia quickly asked. Then she felt the exact same sensation, responding to it the exact same way. "Argh... I feel... a great magical disturbance."

The darkness beneath their eyelids shaped into an image of a swampy area. The sisters shared this vision. It shifted to reveal the demonic skull shape of Grogar's lair. Through the front doorway and the eye sockets up top flashed a sinister blend of red, black and yellow magic. It zoomed inside, showing the sinister activity causing the flashes and the disturbance. The ram sorcerer was surrounding his Bewitching Bell with red and black rings of magic.

"My beautiful Bewitching Bell, we can be back together for all time!" Grogar declared. Within a nanosecond of finishing his sentence, he placed the artifact and the red and black ring onto the aforementioned collar wrapping around his body. He exploded with his trademark yellow and black Malice Magic. His eyes went pure yellow, the red and black rings became one with the collar, the cavern around him shook furiously as a blinding flash and a powerful wave of energy enveloped everything. His treasured talisman changed, as well, it's withered, greenish material becoming a shining, golden colour. When everything calmed down, his irises and pupils reappeared on his sclera, and he gently breathed in and out. With the lightshow at an end, four more creatures were noticed: Chrysalis, Tirek, Cozy Glow and Aurora Eclipse, the latter of which the sisters couldn't identify from her alicorn form.

"NO!" Celestia and Luna shrieked in horror.

"It can't be!" Celestia cried in complete disbelief. "He returned, and he's at full power again!"

"How long has he been active!?" Luna pondered in a panic. "Why are we only now getting this vision!?"

"How did he find his talisman!? Or align with our worst enemies, and... this dark alicorn!?" said Celestia, still processing the vision. These questions burned like her brain being struck with a hot iron. She couldn't dwell on them for long, though. As much as she hated to have to ruin her former student's happily ever after, it was time to act. "We've got to warn Twilight!"

"We've got to warn everypony! We need all the urban areas evacuated and our strongest lines of defense ready for the enemies' arrival!" Luna added.

The two sisters hastily flew out of the conference hall and headed to the castle grounds where Twilight and her friends were standing. They all took notice of their appearance.

Celestia, Luna, Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Spike and Discord had gathered in the conference hall. The young group of friends was filled in on the sisters' bone-chilling vision.

"So you felt a disturbance, too?" said Discord casually.

"We now anticipate our darkest hour." Celestia said.

"By Grogar, you mean that Grogar!?" Spike inquired with chills going up his spine. "I thought he only existed in a foal's fairy tale." He recalled the children's book 'Gusty the Great', which had always been the one source that told the tale of Grogar's reign of ancient Equestria and eventual fall, but he, like all others, only believed that to be fiction.

"Sadly, Spike, he is no myth, and though that story is true, many details were left out." Celestia explained, her expression and tone betraying sorrow. "It was agreed by the ponies of ancient times that to keep anypony from seeking his power, the full story of Grogar's iron rule and what he could do would never be officially recorded. His talisman of power and the key to his dark arts, built by his own heinous alchemy to be indestructible, were hidden away in undisclosed places no creatures were ever meant to reach. Gusty and her followers were confident that all future generations would never discover the darkest secret in all of Equestrian history."

"He was banished, wasn't he?" Twilight pointed out.

"Yes. Even after weakening him, it took the power of thousands for Gusty to do it, and the best place they could send him was into the stars in the sky." Celestia answered. "It was one of our country's greatest victories. The threat of Grogar was expected to have been removed for all eternity. We never thought he'd come back, let alone reclaim his talisman."

"If the seal was so powerful as to be inescapable, then the only way out is if somethin' compromised the thousands of locks placed upon it all at once." Applejack mused. "And it's so far up in the sky, you'd need a disabling spell of astronomical magnitude."

"And nopony has pulled off a spell of that scale. It'd be too time-consuming, and extremely dangerous." Twilight added to Applejack's reasoning. "I can't even recall one creature who made the attempt." Then she had a realization. "Except..." Her friends' eyes widened over what they recalled.

"COZY GLOW!" the 6 young ponies and small dragon said together at the thought. Such an explanation seemed so obvious, but at the same time, they couldn't have guessed that the complicated plot of an evil little girl would have a lasting consequence like this.

"That fiend!" Luna said through gritted teeth. "The crowning achievement of an ancient hero and her warriors, undone by a twisted filly!"

"Thanks to that, Grogar's gone and undone our achievements, and Starlight's, and those of the students." Twilight commented with sadness oozing from her mouth. "Chrysalis and Tirek are apparently stronger than ever, and Cozy Glow is free to cause even more trouble with that dangerous mind of hers. That alicorn, though. Where could she have come from? Could it be anypony we know?"

"Not Sombra back for round three, at least." said Discord.

"Beating him alone was hard enough!" Twilight mentioned. "Now we've got five foes to worry about!" She looked at the draconequus with a look of longing for his help. He fired an expression back at her, on which his pony lips clearly read something along the lines of are you really going to fall back on the easy way out now, like a coward? Twilight breathed in and out, the way Cadance had taught her to when she needed to collect herself. Then she turned to her former teacher with a resolute look to ask "Celestia, what is the dark secret of Grogar?"

"His magic. A type that can never be disabled nor destroyed, destabilizes and assimilates all other forms of it, has the capacity to plague the entire world and irreversibly poisons any creature to madness with a single blast. Only those evil enough can wield it, and evolve to untold levels of power from it. Malice Magic, he so called it." Celestia replied solemnly.

"Malice Magic? Creepy as fuuuudge." Pinkie responded out of sheer discomfort.

"Additionally, that horrible magic has been responsible for the birth of many wild, dangerous creatures, earning him the title of "the Father of Monsters". Some have said it can even affect those who have joined the ether." said Celestia with dead seriousness. "He must not use it where he can cause the most damage, and you cannot let it touch you."

"Gosh, to think the origin of all of those wonderful creatures locked in Tartarus and the scary beasts of the Everfree Forest is... something, and someone, that awful." Fluttershy said. She never imagined that something like Cerberus, for example, was actually born into the world from a literally toxic force. Then a good question rushed to her mind, regarding their desperate escape from Tartarus. "But how could Twilight use their magic to open the gate without getting poisoned?"

"Well, seeing as I borrowed from the hybrids, maybe they had safeguards from Malice Magic's effects, and transferred that along with their cores." Twilight guessed, not sure whether her theory made any sense.

"If it can affect the ether, then... Grogar's the one who brought back Sombra, isn't he?" said Rarity. At the time, she thought that some shred of the former dark king had survived and slowly, but surely, regenerated his body from even something as powerful as the Crystal Ponies' collective love. Now she realized what was actually going on, and shivered as she exclaimed "He was a zombie!"

"A revenant, actually." Luna corrected. "A disturbed spirit who maintains their independence and haunts the physical plane until they're laid back to rest. Zombies are a different story."

"An angry changeling, a hungry centaur, a psychotic filly genius, an evil mystery alicorn, monsters, zombies, a talisman of ultimate power and the most dangerous, abominable magic of all time?" Spike counted. "That's the most prepared villain i've ever heard of."

"Then we'll prepare, too. Take a letter, Spike." Twilight commanded. A piece of paper and a quill materialized in front of the small dragon, giving him the cue to write something. "Inform the entire Royal Guard to evacuate Canterlot and cover every corner of the city. And I mean the borders, too. Tell Star Swirl and the Pillars that we need them to guard the Tree of Harmony and evacuate Cloudsdale. With their status, they'll prove how secure Equestria is. With the villains on the loose, Chrysalis will be out for Starlight, so we need her, Trixie and Sunburst to escort all of the students out of the School of Friendship to safety. If possible, they must evacuate Ponyville as well. Finally, warn Cadance, Shining Armor and their Royal Guard of the coming threat. They'll need to evacuate the Crystal Empire, and if all else fails, they're the country's final line of defense."

"Don't forget all of our allies outside of Equestria." Luna reminded.

"Send a message to Thorax, Dragon Lord Ember, Prince Rutherford and Queen Novo, too." Twilight ordered Spike, who was in the middle of writing the first message. "The strength of the changelings, dragons, yaks and hippogriffs, combined with their numbers, are the backup we need if our primary forces aren't enough." Then she sighed, fear and regret affecting her attempt to valiantly exhibit authority. "Some coronation day. The ponies i'm going to lead hate each other, and there's about to be a villain attack with higher stakes than any we've had before."

"The ponies what?" Celestia asked about Twilight's mention of the current pony crisis.

"A bunch of earth ponies, pegasi and unicorns have been vanishing into thin air lately, and the disasters that occurred during the last Summer Sun Celebration built up animosity between them." Twilight explained to the sun princess. "They're blaming each other, refusing to lend any of the help they've given for generations. And even worse? It seems to be getting violent."

"How could we have allowed this to happen under our noses?!" Luna yelled in shame.

"And here I thought everypony was thousands of years past this. What a disaster!" said Celestia in vexation. "Unfortunately, with Grogar coming, there's no time to get to the bottom of this. I hate to say it, but the coronation's off. For now."

"Huh, so I cleared the sky up for nothing." Rainbow groaned.

"Forget the sky, we've got an apocalyptic crisis on our hooves!" Applejack snapped at the blue pegasus.

"An epic attack before the coronation. Now won't that bring everypony together?" Discord noted sincerely.

"Well, he's right about that." Fluttershy said, standing by the chaos spirit. "These world-saving battles have always had that effect of building and rebuilding relationships."

"I guess so." Twilight acknowledged. "But I won't lie. I'm scared." Small tears built up in her eyes from the pressure.

"We may not look it, but we're all scared, darling." Rarity confirmed.

"To face the danger in spite of that is the literal definition of courage. And we're facing it as a team, as usual." Rainbow asserted.

"Let those meanies come, and if they manage to knock us down, we'll just get back up again!" Pinkie exclaimed, reminiscing of their valiant final stand against Sombra. "Right, Twi?" The other ponies, Spike and Discord gathered around and beamed at the future ruler, displaying their absolute, unfettered faith in her ability and leadership.

"Absolutely." Twilight agreed, radiating high self-confidence. "Our team has always pulled through, no matter how big the threat is, so there's no reason to think this time will be any different. With friendship as our armor and teamwork as our power, we've made it this far, so we can make it all the way."

"That's the pony I taught." said Celestia with pride.

"And hey, let's face it. There hasn't been one enemy that's overcome the friendship-powered rainbow lasers." Spike remarked matter-of-factly before he finished writing a letter and sent it away with his magical dragon breath, enveloping the paper in green flames. "Never, ever forget that." This got a genuine laugh out of his big sister. She knew he was 100% right.

"I may not become Equestria's princess today, but like many other days, I - with the support of those who have helped me save it time after time - will serve as it's protector." Twilight proclaimed. "I will be the leader that it needs, and that everypony knows I can be. We're gonna give Grogar and his band the fight of their lives! The Elements of Harmony may be gone, but we embody what they represented, so we hold their real power! By the end of the day, or the week, however long it takes, those villains will know our names and respect the most powerful, indomitable magic of all! Friendship forever!"

Everyone in the room applauded Twilight after her enthusiastic speech, including Spike, who took a moment out of writing the next letter to join in. They loudly cheered and raised their limbs.

"And so, the main event of the century is nigh." Discord whispered to himself in the corner, levitating a gigantic bucket of popcorn, a massive cup of soda, a wide plate of cheesy nachos and a big pack of multi-coloured candy next to him. It was all a fun, theatrical experience to him, and he was giddy with exhilaration for what he saw as the inevitable outcome.

Back at Grogar's lair, the villains gazed upon the heroes and their country's guardians through Arimaspi's Eye. The ball returned to it's normal state, and the villains looked at one another.

"Remember the plan." said Grogar.

"With those ponies in disarray, each of us will blow Equestria's champions of "love and friendship" out of the water, wiping out that annoying power for good - just like we planned - enjoy a sound victory and collect what garbage remains." Chrysalis recalled.

"You'll break the Tree of Harmony's seal to open and corrupt the heart of the world itself, causing a worldwide Malice Magic plague, while we wreak havoc on the civilizations, then subjugate the other creatures and build our kingdoms with your army." Tirek remembered.

"You need to extract the magical cores from the "key entities", including Twilight and her friends, then expel that power to this "Phantom Zone" and finally, acquire their talents permanently through simple memorization." Cozy continued.

"And to make way for Equestria's impending doomsday, our shared reign and all the promised food, shelter and wealth, the Windigos need to wipe out everything." Eclipse finished. "But they're very dangerous, it'd be unwise to leave them unchecked for too long."

"Rest assured, your lands will be protected. Though they aren't my creations, even the Windigos can be regulated if I use the proper spell." Grogar affirmed in no uncertain terms.

"One more thing. What are we to do about Discord?" Tirek asked with a raised hand. "He can transform the cosmos on a whim."

"He'll be too busy having confidence in Twilight's abilities to help, and even if that weren't the case, I can easily manage that traitor." Grogar answered patiently. "You've been a promising class. For passing the tests, you have my blessing to use your evolved powers."

"YES!" Cozy Glow yipped. "Thank you, Mr. Grogar!" The filly prodigy then felt a sharp pain after speaking so loudly. Her body promptly changed to it's shadow form.

"A Pony of Shadows." said Grogar with interest in the young one's form. "You've chosen my favorite darkness magic." Out of nowhere, a magical doppelganger of Cozy materialized next to him with a cute popping sound.

"It suits my purposes. Oh, ow! Pain!" said Cozy through the doppelganger, feeling how much it hurt to speak or use magic. The doppelganger disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Tirek, aware of the damage that lingered in him and his teammates after being hit by Grogar's blast, instinctively stretched out his arms and released a blue cloud of magical energy from his fingertips. Within a few moments, he and the others were back to full strength. It felt like he gave magic without actually emptying his body at all.

"Golly, now I feel much better!" Cozy exclaimed, amazed by this turn of events.

"Did... did I just... use the ancient centaur art of... healing!?" Tirek gasped with realization.

"That's pretty cool." Eclipse gratefully complimented.

"No, it's not!" Tirek growled. He closed his eyes tight. "My unjust and impure protection is fading! Must... think... bad thoughts..."

"You do realize you healed us, right?" Chrysalis commented with deadpan delivery.

"Oh yeah." said Tirek at the reality of his actions. With a deep breath, he relaxed. "Sorry."

"Now, let's meet the army." said Grogar darkly. Igniting the yellow glow of his horns, collar and fore hooves, Grogar removed what looked like hundreds of transparent, yellow-ish bubbles from the shadow-y areas of the cavern, as well as the murky water. Inside them were a bunch of earth ponies, pegasi and unicorns, looking confused, scared out of their mind and already past the point of losing it.

The tetrad looked upon this amazing sight with pure awe. None of them had any idea that a collection of Equestria's people was building while they weren't looking. But for how long?

"Come on out, children!" Grogar called in a high volume. On cue, a bunch of creatures, big and small, emerged from the water, walls and ceiling. These were ones that the folks of Equestria were all too familiar with, the monsters of the ram sorcerer's creation. The Bugbear, the Roc, the Chimera, the Hydra, the Tatzlwurm, the Maulwurf, the Sphinx, even the Ophiotaurus from Mount Everhoof. Alongside them were a gaggle of fantastic species, such as Timberwolves, Cragadiles, Ursa Majors, Manticores, Cockatrices, Yetis, Pukwudgies, Whirling Mungteeth, Sea Serpents, Slingtails, amphibian demons and Cyclopes, giant, one-eyed humanoids with goat heads, just like Arimaspi. Even tiny critters like Twittermites, Fly-ders and Parasprites could be seen. Some were new, like shadow dogs, birds with lightning powers, multi-legged sea monsters, lava lizards and water ponies with ghastly appearances.

"I feel like a queen again already." Chrysalis said with glee.

"It's fine! This is a bad dream! I'll be back with my bro! It's fine! This is a bad dream! I'll be back with my bro!" a pegasus mare in one of the bubbles repeated to herself.

"What are you going to do to me? Can I at least tell my friend i'm sorry?" a unicorn mare asked of the villains.

"Please let me go, Grogar! I have a wife and foal, and they're worried sick!" pleaded an earth pony stallion in tears.

A clock ticked in Cozy's head. After a few seconds, it rung. "Oh my gosh! You were behind the pony disappearances!" she yelled in astonishment. Then she scanned the room and thought back even further. "All this must've been why you've been vanishing so much!"

"Well deduced, Miss Glow." Grogar commended. "I rescued these magnificent, deadly beasts from Tartarus quite some time ago. As for my captives, we needed something to ensure the dismantling of the ponies' harmony, and make our forces even stronger." With a wicked smile, he blasted swirling clouds of Malice Magic up at all of the bubbled ponies. Each of the poor ponies screamed in anguished fear as they were consumed by the dreadful dark magic.

Soon, the screaming stopped, the frightened equines now wholly covered. The Bewitching Bell shot energy bolts at the bubbles, popping them to reveal the ponies undergoing grotesque changes. Their teeth were sharpened, their manes and coats were turned to shades of black, and they gained glowing yellow eyes. The wings of the pegasi became bat-like with feather-esque needles, the unicorns' horns split open to look like two-pronged forks, and the earth ponies grew claws on each of their hooves. They lowered to the ground and made demonic moaning sounds. They were hideous, mindless zombies now.

"Gross." Cozy muttered, feeling her stomach churn.

"Children, zombies, listen!" Grogar hollered authoritatively.

"Alright, beasties and reanimated ponies, we've got a job to do!" Eclipse called out to her new army. "Follow us in crushing our suppressors, and we'll soon live in a world where we rule equal!" She and her three partners displayed overwhelming surges of magical power which left the monsters and zombies in awe, kneeling reverently before their new mistresses and master. Grogar nodded approvingly.

"With hatred as our armor and teamwork as our power, we'll get what we deserve." he announced. "Queen Chrysalis, Lord Tirek, Cozy Glow, Aurora Eclipse, my children and these ponies are yours and mine to command; they deserve to relish in the joys of freedom with us." He stepped towards the side entrance of the lair and held up a hoof. "The moment of truth is here." His allies, his monster children and the zombies followed.

"Not to sound ungrateful, but... permission to settle some grudges on our terms, boss?" Tirek requested.

"Permission granted." Grogar approved forbearingly. "Now go, my Horses of the Apocalypse! Today: Equestria! Tomorrow: all of the world!"

Grogar opened five large, circular, yellow and black portals for him and his minions to enter. They jumped into them immediately. Whatever patience they still had was about to be rewarded. Very soon, they would be spread across Equestria with the most powerful army of darkness it will ever see. But first, a few of them had personal vendettas to take care of.

Author's Note:

I liked putting this chapter together for the fact that I got to address some matters that should've been brought up in the show. I don't know if i'd call it them the best explanations, but it makes the picture feel more whole to have characters ask these burning questions and receive answers of some kind. What I found the biggest headscratcher was the royal advisor position. All those centuries of a monarchy in Equestria, and we're supposed to believe it was just created by their newest leader, who had not even been crowned yet? I like to think the position had always been a thing, millennia before Twilight's birth, it was just deemed superfluous during the rulership of two princesses.

During the sequence where the Mane 6 come together, I decided to just have the store visits from the original episode be talked about rather than actually having them take place for the sake of the pacing. I also wanted the characters to stress just how much of a positive effect they had on Equestria by this late point in the series, because when you've established friendly relations with the non-pony creatures in the past Season, then you've really proven yourself worthy of the throne. Also, with Discord's role in the story changed, I felt he fit best as the exposition giver. Lines that originally belonged to the villains have been given to him. Finally, I know Royal Guards normally don't talk. It's a liberty for the story's purposes.

Probably one of my favourites parts i've done for this rewrite by this point is the conversation between Celestia and Luna. They had their differences a lot in Season 9, so what they needed was a more wholesome interaction where they have a good laugh and look back on their time ruling Equestria from Canterlot. On a darker note, their vision of the villains is a power that was brought back from the Season 4 finale, when Tirek first attacked. It made the most sense to get the heroes prepared for the coming battle. On a minor note: I like thinking that the Bewitching Bell started out gold, but became green after millennia of dilapidation. I just wanted it to match the rest of Grogar's collar's colour scheme.

Another thing I wanted to address was the fact that aside from the 'Gusty the Great' children's book and the tome in the restricted section of the Canterlot Archives, there doesn't seem to be any historical recordings of Grogar, his power or his iron rule, which has naturally led many in-universe to believe he was just a made-up figure. For this rewrite, explaining why knowledge on the ram sorcerer was incredibly scarce was as simple as "because they didn't want future generations to find out about the horrifying magic he possessed, or go looking for the things that would let them control it". And also, it's this chapter where a quick explanation is given for why Grogar's Tome has been locked away instead of burned.

And yes, Gusty the Great and thousands of unicorn warriors did manage to make a prison for Grogar that was at least equal to, if not more powerful than, whatever seal the Elements of Harmony could make. He spent millennia regaining power that he couldn't properly exercise as long as he was just a bunch of stars in the sky with thousands of magical locks placed upon him. Even with Malice Magic, he was probably going to spend all of time picking every single one. So, I gave Cozy Glow's actions in the Season 8 finale some retroactive significance by adding that her super-powerful magic-draining vortex saved the old ram all the trouble and quickly removed all the locks (before the students' actions put them back in place, but by then, the damage had been done).

By adding Malice Magic, I realized I created a continuity oddity with the Mane 6 and Spike's escape from Tartarus in the Season 8 finale. If it's a poisonous power, and it shaped the monsters locked up in there, how did Twilight not get tainted when they transferred their core magic to her horn? I thought hard about it, and after many rewrites of Twilight's line, I ultimately settled on a theory based on the fact that the magic was borrowed from the hybrids, the beasts that turned out to be fusions of animals, which were likely originally just ordinary creatures without Malice Magic running through their veins. I hope it makes a little sense.

Let me explain Tirek having the power of healing. Yes, it's obviously taken from the centaur character Chiron, but there's another reason for this decision. When I look at Tirek's past appearances in the season, giving back magic he has absorbed, which makes the victims of his absorption power healthy again, I came to realize it made sense for him to have the ability to restore people to full strength, but of course, he needed to do so without giving up any of the magic that gives him his buffed up form. There were several other powers that I considered giving Tirek for his Malice Evolution, besides expanding his magic absorption, and went with the most logical choice.

When the Season 9 premiere established Grogar as the "Father of Monsters", I really wanted something to be done with that, like the Legion releasing the monster horde from Tartarus and amassing a big invasion force, because a good would-be conqueror in fiction needs one of those. I also added zombies to the mix, thus fully turning the misconception of G1 Grogar being a necromancer into a full-on reality with his G4 counterpart (as a happy bonus, this removes the revelation of Discord's Chaos Magic being able to bring the dead back to life). And yes, the zombie creation scene was pretty dark for FiM, I won't deny it. Oh yeah, and since Grogar is real and the Big Bad in this rewrite, I had to throw in a new version of a line spoken by his G1 incarnation.