• Published 16th Jun 2021
  • 922 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 2 - Chapter 2 (6): Her Majesty's Choice

This day had been long and tiring for the eight ponies and the small dragon, and it wasn't about to get better. With no real opportunities to get some rest, it was a strain on their minds and their bodies to deal with another pack of zombies and monsters on the railway.

Leading this bunch was the Ophiotaurus. It grabbed a hold of Pinkie, Fluttershy, Rarity and Spike in it's tail, and didn't waste time descending it's snake-like maw on them. Applejack threw her lasso around one of it's horns, pulling it back with all of her might as the beast's teeth just scraped Pinkie's curly mane. Twilight, Celestia, Luna and Rainbow flew above the action and briefly discussed a plan of attack.

"Okay, i'll hold the everypony down the best I can." said Twilight resolutely.

"Princesses, follow my lead." Rainbow instructed to the Royal Sisters. The irony of this wasn't lost on them, but they didn't question a thing out loud.

Twilight flew down to the ground and focused as her horn ignited. With a massive telekinetic spell, she pulled herself, all of her friends except for Rainbow and the other princesses, plus the surrounding innocent earth ponies and unicorns to the ground, as if increasing their centres of gravity. This freaked out a number of citizens, who were right in front of some monsters, like a lava lizard drooling boiling liquid over an earth pony mare, and a zombie earth pony grabbing a unicorn stallion's horn with it's hoof claws.

Rainbow, Celestia and Luna swiftly, and repeatedly, flew around in a circle, which immediately formed a turbulence around them. The blue pegasus was impressed with the sisters' ability to keep up, losing focus for a short enough time that it didn't interrupt the flow of their rotation. Back on the ground, Applejack managed to reel the Ophiotaurus towards her, the resulting strain on the creature's serpentine body loosening it's grip on the ponies and dragon wrapped up in the tail.

Unfortunately, some of the monstrous mob caught on to Twilight's activity. A zombie pegasus and zombie unicorn attacked her simultaneously with feather needles and a heat beam. Twilight's eyes had closed from the effort she was currently exerting to pull her spell off, so she couldn't even see what a tight spot she was in. The attacks made contact, but bounced off a blue, glittering shield protecting the young alicorn, but just barely. A Timberwolf approached the shield and prepared to stomp it, and Twittermites prepared an electric barrage straight out of a thunderstorm.

A tornado fully materialized and began to suck in every last member of this beastly pack. There was no escape for them now. Round and round they went into the giant vortex, creatures of varying sizes trapped in one spot. As they continued their rapid revolving, Celestia and Luna ignited their horns and cast a teleportation spell to send each of the caught creatures away. Where to exactly, they didn't know, but hopefully away from all other bystanders.

Twilight finished her spell and released every pony she held down. As she got up, she bumped her head on the glittering shield. "What?" was the first thing she thought aloud. Looking around, she saw Rarity, her horn glowing with the same glittering shine. The fashionista ceased to cast her spell, and the shield was gone. Her immediate expression after was a smile at Twilight. It felt close to dropping though, with how exhausted she was. Twilight smiled back at her for what she managed, taking a moment to breathe.

Now that the malevolent creatures were gone, the earth ponies and unicorns in the train wreck could collect themselves.

"Princess Twilight, Celestia, Luna, Miss Rarity, thank you!" a unicorn stallion gratefully expressed.

"Princess Twilight, Celestia, Luna, Applejack, way to go!" an earth pony mare shouted in gratitude at about the same time.

"Is everypony okay?" Twilight asked the entire group of equine civilians.

"We are now, but we need to find shelter fast!" said another unicorn.

"It's not safe for us earth ponies anymore!" an earth pony stressed.

Out of one of the tipped over train carts behind them, came a noise. Twilight and her friends prepared for more trouble to come their way, but when a window opened, out of it came four ponies. First out was Sunburst, then followed by Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo.

"Sunburst!" Twilight hollered to the bearded, cloaked unicorn.

"Twilight!" Sunburst yelled back in exhilaration. As he stepped off the cart and Twilight approached him, he exhaled in relief. "I'm so glad you're okay!"

"Sis!" Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle cried out in euphoria at the sight of their older siblings.

"Rainbow Dash!" Scootaloo exclaimed at the same moment.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders ran and dived into their clutches of the older earth pony, unicorn and pegasus, tears making waterfalls on their small faces.

"You made it! I thought you were a goner for sure!" said Apple Bloom, expressing fears now put to rest.

"For a moment, I thought I was, too." Applejack said back warmly, remembering the chilling brief moment she was a sitting duck, along with the others; how terrified she was in the instant Grogar and his partners discharged their destructive energy before a flash of white light carried her off.

"I knew you wouldn't be dealt with like that. I just knew it!" said Scootaloo honestly.

"What can I say? Friendship goes down hard." Rainbow Dash boasted.

"Well, factually speaking, Discord saved us. Dramatically at that." Applejack explained.

"Oh. So, where is that troublemaker?" Sweetie Belle asked.

"I'm afraid..." Rarity started with her answer, shifting her eyes to Fluttershy nearby before finishing with the most thought-out words she could find. "Grogar's taken Discord hostage, so he needs our help."

"Who!?" the Cutie Mark Crusaders gasped in disbelief.

"Grogar? Is that supposed to be a joke?" one of the earth pony mares scoffed.

"I know it sounds unbelievable to y'all, but as the Element of Honesty, you should know darn well I ain't stretching the truth when I tell you this." Applejack remarked. "Ever since Princesses Celestia and Luna announced their retirement, Grogar has been planning to bring Equestria, and everything we've built through lessons in friendship, to ruin. And he's not alone, either. He's freed these monsters and reanimated ponies of days gone by to do his dirty work, and worse, he's gotten our worst enemies, Chrysalis, Tirek, Cozy Glow, and an impostor Starlight Glimmer on his side. And I know they've been plotting that long because somecreature had been spying on them and keeping the information to themselves."

"Did she say impostor Starlight Glimmer?!" Sunburst shrieked in worry.

"An impostor Starlight Glimmer with alicorn magic." Twilight replied to him, hinting at the letter about the villains' attack she sent to the School of Friendship. "I never would've guessed." She added as Sunburst gritted his teeth at the fearsome possibilities of a Starlight, still overcome with the grief and madness he inadvertenedly inflicted upon her as a child, wielding the strongest power in Equestria. Please don't do time travel again, he prayed silently.

"I know ya'll are terrified, and I get it. We all are." Applejack continued with her speech. "But from our past battles, you know how dangerous those four varmints are, and with this army they've amassed, they're going after everypony we know and hold dear. Do you want to stand against each other, knowing that our freedom, our unity, is being threatened by a force that stands against every last one of us?"

"Whoever said you don't lie?" a unicorn objected snarkily.

"Excuse me?" Applejack replied to the unicorn with a raised eyebrow, her temper tickled.

"Were you not listening? Bad guys are working together to destroy us, so you need to work together to stop them!" Rainbow asserted, trying to make it simpler for the pony crowd.

"What do you want us to do?! We don't have magic to protect ourselves like these upstart unicorns, or a city in the sky to hide in like those cowardly pegasi!" the same skeptical earth pony mare questioned.

"Cowardly?!" Rainbow growled, her temper rising to the surface fast.

"Upstart?! I never!" Rarity indignantly huffed.

"I don't care how bad those villains are and what they've been planning, don't shift the blame on them for hoarding the food we're rightfully owed!" a unicorn mare said stubbornly, before she turned to the earth pony group. "You and those airborne ponies think we're too powerful and lazy to deserve it; that's why your crops have been underperforming!"

"You're testing my patience." Applejack grumbled through gritted teeth, exchanging glances with Rainbow.

"Can everypony listen to reason please!?" Twilight called out.

"We only hoarded our food because you ponies have been conspiring with the pegasi to wreck everything we grow!" an earth pony stallion claimed. "We do what we must to stay safe, the likes of you unicorns only care about pride and power! And as for the pegasi..."

"I think i've heard enough!" Rarity hissed, igniting her horn as if ready to do something drastic. Spike stood at her side with flames conjuring in his mouth.

At that moment, something in the red sky casted a shadow over all the ponies (and one dragon) in the area. Applejack, Rainbow, Rarity and Spike's anger was replaced with confusion as everything darkened. They all looked up and saw that a gargantuan cluster of storm clouds were gathering together and growing wider. Cloudsdale, visible from the angles they all stood at, was completely covered by these new clouds.

"Look, they're blocking Cloudsdale!" the skeptical earth pony mare shouted, pointing up in the direction of the pegasus city's new cloud cover. "Said they don't want any "grounded" ponies up in their business! I doubt that includes their magical friends!"

"You mean their magicless friends!" a unicorn stallion snarled, thinking he was correcting her.

"Listen up, buddy!" Rainbow snapped, flying up to the earth pony and unicorn.

"Don't!" Fluttershy cried, putting herself between Rainbow and the ponies that spoke ill of their clan. "That's exactly what Grogar and the others want - more fighting! We're here to help, and we will! Have faith, everypony!"

"If you can fix this, please do!" another earth pony mare yelled from the crowd. "Get us a safe place away from these life stealing snobs!"

"Help us stop their rebellion!" a unicorn stallion demanded. "We can't take chances with the bottom-rung of the pony ladder anymore!"

"Why can't you ponies collect yourselves and just talk things out?!" Twilight hollered in exasperation. "All of Equestria is at stake, and so are your livelihoods! I didn't learn the magic of friendship and practice for leadership of this country just to watch you all get lost in your paranoia!" Twilight, after letting that out, took a moment to breathe in and out through her nose. If she was going to continue speaking, she needed to display the attitude she had trained for so many moons now.

"Your future ruler speaks, fillies and gentle colts." said Spike with a grimace aimed at the feuding clans.

"My friends have taught me that friendship, for all of it's imperfections, is always worth maintaining because it is what proves our strength, keeps our home alive, and makes our dreams a reality." Twilight declared to the ponies watching her. "Honesty is always better than living a lie, Laughter is the medicine for rage, Generosity always leads to the defeat of greed, Kindness is more worth the effort than cruelty, loyalty creates what treachery destroys, and magic... is the link that weaves it together and builds it to last. Friendship is not only magic, it's the very soul of our world." She turned her head to Celestia and Luna.

"Can friendship bring our loved ones back?" a fearful earth pony stallion said.

"I realize that much has happened to bring you to this frightened state, but if we are to know peace for another generation, you shouldn't hate each other." Celestia commented. "If you cannot tolerate each other, at least don't take action to harm one another, directly or otherwise. These ponies, united in their friendship, are your best hope for the futures you long for. To fight would only be to rush the bleak fate Grogar and his allies will choose for you."

"Don't repeat the mistakes I made as Nightmare Moon." Luna urged the crowd. "Serve your country, not just yourselves."

"We've lost too many earth ponies already for our complacency!" an earth pony mare argued. "We have to stick together, and your majesties... you can only choose one of us!" Twilight, Celestia and Luna flinched with apprehension. Applejack, Rainbow, Rarity and Spike smacked their foreheads with their hooves (and claws) at the incorrigible attitude they were witnessing. "It's either us, the unicorns, or the pegasi! If you're not with us, you're against us!"

"You used to be a unicorn, Princess Twilight!" a unicorn mare pointed out. "I think you know the only choice here."

"It's either us or them, Princesses! Decide!" that same earth pony mare cried out impatiently.

A strong, cold wind began to pick up. Everyone felt it, and they all jumped from how sudden it was. They had little time to register this odd temperature shift, because from the nearby chasm close to the train wreck, a goat-headed Cyclops emerged and roared a most bestial sound. The crowd of civilians screamed at it's towering presence and ran for cover. Twilight and her friends groaned and looked with dread, tired from the battles they've been fighting all day. Still, they knew they had to take this thing head-on.

"Uh oh, it's Grogar Junior!" Pinkie squealed in surprise.

"I'll handle this one." Celestia stated, glaring and flying at the beast while motioning Luna and the others to stay back.

The Cyclops, with all of it's titanic might, lifted one of the train carts off the ground and above it's horned head, showing dominance through an intimidating feat. Celestia remained undeterred, though. Her horn lit up once again, readying any spell she needed to face her freakishly tall opponent. The Cyclops' single eye glowed with what was clearly a charge of energy, and just like that, a big, powerful beam came out if it straight for the alicorn. Celestia blocked it with a magical shield, which caused bits of the beam to disperse around the area, but thankfully not into any of the nearby ponies, or Spike. With great effort on her part, Celestia boosted her shield to redirect the smaller beams, now sending them into the sky where they couldn't damage anything.

Everyone who knew and cared about the Princess of the Sun watched her put all of her strength into her means of defense. Then something rather scary, probably as much as the monsters and zombies themselves, happened before their eyes. Something in Celestia snapped. She screamed at the top of her lungs with explosive anger, the glow around her horn sparked violently, and her appearance made a mysterious change. Her serenely waving mane turned into a wild plume of fire. Unseen by the creatures behind her, her eyes became pitch black voids, no pupils or irises, as the shield spell changed shape into a blazing five-point star. The Cyclops' beam was consumed by a stream of fire that blasted it's eye.

The giant, in pain, threw the train cart to it's left and reeled back. Occupied by the burn, it caught it's rear hooves on the edge of the chasm and fell back to where it came from, screaming like an abomination from the darkest realm. The train cart it released crashed down away from the railway. Celestia, having used up so much of her magical energy, dropped to the ground just barely holding herself up with her wings.

"Celestia!" Twilight cried, the most worried about her fellow alicorn's condition along with Luna.

"Nobody... harms... my.... subjects." Celestia slowly panted out, composing herself.

"What in the world was that?!" Rainbow asked in bewilderment. "You caught fire!"

"Don't... worry about... it." Celestia panted in response.

"I thought she couldn't exist." Luna said to her sister, unsettled.

"Celestia's weak." an earth pony stallion remarked. "This wouldn't have happened..." He turned to the unicorns. "...if you unicorns kept those things locked up in Tartarus!"

"You little... you had one job: to use your hooves instead of waiting for someone with wings or levitation powers to come help you!" a unicorn mare argued.

Twilight and the others looked back at the conflict between the earth ponies and unicorns, and saw that this group was just not going to listen to anything they said. They were so caught up in bickering, they lost all sight of what unity was, and the true problem at hand. At this point, they were now pouncing on each other, biting, shoving heads and pulling at manes. All except for a handful: including Mayor Mare, Big MacIntosh, Granny Smith and Sugar Belle. All they could do was get away as the commotion raged on.

"Cutie Mark Crusaders, come with us." Luna advised the three fillies of the three clans. "It'd be unwise to stick around here with these hopeless cases."

"No thanks, Princess Luna." Apple Bloom responded, shaking her head back and forth. "Those villains will be after Twilight, our sisters and the others most of all. Besides, we've got our own plans."

After a moment of quiet contemplation over Apple Bloom's point, the all-too-likely possibility of the fillies being endangered as the circumstances were, Luna said "Fair enough. But you'll need someone to guide and protect you." She added, implicit in her intention to split off from Twilight's group.

"I'll look after them, Princess Luna." Sunburst volunteered, approaching the Princess of the Night. "Our friends need you and Celestia's strength now more than ever. As Vice Headstallion, I have a responsibility to the School's friendship tutors."

"Thank you, Sunburst!" said Sweetie Belle with a sincere tone and smile.

"I'll do what I can." Sunburst promised. He sighed and said out loud "Oh, Starlight, where are you?"

"Oh, I almost forgot to mention!" said Twilight, having overheard. "Starlight's been captured, and she's being held prisoner back at Canterlot."

"What?!" Sunburst gasped. "Sweet Celestia, I hope Chrysalis hasn't done anything to her!"

"Well then, we gotta get to Canterlot!" Apple Bloom declared. "And if we're lucky, we'll get the truth these ponies desperately need to hear."

"Lead the way, Sunburst." Scootaloo requested with a raised hoof. Sunburst smiled and set off into the distance with the Cutie Mark Crusaders.

"Sweetie Belle, darling! Don't do anything rash!" Rarity called out to her filly sister, scared for what she was in for.

"Stay safe, Scootaloo!" Rainbow called out to her flightless protégé, showing faith in her abilities.

"Let's go!" Twilight ordered after a smile of trust over at Sunburst, running towards the chasm with her group of nine. As they left, they noticed three ponies weakly crawling across the railway, not too far from the train cart that was in the Cyclops' grasp. They were a black pegasus stallion, a green earth pony mare and a red unicorn stallion.

"Oh my gosh, are you alright?" Fluttershy said worriedly as she instantly approached them.

"I can't... feel... my back hooves." the green earth pony mare whimpered.

"My wings... are like... they've been clipped." the black pegasus stallion moaned.

"Magic... drained... losing weight." the red unicorn stallion coughed.

"Did you come from over there?" Pinkie asked the three ponies, pointing to the train cart. "Tough ride, or what?"

Celestia, having recovered a little bit of her energy, realized the implications and was hit with a wave of guilt. Looking down, she said "I'm sorry, my little ponies. Don't talk now, we'll help you."

"Wait, magic drained? Oh no, Tirek must be nearby. Or worse, that..." Fluttershy fearfully surmised, her look of dread than immediately replaced with a teary-eyed, vengeful expression when she ended her sentence with "...that demon with his Bell."

"Please... help." the three simultaneously begged. Just then, they found themselves lifted off the ground by the princesses' telekinesis and placed on the backs of Luna and Twilight, specifically. They held them up well with whatever strength they could still muster. Once again, they headed off, but were stopped by a voice.

"Hey, what are you doing with that earth pony and pegasus?!" a unicorn stallion from the crowd shouted and queried, having caught the group leaving.

"You help a unicorn and one of ours?! Make up your mind!" an earth pony mare screamed.

"All ponies!" Twilight yelled back in frustration, not wanting to hear these quarreling lunatics anymore, before resuming her exit.

"That's friendship, something you don't care to remember!" Rainbow bellowed one last time back to the earth ponies and unicorns, not caring if she touched any nerves with these final words.

The ponies and their dragon companion were on their way with the three injured and tired victims in tow. They crossed the chasm thanks to both flight and simple teleportation, but as much as they willed themselves to keep going on, exhaustion was very clearly setting in from all the intense action. Adding to that was mental exhaustion from the debacle with the ponies at odds. As the champions of friendship, they had failed. As leaders, Twilight and the Royal Sisters failed. No use dwelling on missed opportunities, though. They had a mission.

Grogar had reached a point in his city-building project where all that was left to do was interior decoration. Not wanting to sabotage his magic with further usage of Discord's powers, he settled for the other magic he claimed from the "key entities" he sought. With Star Swirl's time magic, he chiseled statues of varying sizes and collected all the residual pieces he broke off in his craftsmanship before they could even get close to the floor. With Cadance's crystal magic, he made see-through cases and hauntingly beautiful ornaments all around his castle, from the foyer to his throne room. With the Crystal Heart's magic, he brought warm light to every single room and hallway within the structure.

After all that work, Grogar sat upon his large, grandiose throne, stationed in front of a wide, circular meeting table, on which Arimaspi's Eye sat. Along the sides of the tables were four other thrones. On the ram sorcerer's right: one shaped like the one Chrysalis had back in her reign over the changelings, and one shaped like Tirek's bulky centaur build. On his left: one shaped like a big vertical equals sign, and one in the shape of a chess rook. Arimaspi's Eye showed it's master a visual of Twilight's team on the run.

"Farther away, Twilight Sparkle and her friends come from home, and the storm of the millenium is beginning to close in." Grogar mused. "Wherever they go, my children will chase them off, my students will corner them, and their cores will be part of me. But first..." He waved his hoof and teleported four fragments of Chrysalis's old throne into the throne room, hovering before his muzzle. Ah, i'm talking to myself. Chrysalis must've rubbed off on me, he thought with a genial chuckle.

He tapped his head with a hoof and sent out a telepathic signal, his focus locked around the area Twilight and the others were moving. Still levitating the dark stone pieces and shifting his crystal ball's visual to his students, except Chrysalis, he then made a call.

"Lord Tirek." he said, expecting a response.

"What is it, boss?" Tirek answered after 2 seconds of silence.

"If you, Eclipse, Miss Glow and Chrysalis are far outside Ponyville now, then you are on the right track." Grogar stated, certain of how his students have been carrying the plan out.

"Oh, yes we are." Tirek assured him gleefully. "We've got Chrysalis on her way to wherever they'll settle for the night, in disguise. Soon, we're going to jump them, and they won't see it coming."

"As i'd expect from her grace. If I may give a tip, you need to maximize their false sense of security, make sure they believe they have truly lost us, and can rest. Equally important is to remove one of them from play." Grogar suggested. "You leave that part to me."

"If you're the slightest bit concerned about us drawing too much attention to ourselves, don't worry. Eclipse has us covered. Literally." Tirek confirmed, then mumbled "Not sure what you mean about that last part."

Grogar circled one of his hooves around Arimaspi's Eye, and the visual changed again, this time to an overhead view of the area Twilight and her friends were in. Not too far from the heroic group, and of interest to the ram sorcerer, was a hollowed out tree that looked like a cozy shelter, ideal for a bunch of creatures to take refuge in.

"Near your position is a tree where they can get a reprieve. Don't attack them yet, because I plan to imbue the tree with magic neutralizing stone." Grogar clarified. "Just point them in the right direction, and my children shall give them a rude awakening. Believe me, I know an ideal spot for you to finally have your revenge."

"If you say so." said Tirek. "Me and Chrysalis better not wait too long. She'll need my healing soon enough, and I have big things to do."

"Good things come to the patient, your majesty." Grogar affirmed. "May this dish be served cold." On that note, the telepathic call came to an end. His horns and collar glowed with yellow and black Malice, and like a sharp gale, a pressurized blast of breath from Grogar's mouth whisked the four fragments away in a magical cloud. He looked up at the ceiling of his throne room and wondered off somewhere. He thought It's been ages since I gave a monster life. After this, I think i'll make a new addition to the family. A loyal one. But what to call them?

Sunburst and the Cutie Mark Crusaders had followed the railway back to the demolished Ponyville, like they had just gone in a circle. Seeing the station now ripped to shreds was a harsh reminder of their predicament. As much as they wanted to reach Canterlot, getting there wasn't going to be so simple without a train to ride.

"Starting to regret never practicing teleportation spells." Sunburst lamented.

"I wish I brought my new scooter and wagon." Scootaloo commented. "Probably wouldn't be the fastest, but it'd still be better than a hike right now."

"A new scooter? You really gotta tell us these things." said Sweetie Belle about this trivial matter.

"I'm afraid from the look of things, we won't find anything in Ponyville." Sunburst remarked as he analyzed the wreckage of buildings in the distance. "Our best bet of reaching Canterlot is flying."

"Yeah, but the Hot Air Balloon service is definitely out of the question." Apple Bloom noted. "Crusaders, Sunburst, we need to get creative." They all paused for a moment before anyone spoke again.

"So, what do you have in mind?" Scootaloo asked out of curiosity.

"Some of them pony zombies are pegasi, so I reckon we can tame them." Apple Bloom explained.

"Hold up, Apple Bloom. Those guys are vicious, and i'd never forgive myself if I let them hurt you girls." Sunburst expressed his concern about the proposed idea.

"Trust me, a little magic and strength goes a long way." Apple Bloom assured the older pony. Turning towards the abandoned station, she saw three pegasus zombies hovering over it's remains and keeping a vigil like satellites. She waved to her friends and Sunburst to get to the railway platform and quietly urged "Hide!" So they got there and ducked under a piece of furniture left intact between the broken door and ticket window: the bench.

The pegasus zombies heard the sound of creaking wood below them. They flew down to look around for whatever caused it, then they picked up a smell. They landed on the railway platform, right in front of the bench. None of them had the time to turn around and reach the source of the scent before the Cutie Mark Crusaders leaped out, landed on their backs and grabbed them around the necks.

As expected, a struggle for control began. The zombie pegasi wiggled and bucked as hard as they could to shake the three fillies off, but they persisted and didn't lose their grip. Sweetie Belle used her unicorn telekinesis in an effort to slow down the mounts, but it took a lot of energy and didn't have much of the desired effect.

"Sunburst, we could use a little help!" Sweetie hollered in desperation.

"Sweetie Belle, I think I know something useful!" Sunburst yelled back, a thought coming to him as he jumped out from the bench. "Starlight told me this!"

"What is it?!" Sweetie Belle hastily queried. Sunburst's reveal turned the pegasus zombies' heads. They growled at the sight of him.

"Fiducia Compelus!" Sunburst answered. "It'll get them under control! Say the words, think of it, and it might just work!" He backed up against the bench as the savage reanimated ponies closed in on him. They opened their needle-covered wings wide and extended them towards him.

"But I don't know that spell!" Sweetie Belle pointed out. "I'm still practicing!"

"Just try it anyway!" Sunburst pleaded, so close to becoming a zombie meal.

"Okay, uh... think, think... think! Fiducia Compelus!" Sweetie Belle chanted quickly, igniting her horn and casting a spell bigger than any she performed in the past. She waved her head in the hopes of spreading it. It touched all three of the intended targets, missing her friends. Just like that, the mindless pegasus zombies ceased their predator-like approach on Sunburst and became pacified, staring blankly at the station wall.

There was no more struggle to be had. The Cutie Mark Crusaders took a moment to check if anything was different. Apple Bloom commanded "Okay, partner, spread your wings.", and her mount did just that. Scootaloo gave the order of "Take us on a ride to Canterlot, ponies!", and her mount whinnied and started flying up in the air.

"It worked!" Sunburst yipped in amazement.

"Ow, I need some ice." Sweetie Belle groaned. She wasn't used to these more advanced spells, so this one left her sore in the head.

"Who knows how long it'll last, though." said Sunburst, reaching forward. "Hurry."

The Cutie Mark Crusaders took off in an orderly fashion and had their new mounts hold the bearded, cloaked unicorn, two with one of their fore hooves, and one with it's rump supporting his weight. Was it a miracle that Sweetie Belle pulled off that control spell on her first try? It didn't matter, for now they could easily reach Canterlot. Or rather, what was Canterlot. For Scootaloo, this ride was exciting, what with her unable to naturally fly. Sadly, that made way for anxiety as they saw Grogar's threatening-looking new city in the distance.

What was also nerve-wracking was the lowering temperature. Going high up made it worse, but there weren't many options.

Twilight and her friends, along with the hurt ponies they carried, had to find somewhere they could safely crash. Now. But it looked like there wouldn't be anything for miles. Just the continuing railway, and the wilted forest along the pathway. The chilly wind picking up sure didn't help matters.

"Why is it getting so cold?" Fluttershy moaned, putting a hoof to her shoulder.

"That's what i'd like to know." said Rarity. "Equestria's supposed to be at it's hottest this time of year, and I thought the skies were cleared, too." As she braced her hooves around her chest in the hopes of warming up, Spike blew his green flames around the ponies. The heat made everyone tingle.

"This ought to help." the young dragon proclaimed confidently. With another breath, he pressed on with his warming exhalation.

"Thank you, Spike." said Twilight with a thumbs up-like wing gesture.

"Unfortunately, this is no weather for a bird's-eye view." Rainbow remarked. "How are we gonna get out of this cold before we get a cold?"

A fair distance away from their position, Tirek, Cozy and Eclipse were watching, but cloaked in the latter's invisibility spell. The three looked on intently, carefully analyzed the area, organized their thoughts before making another move.

"You're up, Eclipse. I saw the tree not too far from here." said Cozy in her shadow form, covering up from the near-freezing breeze. "Don't worry, T. Your big part will come eventually."

"I don't think i've shown you my new earth pony qualities yet." Eclipse mentioned. "They're pretty fascinating." Planting her hooves in the ground and closing her eyes, she sensed everything touching the ground. The sad state of the plant life did nothing to hinder her connection or her targeting of the heroes. A single wave of her horn did something.

The nearby forest trees extended their branches from the ponies' left. None of them missed this, so they promptly moved away with a collective scream. The surprise they felt knocked them off balance.

"What now?!" Fluttershy yelped.

"Those trees aren't supposed to do that!" Celestia exclaimed in confusion. To the ponies' right, roots began to wildly emerge from the ground in large numbers.

Both the roots and the tree branches gathered together to block all the ways they could go, except forward. As fast as they could, they ran, or flew in the case of Rainbow, Spike and the Princesses. The roots and branches gave chase as if intending to crush them. The tunnel they made curved like a tunnel. Luckily, like any tunnel, there was a light at the end.

The eight ponies and the small dragon leapt through a closing hole before they were fully sealed into the gigantic root and branch bind. The path from which they came was blocked off. Their surroundings were no longer the wide Equestrian plains, but the inside of a tree, hollow on the inside and perfectly for setting a nest. It felt a little claustrophobic, but there was enough room for the nine of them, and at least they were in some form of shelter now.

"What is this place?" Applejack wondered.

"I don't know, but it looks like..." Twilight pondered, growing fuzzy with nostalgia.

"Are we trapped?" Fluttershy asked fearfully.

"No, I see an opening just over there." Twilight answered, pointing to a small, but noticeable doorway on the other side of the tree.

"Well everypony, I can spend the night here." said Pinkie with a smile. "I've got the Games Before Bed pack."

Huzzah!" Luna whooped. "I love me a relaxing game on the board. But, we better relax now." She hoped that her words weren't killing the good mood Pinkie was trying to raise, but the party pony just smiled on.

"I've got that game, too. The Atmospheric Sleep Assistant." she stated, then giggled. The others had a nice chuckle. It was sorely needed, being the first pleasant thing they had all day since the villains' attack began.

"Need... rest." the black pegasus stallion moaned.

Moments later, everyone except for Luna fell asleep, a green fire started up in the middle of the tree by Spike for warmth. The younger Royal Sister agreed to stay up and keep watch, a duty that, with the danger at hand, took too much time for her to patrol around anyone's dreams. The roots and branches blockade never disappeared, and as the fire dimmed ever so slowly, she looked deeply into it, thinking hard about an earlier moment. She thought of the occurrence where Celestia turned into a screaming, fiery-haired version of herself. The sight was disturbingly familiar.

Sister, you've been suppressing her in the back of your mind all this time, haven't you?, Luna questioned in silence. Please, don't lose yourself. She turned her head over to the direction of her sleeping big sister, all calm and making barely audible noises in her relaxed slumber. The idea that she could actually be holding back something so explosive, and that the danger actually provoked her to bring it out, made the Night Princess most uneasy.

A bit more time passed, Luna's vigil continued, her sister and companions rested easy, except for Fluttershy. She seemed to be having a nightmare. Whatever it was could be defined by the one thing she was mumbling during all of her tossing and turning: "Discord" over and over again. Tears were just now beginning to leak out of her closed eyes. Another matter rose up in the form of a rumbling sound. The ground inside the tree began to vibrate, dirt began to rattle all over the place, all enough to wake up the entire group. They only had a moment to stare in puzzlement before something else rocked the whole place.

The Tatzlwurm burst out of the soil and towered over the ponies and their dragon. It roared it's horrible sound, attracting some of it's friends. The exit covered by the roots and branches was torn up and entered by unicorn zombies and some lava lizards. Up above, pegasus zombies slowly flew down, earth pony zombies crawled down the walls, and those spooky water ponies entered through the other exit.

"Everypony!" Twilight called everyone over to here. Celestia and Luna joined her again in the teleportation spell, and before the nasty creatures around them strike, the group disappeared. But when they popped not outside the tree, but into the wall next to the alternate exit. They tumbled and could only grunt in shock.

The water ponies sprayed streams of water to hold the ponies and dragon against a wall, and while they were at it, they raised their fore hooves, one each, extended them like rubber and transformed them into blunt weapons, like maces and hammers. Celestia, fighting against the high-pressure currents, used her telekinesis to grab the water ponies' weaponized hooves and throw them away. Free of the attack, she, Twilight and Luna all telekinetically grabbed the zombie ponies and left the monsters to the others. Fluttershy was the first to step up. Lava lizards tried to spew molten hot liquid at her, but Spike breathed fire to stop the flows. The Tatzlwurm lowered itself to grab the other ponies in it's tongues, when Fluttershy spoke.

"You just stop right there!" she snapped with her wide, commanding Stare. "This is what do not need right now, because we're trying to rest, and there are three ponies right here who are so weak, they can't even defend themselves! Do you have no shame, whatsoever?! I don't care if you're bound to Grogar's will, you have no reason to hurt creatures in need! Nothing! Go and tell that to all your brothers and sisters, and remember this!"

The Tatzlwurm and it's fellow monsters heard the shy pegasus loud and clear. They vacantly stared at the tree walls in contemplation, like the speech they heard struck a bit of a chord in all of them.

"Help... help." the green earth pony mare whimpered in tears.

Celestia, Luna and Twilight stared at the monsters, released the zombie ponies, and then didn't let the beastly beings leave their sight as they walked out of the small alternate exit with the three pony victims. Everyone else followed. All was quiet for just a moment. When they got outside, however, the silence was broken when they stared in the face of the Bugbear. Quick to act, Rainbow swiftly circled around the big creature, and the princesses passed the pony victims over before flying up to charge up another combined energy beam, opening a window of escape for the rest. Needles hit them in the back before they fired, splitting them apart, and pegasus zombies flocked them. Same with Rainbow.

Applejack, Pinkie, Rarity, Fluttershy, Spike and the pony victims found them between the flying bear and bug and a pack of it's friends. The fashionista unicorn did the best she could to project a protective barrier, for all the good it was going to do them. Fluttershy doubted she could do a Stare talk twice in the span of a minute in this high-stress pickle.

The three princesses tried to use their magic to remove the pegasus zombies restricting them, but then Fly-ders came in to bite at their horns, making everything even more complicated. This was getting ridiculous. They couldn't take it anymore. They wanted an end to these assaults. One especially had enough. She thought back to all the times that she was helpless, to all the moments she should've been a big help, but failed miserably at accomplishing anything. The aggravation of uselessness, the dignity... of potential held back.

Her mane burst into flames again. Her eyes turned into voids of darkness. Again. She shined like the celestial body she controlled everyday. Celestia broke free of her captors, screaming, and dived down to the ground with the force of a meteor. BOOM! The collision caused the plains to ripple, and the railway to lift off the ground. Fire spread everywhere and hit every zombie and monster within a half-mile radius. The Bugbear and the creatures accompanying it were singed and blown away, the tree was ignited in a blazing pillar, both the flying and grounded heroes tried their best to not to get sent off, but Twilight and Luna yelped from a cluster of embers hitting their coats and fell back to the grass. Far away, Tirek, Cozy and Eclipse felt the shock wave too, and the heat it generated. Much dust was kicked up by the end.

When everything settled (besides the cold wind), Twilight, Luna and Rainbow and the others got a closer look at Celestia. Before too long, she came into view behind all the dust clouds. Not only did she have a mane and tail made of fire, but her royal crown, peytral and shoes became sharper and pointier, armour materialized around her head and wings, and with her mouth open, they could see that her teeth had sharpened into fangs. She was laughing maniacally, like she had committed a most dastardly act. She looked in the others' direction with her black eyes, now filled by golden irises with reptilian pupils.

Twilight recognized this form that her former teacher was taking. It was the same fiery-maned transformation Celestia made in that vision of her fears Sombra induced her with. She didn't think that would become a reality, and now, to see it before her eyes, to see the pony she saw as a second mother change into this embodiment of her own fury, and feeling the burns she received from her attack, was petrifying.

"D-D-Daybreaker!" Luna stammered. She thought that this had to have been a bad dream. But no; this terrible, dark counterpart of her sister indeed walked the waking realm. The haunting, burning alicorn approached the two other princesses, chuckling like a fiend.

"So, that's like... Nightmare Moon, but for the day?" Pinkie asked anxiously.

"Please, Celestia. Don't do this to us." Twilight begged, shedding a tear. Daybreaker looked down, smiling wickedly. Nobody could read what awful thing she had in mind now. She stood there for a couple of seconds, doing nothing. Then her smile faded, leaving a look of realization, then regret. The mane and tail fire died down, and in the next few seconds, she was beginning to look like the Sun Princess they knew and loved again.

"Twilight. Luna. I hurt you." Celestia said remorsefully. She looked down at one of her fore hooves and then let it make soft contact with her face. "I'm so sorry. I could've... I could've..."

"It's okay, Celestia." Twilight assured her. "You can control it, I know you can."

"No, I don't think I can." Celestia said back. "I swore she wouldn't exist again, but all this time, she's been laying dormant inside my thoughts, growing more and more from every failure i've suffered."

"Failure? Come on now, you've been helpful to us thus far." Applejack stated. "Helped us out of some tight binds."

"And almost risked your safety. I can't be trusted to keep this power in check, and if there's one thing I hate, it's being a burden to my subjects!" Celestia argued.

"You're never a burden." Twilight asserted. "You gave so much to us."

"Really? Because I remember i've made my fair share of mistakes." said Celestia. "The idea that I may be potentially dangerous in these dark times, when you have so much on your shoulders already, is a recipe for the biggest mistake I could make: becoming a threat to Equestria and all the lands beyond it, like them."

"But you know that you're not, and never will be." Luna stressed. "You defeated Daybreaker in a dream, you can win the battle in the real world. And I think you already know who will back you up."

"I get what you mean, Luna. I can't let her win." Celestia noted. "It's just that this is reality, and if I cause permanent damage to somepony I love, they won't be waking up to find themselves unharmed. I haven't been strong enough for our country as a protector, and what's more... i'm not as smart as you, Luna."

"Sister." Luna murmured in surprise.

"I'm not as smart as any of you." Celestia added, to which Spike and the other ponies widened their eyes. "And I know that you've had to have commented on my ineffectual endeavors." Rainbow sweated, blushed and rubbed the back of her head at that remark.

"I haven't been the best at protecting Equestria, either." Luna pointed out, frowning at Celestia's insistence that she was at fault alone.

"But I endangered Equestria when I thought I was saving it!" Celestia stubbornly, and suddenly, yelled. "I mentioned I sent Discord after Tirek, when he first got out of Tartarus, to protect Twilight. To end it quickly, so she'd never have to face him. I made the error of trusting Discord at a point where he hadn't learned of real friendship yet. And yes, it all worked out in the end, thanks to the Tree of Harmony's gift, but I could never shake the regret. I haven't learned anything about preparing for the worst. All of you, on the other hand, have."

"What are you saying?" Twilight queried.

"Let's be honest, I haven't been the best planner, or the best leader, or the best sister." Celestia proclaimed. "I put too much stock on blind faith, I never took initiative in my royal responsibility, and after Luna returned, i've more often than not taken what she's had to offer for granted because of misplaced pride."

"I know a thing or two about having misplaced pride." Twilight commented.

"A flaw you overcame, even with the weight of an impending ascension." Celestia said with a smile. "I'm proud of you for that. That's why you must lead Equestria now, my faithful friend, and why all of you must press on, no matter what comes your way. You have much to see in the years ahead." She then points to her little sister's chest, where the heart should be. "That includes you, Luna. After all, you had a thousand of them taken away from you."

"But I deserved it!" Luna barked.

"You deserved to be healed, not sealed away!" Celestia snapped. "I let fear control my actions then, but today, I stare fear in the face!"

"So, we agree that you can face Daybreaker and together we'll help you gain the strength to overcome your weakness?" Spike asked with a confident smile.

"No. I'm leaving to face Grogar." Celestia corrected. Spike and the pony group collectively gasped in horror.

"Uh, hello? Equestria to Celestia? Discord fell to him! What could you possibly do to that guy, make him trip?!" Rainbow questioned snarkily in bewilderment. He noticed Fluttershy sob, and promptly said "Sorry."

"Sister, Rainbow Dash is right!" said Luna. "All you'd be doing is throwing yourself away!"

"If this is where my story ends, i'll end it with some real pride, as the pony i'm expected to be." Celestia assessed. "I may not be able to damage him, but I can leave an impression that will extend to everycreature across this world. Equestria's reunion, it's rebuilding, shall start with a symbol of hope; hope for the light."

"Don't do this to me, sister! Please!" Luna protested emphatically.

"Who's to say it'll work? You can't go." said Twilight sorrowfully.

"I know it won't be in vain, Twilight, because I know you'll make sure of that." Celestia explained. "You, your friends, and all those you've passed the teachings of friendship's beauty onto. I had high hopes from the very beginning, but nothing could've prepared me for how happy I am right now about how much you've grown. Equestria is definitely in the right hooves." Tears began dripping from Celestia's radiant eyes as she wrapped her hoof around the younger alicorn. "One more thing I want you to know: in all the years i've lived... the moons I spent watching you, from when I sent you to Ponyville, to when you became the Princess of Friendship, and everything up to now? Those were the best moons of my life."

Twilight sniffed, wiped her face and extended her hooves for an embrace. She didn't like having to go on without a pony as strong as her former mentor, but she accepted that her mind was set. Tearfully, she said "I love you, Celestia."

Celestia took her other hoof and gave her former student a full hug, like the parental figure she was. "I love you too, Twilight Sparkle. You are ready." After several seconds of a loving hold, Celestia released Twilight and started flying up to depart. But Luna stopped her, grabbing her by the shoulders.

"Don't you dare!" Luna exclaimed in desperation. "We're supposed to be together until the end, so you're not leaving to face that sorcerer without me, you hear!?"

"They need you, Luna." Celestia remarked, pointing to Twilight's group with a smile.

"I need you!" Luna shouted. "I don't want to lose you again!"

"Likewise." Celestia acknowledged. "That is why I need to do this." Closing her eyes and igniting her horn, she used her magic to blast Luna with a blindingly bright blast of light, akin to the sun itself. Luna grunted in pain, closed and covered her eyes and fell back to the ground, caught in the nick of time by Twilight's telekinetic hold, who reacted fast enough after shielding herself from the light.

"This is my final order as the princess of Equestria! Go now, and keep my sister safe!" Celestia commanded from up in the air, her presence more majestic than usual from far down below. "Go, everypony!" Then at last, she flew away in the direction opposite of where Twilight's group was about to head in.

Twilight and the others continued along the railway, carrying not only broken pony victims, but also Luna, who was recovering from the blinding flash. At this moment, of all moments, the already frigid weather went from bad to worse. It began to snow. Snowflakes were falling, and with the long road ahead, Spike couldn't blow his warm bursts of flame forever.

Back at the dark new city, Grogar, sitting quietly on his throne still, watched Celestia fly away from her friends through Arimaspi's Eye. This development, born from the Sun Princess' fear for those she loved, made him crack a smile. A knowing kind of smile.

"That's right, Celestia. You don't need to curb your inner beast anymore." the ram sorcerer said. He viewed her progress more, ever so diligently. Celestia's flight sped up, like she was a rocket. The crystal ball panned away from her and angled itself to show where she was headed. Her trajectory was calculated to be just past the city.

His horns, collar and Bewitching Bell glowed and rang, getting ready to do something. Grogar gave a satisfied whisper of "Wise choice, my successor."

Celestia, flying as fast as she could through the snowy storm, lit up her Daybreaker flames slightly to keep herself warm. She took a moment to look at what her home of Canterlot had been malformed into. This new twisted capital felt like a shot to the heart. Everything was lost, and now it's remains were defiled by these abominable structures. There was no time to feel sorrow, though. She had to reach her destination, which was the plains past the city. Along the way, the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Sunburst on the pegasus zombies caught sight of her.

Before too long, the older Royal Sister landed in a wide open field, anticipating the arrival of the wizard she would defy.

"Grogar, i'm here!" she yelled in the royal Canterlot voice. "Come out and face me!" It didn't take too long. A portal opened several meters away from her, and as if immediately responding to a phone call, Grogar walked out and presented himself, smiling like he was about to greet an old friend.

The two stared each other down.

"I'm glad you realize as well as I do, you wouldn't want all this power and have nobody to give you a proper exercise." Celestia claimed. "An emperor's got to have his honor."

"You think you're creating a diversion from the plan. But the truth is - you're aiding it." Grogar affirmed. Celestia raised her eyebrows and made a perplexed grunt, followed by her caprine enemy adding "We both want to send a message. Let's see which will get lost in the mail."

"At least out here, I can cut loose all I want. Only you will take the brunt of my real power." Celestia growled, beginning to heat up with intense, thermal energy. Once again, she lit aflame and wore her spiky wardrobe. Daybreaker eyed the ram sorcerer ferociously, and with the royal Canterlot voice, she roared "This will be a test of your judgment! COME ON!"

Pointing her horn up, the alicorn fired a magical flare high into the sky. When it came close to touching the clouds, it exploded into the giant, flaming sun shape of her cutie mark. It was big enough that it could be caught by everyone in Equestria. Twilight and her friends saw it, the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Sunburst had a close look at it, Trixie and the School of Friendship students saw it, and Tirek and his villainous pony partners could feel the scary power behind it.

Back where it was launched, however, it served another purpose: raining balls of fire on Grogar. With a wave of his head, he blocked all of them and dashed forward at Daybreaker with a headbutt. She blocked the incoming assault with a magical shield, but still got pushed back considerably. Collecting herself in no time at all, she surrounded herself in rings of fire, then threw them at the ram sorcerer. They grabbed him by every body part, intending to squeeze his body into submission and burn his collar. He easily blasted them away with a Malice shock wave, no part of him harmed in any significant away. Before he realized, Daybreaker flew up and had an launched an energy ball at him. It exploded upon contact.

The corrupted Sun Princess hovered and laughed in malefic delight. Suddenly, through the dust and smoke, a rock came flying at her, and it hit her in the peytral. The shock of the hit shook her up a bit, but she managed to catch her opponent standing on a cliff, levitating a lot of rocks. He threw them all and used his telekinesis to move them all around. Daybreaker was overwhelmed, but put all of her strength into blasting every last one with her flames. Grogar, having her distracted, disappeared through a portal. He popped up behind the alicorn and prepared another spell. Glowing blue, he zapped Daybreaker with a powerful surge of magic electricity. Volts and sparks coursed through her body, the surprise overpowering.

Daybreaker fell to the ground, now feeling the power of Malice in her veins. Somehow, she could still hold herself up with her wings. Grogar levitated before her, looking expectantly. Daybreaker, without warning, cast that blinding flash spell from before on him. He seemed to squint at this. To follow up, she charged directly at him, twirling around and forming a flying drill of fire. It didn't work, for it turned out the ram sorcerer was only inconvenienced by the bright light in the most minor of ways. He stopped Daybreaker in her tracks, holding her by the horn with his hoof. He wasn't using his magic here, just casually holding the demonic pony off with raw strength alone. But then he was; to open a portal, then telekinetically push her through forcefully.

Daybreaker came out of a portal in the sky, fell fast towards the ground and smashed into it hard enough to kick up a big dust cloud and make a small crater. Finally, her form faded, and she was once again back to being Celestia. The Malice Magic took effect in earnest, causing her to cough, breathe in heavily and grunt loudly. Grogar magically floated over to her position and gazed upon his defeated adversary.

"The saddest part is that this power paled in the comparison to when you were connected to the original Elements of Harmony." Grogar mentioned about Daybreaker.

"Th-the Elem... m-ments were m-m-mere... sssymbols..." said Celestia, breathing in and out, then coughing. "W-we have g-g-grown... sssome... th-thing much stronger. A-all of uh.... uh-us." Her vision was growing blurry, her hearing was getting fuzzy, she couldn't move her muscles and she was out of breath, but despite her uneviable condition, she took her defeat with a smile. A knowing kind of smile.

"I'll spread the word of your sacrifice, princess." Grogar declared. "Call it a gut feeling, but you may not be seen in the same light ever again." He pointed his Bell at the beaten up alicorn, it rang, and it's assimilating beam of Malice Magic was the last thing Celestia, the leader of Equestria, saw before everything went black. This may have been her final defeat.

Author's Note:

With this, I have the next word count benchmark for this story. This chapter ended up being longer than I planned, but gosh dang did I have fun writing it.

Back into "StacheHand talks about what he didn't like about the original episode" Mode: I found it extremely underwhelming how the divide between the ponies, the catalyst of the snowstorm, was ultimately just the ponies hiding and saying mean things about each other based on assumptions. The Hearth's Warming story of the pre-Equestria days implied that there was more to the blizzards they attracted than that. Things like actual fighting, direct verbal assaults, real hatred brought forth by unreasonable demands, and distrust from clashing attitudes common among the ponies of each clan. It's a continuity problem that I would go as far to say that A New Generation fixed. But back on topic, I wanted to portray the true nature of the clans' destructive conflict by making it not only hopelessly consumed by hatred and fear, but also have them face each other about the assumptions to accentuate how far they'll fall into paranoia, especially with the addition of their own people vanishing. Also violence, because tempers.

Now, introducing the throne room of Grogar's castle. Basically, the whole meeting table with the thrones crafted for him and the Horses of the Apocalypse is a parallel to the Mane 6's chairs and the Friendship Map in Twilight's castle, and an upgrade to the skull cavern area where the villains first gathered. It makes the whole alliance come full circle in a way.

About Sweetie Belle pulling off that controlling spell that we saw Starlight pull off in Season 6, I just imagined that if a spell has an incantation that you can produce through speech, then like in Harry Potter (or anything where they say words for spellcasting a la "abracadabra"), it should make sense in the My Little Pony world, and prove simple enough for even an amateur, even if it's not fully effective. Also, I really wanted to give Sunburst a purpose in that sequence. Starlight might've told him about the disastrous brainwashing incident, at least in passing; girl loves her magical experimentation. Since I mentioned Harry Potter, too, I suppose you can call the Cutie Mark Crusaders' zombie pegasus riding a pop cultural nod to Harry and friends riding the Thestrals.

I really looked forward to writing the parts regarding Daybreaker, Celestia's good-bye to the group and her hopeless battle against Grogar. While it ultimately serves to remove her as a threat to the Horses of the Apocalypse (i.e. Chrysalis, Tirek, Cozy and Eclipse), and dips into the Superpowered Evil Side cliché, I pictured the idea that Celestia, even after dispelling her evil persona in the dream world, never got away from her. Daybreaker lived on in her psyche as a very real possibility, a demon of her creation that is only held back because our beloved Sun Princess dedicates her life and her reign of Equestria to staying in control of herself, making sure that she doesn't go off the deep end over anything, showing restraint even to her enemies. But of course, an embodiment of anger and absolute power can only grow when the host is so ineffectual, a running joke is made around it. Additionally, I wanted to follow up how Twilight showed a fear of Daybreaker's (and Nightmare Moon's) reawakening in that fear spell trance, but I didn't want to make Daybreaker another villain for the heroes to contend with.

Celestia's words and her farewell are what I consider a special moment for the fact that it's where she acknowledges, after so many years, that she has indeed never really helped when she should've, and there really wasn't any excuse for her cartoonish incompetence or inaction. Also, she subscribes to the whole "older, thus more clever, but less valuable" logic, as emphasized by her lamenting the 1,000 years of life she robbed Luna of before the beginning of the show.

The battle between Daybreaker and Grogar was always meant to be one-sided in favour of the big bad ram boss, though before I got down to typing it here, I had multiple visions of how it would go down. Visions with more anime explosions and fast flying, more attacks being used at once, more damage, more blows too intense for a children's cartoon. So, here I was, officially creating the sequence, and I went with a more simple approach that got straight to the point of what a mismatch this was, yet showed a little creativity in magical combat. By the way, no, I didn't have a certain hedgehog and echidna in mind when writing the "stopping Daybreaker with raw strength alone" part. Rather, I was thinking about the part in Dragon Ball where the villainous Freeza stops a desperate, close-ranged punch from Son Gokū. SPOILERS: Don't worry, guys. Celestia won't die.

Last thing: if you had any doubts from last chapter or early in this chapter about how Discord's utter defeat affected Fluttershy, that one moment of rest for the heroic cast may hint you in on the long-term effects it's having on the poor dear.