• Published 16th Jun 2021
  • 927 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 3 (7): All Downhill

Deep within the frozen abyss, where the Crystal Empire once stood so proudly, there was nothing. Not a single entity stirring. Nothing could live down here but the banished, dormant spirit of something ancient, and dangerous. The beautiful structures of many sizes rested here now, beneath the surface. Along with... one, small thing that went silent a long time ago.

A tiny whimpering sound was heard in void, from where the dark was ever-so-slightly illuminated by a spark. The spark turned into a light trying to stay on through noticeable struggle. A few seconds of flickering passed until it made a shape. One of a heart.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders and Sunburst were in for a rough landing when the Fiducia Compelus spell wore off at last. The zombie pegasi returned to their unruly, violent selves and dove down to the path leading towards Grogar's city. With the ground getting near, they bucked their riders off and sent them rolling, and screaming, towards the side of the mountain, and worse, near the river of lava.

"Sweet tarnation!" Apple Bloom shrieked at the molten substance. She looked up and gazed fearfully at the approaching zombie pegasi, hopelessly grounded with her friends. They stood up on their hind hooves before their prey, and fired their spiky pinions at the four ponies.

"No!" Sweetie Belle squeaked, igniting her horn. Her head was feeling better, so she was able to pull off a telekinesis spell to stop the pinions, but it was strenuous to hold them all. Sunburst, now recovering to witness this instinctive action, smiling at her effort, used his own telekinesis to push them back at their senders. The impact of the needles made these reanimated equines scream and fall on their backs.

"Hoo boy, Starlight makes it look all so easy." said Sunburst, rubbing his horn after it's glow went out. "Are you girls alright?"

"It's cool. We've crashed harder than this." Scootaloo confirmed with a blasé inflection. She and the other three turned to the ominous burg sitting on the other side of where the drawbridge would lower. Being this close to it and seeing how big it really was, even compared to what used to be there, was enough to put freezing chills down their spines.

"I don't know what this place is, but it ain't Canterlot." Apple Bloom whispered.

"So, Sunburst? Your friend's in there?" Sweetie Belle asked the stallion, taking some breaths.

"Somewhere." he responded, beside himself with dread. Only amplifying those feelings was the gap full of lava before them, and no way to cross it.

"Well, whatever we have to do to get inside..." Sweetie Belle started before dropping down and putting her fore hooves together. "Please don't make me do that spell again!" The ground rumbled shortly after.

In the opposite direction of Grogar's city, stomping forward from the distance, were Ursa Majors. The Roc flew above them, the Chimera led the pack of other monsters and zombified ponies on the ground. The entire squadron that Cozy led into Canterlot was in one piece, thanks to their chaotic brother. They hadn't noticed the bearded stallion and three fillies yet, but they all knew they would soon. Moving off the path, closer to the mountainside, Sunburst hid the girls under his cape, and tried his best to fit himself under it as well.

They watched as tension overtook their senses. The beasts and the zombies approached the entrance to their master's gigantic new abode, waiting for permission to proceed. None of them seemed to notice the presence of any unwanted guests. However, one type of hideous creature picked up their scent: the Timberwolves. Steps of wooden feet came closer and closer to their position. Their foul breath was affecting their noses more and more strongly as they approached. The growl of the canine golems came with audible sounds of slobber. They were only a few feet away from the cape now, leaving no room to escape.

"Children!" Grogar called out from high above the city gate. The Timberwolves' attention was drawn to his voice, away from the ponies' cape. Their instincts compelled them to go back to the other monsters in respect to him. He spoke once more, saying "For generations, the ponies have confined you to Tartarus and the depths of the Everfree Forest. Starting today, you are united in your liberation and power to choose. Free to take what you want, and leave the rest to the strugglers. Most importantly, though it's a work in progress, my city is built for solicitude. When all creatures of Malice, young and old, and the stronger generation yet to come seek sanctuary, an impregnable haven, you will find it here. The capital of our realm."

All of the monsters and zombies looking up at the ram sorcerer cheered and roared happily for their emperor. It was like the most raucous and terrifiyng sound of applause in history. Out from their hiding spot, the CMC took a peak at where the booming voice was coming from.

"Up there. That goat." said Scootaloo quietly to her friends, pointing at Grogar and just making out what he looked like. "That's Grogar?"

"Huh. I know he's pretty far away, but he sure doesn't look like much." Apple Bloom opined, finding this legendary, tyrannical figure unimpressive on the surface, especially next to the titans he was addressing.

Grogar, igniting his horns and collar, flicked a pastern and not only quickly lowered the drawbridge for the walking monsters and zombies to cross, but also temporarily formed a force field over the lava river. His army of subjects marched forward, the flying ones going over him. He watched all of them proudly and made a vehement announcement.

"Welcome, brethren, to Tambelon!"

"Tambe-what?" said Apple Bloom in confusion. She and the other two CMC gave expectant looks at Sunburst, which got them a shrug in return.

"Girls, everything about Grogar's unknown." he affirmed. "Everypony thought he was just a character in folklore."

"Applejack and I thought the same about Rockhoof." said Apple Bloom.

"And Mistmane." said Sweetie Belle.

"Don't forget Flash Magnus." said Scootaloo.

"I don't expect you to know about everything concerning magic, I just think if there's a legend, there's a lesson, Sunburst." Sweetie Belle explained. Then her eyes widened over her choice of words. "Oh yeah, we've been forgetting. Princess Celestia!"

"Ah, right." Sunburst wondered out loud. "Why did she leave Twilight's group?"

"I don't know, but I reckon she had some reason to come here and light that symbol in the sky." said Apple Bloom.

"She hasn't came back from that valley yet, though." Sweetie Belle noted. "Oh no, you don't think..?"

"You got me. Celestia works in many ways." Sunburst remarked. Suddenly, the dirt next to the small group rippled, and then exploded as another pony emerged, looking ragged. They jumped at the sight, but instantly recognized the face in the hole, blue with a pink whipped cream mane.

"Mrs. Cake!" the CMC said all at once, hurrying to pull the mare out.

"Oh, girls!" she exclaimed. "Good heavens, whatever are you three doing out here?"

"We could ask the same of you, ma'am." Sunburst replied. "Derailed train?"

"No thanks to your unicorn buddies!" Mrs. Cake suddenly snapped at the bearded stallion. "I expected such magic powerhouses to get those fiends under control!"

"Hey!" Sweetie Belle yelled indignantly. "That's not my job!"

"Not you, Sweetie Belle. You're good." Mrs. Cake assured with the warmest tone she could muster. The insincerity wasn't lost on the unicorn filly, nor her friends. Right behind the mare, Mr. Cake emerged along with some other earth ponies.

"Dear, is the coast clear?" the stallion baker asked.

"All except for this horned one." Mrs. Cake answered. "Don't worry, he's with the Cutie Mark Crusaders, i'm watching him."

"Mrs. Cake, what's with that attitude?" Apple Bloom queried. "Why are you speaking so ill of ponies outside our clan?"

"Well, sweetheart, I took the signs for granted when they turned their noses up at their festival duties, but the writing's on the wall." the mare baker clarified. "How convenient that we lose precious harvest and ponies right after we recovered from that whole mess."

"Where did you get those ideas from?" Apple Bloom pressed further.

"A nice earth pony approached me and told me everything." said Mrs. Cake.

"Did you know them? Did you catch their name? Had you even seen them before?" Apple Bloom questioned with a raised eyebrow.

"Well, no... I..." Mrs. Cake stammered.

"Aha! Clearly, an unreliable source." Apple Bloom pointed out. "Mrs. Cake, believe us when we say that there are some greater, terrible forces at work, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders are here to impugn."

"What kind of greater, terrible forces?" Mr. Cake inquired.

"There's this goat guy, leading all of those monsters. He built that." Sweetie Belle quickly explained, pointing towards Tambelon. The earth pony crowd turned their heads towards it.

"Yowza-wowza! What happ-?!" Mrs. Cake shrieked. Scootaloo jumped up to force her mouth shut, cutting off the sentence.

"Atut-tut-tut-tut! Quiet, Grogar might hear you!" Scootaloo urged without raising her voice. Mrs. Cake looked at her like she said something nonsensical, so she specified "Grogar: the big, bad goat guy, he's in there."

"And Headmare Starlight, and Discord, held prisoner." Sweetie Belle added. "We could use a bit of help getting in."

Really?! But why?" Mrs. Cake gasped, trying not to sound too loud.

"Because... well, you might of missed it, but Princess Celestia gave herself to Grogar to put up a sign of hope, regardless of the danger." Sunburst stated. "We have friends, and friends of friends who need us, including Starlight, my best friend."

"Princess Celestia did what?" Mrs. Cake muttered in disbelief.

"She faced Grogar and put her mark up in the sky. We must see to it she did it for a reason." Sunburst explained more simply.

"I understand you unicorns need to stick together, but I don't want you influencing these fillies." said Mrs. Cake.

"I walked away from her and lost our friendship long ago, but never again!" Sunburst blew up. The mare baker stepped back, intimidated by this outburst.

"O-kay, okay, but it's not like we can do much." Mrs. Cake affirmed. "Not to help you get over this." She pointed to the city gate, the drawbridge now being closed.

"Then we either need another pegasus lift, or unicorn power." Sweetie Belle declared.

"Oh, heavens." Mrs. Cake anxiously moaned.

"Stay calm, Cup." Mr. Cake said softly to his wife. "Stay calm."

"Did somepony call for unicorns?" Hollered a mare's voice in another direction. Everyone turned to find a bunch of unicorns walking towards them proudly.

"No!" a random earth pony stallion called out. They and the others members of their group backed away tensely.

"Hey there." said a certain unicorn mare, the one named Moon Dancer, smiling to Sweetie Belle and Sunburst. "You're new."

"Friends of Twilight." the filly and bearded stallion said at almost the same time, overlapping each other.

"Twilight's friends, eh?" the unicorn responded after a pleased gasp. "Well, then you're a friend of mine. She and I used to study together."

"Oh, a fellow studious type." Sunburst gleefully commented. "The name's Sunburst."

"My name's Moon Dancer. Pleased to meet you." Moon Dancer introduced herself formally.

"Hi, i'm Minuette!" yelled a blue unicorn mare next to Moon Dancer, jumping out joyfully.

"Twinkleshine." a pale unicorn mare next to Minuette chirped and waved.

"Lemon Hearts." a yellow unicorn mare said casually.

"Apple Bloom, watch out!" Mrs. Cake shouted unprompted.

"No, Mrs. Cake. We're going for a ride. Again." said Apple Bloom, shaking her head back and forth in the mare baker's direction.

"One lift over the wall, please." Sweetie Belle requested.

"You sure you want to go in there, whatever it is?" Moon Dancer asked out of concern.

"You bet! Don't worry, we'll stay close to Sunburst." Scootaloo assured. Sunburst chuckled a bit nervously.

"So gutsy, I love 'em." Minuette cooed.

"Mister and Missus Cake!" an earth pony Royal Guardsstallion called, approaching the Cake couple with their baby colt and filly, Pound Cake and Pumpkin Cake, on his back. The twin foals were crying, but looked completely unharmed. "As you asked."

"Oh! My darlings! Thank you, good sir!" Mrs. Cake gratefully gasped, grabbing Pumpkin.

"It's okay, mommy and daddy are here." Mr. Cake whispered, grabbing Pound.

Pound and Pumpkin calmed down considerably when they were in the grasp of their parents, and then wrapped tightly around blankets they had been holding on to. Still, the air was getting colder and colder, and more and more snowflakes were falling.

"Find somewhere safe, everypony!" Apple Bloom instructed. "We'll take care of things here!" They all did as they were told, except for Sunburst and those in Moon Dancer's group, who were igniting their horns.

Inside Tambelon Castle, Grogar had retreated to another room. A chamber where his personal bed was placed. He trotted over to the mattress, soft pillow and snug sheets laid out for an ideal sleep. He wasn't tired, but he eyed it with absolute interest, like it was just another one of his alchemy items to use.

"If I time it just right, i'll be able to point you in the right direction, Luna." Grogar mused. "Just like old times." With that nostalgic comment, he looked out his bedroom window, which showed a great view of the city. No wind was heard blowing, and no snow was falling near it. It's as if the storm was selective about where it hit.

Without another word, the ram sorcerer climbed onto the mattress, peacefully laid down on the pillow, wrapped himself up in the sheets and shut his eyes, taking a nice, relaxing rest. It's been too long since my dream children came out to play, he thought as his mind drifted off into the subconscious plane.

Outside, the warm, snowless streets of Tambelon were full of monstrous and zombified life, happily parading around, eating and drinking, or taking a rest as their master happened to be doing. Most places were coated in the black smog of crackling Malice energy. Only one thing looked out of place. Perching on the castle's roof, not seen by any of the demonic fiends, was a phoenix. It had tears to shed in the midst of this once-elegant city's downfall.

Cold. So cold. Crazy cold. That was all Twilight and her team had on the mind as they exhausted their energy to walk the seemingly neverending railway. Spike had burned himself out on warming flame breaths some time ago, so he took a ride on Rarity's back, just as the pony victims rested upon the rest of the group.

"This is... no weather... for a dragon." Spike groaned between deep breaths.

"Can't you heat us up, Twilight?" Pinkie asked, the frigid air taking the spring out of her step.

"Sorry, Pinkie. My shield spells aren't meant to block harsh temperatures." Twilight answered regretfully.

"I know: we'll just have to get really angry. That'll stoke a nice flame." Pinkie suggested. Everyone, besides the still recovering Luna, just stared at her silently as they kept moving. She looked around, frowned and rolled her eyes. "Well, I think it'd work."

"Hey, hold on. Is that..?" Applejack cut in, noticing something close enough to be significantly visible in the distance. "Shelter! We've got shelter, girls!"

"Oh, that's great, Applejack." Rainbow uttered in a chilly breath, sticking to the ground. "But it's still minutes away by hoof, if we don't freeze before then."

"Twilight, darling, if there's any spell you could possibly use to help our situation, anything at all, tell me just this once you know a good one!" Rarity desperately cried.

"I'm trying, Rarity!" Twilight honestly stated. "I can't keep up mass teleportation. There's got to be a substitute. We're working our legs to the bone."

"If only we had a carriage. Your magic could easily accelerate that and save us the exercise." Applejack thought out loud.

"Yeah, accelerate." Twilight repeated. Then she gasped with a realization. "Accelerate. Acceler- Accelero! That's it! The super-speed spell! That can carry us all forward, and use magic efficiently!"

"Sounds like my kind of spell." Rainbow commented, highly interested.

"Thank you, Starlight!" Twilight said to herself.

"I knew you'd come up with something." said Rarity, relieved.

"Everypony, we're blasting off! Hang on and stay in the slipstream!" Twilight announced.

"Okie dokie lokie!" Pinkie yipped.

The moment Twilight lit up her horn, her friends huddled up next to her, trying to get their hooves on her body. With a sonic boom, Accelero activated, sending them all dashing rapidly in a magenta blur. Before too long, they reached the buildings in the distance, but the end of the spell resulted in them all tumbling through the town. They were down on their faces in the middle of the deserted Dodge City.

The entire group took a moment to recover and recollect themselves. They picked up the pony victims again, who were still moaning and weeping about how hurt they were, and how hopeless they felt. Luna, however, was completely back on her hooves, her vision fully restored. She gritted her teeth and spread her wings.

"Celestia~!" the moon princess growled, fuming out of both frustration and worry. "You're going to pay for that!" She lifted herself off the ground, but was immediately pulled on and halted by Fluttershy.

"Please, Luna." the pegasus pleaded. "Don't you go flying off, too."

"We have our orders. Let's honour them." said Twilight calmly. The last words of her former mentor echoed within her thoughts since they pressed on without her, so she felt, as the new leader-to-be, she had a responsibility to keep the other princess in check.

Luna's heat-of-the-moment rage died down quickly, as if her cooling off was hastened by the chilly air. She nodded her head to Twilight in acknowledgement that she was correct. Celestia left for a purpose, so as her sister, she had to do right by her and guard this group of friends with her life. But now was the time to get inside one of Dodge City's buildings, the desired shelter.

When they got inside, away from the brunt of the cold storm, and climbed the stairs to find the comfiest room, it turned out the structure they entered just so happened to already house another couple of ponies. Somebody got here first. Happiest of all happy coincidences, the two were none other than Trixie and Sandbar.

"Trixie!" Twilight exclaimed at this unexpected encounter here.

The magician yelped at the sound of the new voice in the room. Clearly, she had been alone with Sandbar for some time. He was laying to rest on the comfy motel bed; his warm sleep wasn't disturbed by the noise, as was hoped. The tension lowered until Trixie could register the presence of the group.

"Oh, Princess Twilight." she murmured. "It's just you, and the rest." She tried to make herself look less frazzled than she was with a forced laugh.

"Fancy meeting you here, Ms. Back Alley Fireworks." Pinkie joked.

"Well, what can be expected when it's suddenly ice cold out for no reason?" Trixie expressed, ignoring Pinkie's attempt at a nickname.

"I see Sandbar's safe. Where are the other students?" Twilight queried the magician worriedly.

"Well first, Gallus, Yona, Smolder, Ocellus and Silverstream have headed home. That Tree of Harmony told them to." Trixie told in detail. "I've gathered the pony students here. Sandbar, Raspberry Dazzle, Hyper Sonic, Patty Peppermint..."

"Ah, it must've given them a mission." Twilight pondered. "Before it was tainted."

"Yeah, something about uniting all of the clans for a super big alliance." Trixie explained. "Hey, you there." she then whooped, noticing and pointing to Luna. The response from the night princess was a wide-eyed expression. "You're one of the great and powerful rulers of this country, right? I've been meaning to ask you and the big alicorn for your contribution to the assembly."

"Twilight has already sent letters to most of the tribes to send reinforcements." Luna informed the unicorn magician. "For now, we have placed our faith in their numbers and strength. But if we must talk about full harmonization... well, you can count on me at that meeting."

"Where... is Celestia?" Trixie inquired. She received glum looks from the others, especially out of Luna's body language.

"She went to Grogar. Didn't indicate she'd be coming back." said Luna. Not a single word left her mouth without an air of sorrow or fear-born anger.

"Oh." Trixie mumbled. "I'm sorry."

"Look, we can't stay long." Twilight asserted to alleviate the awkwardness. "That band of bad guys is hunting us down, and i've no doubt they're close."

"While we're here..." Spike started in his better rested state. "Do you have any food?"

"Are you kidding? Student Counseling 101: have free empathy rations on standby." Trixie boasted. She pulled out a bag from her hat, like a conjuror revealing a rabbit. One untwisted knot later, the food was revealed: puffy, golden biscuits. Twilight's group did not hesitate to grab them.

"Thanks, but don't you mean emergency rations?" Spike mentioned.

"I know what I said." Trixie proclaimed.

The biscuits turned out to be delicious. It took a minute for each of the ponies, and the one dragon, to finish their share. Pretty filling considering the size. Soon, all that was left in their clutches were tiny crumbs. Their quick snack break done, they resolutely looked at Trixie.

"By the way, who are the new ponies?" Trixie queried, just noticing the unfamiliar people brought along.

"These poor ponies were hurt in a monster attack." Fluttershy replied. "We took them along, because somepony has too. They won't last in this weather."

"Where... are... you..?" one of the victims groaned.

"Well, princess, i'm afraid all the rooms in the city are packed." Trixie informed everyone. "Big school, you know. But still, i'll take those three off your hooves."

"I appreciate the offer, but we plan to take them with us, far away from this terrible storm." said Twilight. Trixie didn't argue, though looked uncertain.

"Just answer me this one last thing: what about Starlight?" Trixie wondered all puppy-eyed. Twilight puzzled for a moment before an answer came out.

"She's... going to be just fine." she declared uncertainly, but also assuredly.

"If you don't mind, Counselor Trixie, we must use Sandbar to escape." said Luna. "We're going to travel by dreams."

"Dream travel? But our bodies don't physically manifest in dreams, only our minds projecting images of our bodies, if I recall correctly." Applejack stated.

"With somepony sleeping nearby, my magic is able to tear open a hole that allows the entry of solid forms." Luna described. "It goes against my usual dream patrol methods, and it's not so easily executed, so I usually never do it."

"Sounds painful." Pinkie noted.

"Even so, that would've come in handy earlier." said Rainbow.

"Not without a subject." Luna retorted. "Though, in fairness, somepony could've stayed for this part." Her thoughts dwelled on her sister's departure, how annoyingly inconvenient it was in hindsight for the fact the forbidden dream travel idea was only being thought of and resorted to now.

"Press on, all of you. The Great and Powerful Counselor Trixie will handle these fillies and colts." Trixie promised.

Without another exchange besides some nods of agreement, Twilight's group huddled together once again. Luna lit up her alicorn horn and wrapped it in a white light. This light created a thread that attached itself to the sleeping Sandbar, the contact created a mental bridge that linked the ponies to the earth pony colt's mind. The night princess concentrated hard to put that extra effort into her spell. The result it yieled was a wide tear in space on the other end of the thread; a portal directly into Sandbar's dream. Luna and the group turned into smoke with a cosmic appearance and got sucked into the dream portal. Finally, they were gone and the tear closed up. Trixie was left awestruck by this powerful feat.

Right outside, an x-ray spell was cast over all the buildings in Dodge City. No signs of life were seen besides the School of Friendship students occupying all the rooms, as Trixie said. Eclipse had been using it as a means to seek out and spy on her pony prey. Simultaneously, she used a spell that allowed her team to hear from a good distance away. Both were deactivated for a briefing.

"So much rich magical knowledge." Eclipse uttered. "Why aren't I, the pony ideal, collecting that?"

"Better question is: where are they going?" Cozy added, rolling her eyes.

"I'm magic, not psychic, Cozy." said Eclipse. "Chrysalis could be anywhere by now with those ponies." She tapped her head in order to get telepathically reach out and make a call, and for a moment, it seemed like she was able to connect. "Emperor Grogar, you there?" No response. "Emperor Grogar, Princess Luna just got away with Twilight and her friends through a dream portal. Do you know where they're headed?" Nothing. "Hello?" She started to sense this was turning out fruitless. "He must be asleep."

"Well, stinks to be him, I guess." Cozy chuckled. As protective as her shadow form was from the cold, a bit of chill began to break through. "And for us... do we have to seek them out in this weather?"

"You can go find a house to cover up in, i've got to get this overwith." Tirek suggested, starting to tromp away.

"And where will you go, genius?" Eclipse questioned, crossing her fore hooves.

"To wherever this "ideal spot" for revenge is. Can't be much colder than here." Tirek replied. "Then again, the colder, the sweeter." The repeating of how cold things were, seeing the falling snow, promptly brought a clear idea to the centaur's head. "Ladies, I have a clue." He motioned his fingers for the pegasus and alicorn to fly up and bent down slightly to whisper in their ears.

"Okay, but we don't know if they'll be there." Cozy argued.

"The boss knows." Tirek fired back.

"Teleportation travel?" Eclipse proposed. The giant centaur flashed her a thumbs up, to which she then said "This trivial errand girl stuff is beneath me." before disappearing with her partners in a large, bright, turquoise burst of energy. After they vanished, a sound was heard amongst the strong whistling of the wind. A ghastly sound, like the cry... of a horse.

"One, two..." Moon Dancer counted up, ready with her friends to launch the Cutie Mark Crusaders up the wall fortifying Tambelon. Finally, she called "Three!"

Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, magical auras of multiple colours enveloping them, flew up the height of the city gate and over the lava river like torpedoes. It was like the sensation of going down a zip-line, but in reverse, of course. Successfully, they made it on top of the wall, landing on their bellies. They took a good look at Tambelon, all crawling with Grogar's monsters, and felt the strong presence of pure evil.

"Hey, the snow isn't falling in here." Apple Bloom pointed out. "How odd."

"Well, that's a relief." Scootaloo remarked before shifting to the matter of their position. "So, how are we going to get down?" It was a long drop to the city grounds. It was so dark, and so far, it was akin to looking at a pitch black, endless hole.

"Oh... didn't think this far ahead." Sweetie Belle said in regret. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo threw weird looks her way. "B-but, I think I have an idea. Scootaloo, jump!"

"What?!" Scootaloo barked in surprised.

"It's simple, you jump, flutter your wings, and i'll lower you down with magic." Sweetie Belle explained.

"You know I can't-" Scootaloo started.

"Yes, you can't fly, but i'll be here supporting you. Trust me." Sweetie Belle interrupted. "Just pretend it's one of our old skydiving escapades, or you're a Wonderbolt, like Rainbow Dash."

"Alright." Scootaloo acknowledged after pause. "Okay, but grab hold now, just to be safe." The unicorn's filly telekinetic aura latched on the pegasus filly immediately, and then she, despite the fright dominating the mind, made the leap down the wall. She fluttered her wings, desperately hoping it'd break the fall. Before too long, though, she reached the bottom safely. Fear turned to relief, and the scream she wanted to let out ceased to build up in her throat. With one look back up, she smiled in gratitude. Her next move was to look around and find a way to open the drawbridge. There it was, the windlass, on top of some stone steps.

Scootaloo took a running start with her wings rapidly fluttering and jumped up to give the windlass handle a martial arts kick. The force was enough to spin it and lower the drawbridge. Sunburst and the other ponies outside came into view. The bearded stallion quickly joined Scootaloo and used his telekinesis to lower Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle down next.

Unfortunately, they were spotted by a couple of cockatrices. Their petrifying glares were locked on the four ponies, their beastly snarls indicated their approach. The fillies and stallion noticed them and shielded their eyes from the reptilian birds' red gazes before being pounced on.

Sunburst, without looking at them, instinctively rubbed the one on top of him on the spot beneath it's beak. This triggered a pacifying reaction from the creature. "Girls, massage their breasts!" he ordered.

"What was that?" Apple Bloom called in her struggling.

"Massage the cockatrices' breasts!" Sunburst repeated. "But keep your eyes closed!"

"O-okay!" all three of the CMC said. These ceased struggling and managed to get their hooves on the cockatrices where they told to put them, just as their had their fangs over the fillies' muzzles. They rubbed in a hurry, like their lives truly depended on it. It worked. The cockatrices enjoyed the sensation.

The horrible snarling replaced with soft, affectionate clucking, the creatures released their grip and allowed the ponies to get up. The four opened their eyes and, for once, felt safe looking at the sets of crimson ones.

"That worked." Sweetie Belle commented honestly. "How did you know they'd back down from that, Sunburst?"

"You learn a thing a two from your school's students, and their helpers." Sunburst affirmed matter-of-factly with a wink, recalling that recent chain of events with Silverstream and the cockatrice known as Edith.

"There there, who's a good cockatrice?" Apple Bloom complimented her cockatrice.

"Okay, you four." Sunburst addressed the four chicken snakes. "We're looking for a unicorn, pinkish-purple, swirly mane and tail, held up here. Do you know where she is?" They all cried out in awareness and moved their heads up and down. "Good. If you can get us there quietly, that'd be great, too." he added in a whisper. The CMC pumped their hooves at their success.

The dream of Sandbar's in which Luna and Twilight's group landed was a rather bleak place. As a matter of fact, it lacked heavily in the imagination department. Mundane as can be.

"Princess Twilight, Princess Luna, what are you doing here?" Sandbar asked in surprise.

"Just passing through." said Luna in response, sounding rushed. She and the others opened up another portal to leave this area.

"Stay safe, Sandbar!" Twilight shouted out before they were all out of Sandbar's sight.

"Okay then, see you later!" the earth pony colt shouted back when it was too late.

On the other side of their exit, the team went into the lobby of the dream realm, the place where all dreams could be seen and entered from.

"Oh yeah! Dream walking at last!" Rainbow cheered, like this had been her life's goal. "So awesome, the possibilities!"

"That's a lot of doors, though." Applejack considered. "Which one do we go to?"

"Ideally, we'd pick one with a bath, if that isn't too much trouble." Rarity recommended.

"Fret not, i've been entering ponies' minds for moons." Luna assured. "I can tell where they are just by memory." The corner of her eye caught something, but it wasn't recognizable. It was a dream portal, for certain, but it was black, orange and yellow with a black rectangle in the centre. She had no words, only a squinted, confused expression to give for this anomaly.

The evil-looking dream portal spawned a swarm of small demons, not too dissimilar to a pack of Parasprites. They flew around the dream realm and made a collective dive onto the ponies and dragon.

"RUN!" Luna commanded loudly. Everyone made a mad dash, never stopping to look back. They could see that the demons were in hot pursuit and blocking off every dream portal they could possibly go through.

"What are those things?!" Spike shrieked at this nightmarish horde.

"No time to find out!" Rarity screamed.

Indeed, the dream demons gave them almost no room to breathe. They all moved at an impeccable, terrifying speed. So much so that if they caught the escaping bunch, they'd certainly turn them into a minced meal. The number of them totally surrounded the heroic steeds to the point that they had nowhere to go. Without thinking, Twilight and Luna guided their friends to this one, solitary portal that wasn't guarded. The younger Royal Sister showed her glow once again to forcefully rip open another spatial tear, their last chance at a getaway.

On the other side, they fell into what looked like a cabin room, mountain-climbing and excavation tools, not to mention tons of furry decor, everywhere. Next to where they crashed, on a bed, an old stallion with a bucket on his head, Rusty Bucket, woke up due to clattering noises.

"What the-?" he spouted as he jolted from his mattress. "Who goes there?! What?! Who-?" His attention was drawn to the ponies and dragon in a pile, just recovering from any injuries they had in the middle of his room. "Where the heck did you ponies come from?" he demanded incredulously.

"Oh, i'm sorry, mister." Twilight apologized to Rusty after rapidly shaking her head. "It's a long story."

"Well, i'll be darned." Rusty gasped, getting out of his bed. "Princess Twilight Sparkle! It's an honour to be in your presence." He bowed before the young alicorn in admiration, for a mountain hermit like him never got the pleasure of seeing Equestrian royalty in his house. It was a lucky chance of a lifetime. "I, Rusty Bucket, am not worthy."

"No need for the kneeling, dear friend." said Luna humbly.

"Princess Luna, too! What can I do for you, your majesty?" Rusty inquired.

"A place to spend the night will do." Luna replied, nothing complicated.

"Excuse me, but where are we, sir?" Fluttershy asked.

"Mount Everhoof, on the northern border of Equestria." Rusty confirmed.

"Mount. Everhoof? Argh, we just went in a circle!" Rainbow complained. "What we needed was even colder weather."

"At least we found somewhere to crash, figuratively and literally speaking, of course. Best to stay here than take chances with those vile flying things." Rarity pointed out. She counted their blessings at the fact the dream demons couldn't follow them, as expected of anyone else present. "Now, my good stallion, if you'd be so kind, i'd like to be directed to your bath."

"Well, miss, since you're one of Princess Twilight's friends, i'd happily prepare you some hot water." Rusty agreed, unable to say "no" to the unicorn fashionista's signature charm.

"Your hospitality is appreciated." Luna commended the stallion. "I wasn't certain we'd get here in one piece. My spell was quite taxing."

"You did great. That's all that matters." said Applejack, hoof on the princess' shoulder. "Now let's grab a bite. I think the carbs from that biscuit already burned off."

"First thing's first, I gotta go!" Pinkie proclaimed, scurrying out of the bedroom door. Everyone knew what she meant to by 'go', and didn't think too much more about it.

"It's on the right, down the hall!" Rusty hollered over.

Over at Yakyakistan, Prince Rutherford had received the message of the threat to Equestria and, having built positive relations with residents in recent moons, especially with Pinkie Pie, gathered the best of his yak subjects, the finest warriors of the entire clan. All lined up, they paid heed to the prince.

"Yak brothers, ponies in time of crisis, need yak strength!" Rutherford spoke. "Ponies strong, but ponies and yaks even stronger! Battle is coming, enemy will be ruthless! Yak must be ruthless in return!" All of the yak warriors cheered. "Liberate ponies, glory for all yaks! March forward to attack!" They all let out battle cries and made their way past the front gate of their kingdom.

The dragons in their territory were gathered by Dragon Lord Ember, another recipient of the urgent message. Each of them were itching for a fight. The assembly listened to what their sceptor-wielding leader had to say.

"This is our moment, dragons! As corny as the ponies can be with all their constant talk about kindness and generosity, those same sentiments have been salubrious for our society!" Ember spoke. "Most of all, our fellow fire-breathing lizard, Spike! I owe him for where I am today, and you should too!" Her dragon subjects applauded. They shouted things like "Yeah, let's kick butt!", and "For our Dragon Lord's friend!" before lifting off the ground to fly off.

The hippogriffs gathered before General Seaspray, the leader of Queen Novo's navy. She left him the duty of rallying their clan up on the surface while she took care of everything with the seaponies under the ocean near Mount Aris. The general cleared his throat.

"My fellow hippogriffs, today, we stand our ground against a great adversary!" Seaspray spoke. "We are in the ponies' debt for our freedom from the Storm King's iron fist! No longer do we cower in seclusion! Now's the time to repay their service, to save them from the horrors of tyranny!" The hippogriffs yelled out in excitement. Never before had they been more ready to take a great enemy as a singular unit.

The changelings got into an organized position in reverence to their king, Thorax. Almost the whole hive was prepared to follow him. Even though he was still relatively new as the big guy of the clan, he earned an audience that viewed him as nothing but a symbol of hope and love. He began.

"I know we have dedicated ourselves to serenity and bonding, so the time has come to reignite our fighting spirits to save what we've built!" Thorax spoke. "Starlight Glimmer, Spike and their pony friends taught us how powerful the Magic of Friendship is! It made us better than we ever were before! They're our friends, too, now let's make sure they don't stand alone!" the changelings whooped in accord. Among them, Thorax's brother, Pharynx, praised with "That's my brother!"

With the sky coloured red and the clouds covering it up, nobody could tell if the sun was setting on Equestria at this time. Regardless, after Twilight and her allies got comfortable in Rusty Bucket's home, ate some good portions of food and got cleaned after such a long trip, being assaulted and chased by fiendish creatures of many types, they were ready to take it as easy as possible. The increasingly freezing storm couldn't get them here, at least.

As a bonus, as far as they knew, those creatures and the villains leading them had no way of tracking them down. For once, they were secure. While most of her friends, and the recovering victims, were getting tucked into spare sleeping spaces, Twilight was using her free time to contemplate over by one of the house's windows.

"Twilight?" Fluttershy, still up, murmured over to the young alicorn. "What are you thinking?"

"Many things." Twilight stated. "A lot has happened. The deadliest sorcerer ever, and the monster horde he gave life, are loose, our worst enemies have come back with insane power, the school's been forced to shut down, the Tree of Harmony's been poisoned to the core, Canterlot, the Pillars and the Crystal Empire have fallen, and everypony's become so lost in their suspicions and fighting, they don't even remember what friendship is. It's been so much to unpack."

"I see." said Fluttershy. "It's not your fault, though. Remember that. There's just nothing creatures are afraid of more than things they don't, and aren't able to understand. I'd know that more than anypony."

"Yes, that is true." Twilight acknowledged. "Say, how come you're not getting ready for bed, Fluttershy?" Her curiosity over this got a gloomy expression out of the kind pegasus.

"I don't rest easy anymore. Ever since he was taken." Fluttershy clarified.

"Discord." Twilight surmised.

"It was a real jerk move, what he did. Absolutely reckless, even for his standards. And for that... I should be more angry at him." Fluttershy explained. "But I wish he had the chance to make up for it. He deserves redemption after the good he's done. If there's any friendship lesson that stuck with him, it's... valuing life."

"Well, that's why Celestia chose you to befriend him way back when. Not me, not Pinkie Pie, you." Twilight noted with a smile. "Whatever happens, he will get that opportunity. All we need is a plan to sneak back into Canterlot, or... whatever is standing there now, and fix the damage to the pony's unity. As they say, I always come up with something in due time."

"Take as much time as you need, Twilight." Fluttershy encouraged, cracking a smile from the warming confidence. "Just make sure to relax while you're at it."

Twilight continued to puzzle over the entire situation, what could be done about it and how she could execute her potential ideas. It was only getting bleaker by the minute, and Twilight, trying so hard to maintain faith in Equestria's recovery, was now questioning if there'd be an end to this apocalyptic-looking madness anytime soon. Worry that she would mess up anything she did to take their home back was taking a tighter hold than previously.

BUMP, went something outside Rusty Bucket's front door. It was rather loud, to the point Twilight jumped. The sound came again, and then one more time. Whatever it was, the source was approaching this very structure, probably towered over it as well.

"What is that?" Rusty cried in confusion.

"Mr. Bucket, I hear it too." said Twilight.

"You stay in here, your majesty." Rusty suggested. "I'll go out and look around."

"Hold on, what if it's one of those monsters?" Twilight thought out loud, worriedly. "Those guys are after us."

"Eh, I deal with big, nasty critters on my property all the time." Rusty attested. "Comes with the guardian job." His mind was set, and he trotted out of the house to his front yard, blunt instrument in hoof. Once out there, he took a good look around the area after taking in the harsh, icy wind. "Hoo boy, this ain't typical Mount Everhoof wind." He saw just how cloudy and crimson the sky had become. His realization of how unnatural this was perturbed him to the bone.

BUMP, the sound from before repeated, now so close to Rusty's ears to rattle them. He felt like he was within feet of an explosion. When it looked like things couldn't get spookier, three figures appeared seemingly out of nowhere before him. The biggest of them cast a vast shadow over the bucket-wearing stallion. Tirek and Cozy were back at his abode, and Eclipse was here as well, meeting him for the first time.

"H-hey! It's you again, that weird kid!" Rusty exclaimed at the wicked filly. He recognized the centaur and added "Didn't you used to be smaller?" Without any words, Tirek grabbed the stallion with his hands, which he looked like a doll compared to. Rusty screamed for his life.

The sound of distress alerted Twilight to Rusty's predicament, and the rattling of the house was now starting to disturb the resting ponies and dragon all over.

"Everypony, get up!" Twilight shouted, trotting in place. "Get up! Something's got Mr. Bucket!" Spike, Luna and the others, besides the restless Fluttershy, opened their eyes and rose out of their sleeping spaces. They too would pick up the high-pitched screaming. So, the entire group ran outside to see the commotion.

"Okay, you monsters and ugly zombies, we're prepared for you this t-" Rainbow bellowed, but stopped at what they were really facing.

"What a quaint little place for R&R." said Cozy, back in her shadow form with a terrified Rusty in one of her wings of darkness.

"For a supposed guardian, it's a pretty pathetic position for you." Eclipse mocked. "Do you even get paid?"

"You've got to be kidding me!?" Spike shrieked. "How did you find us?!"

"Got a tip. And you've got something we need." Tirek answered.

"Yeah, unattained closure on your hatred!" Twilight snarked. "You think we couldn't-?"

Tirek ignited his horns with a ball of searing, orange energy and covered Rusty's home with his aura. The materials of the building were crunched up in his telekinetic grab and lifted high off where they stuck, all residual pieces included. He threw every last bit of it to his right, sending wood, bricks and everything else applied down the mountain, as if tossing litter. Twilight's group yelped at the destruction.

"My house, NO!" Rusty mournfully howled. "I just finished shoveling!"

"What do we have here? Free prizes?" Eclipse sang wickedly. She telekinetically grabbed the three pony victims from out of the destroyed house and placed on them ground between her partners and the heroes. "How noble, tending to the most unfortunate." She laughed. The injured earth pony, pegasus and unicorn moaned more loudly than ever.

"Save.. me..!" the three wheezed together.

"NO!" Twilight roared. "Leave them alone!" She watched as Tirek raised and pointed his hand at the helpless equines, grinning like a madman. "It's us you want!" She jumped in front of the ponies, the rest of her friends following suit. "They have nothing to do with this! It's between you and us!"

"Tell us something we don't know." Cozy quipped.

"What is your ultimatum, scum?" Luna growled, demanding details.

The centaur's open hand glowed with magic, preparing to fire. But it was not with the expected, offensive orange power. Rather, he emitted the healing blue power, which was fired past Twilight's group. The glow transferred over to the three pony victims, making the group turn around in response to the bright luminescence. In just moments, the suffering ponies were at full health, and standing up tall. Their elation was met with perplexion from the heroic creatures.

"Finally!" the three collectively yelled in celebration, followed by laughter. All of them jumped by Twilight's gang, whom were having trouble registering what they witnessed.

"You. Healed them." Twilight uttered. "Why?"

"Totally unexpected." said Pinkie.

"Because contrary to what you believe, princess..." Tirek began to announce. "They do have something to do with this."

"I'm glad they're okay, but they're just innocent-" Fluttershy argued, but stopped when she noticed that the three happy ponies shifted their expressions to stares of malevolence. Unexpectedly, each of them spat a bunch of sticky fluid out of their mouths, directly at the legs of the ponies and dragon, as well as the horns of Twilight, Rarity and Luna. The acidic quality of the stuff hurt immensely.

The three ponies, thought to be poor victims of the chaotic circumstances, leapt up high, joined each other in mid-air and burst into a green flame. When it cleared, they revealed themselves as the disguised forms of Chrysalis. Her laughter at the heroes' expense was more manic than a hyena's.

"Oh, if only you could see your own faces!" the rogue changeling cackled. "Friendship is so exploitable!"

"Self-righteousness gets you nowhere, your highness." Eclipse mocked, and sarcastically finished with "What a surprise."

"You! Why y-" Twilight snarled, taking in the truth.

"You won't be using your rainbow powers now!" Tirek bellowed.

The noise caused a house-size ball of snow to fall from the side of Mount Everhoof. When it was close, Cozy grabbed it in her other shadow wing and absorbed it. The tetrad's finishing attack began. Eclipse summoned a gigantic lightning bolt - descending from the snow clouds - to strike with, Tirek expelled orange energy from his other hand, and Cozy fired a high-pressure blast of snow from her shadow form's mouth. Twilight and the others couldn't move; only look upon the impending doom and scream, hoping their voices would be heard, and something would come to save them at the last possible moment. Sadly, it looked like nothing would.

Their saving grace was already there, and they didn't know it. The glitter of the tiny crystalline branch inside Twilight's mane, having hung on the whole adventure, formed a bolt of energy that disintegrated the slime on her horn and redirected the villains' attacks. The group was totally unharmed, and the spark was releasing them from their bonds. When they ceased screaming, they had no idea what was going on.

The evildoers, predicting the worst, quickly took advantage of their bewilderment. Chrysalis transformed into a flock of bats and swarmed the ponies and dragon in an effort to assault, blind and push them apart. Tirek tried to sap away their vitality magic, but unbeknownst to him, the branch was blocking that ability. Eclipse stepped in and manipulated the wind to direct a powerful breeze to each of their foes. This move managed to fling them to separate parts of the mountainside, sending them rolling along either piles of snow, the ground of the nearby woods, the trail near the frozen lake, or a cliff. Chrysalis returned to normal.

"There we go. Can't beat us apart." Eclipse declared. "Split up and take them apart!" At this order, Tirek made a kangaroo leap away.

"You know what they say: go big, or go home." said Cozy, before laughing evilly and releasing Rusty on the ground.

"For a little filly, you sure are rotten." Rusty commented.

"My friend, you've read a pretty biased journal." Cozy remarked with squinted eyes at the old stallion, just before she flew into the distance. Rusty ran off, shivering madly. The filly's words made him miss his journal of Twilight's teachings, knowing it was no doubt lost forever to the rubble of his house.

"Echo, let's agree on one thing first." said Chrysalis up close to Eclipse. "I never. Want to put on. That long act. Again!"

"Who said anything about repeats?" Eclipse dryly said. They exchanged sharp looks before they took off to find their targets.

Twilight and Luna got back up from the fall they had onto a snow mound. It did not take long for them to notice their division from the others on their team.

"Are you alright, Twilight?" Luna asked, wrapping a hoof around the younger alicorn.

"Never mind me, we lost the others." Twilight replied, though still grateful for the embrace. A hoof was put up to her muzzle to shout out everyone's names. "Spike! Applejack! Pinkie! Rarity! Fluttershy! Rainbow!"

"Nope!" exclaimed the chirpy voice of Cozy Glow, spreading her massive shadow wings menacingly. "Just the cutest little thing you ever condemned to a COLD ETERNAL PRISON!"

Over at the cliff, Spike and Rarity came face-to-face with Chrysalis, baring her fangs for a fight most savage.

"Don't you touch her, you brute!" Spike growled, lighting his mouth up with fire.

"Oh ho ho, I was wondering when it'd be snacktime." Chrysalis devilishly cooed at Spike's passion over the unicorn he loved so.

Applejack and Pinkie were stared down by the crackling, hostile radiance of Aurora Eclipse in the woods. The farm pony took her battle stance; the party planner was just standing, eyes closed.

"I couldn't destroy the integrity of your friendship in the past without erasing what I sought in the future, but in the present, I can shape the consequences like cookie dough." said Eclipse, grinning so proudly.

"I've dedicated my life to making creatures happy." Pinkie coldly described. "I hate to see someone frown when they deserve to smile. To see the light among the dark. But if there's anything I can stand less than that..." She pulled on one of her hooves, yanking off a pink, tight, camouflaging sock to reveal her actual hoof underneath, and glared at the Malice-powered alicorn. "It's those who abuse the gift of smiling, like yourself!"

By the frozen lake, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy wound up in the telekinetic grip of Tirek. Fluttershy gritted her teeth at the centaur, flashing back to when he deceived and drained the draconequus she held dear.

"Whatever the reason I can't consume your life magic, it won't stop me from delivering a crushing blow." said Tirek.

"Well, it's not like things could get any worse." Rainbow claimed. Fluttershy shot her an accusing look for that sentence. "No, wait, I take it back! It can always-" she attempted to backpedal. Right above them, in the stormy, cloudy sky, there was a loud horse cry, from three sources. Alongside that, thunder boomed. Rainbow looked up, and all she could say at what she was seeing was a weak "Too... late?" Tirek, seeing it as well, dropped the pegasi.

The wind picked up even more, the quantity of falling snow increased, and the thunder was accompanied by rapid bolts of lightning. The heroes and the villains stared, slackjawed, at the beings making those haunting neighs. Three white spirits, shaped like ponies, glowing with icy auras, circling around the very eye of the storm, their faces as chillingly devoid of life as the frozen Equestrian plains.

"They're finally here." Eclipse murmured in amazement.

Spike, aghast, howled "THEY'RE REAL, TOO?!"

The legendary, fearsome Windigos had appeared. This was their blizzard.

Author's Note:

Another fun chapter for me to type up, considering this had less action. This is the point where the heroes finally get a moment of calm before the storm, before it all goes from bad to worse.

Since i've been giving the Cutie Mark Crusaders their own adventure in this rewrite, I feel it's important to mention why. First: the Cutie Mark Crusaders are known for their initiative in activities and helping their "clients", regardless of their young ages. Even after they got their Cutie Marks, they've been growing into courageous and mature fillies whom are seen as heroines in their own right. Second: the one time the actual show gave them a role in a multi-part, season-ending story, they barely did anything. And third: I wanted to use this opportunity to have them interact with Sunburst, an employee of the School of Friendship, as acknowledgment of those friendship tutor positions the CMC got that i'm pretty certain were never referred to again. Also, it sounded fun to have him, one who studies more spells than he knows how to cast, as a magic mentor figure for Sweetie Belle.

Speaking of spells, yes, this is the second time in this rewrite i've made a callback to Season 6's Every Little Thing She Does to move the plot along. One more time, and I get a free ice cream cookie. Jokes aside, you may be scratching your head at the use of the name "Dodge City" for that place. I know that when it made it's debut (and only prominent appearance) in Season 2, it was called "Dodge Junction", and the name "Dodge City" they used in Season 5 might've likely been an error, but I felt it didn't really matter which one I went with, given events to come, so I went with the more recent-ish moniker.

Apple Bloom's comment on how Grogar looks was inspired by a few viewers of Season 9 finding the ram sorcerer's appearance (and species) too unassuming and "underwhelming" for a final villain/ultimate evil of the Friendship is Magic universe. Me? I think it gives him a wonderful visual contrast to his beastly children and forces, plus it basically gift-wrapped me something that perfectly suits the characterization of him i've been going for.

And yes, ladies and gentlemen, I give you my interpretation of a G4 Tambelon. That's what is now standing in the former place of Canterlot. The lost city with an evil king angle of the G1 version of Tambelon had already been taken by the Crystal Empire and Sombra all the way back in Season 3, so for the sake of avoiding repetition within this canon, I instead made Grogar's city a creation of his wicked imagination, a defilement of what was one of Equestria's proudest pillars for generations, the anti-Canterlot. And this time, no "beat the bad guy" bell to ring.

About the dream traveling chase sequence. Obviously, those dream demons were spawned from Grogar's thoughts. The idea of him being able to make those things, with their power to intercept and attack the heroes in the dream realm, is a reference to a similar dream striking ability the big, bad, blue ram's G1 counterpart displayed. For Luna, if she had the power to make the dream traveling and corrupting Tantabus, I figured that she'd be able to tear open holes to that realm and enter and exit not just in spirit, but also in her true physical form, as it did. The limiter for this power was the best I could come up with.

I'd been building up that "bad to worse" part since the chapter before this. Can the heroic ponies get out of this awful weather? No, they just end up somewhere it'd be especially terrible. They help poor ponies get to safety in the hopes they can save their lives, because whatever the feuding clans want, these golden-hearted people wish for the well-being of all ponykind. Oh wait, it was actually just Chrysalis up to her old shapeshifting deception. I made Grogar and the Horses of the Apocalypse such trolls.

Indeed, it is meant to be a horrifying shock to the characters (the good guys, in particular) that the Windigos are not only hovering above Equestria, creating the biggest snowstorm it has ever seen, but actually exist. On the occasions they've talked about the history of the land before it was given it's name, the historical figures from back then were said to have "defeated" the Windigos, treating them like creatures they had to fight to win their happy ending. At the same time, it's easy to say that they only ever thought of the Windigos as representatives of the harsh blizzards that hit at the worst of times. A way to simplify the stories by inserting a clear-cut villain for readers, and viewers of the Hearth's Warming pageant, to root against.

The short sequences of Rutherford, Ember, Seaspray and Thorax rallying their armies to support Equestria is an example of how even if they aren't yet part of a utopian, multi-species society as they would be in the epilogue's future, these clans are grateful to the ponies (and dragon that grew up among them) for all they've done over 9 seasons and a feature film, and thus find them deserving of their aid. By the way, hypothetically speaking as if this were a T.V. episode, since Queen Novo's voice actress, Uzo Aduba would've been too expensive to get back, Seaspray will be the focus of the hippogriff/seapony leadership.

So, be honest, how many of you were expecting the return of Rusty Bucket? Or for Moon Dancer and the Amending Fences gang to speak and lend a helping hoof?