Twilight burst through the doors to her former mentor’s throne room, her friends hot on her heels. It dawned on her that some time ago she had done something similar when Discord broke free of his bonds. And yet now somehow, that situation seemed less dire than the current one. Both of the royal sisters were already present, their heads turning from the conversation they had been engaged in to greet the newcomers.
It didn’t surprise Twilight to see a certain Draconequus stood behind the pair, having apparently been about to add his own two bits into the conversation. It did surprise her however to see the mare that Celestia had requested them to visit before they came to the castle present as well. Twilight knew nothing beyond the fact this particular mare was a teacher at the School for Gifted Unicorns, a teacher who happened to not be a unicorn herself.
Her coat was a rich blue, one violet eye staring at the two alicorns whilst the other was obscured by a purple streaked black mane. All the rest of her was obscured by a heavy read cloak that was buttoned tightly at the neck. She met eyes with the newly crowned princess, before looking back up at Celestia, awaiting the ruler’s next move. The white princess stepped forwards with Luna to greet the six.
“All of you, thank you for coming so quickly” the solar princess spoke to them, tilting her head slightly as they all bowed to her, muzzles dipped low towards the polished floor. It did not escape Twilight that the red cloaked mare who stood by Celestia’s side did not bow, or even have any reservations about standing close to her mentor.
“And thank you also for passing along my request to Miss Sapphire Jewel” Celestia gestured to the mare with a wing, the feathers just brushing the ears of the mare. Twilight’s face took on a confused expression. Miss? And since when did Celestia need to request somepony’s presence? Surely she could have summoned her. These thoughts took pause as Luna stepped around to stand beside Sapphire, resting a wing atop her back.
“Yes, despite how grave these circumstances seem to be, it is good to see my friend once again” the lunar princess commented. The smaller mare by her side looked up with a small smile. A smile that rapidly disappeared as Discord ducked his head down in front of her.
“Yes it has been a while. What was it, one thousand years since I last heard wind of you? Oh you naughty girl, you showed these two where it was didn’t you? That’s how they ever got the drop on me.” The chimera burbled in his usual jester-like tone. His voice dropped a few octaves as a mock sadness crept in.
“Couldn’t you have waited just a little bit longer? I never got to have any fun with you at all, you just jumped straight to the endgame” he complained, pressing his face closer against the mares. Sapphires ears drew back against her skull, evidently not pleased with how the three much larger beings were crowding around her. Her features quickly turned stony, and with a sound not unlike a sharp ringing of crystal a purple force field shot outwards, the resultant sphere pushing Celestia, Luna and Discord back some distance from her. Twilight, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Applejack collectively dropped their jaws at the display of powerful magic by a non-unicorn. Pinkie for her own part merely raised her eyebrows.
Sapphires eyes went between the three around her. She gave a short huff before trotting over to stand instead by the six who had just entered. After a few seconds the ponies regained their composure, mouths shutting. Rainbow hovered lower, just about the head height of the cloaked pony, who raised an eyebrow in silent question.
“Just….who are you?” Rainbow asked, gesturing at Sapphire with her hooves. The other mare stood a little straighter.
“I’m a consultant” she answered, grasping the prismatic Pegasus in her magic to rotate her to face the princesses again. Twilight reaffirmed her thoughts, a strange mare could wait until later. There were more dangerous things afoot.
“Princess, something happened in Ponyville. First it was small, animals acting out of character. All the animals at Fluttershy’s have gone, well, wild. The mice are fearful, the bears are savage, and the snakes attack everything.” Twilight explained. Taking a look back at the butter Pegasus behind her, Fluttershy’s eyes were still rimmed with red from tears. Rainbow Dash quickly cut in, the Pegasus shooting to very nearly be right in the face of Princess Luna.
“And then creatures in the Everfree began coming out. And they seem…off. Like the hydra that stumbled out. Yeah they’re not exactly cute and huggable at the best of times, but normally you can tell there’s something going on in those thick heads of theirs. But this one, it seemed like all it could think to do was eat and fight. And that’s not even getting on about how it looked. It looked worse than anything I’ve ever seen, its skin was all black and its teeth were huge” she exclaimed as she reached her forelegs outwards, indicating the size of the fangs it had possessed.
Celestia dipped her head for a moment. Then she pulled her head back up and glared accusingly at Discord. The draconequus raised his arms in a defensive position.
“Hold your horses Celestia…uh, no pun intended. But why ever would I create something so ghastly to look at. It induces a little chaos yes, but it’s no fun if it makes the fun stop as well. Besides….” He held out his lion’s paw, a small hydra appearing in a puff of smoke on his palm, snarling at the group.
“Teeth and a darker skin colour, how unimaginative. I’d much prefer to see some extra heads” he mused, snapping the fingers on his claw. With a flash of light four more heads were added to the miniature hydra, which promptly fell down after some wobbling. With another snap the creature disappeared. Celestia sighed, her head dropping again.
“No, I didn’t suppose that it would be so simple. You’re far easier to deal with” she moaned, before raising her head back up to look at Twilight and her friends.
“Both Luna and I felt the disturbance from within the Everfree, a power that is beyond comprehension” she explained. “You must tell me, did anything else come out of the Everfree Forest, anything intelligent?” she asked warily, stepping closer to the group. Twilight immediately perked up again.
“That’s the other reason why we’re here. A pony came out of the forest wearing Nightmare Moon’s helm, he was using dark magic to control the creatures coming from the forest. But the moment we tried using the elements on him….” Twilight was interrupted as Rarity pushed past her.
“And then this happened!” she squealed, holding up her element in the grasp of her magic. Where once had sat a gem, flawless and gleaming, now sat a dull stone, cracked through. Rarity cleared her throat, regaining her composure. “I mean yes there’s something far worse going on now than tarnished jewellery, but it’s still terrible” the unicorn complained. Applejack rolled her eyes at the unicorn.
“Thing is princess, when we tried to use the elements on him he seemed to suck the power outta them, along with this black oily stuff. And then this huge shadowy Pegasus pulled outta his back, before dartin away” Applejack explained. Twilight cringed slightly. After that the helm on the pony’s head had reshaped itself into a skull like shape. She tried to remember the pony’s name, he was a horror writer as Twilight recalled. It would come to her later.
“The elements are useless now, even my crown is back to being like when we found them in the old castle. If we can’t beat it with the Elements of Harmony, then what are we supposed to do?”
Twilight almost jumped back as she looked back at Celestia. Her princess looked honestly scared. Not the rage and apprehension she had greeted Discord with once, but honest terror.
“Perhaps” Sapphire spoke up again “You should explain things to them” Celestia looked up at the blue pony who stared at her. A few times her mouth flapped as she attempted to force herself to spit the words out. Her struggle was prevented as Luna gently rested a hoof against her sister’s shoulder.
“You have done enough today Tia. I shall explain what needs to be said here” she softly spoke, resting a wing over her sisters back. The white alicorn smiled softly as her sister coughed to clear her throat.
“Long ago, before time was even recorded, our mother painted the world into existence. And once she was done, a pact was made. The ponies and other beings would keep our cities and civilisation. The forests and wilds meanwhile would belong to….them.” she said the last part cautiously, refusing to make eye contact with those watching her. Fluttershy spoke up, soft but determined.
“Belong to who, princess?” she asked timidly. The Lunar princess met her gaze before sighing softly in a long held guilt.
“Know this little ponies, that for all our mothers power, there were some things she could not do, so help was asked for. My sister and I, in our youth we set forth on a short sighted crusade for what we believed to be harmony…and we took the forests from those who our mother had promised them to…cleansed them of what we believed wouldn’t be part of the harmony….we were so naïve, and now because of our misguided attempt we may have brought down an impossible wrath upon our little ponies”
“The beauty lies in the blame, does it not?” came the voice. It was so soft it was almost a whisper, flickering like fog in the wind. All the ponies in the room (plus one Discord) seized up. The mane six immediately spun around searching for the voice’s owner. Twilight’s horn lit up in preparation. Sapphire next to her tensed her body, the glow of her magic surrounding her eyes. Evidently she had a better idea of what was coming.
The first crack that split the air was sharp, and was followed quickly by a deep rumbling sound. All of them followed the sounds origin. There at the base of Celestia’s throne was a crack. Further scraping and crunching sounds could be heard from below. A second cracking split the air, then another before the air became a flurry of the sounds of rock being torn apart. And then, with one final snap, the throne exploded upwards.
A pillar of viscous smoke erupted with the rubble. The sound as it passed through the hole was like a hurricane roaring, threatening to deafen all nearby. Upwards it shot, before the mass arced back down again, impacting with the floor at the foot of the stairs to the throne. There it swirled until a form began to pull itself from the cloud of ash. It stood tall, taller than Celestia did, with wings colossal in proportion to the rest of it.
The tall Pegasus’s body swirled, comprised of ash and soot. Its eyes, or what Twilight guessed passed for eyes, were little more than glowing pits with no actual eyeballs within. Slowly the mouth slid open, strands of smoke and ash stretching between each jaw like elastic to form pseudo teeth, and with a short exhale green vapour spilled upwards from the corner of its mouth.
In a lethargic fashion its head swivelled to Celestia. Never had Twilight seen her princess in such a state. The great ruler, who had faced down Nightmare Moon, Discord and Queen Chrysalis without so much as a blink, was all but cowering, trembling so hard she threatened to fall. Likewise Luna was almost hidden behind her sister, her head crouched in what she seemed to believe was an insurmountable foe.
“Did you miss us, Tia? We missed you, so much” came the slow voice. It dawned on Twilight that it wasn’t so much spoken as the words appeared in her head, skipping out all the things in between. The tall Pegasus- thing stepped forwards, its hooves dispersing as they touched the floor only to reform a moment later into a more solid state to support it. Its glance turned to Luna instead.
“And Lu, you’ve done so well since we got back from the moon. We would know, we were there with you every second. We promised you so much didn’t we?” it asked. There was no emotion in its voice, every word like a spoken fact. It was then that the ever loyal Rainbow Dash chose to come to her ruler’s defence.
“Hey, leave them alone!” the Pegasus demanded, launching herself directly at the head of the apparition. The Pegasus calmly turned to look at his attacker, just in time for Rainbow to shoot directly through the side of his head, colliding with the wall behind him. Immediately she fell in pain, her eyes spinning in their sockets.
“I’ve really got to stop doing that” she chided herself. For his own part, the invader looked more bemused than hurt. A spot on the remaining ‘eye’ intensified in the direction of the damage, leading Twilight to guess that he was giving it his full attention. For a moment he stood still, excepting the wispy trails of smoke being given off. Then the matter all retracted back into the spot it had just occupied, reforming the side of his face. Again his gaze turned to Celestia.
“What impudent children you have raised” he said, stepping close enough to glare down upon her. “You are no wiser now than when you cleansed the world of my little ones an age ago” Twilight heard it that time, the tiniest inflection of emotion filtering into his voice. The ‘hmming’ sound Twilight made in thought inadvertently grasped the attention of the tall Pegasus. Without bothering to actually walk his body broke apart into a swarming cloud, rematerializing directly in front of her. Twilight gave a short scream and attempted to back away only to find herself grasped in an invisible force, and lifted towards his face. She whimpered as her wings were pulled experimentally until they were fully extended.
“Another alicorn. We see you still propagate your mother power. But this magic is not a part of her soul, what says you we try and remove it?” he asked the other alicorns behind him. Twilights thoughts raced, remove her alicorn magic? Could that be done? She’d honestly rather not find out. She had expected her friends to come to her aid, and indeed they were about to try once the shock were off. But it was not they who saved her.
The sound of ringing crystal filled her ears as a purple aura surrounded her, severing whatever power had been gripping her. She immediately turned her head to look at Sapphire as the mare pulled her closer to her before depositing Twilight by her side. The other pony looked down at her as she found her hooves again.
“I hope you don’t get caught that often, we need you, you’re the brains of that lot” she gestured with a hoof towards the five other ponies who were coming over to join their friend. Twilights never came, interrupted by terror.
“You!” the voice raised in volume, its hollow sound now filled with dozens of smaller voices speaking in unison. Immediately the Pegasus was in the face of the cloaked pony, leering as green vapour spilled about them both.
“We remember you” he declared, a long ashen tongue snaking out to flick at her nose. Twilight saw, much to her surprise, the mare was crying, a mixture of tears of sorrow and rage.
“Raven” she growled. The taller pony lifted his head again, and actually cackled. A cackled that sounded like a dozen other ponies had been forced to laugh in unison by tying their vocal chords together.
“You always gave us such interesting names. The zebra, The Eternity Storm. The griffins, The Last Breath. Ponies, Raven Shadow.” Its voice rolled over the variety of names other cultures had given him, as if they were a meal “Only your mother ever called us Kalhne Rye, our true name. Does it haunt you she did not save your sisters? That she will not save you?” he asked, his wings twitching at his sides as they prepared to open. Whatever plans the great creature might have had however were waylaid as a panel of glass arose between him and his prey with the snap of the fingers.
“Now forgive me for intruding where another artiste is at work. Really, the whole ‘terror from beyond the stars’ routine is wonderful to get their hearts hammering. Oh it’s fantastically retro, I wish I had my camera to have a copy. But seriously, odd to hear me say that, annihilating her is something I can’t let you do. It’s nothing personal, but death is just so static” Discord complained, stepping on Sapphires side of the glass, giving it a few ringing taps with his knuckles. For a change the Draconequus’s face was a stern one.
“Now, if you’ll kindly hold still. I’d like to make this quick so I can get back to convincing ponies that two plus two is five”
“Discord, STOP!” Celestia shouted her plea at her old foe. But he ignored her, snapping his fingers again to send a blast of purple plaid magic towards Raven, tearing through the glass in its way. And then, only a matter of inches from the muzzle of its intended target it exploded into dust. Discords eyebrows shot upwards immediately.
“Well, that isn’t meant to happen” he mused, twisting the end digit of his finger until it popped off like a cap. “Did I forget to use new batteries?” he asked. His words were cut off as he was seized in a crushing grip. Looking up he was greeted with the view of Raven Shadow’s eyes burning like infernos.
“You insolent, misbegotten child” he growled “Do you forget we made you? Do you forget we took the creatures we needed, threw away the parts we did not require, then stitched you together again out of them? We gave you your magic, your one goal, to overthrow the princesses so that balance could be restored. And here we find you by their side, aiding their efforts. You shall be punished for this” the chimera was squeezed again, the sound of popping joints and crunching bones becoming louder. Discords eyes squeezed shut in pain, true pain he had not felt in eons.
A blast of magic that evaporated against the back of Raven’s head made him pause his attempt at torture. Looking back over his shoulder he found Twilight and her friends in an aggressive stance, the horns of both Rarity and Twilight glowing with magic ready to be fired again. Off to one side Sapphire looked at them conflicted for a fleeting moment, before wrapping herself in her magic and teleporting away as silently as she could.
“Get OFF of him” Fluttershy demanded angrily, her eyes in full ‘stare’ mode. Raven paused, before dropping the object of his torment, Discord gasping for breath.
“Your magic is not dangerous to us, but it is….a distraction” he mused to himself. Without delay his wings swung open, and half of the girls screamed. On the inside of those grand, murky wings were dozens of green glowing eyes, their slitted pupils unblinking as they stared at the girls before him. Twilight narrowed her eyes as sparks arced between each of them, building in intensity until suddenly a dark shockwave shot outwards in a ring.
The moment it reached the girls the effect was became apparent. Rarity’s horn went out, Rainbow Dash plummeted like a stone back towards the ground, and Pinkie Pie reached into air in futility over and over again in an attempt to reach one of the many objects she seemed to keep in thin air. Fluttershy and Applejack were somewhat better off, but only by just. Twilight had no doubts that Fluttershy likely could not take to the air now, and Applejack had quickly become unsteady on her legs without her strength.
Only Twilight seemingly remained unaffected, her horn still sparking magic. She glanced over at her princesses, paralyzed with fear in the presence of Raven. Already he loomed over her, staring down at vapour dribbled from his jaws.
“What…what are you?” she asked, fearful for her life. The demon above her spread his wings outwards again, the eyes glaring.
“Who are we child? We are the weavers of power, the slithering chaos, the ruler of the darkness, we are the extinction that shall consume your land. And most of all…” he leant down close to her face. “We are the one, who gave your kind magic”