Trixie Lulamoon looked up at the sky. The blue unicorn had noticed the encroaching cloud of darkness and knew exactly what it meant – but she desperately hoped she was wrong. It’s too soon, she thought to herself. Trixie isn’t ready. She needs more time!
She nervously called out to a figure that was flying high above her head. “What do you see, Dash?”
A thousand feet in the air, a gray-colored pegasus scanned the ground. The area around Ponyville was clear – but the road leading out of the Everfree Forest was a different matter.
“I’m seeing a lot of bad news,” Rainbow Dash called out. “Looks like an entire army of spectrals. I’d say there are about, oh, maybe a thousand of them. It’s hard to tell from this distance.”
Trixie stamped her front hooves against the ground in frustration. “But that’s impossible! Celestia promised Trixie they wouldn’t have enough strength to attack Ponyville for at least another three days. They’re not supposed to be moving this early!”
“Well, they’re here all right,” Rainbow Dash shouted back. “They’re all out of the forest now and are headed our way in a gigantic column. At the rear of the column is – hold on a sec.”
The dark gray pony strained to get a better look. “I can’t see too clearly from here, but it looks like there’s a super tall figure at the back. He’s surrounded by four big monsters of some kind.”
“A conjured sorcerer and four wardens,” Trixie replied. “Well, isn’t that just great! What are we supposed to do now? Celestia’s reinforcements are still undergoing basic training. They won’t be here for another three days!”
Applejack spoke up. “I’m pretty sure it ain’t gonna take those undead ponies three days to get here.”
Rainbow Dash dropped down from the sky and landed in front of Trixie. “Aw, don’t worry about it. I can totally take ‘em on! Just let me handle it.”
“Don’t be stupid!” Trixie said scornfully. “Let me think a minute. Trixie can figure this out.”
Overhead it was a beautiful, sunny day – but in the direction of the Everfree Forest Trixie could see an encroaching cloud of darkness. Applejack was right; the spectral army was just minutes away from reaching Ponyville. There was no time to get help, and there was no help that would come. Trixie would have to handle this alone.
This was bad news, because there was simply no way Trixie was up to the task. Yes, she was a unicorn, and that meant she had the ability to perform magic – but she was a stage magician, not a mage. All she could do was perform cheap magic tricks. She wasn’t like Twilight Sparkle, who had genuine power. Twilight used to be the one who protected the nation from danger, but now she was dead. Twilight wouldn’t be protecting anyone anymore.
Trixie’s resources were meager. Standing directly in front of her was Rainbow Dash. Before Twilight died she had been a vibrant blue pegasus with a rainbow-colored mane – the fastest pony in the sky, and the living representation of loyalty. Twilight’s death had turned her into a gray pegasus who was loyal to no one but herself. Still, Trixie thought, she is really fast and she can control the weather. That could come in handy.
Fluttershy, a bright yellow pegasus, was standing nervously beside Rainbow Dash. The living embodiment of kindness was clearly terrified, but she refused to leave. She’s got spirit – Trixie will give her that. But she’s a terrible flyer and she’s scared of everything. She’s not going to be much use against an army of the undead.
Rarity was standing beside Fluttershy, looking off into the distance at the gathering cloud. Before Twilight died she had been an elegant white mare – but now she, too, was gray. The living embodiment of generosity had become bitter and withdrawn. She’s a unicorn, but her magic is pretty useless. Rarity’s a dressmaker, not a soldier. The wardens would crush her before she even had a chance to scream. Sending her out there would just get her killed.
Applejack, a bright orange earth pony, was a different story. Years of bucking apple trees had given her tremendous strength. She was honest, courageous, and would not back down. Now there’s a pony who can handle herself in a fight! She could make short work of a spectral – but she could never fight a thousand of them. There’s just too many.
The last one was Pinkie Pie – or Pinkamena, as she now insisted on being called. At one time she had been a pink earth pony who spread joy to everyone. As the living embodiment of laughter she had the ability to make everyone smile – but now she was the darkest member of the group. Her color and laughter were gone, replaced by cold rage. She had taken Twilight’s death harder than anyone.
The mayor of Ponyville spoke up. The light brown earth pony had no real abilities of any kind, and usually let Twilight handle these situations. Now that Twilight wasn’t here she was at a complete loss. “So, ah, Trixie, what are you going to do? You do have a plan, don’t you?”
“Of course I have a plan. Trixie always has a plan! Your part of the plan is to evacuate the citizens of Ponyville. They need to flee for their lives! Make sure they flee away from the direction of the forest. You should probably head toward Canterlot.”
The mayor frowned. “But aren’t you going to save the city?”
Trixie glared at her. “What kind of a fool are you? There’s an entire army of undead ponies heading right in this direction! Even if we can defeat them – which is incredibly unlikely, since we’re outnumbered 166 to 1 – there’s going to be chaos, destruction, and death. If the ponies of this town want to live they need to get out of here!”
Applejack spoke up. “I’m afraid she’s right, your excellence. It just ain’t safe around here.”
The mayor sighed. “All right. I’ll begin an evacuation immediately.”
“Not alone you won’t,” Trixie shot back. “Rarity, you help her. Keep her organized and get everyone evacuated as quickly as possible. Make sure every last pony gets the message.”
“But I don’t need her help,” the mayor protested.
“Oh yes you do! You’re completely incompetent. Why, you couldn’t even manage to wrap up winter on time without Twilight’s help! There’s no way you could handle something that actually mattered.”
The mayor became visibly angry. “Why, of all the–”
“Zip it, or Trixie will zip it for you. Rarity, have you got this? Can I trust you?”
“I suppose,” Rarity grumbled. “Come with me, mayor. Her Highness has given us a job to do.”
As Rarity and the mayor raced off into the town, Fluttershy spoke up. “You know, Trixie, that wasn’t very nice. You hurt the mayor’s feelings.”
Applejack spoke up. The living embodiment of honesty did not mince words. “Well, in her defense, Trixie was right. The mayor hasn’t exactly been very effective in the past. In fact, I can’t think of a single problem she’s ever solved. Twilight was the one who really ran this town. But there probably was a better way to handle that – especially if you want other ponies to lend us a hoof. We don’t exactly have a lot of allies right now.”
Rainbow Dash interrupted. “Um, hello, but an army of undead ponies is headed this way! Are you really going to just stand there and talk about feelings?”
“Fluttershy is right,” Trixie admitted. “If Trixie is going to take Twilight’s place then she has a lot to learn. Humility and grace are not her strong suits.”
“You will never take her place,” Rainbow Dash muttered.
Trixie ignored her. “Fluttershy, we need you to act as a scout. We know there’s an army coming from the forest, but that might not be the only threat. You need to fly high over the city and keep an eye out for more trouble.”
Fluttershy swallowed nervously. “If that’s what you want me to do then I’ll do it. But if I find something, what should I do?”
“Go and tell Rainbow Dash. She’ll pass the message along to me. And don’t worry – the spectrals can’t fly. As long as you’re in the air you should be relatively safe.”
After Fluttershy flew off, Trixie turned her attention to the rest of the team. “According to Twilight’s notes, the spectrals and wardens aren’t really alive. The entire army gets its life force from a Maelstrom Sphere. The conjured sorcerer – who’s just an artificial creation of the Necromancer – is the one who wields it and directs the spectrals.”
Applejack spoke up. “Those ponies ain’t got minds of their own, right? Don’t the spectrals just do what they’re told?”
“Exactly. In order to win this, all we have to do is destroy that Sphere. If it’s shattered the entire army will vaporize – including the sorcerer. That Sphere is their weak point.”
“Then this will be easy!” Rainbow Dash boasted. “I’ll just swoop in and smash it. Piece of cake!”
Trixie shook her head. “It doesn’t work like that. The Sphere can’t be broken; it has to be unmade. Trixie has a spell that should work, but she has to get really close in order to cast it.”
“Why is that?” Dash asked. “Is it because you’re just too lousy at magic to cast it from a distance?”
Trixie refused to take the bait. Rainbow Dash had hated her ever since Twilight had died – and so had the rest of Twilight’s friends. Only Applejack and Fluttershy had come around. As much as Trixie wanted to defend herself, she knew they had bigger problems to deal with.
“This isn’t the time for a magic theory class! The point is we can’t possibly defeat the entire army by attacking it head-on. What we need to do is avoid the army and ambush the sorcerer. Since he’s at the rear of the column of spectrals, Trixie will hide by the side of the road with Applejack and Pinkamena. After the army marches by our hiding place and the sorcerer is within our grasp, Rainbow Dash will strike from the air with her weather powers. This will distract the sorcerer. Applejack and Pinkamena will then lure the wardens into a fight, which will give Trixie a chance to reach the sorcerer and unmake his Maelstrom Sphere.”
Applejack spoke up. “Um, Trixie, ain’t the wardens ten-foot-tall trolls? How in Equestria are we supposed to take on four of them at once? They’re twice our size!”
Pinkamena spoke up. “It will be easy. I am an unstoppable nightmare. They will be dead before they knew what hit them.”
“You don’t have to actually fight them,” Trixie added hurriedly. “That would be suicide! Just lure them away from the sorcerer to give Trixie a clear path. She has to be within five feet for the spell to work. If you do attack them, go for their head. None of the conjured undead have real heads – their heads are made of an unstable protoplasm mix. If you can break their heads apart their whole body will collapse into vapor. Remember: their heads are their only weak point. It’s the only thing that will stop them.”
The wind suddenly picked up. It was a cold breeze, with tinges of ice. Trixie suddenly noticed that the cloud of darkness had crept much closer. They had lingered in Ponyville for too long.
“All right – let’s go! Dash, find a storm cloud and hide. When the sorcerer reaches our hiding place, strike. Do not strike before then!”
“Whatever,” Rainbow Dash said carelessly. The gray pegasus flew off into the sky.
Trixie turned to Applejack. “You know this area better than Trixie does. Is there a place along the road where we can hide?”
“Yep, I know just the spot. Follow me!”
Applejack, Trixie, and Pinkamena raced down the road – straight toward the cloud of encroaching darkness.
* * * * *
High overhead, Rainbow Dash found a stormcloud. The pegasus grabbed it and pushed it into position over the open road. Since she was gray herself, she blended into the cloud perfectly. It was impossible to see her from the ground.
Looking down, Dash watched as three tiny figures galloped down the road. They stopped beside a small clump of trees that was filled with underbrush and weeds.
That’s awfully close to Ponyville, Dash thought to herself. You’re going to have to take out the sorcerer really fast, or else that army will reach the town and destroy it. But Dash could see there wasn’t another grove in sight. Applejack had found the only one.
Dash scooted her cloud closer to their hiding place, so she was directly in line with the road. She then laid down on the cloud and waited.
Unlike unicorns and earth ponies, pegasi had the ability to manipulate clouds and even walk on them. Rainbow Dash worked for the weather department and was responsible for keeping the skies clear over the city – or for making it rain on schedule. She excelled at her job, and had no doubts about her abilities.
A few thousand feet down the road, the army of spectrals was marching steadily toward Ponyville. Dash couldn’t explain how they did it, but they seemed to be dragging a giant cloud of darkness with them. In their presence the power of the sun was weakened, and daylight was turned into shadow.
As Dash stared at the army she grimaced. Trixie’s lucky she’s got me on her side! When her plan fails – because, seriously, when has Trixie ever succeeded at anything? – I’ll swoop in and save the day. But don’t think I’m doing this for you, Trixie. This is for Twilight. I am not your friend. No matter how long I live I will never forget what you did to her.
* * * * *
Applejack, Pinkamena, and Trixie dove into a clump of bushes that was hidden underneath a small grove of trees. “I’m afraid this here is the best we can do,” Applejack said.
Trixie looked around. It certainly was cover, but it wasn’t as thick as she would have liked. If one of the spectrals happened to look this way…
“Trixie can solve this!” the blue pony announced. “She has a spell that can help.”
“Trixie needs to stop referring to herself in the third person,” Applejack said dryly. “That is getting old real fast.”
“Sorry,” Trixie apologized.
Trixie’s horn glowed. A moment later she vanished, and a scraggly bush appeared in her place.
Applejack’s mouth dropped open. “Did you just turn yourself into a plant?”
“Amazing, isn’t it?” the plant said. Trixie now looked exactly like a real bush. The plant’s leaves even swayed with the wind. “With this disguise–”
At that moment there was a POP! and the spell broke. The bush vanished and Trixie reappeared.
“Applesauce,” Trixie muttered. “Trixie was – I mean, I was sure I had it that time.”
“Aw, don’t worry about it. I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it eventually. Just keep practicin’.”
Pinkamena spoke up. “We do not need disguises. The darkness they bring with them will cover us and hide us from their gaze. Then, when the wardens appear, we shall attack them and return them to the graves from whence they came.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Trixie commented. “The army is bringing a cloud of darkness with it. That–”
“Silence!” Pinkamena snapped. “They’re coming.”
The three ponies crouched down and waited.
* * * * *
Fluttershy had reached an altitude of three thousand feet and was cautiously circling Ponyville. The yellow pegasus was very uncomfortable flying that high, but she needed a birds-eye view of the surrounding area and that was the only way to get it. She refused to let her fears get the best of her.
The sky above the city was clear of clouds. In the distance, though, she could see a cloud of darkness approaching Ponyville. The spectrals were on their way.
Far below she saw the citizens of Ponyville streaming out of the town and galloping toward Canterlot. I sure hope everypony is going to be ok, she thought to herself. I know Trixie is doing her best, but I wish Twilight was here. I miss her.
As terrified as she was, she continued to circle high over the city. If any new danger appeared she was not going to miss it. After all, my friends are counting on me! I’m not going to let them down.
* * * * *
Down in the city below, ponies were streaming out of Ponyville in a more or less orderly fashion. Rarity the gray was barking orders. “No, Sweetie Bell, you and your friends cannot go door to door telling ponies to evacuate. I’ve got Lyra and Bon-Bon on that duty, along with the mayor – wherever she is. You need to get out of town. Now!”
“But sis, this could be our big chance to get our cutie marks!” Sweetie Belle protested. Rarity’s younger sister not willing to give up. “Can’t we–”
“I said NO! This isn’t some kind of game. This is life or death, and you need to leave now!”
“Without you?” Sweetie Belle asked dubiously. “But–”
“No buts! When this is all over I’ll meet you and our parents in Canterlot. Celestia will take care of you until then – and if she doesn’t I’ll wring her neck. Now get out of here!”
Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom reluctantly joined the mass of ponies leaving the city. This city is no place for little fillies, Rarity thought to herself. I’ll let Applejack know I’ve sent Apple Bloom to Canterlot. Her sister should be safe there until we’ve taken care of this invasion. After all, if Celestia can’t keep her own capitol safe then we’re all doomed! I just hope those three don’t try anything foolish. Their eternal quest to get their cutie marks is going to be the death of them.
Cutie marks were symbols that defined each pony’s unique talent. When a pony discovered that talent (usually at a young age), the symbol for that ability appeared on their flank and stayed there for the rest of their lives. Discovering that talent was a point of pride among the young, and they typically spent a tremendous amount of energy searching for it.
Rarity’s cutie mark was a cluster of three blue diamonds. She had the ability to locate hidden gems – but that wasn’t going to save Ponyville.
Rarity heard a voice call out behind her. “So are we done?”
Rarity turned around and looked at the mayor in surprise. “What do you mean, are we done? Has everypony been evacuated? Does it look like we are done?”
“Well–” The mayor paused, then anxiously looked up at the sky. The cloud of darkness was now frighteningly close to the town. “I mean, I’m sure everypony knows by now that they need to leave the area. Shouldn’t we be getting out of here as well?”
“What are you, a coward? We are not leaving here until every last pony is safely out of the city! If that means engaging the spectrals in hoof-to-hoof combat in order to buy them more time, then so be it. What kind of mayor are you?”
“But my cutie mark has nothing to do with fighting!” the mayor protested. “I’m not trained to handle warfare. Can’t we just leave this up to Trixie?”
“Are you out of your mind? Trixie does magic tricks, you imbecile! Her magic is completely useless in a fight. Have you forgotten what happened the time Snips and Snails led an Ursa Minor into town? Trixie couldn’t do anything; why, she ran for her life. If Twilight hadn’t been here to fix the problem the entire town would have been leveled! And this time, mayor, Twilight is most certainly not here.
“The only ponies Trixie took with her to fight the invaders were Applejack, who raises apples for a living; Pinkie, who bakes cakes; and Rainbow Dash, who spends most of her time napping. Do you really believe that an entire army of a thousand spectrals can be defeated by a famer, a baker, a lazy brat, and a phony magician who has never accomplished anything in her entire life? They’re not going to survive thirty seconds out there!”
The mayor looked terrified. “Then what are we going to do?”
“We are going to get all of these ponies to safety – every last one of them. At least, as much safety as there can be, until the darkness takes over Equestria and consumes us all.”
* * * * *
By now the army of darkness had reached Trixie’s hiding place. For the first time in her life Trixie saw a spectral up-close. The sight was absolutely terrifying.
The ponies – if one could even call them that – were nothing but skeletons. Their black bones glowed a dark green color, as if they were animated by some sort of dark magic. Each one wielded a razor-sharp ebony blade, and they all marched in unison. Draped over their bones was a thick, black suit of armor. The armor reached down to their hooves and covered their head. Trixie was surprised at how dark the armor was – it reflected no light at all. In fact, it seemed to radiate darkness, if such a thing were even possible. The spectrals somehow consumed light and destroyed it.
The worst part was that the ponies had no faces. The helmet of each spectral was open, and inside was a swirl of darkness and storm. Their eyes were two green points of light that stared straight ahead.
Trixie was terrified and could barely breathe. More than anything she wanted to turn and run for her life, but she refused to give in to her fears. The Necromancer’s conjured sorcerer had to be defeated. Lives depended on her! She was not going to let them down again. Trixie had already done enough damage to Equestria. She was the reason Twilight was dead – but she would not let anyone else die. She would find a way to fix this – somehow.
When she looked to her left she was startled to see that Pinkamena was smiling – but it wasn’t a happy smile. Before she had been broken by sorrow, the pink pony had a constant joyful smile on her face. In those days her mane was bouncy, vibrant, and full of life. When Twilight died, though, her mane deflated and the light went out of her eyes. Now there was a sinister red glint in her eye – a look of rage and destruction. The dark gray pony had a knife between her teeth and was holding another knife in her left front hoof. Trixie had no idea where she had gotten those weapons. She had learned it was best not to ask.
It was heartbreaking to see how much Pinkie had changed. Right now we need an assassin, but in the long run Equestria needs its Pinkie back. Trixie just doesn’t know how to fix her! It’s not a memory problem – her spirit is broken, along with the spirits of everypony else in this sorry world. Pinkie hasn’t laughed since Twilight died. No one has, really. And it’s all my fault.
To her right, Applejack was tensed and ready to spring into action. The earth pony’s eyes were fixed on the spectrals, and she watched them as they marched by. Trixie had no doubt that when the time came, Applejack would spring into action and hurl herself against a giant armored troll that was many times her size.
I’ve got to act fast, Trixie thought nervously. I can’t hesitate. If I don’t destroy that Sphere immediately, Pinkamena and Applejack will both be killed – and then I’ll have even more blood on my hooves.
Trixie tried to contain her nerves as the spectrals marched by. Since Applejack and Pinkamena were two of the six Elements of Harmony they were used to battling Equestria’s enemies, but this was new territory for Trixie. The blue unicorn had never battled anything in her life. Instead she had spent her life trying to trick others into thinking that she was great and powerful – when in fact she was anything but. In the past Twilight had solved the problems that Trixie had created, but this time she was on her own. Trixie would have to rise to the occasion. Lives were hanging in the balance.
Then, when the column was almost past–
* * * * *
Overhead, Rainbow Dash was practically cackling with glee. The bulk of the army had passed Trixie’s hiding place and the sorcerer was almost directly in front of her. This was the moment Rainbow Dash had been waiting for: it was time to strike!
Rainbow leaped off her cloud and slammed into it with her hooves. The dark cloud shot out several bolts of lightning, which struck the army below. With the sound of thunder ringing in her ears, Rainbow watched excitedly as her lighting scattered the spectrals and bounced from one undead pony to the next. In a matter of seconds dozens of the undead were fried. Their bodies and armor instantly turned into vapor, leaving behind only small pools of protoplasm.
Oh yeah! This is going to be fun. I’ve totally got this!
The surprise attack caused the surviving spectrals to scatter and sent the entire army into chaos. Rainbow Dash quickly shoved her cloud to a new position and prepared to strike again.
* * * * *
The moment Rainbow Dash unleashed her first bolt of lightning, Pinkamena leaped into action. With a knife still clenched between her teeth she streaked toward the nearest warden. Before he even knew what hit him Pinkamena leaped into the air, grabbed his left leg with her right hoof, and swung herself onto the troll’s back.
The troll stumbled in surprise. He grabbed his giant flail and tried to swing it at her, but it was too late. Pinkamena quickly jumped off his armored back and onto his helmet. She then grabbed the knife she was holding between her teeth, and with a blade in each of her front hooves she violently stabbed his protoplasmic face right between his eyes. The warden screamed in rage as his head was unmade. A second later his head vaporized – and his entire body, armor and all, vanished into a cloud of mist.
Pinkamena fell to the ground – and quickly tumbled aside, as the second warden tried to obliterate her with his flail. The giant spiked ball came within inches of crushing her head. As Pinkamena rolled along the hard ground, she jumped toward the third warden – only to be bashed away by his shield. She was knocked back to the ground, stunned.
That was when Applejack rushed into the fray. When the fourth warden picked up his flail and aimed it at the fallen Pinkamena, Applejack dashed up to him and kicked him squarely in the back of his leg. The troll screamed in pain and stumbled to the ground.
Trixie, still hiding in the bushes, watched the scene in horror. Pinkamena and Applejack were engaging all three of the remaining wardens – but they had failed to draw them away from the sorcerer. He was still protected behind all three of them, well out of her spellcasting range. There was no way Trixie could get to him.
Worse, the sorcerer was not happy. In his hand he held a giant wooden staff that was covered in glowing arcane symbols. On the end of the staff was the Maelstrom Sphere – a dark crystal orb about six inches across that was filled with a black cloud and sparkling pinpoints of green light. The sorcerer had seen the lightning pour down from the sky and had spotted the gray pegasus who was responsible for disrupting his spectral army. The conjured sorcerer reached out and pointed his staff directly at Rainbow Dash.
* * * * *
Rainbow Dash was gleefully pounding the spectrals below with lightning. The army vainly waived their swords in the air – completely unable to reach her.
This is too easy! Dash thought. I’m going to have them all taken out in no time. Why–
Rainbow never saw the sorcerer aim his staff, nor did she see him fire a bolt of dark magic at her. The magical energy streaked through the air and hit her squarely in the back. She was immediately knocked unconscious – and began falling out of the sky.
* * * * *
High over Ponyville, Fluttershy had been watching the battle with horror. When she saw Dash get hit, she panicked. If she hits the ground she’ll die instantly! Nopony can survive a fall that far. I’ve got to save her!
Fluttershy left her post and raced toward the falling pony, in a desperate attempt to save the life of her friend.
* * * * *
Down in the city below, Rarity glanced up at the sky. She saw Fluttershy dash toward the cloud of darkness that had almost reached the city. She couldn’t see what her friend was trying to do, but she knew it could only mean one thing: the battle was not going well, and Fluttershy – the most timid and weak of all the Elements of Harmony – was now their last hope.
Curse you, Trixie, Rarity thought angrily. If it wasn’t for you, Twilight would still be alive and we wouldn’t be in this mess! You thoughtlessness and pride has doomed us all.
Rarity called out to the mayor. “Move faster! We haven’t got much time!”
* * * * *
From her hiding place, Trixie watched with horror as Rainbow Dash fell out of the sky. She desperately wanted to leap into the air and rescue her, but she was not a pegasus. Twilight had been an alicorn; she had both a magical horn and a pair of wings. There were now only three alicorns in existence, and Trixie was not one of them. Twilight could have saved her, Trixie thought bitterly. Twilight could have saved us all. Apparently all Trixie can do is get everypony killed.
* * * * *
Pinkamena, battered and bruised, leaped toward the enraged warden – and was effortlessly knocked away by his giant shield. The moment she hit the ground another warden raised his flail and hurled its ball at her with all of his might. The injured earth pony rolled out of the way – just in time, as the ball just barely missed her and smacked into the ground with tremendous force. The troll tried to move his flail to strike again, but it refused to budge. It was firmly stuck in the ground.
Applejack immediately jumped up and bucked the troll from behind. It wasn’t enough to knock him over, but he did become unfocused for just a second. That was all the time Pinkamena needed to run along the flail’s chain, dash up the toll’s arm, and stab the warden between his eyes. The warden screamed in pain as his protoplasmic head became unstable – and then he vanished.
Applejack watched with satisfaction as the second warden was vaporized. She didn’t see the third warden swing at her until it was too late.
* * * * *
Trixie watched in horror as the flail struck Applejack squarely in the side. It hit her with such force that Applejack wasn’t even able to scream. The earth pony was sent soaring through the air and across the road, where her broken body crashed into a nearby field. Applejack landed with a sickening thud. She did not get up.
Trixie very nearly screamed when she saw what happened. Please, please don’t die! Trixie will fix this, somehow. Just hang on, ok?
With Rainbow Dash gone, the sorcerer used the Sphere to regroup the remainder of his troops. It took only a few seconds for the column to reform – and for them to resume their march toward Ponyville.
The two surviving wardens now focused their attention on Pinkamena, who was limping and moving slowly. She would not last much longer.
Desperate, Trixie leaped toward the wardens and then teleported beyond them – but she missed. Instead of appearing behind the sorcerer, she found herself about ten feet in front of him. Directly in his line of vision.
She froze. The conjured sorcerer was a giant being, clad in black mystical armor. He stood upright on two legs and was easily twice as tall as Trixie. Like the spectrals, he was made from black bones that were laced with dark green energy.
And his eyes were fixed on the blue pony that cowered before him.
Trixie frantically fired her unmaking spell at the Maelstrom Sphere in his staff. The bolt struck the Sphere and a large crack formed in it – but it did not break.
The sorcerer howled in rage. He lifted his staff and commanded his undead army to obliterate Trixie.
* * * * *
Fluttershy’s wings ached and she found it impossible to breathe. Her sides hurt and she was on the verge of collapse – but she refused to stop. She had to reach Rainbow Dash. She had to! She could not fail. Dash was her friend, and she was not going to let her die.
With a last burst of strength, Fluttershy caught up to the unconscious pegasus and grabbed her with her hooves. She then tried to stop her fall – but Rainbow’s momentum was too great, and now both of them were plunging toward the ground. With time running out, Fluttershy frantically tried to stop.
For a moment she thought she could do it. They were slowing down, she was making it–
And then they were out of time. Both ponies smacked into the rocky ground. They immediately blacked out.
* * * * *
The Maelstrom Sphere began crackling with dark magic. It tried to send out orders to the spectral army – but it failed.
There’s something wrong with it, Trixie realized. I’ve damaged it!
The sorcerer realized that too. He shouted at his two remaining wardens. They promptly ignored Pinkamena and turned their attention to Trixie.
As Trixie trembled in abject terror, Pinkamena leaped toward the sorcerer and bucked his staff out of his hand. The giant weapon fell toward Trixie. As she saw it soar through the air she suddenly came to her senses and shot another bolt of unmaking magic toward it.
This time the damaged Sphere could not hold together. It shattered into a thousand points of dark green light – and then sent out a blinding shockwave.
The sorcerer, the wardens, and the spectral army all collapsed into goo – but Trixie didn’t see it. The shockwave knocked her off her hooves and sent her tumbling across the road. She fell to the ground, unconscious.
* * * * *
Trixie’s head was throbbing. Her whole body ached, and her pains had pains of their own. She struggled to remember where she was and what had happened.
When she was finally able to open her eyes, she saw she was lying on a stretcher just outside of Ponyville. Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy were also on stretchers. When she realized that they were all still alive she was flooded with a sense of relief. Apparently she hadn’t killed any more Elements of Harmony.
Applejack was being tended to by a doctor and several nurses. She was conscious, but covered in blood. The orange pony had an ugly wound on her side and was moaning in pain.
Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash had their wings bandaged. Rainbow Dash had a burn mark on her back, but other than that the two pegasi appeared to be ok.
Pinkamena was sitting alone. She was covered in bruises and dirt, and her back was bandaged. If she was in pain, though, she wasn’t letting on. Instead she just stared off into the distance at the cloud of darkness. Even though the spectrals were gone, the cloud still lingered.
Rarity and the mayor were also there. They appeared to be arguing with each other, but Trixie couldn’t hear their conversation. As far as Trixie could tell they were completely uninjured.
“Did Trixie’s plan work?” Trixie asked. “Are they gone?”
Pinkamena spoke up in a low, dark voice. “The undead have been banished back to Tartarus from whence they came. The sorcerer and his army have been unmade.”
The mayor looked pleased. “That means we can have everypony come back home, right?”
“Of course not!” Rarity said. “Don’t be ridiculous. This victory doesn’t solve anything! The Necromancer is still out there, somewhere in the Everfree Forest. Yes, we’ve defeated this army, but he can always conjure up another one – and another one, until he finally wins. All we’ve done is delay the inevitable.”
“So everypony can’t come back home,” the mayor replied sadly.
“That is correct. That is what the word no means.”
Rainbow Dash spoke up. “That’s some plan you had, Trixie. You nearly got all of us killed! Just look at what you did to Applejack – and to me, for that matter! Do you know how close I came to being turned into a puddle on the ground?”
“But you weren’t,” Fluttershy squeaked.
“Yeah we weren’t – no thanks to her. But look at us! We’re both grounded. We won’t be able to fly again for days!”
“Well, y’know, that was kinda your own fault,” Applejack said. As soon as she spoke up her doctor told her to be quiet and rest, but she ignored him. “If you had been payin’ attention, that sorcerer could never have gotten the drop on you. The fact of the matter is this whole thing turned out pretty well. Trixie saved all of our lives.”
“You gotta be kidding me! Are you ever going to be able to walk again?”
“My legs ain’t the problem – not much, anyway. It’s my side that’s all busted up. I reckon I won’t be doin’ any apple buckin’ anytime soon. But once the doctor has me patched up I’m sure I can–”
The doctor interrupted. “There is absolutely no way I can release you from my care. You have serious internal injuries – not to mention extensive bleeding, which we still haven’t gotten under control. As soon as I’ve managed to stabilize you I am going to move you to the hospital. Why, you’re fortunate to still be alive! If it wasn’t for your earth pony strength that flail would have torn you into pieces.”
“All right,” Applejack said reluctantly. “I see your point. So maybe I’ll have to do a bit of recoverin’ first. But I’m sure before too long I’ll be ready for whatever Trixie has planned next.”
“For whatever’s next?” Rainbow Dash shouted. “Are you nuts? I’ll tell you what should be next. We need to march right back to Canterlot and tell Celestia she made a terrible mistake in appointing Trixie as the new Element of Magic. She is utterly useless! I’d trust Sunset Shimmer over her any day.”
Privately, Trixie agreed with Rainbow Dash. Trixie had never wanted to be the Element of Magic – and even though Sunset Shimmer didn’t live in Equestria anymore, she was a powerful unicorn and had helped Twilight defeat the three sirens. Sunset really would have been a much better choice, but Celestia hated Trixie too much to ever allow that.
Fluttershy spoke up. “Now be nice, Rainbow. Trixie’s plan did work, and it did save the city. It’s not her fault you got kind of careless.”
Rainbow Dash glared at her. “Do you know what is her fault? The fact that Twilight isn’t here! If she was still alive she could defeat the Necromancer in her sleep – without causing serious bodily injury to her friends. We wouldn’t be in any danger at all! And do you know why Twilight isn’t here? It’s because of Trixie. Thanks to her we now face a threat that we can’t possibly defeat. She has put all of Equestria in danger – and you want me to be grateful because we were able to defeat just one of the Necromancer’s armies? I don’t think so!”
“Look, Rainbow, you need to let it go,” Applejack replied. “You gotta get past what happened to Twilight. None of us can go back and change what happened. The fact of the matter is Equestria’s got a serious problem, and like it or not Trixie is the only one who has a chance at stopping it. Celestia did appoint her as our leader, and so far Trixie’s plans have worked out as well as can be expected.”
“She’ll never be my leader,” Rainbow Dash grumbled. “Some of us don’t get over things quite as easily as you apparently do. Twilight’s funeral was just a month ago and you’re already ‘moving on’. Some loyal friend you are! Apparently it just takes you a month to forget all about your friends.”
“Enough!” Fluttershy shrieked. She then blushed. “Sorry. But – Trixie, what should we do next?”
Trixie wishes she knew, the blue pony thought to herself. She desperately wished Twilight Sparkle was here – but she knew that this time no one was going to come and rescue her. The princess who saved her life once before would never be able to save her again.