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(Contains: violence/gore)
   Applejack looked to the horizon. Under different circumstances, she’d have been looking wistfully. Even at the town hall, muffled booms and reverberating cracks could be heard all the way from the wall. Just the thought of how far away she was from the action made her gut wrench.

   “Please darling, I understand that you have nothing else, but surely an entire wheelbarrow of clocks... No, I understand that they’re valuable, but I said ‘necessary to survive’...”

   Of course, Big Macintosh would have none of it. These ponies see you as a leader, he had said, and leaders need to lead. If the resistance doesn’t get here in time, then you’ll have to be the one bringing them to the surface. If necessary, you’ll be their last line of defense.

   Listening to his reasoning was the hardest thing she ever had to do.

   “Well I admit that I have taken a disliking to them recently, but that’s not... No, I’m most certainly not... Well then who’s going to carry them, my dear? That cart won’t fit through the tunnel!”

   So she’d said her goodbyes, gave her brother a hug, and let other ponies do the fighting for her. Her whole body tensed with the desire to hit something, and she found herself not caring overmuch what it was. I’m letting them die for a lie. For a darned lie. Big Macintosh...

   But they wouldn’t understand. They’d have nothing to fight for. Half of them would desert to join the evacuees, so at least this way they had a chance.

   If by ‘they’ you mean ‘we’.

   “Then just take the gears, we can make... Yes, I’m exceptionally aware of how hard it is to find quality wood these days... Darling, if you try to drag those clocks up the escape tunnel before a single one of these other ponies, I swear to Celestia I will burn the lot of them, and that’s my last word on the matter.”

   Applejack rolled her eyes, perking her ears away from the argument. Before her, milling about haphazardly, everypony that wasn’t fighting on the wall or bedridden at the hospital was gathered in the town square. Rarity had put out the call to be ready for evacuation, but what exactly that meant depended on the listener. As Applejack looked around, she saw everything from carts to clocks to hats to barrels next to huddled ponies, terrified of starting a new life with literally nothing yet again.

   One pony caught her eye however, a lanky fellow that Applejack recognized from the old days in Ponyville. He didn’t appear to have any carts or crates or even saddlebags over his back. Curious, Applejack made her way over.

   “Howdy sir, How’re ya making out with the procedures so far?”

   The lanky pony sat down on his haunches, looking smugly nonchalant. “I’m a mite annoyed I suppose, but nothing too bothersome. If our boys down at the wall are still fighting by now, they ain’t going down anytime soon, the way I figure.”

   Applejack smiled, glad to find someone with their head still on their shoulders.

   The tall colt continued. “Way I see it, they can hold out long as they need to, easy peasy. When the resistance shows up behind those unicorns, they’ll surrender quicker than a cat in a henhouse. Hey, you alright there, miss?”

   Applejack imagined that she had turned politely away and that she certainly didn’t run out of sight. She might have hurried, sure, but her suddenly sick stomach demanded it. Once she was inside the town hall proper, she collapsed into a damaged chair and tried to calm her mind. How can I tell them now? How can I take what little they have left? It would be downright cruel. I want to tell them, I know I do, but I can’t. Just like I can’t be on the wall, even though that’s what’s right, helping these folk is more important. Her resolve settled her stomach a bit, but it still felt like she had swallowed a rock. I can’t tell them. Not yet. Twilight will understand.


______________________________________


   “Fire at will!”

   Snap could barely hear his sister over the roar of destructive magic around them, and it only became louder as the order was taken up. Looking out of the window on the third floor of the guardhouse he could see only an expanding dust cloud, the shapes of their besiegers long lost. Only the screams let him know that any targets remained.

   He gathered his strength and loosed it through his horn, equal parts hope and desperation. Crackle was next to him a moment later, her uniform spotless as she fired her own blast of magic. Snap focused his barrage again, all the tension and near panic flowing out of him with every attack. The waiting had been bad, not knowing if their magic would return in time had been worse, but now the unicorns were in the fight and everything depended on them crushing the attackers before they could regroup. The guardhouse they were encamped in was isolated, overlooked by the enemy only because it was too far away from the fight to be garrisoned by rock-throwers, and if the enemy turned their attention on them in force then they would be overwhelmed.

   There were no more commands from his sister. They all knew what was at stake and what needed to be done. Snap saw movement in the dust cloud and fired at it automatically, his eyes following his shot. He saw it hit the shape and explode, and he fired blindly as fast as his strength would allow, peppering the battlefield in desperate flames.

   He caught movement again, another shape charging through dust clouds. No, it was the same pony, closer now! He fired again, and saw other bolts arc toward him as well. They exploded, but the dark figure leapt from the flames almost as soon as they enveloped him.

   “Sis,” he said, a tinge of panic returning to his voice. Had it ever left?

   “I see it,” was the only reply. The shape was illuminated by the explosions around it, revealing the shape of a squat but hefty pony moving quickly. Too quickly.

   Something is wrong, he realized, taking a step back from the window. We hit it. It’s dead. How does it move so fast?

   The strange pony’s horn lit up, but nothing fired from it. Instead, the space between Snap and the eerie figure seemed to glow with black and blue with the colors of midnight and fear. The building rumbled, and Snap realized the pony wasn’t firing; it was enveloping the entire building in magic.

   The rumbling abruptly increased, and Snap looked to his sister’s wide eyes. His last thought was that the ceiling was lower than he remembered.

__________________________________


   Something is wrong, Red thought, his hoof whizzing another stone into the darkness. It had been some time since he had heard a resounding scream, but the blasts of magic from the guardhouse had also ceased. The dust in the air choked his lungs as he gasped, his body struggling for fuel as he heaved rock after rock into the void ahead of him.

   “Hold fire.”

   Red dropped the next rock before the last word was out of Big Mac’s mouth. Though he panted and heaved, his eyes scanned the darkness restlessly from atop the wall. Had they won?

   No. Something is wrong.

   The dust cleared slowly and silently as he watched. Seconds became minutes as he blinked dirt from his eyes, his breath slowly returning to him. And then something moved in the darkness.

   “Mac,” he grunted, stone in hoof.

   A larger rock flew over his head, arcing unerringly at the figure approaching them. Red heard a thud, but he could still make something out in the dust. A moment later he could see movement, and then he could make out the shapes of legs carrying a large body directly towards the wall.

   Red briefly wondered whether the pony was mad, charging the wall by himself, but his stomach wound itself into an even tighter knot. Something was wrong, something was downright unnatural about what approached them now.

   Big Macintosh was shouting orders below him. “Pop, send up a signal again, don’t let our forces let up on the assault. Red, take him down!”

   Red heaved and heard his stone make contact. He didn’t even try to deflect it. The soldier kept charging.

   The soldier’s horn flared and Red ducked reflexively. His eyes widened as the wall beneath him began to glow, and by instinct he half jumped, half slid down the wall toward his friends.

   Something is wrong, he tried to yell, but by then it was obvious.

   As soon as his hooves hit the ground, he was bracing himself against the wall. Big Mac and the handful of defenders left threw themselves against it in quick succession, pushing back against the magic that enveloped the wall. The aura washed harmlessly around Red’s shoulder, yet his fur seemed to stand on end wherever it touched.

   The wall groaned and Red redoubled his efforts, solid earth grinding beneath his hooves as he heaved against the wall. It was ludicrous that one unicorn could pose any sort of threat to the behemoth of a structure, not when it had weathered hundreds of magical bolts already, but such logic wasn’t helping the uneasy feeling in his gut.

   Red heaved again and the wall groaned in protest. He redoubled his strength when he heard the ominous creaking of stone of stone. The wall before him began to give way, to tilt forward-

   Oh fuck. “No! Stop!” he shouted, jumping away from the wall. “They aren’t pushing, they’re pulling! We’re helping them pull the wall over!

   There was silence for a moment as the other defenders realized what was happening. Big Mac stepped back, uncertainty flashing across his face, but it was too late. With a grinding, scraping sigh, the top of the wall swung forward, paused, and followed its new center of gravity forward.

   The wall didn’t simply tumble over, constructed as it was of a hundred pieces of rubble and reinforced debris. Boulders that had been packed tight with repeated magical blasts no longer rested on each other and began to fall one by one. There was no climactic crash or plume of dust sent skyward, just a landslide that quickly grew and then receded. The wall had slumped forward, now more horizontal than vertical, and nothing but a mound of rubble the height of a normal pony stood between the defenders and the besiegers.

   For Red, everything was happening at once. A soldier peered warily over the rubble and was immediately met with a rock in the jaw, but a turquoise ray of magic knocked the defender who had thrown it off his feet. Big Mac yelled something to Pop, who nodded and fired a signal flare skyward. The flare burst, green fading to red like a firework from Red’s childhood, and somewhere Red registered the flare as the evacuation signal. Another blast of green magic zipped past Red’s head, and when he turned to follow it the remaining half of Pop was smoking violently on the ground.

   Panic receded as he wrestled control of his body back. The other defenders were dead. Big Mac was surrounded by three unicorns, but two others lay dead at his feet. One of Red’s legs was numb from the flank down and he was grateful that his adrenaline rush had blocked out the pain of whatever had hit him.

   He charged, limping as he was, too Big Mac’s aid, crashing into a unicorn from behind and sending him off the bridge to the rocks a few meters below. Another soon joined him, and the last crumpled beneath Big Mac’s blows when the red giant’s hoof landed on his neck. But even as the last one twitched and died, more scrambled over the rubble. In their midst came a barrel on legs, his torso as thick as Big Mac’s though not so tall. Red recognized the black and blue magic that shot from his horn, vaporizing the stone in front of Big Mac.

   “Red,” Big Mac began. “The townsponies- “

   “I’m not leaving,” Red interrupted. “The signal went off. We hold the wall.”

   Big Mac grunted. Red liked to believe he had smiled at that, but he never knew for sure. The soldiers never paused nor waited for an order from their leader, simply swarming down the rubble pile on exhausted and unsteady limbs. Red recognized desperation in their eyes. Nopony would flee from this fight.

__________________________


   The General swam in a haze of red and black. Something moved his limbs for him, stepping surefooted over the rubble. Exhaustion tugged at him, the pain of a failing body registering in his mind, but something kept him sprinting forward. He hadn’t stopped moving in… he didn’t know how long. He remembered something about his friends, dust and lights and death, and then somepony had taken over for him. He was relieved, in a way, except that he couldn’t just lay down. Every movement was as exhausting as if he had made it himself, leaving him without any energy to even think.

   Ahead of him, the red haze coalesced into two boulders. No, earth ponies. They moved side by side, but The General moved with them. Other shapes swarmed towards them from behind, unimportant shapes, survivors, and the two red monoliths lashed out. Magic flared, flesh burned, and the general turned his attention from the scene in front of him, receding into the pain he had once registered as his pounding head.

   Blood, he registered as magic sliced through the front leg of the lesser red giant. Death, he added as the other pony leapt forward, crushing a soldier into the dirt. The scenes gave him strength, fueled his focus, and the general’s attention came back to the fight. As easy as thought, he enveloped the two red earth ponies in magic, willing them into the air. He grunted in confusion when they moved only a few centimeters forward, their hooves seemingly glued to the earth. A stone the size of his hoof struck him, blinding an eye and breaking his concentration but causing no more pain. His entire world was already pain, nothing else could add to that.

   He was moving forward again, the two ponies turning their attention fully on him. The larger one said something, and he felt his jaw move and his throat vibrate. Had he said something back? He tried to focus, to hear what had been said, but it was so hard and there was so much pain.

   You had your chance, something echoed in his head. And then he was falling, the scene fading as he was pushed into the back corner of his own mind, his way back blocked by indescribable agony.

____________________________


   “Come then,” Big Mac said, not wanting to waste words on the monster in front of him. Fur that was either dark grey or black stood on end beneath colorless black armor, seemingly crawling across the skin of the colt in front of him. It looked like it would crumple nicely beneath his hooves.

   “I see your death,” The unicorn said, his voice rough and jarring as if he was unused to words, and then he was firing.

   Big Mac braced himself, drawing strength from the stones of the bridge beneath him. Dark blue magic lanced toward him from the unicorn, crashing into him like an icicle and sapping his strength, but he weathered the blows with the strength of a mountain. Even when the jolt of magic passed, the numbing effect remained, and Big Mac’s first step forward cost more of his strength than he wanted to admit.

   The unicorns next to the barrel-chested monster stood arrayed like a firing squad, heads lowered and horns pointed at the final two defenders. For a brief moment, Big Mac hoped they would stay out of the fight until their commander ordered them otherwise. Even as the thought passed his mind though, their horns lit up in a plethora of colors, launching a rainbow of fire at him a moment later.

   Big Mac ducked his head and set his hooves, refusing to give an inch under the onslaught. The pain was incredible, flame washing over him like a current and searing away coat and mane and flesh. The barrage must have lasted less than a moment, yet afterwards it took all of Big Mac’s strength not to fall to a knee. His nostrils were filled with the smell of charred meat and his eyes were blinded, perhaps permanently, with the blazing light.

   Hoofsteps echoed from off to his side, and Big Mac knew that Red had fared better than him. Somepony let out a high pitch scream, followed by a gurgle of blood as another pony’s swear was cut off mid cuss. Big Mac mustered what strength he had to shamble blindly forward in a grim parody of a charge, willing his eyesight to return before he limped right past the attackers.

   His vision swam with greys and whites, light seared into his eyes, but something darker and coalesced into shape in front of him just as Big Mac leapt. He felt himself land on a pony near as big as him, his flesh seeming to crawl and writhe under Big Mac’s weight. Rather than going flying as Big Mac had expected, the other pony grunted and sagged under Big Mac’s weight, but weathered the crushing mass as well as any earth pony, his body seeming to sap the heat from Big Mac’s skin in moments.

   There was a brief flash and a wave of force seemed to pass through Big Mac, lifting and throwing him back from the unicorn. He twisted in the air, trying desperately to turn and and see where he was headed, but he only succeeded in landing heavily on his side, skidding a few feet across the gravel-strewn bridge before coming to a halt. He lifted his head as best as his flagging strength would allow, watching helplessly as Red rose into the air, his body engulfed by a cloud of black and blue magic.

   Big Mac struggled to his hooves, grunting and panting with every exertion. The cold that seemed to pierce his body in rivulets left muscles unresponsive while contrasting the lingering smell of burned mane, but Big Mac rose all the same. With all the weight and stubbornness of a mountain, he began a final lumbering charge.

   The leader of the unicorns turned his gaze towards Big Mac, casually flicking his head and sending Red soaring off the bridge. Even through the tunnel vision of his charge, Big Macintosh registered a stab of regret at the casual disposal of his friend. The bridge quaked beneath every hoofbeat, reverberating to the beat of his pounding heart as blood and fury pumped through the gargantuan pony. His vision filled with the black and blue magic of the unicorn as it tried to lift him into the air, but the bridge held on to it’s defender as surely as the defender guarded the bridge, and Big Mac lumbered ever closer. The magic abruptly disappeared, reforming instantly beneath his hooves, but he was too close now. He could see alarm rising in the unicorn’s one good eye, the other openly weeping blood from an earlier wound, and Big Mac lowered his head and jumped.

   Or tried to. As his hooves tensed beneath him, there was an abrupt crack in the stone beneath him. He pushed off the ground to leap, he found himself pushing only air while the brick, mortar, and strength of the bridge crumpled to the rocks and river below. His eyes never strayed from the unicorn’s as he fell, slamming into the edge of the gap hard enough to break his jaw and tumbling the rest of the way down.

   The shock of the cold of the water knocked what breath he had left, and he reflexively gasped in a lungfull of blood-choked river. His strength and anger ebbed away with the river, the rubble blocking the light from above as it settled around him.

   Big Mac’s last moments were not of fury nor peace, but confusion. We held so long. Where is the resistance? Sis, where...

___________________________________________


   Petty Sergeant Lucent Starglow had been busy composing his tale of epic victory when he chanced upon the six civilians. In his version of the story, he had been one of the first of Her Royal Majesty’s soldiers to brave the wall, slaying three, no, four rebel earth ponies the size of houses. It had been his own magic that had first begun burning down the rebel base.

   In actuality, he had been one of the first unicorns to survive going over the wall. He even saw the giant red earth pony get swallowed up by the river as he followed his General’s coat tails. Seeing as everypony else that had gone ahead of him was dead, however, made him the de facto first pony into the breach.

   One of the two in front of him whimpered, drawing a frown from Lucent.  He knew Private Smallhorn, a ridiculous name given his subordinate’s size, was looking to him for orders. Smallhorn had more combat experience and was the only other unicorn in the squad to survive the assault on the wall, but his rank still made him subordinate to the brass like Lucent.

   Lucent shrugged. He didn’t particularly like killing civilians, but orders were orders. In his tale, he would say that he had swung downriver to scout out any fleeing defenders and avoid civilian casualties, and at least one of those was true. It was just bad luck that one of those eventualities had occurred anyway.

   He let the magic in his horn gather as he stared the group down. There was at least one family and probably their neighbors. The colt standing in front of the children at least looked like he might have been a defender, ignoring the obvious limp in one leg. He seemed stubborn enough at least, his eyes remained defiant as everypony else’s widened in fear.

   The fear made Lucent smile a bit. Two members of his squad had died screaming, and no small part of him wanted revenge.

   “Sir!”

   Lucent whirled around and was faced by a large, wet, smelly mass of red fur. He looked up, the magic fading from his horn as his eyes widened. A large, wet hoof rested on his head as Lucent pissed himself in fear. To his credit, the red behemoth never smiled as he pulled his and Smallhorn’s heads together.

   Red nodded to the townsponies after the bodies collapsed, but had no consolation to offer the crying fillies. They would remember that for the rest of their lives, he was sure, but unless they all stayed focused, that would be gruesomely short.

   Red blinked, lost track of time, and found himself farther south of the town, striking inland, a gaggle of townsponies at his back. To his right, flame was spreading throughout the houses of the town, even the stone buildings having their thatch roofs burned into smoke and ash.

   He faded out and in again, realized he certainly had a concussion, and was past the town.

   It wasn’t until he had almost arrived that he knew where he was going. A throng of ponies loomed ahead of him, loud despite their best efforts as they tried to squeeze into a single door in the cavern wall. His group of survivors ran ahead of him, thanking him profusely as they passed and rejoining loved ones. Two ponies near the rear of the larger group turned and trotted to him, the nascent glow from the town fires illuminating the faces of Mayor Rarity and Big Mac’s sister.

   “I remember you,” Rarity said. “Foreman Red.” She hesitated a moment. “Just Red now, I suppose.”

   “You’re from the wall, are there survivors?” The orange pony who red now remembered as Applejack leaned forward, one hoof half-raised in anticipation. “My brother, Big Macintosh, is he okay?”

   Red looked her in the eyes, but through either exhaustion or his concussion he had no filter to soften the blow. “I didn’t see him die,” He said, “but no unicorn would have crossed that bridge while he lived. I’m sorry, we held for as long as we could, but the resistance never arrived. The wall fell as soon as the evacuation signal was sent.” His voice held none of the sympathy of his words. These ponies hadn’t watch their hopes die one friend at a time.

   The two fillies looked to each other. “I’m sorry,” Rarity began.

   Just then there was a clap of thunder deafeningly close, bright white flashing over the townsponies-turned-refugees.

   “Lightning,” Applejack muttered, her face dazed and distant.

   “Twilight,” Rarity supplied. “It must be. Come dear, we must be there or all is lost.” She turned to Red, the rising flames from the town illuminating the desperation in her eyes. “Red, you’ve been through so much, but please do us this last service. Make sure these ponies escape safely and guard them until we… for as long as you need to.”

   Red nodded, the throbbing in his head making him feel disconnected with reality. Had he thought about it, he might not have been sure about his ability to fight anypony like this, but he knew it wasn’t safe to rest yet. Maybe on the surface he could catch some sleep.

   He stumbled through the iron door to the safehouse, the sick, young, or enfeebled refugees making way for him. He climbed the ladder that had been erected to the natural vent in the ceiling, crawling on all fours through the cramped tunnel. All the while his head, limbs, and battered body demanded that he rest.

   And suddenly he was outside on the dirt, the stars shining brighter than he had ever noticed before, though that was likely the concussion. He was struck by the realization that the battle had lasted through the entire day, that we was the only survivor of the fighting, and that many of his friends were dead. He wanted to laugh and vomit and sleep all at once. In the end, he settled on a slightly hysterical smile.

   He looked about at the ponies around him, his smile fading as he noticed the scores of uniformed ponies that had been waiting for them.

_______________________________________________


   Twilight did her best not to vomit as she was flown over the bridge. As much as she told herself to stay focused, she couldn’t keep from scanning the bodies laying about for the familiar faces of her friends, though every glimpse brought trepidation, relief, and guilt for feeling relief. She had to assume that most of the defenders were buried under the rubble half submerged in the water, but the scores of unicorns between the cavern entrance had given her some hope of success. Until she had seen the fires.

   The cavern that housed New Ponyville was not so big that one couldn’t see from one end to another, but in the eternal gloom of the underground little more than a speckle of lights were usually visible of the town upon entering. Now, however, the entire cavern was at least partially aglow from the flames engulfing the town, the light slowly changing from a constant, dull orange across the faces of her friends to a violent yellow light that threw frantic shadows behind them as they neared. For whatever survivors remained, Twilight knew, this was likely the last time they would ever see wood burn, and it was their own homes.

   Rainbow Dash let Twilight down gently on the other side of the bridge, The pegasus openly panting with the exertion of hauling her friend so far. The captain, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie all touched ground beside her, Pinkie staring straight ahead while the others blanched at the carnage.

   The captain turned to Twilight, face inscrutable beneath her mask but her voice wavering just slightly. “We should head for the evacuation tunnel. Any survivor’s are either there or dead by now.”

   Twilight didn’t want to write off anypony still among the flames, but the situation demanded focus. “I agree. Dash, captain, fly ahead and make sure we don’t bump into any marauders. Fluttershy, keep an eye on any building we pass for anypony trapped inside, but stay close. Everypony stay low and quiet, we don’t know how many soldiers are left and we don’t want them turning on us. It’s possible they don’t know where the evacuation tunnel is and we don’t want to lead them to it.”

   Everypony nodded in unison and moved out, Pinkie Pie never looking away from the flames ahead. They all fell into stride as they neared the burning town, skirting the side as they circled south and around the homes they had arrived too late to protect. They moved swiftly, passing only a pair of unicorn’s whose helmets had been flattened together, leaving a grotesque scene around their splayed bodies. The silhouettes of Dash and the captain could sometimes be seen flitting between buildings, but Twilight found it impossible to distinguish one from the other. Other than her rising anxiousness, the trip was uneventful until they were almost past the town.

   Twilight was looking at the rocky ground beneath her when she heard the thunder, but she saw the lightning briefly illuminate the entire cavern. Her head whipped up and around towards the noise, her mind trying to process a dozen things at once. Lightning underground? It came from the town. Is Dash okay?

   The last thought was answered a moment later as Dash and Fluttershy alighted in front of her, the latter visibly quaking. “What was that? What happened?” Twilight asked, ears back flat in worry. “Where’s the captain?”

   Dash extended a wing around Fluttershy, pulling the quivering pegasus closer. Twilight noticed that even Rainbow’s wing wasn’t completely steady. “The captain  flew off as soon as we saw. It’s Nightmare Moon, Twilight. She’s here.”

___________________________________________________

   The General strode through the town, snarling and every shadow and torching every window. There were other soldiers in the town, but they had long since spread out to plunder and destroy as they would. Some of the more loyal ones had only departed after the stocky unicorn had simply abandoned words and rank in favor of growls and prodigious use of destructive magic. What remained of his face was covered in blood, his lips permanently pulled back in a snarl, and he trembled as he walked as if wracked with fever chills, extreme exhaustion, or both.

   Well behind him, stepping tenderly around pieces of burning debris, came Trixie.

   The general stopped suddenly, as if sensing something in the air, twisting his head around with one wide eye, he looked directly where Trixie was standing, narrowed his eye, and continued forward, muttering under his breath. To him, Trixie knew, there was nothing except empty air, the invisibility spell being one of her first of many to master. She had been present for most of the battle of course, quietly watching as her “gift” ate at his weak little mind until only strength remained. She could have helped more directly, but it suited her just fine to be forgotten amongst the chaos. Plus, he seems to have things well under control, she added with a quiet snicker.

   The general raised his head in paranoia again, blew the front wall off a nearby building, and shuffled aimlessly down the street.

   Despite the sights and smells of victory all about her, Trixie felt unease quietly gnawing at her. This is all secondary. Where is the captain? Would they have evacuated a prisoner, or is she locked in a cell in one of these buildings? Trixie frowned, her pace quickening slightly. None of these look like anything more than houses and stores. I need to find the town center and confirm that the esteemed captain is chained, beaten and helpless before this idiot torches her trail.

   The general stumbled and turned down a side street, yelling something about voices as he staggered through the flames. Trixie turned from him in disinterest and followed the main road, catching sight of a taller building between pillars of smoke.

   The Great and Powerful Trixie always finds what she’s looking for, she thought herself as she cantered forward.

   She rounded the corner, saw the town hall clearly, the flames only beginning to lick at it, and was halfway through her first step forward when the lightning struck.

   The sound was incredible. Deafening beyond measure, and not just in her ears. Her bones vibrated with the subsonic tremors as her head was whipped back from the shear force of the strike. She had used lightning spells countless times before, but this was similar only in appearance; the air immediately filled with magical energy so potent that every hair in her coat stood on end, mimicking the static effect that real lightning would have had. Her horn sensed magic in the air so strong it hurt, as if she had taken a breath so deep that her lungs ached to bursting. And to top it all off, Hey Royal Majesty Nightmare Moon was now standing in the town square.

Trixie, the chess master who had manipulated events to win the throne from a goddess, could only think one word. Shit.

   Her body, thankfully, had better reaction. She had pulled herself back around the corner, he back pressed against the wall of a building she prayed would not collapse on her. What the hell is she doing here? How much does she know?

   Her questions were answered a moment later as a magically amplified voice rang throughout the entire cavern, the floor rumbling with the amplified bass of the voice of divinity.


“Trixie Lulamoon! Rainbow Dash! Come to me, I will have answers now!”

__________________________________________________


   Her beloved captain appeared first.

   Luna had not known for sure that she would be here, or even still alive, and yet she was not surprised at all to see her. The captain approached out of the smoky darkness, flying swiftly to the ground in front of the alicorn and going to one knee.

   Luna looked down, her mind split between contempt and regret. She didn’t know what to say, didn’t know what she was doing. She knew that somepony had been lying to her, deceiving her, and she instinctively distrusted Trixie, but Rainbow Dash and Twilight…

   She shook her head. She was tired of questions, and her impatience had won out. By right of rule, she demanded answers from her subordinates.

   The silence stretched on, punctuated only by the dull roar of flames and the noisy collapse of a nearby house. Luna reached out with her magic, sensing other ponies nearby, trying to root out Trixie. Her absence helps confirm her guilt.

   To her surprise, she sensed not just one other nearby pony, but eight.

   Her unasked question was answered a moment later when a pink earth pony came bouncing out of the smog, her dead expression contrasting with the comical skip. Behind flew a yellow pegasus, almost lost amongst the light from the fire, a white unicorn, a yellow filly-

   Luna’s eyes widened.

   She was standing in a ruined temple, the air cold around her, staring down the defiant purple unicorn. She was recoiling, a city wreathed in flames around her, being stared down by the same unicorn. She was standing over a grave, one she had dug and filled and dug again, full of bones and regret. She was young and prideful and angry at her sister. She was old and full of emotion and confused beyond measure

   “Twilight Sparkle,” She finally said.

___________________________________________________

   “Nightmare Moon,” Twilight replied, her gaze narrowing. “Come to see the fruits of your labors?”

   “I killed you,” The deity answered, her voice flat. “You’re alive.”

   “And she’s staying that way this time!” Rainbow Dash said, landing in a crouch beside Twilight.

   Twilight watched as Nightmare Moon’s eyes flicked to Rainbow, the captain, and back to Twilight. It was only then that Twilight really looked at her eyes. For just a moment, she saw the pain within, and her expression softened.

   “I’m sorry,” Luna said, seemingly to everypony.

   Several things then happened at once.

   Luna screamed, throwing her head back in a primal wail that could only convey absolute agony. The black, star-speckled cloud of magic that comprised her mane flew away and behind her, gently gathering in the shape of pony.

   Trixie allowed her invisibility spell to face, concentrating her strength in her one attack. Her smile was the first thing to return to sight, floating in the air for a moment while she seemed to appear around it.

   Behind Twilight, another pony screamed, but this one echoed with bloodlust. This time, Twilight turned and tackled Dash out of the way of danger as the general came hurtling past, his lumbering and incoherent charge an unintentional imitation of Big mac’s last stand.

   The general kept charging, hurtling toward the captain seemingly at random. The captain flew at Trixie, and though Twilight could not see her face she could imagine the horror, rage, and despair that must be driving her. Twilight detangled herself from Dash and lept to her hooves, her five friends all gathering close around her.

   “The elements!” She shouted. “NOW!

   The glow around her began soft, but quickly eclipsed even the glow of the fire. From every direction, the magical auras grew in intensity as Twilight watched the battle. The captain had tackled Trixie but was almost instantly caught in her magic. The barreling general slammed into Trixie’s side horn first, causing them both to scream in pain. The captain was released and flew down to Luna’s side, cradling her limp head. Yellow goggles snapped up to glare at Twilight. Do it, she mouthed, or perhaps shouted. Twilight couldn’t hear over the magical hum around her.

   Another light flashed above Twilight’s head, but as it lowered towards her, it became increasingly clear that something was wrong. The light that accompanied it began to rapidly dim, and the stone began fading as soon as it appeared. Twilight's eyes became filled with fear as she realized that something was horribly wrong. The sixth element faded long before it reached Twilight, and the ponies turned their confused and terrified gazes upon Trixie, now looming triumphantly above them, the general swinging limply in the air.

   No, it was supposed to work, it had to work! Twilight looked to her friends, and the answer was immediately written on Applejack’s face.

   The filly looked completely downtrodden, ears back in genuine shame, but Twilight had no room for sympathy. “I-I’m sorry Twilight, I never got the chance to tell them. They all died, Big Mac died, and they never knew.”

   “Applejack,” Twilight said, color draining from her face. “What have you done?”

   Something crashed into the building above Twilight, a pair of squat legs left just visible poking through the wall of a stone building. A scream a moment later brought Twilight’s attention back to Trixie, draining what breath was left in her lungs.

   Trixie held the captain and the limp body of Luna to either side of her, but that wasn’t what terrified Twilight. Trixie had swelled to over twice her previous size, standing just short of where Nightmare Moon had. Where Nightmare Moon had once had armor the color of midnight, Trixie’s coat openly swirled and writhed with black waves and tendrils of something, seeming to emerge, ripple, and sink into flesh again. The effect was like seeing a giant laughing hysterically while worms of rot wriggled visibly beneath her skin, and Trixie’s eyes held nothing but psychotic murder in them.

   “We wonder if you somehow remember,” Trixie said as she stepped forward, discarding the captain and the former queen like used tissues. Her voice was recognizably Trixies, with with something else vibrating beneath the surface. “Dying before us, that is. Do you remember the betrayal you felt? The confusion before your death? We savored it for a long time, you know. It was our first meal after a thousand years.”

   Despite her fear, Twilight stepped forward, hoping her eyes would hide her near panic. “That wasn’t me, and it wasn’t you either.”

   “Foal,” Trixie shuddered, the ripples across her skin becoming a tide of black that rose, spread across her, and receded. Twilight swore she saw agony briefly in her eyes. “Do you really think Princess Luna would have done those things on her own?” Twilight saw her friends encircle her more protectively as Trixie approached, but even she knew it was an empty gesture. Without the elements, they were doomed.

   Trixie, or the thing that had been Trixie, scoffed and stopped, glaring down in full pride at the ragtag group before her. For a moment, Trixie’s voice was a guttural croak, as if she was unfamiliar with how speech worked. “Luna’s bitterness let me in, and I was only too eager to escape that empty rock in the sky. I gave her what strength she needed, and she allowed my into your world. But her will was too strong to master, so a more…” The unicorn held up a hoof as if inspecting for quality “malleable vessel was ideal.” The black ripples receded slightly, and Trixie’s voice returned to the surface. “We find this arrangement to be much more profitable for both sides. Power for power, after a fashion.”

   Trixie continued walking forward, causing the speechless Twilight to retreat a step. “For what it’s worth, you know, using the elements was almost clever. They’re not just harmonious with each other, but with everything, including the world around them. Your little lessons almost mattered, in the end.” The Trixie-thing lowered her horn. “But, understand, this is the end.”

   The bolt struck as quick as lightning. Twilight would have almost expected Dash or maybe the captain to do something stupid, like throw themselves in front of the bolt, but Dash was only just tensing to her side and the captain was laying insensate. So when her view was filled by the outstretched body of a pony, Twilight was surprised on two fronts.

   The shock of the moment passed, and Twilight looked down at the shattered gold chain of the element beneath her. The glimmering apple-shaped pendant lay between her and the motionless body of Applejack.

   “Heh, such loyalty,” Trixie said, her voice becoming more unrecognizable with every sentence. Twilight caught movement over the towering unicorn’s shoulder. “Maybe she should have gotten that element, instead of your easily-tempted friend.”

   Twilight looked to her friends on either side. Their expressions were stubborn and carefully fearful, but Twilight knew her friends well enough to read their true expressions. They were ready.

   Twilight looked back to Trixie, smiled, and kicked the Element of Honesty.

   Trixie grinned and spun, following the movement and throwing a sickly black and green bolt of lightning at it. Rainbow Dash was there first though, scooping it up and hurling it towards Fluttershy. Fluttershy caught it high in the air, squeaked, and dropped it into the mouth of Pinkie Pie, who took off between Trixies legs before she had even turned around. More annoyed than confused, Trixie spun around again in time to come face to face with the captain, now holding the pendant in one hoof.

   “Good suggestion, but we’re one step ahead of you,” Twilight said. “The captain made a pretty good case about being loyal, but her best trait was knowing she couldn’t work against her only friend when she was needed most, even when she thought she had lost that friend. She was honest, with herself, about who she was and where she stood.” Twilight grinned, “let’s see how self honesty factors in with these elements.”

   Trixie turned and loosed a bolt from her horn in one motion, the magic heading straight for Twilight’s head. It crashed into her with the crackling sound of static and electricity, flowing around and discharging behind her harmlessly. The tiara now resting on her head gleamed in defiance, and Twilight saw the white of her own eyes reflected in Trixie’s.

   The friends floated closer until the glow from their auras mingled with each other, creating a rainbow that formed around them before shooting outward, wrapping around the twisting unicorn. Twilight was sure that Trixie was screaming, but she could hear nothing about the comforting yet deafening hum of the elements.

   The rainbow eclipsed Trixie and shot upward in the same moment, crashing through the roof of the cavern. Despite the weight of the mountain directly above them, Twilight had no doubt that the rainbow vortex had continued unimpeded all the way to the moon.

__________________________________________

   Twilight was the last one through the escape tunnel, watching with a sort of detached hope as the slightly blue patch of darkness ahead opened to a starry sky. When she finally emerged, she was surprised at the level activity around her.

   Military grade tents had been erected for the refugees as uniformed ponies walked through the camp, many with their yellow goggles raised. Each Shadowbolt carried packs of supplies on their back, passing out food and water to the wary but grateful ponies around them, the captain barking orders not far ahead. A golden pendant gleamed around her neck, The shining white skull of the Shadowbolts somehow seeming to look less than threatening. Most of the survivors were gathered around a large red earth pony who lay on his back, feebly trying to ward off the ponies tending to him.

   Twilight walked calmly forward. In truth, this was not her first trip up and down the tunnel, but her fifth that night. Her and her friends had descended and returned again and again, at first for survivors, then for supplies, and then for the bodies they could find. Despite their agreed upon priority, Twilight had returned from the first trip carrying Applejack, though nopony had dared to approach her about it. The orange mare was laid out peacefully now among other casualties, being carried by a thin white cloth to await burial. Somewhat disturbingly, the unicorn general had not yet been found, though Twilight suspected he had been swept up in the same magic that had carried off Trixie.

   Twilight turned from the camp and headed a short way into the woods, exchanging a nod with the captain as she passed. She didn’t need to go far, just over a rotted tree that had fallen and around the far side of a boulder. Far enough that voices wouldn’t travel and other ponies wouldn’t come looking.

   Against the far side of the boulder, Rarity and Pinkie looked on as Fluttershy tended to Luna, the alicorn barely managing to sit up against the large rock. Twilight set down the pack she had brought up from the tunnel, rummaging through it and levitating the contents towards the nursing pegasus.

   “It’s mostly salves for the pain, no real medicine,” Twilight said, addressing Luna directly. “I don’t know how it measures up to what the Shadowbolts have, but I think they’ve already used up what they brought. Some more will be back from Canterlot soon though, they left almost an hour ago.”

   Luna looked at Twilight with weary eyes. She seemed so tiny to Twilight now, barely larger than a child. Her mane had receded from a starry night sky to a simple light blue, her wings small and frail against her side. She looked as if she had been starved for weeks, but she had steadfastly refused any food so far. “I thank you, Twilight Sparkle. And all of you.”

   Twilight smiled thinly, feeling more than a little tired herself. She turned around at a soft rustling, watching Rainbow Dash touch down beside her. The captain was not far behind, her torn uniform and raised goggles doing nothing to conceal her own rainbow mane.

   “Right on time,” Twilight said, turning to the group as a whole. Everypony gathered around, looking at Twilight expectantly, but she shook her head and pointed a hoof at Luna. “Don’t look at me, she asked me to gather you.”

   Luna managed to sit up a little straighter as all eyes turned to her, hiding her grimace behind a thin smile. “Thank you, Twilight,” she began, “These ponies will have a long trip back to Canterlot, but they are safe now. New Ponyville is no more, and for that I am deeply sorry.” She paused for a moment as if choosing her next words carefully, “I… will not be returning with them.”

   Fluttershy murmured quietly to Pinkie and even the captain pawed the ground uncomfortably. It was not exactly surprising, but it left important questions.

   “The reign of Nightmare Moon is over, and I think I’ll barely have the strength to travel now, nevermind rule.” She paused again, looking the other ponies over. “I have no right to pass any sort of leadership on, so the choice is yours. Somepony must guide everypony in this world, and you must decide who.”

   “We all will, together,” Rarity said, stepping forward.

   “I won’t,” interrupted the captain, moving to Luna’s side. “Where Luna goes, I go.” She smiled warmly down at her injured friend. “Exile can get pretty lonely on your own.”

   Luna smiled up at the pegasus but said nothing.

   “Uhm, I’ll try my best, but I don’t know the first thing about ruling anypony,” Fluttershy muttered, moving next to Rarity.

   Pinkie stepped over quietly. “A New New Ponyville will have to be founded. Maybe a New New New New New Sugarcube corner…” For the first time since she had left New Ponyville, Twilight saw Pinkie smile.
   
   That only left Twilight and Rainbow Dash. Twilight looked to her friend silently for a few moments before nodding. “We’re going to stay and help,” She said with finality. “It will take time to find out how to get home, even if we wanted to. But to be honest, I think you ponies need our help more than our friends do.”

   “And the Shadowbolts will need a new captain,” the captain said, “perhaps you’ll reconsider that offer.”

   Rainbow Dash frowned. “I think I’m done with leading ponies anywhere,” she said, “but Twilight is right. We’ll do whatever we need to do to get Equestria back on its feet.”

   Twilight nodded, looking around at her friends. “It won’t be easy. We still have no day, little food, and no idea what state the rest of the world is in.” She sighed, smiling a little despite herself. “But I’m sure that if we work together, we can move forward. We may never return to what Equestria was, but we’ll survive.” Looking Directly at Luna now, Twilight asked, “Will you at least stay with us until you’re well enough to travel? A few days or weeks perhaps?”

   Luna looked to the captain, both smiling. “A few days. Then… we’ll see.”

   Twilight smiled and looked towards the sky, admiring the stars again. The moon was out now, the craters seeming to form the glaring face of a familiar pony. Around it, shooting stars fell gently, a few streaking across the entire night sky.

   Twilight breathed deep of the fresh, cool air, the smell of damp and decaying vegetation as familiar to her now as home. There would be more trials ahead she knew, but for now everything was peaceful. Dash moved up next to her, extending a wing in camaraderie. Twilight sighed and leaned into her friend, suddenly realizing how tired she was.

   Too happy for sleep, she found herself thinking. It’s finally over. I wish this night would never end.
The Night that Never Ended p22
Aaaaand we're done. That's it, something like 3 years of on-and-off writing finally coming to an end.

It's still kind of a surreal feeling for me to no longer have this hanging over my head. To be honest, I would have dropped out of the fandom a long time ago if this wasn't pulling me back. If you haven't noticed, I have trouble finishing projects. Luckily, I have more trouble letting them go :P

A huge thank you to everyone who kept tabs on this. Even now, I still get messages every week asking if this is dead or being updated or what. I feel terrible that I left you all in limbo but your continued interest was what got me to finish it in the end. You guys are the best, now enjoy your grimdark colorful ponies.



(Slight spoilers below here if you haven't read the chapter yet)
As a final note, I intentionally left a few questions unanswered. This was primarily Twilight's story in this world, and it tied closely to other characters around her but there are some mysteries she never unravelled. What happened to the general, whether she returns home or not, how well Equestria fares... these are all their own stories, ones I will probably never tell but will often wonder about. I have my own ideas, but I'm more interested in what you guys would think happens.

And that's really it. After three years all I can think to say is a few paragraphs and a big thank you to everyone. Hope you enjoyed my story, as drawn out as it was, and best of luck in whatever fandoms you find yourselves in next.
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(Contains: violence/gore)
In the depths of the Everfree forest, a lonely path snaked through the woods. In the days before Nightmare Moon, it had been overgrown with hanging branches and weeds. Now however, the wet dirt lay in plain view, hidden only by soft, rotting branches and growths of mushrooms. Had there been any stars out to see by, it would have been easy to follow it through.

Had anyone tried to follow it, of course, they would have been taken through a copse of skeletal trees, around the edge of a cliff, and eventually stopped by a broken bridge. Had they somehow persisted even then, they would have finally come across unspeakably old ruins, once perhaps a temple or palace. And then, after braving a dozen dangers in the lightless void of day, they would have finally seen something very strange indeed.

Behind the old ruins, between a crumbled wall and a very knotty tree, a light shone out like a torch. It shifted and swirled through the air like the night sky itself, throwing away shadows despite the darkness of its own light. And beneath her shifting mane, Luna looked down at her hooves.

A thousand thoughts shifted wordlessly in her head as she stood like a statue. A thousand memories played out like a disjointed movie. This was where she had first left Equestria of course, at the “behest” of her dear, departed sister. This was where she had almost been thwarted a second time, as well. Finally, this was where she had sealed her victory forever, and killed her first mare.

Her gaze remained fixed on her dirt-stained hooves. Of course she could have used magic to dig, but it felt somehow wrong. She had used them to dig this hole the first time, it was only right that she use them to unearth it.

She couldn’t help the memories returning again at that thought. The weeks following her takeover, her fracturing insistence that everything was how she wanted it, her regrets mounting against her. The guilt, the regret, the hatred. Oh Gods, the hatred. Burning and burning like a torch in eternal night, the only fuel that kept her going. Hatred had almost kept her from coming back here, almost kept her from digging the grave now beneath her, almost kept her from erecting the headstone that now stood haphazard before her.

She had thought she had mastered her hatred by coming here the first time, but her argument with the captain showed her otherwise. Something was terribly wrong, not just with her actions, but with her. She knew that now, on some level she always had, but without her torch, how would she keep the night away?

A traveller in the woods, having braved a dozen dangers to see what the night herself was standing over, might have been disappointed. Still mostly covered in dirt, a haphazard skeleton  lay still and silent as the guardian above it. Perhaps the only notable feature was the horn protruding from the top of the skull, pointing in accusation directly toward the alicorn.

_____________________________________________________


“Oww! Ughh, I can’t see anything!” Twilight yelled, nursing her stubbed hoof.

“I thought you said you could see? Isn’t that how you got to my house from Ponyville?”

The voice sounded even softer than Fluttershy’s normal voice, as if it was muffled by a mound of blankets. She was used to the strange effects of the day by now though, and hardly noticed the distorted acoustics. A small part of her wondered how she could become accustomed to something so unnatural.

“Err, yea, I did.” Twilight muttered, distracted by her thoughts. “Well, I could before. It’s been fading slowly, but now it’s pretty much gone. We’ve got to be pretty close to Ponyville by now anyway though.”

“Oh, uh, how are we going to get back to, uhm, the other Ponyville then?”

“I’ll... I’ll figure something out. We just need to hope that Rainbow Dash and Pinkie found Applejack’s element. Then we can, uh, make our way back and save the town.”

“By stopping Trixie?”

“Yes.”

“The Elements will just... do that?”

Twilight didn’t answer. She knew Fluttershy was just honestly curious, but she didn’t want to snap at her friend so soon after gaining her trust again, and couldn’t guarantee that she wouldn’t.

Yes, fine, I don’t really have a plan. I’m gathering the Elements of Harmony because that’s what Celestia told me to do last time and it worked then, but this time I don’t have Celestia to tell me how to fix things, and things here have been broken for so long that they’ve gone and mended themselves all wrong, so my plan to to do the only thing I can think of and hope that it magically works. Are you happy now?

Instead she said, “They did last time, so yes. We’re here.”

Twilight wasn’t sure how she knew it, but she knew they had entered Ponyville. Maybe she had just picked up on the ground being harder packed from long-absent traffic, or perhaps a half-remembered smell had floated by, but she knew she was home in some twisted sense.

“So, uhm, how do we find Rainbow Dash.”

Twilight stood still and thought for a moment. She chastised herself, once again, for not specifying a better meeting place than “Ponyville.” Just as the silence began to drag awkwardly, she took a deep breath.

Rainbow Dash!” She yelled, screaming into the blackness. Even to her, it sounded slightly muffled. After a few moments of silence she yelled again, but she knew her calls were being swallowed up before they travelled any real distance.

“Rrruuuughh!” she yelled, stamping the dirt in anger. “Just once! Just once have one thing in this blasted world go right! Every single step there’s another problem or block or bone-headed move in the way! Why can’t anything ever just go right?

Fluttershy remained silent.

Twilight collapsed to the ground, wanting more than ever to just cover her eyes up and wait for everything to pass. “If Celestia were here, she’d know what to do. But she’s not and I don’t have my magic and I’m out of patience, so screw this!”

“What do you-”

Twilight was back on her hooves in a flash. She could feel her shoulders set and her legs locked as she leaned forward and screamed. “I’m done! I’m done fighting every inch of the way just to take another step! I’m going to get these elements back to their owners, beat Trixie, and save Ponyville if it kills me! Do you hear me?”

Her words were swallowed in seconds, and Twilight stood panting, staring down the darkness all around her as if waiting for an answer. After a few moments, she stamped her hoof, as if to make a point, and turned towards the center of town.

“Twilight, uhm, I’m sorry if I, uhm, where are we going?”

“To Sugarcube Corner.” Twilight said without missing a beat. “Because if my luck continues like it has, something went wrong with Rainbow Dash and Pinkie, Pinkie went crazy, again, and now she’s probably back there by now to rebuild her rock-trap-piano-wire-monster. Again.”

Twilight didn’t even try to make out the darkness around her anymore, moving based on months of memory alone. Sure enough, her hoof caught on chunk of rubble after a few moments, but instead of catching her balance she put all the strength in her leg behind a kick as soon as she felt resistance, launching whatever debris had lain in the road so far that she never heard it land. As if the cosmos somehow sensed her anger at it, the rest of the trip was uneventful.

After a time, Twilight stood at the doorstep to Sugarcube corner, her lip twitching at the sight before her. “Huh. Alright, that’s actually good to see.”

“I can’t see anything, Twilight.”

“Exactly. No lights means Pinke hasn’t been back here to rebuild freakishly fast, which means they’re still at the farm, which means that nothing catastrophic has happened yet.”

“But we still have to find them. How are we going to do that?”

Twilight thought for a moment, putting a hoof to her chin. “We don’t have time to just sit here and wait for them, but we’ll never find them in this darkness. Bleh.” She sat down with an unseen poof of dust, her jaw setting as she glared stubbornly at the darkness. “Just once, a little guiding light would be helpful,”  she muttered, half hoping that her good luck at finding the store deserted would hear her and send another gift.

On the horizon, dawn began to break.

___________________________________


The captain beat her wings rhythmically, too lost in the act of flying to think, something she instinctively was glad of. Pushing the air around her, feeling it break before her like a wave as she cut through it... there was something deeply therapeutic in the act.

Sonic rainbooms were no stranger to her of course, having performed her first as just a little filly. She knew that in a disconnected way that her wings were burning, her body fueling itself mostly on adrenaline, shutting down everything non-essential. Apparently worry was non-essential, because she was smiling as she looked around, practically a passenger enjoying the flight in her own body. Everything was just so peaceful, and even the roar of the air crashing around her and whipping through her ears had become white noise after a time.

In all directions, the world was lit up like she hadn’t seen in almost a year, a wave of rainbow pushing the darkness back in her wake. It blew the darkness away from the ground ahead of her like wind blowing smoke, and she began to recognize the area she was flying over.

A strong twinge in her autopilot functions told her that the ruins below her were important, and she contemplated stopping. She knew that this was not her destination though, so she did not worry. Worrying took energy, and she needed her energy for flying. Even focusing took more energy than she could spare, so she let her mind drift away while he body churned and burned and pushed itself through the air like a missile.

____________________


Twilight’s jaw dropped slowly as dim orange light began to break over her, followed by red and blue and a cacophony of colors driven wedge-like through the air by the speck above her. “What in the... Rainbow Dash?” Twilight muttered, dumbfounded as she turned her head to watch the flying figure pass her. “But how... wait, the captain?”

Realization struck her as her eye picked up movement from the ground. A few hundred meters away in the direction of the farm, another rainbow streak lifted off towards the dark-costumed blur in the center of the rainbow. From the ground it seemed to happen in slow motion and Twilight was afraid that Rainbow wouldn’t able to catch up to the speeding captain, but Dash had judged her trajectory well and the two dots gradually collided.

Twilight squinted, but couldn’t make out the details of exactly what was happening. The rainboom was still expanding, lighting up everything in sight as bright as day, but something was falling down from it. No, wait, two somethings! “Dash!” Twilight yelled, running towards the falling duo.

She kept her eyes to the sky as she ran through the ruins, trying to make out what was happening above her. The two pegasi were entangled and falling, but not so fast as to be free falling. Somewhat relieved, Twilight eased up her gallop as the two dropped out of sight beyond the ruins around her, reassured that her friend wouldn’t be hurt in the fall.

The pegasi had landed some ways out of Ponyville, and it took Twilight and Fluttershy a few minutes to reach them. By the time they arrived, it looked to Twilight like the two had just been napping in the grass from the way Dash was reclined on her haunches and the captain was laying on her side. If it hadn’t been for the heavy pants filling the air, it could have been a strangely-colored sunny day back home.

“What happened? Are you alright?” Twilight asked as she cantered over, keeping a wary eye on the captain.

“Yea, fine, just, whew, hell of a sprint.” Dash panted, wiping sweat from her brow. “She didn’t, fight or anything, just kept trying, to fly away, like she didn’t notice me.

“I didn’t.” the captain grunted from the ground. “Was on autopilot a bit. Was trying to... to save the town. I have to hurry... and get... why’d you stop me?”

“She’s still a bit out of it,” Dash said, drawing a hoof across her mouth to wipe away her drool. “Been coming around slowly since we touched down.”

Twilight heard Fluttershy land behind her, and her mission came flooding back to her. “Wait, where’s Pinkie? Did you two find the element?”

Dash smiled, reclining further backwards. “Yea yea, we found it no problem, I couldn’t see anything, but I guess Pinkie was used to digging through ash in the dark because she had it in no time. We’d been looking for you for like half an hour when the sky got all lit up and I went to catch this one. Pinkie is probably right behind us.”

“Or right beside you.” somepony said from beside Twilight.

Twilight froze in surprise, but calmed down as she realized it was Pinkie. She was used to her friend popping up suddenly, but the way she had spoken so calmly and softly was a bit unnerving.

“Wait, this is great.” Twilight realized, ears perking up in wary excitement. “With that rainboom, we can see all the way back to Ponyville! Dash, we have a clear shot! We can be back in minutes!”

“Then we have to go now,” the captain said, raising unsteadily to her feet. Twilight could see the exhaustion in her as her flank heaved and her legs trembled, but her wings flare out strong and steady. “You shouldn’t have stopped me. There’s no telling how long they have left, nor how long the light will last.”

Twilight walked over to the struggling mare, grim determination in her face. “I don’t have the patience for any more tricks, from you or anyone. Whose side are you on?”

The captain lifted a few feet into the air, her gaze every bit as steady as her body wasn’t. “I don’t want anypony else to die.”

Twilight looked towards Rainbow Dash. Dash gave a short nod and Twilight felt herself relax. “Good enough. You take Pinkie and stay in sight. Get Fluttershy to help if you can’t handle the weight, you look exhausted.”

“Hold up, there’s one more thing.”

Twilight turned to see Dash coming toward them, Pinkie and Fluttershy looking on silently a few paces back. The captain let herself back down to the ground, looking at Dash curiously.

“We need my element of harmony. The element of loyalty. You should have gotten it that night at the castle, although I don’t know why after what you did. If we’re to defeat Nightmare Moon, you need to give it to us or help us get it from wherever you had it.” Dash’s voice was calm, but Twilight could sense accusation. They needed the captain’s help, but Twilight could tell that her companions were not likely to become fast friends.

If the captain took offense, she didn’t show it. After a moment, the costumed mare ducked her head into her outfit, pulling out something that twinkled in the evening light. “Here,” she said, tossing the gem into the dirt at Rainbow's hooves.

Rainbow didn’t move to pick it up immediately, instead eyeing it’s bearer cautiously. “If it means so little to you, why carry it around all this time?”

“Dash, drop it.” Twilight interjected.

“Because it did mean something. I was loyal to Luna, to my friend, for a long time. Perhaps too long. I know you can’t believe that, but it’s true.” The captain drifted towards Pinkie as she spoke, shrugging off Fluttershy’s help as she lifted her of the ground. “You need it to stop Trixie, not Luna. Don’t forget that.”

The captain lifted off, moving swiftly but clearly leaving room for the rest of the group to follow. Fluttershy took off silently, leaving Twilight and Dash standing over the final element. Any luster it once had was hidden by the dust and dirt of the dead earth.
   

____________________________________________________

Red opened his eyes a crack, shielding them from the soft light around him. His entire body ached, more so in some places than others, but the soft bed sheets around him and the warm mattress beneath called for a to return to sleep.

Red rolled over, pulling the sheets up to his chin. That nap felt great, he thought, the glow of sleep already returning, I think I’ll do it again...

“Finally awake, I see!”

Red’s eyes opened again. Sleep vanished from his thoughts, the voice ringing far too many bells. He rolled himself back over, shielding his eyes as they adjusted to the light.

“It’s about time, Red. You’re missing everything!”

Red’s memory buzzed. There had been... something. Something important. Was it still happening?

“The Haybowl! Come on bro, your team is waiting!”

That voice again. Red struggled to remember, but his mind was as fuzzy as his eyes. Somepony moved next to him and Red extended a hoof, trying to touch whoever it was. Realization hit him as a dark spot swirled into focus in front of him, forming the shape of a lanky, black pony.

“Black?” Red gasped, but the shape retreated? “Brother, wait, but you-”

“Red, wake up, you’re missing everything.” The voice was cheerful, but insistent. Just like he remembered. “Red, your team, they need you. They’re losing.”

“Black,” Red mumbled as he threw off the bed sheets. Where was he? “I remember. You died. What are you doing here?”

The black pony took a step back into the light, enough so to illuminate a red checker piece on his flank. “Come on, nothing has ever kept the Checkers brothers apart before!” You’re here now, and your team needs you.”

Red’s memory flashed. The Haybowl Shit, what time was it? Red jumped out of bed, standing before his brother in full Hayball uniform.

“Hurry up, Red!” Black stamped his hoof impatiently, turning towards the door. “If you don’t wake up, you’re gonna miss everything.”

Confusion floated through Red’s head. But I’m already-

Black turned back from the door, his eyes full of cheer. “Red, damnit, get up. I can hear you breathing, and we need you up before they regroup!” Had his voice changed? It sounded different, like someone he used to know. “This wall isn’t going to hold itself up!”

Black turned and vanished out the door, but Red couldn’t move. Celestia, everything hurt all of a sudden. He groaned, collapsing back on the bed. He had to get moving, he had to get to the Haybowl, he had to wake up.

Red opened his eyes for real, looking up at the impassive face of Big Mac. “Damn,” he muttered. His chest hurt in ways not related to his injuries, and that was all he could think to say.

Red sat up, his memory returning. He was laying in the same spot that he had fallen. He couldn’t hear any more crashes, but cracks and booms resounded aplenty from beyond the stone behemoth behind him.

“They pulled back just after you went down,” Big Mac answered his unasked question. Red took his extended hoof and stood up, testing his weight for injuries. “One of the stalactites got through. Their leader must have had enough of that, because they have all their firepower focused above them now.

Satisfied that nothing was immediately wrong with his body, Red turned his attention back to the wall. Not many ponies were left standing, but the wall held. “How are the pegasi doing?”

Big Mac didn’t answer. Once Red saw his face, he didn’t have to.

“Shit. What’s the plan for the next wave?”

“Same as before,” Big Mac said. “We buy the town time. If the resistance gets here in time to save even one soul, then we-”

“Actually, I don’t think we have to be so grim.” A white unicorn mare stepped out from behind Big Mac, practically prancing to the center of attention.

“Pop, I thought I told you to stay back until your magic returned.”

“You did, and I listened. Look!”

For a terrible moment, Red thought that the green light that shone across them was an incoming spell from beyond the wall. When realization dawned on him, he nearly choked. “Your magic...”

Pop shook her head, the soft light from her horn following it and drawing lines in the air. “Not just mine, everypony’s! The block wore off, we have a chance!”

“Better than a chance,” Big Mac added.

Red couldn’t remember the last time Big Mac smiled, but he remembered this one for the rest of his life.

“Then we can give our colts in the air some reprieve?” Red asked. When Red didn’t hear any answer, his heart sank. “Mac? Come on, I know you have something up your sleeve.”

Big Macintosh shook his head slowly. Screams continued to float on the air from beyond the wall. “The pegasi have standing orders to retreat in this situation. If they’re still up there, it’s by their own choice.”

“But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t-”

“Listen! If they aren’t right on our doorstep, this won’t work, and then more ponies will die. A lot more.”

Red glared for a moment, “When you said we had a chance, I assumed you meant all of us. When did the pegasi become expendable?”

“We’re all expendable. That’s what we signed up for. You want to help them? Then make sure nopony crosses this bridge. If they make it to the town, then this was all in vain.” Big Macintosh turned away in a huff, calling out over his shoulder, “Pop, stay with me, give the signal when I say so. I hope everypony’s ready.”

_________________________________________________


In the dungeons below the battle, past abandoned store rooms full of shattered crates and barrels, Trixie screamed in rage.

“Where are you!?” She yelled at the empty jail cell, its door blasted off the hinges. Down the hallway, both other cells stood similarly empty, and Trixie could find no trace of her quarry nor any other area of confinement. She stood trembling for a moment, her reason fighting with her disbelief for control of her mind.

“Where else,” she muttered under her breath. “Where else could they be holding her? The guardhouse? No, it was deserted.” She began to pace back in front of the cell, the light from her horn making the shadows thrash around her. “A secret room here? No, they’re too crude and stupid.” A small part of her upturned her nose at the lack of dungeon development, but her pacing was otherwise uninterrupted. “The town hall? She must be there, it’s the only place left. Maybe they brought her there to keep a closer eye on her?” Trixie stopped pacing, but her frown betrayed her skepticism. She hadn’t accounted for the possibility of the captain not being here, but it wouldn’t be a problem. While her buffoon of a general was drawing all eyes towards himself, slipping into town would be easy enough.

Her smirk returned as the plan crystallized in her head. With the captain gone, the last thread would be trimmed, and Nightmare Moon would have no reason to suspect her of anything. And without a reason to suspect her, getting close enough to Nightmare Moon would be a snap.

She could feel the magic forming itself in her mind, her horn glowing brighter in anticipation. With Nightmare Moon’s latest boon, and more importantly her weakening herself to give it, their strength was equal enough for Trixie to practically taste the power she craved. She felt her blood rush and her skin crawl at the image of herself on the throne, the drained and dry husk of a goddess merely a memory. So strong was the urge to reach out and grab it that she barely kept herself from galloping back up the tunnel towards the town.

_________________________________________________



Thu-thump. Thu-thump.

The sound of his own heartbeat drowned out every noise around the General. He loosed another bolt of magic, letting the thuds in his chest and head build the anticipation. Glee surged through him as another shadow in the stalactites above burst into flame, plummeting down towards the ground.

“Sir! They still aren’t retreating, but there can’t be more than a handful left. Shall we return to the assault?”

“No!” The General snarled, barely letting his sergeant finish. “They’ve been a thorn in my side since our first step. Burn them from the skies, then char them again!”

Thu-thump thu-thump thu-thump.

With the shifting tide of battle, the General’s adrenaline had long since run out, but something else, something stronger, coursed through him now. Something popped softly in the shadows above his host, and another burning shape began to sink to the ground. His muscles tensed so much at the sight they began to vibrate, his whole body seemingly frozen as his blood roared through his veins. He felt as if he could feel everything around him without even looking, like the entire host of anger and death was reaching out to him, yearning for him to demolish his foes with a flick of his hoof. How easy it had all become with Trixie’s gift.

More like her payment! He thought, startling some small part of his mind. Repayment! After all I’ve done for her, all the bootlickings and beatings...  
   
Thu-thump thu-thump thu-thump.

“Enough!” The General yelled, making his sergeant jump. “They aren’t dying quick enough! Back to the wall, tear it down for good!”

The ponies around him barely hesitated before their training kicked in, and within moments their ranks were reformed and pointed back towards the bridge. The general could see fires flickering atop it, but more importantly, he could feel things to kill.

“Sergeant,” The General snarled, his every muscle protesting that he wasn’t rushing headlong at the enemy.
   
“Sir.”
   
The General opened his mouth, but caught himself before he spoke. His mouth opened and closed uselessly as his brow gradually unknotted and his scowl faded.

“Sir?”

“They have nothing left.” He finally added, his voice carefully calm.  “Advance with full shields until we are in range, then have our colts pull that wall over. We’ve picked them off to less than a handful by now, and they’ve lost their air support. Even if they won’t admit it, it’s over for them.”

“Sir.”

Time seemed to crawl for the General. Something inside him screamed out in betrayal, demanding a headlong charge. He saw himself standing atop the wall, eyes aglow as the entire town galloped away in fear. He saw the bodies around him, his own troops mingled indiscriminately among the rest, as the entire town drowned in shadow and hate-

The General shook his head, clearing the vision from his head. The sound of his heartbeat faded, leaving a splitting headache in its wake. Groaning slightly, he turned to follow his troops, hoping it would all be over soon.

He walked briskly through his colt’s ranks, feeling the air tingle around him as the shields were pulled up one by one. The mass approached the wall again, a soft thunk signalling that they had again entered throwing range for the defenders. The general glanced side to side at his troops, chins up and chest forward to a stallion. His own chest swelled with a bit of pride as he took in the remnants of his forces. They might be Trixie’s army, and they might have been disrespectful and snobbish to him in the past, but today they had all fought together. There was something familiar in that to the General, almost like having a friend again.

“Colts,” He said with a smile, looking backwards to his men rather than towards the enemy, “let’s finish this and go home.”

The stomp of horseshoes on the dusty earthen floor gradually silenced as the soldiers arrived at the wall. Every eye gleamed with the eagerness of victory and the promise of reprieve. The General grinned from ear to ear, unable to suppress some of his own eagerness at what was to come. The slaughter the blood the gore the fire the… the promise of home, Trixie’s favor, maybe an early retirement.  What the hell did Trixie do to me anyway?

The electric buzz of stones colliding with the shield was constant, but substantially less than before their last assault. The soldiers advanced until they were a scant twenty yards from the wall without problem. It wasn’t until the General opened his mouth to give the attack order that solitary green flare shot into the air, whistling towards the ceiling.

“Who the hell?” The General sneered, turning on his men. “Who attacked without order? We’re not here to-”

“Sir, it came from the other side! It wasn’t us!”

The wheels turned in The General’s head, the answer clicking in his mind just as the flare above exploded in dazzling but harmless light. “Their magic is back.” The General deadpanned.

The flare faded, but the sky remained lit. The General wheeled on his sergeant, nearly headbutting him to the ground as he sneered in his face. “The unicorns! Earth ponies on the wall, pegasi on the ceiling! Where did they station their unicorns?!”

The sergeant sputtered but didn’t answer, and the sky grew brighter. In the space of a second, a distant whistle became ear-splittingly loud as a green burst of something bright and painful plowed into the ground where the sergeant had been, exploding a moment later in a burst that singed the General’s face and flung gore in all directions.

The air instantly became full of screams. The rock beneath their feet shook with the force of explosions, but The General turned slowly, surveying the battlefield. Behind them, the guardhouse they had assumed was abandoned had lights in every window, horns shooting death onto the open battlefield below them. He knew his colts would try to shift position, to keep up a shield between themselves and the new threat, but it was too late. They were too late.

Another explosion rent the earth and stone beside him, showering him and debris and pain. He saw a colt in front of him break ranks and run towards the exit, only to fall silently into the dirt when a rock caved half his skull in. The panic had kicked up a dust cloud that now obscured all vision, only dim lights and whistles heralding the death that rained on them from all sides.

Hell had opened it’s maw and was swallowing his men, but The General could only stand and stare it in the eye while carnage reigned around him. It’s over, he thought.

Not yet, something else thought back, expressing it’s meaning not in words but in the blood and fire around him. Give up. Give in.

His head was pounding and his blood felt like fire. Something intangible crawled up his back and seemed to seize at his mind. Anger and hate and rage flared in his eyes as he stared slackjawed and defeated at the slaughter around him.

The General gave in.
The Night that Never Ended p21
OH BOY I BET YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS DEAD!!!

This chapter and the next are really just the same chapter, so excuse the somewhat abrupt end. DA has a maximum word limit so I had to cut them in two. I tried to make it somewhat thematically appropriate while still nearing the halfway mark.

Anyhow, let me take this opportunity to say how sorry I am for letting this lay in limbo for so long. I've always meant to finish it and just never had the time, and when I did have the time I felt too guilty about not working on it to sit down and crank it out. The damn chapter has been 85% done for a year and a half, so I'm basically just the worst person ever. For what part of my audience hasn't abandoned hope, however, I guess your undying tenacity has been rewarded! Hope you enjoy / still exist!
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BronyCray
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5/18/2013: Yup, I'm actually updating. My hardest school year yet has come to an end, I've just now been working on TNTNE, and my goal is to have this last chapter done before the summer picks up speed. I figure that's a window of about... three days. Damn, it seemed like I had a lot more time before I actually went and thought it through right there. Ah well, works getting done on it at least, we'll see what happens. Worst case scenario is that I string you guys along for another year :P

7/12/12: Summer is busy. Really busy. Logically I should have free time out the wazoo, but I really don't. That combined with a burnout of all things pony has left me really slacking on my writing, and for that I apologize. Of course, most of my updates include something to that effect, so I won't dwell on it to much.

In an effort to be communicative, I'm just giving a quick update on progress. And the update is that progress sucks. I've got all the scenes roughed but only one written, and I don't know when I'm gonna get to the rest. My writing mentality right now is something like, "Eh, I've got two hours to kill and I can't use any of my electronics because ______, plus my summer work for school isn't looming so hard today, plus I'm not working this shift, plus none of my friends are around, I guess I'll work on a scene of TNTNE."

I've got another two months of summer. August is gonna be busy for me, but I'm aiming to get a chapter out before the end of the month (August, to be clear). Ironically, I'll have a lot more free time once school starts back up, after the initial rush of course. Remember when I used to update once every two days? Yea, that was during school. So if you can live through the wait until then, I can finally bring this story to a close. You guys have so much practice with being patient with me, I figure a little more won't kill you :P

7/03/12: Bronycon happened. Oh boy. It was certainly interesting, and almost all of it was in a good way. Even the not so good parts were hilarious, so I'm pretty happy I went.

More specifically, I wanted to talk about the panel. As far as I can tell it hasn't appeared on youtube yet, so you all won't be able to see my fine chiseled features spilled spaghetti until that happens. I want to give a mad shoutout to that fine gentleman who came up to me afterwards to talk about TNTNE. You've vindicated my hopes that the people on here actually exist and aren't just my fevered delusions, so thank you for that. And double thank you for making my day so much more awesome.

Speaking of TNTNE, I haven't done shit since I last updated. Even I'm running out of excuses for putting it off though, so I'll have better news for you soon. For now though, I'm going to sleep for an entire day and take a long hot shower.

6/16/12: Short update time, followed by other news.

I haven't started the next chapter because reasons. I did, however, map out what scenes I want where and etc etc. Basically it's fully storyboarded and what not. No ETA because I suck at those.

Okay, fun news time. I'm going to BronyCon this month and will be part of a panel called Fan Fiction Fun. Basically it's going to be myself and a host of other EQD prereaders talking about writing fanfiction and general tips, followed by a Q/A. It's going to be Saturday night at 5pm, so definitely stop by if you're going! I've got a dinner engagement soon after with the aforementioned prereaders, but I'd love to meet some of the ladies and gentlemen that leave such encouraging comments all the time :)

5/14/12: I've got a free day for the first time in a long time, so I'm gonna try to bang out the rest of this chapter. I don't have a lot left. so it shouldn't be too hard. Editors, get ready!

5/7/12: I did a podcast thing! If you want to hear my talk about fanfiction, EQD, and writing tips in a Q&A session, go to www.equestriadaily.com/2012/05…

In TNTNE news, finally finished the Fluttershy scene that had been slowing me down so much. I made Fluttershy's argument too strong and couldn't think of a way around it without breaking character for some other ponies, but I think I got it in the end. I have either one or two scenes left before I call in the editors, so stay tuned!

5/6/12: Oi, I'm alive, just been busy lately. Got a new job starting next saturday, aiming to get this chapter(s) finished by then.

4/27/12: Going out of town for a few days, not gonna get any work done till Monday at least since I'm not bringing my laptop. It's a town-wide two day party, so if you don't hear from me again it's because I got too drunk and died doing something utterly stupid but pretty funny.

4/5/12: Haven't updated you guys in awhile, but I've finished the Pinkie scene. By itself, it's longer than the first chapter Pinkie appeared in. I might have to split this chapter in two, but don't worry, if that happens I'll upload them both on the same day.

2/8/12: Finished Mass Effect 3, that ending was bullshit. Anyway, back to writing.

2/24/12: Chapter 18 is done and edited. I just need to think of a good chapter name. I'm gonna let some ideas simmer on the backburner while I'm at work, and then hopefully upload tonight or tomorrow morning. We'll see.

I should have uploaded the TNTNE chapter before my side story. Like very third comment is just people being disappointed that it WASN'T chapter 18. I don't blame you for being impatient, but boo on you for not reading the story description :P

2/21/12: FUCK, if I don't get this chapter out before Mass Effect 3 then it's gonna be like another month.

Screw it, writing all night.

Also, special surprise when I hit 20k views (at 19.9k right now)

1/14/12: I'm on vacation atm. Have been since the 6th, in fact. Totally forgot to mention it here.

I get back on the 16th and will resume writing then. I've got the layout and first scene done, so it shouldn't be more than a couple weeks after that, school and work permitting.

12/16/11: Nothing like a little grimdark to put the joy in Christmas.

12/1/11: I think I'm done with Skyrim. For now, anyway. If only work would stop giving me so many hours, I might find time to write more.

I've got a lot of ideas kicking around in the back of my head, some will make it onto paper and some won't, I just need a few dedicated hours to sit down and write them down/prune the edges. I just have so much other stuff I'm doing. With Skyrim dead and WoW mostly dead (seriously, one day and I'm already bored of 4.3?), the ball will at least be rolling instead of gathering dust and making me feel guilty.

So yea, we're back in action. Chapter 17 is about 1/2 of the way there, but that doesn't count the time between this update and the last (which was about a month, now that I look at the dates). Skyrim was great, and as soon as some good MLP mods come out for it I'm sure it will be great again, but for now I'm honestly glad it's done with. I missed writing.

Oh yea, and go to BroNYCon in January. I'll shake your hoof (ohgodifeeldirty).

11/10/11: The day the internet stood still.

Because nobody is gonna get shit done until we get bored of Skyrim.

Gonna try to write a little bit tonight, and then after midnight all bets are off for the next week.

10/30/11: I just put out a journal thingy, which I guess is gonna give everyone a notification making it look like I did something important. So, with all the traffic being redirected here, let me just go ahead and answer your next question: TNTNT part 17 is coming along much smoother than it predecessor, and I'm about halfway done already. I look forward to the times I can write now, rather than having it seem like a chore. All that really means to you is that it won't take a month this time :)

10/24/11: One might say that, with all of the fighting, plotting, and war surrounding my story, the overall theme has climactic ring to it. One might even call it Discordant.

Well it's not, and he's not coming into the story. I have enough protagonists, antagonists, and everythinginbetweengonists to deal with already, and technically this all takes place before Season 2 ever began. So that's one definitive answer I don't mind giving.

Plus, if school fillies fighting are what broke Discord free, then OBVIOUSLY the proximity of chaos to the statue is more important than the degree of chaos. So yea, unless I write a fight scene in Celestia's garden, it shouldn't be an issue.

10/21/11: Right now, I haven't started writing chapter 17. Here's a breakdown of why.
20% - I'm still coming down from the caffeine high of finishing chapter 16
10% - There's probably something else I should be doing
70% - Because if I delve any deeper into Luna's character and the next episode destroys it, I'm gonna have a hell of a time trying to unwrite what I will have created in my head.

When I started this story, I intended to have it finished before season 2 came out. That way, it would exist purely as an inbetween-seasons sort of thing, and if something didn't make sense in the new canon I could just point to the date. I haven't been 100% accurate so far anyway (For those of you who don't know, I actually misspelled Soaren's name for the entirety of his role in TNTNE), but I do try. I don't want to be playing catch-up for the rest of my work here, but if it means I get to be lazy for a couple extra days then I'm happy to take the excuse :D

Oh, I should probably add that another 20% of that breakdown is that I'm having too much fun reading people's theories about what's coming next. Seriously, that's probably my favorite part of writing these. I get to be the guy with all the answers and just smile and nod knowingly whenever someone launches a theory. Bwahahaah.

10/19/11: If I didn't have to plug in HTML tags for deviant art, part 16 would have been uploaded already.

THAT'S HOW ANNOYING AND TIME CONSUMING THESE DAMN THINGS ARE

10/17/11: >mfw somepony quotes the part in my own story where I confirmed Soaren's death

Good thing I had a backup plan :D

10/15/11: I'm not discontinuing the fic. I just wrote another 1k words yesterday. Why are people suddenly thinking this?

Oh, yea, cause I haven't updated in awhile.

Well, yea, but I am still working on it. It's become very easy for me to go a day without even opening the document, and I've seriously considered taking a break for a couple months and releasing a couple chapters on Christmas or something to mark my return, but I eventually settled to just keep on keeping on. It's slow progress, but it's still progress.

Also, if I ever write anything again after this, it's going to be episodic.

9/28/11: UPDATE TIME! First of all, BroNYCon was awesome, but I'll talk more about that another time. Today, I wanted to share with you one of the problems that can arise when writing something over a long period of time.

Now, awhile ago, you may remember a side character that got a bit of how own arch. Soaren's story really climaxed during the execution scene, and after that I really didn't know what else to do with him. I asked myself "What would I do in that situation?", and basically went from there. In the end, it was one of my proudest moments as a writer AND one of the ones I most regret.

Why, you ask?

BECAUSE I FUCKING KILLED HIM. GOD DAMNIT, WHY DID I WASTE SUCH A POWERFULLY DEVELOPED CHARACTER. WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING!?

Ahem. What I'm trying to say is, I let Soaren play his role and then let him fall to the side. As far as I knew at the time, that was the end of his story. To tie this back to the original topic, the problem that writers can run into is a deep, deep sense of regret and self-hatred at wasting resources like that, and this can sometimes be seen as 'retcons' when the regret over a given situation is so strong that you try to wave your hands around and pretend it never happened.

Now, I'm not saying I'm going to retcon Soaren's death, but I'd also like to point out that you never saw him die. I've seriously thought of three or four different plot roles he'd be perfect to fill, and I'm getting pretty tired of hating myself for it. But, as you've gotten used to by now, you'll just have to wait a few weeks and see.

Oh, on the topic of waiting a few weeks and seeing, stay tuned for Chapter 16. I *think* I just broke through the big thing that was stopping me, and once it's released I'll go into more detail on that. If it's anything like the other chapters now, it should just write itself for the remainder of it.

9/23/11: So I don't know if I ever said this, but I'm going to be at BroNYCon this weekend. Actually, my train leaves in eight hours or so. So yea, if you want to come yell at me for writing so slowly, I'll see you there :p.

Also, I'm going to be part of a panel made of prereaders explaining some tips and tricks for fanfiction, I'm sure the whole thing will end up on youtube eventually, but come see us in person if that's your kind of thing.

9/16/11: Damn, season two is tomorrow, huh? And chapter 16 is supposed to come out then, right?

Yea...

It's gonna be late. I have no excuse, but I'm sorry. Please don't hate me :(

9/9/11: It's been awhile, so here's a bit of news. I'm about 4.6k words into chapter 16, and I'm aiming to have it up before the first episode of season two airs. That's my timeframe and I'm sticking to it.

August 25th: If you're reading this, then you probably already got the notification, but the new chapter is up anyway. More info in the chapter description!

August 20th: School starts in 5 days, but I'll have chapter 15 up before that. At the time of writing this, I've just finished writing it and now need to edit/tune it. It should be another day or two before it goes up here, and another day or two before it gets through EqD's update queue

August 11th: My vacation got extended till tomorrow. I'm totally okay with this. I've done a bit of work, and should finish 15 within a few days of returning. As much as I hate to admit it, summer is coming to an end, and if I haven't finished TNTNE by the time I get back to school, I'm sure the chapters will come much faster once I'm no longer distracted by friends 24/7

August 6th: Vacation Time! Seeya on the 11th!

August 4th: Update time!

I'm about 2k words from finishing part 15, which is a little frustrating because there's about 10k more words worth of stuff I want to fit in. Most of my time writing so far has been spent sketching out a rough idea of where I want the story to go, so actualy putting fingers to keyboard has been slow (well,except for my super sekrit notes file).

Starting on the 7th, I'm going to be going on vacation. This either means I will have a lot of relaxation time to work on TNTNE, or I will have no time between family stuff. I'll be gone till the 11th, so we'll see then.

July 24th: Here's your periodic update: I've had an insanely busy this last week or so (got my boating license yesterday, going to see gathering of the vibes today), so I haven't gotten as much writing done as I would have liked. The story for the next chapter is pretty fleshed out, but before I conclude it I need to make some decisions about where exactly I want the story to go. ETA right now is probably 4-6 days of actual work on it, but for every one day of work I get there's two where I don't even open Word. I'm pretty excited about it though, and I'll put out another call for prereaders as I get closer.

July 18th: I feel like this should be a journal entry, not an update, but I haven't used those things once and don't plan to start now.

So part of the reason that I've had so little time to write is that I'm still settling into my new house. This is important because I OWN this house (well, I pay rent, but w/e) and I have to be one of two guys that are taking care of it and stuff. Anyway, the last month has been taking care of one thing after another and watching all my money disappear from food, gas, furniture, and other miscellaneous supplies. Stress stress stress.

Anyway, it's kinda plateaued off now, but there's a daily element of responsibility that I never had before. But last night, I was at the grocery store with a couple friends and we passed by a section with coconuts, which I noticed were much smaller than what I imagined coconuts to be. Long story short, we had a long debate about the anatomy of a coconut and ended up buying it to test out what the truth was.

And that's when I kind of realized it. I could go to the store in my car, use my money to buy whatever the hel I wanted, and bring it back to my house to enjoy. I just spent two dollars on a COCONUT, and I didn't even know how to open it. There's an upside to being self sufficient, because for every one thing that you have to do (buy your own food, cook your own meals, lock your own door, etc) there's a million more things that you can try out and experiment with (I drew a target board on my wall in pencil so that I can shoot nerf guns from my computer.) I don't even LIKE coconuts, but I'm gonna go grab a hammer, nail, and towel, crack it open, and drink the sweet juices of maturity.

Well, maturity is probably the wrong word. Within arms reach right now I have a 20 pack of Mentos, a DS, nerf guns, nerf darts, a nerf battle axe, an ipod, a candle, a cigar cuter, a notepad with WoW data scribbled down, and a set of panpipes. Instead of maturity, lets just settle for responsibility and work our way up.

The moral of the story is, it's the little things that matter. Brb, I'm gonna go open my coconut.

July 16th: I'm finalizing as fast as I can! that said, I might need to actually sleep within the next few hours, s I might not upload the new chapter till tomorrow. However, I have the whole day free, so if that does happen I'll finish up early in the day.

July 15th: Chapter 14 goes up tomorrow, I'm still waiting on an editor or two. I think I recruited to many. It's going up tomorrow regardless of who's finished or not, however, cause I want it to go up as badly as you do. That being said, they've already caught more than a few mistakes, so this was definitely a good idea.

July 12th: Chapter 14 is done!

ish!

I have to still edit it and make minor revisions, and then send it off to the editors (thank you everybody who offered to help, by the way. It's a huge weight off my chest), and then HTML tag it. I just wanted to share the good news with you all :D

In other news, I never posted the update for what I worked on last night (two nights ago?). It ended being my other story, which I'm going to send to the prereaders RIGHT NOW. I'll let you know how it goes, but here's some hints as to what it is.

The Outline of the plot is that a pony is having some troubles, some great and some small, and makes a few bad decisions. It illustrates how easily a ponies life can take a bad turn, and has a [grimdark] tag. It's a different kind of grimdark than TNTNE, however, and also uses all OC ponies. As I posted earlier, it's inspired by a song, and if you look very closely at this update you can figure out which one :P

July 10th: I got distracted :p Chapter 14 is about 2 sentences from being done, I just can't write them to save my life. I might have to change a fair bit to work around that, but I've got half a jug of iced tea next to me so that's my project for tonight.

Maybe.

You see, I've been writing another story on the side for a couple days now. It's a one shot and inspired by a song, and I'm gonna see if if it's good enough to get on EqD without using my status as a prereader to get a foot in. If it gets approved, I'll upload it here too. So, I'll be finishing one of these two things tonight, and I'll let you know which one it was in the morning.

EDIT: I JUST FOUND OUT THAT SOUND OF SILENCE IS THE NAME OF A SONG. I feel like an idiot. Also, it's a very good song, even it has nothing to do with chapter 12.

July 5th, again: So, I hate editing. I don't mean like going over and refining word choice and the like, I mean basic typo-checking. my eyes just gloss over because I'm just reading what I MEANT to write instead of what I actually typed, and so I miss a lot of stuff.

TO THAT END, I'm hoping a few of you would be interested in pre-reading my stories. I'd normally go to ponychan or the like to do this, but I feel like the chapter is getting leaked early or something that way. Plus, it's easier to keep track of if I have a couple good people than a bunch of random guys on the net.

So, if you're interested, throw me a note on here or an email to raggnarok42@yahoo.com. I'll basically send you a finished copy of the newest chapter before I submit it, wait to get your edited version back, make said changes, and then submit it to DA, so you'll be getting the complete and finalized chapter. Probably. You'd also only be reading it a few hours before everybody else, so don't let that sway your decision.

I'm only looking to get 3-5 people in on this, but don't be shy about sending me emails. If you send me a note riddled with typos...I probably won't be picking you :P

July 5th: I *might* upload 14 today. UPDATE: And by might, I mean I won't, but I'm gonna work on it for the rest of the night.

July 1st: I left my computer charger at a friends house and couldn't get any work done for two days. Fuck me, right? Anyway, chapter 14 is just about finalized, but I'm toying around with another idea or two before I write it of as done and keep going with 15. I might start 16 soon.

June 26th: I got two little teaser bits for you, just to keep you interested. Chapter 14 needs a tweak and editing run before it's good, and I'm about 3k words into chapter 15.

Something I've always tried to do is make powerful chapter titles for each entry, and for the most part I'm proud of my work. "Justice" and "Hatred" were pretty weak, but "Rainbows and Butterflies was a real gem. I've thought for a long time about what to call chapter 14, but I think I've got it now. I offer it to you for dissection, I'm interested in what you'll make of it. Chapter 14 is named "Politeia". Or at least, that's how you would pronounce it if it was in English. If you catch this reference and put two and two together before the chapter is released, I will buy you a beer if I ever meet you in real life.

For chapter 15...well, I can't be too specific, but I can tell you one thing. I originally started this series because I had a philosophical question that I just couldn't get out of my head, and that question was what lead to to build this entire world around My Little Pony. The element of Loyalty was just too perfect of a Guinea Pig for this experiment, and in chapter 15 I finally pose this question to the audience. As always I'll keep my personal feelings out of the writing, but I'm excited to see how you guys react.


June 24: PROGRESS UPDATE: Chapter 14 is pretty much done, I'm just about to start writing 15. I've already done layout work and such, but I haven't actually put words on paper yet. This doesn't mean that 14 is going up soon, but once I finish chapter 16 or so I'll probably start uploading again.

Also, since it would cost about 50 dollars for me to go to BronyCon, and that's about 50 more than I have, I won't be attending tomorrow :P

June 20th: I'm seriously considering going to the unofficial 'BronyCon' in NY this weekend. Anyone know where there is more info available? The EqD page doesn't say times at all.

June 19th: First of all, Happy Father's Day. Secondly,due to the overwhelming response (read: 100%) of people requesting the same thing, I'll be slowing down my submission rate substantially in favor of putting out better quality content. Likely, you won't hear must from me for a week or two, then I'll put up a few chapters spaced a day or two apart when I'm sure they are finished. So you'll end up with a small rush at the end of your waiting phase. I'll still be checking DA and the thread on EqD every day, so getting in contact with em won't be a problem.

June 17th: So remember how I said that the next part would be up by about 24 hours ago? I lied. It's actually gonna go up tomorrow or the day after. Actually, I could use some opinions from you guys on this decision.

What really want to be able to do is have a chapter go up around the time that I finish the next chapter. This essentially lets me retcon things without them really being retcons, since I'm one of those guys that thinks of great ideas about 20 minutes after it's too later. A good example of where this came into play was with Soaren, who was just going to be a random character in the story until went back and rewrote him in chapter 7 so that he would fit with the execution scene in chapter 8. If 7 had already been uploaded, I could never have done that and the Lieutenant would have just been a faceless death that brought the captain's wrath.

So obviously there are upsides, but the downside is that right now, I have no reserve of chapters. It would take awhile, maybe even a couple weeks, to build myself back up to a comfortable 3-chapter lead, and during that time you would have no new updates. So my question is, is it worth it to you?

June 15th: 3000 page views. I'm speechless right now, so I'll update this more in the morning.

June 14th: I don't know what day I posted that last message, but it sure as hell wasn't on June 10th. Anyway, chapter 13 is up and 14 is almost done-ish. I have all the ideas in my head, I just need to find the time to put them down.

June 10th: Chapter 13th goes up tomorrow. I say this to myself as much as you guys.

June 8th: GTPlanet is best planet.

June 7th: Part 12 uploaded, and finally fixed that stupid preview image bug on 10. That bothered me every time I refreshed the page. Read the chapter description of 12, If anyone else out there is a write friend and has some advice, I'd appreciate the feedback. Also, this page just topped 2k views. I love you guys :D

June 6th: 12 is coming along nicely, thanks for everyones patience. I hope you enjoyed the lull in dramatic events, cause that's pretty damn over right about now.

May 26th: I'm still writing part 10, it's the setup for anew mini arch within the story now that the captain has been revealed. Because I'm so busy with summer in full swing, it's taking longer than normal to get up, but should still be up before the day is over.

May 25th: Finally, part 9 is up. This is the hardest I've worked on any single chapter so far, I wanted it to be perfect for the big unveiling. It's not actually perfect, but I think I'm my own biggest critic at this point haha. Bonus points to anypony who recognizes the chapter title.

May 23rd: I'm totally behind, part 9 is only about halfway done. There's a lot of stuff that comes to a close in part 9, including the end of the captured shadowbolts story. I want Twilight's primary goal starting in 9 or 10 to be getting home with Rainbow Dash, but there's a lot of things I haven't hammered down yet. Damn my RL friends for keeping me so busy.

May 21st: Part 7 is here, but it's bee over 12 hours since I emailed Seth with it. Maybe the update queue is just taking forever. Anyway, some people are gonna get a chapter two days in a row, assuming ti gets updated tomorrow and then 8 gets up on the day that I submit it. Yea, that sentence was confusing, its 3 am here :P Also, I just wrote a [sad] story that might get up on EqD soon, I just needed a break from TTNTE. It's short, and it's about a song none of you have heard, but I wrote it for the sake of writing it, not for you guys to love me fore it.

May 20th: Busy, busy busy. I just wrote the first draft of chapter eight, and I think I almost got myself to cry. It's hands down the best thing I've written since chapter four, maybe even better. But, alas, you will ave to wait a few more days to see it. Chapter seven is good too, and that goes up tomorrow, but seven, eight, and nine are so far looking like their own little three-part miniseries. The events occur very close together and Soaren really comes into his own character, which I'm glad I had the opportunity to do. Of course, since there wasn't much to go on in the show, he's mostly just and OC pony that RD knows, but I tried to keep him to how I envisioned him. Let me know what you think tomorrow.

May 17th: Chapter 5 up and away, and let me thank everyone for the high praise of chapter 4. You guys rock, thanks for reading my stuff! Chapter 5 will probably get posted on EqD later today or early tomorrow, but I've already gotten a few comments just from people who bothered to watch my DA. Am I starting to get a following? 'Cause that would be awesome.

May 15th: Editted and uploaded chapter 4 at a friends house,as mine currently has no internet. I should get a medal for doing it without them knowing about ponies. Anyway, I'm excited to see what you think of chapter 4, I would have liked a bit more time to edit and tune it but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out anyway. Some people called what was going to happen already, and kudos to them, but I'm writing about the morals and tests of character, not the events themselves. Also, that title is LAYERED.

May 14th: Spent all day moving, no writing or editing done. Chapter 4 will be uploaded fairly late tomorrow I think, I have a lunch date followed by a full day of friends and such. It's a good thing I have a couple chapters written that I only have to edit, otherwise I'd be behind schedule.

May 13th: Part 3 uploaded and email sent to Seth. Blogger is down so it will probably be a bit before most of you see this. I finished writing part 6 and have a layout done for parts 7-9, but I tend to deviate from plans like that as I get closer to them. Honestly, I'm surprised I can keep coming up with ideas for this stuff.

May 12th: UPDATE: I've gone over part 3 a few times, and in retrospect it is good enough to stand alone. I really want to get part four out there, but I can pace myself if you guys can wait the extra two days :P

Today is my last day of classes for college, so it's kind of busy. I have until chapter 5 or so written, so I should be able to take a day of from writing/editing. Part 3 will be posted tomorrow, and I'm considering posting it in conjunction with part 4 since chapter three alone is mostly backstory, and part 4 is my favorite so far. I'm not thrilled with part 3 on its own, but it is necessary for you guys to know wtf is going on. I don't want to fall behind schedule, so it whether or not I post both depends on how much I get done today and tomorrow.

May 11th:
>Log on
>Page views has jumped by over a hundred
>I wonder if my story was posted?

May 10th: Received email about part 1 from Sethistro, pre-readers want to see more. It was very highly complimented considering that nothing has happened yet, so I'm excited to see what they think of part two. I posted a teaser that doubles as my entry for the 300 word story contest on EqD, so go give that a read if you just can't wait to get to the grimdark bits. Also, I know that nobody is actually reading these yet, but I'm hoping that once tNtNE gets up on EqD I'll have a nice backlog of journal entries. On that note, I know I'll have to move these updates to actual journal entries eventually, I figure I'll keep recent news up here and then update a journal with the older bits.

May 9th: So I heard you like Grimdark? First section submitted, fourth section completed. I'll be releasing a new section every two days so that I have time to write and edit them faster than I have to post. Also, each section so far has been darker than the last (chapter 4, I think I scared myself), but expect some chapters to have a [Normal] tag and others to be much darker. This first one is fairly normal, give it a read if you've got time.
Interests
I finally bit the bullet and uploaded every damn chapter. I'm probably not going to be very active on the site, but I'll read messages there and keep it updated since a lot of people have been asking me to get it up there. Also, thanks to FiMFic, I now know that TNTNE is just shy of 116k words. Christ, that's a lot of hours I've sunk into this.

Oh, right, have a link: www.fimfiction.net/story/25219…

In other TNTNE news, this week marks the first anniversary of the first chapter. And to think I only intended this to be a summer project.

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:iconrainbowthis:
RainbowThis Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
HOLY SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTT :icondashishappyplz:
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:iconrainbowthis:
RainbowThis Featured By Owner May 17, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
BronyCray please give us an ending pleeeaaase!!!

S4 is over now so nothing better to do! Also I will send you ten buks.
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:iconbronycray:
BronyCray Featured By Owner May 26, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
You know, the nights get shorter during summer, perhaps even ones that last forever...
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:iconrainbowthis:
RainbowThis Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
funny thought just occurred to me: It's been nearly three years now since I fist made my DevArt account. I made it after reading the first chapter of TNTNE on EqD...

Here it is so many years later, we are in the thick of Season four, and I am still waiting to find out how this G-Damned story is going to end! Your silly tale is one of the very things to bring me into the Pony fandom, and I keep coming back to your page here, wondering if one day it will ever be complete!

Wishing you much luck and immense productivity
~RT
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:iconrainbowthis:
RainbowThis Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
*FIRST made.
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:iconchinodoll:
chinodoll Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2013
hey bronycray, how are you?? how is life?
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:iconbronycray:
BronyCray Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I'm good, life is busy. I write another thousand words or so every two weeks so I'm at least keeping a steady workflow on tntne.
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:iconrainbowthis:
RainbowThis Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Hooray!

ThankyouforstillexistingBronyCray!!! :D
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:iconchinodoll:
chinodoll Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2013
I'm so glad reading this /)nwn(\
well at least you had a workflow so I hope real life don't hit you so critical and good luck brony ^^
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:iconpawnheart:
pawnheart Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2013
Its great to hear you haven't abandoned this story! Still one of my very favourites.
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