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Forbidden Knowledge · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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History Lesson
Starlight Glimmer levitated in the air above flight camp, ready to intercept filly Rainbow Dash before she could reach Fluttershy. The moment she appeared, Starlight encased her in purple crystal. The cyan pegasus fell onto the cloud tops, bounced a few times, and skidded to a stop. A second later, she heard Twilight Sparkle behind her. “Starlight, you have to stop doing this! Each time I get sent back to the present, things are different, and each version of the present is worse than the last one!”

Starlight put herself between Twilight and Rainbow Dash and lowered her stance. “I won’t let you and your friends get your cutie marks!” She blasted Twilight with magic, but she raised a shield. “I don’t even have to beat you, Twilight. I just have to wait until the portal opens back up.” She had hardly gotten the words out of her mouth before the portal appeared and Twilight and Spike began to be sucked backwards. Twilight fought the portal’s power, but it was clearly a losing battle.

“I think you should see the results of your actions for yourself,” Twilight said. Twilight teleported to Starlight, grabbed her, and both were sucked through the portal. Starlight fell on top Spike, and Twilight fell on top of her.

“Get off of me!” she said. “Where are we?”

“We’re in Ponyville. Or, rather, what’s left of it.” Starlight stood up and took in her surroundings. A number of burned-out houses and heaps of rubble lined the streets of what used to be a town. There was hardly a building left untouched. The roads were dotted with pony-sized craters which one could stand knee-deep in. There wasn’t a pony in sight in this once-thriving town. “This is by far the worst I’ve seen Ponyville,” Twilight lamented.

“This isn’t Ponyville! It’s some burned-out ghost town!”

“I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I already told you, each world I come back to is worse than the last. Everything you do in the past affects the future, and what you’re doing leads here.”

“I don’t believe you! Tell me how stopping you and your friends from getting your cutie mark connection wiped Ponyville off the map! Tell me!”

“I—I don’t know, Starlight.” Twilight looked beyond the charred ruins of the town she once called home. The Everfree Forest beyond the city limits caught her eye. “But maybe I can show you.”

Starlight looked quizzically at Twilight. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“If you really want to know how this happened, I think I can prepare a potion that can let us look into the past.”

Starlight rolled her eyes. “And what if I don’t want to play your little game? What if I destroy this scroll right now?” She teleported the parchment out of Spike’s backpack and briefly brandished it in front of Twilight’s face before making a tiny tear on one side.

“Starlight, no! Please, just give me a chance! That’s all I ask.”

The thought of Twilight being left powerless and pleading for a chance to prove herself put a wicked little smirk on Starlight’s face. “Fine. I’ll give you your chance, Twilight. But if I even suspect that you’re twisting the truth, I’ll shred this scroll!”

“Then we go into the Everfree Forest.”

“Zecora? Zecora!?” No response came from within the dusky hut. Twilight carefully opened the door and entered. “Zecora are you there?” Still nothing.

“I guess not,” said Spike.

“I certainly hope nothing’s happened to her.” Twilight scanned the titles of a shelf of books. “Here it is.” She levitated the book over to a table and flipped through its pages.

“So, a potion, you said?”

“That’s right. I’m making a potion that will let us look into the past, but it might take a while to get the potion ready. Starlight, could you and Spike get a fire going?” Starlight reluctantly obliged. Over the next few minutes, the group lit a fire, filled the caldron, collected the ingredients, and brewed the potion. Last of all, Twilight used her alicorn magic to turn the purple liquid into a milky white broth. She then ladled out three bowlfuls. “Here’s to setting Equestria right again.”

“I’ll toast to that!” Spike clacked his wooden bowl against Twilight’s.

“Well, I will not,” declared Starlight. As she stared into the bowl, she began to have second thoughts. “How does this work again? Will I see the things you want me to see, or the things that actually happened? Need I remind you what will happen to the scroll if mmmm—”

Twilight had taken the opportunity to raise Starlight’s bowl and dump the contents into her mouth. “You will see exactly what happened, exactly as it happened. Now, swallow.” Twilight tipped Starlight’s head backwards and magically held her mouth shut. Starlight grasped at Twilight’s magic with her hooves, to no avail. With only one choice left, she reluctantly swallowed the potion. A few seconds later, the trio’s eyes glowed white.

Two colts laughed as they stood over filly Fluttershy. She moved her hooves in front of her face in a futile attempt to hide the tears which began chasing one another down her face. “Aw, don’t cry. What are you? A baby?” The two had another good laugh.

“She’s not a baby. She’s Fluttercry!” Once more the colts laughed at the poor filly’s expense.

“Fluttercry, and can’t fly!”

Starlight levitated over towards the two colts. “Both of you stop being so cruel! How would you feel if somepony were unkind to you?”

Twilight hovered up next to Starlight. “My potion is a little different than your spell, Starlight. To them, we’re silent, invisible, and intangible. The past has already been written. We’re just watching it unfold.”

Their eyes shined again, and they were whisked away to a new place and time. It was nighttime now, and Fluttershy lay alone near the edge of a cloud, quietly talking to herself.

“I wish they would just stop. I wish I had a friend who would be there for me. Just one. Then they wouldn’t call me Klutzershy, or Fluttercry, or say ‘Fluttershy can hardly fly.’ ” She looked up to see a small cloud. It was about a hundred feet away and twenty feet higher than Fluttershy’s cloud.

“I’ll show them.” She rose to her hooves. “I’ll have them saying, ‘Fluttershy can really fly,’ inside a week. I can fly! I’ll show them!” She galloped to the edge of the cloud and jumped. Her wings strained, but she rose in altitude. Once she had covered about half the distance to the cloud, it started to act unusual. “Oh, my. It almost looks like the cloud is rising in the air! Either that or—” Fluttershy looked down and instantly regretted it. “—I’m falling!” Her wings stiffened against her sides and she helplessly flailed her legs, screaming all the while.

“I’ve got you, Fluttershy!” Starlight cried. She reached for the filly, forgetting for a moment she was intangible. Fluttershy passed right through Starlight’s intangible hooves. The only thing the trio could do now was follow her down.

“I want to go home! I want to be with my mommy and daddy and my big brother! And I don’t want to be Klutzershy or Fluttercry! I don’t wanna!” But cry she did, despite her attempts to hold back her tears. “Daddy!!” she screamed. “Help me!!” By now, she had fallen too far for her weak voice to be heard, and the ground was approaching quickly. “I can’t look!”

“I can’t look either,” added Twilight. Since she didn’t cover her ears, she unfortunately found out what sound flesh makes when it hits the ground at terminal velocity. It churned her stomach and made her green in the face. Twilight slowly opened one eye to see Starlight standing on the ground staring in horror at the spot where Fluttershy had landed. Twilight landed with her back towards whatever was left of Fluttershy so she wouldn’t have to see it. “You wanted to see how this happened, didn’t you, Starlight? If you want, I can try to override the potion and stop it. If we see much more of this, I won’t blame you.”

Starlight’s horror yielded to anger. “You think I’m going to believe I did this?”

“Actually, yes. I don’t know how this will affect Ponyville in the long run, but stopping Rainbow Dash from standing up for Fluttershy had a direct impact on Fluttershy’s flight accident.”

Their eyes flashed again, and the three saw filly Twilight Sparkle, her parents, and Spike’s egg. “This was the day I got my cutie mark! Or at least it would have been.” Twilight glared at Starlight, who rolled her eyes. Filly Twilight tried for two whole minutes to break the egg, but accomplished nothing.

“I’m sorry I wasted your time,” the downcast filly muttered. Her father carried the disheartened, teary-eyed Twilight Sparkle while a stallion inspected the egg.

“Nothing. Not even a scratch.”

The judges glanced among themselves and shrugged. “Just leave it for another pupil. Next!”

A light brown colt with tan marks on his legs and face walked in, escorted by his parents. “Name?” asked a judge.

“Sunburst,” said Starlight and the colt in unison. The confidence in Sunburst’s voice contrasted with the wonder in Starlight’s.

“You know him?” asked Twilight.

“Know him? He was my best friend growing up! Until he got his cutie mark.” Starlight’s words dripped with disdain for the mark on Sunburst’s flank.

“Wait, that’s what this is all about? Your friend got his cutie mark and was sent to Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns?”

“And left me behind!” Starlight wasn’t sure if she should feel enraged or depressed.

“Starlight, why didn’t you say anything about this? I had no idea you were hurting like that.”

“I’ll bet you didn’t! You’ve never had to hurt like me! You’ve always had your friends to be there for you!”

“And how does taking away my friends help either of us?”

“Look! He’s about to try and break my egg!” cried Spike.

“You may begin whenever you’re ready,” a judge instructed. Sunburst carefully analyzed the dragon egg before beginning. After a moment of careful thought, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He formed an aura around his horn, and gradually increased the amount of power he put into it. His aura moved through many shades of yellow, and eventually turned a brilliant white. He opened his eyes to reveal they, too were glowing white. Finally, Sunburst leveled his horn at the egg and released all the energy he had been holding back, shattering the purple egg. He then fell to his knees and panted for breath.

Sunburst looked back at his parents, expecting praise, but they were staring at the ceiling dumbfounded. Sunburst looked in the direction of their gaze, only to behold a massive hole in the roof. He gasped and shrank back, making himself look as small as he could. The situation only got worse when Princess Celestia flew in through the hole. Sunburst looked like he was about to cry.

Celestia landed delicately next to the young colt and offered a gentle, warming smile. “Sunburst, you have a very special gift. I’ve never come across a unicorn with your raw ability.”

Sunburst looked confused, and Twilight looked enraged. “What!? That’s what Princess Celestia told me!

“What’s wrong? Not so special anymore, Princess?” Starlight jeered.

Celestia continued. “But you need to learn to tame these abilities through focused study. Sunburst, I’d like to make you my own personal protégé here at the school!”

Sunburst looked behind him just in time to see his mother faint and his father emphatically nod his head, a huge goofy smile plastered on his face. As Sunburst cheered and celebrated with his parents, the trio from the present moved on.

Next, the potion’s magic transported them to a room where nearly everypony was dressed in black. At the front of the room sat a small, closed coffin. Filly Rainbow Dash, clad in a small black dress, stood on her father’s back and took her turn in front of the coffin.

“Why’d you do it, Fluttershy? Why’d you walk off all alone by yourself like they said? Why didn’t you come find me? I’ve always been here for you. Do you remember the time you came over for that sleepover?” She paused, as if Fluttershy really was answering her. “I know! That was so much fun, Fluttershy! Is that why you requested to be in my cabin for flight camp?” She paused again. “Yeah. I remember that one time when you tripped and fell down the front steps of my house and I carried you all the way home. Do you remember that? … You were pretty scraped up, weren’t you? ... No, don’t talk about them. Those colts are never—they’re never going to hurt you. Ever—again.” Rainbow Dash’s father held her close and carried her away as she alternately blubbered incoherently and choked on her own words. The last thing whispered was, “I miss her, Daddy.” She stared blankly over her father’s shoulder as he walked away on three legs and carried her with his fourth. Rainbow’s stare fell cold on Starlight Glimmer, and sent the most wicked chill down her spine, from the top of her neck, to the very last tailbone.

Filly Rainbow Dash flipped a table, eliciting a grunt as she did. She hovered in the air, breathing heavily. She looked around and spotted a vase. She picked it up and smashed it against the floor. “Come and get a piece of me, you big bullies!” She kicked the door to her room open. She took two Wonderbolts figurines off their shelf and threw them against the ground. “Nopony picks on my friends!” She reared up and stomped the figurines. “This is for Fluttershy!” She stomped on them again and again and again, wishing they were the two colts who, after the fact, had confessed to bullying Fluttershy the same day as her flight accident. Rainbow opened the window, threw the figurines out, and watched them sail out of sight towards the ground far below. For a moment, she just stood there panting with two hooves on the windowsill. At length, she looked down at her now-painful hooves, half-expecting them to be cut and bloodied. They were unharmed by the toys, but they were shaking uncontrollably from Rainbow’s rage and adrenaline.

“Well, somepony’s got anger issues,” said Spike.

“She’s venting,” Twilight corrected. “And pretty hard by the looks of it.”

“My vase!” cried a female voice from the other room. Rainbow Dash whirled around, suddenly realizing the consequences of her actions. Instead of sticking around and getting a lecture, Rainbow Dash flew out the window. Her mother was at the windowsill a moment later. “Rainbow Dash! You get your flank back in here this very instant! Or you’re grounded!”

Rainbow Dash wasn’t about to go back and get scolded for breaking that vase. She just needed to fly. She flew away as fast as her wings would carry her. It was hard for the trio from the present to keep up, because the more Rainbow vented her anger for the bullies, the faster she went. She was soon going faster than she had ever gone before. Even now, she still had frustrations she needed to vent. She straightened her wings and rolled into a dive. Fluttershy might not have been a very good flyer, but Rainbow Dash would fly fast enough for both of them. The thought of her lost friend brought a tear to her eye. Just as the tear was torn away by the wind, the sadness was squelched by Rainbow’s frustration. She was angry at herself for not being there for Fluttershy. She was angry at the bullies. She was angry at life for putting her through all this. She wanted to fly so fast she could leave it all behind.

A cone of compressed air formed around Rainbow’s hooves. She steepened her dive, sacrificing altitude for speed. She flapped her wings harder and faster. Her lungs burned. Her wings burned. But her frustration and determination burned more intensely than any physical or emotional pain. With one final concentrated effort, Rainbow Dash broke the sound barrier, creating the legendary Sonic Rainboom.

The trio from the present had stopped following, all hope of keeping up with Rainbow Dash long lost. The Sonic Rainboom, however, could not have been missed. It also made Rainbow Dash easily traceable. Twilight teleported the group to Rainbow’s final location. She had landed on a small cloud to catch her breath and collect her thoughts. Though Rainbow apparently hadn’t noticed, and probably hadn’t thought to look, she did indeed have her cutie mark.

Rainbow knew she would have to go back, as much as she hated that thought. Back to her parents. Back to reality. Back to the pain of grief. But it was already evening, and would soon be dark, so she reluctantly took off again and headed home.

When she got home, her widow had already been shut. She would have to go in through the door, and her parents would probably be in the living room, waiting for her. She somehow found the courage to hover up to the doorknob, give it a turn, and pull the door open. “Rainbow Dash?” her mother calmly called. “Is—is this about Fluttershy?” Rainbow Dash looked up at her mother’s face. The mention of her friend’s name brought tears to her eyes. She stood there a moment, letting the tears run down the sides of her face. She made no attempt to resist when her mother picked her up and laid her next to herself on the sofa. Next, her mother hugged her with one of her wings.

“Mommy? I wish there was something we could do to bring her back,” Rainbow finally choked out.

“I know, my little Dash.” She hugged her daughter tighter and closer. “Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense to us. Why would life give us something so amazing like love or friendship, and then just take them away like that? But Dash, that’s the wrong question to ask. If life will one day take everything from us, why does it give us such good friends? Or for that matter, moms and dads who love us very much and are here to help us through hard times.” She kissed her daughter on the forehead, and in turn received a kiss on the cheek.

“I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you so much more, Dash.”

The only affect the delayed Rainboom had on filly Applejack was to extend her stay with the Oranges by about a week. Pinkie Pie’s cutie mark story was also nearly identical. Rarity, on the other hoof, failed to make “spectacular” dresses for the school play. Nevertheless, she continued trying new ways to find her cutie mark, and her horn kept dragging her off towards various rocks. About a week after the performance, while she was trying for her cave-spelunking cutie mark, a rainbow shockwave raced into the cave, shattering a number of rocks in its path. Rarity beamed when she saw the gems it revealed, but decided to keep the cave a secret. She visited the cave every day, excavating the gems using a shovel she had borrowed from home and hoarding them in the back of the cave.

Rarity sunk the shovel into the ground, lifted it, and flung the gravely contents across the cave. She dug in and lifted the shovel again, inspecting the quality of the gravel. She smiled and dumped the gravel onto a round screen, panning out three gems and discarding the rocks. She dug again and got seven more gems from this vein. She was about to drive the shovel again when she heard something behind her. She turned around and saw two very young dragons, a bit shorter than she was. One was cool blue with white spines, the other jet black with navy spines. All at once, the three shouted for fear of each other.

“Whatever are you doing here?” asked Rarity.

“Please, don’t send us away! We don’t mean any harm!” pleaded the cool blue dragon.

“Honest, we’re only hungry! My sister and I haven’t eaten or seen our parents for a week!” added the jet black dragon.

“You’re lost? Oh, you poor things. But, why would you come here if you were hungry?” asked Rarity.

“Because we smelled gems,” stated the blue dragon.

Rarity looked at the stash of gems behind her, then back to the dragons. “Do you mean to say that you—eat them?” The sister dragons nodded their heads. Rarity bit her lip and glanced at her gems. “I—I might be willing to part with a few of them.” She trotted to the back of the cave and selected two of the smallest gems she could find, before returning to the sisters. “Here. Take them.” As she painfully parted with the two gemstones, she noticed a flash of light behind her. “What was that?” she asked in a panic as she spun around.

“That wasn’t there before, was it?” asked the blue dragon.

“What? Where? I don’t see it!”

“On your flank!” shouted the black dragon.

Rarity looked at her flank and gasped! “My cutie mark! I must have got it when I gave away those two small gemstones! Oh! You girls wait right here!” Rarity galloped to the back of the cave, scooped up a heap of gems in her magic, and deposited them at the feet of the two dragons. “Please, take as many as you want! From now on, I, Rarity, shall aspire to be the most generous pony in all of Equestria! And if you girls ever need anything again, I live right over there in Ponyville. Just ask for Rarity.” She briefly pointed towards Ponyville with one hoof before placing her hoof on her chin. “Oh, goodness me! I haven’t even gotten your names yet.”

“I’m Shard,” said the cool blue dragon, “and this is my sister, Obsidian.”

“But you can call me Sidi.”

“Very well, then. I must be going now. My friends will want to know all about how I got my cutie mark! And I do hope you girls find your parents soon. Goodbye!” Rarity waved at the sisters, then galloped off towards Ponyville.

After the vision of Rarity’s new cutie mark story, the trio found themselves in the heart of Ponyville. Before long, a pegasus chariot landed in the street, and Spike and Sunburst disembarked.

“So what’s supposed to happen now, Twilight?” asked Starlight.

“Well, Sunburst, who’s filling in for me at this point, should meet Pinkie Pie pretty soon. Then he’ll probably go to the apple orchard, then get tackled by Rainbow Dash. After that, it’s off to meet Rarity, then we get to find out who replaces Fluttershy, and finally, Sunburst will get a surprise party from Pinkie Pie in the library. And that should cover all six bearers of the Elements of Harmony.”

As the three followed Sunburst around town, some of Twilight’s predictions came true, and some did not. The first incorrect prediction came when Rainbow Dash landed next to Sunburst rather than tackling him. Another came when Sunburst went to check on the decorations in the town hall.

“Decorations…” said past Spike. “Beautiful!” he said with wonder.

“Indeed. The decorations seem to be going along quite well. Hopefully, this will be quick and I’ll be at the library in no time,” said Sunburst.

“Not the decor, her!” Spike said.

Sunburst looked at the mare in front of him with wonder in his eyes. “Well, I can definitely see why you would say that!” She stood there looking at different colors of ribbon, systematically working through them one color at a time until she found one she liked. She looked around for her assistants, and noticed the two new arrivals.

“Oh, goodness! I didn’t even see you there! Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Rarity. What’s your name, dear sir?” Sunburst untied his tongue before finally managing to state his name. “And what about you?” she asked the dragon.

“Spike,” he said, unable to take his eyes off of Rarity.

Rarity continued scanning the room, a small frown forming on her lips. “Have either of you seen a pair of dragons about?”

“Dragons?” asked Spike.

“Sorry. Spike’s the only dragon I’ve seen today,” replied Sunburst.

“Oh, here they come. Shard, Sidi, could you tie these sparkling red ribbons along that row of poles?”

The two turned around to see a pair of female dragons about as tall as Spike walking their direction. “Of course, Miss Rarity,” said the cool blue dragon. “Who are the guests?”

“Allow me to introduce you. Sidi, Shard, this is Spike and Sunburst. Spike, Sunburst, this is Obsidian and Shard.”

“Hello, Mr. Sunburst,” said Obsidian.

“Hello, Obsidian.”

“Spike, was it?” asked Shard. “That’s a nice name.” She blinked her light pink eyes at him a few times.

“And you’re Shard, huh? Well, you’re nice, too. Uh, I mean your name. Your name is nice.” Spike’s cheeks suddenly grew bright red. Sunburst awkwardly looked at the ceiling.

“Eww, gross! Shard, you’re gonna get cooties!” warned Sidi.

“Darling, I don’t think there’s such thing as cooties,” said Rarity.

“I hate to ask, but does anypony else think it’s getting a little hot in here?” asked Sunburst, shifting his gaze among the others.

“Well, now that you mention it, I do feel a bit warm. Shard, would you mind?”

“Of course not, Miss Rarity.” She inhaled, tilted her head back, and let out a mighty breath, sending snowflakes to the top of the town hall’s interior for them to gracefully fall back down.

“Wow, cool!” said Spike.

“I’ve never seen anything like it!” said Sunburst. “How’d you do that?”

“It’s a common misconception that all dragons breathe fire,” Shard replied. “I’m an ice drake.”

“Well, that was great, but we still have a lot to check on around town, so I guess we’ll be seeing you girls later. Bye!” Sunburst blurted as he picked up Spike and galloped out the door.

“Well that was certainly peculiar,” stated Rarity.

“Yeah, they seemed a little odd,” added Shard.

“Of course they were weird! They’re boys!” shouted Sidi. Rarity and Shard looked at Sidi, then at each other, and shared a knowing smile.

Sunburst slammed the town hall’s doors and leaned against them, panting. He and Spike turned to each other and simultaneously blurted, “Did you see her?” The pair sighed and slid down the door, collapsing as though they were made of rubber.

“I kind of feel guilty for watching that. Like I just read a page about somepony’s love life out of their diary,” said Twilight.

“It made my skin crawl,” added Starlight.

“Sorry, girls. I can’t hear you over the sound of myself throwing up,” said Spike.

“What’s next, Sunburst?” asked other Spike.

“Next, we’ll check on the music. Looks like the next stop isn’t too far from here.”

“I wonder who’s going to replace Fluttershy?” Spike said aloud.

“I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out,” said Twilight.

Sure enough, they didn’t have to go far from the town hall. Their next stop was the schoolhouse. Sunburst opened the door to see a mulberry-coated mare leading her class in a children’s choir. The farther they got into the song, the faster an orange pegasus filly got. It finally got so bad that the teacher had to stop the choir. “Scootaloo, I’m afraid you’re taking that part a little too fast.”

“But it’s boring when we go that slow!” the filly complained.

“I’m sorry, but that’s how the music’s written. If we don’t sing it all together, we won’t sound good for the Princess. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”

“Well, I guess not.”

A yellow-coated filly with a bow in her mane raised a hoof. “What is it, Apple Bloom?”

“Miss Cheerilee, we got guests.”

Just as she was about to turn around, her face instinctively cringed. “We have guests, you mean.”

“That’s what I said,” replied the confused filly. The rest of the class giggled at her expense.

For now, the lesson would have to wait. Apple Bloom was right. There were guests behind her, so Cheerilee turned to greet them.

“Hello! I’m Sunburst. I’m here to check on the music for the Summer Sun Celebration.”

“Would you like to hear our number?”

“If it’s not too long.” Spike and Sunburst listened while the choir performed their song. Spike gave a standing ovation when the piece had concluded, and then it was off to the library, where Pinkie Pie had indeed planned a surprise party for Sunburst.

True to Twilight’s arrival in Ponyville, Nightmare Moon escaped that night, and it was up to Sunburst and his five new friends to go into the Everfree Forest and stop her. The six passed all of Nightmare Moon’s tests, and challenged her claim to eternal night. Sunburst officially declared them to be the six Spirits of the Elements of Harmony, and the eternal night was cut short when Celestia and Luna were reunited.

Discord came and went just as he had in the timeline Twilight was familiar with. The next supervillain, Queen Chrysalis, was a different matter entirely. Almost nothing was the same. Sunburst had no relationship with Princess Cadance or Shining Armor. He was greeted by the soon-to-be Prince with a “business-only” attitude. The six friends found the Princess’s behavior a bit standoffish, but chalked it up to the stress getting to her. The ceremony went off exactly as the Queen had planned: She was pronounced Shining Armor’s bride by Princess Celestia. The power of a true love’s kiss was enough to one-shot the unsuspecting Princess, and encase her in a green cocoon. Panic descended on the crowd as the six bearers of the Elements slipped away. They didn’t get far before the changeling swarm brought them back. Within a few hours, the swarm had located and subdued Princess Luna. The next scene to unfold consisted of the Queen talking with Ex-Princess Celestia.

Chrysalis entered the room and detached the Princess’s cocoon from the ceiling. She turned her right-side up and placed her on the floor. “What do you want from me, Chrysalis?”

“I want the other half of your sisterly love. Luna’s love for you was strong indeed.”

“I would have assumed so. But I will not yield up my own love to you so freely. You will have to take it from me.”

“Funny. That’s what your sister said, too. And look what happened to her.” She levitated something from behind her and tossed it towards Celestia. It bounced along the ground and stopped about a foot from Celestia’s cocoon. The Princess in shock and horror.

“No! It can’t be! Tell me that’s not what I think it is!”

“Your sister’s horn.” A sick smile crept across her face once she had said it.

“NO! You monster! How could you do this?”

“How could I not do this? I couldn’t risk her escaping!”

“So you killed her?!”

“No, I snapped it off her head to keep as a trophy. Of course I killed her! What, do I need to go get her wings too? Or maybe her head?”

“NO! No. Please don’t. If I saw that, I would simply die.”

“You won’t have to worry about that soon enough,” she said before she cackled villainously.

“You know nothing of ancient history, do you? In under a month, the Crystal Empire will return. You’re going to need outside help if you are to defeat the dark magic of King Sombra.”

“You think you can bargain for your life? Ha! Draining your sister’s love for you gave me enough power to move the sun and moon! Draining yours will make moving the two Great Lights merely parlor tricks. Let this so-called King come. His crown will make a fine addition to my already plentiful collection.” The Queen’s horn glowed with green energy, and Twilight once again declined to watch. This time, she covered her ears as well, which served to muffle the Princess’s screams. At length, a dragon claw tapped her on the leg.

“Twilight, it’s over now.”

The first thing Twilight noticed was Starlight Glimmer staring somberly at the ground. Twilight walked over and draped a wing over her back. “Do you see now why I needed to stop you from changing the past?” she gently asked.

Starlight pushed Twilight’s wing away and walked a short distance, but said nothing. After a sigh, she calmly began. “I don’t know how you found out about Sunburst in time to put him into this vision, and I don’t know how you were able to craft such an elaborate story so quickly, but I will not accept that this is my own doing.”

“Starlight, I’m not crafting anything. I’m not making any of this up, and I honestly didn’t know who Sunburst was until you told me. I just made the potion—”

You made the potion!” Starlight parroted, pointing an accusing hoof in Twilight’s face. “It’s your potion, your story, and your version of the truth! Except that it isn’t the truth at all!”

“Starlight, I don’t think I can make it any more clear to you. The potion only responds to alicorn magic, so even if I had let you brew the potion yourself, you still would have blamed me for the vision. Please, Starlight, you have to believe me.”

“No. No I don’t.” Starlight pulled out the scroll again and tore a little farther into the notch she had already made.

“Wait! At least see the vision through to the end!” Starlight glanced up to meet Twilight’s eyes. “Please,” Twilight pleaded.

“I’m this close, Twilight. This. Close.” She held up two hooves ever so slightly separated from each other. She then returned the paper to Spike’s bag. “But I’ll play along for now, if only to shut you up.”

The three looked around the room to see seven green cocoons hanging from the ceiling. Applejack spoke up first. “What’s s’posed to happen now?”

“If she wanted us dead, we’d be dead by now. She doesn’t have to keep feeding us, you know,” said Sunburst.

“Still, this is a lot of hanging around upside down, even for me,” added Pinkie Pie.

Rarity chimed in next. “What do you suppose is happening back home? Oh, I do hope Open Hearts Orphanage is doing alright. It’s hard enough sometimes to operate it even when I’m there, being a non-profit and all. And it’s been three weeks already!”

“Orphanage?” asked Twilight. “So no Carousel Boutique?”

“That would explain why she took in the two dragons, I guess,” Spike commented.

“I sure hope Big Macintosh and Granny Smith are doin’ ok on the farm without me. And I’ll bet Apple Bloom really misses me.”

“And what about my lesson plans?” asked Cheerilee. “Mrs. Cup Cake is an industrious teacher’s aide, and a good substitute, but I only make lesson plans two weeks in advance!”

“Thunderlane’s probably slacking off with the weather again. Can anypony remind me exactly how he got to be Assistant Weather Captain?”

Queen Chrysalis interrupted their conversation when she threw open the room’s double doors with her magic. She was accompanied by at least two dozen changeling drones. “What do you want, Queen Chrysalis?”

She chuckled a bit before beginning. “I have a special task for you.” She detached their cocoons from the ceiling and set them on the ground. “It has come to my attention that one called King Sombra will be returning soon. I did my research, and found he will appear in the Crystal Empire to the north. Ponyville now holds significant strategic importance. He would use it as a stepping stone to Canterlot, I as a buffer for it.”

“What makes you think we’re going to help you?” blurted Rainbow Dash.

“I need the inhabitants alive so my changelings can feed off their love, but Sombra has been known to be a bit more… tyrannical. Often, those who are sent off to his work camps never return.”

“I don’t understand. Where do we fit into this?” asked Cheerilee.

“You will be shackled, marched to Ponyville, and issued your Elements once you arrive. One of you will stay here as insurance against any of you doing anything brash.”

“But—but that isn’t how it works! All six of us need to be there or the Elements won’t work!” cried Rarity.

“Then the dragon stays.”

Spike and Sunburst looked at each other. “Sunburst?” Spike pressed his claws against the translucent side of his cocoon. “Please don’t leave me!”

“It’s ok, Spike. Everything will be fine. Nothing will happen, I promise. Just do what she says.”

“Sunburst, no!” At this point, the real Spike hugged Twilight’s leg, and she embraced him with a wing.

“I’m sorry, Spike. It’s the only way to save Ponyville. Queen, when our task is complete, will we be reunited?” Sunburst asked.

“If you succeed, then yes. The bond you two share is strong, as of brothers. Your emotions feed off each other’s, and I in turn feed off both of you.” She turned to her drones. “Shackle them and march them to Ponyville. Don’t give them their Elements until they arrive there this evening.”

“Yes, my Queen,” replied an armored changeling, presumably an officer.

The intangible trio made a day’s march into an instant teleport. Their friends looked exhausted from their march into town. “Could one of you pul-ease tell me why we didn’t take the train? My hooves are absolutely killing me!” complained Rarity.

“We control the Canterlot train station, but no trains. The engineers were able to escape with their engines before we could occupy the train yard,” a changeling officer replied. Rarity groaned.

“Well, Rarity, at least we’re here now,” Sunburst reminded.

“Right. So you can quit your whining,” said the officer.

“Whining? That was complaining. Do you really want to hear whining?”

“NO!” her friends shouted in unison.

“I mean, um, I don’t think that would be appropriate right now,” corrected Sunburst.

“I suppose you’re right, Sunburst.” She turned to a nearby changeling. “Now, if you would, be a dear and please get these abhorrent chains off my hooves.” The six were released and issued their elements.

A changeling drone withdrew Loyalty from Rainbow Dash’s overly eager snatch, causing her to miss. “For use against King Sombra only,” he stressed.

“Yeah. Sure. Got it.” The drone reluctantly released Loyalty to its bearer.

A changeling officer addressed the ponies. “During our march, our scouts reported that King Sombra is already on his way with an army of armored crystal ponies. He'll likely arrive some time tomorrow. Our Queen has been notified and will be sending reinforcements to fortify the city. If you try anything heroic, remember, we still have your dragon friend. You have until tomorrow to prepare a suitable defense.” His message delivered, the officer departed to seek lodging for his troops.

“So, when do we start kicking changeling flank?” asked Rainbow Dash.

“We don’t,” declared a disheartened Sunburst.

“Oh, Sunburst, don’t be silly! We’ll get them, you’ll see! We’ll send them all the way back to… to… Where are changelings from again?”

“It won’t matter, Pinkie. They still have Spike.”

“I know how much the little guy means to you,” Applejack said reassuringly. “Now, we’re here for one reason: to stop ol’ King What’s-His-Face. And by Celestia, that’s what we’re gonna do.” Applejack placed her hat over her heart and looked skyward at the mention of the late Princess.

“Don’t worry about it, Sunburst dear. No harm will come to Spike if we cooperate with the Queen. Perhaps if we do well enough, we could even beg for our freedom in exchange for protecting Ponyville.”

“That might actually work, Rarity,” Sunburst said thoughtfully.

“Rarity’s plan only works if we win,” Cheerilee reminded. “I’d hate to think what would happen if we lose, let alone what they would do to Spike.”

“What could they do to him? Dragon hide is legendary for being practically invincible!” stated Rainbow Dash.

“I don’t know,” said Sunburst. “If we try to fight both factions and fail, Spike’s in deep trouble. And we’ll be, too.” Following a pause in conversation, Sunburst made a proposition. “It’s late in the evening, and we’re all tired from the march. We should head home to get some sleep and meet back in the town hall at 8:30 tomorrow.” The group consented and dispersed to get some sleep.

The next morning, Rainbow Dash was aerially pacing inside the town hall, pitching her plan. “So yesterday, the changelings mentioned that Canterlot’s trains left the station before they could capture them. I was thinking we could do the same thing here in Ponyville.”

“But where would we go?” asked Rarity.

“It doesn’t matter. Appleoosa, Manehattan, Los Pegasus, as long as it’s not Canterlot. The first ones on the train should be the mares, colts, and fillies. That includes your class and your orphanage.” She pointed in turn to Cheerilee and Rarity. “If this turns into a long, drawn-out conflict, Zecora becomes a high-priority target. And with Ponyville occupied, it’s not like we’ll be able to come back and get her.”

“But, Rainbow Dash, there ain’t no way we’re gonna win against both the changelings and the King!”

“We don’t have to, Applejack. The goal isn’t winning, it’s evacuating our friends.”

“You know what’s going to happen to Spike the moment the Queen finds out we’ve turned on her,” reminded Sunburst.

“It’s the same thing that will happen to Shard and Sidi if we help the changelings take over. Would you want that? Would Spike want that?”

“Rainbow Dash, please don’t put me up to a hard choice like this.”

“I don’t have to. That’s the way the circumstances already are. Look, I know firsthoof what it’s like to lose a friend. A close friend. A friend who didn’t deserve to die. That’s why I can’t let that happen to Ponyville, to my friends. Spike’s a dragon. They won’t even be able to hurt him.”

Sunburst bowed his head. When at length he slowly raised it again, his eyes were full of tears. “Then we evacuate Ponyville.”

Rarity looked across the back side of the train station towards Cheerilee. The mulberry earth pony peeked around a corner and signaled back “all-clear.”

“Quickly, now, let’s move,” Rarity whispered to the herd of colts and fillies behind her. The young herd moved as silently as one could expect a group of frightened school-aged ponies to be when walking across a wooden platform. Cheerilee darted around the corner and Rarity moved to where Cheerilee had been standing. A moment later, Rarity peeked around, and Cheerilee made three tally marks in the air with a hoof. “Three changelings on the platform. Sidi, watch the colts and fillies. Shard, come with me.” The pair quietly approached Cheerilee.

“On three,” said Cheerilee. “One, two, three!” Rarity leapt around the corner and found a target for her horn blast. She scored a direct hit. Cheerilee bucked a changeling. His head clanged against the train, and he slid down between the train and the platform. A moment later, Cheerilee was hit in the leg, and held fast by a sticky green goo. Shard blasted ice at the third changeling, encasing him completely. She then breathed on the goo, making it solid and brittle enough to break.

“Sidi, now!” Rarity called. The young ponies galloped forward and boarded the train. “Now, we hold here while the others hold off the incoming armies of Sombra and Chrysalis.”

“Hurry!” Sunburst called from the platform. A flood of mares, stallions, colts, and fillies boarded the train. Rainbow Dash landed in front of Sunburst.

“Did you find Zecora?”

“She’s already aboard. The only one we’re waiting on now is Applejack.”

“We can’t wait long. Chrysalis herself is almost at the station!”

“We aren’t leaving without Applejack! We need all six Elements!”

Rainbow Dash darted skyward, and spotted a column of black-and-green figures marching down one street, and a column of armored crystal ponies marching down another, but still a ways off. Applejack was nowhere in sight. Rainbow feared that it was already too late for Applejack. “Conductor! That’s everypony!” she called out.

The conductor nodded. “All aboard!”

“No!” Sunburst protested. He turned to look for Applejack, but didn’t see her. He reluctantly boarded the train behind Rainbow Dash. “What are you doing?”

“I’m sorry, Sunburst. I wish we could wait, I really do. But it’s either her or all of us. And… I think she’s already gone.” Sunburst looked through the closing door. Just as it closed, a familiar orange earth pony rounded the corner at full gallop.

“There she is!” He magically pried the door back open, and stuck a hoof out the door. “Come on, hurry!” He nearly lost his balance when the train jolted to a start. “You can make it!” As the train accelerated, so did Applejack. Sunburst leaned out the door, holding the side of door frame with one hoof, and reaching as far as he could with the other. The more the train accelerated, the less platform Applejack had left. “Jump! I’ve got you!” The platform fell away, and Applejack lept into the air. Sunburst stretched his hoof as far as it would reach. He could tell by her trajectory that she was safe. Her hooves would grasp his and he would pull her inside the car.

Suddenly, Applejack froze in midair and fell forward, her entire body dangling from the green aura around her tail. “NO! Applejack!”


A second aura formed around her neck, and she strained to pull it off herself. Sunburst tried to jump off onto the ground, but Rainbow Dash caught his tail and pulled him back into the train car. He rose to his hooves and galloped through the emergency access doors to the back of the train. He stood on the platform on the back of the last car, but the train was too far away now. He watched helplessly as Applejack was levitated into a blind spot caused by a pole on the side of the platform. The Changeling Queen then thrust her gnarled horn into that same blind spot.

“Twilight, stop this vision! I’ve seen enough of it!” commanded Starlight Glimmer. “I don’t want to have to watch your friends die one by one any more than I want to have to watch you shield your eyes from their deaths! The guilt I’ve tried to push to the back of my mind has become too much for me to bear!”

“I’ll do what I can to try to stop it, but I’ve never done this before.” With her alicorn magic, Twilight locked on to the fabric of the augmented reality and dispelled it, forcing all that was but reality to fade away. She found herself, Starlight, and Spike back in Zecora’s old hut.

Starlight threw herself down at Twilight’s hooves. “Oh, Twilight Sparkle, I’m so sorry. How could you ever forgive me?”

“Starlight, as I said when I first saw Sunburst, I had no clue you were hurting like that. I want two things. First, I want you to go back and let Rainbow Dash’s do her Sonic Rainboom uninterrupted.”

“And the second thing?”

Twilight smiled, magically lifted Starlight to her hooves, and hugged her. “I want you to accept my friendship.” Starlight found herself in Twilight’s grasp whether she wanted it or not. But it felt so good to be loved again. Not just to be called a leader, but to be actually cared for. Yes. She decided she did want it, so she lifted a hoof to return Twilight’s embrace.

“I think I can do that.”
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#1 · 1
· · >>007Ben
This starts out with the framing story of Starlight Glimmer fighting Twilight Sparkle in the big alternate-timeline feud at the end of Season 5, but quickly shifts from that into the inner story of a specific "bad end" timeline. In the abstract, that's a pretty solid structural choice — it gives you a way to "bookend" the inner story and provide it with context and commentary — but I felt like, in execution, that was the weakest part of your story.

The crucial problem is that your starting and ending scenes are basically identical to the show's treatment of the same scenes, and that's a lot of words used to retell someone else's story that you could have used on your original material. It was a little frustrating to need to plod through a re-hash in order to get to the part where your story starts. This also means that your final scene gives us nothing new from the show, and so your story deflates right at the end when you want to leave the biggest impression. A smaller problem, but still worth fixing, is that Spike exists both in the framing story and the inner story — so sometimes it's confusing which one is commenting. A third small-but-crucial problem is that it looks like you're focusing on the "wasteland" timeline from the show, but your inner story climaxes and ends before we actually see what made it wastelandy!

As for the AU itself, you make some daring choices, and they feel a little hit-or-miss for me. Most notably, you've got Rarity's two orphan dragon sidekicks — who are cool on general dragon principle, and I want to read more of their story, but you've already got a large ensemble cast and are capped at 8000 words. Every word you spend on these add-ons to your Mane Six is one you can't spend on your core concept, so I suspect they would have a lot more room to breathe in a novella or novel-length fic. (More nitpickily: I also feel like the addition of "core" characters with no analogue in the original timeline contributes to this throwing off a lot of the numerology that makes Equestria sing — you're going from two of each earth/peg/uni, plus Spike as a seventh wheel, to a cast where there are three dragons and three earth ponies to one pegasus and two unicorns.)

Chrysalis murdering and dismembering Luna was also a vivid moment, though frankly Celestia's reaction to that comes across as way understated (as well as Spike's reaction to the subsequent scene). That also raises Fridge Logic questions: you state later on that the New Mane Six explicitly know Chrysalis killed Celestia, but they side with her anyway? I'd think that would pretty much nullify any trustworthiness or "better than Sombra"-ness she had, or at least that it would come up when they're discussing hostage-Spike's fate.

I think the parts of the AU that feel strongly interwoven — elements like Fluttershy's fate, the shift in Dash's rainboom, and the butterfly effect (ha ha I am so clever) on Rarity and the magic school — are the best part of this, and the logic all fits together for me. Good job! (I say this as the author of a Rainbow Dash-less AU that made similar change-half-the-mane-six choices, so you managed to hold up against my comparison to my own story: double good job.) I'll provisionally accept Cheerilee, though this is definitely an area you'll want to expand in later editing, because as the story currently stands she feels kind of like a bit part. (Also: as prev. mentioned, you're now short a pegasus.) The magic-school scene is a great pivotal moment for both the inner and outer framing stories, with big implications for the latter, though again more words would help here — unpacking the reactions, which are big character moments for both Twilight and Starlight. The shift in gender balance, i.e. your replacement Twilight being male, has a lot of potential ground that's sort of glossed over once in the meeting-Rarity scene and never returned to. So, uh, tl;dr: this just wants to be a much, much longer story. … Though the more you expand it, the tougher it becomes to keep that outer framing story coherent and relevant. That might require some heavy rewriting and/or rebalancing — altering the framing story to have them cover a lot of ground the show doesn't, maybe even finding a lot more common ground than the show ever gave them, and coming out of it with a genuine friendship that takes your outer story into AU territory of its own.

Tier: Almost There
#2 · 1
· · >>007Ben
I'll be honest; not much of the story worked the way it was intended for me. I know that sounds pretty harsh, but the problems that we're facing are actually pretty straightforward in terms of fixing them.

Starting with the introduction, I cannot stress enough how rehashing material directly from an episode is going to hurt your reader's attention. Honestly, just a quick little paragraph or two would have been enough to establish when/where this fic takes place in relation to show cannon. As is, you start off a little on the wrong foot, here.

The conflict itself is fairly interesting, in that AU's tend to pique interest from their nature. You've gone a solid job at showing where you want to go with this AU, but I'm afraid it doesn't quite deliver. Mainly because the whole point of Twi and Starlight drinking the potion is to find out how Ponyvile/Equestria became a wasteland in the first place, and by the end of things, that central question still isn't answered.

In terms of characters, I had a lot of trouble with trying to feel sympathetic for many of the AU inhabitants. Rarity's adopted dragons have too little screentime to really differentiate them from each other, which makes them feel a little redundant. Also, the general formula of having different bad things happen to the characters repeatedly and in rapid succession kind of belittles their emotions. It's easy to become numb to yet another terrible tragedy when it comes hot on the heels of something that's supposed to be even sadder. I'd really recommend focusing on one or two key moments where things all go wrong, especially if you have a bit of backstory behind it to make it work.

In short, the biggest takeaway in my opinion is going to be that you need to spend a bit more time with your characters and their situation before you try to "cash in", so to speak. Develop your OC's and give yourself enough time to make the AU characters feel interestingly distinct from their cannon counterparts. Then, when the stuff starts to hit the fan, you're going to be able to make the readers feel everything you want them to.
#3 · 1
· · >>007Ben
In my opinion, the biggest issue with the story is that it's too fast paced. Events take place in quick succesion, too quick to properly get invested in anything of what's happening.

Not to mention, the narrative as a whole feels dry. Later on, there's a bit too much of "character did this" and not enough "character felt this way", which didn't help with the detachement I felt as I read on.

I also expected Rarity's adopted dragons to play some sort of role later on in the story, which sadly didn't happen and left me wondering what purpose they served other than make Rarity worried about Ponyville, point that could have been easily addressed with Sweetie Belle and her parents.

Also, the ending felt extremely rushed. Almost as if the story was cut short and tacked a forced resolution (and judging by the worcount, that may have been the case). We don't get to see Starlight slowly realise the error of her ways, she's resistant to admit it all the way to the end, but the reader never gets to experience her doubting, thinking that maybe she was wrong after all. Which is a big missed opportunity in the story.

There were a few points that I liked, but they were far and few. I do encourage you to try again, though.
#4 · 1
· · >>007Ben
This story's biggest problem is probably that it clearly wants to be several thousand words longer. If you're going to write a story explaining how Equestria turned into a wasteland, then you have to actually explain how Equestria turned into a wasteland. As it is, this looks like it could just as easily be a timeline where Chrysalis or Tirek takes over.

My other big problem with this is that Starlight seems to come around way too suddenly. I'm sure this is also due to word constraints.

I have a few smaller problems too:
* The potion Twilight makes seems to do a lot more than it did in the show. But I suppose this is pretty much necessary for the framing story to work.
* Giving Rarity the dragons was a cool idea, but they were pretty unnecessary. Maybe they'll be more worth having around in the expanded version, but it might have been a good idea to cut them out for this version of the story. (Or, if you wanted to mess with things a bit more, have Sunburst pass the test without hatching Spike (since you didn't mention Spike being there when he shattered the egg, I actually initially thought that Sunburst had just destroyed the egg without hatching it), and then have Rarity happen to find one baby dragon in the mine, who she just happens to decide to name Spike. But that might have complicated things a bit too much for this story.)
* I can't think of a good reason for Chrysalis to not leave a few disguised changelings in Ponyville to keep an eye on the Element Bearers in case they try to cross her. I was almost certain that at least the Applejack at the end would turn out to be a changeling, but there really should just be several of them who snuck onto the train and are just waiting for the right moment to turn and kill everyone on it. Maybe this is another product of the length, but it wouldn't have been hard to at least have Applejack make it onto the train and then reveal herself and start attacking before Twilight cut off the vision.

But despite my complaints, I do think that this was a good story overall. I probably liked it about as much as I can be expected to like a dark and tragic story like this one. It's currently a solid second place on my ballot, with only one story left unread. Just go ahead and expand this story, and it will probably be great.
#5 · 1
· · >>007Ben
For me, not a fan of the 'Tee hee murder the Princesses' bit you have in here. It doesn't even make sense, either - why would Chrysalis drain her food supply that fast?

Ponies are livestock, and you don't slaughter the most productive cows on Day one. And I mean, that's like, bitter to say, but if the Sisters are that strong, then...yea.

For me, this is in 'Needs Work', for just being unpleasantly dark without really justifying it, as well as general speed-whiplash to get to the final point.
#6 ·
· · >>007Ben
Hmmmm.. This one just doesn't quite work for me I'm afraid.

I don't really have any issue with the basic plot... The whole "exploring alternate timeline's" thing is pretty much a trope in an of itself, and there's nothing inherently wrong with it. There's also nothing wrong with thing being dark, or even grimdark, if properly framed. But this just had too many loose threads hanging...

Starlight not believing Twilight, and constantly threatening to rip the scroll does give us a bit of Drama. But her change in attitude was just too abrupt at the end. She goes from "I don't believe this. this is all a trick." To "I totally believe it all, and am so very guilty" in an instant. Showing her growing less and less certain in her denunciations would have worked better.

Also, you're rather lopsided in showing the actions and fates of the cast. Fluttershy goes splat, so that settles her. But then we see Rainbow Dash growing having anger management issues... I kinda expected more with her. Perhaps she grows up to be a rougher, angrier Pegasus? Nothing is really shown, no answers are given... And there's some of the same feeling for the others...

Mind you, I'm guessing that a lot of that was due to the word limit, which you're brushing right up on... I think this story would have been a lot better if given more time and space to grow. As is, it feels kinda rushed for time and space..

Still, not a bad idea, and not horribly done, but rather rough around the edges and compressed...
#7 · 4
History Lesson: Post-Contest Analysis

Well, I certainly had fun writing this, and I hope you had fun reading it. (Well, as much fun as you can get from a gloom-and-doom alternate universe fic.) I'm already seeing improvement as an author, even though this is just my 5th writeoff. I appreciate the positive feedback, and I will learn and grow from the negative feedback.

>>Bachiavellian >>ZaidValRoa >>The_Letter_J

Word Limit: The story I wanted to tell turned out to be much larger in scope than the one I actually told. I've more than doubled my original 8K, and I'm still not done with tying up the plot and resolving the framing story.

Pacing: Pretty much everyone said things were happening too fast, or events came too quickly on the heels of the last. The most obvious case here would be the ending bit with Starlight. By adding on another 10-12K words, I now have room for a more gradual transitions.

Wasteland-iness: At the end, the fact that the armies of Chrysalis and Sombra were approaching each other was implied, but never explicitly stated. The battle between them was also not shown.

More Dragons: Admittedly, I needed a new way for Rarity to get her cutie mark, and I still wanted her to retain the generosity she has become known for. She already has gem-finding abilities, and being generous would require giving said gems away. What better beneficiaries than dragons? After that scene, I wanted to keep them around, and I knew I was going to have Rarity run an orphanage, but other than that, I didn't really have much use for them after Rarity got her cutie mark, and it showed. This is a problem which it looks like I will be able to fix late in the story.

Reactions: Rainbow Dash/Fluttershy, Celestia/Chrysalis, Spike/Sunburst, New Mane 6/Chrysalis, and Starlight/Twilight to name the major ones. You spoke and I listened. These have been fixed accordingly.

Cheerilee as Kindness: It was mentioned by >>horizon that my mane 6 now has one fewer pegasus. I was considering Derpy/Ditzy for the part based on her willingness to please Matilda in Ep. 100, but 1) muffins can't sing, and 2) what better character for the Element of Kindness than a mare who has to put up with a couple dozen colts and fillies day in and day out? Not to mention 3) Cheerilee was an actress in the play where Rarity was supposed to get her cutie mark, so it's likely they grew up knowing each other (which I intend to make mention of in the final version). (On a side note, an adult, normal-eyed Ditzy can be seen in the crowd during the play in Rarity's cutie mark flashback.)

Chrysalis/Celestia Scene: As mentioned above, I've fixed up some reactions involving Luna. I've also cleared up the issue of Chrysalis's motives for killing off the three Princesses, which was indirectly brought up by >>Morning Sun . I feel this was one of the weaker scenes overall, and I've done a major overhaul to get it to an acceptable state.

Angry Rainbow Dash: >>TheCyanRecluse brought up the fact that Rainbow Dash seemed extremely angry at the loss of Fluttershy. In the original unedited version, Twilight walks Spike and Starlight through the five-stage model of grief. (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) However, I decided to remove this refrence as it made the whole scene seem trivialized, and might come across as offensive and insensitive. I left in a line where Dash laments to her mother that she wishes there was some way to bring Fluttershy back, that is, to bargain. This is going to be dealt with more fully in the final version.

I do have plans to upload the final version to FimFiction, but this coming week is exam week here at my university, so the earliest I could do that would probably be the week after. Again, thank you for all the feedback. It means a lot that you would take the time to read and write reviews on my work.

Verdict: A step in the right direction for a fledgling author.