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“... Yet the night is long, and full of horrors. The darkness is deep, without and within. The Sun is setting, and the Light soon fades. The Shadows gather, and The Night Unfurls...” --- Excerpt from the poem The Night Unfurls, author unknown. Worldline: [REDACTED: Clearance Required].
"Americans... Americans, wherever you are... I wish I had words of comfort to give you, like the warm winds this Nazi general sent down from above. But from me, you will not get comfort, only the cold, agonizing truth. And the truth is this great nation has been raped and pillaged by the greatest enemy of our time.
They ask you to sell your liberty to purchase your safety. To kneel to the new order, to submit to the winds of change. But, my fellow Americans, they that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind!
You were born in the land of the free! You fought the kings of old and broke them. You gave your lives for the simplest but most essential truth of all: "Give me liberty, or give me death!" In your veins runs the blood of revolutionaries!
So tonight, brandish your guns, your knives and your fists! Seek out your oppressors wherever they are and tell them "We don't want nothing, not a thing from you!".
Tonight, we show those that sow the wind that WE are the whirlwind!"
--- Probst Wyatt III, Wolfenstein - The New Colossus
"The more evil something is, the more funny, silly, bumbling, outrageous, or incompetent the people behind it should be. You have to be shockingly evil to warrant the bad stuff you do being talked about with a straight face." --- General Setting Details, Red Alert: Paradox Mod
I had been thinking about Stygian and his quest to recruit the Pillars of Equestria ever since I watched "Shadow Play" two-parter and read the Legends of Equestria comics; specifically, the circumstances of his downfall.
Now, we all know by now that there was a great misunderstanding, and that Stygian was kicked out of the Pillars who jumped to conclusions too early when he took their artifacts (Though Stygian also holds responsibility for not making an effort to let them know his anxieties or at least tell them what he was planning to do with said artifacts BEFORE he took them). The one thing that bothered me was how quickly Stygian seemed to have gone off the deep end after being rejected by the Pillars.
Sure, it would had led to despondency and resentment, and if those two festers he might had turned to villainy because of it. But he hasn't exactly lost EVERYTHING due to the rejection by the Pillars, does he? He still got his life in his village that he had before the Sirens appeared and he gone off to his quest. Well, the village was saved, so he still at least have his old life left, right?
That's when I suddenly noticed something seemed off about the whole scenario. Horribly wrong, I'm inclined to say.
It took me a while to triangulate exactly what, but it boils down to this: In the cartoon, we were shown Stygian being there when the whole crisis began, the Dazzlings descending upon his village and using their magical singing to mind-control the villagers into unreasoning hatred and attacking each other, allowing them to feed upon the conflict. Stygian runs off, and a few seconds later, he returns with the Pillars of Equestria, who proceeds to kick the snot out of the Sirens and banished them to the Canterlot High world.
In the comics, the whole quest was significantly expanded; Stygian is shown to have went through a lot of effort getting the the Pillars to help him and get them together, and the recruitment process is not without difficulties due to Stygian and the Pillars having to deal with whatever issue they were facing at hoof - with Stygian even having saved several members from the calamities on one or two occasions (Not that any-pony noticed. At all). They were visibly shown going on a long journey that took them across the width and length of the land as Stygian raced to catch them all. And as of last comic I read, they still haven't got Mistmane or Starswirl yet.
That's when it hit me: Between the Dazzlings attacking and the Pillars arriving to fight them, how long was Stygian off on his quest to recruit the Pillars?
We're not talking about modern-effing-day Equestria here, with its railroads, its airships, its oceanic liners and other forms of modern transportation. We're not talking about Equestria which is explicitly shown (At least in the comics) to have telegraphs. Stygian and the Pillars are explicitly shown to have lived at least around a thousand years ago (Because OF COURSE it is, according to Hasbro) and back then things were still primitive. There could had been pegasi chariots or dragon-fire mail back in the day, but they were never explicitly shown on screen or in the comic, and given the time period and the likely quality of life for the majority of ponies back then, I don't know if some village kid, even a well-learnt prodigy like Stygian, could had possibly afford or have access to those means.
Point is, even if Stygian knows where to look for the Pillars (And in the comics, he does), when he had gone off to acquire their help, he would still have to do so by his own power - he would had to walk there, to where they live (And that's what the comics shown him doing), first by himself and then with those Pillars he recruited on each stage of the journey. Even if we go by the frankly silly canon interpretation that they were merely living in different parts of Equestria (Because OF COURSE Equestria is the whole world, according to Hasbro), one can only walk so far within a set period of time.
In short, it would had taken him at least weeks, if not months, tops, to set out from his village, find all the Pillars, help them through whatever troubles affecting them, recruit them, before finally bring them along back to his village to defeat the Dazzlings, and save his...
You probably can see where I am going with this, right? By the time he got back, would any one of his fellow neighbours and villagers still be alive?
They had been enthralled by the Dazzlings' songs and set on each other, frothing with aggression and hatred, while those gluttonous sea monsters fed upon the emotions and conflict that was generated. They hadn't been shown to stop on screen, and I don't know how the comics would depict the finale, if they bother to depict it at all. Assuming they haven't stopped fighting all this time, they would had killed each other off by now. Even if the Dazzlings were smart enough to hold them back (forward thinking of which, I must remind you, they were NOT DEPICTED to have that I can recall), the population is only going to go down from the word go - accidental deaths does happen in non-lethal sparring between martial artists, or just two random idiots beating the crap out of each other.
So how does this tie with the original premise/question I was talking about? Simple: when Stygian had set off to fetch the Pillars, it would be impossible for him to return with the Pillars in time to save his village, barring them living quite literally right over the hill from where the village is (Which isn't the case, whether on TV or in the comics). He won't be returning home to his family and neighbours; he would be returning to a graveyard, and whatever beat-down the Pillars delivered to the Dazzlings afterwards, all it would had done would is avenging their deaths and preventing the Sirens from repeating their atrocity in another part of Equestria. Despite all his hardships, all his efforts, all his sacrifices - everything he did - Stygian had FAILED. He would had lost everything, nothing else he would had done would had made any difference.
When we look back at Stygian's fall with this context, his rapid slip off the slippery slope suddenly makes a lot of sense: The Pillars wouldn't just become a major part of his life and existence, it would literally be the only life he has left. He putted them together, he planned strategies for them and read all he could about the foes he faced; all this and other ways he dedicated his efforts to supporting and being part of the team would be the only thing that mattered to him anymore. Perhaps it would had helped distract him from the horror and guilt of not being able to save his village, of being the only survivor - who only made it out alive because he ran off. And of course, when he found he couldn't contribute as much as his more powerful Pillars - in fact, he doesn't even consider himself to be one of the Pillars because of this - and felt becoming neglected and sidelined in terms of recognition and respect, his anxiety would had hit him significantly harder since, being the only life he has left, how much he could give to the group would be the measure of his own self-worth, the only thing defining his existence.
No wonder he was so desperate to want their respect and being able to stand by their side in battle - desperate enough that he went off to steal the artifacts of the Pillars and imbue their powers into himself. And what happens when his comrades, the ponies whom he had gathered, befriended, helped and was helped by, completely and utterly rejected him over the misunderstanding? What would that do to him?
I think it would had BROKE him. It would had broken anyone. Everything that happens after that - the Well of Shades, the Pony of Shadows - would had come naturally to him, because he would had, quite literally, nothing left to live for - nothing save, perhaps, hatred for his former comrades, and the world which had so unfairly taken everything from him. Who wouldn't want to make the world suffer in the same despair as he did after all this?
Now, I know this bleak, disturbing premise would had upset many fellow fans, and I wouldn't blame anyone if they couldn't stomach it. But we cannot simply dismiss this out of hoof just because it's uncomfortable to consider, especially when one considers all available facts pointing in this direction. Of course, they would never show this on any media - whether in real life or in-universe.
This is definitely going into my Codexverse, that's for sure. What do you all think?