Published: October 23, 2012
Legend has it that there are lands far beyond the borders of Equestria, where even the boldest of ponies dare not to tread. The most wicked of Celestia's creatures reside there, free to roam and feed as they please. Of course, every bad action they make comes with a price; and that price is paid in the realm of Tartarus. This is where our tale truly begins
Lord Zayda looked over his domain, and it filled him with disgust. The Lord of Darkness had ruled over this fiery pit for nearly a thousand years, and he felt that his 'debt' to Celestia had been more than paid. He needed an heiress to take his place, somepony with a pure heart that would be easy to corrupt. "The Elements of Harmony," he snarled, with a sneer. "One of them would be perfect. I shall have my heiress, by taking a bride. But who shall it be?" The elder dragon waved his claw in a circle, creating a viewing portal with his dark magic. He could see his prey at the Grand Galloping Gala, as their plans for the 'best night ever' went awry. "Foolish ponies," he chuckled cruelly, before his eyes landed on the one with Prince Blueblood. "So this one desires the hoof of royalty," he noted with a grin. "Perhaps my claw can suffice."
A few months later, Rarity was back in Ponyville working on her dresses. "These dresses are absolutely fabulous," she noted to herself, "but they're missing a little something. Maybe I could add a few more gems." She trotted over to her jewel collection, and her eyes settled on a large, red ruby. She wasn't sure where it had come from, but it was more than a perfect piece for her dress. She picked it up with a stream of unicorn magic, and thought she heard laughing for a few seconds. "Oh Rarity," she said to herself, "you've been working too hard." She walked back into her workshop, and found herself face-to-face with a demon.
"Hello, my dear," Lord Zayda greeted her, as he stepped towards her. "It's so nice to see you like my gift."
"Your gift?" Rarity asked, as she looked him over. He was clearly a dragon, but not like any she had ever seen. His face was scarred from years of living in flames, and his body looked bony yet tough. He had long, white claws; complemented by his dripping fangs. She was repulsed by such a monstrous visage, and she turned away from him in a hurry.
"Look at me, Rarity," Lord Zayda said to her. "Look at your future husband."
"I will never marry you," Rarity told him firmly.
"Rarity," Lord Zayda growled, as he flexed his claws menacingly. "You don't have a choice." He grabbed her mane tight, and pulled her towards him in one swift motion. "You will marry me, and you will take your place as my heiress."
"Please let me go," Rarity begged, as she cried from the pain of having her hair pulled.
"No objections, I see," Lord Zayda cruelly noted, as he released her from his grip. "You'll make such an obedient wife."
"Leave her alone!" a voice called out from behind them. It was the voice of Twilight Sparkle, who had come to visit her friend.
"Ah, the studious one," Lord Zayda sneered. "Still groveling at the hooves of the princess, I trust?"
"Get away from her," Twilight warned him, as she charged up her horn.
Lord Zayda turned towards her, and opened his arms wide. "Take your best shot," he challenged her.
Twilight fired a beam of purple magic at him, knocking the demonic dragon off his feet and into a rack of dresses. "Come on, Rarity," she called over to her friend. "Let's get out of here!"
Rarity started to gallop for the door, only to be frozen in place by a stream of black magic. "Twilight!" she shrieked.
"Come now, Rarity," Lord Zayda hissed, as he slowly rose to his feet. "You can't leave me so easily." He started to pull her towards him, as she struggled in vain. "Farewell, Miss Sparkle," was his parting words; as he disappeared in a puff of smoke with his prey. "We'll meet again in time."
Twilight Sparkle didn't waste a second sending a distress letter to Princess Celestia, for she knew that her friend didn't have much time. The regal alicorn landed an hour later on Twilight's balcony, with a confused look on her face. "Your friend was kidnapped by a monster?" she asked.
"Yes," Twilight answered her. "Well, he was actually a dragon, but he was horrifying to look at."
"Interesting," Princess Celestia uttered, with a stern look on her face. "How did he do it?"
"That's the weird part," Twilight admitted. "This dragon had magic."
"But dragons cannot use magic," Celestia said. "The only way a dragon could ever use magic is if
oh, no." Her face turned even more white than usual, and she stumbled slightly from the shock. "Twilight, Rarity is in incredible danger," she managed to gasp out, "and so are you."
"I'll get my friends together," Twilight promised. "We'll leave right away."
"No," Princess Celestia stated firmly. "If what I suspect is true, then there has been a portal breach in Tartarus. Only those blessed with exceptional magic can ever hope to cross it, your friends would never survive the journey. I'm sorry Twilight, but this is a battle you will face alone."
"I won't let you down," Twilight promised her mentor.
"Good luck," Princess Celestia answered her, as she embraced her student with her wing. She knew that the Element of Magic would be enough to face the challenges of Tartarus, but she knew that a greater evil was also waiting
Rarity struggled in her bonds, as Lord Zayda looked on in sadistic glee. "The ropes will only get tighter," he warned her with a smile. "Why don't you just accept the role of Lady of Tartarus?"
"Never," Rarity hissed, as she strained to break the ropes.
"You still have faith in your escape," Lord Zayda noted, as he stroked his jagged chin thoughtfully. "How inspiring
yet pathetic." He stepped even closer to her, as his foul breath breezed along her mane. "Your friend will never make it here," he told her coldly. "She will meet with an
unfortunate demise, courtesy of a very special 'friend' of hers."
"Twilight's friends would never harm her!" Rarity protested.
"I'm not referring to those other fools from Ponyville," he chuckled, as her face showed signs of confusion. "No, I have something much more interesting in mind." He then kneeled to face his prisoner, and held her face in his claws. "Regain your composure," he warned her. "The wedding will happen in one hour, and I won't have a mewling little foal at my side."
Deep within the Everfree Forest, Twilight Sparkle had found the secret portal to Tartarus. It had supposedly been sealed for nearly a thousand years, yet it still pulsed with magic like it was brand new. "How interesting," she mused to herself, as she inched closer and closer to it. A faint giggle could be heard inside it, but Twilight quickly dismissed it as her nerves playing tricks. She stepped inside, and found herself standing in some sort of abandoned fairground.
"Welcome, Twilight Sparkle," a familiar voice called out. It came from a pony perched on the roof of a nearby ticket booth, wearing a tattered hat and cape. Blue hair hung down in gnarled strands from under the hat; framing a crooked, slightly yellow grin. "Welcome to my Carnival of Horrors."
"Trixie?" Twilight asked, instantly recognizing the voice. "Is that you?"
"So you do remember me," Trixie hissed, as her cold eyes gazed into Twilight's eyes. "Good, I would hate for you to think this was the work of some unknown filly."
"Why are you doing this?" Twilight asked.
"You'll find out soon enough," Trixie giggled, as she kicked a ticket over to the perplexed unicorn. "Take the ticket, Twilight. You never know when the crowds will come."
Twilight looked over her shoulder, and saw that the portal was gone. She was standing in the middle of a fairground, seemingly empty except for a few ponies approaching in the distance. As they approached, she began to notice two things about them: they were zombie ponies, and their numbers were easily in the hundreds. "What's happening?" she called out, asking nopony in particular.
"Meet the crowd, Twilight Sparkle," Trixie said with a sneer. "They've come to see my show, and you're the main attraction!"
Twilight turned back to the ticket booth, only to find Trixie had disappeared. She then galloped towards the booth, as zombie ponies nipped at her hooves. She crossed through the turnstile on the side, and found herself standing on a stage. Clearly, there was more to this place than she knew.
"Fillies and gentlecolts," Trixie's voice boomed down, as she hovered above the crowd. "Welcome to the Cavalcade of Magic! Tonight is a very special show, for we have with us the artist known as the Great and Powerful Twilight Sparkle!"
Twilight struggled to see the crowd, as the lights on the stage blinded her with their brightness. She stumbled slightly, before landing on her knees in front of a crate. The crate slowly opened, and a massive beast stomped out. It looked something like the hydra that she had fought some time ago, yet it clearly had the body and heads of a pony.
"Well, look what we have here, brothers of mine
" a voice boomed from above, as Twilight's blood ran cold. It was the voice of Flim, former salespony nonpareil.
"Looks like we've got another meal, Flim," one of the Flam heads spoke up, as the other one and the Flims nodded in agreement.
"Say hello to the Flim Flam Hydra, Twilight!" Trixie mocked her foe, as she stifled a giggle. "Surely a magician of YOUR caliber should have no trouble defeating them!"
Twilight gulped, and charged up her horn. It was going to be a hard fight
Back at the Dark Palace, the wedding of the millennium was just beginning. Lord Zayda stood at the altar, glaring at the prisoners he had forcefully 'invited' to his wedding. "Bring in my bride!" he bellowed after a time, once he was sure there would be no trouble.
Rarity was then pulled into the wedding hall by a rope, with a pair of snickering dragons leading her in. She struggled and pulled away with all her might, yet the dragons were just too strong. They flung her at the altar, and she landed at the feet of Lord Zayda. "Please," she begged. "Please don't do this!"
"There is no choice here, my dear," he snapped back. "You will marry me now, and take your place at my side. Begin the ceremony."
Rarity looked up at her soon-to-be husband, and noticed he was too busy bullying the minister to really pay attention to her. She used this momentary distraction as time to flee, galloping for the exit at an incredible speed. The rope passed easily through the claws of the other dragons, for they weren't expecting her to escape at all.
Lord Zayda turned around, and saw his only chance for freedom escape his grasp. "Stop her!" he bellowed, as the throngs of prisoners around him cheered her on. "She must not reach the portal!"
Rarity ran along the hallway leading out of the altar, ducking and dodging as guards tried to recapture her. "Not today," she muttered to herself, as she shook the rope off. Suddenly, she came to the end of the hallway; where a pair of dragon guards stood in front of a locked door. "Oh my," she uttered, as she came to a sudden stop. The guards approached her slowly, as she racked her brain for a way out. There is that one spell Twilight taught me, she thought to herself. I really hope this works.
A guard reached his claw out to grab her by the throat
and Rarity disappeared in a flash of purple light. Lord Zayda approached him, and the guard lowered his head in shame. "I'm sorry, Sire," he tried to apologize. "The prisoner has escaped."
"Take this fool away," Lord Zayda uttered, as he dismissed the guard with a wave of his hand. "Thirty years in the lava pits should suffice." As the failed guard was led away by his former colleagues, the Dark Lord turned to face his other minions. "Surround the castle," he ordered them. "I want a guard posted at every door, and I want that unicorn found immediately."
"Why the rush, Sire?" a foolish guard asked. "There's no way out, and even if there is, your magic can catch her."
"There is no more magic, you fool!" Lord Zayda bellowed, as he struck down the idiot standing before him. "The deal is done, and Trixie has reclaimed her full powers. I must have an heiress if I'm to escape this wretched place, and the unicorn is the one who will replace me. Find her, or all is lost."
Back at the Cavalcade of Magic, Twilight was still fighting valiantly against the Flim Flam Hydra. She struck it again and again with magical blasts, and the creature only laughed even harder. "Trixie," she shrieked, "please call off this monster!"
"Why should I?" Trixie giggled in delight. "Did you help me when the Ursa Minor attacked?"
"I did help you!" Twilight called back, as she strained in the grip of the Hydra's green magic.
"No, Twilight, you did not!" Trixie protested. "All you did was show me up, and put me out of business!"
"That wasn't what I meant to do!" Twilight answered her, as she struggled even harder.
"Too late, Twilight!" Trixie shouted in sadistic glee. "Now you will know what it feels like to be at the mercy of a monster!"
Maybe not, Twilight thought to herself. There might be a way out yet. She cast a teleport spell on herself, and landed gently on one of the Flam's straw hats. She was joined shortly after by the sudden appearance of Rarity, who landed even more gently. "Rarity," Twilight whispered, not wanting to give away her location to the Hydra or to Trixie. "You're okay!"
"Yes," Rarity answered her quietly, "but thank you for coming to save me, darling."
"Welcome to the party, Rarity," Trixie called out. "This show needed a diva!"
The Hydra knew where the prey was now, and it wasted no time in trying to catch them. After flipping the Flam head back as hard as it could, the two best friends were tumbling down the creature's spine. Twilight was quick to react to all this, and she blew a hole in the floor with a powerful blast of magic. The two unicorns fell through the hole without much difficulty, and were well-hidden from the Hydra amongst the gears and mechanical parts of the stage.
"So you've escaped my Hydra," Trixie noted. "Fortunately, I have more than one monster at my command."
Twilight turned to face her friend, who was visibly trembling in fright. She pushed back her friend's mane with her hoof, and looked her in the eyes. "Rarity," she told her. "It's all going to be fine."
"I wouldn't say that, Twilight," a slightly robotic yet familiar voice called back to her.
"Twilight," Rarity asked, "what's going on here?"
"I don't know," Twilight answered, as she heard a combination of metallic clunks and breathing moving closer and closer to them.
"It's just a reunion of old friends, ladies," the voice answered back, as the beast slithered out from behind some gears. It was Discord, although not in the form they remembered. He was somewhat made of flesh and blood, though most of his body had been rebuilt with mechanical parts. He was now more machine than draconequus, and it terrified the ponies before him.
"Discord," Twilight uttered, as she charged up her horn.
"In the flesh," Discord chuckled. "Well, relatively speaking."
"What happened to you?" Rarity asked, out of horrified curiosity.
"Funny thing happens when ponies TURN YOU TO STONE," Discord hissed, as he bent a gear in his iron grip. "Your spirit can never fully travel to Tartarus, so long as part of you is stuck in Equestria. Luckily my good friend Trixie was able to help me out, and now I'm back and ready to party!"
Twilight turned to run away, carrying Rarity behind her with her magic. Discord melded himself into the gears, and the chase was on. "Leave us alone, Discord," she ordered him.
"But the fun is just starting, my dear," Discord answered back, as his voice boomed from all around her. He sped up some of the gears, causing Twilight to lose her balance and fall. This was met by another pair of gears gripping her tail, effectively holding her in place. This broke her concentration, and Rarity bounced down into the clockwork underneath her. "Now this is more like it," Discord chuckled, as he stepped out of the gears with some large bolts in his hands. "Why don't we play a little catch?"
Rarity looked up above her, and saw her friend bravely repelling Discord's attacks with magic. She could see that Twilight was becoming more and more tired by the second, and her horn was starting to fail. "Think quickly," she whispered to herself. Suddenly, the answer to her problem was clear: she had to start breaking the machine.
"Goodbye," Discord uttered to his fallen foe, as the gears beneath his feet started to crack. He didn't even notice Rarity destroying the clockwork under his feet with her hooves, until it was far too late. Discord fell between a pair of large gears, and was melded in with the wreckage as it fell.
"Hold on darling," Rarity called out to Twilight, who was now perched on a ledge of jagged gears. She used a levitation spell to lift herself up to her friend, and started biting her tail as hard as she could. Soon enough, Twilight was free; and the two friends started to make their escape. Rarity started blasting a path through the gears with her magic, as Discord approached them at a breakneck pace. He reached out to grab Twilight's jagged tail, and missed as they escaped through a hole in the side of the stage.
"This is not over," was his final threat, as the entire stage collapsed on top of him. Truly, this was Discord's last performance.
Back at the Dark Palace, Lord Zayda was pacing back and forth. He knew he had to find Rarity, or his entire plan would go up in smoke. He turned to his window, and threw his goblet at the guard posted below. "What is the status on the prisoner?" he demanded to know.
"She's still missing, Sire," the guard informed him.
"Find her!" Lord Zayda shouted. "I must have the heiress!"
"You don't need to look for her," a feminine voice called out from behind him. "She's already here."
"Trixie," Lord Zayda hissed. "How dare you show your face in my palace!"
"A deal is a deal, Zayda," she told him coldly. "I gave you temporary magic to find an heiress, and now I'm here to claim my throne."
"You can't take the throne," Lord Zayda told her. "Celestia's curse says only the pure can inherit the throne!"
"I let you try it your way," Trixie answered him. "All you have done is prove that you can't even handle the girliest pony in Ponyville. You are no longer in control here, Zayda, I am."
Lord Zayda thought about attacking her, but he knew she was far more powerful than he could ever hope to be. "Very well," he sighed, as he hung his head in shame. "You are now the ruler of Tartarus."
"Excellent," Trixie said, as she cast a teleport spell on him. "For your cooperation, I'll only send you to the deepest prison pit for
a hundred years!" Zayda disappeared in a flash of magic, and Trixie signaled a couple of her minion changelings into the room. "Listen up," she ordered them. "Your ruler wishes to seize control of Equestria. Have your pathetic Queen Chrysalis gather her armies at the portal, and wait for my signal." The changelings took their leave, and Trixie took off her hat. She sat down on Zayda's throne, and a golden crown materialized on her head. The reign of Queen Trixie had begun
Twilight slowly opened her eyes, and found herself standing on some incredibly weathered wood. Rarity was kneeling to her right, and she could smell fire all around her.
"Welcome to the final attraction, girls," Queen Trixie cackled from above them. "Welcome to the Pirate Ship Ride!"
Twilight looked down the deck of the ship, and saw a group of shadowy figures approaching. One of them stepped into the light, and she came face-to-face with the dragon called Garble. "Garble," she asked, "what are you doing here?"
"We're here to get even with ya," Garble growled, as he flashed his sharp claws. "There ain't any escape this time."
"It is on," Rarity dramatically announced, as the ship started to rock back and forth. She could see the lava pit slowly come into view below them, and swore she saw Lord Zayda within its depths.
Garble stepped towards his unicorn prey, and the planks buckled under his feet. The ship leaned hard towards him, and he reached out to grab the falling ponies. He completely missed Rarity, but managed to grab Twilight by her mangled tail. "I'm gonna drop this egghead in," he announced, as he held her over the side. Lord Zayda popped his head out from the waves of lava, and he opened his fangs for the feed. Garble loosened his grip slightly, and Twilight struggled to escape.
Rarity managed to make a last second save for her friend, by bucking Garble as hard as she could to the ground. Twilight ran over to meet her, and the girls charged their horns. Twilight launched her ultimate spell, and the ship started to burst into flashes of light.
"Stop, you foals!" Queen Trixie shrieked, as the ship started to disappear. "You're destroying my beautiful illusions!"
Twilight grinned, for she knew she had uncovered Trixie's secret. "Rarity," she cried, "Hit the ship with everything you've got!" The two unicorns hit the ship with everything their horns could bring to bear, and a magnificent ball of light engulfed the area. The girls found themselves standing beside the portal seconds later, just on the outskirts of Tartarus. Twilight motioned for her friend to follow her, and she turned to exit through the portal.
Twilight found herself standing in her library, next to the cowering pair of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. "What's happening?" she asked her mentor, as she approached them slowly.
"Ponyville has fallen," Princess Celestia spoke gravely, as she pulled her student in closely. "Most of the ponies have been captured by changelings, and those who haven't will be caught by Queen Trixie soon enough."
Twilight looked out her window, and her eyes filled with the most horrific sights she had ever seen. Her beloved town had been ransacked by the savage changeling armies, and in the centre of town Queen Trixie reigned over all from her throne. "This can't be happening," she squeaked, as tears filled her eyes.
"Twilight Sparkle!" Queen Trixie boomed, as she dragged Twilight out the library door with her magic. "How do you like the new Ponyville?"
"How dare you destroy it!" Twilight shrieked, as she broke free of Trixie's magic.
"How dare I?" Queen Trixie asked in faux surprise. "Am I not in my right to seek revenge against the ponies that ran me out of town? Is it not right to get my payback, after the years of humiliation that followed? You made this happen, Sparkle, not me!"
"But how could you do it
" Twilight whispered, before the thought struck her: how could she do it? "You're not powerful enough for this, Trixie," Twilight admitted. "You're a showpony, and nothing more!"
"Stop!" Queen Trixie ordered her, as she started to glow a horrible red.
"None of this is real, and you know it!" Twilight further challenged her. "You couldn't even face an Ursa Major, and you expect me to believe you are the most powerful magician in Equestria? Don't make me laugh!"
"Don't you DARE laugh at me!" Queen Trixie growled, as she started to grow bigger and bigger. She towered over her longtime nemesis, standing above even the tallest buildings in Ponyville.
Twilight laughed heartily, and turned back towards the library. "Come on everypony," she shouted in defiance, "let's giggle at the ghostly!"
The entire town broke into a rendition of Pinkie Pie's tune, and Queen Trixie felt her power fading. "This can't be happening
" she hissed, as her changelings evaporated all around her. "You can't beat me, Twilight Sparkle!"
"I already have," Twilight grinned. "This nightmare is over."
Trixie collapsed to the ground, and dissolved in the wind as the town returned to normal. Twilight embraced her teacher, and closed her eyes to rest.
Twilight Sparkle woke up in her library, in the middle of the night. She could see a cloaked figure running towards the balcony, and she stopped it in its tracks with magic. It was the Great and Powerful Trixie, who had broken in while Twilight slept.
"How did you figure out my plan, Twilight Sparkle?" Trixie asked.
"It was easy," Twilight admitted. "Once the ship disappeared, I knew none of it was real."
"This isn't over," Trixie uttered, as she cast a teleport spell on herself. "I'll be back one day, and you won't escape my Nightmare Spell twice!"
Twilight rolled her eyes, and returned to her bed for a good night's sleep. I'll be waiting, she mentally promised her rival, and I'll be ready.