Chapter 1: The Return
It was a fine day at the Intergalactic Travelling Carnival – or at least, the artificial facsimile of day. Being located on a space freighter, the inhabitants and visitors didn't have the luxury of a natural light cycle, so instead the ship's lights were programmed to mimic the sun of the current system, as to provide the greatest amount of comfort for its customers.
The carnival was a maze of booths, rides and people of all species. From end to end, the deck was filled with sideshows, eateries and toys from across the universe, all come together in order to create the most fantastic carnival of whatever system it travelled into; the managers even constructed their schedule to coincide with many planets' breaks from school in order to maximize the children's attendance.
Among the thousands of children wandering around on this particular stop, there were three adults; one of which, given the way he acted, looked as if he ought to have been a child anyway.
Amy Williams smirked at the Doctor's gleeful antics. "I swear, you're having more fun than we are."
"Oh, come now," the Doctor laughed, "Everyone loves the carnival! And this is the greatest of all! Don't tell me you aren't having any fun."
"But we're adults," Rory Williams said, "This is a bit more on the kiddish side."
"You're just grumpy because you didn't win that giant teddy bear," Amy scoffed.
"Or maybe because the Doctor forced us on a ride that the guide book described as "It's a Small World" on drugs."
"Well, how was I supposed to know that was a bad thing?" the Doctor said defensively. "I've never been there!"
Amy laughed. "He's been from one end of the universe to the other, and he still hasn't been to Disneyland!"
"I always meant to, but it's just so hard to choose when. I mean, do you go to the original opening? One of the anniversaries? The introduction of your favorite princess? (Personally, I've always liked Rapunzel, but still – ) And do you go to Disneyland? Disneyworld? Euro Disney? So many choices, so little time!"
He paused to look at a particularly interesting sideshow and almost didn't continue until Amy tapped his shoulder. "Anyway, it's on my list. It's just it keeps getting interrupted by Daleks and ponies and The End of the Universe as We Know It."
Amy stopped. "Wait, wait…ponies?"
What had started as a normal day had descended into madness.
Twilight Sparkle and her friends ran through the streets of Canterlot, chased by monsters unlike anything she had seen or read about before. They had appeared so suddenly that morning, materializing in a flash of gold. Everypony who wasn't fast enough to run away had been devoured; and once they had finished them, they began to chase down the rest.
The casualties were already numerous: guards, shopkeepers, normal ponies on their normal business, only to be eaten by beasts from Tartarus.
Tears began to form at Twilight's eyes. They hadn't been able to save any of them. Not even Spike. Her dear assistant and friend, now gone forever.
The gates of the castle were already waiting open for them; the guards had quickly realized their fence would do no good against the attackers. They formed around the main doors, ready to help survivors in and keep the monsters out.
They were very brave to do so, but Twilight wondered if they knew what would likely happen to them.
"Come on, girls!" She shouted, running through the doors, "We've got to get to the Princesses!"
"Let me get this straight," Rory said slowly. "In the universe, there is a planet filled with magical talking ponies."
"Yes," said the Doctor.
"And you've been to this planet."
"And in the process, you somehow…became a pony yourself."
"But now you're not."
"Yes," the Doctor repeated. "Is this all really so hard to believe?"
Amy sighed. "I suppose with all we've seen, it shouldn't be."
"It's a lovely place, Equestria," the Doctor said wistfully. "Green pastures, purple mountains, all sorts of supposedly mythical creatures – I really ought to take you there someday." He clapped his hands. "Oh, the girls would love to meet you! Especially Twilight, she was always so curious about everything. I think Rarity would like you, Amy – always so fashion-conscious. Rory, however – that's a hard one. Spike, perhaps? I never did see much of him…"
"Do you have any idea what he's saying?" Rory asked as the Doctor prattled on.
"No," Amy admitted, "But that's really not too different from normal, is it?"
"Your Highness, more reports of these creatures are coming in from Cloudsdale and Manehatten."
"Send another Pegasus squadron there. Instruct them that they are to only assist in evacuation, not to engage the enemy."
"What of our own defenses, ma'am?"
"Our spears and trebuchets appear to have no effect on them, my lady. I would advise combat magic, but I wouldn't get my hopes up."
"Agreed. Send a detachment of my personal Unicorn guard to join the others at the gates; tell them if their magic proves useless, they are to fall back immediately. I am not sending any of them to their deaths just to delay the inevitable."
The throne room was in chaos. In addition to the Royal Pony Sisters and the Element Bearers, the Equestrian Council and the heads of each division of the military were crowded around tables, at windows, or simply sitting on the floor, trying not to panic. Together, they tried to piece together a workable defense – but they knew they were fighting a losing battle.
A guard ran to Celestia's side. "Your Majesties, the enemy has broken through the main gates."
Luna's head shot up from her own conversation. "But I thought you said they were unable to get through before?"
The guard wore a grave expression. "Yes, my lady, I did."
Celestia sighed. "Then I suppose we have no choice. Begin the final evacuations."
Everyone immediately began to move. The Princesses used their magic to activate a hidden mechanism that opened a hidden passageway, which everyone began to file into.
"Elements of Harmony, wait," Celestia commanded. As they turned to her, she brought out an ornate chest. She opened it and distributed the Jewelry of Harmony between them.
"About time we joined the fight!" Rainbow said.
Celestia shook her head. "No. You are to take the Elements and leave with the others. We have no idea if their power will work on these monsters; if we were to lose you, there would be no hope for the rest of Equestria."
"Then what are we supposed to do?" Applejack asked.
"There is an old spell in Starswirl's Archive," Luna explained, "Penned in the first years of Equestria. It was made to summon a great warrior to aid us in when the kingdom is at its most dire. We have activated it, but we do not know how long it will take, if at all."
"Until then, you must escape from here…" Celestia closed her eyes. "While we make our last stand."
"What?" Twilight cried. "You can't possibly be saying – "
The doors crashed open. The insectoid beasts flew in, setting their sights on Luna and Celestia.
"Goodbye, my faithful student," Celestia said softly. "Remember what I have taught you, and the Sun and Moon will always light your path."
The Princesses turned to face the incoming threat. In unison, they unleashed blasts of pure magic at the monsters. The blows caused them to stagger, but their advance was only slowed.
Luna was the first to fall. The beasts flanked her and caught her by surprise. Celestia gasped, and in that moment of distraction, she, too, was consumed.
Twilight screamed the name of her mentor, and the monsters turned to face them.
The vision hit the Doctor like a migraine, but it wasn't painful; at least, not physically. It was as if the sender had poured out every ounce of desperation they had in their body so the message could be heard.
He saw a familiar castle on a mountain, but the streets were bare. He saw ponies being hunted and devoured by monsters. He saw two regal alicorns looking at him, pleading to him:
Save us, Doctor. Equestria needs you.
Amy caught him as he stumbled. "What is it? What's wrong, Doctor?"
The Doctor said nothing as he broke into a run. Amy and Rory followed, and they soon found themselves back at the TARDIS. The Doctor ran around the console in a panic. "No, no, this is bad, very, very bad…"
"What's bad, Doctor? What!" Amy demanded.
"Everything! Not here, but there!" he pointed to the monitor, which showed an Earth-like planet. "Equestria – the planet I was telling you about with the ponies and pegasi and unicorns – something's gone horribly, horribly wrong."
"Well, let's go already," Rory suggested. "You said you wanted to take us there, anyway."
"No!" the Doctor grabbed their shoulders and herded them outside. "You two just got married and are on a nice, quiet honeymoon that will not be interrupted by anything if I can help it, and that certainly includes dragging you into the center of another End of the Universe as We Know It situation! Now, just wait here, I will be back in a moment."
With that, he leaped back into the TARDIS and disappeared.
Amy sighed as the distinctive rumble faded away. "He left us behind. Again."
"Don't worry about it," Rory said, shrugging. "At least we now have some time to ourselves. Besides, he said he'd be back soon."
Amy sat on a nearby bench and frowned. "Last time he said that, I waited for two years."
Twilight stared at the creatures through tear-clouded eyes. The Princesses were no more. The six of them had lingered too long; taking the secret passage now would doom the others. There was nothing they could do but accept their fate.
"H-hey, girls?" rainbow said hesitantly, "I just wanted to say – "
"We know, Rainbow," Applejack said quietly. "We know. And we feel the same way."
The mares nodded. Silently, they joined hooves and looked each other in the eyes, passing their silent message: if they were to die, they would die together.
They turned to face their attackers. The creatures shrieked as they flew towards them. Twilight closed her eyes, wishing they would just end it –
The air stirred violently. The monsters stopped, darting across the room in confusion and panic. The mares looked up to see a tall blue box slowly appear in the room.
The door squeaked open, and out walked a gray earth pony colt wearing a tweed jacket and bow tie.
"Hello, hello, hello!" said the Doctor. "Did anyone miss me?"