by Obselescence

Chapter 1: Magical Misfire Cure

The most important spilled drink in history was a glass of warm milk, prepared originally to be drunk before bedtime, but fated instead to alter destinies and distort the balance of the cosmos.

It happens.

“I can fix this!” shrieked Twilight Sparkle, as she made everything worse. “I can fix this! Don’t worry, Twilight. No need to panic!”

Which was to say: no she couldn’t, start worrying, Twilight, and yes—absolutely panic.

It was a brave effort, if nothing else. Twilight’s struggle to towel the mess up grew increasingly frantic as the pages swam in warm milk, priceless ink, and... and hopefully that was just strawberry jelly from breakfast. Starswirl couldn’t have written his irreplaceable one-of-a-kind unfinished spell in dried blood. Blood was only used for dark magic, and Starswirl would never have experimented with such evil, forbidden, largely-unexplored, utterly fascinating...

She paused to wipe the drool.

Starswirl had probably just been a fan of strawberries too.

Eventually she managed to clean it all up. For all the good that did her. Starswirl the Bearded’s book was thoroughly ruined. Utterly, devastatingly, incriminatingly ruined. If not because it was soggy and suddenly likely to go well with cookies, then because most of whatever’d been written in it had become smudgey and blurred. Starswirl’s last spell would forever go incomplete.

“Okay, Twilight,” she said, taking a deep breath. Followed by several more. And straight on into hyperventilation. “Options!”

She had a few quick choices, at least. The first was that she could own up to what she’d done, admit to Princess Celestia that she’d ruined a priceless magical artifact and—okay, no. No. She wasn’t even going to justify that thought by finishing it. The second option looked promising: go back in time and prevent Starswirl from ever writing his last book, thereby preventing her from ever ruining it.


Third option: finish Starswirl’s spell, like she’d been asked, and, once she’d proven her incredible talent for finishing powerful ancient spells, throw herself upon the Princess’ mercy. Then, at least, the Princess would visit her in her cold stone jail cell, if only to bring her more spells to finish. It wouldn’t be the worst way to eke out the remainder of her meager existence...

She nodded, mulling the thought over. That last one actually seemed like the best of the lot. A good learning experience. Fewer problems with causality... Time travel could be Plan B.

“All right,” she declared, turning to the back of the book. “Do your worst, Starswirl!”

Which Starswirl had evidently done, long before she’d ever spilled milk on his most priceless work. The hoof-writing was terrible, there were ink-splotches all over the place, and at least half of it had been written in strawberry jelly. The milk was a problem too, but she figured she’d spent enough time crying over that one.

“Mmm...” Twilight squinted at the page, trying to discern if that had been an ‘a’ or an ‘e’ before she’d ruined it. It was possibly an ‘x’ now that she had ruined it... or a silqwund.

Wait—was it a silqwund?

That would explain everything! Of course it had been written in the horror-tongue of G’rogar the Everflaying, and of course Starswirl the Bearded had never finished a spell like that. All of his major historical accomplishments were peaceful spells for the betterment of Equestria, not apocalypse magic.

“Aha!” she said gleefully, proud that she’d already made it past step one. Probably that was why Celestia had sent this spell to her in the first place. Many ponies couldn’t read the various ancient horror-tongues at all, and certainly not those too-prudent fools at the School for Gifted Unicorns, whose instinctive hatred of knowledge forbade them from delving into the deepest, darkest, and most interesting—

“Academic studies,” she reminded herself, catching the drool again. “Your interest is purely academic, Twilight. Remember that. Purely. Academic.”

At any rate, she could read this spell. And, more importantly, she could cast it. Not that she knew what it did, but Starswirl probably wouldn’t have written anything with consequences incomprehensible to mortal minds... Or, if he had, then it probably wasn’t anything the Elements of Harmony couldn’t solve.

She looked behind her to make sure the Elements of Harmony were still in their crystal-glass case. Yep, still there. Yep, still capable of unleashing the combined magicks of Harmony to fix everything. Nothing to worry about.

“Nothing to worry about,” she repeated, activating her magic. Line by line, she went down the page, reading the dark incantation almost precisely as written. “Ikthal munok krom wiglar nohg—” she coughed, “—geez, my accent’s rusty—warglor nar fitom kree.”

As she spoke the dark incantation, the earth itself shook beneath her. A thousand anguished screams rose up from beneath the floorboards as the walls around her wept with boiling tar.

And that was it.

“Wait, that’s it?” She looked at the book again. “It doesn’t even rhyme.” She shrugged. Well, it was an incomplete spell. It only made sense that it wouldn’t do anything in particular until it was finished. Presumably once she’d completed the whole thing, it would do something more interesting, like summon a demon or raise an undead army to terrorize her enemies.

Or, at any rate, do something other than make a mess out of the library. She looked around at the walls, still oozing with lukewarm tar, and possibly liquids foreign to the stable dimensions. That seemed like a problem. What if it started mutating things, or ruining the other books? She’d have to do something about that at once!

Spiiiiiike,” she called to the dragon upstairs. “Could you get this all up after your bubble bath?” A noise came from upstairs that sounded an awful lot like a baby dragon groaning. “Thanks!”

Problem solved.

Confident that she’d made excellent progress on unraveling Starswirl’s last spell—and feeling rather drained from casting apocalypse magic in an evil language—she set off to the kitchen to have a glass of warm milk before bed.

Twilight Sparkle remained conscious at about seven in the morning. She would have preferred to wake up at around that time, but she hadn’t gotten a lick of sleep all night. She’d been far too anxious over Starswirl’s last spell to even think about sleeping. And Spike had made far too much racket cleaning up all the tar on the walls. And her customary glass of warm milk before bed had tasted far too much like liquefied ash.

Not that that last one was relevant to her insomnia, but while she was complaining...

Oh well. Nothing she could do about that. She sat up in her bed and stretched, ready to meet the new day. From the light outside her window, it was looking bright and beautiful outside. Morning in Ponyville! All shimmery, shiny, and everything-being-certainly-finey, exactly as she liked it. She rubbed the accumulated crust from her eyes, scratched absently at her side, and smiled as her hoof came back with a pale lavender blob of necrotic flesh.



AAAAAAAGH!” Spike screamed, falling out of his basket. He got up, shaking his head. “What? What’s wrong? What’s the problem, Twilight?”

The new diet’s working!” She held up the flesh-blob and grinned in excitement. “Rarity was right! I’m shedding pounds!” Her smile faded a bit around the corners. “You know, I could’ve sworn that was more of a metaphor.”

“No, I’m not going to look up what a meta’s for,” said Spike, yawning. Temporary adrenaline rushes could only keep him awake for so long, and with the apparent danger passed he seemed ready to fall back in bed. He cracked his eyes just open enough to see the blob in Twilight’s hooves, and cracked them a far bit wider once he’d processed what it was. “That,” he began.

“Is a chunk of me,” finished Twilight proudly. She poked the gaping hole in her side. “Probably a good two pounds of subcutaneous fat.” She laughed. “Rarity’s going to be so jealous. She told me it took her a month to lose five!”

Spike tapped his foot expectantly.

“Okay, yes, I know it isn’t the diet.” She sighed. “Just give me a couple more minutes before I freak out.”

“All right,” Spike let out another yawn and stretched. “So... horrible disease, or undead again?”

Twilight tapped her cheek thoughtfully. And that fell off too. No pain, just the creeping sense that she’d become a nexus of dark magickal energies. “Undead.”

Spike nodded. “Do you want me to put that on ice, or...?”


As Spike went off to get a bucket and some ice, Twilight stared calmly at the chunk in her hooves. With occasional panicked glances toward the remains of her cheek on the bed. She’d become undead, no doubt about it. The only question was how.

“Think, Twilight, think!” She tapped her cheek-piece thoughtfully. Clearly she’d been affected by one of her more occult experiments. But which? It couldn’t have been the soul-burning steam engine. That one released almost no detectable pollutants. Harvest-tron, maybe? Hopefully not Harvest-tron. She liked Harvest-tron.

The flense-o-matic? Definitely not. The recent commune with Zorglup? No, Zorglup was too close a friend to pull that. No, no, and no. None of them seemed to be the cause... but one of them had to be. If only she could remember which! It shouldn’t even have been that hard. She didn’t have that many experiments invoking the profane, and she’d already put most of them on hold to work on...

Her eyes widened as the realization came to her. “Oh, of course!” She slapped her forehead, which peeled off readily. “Starswirl’s unfinished spell! It worked after all!”

At about that time, Spike returned, hefting a large bucket of probably-ice. “So, we didn’t have enough ice to fill the bucket, but I remembered you bought two gallons of chocolate ice cream when you started cheating on your diet, so—”

“I earned those cheat days!” said Twilight, ripping the bucket from his grasp. She stared down into the oozy concoction of regular ice and wasted chocolate goodness. Well... good enough. She dumped her assorted pieces in and prayed that would preserve them.

It probably wouldn’t.

“Okay,” she said, tapping her bony hooves on the floor. “So, now that we’ve got that done, I think I know how to fix this. If Starswirl’s unfinished spell did this to me, then it stands to reason that finishing it will give me the clues I need to return to life.”

Spike made a face. “Wait, the tar spell from last night? That’s what did this to you?”

“Yep,” she nodded. “That’s what did this to me.”

“Not Harvest-tron?”

“No, not Harvest-tron! Why does everyone hate Harvest-tron?” She shoved the ice-bucket into Spike’s arms and shambled huffily toward the bedroom door. “Still, come to think of it... I’m pretty sure this will help me gain some valuable insight on that one too. You know, once I finish this spell and return from the shadowy veil of undeath.”

“Yeah, uh, about that...” said Spike, following her down the stairs. “Are you sure Princess Celestia would give you a spell that turns ponies into zombies?”

“Of course she would, Spike, what else would she give me?” She coughed. “All the good magic has already been figured out, so it’s only natural she’d ask me to look into dark magic drawing on unstudied forces from the Netherveil.” She coughed again, finally getting those extra chunks of lung-matter out. “And I’m not a zombie, per se. I’m most likely a lich. My shambling corpse is being controlled remotely by my soul, which was probably bound to the most magically-attuned artifact in the vicinity.”

“That could be a big problem,” said Spike, catching the lung-matter as it floated behind her, “because that means your soul could be anywhere. We don’t keep any ‘magically-attuned artifacts’ here at the library, of all places.”

Twilight stopped at the Elements of Harmony.

“Well, besides those.”

“You’re half-right, though,” said Twilight, opening the crystal-glass case. “My soul could be in any one of these. Or... it could even be in all of them.” She grimaced. “I, uh, don’t want to think too hard about what that would do to it.”

“It probably would void the warranty,” Spike agreed, sloshing the ice-bucket around. “I dunno about you, but I’m not sure we can fix this.”

“Don’t be silly, Spike. Of course we can.” She tried the Element of Generosity on experimentally. No, actually, that looked terrible and she looked terrible. She took it off, taking most of her neck-skin along with it. “Rarity’s great with a sewing needle, and I’m sure we’ll be able to save at least half of my decomposing corpse in that ice-bucket.”

“And the other half...?”

“Details.” She shrugged. “We’ll worry about that once I’ve finished the spell.”

“And do you actually know how to finish the spell...?”

“Not a clue,” she declared, setting the Element of Magic snugly on her head—yes, that looked good. “But it’s clear that the Elements of Harmony are involved somehow.”

“Which means...?”

“Which means I can only do this with the help of my friends!” Twilight stood triumphantly up on the living room table, against the cruel, bleak, and beautiful morning outside. “Though I may not understand how to finish Starswirl’s last spell on my own, I’m sure that with the love and support of my best friends in the world, there’s nothing I can’t accomplish!”

And then her ears fell off.

“Right.” She got off the table and set the Element of Magic back on her head, careful this time to avoid her fragile, rotten ear-sockets. “Let’s, uh... Yeah, let’s just go find them now, before this gets any worse.”

“Hurry, hurry, hurry, Rarity!” Twilight shrank into her cloak, wary that somepony would see her... condition while she was waiting outside the door. “How long does it take to open a door for someone?”

Evidently forever. It was, admittedly, a risky business to go out in broad daylight while missing a few pounds of flesh and some formerly-vital organs, but it was important to contact her friends in person. They wouldn’t have understood the severity of the situation if she’d just sent Spike out to spread the word. The last time he’d screamed to them about her becoming a zombie, they’d simply laughed.

And only partially because Spike had said it.

“You know she’s not going to like this,” said Spike, setting the ice-bucket down. “You’re not that crazy yet, right?”

“I’m more than sure she’ll like it,” said Twilight, keeping a close look out for witnesses. “This cloak is a very seasonal shade of green.”

“And she’ll be too, when she sees you’re a zombie.”

“A lich,” she corrected. “And don’t be silly. Rarity’s one of my best friends in the world. A little bodily decomposition won’t get between the bond we share in our hearts.”

“I’m pretty sure your heart’s stopped too.”

Shh! She’s coming!

“Sorry to make you wait, Twilight,” said Rarity, twirling out the door. “You know how it gets when you’re ‘in the zone’ and everything just seems to slide away.”

“I actually do!” said Twilight, as her eye slid away from its socket. “I was wondering if you could help me with something just like that, actually.”

“Well, of course, Twilight,” said Rarity, opening her eyes. “I’d be more than happy to help you with absolutely anything that might be—”


Whoops, there it went. Goodbye, eyeball.

“Still good!” Spike declared, grabbing it off the ground and dropping it in the bucket. “Five second rule.”

Pause again.

“I, ah...” Rarity turned a lovely and very seasonal shade of green. “Dear—Twilight—you really should have told me before starting on another diet.”

“No, no, it’s not a new diet,” said Twilight. “What happened is that I cast an unfinished dark magic spell last night, and it kind of, might have, maybe turned me into a lich. And if you’re not too busy right now, I could really use your help.”

“O-of course, Twilight,” said Rarity, choking back a dry-heave. “I... I have just the thing! Wait here.” She disappeared back inside and returned a second later with a hoof-full of lotion. “You’ll need to moisturize often, darling. Dead skin is dry skin. I don’t know what we’ll do about the smell without a few more boxes of perfume, but I’m sure—”

“No, I don’t mean help with that,” Twilight interrupted. “I mean I need your help with—” She stopped just long enough for eyeball number two to start drooping. “Actually, wait, I will take the lotion.” She grabbed a dollop of cream from Rarity’s hoof and spread it around on what was left of her face. She smiled as wide as her remaining skin-flaps would allow. “Better?”

Spike gagged. “Worse.”

“Oh, yes, definitely,” said Rarity. “You know, on further reflection, I... really have no idea why I thought that would work.” She cringed and turned a shade greener. “It, uh... Goodness, it really doesn’t. Oh dear, I mean, just look at the—”

“Fine, whatever,” said Twilight wiping the rest of the lotion off on Spike. “The point is, I need you and the rest of the girls to meet me at the library in an hour so we can fix this. Can you be there?”

“Yes, I mean, erp—I absolutely will be,” said Rarity. Another dry-heave “Just, ah... Just give me a few minutes to prepare, and I will be there faster than you can say ‘disgusting.’”

Rarity coughed.

“‘Abomination,’ I mean. No, wait, I’m sorry, I meant ‘ghastly revolting corpse.’” She nodded. “Yes, I will be there faster than you can say ‘ghastly revolting corpse.’”

“Great!” said Twilight, with a grin. “I knew I could count on you, Rarity!”

“Yes, yes, you absolutely can, darling,” said Rarity, turning a beautiful shade of summer cucumber. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do a thing.”

And with that, she shut the door.

“Well, I thought that went well,” said Twilight, turning to Spike. “Wonder what she had to do.”

“I dunno.” Spike shrugged. “Probably hurl in a bucket?”

“Well, just so long as she doesn’t use mine.”

She sighed and threw the cloak away. Fat lot of good it did her. At least that was one down. Only four more to go. Twilight sincerely hoped that those would be better experiences. She wasn’t entirely sure why, but she’d gotten the strangest feeling that Rarity hadn’t actually wanted to stick around.

Which was silly, obviously, as the bonds of friendship went far deeper than the spleen sticking out of her side.

But... still, she wouldn’t mind it if the rest of her friends were more accepting of her status as technically-sort-of-supposed-to-be-dead. Yes, all right, she was missing her eyes now, and her face was looking a bit more skeletal than usual, but it wasn’t any worse than that one time she’d given herself shred-itis, and she’d fixed that, hadn’t she?

At least Fluttershy seemed more understanding of her plight. Maybe a little too much so, actually. Twilight had assumed that telling Fluttershy she was a rotting carcass would make her jump, shriek, and maybe book a vacation for Manehattan at the news. But instead she was...

Not doing any of that?

“Oh, well, I don’t see why I would need to be scared,” said Fluttershy, when Twilight inquired further. “Death and decomposition are very natural parts of life for plants, animals, and ponies.” She bent down to rip a weed from the carrot patches. “Everything dies someday.”

“Wow, Fluttershy,” said Twilight, edging back for distance. “That’s, uh... oddly morbid of you?”

“Really?” said Fluttershy, shrinking back in turn. “Oh, um, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—ooh, uh, please don’t step too close to that part of the carrot patch!” She pointed to a particularly discolored patch of mud. “That’s where I had to bury Henry.”

“Which Henry?” asked Spike.

“Seven through twelve.”

“Oh, uh... All right, then. That... definitely does clarify things.” Twilight coughed, or tried to. She didn’t have any lung-matter with which to cough by that point, but it felt like the right thing to do. “So! Uh, about fixing this...”

“Of course I can help!” said Fluttershy, mutilating another weed. “I’ll be there as soon as I’m done with the carrots.” She gave Twilight a pleasant little smile. “Don’t worry, Twilight, everything will be just fine. And even if it isn’t, a neverending un-life can’t be all that bad. Why, I’m sure the vultures will love you now more than ever.”

And, speak of the bird-devil, an enormous brown vulture perched on Twilight’s back and screeched in triumph. At which point, it tore off a whitened chunk of backflesh and began to choke it down.

“Hey!” said Twilight, trying to shake it off. “I probably need that! Spike, Fluttershy, help!

“Shh,” Fluttershy whispered, stroking the vulture’s beak. “Not just yet, honeybun.”

Which was, of course, the cue to run. And fast.

They came to a stop some Far-Away-From-Fluttershy feet away. Spike—living creature with lungs that he was—needed a moment or two to catch his breath, but she hardly felt worse for the wear. Being a lich did have some advantages, despite its horrifying social implications... but the latter clearly outweighed the former. She’d have to have a long and involved talk with Fluttershy about fatalism once she’d reclaimed her soul and returned to life.

Or, at least, they’d have to discuss a cage for the vultures.

Still! Two down. Only three more to go.

After a few minutes’ search, she found Dash and Pinkie just outside town, practicing pranks. At least they were normal about the whole thing, relatively speaking. Not intolerant, not disturbingly tolerant, just... Dash and Pinkie.

That was probably an improvement.

“Shred-itis again?” asked Dash, tipping her novelty sunglasses.

“Nope!” said Spike cheerfully. “Undead.”


“Ooh! Ooh!” Pinkie waved frantically. “Bite me, bite me! I wanna become a zombie this time!”

Twilight buried what remained of her face in her hooves. “Pinkie, I’m not a zombie.”

“Well, you look like a zombie,” said Dash. She sniffed and made a face. “And you smell like a zombie.”

“For your information, zombies have a distinctive odor in comparison to other forms of unlife, which you’d know if you’d helped out last time!” She tried to sniff herself. “And I probably don’t smell that bad yet!”

“Nope, you stink like a barn!” said Pinkie. She held her hoof up to Twilight. “Now bite me! I don’t wanna miss out again!”

“For goodness sakes, Pinkie!” yelled Twilight, slapping the hoof away. “I’m not a zombie this time! I’ve turned into a lich!”

Spike whistled.

“Oh, you’re not that bad, Twilight,” said Pinkie, gingerly rubbing her hoof. “Maybe a little bit upset, but...”

“I said LICH!”

“Oooooooh, okay.” Pinkie’s face immediately re-brightened. “Ooh! Ooh! Take my soul and shove it in a tiny object too! Like a cupcake! Or an actual cake!”

Twilight sighed. “No, Pinkie, I am not going to rip your soul from death’s tender caress just so you can eat it.”

“Awww!” Pinkie pouted. “You never let me do anything fun.”

“Look, I’m just saying,” said Dash. “Maybe if you didn’t mess around with creepy evil spells all the time, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.”

“They are not creepy!” Twilight insisted. “And I was given this spell by Princess Celestia herself!”

“Really?” Dash raised an eyebrow. “‘Cause I’m preeeetty sure the Princess wouldn’t tell you to cast a creepy evil spell.”

“That’s what I said,” Spike muttered.

Look, are you going to help or not?

“Sure, sure,” Dash sighed. “Just lemme get like two more pranks in and I’ll be there.”

“Can do too!” said Pinkie, grabbing Twilight by the schnozz. “Got your nose! See?”

The tear was surprisingly clean.

“Woaaaah.” Pinkie’s eyes widened as she stared at the disembodied nose. “It’s never actually worked before!”

There were no more words for this torment. No social gesture sufficient to convey her exasperation. So she didn’t try. “All right,” she told Pinkie. “Yes, you got my nose. Just... just give it to Spike when you’re done with it.”

“Okeydoke!” said Pinkie with a salute. “We’re snot gonna take too long with it.” She turned to Dash. “Let’s go stick this on weird things!”

“You knows it!” said Dash, laughing gleefully. “We’re gonna take this thing on a drip!”

And off they went.

“At least keep it cold!” Twilight called after them. She hoped they’d heard her. They’d probably heard her. Oh, who was she kidding? They hadn’t heard her. But okay. That was fine too. She didn’t need a nose anyway. Her olfactory senses had only ever held her back!

“Well...” Twilight sighed. “I’m probably going to need that nose someday.”

“I know it’s sad when your nose runs off on you,” said Spike, “but you can always get another one. No need to be picky about it.”

She pun-ched him. “And that’s enough out of you, mister.”

Last but not least was Applejack. The superstitious farm-pony. A humble worker with no vision beyond her farm, naively unaware of the fascinating depths of apocalypse magic. And close personal friend. How would she react to the news that her best friend had become an undead puppet, dancing to her imprisoned soul’s will? What horrifying breaks in perspective would she experience when she realized that death needn’t be the end for a pony after all, and that by dark devices a consciousness could be sustained forevermore?

How could she ever forgive herself for unleashing these revelations upon poor Applejack?

“You’re undead, you need our help, and we gotta be there soon,” said Applejack, nodding. “Got it.” She went back to bucking apples. “Anything else, partner?”

“Uh... no, I don’t think so,” said Twilight, giving her skull an awkward scratch. “That’s... yeah, that’s pretty much the gist of it.”

Well, she supposed that she could forgive herself for this one. Just this once.

“How soon can you drop by?” she asked.

“Right after Applethingtime’s over,” said Applejack. “Shouldn’t take more than a jiffy.”

“Applethingtime?” Twilight removed her skull and arranged it into an incredulous look. “You’re messing with me, aren’t you? That can’t be something that actually exists.”

“What’re you talkin’ ‘bout, Twilight? Applethingtime’s a family tradition ‘round this time o’ year!”

“Applejack, there’s no way you can convince me that the Apple family actually has a tradition called—”

“Oh, hey, Twilight!” said Apple Bloom, walking up. She gave Twilight a quick look up-over. “Undead?”

“Yep,” said Applejack. She gave the apple tree another mighty buck. “And she needs our help to fix it.”

“Cool!” Apple Bloom threw a fallen apple into Spike’s ice-bucket, where it landed with an audible squelch. “But she knows she’s gotta wait until Applethingtime’s over, right?”

“That’s what I told her.”

“Well then!” said Twilight brightly. “I will just... I will just leave you to... your Applethingtime. Which actually exists, apparently.” She began to sidle off, and motioned Spike to do the same. “I will see you... at the library, then?”

“Sure thing, Twi! Take care o’ what’s left of ya!”

“I’ll, uh... I’ll try.” She made sure she was well out of earshot before saying anything else. “‘Applethingtime’? Really? My soul is detached from my corporeal form and I still don’t believe that can exist!”

“Maybe it’s just, mmph, a cultural thing,” said Spike, snacking on the apple from the ice-bucket. “We had Nonspecific Unicorn Thanking Season in Canterlot.”

“Yes, so we did,” she admitted, “but at least that specified a unit of duration!” She shook her head. “Well, whatever. Doesn’t matter. Everyone knows where to be, at least.” She chuckled, rubbing her hooves together. “Everything’s going according to plan.”

At last! All the pieces were finally in place. Though the universe—and her friends—had evidently conspired against her efforts to solve Starswirl’s final spell and fix this unholy mess, nothing could stop her now! Not her friends, not a glass of warm milk, not anything! Nothing!

She felt that deserved at least a few minutes’ worth of gloating.

Spike finished the apple, core and all. “So, what now?”

“Now!” said Twilight, cackling gleefully. “Now all we have to do is go back to the library and wait for them to show up...” She cackled again, with even more volume and even more dramatic effect. “We’re going to go back to the library, and I’m going to—”

Lose a skull, evidently. Because it fell off before she got any further.

“Good catch, Spike,” she told him, once he’d screwed it back on. “So, as I was saying...” She cackled once more. The sky darkened and thunder rumbled ominously above. She paused to let the noise die down. “Once we’re all back at the library, I’m going to—” Lightning flashed. Thunder boomed. The Ponyville Orchestra played a moving symphony some two miles distant. Nothing she said was at all audible.

“Okay, fine, you win!” Twilight shouted out to the cruel and uncaring heavens. She sighed and turned back to Spike. “Well, you can probably guess the rest. Let’s get inside before it rains.”

“All right!” said Twilight, pacing down the line. “You each have your respective Elements of Harmony, and I’m sure you all remember how to wield them. Any questions before we start?”

“Just one,” said Dash, raising her hoof. “Isn’t this... I dunno, dangerous?”

“Not a bit!” said Twilight. “I did the calculations, worked some math, and communed with Zorglup briefly, and I’m ninety-five percent confident that I’m at no permanent risk from this.”

“And the other five percent?”

Twilight shrugged. “Three percent chance of incineration, one-point-four percent chance of violent possession by ancient demons... point-six percent chance of the backlash flattening Equestria and melting every face in range.”

“Wait,” said Applejack. “Point-six percent chance of what?

“No time to backtrack,” said Twilight, waving her off. “I’m not getting any fresher here. But if you’re still not convinced, consider this: have we ever encountered a problem that could not be solved by shooting it with a beam of concentrated harmony?”

“Well...” Applejack paused. “Just gimme a sec here, partner, I’m sure there’s something.”

“Case in point,” said Twilight. “All precedent suggests that hurling the Elements of Harmony at a swirling nexus of evil energies is an effective and consequence-free solution. Therefore, none of us are likely to die.” She turned to Spike. “Everything still cold?”

Spike scooped another serving of double-mint chocolate soft-serve into the ice-bucket and gave her a thumbs-up. “Frosty.”

“Excellent!” She turned to Rarity. “Sewing needle ready?”

“Ready as it will ever be,” said Rarity, hefting the needle. “Although it remains my humble opinion that you really should seek a trained medical professional to—”

“Great!” said Twilight. This was it! The big moment! The completion of Starswirl the Bearded’s final spell. Princess Celestia would be so proud of her for accomplishing this! Probably she wouldn’t even notice that Twilight had spilled milk all over a priceless historical artifact.

Or... or no. No, she’d probably still notice something like that.

But at least she’d be proud.

“All right!” she said, stepping to the center of the circle. “Ready on my mark, then! Three...”




The library filled with a blinding light as the unspeakable energies of friendship were unleashed. Dizzying bursts of color shot from Element to Element, gaining in force until the magic coalesced into a single devastating beam, directed straight at Twilight Sparkle.

It occurred to Twilight at precisely that moment that the Elements had no means of distinguishing her shambling corpse from an unnatural abomination. Most of her calculations had been done with the entirely reasonable assumption that they would probably just fix everything, but on the off chance that they thought she was actually an unspeakable crime against the natural order... That would, perhaps, put the chance of incineration at just slightly higher than three percent. Exactly how much higher, she wasn’t sure, but surely it wouldn’t be that mu—

“Where am I?” She awoke to find herself surrounded by stars. The world around her seemed to stretch outward into infinity, and the ethereal mists of oblivion Her very first inclination was to gasp in awe at how beautiful it all was. Her second inclination was to realize what it all must have meant. “Oh my goodness, I’m dead!

“Not quite,” said a familiar voice from behind her. “Although, in some senses of the word...”

“Princess Celestia!” said Twilight, relieved to know that, even if she was dead now, the Princess was dead here with her. “I’m so glad to see you!”

“Likewise,” said Celestia, giving her a warm smile. “You, ah... arrived sooner than expected, actually. I’d been getting a whole ballad together in preparation, but...” She cleared her throat. “Well, no matter. The point is that you got here, and I’m very, very proud that you did.”

“Um... Thank you, Princess.” She sensed a hot blush growing on her cheeks. The very first she’d felt since becoming a lich. “But I don’t actually know how I found this place. What is it, exactly?”

“This,” said Celestia, waving her hoof over the infinite expanse around them, “is where all souls go when their mortal vessel gets incinerated. A place to wait while a body is reconstructed for them.”

“Souls... Mortal vessel...” Twilight’s eyes widened. “I’m still a lich?

“Well, of course,” said Celestia, cocking her head. “You finished Starswirl’s spell, didn’t you?”

Twilight took a moment to process that. “Yeeees...?” She laughed nervously. “I mean, I, uh, most definitely did not spill milk all over it, if that’s what you’re asking!”

“Ah,” said Celestia, hopefully convinced. “Well, then I don’t know what else you were expecting. It was written in an ancient horror-tongue.” She shook her head and sighed. “Starswirl never did have much of a talent for apocalypse magic.”

“I knew it!” Twilight laughed. “I just knew it was intentional!” She stopped. “But... why, Princess? What’s the point of turning me into a horrible, rotting lich?”

“Not just a lich, Twilight. A princess.”

A princess?

“All princesses are liches,” said Celestia, popping her eyeball out. “How else did you think I could be a thousand years old?”

“I... uh...” Twilight shrugged. “Regular exercise?” She shook her head. “I... but I still don’t understand! You look so... fresh! And not undead!”

“A complex array of illusion spells helps,” said Celestia, winking at Twilight with her remaining eye. “And regular moisturizing.”


“Well, it doesn’t hurt.” Celestia popped the eyeball back in. “Dead skin is dry skin, you know.”

Twilight needed a full minute to process that one. “Okay, I guess I believe that. So... what happens now?”

“Now we wait,” said Celestia,” for your phylactery to reconstruct you a body.” She looked Twilight up and down. “With wings, obviously. Every princess needs wings.”

“I, uh... all right, Princess,” said Twilight, sitting down. “I’m sorry, this is just... all very new and confusing for me.”

And it was. She would never have guessed a week ago that she would become a lich and/or a princess. Would never have thought that her purely academic interest in dark magic would be completely vindicated. And she definitely wouldn’t have guessed that Celestia herself existed in a constant state of rot and undeath.

Although it did explain all the lotion...

“I understand how you feel,” said Celestia, wrapping a bony wing around her. “But remember: this was the culmination of all your studies. Every challenge you’ve faced, everything you’ve learned with your friends, and especially the study of apocalypse magic... That was all preparation for this.”

“Well...” said Twilight thoughtfully. Not that she’d complained about necromancy being on her course curriculum, but she had been rather curious at the time. And of course she’d need friends for something like this. Who else would be marginally more accepting of her body’s ongoing decay than her best friends in the world? “I guess it does make sense, when you put it like that...”

“I hope so, Twilight.” Celestia smiled and embraced Twilight’s cool, yielding cadaver with her own. “From the very beginning, it was your destiny to become a corpse driven by pure force of will as preparation for the end of days. Never forget that.”

“Thanks, Princess,” said Twilight, feeling better already. “I won’t.”

From the heavens she descended, like a shining star. The landing was brilliant, yet gentle, and the soft glow of her magic washed over all of Ponyville Square. Twilight stood gracefully at the center of the crater, spreading her wings of newly-formed flesh outward to embrace the cool night air.

It was pretty dramatic.

Her friends gathered round, awestruck by the spectacle... if not blinded by it.

“Oh my goodness!” gasped Pinkie. “Twilight! You’re—”


“Still a lich!” Twilight finished. “But good news, it’s all intentional!”

She dislocated her neck just to check that she was still amongst the patently-dead.


Yep, still dead.

Rarity turned pale. Applejack yawned. Fluttershy bit her lip.

Rainbow’s jaw fell open. “So, wait, this was all—”

“According to plan,” said Twilight proudly. “Told you.” She walked up to her friends and gave them all a big hug. It was important to let them all know how much she cared, while her new body was still somewhat warm. She didn’t even mind that half of them broke the hug early to throw up.

“Do you still need this?” asked Spike, holding up the ice-bucket. “Or...?”

“You can get rid of it,” she told him. “In the river, probably. Same as last time.” Twilight turned back to her friends and gave them a smile. Or what would’ve been a smile, if her cheek muscles had bothered to respond. “I know this is sudden, and there are probably going to be some big changes for us now that I’m one of Equestria’s undead sovereigns... but don’t worry! I’m sure everything is going to be just fine.”

Dead silence. Rarity started on her third hurl.

“So!” said Twilight, summoning a tube of chamomile lotion. “Anypony want to help me get my back?”

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