[MLP:FiM] Something Twilight This Way Comes (Twilight, Spike, Starlight Glimmer)


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[font='Open Sans', Arial, sans-serif]Twilight Sparkle always said the fate of Equestria rested on her being friends with the other Element bearers. She didn't know just how right she was.[/font]

[font='Open Sans', Arial, sans-serif]In the Ashlands timeline, Starlight Glimmer, Twilight Sparkle and Spike find one of its few survivors. From there, an uncomfortable truth is revealed that will leave Twilight reeling.[/font]

She looked out at the wasteland, the wild winds sweeping through bringing nothing but dusty air. Even only being here for a few seconds, she already wanted to cough.

“Where are we?” Starlight Glimmer demanded as she turned around to face the pony she thought of as her nemesis, both in action and ideology.

“The future. Or rather, the present,” Twilight Sparkle said, looking forlorn as she gazed at the ground, holding a hoof on the stone table for a sense of security.

“But there’s nothing here!” Starlight said, looking skyward, noticing the lack of a sun or moon in this strange new world.

“I wish I could say I was surprised. But every world I come back to is worse than the last,” Twilight said, her windswept mane offering little resistance to the harsh currents. “I don’t know why my friends are so important to Equestria, but we are.”

Starlight Glimmer looked stunned for a second, but she recovered quickly. “I don’t believe you!” She declared with an accusing tone, pointing her hoof at Twilight.

“Come on Starlight, look around,” Spoke Spike, the baby dragon and number one assistant of Twilight Sparkle, standing on the table that Starlight had utilised to activate a time spell. 

As Starlight did just that, Twilight continued, “Like I said, everything in the past affects the future, even the tiniest act, and what you’re doi-“

“Wait! I see something!” Starlight said. Guilt gnawed at her, and she couldn’t quite identify why. It was a silly sentiment, and yet it was an itch she couldn’t scratch, like spiders crawling just on the inside of her hooves. She couldn’t have been glad for a distraction.

“Wait, what?” Twilight stopped talking, as she moved ahead, peering out at where Starlight had glanced earlier. Before, she had seen naught but dead trees and rocks splintered so unnaturally they could have only been cracked with magic. Now, however, she saw a shape, strands of light purple and dark pink obvious at a difference. Twilight’s heart fluttered. She knew this pony.

Twilight knew she was being careless, running ahead of Starlight. Even if Twilight had the scroll that allowed the other unicorn to travel time as easily as a pegasus could walk on clouds, nothing precluded Starlight from having another such scroll on hand. Regardless, Twilight had to know what had happened to this world. It was with relief she heard the light clop of hooves as Starlight followed behind her.

Approaching the purple-furred pony, something stirred in Twilight. No matter what she had seen in the other timelines so far, nothing approached this. “Cheerilee?” Twilight asked, casting out a basic medical diagnostic spell at the unicorn. The results she got back left the princess staggered, her hooves feeling weak against the endless gales.

The form stirred. With a start, Twilight realised the teacher’s purple and pink hues was hiding splotches of dark red, the dried fluid of life mixed with the grey of ash and soot upon what had once been a very pretty mare’s coat. 

“W-wh-?” The Earth pony who Twilight believed to be Cheerilee attempted to speak, before her voice cracked, and she started to cough. What little bits of phlegm she hacked out were a dark brown, and it disturbed Twilight that she couldn’t tell if it was dried blood, soot, or both that contaminated the colour of the mucus.

“Try not to speak, please,” Twilight said to the pony laying on the ground. Cheerilee was beyond saving. The schoolteacher appeared to have several broken bones in her pelvic region and multiple femur fractures, and she was suffering from internal lacerations. Her eyes were suffering from an advanced stage of cataracts, and Twilight had little doubt she was completely blind. Whatever had happened in this wasteland had kicked up multiple toxins into the air, which had accumulated in Cheerilee’s body, from her organs to her blood to her individual cell tissues. Even if Twilight had been trained as a medical doctor, which she wasn’t, she would never have been able to fix all this.

The least she could do was to ease the pain of Cheerilee’s last moments on this earth.

Twilight struggled to explain this to the pony who was a friend in another timeline. “I’ve cleared out your lungs of as much soot as I possibly can and did what I could for your surface wounds. However, you’re beyond help. Sooner or later, you’ll…you’ll…”

“Die?” The purple-furred mare seemed to have regained a little bit of her voice, as she turned her head around to face a speaker she couldn’t see. Twilight had to resist the urge to turn her head, the mottled fur, torn earlobes and milky eyes hard to stare at and keep focus. “I died a long time ago, my body is ju-“ Cheerilee’s voice cracked, and she began to cough again, this time a lighter red now that Twilight’s spell had erased most of the contaminants in her respiratory tract.

Twilight thought for a few seconds, cursing the lack of supplies in Spike's backpack, before using her magic to gather a part of the accursed air around her. Straining the air was difficult, with as much dirt and ash as there was just hanging there, but she was able to come away with drips and drops of water. Keeping the pure water separated from the firt, she brought it up to Cheerilee’s lips. “Here, have a sip of water.”

Cheerilee didn’t need telling twice, as the mare opened her lips, her tongue swirling around the life-giving fluid, wetting her mouth before swallowing it. Twilight supplied her with a second and a third swallow before she said, “Sorry, that’s all I’ve got left.” In truth, Twilight wasn’t sure if any more would be safe for the pony. She had read that giving too much water at once to dehydrated ponies was a bad idea.

“That’s-that’s alright, I understand. I’ll be dead soon anyways,” Cheerilee said quietly, her voice so soft Twilight struggled to catch all of it. “But how? I-I thought nobody was left.”

“Yeah, about that,” Starlight Glimmer said from behind Twilight, and Twilight jumped, turning around to face Spike and Starlight. She had honestly forgotten the other two were even there. In most circumstances Twilight’s awareness would have been much higher, but this was a highly abnormal situation. “What exactly happened here to cause this place to turn to ash? Where are the trees, the sun, the moon?” Twilight noted Starlight’s speech to be quicker than normal, and the unicorn herself was trembling. Good, maybe Twilight’s words were finally getting through to her.

“Who-who are you?” Cheerilee asked in a quiet voice again, “How would anypony not know-“

“We’re from an alternate dimension of Equestria where the sky is still blue and the land is green and the sun and moon rise on time every day,” Spike interrupted. “Princess Celestia asked us to look at alternate dimensions to see how history may have unfolded differently so we may catch future threats before they catch us off-guard. We’ve already had our share of monsters from Tartarus, but we want to be prepared and if something destroyed Equestria in another timeline, we want to watch out for it in our world.”

Twilight and Starlight both had been about to attempt their own words again, but both were silenced, looking at Spike, near-identical stunned expressions on their faces. Spike shrugged with a sheepish look on his face, dropping his voice low enough so Cheerilee wouldn’t overhear, “What? I’ve read enough comic books where the good guys are never upfront and make things worse. What I just told her was close enough to the truth anyways.”

Twilight looked at Spike closer, and realised he was crying. Startled, Twilight realised what an effect all these timelines must have had on Spike, who was just a baby dragon. He may have had close brushes with death before, but seeing Cheerilee here must have been a shock for him – not only was this his first encounter with a dying pony, but it was someone he knew reasonably well. That she wasn’t the Cheerilee he knew was irrelevant.

“Oh, Spike,” Twilight said, grabbing him with his hooves and pulling him in for a hug. Even as she held him close, providing comfort as his big-sister figure should, her eyes clenched, and she gazed at Starlight Glimmer with a little bit of hatred slipping into her views of the pony. Starlight looked almost contrite, but Twilight doubted it. More likely she was just plotting, trying to find out what had occurred so she could engineer a set-up in the past again that would prevent whatever had caused this.

“I see.”

All three heads snapped back to Cheerilee, who had managed to roll over despite the great amount of pain she must have incurred doing so, and was now looking at the sky, “I don’t really believe you, but I heard three different ponies among you, one of you sounds male. None of you seem to be injured. That means there's hope for us yet,” Twilight didn’t really have the heart to tell her that one of them was a dragon, not a pony, “But you really don’t seem to know what happened. I heard history repeats itself unless we learn from it, so you need to know. I don’t think anypony knows the whole truth, but this is what happened.”

Two ponies and a dragon stopped talking, their breaths lowering in anticipation as they heard the story of the end of this world.

“She, she was a unicorn, nobody really knew about her before she broke the world. Some ponies claimed she felt spurned when her childhood friend left her, and she felt his Cutie Mark was the reason. He, I don’t know his name, he went to join Celestia’s school or service, I don’t know which, nopony really knew the truth after all the devastation she caused to the records. Just that it caused her to despise Cutie Marks.”

“She?” Twilight whispered aloud. She had a sinking feeling about this.

“Yes, a mare. She had power, so much power, but she created magic that was reprehensible, brainwashing ponies before she was caught and being force to flee. As a fugitive, however, she only got worse. A dear friend of mine before he died said she might have found an artifact, but that it could only twist what was already there. She started small, stealing the life force of others, but when the Princess and the Nightmare weakened each other fighting for several days straight, she swooped in and stole away both their lives. That’s when she went mad with power and started slaughtering everyone.”

This sounded far too familiar for comfort. Twilight and Spike alike glared over at Starlight, who seemed to have been coming to the same realisation, and was beginning to cower ever so slightly in horror.

Cheerilee paused, letting out a light cough again, this time thankfully free of blood. Breathing again to steady herself, she continued, “I saw her once, you know. After she stole the power of the two Princesses and the Nightmare, the spirit of chaos Discord broke free, and immediately went to fighting her.”

What?” Came the mutual cries of the three denizens of an alternate timeline. Twilight took a hoof step back, reeling over Cheerilee’s words.

The Earth Pony mare let out a soft laugh, what sounded like it was supposed to be a hearty chuckle but diminished by her weak body, “Yes. I’ve read, heard about what Discord did years ago. I’ve had time to think since this all started. I can only assume either he didn’t want to share, or he only wanted a playground to play in, and somepony else destroying everything wasn’t his way. He saved me, you know, teleporting some of us away before she could kill us all, but the magical fall-out eventually blinded me. We didn’t hear or see anything of them ever since, so I can only assume they destroyed one another, or the few ponies who stood up to her in alliance with Discord finally took her out. I hope, anyways. But…this land is still done for. The sun and the moon, she banished them away from Equestria into the mass of stars so nopony else could use them for power.”

“Not necessarily,” Twilight felt the need to give heart to the dying schoolteacher, even though she was on her literal last legs. “The planet has restored itself back to life before. I can feel the magic that still lingers in Equestria. It’ll take years even if Discord still lives, and longer to locate the sun and moon to bring them back...but as long as a few ponies still live, life will find a way, just so long as she isn’t around to destroy everything again,” She said this with a glare at Starlight Glimmer.

“Yes…perhaps,” Cheerilee conceded, a small smile at last adorning her lips, “But I wonder what the point is. If one pony could destroy everything so easily, what’s to stop another one from rising up in the future and destroying everything again?”

“That’s…rather nihilistic of you,” Starlight Glimmer spoke up again, hardening her gaze back at Twilight even as she looked to be close to crying herself.

“When you’ve accepted death, your thinking changes,” Cheerilee said, before trailing off. Her eyes may have been milky, but all three beings present could tell she was pondering something. “I really wish I knew what happened. I was a schoolteacher, you know. It was my job to teach fillies and colts and shape them. Some of them had bad behaviours, but they always left my classrooms as better ponies than they entered.” Cheerilee sighed. She sounded tired. “Even if it was only for a few seconds, I remember her all too well. She had purple and pink hair, and a star for a Cutie Mark. She seemed so normal, yet she was so evil it’s still hard to even think her name.”

That seemed to settle it. Twilight gulped, and opened her mouth to speak, only to stop. She attempted to talk a second time, and the question died before it could even form in her vocal cords. This was Cheerilee, one of Twilight’s friends. Twilight may not have been as close to Cheerilee as she was the other former bearers of the Elements of Harmony, and this wasn’t the Cheerilee Twilight knew, but the alicorn still felt it was a betrayal of her friend to use Cheerilee in her death throes to score points.

Then Twilight spotted Starlight Glimmer in the corner of her eye, remembered what the unicorn had done up to this point, and her resolve hardened. “This unicorn you speak of…was her name, by any chance, Starlight Glimmer?”

Cheerilee gasped, and Twilight just knew what the answer would be, she felt it in her very bones. She was wrong.

“Starlight Glimmer? Celestia no, Starlight Glimmer was one of those who tried to s-save us, along with her husband, Double Diamond. The unicorn who destroyed everything was somepony named T-T-Twilight S-Sparkle.”

The world turned upside down.


In a daze, Twilight found herself back at the table along with Spike. She had no words to say.

Starlight Glimmer wasn’t letting her get away with saying nothing. “Well well well, and every timeline was worse than the last,” She sneered. “Tell me, what was your alternate self doing in those timelines? Clearly not getting a Cutie Mark together with your precious friends didn’t stop you from being oh so important to Equestria.” The pinkish unicorn had been falling into a funk earlier, but the shattering revelation seemed to have restored her vim and fire along with her distorted sense of righteousness.

“B-but I, but I wasn’t there, ever,” Twilight stuttered, her mind still reeling too much to come up with a proper rhetorical retort. “Neither were you, but I saw my friends in multiple timelines. Could it be because we were time-travelling that our past selves never showed up in history?” Now she was grasping at straws.

“Preposterous,” Starlight said, “Your other self and my other self were both pivotal in this timeline, what makes this any different from the oth-“ Starlight trailed off suddenly, a contemplative look on her face, before she reasserted herself, “Tell me, what were the other timelines like?”

It was an odd request, but Twilight grabbed at it like a life vest in a tumultuous storm, clawing to break the surface and stay above the waves. Slowly, haltingly, she started from the first timeline, with occasional interjections from Spike when her own voice began to dry up from the constant talk.

By the end Starlight Glimmer was indignant again. “Each timeline was worst than the last, you say? Tirek I’ll grant from what I’ve heard of his rampage, and I wouldn’t want to be trapped in a cocoon by Changelings, but you’re certain being in an endless conflict with King Sombra was worse than what appears to be an orderly, militaristic land of eternal night under Nightmare Moon, who was definitely better than a Discord timeline where Princess Luna appeared to have been restored from the Nightmare, who, oh, let’s wait for it, was still a better timeline than a pair of industrialist brothers polluting the air?!” Starlight had to pause several times, making for a halting manner of speech.

By this time Twilight had herself recovered her bearing, and now she was angry. “Well, they were better timelines than this, that’s for certain! Maybe if your other self had gotten off her lazy plot with the amount of power you’ve shown yourself to be capable of throwing around, one of those timelines would’ve been close to what our Equestria was like!”

“Yeah? Well, maybe if your-if your…” Slowly, a look of horror dawned on Starlight Glimmer’s face, and Twilight felt satisfied that Starlight was finally beginning to realise what she had wrought. It didn’t last. “Princess, I think I may know why our alternate selves have never showed up until now.”

“Whaddya mean?” Spike asked, not liking the sarcastic way Starlight had referred to Twilight’s noble title. He had been keeping an eye on Starlight this entire time. She still had the time scroll. If she decided to use it, Spike would either stop her or somehow make sure him and Twilight were returned to the past as well.

Starlight swallowed, her throat visibly bulging before she said, “If this is the present, then every time you’ve returned back here, I was always left behind in the past. When you return, you reset time, but I don’t exist in a stasis. I’ve noticed time always resets for me after the exact same amount of time, a few minutes after when Rainbow Dash would historically have performed the Sonic Rainboom.”

“And?” Twilight asked. She wanted to be annoyed at how this villain was showing no signs of backing down even in the face of this disastrous future, but the scholar within was giddy. Even in a situation as dangerous at this, hearing about the use of time magic in an uncharted venture was something she knew nothing about, ergo something she could learn about.

“I’m getting to that,” Starlight said. “Theoretically I’ve never actually returned to the present. Instead, I would have stayed in the past and lived out my life until the present day.”

“But that can’t be right,” Twilight argued, “You can’t have two copies of the same pony in the same chronological time period for too long, that’s why Star Swirl’s spell only allowed you to stay in the past for about a minute.”

“True,” Starlight said. “I know that, and so I would have come to that same conclusion. But, since I never followed you back to the future,” And here Starlight stressed those last few words to emphasise their importance, “I can only assume I would have found my past self as a filly and merged with her, assuming my child form but with my adult memories.”

“But that’s, that’s impossible!” Twilight said. Just the mere idea of taking over another pony’s body horrified her, even if that pony was her past self.

Starlight sneered, “Oh, and you’re the expert on time magic and what this table can really do now?” 

Twilight had no real answer for that. Spike was reluctant to speak up as well even as there was space for him to pipe up.

“Anyways, with my adult memories I would have known all the various events that took place in the future. The return of Nightmare Moon, Discord getting free from his prison, the Changeling invasion of Canterlot, King Sombra and the Crystal Empire finally exiting its thousand years of stasis, the plundervines growing up from the Everfree Forest, and Tirek’s mad rampage. Since you ruined my village, I’ve been training, but I’ve also been researching those threats. You and your fellow Princesses have released scant information on how they were each neutralised, but I already have some ideas. The most minor of changes in each timeline would lead to these villains getting free from their prisons in a different order than what our history has said, where perhaps Discord broke free from his prison before the Nightmare returned. I may have fought these villains through direct or subtle methods, defeating a few but always falling to one of them, with others possibly taking themselves out in a mutual kill. Doubtlessly I would stay out of the spotlight so nobody would realise somebody was dispatching villains, so the next one would never realise somebody was eliminating threats to Equestria."

The pink-furred unicorn sneered again. It was becoming a common look, “Well, except for that last timeline of yours where I assume I stopped everything but either retired to a foreign land or fell somewhere, and the Crown suffered from weak rulership. Seriously, extensive logging was a worse timeline than Tirek destroying everything?”

“Hey!” Spike had had enough of the mare’s condescending attitude, and he had at last decided to defend his big sister’s impugned honour, “You weren’t there! We had to live through them and watch our friends be not themselves! Nightmare Moon and Chrysalis and Tirek nearly killed us! You try putting up with that and being calm and smart-thinking after that!”

“Spike…” Twilight wanted to calm him and reassure him, but she had an unsettling feeling. Twilight was certain Starlight was about to reveal something huge.

Starlight, for her part, looked as if she wanted to get in an argument with Spike, but in the end held her tongue. She wasn’t crass enough to argue with someone who seemed to be a child, and certainly seemed to be more shaken by the events of the last half-hour than anybody else. Instead, she decided to continue her thoughts, and said, “I despise you, Twilight Sparkle, more than any of your friends. Yes, that’s right,” She said as she spotted Twilight blinking multiple times in rapid succession, slightly taken aback, “I don’t hold any grudge against Fluttershy beside her being your friend. I loathe you and your title and everything it stands for, and for that reason I suspect I would have sought you out as a filly.”

Her words took a few seconds to sink in, then Twilight’s eyes widened in horror, “You wouldn-“

Starlight shook her head frantically even as she cut Twilight off, having come to the same realisation of what she had implied, “No, I wouldn’t have murdered you, Gaia no. But I would have convinced you to drop your studies. It would have been subtle, over the course of several months, until you were a transformed mare far away from what you are now, so I could feel some satisfaction of revenge. You would never have destroyed the world.”

“Except in this timeline. Because you pulled me with you into the present, I was never around in the past to change the world, and Twilight Sparkle destroyed it instead.”

Twilight fully reeled back this time, taking several hoofsteps away from Starlight Glimmer. That was what she had been waiting on, a doozy that would have set all of Pinkie Pie’s Pinkie Senses off at once, and it had delivered.

The wind had picked up, kicking up dust and ash again. It was nowhere near close to blinding the three, but its harsh dissonance seemed to fit Twilight’s mood perfectly, along with the seemingly permanent brown sky.

“But I didn’t, now did I?” Twilight asked. “I didn’t destroy the world, instead my friends and I helped to saved it multiple times. Really, by changing the timeline, you’re the one who destroyed the world.” She was tired. If only Cheerilee hadn’t said those words…if only, then Twilight might have been able to come up with a stronger critique of Starlight’s rational.

Starlight paused. “You know, you were right about one thing?”

“She was?!” Spike exclaimed.

“Yes,” Starlight said, gazing at the distance where Canterlot should have been standing atop a great mountain. “Twilight Sparkle, you said your friends were important. I guess they were. If you didn’t have them, you would have destroyed everything.”

That was the last straw for Twilight. She had sat there and taken abuse long enough from the unicorn that had stolen her Cutie Mark, hurt her friends, then tried to destroy history multiple times just to satisfy a grudge. “At least I saved Equestria in the real timeline on multiple occasions,” Twilight growled in a repeat of an earlier argument, feeling her magic restoring itself over the time they had spent in this blasted future. “You apparently couldn’t even save it once.”

“Except for all those times I saved Equestria from multiple villains in those other timelines you mentioned.”

“You don’t know that, you just think that was the case.”

Starlight hmmphed, pawing the ground in agitation. “Then where does that leave us?” She asked. “We’re obviously at an impasse here.”

“You could give up,” Spike suggested, the baby dragon feeling left out of a conversation that could change the world and wanting to be helpful.

Starlight Glimmer snorted and said, “As if. I could win now…but now I don’t want to.”

That brought Twilight’s train of thought to a crashing stop. “Wait, what?”

“This world...I don't want it to end like this, but I won't stop fight. It’s simple, Princess,” Starlight said, a derisive inflection even now lingering on Twilight’s title. “We go back in time to Cloudsdale. You have three options. You can attempt to cripple me before I have a chance to do anything, then drag me back with you. You can continue fighting me until you inevitably die in one of these futures before you have the chance to reset time. Or,” Starlight narrowed her eyes, “With the huge differences in timelines every time you travel, eventually you’ll find a timeline where I succeeded and everything is at peace, but where you don’t have your friends. I’ll have gotten what I wanted, and you’ll get a world that's mostly acceptable.”

“So, what’ll it be, Princess?”

Twilight glared at Starlight, and opened her mouth to answer.


The portal opened, and Twilight and Spike came falling out of it, landing on a stone floor covered by a low thrown rug, one small scroll falling in right after them before the portal shut behind them.

Twilight let out an ‘oof’ at the hard landing, then looked around. They were indoors. Walls and windows created a circular room with crystal décor. At the center of the room stood a stone table, and six thrones evenly spaced apart.

It didn’t take the two long to realise what had happened. “Twilight! We’re back!” Spike said with joy, hopping up and down in excitement. Twilight mimicked him, so overjoyed at the nightmare finally being over that she found herself pronking, all hopes of royal poise forgotten. Seconds later, Spike stopped jumping, choosing to fall to the ground instead and kissing the rug, “One Castle of Friendship, check!”

Twilight stopped jumping at his words. How was it possible that the Castle of Friendship was still here when brief changes in the past had lead to such wild alterations in history? She wasn’t going to protest it, given the implications of what that meant, but something still seemed to be off. She couldn't quite put her hoof on it, but for now she would explore what seemed to be the present, the real present. Walking around Spike, who was still practically hugging the floor, she picked the scroll up off the floor in her magic, and made to unroll it. How had Starlight managed to modi-

The doors slammed open, and five adult mares walked in all at once. “What the hay was going on in here?” Applejack asked loudly.

“Yes, what in Equestria was that noise?” Rarity seconded the question.

“Teehee, you guys missed a perfectly good cake, I came to see if you were here but you weren’t so I had to eat it all by myself and it was really yummy in my tummy and I even brought a couple of gems to put on top if Spike was here but he wasn’t but obviously I can’t eat rocks because I’m a pony unless you’re my sister Maud in which case I could eat rocks but I’m not Maud so-“

“PINKIE!” Came the uniform cry of the three other more outspoken ponies standing next to her.

“It’s a long story, girls,” Twilight said tiredly to her friends. Her friends. Twilight’s mood perked up at that thought. Somehow, after the long trials she and Spike had just gone through, things were the same again. Her friends were her friends, her real friends, not some twisted copy of them broken down by mobilisation from war, serving underneath a tyrant queen, or fighting a guerilla war in the Everfree Forest.

Twilight held the tears of happiness in. It was good to be home at last. She opened her mouth to tell the story of an adventure in the past-

“A baby dragon!”

Lesson Zero is probably one of the most powerful episodes of the show, but after that Twilight's occasional flare-up of her nerves is treated for laughs. What if we were to take it seriously though? Somepony with lots of magical power and a capacity to meltdown brilliantly but who was never trained properly? Yeah, I think that could cause of an apocalypse (if you think Twilight wasn't powerful enough on her own, there is a line that gives me an out there on how Cheerilee thinks she may have had a magical artifact - say, an Alicorn Amulet)

Hence, this story is a dump of two of my headcanons: first is that an untrained Twilight Sparkle could have caused the Ashlands timeline, second is that in all previous timelines Starlight Glimmer stayed in the past and and defeated all the villains something wicked this way comes except for one, with the villain differing in each timeline (hey, it makes more sense than different ways of filly Dash abuse resulting in totally different futures)...but in the Ashlands timeline Starlight was dragged along so there was nopony around to save the future. I guess there's a minor third headcanon too: I think Double Diamond would make a much better romantic interest for Starlight than Sunburst could ever hope to be 
 Which makes it a curiously more ambiguous position. Starlight is still wrong to change time. Twilight is still right. But Twilight has been hit with a stark realisation that it's not just choices that define a pony but also outside circumstances. What if she does come upon an arguably better timeline?

Starlight admittedly acts as an author mouthpiece at times - here I was writing, when I got hung up on Twilight's 'Every timeline is worse than the last' line where Flim and Flim are apparently worse than Tirek. Starlight (rightfully) calls her out on this.

I...really don't like the ending. I had it planned out that Starlight and Twilight would reconcile, but in the course of writing they simply were unable to make up past calling a ceasefire. Interpret the ending how you like, I have a general idea of what happened in the past. As for the very end...Notice how only six thrones are mentioned at the end, not seven, coupled with the very last line

There was originally going to be a continuation of the first scene after Cheerilee drops the truth-bomb. Four failed attempts at trying to continue that conversation I gave up, so you can fill your imagination in with just what happened then.

I was originally going to use the Cutie Mark Crusaders here. I would have made Sweetie Belle basically semi-comatose, capable of eating and breathing and walking but not really reacting to anything, and Scootaloo and Apple Bloom would push her to move around to the next safe place and stay alive. However, I tossed that idea and decided to have a single pony survivor. I thought about Pipsqueak, then remembered he would still be a tiny little thing who probably wouldn’t understand too much of what had actually happened, let alone grown up enough to have survival skills to last in the Wasteland (since the timelines always spit out Twilight and Spike in the 'present', not five years after the present).