Author's note: I would again like to give a very special thanks to Tabby, a most excellent story writer, for all her help in making this three-part epic the best it can be.
As the ponies walked inside the gate to the underworld, Thomas, Tabby, Wild Fire, and Sun Glow looked back towards the entrance as it slowly closed. As it shut, an ear-splitting slam was heard. As they walked father inside, they began to hear the sounds of tortured souls wailing in agonizing pain that gave the four an eerie feeling in the pits of their stomachs.
Salaries, seeing the others weakening, said to them telepathically, "My companions, try to block the sounds of these poor tormented souls from your mind by thinking of your loved ones back in Ponyland and the reason we are here; keep that love you have for them strong within you." As they heard Salaries' message, they began to think of their family and friends they had left behind and how they would do whatever it took to protect them, even venture to the underworld! Through that love, they found the inner strength needed to go on. Salaries, seeing this, smiled at his companions.
Devilin guided her companions to a ferryboat which would take them over the River Styx to the Gates of Hades. As she stood face-to-face with the ferrystallion, she said in a commanding voice, "I need you to take me and these five slaves to the master."
The ferrystallion said in a raspy voice, "You must give me two jangles or something of equal value for each soul you put in my boat."
Devilin, knowing that she would have to pay a toll to the ferrystallion, pulled out a bag of jangles from her outfit and hoofed it to him. As he took it, Devilin turned to the others and pulled on the lead chain and barked, "Get in the boat, slaves."
As they entered the boat, Tabby and Thomas glanced at the ferrystallion who wore a monk's robe with a hood over his head. As he turned his head towards the couple, they saw that his face was just skin and bone. "Don't they feed their employees down there?" Tabby complained as the "prisoners" sat two-by-two in the boat with Devilin at the head, facing the others.
Devilin cracked her whip and made Tabby jump. "No talking, you pitiful slaves!" she said rudely.
The ferrystallion pushed the boat away from the shore and headed to their next destination, the Gates of Hades. As they traveled over the River Styx, Tabby, being a curious mare, decided to look over the edge of the boat to see if there might be any crayfish in the river. What she saw instead was the lost souls of spirits that could not pay the toll and had been flung into the river. As she was staring at them, one of the spirits noticed her and rushed up out of the water, grabbing hold of Tabby's neck as it tried to pull her into the river. Thomas, seeing what was happening, took a hold of his wife to keep her from going over the edge. Devilin raised her front hoof in the air and conjured a fireball which she threw at the offending spirit, causing it to lose its grip on Tabby.
"If you do that again, I will let the spirit take you," Devilin said with an evil sneer as Thomas held his wife.
As the ferryboat reached the opposite shore, Devilin cracked her whip and said in a commanding voice, "We are here, slaves, so get your lazy carcasses out of the boat!" Salaries, being the last one in, led the others out.
"I think Devilin is enjoying her part a bit too much," Tabby whispered to Thomas. "Was she really just a slave here?"
Devilin cracked her whip again while saying, "Quiet, slaves!" Then she walked over to a demon that was sitting behind a stone podium and said, "I have five slaves for the master, so open the gates."
The demon slowly lifted his head as he said to Devilin, "Do not tell me what to do, wench, or I will use that whip on you!"
Devilin, seeing that the demon was going to be trouble, stood before her group. "I would like to see you try?"
The demon, seeing the flames in Devilin's eyes, began to laugh. "Ha ha ha, a wench with a backbone! Don't see many of your kind down here." He added in a more serious tone while gazing at the chained slaves, "But enough of this foolishness; give me your name, the names of your slaves, and how you have come by them, or you cannot go through the gates."
Before her fateful encounter with Salaries, Devilin had been one of the highest-ranking demons in the spirit world and had been given free reign to go anywhere in the underworld, so she was unprepared when the demon ordered her in such a way. But being the clever demon that she was, she said, "I am called the Huntress; the mare is called Talon and the stallion next to her is Thorn. The little one is their foal, Flame. I caught them helping mortals instead of causing mischief and mayhem. The stallion in back is called Light; he is one of those goody-four-shoes spirit ponies that I caught off guard after he battled one of our kind. Last but not least, I caught myself a Fairy Flutter called Sun Bright while she was engrossed in admiring some disgusting flowers."
The demon at the podium wrote down the information as she spoke. "You will take the three traitors to the Chamber of Pain; a couple of centuries there will teach them where their loyalties should be. The spirit pony of good can be sent to our Interrogation Chamber; if he is smart, he will cooperate. As for the Fairy Flutter, she will have her wings ripped out and placed in the arena for out enjoyment." Finally, the Gates of Hades opened. "Now go!"
Devilin bowed to the demon and took the others through the gate.
* * *
Back at the spirit ponies' house in Dream Valley, the Orb of Creation suddenly went black as the ponies went through the gate. "What happened to the image?" Mother Daffodil asked in concern.
Ranger, also confused, just shrugged his shoulders. "I am as baffled as you are, my sweet Daffodil."
Baby Daffodil grabbed hold of the orb as she said, "Wild Fire, don't leave us; please don't leave us." As she said this, a single tear rolled down her cheek and landed on the orb. It suddenly began to glow and, after a moment, the image of their friends returned. Baby Daffodil's parents looked on with amazement at what had happened, and they settled in to watch the party in the underworld again.
* * *
At the same time that Baby Daffodil's tear landed on the orb, Wild Fire suddenly felt a warm feeling all over her body. Salaries seemed to sense it, too, and gave his daughter a gentle smile.
Devilin turned around a corner and stopped to look back to see if anyone was following them. "All right, everyone, we are in the heart of the underworld, and you do not need those shackles anymore." So the ponies took their chains off while Devilin released Sun Glow from the cage and removed her own outfit.
Sun Glow flew out and hovered in front of Devilin. "How dare he order my wings to be ripped out!" she said in an irritated tone. "I should go out there and knock his stupid horn off his pea-brain head."
"Do not be foolish, Sun Glow; all that would accomplish would be jeopardizing our mission," replied Devilin.
Sun Glow, understanding how important their quest was, began to settle down. As the others finished removing their chains and hiding them so that no demons would notice the discarded objects, Devilin said in a low voice, "Follow me; I sense the great evil in this direction."
As the ponies walked along after Devilin, Tabby trotted up next to the other mare. "Devilin, can I ask you a question?"
Devilin sighed as she turned to Tabby. "What is it that you wish to know?"
"Why did that demon at the entrance think that Thomas, Wild Fire, and I were demons, too?"
"That is because demon ponies all have a single horn like unicorns, so you could say that you have a little demon in you," replied Devilin with a smile.
That made Tabby straighten up a little. "Cool! So I bet all the angel ponies like your husband have wings." Devilin nodded to the mare in agreement. "What were they going to do to us in that Chamber of Pain?"
Devilin gazed at Tabby with a small smile. "Remember how much pain you were in when that rock cut into your hoof?" Tabby nodded in the affirmative. "Well, think of that pain begin a thousand times more painful, and never finding relief from it; that is what the Chamber of Pain is."
"I'm afraid I can't think of a sarcastic comparison to make," Tabby admitted after a pause.
"Well, it exists, and we must stop the great evil from ever using it on innocent creatures." They reached another corner, and Devilin stopped and peered around it. She saw the four Ponies of the Apocalypse standing guard in front of a very huge door. "It seems that the great evil has summoned the four Ponies of the Apocalypse to guard its chamber while planning its attack on the world," Devilin reported in a low voice.
"What! You mean we have to fight them again, in addition to this 'great evil'?" Tabby complained.
"So you have come up against them before?" said an inquisitive Devilin.
"Yes, on the island of Phalanx," Thomas filled in.
"They were totally going to bring about the end of the world, but we totally showed them up," Tabby said proudly.
Devilin, hearing this, was given a devilishly good idea. "Do you think the Ponies of the Apocalypse would still remember you two?"
"Oh yeah, they'll remember us! And they'd better start running in terror when they see me!" Tabby said confidently.
"You must have a plan," Thomas said, a little more cautious. "What are you thinking?"
"Come closer, and I will tell all of you my idea," Devilin said, gesturing for the others to huddle around to hear her devious plan. "It is very simple; Thomas and Tabby will lure the Ponies of the Apocalypse to where we are right now; and when they turn the corner, we hit them quick and hard. Then we use the chains we brought and tie them up."
"Do you think that you two can confront those four again?" Salaries asked the couple.
"Oh, we can confront them again," Tabby said cheerfully. "I just don't see how chains are going to have much effect on supernatural beings."
"If these were just ordinary chains, you would be right," Salaries agreed. "But these spirit chains are infused with magical energy so that spirit beings cannot break through them."
"With the fate of the world at stake, it gives us little choice but to try," said a not-so-eager Thomas.
"Oh, Ponies of the Apocalypse! Fancy meeting you here!" called out Tabby as she waved to them from a distance. "It's been awhile, hasn't it?"
The foursome looked up at the intruders, but were nonplused. "Well, well, if it isn't our old adversaries from Phalanx Island," Aries, the demon pony of war, sneered.
"Are you surprised to see us here? You must have known that even a collapsing island could not hold us down," Hunger said smugly.
"Yeah, well, all I know is that you're in my way!" Tabby yelled.
Thanatos laughed. "A response utterly lacking in wit. I expected better from our Atlantean queen."
"I am under considerable stress right now! Give me a break!" Tabby bristled.
"We're supposed to be luring them away, remember?" Thomas reminded her, speaking softly. "Come on." He nudged her to reverse her direction.
"Oh, uh, yeah. I shouldn't have come; this is really scary stuff," Tabby said lamely, looking behind her to see if they were following. The demon ponies were just smirking at her, so she threw a final insult behind her back. "But if I see you blockheads again, you'd better believe that my friends and I are totally going to wipe you out!"
"She insults us, my siblings," Strife observed. "Shall we teach her a lesson?"
"Remember what the master told us," Hunger agreed, and the four exchanged knowing looks with one another as they started after the retreating unicorn couple.
Tabby and Thomas rejoined the other four in their group and they all stood side-by-side as they prepared their attacks. As the Ponies of the Apocalypse rounded the corner, the six heros let lose everything they had and hit the demons so hard that they temporarily lost consciousness.
"Quickly, tie them up before they awaken!" Devilin ordered. Grabbing the chains, they swiftly had the four demons shackled and immobile. "Follow me, and take these idiots along," she said, and they dragged the demon ponies as they followed Devilin to a slab of rock. The mare pulled it aside, revealing a hidden cave, and in short order the four demons were interred in the damp, cramped space.
Just before the door to the prison was closed, the Ponies of the Apocalypse began to come to. "Foolish ponies! Did you think you could really defeat us so easily?" Strife hissed, sensing the jubilation of the team.
"Well, judging from the look of you now, I don't think there's any question about who the victor is," Tabby said smugly, turning her back on them. Still, she felt uneasy. The four Ponies of the Apocalypse were a great demonic force capable of world destruction; why had they fallen so easily?
"We have delivered her into the master's hoofs," Thanatos declared in the darkness. "Our duty has been dispensed. Now, let us be gone from this place." In a flash of light, the Ponies of the Apocalypse were no more to be seen.
* * *
The group of six heroes now gathered around the unguarded door. "What plan do you have for us now?" Thomas asked the spirit ponies.
Salaries and Devilin looked at each other in puzzlement and then turned back to Thomas, saying in unison, "What plan?"
"You brought us to fight this great evil and didn't even know how we were going to do it?" replied Thomas, taken aback.
"The way you've been ordering us around this whole time, I thought you'd at least have a vague idea of how we're going to confront him!" said an irate Tabby.
Salaries walked towards Thomas and said, "It has been foreseen that Tabby would defeat the great evil; our job was to make sure that she got that chance by protecting her at any cost. You have been patient with us this far in our 'ordering' of you, as you say; but now it is your time to take center stage."
"Oh. Okay... well... I say open this door and let me at him!" Tabby exclaimed, fired-up.
Thomas looked in Salaries' eyes and saw that he was truly willing to die to protect Tabby; and Tabby herself was all keyed-up for the battle ahead. With a brave soul and a loving heart, he said, "Then let us go; destiny awaits."
Devilin tried to open the door, but it did not move. "The door is locked and protected by a strong protection spell," she announced. "We may have to find another way in."
"Let me try to open it," Sun Glow said to the others. They may have wondered how a small Fairy Flutter would be able to budge the door when Devilin had been unable, but they did not voice their doubts aloud. "Place me next to the keyhole," the small pony requested of Devilin as the spirit pony took Sun Glow in her hoof. As the Fairy Flutter got near the lock, she jumped through the keyhole opening. The others could hear the sound of tumblers clinking within the lock; and when the sound stopped, the little Fairy Flutter came out and fluttered onto Devilin's back as she said, "Go ahead and try the door again."
Devilin pushed on the door and, amazingly, it began to swing inwards. "How did you do that with a protection spell in place?" Tabby asked.
"The door may have been protected from brute force by magic, but there was no guard against picking the lock," Sun Glow said with a smile.
The ponies cautiously walked into the room and looked around, but saw only a table with papers on it. "This isn't very exciting," Tabby said, when suddenly the door slammed shut behind them.
Salaries, however, heard the sound of a sword coming down towards the unicorn; he swiftly ran towards Tabby and, with his sword, deflected the other blade directed at Tabby's head. Holding the sword at bay, he hollered at Thomas, "Take your wife and keep her safe!"
Thomas, taking Tabby's foreleg, pulled her away from the clashing swords. As Tabby got her bearings again and saw Salaries fighting with a floating sword, her eyes opened wide. "What is making that sword move?"
Then they all heard a terrifying laugh that made their blood run cold. As the sword disappeared from sight, Salaries said, "The great evil has turned itself invisible, so everyone, stay alert."
Then the great evil began to speak. "You foolish, insignificant worms. How dare you think that a pair of mortals, three outcasts from the spirit world, and a Fairy Flutter could ever stop me?"
"If we are so insignificant, why are you afraid to show yourself to us!" Salaries shouted out.
"So be it!" replied the great evil and as they waited, a figure began to come out of the shadows at the back of the room. As it became visible, Tabby trembled with shock and anger as her voice rang out, "How dare you show yourself in the image of my daughter!"
The great evil, in the form of a pink baby unicorn, laughed. "Ha, ha, ha! I thought you would enjoy seeing your daughter after all this time. I know that I have been looking forward to seeing you, so that I may hold you up as an example to the rest of the world once I defeat you, queen of Atlantis!"
Tabby only became angrier at this remark but visibly hesitated from taking any further actions against the figure that looked so very much like Faline. Thomas, being the level-headed one and realizing it was only a trick, encouraged her. "Tabby, remember, our girls are safe at home with their grandparents! That creature is in no way our flesh and blood!"
At those words from her husband, Tabby's resolve hardened; seeing that his trick had been thwarted, the great evil said in a thundering roar, "Be gone, you infidel!" The image lifted its foreleg, causing an invisible force to throw Thomas across the room.
Fully roused, Tabby turned on the image of her daughter with fire in her eyes. "You may look like my daughter, but you are not her! Seer Attack!" Without further ado, Tabby threw back her head as potent psychic flames, glowing purple, shot out of her horn directly aimed at the great evil.
As the flame reached her enemy, it lifted its hoof and knocked the attack aside as if it were just some bothersome fireflies. Then he looked at Tabby and said with a chuckle, "Is that the best you can do, mare? Let me show you what a real Seer Attack can do." It threw back its head in blatant imitation of Tabby, but psychic flames five times as large as Tabby's were directed at her.
Wild Fire saw this and galloped in front of Tabby, surrounding both of them with her spirit shield. As the flame hit, the force of the blast shattered the spirit shield, throwing both females to the ground. Shaking off the effects of the attack, Tabby stood up and helped Wild Fire to her hoofs.
"You sniveling little brat; how dare you interfere in my fun!" they heard the great evil say.
Wild Fire glared in its direction and stuck her tongue out as a reply to the insult.
At the other end of the room, Salaries had helped Thomas to his hoofs and the rest of the group now joined Tabby and Wild Fire. "Six against one... now, does that sound fair?" the great evil said in a sarcastic tone. Still using the form of Faline, he gave a sinister grin. "I think we should even up the odds, don't you think?" Its eyes began to glow. "Devilin, Wild Fire, I summon you to my side."
Devilin's and Wild Fire's eyes both went blank as they moved away from the group, walking dreamlike to the side of the great evil. They stood ready to attack their friends and loved ones, much to the surprise and dismay of the others in their group as they watched the two switch sides.
Salaries became outraged as he said in an angered tone, "What have you done to my wife and daughter, you fiend!"
The great evil laughed at the stunned ponies and said in a mocking tone, "You fools, did you think that I could not control those who contain the essence of pure evil? Ha, ha, ha!" Then he addressed Devilin and Wild Fire, "Kill them!"
"Yes, master." Devilin lunged at her husband with sword raised for battle, while Wild Fire conjured a ring of fire which encircled Thomas and Tabby. While this was going, Sun Glow realized that she needed to do something fast. She headed towards the great evil and began flying around his head.
"Begone, you little insect!" the great evil shouted, swatting at her. "Dratted Fairy Flutters!"
Meanwhile, the ring of fire began to shrink in height as it got closer to Tabby and Thomas, so Thomas took the opportunity to call upon his Tidal Wave attack. He raised the palms of his hoofs upwards, mentally concentrating. With a flick of his wrist, the power of the attack created a wall of water which circled the flames and caused them to go out; so as not to hurt Wild Fire, Thomas made sure that the Tidal Wave was only large enough to cover the fire wall she had summoned.
"Go and help Sun Glow keep the great evil occupied," Tabby instructed, rising to her hoofs, "and I'll try to snap Wild Fire out of her trance."
"She could summon another attack; can you handle it on your own?" Thomas eyes Tabby with concern.
"It's risky, but she shouldn't be a mindless slave to that creature, and I think Sun Glow needs help," Tabby said briskly, rising to the occasion and taking control. "So go."
"Then good luck, my featherheaded ditzy idiot," Thomas said softly, hugging her close and kissing her. Then he quit her side and joined Sun Glow.
"We'll make it out alive, you know!" Tabby shouted after her husband. "We will!" Then she turned to confront her immediate concern. "Wild Fire, we are your friends and we have no desire to hurt you! Snap out of it!"
"You are nothing to me and I am going to destroy you," Wild Fire growled, her horn glowing as an enormous energy ball began to form.
* * *
Back at the spirit ponies' house, a very nervous Baby Daffodil said, "We can't let Wild Fire kill Tabby! Wild Fire would never forgive herself!"
Ranger and Mother Daffodil looked at each other with the same feeling of helplessness that Baby Daffodil felt. "Honey, we are just earth ponies and we don't have any unicorn magic we can use to help them."
Baby Daffodil gazed at her parents and then turned to look at Wild Fire as she was getting ready to attack Tabby. "I don't care if we don't have unicorn magic! Wild Fire needs me!" She moved to the Orb of Creation and placed her front hoofs on it. Before her parents could stop her, she had vanished. Ranger and Daffodil could only gaze fearfully into the orb to see what had become of their daughter.
* * *
Back at the battle, Wild Fire prepared to release her energy ball on Tabby; but as she did, Baby Daffodil appeared between the two warriors. The full force of the attack hit Baby Daffodil instead of Tabby; the lavender filly was thrown with tremendous force and smashed against the wall.
As Wild Fire saw her soul sister laying lifelessly on the ground, her side of pure good began to break the spell that the great evil had placed on her. As it faded away, the full import of what she had done hit Wild Fire. She galloped to Baby Daffodil's side as she screamed, "What have I done! Oh, Great Creator, what have I done!" As she stood over Baby Daffodil, her knees suddenly gave out from under her as she wept for the horrible loss of her soul sister.
Tabby quietly knelt down beside the grieving filly. "Wild Fire, do not blame yourself for this. The one who is to blame is that horrid creature who dared to take Faline's form and also took over your mind. It was not your action, but his." Wild Fire looked up at Tabby as she gave her a half smile, and then turned back to Baby Daffodil. Tabby added softly, "Wild Fire, you are in no condition to fight, so stay here with your friend. Do you understand?" Wild Fire, not looked up at Tabby, gave a nod to show that she understood.
Tabby went back to the battlefield with a stronger feeling of purpose now that she better understood the importance of destroying the thing that could cause so much pain. For a moment, she just stood and watched Thomas and Sun Glow as they deflected blows from the great evil, and Salaries and Devilin who fought each other. Her ancestral blood rose in her veins, the blood of warriors! With the inner strength of a thousand ponies, Tabby went to join the battle.
Thomas looked up to see his wife coming to help. "I've thrown everything I know at it, but it just brushes it all off!"
"Then perhaps a combination attack would have more effect," Tabby announced.
"It's worth a try," Thomas replied.
"Sun Glow, keep him occupied. We need to gather more energy," Tabby said in a low tone to the Fairy Flutter. Sun Glow acknowledged this and went back to occupying the evil being while Tabby and Thomas laid low.
* * *
Mother Daffodil fainted after seeing her daughter killed. As Ranger revived her, she cried, "Our precious little daughter is dead, Ranger!"
"I know, my darling wife, I know," replied Ranger as he held his wife close to him.
"If we had not met those spirit ponies, our daughter would be alive now!" Daffodil went on with a little anger in her voice.
Ranger, comforting his wife the best he could, said in a soft and loving voice, "My precious love, I know this hurts you dearly, but we must be strong and be there for our friends when they need us. I know that, deep inside your heart, you still care for them."
Daffodil, looking at her husband, said in a tearful voice, "I know that you are right, but it hurts so much."
Ranger, giving his wife a loving kiss, said with conviction, "I promise we will get through this. It may be hard, but we will survive."
* * *
"Sun Glow, get back!" Tabby cried out, jumping in front of the great evil. "Now you'll have to face me!" She stared long and hard into the face of her daughter.
"What do you think you'll accomplish in a staring contest!" the great evil laughed, stepping back from a lunge.
"Idiot! Petrifying Gaze!" Another of Tabby's ancestral Atlantean abilities made the great evil unable to move. Immediately following this, Thomas performed his Crustacean Clamp, which encased the being in corals and crustacean exoskeletons. As he was completely encased and immobile, Tabby stepped forward to perform a finishing blow; but she never got the chance as the floor began to shake. The great evil shattered its encasement, the shower of coral knocking the ponies to the ground.
Salaries, seeing that Tabby's ancient powers were not going to be enough to defeat the great evil, knew that he had to do something. He looked at his wife as they fought; as he got face-to-face with her, he gave her a loving kiss. "I will always love you, Devilin, always." Then he laid his sword down as Devilin thrust her blade deep within his chest, piercing his heart. As he fell to the floor, he said to Tabby, "I give you all my strength and power; use it wisely." Then Salaries' body turned to a pure white light ball of energy which circled Tabby and then seemed to be absorbed into her body.
"Well now, that's weird," Tabby said, staring down at a glowing hoof. As she stood there, she felt a great strength growing within her that she had never felt before. "Okay, there have been too many casualties! Now it's time to get down to business!" Saying that, a beam of purple psychic energy erupted from her hoof and took the form of a blade, and she lunged at the great evil with immense power behind her thrust.
The great evil, outraged by Tabby's show of power, created a humongous ball of energy that made Wild Fire's look insignificant by comparison. "Now you die, wench!" he yelled with great anger as he tossed it at the charging mare.
Tabby held the blade in front of her and blocked the energy ball from going any further. She struggled against it, but with a great shout she pushed her sword forward and sent the attack back towards its instigator.
The great evil was taken so off-guard that he did not have time to stop the energy ball; it exploded on impact and threw him clean through a six-foot-thick wall. A moment later, the great evil stumbled back into the room as it screamed out in painful anger, blood dripping from his mouth. "I will not let a mere mortal desssstroy me!" he hissed.
"Then I'm afraid you'll have to shape up your act," Tabby smirked.
"Devilin, I order you to destroy that mare," the great evil instructed his remaining minion.
"Yes, master," replied Devilin as she headed toward Tabby with her sword held high.
Surprisingly, Tabby decided to retract her psychic blade as the energy diffused back into her hoof. "Thomas, put up your Sound Sponge to protect the others," she ordered her husband while standing her ground against Devilin's advance.
"Will do, Tabby," Thomas said, trusting that she knew what she was doing. He held up his hoofs and summoned a powerful giant bubble, the purpose of which was to absorb all incoming sound, around himself, Wild Fire, and Sun Glow. This came in handy when Tabby used her High-Pitched Wail, which Thomas suspected was coming.
When Devilin was close enough, Tabby unleashed the mighty power of her High-Pitched Wail, causing a deafening shriek that suddenly filled the room! Devilin dropped her sword in shock as she reached to cover her ears, as did the great evil. "It's time to finish this!" Tabby shouted, using her Seismic Stomp and hitting her hoof down on the ground. With the added power that Salaries had given her, she cracked open the ground underneath the great evil.
As it fell hundreds of miles beneath the earth, it yelled with a hatred that knew no bounds, "I will return and destroy you all!" Then the whole room began to shake, and bits of the roof began to fall in. Soon, the entire room was collapsing around the ponies.
* * *
Ranger and Daffodil suddenly heard Salaries' voice say, "Guardians, protect us." They were startled, knowing that Salaries had died in battle; but they knew it was time for them to fulfill their promise to Salaries and get the others out of danger.
"Will you be able to do this, my love?" Ranger asked his wife.
As Mother Daffodil wiped the tears from her eyes, she said, "I will not leave our daughter's body in that horrid place." So they placed their forelegs over the orb and concentrated on the rest of the friends in the underworld.
They suddenly found themselves inside the collapsing room. Ranger went to his daughter, Wild Fire, and Tabby, while Daffodil went to get Thomas, Devilin, and Sun Glow. As they held them and thought of the Orb of Creation they began to fade away, but instead of reappearing back at the spirit ponies' house, they were deposited five miles from the entrance to the underworld. They saw the mountain that stood over it collapse on top of the evil place; as the mountain began to settle and the dust began to clear, it became apparent that the villains were buried beneath several hundred tons of stone and rock.
After the initial shock of what had just happened faded, Mother Daffodil galloped to her daughter's body as Ranger laid her down on the ground. As she held her daughter in her forelegs, Wild Fire came up to her and said as a tear fell from her eyes, "It is all my fault, and I would not blame you if you never want to see me again."
Mother Daffodil, seeing the remorse that Wild Fire was feeling, gestured for Wild Fire to come closer. She placed her foreleg around the filly in a comforting manner, and the two silently shared their grief.
Meanwhile, Devilin was coming out of her trance and started looking around for Salaries. "Do any of you know where my husband is?" she demanded.
"You don't have any memories from when you were under the great evil's control?" Thomas asked.
"Let me handle this," Tabby said softly, going to Devilin's side and turning her away from the crowd. After a whispered conversation Devilin was appraised of the events that had led up to her husband's death.
Devilin tried to hold in her tears. "He can't be dead... not Salaries, not my beloved."
Tabby placed her foreleg around Devilin's shoulder as she said, "Devilin, it is okay to cry. There's no need to act tough for us."
Devilin turned to Tabby as tears began to slide down her cheeks. "I will miss him so much, Tabby; he was my anchor that I could always count on." She fully gave in to her sorrow as Tabby did her best to comfort her.
Sun Glow, flying around above the grieving ponies, noticed a shadowy figure coming towards them. "Hey, everyone, there's someone coming!" she exclaimed, pointing to the east.
"Who are you and what do you want!" Thomas yelled out as a pony figure approached them.
Then the figure came into view and the onlookers fully observed his appearance. It was a stallion with a body that looked like he was dipped in pure gold. His mane and tail were silvery white, and on his side was a symbol of clouds with sunbeams radiating out from them. "Do not worry; I come as a friend."
Devilin, hearing the pony's voice, jumped up as she turned and faced him, then lowered her head solemnly. "You honor us, Great Creator."
The Great Creator took his foreleg and lifted up Devilin's head; as he looked at her face and saw her cheeks drenched with tears, he said, "Devilin, this is a side of you that even I would never have thought to see. What has happened to make one like you shed tears?"
"I don't know who you are or why Devilin treats you so highly, but she is grieving right now for her husband who just died in battle, so she doesn't need to be given a hard time!" Tabby said snappishly, standing defensively by Devilin.
Devilin's eyes widened to hear a mortal talk to the Great Creator in such a way, but the Great Creator just smiled at Tabby. Then he saw Mother Daffodil and Wild Fire kneeling over a small filly laying on the ground, so he walked towards them with a smile. "May I please see the foal?" Mother Daffodil felt such a loving warmth from the stallion that she allowed him to come closer. As he did, he said in a gentle voice, "This little one is not dead, but just sleeping." He placed his hoof on Baby Daffodil's chest and said in a loving way, "Baby Daffodil, it is time to awake; your mother and father miss you."
Ranger, being a protective husband, rebuked the Great Creator in much the same manner as Tabby. "Salaries and Devilin told us who you are, but I will not let you taunt my wife in such a manner, so let my family be." Suddenly, Ranger heard a small groan. As he turned, he saw his daughter beginning to move. As Baby Daffodil's eyes opened, her mother took a hold of her and began smothering her daughter with hugs and kisses.
Before Ranger could turn back to thank the Great Creator for what he had done and apologize for what he had just said, the Great Creator had already gone back to Devilin. "Now, my child, what makes you so sad?"
Devilin looked at the Great Creator with tears flowing down her cheeks. "I killed my husband, and I wish that the others had left me down in the underworld to die with him."
"And what about Wild Fire; are you willing to leave her without a father and a mother?"
Devilin looked at her sweet little flame as Wild Fire told Baby Daffodil what had happened and how they had gotten to where they were. "I do not want to leave my sweet little flame, but I miss my husband so much," she said honestly.
The Great Creator cast a look in Tabby's direction as he said to Devilin, "Devilin, your husband is not gone; he lives within Tabby and just waits for the right time to return to you."
"What do you mean, Salaries is within me?" Tabby asked in a panicky voice, getting a little worried.
Patiently, the Great Creator explained to the two mares what was going on. "You see, when Devilin thrust her sword into Salaries, he transported his living essence within Tabby, making her part mortal and part spirit pony. This enhanced her own powers a thousandfold which gave her the power to defeat the threat which you all battled. Now that the great evil is gone, I can bring Salaries back to the living."
"And how do you do that?" asked a nervous Tabby.
"It is very simple. I take Salaries' sword and thrust it into your chest and pierce your heart, which will set Salaries' living essence free for me to give a physical form to."
"I don't see how that's much better for me," Tabby squeaked, ducking behind Thomas.
"If you're truly the Great Creator, surely there must be a way to accomplish this without taking a life for a life, Thomas said defensively, guarding Tabby. "You will not touch my wife."
"There is nothing to fear; Salaries' sword is made of the energy of pure good and will not harm one whose heart is filled with compassion like that which Tabby carries in her heart," replied the Great Creator.
Devilin walked over to Tabby and humbly said, "Tabby, I know how scary this sounds; and I will understand if you wish to not do this, for you have done so much already."
Tabby was scared at the thought of having a sword stuck through her, even with the Great Creator's assurances that all would be well. After all, she passed out even at having her hoof pricked at the doctor's office! Still, she didn't wish to see Devilin go through life without her husband, especially if there was a way to bring him back. "Well, it might sound bloody and violent, but I suppose it really won't harm me if what he says is true," she said to Thomas. "And if our situations were reversed, I would hope that Devilin would make the choice to save you. So shouldn't I do it?" Then in a lowered, confidential voice, she added, "But I don't know what to make of this Great Creator. Devilin and Salaries speak of him like God, but he doesn't seem so different from any other magical being we've faced."
Thomas held Tabby in a loving embrace. "The same thought went through my mind, and I don't have an answer for you. But whoever he is, if you trust him, then do what you feel is right with my blessing."
"I'll do it," Tabby said, more confidently than before.
Thomas turned back to the Great Creator and said in a protective tone, "Tabby had better come out of this unharmed, or there will be a new Great Creator when I get through with you."
The other ponies had all gathered around by this point to see the outcome, and Wild Fire walked up to the Great Creator and asked, "Grandpa, how are you going to use Dad's sword if it is buried within the underworld?"
The Great Creator smiled after hearing Wild Fire call him "Grandpa" and thought that it would be nice after all these centuries to have a granddaughter. "Well, you see, my little granddaughter, a spirit sword cannot be destroyed even when a mountain falls on it." Then he raised his foreleg and said in a powerful voice, "Revenging Angel, come to my hoof!" A flash of brilliant white light covered the Great Creator's hoof; and as the light disappeared, they saw Salaries' sword in his hoof. He addressed Thomas and Devilin and told them, "I will need you two to hold Tabby in place so that when the sword enters her chest, she will not jerk." The two ponies stood on either side of Tabby as the Great Creator explained to her, "Tabby, when the sword enters your chest, you will feel no pain, only a sensation similar to a needle prick; and I also suggest that you close your eyes and stay as calm as possible."
"I just know that I'm going to pass out!" Tabby wailed. But she shut up, closed her eyes, and tried to keep what was happening to her out of her mind. When the Great Creator saw that Tabby was ready, he plunged his sword into her chest; as it pierced her heart, Salaries' living essence was set free to leave Tabby's body. The Great Creator pulled the sword out of Tabby's chest and as he did, the wound that had been made instantly healed. As Tabby opened her eyes, she saw Salaries' living essence fly around her, giving her a warm and loving feeling.
Then Salaries' essence circled around Devilin, gently caressing her cheek. Then it soared straight up to the sky and disappeared. Devilin, not understanding why her husband's essence had left her, said with grief, "Salaries, come back; please come back!"
"I thought you were going to restore his body!" Tabby demanded of the Great Creator.
"Salaries, hear me and claim what belongs to you!" the Great Creator shouted in reply, tossing Salaries' sword into the sky until it, too, was out of sight. Then the ponies heard the sound of flapping wings and saw a figure soaring down from the sky.
The figure became clearer and Devilin said with joy in her heart, "It's Salaries; he has come back to me!"
As Salaries landed near his wife, he said with a smile, "Miss me, my love?" But the only thing Devilin could do was to wrap her forelegs around Salaries' neck as she shed tears of joy at seeing him again.
Then the Great Creator walked up to the ponies and said, "It is time for us to leave this place." When he lifted his forelegs, the ponies saw everything around them fade away. After a few minutes, the spirit ponies' house began to appear and they found themselves in their living room back in Dream Valley. "And now," the Great Creator said solemnly, "it is time that we four headed back to the spirit world."
Wild Fire, not wanting to leave her soul sister, said anxiously, "I don't want to leave my best friend Daffodil! Can't we please stay?"
"Isn't there anything that can be done, so that we can stay with our friends?" Salaries asked.
The Great Creator thought for awhile and then said, "These ponies know that you three are spirit ponies, and our laws state that when a mortal knows our identity we must leave the planet to keep the spirit world a secret. But if you three truly wish to stay, then you must all become mortal. Are you willing to give up your spirit powers and immortality for these mortals?"
Salaries, after looking at his wife and daughter, turned to the Great Creator and said, "Even though we will miss the spirit world, we would prefer to live as mortals with these gentle loving ponies that we will always consider as family."
"I agree with my husband and will stand by his decision," replied Devilin as she stood firmly next to him.
Wild Fire, not really understanding what was happening, just said, "Yeah, what they said."
The Great Creator smiled at the family of three. "These mortals must be very special for you to give up your spirit heritage to live with them; but if that is what you wish, then so be it." The Great Creator lifted his foreleg and pointed his hoof at the three; as he did so, small orbs of white energy began to come out of the spirit ponies. As the energy left them, their birth symbols began to lose their luster.
Then the other ponies gathered around them as Mother Daffodil and Tabby asked at the same time, "Are you all okay?"
The three spirit ponies nodded their heads in a reassuring manner as they began to recover from having their spirit energy taken from them. The Great Creator said to them, "I have taken your spirit energy from you, except for the powers you have already demonstrated to the ponies of Dream Valley."
"That can't be fair!" Tabby protested in a petulant tone. "I don't see why they have to give up being spirit ponies just because they told us who they are."
"Because it has been the law of our kind since the dawn of time that when a spirit pony is revealed, they must leave the planet. Because Salaries, Devilin, and Wild Fire did not want to leave, the only other choice was to make them mortal," replied the Great Creator.
"Well, I think you ought to reevaluate this law, especially towards those who have risked their lives to protect the universe! Who knows if they might not need those powers again when the next big evil comes along?" Tabby said, stubbornly crossing her forelegs across her chest.
The Great Creator, never having had a mortal speak to him in such a way, said to Tabby, "You must care very much for Salaries, Devilin, and Wild Fire to chance my wrath for speaking to me in such a way."
"I do care, but neither do I fear your wrath," said Tabby, not budging a bit. "I know this family holds you in high regard, but forgive me if I reserve my opinion."
"Very well, I admire your honesty. I will thus consider your request and look to see if there is a way to give them back their spirit powers; but for now they must remain mortal." With that, the Great Creator turned and said to all the ponies, "All of you have performed a great service and I give you my everlasting thanks, and I guarantee that all of you will have a place in my kingdom when the time comes." Then he raised his forelegs and vanished.
The mortal ponies gave the spirit ponies their sympathy about losing their spirit heritage but told them how very happy they were about having them choose to live in Dream Valley with them. And finally, after that adventure, goodbyes were said and the families started heading back to their own homes.
"If any of you need anything, don't hesitate to call!" Mother Daffodil added.
Devilin gave the other mare a big hug as she said, "Thank you for caring so much for us."
Salaries stalled Thomas for a moment before he and Tabby left. "Thomas, I will tell you about your medallion's origin in a few weeks; I know you are very curious about it, but first I must help my family adjust to being mortal."
Thomas placed his foreleg on Salaries' shoulder as he said, "I understand, and I would like you to know that Tabby and I will always be here if you need us."
Tabby was thinking back over the day's events and gave a large sigh. "And I really liked that whole psychic sword thing I got to use, but that's only because of you, Salaries."
Salaries smiled. "I may have lent you my power, but the blade you summoned is your own. My extra power may have helped to awaken it; but now that its power is unlocked, it is for you to use."
Devilin also came up to Tabby and gave her a big hug. "I would like to thank you for being there for me during the time when Salaries was dead, and know that you will always be welcome in my house.
"Oh, don't mention it," Tabby said flippantly, growing uncomfortable at being thanked in such a manner. "I only did what I had to."
When the spirit ponies were finally alone, Devilin said to her husband, "I do not know if I can handle being a mortal." Seeing her husband grin, she said, "And what is so humorous about that?"
"Before the Great Creator left, he sent me a psychic message," Salaries said.
"And what did he say?" asked Devilin.
"That we will stay mortals only until the others lose their suspicions about us; and then we will be spirit ponies again."
"Well, I hope they lose those suspicions soon!"
Salaries smiled at his wife's frustrations as he held her close. "With our friends' support, I think we will be able to handle a little mortal discomfort." Then he gave his wife a loving kiss as they started their mortal life for the time being.