|The Crystal Empire, Part 1|
|Season 3, Episode 1|
|Air date||November 10th, 2012|
|Written by||Meghan McCarthy|
A Canterlot Wedding, Part 2
Crystal Empire, Part 2
The episode begins when a royal guard dashes into Princess Celestia's throne room to inform her that "it has returned". Celestia orders the guards to find Princess Cadance and Shining Armor at once, and begins to write a letter to Twilight Sparkle to summon her to Canterlot. After the theme song, Twilight is ransacking the library for quills, flash cards, and reference books. Spike tries to calm Twilight by telling her it is only a test. This only angers her further, and she indignantly asks, "'Just a test'?" Spike quickly grabs a helmet and some pillows to shield himself before he reluctantly says yes. Applejack begins to say, "I think she handled that pretty well, considering-" but Twilight screams and levitates the entire library to vent her frustration.
The camera cuts to Princess Celestia and Princess Luna in the throne room, looking at a new stained-glass window depicting Princess Cadance and Shining Armor saving Canterlot. Celestia reaffirms that Luna should not go to the Crystal Empire, since Princess Cadance and Shining Armor will be joined shortly by Twilight and her friends. When Luna worries about the empire's collapse, Celestia reassures her that "she will succeed at her task", bringing her one step closer to "being ready" (it is unclear whether Celestia is referring to Cadance or Twilight, although the events of season 3's finale suggest that Twilight's training is being discussed). Twilight walks in with two bags full of quills and paper, ready to take a written test. With a carefully neutral expression, Luna leaves the room to let the two speak alone. Celestia solemnly tells Twilight that it is a different kind of test.
When Celestia tells Twilight that the Crystal Empire has returned, Twilight can't remember that being in any of her books. Celestia tells her that very few actually remember its existence. She takes out a light purple crystal from next to her throne and magically expands it into a three-dimensional map of the Crystal Empire. She tells her pupil that her knowledge about this kingdom is limited to the fact that it contains a powerful magic. Celestia describes King Sombra, a unicorn whose heart was "as black as night", who took over the Crystal Empire. King Sombra was ultimately overthrown, turned to shadow, and banished into the "ice of the arctic north" by her and Luna, but not before he cursed the Crystal Empire, causing the entire kingdom to vanish. After the map disappears, Celestia tells Twilight, "If the kingdom is filled with hope and love, then those things would spread all across Equestria." To illustrate this, she fires a beam of light at the crystal, illuminating the room. She grimly continues, "But if hatred and fear take hold..." Her horn glows purple and her eyes turn green (like those of King Sombra's) as she fires a pitch-black beam at it. The crystal casts a black shadow that causes tall, threatening crystals to spring up around Twilight. Celestia shatters the black crystals and explains that she needs Twilight to protect the Empire. As Celestia escorts her student out of the throne room, Twilight sees that Luna has been waiting by the double doors, but she only returns Twilight's look with a serious expression. Twilight fears that she will fail, but Celestia is confident that she will succeed and guarantees Twilight that when she does, she will move on to the next level of her studies. Celestia then gives her one last piece of information: in the end, it must be her, and her alone, that ultimately helps her sister-in-law and brother to do what needs to be done to protect the Crystal Empire. Receiving Twilight's affirmation, Celestia sends her on her way and closes the doors.
Twilight steps out of the castle and sings about how she is not prepared for this mission, despite knowing many spells, facts, and figures. She and her friends take a train to the outskirts of the Crystal Empire and disembark in the middle of a snowy, windy, wasteland. Shining Armor greets them and tells them to make haste because dangerous things are beyond the Empire's borders. King Sombra suddenly manifests as great clouds of black smoke and starts pursuing the ponies. The friends break into a run and Shining Armor stops to confront the cloud. It dodges the beams of magic that the prince shoots at it and plunges straight at him.
The camera cuts to the friends running through a bright blue sphere, finding themselves on a stretch of grassy land before the gateway to the Crystal Empire. Shining Armor enters the safety of the barrier as well, but his horn has been encrusted with small black crystals. He tries to cast a spell, but the crystals impede his magic and he sadly shakes his head at Twilight. The ponies gaze at the city in the distance and Pinkie Pie exclaims, "Sparkleriffic!" As the ponies walk through the deserted streets towards the castle, Rarity is evidently dazzled by the crystalline roads and buildings, but Rainbow Dash is not wowed. Applejack reminds Rarity that they are here to help Twilight, not admire the scenery.
In a room overlooking the Empire, the friends find Princess Cadance slumped on the throne. Her horn is constantly emitting blue magic and she has bags under her eyes. When Twilight greets her, she momentarily loses her fatigue and the old friends sing their secret hoofshake. At that moment, thunder from outside is heard and Cadance's magic flickers. Shining Armor sadly explains that she has barely ate or slept ever since she had to use her magic to spread love and light throughout the Empire to keep Sombra out. Cadance insists she's fine, but her husband sadly tells the ponies that she can't keep the shield up forever. He says that they haven't been able to gather much information about the Crystal Ponies (Rarity is ecstatic at the prospect of Crystal Ponies), what with Cadance protecting the Empire and him patrolling the arctic. Twilight is more than happy to embark on what she calls a "research paper".
Twilight and Spike are next seen standing outside a Crystal Pony's house. The resident, who looks glum and lusterless, says she can't remember anything from the time before King Sombra came to power, nor does she want to remember. She retreats to her house and closes the door. Rainbow Dash, meanwhile, is accosting another citizen, asking her for information on how to protect the empire. She responds in the same listless manner, saying that even though she wants to help, she has no information. Rainbow Dash is frustrated and storms away. Fluttershy is faring no better because she is too embarrassed to interrogate passerbys. Pinkie Pie, who is wearing a black suit and "night vision goggles", surreptitiously descends on a rope to eavesdrop on two Crystal Ponies, but ends up scaring them away. Rarity is engrossed in imagining how beautiful her mane will be if she was a Crystal Pony too, making her interviewees nervous and uncomfortable.
The friends reconvene at the base of the castle. "Fluttershy" stealthily tiptoes up to Twilight and looks around before taking off her "skin" to reveal Pinkie Pie. Pinkie hisses, "My cover has been blown. I repeat, my cover has been blown!" Applejack is the only one who has a lead, namely, something about a library. Once they reach the library, an impressive three floor facility, Twilight is overjoyed at the abundance of books. After getting over her excitement, Twilight asks the librarian where the history books are located. The librarian does not appear to remember where the history texts are located, and says she isn't even sure if she works there. The friends set to work and Twilight finally finds the book they need, History of the Crystal Empire. The camera cuts to Twilight reading a section about a 'Crystal Fair' to Cadance and Shining Armor. According to the book, the Faire was established by the first queen and became the Crystal Ponies' most cherished tradition. The annual Faire was held to restore the spirit of love and unity in the empire so they could protect it from harm. With Shining Armor's encouragement, Twilight takes on the task of setting up a Faire for the ponies with her friends.
In The Ballad of the Crystal Empire, the friends emulate the Crystal Empire's customs in order to "save the Crystal Ponies with their history". According to Twilight's book, the Crystal Ponies liked jousting, flew a colorful flag, made sweets with crystal berries, had a petting zoo with tiny ewes, played crystal "flugelhorns", and had a national anthem. By the song's end, the friends have set up many tents and booths, each featuring a traditional product or event. Twilight also crafts a crystal heart to put at the center of the Faire, following what the book said. With the preparations complete, Twilight announces the beginning of the Faire from a castle balcony.
The Crystal Ponies eagerly walk to the base of the castle where the Faire is located, and one by one, regain their beautiful crystal colors as they partake in the food and games. The same glum pony that Twilight had interviewed earlier tells her friend that she's starting to remember how life was like before the king. They look at each other, cry "The Crystal Heart!" and delightedly smile as they regain their former colors. When they wonder if the Crystal Heart is really present at the Faire, Rainbow Dash assures them that they do: can't have a Crystal Faire without a Crystal Heart, right? The librarian pony overhears them and comments that the light within the Crystal Ponies powers the Crystal Heart, hence protecting the empire; she regains her own color as she remembers that she does work in the library. As Applejack overhears all this and joins Rainbow Dash, the pegasus anxiously asks the librarian what she means by "powering" the Crystal Heart, but the librarian, not knowing that the real Heart is missing, merely says she's glad they found it, considering Sombra said he'd hidden it where nopony could find it. As she walks off for some funnel cake, Applejack and Rainbow Dash exchange a glance of extreme worry as they realize the greater significance of the Crystal Heart; Rainbow immediately takes off as fast as she can, snatches the closest flag and tears back to the castle to cover Twilight's useless carving, which she just happens to be reading besides. When Twilight questions her, Rainbow tells her that they have a problem.
Rainbow Dash and Twilight meet with the royal couple on the balcony, with Twilight exclaiming that she didn't know it was an actual relic; the history book didn't mention anything on that. Upon flipping through the book, she discovers that the last page was ripped out, and berates herself for not noticing earlier. Cadance tells her it's okay, but suddenly faints and gasps for air as the magical shield fades. Black smoke rushes across the perimeter of the Empire, weaving its way to the center where everyone is located. King Sombra's face appears as he viciously growls.