As Narrated By Ron Perlman
It was the second decade of the 21st century when magic began returning to the world. It started off small, minor "mutations" in babies that had them resembling certain races of legends past, stage magicians performing tricks even experts in the profession couldn't explain, a massive upswing in reports of "paranormal" events. This was all largely ignored or suppressed in the media, depending on the country, but not for very long. By 2015 it'd become common knowledge amongst most people that the world was getting weirder in ways science couldn't explain. Five years after that, it was announced by several major universities that "magic" was quite real, verifiable, and that it was on the increase. Amongst certain groups of academics it caused a minor flurry, but it quickly became acknowledged as simply another aspect of nature to study.
By 2025 there was enough hard data covering magic, and a large enough increase in its background levels that it became commercially viable to exploit, and not a moment too soon. Peak Oil was hitting hard and fast, but with the fledgling sciences of Thaumaturgy and Alchemy taking off, it wasn't nearly as much of an issue as it could have been. Within another decade, large portions of the industrial infrastructure supporting society had been transformed, though to most people it was essentially transparent. It didn't much matter whether they filled their car with gasoline or charged it at a Ley Tap, whether they had something shipped via truck or a shunted through the astral plane. As long as they had their entertainment and fast food and air conditioning, it didn't matter how it worked, only that it did.
By 2040 those megacorperations who'd most benefited from the influx of magic were having a problem. There was substantial evidence to indicate that magic was cyclical but irregular, and that within perhaps as little as 20 years it could all be gone again, possibly for thousands of years. More importantly, the increases in the Global Background Count weren't rising fast enough to meet their intended profit margins. Some people would write of conspiracies and Global Agendas by Secret Leaders Of The World. Truth is, greed and profit motive don't need any such organization, or even so much as communication between interested parties. Within a year hundreds of plans were set in motion. They were old plans, ones that had been tried many times before by civilizations lost to time, desperate to save their opulent lifestyles. None of them had ever succeeded.
None of them had been enacted during the upswing of magic though, always done in desperation as the lifeblood of their empires waned, when it was too late to change anything. None of them had been enacted on a global scale, involving everything from astral gates to remote Ley Taps cast deep into the Nevernever, to satellites in orbit siphoning the tiny scraps of aether from the void and transporting them back to Earth. No single one of the new plans was entirely successful, but collectively they did the impossible. They Broke The Cycle. By 2045 there was more magic available than the Earth had ever seen at any one time, and it was still increasing. Profits soared, populations boomed, and no one in a position of any real importance had ever thought to ask if maybe that Cycle had existed for a reason.
It was late 2050 when the first problems started showing up. Temporal glitches with telecommunications, astral delivery services having packages arrive multiple times without being shipped, more and more cases of even magically confirmed "dead" people getting back up and walking around for varying periods of time. It was only the beginning. Reality was breaking down. The natural order of the universe could handle obscene amounts of meddling by arcane forces, provided it always had a period of time to recover and reorient its self without interference. That wasn't happening though, and it would never happen again.
As the years passed, the environment became increasingly unstable. Weather became erratic, ceasing to occur at all without intervention in some places, others would be rocked by constant storms that had no reasonable means to exist. The plates began shifting erratically, the earthquakes that should have come with this happening only occasionally, and even then rarely matching with where the movement was located. Any crops that hadn't been moved to hydro- or aeroponic farming towers seemed to thrive or wilt with little regard for how they were cared for. Unaltered animals seemed to lose many of their basic instincts, or at least the ability to act on them. Those that had been twisted to suit the whims of their creators began further changing, seemingly by their own will in some cases. No longer acting as pets or guards or workers but as thinking beings who had little regard for their creators, they began forming their own societies. Sometimes via mass exodus to an area of land they would try to take for themselves, others outwardly appearing to "know their place" while they waited and plotted for the right opportunity.
Some groups tried to reverse what had been done, but it quickly became clear the world had long passed the point of no return. Even efforts to stabilize things were of little aid, often serving only to make things worse by causing cascading fluctuations in the magic that the world was now stewing in. As the chaos increased, tempers flared, Corporations blamed Governments and rivals, Governments blamed Citizens, Citizens took up arms and spells to protect themselves and to strike back at anyone or anything they thought was responsible, and Mankind's forsaken children tried to either stay out of the crossfire, or play as many sides against the middle as possible.
On October 13th, 2060, the day the Oblivion Wars started and the beginning of the Final Collapse there were 14 billion souls on Earth.
When it was over, when the last of the bombs had fallen and the continents finally stopped shifting, on what would have been recorded as March 3rd, 2061, there were less than twenty thousand humans clinging to life on a broken world.
Many of those that survived did so by pure chance. Those that had the resources to ensure their own survival, the ones rich and powerful enough to make it through nearly anything in comfort had been priority targets of nearly everyone, rivals, subordinates, citizens and favored pets. The pockets of survivors were small and widely scattered, few having any surviving means to contact others. But even so, there was a commonly accepted fact among them. Humanity had it's chance, and they'd blown it.
The Earth, however, would live on in spite of what it had been through. Some animals adapted quite well to this new world, others needed help to get by, help that was often provided by the now masterless creations that had survived.
One such group of former workers had the good fortune to have "adopted" one of the remaining groups of humans. Over time the two groups became more or less inseparable, even as the little ponies thrived while the humans became fewer and fewer.
In time the last few humans living with the ponies, having become rather accomplished magi by necessity and hard experience, gave there little friends the best chance they could in the world, helping them learn to take care of a world that could no longer care of its self. The magi did all they could think of to give the best of themselves, to put the ponies on a path that hopefully wouldn't, couldn't repeat the mistakes of the past. Though it would take them decades of perpetration, they worked fervently to give their little charges one final gift, something that they might live as their own society, without the shadows of their foolish creators looming over them. It was a wholly unremarkable and unrecorded night when an utterly exceptional little foal was born. Several years later, when the Five had recovered enough from the previous ritual, they again pooled their power, to give the brilliantly white filly a little sister.
Having done all that they could, they spent their remaining years teaching the sisters all they could of magic and compassion, of art and science, of the wonders of the slowly healing world and how to protect it and the ponies who looked up to them. As each passed, they left behind their power, tied to both a physical object and one of the virtues they'd done their best to teach the growing fillies, and an unspoken promise of aid should it ever be needed.