The next few weeks as summer in Equestria faded into autumn saw a lot of change.

The people of Equestria began to slowly shift back into routine, repairing the damages done by the Ghost Army of the strange entity that would later be named after its serpentine appearance. For the most part, the damages to property were felt most devastatingly in Manehattan, Canterlot and Ponyville. Twilight Sparkle would spend another few days in the hospital before making a full recovery (albeit with a few stitches). Her brother, Shining Armour, managed to escape being crushed under rubble relatively unscathed, aside from a sprained ankle that would take only a week or so to heal.

The Masters' threat was ended, at least for now. For about another month or so, there would be the hovering paranoia that they might return, but since nothing resurfaced, it was taken as a solved problem. The so-called 'Ghost Army' was defeated and their morale crushed, as the remainder of their forces that were now trapped in Equestria went into full retreat. Currently, they are estimated to number approximately 75, with an additional 33 captured or destroyed by Equestrian forces.

What little the Equestrians know about Humans, the Masters, and the mysterious magic-negating metal observed during the Siege of Canterlot was recorded for posterity. After reports of small comets falling from the sky from the direction of the collapsing portal, Celestia recruited troops to find and return the shards of metal for research and safekeeping. So far, only one shard has been recovered.

Celestia personally declared James Alistair an outlaw the morning after the portal collapsed, on charges of war crimes, murder, treason, and petty theft among others. While he was initially presumed dead, an Equestrian soldier by the name of Thundershield announced that he had escaped from the site of the blast after murdering his commander, Night Iron. A reward of 1000 bits was posted for any information leading to his capture; within the following week, this reward was raised to 1200 bits.

Feather Wind would eventually retire from service, leaving his student Dusk Helm in charge of overseeing aid response in Ponyville.

A sweep of the blast site was conducted in order to search for the general of the Ghost Army, the Thrall. No traces of him were found and the search was later abandoned.

In the wake of Night Iron's military burial, Thundershield approached Princess Celestia in the hopes of raising a force that would potentially search for and capture Alistair. While initially believing that a reward for his capture was enough, Celestia was eventually convinced and allowed Night Iron's unit, now under the command of Thundershield, to hunt Alistair down on the condition that he be returned alive if possible to stand trial. Shortly afterward, an Equestrian private in this unit requested a transfer.

Currently, James Alistair is still at large. His whereabouts are unknown.

The home Lyra owned was snug, especially for someone of his size, but it had a homely charm to it that made him feel comfortable.

James sat in a small chair, a bottle of warm cider in his lap. He had taken a liking to the drink already; if he hadn't learned from his mistakes, he would be stealing more from Sweet Apple Acres right now. He raised it up to his mouth and drank some more. Across from him sat Bon Bon and Lyra, who sat similarly to him; whether this was a habit of hers or her attempt at emulating him, James didn't care to ask.

"Boy, gemstone-butt was right," James began.

"Rarity," Lyra quickly corrected.

"Rarity was right," James repeated, "this would taste much better than prison food. Thanks for the satchel of food, by the way."

"So," Bon Bon asked, "What have you been up to recently?"

"Not much," James replied. "I built a small shelter in the Everfree; it's not much, but it'll suffice for now. I can't explain it, it's just… I feel comfortable there."

Lyra spoke up. "You're not worried about the monsters out there?"

James shot her a smile. "Faced worse."

"So… what happens now?"

There was a pause.

"Well," James began. "I can't stay here forever. I'm thinking in the next few weeks I'll head out south, towards Appleloosa. I'm… starting to set a schedule up, pathways in my mind. Where I intend to go next."

"You can't just stay in the Everfree?" Bon Bon questioned.

"Too dangerous, even there," James shook his head. "The Royal Guard is getting closer to finding me every day. They'll eventually run the risk and come looking for me there, too. So I thought it best to disappear every so often, move on to some other place. Can't hit a moving target and all that, y'know? Besides, I've, uh, got work to do."

"Work," Bon Bon repeated.

James's expression faded. "Yeah. There have been reports that the Equestrians have found… a metal… near Cloudsdale."

Lyra leaned in. "What kind of metal?"

James hesitated. "I can trust you?"

"Jim. You know you can."

James let the suspension build a bit before continuing. "What you two see here. What I've got with me? None of it leaves this room. Promise me now, both of you."

The two of them promised. James reached behind the chair he was sitting in and brought out the Black Sword. Resting it in front of him, James looked at the both of them. "Try and lift it," he challenged them. "Telekinetically, of course."

Lyra concentrated as hard as she could. "I… can't," she replied.

James quickly hid the sword again. "The same metal that makes up this sword is in pieces out there. I intend to find them all."

"And then what?"

"Destroy them. But if not destroy them, then lock them away, as far from each other as possible. Celestia intends to gather them up, research what exactly gives them their properties. That's not a good idea; it'll just give them, those soldiers you guys fought, an opportunity to swipe them all at once and start this mess up all over again."

"So… so you don't think that this is over?" Bon Bon asked.

The room was silent for a long time. Finally, James answered honestly.

"No," he said. "I don't. I think that this enemy of ours will stop at nothing to get back here; he's angry, and now we've made it personal for him. We'd be idiots thinking that he wasn't planning something else."

"Jim," Lyra asked, "where'd you get that sword, anyhow?"

James paused. "An… acquaintance," he replied.

Bon Bon rose from her seat. "Well," she said finally, "I think I've had enough friendly conversation tonight. I should head home, before it gets too late."

"Right," James replied, downing the last of his cider in one draught. "I should vanish too, before someone catches wind that I'm here."

And so the three bid one another good night, and Bon Bon left for her house. James strode to the back door of Lyra's home and began to lace up his boots.

"Are you going to be able to come visit us?" Lyra asked.

"Well, apparently outlaws have a very tight schedule," James answered. "It won't be any time soon, nor will it be often, but I'll try and manage to show up here whenever I pass through these parts." He grabbed his jacket, slipped it on, and did it up, as the fall was bringing colder weather.

"Well… I guess I'll see you," Lyra said to him.

"Yeah…" James replied half-heartedly. The two stared at one another for a moment.

"Listen," James said suddenly. "You realize that you and Bon Bon are my only friends here, right?"

"Y-yeah," Lyra replied.

James nodded. "Friends. I wish I was here to help you fight off that invasion force."

Lyra stopped him. "There was nothing you could've done. Besides, I'm sorry you weren't able to get back home."

"Hey, don't worry about it. As far as I'm concerned, until further notice… this is home now." James tightened up the satchel of food Lyra had given him, and tucked his sword into his belt as he currently lacked a sheath for it.

"Good luck," Lyra told him.

James looked back. "Likewise. Stay out there, yeah?"

Lyra smiled. "Likewise."

With that, James turned and exited the house. Making his way through Lyra's back yard, over the fence and towards the forest, James thought about what had happened in the month or so he'd been here. He had set out for answers, and in the process became a notorious criminal. But, hey, he won a war and stopped a world from getting completely obliterated, so things kind of evened out. He still had no answers, and little idea where he had to go, but, at least now he had a goal. And while the means to achieving that goal wouldn't always be legal, he'd take the risk. There would be rough patches in his future. There'd be fights, and trials, narrow escapes and no small amount of awesome stories. This was far from the end of his adventures.

Turning back towards Lyra's house one last time, James turned and strode into the Everfree. The moon was high up in the sky, and his next stop was Appleloosa. But first, a short rest at his shelter.

He had a ways to go, after all.