League of Discord
Chapter 4: Canterlot Calling
Swain was all-business now, and Twilight Sparkle thought she saw something odd past his curt tones and succinct speech, but she couldn't place it. The thought occurred to her that she might be worrying about it too much. After all, Singed, despite his unnerving demeanor and frightening visage had proven himself to be a friendly conversationalist and a source of ever-precious knowledge. He had even shown her how to craft what he called Health and Mana Potions, a recipe that was apparently elementary in his homeland, but their effects of physical and mental rejuvenation astounded her. No, it'd be the better thing to do if she didn't pass judgment on those she didn't know well.
“Our best guess is that a spike of magical energy coinciding with some unknown event here caused some sort of cross-dimensional rift that the summoning ritual snagged on. Not surprising, given that our Summoners were only recently promoted from Juniors, and summoning magic is closely related to the magics that originally brought the likes of Kayle and Nasus from their worlds to ours.” Swain paused, allowing his two companions to process the information, before continuing. “Twilight Sparkle has informed me that the two ruling entities of this world, the Princesses Celestia and Luna, would probably possess adequate power and resources, as well as a willingness to help, to assist in our goal of returning to our world.”
Everypony in the room listened in rapt attention. Besides the champions and Twilight Sparkle, there were five others in the room. The dragon named Spike was absent, but Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash had gotten themselves involved the session of theory-crafting regarding the trio's predicament. They had also been joined by another pony who, alone among those he had already met, unnerved Swain. The one called Pinkie Pie seemed to be completely insane, but still functional, at least to a degree. This alone wasn't enough to unsettle Swain, as he had seen his fair share of functioning psychotics in his time. What disturbed him was that after what seemed like hours of hearing her random, annoying, and inane suggestions, she had suddenly spouted a perfectly logical guess regarding the possibility of a trans-dimensional rift, from which the rest of their explanation had followed. From what he understood, she was of a variety called Earth Ponies, who didn't have any overt magical ability. How had she so easily grasped a concept that she shouldn't even know about? It was disconcerting, to say the least.
“This brings me to my next point. There might be another team of three in this world who came with us, due to the nature of our occupation. We need to be on the lookout for that possibility as well.” Swain had done his best to give the native ponies a half-knowledge of summoning without revealing its true nature. From what he had learned, this place was practically a utopia, and the thought of even small groups fighting and killing each other several times daily would probably be unexplainable to the primitive white and slightly-darker-white morality that seemed to have fostered in the absence of real conflict. “In the mean time, we will gather what supplies can be spared for us, and make the trip to Equestria's capitol city of Canterlot. We leave the day after tomorrow. We will reconvene in the morning to begin preparations.”
“WAIT! Aren't we...forgetting something?” Swain almost let a frown escape. The pink one looked to be on the verge of a minor mental meltdown as she spoke. “What...is the one thing...that must be done...for EVERY new pony, especially ones who aren't going to be staying long? Heheha...hah...” Singed switched into a slightly more defensive stance. He was far too familiar with insanity to be caught off-guard by a sudden projectile meat cleaver or anything else of that nature.
Swain watched as some sort of psychological bomb dropped in Pinkie's psyche, the explosion lighting up her face as the nature of the beast made itself known. “A super-special Pinkie Pie Premiere Party! Going Away Edition! Tomorrow!” Singed sighed in relief, chuckling slightly as Swain wore an almost unnoticeably dumbfounded look, invisible to all but those who knew anything about him. For his part, the Master Tactician was being slapped in the face by the stark differences between this world and Runeterra, or any other world that Runeterrans had knowledge of. Everything seemed...friendly. Even insanity had lost its edge here. It was almost a pity that he already had plans to attend to back in Noxus, but a man had to have priorities, even if that man had already been deprived of most of his humanity. A split focus is a crushed dream.
Riven mentally flinched at the mention of a party, not enjoying resurfacing memories of drinking with her comrades to a victory well earned. Fortunately for her, the offending flashbacks were interrupted by Rainbow Dash. “So, uh, you're from another world? That kinda explains why you don't know how to fly. Don't worry about the whole thing about your stuff. I know it would have been awkward to explain that it didn't used to be for your wings. Twilight said some sort of long winded and boring explanation about why she thought your stuff changed too, but I wasn't listening. What's your home like?”
It was a surprise left hook to the jaw, or it felt like it as Riven struggled to will her mouth into following orders. “It is...different from here. People work just as hard though, maybe even harder, to achieve their dreams and make something of themselves. Noxus prides itself as a true meritocracy, a place where your works and your place in society are directly related...It even was, at one point, what it thinks it is...I was trying to...fix it...when I joined the League. The contests the League runs have a lot of clout in what goes on in Valoran. I was hoping that by joining I could get enough influence and respect to convince my people to turn back to their older, stronger ways.”
Rainbow Dash looked thoughtful for a moment, and perhaps a bit sad. “Sounds like it was pretty cool. I know what it's like to work for a dream nonstop, and never get anywhere for it. I've been trying to catch the Wonderbolts' attention for years, and I've done some pretty awesome stuff, but nothing seems to work. It must have been great living in a place where everyone was treated according to what they did.”
Riven laughed, one part sincerity and two parts bitterness. “It had its up and downs. Believe me that my world is a lot less...pleasant than yours. You would not enjoy it...but still...It is my home, and I long for the days when Noxus will cast off the chains it has forged for itself, and remember who it truly is, and what honor truly means. I hope you never have to see something you love make itself into less than it was meant to be.”
Rainbow Dash was certainly not tearing up this. She was far too awesome to do something like that, but even still, she wasn't used to thoughts this heavy being laid upon her, in her world of stunt flying and carefree days. “I'm sure one day your home will be everything it was meant to be, Riven... They'll come around with your help, I'm sure of it. Everypony is basically good, after all.” Words fell from Riven's tongue silently, tasting of ashes, at Rainbow Dash's last sentence. The warrior cast a bitter look to a gaunt earth pony a few feet away who was busy readjusting the bottle on his back while talking to Twilight and Applejack about magical fertilizing chemicals.
Of course, the distribution of ponies in the library left Swain, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie to converse among themselves, and Swain found himself grateful for Rarity's presence, even if she reeked of pretension with the obviously affected accent and the shallow focus on fashion. Pretension was a solid quality he could lock onto, something that existed in spades back home, and even if it normally would have disgusted him, he found the flaw oddly comforting. In any case, anything was better than being alone with the ramblings of Pinkie Pie, whose very presence seemed to grade on Swain's sanity. At least Rarity seemed well-cultured, probably as a side effect of wanting to be an elite in what seemed to be a backwater town only notable for a convenient position near many major cities, although that seemed to beg the question, why was a town in such a favorable trading position so small? Swain stopped the train of thought before it ran its course. It was folly to assume economics in this world functioned similarly to Valoran. Reluctantly, he turned his attention back to the others, dropping his previous all-business tones for a gentlecolt's manner of speech. “So, Miss Rarity, you mentioned something about being an Element of Generosity earlier. I was afraid to ask at the time, but now that you know of our origins, I was wondering if I might find out more about your world.”
Rarity nodded sagely. “I would be glad to help you learn about Equestria, and perhaps it is not a coincidence that your question is one so deeply tied to our history, both for our nation, and for our group of six friends.” The unicorn cleared her throat in as daintily a manner as she could muster. “Well, long ago, Equestria was ruled by the Royal Sisters, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna...However, at one point Princess Luna was corrupted by dark magic which fed on her resentment and feelings of under appreciation because of ponies sleeping through the night that she created and ruled over, while Princess Celestia's day was the domain of work, play, joy, and all kinds of activity for ponykind. The dark magic transformed the Princess of the Night into Nightmare Moon, an entity who took Princess Luna's wish for appreciation and turned it into hatred and a wish for eternal night. Princess Celestia was forced to use magic called the Elements of Harmony to combat her sister, but because the magic of the Elements is meant for six, and not one, not even one as powerful as she could use them to cure her sister.”
Rarity paused for dramatic effect, deflating slightly when Swain remained expressionless. “Anyway, a thousand years later, Nightmare Moon freed herself from her prison in the moon that Princess Celestia banished her to. During the attempted coup, our group of friends, led by Twilight, tracked down the Elements of Harmony in the Everfree Forest, at the ruins of the old Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters. At least that's what we originally thought. During the final confrontation with Nightmare Moon at the castle, the Elements were seemingly destroyed, but Twilight figured out that apparently the magic of the Elements were innate in those who embodied the traits described by each of the six Elements. With that knowledge, she led us in harnessing the Elements and purifying Nightmare Moon in the Rainbow of Light, reverting her to Princess Luna. Anyway, as its bearer, I am sometimes referred to as the Element of Generosity. Twilight is Magic, Applejack is Honesty, Rainbow Dash is Loyalty, Pinkie Pie is Laughter, and our friend Fluttershy, who couldn't be here due to other obligations, is Kindness.”
Swain was mildly disappointed upon learning the Elements were innate, and not something he could bring back and harness for his own uses, but his attention didn't waver. “So your princesses are directly responsible for the maintenance of day and night? They must be very powerful.”
“Oh, yeah! They raise the sun and moon! Doesn't it work the same way on Runeterra?” Pinkie Pie suddenly made a lot more sense to Swain when identified as the Element of Laughter, though he still found her grating.
“No, actually. On Runeterra, the celestial bodies maintain themselves, and the environment and weather operates naturally.” The general was slightly amused by the look of astonishment on the baffled ponies.
“Ugh..just like the Everfree Forest...If your world is anything like that dreadful place, I pity you, Mister Swain.” Rarity looked discomforted by the concept of a world where the weather ran itself and nature ran wild.
Swain raised an eyebrow. “Really? What's so bad about this Everfree Forest?”
- - - -
Ezreal ducked as another one of the huge, wolf-like creatures jumped at him. “Still think we shouldn't kill 'em, Nasus?” Ezreal's tone was slightly deadpanned.
A sickening crunch served as a complement to the massive stallion's response as one of the creatures went unmoving beneath his hoof. “This is the third pack that has attacked us since we crossed the river. I believe their numbers are large enough to risk thinning them some.”
A bolt of white-hot arcane energy sparked from Ezreal's horn as the gem embedded in a bracer on his right foreleg flared. Ezreal smirked in satisfaction as a yelp signaled his hit. “You're not very good at sarcasm, are you, big guy?”
“Shut up and concentrate on driving these pests away,” Ryze growled, magic crackling around him as he summoned a disc of magical energy that bounced between their assailants, leaving electrical burns where it made contact. “If these things are anything like wolves back on Runeterra, killing the biggest one might scare the rest off, after the casualties we've already inflicted.”
Nasus nodded, and searched the battlefield for his target. After a few seconds, his quarry made itself known, diving at Nasus with tooth and claw bared. Nasus rolled with the assault,doing his best to keep his vital areas intact. He grunted in annoyance as he felt a familiar warmth dripping from a new wound running across his side. With a savage growl, he searched within himself for the familiar energy, a ghastly shimmer surrounding his hooves. The creature died the moment Nasus made contact, who withdrew his hoof as a faint, ghostly visage of the pack's leader was torn from the now lifeless husk. As the misty apparition dispersed itself, it was absorbed into Nasus. The long gash previously on his side was nowhere to be found.
The ploy had worked. The pack, deprived of its leadership and already heavily wounded, retreated. Ezreal shuddered, and looked at Nasus. “Was now really the time for a snack? Besides, it's creepy when you do that.”
Red orbs shifted their gaze to the young mage. “Am I to apologize for what I am? It has been some time since I have had any real nourishment, and it takes more than just two nearby sentients to sustain myself without directly feeding. In your new forms, you can at least feed on the plant life here, but your core nature is unchanged, magically and spiritually. The changes are merely superficial. The same applies to me, and I am unable to sustain myself in the same manner you are.”
Ryze scowled at Ezreal's show of ignorance. “I still wish you'd tell me more about your species. Research into your kind and the magic involved in your existence would be a huge breakthrough in almost every field.”
“From what I've heard of your race, and the so-called Rune Wars, you'd all be dead the moment the secrets of my kind were made known. Even we have to work hard not to abuse the nature of what we are. Consuming the life essence of another being is not something to be taken lightly. If we could nourish ourselves in the manner of humanity, we would.”
The magical scholar nodded. “I suppose you're right. I imagine a war involving soul eaters would be worse than the Rune Wars themselves.”
The Curator of the Sands looked away from Ryze, eyes dimming slightly. “You have no idea.”
The silence continued for several moments before Ezreal thought to speak. “We should keep moving. I'm seeing a little more light than before, so I think the forest is getting less dense. Maybe there's something more to this place than endless forest and hostile creatures.”
- - - -
Dear Princess Celestia,
It turns out those strange ponies I met yesterday are actually from a different world. Our best theory is that a type of magic they use on their world that was previously used to transport entities across dimensions might have somehow snagged due to a surge in magic here. My personal theory is that it's related to the second use of the Rainbow of Light during the Discord incident. I would like to send these ponies to Canterlot. I believe that with their assistance in understanding more about their 'summoning' magic, the minds at the University of Canterlot can help speed these ponies on their way home. It pains me to think of ever being separated from Equestria for any extended length of time with no way home, so I can only imagine how these ponies feel.
Their leader, a pony who calls himself Jericho Swain, has stated that there might be three others from his world as well that we should be on the lookout for.
On a more positive note, I'm sending with this letter the recipe for two concoctions the one called Singed has shown me that can restore mental and physical condition. He brings back fond memories of Zecora and our first meetings with that kind zebra. Due to his admittedly intimidating appearance, I was wont to pass judgment on him, but he has proven to be a font of knowledge both chemical and alchemical. I've already learned much from him. He's truly a genius, I think. It's a shame we won't have time to learn more from him. Either way, my dealings with him seem like another triumph of the magic of friendship.
I worry for the one called Riven, though. I suspect that she has recently been through an ordeal more traumatic than the one she currently finds herself experiencing. She seems uncomfortable around her fellows and I've heard her speak in melancholy tones to my friend Rainbow Dash regarding her homeland, a place which Swain originates as well, called Noxus. From what I've found out, it is some sort of meritocracy where ability is prized above all else. It seems a bit cold and impersonal to me, but both Swain and Riven seem fiercely loyal in their own ways to it, and they seem like nice enough ponies, and it's not my place to judge. I think I'm rambling a bit though.
These past few days have been pretty exciting, though I miss Spike already. I hope he returns swiftly from helping Fluttershy with her trip to the Hoofington Veterinary Clinic. He has been gone but a day, and I already find myself missing his assistance and company. Anyway, I look forward to your correspondence as always.
Your Faithful Student,