The Steadfast Sky : Chapter 19
The Grey Potter
Sooooo… that thing wasn’t on my neck. My legs were jammed into it, and it sort’ve… wrapped around. I kind’ve think this would hurt, being all trussed up, if my brain said hello to me. Hello brain! Helloooooo! Your legs are gone, and your stomach’s been scooped out with a shovel trowel! But you know that already, right?! Helllooooo!
I laughed, numb lungs heaving. On my side, my face was pressed on these cold cobblestones, except, it couldn’t go all the way, because I guess my pronged horn curved a little sideways…? And the prongs were scraping in the stone? I pressed my face, and felt my horn shift in my skull, so, so very slightly. It felt very strange! And somehow… that was funny?
I laughed again, prongs scrapity scrape scraping! Who friggin cares? Oh life, we’re all going to die. Bwahahaha!
“He’s not quite ready yet, Applebark. It’s only been fifteen minutes since we transferred the lasso to his legs.” It was a voice, and it came from the other side of a door. Plaaaain old normal door. Also, cobblestone. Cobblestone room, just like back in the Canterbury place, except not black and soulless. There was a torch and everything! Fwoosh!
“Ooh, Applebark!” I shouted to nothing, “That like… red bark, from a tree? Or a puppy that tastes like an apple? Yip yap crunch crunch! Oh…! Oh, that’s not funny…” I wheezed. “I need some… some brain…scrubber stuff, I don’t feel like eating ever anymore.”
“It’s aware enough.”
The plain old normal door swung open, silent and guttering the torch in its door opening windy thing. A pale purple pony walked so over to me, sort’ve a unicorn mare, I guess? Wearing a fancy-dancy red cloak? Ooh! But most importantly:
“You’re fat!” I squealed, giggling with a fury!
“Creature,” Fatty said. “You will answer our questions to the best of your ability.”
“Well what if I DON’T!?”
“Then we throw you in a cage with our most deadly beasts, because I don’t wish to deal with liars.” Fatty responded to my bold rebellion with the most serious of faces, voice still as a, a still kind’ve thing. I puffed and pouted, breath escaping me way, way too fast.
“Aw! Aw geez!” I gasped, “I didn’t think ponies could be cruel!”
“Answer me truthfully, and you can keep pretending that.”
“You’re horrible, lady!” I tried to wave a hand at her and, OH WAIT, bound legs! “Horrible!”
“Now,” she snapped, “What exactly are you?”
She was silent. I was silent. Also grinning until it made my face hurt. She turned away from me, looking back at the guard guarding the guardlying guard… hee!
“Toss him with the chimera then,” she said flatly, “We’ll see if he can call on their clearly shared kinship ties.”
“GEEZ! That was like, a trick question! No matter what I answer, I die!” I looked down at the fat sack of who-knows-what around my legs, working my jaw. “Dying… auuugh, don’t you know how scary death is Miss Fatty?”
“You think I’d hurt you for telling the truth, creature?” she asked me, face still a serious ball ‘o serious.
“Um, yes. Duh.” I just rooooollled my eyes, “But just that one question. Ask me something else.”
She refused with her silent, staring eyes. Did she break? Did I crush her will already? Was she going to—
“What abilities do you possess?”
“Abilities?” I wheezed, “Like… I can fly. I can make illusions appear.” I took the deepest breath, actually collecting air in my lungs. Funny how hard that had suddenly become! “And before you get all uppity, ‘oh no, what if the scary draco… creature thing is tricking me into believing a thing,’” Exhale! Inhale! “I can’t do it right now.” I numbly rubbed my fingers all over each other, feeling all dull and magical-less as my toes. “Honest enough for you lady? Admitting I’m powerless?”
“What is your name?” Apparently it was good enough! Huzzah!
“What is one plus one?”
Now it was my turn to stare blankly up and the blankest blank pony.
“Whaaaaaa?” I slurred.
“I need to determine your level of intelligence,” she stated, “So please, answer the question, Discord.”
“But what if I didn’t know math? I could be the smartest colt ever, (breath here!) But if I was never taught math…”
“If you were taught math, answer my question. What is one plus one?”
“Two, stupid,” I replied, squinting at the dumbest interrogation question ever.
“What is three times four?”
“Well that’s uh…” I flopped my head down, staring at all of the cobbling stone. Math. Maaaath, brain. Do some math. “Four… plus four again…” I wiggled my numb fingers, trying to keep track of all the numbers involved. “So, twwwweeeeeelve?”
“Nineteen times eleven.”
“Bwah?!” My head snapped up again, horn doing its skull-bending thing. Double checking, yep, Fatty’s still standing in the same place staring down at me like I’m absolutely nothing ever. “I can’t do that in my head!”
“What is your purpose here in Stringhalt?” Not going to say anything about that math stuff, let’s just rattle off some questions at lightning speed! BZAP!
“Heck if I know!” I shouted. “It was a big city, so we all headed towards it.” I’m getting really sick of having to catch my breath after a few sentences! “Because Tia was like, ooh, we need to go a place. So…”
“A pony I was travelling with!” I rasped, “What, didn’t you get her?”
“Yes, we caught your unicorn companion.”
“Well that’s a frank answer! Ask her what the stupid we’re doing in stupidville.” Wait… if I’m caught… and we’re all caught… what if they turn us all in to the griffins? Are we going to be sent back to Canterbury? Aw no, all bits no… I’m already having trouble breathing, I don’t need a panic attack on top of it!
Ignorant or perhaps silently enjoying my display (I bet she was!), she floated a piece of paper in front of my face.
“Do you understand what’s written here?” she asked.
“Again! What does this have to do with my intelligence?!” I shouted, “I could list off pointless crap facts for you, does that mean I’m smart?! How about an anatomy lesson?” I wriggled my hands, STILL BOUND, but screwed that in a second. I shook my shoulder. “That’s the chuck, then this is the brisket, and the shank… Femur, tumor…” I hacked up a laugh “Oh wait!”
“That’s enough, Discord.” I should’ve shouted ‘no it’s not!’ right about then, but I got a little bit distracted by magic stuff happening. For, all of a sudden, hovering above my head was my Element, held by a pinkish aura. I gaped at it as Fatty continued. “Where did you get this necklace?”
“It’s mine if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Did you purchase it?”
“No, I found it.”
“Found it where?”
“Lady! Lady?!” Again, I struggled to keep my gaze upward, prongs scraping and digging into the ground. “Is it really this hard to believe that a talking pony mashup guy (gasp!) could have something nice? You know… oh, what was the name of that town?” I squinted my whole face, trying to recall the name of that one place that we were. “Rearing Town!” I declared, “I was outside of it by like, a few miles, and I found it.”
“And you made no attempt to find its true owner?”
“I wasn’t even near a road! That thing was lost!”
The necklace was hovered away under her enormous cloak. Sweet! Did that mean she believed me? Wait, not sweet! She isn’t giving it back either!
“Can I have it back now?” I asked as politely as I could manage.
“Aw! AW, but it’s mine!” And then, the flash of INSPIRING. I wriggled against my bonds, eager! “Here, drop it, drop it on me, I can make it react! Wait…” Did it work like that? Um… “Yes! Yep, I can make it glitter and stuff, and no one else can.” I grinned. “It likes me.”
“It’s a… a friendship bracelet!” Friendship bracelet! I heaved with laughter, practically rolling sideways. I whipped my head forward, and—CLICK went the jaw.
“OW! Oh, geez, what did you do to me?!” I yowled, heaving. “You, you kicked me in the jaw! Monster! Monster pony!”
“I did no such thing.”
“Oh. Must’ve hit the floor then. Yeesh!” I wanted to rub the severely bruising bruise but… I’m really, really not getting that my hands are completely and totally 100% unavailable. Also, the door shut, and my interrogator had left the building. “Hey. Hey Applebaaaark yooo hoooo! Did you leave me? Hello? You’re… YOU’RE FAT! … Yeah, she’s gone. … Owwww…”
I sat quietly for a moment, feeling my jaw lightly throb, gut still wrenching and empty. Pain, or maybe just long and boring time, eased me back to my reality. She didn’t realize I was a Draconequus… A small relief, but this was still bad, very, very bad. Would they still report me to the Shadow Stallion? What else would the Stringhalt ponies do? The more I thought about it, I became convinced that there was no other way they’d react to a weird creature in their midst. Other than just… well… yeah, not thinking about other options.
Ruin’s words echoed around my head, the same words that had been creeping about ever since we met Flea. They will find you, and then they’ll make sure you’ll never leave again. So, they won’t kill me but… In that place, back with the Draconequus…
I shivered, throbbing fang a long distance memory. Abuse, neglect, regarded as useless, a pest to be squashed… How long would I last there, with all I’ve gained out here? With my new appreciation for freedom, with how much I care about ponies as friends… I’d rather be dead than lose all of that, just go back to my old life…
Yeah, I just thought that. The Stringhalt ponies could just kill me outright. Though… I don’t like the sound of that either. Yeesh, I’m starting to scare myself. What in Equestria is going to happen to me? Or to Celestia and Luna?
I’ve just been moping all this time about myself! At least my friends look normal, and will probably be treated as normal. Would they go to… jail, or something? The ponies wouldn’t do anything too cruel to them, I’m sure. Despite what Applebark said, about ponies being capable of some pretty twisted things.
And then, the door opened, and Applebark was back above me, placid as ever.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly, “You’re not really that fat.” Bulgy around the middle, legs a little thick, but not anything that deserved how much I insulted her.
“Sobered up, have you?” she asked.
“Um… yeah, I guess so.”
“If we’ve properly assessed your intelligence, then you are at least a fully capable being, and thus, you will be treated as such.”
“Um… okay! Alright!” That was good news! I wasn’t just a creature now, I was a being! “So… can I have this bag taken off my legs?” I asked, hopeful.
“I only said we would treat you as an able mind. You’re still our prisoner, and will remain shackled.”
“Oh. So… how do I stop being that?”
“I have a few more questions for you, then you will be detained until it is decided what it is we wish to do with you. Since you have acted as accomplice in vandalism and unlawfully entered the city, you may be imprisoned or otherwise made to participate in some community service.”
Well… this is still coming up positive! Imprisonment? Community service? That was practically a relief in comparison to being sent back to Canterbury!
“And my friends?” I asked eagerly.
“Currently outside of my jurisdiction.”
“What? But can’t you—“
“However,” she interrupted, dismissing my question with a wave of her hoof. “I do have a few questions for you concerning your companions.” I stared up at Applebark, wondering if I was still dizzied up.
“Really?” I asked.
“How has a creature such as you come to travelling with them?”
“Um… well… the start’s a little complicated…” Breaking in with intent to kidnap might be a little blunt to admit. “But I started visiting them oh… well over a month ago now. We’d play games and stuff—“
“Is it really that important?” I huffed.
“That’s for me to decide.”
I rolled my eyes, but okay, I’ll go with this. “Stuff like make believe. Then my friends got in trouble—“
“Yeah, some dipwad was supposed to be managing Tia’s property, but he made her responsible for taxes, when she hadn’t seen a single bit in months. That kind of trouble. I had to help her, her and Luna… So… we all ran away together. And then we wandered here, somehow. That was um… maybe two weeks ago? Less than that? I haven’t really been keeping track.”
“Describe for me your friends’ composure and behavior.”
“Seriously, what are you trying to determine here?” I cried, half laughing. She didn’t reply. “They’re good friends, good ponies! Luna was only trying to protect Tia when she broke those windows. She honestly didn’t mean to damage the shops, I’m sure!”
“Please answer my question, Discord.”
“Haven’t I already? No? Well…Tia’s orderly, always convinced she’s right, but she cares about me and her sister.” I smiled. “But Luna’s really cheerful and playful, and she can take everything in stride. Just like… the first time she saw me, she thought I was a pony!” I laughed, surprised at how easy it was to breathe now. “Weird huh? Just gives the benefit of the doubt, just like that! Please…” I look up at Applebark, wondering why in Equestria there was a sudden plead to my voice. “She’s little. So don’t be too harsh on her, okay?”
Applebark looked down at me for a long time, still and silent. I’m not sure any pony could actually remain in one place for so long, I know I couldn’t.
“Um,” I finally muttered, “Should I say more or…?”
She turned away, popping open the door and speaking with the guard.
“Put him with Cleo and Sheen for now. Keep his feet bound.”