At first Twilight thought she had misunderstood what Princess Luna had said. She flicked her ears back and forth before asking, “Did you say, Discord?”
“Indeed,” Luna replied, her teeth clenched. “We have been tutored by the finest teachers of Equestria. We are able to determine from what creature any feather, any tuft of fur, or any scale came from. And this,” She hovered the scale before Twilight’s very eyes. “Is a scale from a draconequus.” Her upper lip curled into an ugly sneer. “The only draconequus that I know of is none other than Discord himself.”
“How can that be possible?” Twilight gasped. “We defeated him. I saw him turn to stone with my very own eyes.”
“It is as you say. Celestia informed me of the situation and I witnessed the guards bring Discord’s statue to the palace gardens for safe keeping.” She frowned. “Come. Let us attend to the garden. We must get to the bottom of this.”
“Yes, Princess.” Twilight followed Princess Luna as she left her throne room. The guards who had escorted Twilight to the throne room tried to step in line with the Princess but Luna wouldn’t have it. She dismissed them, sending the guards back to their posts outside her doors to her throne. Twilight noticed that this was the second time she refused the guards’ assistance. Was it because she did not trust the royal guards or was it because Princess Luna preferred to work alone? Considering her headstrong personality, Twilight went with the latter.
She found her mind wandering as they traversed through the palace towards the royal gardens where the hedgemaze was kept. Was it at all possible for Discord to break free from his prison after such a short period of time? It took him over a thousand years to escape after being sealed up by both Luna and Celestia. Did this mean that Twilight and her friends didn’t have what it takes to be guardians of the Elements of Harmony?
She thought back to all the ponies she saw in Celestia’s photo album. Had any of them faced enemies such as Discord or Nightmare Moon? Did they live in peaceful times or times of war? How many of them were able to remain friends until the very end and how many of them just went about their own lives until they finally lost touch with one another? Were any of them weaker or stronger or were they all evenly matched in terms of strength and courage?
Then there was Celestia herself. As much as Twilight wanted too, she could never really call herself Celestia’s friend. They were teacher and student. Still, she held onto the belief that Celestia enjoyed Twilight’s company and looked forward to her reports. Now that Twilight witnessed that Celestia had shared this kind of relationship with others over the centuries, Twilight began to wonder how many of those special ponies did Celestia outlive? The answer was obvious, of course, but that didn’t make it any easier to accept. Celestia had witnessed her pupils come and go; starting off as little fillies and growing up to be old, wrinkled mares and stallions.
For the first time since meeting the Princess, Twilight came to understand just how lonely Celestia’s life must have been. This made the search for Celestia that much more important – to let the Princess known that she did have ponies who cared and worried about her. Hopefully that would bring some joy to Celestia’s heart.
“Twilight Sparkle?” Luna’s voice cut through Twilight’s thoughts like a knife. Twilight blinked out of her stupor to find herself standing in the middle of the palace gardens. It was here where Fluttershy had spent the Grand Galloping Gala and Twilight could understand why. The flowers were simply the most beautiful she had ever seen, the towering trees loomed over them, and every where she looked she saw animals scampering about. It was breathtaking.
The beauty didn’t extend throughout the entire garden, however. As Luna led Twilight towards the garden’s center, Twilight noticed that the grass was losing its luster. The branches overhead were without leaves and their bark had gone from brown to a ashen gray. The sounds of happy little critters vanished, leaving Twilight and Luna in a world of silence. Twilight didn’t understand exactly what was going on until she laid witness to a horribly familiar sight. Set in the center of the garden, his eyes wide and mouth agape in horror, was Discord’s statue. Twilight couldn’t help but feel angry as she gazed upon the draconequus. He had not only drowned Ponyville in a sea of chaos, but he had come very close to destroying Twilight’s friendships. He was a manipulative monster who found pleasure in other people’s discomfort. She honestly, without a shadow of a doubt, disliked this creature with every fiber of her being.
“Is this the same statue?” Twilight asked.
“It is. Can you not feel the energy radiating off of it? Look all around you, Twilight Sparkle. See how the garden dares not approach?”
Twilight took a couple of steps towards Discord’s statue then stopped. The air around it was as frigid as ice. Twilight shuddered at the sensation then quickly backed away from the statue. “Has it always been like this?”
“When we first defeated Discord, it was not in battle, but an attack from behind. We did not wish to risk angering him for he had already taken over the kingdom. In an instant, he could destroy everyone we held dear. So, during one of his jubilations, Celestia and I used the Elements of Harmony to vanquish him. If you were to see the original statue, Twilight, you would have noticed that his expression was that of laughter and amusement, unlike this one where he is shocked and afraid. It was a cowardly way to defeat Discord, but Celestia insisted upon it.”
“Is Discord really that powerful?” Twilight asked. “I am not saying that it was easy to defeat him – quite the opposite in fact for he almost beat us – but when it came down to it, he didn’t put up much of a fight.”
“That is because Discord is not a fighter, Twilight Sparkle. He is a manipulator, a deceiver. He prefers to turn ponies against one another instead of fighting his own battles.” She narrowed her eyes. “But do not let this deceive you for he is quite strong. His greatest weapon is his ability to act nonchalant. He can get anypony to drop their guard and when that happens, it is all over.”
“I know,” Twilight glared daggers at the statue. “He turned all my friends against each other. He twisted our personalities, made us feel things that weren’t true. It was horrible.”
“That is what he does.” She agreed. “But the question remains. How could his scale be in my sister’s room if he remains incased in stone?”
“Could this statue be a fake?” Twilight inquired. “Could he have broken free and created another statue to take his place?”
Luna frowned at the thought. “It is possible. He has escaped once but that was due to the fact that Celestia and I no longer held the Elements. Now that you and your friends are guardians, he should be kept at bay for quite some time.”
“Which brings us back to the question: How did his scale get in Celestia’ room if he is still imprisoned?”
Luna’s frown deepened. “As much as we hate to admit it, we have no idea. The only logical conclusion that we can come up with is that Celestia had taken the scale from Discord those many years ago and kept it. However, that being very unlikely, we are at a loss.”
It took a moment for Twilight to process exactly what Luna was saying. She had slipped into her royal use of the word “WE” instead of “I” which just goes to show that she is under a lot of stress. Twilight frowned in thought. “It’s getting to the point where I almost want to ask Discord what exactly is going on.” Twilight snorted.
Luna blinked. “Yes. Yes! I can see why my sister has put so much faith in your wisdom, Twilight Sparkle. We shall simply march right up to that fiend and demand the answers ourselves!”
Twilight looked up at the Princess as if Luna had suddenly sprouted a second horn. “Princess? Are you suggesting that we free Discord just so that we could talk to him?”
“Not at all.” Luna motioned for Twilight to follow her as she exited the garden. “That would be most foolish. You see, Twilight Sparkle, that statue contains the physical form of Discord. His spiritual form resides in another prison – one of my sister’s creations. You see, because of his ability to alter reality, Celestia needed a way to ensure that he could never use his power to break free of his stony prison. So she created a room that is separate from our reality. It is in this room where Discord’s spirit resides.”
Twilight’s jaw fell. If what Luna was saying was true (and she had no reason to doubt the Princess’s words), then that means that Celestia’s power was truly more formidable than Twilight had originally thought. Raising the sun pales in comparison to creating an alternate reality for the sole purpose of imprisoning a lunatic. “Is it possible for us to visit this room?”
Luna nodded. The returned to the palace but this time they headed down into the lower levels. The walls were damp with moisture and the only light they had came from torches. “Princess?” Twilight asked. “What do you keep down here?”
“In the old times we would keep prisoners down here; ponies who would commit heinous acts against their fellows. Since then, however, we have come up with more suitable ways of handling such criminals so we ended up converting the dungeons into an archive. Many of Equestria’s ancient relics and scrolls reside down here. The only ones who are allowed to traverse these stairs are my sister and I. You should feel honored for you are the first pony in over five hundred years to visit.”
“I am honored,” Twilight admitted. “I just wish that this was under better circumstances. I would love to explore the archives once this is all over with.”
“We shall see.” The two of them stopped at the end of the spiral staircase. A long stone hall stretched out before them with a hall to the right, and one to the left. The left led to another spiral staircase though this one was without torches. It was nothing more than a dark, dank tunnel from which a chilly breeze rose. Twilight shivered but Luna paid the chill no mind. She summoned a bright blue light from the tip of her horn and began to walk down the stairs. Twilight summoned a light of her own – a faint purple – and followed.
Minutes passed as the two continued down the stairs. Several times Twilight wanted to start a conversation with Luna, wanting to help combat the terrible sense of dread that was rising within her stomach. She didn’t so much like the dark and combine that with the fact that they were in a very close-confined space was enough to make her feel anxious. She was about to say something when they came to a large chamber at the bottom of the stairs. In the back of the chamber were two massive steel doors. They were covered in dozens of etchings and symbols along with diamonds, rubies, obsidian, and onyx. Each stone contained within it a faint glow. Twilight could feel the sheer power radiating off the doors. It was enough to make her gasp.
“Here we are,” Luna said. “The Chamber of Binding.” She approached the doors. “Behind these doors lies none other than Discord himself.” She looked over her shoulder to Twilight. “Are you ready?”
Twilight felt as if her heart was about to burst from her chest but she nodded anyways. “I am.”
Luna closed her eyes in concentration. A bright purple and blue light arose from the tip of her horn before shooting out towards the doors. When the light struck the doors, they began to tremble and shake. The floor beneath Twilight vanished, turning into shadows as did the walls. Twilight bit back a cry of fear as she and Luna were bathed in a world of darkness. She could no longer see the doors, nor the staircase behind them, or the chamber that they had been standing within. It was as if they were standing in the middle of space without the stars or moons.
“P-Princess.” Twilight started but Luna silenced her with a glance. “Stand your ground, Twilight Sparkle, for we are not alone.”
Twilight’s heart leapt into her throat. It was as Luna had said – she could feel a powerful presence in the chamber, a presence that was both foreboding and familiar.
“Why if it isn’t Princess Luna,” an all-too-familiar voice echoed out from all around them. “How long has it been? A thousand years? Two thousand? Tell me, Princess, did you enjoy your trip to the moon? Did you bring me any presents or were you too busy wallowing in your own self-pity to think of fetching souvenirs for your dearest of friends?”
Luna’s lips curled back to expose her clenched teeth but she didn’t respond.
“And who is that with you?” Twilight felt an icy touch roll across her shoulders. “Twilight Sparkle? How delightful! You know, I haven’t been able to keep you out of my mind since our last meeting. How you looked before blasting me with that rainbow ray? Splendid!”
“Show yourself!” Luna’s voice boomed out.
The sound of wheels squeaking filled the room. Twilight squinted into the darkness and saw in the distance a figure approaching. As it grew closer, she saw that it was Discord, strapped by some kind of white jacket with a half-mask over his face. He was bound to a gurney that was wheeling itself over to Luna and Twilight. “Oh Twilight, see how they treat me? As if I am some kind of common criminal.” A single tear rolled down the side of his cheek. “What have I ever done to deserve this? All I have ever wanted was to bring fun and laughter to the simple peasants of Ponyville. If your precious Pinkie-Pie can get away with it, why cannot I?”
“Enough with the games, Discord.” Luna growled.
The gurney and jacket vanished and Discord slithered on his stomach towards the two ponies, rising up onto his hind legs just as he got within arm’s reach. He wrapped his scaled, eagle-clawed arm around Luna’s shoulder and pulled her close. “Princess Luna. Why have you come here?” He twirled his finger through her blue mane and yanked it up, turning it into a curly, tangled mess with a white streak on either side. He grinned. “Have you come to release me from my boredom?”
Luna shook her mane out while shoving Discord away from her. “How dare you touch us,” she snarled, eyes blazing.
Discord ran his claw under her jaw as if petting her. “You didn’t used to complain.”
Twilight’s eyes widened as she saw a dark blush flash across Luna’s cheeks. Luna jerked away from Discord’s claws. “We are warning you...” she jumped in surprise as a second Luna appeared besides her. They looked at one another in shock, mouths open, eyes wide. Discord fell onto his back while laughing.
“Let me ask you something,” he said in between chuckles. “I was left in a statue for over a thousand years and you were sent to the moon a couple of decades after that. So why is it that I can grasp the concept of speech better than you, Luna?” He snapped his claws causing the fake Luna to vanish. “Is it that you are a slow learner? Or perhaps it is because you are still clinging to the old ways?” He rolled back onto his stomach, his strange eyes narrowing as a smile spread across his lips. “Tell me, Luna, why do you continue to act as if things haven’t changed while you were away? Is it because you cannot stand the fact that the world has continued on without you? Does it make you feel useless that your sister was able to carry on your duties?” His smile became a dark grin. “You cling to what you had because that’s the only thing you have left, isn’t it?”
“Discord!” Twilight pushed herself between Princess Luna and Discord. “That’s enough!” She looked over her shoulder to Luna. “Princess, ignore him. He’s just trying to mess with us.”
Luna’s face was hidden beneath her mane. Twilight could feel the anger radiating off the Princess in waves, but was worse was the fact that Twilight could sense that what Discord had said was the truth. “How I feel,” Luna whispered. “Are none of your concern.”
Discord hopped into the air while snapping his claws. A large purple couch appeared beneath him as he flopped down upon it. A pair of dark sunglasses with green rims materialized over his eyes as he began to stare up at the ceiling. “Oh but it is. While I enjoy teasing and playing with Celestia, you are the one whom I have missed the most. Do you not remember the fun we had together, Luna? All those jokes we played against Celestia? Ah, such good times.” He grinned again. “Turning her hair into cotton candy was particularly delicious.”
Twilight looked back to Luna. What went on a thousand years ago between Luna and Discord?
Discord snapped his claws again and the chamber was suddenly alit with bright white stars far off into the distance. “Why are you here, Luna? Have you come to keep me company?” He lowered his sunglasses to look at her. “Or did you bring me a sacrificial lamb to play with?” He grinned towards Twilight. She felt a strange sensation roll over her. When she looked down at her legs, she saw that her body was now covered in plush, thick wool.
“Ack!” she squeaked. “I’m a Laaaamb!” She clapped her hooves over her mouth then glared daggers towards Discord. “This is not funny!”
He giggled in glee. “Humor is in the eye of the beholder.” He summoned a bag of popcorn and began eating some.
“Enough of this foolishness!” Luna stomped her foot but as her hoof connected to the ground, a bright colorful outfit appeared upon her body. Her hair was now a big curly mess and rainbow colored with a red clown’s nose upon her face. “If there is any bigger a fool,” Discord fell off the couch while clutching his sides. “It is you Luna!”
She shook the outfit off of her body. She focused her magic upon Discord, forcing him off the ground, making him stand up straight. She stormed on over to him, pointing her horn at his throat while glaring up into his eyes. His only response was a wide toothy grin. Twilight frowned at him. No matter what kind threat Discord was facing, he never took it seriously.
“What did you do with my sister?” She snarled up at Discord. “We know you had something to do with her disappearance so tell us!”
Discord raised his eyebrows. “You know, for such a powerful little darling, your sister has a very bad tendency of getting herself into trouble. Sometimes I have to wonder if she really is as strong as she thinks she is.” He flexed his muscles and the magical aura binding Discord erupted. Faster than Twilight thought possible, he was behind Luna, his chest resting on her shoulder while his claws clutched either side of her face, squeezing her cheeks and forcing her lips to pucker out. “Oh yes, Discord,” he forced her mouth to open and close as he mimicked her voice. “You are right. My sister’s greatest weakness is that she overestimates her own power! You are always right! All hail Discord!”
She opened her jaws and bit down – hard – upon is clawed hand. A loud squeak erupted from his hand as it popped off his arm. He had turned it into a dog’s chew toy and was now dancing backwards, laughing hysterically. “Don’t deny it!” Discord howled. “I know the truth about the two of you! Having to rely on little ponies must be maddening for the sisters who once defeated the great and powerful Discord.” He raised a finger into the air. “Oh, wait. You didn’t defeat me. You struck me from behind.” He wiggled his finger back and forth. “A marvelous idea but one that makes me wonder just how strong you two truly are.”
Luna refused to look towards Discord. She just continued to stare forward, jaw clenched, eyes narrowed into thin slits. For a second time Twilight wondered what exactly Discord was talking about, but then again, he could just be spouting gibberish. He has already proven himself to be the most distrustful of beings. Still, Luna was acting as if his words were striking rather close to home.
“You were in my sister’s bedroom...” Luna started then winced as if she had said something she regretted.
“Her bedroom?” Discord purred. “You know that I prefer yo...”
“We found your scale!” She roared. Discord’s expression suddenly went from jubilant to stern, his eyebrows rising as his mouth formed a thin line. “My scale? He asked.
Luna thrust the scale out so that it danced in front of Discord’s eyes. Discord regarded it for several seconds then flicked it away, sending it spinning out into the abyss that was his prison. “This scale does not belong to me.”
“Do not lie to me Discord. We know that this scale belongs to a draconequus.”
Discord jumped backwards, summoning an armchair to appear beneath him as he did so. He bounced upon the cushions while crossing his legs and clasping his claws together. “Yes, but that doesn’t make it mine. You know that there are other draconequus in Equestria.”
“Impossible,” Luna growled. “If that were the case, we would have known about it by now.”
“Not if he were asleep for the past thousand years.”
Luna frowned. “Not if…who…was asleep?”
Discord smiled. “My brother of course. Anarchy.”