“A riot?” Twilight asked, her head foggy from the medication Luna had administered. She managed to take in her surroundings a bit better than before; the hospital dorm had eight beds, though one was empty, and was a kind of creamy buttermilk color. The sheets were thin, but soft, and there were no metal tools save the hypodermic needles by each nightstand, each one labeled for a different emergency. One entire wall of the room was a thick glass window, overlooking the city and the smoke rising from it.
“Where?” Dash asked, cantering over to the window. She gaped at the uproar, her ears twitching in response to the multitude of yells and shouts that drifted up to their twentieth-story hospital dorm. “Woah...”
“That’s... good, right?” Pinkie asked. “They must want Discord gone just as bad as we do.”
“No, it isn’t good, Pinkie,” Celestia said. “It means that Luna’s losing control of the city. The reason the ponies are rioting is because they feel powerless--they need to let Luna and I know that they exist, and that they’re frustrated. But we know that already, and we’re doing all we can.”
“They just don’t think ya are,” Applejack added.
Celestia nodded. “That’s about right. I need to speak with Luna about this right away.” She got up to leave the room, but Twilight stopped her.
“Can’t we come, too?” she asked.
Celestia paused, contemplating her answer. “...Remember the old saying, ‘Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it?’ Equestria was in a state of unrest similar to this just before the Dark Times. I can explain more about it later, but for now, you just have to trust me, okay? This is an urgent situation and I don’t have time to tell you everything right this minute.”
Twilight wasn’t happy, but said anyway: “Okay, Celestia.” The sun goddess departed.
“Ah’m gettin’ real uneasy about this,” Applejack said, nervously peeking down at the crowd. “This ain’t an organized protest or a strike or anythin’ like that. This’s ponies gettin’ too frustrated to contain it any longer. Never thought Ah’d see the day when everypony just got this fed up.”
“Equestria isn’t an evil place. This might be a riot, but that doesn’t mean ponies are h-hurting each other, right?” Fluttershy guessed.
Dash squinted. “I dunno... I can’t see much from up here. I might be able to get an aerial view if I could get out a window or something.”
“And if you could fly,” Twilight pointed out.
“Oh... rats,” Dash muttered, halfheartedly kicking a creamy white stool. Inspecting her wings for a moment, she asked, “Well, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right?”
Fluttershy pulled her sheets over her head, not wanting to engage in the conversation any longer.
“Aw, it’ll be alright, sugarcube,” Applejack said to Fluttershy. “Luna and Celestia’ll get this fixed up right quick. Until then, we should git some rest an’ wait ‘til we leave on the journey.” She pulled the covers over her head and tried to get to sleep.
“...Simple as that?” Rarity asked, shaking herself out of her drugged haze. “Applejack, if ponies in Equestria are rioting, things are not as clear as black and white.”
A re-entrance by Celestia interrupted them. “Okay, Luna wants us all to plan the trip.”
“So soon?” Rarity asked.
Celestia nodded. “It’s not safe in the city for us right now. I’ll explain more at the meeting. Until then, we have to go. Now.”
Twilight and Rarity made eye contact, sharing the same message: Things are not as they seem.
They gathered in an equally cream conference room, lending a more friendly and less icy and metallic air to the chamber. Luna’s coat-of-arms, Celestia’s insignia, and the Equestrian flag adorned three walls of the room, while one wall of the room was, again, a single window pane that stretched from the buttermilk ceiling to the stone floor. The table was circular, with eight chairs, one for each of the Elements, Celestia, and Luna.
To Twilight, the air was unnaturally tense. Luna seems uneasy, she thought, glancing at the moon goddess. Rarity’s right; something else is going on here that we don’t know about.
“Okay,” Celestia began, spreading a large map over a round table in a conference room. “Let’s get down to business. Do any of you remember what Discord’s riddle was?”
“Uh...” Dash trailed off. “A city deep in the sky where you can’t fly, and, um...”
“We’re looking for a mountain city,” Twilight stated. “Somewhere very high up, too.”
“Have you heard anything like that before, Luna?” Rarity asked. Luna didn’t respond, so she repeated, “Luna?”
Luna snapped to attention, then shook her head. “I already have scholars scouring through the Royal Archives, but it could be another day or two before they contact me with an answer. I tried looking for it with magic, but Discord’s distortion prevents me from looking very far outside of Fillydelphia. What we have to do right now is think of a possible solution.”
“His distortion?” Applejack asked.
“Discord can bend magic and reshape it, allowing him to take energy from his surroundings and manipulate them as well,” Luna explained. “He formed a powerful magic barrier around a good portion of Equestria, and if I left Fillydelphia to go outside it, I would leave the city defenseless.”
Not that it matters if Guilt comes back, Rarity thought sorely, rubbing her throbbing horn.
“But it can’t be just some random mountain,” Dash said. “Is there anything different about this mountain?”
“May I make a suggestion?” A new voice asked. The group whipped their heads around to see Discord materializing behind them, near the entrance to the conference room.
“Discord!” Celestia yelled.
Before the group could react, they all found themselves mysteriously shrunk to the size of mice. With a blip of magic, they were warped to the surface of the table.
“What have you done to us?” Rarity asked in shock. Her voice was cartoonishly high.
“Aw, you’re so adorable!” Discord cooed as he picked up Dash and began to brush her mane with a toothbrush. “Brushie, brushie, brushie!”
“Put me down!” Dash yelled, her voice also extremely high. She ignited her mane. The rainbow flames singed Discord and he dropped the blue pegasus, but since Dash was flightless, she landed rather painfully on the conference table for the second time.
“Ugh...” Applejack said, rubbing her head. Her voice was comically high as well, and she blushed slightly. “Whaddya want, Discord?”
“Oh, nothing in particular,” Discord said as he turned the wooden table into styrofoam. “I just thought you might want a little push in the right direction. Seeing as you still have a job to do, I was asked to make sure you do it right.”
“What job?” Celestia asked. “And turn my voice back to normal! And the rest of me, too, but mostly my voice!”
Pinkie was curled up into a tight ball on the table, laughing hysterically. Celestia’s voice!
“I don’t know; I kind of like the miniature Celestia,” Discord said. He drew circles in the air, creating small whirlwinds that zipped around the room, tearing down the flags and coats-of-arms. “Far less annoying than life-sized.”
“Answer my question!” Celestia commanded, though her ridiculously squeaky voice was incapable of showing any real authority.
“Say please, Celestia. Remember your manners,” Discord smirked.
Celestia was fuming, but Luna stepped in. “Discord, please, we don’t have time for this. If you want to tell us something, just say it!”
“Maybe you should take lessons from your sister,” Discord said to Celestia, who only became more aggravated. “The mountain you’re looking for is a mountain where you can never quite reach the top,” he explained. “As for your job, well, you’ll see. You’ll see.”
“That isn’t an answer!” Twilight protested.
“Well, I guess it depends on your definition of answer, now doesn’t it?” Discord grinned mischievously. He snapped his fingers, and the map became animated. Fluttershy yelped as a mountain poked its way up from under her, and the still laughing Pinkie was carried away by a stream. A giant ditch almost swallowed up Dash, and she hung onto its edge frantically, as Applejack was tickled by a tiny forest.
“All you have to do,” Discord continued, “is go across this plain, across this ditch, through this cave, up this mountain, through this forest, down this mountain, into this cave, and loop back through Ponyville to Manehattan. Not necessarily in that order,” he added while pointing out the various landmarks.
“Get out, Discord,” Celestia said maliciously.
“Manners again!” Discord scolded. “I am your guest, you know.”
“Is there anything else you need to tell us, Discord?” Luna asked, mentally willing Celestia to calm down.
“Yes, actually. I wanted to compliment you on your handling of Guilt. That was a very admirable performance,” Discord said, stroking his goatee.
Celestia looked like she was about to boil over, but Luna poked her forcefully in the side. The sun goddess instead looked up at Discord with a poisonous look. “Thank you.”
“Ah, there we go!” Discord said, applauding. “I shall be on my way. Do take care, all of you. There are many fun games that we have yet to play!” He vanished.
The group gradually returned to their normal sizes and situated themselves around the table.
“So, we’re headed to... where?” Twilight asked.
“Mt. Nevercrest. Discord mentioned a line in an old song centered around that mountain. It’s supposed to be unconquerable. Not that you’re going there, of course,” Luna added. “Going to Canterlot and retaking it from Discord would probably be the best course of action, while staying as far away from those mountains as possible.”
Celestia nodded, although she still looked angry. “If you need me, I’ll be in my room.” She walked off.
“She’s got quite the temper,” Rarity said.
Luna shook her head sadly. “Her fury at the forces of Discord often gets the better of her in any case, but it’s been worse lately.”
“Worse how?” Fluttershy asked, concerned.
“Celestia always hated Discord,” Luna began, “but not only was she humiliated by being possessed by Arrogance, she was also defeated by Guilt without even having a chance to fight. That alone would be enough to send her into a rage, and those aren’t the only events involving the Elements of Discord that she hasn’t lived down. I’m not sure where her self-control is coming from; ever since she became Princess, she would rather take her anger out on those around her than keep it locked inside.”
“Sounds like it’s been pretty rough for her,” Dash observed. “I guess I can’t really blame her for being angry.”
Luna nodded. “Please be patient with my sister. She’s very nice, but her emotions often get the better of her. She won’t hesitate to take those same emotions out on you. Do not be surprised when she does.”
Twilight nodded. “Okay, Princess...” Celestia’s been angry almost every time I’ve saw her. Is this how she really is? Should I just deal with it? ...I know I should, but... how much longer will she be like this?
Everypony but Twilight steadily filed out of the room. Luna went to examine more charts and graphs, but when she saw that Twilight was still sitting at the table, she asked, “Is something wrong, Twilight?”
Hmm... Something’s nagging at the back of my mind, but I can’t pinpoint what, Twilight thought. “I think so, but I’m not sure. I wanted to ask you something, but now I can’t remember what it is.”
Luna chuckled. “I certainly know the feeling. However, as Magic, you have control over the thoughts of yourself and other ponies. You have control over your own mind--use that to explore your memory.”
“Princess, that sounds like something out of a fantasy novel,” Twilight scoffed. “All I need to do is remember something. I don’t need to meditate for hours standing on one hoof to do something so simple; if I can’t remember it, it’s probably unimportant anyway.”
“Come here,” Luna said, ushering Twilight toward her. She placed a hoof on Twilight’s forehead and murmured a few words in the Ancient Language.
Twilight felt a spark, but not a painful one, and one that seemed to be dancing about inside her mind. She was dizzy for a moment, but when she recovered, she remembered what she was going to ask earlier. “Oh! That’s right; I wasn’t contacted by Verba after I was knocked out by Guilt. I was wondering why.”
Luna thought for a moment. “It’s most likely due to the Thaumic Incindia. You’ve told me about Verba before, correct? He’s completely composed of magic, so the spell Guilt cast is probably interfering with your connection. It may get better, and it may not, but until then I wouldn’t count on him for advice.”
Twilight nodded, disappointed. After a brief pause, she asked, “How did you make the memory appear, Luna?”
Luna smiled. “It came with my immortality.”
They left at night to avoid attracting attention.
“Our plan is to get out of the city quietly so that we don’t make a scene,” Celestia explained. “You know there’ll be one or two ponies who want to make a big deal about us leaving. Anyway, we’ll probably walk a few hours before we settle down for the night.”
“How long will the journey take?” Fluttershy had asked.
“A few days,” Celestia said. “A week, tops. The hardest part will be crossing the mountain range surrounding Fillydelphia. It helps keep intruders out and escapees in.”
“Huh,” Twilight said. “That’s convenient.”
“What about the train? Are we really making this entire journey on hoof?” Rarity asked.
“Discord, well... He turned the train tracks into crackerjacks. The entire rail system from Fillydelphia to Canterlot has been completely shut down,” Celestia explained. “Progress has been slow, too. They just finished getting rid of the rats last week.”
“Can’t we just take trains part of the way there?” Rarity asked hopefully. “Surely not all of them were destroyed?”
Celestia shook her head. “Luna and I did the math; overall, Discord made sure to destroy just enough rail to make walking the more practical choice. Sorry, Rarity, but trains aren’t an option.”
“Oh, bother,” Rarity muttered, glancing at her soon-to-be ruined hooves.
They stood at the city limits.
“Um, Princess?” Twilight asked after pulling her mentor aside.
“Twilight, you’re my equal and more. Call me Celestia!” she laughed. “Why are you being so formal?”
Twilight turned a slight shade of red. “Sorry. It’s just that I was raised, well, to respect you. A lot.”
“Well, that wasn’t me you were respecting,” Celestia pointed out. “Look, I’m nothing to be afraid of. Aren’t we friends? How about, after we finish this, I take you down for a cup of coffee in this little parlor I visited in Manehattan called Sunlit Dew. Then you’ll get to know me better, okay?”
Twilight smiled. “I’d like that, P-... Celestia,” she corrected herself. She paused. “But... I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything, Celestia, but I think you really need to keep yourself in check. What you did back there with Discord didn’t really help us at all. So, um...”
Celestia sighed. “I know I have an attitude problem; it’s not a new thing for me. But, Twilight, I need to ask you a favor, because I think that I’m not going to remain... well...” she tried to find the words. “I’m not holding up real well, to tell you the truth. I might go off the deep end soon. But if I do... I need you to bring me back, okay?”
Twilight nodded determinedly. “I will, Celestia. I promise.”
Celestia smiled. “Thank you, Twilight. I appreciate it.”
“Let’s git a move on!” Applejack called.
They made their way toward the rest of the group. Each of them were wearing some form of heavy coat and everypony was carrying several full saddlebags except Dash, who needed to be nimble in case they were ambushed.
“So, are we going on another adventure?” Pinkie asked.
“I think so,” Fluttershy answered. She was wearing three layers of sweaters and a ski cap to boot. She didn’t bother to cut holes for her wings because she was unable to fly anyway.
This is really frustrating, Twilight thought as they started to walk out of Fillydelphia. Let’s see, Necromancy is manipulation of flesh. It was made for deceased flesh, but it can work on the living, as well, so I should be able to get, at the very least, Dash and Fluttershy’s wings working. That is, if I could use magic! Nopony else can use the spell, so I’m stuck!
They walked for a while in an open plain several miles out of Fillydelphia. Luna’s bright moonlight provided more than enough luminescence for their journey. Dash took the lead along with Celestia, and both of them were tireless, even when Rarity and Fluttershy began to wear out.
I’m not sure how they’re doing it, Rarity thought as she took off a sweater and shook her mane in the chilly night air. I’m already worn out, yet the two of them are marching along like wind-up toys.
Pinkie was happily bantering away with the other members of the group, her necklace glowing with a bright blue energy. Applejack remained steadfast and seemed to match Dash and Celestia’s energy. Twilight, Rarity, and Fluttershy just tried to keep up.
They had been travelling for several hours, and the sky was completely black.
Celestia’s ear twitched, and she stopped.
“What’s wrong, Celestia?” Twilight asked, watching the Princess scan the area for danger. The others had stopped walking, as well.
“Something... Something’s not right,” Celestia said.
A tremor shook the ground as a white portal opened up in midair. Dash’s armor glowed faintly and she leapt into the battle pose Luna had taught her as Twilight readied her magic. It wasn’t necessary, though.
A blue-green unicorn stallion leapt out of it and struck Celestia deftly in the neck. It was a blow that would have killed her if she hadn’t been immortal. Dash tried to leap into action, but was promptly immobilized, as was the rest of the group.
“I’m so sorry I have to meet you in these circumstances, but I’m afraid the situation calls for it,” Deception said sadly.
I’m sick and tired of feeling powerless! Dash screamed to herself, desperately trying to move her limbs.
Twilight closed her eyes defiantly. “Forget it, Deception. I’m tired of talking to the enemy. If you want to kill us, kill us.”
“I was only going to ask you how your night was so far,” Deception said.
“I said forget it!” Twilight yelled, keeping her eyes shut tight.
Pinkie exhaled, and a blue vapor spread across the plains. Slowly, everypony’s limbs eased up and became movable again. Dash ignited her mane and leapt in fury at Deception but was quickly outclassed; using Dash’s own weight against her, Deception manipulated the blue pegasus’s limbs and forced her into a chokehold.
Dash couldn’t breathe. She tried to break out of Deception’s grasp, but she could barely move. The fire in her mane had been put out as soon as her breathing was cut off.
“That wasn’t very polite,” Deception hissed. He glanced at the rest of the group. “A spinal cord is a very fragile thing. One more step, and she dies!”
Twilight glared angrily at Deception. Dash was rapidly turning purple and threatened to go unconscious any moment. “Let her go, and we’ll talk,” Twilight said.
“You’re in no position to bargain!” Deception laughed. “Just answer my question.”
“What’s yer question?!” Applejack asked. As soon as that varmint lets go of Dash, a good beating’s in order.
“How was your night so far?” Deception asked softly. “Are you sure you’re not chilly? I have a coat you could borrow.” It was so painfully ironic that Twilight actually cringed.
“Our night’s been okay so far,” Pinkie said warily.
Deception slowly began to dissolve into vapor. “See? That’s all I needed to hear.” Then he was gone.
Dash collapsed and began to cough. Twilight rushed over to her side, but Dash recovered quickly and soon was back up on her feet, frustrated and humiliated.
“I’m getting really sick and tired of this,” Dash grumbled.
“Well, yer alright, an’ that’s the important thing,” Applejack said.
“Girls?” Pinkie asked.
“Yes, Pinkie?” Twilight asked.
“Where are Rarity and Fluttershy?” Pinkie asked.
Dark energy carved a wall in space, and the surrounding area fluctuated around Rarity and Fluttershy. Matter started to blend and shift as the world started to bend and twist. After a nauseating series of confusing colors and eerie sounds, Rarity and Fluttershy found themselves in a grove of trees, with the edge of the plains nearby.
“Where are the others?” Rarity asked, hurriedly glancing around the surrounding forest.
“H-How did we lose them?” Fluttershy asked, verging on panic. “They were right with us just a second ago!”
Rarity took a deep breath. Her eyes glimmered with ancient violet energy for a moment, then faded back to their usual color. “They’re... this way,” she said, pointing to the left, along the rim of the forest.
“Okay,” Fluttershy said. “H-How do you know?”
“I think... Well, it’s probably just intuition,” Rarity guessed. “We have to hurry; our friends may be in trouble.”
Something about night seems so much scarier when you know you’re in trouble, Fluttershy thought, shivering and looking up at the stars as they traversed the wilderness. Something bad is going to happen. Oh, I just know it.
Rarity used an internal sense of navigation to steer her way toward the rest of the group. Sometimes her eyes started to glow, and she stopped for a moment to gain her bearings, but for the most part she led the way with confidence.
Fluttershy heard a small whimpering noise. Hmm? She turned her head to the right. “Rarity?”
“Yes, Fluttershy?” Rarity asked, seeing that Fluttershy had stopped. What in the world is she staring at?
“Um... I think there’s something over there,” Fluttershy said.
“Fluttershy, we don’t have time for this,” Rarity chided.
“Could... Could we stop for just a moment?” Fluttershy asked.
Rarity sighed in frustration. “Take as long as you need, Fluttershy, but we really ought to be going.”
Fluttershy nodded. “I’ll be right back.” She slowly, cautiously trotted over to a bush. It was a thorn bush that was rather dried out and pointy-looking, but what was interesting about it was that it was rustling slightly.
Suddenly, a small animal leapt out of the bush and tackled Fluttershy. However, he was too small to do anything but knock her over. At first Fluttershy was startled, but then she realized it was just a foal.
Fluttershy slowly pulled the foal off of her and set him down. He was about school age and covered in scratches. Most of them were old, but some were fresh and still bleeding. He was dirtied and messy to the point where his pale brown pelt could be mistaken for a dull gray. His mane was a matted patch of yellow slightly speckled with orange, and his eyes shone brightly with anger, but also with fear.
“What are you doing out here all alone?” Fluttershy asked, fretting for the foal’s safety.
He yelled, struggling against Fluttershy’s grasp. “Leave me alone! You’re one of the bad ponies!”
Rarity had come over to see what the commotion was. She gaped at the state of the foal. Just how long has he been out here?! Who would do this to a child?
“We’re not going to hurt you,” Fluttershy said softly. “Who are the bad ponies?”
“You are!” the foal persisted. “Go away!” he started to scamper back into the forest, but Rarity grabbed him by the tail and sat him down.
“Now you listen here!” Rarity said forcefully. “We’re not letting you go until you give us an explanation as to why you’re out here on your own so late.”
“Because of the bad ponies. They took mom and dad away and left me out here,” the foal said, resisting Rarity’s grasp. “Let me go!”
Fluttershy shook her head sadly. “I’m sorry, but we need to get you medical care. If we leave you out here like this, you’ll get sick.”
“I don’t care; just go away,” the foal insisted.
Fluttershy sighed. We can’t really take him back if he doesn’t want to go, but I can’t just leave him out here. He’ll die. “Please, come with us. What can I do for you that will change your mind?”
“...Where are mom and dad?” the foal asked.
Fluttershy bit her lip. It’s always that one question I can’t answer. “I don’t want to lie to you and say that I know. I’m sorry.”
The foal looked at her, his gaze still hostile. “Okay. I’ll go with you.”
Fluttershy looked up, surprised. “But why?”
“Because the bad ponies would have lied,” the foal explained. “I... I know where mom and dad are.”
Rarity stifled tears. No, not again. What have you done to this world, Discord?
“What’s your name?” Fluttershy asked.
The foal looked up at her with glistening brown eyes. “Centime,” he said.
[Note]: I do not own anything in this story that already belongs to someone else.
This story takes place BEFORE season two, but AFTER season one.
Please let me know if a link doesn’t work.