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Written by: psychicscubadiver
Edited by: frieD195 and Silentcarto
Story Image by: wyrmlover
Disclaimer: Hasbro owns My Little Pony. I do not. This is fanfiction only and is in no way meant to be taken as canonical. Please don’t sue; I don’t have enough money for it to be worth the court fees.
Twilight sighed as the last of the nobles finally left the ballroom. The award ceremony for the defeat of Discord had been lovely, but meeting and greeting all of the Canterlot nobility afterward had been an exhausting task. Her friends had made excuses and drifted off one by one hours ago. Even Rarity had tired of socializing and left eventually, but Twilight wanted a private talk with Princess Celestia. So she waited even as the sun slid toward the horizon.
“They can be rather tiresome, can’t they?” a familiar voice whispered in her ear.
Twilight spun around, her face lighting up. “Princess! I thought we’d never get a chance to talk!” Her mentor chuckled, her face more open and pleased than Twilight had seen all day. It seemed that she was not the only pony to dislike the nobility and their games. “I wanted to thank you for sending back my reports. I’d given up and was about to let Discord win, but they reminded me what my friends really meant to me.”
Princess Celestia beamed, and Twilight felt a fierce pride blossom in her chest at her mentor’s approval. “Yes, but a reminder was all you needed, my little pony. I knew your friendship could survive even Discord’s mind games. Though,” she admitted with a sheepish smile, “I was a little worried. After all, it's hard not to think of you as that adorable little pony who was so excited to become my student.”
"P-princess!" Twilight stammered, flushing in embarrassment. "I’m not a filly anymore.”
Celestia sighed. “I know you’re not, but it was such a short time ago that you were.” Her smile, while still warm, was now tinged with a deep sadness too. “Time flies so fast, my dear student. I’m just so relieved that you’re all right after all these troubles.”
Twilight blushed even deeper, trying and failing to hold back a bashful grin. “Don’t worry, we’re all alive and well. Discord was defeated, and order vanquished chaos once more.” She hadn’t really meant anything by her comment, but the Princess’s eyes flashed with a mixture of anger and heartache, her expression darkening for a long moment. Twilight had never really been afraid of her mentor, despite all her power, but this was a side of Celestia she’d never seen before. The Princess noticed Twilight’s widened eyes and suddenly defensive posture, and schooled her face into a blank mask.
There was a moment of awkward silence between the two. Twilight desperately reviewed her previous statement, trying to understand what had so upset her mentor. Celestia eyed Twilight silently, giving the unicorn the distinct impression that she was being judged, but why and for what she couldn’t imagine. At last the Princess broke the quiet. “You’re right, you know.” Twilight cocked her head curiously, and Celestia continued. “You’re not a filly anymore.”
The Princess sighed and hesitated for a moment before speaking again. “There is something I want to tell you, Twilight, but you can’t share this with anypony. Not even your friends. Can you agree to that?”
Twilight hesitated, torn. Her curiosity drove her to find out what pained the Princess so, no matter what the cost, but her heart held her back, wary of promising to keep something from the ponies cared for so deeply. Well, she thought, if Princess Celestia doesn’t want them to know, she must have a good reason. She would never ask it of me otherwise. Twilight finally nodded her assent.
The Princess regained her smile and began to leave the room, motioning for Twilight to follow her. They walked in silence for a time down one of the main corridors. Twilight held her curiosity at bay, but just barely. She wanted to ask about her mentor’s reaction, about where they were going, what they would discuss and why she couldn’t tell her friends, but the Princess’s silence made it clear that she didn’t want to talk just yet. They passed through several archways, each with paired guards standing at attention. Celestia stopped to speak to one wearing a badge of office on his otherwise utilitarian armor.
"Would you station two guards at the entrance of the Lower Eastern tower? They are to allow no pony to pass except Twilight, Luna and myself. I am going to be speaking with my student and we are not to interrupted. Also, send for a pot of tea and some cups as well." The stoic pegasus bowed, and flew quickly away.
The exchange had hardly taken a minute, but to Twilight it seemed to take forever. She waited impatiently, barely keeping herself from tapping her hoof anxiously, until the Princess finished talking and started off again. From there, Princess Celestia led Twilight to one of the older, less-used areas of the castle, filled mostly with rooms that were used for storage.
The guards and a servant with a pot of piping hot, delicious smelling tea were already waiting for them when they finally arrived at the tower. The Princess thanked them and led Twilight up several flights of stairs, going almost to the top before finally stopping outside a heavy wooden door that was secured by a lock bigger than Twilight’s hoof. It looked vastly complex, but Celestia unlocked it with a flicker of magic and pushed the door open, revealing a comfortable sitting room. It was a very nice room, well-decorated in a plush sort of style with plenty of overstuffed couches and warm tapestries covering every wall. It even had a balcony with a sweeping view of the royal gardens and the hedge maze.
But Twilight hardly noticed any of that. Her attention was immediately arrested by the statue in the center of the room. It was very tall, almost brushing the ceiling, and made of the oddest assortment of creatures that Twilight could imagine. Its face was a portrait of surprised terror, turning away from the power that had ultimately returned it to its stone prison. For a moment Twilight was speechless, but finally she found her voice. “Princess. Is that…?” Her question hung in the air for a moment.
Her mentor nodded. “Yes, Twilight. That is Discord.” She stopped and gazed fondly at the statue and continued. “He also was – and still is in many ways – my older brother and the rightful king of Equestria.”
It had taken a few cups of tea before Twilight was ready to resume conversation. Celestia waited patiently, fully aware of the enormity of the news she had just shared. Eventually, Twilight settled herself enough to choose a few questions from among the millions that she wanted to ask. “Your Highness?” she said, not noticing how Celestia winced at the sudden formality. “I thought your brother Daearen died in the Great Plague before Discord ever rose to power. Or is Discord a brother the history books never recorded?”
“As upsetting as this may be to hear, I’m afraid most accounts of that period of history are… inaccurate. I wanted Daearen to be remembered for who he was, not what he became.” Celestia paused, her expression troubled.
“What I’m going to tell you is the truth of those dark times, but first I must explain something important. Harmony is not the opposite of Chaos, nor is it the same thing as Order. True Harmony is a balance between chaos and order, because both forces are necessary to a peaceful world. When one force grows too powerful, Harmony restores the balance.”
The Princess shook her head sadly. “It wasn’t always so. Once they were merely abstract ideas, concepts that existed solely within the mind. But one day they spilled out of that metaphysical plane and took physical form. They fought with each other − what else could Order and Chaos do? – and our world was the battleground. That was the time of the ‘Great Plague’. That was the downfall of the alicorns.”
“But... I always thought order was a good thing. I mean, I’ve always lived an orderly life.” Twilight’s mind flashed to her lists and organizers, for the first time feeling a surge of embarrassment about her habits.
Celestia smiled. “I know. That’s one of the reasons I sent you to Ponyville. You certainly have to admit your life has become more chaotic since you moved there. Having friends will do that, though I think Pinkie Pie might be a little more responsible for it than anypony else.” Twilight chuckled and the Princess continued. “But I am speaking of true order. Imagine a world where everything existed only in neat, precise rows. Where everypony had the same personality and never even knew they could be different. Where creativity was dead and every last second of the day was controlled. That is order in its purest form. Utter chaos preys upon the mind, but absolute order consumes the soul. It is only when they are balanced that Harmony and goodness reign.”
Twilight frowned. “Why wouldn’t they stay balanced?”
Celestia stared into her tea. “We don’t know. The greatest minds of every race studied it and could only guess at the answer. They believed that since the spirits had physical form now, they were more easily influenced by fluctuations in chaos and order. Since the world is not always in balance, neither are they. It didn’t help that certain races embodied some of their characteristics. The Diamond Dogs were once a race of order called the Gem Hounds. They were a proud and prosperous people until Chaos warped them. In response Order banished a chaotic race from this plane of existence to similarly deprive Chaos of a source of power. The hominids were a strange people, but it was still unbelievable what happened to them. The only remnants of them now are legends.”
The dam in Twilight’s mind holding back her flood of curiosity cracked, then crumbled and fell, releasing a torrent of questions. “Why haven’t you ever told me this before? Why do you keep calling the spirit Chaos instead of Discord? What happened to Order and how does any of this this explain how Discord is really Daearen?” She stopped and blushed. “If it’s not too much trouble, Princess.”
Celestia nodded her face somber. “Let me tell you a story, Twilight. Within it lie the answers you seek.”
Though I was barely more than a thousand years old when Chaos and Order entered our world, I understood what their presence meant. It had been centuries since the three tribes of ponies had found their way to Equestria, the home of the alicorns, and accepted my mother and father as their rulers. Both we and the surrounding nations were at peace, and war was considered by many to be the foolishness of a bygone age. Even the aggressive species like dragons, griffins and humans had found better outlets for their energies.
Thus we were unprepared when it happened. True, the knowledge of battle had been preserved, but only the dragons and alicorns were old enough to have experienced such matters firsthoof. And so the death and destruction was all the worse for its novelty. Within a few weeks of their arrival, I had grown used to news of horror and devastation, to the sound of otherworldly screams from beyond the mountains. Luna was still too young to understand, but Daearen and I recognized the fear Mother and Father tried to hide from us.
I know you have probably seen portraits or sculptures based on my brother, but even the best artist hardly did him justice. It didn’t help that he was too impatient to model for them very long. He was always a pony of action. He was never content to be at peace; there was always something to do or somepony to joke with. His coat was a dark chestnut, and his mane and tail a lush, emerald green. That and his height made the nobles call him “the Ent” when they thought he wasn’t listening.
“You know, Celly,” he said, as we were walking together to the throne room. Mother and Father had been working on something in secret for almost a month. Finally it appeared they were ready to tell us about it. “If I didn’t know better I’d say the world was ending.”
I stared at him crossly. “And who’s to say it isn’t?”
He cracked a smile and nudged me with one wing. “Because I swore that I’d get you to lighten up one day, and I can’t very well do that if the world has ended.”
I glared at him even harder. My brother was never very serious, but I couldn’t believe he had joked about a time like this. “That’s not funny, Daearen.”
He sighed. “Why don’t you call me ‘Dae’ anymore, Celly? You’re so boring these days, all stiff and formal.” He turned to watch a pair of guards salute as we passed by.
“Of course I’m formal,” I replied proudly. “I’m not a filly anymore. I must act with the dignity that befits a Princess of the Realm. Being royalty is serious business; you must always consider the ponies you serve.” I was young and convinced I knew everything just because I had finally gotten my cutie mark. Daearen, six hundred years my senior, knew better, but he was kind enough to never throw it in my face.
“That’s why I joke, Celly,” he said, a smile concealing the sadness in his voice. “Nopony in this castle has laughed in a month. Ponies need laughter. It’s a balm for even the worst wounds.”
“Funny,” I said. “None of my classes in healing ever mentioned laughter as a remedy for anything.”
Daearen laughed. “You listen to those dusty old relics that tutor us? They wouldn’t know something funny if it waddled up behind them and bit them on the flank. You really need to spend some time with the rest of your subjects. Why not come with me to the tavern tonight? I’ll see if our parents will let you.”
“The tavern?” I was torn between desire to finally see the place where my brother spent so much of his time and the disdain trained into me by our tutors.
“Oh, yes. Not only is the food better than the fancy stuff they force us to eat here, but you can actually meet real ponies, the ones that we’ll rule someday.”
“You mean the ponies you’ll rule,” I said, trying and failing to hide my sadness. “I’ll never be more than a princess.”
He smiled widely. “Don’t talk like that, Celly. I’m sure I’ll prank the wrong pony someday and end up with a cup of poison. After that the throne’s yours.”
I gasped. “How could you say that?”
He grinned even wider. “Like this. ‘I’m sure I’ll prank the wrong pony—’”
“You know what I mean!” I checked the hall to be sure there was nopony watching, and I nuzzled him gently. “Don’t even joke about dying, Dae. Luna and I would be lost without you.” He stiffened in surprise at first, but then smiled more warmly than I’d seen in ages and nuzzled back.
“I love you too, little sis. Now let’s not keep mom and dad waiting too much longer.” I flushed, which made him laugh again. We reached the door of the throne room only a few minutes later.
We entered and were surprised to find not only our parents, but Luna and several others in attendance as well. While most of the group was made up of alicorns and unicorns, there were also griffins, buffalo, zebras, two dragons – temporarily shrunken to fit inside the palace – and a diamond dog I recognized as the former king of the Gem Hounds.
Mother spoke first. “Celestia and Daearen, please join your sister. We have something of the gravest importance to discuss with you.” For once Daearen didn’t have a joke to make.
Father spoke next. “The group you see assembled here represents the most powerful mages left in the world. Together, with a gift from King Rexius−”
The diamond dog laughed, interrupting him. “Too much of a compliment. If king can’t protect his people, is king no more. Chaos see to that. But I manage to bring greatest treasure here in secret. Help other races at least.”
Father nodded. “And we are grateful for your generosity.” He turned back to us. “He brought the six most powerful, perfect jewels the Gem Hounds have ever found. The rest of us have spent the past weeks crafting these gems into the greatest magic ever known. We call them the Elements of Harmony, and each jewel represents a part of that power.”
Daearen and I both stared at the gathered crowd in confusion, but he spoke first. “That’s wonderful news, Father, but why did you gather us so formally? And include Luna?”
“Hey!” Luna shouted. “I’m a big pony. Why can’t I know?” she huffed, giving our brother a glare. She was so young for an alicorn, only five hundred, and still very much a filly.
I was embarrassed, but one of the older unicorns laughed. “Well said. If I may, your Majesties?” Both Mother and Father nodded and she continued. “You three are here because we need you to wield these Elements. Not only are all of you powerful, but you are also young. Age and cynicism make Harmony difficult to grasp, so you three are the ones who must use them.”
The gall of that unicorn seemed unbelievable at the time. After all, I had been studying magic before her grandmother had been born. I tried to keep a straight face, but her amused chuckle told me I wasn’t successful.
“Young for alicorns, at least. Now, there are five base Elements: Generosity, Kindness, Honesty, Loyalty and Laughter. The sixth Element, Magic, is the keystone which leads the others.”
I thought for a moment, considering the responsibility that had been thrust upon us. “But how do we decide who controls each of them?”
Mother smiled. “The Elements choose their own bearers, and will only bond to a pony who is worthy. Tomorrow we will present them to you and begin training you in their use.”
She shook her head sadly. “I wish we had more time to teach you, but we believe Chaos will strike soon. The kingdom of Equestria is too orderly for him to ignore for long. It’s dangerous, but we believe that together, you can defeat Chaos with these powers.”
“If that’s not a cue, I don’t know what is,” said the most horrifying voice I had ever heard. It somehow combined the most frightening sounds from all my nightmares into one terrible cacophony.
The light within the chamber dimmed and the entire castle shook. Thin trails of smoke emerged from the cracks in the wall and converged to form a terrifying being. He was a draconequus, but Chaos was quite unlike the one you met. Discord is cruel, but Chaos was a monster. Twice the size of any alicorn, he barely fit in that room. His eyes smoldered like hot coals, and I was terrified beyond anything I’d ever known.
For a moment, everypony was frozen stiff. Then my father stood and spoke. I knew he had to have been afraid, but his voice didn’t betray even the slightest tremor. “You are not welcome here, Chaos. Not in our kingdom and not in our home. Now leave.”
The terrifying being before us just chuckled darkly, sending more wisps of smoke to float toward the ceiling. They spiraled through the stone like it wasn’t there, turning wherever they touched into a bright plaid. “That’s actually very tempting, but then I wouldn’t get to watch your expressions when you discover what’s happening to your kingdom.” He spread his mouth into a cruel display of teeth which he deemed a smile. “In fact … why don’t we do just that?”
He snapped his fingers and the entire throne room was suddenly balanced on the top of a castle spire. He chuckled as the flightless species gulped nervously. Both the dragons, free of the confining room, loosed their spells and returned to their true forms. Unfortunately that made the platform shake and tilt even more, giving Chaos another laugh at the fear of the other mages.
“Enough!” Mother shouted, her horn glowing angrily. “What have you done?”
Chaos rubbed his hands together with a sound like a symphony played backwards. “I’ve just spruced up the city a bit. The plants you had were so mundane! So, I added one of my own to liven things up. Listen.” The sounds of screams and crying rose from the city. A tide of bright blue was creeping slowly across it, covering streets and houses.
“If you eat it, or touch it, or smell it, or really even stand within breathing distance of it, you become subject to the effect. It’s a jealous little flower that makes everypony just as miserable as itself by taking away whatever they love most. I call it Poison Envy.”
One especially anguished scream rose above the rest of the noise, and the whole group flinched. Chaos just chuckled. “Sounds like somepony loved their family very, very much.”
“You monster!” Father cried, launching a bolt of living lightning at the laughing beast. The attack caught Chaos by surprise, and the electricity arced across his coat, burning whatever it touched. Chaos screeched in anger at the pain, but then he simply snapped his fingers, both the lightning and injuries disappearing. He turned his dark gaze upon my father and roared in wounded pride.
The sound washed over me like a wave, loud enough to shatter the glass in every window in sight. With that, the frozen tableau was broken and every sorcerer present assaulted Chaos with their most powerful spells. The unicorn who had spoken earlier called out to us, “The Elements are in the eastern tower! Make haste!”
I spread my wings, fully intending to join in the fight until Daearen’s aura surrounded me and pulled me away. I noticed out of the corner of one eye that he’d done the same to Luna, who’d started crying. “Let me go, brother!” I shouted. “They need us!”
He shook his head and started flying, taking us with him.
“LET ME GO!” I screamed, breaking his grip with a burst of my own power. Daearen glanced at me and motioned me to follow. He turned away and continued flying, Luna still in tow, without even waiting to see what I would do. I froze for a second, but with a murmured curse I followed my brother. Still, I couldn’t help but glance back to watch the battle as we retreated.
Chaos had grown to an enormous size and was bellowing strange curses at the mages attacking him. I watched him turn one alicorn into a tan earth pony. One moment he was a powerful sorcerer, a master of the arcane, then with no apparent effort, Chaos stripped him of his magic, his wings and his identity. As one final mockery, he left the stallion’s cutie mark, an hourglass, to remind him of everything he’d lost. That, more than any news of devastation, proved to me that Chaos was a power greater and more terrible than Equestria had ever seen before.
With a crash, Daearen plowed straight through the wall of the Eastern tower, panicking the few servants still there. “You, guard!” he cried. “Where have our parents been working for the past weeks? Take us there.” Gone was the relaxed joker of less than an hour ago. Now he was fully and truly a Prince of the Alicorns.
The guard nearly tripped over his own feet in his rush to lead us upstairs. I glared at my brother as we ran, Luna still crying and being carried by his magic. “We should have stayed. We could have helped,” I said, despite what I had just seen. It was possible, though unlikely, that our aid could have turned the tide against Chaos despite our youth. The Royal family was, and still is, made of the most powerful ponies in Equestria. Not only in magic, but in flight and physical prowess as well.
“Chaos is too powerful for that, but with the Elements we’ve got a chance to defeat him.” His serious tone turned deadpan. “I’d hate to think everypony wasted so much time on them if we could have beaten him on our own.”
I was not so easily dissuaded. “But Mother and Father−”
“Are stalling for time,” he interrupted. “They know why we left, and they’ll be on the defensive. Give them some credit, Celly. They can last a few minutes without us.”
The guard ahead of us slid to a stop in front of an enormous iron door. I recognized it; this was the entrance to Mother’s study, the place where she experimented with strange and dangerous magic. The door was bound in thick chains, but they were a mere formality. The enchantments built into the portal secured it far better than any physical barrier.
Daearen and I studied the door, then nodded to each other, our argument abrogated out of need for unity. It was too late for me to turn back now, anyway. Our horns glowed brightly as we pooled our magic and worked together against the spells Mother had laid to secure her study.
Sweat shone on both our faces as we struggled to break through. Even combined, we had a difficult time with it. Luna stopped her crying as we worked and rose to her hooves. With a furrowed brow and determined frown she added her power to our own. The moment she did, the enchantments gave up all resistance, like a lock that had found its key. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in hindsight it was obvious that Mother had designed them to respond to the three of us working together. She was always clever that way.
We charged into the room, leaving the guard behind. It was a bare space with only a few heavily stained and charred cabinets on one wall and a large table in the middle. On the table sat five stone orbs, each with symbol carved into them. These had to be them, but everything was wrong. They were inert, nothing more than magicless rocks. Daearen stared at them in shock.
“This can’t be right,” I said, and started opening the cabinets to find the real Elements. But there was nothing there, and no matter what spell I tried, I couldn’t detect even a hint of a secret compartment or hiding place. Luna poked one of the orbs with her hoof, then levitated it and gave it a shake. The orb remained nothing but pedestrian stone.
Angry, I whirled on the guard. “They couldn’t have worked here. Where are the actual Elements?” He stammered an apology, but it was obvious that he had no idea what was wrong or why I was so furious.
“Stop, Celestia. These are the Elements.” Daearen’s tone did far more to stop me than his words. I had heard him sad or unhappy before, but this was the first time I had heard him in despair. I turned towards him, gaping at the strange pony who looked so much like my light-hearted brother.
“I can sense Mother’s, Father’s, and several other ponies’ magic on them.” He picked one up telekinetically and examined it briefly before setting it back down again. “Either Chaos has already been here and warped them into uselessness, or we aren’t as worthy as everypony thought.” He hung his head and turned away from the table. “And the sealed door makes me fear that the second is the truth.”
While I didn’t always agree with my brother, we often spent time together. Seeing him in that state hurt worse than any physical wound. I trotted over to him and gently nuzzled his neck, trying to comfort him. “It’s not your fault, Dae. Don’t blame yourself. You did the right thing. We’ll find a way.” There was a small cracking sound in the background, but I ignored it.
Luna appeared on his other side and fought back a sniffle. She wasn’t tall enough to reach his neck so she hugged his leg with both of her forelegs and wings. “Don’t be sad, Dae. We love you; you’re a great pony.” She thought carefully for a moment, then with all the seriousness of a high judge passing verdict she said, “And you can even have my desserts for all next week.”
Daearen stared at us for a moment, then his face brightened and he chuckled softly. “Who’s to say I wouldn’t take them anyway?” he teased, drawing Luna into a fit of giggles and even getting me to chuckle. He turned to me, and despite his smile I could still see the doubt in his eyes. “Even so, I was wrong. You shouldn’t have followed me.”
I smiled. “You’re my brother. I’d follow you into the gates of Tartarus.” I hadn’t put any magic into my words, or even much thought, but as soon as I finished speaking an unbearably bright light flared to life behind us.
At first I thought Chaos had found us and was attacking. I whirled around, my horn glowing with power, but instead of a draconequus I was faced with something much, much greater. The stone orbs had cracked like eggs and within each lay a breath-taking gem, all of them twice the size and brilliance of any I had ever seen before.
There were five in total: a fire ruby, glowing like a red-hot coal; a sea sapphire, with a shining blue surface but subtle glints of green in its depths; a star garnet, its soft pink hue belying its true strength; an aether amethyst, swirling with mysterious shades of purple; and an imperial topaz, shimmering with the golden brilliance of the sun.
They slowly rose from their discarded shells and hovered there expectantly. Uncertain of what to do, Daearen and I stood frozen, but Luna stepped forward, entranced by their beauty. The amethyst and garnet separated themselves from the other three to orbit around her, glimmering softly.
Pushing past my fear, I reached out to the jewels as well, and two more, the ruby and topaz, came to float at my side. The sapphire was the only one left, waiting for Daearen to claim it. He took it, handling the gem more carefully than an egg.
Both Luna and I glanced to Daearen for guidance. He frowned. “I think we need to reach out to them somehow. Try focusing on them like you would a spell.”
I nodded and touched them with my magic. Despite centuries of practice and study in almost every realm of magic, I was overwhelmed by what I found.
The Elements were filled with so much power they were very nearly alive. Powerful emotions swept over me as they bound themselves to me. From the topaz I felt endurance and strength; it held an unwavering determination, even knowing that we would face Chaos himself. From the ruby I received ferocity and pride; it was utterly devoted to me and my family, refusing to rest until we had won.
It must have been several seconds before I was able to speak again. “Well. That was … invigorating.”
Daearen chuckled. “You always did have a way of understating things, Celly.”
Luna piped up. “But there’s only five. I thought the unicorn lady said there were six.” With a start I realized she was right. Luna and I had ours, which accounted for Honesty, Loyalty, Kindness and Generosity, but Daearen only had one.
“Magic is the keystone; I think we need to do something special to make it appear.” He thought for a moment, then eyes flicked open. “I’ve got it! We need to do a special pose and yell out the names of our Elements. I’m sure that will do it.”
Luna cheered, but I was speechless. For a second, anyway. “That is quite possibly the silliest idea I have ever heard.”
Luna and Daearen both gave me exasperated frowns. Daearen spoke first. “Maybe, but I’m sure it will work. Can’t you be silly for once in your life?”
“Yeah, come on, Celly. We need you,” Luna said.
“Fine.” I sighed.
“Good, Luna you start us, then Celly, then me, then Luna and Celly again.” He walked between us and nodded seriously.
Luna put one hoof into the air and shouted, “Generosity!”
I barely kept from rolling my eyes, but copied her pose. “Honesty.”
“Go magic!” Luna and Daearen cried together, and he reared back on his hind legs.
“By our powers combined I am the Element of Magic!” he yelled, wearing the most ridiculous grin. To my eternal disbelief there was a flash of light and the sixth and final element appeared above my brother’s head. It was a soul emerald, larger than any of the other Elements, and –
“Wait a minute.”
Celestia stopped her story, looking surprised at the interruption. Night had fallen outside, and Luna had already raised the moon. Twilight, though, didn’t notice her mentor’s expression and continued.
“The Element of Magic can’t be an emerald, it’s a magenta stone. And for that matter, none of the Elements are the size that you describe. For instance, Spike is aging a fire ruby that’s much larger than the stone set into Dash’s necklace.” She blinked, and seemed to remember who exactly she was talking to.
“Er … sorry for interrupting.” Twilight blushed, her face heating up as she realized she’d been correcting and even lecturing the Princess. She glanced up, afraid of that Celestia would be angry, but her mentor was smiling.
“It’s all right, Twilight, but you shouldn’t be surprised that the Elements of Harmony have changed since they were first made.” Her voice took on a teasing tone. “Or did you think the Element of Magic had always been shaped like your cutie mark?”
Twilight blushed again and stammered another apology. Celestia just chuckled. “Don’t fret. I wasn’t offended, just surprised. But I wasn’t exaggerating when I said the Elements are very nearly alive. They are far more than just their physical forms. Though, you are right about one thing.” Her expression fell, and for the first time since she had entered the room she stared sadly at the statue of Discord.
“Just as impurities can change the color of a gemstone, so too can impure actions change one of the Elements. Laughter stayed the same; even at his worst, Discord could still make ponies laugh. But Magic…” She shook her head. “The longer he held that gem, the darker it became…”
She stopped, and silence ruled the room for several long minutes. At last the Princess spoke again. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is much more to the story before we reach that point.”
Twilight nodded, trying not to show her disappointment. Celestia poured herself a fresh cup of tea and cleared her throat. “I believe we were at the moment when the Element of Magic had just appeared.”
Daearen’s nonsensical gambit had actually paid off, and the final Element floated above him. There was a gentle, but pervasive pulse of magic and the Elements formed themselves into new shapes. A beautiful platinum torc appeared around my neck, Loyalty and Honesty set into its embossed heads, and a matching one holding Luna’s Elements encircled her throat. Daearen wore Laughter on a necklace of braided platinum, but the Element of Magic was set into the center of a shining crown of the same metal.
We stared at each other for a moment, and Daearen grinned like a manticore. “Let’s go show Chaos our new jewelry.”
We had barely left the room when a new magic washed over us. It was a slimy, nauseating sensation that twisted my stomach into knots. Daearen’s and Luna’s faces perfectly mirrored my grimace of pain and disgust. The Elements blazed to life, filling the tower with their multihued brilliance, and the strange feeling was gone almost as soon as it arrived. We shook off the remnants of whatever spell Chaos had tried to use against us. I was worried, though; Mother and Father should have been keeping him too busy to target us.
Daearen destroyed another wall with a quick spell. I cringed at the added destruction to our home, but we had no time to look for our entrance. We powered through the tower’s new window, and gained altitude quickly, trying to get a good view of the battle before we dove in. But somehow, everything had gone horribly wrong.
The blue tide had overtaken the rest of the city, reaching all the way to the walls of the castle, and no more sound rose from either. A sign creaked in the wind and the hateful blue flowers rustled in the breeze, but otherwise both the castle and city were utterly silent.
I looked for signs of battle, thinking that perhaps Chaos had muted everypony to silence orders and foul communication. But there was nothing. The platform that Chaos had made from the throne room was gone, and all its combatants with it. The city streets were just as empty, the ponies no longer thronging them in panic. An oppressive gloom had settled over the whole capital, and the very air was heavy and stale.
Our home had become a ghost town, barren and broken.
I fought back tears, trying to understand how this could have happened, what Chaos could have done and how I could have stopped him. Daearen’s face was grim, and I could read similar thoughts in his eyes. For a while the three of us were as silent as the rest of our surroundings.
Luna finally broke the quiet, her voice trembling. “Where is everypony? Where’s mom and dad?”
Daearen sighed. “I don’t know. Let’s at least check inside the castle. Maybe everypony is… just hiding.” It was a slim hope, but anything was better than waiting around in the awful silence outside.
We landed in the courtyard, no longer driven by wall-smashing urgency. The door to the inner keep opened without resistance into an empty hallway.
We hesitantly stepped inside, and began calling, listening for an answer from anypony. But the passage only echoed with our own voices and hoofsteps. There were no guards to challenge us, no servants hiding from Chaos’s wrath, no nobles fleeing from the danger. The entire castle was silent and desolate as a tomb.
Luna clung close to Daearen, and I wished that I wasn’t too old to do the same. The castle didn’t feel like our home anymore. Home had been a busy, bustling place, maids and guards always on the move, nobles trying to start a conversation or curry favor, bureaucrats and officials who always stopped their tasks to bow as we passed, cooks who would spoil your supper with sweets if you acted cute enough. The castle was no longer the warm and inviting place it had always been. It was different and frightening, like a doting grandfather who had suddenly become a stranger. I shivered with a chill that had nothing to do with the temperature.
Eventually we heard a noise, a strange croaking voice singing a foal’s nonsense song, interspersed with the sound of eating. The sound was coming from the throne, so we followed it cautiously. I held five spells at the ready, my horn glowing brightly, and I could see that Daearen did likewise.
When we finally reached the throne room, the door opened of its own accord. There, at the other end was Chaos. He had blended Mother’s and Father’s thrones into a hideous mess fit for a creature of his size and shape. He lounged on it, eating cookies off of a small plate. They were bright little things, thick with colorful icing, and oddly shaped, but I barely paid them any attention. I was focused on him, the author of all our troubles. Never before and never since have I ever wanted to hurt somepony as badly as I did at that moment. I almost let loose with every spell I had when Luna gave a frightened squeak, interrupting his odd little melody and calling his attention to us.
“What in the cosmos—?” he yelled, rising to his mismatched feet. The monster peered curiously at us, then with a spark of recognition he started laughing. Chaos fell to the ground clutching his stomach as his laugh, this time high pitched and screeching, rebounded off the walls. The plate of cookies began to drift upwards the moment he let go of it. With a snap of his fingers a rope appeared around the plate, and he dragged it back, still chuckling.
We watched him in confusion, trading puzzled glances at his bizarre reaction. Finally Daearen spoke sternly. “What did you do to everypony and why are you laughing, monster?”
The draconequus stopped and gave us a grin that showed off his motley collection of teeth. “I tell you what, little pony. I’ll kill two stones with one bird, because as luck would have it those questions have the same answer.”
He blew on the plate making it float towards us. “Cookie?” he offered, his voice changing to a sickly sweet simper. We glared in response, and Daearen silently shook his head. Chaos shrugged and popped another one into his mouth, “More for me then.” He chewed noisily and smacked his lips with glee.
“Did you know,” he said, “that your mother designed and built this city? It was eons ago, long before any of you were born. She made it as a present to your father, a place where they could rule their beloved subjects together.” He chuckled darkly. “She truly loved this city and all of the ponies who lived here. Now one of my beautiful little plants wouldn’t have had the power to do all of this on its own, but I knocked her into a whole field of them. And poof! Everypony was gone. Don’t bother demanding where they went, because I don’t know. Maybe they were teleported to some strange planet, sent across the aether to another dimension or transported to different point in time. Maybe they were just disintegrated, or they suddenly ceased to exist. It’s hard to tell when you’re working with chaos. But, regardless, they’re gone and won’t ever come back. You three are the last alicorns in Equestria.”
There was an endless moment where I refused to believe him, where I wanted desperately for it to be a lie, but I could tell from his cruel grin it was the truth. He wasn’t done tormenting us just yet, though.
“And here we come the funniest part of all. You three could only have survived the Poison Envy if your mother didn’t love you! Think about the delicious irony there, your own mother never loving you, is the only thing that kept you safe when everypony else was destroyed. Priceless!” Chaos fell to laughing again, and the whole castle shook as he rolled.
He actually stopped laughing and eyed me distastefully. I didn’t let it stop me. “Our mother loved us. She loved us so much she poured her heart and soul into these gems we wear. Both her and Father, and all of the ponies you defeated, they believed in us.” I took a breath and willed my voice to be steady as it rose ever louder. “Their belief, their magic, their power protected us. Face it, Chaos. All your tricks, mind games, and madness, are no match for the gift they gave us.” I stared him in the eye and dug my hoof into the castle floor as I screamed. “The Elements of Harmony!”
Daearen winked, and said in a stage whisper. “Way to go, Celly. Maybe you should be the one to rule.” I grinned in response, and turned to face the mad spirit before us. We stood together, ready to face whatever Chaos had to throw at us, but he just rolled his eyes.
“Oh, please. Like some fancy jewelry is going to scare me.” He smiled again. “Tell you what. Why don’t we ask your mother if she really loved you?” He reached over to the plate of cookies and picked one up, this time holding it so we could see. It looked exactly like our mother, even down to its tiny cutie mark and steel blue eyes. The cookie’s face was twisted in anguished fury, tiny tears of icing frozen on its face.
“Now say something if you love your children.” Chaos shook the cookie, but it remained silent. He shrugged. “Well, that settles that.” And with one quick move he bit it in half, chewing loudly.
I knew – knew, mind you – that cookie had been our mother. You would think that such a thing would make me angry, would fill me with rage beyond measure. But it didn’t. There was only a cold knowledge that justice would be done this day, and the grim satisfaction that I would be an instrument of that righteousness.
Daearen stepped forward to speak this time. His voice was quiet, but still as hard and unyielding as the bedrock the palace was built on. “By the Moon, the Sun and the Earth, you have no place here, Chaos. So say I, so say we, so say the powers of Harmony.”
With that his eyes flashed into incandescent light, the magic that connected us surging through him. The Elements blazed to life in tandem, levitating us in their power. Chaos had looked skeptical at Daearen’s declaration, but for the first time, fear crossed his face. He opened his mouth to speak and raised one hand to work his magic, but he was already too late.
With a rush of power, righteous and mighty, the Elements exploded into light so real and perfect it was almost solid. A ribbon of color streamed from each jewel, combining to form a rainbow brighter and more beautiful than any to ever grace the sky. Chaos snapped his fingers, his face contorted in concentration, and a bubble of darkness surrounded us. The inside of Chaos’s spell was cold and dank, with the faint sound of sinister whispers coming from all around. But we were held aloft in the power of Harmony, and his magic couldn’t touch us.
The rainbow roared toward Chaos and smashed through the confines of his spell without even slowing down. He barely had time for a frustrated roar before the light wrapped around him and his body began to solidify. Chaos tried several spells and curses, as he slowly changed, but each failed, utterly impotent against the power that now gripped him. Within seconds he had become a statue, his last expression a dark mix of fear and rage.
We slowly descended to the floor, the magic we had channeled leaving us. I had expected to feel drained, but instead I was refreshed, renewed even. I stared at the inanimate figure Chaos had become, and I felt no anger. Only pity.
Daearen looked at him and sighed. “What do we do now? Should we−”
A loud whirring sound cut off Daearen’s question as a line of white light cut through one of the stone walls, removing the mortar between each rock. The glow stopped and the freed stones moved inward, neatly stacking themselves by height on either side of the new opening.
The light coming from beyond the hole was blinding. I couldn’t make out anything. Two fluorescent white beams streamed from the wall and neatly bisected Chaos in two directions, quartering him. The statue’s pieces should have fallen to the floor, but they hung suspended without even an aura to support them. The lines zipped through the former monster at perfect right angles, faster and faster until Chaos appeared to be surrounded by a humming grid of light. With a small fizzling sound the lines disappeared and the tiny pieces of Chaos, most them no larger than a sugarcube, reassembled themselves into a single large block.
With that the brilliance outside the wall finally died down, and we could see what I thought at first glance was a pony. It was shaped like an earth pony filly scarcely old enough to enter school, but it wasn’t made of flesh and blood. Instead, its body was a pure, gleaming material, something akin to both metal and glass without quite being either. The whole figure was blank; it had no eyes, nose, mane, tail or even a mouth. Yet it spoke in a voice both feminine and beautiful, almost melodic.
“Hello. I am Order. We have much to discuss.”