A Newer Hope
(Takes place during, "The Return of Harmony")
The warm sunlight of Celestia’s beautiful sun gently bathed the city of Canterlot in its soft glow, providing light for the ponies of Equestria.
To most ponies, this was an ordinary day. They would get up, prepare themselves, and go off to do whatever it was they did for a living. The streets were bustling with busy ponies going about their business. Wealthy socialites chatted in tea shops, artists roamed the city trying to find inspiration…
And nopony noticed the sky blue unicorn stealthily weave her way through the crowds of ponies. She wore a modest looking grey cloak, something unusual for this type of weather, but she didn’t seem to mind. Her spring green mane was tied back in a simple braid, hidden within the confines of her hood. Silently, she ignored the temptation to go into one of the bakeries that lined the street and continued on her mission.
In almost no time at all, she had managed to make her way to the castle without being noticed by any being. Without a word, she let herself be swept up in a large group of ponies that were heading inside, never once being stopped by any of the guards.
For a time, she followed them through the castle. The pony in front was dressed in a sort of tour guide’s uniform, and she went on and on about the more ancient and unused parts of the castle that they were going to be viewing today. The pony’s ears pricked when she heard the tour guide mention that they weren’t going to be going to the garden today. Apparently, a school teacher had reserved that bit for her and her class.
The sky blue pony nodded at that, and snuck into an adjacent hallway. Eventually, she saw the group of children wandering around, being led by a purple pony with a pinkish mane.
“Perfect…” she whispered to herself, as she closed her eyes. She called forth her own unique magic, allowing it to easily slide throughout her entire being. In the blink of an eye, she had shrunk herself down to the size and build of a filly.
No one would notice a stray filly tagging along with a group of children (or, at least following them). They would just think that she was struggling to catch up to the class.
Within minutes, they had reached the garden. While the teacher tried to explain some of the statues to the children, some of them arguing over what they really were, the strange pony crept behind a large statue of a strange looking creature.
The statue itself seemed to be a patchwork creature made of the limbs of other monsters. It had an eagle’s talon for one hand, and a massive lion’s paw for the other. His legs were what appeared to be a buffalo’s hind leg, and a dragon’s claw, while his tail reminded the pony of a Chinese dragon. A Pegasus wing and a bat wing adorned the statue’s back, and its face…
Nothing needed to be said about its face.
Neutra, the Forever Traveler of Neutrality, hid behind the statue, and started chanting underneath her breath. She extended her senses towards the statue, and wasn’t surprised to see how much magic had been put into it.
Thankfully, its strength was fading. Soon, the statue would be freed.
“No, not a statue…Discord…”
With that, she began to strip the layers of magic surrounding Discord’s binding spell away.
A small crack appeared.
“Alright you, evil, foul, ancient archenemy of mine!” I shouted, strapping several pouches to my belt. “It is now once again time for us to do battle. And this time, I shall be the victorious one!”
Slim patted me on the back and lifted his weapon of choice up into the air, letting loose a soundless battle cry.
“THAT’S THE SPIRIT SLIM!” I roared. I hefted my feather duster into the air and shouted, “THIS TIME, WE SHALL CLEAN THE CHAOS SECTION OF THE VAULT!”
Slim shook his mop violently in agreement, no expression on his metal face. Together, we clapped our cleaning instruments together, and charged into the mess that was the chaos section. The moment we hit the shelves, my spidey-senses told me stuff was about to go-
“SLIM, LOOK OUT!”
A giant purple tentacle reached out of a large toxic waste tank. Slim tried to beat it off with his mop but to no avail. The tentacle started pulling him back into its radioactive domain.
“SLIM!” I shouted from the confines of my HEV suit. Dashing forward, I grabbed his arm, screaming, “Damn it, Slim, don’t you get torn apart on me again!”
We both tugged against the force of the tentacle, straining with both our combined might. Finally, with a last pull, Slim was torn free. The tentacle slid back into its container, defeated, leaving me and Slim to gather our wits.
“I hate cleaning the vault,” I panted. Slim nodded at me, tapping his mop against the container in victory.
Every ten years, Slim and I had made it a point to at least attempt to clean/organize the section of the Vault that was devoted to all things that broke the conventional laws of reality or was just an embodiment of all things that didn’t make sense.
Before you ask, yes, there IS a lot of ACME stuff in here.
Alongside that though, I also had a ton of other memorabilia from my Travels tucked away in here. My old clown suit from my days as a Rodeo Clown, a magic 9 ball, and various other mementos dotted the shelves, sending wave after wave of memory at me.
While I may not act like it or even look like it; there’s no point denying that I’m extremely old. If it weren’t for my friends or the constant change, then I’d probably be nothing more than a wizened old geezer living in a hut out in the woods, while drinking moonshine and toting a boomstick with me everywhere I go. Instead, I’m a dude who looks seventeen, lives in a badass house out in the clearing NEXT to the woods, while drinking coke and carrying a revolver everywhere I go.
Wait, I got distracted again. What’s happening?
I looked around to see that I had somehow wandered into the center of the whole mess. All around me, bits and bobbles of random items popped in and out of existence, never really disappearing, but giving off the illusion of it at least.
For some strange reason, a giant floating baby head just flew by me.
“Whose idea was that in the first place?” I muttered to myself. “That’s just creepy.”
Steeling my nerves, I took a cautious step forward, my trusty feather duster gripped tightly in my hand. Ever so carefully, I started to lightly go over the stuff on the shelf. One wrong twitch and I might end up looking “prettier” than I’d be comfortable with.
You never know in this part of the Vault.
After a couple of hours, I had managed to get most of it cleaned, but now I was distracted by a simple wooden mask that sat in front of me.
“Hey, I remember this old thing,” I cried, wiping the dust off of it. “It’s The Mask!”
I sat down on the floor, and gently ran a finger over it.
“Man, the memories behind this…say, I wonder if I can still do that trick…”
I gripped it tightly in both hands, and snapped the mask in two.
“HA! It still works. Okay then, here goes…”
I placed the left half of the mask over my face and felt myself spin in a whirling green tornado. Lightning coursed through my veins, and a moment later my entire left half was wearing a yellow suit, clashing horribly with my dark orange HEV suit.
“Ssssssomebody STOP ME!” The half of my face wearing the Mask shouted.
“Hey Mask,” I muttered.
“Kid! Why’d you have to go and break me like that?” The Mask whined, wiping a mock tear away from his face.
“Ah, shaddap you old Halloween decoration,” I said, chuckling. “I just wanted to see how you were doing.”
“Oh, you know. After you trapped Ipkiss’ wild side, yours truly, in this little green mask, I’ve just been whiling away the hours, waiting for you to let me loose again. OH! Do I finally get to have some fun now?”
I shook my…our…his…screw it, I told him no.
“Because there hasn’t been anything chaotic enough to warrant something like that. Besides, I’m still a little angry about you trying to use Pinkie Pie to smash my face with a hammer,” I grumbled.
He laughed nervously, and said, “Hey, come on now, you know that was just a joke! PLEASE LEMME OUTTA THIS CAVE! I WANNA DANCE, SING, AND PONTIFICATE AGAIN! COME ON! I can just FEEL the chaos in the air!”
I rolled my eyes, and removed the Mask from my face. Something about that last line didn't sit well with me.
“I’ll do that when pigs fly,” I muttered, placing both halves of The Mask back together. “For now, you’ll just-”
“Sir, life-form detected at the door,” Ivy suddenly said, speaking over the intercoms.
“Oh, great. Alright, gimme a second.”
I took off the HEV suit, revealing my normal clothes underneath it, and booked it back up to the main floor. Once I got there, I realized I had accidentally taken The Mask with me, much to my surprise. Not wanting to carry that thing around all day, I tossed it onto the mantle of the fireplace and dashed outside.
“…I totally called it. One of my first sentences spoken on this world and I freakin’ called it.”
Currently, I was standing in the rain in Earth Pony form and watching my friends try to organize the animals.
Not just any rain though…
“CHOCOLATE RAAAAIIIIN~!” I sang in joy, jumping around in the puddles with Pinkie Pie. “SOME STAY DRY, WHILE THE REST GOES DOWN THE DRAIN! CHOCOLATE RAAAAIIIIN~!”
Pinkie and I both held our heads up to the cotton candy clouds that were dumping vast amounts of chocolate milk- YES I SAID THAT RIGHT –onto the ground below, and I was enjoying every minute of it.
Then my conscience told me that I wasn’t allowed to enjoy it because it was messing up the animals, ruining Applejack’s crops, and making the ecosystem all…chaotic.
Damn it, it’s hard being on the good side.
I sighed and walked out of the rain, shaking my coat dry.
“Why does all the fun stuff have to be illegal, immoral, or fattening?” I lamented jokingly to Twilight.
“Not now, Omnius. We need to figure out what’s causing all of this weird stuff to keep on happening!” she growled, scanning the skies. “The failsafe spell failed and we need a backup plan to clear the rest of it.”
“Don’t worry,” I reassured her. “I’m Omnius! I’ve always got a backup plan! Now, let’s see…” I scratched my beard thoughtfully for a moment, before nodding. “Alright, let me try something.”
A bit of focus let me shift into my unicorn form. I grinned, and lifted my head to stare at the cotton candy clouds. My horn started to give off blue sparks, as I gathered my magical strength.
“Omnius, what are you doing?” asked Twilight in a worried tone.
“My backup plan!”
A dark blue beam of light shot out of the tip of my horn, and struck one of the masses of cotton candy dead center. The instant it connected, I smiled widely, and said, “See? Now watch me work my ma-”
The cloud exploded into a giant orb of orange liquid.
All of it came pouring down on top of me and Twilight, soaking our fur. I tasted some of it experimentally and muttered, “Orange juice? What the deuce?”
Twilight groaned, and half-growled, “That didn’t help at all.”
“No, no it didn’t. Here, I’ll just flash-dry us,” I chirped, cheerfully pointing at my horn.
“NO!” she shouted fearfully. She then chuckled nervously and said, “Uh, I mean, no, that’s okay! Just go get us some towels!”
“Alright, be back in a flash!”
After I had gotten us some towels, I rushed back to where everypony had been just moments before...and was shocked to see that my friends had vanished. All of the disfigured animals were chowing down on the cotton candy clouds that had been brought to ground level, but that didn’t explain where they had all run off to.
Well, maybe the paper tacked to one of the trees held some answers.
“Dear Omnius,” I read out loud. “Princess Celestia needed to see all of us as soon as possible, so we went to Canterlot because you were taking too long. Please catch up to us, her letter sounded extremely urgent. Sorry for leaving you behind, but we thought your Auras would let you catch up to us in no time. Sincerely, Twilight Sparkle.”
…They just left me here?!
“THE NERVE OF THEM!” I shouted, stomping my hoof in overdramatic anger. “Why, to think that they’d just leave the guy who’s had HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN DEALING WITH THIS behind!”
An angry snort later, I had summoned my Speed Aura, transformed into a Pegasus, and launched into the sky, still ranting about how I was left behind. In all honesty, I wasn’t mad about it. Just annoyed that now I had to fly there myself, instead of in a chariot.
You know what? I’m gonna see if I can beat them there! That’ll show them, teach them not to leave the freaking ETERNAL TRAVELER OF GOOD WHO DEALS WITH THIS SHIT ALL THE TIME behind!
With that, I rapidly flapped my wings, flying fast enough to bend the trees from the sheer speed of it.
Five minutes later, and I had made it to the Castle at the exact same time as the girls. Alright, so maybe there’s something to those Royal Guard chariots. Either way, I decided not to explode on them (mostly because of Fluttershy’s apology). There was a crisis going on, and me being a prissy little drama Traveler wasn’t gonna help things at all.
I kicked open the door to the throne room and let the girls run ahead of me.
“Princess Celestia!” she shouted as she ran in. “We came as fast as we could.”
“Thank you, Twilight,” she said in a voice filled with fear and tension. She looked at the rest of us and added, “Thank you all.”
“Is this about the weather and the animals’ weird behavior?” Twilight asked, instantly cutting to the chase. “What’s happening out there? Why isn’t my magic working? Is there—“
“Enough,” I interrupted. “Let the Princess speak.”
Maybe it was rude, but I didn’t want us to sit around playing twenty questions. If the Sun Princess had called us down here, she had a good reason and possibly an answer.
Celestia nodded, choosing to ignore my outburst. “Follow me,” she commanded.
The Princess led us down a long hallway filled with multiple stained glass windows on either side. Some of the figures in the window I recognized, such as Starswirl the Bearded and younger versions of the two Princesses. One figure in particular caught my eye: a strange patchwork creature that was shining on the floor. If I didn’t know any better, I would have called it some sort of Chimera. I had a feeling Celestia had other answers in store, however.
“I’ve called you here for a matter of great importance,” she started, skipping the formalities. “It seems an old foe of mine, someone I thought I had defeated long ago, has returned. His name…is Discord.”
I glanced at the image once more, a feeling of unease creeping into my bones.
“Discord is the mischievous spirit of disharmony. Before my sister and I stood up to him, he ruled Equestria in an eternal state of unrest and unhappiness.”
Here, she stopped to point out a window depicting three ponies, a Pegasus, Unicorn, and Earth pony, being manipulated by the creature. He held three marionette control crossbars in his hands, and he had a wicked smile on his face. I instinctively frowned at the image.
“Luna and I saw how miserable life was for Earth ponies, Pegasi, and Unicorns alike. So after discovering the Elements of Harmony…” she gestured to the next image, a portrait of her and Luna imprisoning Discord within stone. “…we combined our powers and rose up against him, turning him to stone.
“All right, Princess!” Dash cheered.
“Good on ya,” I quietly muttered. “But I have a feeling there’s more to this story.”
Celestia nodded grimly. “Indeed. I thought the spell we cast would keep him contained forever. But since Luna and I are no longer connected to the Elements…”
She took a steadying breath.
“The spell has been broken.”
…Well shite. That explains everything. All of the weird magic, the food related weather, the fact that The Mask actually felt more active…
Hmm…No, I’m not that desperate yet. Besides, if I’m right, the Elements are the key to this problem. Thankfully, I hadn’t taken the Element of Hope off of my neck ever since I had accidentally created it, and it was currently hidden on my human self’s outfit.
Yeah. Hide it on my human form. If you’ve noticed, I don’t wear the same get-up in pony form, so it’s the perfect hidey-hole for it.
While I was going over all of this in my head, I felt Dash smack me back into attentiveness. I was brought back just in time to hear Twilight say, “Princess Celestia, you can count on–”
“Hold on a second!” Pinkie interrupted. “Eternal Chaos comes with chocolate rain, you guys! CHOCOLATE RAIN!”
“…You know, she makes a good point,” I admitted. “Free chocolate.”
Rarity then grinned slyly and said, “Yes, but that means that nopony will want to put their time into creating soda.”
“…Rarity is right; we must restore peace and harmony to the land!” I shouted. “Well, don’t just stand there! Get these girls their shiny weapons of mass friendship!”
Celestia rolled her eyes good-naturedly and inserted her horn into a pair of doors that I hadn’t noticed in my earlier deductive process. Hell, I was only just realizing we had moved to an almost entirely different room.
Wait, I’m getting distracted again. FOCUS!
A burst of magic from Celestia’s horn sent a system of unseen gears and locks into motion, unlocking the heavy marble doors. A torrent of blinding sunlight flowed out of the small crack in the doors, making me lift a hoof up to shield my eyes.
I blinked away the spots in my eyes, as the sound of Rarity gushing over the box containing the Elements reached my ears.
“No box for you, we’ve got ass to kick,” I cackled.
“Have no fear, ponies. I have total confidence that you will be able to defeat Discord…” she opened the box, a confident and calm smile on her face. “…With these!”
The box was completely empty.
All of us gasped in shock.
Pinkie just shrugged and said, “Oh, well. If anyone needs me, I’ll be outside in the chocolate puddles with a giant swizzle straw!”
“Get back in here,” I chided while Twilight and Celestia puzzled over the disappearance of the Elements, chomping down on her tail and pulling her back into the room.
“Oh, I never get to have any fun!” she pouted.
Before I could answer, I heard a malicious laughter fill the room.
“Did you miss me Celestia?” a new voice asked from seemingly out of nowhere. “Oh, wait, hold on. Let me take care of something!”
A dark hole opened up underneath me and I fell into it.
“OMNIUS!” I heard Twilight shout before the hole closed, cutting off the light.
“GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!” I shouted as I fell through the air.
“Wha…where am I?” I groaned, picking myself up off the grass. I ran a hand through my hair, feeling for my bandana-
Hold on, my hand? What happened to my hoof?! My awesome, physics-defying hoof?! Wow, is that different from what I said in the beginning.
“Good afternoon, Omnius,” I heard an all-too familiar voice greet me.
“Neutra?” I asked in disbelief, finally seeing that I was standing in a section of the hedge maze that took up the majority of the gardens of Canterlot. “What’s going on?”
The dark-skinned woman lowered her hood, revealing her trademark almond-shaped eyes and stoic expression. “I am sorry to meet you on such terms, my friend,” she apologized.
“What do you mean?” my hand instinctively clenched into a fist and summoned my blade.
She sighed, and waved her hand casually. Three chairs materialized out of nowhere, along with a table decorated with an elaborate tea set.
“Please, calm down and have a seat,” she offered, pouring a cup of scalding hot liquid into a cup. “My master shall be arriving soon.”
“Master?” That got me. She never called anyone her master…except…no, it can’t be.
“Yes, master! Isn’t it wonderful?”
With an enormous crack of thunder, the actual creature, the one seen in the stained glass windows, appeared before me.
“Hello there! My name is Discord and your name isn’t important right now,” he cackled. With an exaggerated flourish, he took the seat across from me. A snap of his fingers sent the tea pot to his mouth, where he causally bit into it like a cookie.
“Pleasure,” I muttered.
“Oh, don’t be such a spoil-sport!” he chided. “That’s why I’m not letting you help your friends, after all! You’d be nothing more than a stick in the mud.”
“WHAT?!” I roared, standing up in anger.
Neutra held out a placating hand and gently used her magic to force me back into my seat. “Perhaps it would be best if we offered an explanation,” she suggested.
“You’re quite right, my beloved Traveler!” Discord cooed, finishing the rest of his teapot. He threw the liquid behind him, where it dissolved the hedge in a hiss of acid. “See, when the magic around my prison started to weaken, I was able to finally reach out to my loyal servant, Neutra. A fun little conversation later and she had freed me! Now, I can restore the balance of the world and bring some chaos into the mix. Won’t that be exciting?”
He cackled madly, clapping his hands together in childish glee.
“And who’s to say I won’t interfere and stop you?” I challenged.
Both of us turned to look at Neutra, who was glaring coldly at me.
“The balance of this area was off by too much. There wasn’t enough chaos to rightly counter the vast amounts of love and harmony, meaning that things would have spiraled out of control, had I not stepped in. Now, I am forced to prevent you from interfering at all.” Her eyes hardened, and her voice rose a little in anger. “You will not be able to fight me, and my God, at the same time. Nothing you can say will convince me to let you go out there and assist your friends in resealing Discord…”
Discord cleared his throat and stood up, gesturing for her to sit down.
“Unless…we make things difficult,” The God of Neutrality stated. He got up and paced around the table. “You see, I know that if I am allowed to be freed for too long, my natural chaotic nature will upset the balance if left unchecked, and we cannot afford to use Disciples of The Scales to monitor every force of chaos on this world. Oh no, that is MY job, thank you very much. Therefore, I’ve already set about creating chaos…and the balance is nearly restored.
“Nearly. So, what I propose is this: for the duration of my freedom, I will allow you to help your ‘friends’…” he gripped my shoulder tightly, causing me to wince instinctively. “But only if you agree to not use any of your powers.”
I looked at him incredulously. “You can’t be serious,” I said in disbelief.
“Oh, I am very serious. You can either sit on the sidelines and enjoy a bag of popcorn with me as the chaos unfolds, or you can join your friends and try to protect them from my mayhem during my Ponyville run. If you break your promise, I'll force you to leave this world and let me cause some more chaos. Before I forget, let me remind you of something!” He reached his talon down my shirt and pulled my Element of Hope out.
“Don’t touch that,” I commanded, snatching it away from him.
“Well excuuuuuuuuuuse, me!” he mocked. “But they need ALL of the Elements to seal me away again. Even now, they’re struggling to get through my maze and find their Elements…though I imagine they’re in terrible danger,” he yawned.
…Doesn’t look like I have much of a choice now, does it?
“Alright, fine,” I relented, hanging my head. “I won’t use any of my powers…but you better keep your promise.”
He laughed triumphantly, and said, “Oh, don’t worry! I will! And just to let you know, your friends left my hedge maze hours ago! In fact, we were never there!”
His fingers snapped again, and the scenery fell away to reveal that we were dining in the center of Ponyville…only it looked much more chaotic. Night and day switched rapidly, while buffalo danced around in a Fantasia-esque ballet. Ponies everywhere were acting out of character, and everything was breaking every law of physics known to Pony kind. That, and we were hanging upside down.
“One more thing! YOU GET TO WATCH THIS FIASCO FIRST, PONY-BOY! And don't forget, if you use your powers, you'll have to do nothing but waaaaaatch~!” Discord shouted, before he dropkicked me into another building right as the rest of the girls showed up.
One failed attempt at sealing Discord later, and the girls...I can’t believe I’m saying this, but they had split up. Each of them looking violently angry at each other, and Rainbow Dash wasn’t even there. I couldn’t do anything, trapped inside of the building.
As soon as they had left, the door opened and I was allowed to run over to Twilight.
“Twilight!” I shouted, sliding over to her and wrapping my arms around her in a tight embrace. “What happened, where are the rest of our friends?”
“I DON’T HAVE ANY FRIENDS!” she cried, her face scrunched in a mixture of hate and sorrow. “They’re not my friends any more…and where were you?!”
I quickly explained to her everything about Neutra, Discord, and the deal they had tricked me into making.
“So now our last hope doesn’t have any power?” Twilight half-cried. “Then we’re doomed! The Elements of Harmony failed, and…our friendship failed…I failed everypony…”
“Twilight, don’t say that,” I tried to comfort her.
“With friends like them, who needs enemies?”
And then, she did something that pushed me over the edge. Something that forced me to get angry, and stop thinking like a Traveler, and start thinking like a man who was out of options.
A single tear slid down her face and splashed onto the ground, forming a small puddle in the shape of a broken heart.
That’s it. I may not be allowed to use my powers. I may not be allowed to summon backup.
But he didn’t say I wasn’t allowed to use the power of something else entirely.
“Omnius, buy her some time. I will help her remember what her heart already knows,” I heard Celestia say inside of my head. “You know what to do.”
She’s right…unfortunately, I do know what I have to do.
“Listen to me, Twi,” I said, holding her face in my hands. “I’m gonna fix this. I’ll buy us some time. I need you to get the others back to normal and help me seal Discord back in his prison.”
“Why? What’s the point…besides, what can you do anyways? What have you got that can possibly help us?” she said dejectedly.
“I’ve got a backup plan.”
Not even waiting for an answer, I ran as fast as I could towards my house, where it held the one thing that could help me turn the tides.
Now then, it’s time I did something that no one would ever do unless they were out of options.
And this definitely qualified.
I hauled myself into my living room. Note to self, running at full speed while on soapy roads is never a good idea.
“There you are,” I whispered, reaching for something on my mantle. “I know you can hear me in there, so I want you to listen and listen good. You’re going to help me beat Discord and buy some time for my friends to get themselves back together. In return, I’m giving you full control and letting you do whatever it takes to beat this bastard.”
The object in my hand pulsed in agreement.
“Just remember who gets the final say,” I reminded it.
It pulsed one more time.
“Alright…look out Equestria.”
I slowly lifted the item of mass power, the item responsible for putting so many villains behind bars or in a cushioned room…and placed it on my face.
The Mask instantly grappled with my head, merging its power with my body, forcing me to spin in a blazing green and yellow tornado. Loud, manic laughter filled the air, while my clothes morphed to fit The Mask’s preferences.
“Ssssssssssssssomebody STOP ME!”