The Keep in the Sky was lazily floating over a lake at the moment. It had been sometime since it had last wondered over a body of water and the young pony that peering over the edge of the stone overlook was giggling at the reflection she was casting in the placid water. It was a spectacularly fair summer day, which was a nice change from the bout of colder weeks that had just past. The young pony reached her hoof over at the small pile of rocks she had brought up to the Keep from the ground below. When she was on the ground, her sister had spent a good deal of the morning gathering an assortment of stones from the forest outside of her cottage. Once her sister had collected the six stones she had wrapped them in a silk cloth. It had been a difficult task to bring such a heavy bundle of rocks back up to the Keep and she had offered to help her sister with the use of her magic to simply teleport them, but her sister had told her it would be good strength training for flying. Who was she to argue with her sister when it came to flying? Without taking her eyes off of the lake below, she pushed a rock from the pile and let it plummet to the ground below. When the rock impacted the placid lake it impacted with a satisfying “plop!”
The pony smiled. It was such a childish thing to do, but then again she really was not more than a young mare. What did matter if she acted a few years younger than she was? Her sister was already busy trying to act a few years older. The pony chuckled softly. Right now her sister was striking out with a few mares she had been eyeing for a few weeks. It really was not her fault, many ponies found them to be freakish. They were intimidating because of the company they kept, and who could blame the others for thinking such ways. That, however, was not the only probably with her sister’s ability to get a date. The pony in the Keep sighed, “Oh poor Selena, you’re so pretty. You probably would be able to woo any number of them if you weren’t so forceful.” The pony pushed another pebble into the lake. “Perhaps you just haven’t met the right mare yet…” She slid another rock off the Keep’s edge. The rock bounced on the ground next to the lake, her angle having been lost as the Keep floated further away from the lake.
“Looks like you missed that one, my sweet Helia.” A deep angelic voice rang out. The voice hummed like a choir singing in harmony. The voice’s owner, a large spectral bird, landed on Helia’s back.
The young pony giggled. “Stop that, you’re tickling me!”
“Oh, you are ticklish, my young friend?” The bird gently dragged its talons against the pony’s sides.
Helia rolled on her back in a laughing fit. “Stop that! Why do you always have to be so mean?” She said in mock whine. “Stop that or I’ll tell on you!” The bird landed next to her and folded its wings majestically. “Why do you do that?”
“Do what, my sweet one?” The bird chuckled.
“Take the form of a phoenix?”
“It is pleasing to the eye, and rare.”
Helia laughed, “Are you not one-of-a-kind enough?”
“I am only one part of a pair, much like you and your sister. Speaking of which, my brother is looking for her, where has she gone off to now?”
“Selena? She’s on the surface, trying to woo the townsponies again.” Helia chuckled. “I honestly don’t know what your brother sees in her. Not to mention he hasn’t taken the hint that she’s just not interested what with her eye for mares and all.”
The phoenix nodded. “One can never hope to understand the inner machinations of a mind filled with infatuation. But enough of our siblings; after all today is your day! Come, sweet one, I believe my father wishes to speak with you in the courtyard, I hear he has a surprise for you. I think it’s something special for your birthday.”
Helia giggled, “Then we shall talk later, my friend.” The pony stood up and turned back to the doors to the Keep. She smiled at the blue sky before entering.
“Yes, I will see you at tonight’s party.” The ghostly phoenix spread its wings and faded into the blue sky.
“Dagr…” Princess Celestia’s right eye opened reluctantly. The sound of fire crackling had jolted her from her brief slumber. She coughed a few times from the smoke that filled the room. She let out a groan as she struggled to sit upright. A flaming wooden beam fell to the ground next to her. She careened her neck upwards to stare at the hole in the ceiling. The moon was shining an unnatural amount of light to the room from its perch in the sky. It was far too early for the moon to be out. “Nightmare Night’s second coming.” She gritted her teeth and lifted herself up from the rubble. Suddenly realizing she was looking out only one eye, she attempted to open her left eye. Blood poured down her cheek, its path following in a trail of already dried blood told her she had tried this before. She would just have to do without her left eye for now. There would be time to heal that with magic later. She stretched her wings and with a mighty leap she took to the skies again. She passed through the hole in the roof and into the open evening air.
Celesita’s vision was assaulted with a terrifying image of Canterlot in ruins. The great towers of Canterlot Castle were battered or fallen. The promenade was only attached by a small a thread of metal that kept it from falling down the mountain side. Fires were smoldering on nearly every street and the upper levels where the noble houses resided were much lower than normal. Nightmare Moon was sitting atop a nearby spire, where she had the perfect vantage point over where Celestia had crashed. The elder sister dipped into a dive and tackled the younger sister. They impacted the street below and tumbled into what had once been the central square of the market district. Tendrils of shadow engulfed Celestia and effortlessly tossed her body off to the side. As she righted herself Nightmare Moon hissed, “What’s the matter, Celestia?” Tendrils lashed out from every direction striking Celestia. The elder Alicorn staggered backwards with each strike until she was backed against a wall. A tendril dug its knife-like ending into Celestia’s neck drawing blood. “Not growing tired in your old age are you?”
A small wall of golden light blocked the next tendril’s attack. Nightmare Moon hissed and attempted to attack from a different angle. The wall shifted and swatted away the second strike as easily as the previous. “I could say the same for you, sister dear.” Celestia took a step forward as she blocked another strike. Soon Nightmare Moon found herself backing up, one step at a time. She glanced back quickly to see she was going to be backed into a wall in a few moments if she did not turn the tide of battle soon. A shout came from the north, startling Celestia. The magic shield did not move in time and Nightmare Moon struck a solid attack at Celestia’s chest, sending her recoiling.
Twilight Sparkle shouted again, “Princesses! Stop this madness! Please just stop all this fighting!” The lavender Unicorn slid down a mountain of rubble, followed shortly after by Rainbow Dash and Applejack. From a slightly different direction Fluttershy, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie galloped into view. Celestia gritted her teeth. A wall of brilliant light rose and again blocked off their path. “No! Please, lower the shield, we can help! We can talk this out, I’m sure this is all just a big misunderstanding. Right?” Twilight’s eye twitched as she turned back to her friends. “Nightmare Moon, please!”
Nightmare Moon hissed in Twilight’s direction. “Leave this place, Twilight. It is too dangerous. My sister’s aim has gone poor with age.” Nightmare Moon faded into a shadowy mist and melted into the wall she had been backed up against. Rising from the shadows of a fallen pillar, Nightmare Moon leapt at Celestia’s back. Though she heard the sound of Nightmare Moon’s hooves kick off the ground, he elder Alicorn turned far too slowly to prevent the strike. The two goddesses rolled further down the street.
Celestia was the first to right herself. Light focused in her horn with a hum. “I am the better Unicorn, sister dear. You will burn with the might of the sun and its holy light!” A thunderclap tore though the city as an immense ray of magic blasted a line of desolation. The might of the magic narrowly missed Nightmare Moon as the princess of the night took flight. Celestia took wing as well and pursued.
“You may be the better Unicorn sister, but I am the better Pegasus!” Nightmare Moon taunted as she made a sharp turn into one of the alleyways of the city. Celestia was forced to loop back around as she missed the quick change in course. Once she lined up a straight line of sight with Nightmare Moon she attempted to strike with magic once more. Nightmare Moon heard the sound of the high-pitched hum generated by the sheer amount of magic that was focused in Celestia’s horn. The Alicorn of the night launched herself into the sky at a right-angle, dodging Celestia’s attack with ease. Celestia turned around and launched into a climb, only to pass a diving Nightmare Moon on her way up.
“Perhaps I am approaching this from the wrong perspective.” Celestia said as she took to the sky. Looking down upon the city she launched a flurry of magical spears at Nightmare Moon. Nightmare Moon dodged a few before fading into the shadow of one of the buildings. .Celesita’s left eye was held tightly shut and a small trickle of blood ran down her cheek. She was treading air with her wings as she surveyed the streets with her good eye. She rotated in place as her she noticed movement in her peripheral. With a high-pitched hum rays of light were drawn into the Alicorn’s horn. The hum dipped in pitch suddenly, followed by a roaring thunderclap as a beam of golden light arced through the sky and reduced the ground below to smoldering rubble. Nightmare Moon appeared on the other side of the city, stepping from the shadows of a pile of rubble. Celestia turned her attention to her sister and prepared another blast. Sensing danger, Nightmare Moon again took to the shadows. “You cannot hide in the Meld forever, sister dear!” Celestia shouted from high above what was left of Canterlot. She directed her attention to the fading light on the horizon. The sun rose into the sky and lit the city. As the sphere of light reached the apex of the sky, the shadows of the city shortened.
Nightmare Moon hissed as she was revealed hiding behind one of the fallen lampposts. “I will blot out your light, sister of mine!” Nightmare Moon charged into the sky and collided with Celestia. The two ponies fell to the ground and crashed through the roof of one of the larger manors in Canterlot. Celestia rolled off to the side upon impact, but Nightmare Moon crashed though the floor and into the lower level. Celestia quickly attempted to stand up, but found her leg was bent at an unnatural angle. She hobbled over though the manor and found a wall to lean up against. Nightmare Moon hissed from somewhere else in the manor, “Where are you sister of mine?”
Celestia found herself breathing heavily. “You really think you’re going to win, Nightmare Moon? Don’t be so foolish.” Celestia looked down at her hoof and cast a spell on it. It would take a bit, but she should be healed soon. If only she could survive long enough for the spell to work its magic.
“I know you’re here, sister.” Nightmare Moon walked past a coat of arms depicting three crowns. It was the obviously the cutie mark of some rich noble family. She had vaguely remembered meeting somepony who bore such a mark, but it was escaping her now. “Come out and play, Tia!” Nightmare Moon crashed through a wall. Rubble fell all around but there was no sign of her sister.
Celestia exhaled deeply as she let her heart steady. Nightmare Moon was still searching the room she had just been hiding in and she had narrowly managed to leave in time. Her leg was throbbing as it straightened out and snapped back into place. “You may be the better Pegasus, Nightmare Moon. But I am the better Earth pony!” Celestia opened her mouth and sang a quick five tone melody.
Nightmare Moon gasped as she heard the song. Chattering and chirping filled the room as tiny creatures swarmed her legs. “Rats!” Nightmare Moon burst through the ceiling of the manor. She had no sooner left the roof before she was engulfed in a flock of birds pecking at her flesh. Nightmare Moon screamed as the beaks tore her feathers from her wings.
Twilight Sparkle beat her hoof against the wall of golden light. “Why in all of Equestria can I not break this stupid shield?” Behind the shied the Alicorns collided in the air with a flash of light and explosion of shadowy mist.
A laugh erupted from behind the ponies. “Come now, Twilight, your mentor’s magic is nothing to be trifled with.”
Twilight turned around and stared at the sight before her eyes. Discord was lounging on a couch eating popcorn from a bucket. She waved her hoof and turned back around. “Not now Discord.”
Pinkie Pie gasped and Fluttershy shrieked. Rarity wheezed, “Discord!?”
Twilight spun back around, “Wait! You see him too?”
Discord tossed his head back and chortled. “Really, Twilight? You can’t feel my magnificence radiate through the air? Celestia can, but then again why would you want to be like your mentor? After all look at what a splendid job she is doing right now!” Discord squirmed on the couch in a fit of laughter. “I apologize for being so late. There were a few things I had to take care of first.”
“Rainbow Dash! Quickly! Go to the castle and retrieve the Elements of Harmony from the chamber!”
“On it! Be back faster than… oof!” Rainbow Dash crashed to the ground after slamming head first into a floating box.
Discord sighed. “No need. I have them right here.” The box floated over to the couch and opened up to reveal the glowing Elements of Harmony. The necklaces and crown floated out of the box. “Let’s see… one for you…” Rarity glanced down at the necklace around her neck. “…and you…” Applejack gasped. “Oh and you!” Pinkie Pie jumped in the air to meet the trinket halfway. “Can’t forget you, Fluttershy! Or you Rainbow Dash!” Discord snapped his fingers. “And the big crown-y thing for lady Twilight!”
Twilight rolled her eyes upwards at the tiara on her head. “The Elements of Harmony? What’s your angle, Discord?” An explosion of rubble kicked up in the air. Twilight glanced over her shoulder, suddenly reminded that a battle was still taking place in the background.
Discord plopped a popcorn kernel in his mouth. “Angle? Nothing. Absolutely nothing at all. I just thought that I would save you the trouble of fetching them yourselves. I can see that no matter how much good I try to do you ponies are always going to be so skeptical of me. I’m really not such a bad guy once you get to know me.” Discord held out the tub of popcorn. “Want any? It’s pumpkin flavored. No? Well no accounting for taste.” Discord let go of the tub and it sprouted flippers and flew around his head as he folded his arms behind his neck. “The fact of it is… I know I can’t win.” Discord faked wiping tears from his eyes as he continued in a whining tone. “Your magical friendship is just too strong for me to break. I know… I tried.” Discord reached downwards into the dirt and somehow pulled a claw full of popcorn out of the tub floating above him. “Let’s face it. It’s probably only a matter of time before you turn me back to stone. So I thought perhaps you would have it in your little pastel hearts to let me enjoy a good show of chaos before I go back into that abysmal dungeon.” Discord laughed. “And my, what a spectacular show it is.”
Rainbow Dash spit on the ground. “Yeah right, like we would believe you’d give up causing chaos and ponies misery!”
Discord yawned. “I’m being serious here. A rare occurrence, I realize, but it does happen from time to time. If you pointed a hoof at me and said, 'Oh look there’s the master of chaos!' on any other day you’d be right. But today, think of it as my day off. I don’t know about you, after all Rainbow Dash, you’re such a health nut, but on my days off I like to just find a comfy sitting spot and veg-out.” Discord reclined in his char and hugged the tub of popcorn. “Maybe even cause a little harmony just to shake thing up a bit.”
Pinkie Pie scoffed. “Like we would believe that!” A blinding beam of light scorched the sky behind Discord as Nightmare Moon evaded another attack.
“Oh why doesn’t any pony trust me? I have never once lied! Ever. And you ponies continue to think I am nothing but a regular anti-Applejack!”
“No offence, honest Applejack. But yes, you are all right. I never said I’m giving up on chaos. Why are you mortals always so shortsighted? You need to look at the big picture. I know I can’t beat you, so I’m just going to bide my time. After all, you ponies don’t live forever, unlike me. Once one of you dies, I’ll be right there with a bouquet of fresh applesauce to place on your headstone.” Discord smirked. “Fluttershy will probably be the first. You know she’s older than all of you and Pegasi have the shortest life span of all ponies.” Fluttershy whimpered from behind Rarity. “Oh cheer up, my dear little acrophobic Pegasus. It’s not as though anypony will have time to miss you after I turn all of the sky into cheese. They will be too worried about finding the correct cider to wash it down with.”
Twilight stamped her hoof. “Discord! Enough.”
“My, aren’t we saucy and bossy today. What’s the matter, Twilight Stumble? You know, the princesses are fighting over you.” Discord laughed. “Or are we simply just frustrated over not being able to dispel that shield so you can stop them? Well you might as well throw in the towel on that one. You’d need to be a trained expert on protection spells to deal with that. You’re unqualified.”
Twilight pressed her hoof to her chin. “Expert on protection spells? We need to find my brother!”
Discord pulled out a small file and started polishing his talons. “Oh, I think you’ll find that is quiet impossible at the moment. Impossibility is a triviality to me; however you might beg to differ.”
Twilight jumped up on the couch and thrust a hoof at Discord’s face. “Where is he? What have you done with him?”
“Me? Why would you think I would know where he is?” Discord smiled devilishly. Twilight opened her mouth to say something but Discord jumped upwards. “Whoa! Are you watching this fight? It’s amazing. Such beautiful entropy! See how Celestia’s magic turns the ground to ash?” Discord sighed. “Such a penchant for destruction those two can have when they put their minds to it.” Discord shoved a large amount of popcorn in his mouth. He attempted to swallow as he spoke, “Oh you should have seen them when they were just little young things. Celestia looked so cute with her little army and little Woona and her wide-eyed sparkling personality. But I digress. The point is: that shield has bested even you, Twilight. So you might as well get your face muscles acclimated to the mourning expression.”
Pinkie Pie tilted her head. “Mourning?”
Discord flipped his tub of popcorn upside down. The popcorn exploded into the air out of the top of the tub and turned into confetti. A small metal chain fell out of the tub and Discord gave it a yank. The tub lit up like a lampshade. Discord pulled out a pair of reading glasses and cracked open a book, sideways. “Don’t act so surprised.” He said as he took a long drag on his bubble pipe. “When this is over there will be one winner and one loser.” Discord hung a top hat on his tail. “If Luna wins, she’ll probably want to banish Celestia to the moon or perhaps the sun. It will be the only way to keep the sun princess from interfering further in little Luna’s love life.” Discord rolled his eyes upwards as he filled the book with lettuce and mustard. “Little Luna’s love life! Little Luna’s love life! Kind of rolls off the tongue there.” Discord let out a bellowing laugh.
Applejack pushed her hat out of her eyes. “An’ what if Pr’ncess Celestia wins?”
Discord took a bite out of the book. “Oh that’s the best part.” Discord belched loudly. “Excuse me. That was terribly rude. Ahem. That’s the best part. Celestia won’t give Luna a second chance again. She’ll probably kill her.” Discord frowned. “Sometimes she’s just so grim I don’t know what to do with her.”
Twilight gasped, “We have to get through this shield! Everypony together!”
“It won’t work. You might as well stop now.” Discord proceeded to eat the top hat next. “Please excuse my eating habits; I’ve just recently lost all this weight. You know… now that I’m not a statue anymore.” Rarity and Twilight attacked the barrier with magic as the others pounded their hooves against the shield.
“That’s it everypony! Together we can get through!” Twilight grunted as she focused every ounce of magic she had at the shield. “We can! We…” She gasped as Pinkie Pie stopped working and rubbed her hooves. “Just a little more, I’m sure it will break!”
“Oh watching your little determined hearts work at the impossible is just so amusing.” Discord chuckled from behind the shield. “You’re like ants, throwing yourselves in a river just so eventually one can cross.”
“Shut up will you!” Twilight said without breaking eye contact with the shield.
“Don’t take that as an insult. It was a complement. Such endearing loyalty to such tyrants is commendable. It really takes a strong heart to turn such a blind eye to all those transgressions the sisters have committed.”
“Just shut…” Twilight glanced upwards at Discord. “Wait a moment! How did you get on the other side of the shield?”
“For me, the impossible is easy.” Discord laughed. With a flash of light, he teleported back to his couch.
“You can get past the shield? You could dispel it for us.” In the distance, one of the spires from the upper levels of the city crashed to the ground.
“Yes, I suppose I could. But I won’t. There’s not much in it for me.” Discord pulled at his beard as he looked up at the sky pensively. “But maybe there could be…. What about a deal?”
Pinkie Pie crossed her hooves and scoffed, “Like we would ever make a deal with you.”
“Oh yes! I will bring the sisters down so you can use the Elements of Harmony to pacify them and in exchange you promise not to use the Elements of Harmony on me. What do you say?” Discord held his claw out.
“Are ya crazy? That would just be exchanging one disaster for another!” Applejack said as she pushed Discord’s claw away.
“Fine then, I’ll sweeten the deal: I will stop the sisters long enough for you to use the elements. You promise not to use the elements on me and I will also promise not to cause chaos in Equestira… or even anywhere in the Known World… forevermore. I won’t use my magic on anything in this world as long as you don’t attempt to use the elements against me.” Discord held out his claw again. “That’s my final offer. Take it or leave it. But think for just a moment, all of this destruction can be stopped if you just shake my claw, honest Applejack.” Discord’s lips curled into a smile.
“Wait! Are we seriously considering this?” Rarity said.
Twilight glanced up at the sky. Celestia’s figure eclipsed the sun as she cast another spell at Nightmare Moon. Twilight bit her lip. “Ok! We’ll vote on it!"
“What?!” Fluttershy’s expression fell to pure anger.
“Hang on here,” Rainbow Dash said. “It’s not like we have much of a choice. We can’t just let the princesses continue beating the living hay out of each other. It’s risky sure, but I vote we take the deal.”
Discord chuckled. “Ah, wonderful! You have excellent insight, Rainbow.”
“Are you serious?! You want to let that big dumb meanie roam free? My vote is a firm no!” Fluttershy stomped her hooves.
Discord shook his head. “Now name calling is one of the oldest logical fallacies. Pathos alone does not an argument make, Fluttershy.”
A tower crashed to the ground in the background. “If we don’t do something Canterlot will be destroyed!” Rarity shook her head “I’m afraid I’m going to have to do something I’d never thought I would ever do: Agree with Rainbow Dash. I vote for the deal.”
“That’s it, two beats one. Let’s take the deal!” Rainbow Dash held out her hoof to shake Discord’s claw.
“Now, now.” Discord sighed as he pushed Rainbow Dash away. “Not everypony has voted yet. And besides, I’ll seal the deal with Applejack not you.” He held his claw out towards the orange Earth pony.
“Has everypony gone mad?!” Pinkie Pie shook her head. “This is Discord! Chocolate rain is fun and all, but this is the master of chaos we’re talking about here! I vote no-sies for real-sies.”
“Then it’s tied.” Twilight Sparkle said with a hint of panic in her voice. “Applejack how do you vote?”
“Uh….” Applejack’s eyes darted back and forth as Discord edged his claw closer to the pony’s face. “I uh…” Applejack tugged nervously on the brim of her hat. “I don’t know! I don’t think we’re the ponies to be making this decision. I don’t want to vote!”
“Then Applejack abstains.” Discord laughed. “It looks like it’s tied at two-two. I guess it’s up to you, Twilight Sparkle. You need to break the tie!”
Twilight took a few steps backwards. “What? No! Why is it always me? I…”
“Think about this, Twilight! This is Discord!” Fluttershy said.
“What choice do we have? The princesses need to be stopped like five minutes ago!”
Twilight shook her head. “I’m thinking….”
“Don’t take that deal!”
Discord snaked around Twilight’s side. “Yes you should take that deal!”
Pinkie Pie bounced in front of Twilight’s face. “Twilight, come on! We can’t risk it!”
Rainbow Dash picked up the pink pony and set her aside. “Ok that is probably true that it’s a huge risk, but look at you! You’ve got such massive brains, ya egg head! Clearly you can see that we don’t have much of a choice here, right?”
Twilight took another step backwards. “Would everypony just…!”
“You know Rainbow Dash is right,” Discord laughed. “You know the first time I saw you, I thought, now there is a pony that could recognize when she saw a good deal. An absolute natural at seeing opportunity and seizing it. Not to boast your ego or anything, but… take the deal.”
“Don’t listen to them! Twilight this is a big mistake!”
“We can’t let Canterlot fall!” Rarity shouted.
“Twilight! What do we do?” Applejack said as she approached.
“Just have Applejack shake my claw and the deal will be made! Then you can save your princesses and I don’t have to be a statue anymore. It’s a win-win when you think about it! Come on! All that’s left is your vote!” Discord faked a cough, “Take the deal!”
“Don’t vote for the deal!”
“Do vote for the deal!”
“Don’t do it!”
Rainbow Dash pushed a pony away. “Let the poor pony decide for herself would you, Pinkie!”
“Clock is ticking my little pony.” Discord’s voice echoed. “Choices, choices are yours to make, choose carefully for there are lives at stake. If you let your indecision paralyze, your friends will all pay with their lives. So hurry swiftly my pony friend, before their lives come to a sudden end.”
“Don’t listen to him!”
“Come on! I’m so close! Just take the deal!”
“EVERYPONY JUST SHUT UP!” Twilight screamed. The ground seemed to shake slightly around her as magic faded from her horn. She tapped her hooves against her temples. “Alright! I’ve made my decision…”