67w, 6dLyra & Bon-Bon
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For a while, all Lyra could do was stand there. She looked at her tail. Down at her hooves. At the edge of her vision, she could see the tip of her horn.
But there wasn’t any time to waste. She wasn’t quite sure how long she had been unconscious. Lyra kicked off the shoes from her back hooves. They didn’t fit anymore, they would only slow her down. She had tried to reorient herself, reminding herself which direction was home, and just started running – well, galloping would be more accurate.
Any minute now she would wake up. She had to. There wasn’t any way that Discord was here, in Philadelphia.
Something fell into her eye, and she skidded to a halt, blinking it out.
A few more followed. Thick brown droplets… Pretty soon puddles of chocolate milk had started to form on the road. Of course. Just like he’d done in Ponyville. Lyra shook her head and started again.
Her shirt and pants were loose and baggy, and they were getting soggy in the rain. They’d probably start to smell from all this milk… No, why was she thinking of that now?
The lyre necklace, matching her cutie mark that had just reappeared on her hip (flank, she corrected herself), beat against her neck as she galloped along the side of the road towards home. She passed by a car that had stopped on the side of the road. She noticed that the tires were now square instead of round. Whoever had been driving it must have left it there and continued on foot.
Finally Lyra reached her house. No car in the driveway. Maybe she hadn’t been out as long as she thought. Her mind went back to the abandoned vehicle with the square wheels. She hadn’t even seen what things were like in town, but they must be bad. How were the humans reacting to whatever had happened? More importantly, how would her parents react when they came home and found her like this? There was no telling when exactly they would return. She’d deal with her parents… and Chloe… once they got here.
If they were okay.
For now, she put on a final burst of speed and dashed up to the front porch. The key was in her pocket. Her first instinct was just to reach a hand in and take it out, but obviously that wouldn’t work. It took some effort to direct even a small amount of magical energy and lift the keyring out of her pocket, fit it into the door, and then actually try to open it. It seemed to take forever. There was a reason why doorknobs in Equestria didn’t actually turn.
The door finally flung open and she practically fell inside, glad to get out of the rain. She stopped to take a breath. With one back leg, she kicked the door closed behind her.
Everything here looked so big.
She’d never been in a human home as a pony. She just remembered being in Canterlot Castle for a few moments, and how everything seemed smaller after she was on two legs. Nothing here was meant for ponies. Without hands, she was pretty much useless right now.
She lifted one foreleg and stared at the wet, matted green hair. It was an odd sensation, having this all over herself. How had she ever been used to it?
More importantly, what did she do now? Discord was out there. Her family would probably come back sooner or later. Based on the clock, she had been gone less than an hour. It was better than what she had thought. But whenever they got here, she’d have to come clean with them about all the lies she’d been telling. She really didn’t want to think about that.
But first, she was dripping milk all over the floor. There was nothing she could do about Discord, but this was not the best impression to make.
Lyra headed for the stairs, tripped on the first step with a small cry, and continued slower than before. These stairs were too narrow. It hadn’t been a problem before. When she was human.
There were two showers up here. One was vertical, the other had a bathtub. She knew she wouldn’t fit into the upright one very comfortably, so she went for the other.
She shook her necklace off her head and let it fall onto the counter, then she twisted her body and pulled off her wet clothes with some difficulty. It was hard, but using magic was still too unwieldy. For some reason, she recalled Bon-Bon asking her if wearing clothes all the time got to be a hassle. Without hands, it did seem that way.
There wasn’t any choice but to use her magic to turn the water on. She struggled with the faucet for a while until she got blasted with cold water, then managed to turn it to the other side. She let out a sigh of relief, and let the warm water clear her mind.
Too much was happening too fast. Discord had somehow escaped again. And she had brought him here, or at least opened the way for him. Humans were going to go extinct again. There was nothing she could do about that. There was nothing anybody could do without the Elements of Harmony.
Clearing her mind had been a bad idea.
She pushed the faucet back in with her hoof to shut off the water, and tried levitating a towel towards herself. The basics of magic were slowly coming back to her. Her coat would still take some time to dry completely, with all the wet fur, but at least she wasn’t sticky anymore.
Lyra headed into her bedroom to find some clean clothes. Sure, ponies didn’t always wear them, but she still wanted to act human. Besides, she had been dressing herself every day months before she became human. She found a clean white shirt – she was proud of herself when she managed to close the buttons with magic. The clothes were still too big, but she didn’t care.
As she pulled the shirt down over her head, she caught a glimpse of her lyre on the dresser, and her guitar stand next to that. She would probably never get to play guitar again… Which made her wonder how her friends in Des Moines were dealing with Discord. It was hundreds of miles away. She wondered if the chaos had spread that far.
Now she was dressed, she was clean enough, and there was nothing to do but brace herself for the inevitable.
She noticed her necklace glinting on the bathroom counter, and tossed it back over her neck. It was something of a good-luck charm at this point.
Back in Canterlot Castle, when she’d said goodbye to her adopted family and assured them that everything would be safe in the human world…
She paced down the hallway into her real mother’s painting studio. It wasn’t that she was going anywhere, she just couldn’t sit still. An unfinished painting was there – it would be a book cover for some other author. Beyond it was a window overlooking the front of the house. The long driveway leading to the road… where her dad was running up to the door, shielding his eyes from the chocolate milk rain.
She shot out of the room, rounded the corner through the hallway, nearly tripped again going down the stairs. She had just enough time to see the door start to open. Without even thinking, her horn glowed and the door slammed closed. She slammed her entire weight against it and paused to catch her breath.
Her eyes widened. “What am I doing…” she muttered. Still, she didn’t step away from the door.
“Lyra? If you’re in there, open the door! What’s going on?” It was her dad’s voice. If he saw her…
She didn’t say anything. What could she say?
“Who’s in there? Lyra, say something! I’m not sure what’s going on out here, but there’s… something raining, the car broke down, I had to run here from – “
“Dad? Uh…” Her voice was weak. “Remember those stories I told Chloe? About Equestria?”
“Lyra? Good, you are home. Just open the door.” He sounded relieved.
“It’s really important. I need to tell you something. Now.”
“We can talk inside. I know things are weird out here, but there’s no reason to lock me out.” She could tell from his tone that he was getting impatient.
She slowly moved away. “I’m… sorry,” Lyra said. She stared at the floor.
Her father came inside. He glanced around for her. “Lyra? What’s…” That was when he looked down. Whatever he had been about to say next, he couldn’t manage to get it out after he saw a small green pony in place of his daughter.
Lyra, on the other hand, started blurting everything out all at once. “I’m sorry. I never told you anything. I just wanted to be normal. I've never wanted anything more than just a regular life as a human, and I thought you’d believe me if I said I forgot everything, and I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.“
He couldn’t say anything. He just stared at her. Then, he managed to force out a single word. “Lyra?”
“It really is me.” She looked up at him, feeling especially short now. She frowned. “You’re not… mad at me, are you?”
“You’re a… unicorn,” he said dumbly.
“I really am a human! And I’m your daughter. But I came here from Equestria. It’s all real, everything I told Chloe about. I was a unicorn for most of my life.” She pawed at the floor with her hoof awkwardly. “I’m sorry. I lied to you. Are you mad?”
He knelt down in front of her. “Are you… Did you do those things…” He glanced outside, where it was still raining.
She shook her head. “No. My magic can’t do that. I wouldn’t do that. I just want to be human!”
“You can do magic?”
“Well, yes, but…” She let out an exhausted groan. “That’s not important now. It’s Discord.” Everything came tumbling out again. “He followed me here to find all of the humans who are still around, that’s why it’s raining chocolate milk and why he turned me back into – “
Her father cut her off. “Who? You’re not making any sense…” But something told her he’d barely heard a word she said. The way he was looking at her reminded her that unicorns were supposedly made up in this world.
Lyra stopped. “It’s… going to take some explanation. Could you just... wait a minute, please?”
She turned and stumbled up the stairs again. She went straight to her bedroom and started digging through her drawers until she found her journal. It started to glow, and she headed back downstairs with it floating along by her side. She felt like it took more effort than it used to just to lift it, but at least it was in the air.
Her father had sat down in the living room, and had a hand up to his forehead. He looked up wearily when she came back.
“Here. These are the notes I was taking while I lived in Equestria. I read a lot of things in books, but I also – “ Lyra noticed he was staring at the book floating in front of him. “Go on, take it.”
“How are you doing that?”
“It’s just basic-level magic… Oh.” Her eyes lowered. “Um, I know what you write about, but magic really isn’t anything too special. Most unicorns can’t do much more than this.” She nodded her head towards the book.
“It’s floating in midair. How are you doing that?”
Lyra rolled her eyes. “I learned this when I was seven. I told you it’s nothing special.”
“You’ve been doing magic since you were Chloe’s age? Lyra, how exactly did you turn into…” He gestured at her with one hand.
She took a deep breath. “All those years ago, when I disappeared? I still don’t know how, but I was taken to Equestria. It’s that other world that I’ve told Chloe about. I wasn’t making any of those stories up. I really knew those ponies.”
He nodded slowly.
“As for learning magic, most unicorns start a lot younger than that… I just caught on slowly.” She shrugged. “Humans aren’t even supposed to be able to do magic, so I guess that’s why it was hard for me. I didn’t know that until not too long ago.”
He hesitantly reached out and touched the cover of the old journal as if he wasn’t sure if it would be solid. Then he let his hand close around it and took it from her. With some relief, she let go of it and the aura faded. Maintaining that levitation spell had been hard work.
Lyra lifted her head. "Speaking of Chloe, where is she? And Mom?"
"I had already dropped Chloe off at school when it started. I... don't know what happened next. It was too confusing."
It seemed as if her father was beginning to come back to his senses. That was good. “But, Lyra, the first thing I need to know is what’s going on outside. The rain. All the flat tires. At times I was almost certain that I saw street signs and mailboxes moving on their own. You know something about this, don't you?”
“It’s worse than I thought…” she muttered to herself.
“It’s Discord. He’s the spirit of Chaos, and he used to be in Equestria, but he followed me here, and now…” Lyra caught herself talking too fast again. She slowed down. “Back in Equestria, he caused humans to go extinct. It was a long time ago. I think he’s trying to do that again. By turning them against each other.”
“Extinct…” Her father repeated the word, taking in what it meant. “But… chocolate milk? Doesn’t that seem like some kind of strange joke?”
“That’s the worst part. It is a joke. To him.”
“And… this Discord isn’t human.”
“Of course not. Humans couldn’t do all of that. We can’t use magic.” She looked up at her horn. “Not normally, at least.”
“So all those years, you didn’t know that you were – “
She shook her head. “My other parents never told me that I was a human. No.” She looked at the book. “I did research on humans, though. Deep down, I knew what I was. Those are my notes.”
Lyra hopped up on the couch next to him and sat down. He looked at her in surprise.
“Is it normal for unicorns to sit like that?” he said.
“Oh. Um… I started doing this because I saw pictures of humans sitting this way.” She looked down at herself. “It’s not as comfortable as I remember.”
He glanced down at the book again, then up at her. “It sounds like there’s a lot you need to tell me.”
“About sixteen years of it,” Lyra said. “But… I guess I can’t do anything else right now.”
She told him about the Grand Galloping Gala, stopping frequently to explain what that was and what Canterlot was like. She included as many of the details about Discord as she could remember. Of course, at the time, everything about Discord had been overshadowed by finding out that she herself was a human. She couldn’t really blame herself for wanting to block out everything about their extinction.
“Princess Celestia sent me back to this world just a few months ago. I’ve been human ever since. Until now, I mean,” Lyra said.
Her father seemed a bit more calm now. He gave an odd, uneasy smile. “I never would have imagined that was what happened to you when you vanished. We thought you were dead. It seemed more likely than anything else.”
“Yeah, I never found out how that happened. It just… did, I guess.”
“And right in our own home, too…” he muttered. “It’s all a bit much to take. But you're here, and you're a unicorn.” He sighed. "I don't have any choice but to believe it."
“The only human I ever told was Audrey, and she just thought I was crazy. I didn't have any proof then.”
He looked down at the journal again and turned it over in his hands. The binding was old-fashioned, a hard cover and thick parchment pages. More like an Equestrian book than a human one – at this point, Lyra was familiar with the differences. He opened it up and started looking through it. Slowly, taking time to read the notes scribbled in margins in between drawings.
“These are all of the studies I did about humans. I found a few books in the library – my other dad was the head librarian there.” Lyra watched over his shoulder. “These ones are from back when I was living in Ponyville with Bon-Bon.”
He glanced up. “Who?”
“My roommate. She was an Earth pony. She didn’t really like that I talked about humans all the time…” She watched him turn through a few more pages.
He stopped on a rough sketch of a city street. “This looks like downtown. How did you know about this?”
“Those are based on these dreams I had. Cities like Philadelphia were never in the books, since Equestrian humans never got that far, but I still knew about this world,” she said. “I must have been remembering when I used to live here. It was such a long time ago, though.”
“That’s… definitely interesting.” He looked through a few more drawings. Lyra noticed that the rain had stopped hitting the window. “You seem to have a real fixation on hands.”
She looked down sadly. “Yeah. You probably wouldn’t understand, since you’ve always had them… But that was the best part of becoming human! Getting fingers of my own. I could play my lyre like it was meant to be. It was invented by the Greeks, right? Our ancestors.” She smiled. "I've always just wanted to be human. And I was, for a few months, anyway."
He was studying her notes closely. "Lyra… Equestria clearly isn’t part of this world.”
“No. Of course not.” She tilted her head, giving him an odd look.
“You knew about Greece?”
“It’s weird. A lot of the countries I read about were the same. I didn’t realize it until I was here, so it was too late to ask Princess Celestia…” Her voice trailed off. “I don’t understand it. It just happened.”
He nodded, and looked back down at her journal. She noticed what page he was on. It was a highly detailed sketch of a pair of hands – one on each page of the spread.
“This is actually when I started taking notes by hand. See how my writing improved? And it was easier to get those details into the drawings. I found out I could actually manage a quill better with my fingers than with my magic.” In an odd way, it was exciting getting to share this with a human. With her dad.
“This was when you became human,” he said.
“Well, no, that was a little later…” She stared at the ceiling. “I… did a little experimenting with magic…”
He stared at her. “What do you mean?”
“I told you. Hands were a pretty exciting concept back then. They still are, really.”
“What did you do?”
She avoided his eyes. “I’d rather not say.”
He closed the journal and sat it to the side. For a moment he stared out the window into the backyard. “You know, it looks like it calmed down.”
"What?" Lyra lifted her head. “That can’t be right. Discord wouldn’t just be gone.”
“But you’re still a unicorn.”
She stood up and trotted over to the window and stared into the backyard. It was eerie how quiet it was. “I don’t know why it would stop. I can’t help but think that maybe…” She let out a gasp.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“Discord said something about a larger city that he was heading for… Maybe he didn’t mean Philadelphia. Are there any bigger cities around here?”
“Philadelphia really isn’t that big of a city. He could be headed anywhere. New York, or Washington…” He sat there for a long time with his head in his hands. Lyra leaned forward, but didn’t say anything. What was there to say?
“If Discord is as dangerous as you say…”
“He is,” Lyra said. “I told you. He’s already driven us to extinction once.”
“Yes. But you’ve been to Equestria. You know more about him than anyone else.” He thought a moment, then asked, “Didn’t you say he broke free a year ago?”
“Yeah, but Twilight and her friends took care of that. They used the Elements of Harmony," Lyra explained. "Did Chloe ever tell you about Nightmare Moon?”
“The name rings a bell.”
“It was the same thing that time.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “How exactly do you use those Elements?”
“Me? No, I can’t…” Lyra sighed. “The Elements of Harmony are the only thing that can stop him, and that was all Twilight and her friends. I never had anything to do with that. I was just an ordinary unicorn. Most of us never had to do anything like that.”
“So those artifacts are the only power that can stop him…” He seemed thoughtful. “It… seems common enough, in stories. And only certain heroes can wield them.”
“This isn’t one of your books. This is real life,” Lyra said. "Even if that is how it works," she admitted.
“That’s what makes it difficult... I take it there’s no other way to fight him.”
“If you’re talking about using human weapons, that’s the worst thing that we could do! Humans can’t just take all of those armies and bombs and just give them to him.”
“And yet… That’s probably what will happen before long.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s a threat. What other way can we deal with him? You say that’s a bad idea, but nobody else knows what you do.”
Lyra sighed. "Yeah, but... What I know is that humans can't stop him. We're only making him more powerful."
There was nothing else to say. The worst part was that Lyra knew what Discord had said was true. Coming back to the human world was what had caused him to cross over here. It was really all her fault.
The television turned on. Her dad had picked up the remote and changed it to the news. A human reporter was standing in the middle of a street drenched with milk in front of what was left of a building. The walls had vanished and the rooms inside stood intact in the middle of the lot.
She glanced down at her necklace. All she could think about was that last day in Canterlot. Her horn glowed as she reached out for it, and her dad watched with interest. Magic interested him - that was understandable, he'd written about it for years and never seen any until today. That was when she felt something odd. She let out a small noise of surprise and the necklace dropped back down.
“What’s wrong?” her father asked.
“I’m… not sure,” she admitted. “That’s never happened before.” With one hoof, she gently prodded the necklace, but it seemed harmless now.
“You’ve always worn that… Where did it come from?” her father said. “The chain doesn’t look like the right size for a… pony.”
She shook her head. “It was a gift from the Princess, right after she made me human.”
“Princess Celestia.” He was catching on, but it was clear that up until now he’d never given Lyra’s stories much serious consideration. “She’s the most powerful unicorn in Equestria, as well as its ruler…”
Lyra tilted her head. “Well, not exactly a unicorn. She has wings, too. She’s about as tall as you are. Not to mention she’s thousands of years old…” Lyra had bent down to examine the necklace more closely. The sensation when she’d lifted it towards herself… It hadn’t happened when she’d first taken it off, but –
"You really spoke to a unicorn who was over a thousand years old," he mused.
"Yeah. Human rulers don't live that long, do they?"
He gave that shaky, nervous laugh again. "Things are different here. But as I was saying... A piece of jewelry given to you by a powerful magical being… It doesn’t seem like it would just be a simple gift.”
“What are you saying?” Lyra looked up at him. “I guess I’ve never actually used magic with it before, but that’s not how things in Equestria work. There aren’t enchanted objects everywhere like in your books.” Hesitantly, she started to lift it up and over her neck again for a better look. “Besides, I’m not even sure what it would – “