"Okay, one more time!"
A collective groan was the only response. One pony's slightly annoyed head rose out from behind the lay out of flower sandwiches and delectable, still steaming cookies. "Seriously, Rainbow Dash, enough! Just eat!"
It was already beginning to near sundown, and yet, barely an entrée had been touched. The five ponies were exhausted, sweating, lying splayed out over the picnic blanket. Just a usual occurrence when Rainbow Dash was in the mood for a nice race. Being that the fields outside the palace stretched forever, the race was tedious for some ponies.
"No more racin', Rainbow. Ah feel so dizzy now; Ah don't think Ah can take a bite 'a food." The golden earth pony rolled over onto her back, eyes staring intently at the passing clouds. "Clouds look mighty pretty today."
"Well, I liked 'em better when they made chocolate milk!" Pinkie Pie abruptly perked, and a dead silence hung over the group like a bitter fog. "What? Well, you gotta admit that they were tasty!" The pink pony's head lowered when she realized her mistake. "Oh..."
It had been three days since the ordeal: Equestria turned into a nightmare of a Wonderland, ruled by the merciless, heartless, and especially cunning draconequus. Things had already been resolved – things had been resolved the moment the ribbons of rainbow plummeted into the land, and into Discord. Yet, the wounds were deep with scars that wouldn’t heal.
Everypony had been deeply affected, their nerves shattered into tiny fragments. If there was any feeling that was more pronounced than any other the ordeal had left...it was guilt. Guilt for the way their unconscious minds had acted, for how badly they had hurt their friends – and had no control over it.
Fluttershy seemed to be just grated with remorse; being a liar, selfish, grumpy, and disloyal was one thing, but the yellow pegasus had outright verbally and physically hurt her friends with coldness and cruelty. As such, Twilight Sparkle had noticed the unsettling change in her best friends, stemmed by their guilt.
"You know..." Pinke Pie spoke again. "I like, can't believe that he made me such a grumpy hooves! Can you imagine if I went the rest of my life so...grouchy and unsmiling and – gasp – un-laughy?" The party pony threw her hooves to her face dramatically. "Oh how would I go on! I mean, I love to laugh, and I can't imagine not laughing! Like, why would I say I hated chocolate rain? I love chocolate rain!"
Fluttershy opened her mouth to speak, but guilt took over her and so did the tears that trickled down her muzzle. Every other pony but Twilight Sparkle had their heads lowered, reliving those terrible moments.
"Girls," the purple mare spoke carefully and softly. "I know it's a bit painful, but try not to think about it. He's sealed away for good and we can get on with our lives – as friends." She smiled. "Nothing that happened that day matters." Her friends slowly let smiles cross their faces, and Twilight brought them all into a close hug.
Somewhere in the colorful barrage of embracing ponies, a southern voice spoke:
"So can we finally eat now?"
It was twilight now; the bright sky melting off to a purple tinge, stars mingled in the colors. The moon was already peeking up from behind a distant hill, casting a cool silver glow on the land before it. Every pony was at home, including her friends.
Twilight Sparkle preferred to be outside at night if the air wasn't too cold. She just felt an odd sense of comfort under her favorite tree, as if she was watching out for Ponyville, protecting it since nopony else was out to.
Smiling, the unicorn trotted slowly over the vacant dirt roads, eyes following the glowing stars above her. The surroundings seemed to change; the land dotted with trees and a dark forest path. It was then that the startled unicorn realized how far out of town she had walked.
"Oh.." Smiling and flushing at her stupid mistake, the unicorn turned to go back home. Right before she did, however, she noticed...something odd behind a couple trees: a long twisted looking shadow – that slithered away before she could fully process what it was. Oh well, it was most likely just a few tree branches.
The unicorn trotted along, now feeling terribly uneasy and no longer at peace with her nature walk. She just wanted to go home. Leaves rustled from behind her, and Twilight Sparkle felt a dim panicky feeling quicken her heart.
It's just some forest animal.. she tried to reassure herself. That's all. Still, she quickened the pace, trying to will her breathing to steady (a difficult feat while running). Reaching the end of the line of trees, the unicorn hopped back in alarm as some dark silhouette fell half way out of the tree.
He didn't land on the ground, rather hung there like a monkey, tail obviously wrapped around a branch hidden somewhere in the tree. Even in the darkness, those bright yellow eyes and ruby red pupils seemed to illuminate his entire face – from the twisted horns to the snaggle tooth. His eyes sparkled with a playful mirth.
Twilight wasn't sure if she screamed, though she probably did. All that registered in her mind was how fast she was suddenly running, through the trees, over the hills. She knew it didn't matter; he was following her, snake-like body trailing behind her. She had to get out of there – had to move-
-she tripped, crying out as her hoof stubbed hard against a rock. The unicorn felt herself moving faster and faster - rolling down a dirt hill, into total blackness. There was no sound now but her heavy pants and a few little rocks that tumbled after her.
Then, his voice from the darkness:
"Why, my goodness! You're acting as if you've seen the boogie man. Hm-hm! Perhaps not a far cry from reality when I really think about it..."
The unicorn was on her feet again, racing past the form – who promptly, effortlessly caught her by the tail.
"Such a show, my dear, really! I always thought little Pinkie was the dramatic one. Or, perhaps it's Rarity~"
The unicorn's voice could barely gurgle out through her fear. "Let me go." He did so, immediately, and the shaken pony fell on her face. "H-how did you..how did you..?"
Discord chuckled, casually floating on his back. "I suppose I'll finish that sentence since what you're about to say is pretty much a given. Let's just saaay... the seal wasn't as strong this time." He smirked when the disbelief crossed the pony's purple eyes.
"What do you mean 'not as strong?'" Twilight demanded, the fear in her voice replaced with anger and disbelief. "It's the Elements of Harmony; their power comes from six ponies! How could it not be as strong? If anything, the seal should be stronger!"
The draconequus switched positions, floating on his belly this time. He rested his chin in his paw and talon and smiled, saying nothing for a few minutes and just drinking in the pony's confusion and helplessness. "Oh, Twilight, you wish it was that simple don't you? Perhaps you would be right, if it wasn't for one simple little fact – the one that led to my freedom: your friendship suffered a devastating blow."
"Wh-what?" the purple pony spluttered, and Discord snickered. "What do you mean? I know your cruel little manipulative trick almost ended our friendship, but I managed to save them! That's how we used the Elements!"
The chimera laughed, voice somewhat cold as he spoke again. "And you honestly think that everything could have just gone back to normal after that? There was such tension between all of your friends because neither could forget about what they had done when they were in my power. Their guilt was too strong. The seal was so thin that it took only mere hours to claw my way out of that accursed stone prison."
Devastated and horrified, the unicorn's ears lowered, feeling the desire to just crumble to the ground.
"Why surely I wasn't the only one that realized how different your friends were acting, The Elements of Harmony are not powered by confusion, guilt, anger, regret, sadness, and hopelessness."
Twilight Sparkle swallowed a lump in her throat, angry tears stinging her eyes as she watched the spirit smirk."W-well, I'll get the Elements. We'll seal you for good this time!" She gave a soft growl when Discord laughed.
"And what will that do? Your friendship isn't anymore mended up than it was three days ago! The seal will be paper thin; I'll be able to free myself instantly. Hm..come to think of it, I'd like to try and break my – what was it? - seven hour record from last time, so go ahead. When it comes down to it though, I still want a few days to plan before I launch this land further into chaos; you have nothing to worry about for now."
The draconequus stared, watching as Twilight's horn began to fiercely glow, and her head lowered, hoof scraping the ground."Oh don't tell me you seriously want to fight!" he scoffed at the very thought, then floated up over the pony's head, smiling. "Besides, when did I insinuate I was planning to do anything...dastardly~?"
"You're always planning that."
He waved a talon dismissively, grimacing disdainfully. "Ugh. So boring – you must spend a lot of time with Celestia. Must you always jump to conclusions?"
Her violet eyes narrowed, hooves scraping the ground more.
"Fine; if it's a fight you want, attack me to your heart's content. Shall I place another target on myself?" he taunted, smirking when it further infuriated her. The draconequus curled his tail up, laughing as Twilight's horn brushed right past him. He chortled behind his lion paw when the startled mare tripped over another rock.
"Oh, such grace! Bravo, my little pony – you officially win the award for the most failure of an attack in the history of Equestria."
Literally snorting like a generic horse, the unicorn charged once again. Discord caught her and lifted her. Twilight Sparkle kicked and snorted and thrashed and bucked as the amused chimera just watched, gently holding the mare around the middle and waiting for her to tire herself out.
"Are you quite done?" He smiled at her, running a playful and mocking claw down the pony's mane to 'brush her hair.' "Such a lovely mane, no need to wreck it thrashing about like a caged monkey. You'll break your leg like that anyways."
He dropped her. "And it will be quite difficult to walk on roads of soap in general – let alone with broken legs. I'd save your strength and your limbs if I were you."
"Twilight?" a timid voice echoed from the entrance: Fluttershy. "Twilight, what's going on? Are you okay? Rainbow Dash saw you fall down that hole!"
"Girls, I badly need help!" Twilight cried desperately, watching the five heads slowly poke out, and stare in shock at the chimera that met their sight. "One of you, get the Elements!"
"Oh, those toys again, Twilight? Honestly, you use them too much and you'll break them! Then what are you going to do when a bigger threat appears? This is knowledge that even a filly knows: toys have their limits." He smiled, his wayward body snaking closer to the emerging ponies. "What are you all going to do when your toys reach theirs?"
"Discord, there ain't no way we're letting y'all destroy Equestria again!" Applejack growled, stomping a hoof in protest. The entity almost looked hurt.
"Destroy? Now where exactly is it classified that spreading a few harmless little tidbits of chaos, like chocolate milk rain and turning your land into cleansing materials is 'destroying?' I could do so much worse. You have no idea of what I'm capable of – the true devastation my power could spread if I wanted it to. Luckily, I'm not that mean." He smirked. "Or am I? I guess that's what's so fun about me~!"
Twilight Sparkle snarled, having had absolutely enough with these riddles and taunts. What had happened? Had their friendship's bond really been so weak from such a struggle that their internal regret was all it took to break the chains that bound him?
"You're not going anywhere, Discord," the mare growled, the glow on her horn intensifying.
"Oh my! I haven't seen such a lovely glow since Celestia when she gets all worked up." The draconequus chuckled, cheerfully putting on a pair of sunglasses. "So bright, so full of passion. Well whatever you're cooking up, go ahead and fire! I only hope it will be as amusing as your last attempt to attack me."
He grinned when the unicorn flushed with rage and embarrassment. "Well don't keep me in suspense, my dear. I have a lot of planning to do after this, so make it quick."
Twilight was smoldering with rage, her horn shining brilliantly as she prepared it for the spell.” She had been studying this spell for ages: the strongest restraining spell known in Equestria. It took great power and great concentration. There was, however, a thing of vital importance that Twilight forgot: it took a calm mind.
The magic lashed out, pinning Discord to the wall. He looked startled and impressed, but still continued to smirk. The sneer faded, however, as the magic peeled him off the wall and slammed him against it again. He grunted, the glasses falling from his face.
"Impressive, I must say. Perhaps you don't need those little magical necklaces of yours after all!" The draconequus had no way of knowing how brutally right he'd be. He merely laid there against the wall, deciding to let the little pony have some fun before he'd break the spell.
"Girls, one of you, get the Elements!" Twilight ordered, starting to feel triumphant. Oh, they'd get him this time! Her horn was nearly blinding now; a subtle and slightly unsettling change taking over it.Twilight barely seemed to be in control.
The magic glow ripped Discord from the wall – and suddenly began repetitively slamming him. The spirit winced, body curling up, realizing it was time to end this little game before some real damage was made. He struggled hard – and he couldn't move. He fought with all his power; opposing forces attacking each other and really making for an interesting colored glow, but Twilight's magic reigned supreme once more. The draconequus began breathing heavily, ruby eyes wide with fright.
Twilight, meanwhile, was fighting to wrangle her out-of-control horn. It began mercilessly tossing Discord around the cave walls, and he started to let out small cries of shock and pain as he was thrown about.
"Twilight, Twilight!" Fluttershy called insistently. Her voice was beginning to shake and reach a high, hysteric, and almost unintelligible pitch "Twilight, stop it!" Every one of the frightened draconequus's pitiful cries made the tight knots in Fluttershy's heart further constrict.
The nearly blinding light from the struggling horn intensified. Twilight Sparkle was breathing heavily, wildly flinging her mane about as she fought to gain control of the horn that had somehow developed a mind of its own.
"Fluttershy, I can't control it!" It got to the point where the unicorn finally just tried to bury her head in the dirt like an ostrich to suffocate the horn somehow.
Discord, meanwhile, was being slammed around mercilessly. He had always known that the little mare harbored a great deal of power, but he could never have imagined that her magic could have the potential to be strong – powerful enough that he couldn't undermine it when it reached its full potential.
The draconequus had given up fighting; every struggle he made with either body or magic only made the pain worse. He merely let out a few anguished cries as his body was slammed against the walls. His wide, red eyes silently begged for respite, promised anything, as long as the unending agony would cease at last.
Twilight struggled desperately with the wicked spell, fully aware of the fact that enough of this treatment could quickly kill the spirit. He had already been slammed around as much as his bones and organs could allot. "Stop – please!" At last – at long last, the light from her horn extinguished and the violet glow enveloping the wounded chimera faded.
Discord tumbled to the floor, completely motionless.
"Somepony, git someone!" Applejack cried frantically, while Twilight Sparkle shakily added an "Alert the princess!"
Discord lay motionless. His body was consumed in agony – the worst pain he had ever felt. No injury came close to it. He knew before he even tried that he couldn't move his legs...or his tail..or barely his arms. Every slight movement resulted in unbearable agony, the barbs of pain slicing deeper with every sharply inhaled breath. He opened his mouth to speak, but the anguish grew tight in his chest. Tears filled his eyes and slowly puddled around his face as he prayed to Equestria for mercy, letting out pitiful, haunted whimpers.
"Is he even alive?" Twilight Sparkle asked meekly, tears in her own eyes at the disaster she had caused.
"I-I think so," Fluttershy whispered. She was cautious to advance to the creature, fully knowledgeable in how dangerous a wounded animal – any wounded and defenseless animal – could be. Discord blearily looked up at her through wet and disoriented red eyes. His head snapped up when the concerned pegasus drew closer.
"Fluttershy, look out!" Twilight called frantically, narrowly dodging a sudden blast of magic from the draconequus's talon. It sailed over her head and burned into the wall. "Get out of there before he kills you!"
Discord's lips peeled back in a snarl as he made a last effort to protect himself from further harm. He blasted at the undaunted pegasus insistently, but she effortlessly ducked and glided over every weak attack. Pure physical violence was not truly in the draconequus's nature; he preferred inflicting psychological harm and finding creative and playful ways to torment his victims. However, anyone knew that a downed animal was a dangerous threat if approached completely defenseless. The ponies visibly backed up into the corner, taking the desperate blasts as an act of aggression.
Fluttershy knew better however. Where anypony would see a malicious intent, she saw different: fear
The pegasus had seen it all before - Pure, distinct, fear. He was no different than her many animal friends she had cared for. Where some had immediately regarded her as a goddess of sick fauna, some had behaved in the exact same manner: vicious, frightened, and unpredictable. Whether Discord wanted to admit it or not, he was frightened. Very, very frightened.
"Now, now, take it easy..." Fluttershy said softly, grazing a hoof gently over the spirit's snout. His eyes had closed in exhaustion once more, head slightly lolled off to the side. However, he could still feel the foreign and gentle touch.
"Fluttershy, what in Equestria are you doing?" Rarity hissed. "Get away from him, now!"
The timid pegasus remained as placid as before, for once immune to the fear that usually plagued her. She abandoned her anger and disdain towards him, and she abandoned who he was and what he had done. All that mattered to her was that he was a creature that needed her help, and she was determined to give it.
"Alright, settle down now..." Fluttershy cooed, surprised by how strong her voice sounded. She continued running a gentle hoof down his snout and mane, pretending this was one of the bunnies she so often had to soothe as she'd gently pry out a thorn from the bottom of its foot. "It'll be alright.."
Intimidation set back in when those ruby eyes finally opened again, following her hoof's movements as it continued to rub along his mane and snout. His eyes only stayed open for a few moments, and then they closed.
Fluttershy breathed out and turned to her baffled friends, ignoring their shock momentarily and focusing more on the task at hand. "Rainbow Dash, could you please run home and get me my medical kit? I need bandages, splints, pain medicine, and some ice would probably help him too..."
The blue pegasus was still shaking off the shock, and could find nothing to say to her friend as she bolted out of the hole. The other ponies finally managed to wear off their shock as they shakily approached the wounded spirit.
"Anything ya need help with, Sugar Cube?" Applejack asked softly. "We'll help with anything ya need. Does he need some food? Ah can run back home and whip up some apple fritters." She blinked as Discord rolled his eyes up at her. "What in the hay is that look for? Ah'm only tryin' to help."
"I could bring one of my warmest blankets to bundle him with," Rarity offered gently. Then, her snout screwed up in distaste. "Oh, but do promise that you won't get it too dirty. It's ever so difficult to clean those things!"
Fluttershy's face warmed with a flush of pride as she looked at all her wonderful friends. Even when doubting her good intentions and fearing the draconequus themselves, they were more than willing to support her in any way they could.
"Oh, thank you all so much... Yes, this will all help him. Now we need to worry about bandaging him and getting him back to my cottage."
Even Pinkie Pie looked nervous at that, her eyes reflecting the uncertainty in every one of her friends. "Your cottage? Um, Fluttershy, do ya really – ya know – think that's a good idea? Like, sure you're just trying to be nice and nurse him and all, but it's like..Discord! He's cool and all and I LOVE the chocolate rain, but ya know..."
The yellow pegasus's attention drifted away from the energetic pink pony (as everyone's usually did), and her eyes were firmly focused on the mangled mess that used to be Discord's perfectly and subtly curled tail.
"Oh no – oh, it got so twisted...that must hurt..." Ever so gently – like a butterfly landing on a leaf – she placed her hoof on the base of his tail – and reeled in fright as the chimera tried to take a snap at her. The rest of the ponies gasped as well, horrified.
"Fluutershy, git away from 'im!" Applejack ordered, her voice wavering in fright. The stubborn pegasus remained at his side. "He's too dangerous right now!"
"Yeah, and he's Discord!" Rainbow Dash pointed out, having flown down through the hole, witnessing the exchange. Her voice was muffled by the thick plastic medicine kit in between her teeth. "It's not like he deserves our help or anything! I know you're the element of kindness and all, but come on!"
Fluttershy spun to her friends, her blue eyes smouldering with both anger and determination. She stamped a hoof firmly down, indignantly. "I don't care if he's Discord or not. He is in a lot of pain and he could…he could die. Please help me bandage him and get him home."
Twilight finally spoke up, shakily, voice erratic from her crying. "I'll help twist his tail back to-to normal. Do you want me to put a magic muzzle on his face to stop him from snapping?" She got ready to lower her horn, but it was gently nudged back up by a grim faced Applejack.
"I think yer magic has done quite enough for one day, Sugar Cube.." Immediately, the mare's head lowered, consumed in guilt. She turned her head away, deciding it best she just kept her mouth shut and not do anything.
"Discord, you need to calm down.." Cautiously, Fluttershy crouched beside his face and looked into his eyes. The hazed over, vermillion pupils stared firmly at the ground, before slowly rolling up to gaze at the little pegasus. Why in Equestria is the stupid filly helping me? There was no strength left in his body now, and he could only watch helplessly as Fluttershy took a very gentle hold of his tail. His entire body tensed.
"Okay…this will hurt," Fluttershy warned softly, not sugar coating anything. The limb tensed up even more in her hoof, and Fluttershy gently jerked the tail back in place.
Discord's head shot up, unable to process the pain for a moment, then the deep twisting burst of agony ripped up his rump, unlike anything he had ever felt. He was sure she was shattering every bone in his tail rather than trying to fix it. The draconequus somehow managed to lock in the scream, only giving a few sharp breaths as he tried to see through tears. Absolutely wiped out from the ordeal, slipped in to the respite of unconsciousness.
(So, am proud of the reason I came up with for why Discord escaped, and - my God - he is just the most fun ever to write.
This fic will be long. At first it was going to be about five chapters, but I delved into a great plot idea and it looks like we'll be multiplying 5 by 5, or 5 by 6.
And yes, I made the spirit of chaos and disharmony cry. Hey, you'd cry too if your legs, arms, ribs, and tail was broken. Besides, he's a children's villain - probably not too tough.)