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Alsey


[Reminder to insert here something fun, witty, and not self-deprecating at all]

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  • 3 weeks
    Sorry...


    Well folks, six months ago I said that, if all went well, Volume 2 would be finished well before year's end.

    So, uh... Needless to say, things didn't go well, and I'm so sorry I couldn't deliver as promised... :pinkiesad2:

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    4 comments · 91 views
  • 32 weeks
    A Prench Tale – Chapter 16, ver.2 / Vol.2 News

    Hello dear readers!

    After so long, I finally bring some Prench Tale news!

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    3 comments · 139 views
  • 63 weeks
    A Prench Tale Part 4 & Volume 1 Conclusion

    Hello dear readers!

    Well, it's been a stressful week, in an already stressful year, but there's still cause to celebrate! I'm talking about, of course, the completion of Part 4 and of A Prench Tale Vol.1 as a whole! :raritywink:

    First off, what's that 'Vol.1' business about?

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    2 comments · 179 views
  • 75 weeks
    Update on Progress

    Hello folks!

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    1 comments · 80 views
  • 118 weeks
    A Prench Tale: Five Score Dreams

    While we wait for Part 4 to debut, here's a small chapter's worth of bonus material!

    (it is highly recommended to read Parts 1 through 3 beforehand, of course)

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    0 comments · 147 views
Oct
24th
2019

A Prench Tale: Five Score Dreams · 12:07pm Oct 24th, 2019

While we wait for Part 4 to debut, here's a small chapter's worth of bonus material!

(it is highly recommended to read Parts 1 through 3 beforehand, of course)

Now that Laurence's memories of Rafale's last moments have been revealed, I thought it was time to do the same for Amber and Sweetchard! Bits of their dreams have popped up in the main story, but I hope you'll appreciate to have them in full, giving us a brief look into who these ponies really were. Some aspects of their current character may even become a little clearer...

For Amber and Sweetchard, the actual body of the dream as experienced night after night by our protagonists is preceded by a scene that, while they don't remember it as is, provides them with a subconscious context during the dream proper. These scenes and the dreams are separated by a '– — –'.

Laurence/Rafale's part is identical to the one featured in Chapter 21 but has also been included, for completeness's sake.


~ Amber Spire ~

I wondered if this morning could get even more boring as I shuffled the cards for the next round. Nopony was really into the game, but we were under strict orders to stay in the narrow bailey serving as our training grounds, and that deck of cards was the only thing we had with us. It was kinda frustrating that, the one day Sarge was too busy to wear us to the bone, we just couldn't enjoy real free time. Morningale proposed to raid the kitchens to at least get some snacks, yet none of us were too keen on the idea of being caught snooping around by our stern instructor...

Yeah, sure, we could still train on our own, like we were kinda expected to I supposed... But that would be completely missing the whole point, so that was not happening!

Well, except for Bold Brass, of course. He was the only one in the squad who really wanted to be here in the first place after all, and even then the dummy was happy trotting laps around the bailey. Eh, I'd bet he was just too dumb to get into the academy and get a commission!

I was just starting to deal cards when we all jumped at the awful blare of windows shattering all over the castle, dust billowing out from the openings like in the aftermath of an explosion. The sounds of clashing steel and magical discharges became more and more pronounced, sounds we had grown accustomed to during our training but that now carried the somehow unmistakable gravitas of a true battle.

The cards fell from my magic when I sprung to my hooves, eyes darting for any sign of danger, but our training grounds were on the other side of the barracks, and for the time being we were safe from whatever was happening in the castle. What was happening anyway!? Most of the Guard was out of Canterlot with the Captain to support the Princess, did some creature saw this as an opportunity to attack?

We looked at each other, unsure of what to do. We were just trainees, we weren't supposed to take part in any real fight yet! Dear Celestia, I didn't sign up for any kind of fight in the first place!

Bold Brass was again the only one who wasn't showing the slightest hesitation: “Come on guys, we have to do something, they could need our help!”, he exhorted us, picking up one of the blunt-tipped spears and gesturing at the castle, before going for the racks of training armors.

Should we..? With just a skeleton crew left, maybe each and every Guard could be needed, even if said Guards were just Junior trainees, but on the other hoof, could we really do anything against whatever that was? I shared a quick glance with Belletrist and Morningale; the two mares certainly didn't seem any more eager to jump at the call than I was...

It was Filigree who gave voice to everypony's doubts, the unicorn standing between Bold Brass and the rack of helmets before he could take one: “Whoa there buddy, we have very clear orders! We have to stay here until Sarge comes back!”

That just made Bold Brass snort, and he easily pushed Filigree away: “I would rather be chewed out 'cause I went to help but wasn't needed, than not going when I could have made a difference!” He put his helmet on, and reared up in defiance before galloping toward the danger. “This way ponies, the Guard needs us!”, he called without looking back, probably not really expecting any of us to follow.

And, of course, nopony followed...

The din of fights had soon died down, to be replaced by the terrified screams of ponies from every corners of the castle grounds, even from the barracks. Our little group looked more and more uneasy at each new horrible shriek, until finally one of us had had enough:

“That's it, I'm outta here!”, Pink Spinel blurted out as he darted for the gatehouse leading to the city. “If you ponies have any brain cells left you'll do the same!”

Pink's example proved a good deal more popular than Brass's, as he was immediately followed by almost half of our squad. Filigree looked uncertain at first, but when he too chose to flee, everypony else did the same.

Well, everypony, except me.

I...

I just couldn't.

My legs were shacking with fear, but all the same, I couldn't stop staring at the foreboding castle looming from behind the barracks, and feeling my heart clench every time my ears would catch the sound of another pony meeting their demise... Because every time, I couldn't shake the conviction that I should have been helping them, showing them a safe way out, and that I didn't.

Bold Brass had gone to help them with a blunt spear, and I just let him go alone. I hadn't heard his voice yet among the anguished chorus, but how long would that take?

I started when my two closest friends in the squad came back for me, Morningale using her wings to try and push me toward the city: “Come on Amber, let's get out of here! It's not safe, and we're not paid enough for this!”

“Not paid, period..!”, muttered Belletrist, eyes scanning our surroundings, her usually cool façade letting show her worry plainly.

Following them felt especially tempting when a deep, bloodcurdling laugh rang out from somewhere and everywhere at once, the three of us jumping in fright! But, for some inscrutable reason... That's also what spurred me into making my decision.

“Get out of here girls!”, I barked to my friends, my new conviction pushing my body into action. “I don't know what it is, but you have to get out of here as fast as you can!”

Morningale was clearly a feather's breadth from just taking wing, but her concern was still enough to keep her hooves on the ground next to me: “But what about you!?”

What about me, really? What was I even planning on doing?

“I... I must try something! I can't just leave them like this!”, I blabbered lamely.

Belletrist wasn't having any of what sounded even to me like a pretty flimsy rationale: “Stop acting like an idiot Amber! You can't do anything!”

She was right, of course; I knew she was right.

And yet...

The terrible laugh assaulted our ears once more, and a pony yelled in fear, before being cut short mid-scream. This time, though, it came from the gatehouse opening on the rest of Canterlot, cutting our way out.

I reacted on instinct, focusing on how my two friends could avoid whatever grisly fate loomed over us, and a way started forming in my mind's eye, more slowly and erratically than usual, but still clear enough to share it: “All right girls, you have to go through the barracks' first floor! From there you go to your right, toward the arsenal, but then you have to take the outer corridor all the way to the left, it will stop right at the enceinte. There should be something here to get you out!” I didn't know why it had been so hard to come up with this way, maybe it was just stress, but I trusted my inner compass; the girls could get away with this path!

Morningale was looking at me as if I were crazy. Belletrist knew of my talent and what it could do, but even she looked dubious: “Are you sure Amber? It's from inside a building, on the wrong side of the wall...”

“I know, but I'm sure there's something there! Maybe it's a sally port or just a window or something, but you will be able to get through there, I promise! Then just take your family to a train or an airship or whatever; I doubt this thing will keep to the castle for very long!”

The next scream we heard was too much for Morningale's spirit though: “I'm sorry girls,” she whined, “I hope you're right Amber, for you both, 'cause I'm getting out of here!”

And she jumped into the air, tears in her eyes, shooting over the enceinte toward the city...

... Only for a ridiculously large butterfly net to spring from behind the walls, snatching Morningale mid-flight and bringing her to the ground!

The monstrous laugh almost drowned the filly's terrified screeches, and Belletrist and I could only stand watching in horror as the voice of our friend was snuffed out.

When Belletrist glanced at me, I could read in her eyes the silent plead to escape with her, to not leave her alone, but I wouldn't be moved from what I knew I had to do. She understood that, even if she wouldn't make the same choice: “You're crazy Prenchie... but I trust you. Don't you dare getting killed!”

“I won't!”

She gave me one last look, before bolting toward the barracks and vanishing inside.

I took deep breaths, trying vainly to calm myself, before galloping toward the postern that would lead me to the castle. Somehow, I had the feeling that armor or spears wouldn't be of much help, so my magic was my guide and only shield. Even if it didn't suffice and my luck ran out, well, at the very least I could still serve as a distraction for my friend..!

I had failed Morningale, maybe Bold Brass too...

I wouldn't give up on anypony else if I could help it!!

– — –

My hoofbeats rang out far too loudly to my taste in the high-vaulted corridors of the castle because of my standard-issue metallic shoes, but it did have a major silver lining: anypony hiding close-by could hear me coming, and know that they weren't alone. I was trusting my compass to guide me while keeping me away from the monster, and for the time being it seemed to work.

I was just about to take a turn into another hallway when my ears caught the slight creaking of hinges behind me. Looking back, I saw the glint of a fearful eye peeking from the shadows of what must have been a concealed broom closet, the door opened just a crack. Doubling back, I tried to affect some semblance of confidence for the pony's sake: “Hey, are you all right?”

“You shouldn't be trotting in plain sight like that..! Come hide, quick..!”, the pony whispered hastily.

I would admit that just hiding in a dark corner and not move until the Princess came back was an alluring idea, but I knew it wouldn't help us much: “I'm here to help you out of the castle, ma'am.”

After some hesitation, the door opened a little more, allowing me to see the two mares in maid uniforms inside. “Are you... Are you with the Guard?”, the first maid asked me.

Like the previous times, my sweaty workout shirt bearing the E.U.P.'s insignia would be of help: “Yes,” I quickly replied before they could reason that I was just a Junior trainee, “I'm touring the castle for any stragglers, I can instruct you on how to leave the grounds safely.”

Again they hesitated, like the others, which again was quite understandable. “'Instruct'..?”, the other mare repeated. “You're not coming with us?”

I shook my head. “I must keep looking for others, but don't worry, my special talent is to always know the correct way to go.” It wasn't an accurate description, but I couldn't waste time on technicalities, and I needed to convince them. “From here, you have to take a left toward the Winter Suites, but before you reach them take a right toward the Platinum Salon. Do not try to get directly to the Main Hall from there though, take the servants' passage near the Salon. Once you get to the other side, take a left, that will make you go past the kitchens, then keep it up until you reach Cook's Courtyard. Did you get it all?”

They nodded. My talent allowed me to speak with absolute confidence, and that was an essential asset to assure them that I knew what I was talking about. Now that they were given a clear path to escape, the maids seemed to regain some fortitude, and I was relieved to see them slink away toward safety. “Thank you..!”, they whispered before disappearing behind a bend.

They were my third group. Seven ponies, that I maybe helped getting out of here alive... Curse you Amber, if only you had acted sooner, went with Brass, maybe that could have been the double..!

I had to keep looking, there could still be somepony to help!

Getting back on my way, this time my ears alerted me to the sound of voices further ahead, from the gardens. I pressed on, my compass pointing right in this direction without the slightest ambiguity, and found myself back under the sunny Canterlot sky. Looking around, I quickly spotted a green-maned stallion sitting on the garden's lawn; what was he doing like this?

“Sir, are you all right?”, I asked when I got to him, but it was like he just didn't hear me, despite being wide awake. “Sir, we have to move! I can get you away from the monster, but you have to listen to me!”

“I'm afraid this one is quite past the point of caring about that, little mare...”

My blood turned to ice at the sound of that deep, resounding voice.

The same voice as the laughs. From just behind me.

I couldn't breathe, and I didn't have the strength to either bolt forward, or turn to face the monster. I tried to ask my compass for help, but it—

“Eep!”, I yelped as I felt my body being spun around by an unseen power, forcing me to come face to face with the creature!

“It's rude to turn your back when people are speaking to you. Aren't you supposed to have a little more manners?”, he said, sounding almost offended!

I'd never seen him before, but I sure heard the stories whispered in the barracks at night... The stories of Discord, lord of Chaos, former despot of Equestria turned whimsical ally.

Looking up at him, at his eyes filled with malice, I knew this monster was everything but an ally at this moment.

What could I do!? His abilities were said to rival, if not exceed, those of the Princesses! I had no way to drive him off, but... But maybe I could still distract him, long enough for the stallion to get away!

It was desperate, and utterly foolish... But it's the only thing I had left!

Red magic sparkled from my horn as my spell charged. I shoved the stallion with my hindleg to get him to come back to his senses, then I shot my blast right in Discord's face! My foe grunted in annoyance, closing his eyes for an instant, and I leaped to the side, charging another blast: “Hey you ugly thing! Come and get me if you can!”

It was a lame taunt, and my second blast didn't do much more damage than the first, but I had succeeded in bringing the irritated monster's focus on me!

...

Oh gosh he was focused on me!!

My brain went into overdrive as I kept dashing around the gardens like a blind mouse running from a cat, launching two more blasts at Discord and avoiding his attempts to catch me in his claws. I had to think of something! There had to be a way, there always was! If I couldn't escape, that didn't mean I couldn't at least do something!

Just like Dad said, cause and consequence is the same as going from point A to point B! Mentally tugging at my compass for all I was worth, I felt my eyes being directed upward, specifically to the top of one of the towers overlooking the gardens, and its flagpole. Yes, that was it!

I charged my next blast, feeling my magic draining dangerously fast, then ran around Discord and lowered my stance to put myself in perfect position before shooting.

The beam did not impact his face, being aimed too high and to the left.

“Ah, missed! Would that be exhaustion creeping in..?”, he teased

“Exhaustion? Nah, I can keep doing this all day!”, I shot back. What he couldn't know was that my blast had hit its mark, snapping off the rounded tip of the flagpole.

Tricking my talent into improving my marksmareship was something I had down pat, it was easy even under pressure. Now for the hard part..!

I stopped thinking, just listening to what my instinct whispered, focusing on the flitting images it was feeding to my mind's eye, just like Dad trained me to, relinquishing my life to my trusted compass as it delineated for me the one and only path I had to follow to obtain the outcome I desired. It began by telling me that Discord should be closer to the base of the tower, and I did it slowly enough to incite him to follow me, not having to feign my fatigue. When I felt that the chimeric monster was in position, I couldn't help but flinch for an instant, knowing what my compass dictated, and that I didn't have a choice anymore. Digging my hooves into the ground with a wordless prayer to the Princesses, I launched myself backward as quickly as possible, and low enough to slide between Discord's mismatched legs! Gosh, I was seriously happy for Sarge's stringent physical training right then!

Rolling on the grass, I sprung back upright, my carefully braided mane starting to unravel, long amber strands falling over my eyes, and I charged my most powerful blast, releasing almost immediately to hit just a little lower than the base of the flagpole. The last leg of the path wasn't the most complex but it still proved tiring, as I gathered more magic for another quick blast, this one aimed once more at the monster's face, and I hit dead center!

“Ow! My poor, beautiful face..!”, he whined dramatically, but this would be a grave mistake from his part! He stayed in place just long enough for the falling flagpole to skewer him from back to front, pinning him to the ground!

After a sickening crackle, he stopped moving, still gruesomely impaled, and I could finally breathe again...

Wow..! I'd never been able to do something even remotely like that in all my days of training! My body had moved almost like I'd been truly guided, maybe by the Princesses somehow! I certainly felt that the applause was more than well deserved, Dad would be so proud!

... Wait, applause?

Turning around, my eyes went wide at the sight of three Discords sitting behind a low table. When they were sure to have my attention, they stopped the applause, and each reached under the table to pull a scoring paddle with a bright red number painted on it: I got an '8', and two '7'.

The utter absurdity of it all almost made me laugh. 'Almost', because the blood was draining from my slack-jawed face, and that was a little distracting.

“Why looking so pale, little mare?”, came Discord's amused voice from right next to me. “It's still a pretty good performance, especially for such a failure of a Guard trainee.”

Hearing him so close to me brought me back to my senses, and I jumped away, stumbling like a foal as I desperately tried to get more distance between the monster and me! How stupid could I be!? Of course I couldn't beat him so easily!! The three copies had vanished as if they hadn't ever been here, and the lord of Chaos didn't sport any kind of wound on his chest!

I could never beat him..!

But that wasn't the point anyway! The distraction had worked at least, the stallion had—

My legs almost gave up on me this time.

The stallion hadn't moved an inch. He was still sitting on the grass, looking blankly ahead.

It... It was a joke, right? A big, harmless, stupid joke, right!?

Discord strolled lazily to the stallion, tsking as if he were honestly disappointed: “All this spectacle for him, and he doesn't even pay attention... It's so hard to find a good audience these days!” He seized the stallion's head in his claw, like he was about to pick up a flower, but instead the pony's body was engulfed by white light, consuming him and not even leaving ashes in his place..!

“There, it's just between you and me now.”, the monster said almost jovially, walking toward me.

Any trace of courage had long fled me by that point, and I tripped while backing away. What should I do!? How could I escape from this monster!? I pleaded for my compass to help me, and I took hold of the first path it showed me, forcing my shaking legs to move and follow, pushing all my remaining strengths into running away!

I ran, and I ran, but these gardens looked endless, and Discord managed to always get closer to me! I kept following the direction so dutifully pointed by my compass, but...

...

I stopped, feeling dizzy and my heart tightening painfully in my chest, when I finally noticed that the path I was following was making me run in a perfect little circle.

It... It didn't work!! IT DIDN'T WORK!!

“Are you done? This is getting embarrassing...”

Discord had all the time to leisurely saunter up to me, of course! And he knew perfectly well that my compass didn't work, seeing his smirk!

But... If he knew... If maybe it even was hisdoing...

Oh dear Celestia, please no!! Where did I send all these ponies!? Where did I send Bellerist!?

And he smirked all the wider..!

No..!

I... I was supposed to guide them..! To show them the correct path!

This... This monster!! What had it done to me!?

My magic was bubbling angrily around my horn, and I didn't think; I formed a vicious blast, and shot it at the hideous creature just as he was about to bring his claws on me! I missed, but it surprised him just enough to give me time to leap away from his shadow, and as I was charging another blast, I let all my fear and hurt and rage billow from my heart and out of my mouth, shouting at the top of my lungs as I delivered my attack!

It missed, too, as I refused to listen to my traitorous compass anymore, but I still readied the next blast, trying to keep my distances!

“... Do you even know what you're doing anymore?”, the monster asked, sounding almost bored now.

“No I don't!!”, I screamed back with dreadful honesty, releasing the last attack my magic wellspring would allow me today, the migraine starting to pound at my skull. I still tried to gather at least a little more energy, but it was no use, and I was starting to wobble on my hooves..!

Discord came ever closer, and I just didn't have the strength to get away anymore, as he towered over me: “Is it because... You can feel that there's just no way out for you now, whatever you do..? If only you weren't so keen at playing hero, maybe you could have had the slightest infinitesimal sliver of a chance at getting away, but no, you had to try...”, he mused, shaking his head. “That takes some guts, I approve. Too bad that, in this game, there's only one single prize...”

His claw was bearing down on me, inescapable now, but I still managed a last, defiant smile, looking him right in the eyes. I would be gone, but if I had delayed his murderous rampage, even if only just a little, maybe I still made a difference! Maybe more ponies could have gotten away, maybe it left more time for the Princesses to prepare their counter-attack!

The cruel talons clamped around my neck, biting into my flesh, and I was lifted from the ground. Regardless of my own brave thoughts, fear started to overtake me.

I couldn't escape...

I was going to die..!

Discord brought me to face level, but I looked away, too afraid to see my last moments reflected into his vicious, sadistic eyes..!

That's when I saw the pony, a Guard, standing at a window overlooking the gardens... She saw me, too, and I silently begged her to save me, to take me away from the monster! She was jumping to my help, but it was too late... The fear, and everything else, was washed away by the blinding, horrible light, as wicked, evil words echoed into what was left of my mind, and etched themselves deep into my heart...

For Five Score! Divided by Four..!”'


~ Sweetchard ~

'My hooves skidded on the courtyard's pavement as I came to a stop, my eyes dartin' around, but she wasn't here either!

I tried to catch any of the panicked castle staff on their way out, but they were so afraid, most just barreled through without even noticin' me! I didn't have the time to wait anymore, next one who wanted to get past me like I wasn't even here, I just tackled him to the ground!

It was one of those olden butler types, all sweaty and breathless like a frightened rabbit, I had to shake him a lil' bit before he really listened to me:

“Hey pal, get a hold of yerself here! What's happenin'!? Why's everypony runnin' like that!?”

“It's, it's that monster!”, he hollered at my face, “Let me go you retard, before he catches me!”

“I'll let ya go when ya answer me! Did ya see any of the cooks!? Are they still here!?”

“I– I think so! I heard some of the servants were trying to hide in the kitchens, but they're doomed! We have to flee, the Castle's not safe anymore, maybe even Canterlot itself!”

“Not yet, ya hafta show me the way!”

“Wh– You're mad!! Let me go!!”

The old fellow pushed hard and managed to weasel out of my hooves, dashin' out of the courtyard without a look back, that coward!

Well, there wasn't any reason to keep loiterin' here then, so in I went!

– — –

I galloped through the fancy hallways, but I'd never been in the castle before, and the thing was like a maze! There was a mighty ruckus comin' from somewhere, with the sound of metal scrappin' and loud voices – the guards must've been fightin' that monster. I hoped they could keep it away 'til I found those darn kitchens!

That's the smell of fine food burnin' that got me on the right tracks. Followin' my nose, I got closer and closer to the source, and right there were the kitchens!

The place was a real mess. Pastries ready to be served strewn all other like nopony cared, cooking pots still on the stove, a large kitchen like that without the sounds of pans and knifes, or the cooks' banter... T'was eerie like nothin' else...

Lookin' around, I found some of Crispy's very own special fritters, the same as her cutie mark, ready to be fried. So she was here! But... The diamond-shaped beignets laid forgotten on the worktop, some only half-done...

Was I too late..?

No, it couldn't be! The butler said they were hidin', she had to be here somewhere!

I went to the back of the kitchen and the only good hidin' place I could think of: the big pantries. I pushed the door of the largest one, but t'was like somethin' was stuck, I could barely make it budge!

Oh of course, they must've barricaded themselves in!

I put my mouth close to the little crack I managed to make, and whispered: “Hey, anypony in here..?”

Yes there was, I could hear shufflin' inside!

“... Sweetchard? What are you doing here!?”

It was Crispy's voice! Thank Celestia she was safe!

“Get him in or make him go away, he's gonna bring Discord here!”, somepony else hissed from inside.

“Well I'm not gettin' away, so open up quick!”

They didn't sound much happy 'bout it but they did push whatever they had stacked on the other side, and I had just 'nough space to wriggle myself in. Crispy was here, but I helped the other to close the door back before I got to her. I went for a hug, but she pushed me away, like she was angry at me!

“You shouldn't be here! What were you thinking!?”

“I heard there was somethin' bad happening in the castle, I had to see if you were alright!”

“That was foolish, colt!”, one of the older cooks with us said, “He could've taken you too!”

“Who's that 'he' you're so 'fraid of?”

“Discord! Didn't you hear!?”, Crispy scolded, “He's going on a rampage!”

Discord..? What kind of monster is that?

“Well we just have ta wait it out, right? The Princess will take care of it!”

They all looked at me like I was some idiot foal. Did I miss somethin'..?

“You really don't get it!”, the cook chided me with wide eyes.

“The Guard is useless, even the Princesses can't do anything against him!”, another cried.

“He's the god of Chaos itself!”

“That's spirit of Chaos, thank you.”

Everypony's breath was taken away by these words. I'd never heard that voice before, and yet it sill chilled me to the bone.

Lookin' to the back of the pantry, in the dim light of a lantern, I saw this... this tall thing that'd been like cobbled together willy-nilly, with bits of pony, goat, bird and who-knew-what! He was watchin' us with these red and yellow eyes, with a mean smirk on his long gray face...

“Always thought calling yourself a 'god' was a wee bit pretentious, even for me...”, the creature sneered.

The ponies around me screamed. Discord laughed.

T'was all a blur – next thing I knew, I'd busted through the door and was on the other side of the kitchen, Crispy clingin' to my back, yells and cries and the monster's laugh behind us! I couldn't save them all, but I could still save Crispy!

I didn't stop 'til we were far enough I couldn't hear them anymore, but by then I was completely lost... I crouched to let Crispy down, she was still all shaken up!

“Hey, look at me, please look at me!”, I was telling her, 'til she caught her breath and met my eyes. “It's gonna be alright, I promise! We'll get outta here before he catches us, we'll make it!”

“I... Okay Sweety, yes, we... We'll make it..!”, she stammered.

“Come on then!”, and we launched through the castle once again...

... But soon, too soon, Discord's laugh echoed again, this time from the very direction we were gallopin' toward!

“This way, to the gardens!”, Crispy said as she pulled me 'nother way. We came out of the castle into the gardens, just like she said, and hurried along the dirt paths. We turned a corner, close to the outer walls...

... Only to end up almost face-to-face with the monster, sittin' on a deckchair and sippin' at some drink!

“Ah, finished with your little tour already? I don't have all day, you know.”

I froze.

This... This beast shoulda been behind us!!

W– Whatever! I would never let him have her!! I planted my hooves firmly on the ground, right between Crispy and him. The tall monster stood before me, with that evil, confident smile of his... But he'd have to pass through me to get at my marefr—

I fell forward, bitin' the dust hard – somethin' pushed me from behind!

When I got back to my hooves, I looked all around, but there was no trace of Crispy, or Discord! I bolted back toward the castle, but still nothin'!

“Crispy!!”, I yelled – but she didn't answer!

“She can't hear you by now, lovercolt.”, Discord's voice came just above me.

I reared back, trying to hit the monster with my hooves, but he just popped like a balloon, reappearin' in front of me none the worse!

“I won't let ya touch a hair of her mane, ya fiend!”

“And you would do... what, exactly? Trample poor old me with your mighty hooves?”

“If I hafta! I don't care if yer a spirit or a god, ya won't get to her!!”

But the monster wasn't impressed, no, he laughed!

“Oh, the things we would do for love, am I right? And yet here we are, your darling sweetheart pushing you in my way just to give her a better chance to escape... Does she still deserve such loyalty, hmm..?”

That... No, that was a lie! A big fat LIE!! “If– If she got away, then I don't care! It's all that matters!!”

Discord bent his long body to face me fully, but just far enough that I couldn't send my hoof right in his ugly lyin' mug!

“A truly remarkable sentiment I'm sure, selflessness, sacrifice, et cetera, but... who said she got away..?”

...

He didn't laugh this time.

He just stared at me, right in my eyes, with that smug smile...

I...

No, she couldn't...

No...

I fell on my haunches, not payin' attention to what went down around me...

A unicorn came to help me, but what good would it make, if Crispy was gone..?

I looked up, at Discord. He seemed so pleased with himself, that monster... I didn't try to get away when he put his claws on my head, and he started chantin'...

For Five Score! Divided by Four..!”'


~ Rafale ~

'I was on the ground, panting.

My wings hurt, I was exhausted, my armor felt so heavy. I could barely get back to my hooves, my vision swimming.

Yet in front of me, I could still see him, this hideous mismatched chimera.

He was laughing.

In his clawed hand he held a unicorn guard by the throat. His eyes were half-closed, his horn still smoldering, he was barely moving.

I should have gotten up, tried to save him, but I didn't.

And in a bright flash, his body started to dissolve. He screamed. And I just watched.

I just watched him kill somepony, a pony I worked with for years.

And I just watched. I watched as other guards came rushing in the corridor, trying futilely to strike down the Spirit of Chaos. He made me watch, as he killed them all, one by one, and I just watched...

I failed them. I failed my fellow guards, I failed the Princesses, I failed Equestria. I desecrated my oath to protect, I betrayed my own cutie mark.

I was just a horrible failure, and I just kept on watching, as I ambled weakly in the battle-worn castle, the awful screams and cries of ponies resonating between the walls, or coming from outside through the windows I had shattered. I just walked without aim, for how long I could not say – time had become meaningless in this nightmare made real. I watched my friends disappear, and I couldn't do anything about it.

Maybe I could have helped coordinate the defense, or the evacuation, anything, but I didn't. I could hear him still, Discord laughed at me, at my uselessness, my broken will, as he continued to kill unabated. Tears flowed down my face, my continuous wailing barely registered in my migraine-racked brain.

What could I ever hope to achieve against such an all-powerful being?

I lost myself in the anguish and the shame, until I was awoken by the breaking of glass right beside me. A blast of unicorn magic from the gardens below had smashed through one of the surviving windows, barely missing my head.

I got closer, numbly.

Outside I could hear Discord's perpetual laughter... and a pony's valiant battle cry. This compelled me to focus my eyes, and I saw Amber Spire, a simple Junior rookie without any battle experience, trying to stand up to the chimera.

Lazy Amber and her stupid mane... Why was she even fighting, when there was no chance of victory? I thought I taught her better than that, but considering what my experience did for me...

She kept sending blasts, uselessly, depleting her meager magic reserves, taunting Discord with each ragged breath... Inevitably, her strength faltered, Discord snatching her up with his claw, like he did for all the others I didn't save... I just watched as she tried to escape – and our eyes met. I saw the terror, the rising pain, the tears, the silent pleading, as her body was starting to dissolve in white light...

I snapped.

I wanted to die.

I should have died, not her! I was the one who deserved it!

Please forgive me Eve, you'll have to take care of them..! I couldn't take back my sins, so I would have to take them with me to the pyre!!

Roared in rage, I jumped through the shattered window, charging up the air under my wings despite the excruciating pain, I was ready to strike – only to be effortlessly snatched in mid-air. Discord leered in my face:

“Finally! I wondered when you would do something more fun than laying down and crying on the floor! I left you until the return of your dashing Captain to come up with something, and that's all you have for me..? After the first act of your little show I can't help feeling a tad disappointed. So little finesse, really... Tell me then, what made this one so special, to earn such a heartfelt reaction? What did she have that her fifty-three point four fellow ponies didn't? Or was it random chance perhaps? Of course in the end it didn't amount to much, but you already knew that... Anyway, you're the last one here, and there are so many more waiting for their turn! So long, lily-liver! For Five Score! Divided by Four..!”'

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