Inner Slope, Circum-Arctic Mountains.
Eleven days later.
After a grueling week of hiking, the expedition had managed to find their way through the treacherous passes and arrived on the inner slope of the mountains circling the pole. Heading downhill again, the journey had become easier for a day or two, and even slightly warmer as the altitude decreased. Morale had been on the upswing until yesterday.
The team had been woken in the pre-dawn hours by the luggage. The magical chest had begun howling for no apparent reason, sounding like nothing so much as a sick or injured dog. Fluttershy had gone to check on it, and found it vomiting up seemingly random objects. By the end of the day, there was a pile of detritus nearly filling the main room of the tent. The luggage itself had moved on from howling to whimpering.
Fluttershy had insisted on staying with the poor thing through the night, doing what she could to comfort it, but whatever animated the creation bore little resemblance to any form of life or magic the ponies knew, and none had any idea how to help.
Now, in the faint, crepuscular light of another arctic morning, the expedition members stood around looking on in muted horror as the once vibrant Pearwood of the creature turned more and more to black rot. Discord laid a forepaw on the chest's lid, patting it reassuringly, but getting only a faint tremble of a few legs in response.
Fluttershy, kneeling nearby, stood and leaned into him. "Oh Dizzy, I just don't know what to do," she said.
Discord sighed. "Can you sense anything wrong with its magic?"
"I've been trying," Fluttershy said. "All I get is a sense of... of loss, and sadness. Like it's giving up."
Nodding solemnly, Discord reached out again to the now-rotted wood. "What happened to you?"
"Do you think it's the Hole?" Donner asked. "This is a magic creature after all, maybe it's... being drained like the rest of magic?"
"I don't think so," Discord responded. "The magic in the Sapient Pearwood isn't from this universe, so it follows its own rules, not ours."
Fluttershy looked up at Discord. "What do you know about where it's from? Is there something you know that could make it sick like this?"
Scratching his chin in a surprisingly genuine and non-comedic manner, the draconequus thought for a moment. "I think," he said. "It'd have to be connected to its roots... to its origin or creation."
"Like how a spell fades when its caster dies?" Sweetie Belle said.
Fluttershy let out a sniffle. "Or like a pet refusing to go on when its master dies."
The luggage made a small whimper and coughed up a few more objects. Discord picked up one of them, a book, and examined it. A knowing look suddenly spread across his face.
"What is that?" Sweetie asked, moving closer to look at it with him.
The book was worn, the pages all dog-eared and ragged; a book well traveled and often read. The faded artwork on the cover showed four elephants, standing atop a seemingly gigantic turtle, and supporting on their backs a blue and green disc with mountains and seas on it, like some sort of flattened globe. Large gold letters at the top titled it "The Colour of Magic."
"I feel like I've seen that story before," Sweetie said. "But I can't quite place it."
Donner leaned in and looked. "Me too," she said. "It seems familiar, but... Who wrote it?"
Discord ran a claw lovingly over the cover. Where the author's name should be, the paper was worn through by time, like a memory faded with age.
"That's a shame," Donner said, seeing the worn paper.
"You know," Fluttershy added. "I feel like I know that story somehow as well. Are you sure you don't remember who created it?"
"Oh, I remember." Discord gave a sad smile, and Fluttershy could see there was even a tear in his eye. He leaned down and put his mouth close to where one might guess an "ear" should be on the luggage and whispered something the others couldn't hear.
The luggage let out one last whimper, one which almost sounded happy, like a lost puppy that'd finally been found, then went still.
Sensing the change, Fluttershy's eyes went wide with alarm. Before she could say anything though, Discord stood up, tears now running clearly down the fur of his cheeks. "I remember! I will always remember. As will millions and millions of others in countless universes across all of time and space. The guy that wrote that, he created something so wonderful, so powerful, that it will never be forgotten."
"The luggage?" Blitzen asked.
Discord laughed. "That, and so, so much more!" He turned to face Blitzen more directly. "Do you know what's so special about the luggage?"
Blitzen took a guess. "It can hold a lot of stuff?"
Discord laughed again. He liked the kid's matter of fact approach. "Well yes, that too, but more importantly, you can never lose it. No matter where you go, no matter what happens, if you call it, the luggage will come. It isn't stopped by physical barriers like walls or mountains or oceans or planets. It can't be restrained by armies or even armadas. And it doesn't even notice little details like being in the wrong universe or plane of existence. Absolutely nothing will stop it from coming when called."
Blitzen cocked his head in confusion. "So what does that mean?"
"My dear boy," Discord said. "The luggage simply got called home!"
"But..." Blitzen pointed at the rotting and now inanimate wood lying on the floor of the tent. "Isn't it dead?"
"Yes, exactly. Nothing will stop it."