Inner Glory

by Erindor

Chapter 30: The Fortune Tellers and the Harbinger

Chapter 30: The Fortune Tellers and the Harbinger

In the mists of the natural plane, Bright Eyes was meditating as the Sun Goddess fretted behind her.

“How could I have let this happen? The Metaspectre knew exactly what it was doing. It's been in control all along. I should never have allowed Twilight and her friends to enter the Land of the Lost. It's so much worse than I remembered. Is that because I chose to forget, or because of my neglect?”

Bright Eyes rolled her eyes and gave a sigh of exasperation. As calm as she tried to be, Celestia's understandable anxiety was taking its toll. “Princess, the choice is in the past. There's nothing more you can do about it.”

“Yet I must reflect upon it. The wrong choices I've made haunt my every waking moment.”

“They weren't wrong.”

Celestia stopped her pacing, staring into Bright Eyes' back, begging for an answer. “Of course they were. They've made things worse than they were before.”

Bright Eyes turned. “Celestia, you're missing the big picture. Every sentient being has the gift of choice. I speak of fore-ordination and predestination, but I seem to have confused you. You see, it's not that you are guaranteed to make a decision one way or the other when faced with any situation. Based on previous decisions, some choices will be far more likely than others, but you truly have a choice up until the moment that the choice becomes action, or the lack thereof. At that moment, whatever has been done was fate.”

“I don't fully understand.”

“It's a paradox. Allow me to take an extreme example. Twilight Sparkle has been wounded. You have the choice of healing her instantly, with no cost to you whatsoever, or to kill her.”

“What kind of options are those?”

“Answer. Which would you choose?”

“To heal her, of course.”

“You're given the decision again. What now?”

“Heal her.”

“Once more.”

“You're running me around in circles.”

“Celestia, dispel the blinders you've put on yourself. Apply the lesson to each of the choices you made in your life. Think back to when you were forced to banish Luna.”

“I'd rather not.”

“Face the past. You're the one that likes dwelling on it. You are back in your former throne room, once the pinnacle of order, mercy, and justice. You have thousands of subjects who count on you to make the difficult decisions they couldn't. Your sister stands before you, threatening to kill. Not just you, but everything you and she once worked for. Peace. Love. The ability to choose. Tell me, do you allow her to live, knowing she'll slaughter countless innocents?”

“As much as it pains me, I cannot.”

“You're given the decision again. What now?”

“I... I kill her. For the greater good.”

“Once more.”

“I have to let her die, and my self respect with her. Because I am bound to help those who cannot help themselves.”

“Now do you understand? Each choice we make is indeed a choice. But they're also meant to happen. Such is the paradox of the universe; the illusion and truth of choice. You were meant to let Twilight and her friends into the depths of despair. They were meant to discover for themselves the true horrors that you fight against. Luna is meant to remember who she is, so she can be given the ability to choose, truly choose, without outside influence, which side she serves. Everything will turn out for the better, but change is never easy. Just carry on.”

Celestia dropped her head. “Thank you oracle. Your words are comforting.”

“I only speak the truth.” Bright Eyes returned to her meditation, listening to the countless voices echoing through the time stream. Her ears flicked as one in particular caught her mind. She concentrated, ignoring the other cries for her attention.

“Hawkeye?” she said with surprise. She stood, murmuring arcane phrases as her eyes began glowing. Celestia stepped over.

“Who's Hawkeye?”

“My... reflection, I suppose you could call her. From the Land of the Lost. The oracle is somewhat of a special case. I am a neutral force, yet the universe saw fit to provide me with additional windows to either world. My light reflection in Reality is known as Derpy Hooves the Courier Mare, and my dark reflection in the Forgotten Realm is known as Hawkeye the All-Sight. Somewhat of a joke, because she lost her left eye permanently at an early age in her life, but the name's fitting, more than the mortals realize.”

With a burst of light, the mist around the singularity Bright Eyes had just created dispersed with a hiss, Hawkeye blinked, taking in her surroundings in a reserved manner. Upon seeing Bright Eyes, she snapped to attention. “Oracle, I'm afraid I have bad news.”

“Beyond being dead?”

“It's the cause of death.”

Celestia watched carefully, not sure how to react in this change of events. This was the first time she'd seen a dark reflection in the flesh since the split of the worlds. Hawkeye continued. “I've been watching Twilight and her friends as instructed, ensuring no true harm came to them. But my future sight has failed me. We've taken an alternate timeline.”

Bright Eyes rose a brow. “How so?”

Hawkeye turned to the viewing port Celestia and the Oracle had been using to watch the Elements' progress. “The images you're receiving are false. Twilight was supposed to see the picture of her friends she put in the saddlebag and summon the strength within to overpower her reflection, as you've seen. Instead, she drew on the power of a crystal she stole from the Metaspectre's altar. I don't know how it's escaped our attention.”

Bright Eyes walked over to the projected images, where Twilight and her friends were leading a small band of wounded griffons, the escaped prisoners, against a countless army. The Elements lit up and the group ripped through their opposition with righteous indignation. But according to Hawkeye, whom she trusted completely –which was only logical seeing as they could read each other's conscious thoughts– this was wrong. “What happened?”

“Twilight released a portion of the energy of the crystal, decimating Moon Pool and its populace, barely managing to protect her group. The entirety of the griffon army has been culled, and nothing remains of the city. I haven't yet locked onto the new timeline, and I won't be able to until I rebirth. They're walking blind in there.”

Celestia interrupted. “We no longer have a guarantee of their safety?”

Hawkeye turned to address the worried Princess. “No Princess, none whatsoever. Somebody intervened and I think we all know who.”

“Well, it was a group effort.”

The trio whipped around, Celestia gasping in shock as she saw a foe she had thought defeated, twice, standing before her once again. “Discord!”

“Celestia! Celestia Celestia Celestia! It's terribly repetitive to start a conversation with my name every time you see me.”

Celestia closed her eyes, breathing to calm herself. She recognized that getting worked up would help no one. “Alright then, what are you here for?”

“Eh, for fun mostly, to be completely honest. It's a wonderful plan Thael has cooked up, but it takes so long to execute. I suppose it's why he's in charge and I'm just a team player. I simply don't have the patience.”

Hawkeye stepped forward. “Excuse me everyone, I see a need for Derpy quite soon, so I'll be right back.” Her single eye lit up, familiar arcane whisperings directing the magic flow around her. She disappeared with a flash.

Discord continued without skipping a beat. “I'm her because I really just like watching you squirm, Celestia. No! Not like that, sheesh.”

“Shut up.”

“Not a laugh? Ever? Celestia, when are you going to learn that's all I want from you?”

“When are you going to learn some funny jokes?”

“Ooh! Right to the heart!” Discord grabbed his chest melodramatically, “Alright, fine. You tell me what kind of joke you like, and I'll tell you what will happen next to Twilight and her little friends.”

Celestia sighed. It wasn't like she had much other choice. “I like jokes that remind of the good times that have passed, without a laugh at another's expense. No laugh is worth causing another pain.”

Discord tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Well, I suppose that's the problem, isn't it? I simply don't have any material to work with there. I never really had good times in the past. My life has been pretty terrible, I'll have you know. I laugh because it's the only thing that keeps me going.

He slid over to Celestia's side, wrapping an arm around her neck. It took all of Celestia's willpower to not throw him off. “Well, you kept your side of the bargain Celestia. I'll tell you what's happening right now. Twilight's friends are waking up, recovering from the blast that made your student a killer. Their eyes are wide with shock at the devastation around them. They're going to have to pick themselves up and carry on. After all, it's only a matter of time before the two armies reappear, and neither side will be too understanding of the little accident. They'll walk blindly, the map they stole only providing more questions for them. Where do they go? Where has Luna disappeared to? What is the safest route?”

He snorted, trying to hold back a laugh as he continued. “The joke, of course, is there is no safe route. The map doesn't tell them the natural horrors that await them. It does not tell them the monsters and assassins that wait around every corner. Nor does it tell them of the increasing pressures upon civilization. Twilight just destroyed the only food source for the entire city's population. All semblance of control will disappear. The fighting will become desperate. The Famine, so much worse. And eventually everything will collapse. It will be each pony against the world. The effect will be felt in more than just that city, of course. It will spread over the land like a plague. Anarchy. Rioting. Disillusionment, and most importantly...

“Chaos,” he whispered. He grinned darkly, while Celestia looked resolutely forward. “And the best part?” he continued. “All of what I said is conjecture. But it will happen. After all, chaos theory is the only catch-all explanation. The theory that any order will always, without fail, lead to chaos. Because no matter how righteous the intent of any system, someone will disagree.”

He took a few steps away, placing his arms behind his back as he fondly regarded the shifting mist around them. “Change is the only true beauty in this world.”

“When did you change?”

Discord started, looking back to Celestia. “I beg your pardon?”

“You once supported everything I stand for. You were loved by thousands, and you brought a unique light to the world that even I admired. Why did you throw it all away?”

Discord drew up his lip in a sneer. “Because I realized the cost of Order.” He grimaced darkly, something obviously weighing on his mind. “Do you truly want to hear my tale, Celestia? From my viewpoint? It might make you feel sorry for me. And we wouldn't want that.”

“I'll try my best to continue hating you.”

Discord rose a brow. “Was that a joke? That was a joke, wasn't it?”

A bright flash sparked between the two ancients, the two copies of the recently silent blond pegasus jumping into being. Hawkeye nodded to Bright Eyes. “I managed to retrieve Derpy.”

The wall-eyed pony looked around the group, grinning happily. “Hiya! How is everyone today?”

Bright Eyes stepped forward. “Greetings, Ditzy. You haven't been responding to my mental calls lately.”

“It's not my fault! The Doctor says there's something wrong with the barriers between the worlds! He told me to tell you to adjust the psi-on-ic fre-quen-cy ten degrees lower.”

“Is that where he's been off to?”

“Yeah, he's trying to figure out what it all means right now, conducting experiments and whatnot. You know how he is, coming and going whenever he pleases. Um, is that all?”

“No, Ditzy, I'm afraid we have matters of greater importance than dropped calls. We need to use your Past Sight to review Discord's history.” Bright Eyes bowed towards the Draconequus. “With your permission, of course. I'm simply anticipating your answer. Thankfully, Hawkeye's a bit better about updating me with her Future Sight.”

“Oh certainly, go right ahead.”

“Do I have to? His story's sad. Can't we pick a happier one? Like the heroic tale of Copper Band the adventurer?”

“I'm sorry, but it has to be Discord's story.”


“While you're watching my bitter history, Celestia, I better return before Thael realizes I'm missing. And Celestia, don't think this means I'm suddenly friendly or anything.”

“Of course not, Discord.”

“After all, we all need enemies. We are empty if we don't have them. That's why some find them... and others make them.”

Discord raised his griffon claw in the air, his body beginning to glow as it was pulled out of the dimension. “Oh, and I forgot to tell you one last thing. You remember the Beholders, don't you? One of the ancient races of Equestria?”

“Yes, they all died out in the Chaos War you started.”

“Well, it turns out they didn't actually die. They were just... forgotten.”

With yet another flash of light, the Lord of Chaos was gone, only an echoing chuckle and a dark worry indicating he had ever been there at all.