Twilight's Reign

by James Pwyll

The Betrayed

"I gotta say, Twilight. Things have been pretty nice today," Spike remarked.

Twilight smiled to him. "You're not wrong. Aside from a few papers, things have been relatively calm so far."

A pause, and then Spike gave a deep and tired-sounding sigh. "So...when do you think it'll go wrong?"

Twilight too started to look wary. "Oh, perhaps a minute or two?"

Unfortunately, the two of them didn't even get that long to themselves, as the great doors of the throne room suddenly creaked open, and from outside emerged Flash, who seemed to look a touch more worried than normal, though Twilight was uncertain why. The stallion cleared his throat, then stepped to one side. "Announcing the arrival of Mrs Chestnut and her party."

Twilight and Spike watched as an unassuming light-brown earth pony mare entered the room, followed shortly by about a dozen or so others. They were ponies of all stripes, unicorn, pegasi, and from their dress they appeared to be from a number of different places all across Equestria. They had an odd look on their faces, unhappy, yet also worried about being here. It was an odd thing, and something that gave Twilight a clear feeling that they weren't here to talk to her about anything good. Still, she kept her regal demeanour, getting to her hooves and stepping forward before formally accepting them. "Welcome to the Royal Palace. How may I help you?"

The group of ponies all looked nervously to one another, with the exception of Mrs Chestnut at the front, who similarly stepped forward and gave a respectful bow of her head. "Princess. Thank you for meeting with us today. My friends and I have been working for a very long time, and we've finally reached our goal."

Twilight arched an eyebrow. "I'm happy to hear it, though I'm not entirely sure what your goal actually is."

There was a moment of hesitancy, after which Chestnut took a deep breath, before then glancing to one of her unicorn friends. She gave a nod, prompting the latter to light up their horn. What followed was the levitation of what appeared to be a bound collection of papers, which Twilight herself soon accepted with her own magic. Opening it up, both she and Spike began to look through, and saw that it was a collection of names. Quite a lot of them in fact, and after looking to one another with confusion, it was Spike who asked the obvious. "You've...been collecting ponies' signatures?"

Mrs Chestnut gave a firm nod. "These are not simply any signatures. They are ten thousand. From ponies of all walks of life, all across Equestria. Ponies who were affected just as much as me and my friends were. It is a petition. One meant for...for an important purpose."

Setting the papers aside, Twilight looked to her with some concern. "And what purpose would that be?"

Chestnut glanced away, albeit briefly, before looking Twilight in the eye with a steely resolve. "We wish to ask re-contain the spirit of chaos, Discord...into his stone prison."

The silence in the throne room was deafening, and yet, in spite of the monumental declaration, Twilight kept her composure. One would never think that a torrent of thoughts was rushing through her mind, given how calm she looked. Spike, by contrast, was very much worried about the request made of her, and looked to her, awaiting her response. After a while, Equestria's leader slowly closed her eyes. "...I see. I take it you have issue with his past actions?"

Chestnut nodded solemnly. "Yes...many of his actions in fact." She gestured to the rest of the group. "Every single pony you see here is somepony who has been hurt by him in some way. And every name on that list can say the same."

Twilight briefly glanced again to the petition, then back to Mrs Chestnut. "Discord has been a close associate of mine for some years now. If you have a quarrel with him, I would like to hear your grievances, if that's alright with you." Again, Chestnut nodded, and turned to one of her companions, a pegasus mare. The other mare gulped nervously, then stepped forward, clearly less sure of herself than Chestnut was. Seeing that, Twilight spoke softly to her. "You have nothing to fear. Say what you wish to say."

Taking a deep breath, the mare spoke. " daughter attended your School of Friendship. Yet one day, while you were absent, Discord used his power to cause utter havoc there! He terrified the students, even setting dangerous beasts upon them! My daughter, all of those children, their lives were at risk because of him!"

Twilight sighed, remembering well that conflict sparked by Discord and Starlight's issues with one another during her absence from the school. "I see. But...I gather it is not simply that which causes you to all be here?"

Another pony, a unicorn stallion, stepped forward next, looking far angrier than the mare before him. "You're darned right, Princess! Years ago, when that monster Tirek was loose on Equestria, Discord helped round us all up in our neighbourhood so that horned abomination could steal our magic!" The stallion seethed. "We were treated like animals! Like we were to be gathered together and eaten! Discord was supposed to be on Equestria's side, yet there he was, tearing us down!"

It was an unpleasant memory, to say the least, and Twilight, even now, could still feel the parts of her that ached after the great battle she'd endured against Tirek. A battle that would have admittedly been a lot less difficult had Discord not aided him. "Discord committed a terrible act that day. I will not deny it."

"And he did it again!" This time, the voice came from what appeared to be the youngest of the group, barely older than Twilight's students back at the school in Ponyville. She approached, her wings flapping with clear nerves, and it was here that Twilight noted the way she shimmered in the light. A crystal pony. And just from that, Twilight could sense where this was going, yet still she stood where she was, allowing the youth to say her piece. "My people, in the Crystal Empire. We've lived for the last few years in the knowledge that the most terrible figure in our history, Sombra, would never return to harm us. That he was gone and wouldn't ever come back." She grimaced. "But then...but then..."

Chestnut walked over to her, patting her on the shoulder and giving her reassurance. "It's alright. You can say it."

There was a pause, after which the child finally spoke. "Sombra came back...because of Discord. The tyrant lived again, and he took our home! He made us slaves again! And why?! Why did Discord do it?! For some ridiculous plan to have you fight him and prove yourself?!"

Twilight hung her head, that old sadness at having learned that truth herself rushing to her mind after so long. She was in a bind, and she knew it. Every pony in front of her had every right to be angry and to feel that hurt right now. And she was sure to tell them that. "Your justified." Her head lifted again, and she looked each and every one of them in the eye before continuing. "Discord erred...many times. His actions hurt you and every pony in this petition. I remember my own anger towards him with every mistake he made, every danger he wrought." She took a deep breath before speaking her next words. "But longer does the things he does for mere amusement as he used to. His actions now have meaning. Betrayals, like his union with Tirek? He paid for those with having been betrayed himself. And his resurrection of Sombra, or the gathering of Equestria's other enemies...that was, if nothing else, done for what, in his eyes, was a good cause."

Chestnut fumed. "It's all well and good if he thinks he's doing good, but what about us?! What about those in Equestria who bear the brunt of what he's done?!"

Twilight nodded. "I know. Were I to refuse your request simply on the basis of him being my friend, it would be an unforgivable abuse of my position. Yet..." She looked to Chestnut specifically. "Think back to all those who have tried to hurt our people in the past. Princess Luna. Stygian. They and so many others, who now serve our nation in their own way. Had we cut their lives short then and there...they would not be here today, going good."

Chestnut, though a touch calmer than before, was still clearly angry. "That may be...but Discord just...kept...doing it! We're not talking about a one-time offender here, your Highness!"

Another nod from Twilight. "I know. But rest assured, I know him better than any of you. I know that he will not do so again what he's done in the past. The betrayal, the actions that have endangered our people...I am certain that will not occur in the future."

Chestnut didn't seem at all satisfied with that, nor did her companions. And yet, as the silence persisted, that lead mare considered their position. "You're one of the greatest heroes in Equestria. We all owe our lives to you more times than I dare consider. Trust is something you've earned a thousand times over. You mean to tell us, with all honesty, that Discord will never do anything like this again?"

A bow of the head from Twilight. "You have my word."

Chestnut's eyes narrowed. "And if he does? If he slips again, as he's done before...will you also give your word that something will be done about him?"

Spike looked to Twilight, worried about how she'd respond to that, and after a while, the Princess of Friendship gave a far heavier nod than she did before. "I do not wish to ever find myself as a foe of my friends...but as Equestria's ruler, should Discord become a threat to our nation...then the nation and its people must be my priority."

The gathered ponies all looked to one another. Whether they believed her was up for debate, but after a while, Chestnut exhaled deeply. "Well...we came here to make sure Discord never hurt anypony again...I guess we sort of have." She bowed, but didn't look to Twilight, most likely due to her still being angry. "Thank you for your time, Princess."

Twilight nodded, then watched as they all began to depart. There was a lot of dissatisfaction, she could tell, yet she said nothing until after they'd all left. "Well, that was...a rather frank meeting."

Spike again looked to her with worry. " you think you will have to stop Discord doing something really bad in the future?"

For the first time in a long time, Twilight looked sad. "I hope not, Spike...I truly hope not."