"So, it has come to pass," I said as I landed on the side of the brand-new mountain that had sprung up in the wilderness.
The Draconequus regarded me sullenly as I folded my wings across my back. I was braced for anything, or so I'd thought. Discord's response surprised me, though.
"Not now, Celestia. I'm not in the mood."
I blinked, surprised. I'd never seen Discord upset before. At least, not like this. He had his moods, certainly, but those typically ranged from amusement to annoyance.
"I'd like to just leave you alone, Discord. But you know that I can't do that."
"Celestia, I swear, if you two don't leave me alone, it's going to end badly for you both." I felt a chill as I realized that our ruse had already been uncovered. "Oh, yes," he said, seeing my surprise. "I can sense little Luna sneaking up behind me, bearing the other three Elements. Did you think I wouldn't know?"
"I was hoping you wouldn't, yes."
"I'm not in the mood for games, Celestia."
"Since when?" I asked.
That was a mistake, one I regretted instantly as the enraged Spirit of Chaos spun to face me. I'd seen Discord angry before, or so I'd thought, but what I was witnessing now was an incandescent fury that I'd never expected to see from the ordinarily urbane spirit.
"Since you put this leash on me!" he roared, and I stepped back, afraid for my life for the first time in a very long while. Discord's voice echoed down the mountainside, and here and there the stone cracked, falling down in random avalanches.
"What..." I swallowed, trying to work some moisture back into my mouth. "What leash would that be?"
"These infernal Keepers of yours! Why did you do that?" The rage faded somewhat, and I was amazed to see... pain? Could it be?
"I... I only wanted you to have company," I said, suddenly unfamiliar with creature I was facing. "I wasn't even sure if you were aware..."
"Oh, I was aware. Every single second of every day. And, honestly? I could not have cared less for any of them. Any of them except Sunny Meadows."
"Ah, the last Keeper," I said, then flinched as he glared at me.
"Yes, the last, late Keeper," he replied.
I looked away from his face, and then something caught my eye. Clutched tightly in his eagle's talon was a bundle of papers. A mystery for another time, perhaps.
"Why?" I repeated.
"Why did you do that to me? Why did you give me servants, though I was entrapped in stone? Why did... Why... Why do they die so quickly?"
"Ah." I said. In order to hide my surprise, I looked away, towards the sky, and saw Luna on her approach. I caught her eye and shook my head. Confused, but trusting me, Luna turned and banked away. "It's the cost of immortality, Discord. Those who are mortal, no matter how long they may live, pass away before we truly get to know them. Then we spend the rest of our lives mourning them."
"It's not really worth it, then, is it?" he said, as he held out his talon. A burst of fire, almost too bright to look at, consumed the letter in an eye blink.
"It's worth it," I replied. "To me, at least."
"Oh? How so?"
"Because the alternative is to never get to know them. Those lovely, wonderful, and above all brief ponies would live their lives and die without us ever knowing them at all. We would deny ourselves the joy and the beauty of their time on this world, and our own lives would be the poorer for it. And, because... Well, they say that nopony truly dies while someone keeps them alive in their hearts." I stepped forward and bowed my head. "And, as we are immortal, that means that those precious to us will never truly die."
Discord let out a bark of what almost could have been laughter. "That brings me surprisingly little comfort now, you know."
"I know. But it will get easier to bear."
He grunted, then sighed.
"So, what now?" I asked him.
"What now?" he repeated. "Now, I spend some time thinking. Some idle reflection, listless contemplation."
"And, once you are done thinking things over?"
"Then we'll just have to see. I am the Spirit of Chaos, after all."
Discord stood and stretched, then looked at me. "Out of curiosity, Celestia, can you tell me what this emotion is?"
The feeling hit me hard, streaming from Discord straight into my heart. It felt a little fierce, like anger, but also giddy, like joy. Happiness, protectiveness, fear and courage... it had aspects of all of them, but was made of none of them. It was its own emotion, and one I knew well.
"That, Discord, is love."
He snorted with contempt. "Love? No. I know love. I love chaos. I love the unexpected. I love—"
"You enjoy those things, certainly," I interrupted. "But you don't love them. You've felt this emotion, Discord?"
"Yes. For Sunny Meadows."
"I... see." That was beyond surprising, to say the least. And now, I was beginning to understand his behavior. "Then, I am truly sorry for your loss."
He simply stared at me. For over a minute, he stared at me. Then he snorted.
"A few last requests, Celestia."
"The grove. My grove. The Keepers will tend to it, like Sunny did, for the rest of time. I may want to visit it from time to time."
"Granted," I said. "Anything else?"
"She gets a statue."
"Yes. A big one. And make sure everyone knows that she's the only reason Canterlot isn't being flooded with hot fudge, or worse, at this very moment."
"Very well. I'll get my finest craftsponies on it right away. Where would you like it?"
"In the grove, of course. Don't ask silly questions."
"It will be done. And, now?"
"Now, I'm leaving. Like I said, I have some things to think about."
"Such as?" I couldn't resist asking.
"Such as how Chaos isn't any fun without Order. And how Order isn't any fun..."
"Without a little bit of Chaos."
"Well, perhaps more than a little bit, Celestia," he said with a grin. "Fare well until I see you again. Oh, and give your sister a kiss for me, would you? She was always my favorite."
He disappeared in a puff of smoke that smelled slightly of cheese. Luna glided in and landed next to me.
"That went better than expected," I said. And that's when the entire mountain turned into a large, shifting pile of rainbow-colored gumballs.