Chapter 38: The Voice of Change
Twilight's vision returned. She was in the center of a grand city, whose tall buildings were carved out of white stone. She had heard this place described before. It was the griffon capital, Skygate, which was so well built it didn't seem like it had changed in the thousand plus years. She grinned, glad that she had the chance to see it for herself, even if she wasn't physically there. She glanced around expectantly. She was alone, besides a few griffons strolling about. It seemed each pony would be experiencing this memory on their own.
Her gaze was naturally pulled towards a specific griffon couple walking by. They looked very happy, laughing and chatting and nuzzling each other lovingly. It made Twilight's heart melt. They drew close enough to hear, so Twilight began listening intently.
“...Oh Gareth, must you go to that lecture of yours? We could just keep walking.”
“Of course, dearest. Our nation needs to be given a wakeup call. Everbody's afraid of the Equestrians. I think they're getting their feathers ruffled over nothing. But I promise, as soon as it's over, we'll have a nice dinner. Wherever you want to go.”
The female griffon sighed. “Alright. I'll be in the crowd. Look for me.”
Gareth winked. “I won't be able to take my eye off of you.”
The couple turned into a doorway. The sign next to it announced a lecture to be given by Gareth Goldheart, M.D. Twilight cocked her head. She had heard the name before, but she couldn't recall where. She walked inside as she mulled it over.
The building housed a dimly lit, yet lavish, auditorium. It was rather sophisticated, Twilight thought, considering this memory took place a thousand years ago. The room would give the best musical halls in Canterlot a run for their money. The seats looked plush and comfortable, and the stage was built from dark and flawless wood. Twilight took a seat as quietly and cautiously as possible, before remembering that unless she directly intervened, her presence would not disturb the memory projections. She was left to her thoughts as the crowd began piling in. Gareth stood on the side of the stage, looking over some last minute notes, mumbling to himself.
Twilight watched the crowd of griffons. Most were well groomed and had an air of aristocracy, though there were a few who entered who were painfully out of place. They, like Twilight, tried to make themselves invisible in the crowd, hanging to the side as the upper class griffons took the better seats. Twilight wasn't sure what to make of the situation. There was some apparent inequality, and nobody seemed to think anything of it. And, after looking around, Twilight realized she still didn't know what this memory had to do with Discord. Had she taken the wrong path? Followed the wrong griffons? A quiet lecture hall did not seem like the kind of place she'd find the past form of the Lord of Chaos.
She looked over the smiling, kind-looking griffon in front of her. No, it couldn't be...
Gareth stepped to the podium. The minimal chatter died off immediately. “My fellow brothers and sisters,” he began, “we live in a time of fear and whisperings. It is perpetrated by warmongering politicians who seek to build their wealth on the blood and tears of the masses. I am not here to tell you that we won't go to war, for indeed, if we do not act, that is exactly what will happen. I am here to tell you that war is unnecessary. Look around you, at the fair city in which we live. It has never been brighter, and this is because of the free trade we enjoy. If we cut off our ties to Equestria, we will feel the pain for generations. And for what? A few measly miles of desert?”
Gareth stepped away from the podium, and began pacing very slowly, taking a step about every two seconds. He pointed towards a row of particularly well kept griffons. “My fellow members of parliament, remember my warnings four years ago. The brash actions taken then caused the problem we have now. We must remember that the decisions made in our discussion halls will affect reality. Unlike some choices, which seem so far away and perhaps even abstract, voting whether or not we go to war tomorrow will decide the fate of the young men and women of this country. This is their land to inherit. Will we give them a scorched battlefield? An endless graveyard?”
Twilight was leaning forward in her chair. She had never heard that there were tensions between the Griffon Kingdom and Equestria. What was Gareth talking about?
“The Equestrians do not want to go to war. I have spoken to some of their common citizens and diplomats, and the resounding answer is that if a fight can be avoided, it should be. But rest assured, their army will be ready to meet us if we make the first strike. Remember that the wise warrior does not seek out conflicts, but ends them swiftly when they are brought to light. Let us not be hasty when words can solve what the sword cannot. As a practicing doctor, I have seen the results of our battles in a far more intimate way than will ever be seen in our court rooms. And may I say, that I hope you never have to experience what I have.
“Have you heard the weeping of a mother who has lost their child to petty politics? Has your heart been torn by the muffled cries of pain and protest as a limb is amputated? A barbaric procedure that was the only option because our troops' medical supplies are insufficient? The now lame young father struggles to make a living, as the institution that caused him to lose his leg has deemed him unnecessary, and taken him from the pay roll. Is this justice? To thank the brave, who follow the orders of the blind because it is their duty, by throwing them to the poor houses, their sacrifices forgotten as another young, unassuming soul takes their place, not fully aware of what horrors await him?
“If this is justice, then may I be locked away, for I will not follow the corrupt law that supports such a foolish society.”
He continued speaking for quite some time. Twilight was fascinated by his words. She picked up bits and pieces of the story behind the conflict; it seemed border patrols several years back had exchanged a few callous words, and it escalated into a fight. One of the members of the Equestria patrol had been killed. The Equestrians had demanded that the griffons be tried in their courts, but the griffons insisted that the actual conflict had happened on their land, and thus the griffons should be tried in their own courts. The Equestrians were outraged, and the griffon kingdom had found their borders a bit smaller as the Equestrians expanded their border by a few miles. As Gareth had pointed out, it was only a few miles of the long desert that acted as a buffer between the two kingdoms, but it had been enough to keep tensions high. They seemed to be coming to a boiling point, with the griffon kingdom demanding that their land be returned. What confused Twilight the most was how illogical Equestria was acting. Surely Celestia would have mediated such a conflict...
She drew a quick breath as she remembered. If this was Discord's story, and Luna and Celestia's reign came after Discord's, then the two alicorn sisters must not be the current rulers of Equestria. Who was it then?
After some time, the lecture was wrapping up. “Remember, my fellow citizens, if we do not act wisely, our land will be thrown into eternal chaos. And that is something we cannot allow. When you vote, vote for order, peace, and the progression of all sentient beings. Thank you.”
The crowd rose with one accord. There was quite a bit of clapping, which tapered off quickly, but nobody spoke. In silence, the crowd dispersed out the doors. Gareth's wife, along with the invisible Twilight, were the only ones left in the room as Gareth picked up his few supplies. Twilight walked to the front, waiting for something else to happen. The lecture had been interesting, certainly, but she still wasn't sure why Discord had chosen to show it to her. She smiled quietly as she realized that the rest of her friends would have to sit through it as well. She could only imagine how Rainbow would handle it.
“You did wonderfully.” Gareth's wife put a loving arm around her husband.
Gareth smiled. “Thank you, Gilda. I only hope the nation will make the right decision.”
Twilight shook her head violently in shock. Gilda? Gareth's wife was named Gilda? It had to be a coincidence.
The couple stepped out into the street. Twilight followed them closely. The memory shifted around her, apparently jumping to a later moment. The couple stepped into a building that was almost certainly their home. It was almost dark outside, so Twilight assumed the two would soon go to the promised dinner, and were returning to prepare for the night. With a start, Twilight realized that the setting sun wasn't the sun she knew. It was composed of many far smaller orbs, joined closely together. She knew from the Hearth's Warming Eve pageant that the Unicorns had controlled the sun and moon before the princesses' reign, but it seemed like they were different celestial bodies entirely. She turned to the moon, which was beginning to rise. Sure enough, it was a similar situation. It was composed of many parts, and at best it was an approximation of the moon she knew. After a moment longer pondering this revelation, Twilight stepped inside.
The home was modest. Beautiful, yet not over-done. There were a few connected rooms, each with the necessities and not much else. Gareth had stepped over to a desk in what was obviously a study, and was pouring over a few papers. He didn't seem to be doing anything that was immediately interesting, so Twilight followed 'Gilda' upstairs. Another force seemed to be puling her as well. It was a feeling Twilight had grown used to. Fate.
Gilda stepped into the bedroom. She craned her neck, stretching out the pain of sitting still for so long. With a yawn, she stepped over to the bedroom's mirror. She grabbed a brush and began tiding her feathers. Suddenly, her eyes grew wide with fear, and the brush dropped and clattered on the dresser. She let out a chilling scream. Twilight whipped around, just in time to see a shadow dash forward, grasp the unfortunate wife's throat, and plunge a flash of steel into her neck. The resulting spray of blood caught Twilight off guard. Her coat was stained with the now all-too-familiar liquid, and she rammed a hoof over her mouth to stifle a scream of her own.
The assassin lowered the body quietly, but he had already betrayed his presence. The door slammed open and Gareth shot into the room. His eyes darted over the scene, his mouth agape. “Gilda...” he whispered.
The assassin retracted his blade, and stood calmly to face Gareth. The sanguine pool grew larger over the slick wood floor. Gareth pulled his left hand to his face, not comprehending the warm sensation of the blood trailing down his arm. The room grew cold, and time seemed to slow. The assassin chuckled from behind the black fabric of his mask.“You wouldn't want to miss your dinner date with your wife, would you? Come Gareth, I'll help you on your way.”