It sounded like a mare was in trouble. The Time Lord was out the door in a second; Discord could wait. He had materialized in an open hallway or large balcony; to his left, a view of the palace gardens could be seen from an overlook; wherever he was, it didn't look like a tourist area. The doors on the wall to the right most likely led deeper into the castle, while at both ends the balcony had statues of regal-looking winged unicorns, their wings half-unfurled and their heads held high.
The shriek came again. The Doctor galloped to the door at the opposite end of the balcony, bursting through to witness a purple earth mare, likely one of the palace servants, surrounded by a cloud of... insects? Birds? Some sort of small swarming creature. A long, screeching pulse from the ol’ sonic was enough to disperse the swarm, its members scattering in every direction. The maid fell to the floor, breathing a sigh of relief.
“You alright?” the Doctor asked the still-terrified indigo pony. Her official-looking outfit was shredded and raggedy, and her mane, though showing signs of a once-pristine coiffure, was now a tangled mess. I should keep her away from any mirrors.
“Fine, thank you… How did you do that?” she asked as she picked her damaged glasses from the floor.
“Well, you know... Noticed a wee bit of ultrasonic chatter among them and figured ‘What the hell, play some music!’”
“That sound… was music?”
“Overture of the 7th symphony of the Stryg-Yar composer Farlian. Only bit of decent music she ever wrote.”
“You’re not making any sense!”, she said, perplexed. “What, pray tell, is a Strygyar? And who are you! Where did you come from?”
Of all the silly questions!
“I do often. An alien race. The Doctor. A box. More to the point, what were those? How did they get in the castle?” he asked.
“Parasprites! Hello, where have you been? The whole place is flooded with them. I was trying to get everypony to the cellar. It’s where the Princesses are gathering the staff-… What do you mean, a box?”
The Doctor took a look around the room. Fancy dressings, a guest suite by the looks of it. Most textiles had been chewed on extensively, as if by a swarm of hyperactive moths. Not that the wooden furniture, or even the walls fared any better. Parasprites seemed to eat almost anyhing. Not ponies, luckily.
“Blue one,” he finally responded. “The cellar? That’s a rubbish place to hide from an attack. If there are any more of them, you should be leaving the palace!”
“It’s the only way out! One of the guards told me that the palace has been sealed shut by the Princeses’ spells. Since the swarms came out of the royal archive, we couldn't let them get out into Canterlot. Princess Celestia has put up a barrier around the palace and half the gardens to keep them in, so now the exit available is an old escape passage in the sewer; Parasprites don’t like the humidity, and it’ll be sealed as well once everypony is out.”
They returned to the balcony. Looking over the gardens, the Doctor could just barely notice a weak yellowish shimmer in the air, probably from the protective spell.
“Okay, next step: we need to get everyone to safety. Is there anyone else left around here?”
The mare didn’t answer. She’d seen the TARDIS, and was now approaching the mysterious blue box.
“You weren’t joking, were you? How did this get here?” she asked, suddenly suspicious of her miracle savior.
“It’s my… uh… vessel. It… just sort of appears. Focus, please. Is anyone else around?”
“That’s what I’m here to find out. Princess Luna sent me to the guest rooms here, to see if there’s anypony left behind by the evacuation. She led the rest to the cellar.”
“Right, then!” the Doctor smiled. He took the sonic in his teeth once again, scanning for nearby life-forms. “No one nearby, but there’sh a blip coming from th’ floor below ush, hundred metersh or sho that-a-way,” he said, pointing to one one of the balcony doors.
“The Atrium? That’s near the Archive! We need to get there, there’s no time to waste!”
“Right behind you, Miss…”
“Décor. And you are?” she asked
“The Doctor. I just said…”
“That’s a title, sir, not a name. Don’t pretend to mock me, this is not the time!”
“Well, it’s what they call me, so be polite!”
“Now that’s just silly! What pony would name their colt “The Doctor”?”
“Well, Décor, it wasn’t a pony that gave it to me, if that’s any consolation. How about we get moving before another swarm finds us!” Fusspot
“Fine! And that’s Miss Décor to you, Doctor!”
Princess Celestia was struggling to get to her royal suite in the upper levels of the castle. Easier said than done, as it were, given that the floor was covered in what seemed to be honey, and the very structural integrity of the whole Golden Wing was compromised.
“That’s what happens when you replace marble support columns with bananas”, she thought as she carefully stepped over the ruined carpets of the art gallery. “At least Luna is safe, helping the others get to the cellar.” As always, the safety of everypony was above all other concerns. She could not bear to have anything happen to her sister again.
Her destination, the royal Archive, where the whole Parasprite outbreak seemed to have originated, lay at the other end of the very large Golden Palace Wing, so named not because it was made of anything precious, but because it was her place of residence (with the newly-refurbished Diamond Wing reserved for her sister). After receiving Twilight Sparkle and her friends and giving them their mission of stopping Discord, she resolved to do what she could to protect the palace and Canterlot from suffering the same fate as the village of Ponyville, while hoping the Elements of Harmony could stop the mad Spirit before he “redesigned” all of Equestria. Ponyville itself had already been transformed; from what could be seen from the tower, several buildings had been lifted into the air, and the pastures surrounding it had been replaced by… something with a plaid pattern.
Equestria was a land of carefully-controlled balance, where ponies could live in peace only because of their constant, dilligent stewardship over the elements. Her and her sister’s duties of raising the Sun and Moon were but a part of it, and now they’d even lost control over that. Unless he was stopped, Discord would eventually bring the kingdom to a state of chaos as complete as the harmony she’d worked so hard to build; ponies would be allowed to remain alive and sane only to appreciate the full extent of his devastation. Just like before…
It would not happen. Not while she still drew breath. The Archive was the key, because while Discord was cunning, terrifyingly so sometimes, he was also arrogant. The Parasprites were uncharacteristic of him; too direct, too serious. He’d think nopony would notice that, but she knew him well enough to realize there was something there he wanted to conceal behind the all-devouring swarm. Only one thing I can think of…
She’d reached the atrium, a large circular three-story room (with failing banana supports), lit by sunlight falling through a transparent crystal dome above her; the entrances were flanked by equine suits of armor or ancient alicorn statues. At the other end, she could see the ruined, broken doors of the Archive. This was too easy. She’d hardly met any Parasprites along the way, and apart from that one room with the waffle floors, she’d advanced unhindered throughout the castle.
“Discord!” she yelled, tired of the charade. “Show yourself, I know you’re watching!”
“Oh, phooey!” came the response from one of the banana-columns, which peeled itself to reveal the meddlesome draconequus. “Why couldn’t you just go with it, Celestia? Ruin everypony’s fun, will you, you party-pooper!” he said, as he climbed out of the banana peel.
“Stop it, Discord! You’re the only one who’s having fun here. Everypony else is just trying to live through this madness!”
“Madness? Milady, if you call this madness, I ought to show you what I did with one of the radio station co-hosts. Now that might leave some scorch marks!”
“What could you possibly hope to gain with all this? You know ponies will fight back, and you’ll never rule Equestria again, no matter what you do to me. Nopony will accept your tyranny again!”
“Oh, how vain can you be, Princess! Here you are thinking you’re something special, that I’d spare the effort to devise some peculiar fate for you, simply because of your flowy mane and “royal” status. You’d think so many years leading this principality would have taught you to be a bit more… down-to-earth.”
“You’re absolutely right, monster! It’s not up to me to defeat you now! It’ll be those ponies outside who will be the end of you!”
“Silly filly, Celestia! Give them time, and they’ll learn to love the new face of Equestria. After all, I won’t be telling them to keep track the weather, care for the animals or grow their own food; everything they need will be literally falling from the sky.” The dragon was circling above her head, flapping his wings lazily. “You should embrace it; it’s a massive improvement over your monotonous dominion.”
“Dream all you want, Discord!” the Princess sneered. “As long as I’m standing, you’ll no more have control of Equestria than-”
“Control?” he laughed. “Equestria was my playground from the moment the stone prison crumbled!” He came down, to face her. “Here, I’ll show you. We’ll play a little game, you and I, just like old times!”
With a grin, he snapped his fingers, and Celestia’s horn and wings both vanished in a flash of light. Her mane also stopped moving, having lost the magic that kept it flowing.
“Retrieve your effects, Tia, and show me who’s boss,” Discord sneered, as he produced a large circular present box. “I’ll make it easy. All you need to do is open this package.” The box took flight on its own, levitating several metres above the circular atrium, its shadow forming a small island of darkness in the middle of the bright room.
“I have no time for your mad trickery!” she replied, trying to contain her growing anger. This was clearly another pointless charade meant to distract her. “You can keep my wings and horn, Discord. They won’t do you any good once Twilight Sparkle and her friends find the Elements.”
The creature appeared in front of her with a flash. “I beg to differ, Celestia! Why, I submit to you that even after they’ve found their little Elements, they won’t even be capable of using them. The way I see it, you’ve put your faith in the wrong ponies.”
Now that’s a pretty desperate attempt, Discord, even for you. Without another word, the princess walked past the draconequus, heading for the open library door. Before she could get through, however, the enchanted doors blinked back into existence and sealed themselves shut before her.
“Ah-ah-a! Every game has rules, Celestia. You can satisfy your thirst for knowledge once you get your things back.” The magical seal on the door glowed a bright red; it would not open unless a unicorn placed his or her horn inside. “Or, of course, your sister could open the doors for you… Oh, that’s right. You sent them all away, to be safe.”
Celestia looked back at the box above the atrium; it was too far above for her to reach. This is not right! I’m playing right into his claws, I’m wasting time, she thought. She couldn’t really tell if it was just the stress, but she could almost feel the room getting brighter and hotter with every passing second. Almost as if…
It is getting hotter in here! She gazed above, at the crystal dome, only to be blinded by the incandescence above, as if somepony had placed a magnifying above the atrium. She ran beneath the present box, its shade providing just enough refuge from the burning light. Trapped… in a cage of sunlight.
Discord chuckled, putting on a pair of mismatched sunglasses. “You seem to have hit a bit of a snag, Your Majesty.” The sunlight didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest, as he slithered around the room, laughing and rubbing his chin. “It wouldn’t be fair to leave you here like this. You never were much good in a game. Hey, I know! I’ll provide some music before I leave, to improve the ambience. What do you say? How about your favourite,” he asked, enthusiastically snapping his claws
With that, the Spirit of Chaos disappeared, and the room was filled with a familiar rhythm. A chorus of deep voices, singing in unison with an orchestra. A hymn that everypony but her had forgotten, one that had been buried by a thousand years of regret and loneliness. The anthem of the ancient Solar Empire.
As the Doctor and Décor arrived in the Atrium, they found it flooded with the radiance of a dozen solar discs. Waves of heat swept across their faces, causing them to turn around to protect themselves.
“Décor, what is this? What’s happened here?” The Time Lord demanded as he pulled out the screwdriver, scanning around the room for the lifeform it had detected
“How should I know? The Sun’s been behaving strangely since noon. I heard one of the guards almost burned his wings off of a beam of light! How is that even possible?”
“I usually have an answer for these things, Décor, but this time it’s a guess: have you ever heard of Discord?”
“It’s a statue in the gardens, and an ugly one at that. It looked like some kind of dragon, but the name escapes me. Why do you ask? Is that statue responsible for the Parasprites? For this?”
“That’s where my guess is pointing me. My ship, the box you saw back there… it brought me here after I found him snooping around inside-”
“How do you mean you found ‘im snooping around inside? Since when can a statue move about?”
“Well, obviously, he wasn’t a statue. My question is why you’d have a statue of him in the garden,” the Doctor continued. The sonic’s scan was being jammed by something, forcing him to flip through various settings. This is taking far too long.
“You’d have to ask the Princess for that. Those things have been around here for far longer than I-” she stopped, a spark of realization in her eyes. “Hold on… what if he was turned to stone? And he’s escaped somehow…”
“Can you do that? Here, I mean. Can you turn ponies into stone?”
“Well a basilisk can do it. Or a cockatrice, I heard there’s some in the Everfree Forest.”
“But if that’s the case, why would the Princess bring him into the garden- AHA!”
“What?” she asked, startled.
“It’s the light!” he started, suddenly very proud of his deduction. “It’s not light, it’s a… well is light, but not the normal kind. There’s an abnormal amplification happening here. I’ve an app for that!”
Just as Décor was about to question him on his jargon, the Doctor turned towards the room, closing his eyes and pointing the sonic at the atrium’s roof. “Let there be… less light!” he said, instantly regretting it. Ugh, you’re rubbish, you stupid old man!
As he triggered the sonic, the room began to darken, as if a collosal cloud was blotting out the sun. Above them, he could see the dome darkening and cracking, the eldritch energies that had altered it having now been exorcised.
As the room returned to normal, they both saw an object hovering high in the center of the room. Princess Celestia sat beneath it, her eyes closed as she’d been trying to block out the baleful radiance. Her face was contorted and full of drying tears; it looked as if she’d been crying for quite a while.
“Princess!” Décor cried, as she ran to the center of the room. The royal mare blinked, trying to adjust her eyes to the new, darkened condition of the room.
“D-Décor?” she coughed, still unable to see.
“Yes, your Majesty! I’m here! Everything is fine now-” she said, stopping herself when she saw that, in fact, it wasn’t. The Princess was missing her horn and wings; only her cutie mark and pastel-colored hair identified her as the ruler of Equestria. “What… happened to you, Princess?”
“Discord” the diarch whispered, her voice a bit stronger this time.
“The statue in the garden, you mean? Has it come to life?”
“STATUE?” a new voice demanded, filling the room. “Don’t you ponies read history anymore?”
Discord flashed into existence, floating next to the ailing Princess, his glare directed at Décor. “Or is it that your Princess has stricken me from the records? The gall!” he expelled, his voice full of exaggerated outrage.
The Princess rose to her hooves, trembling. She spoke, her voice weak but more determined than before. “It’s that nopony cares to remember you, Discord, except as a cautionary fairy tale. Your existence was all but forgotten!” Even in her weakened state, with her eyes half-closed and her mane fallen straight as if after a rain, she still emanated a regal presence that caused even Discord to raise an eyebrow.
“Well then,” the spirit smiled, “I’ll just have to visit upon them a crash-course in ancient Equestrian history. Show them how their forefathers used to live.”
“Except, of course,” the Doctor intervened, “you cut the branch from under your feet!” He walked up to the dragon. “You practically invited me to come here! Hijacking my ship, deleting the logs, stealing my things right in front of me… Did you think I wouldn’t follow you?”
Discord’s mismatched eyes shifted their gaze, narrowing on the Time Lord. “Well, I guess you’re just much cleverer than I am, Doctor”. A malevolent grin grew upon his face. “I mean, the things you’ve seen before you came here… All that running, now, faster than ever. It’s got to amount to something, right? At least that one Moment… of greatness.”
The Doctor’s blood froze in his veins. How could he possibly know?
“Speaking of running”, Discord snapped back, his cheerful façade back in its place, “how fast can you run?” He looked around the room. “Because I’ve got a piece of ancient history that’s just cracking to meet you again!”
With that, the draconequus snapped his fingers once again, vanishing with his trademark white flash.
“What did he mean by 'ancient history',” Décor asked. She helped the trembling princess keep her balance. Celestia was looking worse for wear, and the Doctor suspected that without her horn, her true age was starting to show.
“Doctor…” she asked, “how did you find me here?”
“Like I said, I was following him, after he broke into my TARDIS. Though, might I ask… your Majesty,” he added, with a small bow of his head, “have we met before?”
“Oh!” The Princess looked embarrased. “No, I suppose it is I who has met you before. You yourself haven’t met me yet. Though I suspect you soon will…”
Just like Discord… What the hell going on here?
Before he could clarify, Décor interupted him. “Your Majesty, what did that creature do to you? What happened to your horn?”
The princess looked puzzled for a second, as if she’d almost forgotten her condition “He told me he wanted to play a game. He knew I wanted to get in the Archive, and took my horn to prevent me.” She pointed to the dark shape above them, still hovering over the room. “He said he put it in there, along with my wings, so I couldn’t fly up to retrieve it.”
“Well, I should be able to help with that,” the Doctor said, pulling out the sonic screwdriver. Before he could do anything else, however, the room suddenly went completely dark; the Sun had set, without any warning, and the three ponies could see no further that the length of their noses.
“Discord,” the Princess spat.
“Did you… hear something?” Décor’s voice carried the slightest tremble of panic.
Seconds later, before anypony could answer, the Sun rose back in place. The hovering box, however, was gone.
“Where’d it go,” the Doctor demanded, turning around to look for it in the room.
“Did he take it?” Décor asked.
Celestia was the first to notice it. “No…” she stated coldly, her voice clearly full of fear. “It wasn’t him this time…”
Seconds later, the Doctor turned to face the two mares, his eyes wide and filled with horror. Suddenly, the draconequus' hints were making terrible sense “Not. One. Blink,” he whispered.
The statues were now blocking every exit.
Author's note: sorry for some of the abysmal errors in this chapter. Will repair them as I find them.