Canterlot Royal Gardens
There were tears in her eyes; Celestia was crying. Other than the day Nightmare Moon was defeated and Luna was reunited with her sister, she could not remember the last time she had seen Celestia cry. Twilight’s words had cut her deep.
Luna reflected on the situation at hoof. This was the first actual time Twilight has ever stood up to you, sister, she thought. This impressed Luna more than anything else. The fact the young Princess Twilight Sparkle, whom Celestia raised, said no. More than that, the fact she had insisted on fixing this problem her way, without help. Pride returned to Luna’s heart. Twilight was truly coming into her own.
For now though, Luna had a sister to comfort.
Luna went and laid by Celestia's side, gingerly laying one wing over the stricken alicorn; kind words were not needed right now, simply company.
“She hates me,” Celestia spoke after several minutes had passed.
“You're wrong Celly, she merely disagrees with how to proceed.” Luna calmly nuzzled the side of her sister’s face. “You chose well, you know. We have to say, we are a little jealous.”
“You know, Luna. That's the first time you've ever said anything like that.”
“It’s the first time we meant it; what we saw today wasn't the little filly that would be utterly convinced one plus one equals four if her mentor told her it was so. We saw a Princess of Equestria standing up for what she believes is right, even against her own teacher. And her POWER, it made us a little jealous that you had her to yourself all these years.”
“You make it sound so sultry,” Celestia said with a laugh.
“Dear sister, you cannot tell me you’ve not once thought about it.”
Celestia pushed Luna on her side as she got up and walked out of the garden. “We didn't hear a no!” Luna protested.
Celestia laughed inward. Because I didn't say no.
The six friends were catching up with each other when Twilight and Rainbow approached.
“That was quick,” Applejack said.
“The conversation went south, I decided it wasn't worth my time,” Twilight replied. She hoped Rainbow would keep her trap shut about the details. Much to her chagrin, she overestimated Rainbow’s ability to keep quiet about anything.
“You guys should’ve seen it, TWILIGHT totally showed up both those princesses. It was AMAZING!”
The others just stared at Twilight after that, with every set of eyes on her she started to consider a vanishing spell she’d been working on. Shining Armor spoke before she could ready it. “Twily, what happened?”
“They told me that to fix this I would end up having to let Rainbow go. I told them I was disinclined to acquiesce to their request, and will find a solution where that does not happen,” Twilight said matter-of-factly.
“She basically told them to buck off,” Rainbow said in a laugh.
All seven of her friends started laughing at that; even Twilight was unable to hold the death glare she was giving Rainbow at that moment and soon joined in with the others.
After a while, they all started to fill each other in on their events since the wedding. Spike, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack went first. Once they were done, Twilight gave a predatory glare to Spike's wings, the kind normally reserved for when she was about to dissect something new. He almost felt the need to remind her that he was not a chicken.
Fluttershy went next, recalling the events of the sickness and the changeling infestation that caused it. She left out some more of the questionable details, merely stating that a dragon attack finally ended it.
When she mentioned Angel’s death, Rainbow walked over and hugged her. Twilight could not help but feel her chest tighten at the sight.
Shining had nothing new to report, other than that the baby would be due within the month, and they were all invited to come see the newborn when it arrived.
When Rarity told her story, she did so with tears in her eyes. Afterwards, no one felt like laughing anymore. A brooding silence descended upon the group.
Ironically, it was Rarity that spoke up first; she turned to Rainbow and asked, “So, you’re like a zombie pony now?”
Before anyone could comment, Pinkie appeared right behind Rainbow Dash. Pinkie’s coat and mane were colored to resemble that of a half-dead pony, her voice spoke in a slow rasping tone. “Brraaaiiinnnnsss… brraaiinnsss, I want to eat your brraiinness.”
Looking at Pinkie in a getup that would have been perfect for Nightmare Night, the rest of the group burst into laughter. Not even Shining Armor was able to hold back. After five minutes, the eight of them slowly came down from their giggling fit.
Soon after Luna came to visit. Greeted by several hostile stares, Luna quickly apologized for interrupting their reminiscing.
“Twilight, we aren't here to fight, merely to talk,” Luna said.
Fluttershy spoke next. “Do... do you want us to leave?”
“No, young one, this involves all of you, as every one of you is connected.”
“She hates me, doesn’t she?” Twilight asked, sheepishly running her hooves over the ground.
Luna couldn’t help the giggle that escaped her mouth, “Young one, you and her are so much alike. She couldn't hate you even if she tried.”
“But I argued with her! I basically told her off.”
“We know; we were there, remember? We’re both very proud of you. What’s with that look, did we misspeak?”
“Proud? Proud? How can you be PROUD?! I told off my teacher, I went against her wishes, I... I'm the worst. Student. Ever!” Twilight cried.
“Yes, we agree,” Luna replied.
That look on your face is priceless, we wish we had a camera, Luna thought.
Before Twilight could blow up—which she was about five seconds away from doing—Luna chimed in. “What you forget, Twilight, is that you’re not a student any longer. You’re a Princess of Equestria, one of only four that exist. You’re our equal in this, and today, for the first time in four years, you’ve proved that. So, like we said earlier, we are proud.”
Twilight was flabbergasted; she had no idea the conversation would turn as it did, as such, rather than say the wrong thing, she decided to go with the golden rule: silence is golden.
“As per your orders, Princess Twilight Sparkle, Celestia and I will go on damage control. Celestia will speak to the ponies about what has occurred. If she can head this off, we can prevent a riot from starting.”
Rainbow asked. “What will you do, Luna?”
“We shall go to our neighbors, to ensure the other rulers know what’s going on. This affects more than just Equestria after all. If we can get ahead of this, we can avoid damaging relations, and any possible escalation of force that might occur. You should get going too, Twilight, the train is waiting to take you home. We believe that your search would be better off starting in Ponyville.”
“The train doesn’t arrive for another twenty seven thousand one hundred and twenty seconds. How can it be waiting for us?” Pinkie chipped in, pointing her right hoof at a watch on her left one.
“Dear child, just because Twilight has never taken advantage of her position, doesn’t mean the rest of us haven’t. The perks make the job worth doing you know,” Luna said with a sly smile as she turned and left the room.
“Come on girls, it's time to go home,” Twilight said.
They all gave their goodbyes to Shining, as he needed to get back to the Crystal Empire. The rest of the return trip was uneventful. Twilight used the time to gather her thoughts and reflect on what had occurred, then immediately wished she hadn’t. The prior events were too big, too extreme, and she didn’t want to think about it. Her melancholy had distracted her though; they were coming up on Ponyville.
As Twilight and her friends departed the train, what she saw next astounded her.
A part of Twilight balked at what was in front of her. There, in the center of her town, her home, was a parade unlike any she had ever seen before. Hundreds of Discords were marching down the street. Each Discord present was waving a banner or playing a musical instrument. The ponies of Ponyville were more than cautious, they knew from experience to stay away from anything Discord was doing. Most of them simply stayed inside during this festive ‘event’.
The marching band was playing louder than most nightclubs, on each banner was a picture of Twilight’s cutie mark. The larger ones had the words ‘She did it!’, ‘Twilight’s joined the dark side!’ and even ‘Come get your FREE COOKIES!’ printed on them. A seven-hundred hoof balloon passed by in the spitting image of Princess Alicorn Twilight Sparkle, white eyes and all.
To say Twilight was in the mood for this would have been to say the Moon was bigger than the Sun. But for a being like Discord, Twilight’s mood made her the perfect target. “Twilight my dear,” Discord spoke, surprising nopony when he magically appeared by the group. “Free cookie?”
To everypony's surprise, Twilight did take a cookie; to no pony's surprise, Pinkie ate the rest in one fell swoop. “What?” Twilight asked, noticing the strange looks on everypony’s face. “You know how long it’s been since I last ate?”
Discord literally laughed himself to pieces. After a few minutes, the pieces disappeared from the ground and he reappeared floating above the alicorn. “Twilight made a joke!” he yelled. The noise from the parade doubled in volume. New signs appeared all over Ponyville with ‘Twilight made a joke!’ written on them.
Twilight was anything but joking; she really was quite hungry. She just hadn’t noticed until Discord offered the plate of cookies, but it seemed to put the draconequus in a good mood so Twilight played along.
“Twilight, this truly is a WONDROUS day: First you FINALLY join my side, causing more chaos in one hour then I have in thousands of years. Then you find a sense of humor! Tell me, where did you find it? Did you find it in your new eyes?" Discord checked both with a large over-sized magnifying glass. "No, not there; was it under your wings?” With a sense of violation running down her spine, Discord lifted up Twilight's wings. “No, not there, under your horn maybe? “ Discord reached up to pluck Twilight's horn off her head.
Discord is the Spirit of Chaos and Disharmony; the laws of the real world do not apply to such a creature. When Discord applies just a fraction of his will to something, reality goes on a forced-unpaid vacation. As such, Discord can make it rain chocolate milk at will, drink glass, and explode liquid; he can even rearrange a pony's features, without any undue harm coming to the unfortunate victim. Therefore, when Twilight’s horn refused to come off, he was shocked. Although, of all the things Discord was, and there was quite a lot on that list, he was persistent.
“Hmm, that seems to be stuck on there,” Discord spoke as he called to a nearby construction worker Discord, one that seemed to be on a coffee break, to come and take a look at the problem.
Construction worker Discord raised a jackhammer to Twilight’s head. A few seconds after activation, the tip of the power tool broke. Construction worker Discord examined it in disbelief. “Gonna need the Jaws of Life on this one, boss.” A second Discord appeared behind the first, this one dressed as a firefighter carrying mechanical inverse clamps.
Ramming the clamps between Twilight’s skull and horn, Discord checked the mechanism to ensure that everything was in place. With a final safety check performed by another Discord dressed as a safety inspector, who snapped safety glasses on all the watching ponies. The clamps started up with a life of their own, the motor struggled to pull the alicorn’s horn free. The drive quickly burned itself out with the effort, and, losing power, the clamps fell off.
"That’s things stuck on there with safety glue or something,” safety inspector Discord said.
Twilight was livid, the assaults, while not painful, had jarred her head quite enough for one day. She didn’t know why her horn wouldn’t come off, as Discord never had a problem doing as he wished before, but she was done with this.
“WHERE DO I EVEN BEGIN?’ Twilight’s voice dropped down a few octaves. Her eyes radiating with barely contained fury.
“FIRST, I DIDN’T JOIN THE DARK SIDE, OR YOUR SIDE FOR THAT MATTER!”
“SECOND, I DO NOT CAUSE CHAOS, WHAT OCCURRED TODAY WAS A MISTAKE AND I'M FIXING IT!”
“THIRD, IF YOU EVER, EVER TAKE A JACKHAMMER TO MY SKULL AGAIN, I WILL BUCKING END YOU!”
The parade was over and Rainbow could not help lament its absence. The look on Twilight's face spoke VOLUMES to the level of mad she was at that moment. Twilight's friends ducked for cover, memories of libraries flying hundreds of hooves up in the air were fresh in their minds.
Discord actually looked scared.
That power, Discord thought. I've encountered it before, but where? The party was over, the preverbal party pooper, one ’Miss Alicorn Princess Twilight Sparkle’, had ended it. Whatever power Twilight had, it was enough to give him pause. It felt familiar in a way he couldn’t fully recognize.
Secretly he was happy to find somepony like this; it was too normal to be able to screw with everypony, having one he could not bend, well that satisfied the ‘chaotic’ nature in him. Unbreakable toys are so useful in breaking other toys, he smirked inwardly to himself.
“Okay Twilight, I’ll be good.” Some fights weren’t worth the effort, and right now Discord doubted his chances anyway.
Twilight didn’t look convinced; the magic around her seemed to be forming into something substantial, something tangible. Discord was worried, Perhaps I did go ‘a little’ too far with that last one, a fight might be unavoidable. If it was not for a little yellow pegasus that walked up to Discord and rubbed his claw, a fight is what they would’ve had.
“Twilight, he said he’d be good."
The magic around Twilight faded; she quickly forced the anger down and regained control. She looked at her timid pegasus friend, “Just keep HIM away from me.” Twilight turned around, ashamed of herself for losing control of her temper and began walking toward her castle, her home.
What Discord said next would haunt Twilight worse than the dreaded night of ‘Cutie Mark Crusaders Page Tearers!’
“C'mon Twilight, I want to help.”
Twilight’s eye twitch returned.
The eight of them ended up in the castle for the next few hours. It had taken quite a bit of coaxing from Fluttershy and some kind words from the rest for Twilight to allow Discord to enter. Twilight was not used to logic working against her, but for the second time that day, it had been her enemy.
Last time she won, this time—not so much.
“I don't know where to even began fixing this. Where should we go? Can this even be fixed?” Twilight pondered, unaware that she was speaking aloud again, instead of in her head.
“Well if it were me, I'd go talk to the reaper pony's master.”
“What was that?“ Twilight snapped, staring daggers into Discord.
If looks could kill.
“I said I'd go talk to whomever the reaper pony called master.” Discord repeated, a little shocked and pleased that Twilight didn’t come up with such an easy answer herself.
Dammit, I just got rid of this eye twitch, Twilight thought.
“Who, may I ask, is that, and how’d we go about finding them?" Rarity asked.
“I'm so glad you asked, Ms. Rarity,” emphasizing the ‘S’ sounds as he turned himself into a snake and slithered over to her. “Oh, I'm sorry, it's Miss now isn’t it,” Rarity looked ready to buck his teeth out at that and Twilight would have helped. "Let’s see, you're a reaper, commanded to spend all eternity separating the thread of life from mortals who passed on, ensuring they go to their final place of rest. Now where oh where could your master possibly be?”
“HADES!” Rainbow Dash shouted, hoping to show off a little with what she assumed to be the right answer.
“A for effort." Discord replied. “But right now we need exact, so you get an F.” Discord stamped an F on Rainbow's forehead, much to the disgust of the cyan mare.
Twilight easily caused the red mark to disappear before she turned to Discord. "He’s in Tartarus, isn’t he?”
“Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner folks.”
“Well so much for that plan, mortals cannot get into Tartarus," Twilight said with a sigh. “When I lead Cerberus back last time, I just had to throw the ball down the hole.“
“Well, it’s a good thing two of you don’t qualify as that anymore.”
Twilight and Rainbow Dash looked at each other, knowing exactly whom Discord was referring too. Twilight eventually broke eye contact and turned to Discord.
“I'm not immortal, Discord. Celestia told me that much after my coronation.”
“I never said Princess Sun Butt made you immortal,” Discord was holding a balloon copy of the sun princess in his hands. When he blew it over to Pinkie Pie she began playing with it like a filly. “But, Twilight, I can assure you that you. Are. Now. Immortal.”
Well if Discord is right, and that’s a big IF, Rainbow and I could make our way into Tartarus and talk to whomever was in charge of this ‘reaper’ to find out how this can all be fixed. As far as plans go this ranked somewhere up there with, ‘my leg has a cramp in it so let’s cut it off’. However, we have nothing else to go on.
Twilight was REALLY beginning to hate logic.
Packing turned out to be quite easy. Rarity had a fit about how little they were taking, but that was expected. Between the two of them, only one needed to eat, drink, or sleep. By splitting that load up neither had to carry much at all.
The goodbyes had been harder; Twilight didn’t want to do this without all her friends with her, but here, yet again, she had to leave them behind. After a few tearful goodbyes, her friends left to go back to their jobs. Twilight had insisted on it, the journey to Tartarus would take a full day on hoof.
The two would stay in the castle tonight and set off at first light, best to get the goodbyes out of the way before then.
Of course, Discord gave some lame excuse about the place being too boring for his liking, not that Twilight wanted him to tag along anyway.
Rainbow left Twilight in the castle alone for a few hours; she had to go say goodbye to a certain orange pegasus. Twilight was sad to see her go; the two had kept each other company ever since Twilight woke up that morning. Her absence seemed almost oppressive in the castle. Twilight was, however, glad to avoid that conversation; she didn’t envy Rainbow having to tell her little sister what happened.
Twilight was asleep when Rainbow returned; the sleeping alicorn looked so peaceful on her bed, cute even… ’Where did that come from?’ Rainbow sighed; those sorts of thoughts were strange, to say the least. She looked down at her soaking wet coat. Huh, Scoots, you're a lot like Twilight in that regard. Rainbow knew she couldn’t smell anything, but others could. I’ll hop in the shower; might be my last one… that realization hurt, but she didn’t let that stop her.
After a longer than normal shower, Rainbow grabbed a random copy of Daring Do, she climbed to her favorite perch in the castle and started reading.
Daring Do, and the Journey of a Thousand Miles. The irony was lost on her.
It was hard to leave her home, even with Rainbow Dash at her side. Sure, they had a rough plan on where to go, but the fact that the rest of her friends were unable to accompany her still weighed heavily on Twilight’s shoulders. She glanced over to the pegasus on her left. Rainbow had none of the doubts written on her face that Twilight did; her determination, her drive, and her willingness to go to the end of the world and back with Twilight was all she could see. Twilight was able to borrow that courage and strength.
On the magic plane, Twilight saw that energy come off Rainbow in waves. With the slightest effort of willpower, she directed them into herself. Twilight was not stealing from Rainbow; rather, she was drawing on the excess strength and determination emanating from Rainbow. This newfound strength allowed her to take a single step forward.
It was the most important step she’d ever take in her life.