Discord looked at the six ponies, eyes shifting back and forth. He held out his forelimbs. “Well?” he said, scowling. “Are any of you going to show the ‘magic of friendship’ and help out someone in need?”
Rainbow Dash looked Discord over for a moment. “Wait a minute…” She suddenly trotted up to him. “Any specific reason you’re only six inches tall?” she asked, holding a hoof over his head. She looked to Pinkie Pie and Orange Sherbet. “Was he taller where you came from?”
Pinkie Pie and Orange Sherbet exchanged a glance. The two earth ponies slowly approached Discord and Rainbow Dash, standing opposite of her. Pinkie Pie rubbed her chin. “Now that you mention it, he is quite a bit smaller than where I come from.” She chuckled. “Almost cute, too.”
Discord’s head bobbed back and forth. “Now, wait just a moment there! I am not cute!” He crossed his forelimbs in front of his serpentine chest. “I’m adorable.” He looked to the other three. “Now don’t you want to know why it is I summoned you six here?”
Octavia spoke up. “That had crossed my mind So explain yourself, Discord. Why is it that you summoned a different Element of Harmony from six different realities to this place, wherever it is?” She glanced to her back and the cello strapped there. “And why or even how did you retrieve our Elements?”
Discord’s lips peeled back. “Oh, what a tale to tell, my dear Octavia." He waggled his talons at her. “It’s full of twists and turns and bends and reaches far back into the past, when I was--”
“Oh, just spill it!” Spike snarled, his horn lighting up.
Discord blinked. “Very well. Be prepared for quite a shock, though.” He snapped his talons and the entire cloud bank covering the sky disappeared, leaving a sky split right down the middle between day and night. The sun hung in one corner of a white expanse, while the moon hung in total blackness.
The six ponies there stared up at the sky, jaws hung open in surprise and fear at the insane expanse that hung overhead. Octavia was the first to speak. “That is… by Cadance. Just as before!” She looked to Discord. “Have the Princesses gone mad with power here?! Are they waging war in the heavens?” Her breath hitched in her throat. “Oh, no…”
Orange Sherbet galloped over to Octavia’s side, Ditzy quickly joining her. “Octavia, breathe!” she said. “In through the muzzle, out through the mouth. Focus on the sound of my voice.” Orange Sherbet’s nostrils flared as she proceeded to breathe in such a manner. “See? Just keep on doing that.”
Ditzy draped a wing over Octavia’s loin and hip in a hug. “It’s alright, Octavia. Just listen to Orange Sherbet. It’s gonna be okay.”
Octavia imitated Orange Sherbet’s breathing. She dropped to her haunches and hung her head. “I am… very sorry about that,” she muttered. “Where I come from, in ‘my’ Equestria, when Celestia and Luna broke free of their prisons they waged war.” She held up a foreleg and motioned to the sky. “This just hit me rather suddenly.”
Rainbow Dash snorted. She raised a hoof and planted it on Discord’s head, right between his horns. “Okay, Discord. Spill or be spilled! Where are we and what do you want with us?”
Discord squirmed slightly under their six glares, but finally shrugged. “Okay, okay!” He motioned for them to come closer. “One thing your Equestria’s all have in common is that about a thousand years ago an alicorn or two went mad and tried to take over. Right? Right. Nightmare Moon, Corona… One or both of them went mad. The thing is here? Neither did.”
“Luna, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing! Nothing is wrong. Why should anything be wrong. I’m just… going to go and raise the moon. Alone. Again.”
“Something’s wrong, Luna. And I’m not leaving here until you tell me. I’m your sister, and I love you!”
“I… love you too, Celestia. I just feel so alone. All the ponies love you and your day. You’re so perfect…”
“Me? Perfect? Far from it, Luna. All our little ponies look to us for guidance and protection, but it just feels too much for me sometimes. The burden of leading Equestria… sometimes I want to pull my mane out!”
“Why… why didn’t you tell me that before? Celly, I am here for you! As much as you’re my sister, I am yours as well. Never feel as if you can’t open up to me!”
“Like you were feeling?”
“Oh, stop that… it is a bit funny, now that I step back and look at it.”
“Would you like me to stay up as you raise the moon?”
“Only if you wish for me to be there when you raise the sun.”
“So the two sisters talked things out. Neither of them went insane, and so they led Equestria together.”
Rainbow Dash tilted her head in confusion. “But that sounds… really awesome! Celestia and Luna together ruling?” She thrust a foreleg into the sky, hovering above the ground for a moment. “What could be better than that?”
Spike spoke up. “Yeah. I’m not seeing a downside here, Discord.”
Octavia bit her lip. “I am admittedly a little… uneasy with the idea of them ruling together, but that’s due to the experiences I had were I come from. This is an entirely different reality, after all.”
Ditzy rubbed a hoof against her other foreleg. “Well, Corona kidnapped my Dinky when she escaped, so…” She suddenly gasped. “Oh, no!”
“What is it?” Octavia asked.
Ditzy swallowed, her eyes snapping straight ahead. “Well, I was h-helping out Trixie with a magic act, like I said. And D-Dinky was in the audience. She saw me vanish but she’s waiting for me to come back and…” Her entire body heaved as she cried. “My muffin…”
Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash both glared daggers at Discord. The chaos god swallowed, his throat bobbing up and down. “I didn’t have time! For what it’s worth, after all this is over I’ll make sure you get back only a few minutes after you left. Dinky will hardly know you’re gone.” He paused for a moment. “But.. I still need your help, Ditzy. This Equestria needs your help. That’s why I grabbed you and the others.” He waved his paw from her back to him. “Help us and I’ll make it better for you two, okay?”
Spike and Octavia trotted over to Discord, surrounding him along with Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash. Spike’s horn glowed and the miniature draconequus floated up. “I know I can panic a bit, but I am dead serious when I say you’d better treat Ditzy right. I don’t know about the others, but she’s a good friend of mine where I come from. Get me?”
Discord held up his front limbs. “I get you, I get you! Now could you please gently lower me so I can get on with my tale?” He waited for Spike to let go of him before patting himself down. “Now, then. Where was I? Ah, yes!” He looked to Pinkie Pie. “Now, my dear. As I was about to say, your Equestria faced challenges after Nightmare Moon was banished. A Griffin Empire, states to the south making trouble, that sort of thing?”
Pinkie Pie’s brow furrowed. “Well, yeah.” She rubbed her chin and leaned over him. “Wait… how do you know of that? Are you my Discord?”
Discord shrugged. “Yes and no. We’re all fragments of the whole, but independent of each other. And it’s how I know that thanks to the challenges your Equestria faced, you are now the dominant nation of your planet. Celestia wasn’t able to be everywhere at once or do everything, so you struggled, you strived, you adapted and then you thrived.” He looked to the other five. “It’s the same with your Equestria’s, at least on the continental level. You’ve all bettered yourselves.”
“But not this one,” Octavia observed. “Here, with both Celestia and Luna able to thwart any threat… they became complacent?”
Discord leaned back, chuckling. “I’m not sure if ‘ironic’ is the proper word for it, Octavia. But it is true. After I was sealed in stone and Sombra dealt with, there were no major or even minor problems. I know you don’t like to believe it, but a little chaos now and then results in a stronger Equestria all around. It forces you to make yourselves better than you were before.”
The six ponies glanced amongst themselves, expressions ranging from disbelief to grudging acceptance. Finally, Spike spoke up. “So, what happened to the Celestia and Luna here?”
“And is there a Princess Cadance?” Octavia asked.
“To the second question, she exists but not as you know it in this reality. The first, though, requires a bit of showing.” Discord held out his claw and snapped his talons while motioning with his paw.. A patch of formerly-bare ground suddenly wavered, disappearing to reveal spike-covered vines writhing about. “I was hiding this from you,” he said. “I didn’t want to cause any bit of panic. Well, any more panic than necessary.”
The six all gasped, then looked to Discord. Rainbow Dash dropped to the ground and held a hoof above his head once more. “Okay, you wanna fill us in on what those are?”
“And not the obvious,” Octavia interjected.
Discord hesitated for a moment before speaking. “Well, when Celestia and Luna sealed me up, I was having a bit of a snack. Rather rude of them, but anyway, while I was eating I might have… accidentally spilled some on the ground.” He waved at the vines. “And I guess they took root and sprouted some lovely plunder vines!”
Orange Sherbet let out a gasp. “And these ghastly things captured both Celestia and Luna?!”
Discord nodded. “They proved most resilient to their magic, and they didn’t have time to get the Elements when they were ensnared.”
Ditzy shuddered, wrapping her wings around her body in a hug. “How awful!”
Discord scowled. “Yes, yes. How terrible,” he deadpanned. He cried out as Rainbow Dash’s hoof twisted a bit on his head. He snapped his claws and telekinetically pushed it off. “Well, with them gone and chaos run amuck, the chains binding me shattered. And I was free, free again!” He tossed his head back in laughter and wiped a tear from his eye. “Oh, how…” He swallowed as the six ponies gathered around him. “How utterly dreadful it was, yes.”
Pinkie Pie snorted. “I don’t need to be the Element of Honesty to know you’re lying!” She suddenly looked over at Octavia. “Sorry if I stepped on your line, there.”
Octavia waved her off. “Quite alright, and I quite agree.” She stared down at Discord. “From what little I’ve seen of you, there’s little chance you felt anything other than joy or glee at their imprisonment.”
The draconequus shrugged. “Oh, alright. Yes, I was glad to be out and causing chaos. Well, I was for the first few months or so.”
Octavia blinked. “‘First few months’?” She looked to the vines. “How long has it been since the Princesses were captured?”
Discord glanced at his talons, flexing them. “It’s probably been about three years or so.”
Orange Sherbet gasped. “And what have the ponies done here to combat them?” She paused. “No, wait. What have you done here?”
Discord chuckled lightly. “They tried at first, but the Princesses taking care of everything for them left them rather unable to cope. The vines also interfered with their magic. And the first few months, I must admit I was a rather naughty boy. Oh, the mischief I got up to!” He tossed his head back in laughter, which quickly died down as he felt the glares directed at him. “Well, eventually things became a bit… staid?”
Discord sat upon his floating throne, wearing a top hat and monocle. He sipped a tea cup, sighing. A pair of ponies stumbled along his checkerboard landscape, their eyes down at the ground.
Discord continued sipping. “Behold my chaos,” he droned. “All before me shall bow to my omnipotent power over reality. All hail Discord.” He finished his tea cup and tossed away the tea. His eyes shifted back and forth, focusing on the ponies still walking down the path. “They don’t even care.”
Pinkie Pie rolled on the ground, forelegs clutched around her barrel as she laughed until she cried, then laughed some more. She rolled to her hooves and jabbed a foreleg at Discord. “T-t-t-they d-d-d-d-didn’t care!” she howled out before dissolving back to laughter.
Spike leaned forward, looking the still-laughing Pinkie Pie over. “Are you alright?”
Pinkie heaved, sucking in air. She wiped her eyes, her pink cheeks a burning crimson. “Yeah! Sorry!” she gasped out. She released one more big breath. “Okay, sorry everypony. It just hit me a bit hard.” She leaned over him, smirking. “I guess there’s such a thing as too much chaos too, right?”
Discord rolled his eyes. “Alright, alright! Yes, Pinkie Pie. There is such a thing. So, I needed to get rid of the plunder vines. But I’m afraid they’ve slipped beyond even my control.” He snapped his claws. The vines shrank back a bit before writhing forward once more. “The only things that can stop them are returning the Elements of Harmony to what’s known as the Tree of Harmony.”
Pinkie Pie’s right eyebrow arched. “The what?”
“They’re where the Elements of Harmony came from in this reality,” Discord replied. “But the Princesses are indisposed at the moment.”
Rainbow Dash kicked at the ground. She brushed a foreleg against her necklace. “So what do you want us to do about it? I want to help here, but there’s no way I’m leaving my own Equestria hanging!”
The others slowly nodded. “I’m afraid even as the Element of Generosity, this is one thing I cannot give up,” Orange Sherbet said, hanging her head.
Discord waved her off. “Oh, don’t worry. Well, don’t worry now. That might have been one of my plans at the beginning--” “Rainbow Dash’s hoof returned to his forehead, “--but it’s not now! No, now I want you to find new Bearers of the Elements of Harmony located in the castle. See? No need to give up yours!” He rolled his eyes up. “Are you usually this violent or just when you’re around me?”
Rainbow Dash snorted. “Only when I feel like I’m being played for a foal. But if you don’t like it, why aren’t you stopping me?”
“I’m not as powerful as I usually am.” He groaned as she let up. “Thank you. Who knew pain was so painful?”
Pinkie Pie gasped. “So that’s why you’re not doing your usual magical shenanigans!”
The pink pony looked to Octavia. “Oh, when we met him he was twisting about, making stuff disappear, talking with two heads and other horse apples.” A sneaky grin crossed her mouth and she rubbed her hooves together.
Discord floated away from Pinkie Pie, eyes never leaving her. “Crossing realities proved draining for me, especially yours. Retrieving your Elements was extra-bad. And when Megan shot me in the face that was almost the last straw for me!” He held a paw to his forehead. “Of all the nerve!”
“Yeah, you did have a lot of nerve.”
Spike cleared his throat. “Okay, focus!” he half-shouted. He trotted around to Discord and stood in front of him. “Okay, to sum up. This is an alternate Equestria where both Princesses have been captured by magic-draining vines you ‘accidentally’ sowed when they captured you. You’re free, but it’s too chaotically boring for you so you found six other Bearers of Elements in other realities in the hopes of finding new Bearers here to stop the vines and restore some semblance of harmony and balance here. If we do this, you’ll return us home. Am I right?”
Discord grinned. He floated over behind Spike and slapped him on his back. “Good job, Spike! I knew you were the right pony for the job!” He spread his forelimbs out. “What do you all say, folks? Ready to save another Equestria? Quite a feather in your cap!”
The sextet looked at each other. Octavia finally spoke up. “Well, I can’t speak for anypony else here, but I’m in. I don’t feel we have much of a choice in the matter anyway,” she said, glaring at Discord.
Ditzy focused both eyes on Discord. “Right back to Dinky? Your word?”
Discord held his limbs out and splayed the digits. “Not even gonna cross any fingers or toes, my dear Ditzy,” he said, folding into a bow.
Ditzy smiled. “Then I’m in, too.”
Orange Sherbet spoke up. “I believe my current calendar is clear. I’ve devoted my life to helping out Manehattan. I can’t turn my back on these ponies when I can help them.”
Spike smiled at her. “Well, I owe you one, so I’ll help, too.”
Rainbow Dash hopped into the air, flying over to land near Spike. “Well, no way I’m leaving any of my new friends out to dry.” She slapped him on the back. “Count me in!”
Spike winced. “Thanks, I think.”
Pinkie Pie’s eyes narrowed as she glared at Discord. “I won’t lie. My own Equestria dealt with Discord. And by the end, there wasn’t anything to laugh at. My friends were hurt. One friend was really hurt. And it’s not the kind of hurt a bandage could heal.” She trotted over to him, her mane and tail losing some of its bounce and color. “But I can’t ignore what’s happening here, a land with no smiles or laughter at all. So I can’t just ignore it.” She stopped right in front of him and glared down, eyes popping. “I’ve got my eyes on you, Discord. One slip and you’ll be taking the ultimate dirt nap. I’ll get the Matrix of Leadership, even!”
Discord’s mouth drooped. “Yes, I believe you would.” He waved everyone in close to him. A map appeared in a flash of light. “I chose each of you because I’ve already scouted out potential Bearers for the Elements already. Each one is related to you in some way, by blood or some other bond.” He waved a talon and six dots glowed on the map. “Each one’s fallen into despair, but you can help them regain that certain something that will help them regain their ability to summon the rainbow so the bad guys can taste it.”
Spike looked the map over. “We know each of them?”
Discord leaned from side to side. “After a fashion, yes. I have enough power to transport us to their locations, one at a time.”
Rainbow Dash groaned. “Can’t we all go after them separately?”
Octavia barked a laugh. “Separated in a strange Equestria with magic-draining vines all about? I think not!”
The pegasus shrugged. “Just a thought.”
Discord motioned to his serpentine neck. “Your Elements will provide some protection against the vines, as well as help you awaken the inner harmony within those you speak to.” He held up his talons, claws together. “So, anything else?”
Pinkie Pie held up a foreleg, waving it around. “How are we arriving?”
Everyone looked to her. “Didn’t he mention a spell?” Ditzy said.
Pinkie Pie shook her head. “I mean we’re not gonna show up fifty feet in the air and plummet, are we? Or in jail, or under attack or anything like that?”
Discord swallowed, but quickly pasted a shaky grin on his face. “W-why of course not! Why would I even…” He trailed off under her glare. “Okay! Anything else?” At the shaking of their heads, he grinned. “Then off we go!” He snapped his talons and all seven vanished in a flash of light.