• Published 7th Sep 2013
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Glory Be - BlackRoseRaven

Luna and Scrivener struggle to set right all the wrongs from their past and save their family and friends. Tenth and final story in the Blooming Moon Chronicles/99 Worlds Saga.

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Even More Chaos Theory

Chapter Twenty Three: Even More Chaos Theory

Discombobulation stood with his arms crossed, moodily looking over at Celestia as she simply smiled back at him, gazing at him almost imploringly. Finally, he gave a long, theatrical sigh, then said wryly: “I suppose I'm supposed to say 'yes ma'am' to all of your plans in the future, aren't I?”

“Not at all. If we don't argue, what's the point of having a relationship?” Celestia asked kindly, and the Draconequus looked thoughtful at this before the ivory mare leaned over and gently placed a hoof against his side, saying softly: “But I think this is important. And Hecate asked for you specifically, not Discord.”

“Now you're just stroking my ego. Like a cat. Stop that, get your mind out of the gutter, Tia. I most certainly didn't mean that as a euphemism.” The Draconequus awkwardly pushed at her a little, but she only smiled amusedly in return as she slipped herself a little closer towards him, before Luna Brynhild loudly cleared her throat to get their attention.

The sapphire mare was on the other side of the small reading room they were in: it was almost a miniature library, with a few soft furnishings to lounge and read in, and shelves lining the walls that stretched high, high, high to the ceiling above. Every time Scrivener Blooms was in here, he wondered what the hell could be on the top shelves and just how he could reach up and get them, but he also refused to ever ask anyone for help, so he figured it would remain a mystery forever. Or at least until Twilight Sparkle came in here and decided to read every book in this room, too.

Luna looked sourly over at Scrivener, then she rammed her head into him and knocked him sprawling stupidly on his side, the sapphire mare stumbling dumbly backwards before she quickly set herself and turned as professionally as possible back towards Celestia and Discombobulation. “So, thou shall do it, then? We could truly use thy aid, Bob. And fear not, we shan't send thee back to Ginnungagap. Or at least not without Celestia.”

“Oh, don't even joke about that.” Discombobulation shivered, hugging himself and turning a moody look towards Celestia. “I don't even want to imagine what would happen to you in a world of chaos and infinite delights. Or what you'd do with all those other Draconequus around. They'd treat you like a toy, you know, a fancy, shiny new toy of mine that they'd want to take away from me. Not that I think of you like that, I'm just saying they would, but like a toy you have to woo and coo and try to earn the favor of. So a pet, really. Like a puppy.”

“Would they all be as handsome as you?” Celestia asked pleasantly, and Discombobulation stared at her and slowly leaned away from her before the ivory mare turned a smile and a nod towards Luna. “Give us a few hours. I'd like to try and talk to Discord, too. He might be more effective at getting answers.”

Discombobulation huffed at this, but Celestia only soothingly rubbed his arm before Luna nodded and said softly: “Very well then. I am not entirely sure what Hecate is up to... if thou sees her, tell her we shall meet in the evening. I am also going to have her marshal and repair the Clockwork Ponies, and would like for them to be freed, Celestia.”

The rainbow-maned mare didn't look surprised: if anything, she seemed to soften a little, nodding slowly and silently. Luna frowned at this response, and Scrivener tilted his own head, unable to stop from asking: “Did you... expect that?”

“We have to use every resource. They are a resource... one I feel more sorry for these days than anything else.” She stopped, then looked over at Scrivener, saying quietly: “But while we establish them in Subterra, I want you present when they're outside of predetermined safe zones. The last thing we need is a Clockwork Pony going on a rampage.”

Scrivener Blooms nodded hesitantly, trading looks with Luna before he muttered: “Busy days ahead. Well... Luna, do you want to go and see if your horn is ready?”

“Aye, I can sense Twilight's thoughts... she has been going through the full process of repairing it, silly mare.” Luna sighed and shook her head with a small smile, then her eye flicked over to Celestia, hesitating for a moment before she said quietly: “Thou knows thou art not going to be invited to Helheim with us, aye?”

“I know.” Celestia sighed tiredly and shook her head slowly, murmuring: “But we will be accompanying you to Heaven, and to Gymbr. And I've been getting a lot of very urgent, very worried messages from Ponyville. Scarlet Sage wants to come and help as well, and I don't think we're in any position to refuse her aid.”

“Yes we are, she has to care for my grandchildren.” Luna said stoically, and then her mouth slowly puckered as she mumbled: “Grandchildren. Oh Celestia, 'tis a wondrous thought. A wondrous thought that makes me feel terribly, terribly old.”

Celestia only gave a quiet sigh and a small smile, and then she said softly: “And would you deny her helping the mother she still idolizes and not allow her to help protect her own children, just to selfishly make sure that she's safe with foals who are old enough to take care of themselves?”

“In our time, maybe. These days, they are still only children in need of parents, not adults.” Luna replied with a firm shake of her head, giving her older sibling a dry look. “Although thou has cheated horribly and... aye, I see thy point. 'Tis funny, though, Celestia. I did not think there was any pony more glad than thee when we found out there were no Blood Seers in this world apart from mine own daughter... or at least, that we know of.'

The ivory mare shrugged a little, then she said softly: “Well, I wasn't always smart, Luna. And even worse, I didn't always fully appreciate the value of being a little stupid.”

Celestia turned a small smile towards Discombobulation, and the Draconequus shrugged a bit before asking seriously: “Do you have a little Draconequus in you?” A pause, as Celestia looked up at him with entertainment, and then Discombobulation waggled his eyebrows as he asked seriously: “Do you want to?”

Luna frowned at this, looked up... then giggled stupidly as she got the joke, and Scrivener Blooms slowly closed his eyes and dropped his head forwards. Celestia's eyes were glittering with entertainment, however, as she leaned up and said softly: “I never realized the key to getting you in bed was just telling you how stupid you make me.”

“Yes, you're making me so excited I may just burst out of the pants I'm not wearing.” Discombobulation said mildly, gesturing down at himself, and Luna paused as she peered pointedly at the lower half of the Draconequus, making him wince and cover himself as he stepped backwards. “There is nothing to see here, Scrivener Blooms!”

“Aye. Thou hast done a remarkably good job of keeping thyself covered up, I must say. Oft from time-to-time there are losses of control and accidents around mares so beautiful and arousing as I am, after all.” Luna replied mildly, tossing her starry mane and posing for a moment as she raised her head high, and then she grinned widely over at Celestia, remarking: “Remember the town we found where the Lust demons were passing out love potions? Except thou wert boring then, so thou did not find it nearly as fun as Sleipnir and I did!”

“I still think you two were being incredibly stupid. The potion might not have been a poison, but it wasn't right to take advantage of the situation like you two did.” Celestia paused, looking meditative. “Even if we did find out from that experience that Sleipnir is immune to most... diseases.”

Luna grunted, absently rubbing at herself as she muttered: “Aye, but he carried that terrible case of crabs back to camp and infested us all with the wicked things. Then thou, as always, overreacted and burnt down the tent and destroyed all our sleepware, and scalded both of us for good measure.”

Scrivener glanced over at Luna, and Luna looked pointedly back, sharing a few distinct memories of her and Sleipnir yelling and attempting to shield themselves as a furious Celestia pummeled them with blasts of boiling water from a cauldron over a fire. “Oh. You. Really did mean scalded. That's... one way to deal with it.”

“It was easiest. I could kill and wash out most of the lice and the eggs, and then, while Luna and Sleipnir's nerves were still sensitive, scour them with magic.” Celestia smiled slightly. “Not that the boiling water was entirely necessary. But it made me feel much better.”

Discombobulation looked mildly at the ivory mare, and then he nudged her lightly and said kindly: “A person who is not nice to the waiter is not a nice person.”

“I know. But I think you like that about me. I think I like that about me, not having to try and pretend that... I was always kind and perfect.” Celestia replied softly, giving a small shrug before she turned her eyes towards Luna, asking curiously: “Do you want me to come with you, help you fit your new prosthetic horn on?”

“Nay, I want thou to stay here, flirt with Bob, possibly make... disgusting little babies that would have smiles like the damned.” Luna replied mildly, shaking her head, and Celestia smiled slightly as she turned a pointed look to Discombobulation, who only looked at her moodily. “Well, thou has to do something with thy time. And Celestia is sure not to get pregnant from thee, Bob... but when thou art sure of anything with chaos...”

“Oh, don't even joke about that, Scrivener Blooms. That's awful.” Discombobulation shivered a little, looking pointedly away up towards the ceiling as he mumbled: “My one defense in regards to trying to kill a conversation is making racist jokes in the hopes that everyone in the room will be driven away. Or they'll laugh at them, and then there'll be that awkward silence where we all look at each other, knowing we should feel worse than we do about all the things we just said.”

Scrivener and Luna traded mild looks, and then the stallion said wryly: “Unicorns are so proud of the horns on their heads because they have nothing but nubs between their legs.”

Luna coughed loudly at this as Celestia sighed and shook her head and Discombobulation sniffed loudly, then replied mildly: “There are two things a unicorn is good for: whining about his betters and complaining about all the good things he has in life.”

“Proud horns should be proud of themselves. No one else is ever going to be.” Scrivener continued amiably, and then he winced when Luna punched him lightly and shook her head slowly, grinning despite herself.

Celestia gave Discombobulation her own gentle look, and he quieted and grumpily crossed his arms as Luna said with marked entertainment: “While normally I would encourage thee, Scrivy, we have better things to do at the moment. Besides, need I remind thee that thou art technically a unicorn?”

Scrivener Blooms huffed at this, saying dryly: “That's hitting below the belt, Luna. Besides, I'm not really a unicorn, either. I'm a Replicant. A Clockwork Pony.”

Celestia looked up thoughtfully at this, and Scrivener Blooms frowned a little as he glanced up as well before the ivory winged unicorn said softly: “That's perhaps the first time I've ever heard you refer to yourself as that, Scrivener Blooms... and actually sound like you've come to terms with it.”

The stallion smiled a little at this as Luna softened herself, and then she shook her head slowly and murmured: “Aye, my big sister has a point. Stupid idiot Scrivener Blooms. But I suppose that... in a strange way, all we are faced with now helps. Gymbr, after all, is no Clockwork Pony... he is just us, made evil. It is not Decretum nor Valthrudnir that made him this way... only our own sins, our own crimes. Not what we are, but who we could have been...”

Luna looked down meditatively, and then she shook her head and smiled awkwardly, glancing lamely up. “I apologize. Many heavy thoughts run rampant through my mind and... I have worries for Twilight Sparkle, and for Heaven, and for... my poor lost daughter. I need to put my horn back in my head to quell all these loathsome thoughts, for this cap is not holding them all in mine addled brain.”

“Alright. Let me know if you need my help, though... I'm here to do whatever I can for you, Luna.” Celestia said softly, and Luna grumbled a little, but nodded grudgingly all the same after a moment before she turned around and strode quickly towards the exit, Scrivener giving a last nod to the odd couple near the shelves before he hurried after the sapphire mare.

They made their way silently through the Thorn Palace for a little while, descending level-by-level towards the closest route leading down into their little sanctuary before Luna said abruptly: “This is all thy fault, Scrivy. I never used to be so thinkery. Thou has made me thinkery.”

“That doesn't sound like an adjective.” Scrivener said mildly, and then he winced when Luna huffed and headbutted him lightly, the stallion wincing a bit before he shook himself out and muttered: “As happy as I am that you're so good at expressing yourself, Luna... you really need to work on learning how to use your words. Not just your face.”

“Thy face.” Luna grumbled in response as they continued to make their way downwards, the smell of earth filling the air as the ground turned to soil beneath their hooves, vines and thick plants growing through the brick walls. And yet in spite of how enclosed they were, how deep in the earth they were heading, they felt safe down here, never claustrophobic.

They reached their little sanctuary and found Twilight Sparkle was puttering around the room instead of in the pool of tears, and the Lich looked only a little embarrassed when Scrivener and Luna caught her, saying awkwardly: “I'm fine now, really, and the rest of my body can heal on its own and... well, I wanted to make sure your horn was coming out well.”

“Aye. But thou art still an idiot.” Luna said gently, and Twilight blushed and smiled a little as Scrivener and the sapphire mare approached, heading towards the large cauldron that sat in a recessed nook in the wall, resting on a heated panel. They had thought many times about replacing this heavy old thing with something a bit more new, but... the old ways were sometimes the best ways, and this was how they had always made the elixir and repaired Luna's prosthetic horn.

Twilight removed the lid, and the three gazed into the bubbling black liquid before the Lich smiled a little and said softly: “It should be just about done. I used a little more soulstone than usual to try and make it heavier.”

“So long as it is still balanced. Besides, no matter what, my horn is solid.” Luna said mildly, gesturing up at her currently hornless head, and then she huffed and reached up to start poking and pulling at the iron cap, making Scrivener wince and Twilight awkwardly reach up and touch the sapphire mare's shoulder in an attempt to calm her down.

“Just wait a minute more, let's make sure it's done before we pull it out. And if there's more soulstone in the mixture, it should channel your magic better... but since all our soulstone came from Helheim, and we've lost our alliance with Hel for the moment...” Twilight smiled faintly, not having to finish the sentence as Luna scowled a little, holding onto the edges of the iron cap. So they were out of soulstone... which meant, if she lost this horn...

“Oh damnation. So I shall have to be careful now, fantastic.” Luna grumbled, and then she shook her head moodily before carefully twisting the iron cap and pulling it loose with a hiss of pain, a bit of blood leaking out of the hole in her skull as she muttered: “Damnation. Scrivy?”

The stallion was already removing his plastic boots, however, smiling awkwardly over at the mare, and she nodded firmly to him as Twilight Sparkle shook her head before picking up a pair of tongs from a nearby table with telekinesis. She lifted these over, then dipped them into the liquid and fished around for a moment before managing to grasp something and carefully pulling them up and free from the elixir.

She pulled a long metal case free from the dark depths of the cauldron, then she extended her telekinetic grip to the metal box and undid the locks along the side, pulling the tongs back as she popped the case open to reveal a fully-formed soulstone horn inside. It was thrumming with power, the base created from the remains of Luna's old prosthetic horn and the rest new material, a strange core of almost-black light pulsing quietly through the center of the artifact.

Twilight Sparkle used the tongs to gently lift this free from the case, shaking a bit of excess elixir off it before the Lich turned and carefully guided the horn forwards. Luna looked up steadily, breathing slowly as she dropped onto her stomach and rose her head high, and Scrivener stepped over her body, half-pinning her in place as his damaged hooves unfolded into claws that grasped either side of her head tightly.

It stung: he was barely able to bite back a grimace as some of his dark blood ran from the damaged digits and flowed over Luna's cheeks and features. The mare shuddered herself, both in pain and anticipation as she forced herself to keep steady until she felt the base of the soulstone horn slide into the hole in her skull, and she bared her fangs and clenched her eyes shut as Twilight shivered a little, forcing her telekinetic grip to remain as steady as possible as she pushed the horn forwards, until Luna rasped: “Scrivy, now!”

The stallion's claws clutched against the mare's skull, and then he pushed his powers forwards, even as the pain made his back arch and outweighed the throbbing in his own skull. He gasped as Luna spasmed, then groaned loudly as corruption twisted through her mind and all that pain became pleasure, even as she felt Twilight twisting the horn as it locked into place in the base in the sapphire mare's skull and was cemented and connected by the corruption flooding around it.

Then Scrivener's claws fell away, his body falling over hers as he half-caught himself against the ground with his damaged front limbs, but it only made a pulse of agony tear through his body as Luna shivered beneath him. Twilight Sparkle was sitting back herself, a trickle of blood running from the base of her own spire, but light was pulsing in time from her horn with the aura thrumming around Luna's own as the sapphire mare shuddered again... then let out a soft, low moan as she arched her back, whispering: “It gets better every time...”

And in a way, it did. There was the pain and the pleasure, the welcome and the hated, the good and the bad; it was a mix of sensations that Luna feared and wanted to avoid but also... craved and adored. The pleasure, and the way pain was absorbed and overcome, became delight that mixed lustfully with the sensation of Scrivener's heavy body pressing down overtop her own; the heat, and a need being fulfilled, and having dark, forbidden knowledge tease through her mind and power fill up her body, flood her veins...

She shuddered, then slowly rolled her shoulders and flexed, arching her back before her eyes opened to gaze hungrily up at Twilight Sparkle, and the Lich looked back and shivered a little before she leaned forwards: their mouths met, the two trading a slow, sensual kiss before they parted, and then Luna closed her eyes with a long sigh as the pain faded and the... the pleasure, so strange and good it was like madness... she felt that draining out of her too.

Scrivener eventually awkwardly pushed himself up, and he shook himself quickly out before grimacing as he looked down at his damaged claws: they were still bleeding a little, they still ached, but... he felt like they were stabilizing a bit now, at least. Luna, meanwhile, shook herself fiercely out as well... then sighed in relief as her mane and tail both shuddered and became blue, ephemeral locks once more as she felt her magic and energy returning as her horn synced up with her body.

The mare turned her attention towards the cauldron, and Twilight Sparkle shook herself hurriedly out last, blushing a bit as she realized she was just standing and staring. The Lich almost tripped over herself as she turned away, tossing the tongs down and picking up a simple, clear glass of crystal to quickly offer to Luna as she faced her again, smiling embarrassedly as she murmured: “Here. But only one cup, Luna.”

“Aye, mother, I know.” Luna smiled a little all the same in return as she took the glass with her own telekinetic hold, studying it for a moment and relishing even that small bit of magic she could once more perform. Then she nodded once and turned, dipping it into the dark elixir and scooping up a full glass of the black liquid, letting the excess drain cleanly off the crystal before she murmured: “Well, here's to us, my family.”

She rose the glass to her lips and tipped it back, drinking down the dark, hot liquid in a few quick swallows before gritting her teeth as she felt it taking effect almost immediately. That power spread through her veins again as her body flexed, and her eyes clenched shut as her horn glowed with energy, the crystal cup in her telekinetic grip squeezed so fiercely she threatened to crack it.

She could feel it, spreading through her muscles, creating a network between her nerves, fully restoring the nearly-lost connection with her horn before she snapped her soulstone horn upwards and bared her teeth in a grin at the pulse of power that rippled through the room. She could swear that every time they traded out her horn, repeated this wonderful but dangerous ritual, she grew stronger, her magic was amplified further... but as the euphoria began to fade again, she was left with that feeling of what was almost shame as she shivered a little, her eyes lowering as she felt her whole body almost whimper for more.

Scrivener and Twilight both gave faint smiles to the sapphire mare, but Luna shook herself quickly out, then turned and tossed the cup at Scrivener, the stallion blinking dumbly as it bounced off his head before the sapphire mare said firmly: “I am fine, and thou art dumb. Twilight Sparkle, do not make me repeat myself to thee as well.”

“Alright, Luna.” The violet mare shook her head with a small smile, then she asked softly: “Well, what are we going to do now? We should at least go clean up a little, I think... you're all... well... a little bit messy.”

Luna absently reached up and touched her face, smearing dark liquid and blood over her own features before she grumbled a little. “Damnation. Foolish blood cannot stay in its proper place. Very well, then let us bathe.”

And with that, Luna spun around and headed for the Pool of Tears in the center of the room, Twilight wincing and babbling out: “Wait, Luna, no no, you can't just jump in there and use it like a-”

Luna huffed and popped off her hooves, cannonballing into the heavy water... and barely making a splash as the liquid seemed to devour her, Scrivener and Twilight both staring at the shape of the sapphire mare visible beneath the surface. Then the stallion wheezed as Luna began to writhe wildly around, clawing her way up until she finally shoved through the jelly-like liquid with a gasp, blinking dumbly several times as her starry mane sparked weakly.

Scrivener and Twilight both traded looks, then glared down at the sapphire mare, who grinned lamely in return before poking her own face several times. “Well, look, I am clean. And feel very tingly. And will remember in the future that this is not swimming water. Now both of thee, get in here if thou desire so heartily to keep me safe.”

The stallion sighed as the Lich shook her head tiredly, and then the two ponies traded mild looks before Twilight muttered: “Sometimes I really wonder how we're even all still alive.”

Luna, Scrivener, and Twilight made their way back to Cowlick's engineering lab after a Nightmare came and told them everyone was gathering there. On the way, they ran into Antares, Aphrodisia, and Prestige, who had managed to escape crumbling Paradise alongside the stallion, and they lingered for a few moments in the streets of Subterra to catch up with each other on what was going on.

Antares was relieved to see Luna had repaired her prosthetic horn, and Luna was glad to hear that Antares and Prestige were both helping to get angels and Blessed to help out the demons of Subterra: but they all had a common enemy, after all, and they would only win if they put aside their differences and worked together to defeat Gymbr.

Aphrodisia was also able to tell them a little about how things were going in Helheim, as well as inform Luna that her parents were both demanding they be allowed to come and help, and that they were tired of holding down Ponyville. Luna agreed with this after a moment of thought: after all, Ponyville didn't seem like it was in much danger, and since Avalon was there now, she could help hold things down in the event something did happen.

The group made their way onwards: somehow, no one was surprised to find Celestia and Discombobulation were already in front of the portal ring, talking with Cowlick as Hecate moodily floated around. A few Nibelung were present as well, workers who were hurrying around the room to make last minute adjustments and ensure that everything was working properly, and Luna looked curiously back and forth before she said thoughtfully: “Well, at least if it explodes, we shall not die alone. That is always good.”

“A wonderful way to think. Are we done wasting time?” Hecate asked sourly as she floated down, and then she glared at Aphrodisia as the demon giggled behind a hoof up at her, while Prestige only did her best not to stare and Antares smiled complacently. “Shut up, demon child.”

“But you're a head! A floating head! I'm never going to get over that.” Apps looked up with a bright smile, and then she huffed when Antares nudged her firmly, shouldering him back with a huff.

Hecate only rolled her eyes, then the head turned and floated calmly down in front of the portal ring, facing away from the audience as they formed a semicircle and she explained calmly: “The ring will take a short time to power up, but it will force the connection to Ginnungagap by itself. Discombobulation, you are here because I require a Draconequus to translate the chaos: the creatures we are going to speak to likely won't make sense, and we may not even be able to precisely see through the window. Or at least, we won't be able to make sense of what we see.”

There were a few nods at this, and then Bob sniffed disdainfully before he gestured towards the mirror, asking mildly: “And what can your muggle machinery do that my wizardry can't?”

“Everything.” Hecate said coldly as she floated around in a circle, her horn glowing brightly before both power stations lit up with runes and bright dots of light. Cowlick cursed and staggered away as electricity blasted over the pillars and the ring supported between them, before energy began to coalesce inside the ring, Hecate framed by the glowing light with a brutal grin stretching her features as she said coldly: “Watch and learn.”

There was a thunderous blast as the power in the room flickered, several of the cables sparking and twisting violently as the electricity around the ring leapt and swelled, making Hecate's mane of living lightning and cables dance and twist as the flying saucer supporting her sparked and rumbled.

A crash like thunder tore through the area as the electricity was all drawn into the glowing wall that had formed inside the ring... and then this barrier of light shattered into motes that left them looking at what seemed like a hole in reality: not an normal portal, but a gaping wound that had surfaces dripping slowly with what looked like sludgy black ink coating ripped, torn papers. And halfway down this passage, there was a barrier of what looked like heavy, blurred glass, through which indistinct colors and wild shapes could be seen twisting and moving on the other side.

Discombobulation reached up and touched his throat silently, and a moment later, there was a crackle of green lightning before a second Draconequus appeared, who stared with disbelieving red eyes towards the wound in reality held open by the ring framework. He reached up, eagle talon and lions paw both grasping at the mismatched horns sticking out of his head, whispering: “No, that's not possible. Puppy, what in Loki's name are you doing?”

“This isn't me, big dog.” Discombobulation gestured moodily at Hecate as the head laughed loudly and turned around, grinning almost challengingly at Discord, and the recently-arrived Draconequus winced and hopped daintily backwards on one leg, hoof clicking against the tiles as his other clawed lower limb kicked awkwardly in Hecate's direction, bat and feathered wings on his back flapping madly to try and keep balance as his red-scaled dragon's tail snapped back and forth.

“Cowards. But fine, you're both here. Discombobulation, get their attention. Discord, make them listen.” Hecate said coldly, and Discord snorted at this, crossing his arms as he dropped to a standing position and looked at her sourly.

“Okay, what makes you think I would ever listen to someone like you? For one thing, I don't know if you technically can count as a someone without a body. I think you're a something. And that something is bad.” Discord said pettishly, shaking his head briskly, and then he swallowed slowly as Hecate slowly floated over to head level with him, baring her metallic fangs and making him shrink down a little. “But I can learn to love you.”

“Hecate, stop. Discord, please help us. We would be indebted to you.” Celestia said gently, and then she glanced up and nodded briefly to Bob when he gave her an uneasy look. She smiled reassuringly, and the metal-armed Draconequus sighed tiredly before he gave a grudging nod and turned to head towards the so-called 'window' into Ginnungagap.

He halted in front of it, peering into the tunnel before he reached carefully through the framework... and somehow, it hurt Scrivener's head to see the Draconequus reaching into the wound in reality, even as nothing happened. Discombobulation looked relieved by this, and then he sighed as he drew back before muttering: “Well, there's one thing that always gets the neighbor's attention.”

He flicked his hand to the side, a baseball appearing in his grip before he leaned forwards and slung it hard, and it smashed into the glass with a dull clunk: for a moment it seemed to get stuck, and then Celestia leaned forwards as her eyes narrowed intently, Luna seeing after a moment what her sister did as her jaw fell open. The ball was actually slowly forcing its way through the glass, making it ripple and distort, before-

It was gone, and the surface of the glass was back to normal. There was silence for a moment as Discombobulation awkwardly tented his hands together uneasily... and then both he and Discord jumped, wincing backwards as there were several loud knocks on the glass, followed by...

They were bombarded by an unintelligible flurry of sounds, even if it sounded like there was some kind of message in the static. Most of the ponies shifted uncomfortably, Luna growling as her soulstone horn vibrated and Hecate only laughing even as her flying saucer spluttered in the air, but both Discombobulation and Discord traded looks of surprise.

Then the.. whatever it was, was gone. Scrivener looked up, and he frowned in surprise as he realized there were indistinct figures on the other side of the blurry glass now, and he thought he could see one poking at it slowly, creating a gentle tap-tap-tap that was just the slightest bit out of time.

Discord gestured wildly at Discombobulation, and Bob grimaced and flailed childishly back for a few moments before Celestia asked quietly: “What's the problem? What did they say?”

“Oh, you know. Just some polite greetings, and some polite trash-talk, and they were politely telling us to... well, I won't finish that sentence. Apparently there's something very good on TV and they want to go back to watching it.” Discombobulation said mildly, shaking his head briefly before he added mildly, jerking a thumb at Discord: “They also don't want to open the door for Discord. Precisely because if he asks, they have to. In Ginnungagap, we're all still bound to him.”

“Yes, give away all my secrets, puppy. Besides, they're much angrier at you than they are me.” Discord replied pointedly, nodding firmly a few times, then he crossed his arms and added mildly: “There's no way they're going to help us. Why do we even need to try and talk to my old school buddies anyway? This is stupid. You're all stupid. I'm going to leave.”

He began to turn around, and found himself face-to-face with Hecate, who glared at him before she headbutted Discord and knocked him flat. He landed with a yelp that turned into a much-less-comical scream of pain as Hecate's horn glowed, arcs of lightning twisting from the soulstone and zapping over the Draconequus as she shouted coldly in the direction of the portal. “Unless you answer our questions, I will force Discord to force one of you to create a connection, and then I will drag you all, kicking and screaming, into a world where I can physically maim, mutilate, and torture you.”

“Oh, now that's really not necessary, not at all, no no no.” said a kind voice before there was the sound of snapping fingers, and a moment later Hecate was trapped in a bubble, her magic silenced and her eyes bulging in shock before the head fell out of the air and bounced harmlessly away.

The ponies in the room spun around, many setting themselves, others only staring in disbelief at the sight of the newcomer. He stood on two legs and was dressed in a mishmashed suit that was ripped and torn in places, rumpled gloves covering his hand and a top hat with the sales tag still sticking out of the brim. His eyes were white, and he had the head of a horse, with a spiky blonde mane and a terribly-pale coat that had the faintest tint of some natural color to it.

He swept off his hat and bowed low to them, then straightened and brushed his hair back before plopping the hat jauntily atop his head, saying warmly: “Now, if I may give a bit of advice, you should be careful about opening windows: you never know quite whom you might let inside, dear friends. But perhaps my advice will have a little more effect if I introduce myself: I am Theophilius Carter, and you are many different people, all with names of your own. Some with just one, others with two, a few with even more! What fun!”

He laughed and clapped his gloved hands childishly together as he did a short little dance on the spot, and Discord paled as he crawled slowly up, tugging at an invisible collar as he asked weakly: “Now, you wouldn't happen to be selling hats, would you?”

“Two for a penny, but three for a pound! And while that might not sound like a great amount of savings to you, consider all the wear and tear you'll avoid on your pocket. For everyone knows that if you line your pockets with money, it won't be long before the tax man sees it's all taken away.” Theophilius replied glibly, and then he chuckled and clapped his gloved hands a few times before reaching up and adjusting a strange object around his neck: a crystalline choker, in the shape of a horse's head.

“The Hatter's here.” Discombobulation said quietly, and then he closed one eye and tilted his head, murmuring: “But we shouldn't be afraid of him, oh no. We should all be afraid of what drove him Mad in the first place. Because even if the Mad must bow to the Hatter, the Hatter can only be made by Madness. Where's Alice when you need her?”

“Away with the March Hare and the Dormouse, I presume. Although one is just so wild and the other always so quiet!” The strange creature that had joined them clucked his tongue and shook his head a few times, then he rubbed his hands together and said thoughtfully: “I should go and look for her. For all of them, they would be good to see. It's been oh so long since I've seen them...”

He reached up, absently playing with the buttons of the rumpled dress shirt beneath his suit jacket, and then he smiled and looked over them all, clapping his hands together. “Where were we, though? I forgot... who are you? What am I doing here?”

Luna frowned, and Celestia responded in a calm voice: “My name is Freya, and I am a Valkyrie. Are you a chaos entity from Ginnungagap?”

“I'm not from there, and I don't know much about chaos. Not that I suppose anyone really does. It's chaos, after all, it does what it wants.” Theophilius paused, then absently rose a hand, adding: “Unless you ask it politely, of course.”

With that, the creature simply snapped his fingers, and there was a loud pop before both Discombobulation and Discord had dropped painfully all all fours, scrunching themselves up into awkward-looking positions on their arms and legs before Discord wheezed: “I don't like being a table.”

“What did thou just do?” Luna asked incredulously, staring at the Draconequus, and Theophilius only smiled kindly at her, shrugging and looking at her pleasantly.

“I just asked them politely to do something.” Theophilius paused, then he turned around and vanished... but a moment later, all eyes were drawn towards a loud clicking to see him now seated on top of Discord with his booted feet up on the bubble that contained Hecate, slurping loudly at a cup of tea before he looked up with a beaming expression. “Won't you all join me for tea? Oh here, oh here, let me get you all seats!”

And with that, Theophilius made several easy gestures at the portal ring, and Hecate shouted silently inside the orb as the metallic framework began to vibrate violently and the wall of glass inside the tunnel trembled. A moment later, there was a terrible bang and a blast of green lightning, Celestia and Antares both leaping forwards with winces and snapping their horns out to create barriers of light that blocked the wave of force and emerald electricity.

Luna winced, then looked up... and stared in disbelief through the walls of light protecting them, the sapphire mare mouthing slowly as she saw the circular framework of the portal had been blown apart into a smoking wreck, and one of the pillars powering it had been knocked over, while the other was half-melted and sparking weakly. But most striking of all was the floating hole in reality that was bleeding black ink and amber tea... and letting Draconequus after Draconequus leap free, landing with winces and then twisting themselves into unnatural positions as Theophilius giggled and kicked his feet childishly.

“Seats for everyone!” he declared, and then he snapped his fingers, and the rift in reality closed before he rubbed thoughtfully at the underside of his muzzle, looking curiously over the several dozen chaos entities that had just escaped through the hole he had torn into Ginnungagap. “Oh, maybe I set out one too many... well, we can always remedy that by inviting more guests, of course!”

The Mad Hatter laughed at this and shook his head with a childish smile, and Discombobulation mumbled: “Tia, if you sit on me... I will die. I just want you to know that.”

“I think you should let them stand up. And I think you should take your Draconequus and leave. We're looking for solutions to a problem and I don't get the sense that you are the answer to what we're looking for.” Celestia said evenly, but her eyes were glowing even as she allowed the magic barrier she and Antares had created to drop, her expression cold.

“Oh, yes, the coming of chaos... and that's not a rock ballad, oh no, oh no.” Theophilius hopped to his feet, holding his saucer in one hand and teacup in the other before he absently booted Hecate aside, the translucent ball she was trapped in bouncing loudly across the room. “That's part of a great Draconequus prophecy, I'll have you know! Scary stuff, it is, when chaos ends up predicting the future, usually all that is the realm of you orderly types...”

“What art thou talking about? Gymbr?” asked Luna sharply, a frown cresting her features, and Theophilius looked almost perplexed at this, knitting his fingers together.

“Gymbr? I'm afraid I don't know any Gymbr, no. I know of the Gryphon, and the Mock Turtle, and oh, don't we all know the White Rabbit and the Red Queen... but no Gymbrs here, not a single one.” Theophilius looked thoughtful, rubbing at the underside of his chin. “But no, eternal chaos will only come for a very single short moment, you see... after order rises, before order purges. Oh, yes, my friends. Why would we care about the coming of chaos unless it symbolized the very alter-opposite!”

The Mad Hatter shrugged, then he tossed cup and saucer aside before clapping his hands together and smiling kindly to them. “But that's all in the past now, isn't it? Oh yes, the past and the future, all at once. We don't have to worry about it quite yet, and that is very fortunate, for it seems you already have many worries of your own to try and deal with.”

Twilight Sparkle frowned at this, but surprisingly, it was Prestige who stepped quickly up, asking worriedly: “But what about Heaven? Do you know anything about Valhalla?”

“I know that you, my dear, are a flower from that very garden.” the Mad Hatter said gently, smiling at her benevolently before he reached up to slowly toy at his choker. “I know of many things. I know about living and dying, and about fighting and fleeing. I know all about cowards and bravery, although I must confess to being one most often and rarely the other.”

“Make sense. And let Discord and Discombobulation go.” Celesta said quietly but firmly, and the strange creature smiled as he touched his own breast. “I won't ask you politely again.”

Theophilius sighed loudly at this, rolling his eyes and shaking his head slowly. “Oh, dear me. Very well, very well, if you have to insist so heartily, my dear... my, but you're not at all like any other White Queen I've ever had the pleasure or not of knowing. But I suppose that's why you're Red.”

With that, Theophilius flicked his wrists, freeing the Draconequus of the strange hold he had over them before the strange entity smiled and straightened, holding his arms out wide as he said kindly: “I think, Miss Freya, we knew each other a very long time ago; a time when you had five fingers, and probably more than one toe.”

Celestia's eyes widened slightly at this, and Luna snarled as she stepped forwards, the creature's eyes roving towards her as he added politely: “And for you, little Brynhild, I do confess: you knew my brother until recently, even if under duress.”

Jötnar.” whispered Twilight Sparkle, looking disbelievingly at the entity, and then she stared back and forth at the chaos entities that all had their unique heads lowered towards the creature in respect. “But... but you came out of Ginnungagap, and Valthrudnir, he...”

“Well, the Jötnar do not die. We simply... go on.” The creature made a fluttering gesture with his fingers, and then he smiled kindly and bowed his head forwards. “Sometimes we go one way, sometimes we get a little lost and end up on the wrong side of the universe. But where there's a will, there's always, always, always a way... but oh, don't you worry. I don't want to hurt anyone, I just want to sell hats, drink tea, and... not see the entire universe end. Then when will we have cake?”

“The cake is a lie.” Discombobulation muttered, and then he winced when the Mad Hatter spun towards him and shushed him violently several times, the Draconequus half-covering his head with a wince. “Don't throw me in the incinerator!”

“No, no, definitely throw him in the incinerator. Not enough to kill him, I certainly would never want to fry my puppy, but I wouldn't mind having a hot dog. Get it? Get it?” Discord grinned... and then another Draconequus smacked him, almost knocking him over before he turned a glare on the offender and shouted: “Hey, workplace violation here! I'm still the boss!”

“We have a union!” called another Draconequus, and there was a collective gasp before the group of Draconequus simply broke down into a wild brawl, Discord yelling and charging into the middle of the fight as Discombobulation dropped his face miserably in his hands and slowly dragged his fingers along his features.

Luna, Scrivener, and Twilight all slowly tilted their heads, staring with disbelief as Antares looked blank, Prestige gaped, and Aphrodisia simply cheered and giggled, clapping wildly as she bounced on the spot like a foal at the circus. Then Celestia bared her teeth and stomped on the floor as she snapped her horn up, an echoing boom ripping through the air and the thirty or so Draconequus leaping up into several tight lines, all of them saluting and staring with terror at the ivory equine as she shouted: “That is enough!”

She turned her eyes to glare at Theophilius, then she strode quickly towards him, saying coldly: “Giants were the enemies of the gods. And I have never heard of a Jötnar returning to life without the aid of either a god or one of his fellows. This is your last chance to give me an explanation for what you're doing here, or I'm going to have to take more aggressive measures.”

Theophilius slowly reached up and straightened his hat, then he rose his fists gamely, saying seriously: “So it's a fight you want, is it, Freya?” He began to bounce from foot-to-foot, narrowing his eyes at her as he revolved his fists back and forth with comically. “Now you listen here, you listen to me, you listen and listen good, little missy, I'm the best darn fighter this side of-”

Celestia stepped forwards and punched him in the stomach, her hoof sinking deep into his gut, and the entity's eyes bulged as he was almost bent in half and hefted up to his toes. Then he whimpered, wrapping his arms around his stomach and stumbling backwards as he retched, then overbalanced and landed on his rump, at the same time coughing out a stream of tea.

He sat, looking absolutely dejected as he blinked a few times, but despite the tears in his eyes Celestia only loomed over him, glaring down at the creature even as Luna said awkwardly: “I would like to pummel the creature most fiercely as well, Celestia, but... well, I do not wish to tell thee how to do thy job, of course, as thou art Queen of the Valkyries...”

Celestia's eyes flicked sourly over her shoulder, and Luna cleared her throat and shut her mouth before Celestia's eyes then turned towards the Draconequus. They all immediately leapt into one-another's limbs, staring at her with terror before she returned her cold glare to Theophilius.

He coughed out a bit more tea, then looked up at her and whimpered: “Oh, it doesn't taste nearly as good coming out as it does going in, mum. Can. Can you give me just-”

Celestia seized him by the collar and yanked him forwards with a squeal, the mare's eyes hard as she glared down at him and asked coldly: “Who revived you? Was it Gymbr or was it Hel? And for what purpose?”

Luna and Scrivener looked surprised, but Antares only narrowed his eyes, leaning forwards intently. Theophilius, meanwhile, was staring up at Celestia with something like amazement, whistling slowly before he remarked: “You must have really eaten a lot of fish as a child, Celestia, because I have to say... that is quite the cunning observation. But you did miss one thing, I fear.”

Celestia frowned at this, and then the Mad Hatter politely tipped his hat to her before he simply vanished from her grip in a crackle of green lightning, the ivory mare stumbling in surprise, then glaring upwards as Theophilius popped back into existence high above on the ceiling, the creature doing a little jig. “Cheers, friends! Away we go! All aboard the crazy train!”

With that, Theophilius pointed towards the ceiling, a rift ripping through reality before he giggled and leapt into the air, cannonballing in defiance of gravity into this... and then Celestia shouted a denial as the Draconequus leapt up one after the other to follow into the rift, some of them flailing wildly as if trying to resist, others diving straight for the portal as the ivory mare shouted: “Block it!”

Prestige and Antares both snapped their horns upwards in almost perfect time to create a barrier over the hole, as Twilight gritted her teeth and attempted to dispel the magic... but then she cried out in pain as she was lashed backwards by chaotic energies, knocked skidding along her spine into the wall before she bounced off with a dumb blink and a shiver of pain. Both Luna and Scrivener cursed at this, twitching before they looked up in shock as the Draconequus continued to pass through the wall of energy Antares and Prestige had created... except something else was trying to corrupt the magic, and both ponies were fighting to try and contain and control the barrier.

Then both ponies were knocked backwards with shouts of surprise as recoil blasted over their horns, and the barrier they had created transformed into a large, curved donut around the hole, several Draconequus bouncing off the sides of this with loud, comical pings and clangs before vanishing into the rift.

In moments, only Discord and Discombobulation were left, both Draconequus huddled on the floor and covering their heads... and then both peering up with sighs of relief when they realized the other chimerical creatures were gone and they had been left behind. “Well, puppy. Another fine mess you've gotten us into now.”

“Oh, right, because clearly none of this is your fault. You're not the one who took such pleasure in bossing us lowly minions around, and now we're not suffering the irony of your situation at all.” Discombobulation said dryly, poking at the fellow Draconequus, and Discord stuck out his tongue and blew a raspberry at him.

They were spared any further argument by Hecate buzzing back into the air, the head shaking itself out roughly before she said crankily: “You idiots can't do anything right, can you? How hard is it to hold down a single god of chaos?”

“There's no such thing as a god of chaos. And a Jötnar that can control Draconequus, after spending so long in Ginnungagap instead of the Void... it barely makes sense to me.” Celestia murmured, lowering her head with a frown. “Someone has to have helped him. Fused the Jötnar's spirit into that body... maybe even created that body for him.”

Prestige looked uneasily up, asking worriedly: “If it was Gymbr... could Theophilius have something to do with his plans? Gymbr said he wanted to bring unending chaos... did we just... did we just let that chaos into our world?”

“Draconequus, my dear, aren't tailors. There's no reason they would willingly hang out with the Hatter: but the Mad must serve him, as I know I've said before, and we're all mad here.” Discombobulation explained gently, looking pointedly over at Discord, and the fellow Draconequus nodded moodily a few times as he crossed his arms. “Or, to put it another way, he's the Digimon tamer and we're the helpful little guys who have no choice really but to listen to him.”

Discord looked mildly over at Discombobulation, tilting his head slightly as he asked dryly: “Seriously? That's the best you can come up with? No Pokemon references, no... talking about that other game where you capture demons and fling them at other demons? I have to say, I'm almost disappointed, puppy.”

Discombobulation opened his mouth to reply, and then both Draconequus winced and flailed wildly when Hecate chained a bolt of lightning between them, glaring furiously between the two as she snapped: “Shut up! We have a more important topic to discuss than your pointless little theater!”

“If you do that again, Hecate, I'm going to break your horn. Consider it your second strike.” Celestia said evenly, and Hecate gave her a dark look but slowly hovered backwards, and the ivory winged unicorn shook herself out quickly before turning her eyes towards Scrivener, Twilight, and Luna, saying softly: “You've been unusually quiet. Is it what he said?”

“We did not know many Jötnar.” Luna murmured softly, nodding slowly and giving a faint smile as she nodded slowly to Celestia, her eyes cloudy. “Of what Clan does thou think he was? True Jötnar, or Fire or Earth?”

“The Ice Giants came first. Ymir was an Ice Giant, and is said to be the true creator of all things, to have made the first gods by accident...” Celestia looked down, shaking her head briefly. “Then came Surt, out of Muspell, with his monstrous Fire Giants. And last, our three tribes breeding together is what created the Earth Giants... he can't be pureblooded Jötnar. He has to be Earth. It's the only thing that could explain his powers.”

“You're talking about Ginnungagap, Tia. Nothing explains everything there.” Discombobulation said mildly, and Celestia smiled faintly over at him as Luna traded looks with Scrivener Blooms and Twilight Sparkle, already sharing her memories with them in an effort to figure out precisely who it was they had just seen.

What made both Scrivener and Twilight uneasy was just how desperate Luna seemed all of a sudden... but with the flurry of memories also came understanding of why she was so worried. The Jötnar had always tended to be of two varieties, after all, no matter how they acted or what they appeared to be on the outside: brutes who just wanted their way and would stop at nothing to get it, or loyalists who would serve their chosen leaders until the very end.

What Luna was afraid of was that both of these options could be bad: Theophilius could be a smiling lunatic who was going to attempt to bring eternal chaos to the world in his own way – even if Scrivener and Twilight both somehow had a strange, almost positive feeling about the strange god-giant-thing, even with his absurd power over the Draconequus – or he was loyal to whoever had revived him and would do anything in his power to help his master. If that was Hel, they were in trouble; if it was Gymbr, they were in even worse trouble.

Both ponies tried to reassure her even as they felt so many memories entering their minds, shifting through them in a flurry to try and isolate all the Earth Giants that the Valkyries had known in the past... before all eyes were drawn with surprise as a throat cleared itself loudly and Cowlick said sourly, from where she was standing by the base of the now-destroyed portal: “So we got no answers, we just let a bunch of Draconequus into our world, and that fancy-ass portal that took forever to build just got blown to hell. I think it's safe to say we're FUBAR.”

Hecate snorted at this, whirling towards Cowlick as her eyes blazed coldly. “No, not yet we're not. I will not be made a fool of by another pedantic, idiotic Jötnar. In three days I will have this machinery rebuilt, and then I will reconfigure it to send out a wide-scale signal to every Clockwork Pony currently in dormancy or awaiting orders. An army of patchwork dolls is no match for an army of machines and monsters.”

All eyes looked uneasily up at Hecate as her electric mane crackled, cables twisting back and forth as her glowing eyes slid to look behind her, whispering: “I will not go through what I was forced to with Valthrudnir again. I will not bow my head to another pathetic giant, any more than I will bow my head to a god who only wants to bring chaos and anarchy. I will have order.”

Celestia shivered a little, forgetting everything else for a moment as she looked up at this terrible version of herself, and Luna smiled faintly, shaking her head slowly. But Hecate was oblivious to all the eyes on her as she turned slowly around, her features twisting into a grin even as her eyes remained almost afraid as she looked at the framework of the broken ring, and didn't see the broken and melted metal, the useless scrap that was... she saw the obelisk she was going to make in the future, and the army of the Jötnar she had loved and hated more than anything else in this entire universe that she was going to wrestle away from his cold, dead hands.

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