• Published 27th Sep 2013
  • 14,458 Views, 753 Comments

Chaotic Neutral - C-Puff

When magic starts failing, chaos threatens to consume Equestria. Good thing the ponies have Discord on their side to help fix things.

  • ...

a Strange Evening

Chapter 5

Celestia had made arrangements so that each pony had their own room in the royal palace. They weren't the grand guest rooms used for visiting royalties, but they were still more lavish than any home in Ponyville. Despite everypony getting their own place, they still gathered in Twilight's room to go over what they were going to do the next day.

It was pretty clear that they needed to get to Coltchester as quickly as possible, as quickly as possible, seeing as their bags were already packed and with no answers left in Canterlot, leaving the very next morning seemed like the best idea.

Usually, somepony would take one of the airships to traverse the thick forest between the capital and the small town. However, with the magical problems of late, air-travel was too unpredictable and unsafe to use. Keeping the flame under control in a small balloon would be difficult and the larger airships' engines required magic in some form to steer.

The next option was a carriage, but this idea was almost immediately scrapped. There was no point in using a carriage that was probably too small for six ponies and Discord that would need to have been pulled by an extra group of ponies.

In the end, it seemed the easiest way to travel would be on hoof. Coltchester wasn't too far to make it impossible and thankfully, despite the forest separating the two, the area was well mapped and documented. Twilight made sure to get the most up-to-date map she could from one of the palace scholars and together they worked out a route. It looked like a relatively easy trip. It wasn't as dangerous as the Everfree forest but still had its fair share of wild animals they'd have to watch out for, but other than that it seemed fine.

With their trip planned, their baggage gone through, unpacked and repacked to make sure they only had the essentials, they decided to call it a night and start the next morning as soon as they'd all had breakfast.

However, there was one small detail Celesta had not foreseen. She hadn't expected the seventh guest. Discord seemed entirely unconcerned and had apparently decided to just share Fluttershy's room. Not that he asked or anything, he just followed her when they all went to bed and promptly started scoping the room for a place to sleep when she closed the door behind them.

The bedroom was large and almost circular. Its walls were soft blue with one wall curving outward into a set of three, tall windows. In front of the windows, a large daybed, piled high with different bottle-blue pillows, had been placed to look out over the kingdom below. Discord made a B-line for it and flopped down, stretching his arms above himself and flipping several pillows to the floor with his tail.

“Finally, I can get some time away from ponies and their small-talk!” He crossed his arms behind his head with a content sigh. “A trip out into the wild, far away from villages, cities and towns. Won't this be fun, Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy trotted to the delicate vanity table and put down her bags, rummaging around for her comb. She noticed that Discord hadn't even considered taking the canopy bed for himself. She made a mental note to praise him for being thoughtful later.

“I don't know about 'fun',” She said as she brushed out her mane. “It seems a little scary. I mean... Celestia talking about strange groups of ponies who use dangerous magic... I really don't like that. And traveling through a dark forest on our own... What if something bad happens to us...?”

“Don't be so gloomy, my dear.” Discord brushed her off nonchalantly. “There's nothing to worry about, you'll see. Your cottage is right next to the Everyfree forest after all, and there are far worse creatures in those woods.”

“Yes, but I try not to go into the Everfree forest.” She said, turning to brush her tail once or twice. “And even when I do, I know the Everfree forest a little better. I don't know anything about the place we're going to.”

“One forest is more or less the same as any other.” Discord rolled over to his stomach, grinning at her back. “They have some landmark differences and maybe different animals but in the grand scheme of things they're pretty much the same.”

“I don't know about that...” Fluttershy said as she put down her comb and trotted to the canopy bed, lying down to face him. “What if there's something in this forest that makes it special that you don't know about?”

Discord made a scoffing noise. “I'm sure I can handle it. Seeing as our dear Princess has decided to make me the designated babysitter, I guess I don't have much of a choice do I?” He rolled his eyes with the last remark.

“I'm sure she didn't mean it like that.” Fluttershy said. “Besides, even if she did, isn't it nice that she's trusting you enough to do something like that?”

“I think she's just trying to find more subtle ways of torturing me.” Discord sighed dramatically, pinching the bridge of his muzzle as if he developed a spontaneous migraine. “On the one paw, I'm delighted at getting to move around a little and having some freedom. On the other, I have to do it while tethered to the Princess of brown-nosing, Twilight Sparkle, and those other four you insist on spending time with.”

“That's a little harsh.” Fluttershy said in what probably passed as scolding. “They're my friends. I like spending time with them.”

“Why, I have no idea.” Discord yawned as he curled his back. “They're so dull. Always going on and on with their mundane self-interests and day-to-day thoughts and mindless retellings of whatever they've been doing lately. I'm on the verge of falling asleep every time I spend more than ten minutes in their company.”

“I don't want to hear you criticising my friends in front of me, Discord.” Fluttershy threw him a serious frown. “I care about them and I don't like hearing people badmouth them behind their backs. It's not very nice.”

Discord cocked an eyebrow at her but didn't reply. Seeming unmoved by her words either way. She sighed and calmed down again. “I don't think you've really given them a chance.” She gave him a soft smile. “Maybe this trip will be a good way for you to spend more time with them. I'm sure you'll learn that there's more to them than you think there is.”

“I doubt it.” He pulled a face. “I've spent a lot of time around ponies already and I'm pretty used to what to expect.”

“Oh... I see...” Fluttershy sunk in place slightly. “Well.... I like them a lot. They're my friends... I just thought maybe if you tried to get to know who they really are, you'd like them too.... I guess...”

There was silence for a few moments as she stood up and started pulling back the covers. Discord watched her out of the corner of his eye. She crawled into bed and started tucking herself in when he gave a sigh, catching her attention.

“I enjoyed the riddles on the train. I always have had a soft spot for word games.” He said as he turned to watch something out the windows.

“Maybe next time you can play with us a little more.” Fluttershy smiled, perking up.

He broke into a smile at this, a glint in his eye. “My dear Fluttershy, what makes you think I wasn't playing the entire time?”

Her smile dropped in confusion. “But you only told one riddle. You hardly said anything during the entire game.”

He gave a laugh at this. “Telling the riddle isn't the only part of the game, Fluttershy.” He sat up a little straighter, gesturing dramatically. “You need to survey the competition. You need to observe how each pony plays their hoof, how their line of guesswork moves, how their thinking pattern works, what kind of questions they themselves will throw out with confidence and in what direction their questions go. Then, once you have your opponents pegged down to where they think they're the one in the lead, you strike. You back them in a corner and slowly weed them out one by one.” He waved a finger in the air with a knowing smile. “It's all in how you manipulate the game to your favour.”

Fluttershy stared at him for a moment before giving her head a gentle shake. “I don't know if I really understand.”

“Oh, sure you do.” He lay down again. “Perhaps in the context of a game it's a little confusing, but you and I both know you're no stranger to manipulation in of itself.”

She blinked wide-eyed at this, looking rather shocked. “Huh? I am? I never knew.” She tapped her chin with a hoof, looking worried. “I... I don't think I've ever manipulated anypony. Maybe I did it without realising it? Oh dear... I'd better ask my friends and make sure I've never done anything like that to them... Oh my, I'd feel really bad if I came across that way...”

Discord watched her for a few minutes as she silently fretted. Eventually he yawned again and rolled onto his back. “Anyway; perhaps being on the road will make things a little more exciting regardless of who we're travelling with.”

“Huh?” She turned back to him before catching up with the conversation and smiling with a nod. “Oh. Yes. Yes, I'm sure it'll be livelier at least.” She pulled the blankets over herself before reaching to turn off the side-lamp.

“Even if it's a little scary, I think being in a group will make it more fun,” She yawned as she curled herself tighter, “and you'll be coming with us.”

“Indeed.” He replied.

Fluttershy spent most of the night dreaming of strange shapes among trees and being stalked down empty streets by a shadow. It never caught her, and she never found herself terrified, but the oppressive feeling of the strange dreamscape and the nervous tension of knowing an invisible threat was on her heels made her sleep restless. She trotted down an alleyway whose walls and cobblestone street had been painted black, the shapeless mass in an unseen corner behind her.

“Just keep walking” She said to herself, looking in every direction for the invisible hunter. “Keep going forward.”

“Now that's not very smart of you, is it?” a Disembodied voice chuckled as she took another corner to avoid her pursuer.

“I can't just stand still and get caught.” She answered, focusing on the twisting path in front of her.

“You're not manipulating the situation to your favour.” The voice remarked, sounding almost bored.

“What?” She came to a stop. “I don't understand.”

The second she came to a standstill however, the unseen pursuer threw itself over her and she snapped awake.

It took her a few seconds to focus and remember where she was. A large shadow above her made her start until she realised it was only the top of the canopy. The large room was almost completely dark except for the flood of moonlight shining through the triple windows. She realised neither she nor Discord had drawn the curtains before going to sleep, something she was rather grateful for at the moment.

Once she had woken up a little more, she realised there was a rhythmic, faint tapping sound in the room. Like a branch tapping at the window. However their rooms were far above the trees of the Canterlot gardens, and the sound was too orderly spaced to be an insect bumping against the walls. She listened for a few moments, at first nervous that it might be something she should be worried about. After a while though, she managed to relax again when nothing else seemed to happen.

She rolled over, pulling the blankets tighter around her shoulders. She turned her gaze to the light of the window, hoping to clear her head when she noticed Discord sitting upright. She blinked to herself, wondering what was going on. His silhouette stared down at at his own claw, and at least one of the mysteries solved itself as he snapped his fingers. She watched him for a moment, waiting to see what was going to happen, but nothing did. Discord merely snapped his fingers again, waiting for a few minutes before repeating the action.

Part of her wanted to ask him what he was doing and for a second she almost did, but before she could get the words out, she stopped herself. His outline sat absorbed in his task, oblivious of anything else around him. She wondered if he'd be angry if she broke his concentration. Maybe he woke up and couldn't get back to sleep and was just bored. If that was the case, he'd probably be happy to see she was awake too. She watched the place where she knew his face was, trying to catch his features in the low light. She could barely make it out, but if she strained her eyes she could pick out the line of a frown, and the soft reflection on his eyes as he stared at his claw. It almost seemed like he was snapping it in rhythm to something, even though the sound merely echoed around the room quietly without anything following or leading it.

Her curiosity burned, but she kept silent, feeling like a peeping Tom on what may be a private moment. But if it was a private moment, what was it suppose to be exactly? Would he be embarrassed if he knew that she was watching? Would he mention it himself if she pretended she never saw any of this? If she asked him what he was doing, would he even tell her?

She slid a little deeper under her covers at this last inner question. Partly because she didn't know the answer, but mostly because she could at least guess. Discord never really told her anything private. At least not about himself. He told her things she didn't think he'd tell her friends. Mostly about how they annoyed him or things they probably wouldn't like hearing somepony say. However he never told her anything just about... him.

The claws snapped again, and this time there was a small spark, almost like static. There was a strange reverberation to the sound, as if there was more than just the snap. One of the dark throw-pillows on the daybed shrank in on itself before popping out again, having been transformed into a vase filled with a plant she couldn't recognise.

She heard Discord sigh and shift position. He reached out, picking up the newly formed vase and putting it beside himself on the floor. He then stretched his arms above himself, the faint sound of something clicking back in place barely audible. He pushed himself up, turned to face the opposite end of the daybed, and lay down again, his tail curling around him.

Fluttershy kept her eyes on him but after a few minutes she heard his breathing change as he fell asleep. Her gaze drifted to the shadow of the vase on the floor.

Eventually she rolled over to face the other side of the room, hugging the covers against herself.

I don't understand you... She thought as she lay alone in the dark.

Author's Note:

A quick update with a shorter chapter. A shorter chapter, but an important one I feel. Perhaps as I go I might come back and tweak things a little bit here... which is not really how you should do things but as I've stated before, I'm really impatient. Let me know of any typos or grammar problems ok?

Thank you so much for all the comments and feedback guys! I'm so happy with the reception I've gotten with this. It makes me very happy!

I'm excited to write more but the next update will probably not be for a while.