• Published 27th Sep 2013
  • 14,443 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.

  • ...

Start of a Journey

Chapter 6

Morning came, as always, a little too early for Discord's liking. The moment the sun cleared the Canterlot mountains it proceeded to burst through the high windows next to the daybed and almost instantly woke him up. He grumbled at the unwelcome light before he changed his mind and grumbled at Celestia instead. After a few minutes of trying to ignore it, he had to admit defeat and got up and began to stretch himself in ways that seemed to suggest he'd lost all the bones in his body.

After the brief display of physics shattering, he turned to the canopy bed. Fluttershy wasn't there, and by the looks of it, she hadn't been there for a while. The bed was nicely made with the pillows fluffed and put back in their place. A quick glance to the vanity in the room confirmed that her saddlebags were still where she'd left them last night.

He didn't think much of her disappearance. Fluttershy almost always woke up before he did to feed her animals and get some food going. Taking a moment to clamber over the canopy bed and mess up the covers, he stepped out of the room and made his way through the palace chambers to go and find her.

He had taken a few turns and gone done more than a couple of hallways before he realised he wasn't sure where the kitchens were. He'd been going the way he remembered the old palace layout to be, without thinking about it. Despite realising this, he kept going the way he had been heading already. He was either going to end up where he wanted to go, or somewhere else. Either way something was bound to happen.

He kept himself entertained by inspecting the tapestries he walked past. He was inspired with some great ideas for those but, seeing as it would probably be more effort than it was worth to put them into action, he settled with pulling some of them down and hiding them in various places as he continued his search for the kitchens.

About halfway down one of the more lavish halls he noticed a couple of palace guards on patrol. Unable to resist, he took to the air and flew closer. They'd been chatting idly as they walked the length of the hall, but upon seeing Discord they immediately went silent and regarded him with hard, suspicious glares. They came to a standstill, the unicorn guard lowering his horn ever so slightly in aggression. Discord tried to contain his grin.

“Excuse me gentlemen, I'm looking for my friend. Could you by any chance direct me to your fine establishment's kitchens?” He leaned heavily on the word 'friend' punctuating it with a wide, toothy grin.

The guards gave each other shifty glances, clearly not sure whether to trust their former enemy or not.

“Of course, if you'd rather not say I can always wander the castle trying to find it on my own. Unsupervised. By myself.” Discord said, inspecting a claw with feigned boredom.

The guards rethought their hesitance at this; “You're in the west wing. Go back the way you came, follow the hall on the left until you reach a staircase. It'll take you to the first floor. The door to the kitchen is at the end of the grand ballroom.”

“Of course it is.” Discord nodded sympathetically. “I'm sure, being who I am, I will be able to remember such direct and orderly instructions.” He then turned and flew away in the opposite direction, leaving two nervous and slightly confused guards behind him.

The kitchens weren't too hard to find after that though, and a few minutes later he crossed the grand hall where the Grand Galloping Gala was held annually and followed the adjoining hallway.

It seemed breakfast was over as only a handful of staff were left cleaning up the last of the disaster left in the wake of feeding the palace residence. Discord had woken up later than he realised it seemed. However, he could hear somewhere in the back the unmistakable sound of what can only be described as 'cookery'. He made his way past the rows of silver workstations to the source of the noise. However when he rounded the corner of the last row of stoves, chopping blocks and wash stations with the intent to startle his roommate, a very different pony greeted him.

“Hi there Discord!” Pinkie beamed.

“Ah. Pinkie Pie.” He answered, clearly disappointed as he tried to look past her in case Fluttershy was hiding somewhere.

“Are you here to help me bake cookies for the trip?” She smiled happily, a large bowl cradled in one foreleg as she stirred with the other.

“Not really.” He said as he turned his attention back to her. “Frankly I have better things to focus on right now.”

“You're not here to wreck the place and be a big meanie are you?” She asked, her smile snapping into a hard frown as she put the bowl on the counter.

“Oh please, and waste my time with these completely cowed ponies in the palace?” He pulled a face, sticking his tongue out as far as he could.

“Good!” Pinkie instantly switched back to her default mood.

“Yes. Well. If you'll excuse me.” Discord said flatly as he moved to go.

“Hey wait!”

Despite his better judgement he turned back to her, only to have something abruptly stuffed in his mouth.

“I baked that batch earlier but I don't know if they'll do the trick as travel-cookies! They have to help us keep our energy up. Whaddya think?” Pinkie practically glowed at him, waiting for an answer.

Discord swallowed down the ball of sugar before rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Good texture. Well balanced. Likely to cause serious hyperactivity. Perfect, I would say.”

“Yay!” She bounced in place happily before spinning around and promptly shoving the bowl she'd be stirring into his arms. “You hold that and keep stirring! I'm gonna throw the rest of the stuff in it!”

“Oh goody.” Discord scowled at the mixture in his paws.

Nothing would've given him greater pleasure than to add a few 'ingredients' of his own while Pinkie's back was turned. He wondered if he could still get his chance with what was lying around the counter. However it didn't seem like he'd need to as the next thing Pinkie tossed into the mixing bowl was a generous amount of chilli powder, humming to herself happily. She blinked up at him with a smile and made circular motions with a hoof.

“Stir! Stir!” She urged as she turned back to the counter.

Discord stuck his tongue out at her but did as he was told, if only out of curiosity as to what she was going to do next. He said nothing though, hoping that she'd made a mistake and was going to pay the price when she tested the dough.

The next thing to go in the bowl was almost an entire bag of sugar, eggs, chocolate chips, everything you'd expect from cookie batter. After she seemed satisfied with her concoction the moment of truth arrived and she dipped a spoon into it, taking a bigger bite than what was probably necessary. Discord waited, wearing his best poker-face. However, he was disappointed as she merely licked her lips and made various noises of approval.

“Perfect!” She squealed happily as she took the bowl again to presumably carry on with the next step.

A part of him really didn't want to take the bait but his curiosity had completely gotten the better of him. “Do you use chilli in all your cooking? I feel I should ask for future reference.”

“Of course not, silly!” She giggled at him with a snort. “These are for me! I like mine with a little extra kick! It's good!”

He nodded in response, satisfied with the answer. Feeling he'd been let go, he was about to leave when a thought crossed his mind. He smiled to himself as he pressed his forepaws together and said in what he felt was his most innocent voice; “Pinkie Pie, I just thought of a way to make snack-time on this trip a little more fun.”

“Really?” She twisted her head to grin at him.

“Why don't we take some of your 'extra-kick' desserts and mixed them in with everypony else's?” He said, walking closer to put an arm around her shoulders.

“Aw, but they don't like them spicy.” She sulked. “They always say its way too hot for them!”

“But think of it for a moment,” Discord urged. “If you mixed them in with everypony's then it could turn it into a game!”

“Yeah?” She blinked at him with interest.

“It could be a game of luck,” He continued. “Because none of them will know which of your treats are spicy and which aren't, every time they eat one it's a surprise as to what they're going to get! It'd be like a game of roulette, only everypony gets cookies.”

“Ooh!” She clapped her hooves together. “That sounds great! We could take turns guessing what the next pony is going to get and dare each other to take two at a time and stuff!! It'll be super fun!”

“Indeed it will.” Discord grinned as he started to leave. “But I will leave that up to you as I have other things to attend to.”

“I think Fluttershy's in the gardens.” Pinkie said, turning back to her dough. “She's been trying to make friends with the animals there forever! They don't seem to like ponies though.”

“I see.” He replied as he left.

“Don't tell her about these cookies!” She called after him. “It's our secret!”

“I wouldn't spoil your fun, trust me.” Discord grinned to himself.

“Thanks Discord! You're pretty neat!”

He hesitated for a moment, unsure how to reply to this. Eventually he decided it probably wasn't worth answering and continued in the direction of the exit.

It hadn't taken him long to find Fluttershy. The second he entered the Canterlot gardens she trotted past, chasing after what looked like a chipmunk which bolted straight up a tree and out of sight. She hovered in front of it, looking despondently into its branches.

“Oh please come down.” She cooed. “I'm sorry I startled you. I just wanted to say hello.”

Again, a perfect opportunity presented itself and Discord was unable to snap his fingers and make the most of it. Instead he made do with walking until he was directly behind her before speaking.

“Having trouble, my dear?”

Fluttershy shot straight up into the tree with a yelp, sending several twigs and one irritated squirrel to the ground.

“Oh... good morning Discord.” She smiled at him sheepishly when she recognised him.

“It doesn't look like the royal rodents around here are too friendly.” He remarked as she floated back to the ground, shaking herself free of leaves.

“They're probably just shy because ponies don't talk to them very often.” She answered, “If I just keep trying they'll realise I don't want to hurt them and they'll be my friends eventually.”

“If they think you're not good enough for them, I'd say just forget it and use your energy on creatures who are more worth your time.” Discord stuck his nose in the air.

“Like you?” She smiled innocently at him.

“Well I don't mean to blow my own horn...” He smirked and was rewarded when she laughed softly.

“Forget these snobs.” He said as he took flight to hover above her. “We can have fun without them.”

“Maybe if I give them a little space they'll calm down enough to come out.” She said, not fully listening to him.

“Yes, space. Like about 2 miles.” He nodded in agreement. “In fact why stop there? We can give them all the space in Equestia if they want it!”

“You're being mean.” She said with a light laugh.

“Just being myself, Fluttershy.” He shrugged. “Isn't that what you ponies always say is important?”

“Maybe...” She nodded.

“Unless you're a snob yourself, I suppose.” He suddenly gave a dramatic gasp. “Don't tell me you've been taking tips from our debutante, Rarity and want to join that little social circle of snobbery!”

“What? No, of course not!” Fluttershy shook her head, honestly alarmed at the idea.

Discord continued on with his performance, throwing an arm over his eyes. “All those trips to the spa together! Now I see the true reason behind it all! She's been grooming you to join her world of parties and fashion shows! Farewell to poor Discord and hello to high society!”

“I'd never do something like that!” She insisted, taking to the air to hover around his head with concern. “I'd never abandon one of my friends for anything! Especially not something so shallow!”

He couldn't keep up the facade and burst out laughing at her sincerity, rolling in mid-air to clutch at his chest.

“You're terrible!” She tried to glare at him but all she seemed able to manage was something between a pout and a light frown.

“How can I resist not taking advantage of such a heartfelt response?” He said, grabbing her around the middle and holding her out at arms length to grin at her. “You're just so easy to rile up and get a reaction from!”

She made a small noise at this, blushing to herself. Discord let her go to circle himself around her, grinning from ear to ear. “Your innocence is one of your most endearing qualities, my dear. I just can't help myself.”

He noticed a smile break on her face at this, despite her blush getting darker. “You don't need to make me feel dumb for caring about your feelings though.”

He laughed again, but this time with less of a bite to it. “Tell you what. To make it up to you, why don’t I try and catch one of these little rats for you.”

“Really? You won't hurt them will you?” She lifted her eyes to stare at him again.

He made a dismissive noise at this. “Of course not! I'll just get one face to face with you so you can pet it or feed it corn or whatever it is you want.”

“Well.... I suppose if you're gentle it won't be such a bad idea. I do want to make friends with them.” She caved.

“Of course you do!” Discord said, turning his attention back to the tree and scanning its branches. “Now... where did that ball of hair go?”

Seeing the oncoming danger, the chipmunk bolted further into the tree with a squeak. Discord shot after it, sending a rain of twigs down to the ground. Fluttershy watched from her spot with slight concern.

She was surprised. She'd never really considered Discord as athletic or anything but he was a lot faster than she'd thought he'd be. The chipmunk was still winning though. Every time it looked like Discord was going to grab hold of it, it jumped on either a branch several feet away or on his head for a means to escape. After a few too many close calls, it leapt out of the tree and shot across the garden's lawn. Discord streaked after it, leaving a sizeable gouge in the grass where he dropped down.

“Oh dear. Be careful.” Fluttershy called as she watched, but she was either ignored or unheard.

The chipmunk'd been aiming to run up another, larger tree but Discord cut it off. It slid under what looked to be very expertly trimmed hedges blooming with small christmas roses instead. Discord barrelled in after it. Fluttershy lost sight of them for a while, only hearing a mess of breaking twigs and several obscenities from Discord. She was about to fly closer to see if they were ok when they exploded into sight again.

However it seemed the rodent had had enough and disappeared in between the roots of a large oak down a burrow. Discord slid after it, apparently intent on following it, but whatever plan he'd had in mind for fitting in the hole obviously didn't work out and he smacked into the tree trunk, managing to get his muzzle stuck. Fluttershy trotted closer when she was sure the danger was over.

“Are you ok?” She asked after he'd managed to dislodge himself and sat glaring daggers at the burrow.

“My pride may take some time to recover.” He grumbled as he dusted himself off. “I can't believe you got me to chase after a rat like an idiot. I must be losing my mind.”

Fluttershy couldn't help but giggle to herself at this, causing him to snap his gaze at her instead. She tried to get herself under control again until she noticed his antler-like horn had speared several leaves during the short chase and now resembled a small bush growing out of his head. She burst into a fit of giggles all over again.

“Hilarious isn't it?” He shot her a frown before a sneer crossed his face. “Allow me to share in the occasion then. I'd hate for you to feel left out.”

She wiped her eyes to ask what he meant when he crouched down, aimed to pounce as his eyes flashed. She yelped and spun around, galloping in the opposite direction as he leapt to where she'd just been standing before giving chase.

She tried her best but Fluttershy had never been any good at sport and after a few laps around the garden Discord jumped, creating a bridge over her so she couldn't go backwards or forwards without running into him. She gave a small squeak and stumbled in place as she tried to find an escape but in the brief moment of standstill Discord snapped her up, curling himself around her and gripped her in a snake-hold.

“Oh no no! I'm sorry!” She squirmed against him to no avail.

Deaf to her pleading he then proceeded to bury his face in her stomach, resulting in her bursting into uncontrollable laughter as she tried her best to get free. The more she struggled the more tangled she seemed to get, as Discord refused to let her off the hook until she'd received her own amount of humiliation. Under a nearby tree, the chipmunk was watching this disgusting display with the most disapproval a chipmunk could muster.

“Hey you two! Where've you been?” a voice interrupted above them, followed by a grumpy Rainbow Dash.

She came to a hover a few feet above their heads as Discord let the yellow pegasus go, shooting Rainbow an annoyed look, daring her to comment on what she'd stumbled into.

“Twilght's been looking everywhere for ya! We need to get going or it'll take a whole extra day to get to Coltchester!” Rainbow said, catching his eye and pulling a face at him in response.

“Oh! I completely forgot!” Fluttershy said, turning serious again as she pushed the distracted Discord off her and took wing.

“About time.” Discord said as he rolled himself the right-way-up again and strolled after the two pegasi. “The sooner we can get out of here the better.”

“Don't like being so close to the Princess, huh?” Rainbow shot him a smirk. “What's the matter? Scared she's gonna do something to ya if you don't listen to orders?”

Discord rolled his eyes as hard as he could manage without his powers. “Actually, I'm just not the biggest fan of stained glass. It's a real strain on the eyes.”

“Yeah whatever.” She said as she grinned to herself.

“The wildlife could also do with some discipline.” He added with a slight hiss.

Fluttershy tried her best to stifle her giggling as they made their way to the Palace front doors.

Once everypony had gathered at the doors of the Canterlot palace and had their saddlebags brought to them, it was finally time to hit the road. Celestia and Luna saw them off as the group gave their formal goodbyes.

“We are counting on you Twilight Sparkle.” Celestia said, giving her student a warm smile. “My sister and I, as well as all ponies of Equestria. Remember, you are now just as much their protector and role model as Luna and I.”

Twilight gave her a bow. “I won't fail you Princess.”

“Be cautious. Think things through. Remember your ultimate goals.” Luna added to the group at large. “And good luck.”

“You can rely on us, your Majesties.” Rarity said followed by several nods and vocal agreements coming from the rest of the group.

And then, with bags tightened and farewells said, it was time to go. They left the palace grounds, the Princesses watching them until they turned a corner and were out of sight. They trotted through the streets of Canterlot, chatting idly and commenting on various things in windows and on menus as they headed for the city gates. Several ponies stopped and stared at them as they walked past, some even hurrying out of the way or disappearing inside a door. The small group tried their best to ignore them, although Rainbow Dash kept shooting Discord dirty looks and Fluttershy kept her eyes on the street in front of her. Discord, despite obviously being the main focus of the paranoia, didn't even seem aware of the attention and merely brought up the rear, Fluttershy pinned to his side. He seemed to be enjoying himself the most, watching everything they strolled past with interest or, probably more accurately, mischief in mind.

But the City gates soon came into view and once they'd crossed them and wandered past the initial guard houses and watch towers, they hit pure countryside. A few small farms broke up the green fields with their patchwork of crops, but after some travel even these petered out and they were alone. Grass became less trimmed and orderly and started showing a more wild mixture of flowers, long grasses, dandelions and clovers. The wind rushed across the open landscape easier and unidentified winged insects buzzed across the road in front of them from plant to plant.

The sun climbed higher and the day grew hotter. The soft chirping of grasshoppers were replaced by the harmonised buzz of cicadas hiding in whatever shade they could find. As the afternoon started to grow long the group took an afternoon break, finding a stray tree to wait out the hottest time of the day and eat something. Except for Discord who immediately scaled the tree and spread himself out on a branch to watch the ponies underneath him.

“Anypony wanna cookie?” Pinkie asked happily, looking from face to face eagerly.

“No thank you dear. I'm more interested in having something to drink.” Rarity sighed, pulling out a hoofheld fan from her saddlebag to cool herself off with.

“I thought you weren't gonna take that?” Twilight criticised as she unpacked some of the juice from her bag.

“Well, I thought about it again after we talked and I realised that with my magic being what it is at the moment I wouldn't have any other way of cooling down. And really, if I overheat then my hair gets completely out of control and I am just a wreck. I would hardly be the best traveling companion in those conditions so really, it's for all our sakes that I brought my fan.”

“It ain't that hot.” Applejack took off her hat and placed it beside her as Twilight passed her a carry-mug. “Besides it's only gonna be like this for another hour or so before it starts ta cool down.”

“Will we have to sleep out in the open when it gets dark?” Fluttershy asked nervously as she took a cup and held it over her head, a paw coming down to take it from her and into the tree. “I didn't see any tents in our bags.”

“We'll find somewhere to take shelter once we get in the forest.” Twilight said as she broke off a piece of bread for herself. “Otherwise yeah, we'll have to sleep outside, but it'll be fine. Luckily it's summer or we'd probably be in trouble.”

“It'd be too hot to sleep in a tent like this anyway!” Rainbow Dash added. “Ya got nothing to worry about Fluttershy.”

“I must say, I'm not really that excited about sleeping without a proper bed either.” Rarity commented, sipping from the cup she held awkwardly in her hooves. “If it rains then I can forget about doing anything with my mane until we return to Canterlot and I see a professional stylist and who knows how far in the future that will be?”

“Don't worry Rarity! I talked to Celestia's weather team before we left and they said the got it under control.” Rainbow shot her a smile and a wink. “There's no showers for like another two weeks. We'll be back in a proper house way before then!”

“Good thinking Dash.” Applejack praised.

“Yes, thank you Rainbow Dash.” Rarity said with a sigh of relief.

Time marched on and after a snack (sadly involving no cookies) the group pressed onwards. As evening rolled in they finally reached the forest. It started out thin with a few younger saplings before it grew thicker and darker around them. Yet at no point did it top or even match the ominous feel of the Everfree forest. The sky was always visible above them, and the shadows fell green and yellow around them rather than the strange purples and blues. Trees looked less gnarled and more traditionally shaped. Invisible birds sung around them and at one stage a rabbit ran across the path a little further ahead of them.

“I guess this isn't so bad.” Fluttershy said, mostly to herself.“I thought it'd be much scarier than this.”

“I told you it was nothing to worry about.” Discord said as he floated lazily above the small group.

“We'll head for Rainbow Falls and set up camp there.” Twilight said, trotting in the lead. “Then we'll start out again tomorrow at 6am sharp. That way we'll clear the forest late tomorrow evening and we can get to Coltchester about midday after that.”

“And of course, nothing ever goes wrong when ponies set themselves to such well-laid plans.” Discord remarked somewhere above her.

Twilight ignored him. So far everything seemed to have fallen into place just as she'd plotted out. She was confident that as long as they stuck to her instructions it would go exactly as she predicted. After all, this was her first proper mission as an alicorn Princess and proper designated leader of the group. She'd taken extra care to make sure nothing could go wrong.

Discord didn't try and push the issue. He merely pulled faces at Twilight's back before turning his attention to Fluttershy, leaning down to whisper to her although whether he actually cared if the others could hear him wasn't clear.

“Better stick close to me, Fluttershy. Just in case our wise Princess has made a mistake in her perfectly laid plans.”

Twilight said nothing, but she couldn't stop herself from ruffling her wings, wondering if Discord really had lost as much of his power as he said he did or if he'd merely been using it to read her mind in order to annoy her more than usual. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. At least she'd only have to put up with him for this trip. After that he'll either go back to staying at Fluttershy's house or, if he really got on her nerves, the Canterlot palace to be supervised by Princess Celestia. She contented herself with the fact that all she had to do was resist the urge to strangle him in the meantime.

The evening grew cool as clouds drifted over them lazily, slowly building in the east.

Author's Note:

Enjoy this moment of respite, dear readers. After this... things get harder.

I actually really struggled with this chapter. I was worried I was making Discord too nice. It's difficult to write him without his powers and somehow still make him be 'Discord'. I hope I'm doing an ok job. Please let me know how you feel it's going ok? I was also worried this chapter was too sugary sweet. My intention is not to write a sugary sweet fic. However, these moments are also needed in the larger picture.

Does America have Cicadas? We always hear them in summer here, although they sound different to the Japanese ones most people probably think of.

It's summer here as I write this, and the days keep getting hotter. Time for iced tea and cheese sandwhiches in the shade :)
Please let me know of any grammer or typos ok? and thank you very much for any and all feedback. And thank you double for even reading in the first place.
I hope this wasn't too boring a chapter TT^TT