• Published 10th Mar 2012
  • 3,859 Views, 509 Comments

Guilt and Hate - Mindblower

  • ...
8
 509
 3,859

Chapter Four

Chapter Four

*******

Rarity steadily led Fluttershy and Centime back to the rest of the group, using her intuition to forge the path. They had left the forest and were now traversing the moonlit plain. A steady breeze blew, but the air was deathly quiet--they could hear the shifting of the ground beneath their hooves, the rustle of the grass, even each other’s breathing. Fluttershy silently stared at the stars from time to time, which were brighter and more numerous than ever before. The air had a chill to it that was refreshing without being biting, like a brisk summer morning, even though they were walking in the middle of autumn.

Centime managed to keep up with Rarity’s hurried pace, even when Fluttershy was beginning to tire. She remarked at the little foal’s persistence and toughness. He was matching even Rarity’s slightly hurried pace. I’m worried about him. We don’t know how long it’s been since he’s eaten or how badly he’s injured.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to carry you?” Fluttershy asked. “It’d wouldn’t be any trouble at all, and you must be very tired.”

Centime glanced up at her, his expression slightly suspicious, before resuming his course indifferently. When she tried to approach him, he only backed further away.

This isn’t good for him, not in his condition, Fluttershy sighed as she looked at a gash running up Centime’s hind leg. He was limping slightly, but was trying to ignore the pain. If he keeps this up, he might collapse.

Rarity stopped suddenly. “I’ve had enough, Centime. You’re injured, probably sick, and I have no idea how long we’re going to have to walk. Either you’ll ride on my back or I’ll tie you to Fluttershy’s.”

No,” Centime said fiercely. “You can’t tell me what to do.”

“I most certainly-” Rarity started, before Fluttershy put a hoof on her shoulder.

“S-Sorry to interrupt, Rarity, but it’s his choice of whether he wants help or not,” she said tentatively.

Rarity glanced at Centime, then back to Fluttershy, before finally sighing in frustration. “Fine. We’d better make good time, though.”

Centime, after a while, just couldn’t keep pace with Fluttershy and Rarity. His limp had gotten worse, and one of his cuts had reopened, yet he still stubbornly refused any assistance. He backed away and glared threateningly at Rarity when she attempted to scoop him up onto her back.

“He’s quite the little soldier,” Rarity muttered, slightly irritated with Centime’s resistance.

“I guess,” Fluttershy sighed, more worried than impressed. “I wonder where he came from. There wasn’t anypony with him.”

“All the more reason to worry,” Rarity whispered. “He may very well be Deception.”

Fluttershy was shocked. “Rarity, how could you say that? He’s just a poor little colt who needs urgent medical attention.”

Rarity shook her head. “We’ll discuss it later.”

“Who’s Deception?” Centime asked, overhearing the conversation.

Rarity hesitated, but said, “A very, very, very bad pony.”

Centime scowled, an expression Rarity hadn’t seen on a colt his age before. She regretted her remark, but before she could apologize, a familiar blue pegasus ran up to the group.

“Rarity, Fluttershy!” Dash exclaimed with a wide smile. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you!”

Soon, the others had arrived as well, all of them relieved to see their group reunited. “Who’s that?” Pinkie asked, pointing at Centime.

Centime jumped back, startled by the sudden rush of ponies. “Wh-Who are you?!”

“We’re friends,” Celestia said softly, going to the front of the group and taking a knee. “Who are you?”

“Centime,” he said. His expression was a mix of suspicion, fear, and panic.

“We found him all alone on the plains,” Fluttershy explained. “There wasn’t anypony with him.”

“Nopony with him?” Celestia echoed. Her expression was hard to place.

“Do you know him, Princess?” Twilight asked.

Celestia glanced at her. “What? Oh, no, I don’t know him.”

“Can we keep him, Celestia?” Pinkie asked, bouncing up and down in front of the ruler. “Canwecanwecanwe?”

Celestia raised an eyebrow. “And if I say no?”

“Wait a minute!” Centime said, stomping his hoof on the ground in an attempt to get a morsel of attention. “Who are all of you?”

“Pinkie Pie!” Pinkie chirped.

“The one and only Rainbow Dash,” Dash said, brushing her hoof on her armor.

“Twilight Sparkle,” Twilight said, offering her hoof politely to Centime. He shrunk away from it as if it were toxic.

After the others had introduced themselves, Centime was still uncomfortable, though slightly more at ease than before. However, he still flinched backwards if any of them tried to touch him or fix his mane.

“What a charming little stowaway you’ve aquired,” the group heard an all too familiar voice say.

“Not again!” Celestia moaned.

*******

A draconequus carrying an inside-out umbrella was collecting droplets of chocolate milk that fell from randomly-appearing cotton candy clouds. Discord, in full splendor, was glowing with powerful magic.

“Woah, woah, woah!” Dash exclaimed as her armor began to glow with a light similar to Discord’s.

Centime’s eyes lit up with fear and anger. “You!”

“Wonderful weather we’re having, hmm?” Discord asked, taking a sip from his now-full umbrella ladle.

“You know Discord?” Twilight asked, turning to face Centime.

Centime was confused. He scratched his head. “Yeah, I think... huh? Why can’t I...” He shook his head and pawed his front hoof on the ground agitatedly. “I remember! You’re the one that took... that... that took...”

“I believe you’re referring to somepony slightly more ancient. Quite the flattering comparison, if I do say so myself,” Discord smirked as a cold wind turned all of the pink clouds into hard rock candy. A chill spread through the group. The clouds began to burst into pieces and rain down on the group, but none of the pieces were big enough to cause anything but annoyance.

“Alright, I’ve had enough!” Dash yelled, leaping at Discord.

“Poof!” Discord snapped his talons. Dash’s momentum vanished; she was suspended in midair, unable to do anything but flail her limbs.

“This... is... so... annoying!” Dash screamed. “Why can’t we hurt you?”

“That’s a simple math problem,” Discord began. “Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that one is more than zero. One is more powerful than zero and has complete control of everything zero does, but one is merciful and allows zero to survive under certain constraints. Well, Rainbow Dash,” Discord continued, whispering in Dash’s ear. “I’m the one, and you’re the zero.”

“That doesn’t make any sense!” Dash protested.

“Didn’t you learn basic algebra? One and zero are variables used to represent data,” Discord explained. “Though what do you care, I suppose? All I am to you is a pest that creates chaos, enjoys it for a while, and then is a punching bag for when you actually gain any reasonable amounts of power.”

“That’s exactly what you are to us,” Celestia growled.

“Well, you’ll never learn from your mistakes that way, Celestia,” Discord smirked. “I guess I’m done with my little lecture. I hope you’ve learned something, but you probably haven’t. On to my real shenanigan of the night.”

Discord glowed with a bright light. Twilight suddenly felt nauseous and bent over. The others probably felt the same way, but Twilight couldn’t see them well because her world was spinning so much. Colors and sounds all bent together with Discord’s sinister laughing, with grass becoming taller and Twilight becoming much, much shorter.

When the dust finally cleared and Twilight gained her bearings, she was standing in a completely new forest.

“Uhmm...” Centime gaped, glancing at the forest surrounding him. “What?”

“Huh?” Fluttershy asked, stunned by the sudden change in her surroundings. “Wh-Where are we now?”

“Well, little filly, that really isn’t of my concern, now is it?” Discord shrugged, dusting his talons off on his chest. “All I know is that you’re very far away from wherever you were originally going to go, and somewhere near where you ought to be headed.”

“I don’t understand!” Twilight exclaimed, intensely frustrated. “Why are you just... why are you toying with us?”

Discord walked up, leaned in close to Twilight, and tapped her on the nose. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

“I would, actually!” Twilight challenged, taking a step forward.

Discord chuckled. “Well, as I’ve said before, you have a job to do. I’m making sure you do it right.” Discord clapped, and a few trees around him collapsed into enormous piles of pencil shavings. “Ta!” he grinned before vanishing.

*******

The forest was very dark and gloomy without Discord’s warm glow. Crows and crickets made the majority of the noises that floated through the atmosphere surrounding the group, and it was almost unbearably eerie. Luna’s moonlight couldn’t pierce the thick canopy, so they were completely alone in near-darkness.

“Oh, no...” Twilight fretted. She had gotten out her map and lit a lantern to see it properly. “We were supposed to get out of the plains to the Splashing Streams by tonight, but, judging by the flora, we’re... somewhere in the North Indecidious Forest. It’ll take days to get back on track.”

Celestia’s horn lit up. “We have to get out of here. I think we can all agree on that.”

“But... But what just happened...?” Centime asked, his mind unable to compute the recent turn of events.

“Discord teleported us, and we have to find a place to set up camp before suns-... Well, I guess it’s too late for that,” Celestia admitted, glancing upward. The moon was impossible to see through the canopy, which made her slightly uneasy. “Let’s see if we can find a way out of the forest.”

Dash nodded, igniting her mane and casting a wavy rainbow light over the woodlands. They began to journey on.

The trees seemed infinitely tall, and the group felt infinitesimally short. This forest was picked for a reason, Twilight thought as she looked up at the shadowy tree limbs. Something about it makes me want to crawl into a hole and cover my eyes. She shivered in the chill of the wind.

“Listen, it could be worse,” Dash said. “I don’t get why you’re all so creeped out. It’s just a forest.”

“Dash is right, girls,” Celestia agreed. “If we waste our time thinking about how awful the forest is, we’ll be twice as slow getting out of it.”

Applejack nodded. “Let’s jus’ keep our heads in the game.”

They walked forward. Twilight pulled Celestia aside for a moment and asked quietly, “You were looking funny at Centime earlier. Why was that?”

Celestia shook her head. “Nothing.”

“Well, it had to be something, P-... Celestia,” Twilight shook her head in frustration. Why can’t I remember not to say Princess? she muttered to herself. “Anyway, if there’s something bothering you, you should probably tell me. It’s not safe for us to keep secrets from each other.”

“I know,” Celestia muttered. “Just give it a rest for now. We’ll talk once we’re out of the forest.”

Twilight sighed. Is Celestia keeping something from me that I ought to know? “Okay, Celestia.”

Pinkie, bubbly as always, was bouncing down the path with enthusiasm, her bright blue irises shining despite how dire the situation seemed.

“Pinkie, don’t you think you should conserve your energy?” Rarity asked.

“This is me conserving my energy, silly,” Pinkie chirped. She shivered in the cool wind. “Brr! It’s chilly out here.”

“Celestia, do you think we should set up camp now?” Rarity asked.

“Of course! I must have forgotten,” Celestia said. “It’s my first adventure in a long time; I guess I got carried away.”

“How long’s it been?” Dash asked. “I mean, since your last adventure... thing.”

Celestia rubbed her chin in thought. “Well, I don’t remember exactly, but well over one thousand years.”

“What was being possessed like?” Pinkie asked.

“In all honesty, it wasn’t fun,” Celestia sighed. “But I wasn’t possessed for the whole time; I just couldn’t control most of my actions. It was like a steady decline that ended with me becoming the Daymare.”

“We should probably get some sleep before we go on. Is here a good place to set up camp, Celestia?” Twilight asked.

Celestia asked, grinning slightly, “You don’t really have to ask me for everything, do you?”

Twilight nodded, slightly embarrassed, when she heard a voice call out from behind, “Hey! Anypony there?”

They turned around to see a familiar light brown, red-maned unicorn stallion with goggles strapped to his forehead and a hind legs tied to a high tree branch with a strong rope.

“Oh, thank all that’s heavenly and good, you found me!” He moaned, pain apparent in his voice.

*******

“Olly?!” Pinkie exclaimed, struggling not to burst out with laughter. He looks ridiculous!

“I’ve been hanging up here for the last half hour or so!” Olly complained. “I had just put your two tykes to bed when I wake up here in the middle of who knows where!”

Rarity’s eyes widened. “Where are Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle?!” she asked in panic.

“Right here,” grumbled a new voice. Scootaloo’s head was poking out of a nearby rock in the ground.

Dash burst out laughing. “How’d you get there?!

“Alright, I know it’s hard to take us seriously right now,” Sweetie Belle said, her midsection trapped inside a wide branch and her limbs flailing about in mid-air. “But this is really awkward.”

“I can imagine,” Celestia chuckled. “Just how did you end up like this?”

“You tell me!” Olly exclaimed. “As I’ve previously stated, I’d just gotten Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo settled, which is no easy task, by the way, and the next thing I know, I’m hanging upside down from a tree!”

Applejack stood under Olly and looked up. “Well, ain’t that a sight. They got ya hogtied real good there, Ah see.”

“What an astute observation,” Olly said impatiently, folding his front legs.

Celestia tested her wings. “Immortality has its upsides. An extremely fast healing speed is one,” she told the group. She flew up and slowly cut the rope keeping Olly captive, though his location unfortunately made him fall about ten feet onto Applejack.

“Oof!” Applejack said as she pushed the light brown stallion off of her. “Watch where yer fallin’!”

Olly shook himself off. “I’ll be more careful next time, Applejack, I promise.”

Twilight giggled; she couldn’t help it. “So that’s that? You’re not upset or anything?”

“Well, I’m a bit teed off at whoever did that,” Olly muttered, “but no harm, no foul. So, what’s the adventure this time? The holy flail, or a ‘Mystical Rod of Whatnot?’”

“Ugh, I don’t even want to talk about it,” Dash muttered, helping Celestia chip Scootaloo out of the teen’s stone prison. Celestia was using magic to crack the stone open and Dash was removing the leftover debris. After Scootaloo was free, Celestia flew up and gently removed Sweetie Belle from her branch.

“That was one of the stranger things I’ve seen,” Celestia remarked. “But I’m okay with more additions to the group.”

Scootaloo sighed at her dusty and dirtied pelt. “Any chance of me getting a shower? I have mud, well, pretty much everywhere.”

Dash raised an eyebrow. “I think you’ve been staying with Rarity too long, Scoot. Just what has she been teaching you over there?”

“There’s nothing wrong with cleanliness!” Rarity hmph

“We could probably find a stream or something when we take off tomorrow,” Twilight suggested. “Until then, we’re probably better off getting a good night’s rest.”

They prepared for a peaceful night in what would have been a scary forest. It’s strange, Fluttershy thought. Until we found Olly and the others, it was really frightening to be here. The three of them always seem to brighten our day.

I hope they’ll be safe travelling with us, Rarity sighed as Sweetie Belle laid down next to her. We always do have a knack for attracting trouble.

=====================================================================

*******

Twilight forced herself awake. Something didn’t feel right. A steady pulse moved through the air periodically, but that wasn’t what had jolted her upright. No, it was a different, more disconcerting feeling--the feeling that somepony’s eyes were boring into the back of your head.

Well, in truth, that wasn’t the only feeling that made Twilight panic a bit. She didn’t have any idea where she was, either.

It was like the dream dimension where she had visited Verba, only much, much less stable. The ground was made of solid water that was somehow still in liquid form, as if Twilight was merely standing in a puddle instead of the ocean she could see beneath her hooves. Columns of water that were once spiraling up into an endless sky were completely frozen in time--that is, to say, most of them were.

Some sped by at speeds so fast that they knocked Twilight backward, and others appeared only for a moment before vanishing again. Gravity, too, was different--Twilight felt that she was standing on a constant slope no matter which way she turned.

I can’t be awake, she thought, taking a few steps forward, though she did so carefully because she didn’t know whether the ground was solid or not. She stepped by a motionless column of water and glanced at it for a moment, but she did a double-take, because the pillar was a perfect mirror--even though the water was falling down with the force of a waterfall, she somehow could see herself with great clarity.

The eerie twist to this mirror, though, was that she lacked a horn--she was a simple earth pony. She flinched away from the mirror just in time, for just as she averted her eyes, she thought she saw the reflection struck down by an unseen foe.

Twilight tried to ask, Verba? but her throat was clogged. Her lips moved, but no sound came out. She was mute, even when she tried to cough.

This is no dream, Twilight thought, shivering. This is a nightmare. It’s a nightmare I can’t control, either, she thought as she tried to eject herself from the dimension to no avail. This is somepony else’s nightmare. Or maybe it isn’t a dream at all--maybe this is somewhere in between dream and reality. Or between dream and something else. But what else is there? A deeper dream? ...Death?

She hesitantly glanced at another column. This one reflected Dash, with a bright smile on her face--however, her wings were bloodied and torn, hanging useless at her sides. Twilight quickly averted her eyes, forcing the image out of her mind. Yep. Definitely a nightmare. But... It’s weird, because usually in nightmares, there’s something out to get you. Something you fear that’s coming for you. But all I’m seeing are things I’ve never thought of before. I don’t want them to happen, but... what’s the point? Is this my mind sending me a warning? Is it Obsidian?

A pillar of water, this one horizontal, plowed by and took Twilight’s legs out from under her. She yelled a swear and tried to say, I’m trying to think, okay! but, once again, no words came out.

I guess I just have to look at the other columns, Twilight thought. She glanced at the nearest one. It showed Sweetie Belle. She looked normal, but there was something off about her that Twilight just couldn’t place. Something not as obvious as the other images. Twilight tried to figure out what, but after a few minutes gave up and moved onto the last pillar. She caught a brief glimpse of an orange pelt--probably Scootaloo’s--before the watery floor came out from under her.

The water was unfathomably cold, and Twilight was unconscious in about a second.

=====================================================================

*******

Twilight shot awake, gasping for breath. That wasn’t an ordinary, ‘Hey, see you tomorrow, but you got to go now’ from Verba. That was a like him kicking me off a two-story building. I don’t think he would do that...

Celestia trotted over, concerned. “Twilight? Are you alright? Why are you up so early?”

“I think I’m fine,” Twilight answered, seeing that the sun was just barely beginning to peek from between numerous tree trunks. She got up and said, “I just had a... really strange dream.” Well, that’s not a total lie, she thought, pausing. I’ll tell Celestia about it once I figure out who’s sending me the messages. If it’s not Verba, well, that could be bad. She looked up at Celestia. “I know we’re not out of the forest, but I really think that you should tell me if there’s something wrong. Are you upset about something?”

Celestia looked away. “Twilight... It’s really hard to talk about it, okay? Do we have to?”

“No, but if you don’t tell me it’s probably going to come back to bite us later,” Twilight pointed out. “What’s been bugging you, Celestia?”

Celestia didn’t answer.

“Celestia, if we’re friends, then you can tell me anything,” Twilight reassured. “Please.”

“Not this, Twilight,” Celestia said. “Not this.”

“Stop being stubborn,” Twilight persisted, starting to get a bit frustrated. She stepped in front of the sun goddess. “I don’t want to pull rank on you, but I will if I have to. You shouldn’t be hiding anything from me, Celestia.”

Celestia smiled wistfully and closed her eyes for a moment. “Twilight... I wasn’t always Celestia, the sun goddess, the protector of Equestria. I’m only a few thousand years old. But the reason that I’m wary of Centime is because, well, I’m afraid,” she admitted.

“Why?” Twilight asked. “He’s just a foal.”

Celestia sighed. “Deception now has a body that can shape-shift, and I’m worried that Centime might be the form she’s chosen, that’s all. I’m just being careful. Deception isn’t somepony to underestimate, and I don’t want to make a rookie mistake.”

Twilight nodded. “I guess you’re right, we should be on the lookout. Centime’s appearance is awfully suspicious. But you have to keep in mind, Celestia, that if he really is just a foal... we can’t just throw him aside or treat him badly. He’s had a really nasty trip here, and we don’t know what he’s been through.”

“You’re right,” Celestia agreed. “It’s just that I’ve been a little paranoid lately.”

“You don’t have anything to be afraid of, Celestia; you’re immortal. I’m the one that has to worry about this mission,” Twilight said. “You can just find other Elements of Harmony later on.”

Celestia nodded. “I guess you’re right.”

Twilight smiled. “See? It’ll be fine.”

“I hope it will,” Celestia sighed. “Anyway, I could fly up and search for a nearby town, and then we can drop Centime off with the locals for the time being. That should be easy enough.”

“Right,” Twilight agreed. “Also, Celestia?”

“Yes?” Celestia replied.

“Where are we?” Twilight inquired.

Celestia thought for a moment. “Honestly, I can’t tell Fillydelphia from Manehattan...” she trailed off, embarrassed.

“Don’t be upset about it. It’s not like I know where we are, either,” Twilight said. “I just thought you might know Equestria more than I do. You’ve been here a lot longer than I have, after all.”

“So I’m supposed to know the country I rule inside and out?” Celestia snapped. She shook her head. “I-I’m sorry, it’s just that-”

“Celestia, why do you think you’re going to hurt my feelings every time you get upset?” Twilight asked.

“...Because I have a hard time controlling myself,” Celestia eventually said. Something caught her eye.

“What’s wrong?” Twilight finished.

Celestia stood up and walked over to Centime’s sleeping bag. It was empty, and small tracks were trailing away from camp. “Looks like we have a runaway.”

=====================================================================

[Note]: I do not own anything in this story that already belongs to someone else.
This story takes place BEFORE season two, but AFTER season one.
Please let me know if a link doesn’t work.