• Published 31st May 2014
  • 31,053 Views, 176 Comments

If You Came to Conquer - cleverpun

Nightmare Moon won. She defeated Celestia, broke the Elements, banished the sun. This all happened a very long time ago. So long ago, that she has had plenty of time to change her mind. Not that fixing it will be simple.

  • ...

3. Immutable

Discord smiled. He put on a pair of glasses, and slowly looked across the checklist he had made. The clouds had been easy enough. So had the buildings. The checkerboard sky was proving a little more difficult.

He looked upward. “She really stuck that up there, didn’t she?” The moon still sat near the horizon, moving slowly back and forth. It kept blurring any patterns he put up there, and the sun stubbornly refused to come back, no matter how hard he prodded and pulled and poked.

He shrugged and tossed the list aside. The glasses soon followed. “Plenty of time to sort that out later, I suppose.”

He fished around in his pockets for a while, and finally found what he was after. His grin widened, the thin strand of ethereal hair barely visible in between his fingers. “After all, we have all the time in the world.”

He poked the single strand into the ground and summoned a cartoonish, oversized watering can. The liquid that sprinkled out was prismatic and chromatic and translucent all at once. The ground rumbled, and the hair stretched and morphed into a black and blue flower.

Discord took a slurp of coffee. The mug still had a cacographic “#1 Dad” scrawled on the side. “I wonder what little Luna is up to, over there,” he said to himself.

His laugh echoed across the moonlit wasteland.

Author's Note:

“We have no specific destiny against which we can fight — for the fighting would be as much a part of the destiny as the final end.”
— H.P. Lovecraft

Comments ( 118 )

I do indeed love my little Luna. I feel bad I haven't been able to keep up with my own story.

hi hi

First thing I gotta say is, wow. You've crafted something both beautiful and haunting. Even as complicated as dealing with yourself across time is, it never felt like it was being taken lightly. In fact, the weight of Luna's actions felt heavier than any dazzling and distracting pyrotechnics. They might not have been right, but I feel like I can take her word that they were the least wrong, having tried so many times and failing at something better.

As for penance, I don't typically see it used as a synonym for karma or kismet. In my experience, penance is an action that comes from the desire to be forgiven, rather than cosmic forces outside of one's control. But in the context of some form of cosmic balance, I am forced to agree with Celestia. Punishments don't help balance any sort of cosmic equation.

Outside of the context of cosmic forces though, I have to assert that actions by people who strive to prevent bad things from happening in the future, regardless of their past actions, have some merit. And people who make mistakes can sometimes be worthy of forgiveness. The desire to prevent future wrongs doesn't have an expiration date, when people concern themselves with the potential victims before their concern for their own social standing. So in that sense, Celestia is correct in that you cannot buy it off, but at the same time, people who haven't done wrong are often just as responsible, although expertise in a specific area can make someone better suited to dealing with those issues than others. One cannot purchase an indulgence for future wrongdoings, but one can act to make future problems less demanding. And when it comes to trust, actions can speak louder than words.

"If that is victory, woe unto the victors!" - Ofer Shelach

4379875 Thanks :twilightsheepish:

I tried to give both Princesses a mix of valid points and flawed points. Ultimately, I wanted their conversation to illustrate their biases instead of simply leading the reader to picking one or the other position. I considered making their arguments more simplistic, but I already did that with I Am Not the Actor.

The trick of time travel, obviously, is that it obfuscates things in a way that can't happen otherwise. It's the classic "what if" of Real Life taken to a fictional extreme. The disconnect between the actions and the consequences disrupts closure, and that is the real crux of their debate. Sort of like Primer or that one episode of Justice League, maybe.

In general, however, I would be inclined to agree with you--results and timing can make certain decisions more confusing and less defensible, but intent is almost always what matters. Performing CPR on someone may make things worse, but that wasn't its intent at the time. Purchasing an indulgence isn't intended to amend or deflate anything, just to ease the conscience.

4381869 derp, fixed :derpytongue2:

The first chapter is the darkest, if that affects your decision at all. This is also not the darkest thing I've written (not even on this account) :raritywink:


I suppose if that odd framing of the term penance, as a form of cosmic balance, is done on purpose, then Celestia makes a bit more sense. From her own perspective, the argument is sound, but it is flawed in that it doesn't consider other things outside that narrow point of view. Its hard for me to conceptualize Celestia being narrow minded, but I suppose I do find myself ignoring her extremely dubious actions in The Crystal Empire and onward, because they just make my brain hurt.

I don't think that time travel disrupts closure, at least for me. Either way you slice it, its a classic Utilitarian trap of the, "do the ends justify the means?" category. In this case, it is actually made a lot simpler. Because in the end, the means that Luna chooses -killing the part of herself that was separate from Nightmare Moon- is less severe than what means would have happened instead. (And that's not even taking into account the consequences.)

I try not to think of moral actions in either/or terms. Intent is always important, but it is not "the" important thing. Other things are important and need to be considered at the same time, like the available alternatives, and other people's wishes. There's an old saying about paving roads with good intentions.

I feel so bad for original-Luna, dying like that, fallen so far into her madness she didn't know which way was up.

I feel happy for Nightmare-Luna, having fixed her timeline as best she could.

I feel oddly happy for Discord, who now has an entire planet and more to play with, and nothing to oppose him, forever.

So I guess even discord can't send ponies back in time.

I enjoyed this. Though I have to admit I am a bit confused, even if I feel I shouldn't be.

Is the story inferring that Nightmare Moon and Luna are two distinct entities? That Nightmare Moon wishes to serve her true penance for killing Luna, as opposed to originally killing Celestia?

I suppose the confusion arises from the fact that she killed herself in the past, something that should be impossible. Of course this action leads to the train of thought that Nightmare Moon is a distinct entity from Luna. The only conflict for me with this though is how Nightmare Moon described herself in the first chapter, as if Luna and Nightmare Moon where one and the same, two thought processes of the same individual.

Unless of course I missed something. Either way I enjoyed the story, even if it was a tad depressing.

I am not sure what to make of this final chapter.
My first idea is that the main protagonist's actions do not overwrite history but participate in an alternate timeline. If so, I have to wonder what "#1 Dad" puts his children through, or if Celestia ever finds out she lives beside a multiversal impostor of sort. It is a very dark conclusion.
But I have the nagging feeling you are suggesting something else. At least tell me you are not going for the ambiguous ending let-down.

I am so confused right now...

Not sure what this last chapter's implying. I'm going to go with the either: a) stable time loop prevents time travel from doing anything, so Discord killed/put her in a coma/dying dream'd Luna or b) he used the power of the multiverse and shoved her in either the canon timeline or one similar, she killed "canon" Luna and has taken over for her while Discord remains in the grimdark timeline.

My guess would be that it's a classic time travel paradox.

Essentially, when Discord sends Luna back in time, she changes her past to such a degree that it splits off into a brand new timeline...

But the original timeline remains. It HAS to, otherwise no future version of Luna/Nightmare Moon would exist to go back and change things. So now there are two universes... the one where Luna/Nightmare Moon killed Celestia, and everything but her (and Discord) died, and the new one she created.

4477676 I prefer to leave room for interpretation, but I admit there is a fine line between "interestingly vague" and "frustratingly ambiguous".

Personally, I like the duality that the Alternate Universe interpretation creates--Is Nightmare Moon responsible for "improving" that version of reality, or was it inevitable regardless of her involvement?

Either way, you are right that this is a rather dark conclusion (hence the Dark tag :ajsmug:).

Bonus trivia: I did consider an extra scene where Celestia finds out the truth (because of this comment -- maybe as a sequel or something?)

4477642 My idea was that Discord did not send Nightmare Moon to the past. Rather, he sent her to an alternate universe (the "main" one: the one covered by the show).

The idea that Nightmare Moon is lying to Discord (and by extension, herself) is an interesting interpretation, however. It certainly makes the second chapter read very differently.

4477819 I personally like B, but they both sound like pretty big dick moves on the part of Discord.

It feels kind of tacky that she shows up and then murders Luna.


Especially because "convince Luna or kill her if she doesn't change" is a pretty poor plan for someone who's had such a long time to think it over.

Creative and engaging. Keep at it!


The 'B' option doesn't work quite as well as Chapter 1 implies she's done this very thing many times before, which is why she settles on the nuclear option.

Otherwise, well, why not cripple Luna, then turn her over to Celestia, so on and so on?

4478917 4479069 4479754 I wanted there to be an implication that Nightmare Moon is not perfectly sane. Despite her attempts to appear rational and erudite, she still uses violence to solve all her problems.

I actually did tone down the ending once (the first draft was even more corny), but I can see how it still might be a little over the top.

Thank you for this clarification. When I see a grandfather paradox being followed with an alternate timeline, I assume the multiverse does not otherwise naturally sprout branches. Bad enough that the protagonist couldn't undo the past, but making it Happy Outcome n°174^21 as well? I guess I do not read that many dark fics.
Daddy Discord's end of the deal is interestingly open as well. He should at some point be able to say "Let's there be light!" and let the sun rise over beings living only for his sadistic pleasure. That's horrible. But Discord is not AM, so there is hope he would eventually have his KCaFO/TsK moment.

And now... Discord has an eternity of Minecraft for himself.

This story is perfect! I read it with pleasure.
One thing. Is it just me, or this epilogue sort off hints, that Discord didn't send Luna/NMM back in time, but locked her in moon, in Inception style dream?

Oh how dark.

Enjoyed the story.

This was a nice story; I'm glad I read it.

Though I'll admit for a few moments I thought the ending was going to imply that Discord had, in fact, done what he had intimated he would do in the first chapter - create a fun world to play in - and that he had simply sent Nightmare Moon into his little playground.

But that wasn't where it went. :raritywink:

To the RL list with you!


The 'not entirely sane' ending really works better if she's in her own little pocket delusion. It ends that story perfectly, in many ways.

If she reality jumped, it just feels...jarring, I suppose.

This was interesting. This makes me feel bad for the Princesses so much more than the standard interpretation. There's no reason Nightmare Moon can't become Luna if she truly believes it herself, she was, after all, Luna before, and she did do this all to get her sister back, but the fact that her time travel has led her to a place of seemingly infinite guilt, well, it is early yet, in the show, but it makes me sad still. While it would be neat to see a scene where Luna reveals what she really did to Celestia, it would kind of undermine the idea that the new timeline is the show timeline.

As for the time travel itself, I was a little put out when Discord said that "history is immutable" and then proceeded to make it sound like it was just really difficult. I suppose he could have just been cryptically referring to the effects of unrestricted time travel though. I like the design for time travel you ended up going with. I imagine that the "safe" time spells were all designed to prevent the user from branching the timeline and becoming stranded, leaving the original timeline with an event where they just permanently vanish. Since that was in Discord prime's interests though, why not? Overall, the way this worked out, I don't really see the need for an AU tag, unless you were pushing for a different interpretation without actual time travel.

I have to say, I really enjoyed your Discord dialogue. It really felt like his voice. Given what's happened to him now, I have to wonder if the dark world discord will end up more or less happy than the primary timeline Discord.

Once Discord gets out, he can do anything he wants in this world. ANYTHING. NMM is utterly powerless against him. Indeed, with the Elements 'broken' and so much despair and misery running rampant the spell upon him would have waned very quickly.

His rule would be eternal.

I feel that this is yet another reality I, as the Deus Ex Insert, would have to utterly destroy. It is beyond any hope of recovery.

And I can only say that NMM is impossibly stupid, allowing every living thing to die before realizing what a terrible mistake she'd made.

I actually prefer a much shorter story that included a very stark look at the consequences of an impossibly mad NMM winning without all this time travel/mental illusion stuff cluttering it up: A chapter which showed the moon shining dully over a frigid, dead world; and NMM frozen to her throne with an icy tear forever on her cheek.

It was much more poignant.

4485455 I personally don't see anything jarring about the AU scenario--lots of people hide or ignore their mental illnesses in Real Life, and Princess Nightmare would already be covering up lots of other details in order to fit in.

As I said before, though, any interpretation is valid. :raritywink:

4485469 I tried to write Discord as a self-serving troll--the minor inconsistency about his information did slip by me and my editors, but now that you mention it, I kind of like it. It feeds into his personality, even I didn't quite intend it that way.

4485718 While Nightmare Moon simply dying might have been a valid result of her behavior, it doesn't really make for an engaging story. The essence of story is Conflict, after all.

That's not to say someone couldn't write a good story starring Nightmare Moon in a dead world, but there would need to be some sort of tangible obstacle to overcome, and there would need to be some sort of potential for her to survive the ordeal and fix it. Otherwise, the result would be a little dull (no Conflict) and only induce apathy instead of pity or sadness (no hope).


If she's in a pocket-delusion, then the entire thing is cast in a layer of dramatic irony that doesn't exist if it is another Equestria. It's basically the difference between 'Luna earns herself heaven, even if it is fake' versus 'Luna earns herself heaven by committing an even more beastly crime.'

The problem with it being another reality is that...well, so what? Nothing changes from that point onward. It doesn't cast the FiM universe in a darker light, really. Luna is a fake and...then what? It kind of just falls off past that point since it's implied everything proceeds swimmingly from there. And even if it is discovered some day...it's kind of...I dunno. It just doesn't really -fit-. It's too abrupt and senseless.

Which, in the real world, is a thing that happens. But...it doesn't really make for a good story, because that's not what we're wired to seek and enjoy.

Hence the preference for the pocket dimension. :pinkiehappy:

His grin widened, the thin strand of ethereal hair barely visible in between his fingers.

How has nobody commented on this? Am I the only one curious about it? Seriously, is he 'growing' another Celestia and/or Luna?

I really like this. The characters are extraordinarily well voiced and the writing is simple and brutally effective. I love all the potential interpretations too.

Also, nice touch with that '#1 Dad' mug.

4491178 Also, I must point out, this Discord isn't very chaotic.

He lacks the sponteneity of the character. He sits back and lets the world die rather than breaking free when he can to prevent it from becoming 'boring'.

And now, he's content to watch Luna in a pocket universe/dream while ruling over a lifeless rock?

Even Q wouldn't be so bland!

I must be stupid, because I fail to understand this at all. Someone draw me a diagram, please?

So, what I get is that in continuity 1, Luna-1 kills Celestia-1 in the Everfree castle, and then spends 1000 years in a sunless world regretting it. Eventually Discord's statue cracks, and she convinces him to send her back in time.

Luna-1, now NMM, arrives in continuity 2, and speaks to Luna-2 there. But then the narration says that she has already tried to reason with Luna-2 many times??? Was it Luna-1 going back in time using her own restricted book spells (before the story starts) that originally corrupted Luna-2, or what???

Then Luna-1 kills Luna-2 and it is implied that (in the crack between chapter 1 and 2) she deliberately loses to Celestia-2 and is sent to the moon and more or less the entirety of FiM happens as shown on the screen, right?

Am I supposed to infer something from the description of the throne room doors at the end of chapter 2? The doors to the Canterlot throne room in the FiM continuity (seen when Twilight leaves it at the beginning of "The Crystal Empire") do seem to match the description here. Am I supposed to infer something from the context of the scene, Celestia-2 and Luna-1 going to meet all the element bearers in the throne room? I don't remember that happening anywhere in the show.

So confused.

4477642 Originally, Luna transformed into Nightmare Moon and killed Celestia. A long time later she frees Discord and has him send her back in time. There she kills past-Luna and takes her place. Future-Luna was sent to the moon, and future-Luna is in this chapter. Freed-Discord was left behind in the universe where Nightmare Moon won.


But then the narration says that she has already tried to reason with Luna-2 many times??? Was it Luna-1 going back in time using her own restricted book spells (before the story starts) that originally corrupted Luna-2, or what???

I think the author was saying that NMM-2 has spoken with Luna-2 and those convince her to try to kill Celestia-2. Luna-2 mistakes NMM-1 for NMM-2 and doesn't understand why she is trying to convince her to stop.

No, what I'm talking about is

“Luna, listen to me!” It was happening again. Every time Luna acted the same way and now she was simply adding another failure to her record.

“I wanted to tell you this, to convince you how poisonous she was,” Nightmare Moon said. “But every time, on every single trip, you would ignore me, and nothing would change. I would just have the memories afterward. The fleeting recollection of another mad delusion, a footnote in a series of insane ramblings.”

which both seem to say that Luna-1, this particular NMM, has made several prior "trips" to try to reason with some young Luna. I'm confused whether the Luna that NMM visited on the earlier trips was Luna-2 or Lunas from a completely different continuities. The "I would just have the memories afterward" even seems to suggest that NMM visited her own self in the past, in stable little time loops, and only through Discord-1's intervention did a new continuity with Luna-2 in it get created.

4496533 Oh, I didn't think about that. Maybe it was NMM-1 pretending to be NMM-2 to convince Luna-2?

4496533 4496309 I originally figured that standard time travel can only result in Stable Time Loops (as per that one episode). To get around this, Discord-A sends NMM-A to Universe B, not backwards in time of Universe A. NMM-A never interacted with Luna-B before this, which is why Luna doesn't initially realize that she is a separate pony (the mental illness probably didn't help either).

As other comments show, however, this is only one way to interpret the story :twilightsmile:

4491178 4491932 I like how there's a comment about the flower and the #1 Dad mug right next to each other.

4495921 Actually, Q had a very deliberate modus operandi in nearly all of his episodes. Even at his most dickish (moving the Enterprise into the way of a Borg ship, giving Riker Q powers just to try and make him corrupt), his actions still have clear motives. He does lots of annoying/spontaneous sight gags, but they cover a surprisingly methodical set of actions.

Discord, as an Expy of Q, is the same way. I even highlighted it in the narration of chapter 1. Admittedly, one of my editors did point out a similar issue--that Discord was not as funny or chaotic as he should be. For the reasons above, however, I don't really see the character as a comedy device--his behavior obscures other motives, it is not really a motive in and of itself.

As for why he would sit back and let the world die, I tried to cover that in chapter 3; he wants a blank slate to work with. The show establishes he is partially aware of things even while in stone, and in chapter 1 he is rather quick to forgive his imprisonment (which in the show was one of the few things that made him angry)

Yes, yes, but what I'm confused about are those earlier "every single trip" that NMM-A starts speaking about. They don't seem to have been introduced or explained in the story.

4497855 Pretty much what I said then.

Yeah, I'm in the camp that wants you to do a sequel to this. Concept and execution are good so I see no reason to not take that and run with it however long you can.

4497855 Irrational. If Discord wanted a blank slate, he is more than powerful enough to erase all life on his own or transform it into anything of his liking.

The argument cannot be made that this Discord is against killing, since he is not the Discord of the show.

He is also not a proper Q-alternate, as Q didn't want all life to end for his amusement. In fact, Q went to quite an extreme to help prevent Picard from ending the life on Earth in the series finale.

This Discord seems to exist only as a plot device, not with any natural motivations as he could easily create the conditions he desires on his own.

4501862 Except that obviously isn't true, since Discord was defeated at least twice by the Elements--thus showing there is limits to his powers. :derpytongue2:

Show-Discord also spent a very long time ruling over Equestria (though Celestia doesn't say how long he was doing that before they stopped him), so the motivations match this version of him, even if the execution is different.

And you could make the argument that this Discord is against killing, since he clearly doesn't kill anyone. Whether transporting NMM to another universe or locking her in a lotus eater dream is more morally reprehensible is another debate, obviously.

4497952 Your previous comment got it, more or less. This story only covers the two versions of reality, so all of NMM's previous trips were to the same iteration of the past.

Unless she never went to the past at all, and was just hallucinating them all in an attempt to comfort herself. :rainbowderp:

4498110 Eh, writing more is never out of the question, but I like how succinct-yet-open-ended the story turned out. I think if I ever did end up writing a continuation, it would be a single chapter sequel instead of a new chapter--that way anyone who wanted to ignore it in favor of their own interpretation could.

Not a fan of the last chapter but the rest was very good indeed. Very nice work thanks for sharing.

4502804 And Q was defeated by other Q and made human for a while, at which time he could have been killed, meaning he was not 'omnipotent' either.

But for all intents and purposes to anyone not a Q or (in Discord's case) not possessing the magical Ultimate Rainbow Mcguffin or some lame OP ability to steal all the magic of everything and use it perfectly instantaneously (Tirek sucked!), he is essentially omnipotent.

First chapter: I like it. I can believe that it happened.

Second chapter: I can see that discussion taking place. I just can figure out when it takes place.

Third chapter: I have no idea what the purpose of it.

Have a like.:raritywink:

Good story. Mb a sequel? Where Celestia find out about Nm past and etc Please:pinkiehappy:

Well, that was heavy.
Chapter 1 would have been a good story on its own.
Chapter 2- eh, I got lost a bit with the back and forth on the nature of penance, but it was a nice, emotional epilogue.
Than chapter 3 is apparently the real epilogue and made no sense to me before I went back over the comments/forums. But that's probably more my fault than yours.
Cool stuff.

4506615 Chapter 2 is supposed to take place right after S2E2

At the time it was published, I went back and forth a few times on putting it on my read later list for a number of reasons, and ultimately decided not to. I've now gone through with actually reading it after seeing a positive review from Chris.

My conclusion? It's decent. It delivers what it promises, it's got a few clever bits (no pun intended), and it's an interesting concept in and of itself. I agree with those that said Discord isn't really as chaotic as normal, but your rendition of him was still very much in-character given the circumstances and any discrepencies are minor and excusable. And I like an in-character Discord.

The usual ambiguity of your stories is also there, at once allowing for the fun of multiple interpretations and the frustration of confusing vagueness. How the time travel worked, and if it was even time travel, was definitely something that could've used slight expansion. However, in this particular case, there wasn't much that was too confusing. I didn't need to consult the comments to reach a conclusion as to what the hell happened, as I do with some stories, although reading the comments anyway did lead me to change the conclusion I came to. Not quite a perfect balance between conveying information and allowing for freedom of interpretation, but one of the more mild imbalances. Certainly one of the more justifiable.

Numeric ratings with me don't really mean much, but for what it's worth... 4/5ish. I guess. Around that.

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