• Published 24th Sep 2014
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The Witching Hour - Chaos is Change - Chaotic Ink



Part 2 of The Witching Hour. Midnight's been in Ponyville for a year and been through a lot already. But, honestly, she and her friends haven't seen anything yet.

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Ch.1 - A Big Ol' Storm of Chaos

“Stay together everypony!” Miss Cheerilee called out, shepherding the foals in her class to the next stop on their tour of the Canterlot Sculpture Gardens. It had taken her weeks of writing letters to the castle to allow her class to take their yearly field trip there, but she had done it. It would have been nicer if they could have had the trip during the school year so as to allow for a better learning session (summer is a horrible time to try to teach fillies and colts anything), but most families had agreed it was too good an opportunity for them to pass up, so most of her class was there. “Now, that statue represents victory!”

Everypony, including two unicorns, an earth pony, and the class’ only thestral oohed and ahhed at it as they made their way past. “I think it would be cooler if she was wielding a sword!” Pinchy said, only loud enough that her three friends would hear. “I mean, who ever heard of claiming victory with a flag?”

“Winning a game of Capture the Flag?” Dinky said.

“True, but-”

“Placing it at the top of a really big mountain that you just climbed?” Squeaks added.

“Fine, but-”

“Uthing a little one to thow juth how epic your pile of brownith ith?” Twist said, licking her lips.

“That doesn’t even-!”

“Girls, don’t fall behind!” Cheerilee called out as the class moved on. Grumbling about how a sword would have still looked better, Pinchy followed her friends after the rest of the class.

Pinchy's friend, Squeaky Wings, had only joined the class after being adopted by the kirin, Midnight Storm. Her father, a brutal thestral from an even more brutal colony, had tried to dispose of her in the Everfree Forest. By an amazing amount of luck Midnight had found her wandering the woods, and after saving her from a pack of timberwolves, took her in. They had bonded quickly over the next few days they had spent together, so much so that when Squeaks' father had been discovered in Canterlot, Midnight had refused to give her over, and had even tried to attack the thestral stallion. Princesses Celestia and Luna had spared his life, but turned custody of the bat filly over to Midnight. The two had lived happily with their house-mates, Sapphire Breeze and Windrunner, ever since.

They were now at the center of the gardens, which was dominated by a statue of two figures, one of which Squeaks was sure even her mother’s book of creatures had never described. “Now, what can you all tell me about this statue?”

“That big thing’s got an eagle claw!” Applebloom yelled out.

“And a bat wing!”” Scootaloo said.

“And a goat horn!” Sweetie Belle noted.

The teacher nodded. “The larger creature is what’s known as a draconequus. He has the head of a pony, and the rest of his body is made up of all different things.” Cheerilee clarified.

Squeaks squinted up at the creature’s head. It sure didn’t look like the head of a pony; more like a goat’s if she had to pick something.

“Now, what do you suppose this all means?” Cheerilee asked, noting who had thoughtful looks on their faces.

“Insanity!” AB yelled.

“Confusion!” Sweetie countered.

“Chaos!” Scoots called out.

“It’s not chaos you dodo!” Sweetie chided.

“Don’t call me things I don’t know the meaning of!” Scoots yelled back.

“Yer both wrong!” AB said, starting a brawl between the three friends.

“Whath gotten into them?” Twist whispered to Squeaks.

The bat pony shrugged. Usually the Cutie Mark Crusaders, CMC for short, were as tight as the Pillow Knights. Now, however, they were going at each other as if they were confusing one another for Diamond Tiara. “Maybe they only had two cookies to share on the train ride up here,” she guessed, watching as they continued to struggle with each other.

“Actually, all three of you are right,” Cheerilee said, putting a halt to the brawl. “These statues represent a lack of harmony between ponies, also known as Discord. In fact, you three have demonstrated a lack of harmony so well, that you’ll each be writing an essay on it.”

The CMC’s mouths dropped open. “But Miss Cheerilee, it’s summer!” AB whined.

“Not on this field trip it’s not. Look on the bright side you three; you have all summer to work on it.” When Cheerilee turned to lead the class to another part of the gardens, all three fillies shot damning looks first at her, then each other.

“It is chaos!” Scoots whispered angrily.

“Insanity!” AB tried again.

Squeaks watched the CMC walk away, then turned back to the statues of Discord. She couldn’t put her hoof on it, but something was… off about them.

“Come on Squeaks!” Pinchy called after her.

“Coming!” She looked back at the statue, then heard a cracking noise, one so faint that she was sure she was the only one to hear it.

A crack had formed up the front of the statue, and with it came what sounded like chuckling. The kind of chuckling you never wanted to hear in a dark place, night vision or not. Squeaks let out a squeak and practically flew back to her friends.

It’s just a creepy statue,’ she thought. ‘Cracks happen in them all the time, and one of the caretakers is just having some fun scaring me.’

“Are you alright Squeaky? You look like you saw a ghost.” Dinky asked her.

“Huh? No, it’s just those statues back there kinda scared me.”

“Those statues aren’t scary.” Pinchy interjected. “My mom’s casseroles; now those are scary!”

They all got a good laugh at that.

What looked like a funnel cake dripping iced tea shot by overhead.

-----------------------------

“Alright, one, two, three!”

With twin grunts Midnight and Windrunner heaved the giant log up off the ground and onto the four saw-horses the kirin had set up earlier. Both wobbled a bit as they landed. They had spent all morning hauling the massive log they had found in the Everfree back to the house and with the last bit of their strength got it ready to be cut. If Midnight had to guess it was at least two and a half times the width of a normal tree and twice as long. ‘And four times as heavy’ she thought bitterly. All four saw-horses sagged under the weight; a testament of just how large it was.

“Okay, we’ll start cutting this beast up after lunch.”

“No complaints here.” Windrunner agreed.

Midnight had been pleasantly surprised how resilient the pegasus from the buffalo tribe was when it came to work. She never complained and was always eager to please. Even with the huge piece of wood the two of them had hauled back, she had never once asked for a break. Add to that the fight the two of them had with a manticore just the previous day, where it had been Windrunner who finally drove it off, and Midnight was confident of the recommendation letter she was going to send Celestia later that day.

Midnight had discovered the pegasus on a trip to the desert town of Appleloosa with the bearers of the Elements of Harmony. As the captain of the secret Bearer Guard, it was her job to shadow them where ever they went. She'd been bestowed with the title by Princess Celestia after the alicorn's discovery of the kirin in Ponyville, thanks to a letter sent by Twilight Sparkle. The princess had told her she was perfect for the job, both because of her abilities and because in her few months in the town she had become somewhat 'friends' with the bearers. Midnight had hesitantly taken the position, but kept her original job as a woodcutter and firewood provider for Ponyville.

Celestia had also given her an assistant, Sapphire Breeze, to act as a liaison between the two. The two formed a friendship almost right out of the gates. She had been there when she had adopted Squeaks and when she had revealed her reason for traveling from town to town for the three years before settling in Ponyville. She was Midnight's closest friend and confidant.

“Hey, what’s that?” Windrunner asked.

Midnight looked up to where the pegasus was pointing and saw a pink cloud hovering in the sky above the house. “I… I have no idea what that is,” she confessed.

Without a word, Windrunner shot into the air, still wobbling slightly, and came down a minute later holding the pink cloud as if it was trying to bite her. “Whatever this is, it’s not a cloud, unless there are clouds that smell like sugar.”

“Not the last time I checked.” Midnight edged forward and sniffed it. It did indeed smell like sugar and, acting on a bit of faith, she took a bite out of it. A normal cloud, when bitten into, simply became water in one’s mouth. Midnight often did this during her hunts and when out collecting wood so she wouldn’t need to carry a canteen around. When she bit into this cloud though, she got something completely unexpected. “It tastes like… cotton candy?”

“It’s starting to leak, too.” Windrunner said, noticing a brown puddle beginning to form on the ground beneath the atmospheric treat.
Once again Midnight hinged on the hope that it wasn’t something foul and stuck her tongue into the brown rain. “A cotton candy cloud raining chocolate milk. Either Cloudsdale’s weather factory has been taken over by fillies and colts, or there’s some weird magic going on.”

“Maybe Twilight Sparkle is practicing a new spell and it got out of hoof?” Windrunner suggested. She’d been in Ponyville long enough now to know about the Bearer of Magic and how her magical training went sometimes.

“Possibly, but right now I suggest we take advantage of this unexpected treat; the chocolate milk is nice and fresh and cold.”

The pegasus caught the emphasis right away and dug her face into the cloud, biting down gently and being rewarded with the indeed ice-cold chocolate beverage flowing into her parched mouth. Midnight quickly joined her, and soon the candy cloud was disappearing at a rapid pace.

Sapphire arrived outside just in time to see them finish it off with a few last bites.

That hit the spot!” Midnight said, licking her lips and patting her stomach with a satisfied, albeit pink, smile on her face. It was too bad Squeaks was in Canterlot for a field trip, but there was always the hope she could get Twilight to do whatever she’d done again.

Windrunner nodded in agreement.

“Midnight,” Sapphire finally got the kirin’s attention with the worried look on her face. “You need to stop whatever you’re doing and meet up with the bearers,” she said, hoofing the kirin a letter she had just received. “Something weird is going on and the princess wants them and you in Canterlot immediately.”

“Weird like cotton candy clouds raining chocolate milk?” Windrunner asked.

Sapphire raised an eyebrow at them.

“We just had one,” she clarified as she and Midnight wiped the leftover cotton candy from their faces.

Before Sapphire could say anything, Midnight finished the letter and looked up at them. “We need to meet up with the bearers now. Windrunner, you’re coming with me.” The brown pegasus came to attention and Midnight turned to Sapphire. “And I want you to come as well.”

“Why me?” The pegasus asked.
“Whatever is going on is happening all around Equestria, including Canterlot. When we get there I want you to make sure Squeaks, and the others on that field trip she’s on, are safe. Celestia has them taking cover in the castle, but I’d feel better if you were there with her; it’ll be one less thing to worry about.”

Sapphire nodded. If something dangerous was going on, it only made sense that Midnight would think of Squeaky and her safety first. It gave her a warm feeling knowing the kirin still trusted her with her daughter’s safety after what happened with the hydra.

“The fastest way to Canterlot for non-flyers will be the train, so let’s move.” All three of them took to the air and made a bee-line for the station.

-----------------------------

The train to Canterlot had just arrived as the three of them landed and joined the six bearers. Midnight told them they had received a letter from the princess to stay calm and Squeaks was safe, but they still wanted to help. The bearers were all eager for the support as none of them had a clue about what was going on either. It was a bit surprising the trains were still running all things considered, but the conductor said nothing really posed a danger to the train or its passengers yet, so they had to keep running.

On the ride up, Midnight, Sapphire, and Windrunner found out that the cotton candy clouds were only part of what was going on around Ponyville. Apples were growing to four times their normal size in an instant, corn was popping into popcorn right off the stalks, and rabbits were growing long, hoofed legs and running around in herds, and that was only at Sweet Apple Acres. AJ swore she saw a carrot parade, made up of actual carrots, going down one street, while Rainbow said there was a troupe of deer doing what looked like a polka, complete with lederhosen, as well as ice cream clouds raining cola in Cloudsdale.

As they arrived in Canterlot, the situation didn’t look any better. Funnel cake clouds flew by, raining iced tea on anything below while tea sets from the city’s many tea shops clacked around, hurling themselves at any nearby ponies. Midnight thought seeing nobles getting pelted by glass-ware was a funny thing until a teapot nearly beaned her upside the head. It was less amusing after that.

Getting into the castle was surprisingly easy, but then that could have been because the guards at the gate were busy fending off attacks by tea sets, funnel cake clouds, and pigeons dropping gumballs that exploded into post-chewed gum.

“Princess Celestia!” Twilight called out as they all made it into the entrance hall and saw the alabaster alicorn pacing. Before she could start asking questions, a cream and orange blur shot past her and latched onto Midnight’s leg.

“Mom!” Squeaks cried in relief.

“I’m fine Squeaks.” Midnight bent down and nuzzled her. “How are you and the others?”

“We’re all alright. Princess Celestia brought us all inside when everything started getting weird.” The bat pony said, letting go of her mother’s leg.

Midnight nodded. “Good. Windrunner and I are going to see what we can do to help; Sapphire is going to go with you to help Miss Cheerilee keep you all safe, alright?”

Squeaks nodded, nuzzled Midnight one more time, then led Sapphire out of the hall and back to where her class was holding up.

“Princess, what’s going on?” Twilight asked as soon as Squeaks and Sapphire were gone. “Why isn’t my magic working, and what’s going on with the animals and the weather, and why-?” She stopped as Celestia raised a hoof.

“Please, all of you come with me,” she said, gesturing for them to follow. The princess led them down several hallways until they came to a set of large, decorated doors that were about the same size as those leading to the throne room. After they were all inside Celestia sealed the doors with her magic before leading them down the hall inside.

The hall was lined with alternating windows and stained glass that depicted, Midnight guessed, various events in Equestria’s history. She realized that this was the hall Spike had talked about when he was trying to decide where to take them during the gala just as the princess began speaking.

“I’ve called you all here for a matter of grave importance. One of our old adversaries, someone Princess Luna and I thought we had defeated, has returned. His name is Discord.” They heard Fluttershy let out a squeak of fear. “He’s the self-proclaimed spirit of disharmony. Before Luna, myself, and our allies stood up against him, he ruled Equestria in a state of unrest and unhappiness. We all saw how life was miserable for not just ponies, but all the creatures who called these lands home. After we were lucky enough to discover the Elements of Harmony, the two of us and our allies rose up against him, finally defeating him in one last battle. The power of the Elements turned Discord to stone, and we thought he would be that way for the rest of time.

“After Luna’s return to us, I had my suspicions that he might also be released as our connection to the Elements was lost, and thus the spell used to contain him weakened, but until today there were no signs of such a thing.”

“But… why aren’t you connected anymore?” Twilight asked. “Why are we-?”

“Hey, look! We’re famous!” Pinkie yelled. They all turned to see the party pony standing beneath one of the stained glass windows which depicted six ponies blasting a black alicorn.

“When I was forced to use the Elements on my corrupted sister, our connection to them was severed. A thousand years later and they have chosen you six as they’re new bearers. I, no, Equestria, the world, needs you six to wield the Elements once again and stop Discord before he can take over as he did all those centuries ago!”

The six bearers looked at each other. Midnight and Windrunner exchanged glances as well. It was a heck of a tall order with a lot riding on it. There would be no fall back, no plan B, and there was little doubt Discord was already setting a plan into motion.

“Don’t worry princess,” Twilight said with a surprisingly confident look. “You can count on us.”

HOLD IT!” Pinkie yelled out. They all stopped and stared at her. “Eternal chaos comes with chocolate rain you guys. Chocolate. RAIN!

“Uh, don’t mind her, your highness.” Twilight chuckled nervously. “Of course we’ll wield the Elements again.”

Celestia nodded, then turned towards the door between them and the Elements. Inserting her horn into the door like a key, a series of locks opening sounded, and the door opened with a brilliant flash of light. When it dimmed they could all see a decorated box within. The princess levitated the box out. “Have faith; the Elements have chosen you and you alone to wield their power. They will not fail you.” She opened the box.

To reveal it completely empty.

Not even the velvet the Elements were kept on was left. Out of surprise and shock, Celestia dropped the case with a resounding thud on the floor. They all stared stupidly at it for a second. ‘Boned. We are all completely and utterly BONED.’ Midnight thought.

“Well, if anypony needs me, I’ll be outside in the chocolate puddles with a giant squiggle straw.” Pinkie said, pulling out said straw from her mane and proceeding to leave the hall.

Midnight came to her senses fast enough to grab the pink pony by the tail before she could leave.

“But… how… how are they GONE!?” Twilight finally said.

“That chamber is protected by a powerful spell only I can break, and Discord has only been free for a couple of hours at most. This doesn’t make sense!” Celestia exclaimed, confusion clearly written across her face.

As if waiting for that exact line, duel chuckling began ringing out through the hall. “Make sense, oh, what fun is there in making sense?” A disembodied male voice asked.

The look on Celestia’s face went from concerned confusion to burning rage so quick it made everypony, including Midnight, uneasy. “Discord, SHOW YOURSELF!” she roared out.

There was another bit of chuckling, then the rug began to bulge at the other end of the hall, as if something were under it. Then the bulge shot towards them like a bullet. All nine of them got into fighting stances, but not a few pony lengths away the bulge seemed to just… barf out a pony.

As she stood up they got a proper look at her. She had a violet coat with a violet and white mane which had a beanie capping it, and a screw and baseball for a cutie mark. The strangest part about her, besides the manic grin she wore, was her eyes; they were just swirls on her whites, no pupils or irises at all. Out of nowhere she pulled out a scroll, unfurled it, and began reading.

“Hear ye, hear ye, his lord, Discord, The Spirit of Chaos, Harbinger of Disharmony, Shogun of Sorrow-!”

“Wrong lord Screwball.” Discord’s still disembodied voice said.

“Oops, sorry. Harbinger of Disharmony, and all around funniest guy you’ll ever meet, shall now appear before you all!”

“Better. Did you miss me Celestia?” There was a flash, and everypony in the room turned to look at the window depicting Discord tormenting three ponies representing the three tribes. The figure of Discord on the window was giving them a cheshire grin. “I missed you. It’s quite boring being a statue-” Here he seemed to leap to the next window through the wall. “-but you wouldn’t know that because I don’t turn folks to stone.” He wracked his knuckles on the figure of Fluttershy in the window for emphasis.

“What have you done with the Elements Discord!?” Celestia shouted, her rage growing.

“Oh, I figured I’d just borrow them for a teensy little while so we could talk without itchy trigger hooves.” He made the Elements in the window disappear.

Celestia pawed the floor, causing the others to take a step or two back from the infuriated alicorn. “There’s nothing to talk about, because you won’t win.” Her voice was a low growl.

“To be honest I forgot how grim you became Celestia. Can’t say I blame you though, after what happened after me and Screwball got stoned.” He looked directly at Midnight and the kirin felt a wave of unease hit her. ‘What does he mean by that?

Windrunner gave her a concerned look, but Midnight just snorted and composed herself.

“Hey! Nopony insults the princess!” Rainbow yelled, rocketing at the window. While it looked like she was going to smash through it, she impacted it like it was just another wall.

“Ah, the loyal Rainbow Dash, going into things head first without thinking as usual I see.” Discord chuckled at the angry look the pegasus was giving him.

“I don’t need to think to kick your flank!!” She yelled back.

Discord disappeared from the window. “Indeed.”

“I can’t believe we’re wasting our time talking with such a tacky creature.” Rarity said, flicking her mane in disapproval.

“The generous Rarity, always ready to give out compliments at a moment’s notice.” With another flash Discord was in the window nearest her.

“So ya know who we all are; big deal.” AJ snorted.

“An honest remark, but what else would I expect from you, Applejack?”

“So, you know who we are and what each Element we represent.” Twilight said.

“And so much more, Twilight Sparkle. It’s hardly surprising Celestia would take you on as her personal student, but then she’s always had a soft spot for those with great abilities in magic.” Celestia let out another angry snort. “Kind Fluttershy is the one behind you trying to hide, and last but certainly not least is Pinkie Pie, always ready to cause some laughter where ever she goes.” He turned the image of Twilight in the window he was currently in into a balloon animal version of her, eliciting a guffaw from Pinkie.

Then he turned his eyes back on Midnight. “But of course, the one I’m really interested in is you Midnight Storm.” Screwball floated over her with a magnifying glass, which was quite a feat as she had no wings. “It’s been fifteen hundred years since a kirin was last in Equestria, but I’m sure Celestia has told you why that’s the case!”

“Stop stalling Discord!” Celestia interrupted. “Where. Are. The. Elements!?

The glass-Discord snorted at her. “Such a kill-joy Celestia. Fine, I’ll tell you, but I’ll only tell you my way.” He disappeared again, only to reappear on an opposite window. “To find your missing Elements, just make sense of these turn of events. Twists and turns are my master plan, then find the Elements back where you began.” With that he finally seemed to disappear from the room. Screwball tapped her nose and exploded into confetti.

Midnight stared at the now frozen glass-Discord, then looked at Celestia. Did the alicorn really know something about the kirins and wasn’t telling her? If so, how long was she planning on keeping it a secret? Was she ever planning on telling her? Celestia caught her eye and the rage quickly vanished from them, replaced by an apologetic sadness.

“That’s it!” Twilight yelled, putting a stop to any conversation the alicorn and kirin might have had then. “Twists and turns are my master plan, which must mean Discord wants us to enter the palace hedge maze!”

“So, we just don’t, right?” Rarity asked.

“The last part of his riddle says we’ll find the Elements back where we began, so while we go to the maze, we won’t go in because the Elements are buried under the entrance!” Twilight said triumphantly.

Celestia nodded. “Then go my little ponies. The fate of Equestria is in your hooves.”

“We won’t let you down princess.” Twilight motioned for the others to follow her out.

“Midnight, a quick word please.” The kirin stopped in the hall’s doorway, then motioned for the other to go ahead. “Midnight, Discord is a powerful creature that controls chaos magic but he is also skilled at deceit. He was imprisoned before the kirins disappeared, so anything he claims to know is most likely a lie. Please keep this in mind.”

They stared at each other for a few seconds, Midnight’s draconic eyes never flinching from the alicorn. “I understand, your highness,” she finally said before departing.

Celestia watched the door close behind the kirin and sighed, looking back at the stained glass and the various historical moments they showed. ‘I will tell you what happened eventually Midnight. Now, however, you have an important and dangerous task ahead of you. A focused mind might just mean the difference between victory and defeat.’

-----------------------------

The eight of them quickly made it to the hedge maze outside. It probably had something to do with Discord, but Twilight thought the entrance looked a lot more intimidating than usual.

“S-S-So we d-don’t have to g-go in there, r-right?” Fluttershy asked.

“Nope, we just need to start digging.” Twilight assured her.

“I’ll just do a quick fly by to make sure.” Rainbow said, taking off. She didn’t get far, as only a little ways off the ground her wings disappeared. “What the- MY WINGS!” she yelled out as she landed back on the ground. Fluttershy let out a yelp as her wings disappeared as well. Twilight and Rarity screamed like fillies when their horns disappeared.

Midnight and Windrunner were taking their losses just as bad. Windrunner had a panicked look while she kept flexing her back as if her wings had just gone invisible. Midnight could have cared less about her horn; damn thing was useless anyway. She was, however, staring at where her wings had been with an unsettling fast eye-twitch with her mouth open in a silent scream.

The loss of several body parts was interrupted by a blinding flash from the maze entrance, out of which came the flesh and blood version of the creature they had seen in the windows. “MWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You-You should see the looks on your faces. Priceless!

Midnight wasn’t too inclined to agree. In an instant she had jumped on the draconequus and was eye to eye with him. “Give. Me. My. Wings. Back. NOW!” she roared in his face.

With a snap of his talons he disappeared, dropping Midnight on the ground. Reappearing in the sky above them, he began chuckling again. “Don’t throw a fit Midnight Storm, I simply borrowed them for a bit to ensure that there’s no cheating. See, this is the first rule of my little game,” Screwball popped up over one of the hedges holding a sign with a large number one painted on it, “no flying, and no magic. The second rule,” Screwball pulled up a second sign with a number two on it, “is that all eight of you have to play or the game is over and I win.”

Twilight took a confident step forward. “Make as many rules as you want, because we’ve already figured out where the Elements are!”

Discord raised an amused eyebrow. “Really? Well then, go ahead and find them.”

“Alright girls, let’s start digging!”

-----------------------------

Discord and Screwball yawned as the ponies and kirin continued to dig.

They had dug down as far as a pony was tall, and Midnight was starting to think Twilight might be wrong about where the Elements where. Speaking of the unicorn, the kirin wished her, Fluttershy, and especially Rarity would just get out of the way. Twilight seemed to be lost without her horn and was digging hooffuls of dirt of out of the hole at random spots. Fluttershy was shaking too much to do much good and was dropping more dirt into the hole than she was taking out, and Rarity had moved barely any dirt at all. “I just got a hooficure this morning!” she had cried. Midnight wanted to punch her.

Apparently Discord and Screwball were also getting tired of all this, as evident by the unhappy looks on their faces. “As much fun as it was to watch how confident you were for the first five minutes, I’m starting to get bored again ladies. I’ll just speed things along and tell you the Elements are not underground.”

“And how do we know we can trust you?” Twilight shot back.

“Fine, I’ll just go out and make beautiful chaos while you all continue to dig. I’m sure you’ll figure it out yourselves soon enough.” He tossed the popcorn box he and Screwball were sharing away.

“Twilight, I know none of us trust him, but I think he might be telling the truth right now,” Midnight said from the bottom of the hole.

The ex-unicorn hemmed and hawed for a few seconds, then nodded. “I guess this isn’t getting us anywhere.”

Midnight pulled herself out of the hole and rested next to Windrunner and Applejack for a moment.

“Back where you began, back where you began…” Twilight chanted, shooting a damning look at the draconequus and his lackey.” Began where? Began life, began school, began…” Then it hit her. It was so obvious now! “I know where he hid the Elements!”

“Well, it’s about time this game got back on track.” Discord said, earning glares from the mares.

Twilight only snorted at him, then ran off back towards the castle followed by the others.

“Y’all got an idea, sugarcube?” AJ asked as they ran.

“Yes. I first heard of the Elements back when I was reading The Mare in the Moon, but I began researching them in my old room here in the castle! Discord must have hidden them up there!”

As the group ran off, Discord and Screwball laughed ominously. “Well my dear, it’s been said the castle is like a maze to those who haven’t been there before.” They both disappeared in twin flashes of light.

The group finally reached the doors leading back into the castle. “Don’t worry girls, I’ve practically lived here all my life,” Twilight assured them as she pushed open the doors and led them inside. “We’ll have the Elements back in no time flAAAAAAAaaaaa!” Without warning the section of floor under the lavender mare’s hooves opened up, causing her to disappear into depths unknown.

“TWILIGHT!” They all yelled out, but then each of them had problems of their own as the floor underneath each of them gave way as well. Within a matter of seconds only Midnight was left in the entranceway.

“What the- DISCORD!” she roared. Echoing laughter was all the response she got. Growling and cursing under her breath, Midnight took off into the castle. She needed to find the bearers and the Elements quick, or else.

-----------------------------

AJ had stopped screaming after only a few seconds on the slide to who-knew-where. She needed to keep her wits about her if she wanted to be ready for the eventual landing. Unfortunately, being prepared didn’t make it any easier. Without warning, she was shot out of a wall and collided into what felt like tightly packed pillows. Rubbing her head, she stood up and looked around. She was in the kitchens from the look of it, with all the ovens and utensils hanging above islands throughout the large room. What she had landed on turned out to be sacks of flour.

A sound to her right caused her to turn, and there was Discord in a “Kiss the Draconequus” apron flipping pancakes in a frying pan. “Apple flapjacks, Applejack?” He asked.

AJ snorted. “The day Ah eat anything made by you is the day Ah outright lie.”

“Funny you should mention that.” He flipped the flapjack up again, but this time caught it in his eagle claw, where it changed into a mirror. “I was nosing around Celestia’s little treasure room before I took the Elements and I happened upon this little beauty.” He walked over and showed it to her.

“And… just what is that, exactly?” AJ asked, on guard for any tricks.

This, dear Applejack, is The Mirror of Truth. Such a remarkable piece of glass; if you ask it any question, it will give you a truthful answer every time. I’m surprised Luna didn’t use this instead for her little outing at the thestral colony, but then again it was in Celestia’s treasure room, and she isn’t one who shares often.”

“And why would Ah care about this?”

“The bearer of honesty not caring about the truth? What kind of bearer are you?” He shoved the mirror into her hooves, then went back to his frying pan.

AJ glared at him, but looked down at the mirror. ‘Ah guess it couldn’t hurt to ask one question.’ Turning away from Discord, she addressed the mirror. “What’s gonna happen with this here mission we’re on? What’s gonna happen to us all?” The mirror’s surface fogged over, then cleared revealing AJ and her friends standing around someplace with a checkerboard ground and floating chunks of land against a purple sky.

“I hope I never see you again!” The refection of Rainbow yelled.

“Me too!” agreed Fluttershy.

“Fine!” yelled Pinkie.

“FINE!” Rarity yelled back.

“It’s settled then!” Twilight said before they all split off.

“Wait, are y’all saying we won’t be friends after this!?” AJ couldn’t believe that could happen, not after all they’d been through together. They’d still be friends even if they did lose.

“Well, that’s unsettling.” AJ jumped away and saw Discord hovering above and behind where her shoulder had been. “I guess things won’t be turning out well for you ponies after all.”

“That can’t be true!” AJ shot back. “Y’all messed with it somehow!”

“Believe it or not there are things in this world I can’t tamper with, this mirror being one of them.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, because we are going to stop you and we are going to stay friends!” AJ yelled, walking away.

Discord shrugged. “If you want to lie to yourself, that’s fine with me.”

“Excuse me!?” AJ whipped around and glared at him. “Ah am NOT a liar!”

“Well, the mirror said you wouldn’t be friends, so you saying otherwise would make you a liar. But,” he raised his lion paw, forestalling Applejack’s counter, “is honesty really the best policy here? If the others found out you saw them all not being friends anymore… well, that would be a real low blow to everypony’s morale, now wouldn’t it?” AJ made to answer, but Discord interrupted her again. “Then again, if you were to tell a little white lie and tell them you found a mirror that showed you all victorious, wouldn’t that make you all more determined to succeed?” He grabbed the mirror away from her. “What would happen if Applejack lied about what she saw?” He held the mirror up to her, and she saw herself and her friends at a party with a banner saying “WE WON!” draped over the festivities. “A much better outcome for you and your friends if you ask me.”

“But… but why would you be helpin’ me? I thought you wanted to rule Equestria?” AJ asked suspiciously.

“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I DO want to rule Equestria with a chaotic grip, but what fun would it be if I just did it? Giving you and your friends a chance will make it all the sweeter if I win, and gives me a chance to think of a more comfortable position to be in if I don’t. At the moment I’m thinking of lying in a hammock. But the decision is yours in the end. Choose wisely.”

AJ glared at him, but then looked back at the mirror and the happy faces of her friends. ‘I could just not tell them what I saw, but then we might still lose. But, if I lied just this once, even if it feels wrong…’ “If a little white lie is what’ll save us, Ah guess it couldn’t hurt.”

Discord chuckled to himself as AJ literally turned a few shades greyer. “Like I said, it’s your choice. Now, I believe you have a friend to get reacquainted with.” With a snap of his claw he and the mirror disappeared.

The doors to the kitchens flew open and Twilight ran in. “Applejack, I’m so glad I found you! It looks like Discord dropped you into the kitchens; the jerk dumped me in a broom closet.” She looked around. “Did you find somepony else? I could have sworn I heard you talking with somepony.”

“Nope! Ah wasn’t talkin’ with nopony!” AJ scrunched her face up and looked anywhere but at Twilight.

“Huh?” AJ just trotted past her and into the corridor. “Did Applejack just… nah, she doesn’t lie.”

As Twilight left, Discord and Screwball popped their heads over a counter. “The Elements are separated from their bearers, the bearers are separated from each other, and now they’ll be separated from themselves.” He and Screwball cackled. “One down, four to go, and a kirin to turn to our side.”

“Don’t we need to corrupt all six of them, and why do we need Midnight Storm to be on our side?” Screwball asked.

“The sixth Element only appears when the other five are present. Take them away, and it disappears. Midnight Storm is one of the few who could prevent that from happening. That and I have a debt to pay to an old friend; a debt I highly doubt Celestia will be able to pay off.” The briefest look of pain and anger passed over the draconequus’ face, but it quickly reverted to his normal calculating one as he bit into the mirror, which had changed back into the flapjack it had always been.

“And what are we going to do with that other pegasus?” the chaos mare asked.

“Let me worry about her role in the game. In the mean time, why don’t you have some fun with the royal guards?”

They cackled as they disappeared.

-----------------------------

Midnight galloped through another set of doors, slamming them hard against the walls. She had only been here twice and had no real idea where she was or where she was going. Her only hope was to keep barreling through each room, hall, and corridor until something looked familiar.

Bursting through yet another set of doors Midnight finally breathed a sigh of relief. “Finally,” she muttered. She was in the throne room anti-chamber, where those wishing to see the princesses waited their turns. With any luck Celestia, Luna, or both of them would be waiting in the throne room for the bearers’ victory. If she explained the situation, perhaps they could lend a hoof in defeating the draconequus.

“Princess!” Midnight yelled as she made her way inside. But neither princess was there, nor was any guards. Instead, Discord lounged on the throne, idly spinning a few orbs, one orange, one brown, and one blue, as if he had been waiting for her all this time.

“Sorry Midnight Storm, but your princess is in another castle,” Discord chuckled. Midnight growled and turned to exit the throne room when Discord called out to her. “I guess you don’t want to hear what I have to say?”

“Why would I?” In response he snapped his lion paw, causing the orbs to become transparent. Any thought of leaving was erased from her mind when she saw who was in them. “Give. Them. BACK.” She growled. Inside the orbs were Squeaks, Windrunner, and Sapphire; all with looks of panic on their faces.

“Mom!” Squeaks called out, her voice slightly muffled by her prison.

“First your wings and now these three; aren’t we just the demanding one today?” In response blue flames began to form around her hooves. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! No need for that. All I want is you to promise that we can talk in a civilized manner, and I promise I’ll let them go with not one hair out of place. Deal?”

Midnight looked from him to the others and back. “That’s it?” she growled.

“Nothing crossed.” Discord said, showing her all five limbs and his tongue.

“Fine,” she said, sitting down but never letting her angry look waver.

“Excellent.” He snapped his claws and the three orbs floated over next to the kirin, popping when they were only an inch from the ground. Squeaks immediately attached herself to one of Midnight’s legs, shaking like a leaf.

“I’m sorry,” Sapphire said, bowing her head. “I let us get in danger again.”

“It’s not your fault; even Princess Celestia can’t stand up to him on her own,” Midnight assured her. “Where did you end up?” she asked Windrunner.

“I believe it was the guards barracks, but that bubble got me before I got too far.” Windrunner told her.

Discord cleared his throat loudly. “Well, now that I’ve kept up my end of the bargain, I suggest you hold up yours.” He got up off the throne and proceeded down to the floor.

“And what exactly do you want to talk with me about?” Midnight asked, making sure she was between him and the others.

“What else but the future of the kirin race?” he said with what looked like a genuine smile.

“What do you mean?” Midnight asked.

“Before we go any further, how about you tell me everything you know about the kirins form fifteen hundred years ago?” He stopped in front of her with an expecting look on his face.

“Only that they disappeared around that time. I don’t know why yet, though.”

“You mean Celestia never told you?” He asked with mock surprise.

“She did say that you were turned to stone before what ever happened to them happened, so you couldn’t possibly know yourself.” Midnight accused.

“If I were just any old being, then you’d be right. Thankfully, I’m the spirit of chaos, so normal rules don’t necessarily apply to me.” He waggled a claw at her. “You see, after trapping me as a pigeon-leavings collector, she seemed to think confiding in me might help me through my long sentence and ease whatever guilt she happened to be feeling at the time. She’s told me things she hasn’t even told her precious Luna, so trust me when I say that I know exactly what happened to your kind after being stoned.” He looked down at her with a sly grin.

Midnight still regarded him with skepticism. “And why should I believe the so-called spirit of disharmony? Celestia told me they disappeared from Equestria.”

At this Discord actually had a sense of seriousness about him. “Disappeared? Really, I thought she was beyond the whole ‘a certain point of view’ thing. You know she blames me for what happened to them; says that if it wasn’t for me they might still be around.”

“What happened?” Midnight asked through grated teeth. She was tired of all these games.

His cheshire grin returned. “And just how badly do you want to know?” Midnight gently shook Squeaks off her hooves and let fire spring from them again. “I see. Well, unfortunately my knowledge isn’t exactly free… or cheap.” He snapped his claws and returned to the throne. “I will tell you this, Midnight Storm: those ponies you’re protecting, that you consider friends? They’ll turn on you. It may not be until a hundred years from now, but they’ll turn on you all the same. Backstab you when you least expect it and in the worst way. Even those three you’re putting your very life on the line for.”

“We would NEVER!” Sapphire shouted at him with unexpected rage.

“I’d NEVER hurt my mom!” Squeaks added, despite holding onto her leg again.

Windrunner growled and got back into a combat stance.

“Just a little something to keep in mind while you’re mulling over my offer.” Discord said.

“What offer?” Midnight growled.

“I will promise to tell you everything about what happened to the kirins, every single detail, if you promise to join me against Celestia and the Elements of Harmony. Not only that, but I can also promise protection from backstabbing ponies. I’ll even promise not to touch a hair on those three you care about so much to sweeten the deal.”

Midnight looked back at the three behind her.

“He’s trying to trick you mom!” Squeaks said shaking her leg.

“He’s lying Midnight!” Sapphire said earnestly.

“He’s given us no reason to trust him.” Windrunner added.

She stared at them a bit longer, then turned back to him.

“The Elements aren’t going to save Equestria this time Midnight Storm. I suggest you come to the winning side.” Discord said, some of the jovialness draining from his face.

Midnight was silent for a minute. “I… I need time to think this over,” she said finally.

Discord clapped his claw and paw together. “I have no problems with that; I need a bit of time myself to wrap up loose ends. I’ll give you…” he summoned a cardboard box filled with what looked like medals and dug his eagle claw into the box, eventually pulling one out, “two hours and twenty-two minutes to decided.” He threw the medal at her, which revealed itself to be a watch. “I’ll expect an answer by then.” With a final snap he disappeared.

“Midnight, you can’t seriously be considering this!?” Sapphire said earnestly.

The kirin shot her a measuring look. “He already has the Elements, and for all we know he could have dumped them into the sea or a volcano and this whole hunt could be a waste of time. If it means keeping Squeaks and you, and Windrunner, safe, then you’re damn right I’m considering it.” She placed the watch around her neck.

Before they could continue the throne room doors bust open and Twilight, AJ, Pinkie, and Fluttershy came in. “Midnight, there you are! Are you feeling normal at all? Not feeling deceptive, angry, or greedy?” Twilight asked, getting uncomfortably close to her.

Midnight pushed her back and cocked an eyebrow. “Why would I be?”

“Well…” Twilight motioned towards her four friends behind her. “I found AJ in the kitchens and all she’d done is lie since then,” AJ’s nose was scrunched up and her eyes were darting around the room. “I found Pinkie in the ball room looking even worse than she did on her birthday!” Indeed, she had the same straight hair but rather than the accusing glares she had given them then, she had the look of a kicked puppy. “Rarity was by the vaults grabbing anything she can get her hooves on!”

“MINE!” the white unicorn screeched, grabbing one of the bejeweled curtains.

“And to top it all off, Fluttershy’s become just plain mean!”

“Aw, boo-HOO! Can’t take a little change!?” Fluttershy shot at them, wearing a snarl on her face that looked… just unnatural. All four of them looked like they’d been “grayed out” a bit, their colors dulled to grey tones.

“No, I’m pretty normal, as are the rest of us.” Midnight assured her.

“That’s a relief. By the way, why are Squeaky and Sapphire here? Actually, tell me later. I don’t know what’s happening, but we need to find Rainbow Dash quick, before something similar happens to her!”

As she ran out the doors, followed reluctantly by the other graying bearers, Midnight turned towards Squeaks and Sapphire. “I don’t know if Discord is including you in the game now, but just in case don’t even attempt to fly, or we might just lose the Elements after all.” They both nodded. “We need to help Twilight find Rainbow before he does to her what he’s done to the rest. It might even help snap them out of it.” Hefting Squeaks onto her back, Midnight ran out the doors and after the bearers closely followed by Sapphire and Windrunner.

-----------------------------

Rainbow had no idea how she’d gotten all the way up one of the castle towers. Normally slides led down, not up. Then again, they were dealing with somepony who could do chaotic thing just by thinking about them. Nor did she really care anymore about how she’d gotten there. Something that looked like her cutie mark, and by extension her Element, had zipped by her. She’d immediately given chase, but no matter how fast she ran she just couldn’t keep up with it.

Finally she saw it duck into a room. Diving after it, she bucked the door shut. “I’ve got you now- what!?”

Before her was not her Element but Discord, laid out on a cloud with sunglasses on. “I don’t know how you pegasi did it, but these clouds are even fluffier then they were fifteen hundred years ago.”

“You think you can psyche me out!? Come on, let’s go!” She got into a combat stance.

Discord raised his eyebrows at her. “There’ll be no need for that; I’m only here to show you something.” He snapped his eagle claw, and the cutie mark she had been following spun around in front of her, faster and faster until an image appeared. It was Cloudsdale, and it was falling apart and out of the sky. Pegasi screamed and flew off in every direction. Rainbow felt her stomach disappear.

“W-WHAT DID YOU DO TO CLOUDSDALE!?” she screamed.

“I haven’t done anything… yet. If you head to Cloudsdale and stay there, then nothing will ever happen.” Discord told her.

“Do you honestly believe I’m going to just abandon my friends!?” Rainbow yelled at him.

Screwball flew in front of her holding a box in her hooves.

“First of all, I’m not an apple farmer, and secondly, answer me this first: is your loyalty with those so-called friends of yours who’ve led you into danger time and time again without even a thank you for your efforts, or the town you called home practically all your life and made you the mare you are today?”

“I- that is- I mean-!” Rainbow stammered.

“Your wings are in that box. Stay here and keep looking for the Elements and possibly lose Cloudsdale, or take them and make sure at least one thing important in your life stays safe. Your choice.” He grinned triumphantly as the pegasi’ eyes lingered on the image of her home town.

-----------------------------

“Come on girls, we’re almost there!” Twilight said as they turned another corner. “My room is right up this way, and I’ll bet Rainbow Dash is already there waiting for us!” The lavender mare hoped her upbeat attitude would knock some sense into her friends and get them out of whatever funk they were in. So far, though, they only seemed to get worse. Only Midnight, Sapphire, Windrunner, and Squeaks seemed the same. ‘Once we get the Elements, everything will be fine again,’ she thought as they got closer and closer to their goal.

“Hey look, Rainbow’s coming to save the day!” AJ called out, pointing at a window.

“AJ, if she’s outside that window that means she’s somehow got her wings back and I doubt Discord would-,” Twilight looked out where AJ was pointing anyway. A hole immediately opened in her stomach which cut off the rest of her sentence. Rainbow was indeed outside in the air, but she was flying away from the castle. “What the- where is she going!?”

Before anypony could answer they disappeared in a blinding flash of light, only to reappear in front of the hedge maze. Discord and Screwball were waiting for them with evil smiles. “Well, well, well, it seems somepony broke the no wings, no magic rule!” He snapped his claw, and all their appendages returned. “Game’s over ponies! You didn’t find your precious Elements!” He opened an umbrella upside down that made a cat’s meow as it opened while Screwball opened one that sounded like a tuba. Ominous storm clouds rolled in, accompanied by thunder and lightning. “It looks like we’re due for a big ol’ storm of chaos!”

They all looked on hopelessly as the two chaos entities laughed at their victory.

Author's Note:

And thus, welcome to season 2!

To be honest (pun most certainly intended), I figured I'd just show AJ's turn to the gray side because 1) showing how Discord handled her pretty much shows how he handled the rest, and 2) because there'd be more episode re-hashing and not enough Midnight, and I know how THAT has worked out.

So yeah, Discord knows what happened to the kirins but won't tell Midnight what happened until she joins him, along with promising protection for her closets friends and family.

Will Midnight succumb to the dark temptation with her need for answers? Will she be strong enough to resist temptation? Should I just shut up and post the next chapter already?

Find out next time in part two of the season opener!