• Published 13th Sep 2014
  • 5,653 Views, 258 Comments

The Seventh Element - PaisleyPerson



Thestrals are thought extinct. But what will happen when one moves to Ponyville? Disguised as an earth pony, Acrylic does her best to fit in. Can she keep the secret, or will she expose her entire race?

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Chapter 18: Midnight Armor

Chapter 18
Midnight Armor

“Um, Acrylic? Discord? I’m sorry to leave you both, but I really need to check on Angel. He doesn’t know I’m going to be out, and I have to make sure he’ll be alright. Do either of you need anything while I’m... um, are you eating... paper?” I’d been in the workshop priming the latest shipment of canvases, too busy to take notice of Discord’s antics. Now that I looked back out into the lobby, though, I saw him still on his thrown of pencils spearing paper shreds with a fork. I sighed. There was going to be a lot of inventory to replace after this ordeal was over.

“Am I? Huh. How odd of me.” He just took another bite. Fluttershy cast him a queer look before heading to the door.

“Well, I was just heading out. If that’s okay with you, I mean.”

“Go ahead,” I waved, returning to my canvas. “Everything’s under control here. Right, Discord?”

“Oh, of course! Buh-bye, have a nice time! Everything is fine here. Bye bye! Bye bye!” Discord gave her the last push she needed out the door before closing it after her.

“So, Discord. You wanna spill?”

“Spill?”

“NOT the paint, mind you,” I quickly added, catching the gleam in his eyes. “What’s up with this ‘King of Chaos’ thing you’ve got going on?”

“I still don’t know what you mean,” he sighed, flopping back onto the pencils and brandishing his claws.

“I think you do.” I put the brush down and surprised him when I shoved the displays aside and stationed myself on the table to be level with him, if not slightly above. “What made you become... this?”

“You want to know my history?”

“Yeah! See, it’s this thing friends do to learn more about each other, called talking...”

“Friends?”

“Yes, friends. Don’t you have any friends?”

“Well... no.” He turned away with a new look in his eyes. I didn’t recognize this. Something had finally clicked inside him.

“In-cor-rect,” I enunciated. “You have me and Fluttershy both, for starters. The others would be more willing if you just weren’t so... extreme.”

“I- I’ve never had friends before.”

“Well, now you do. So indulge me: where’d Discord come from?”

“Oh, I don’t think you want to go down that road. It’s a dark past.”

“Mine’s darker.”

“Oh, please. You ponies can’t even handle the Everfree, let alone the Frozen North.”

“I was raised in the Everfree Forest.”

“Come again?”

“You heard me. I’m an Everfree. Is there a problem with that?” He held his arms up in surrender. Satisfied, I nodded. Another moment of silence allowed me time to think. “How are you at keeping secrets?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never had secrets to keep before. But, I did manage to keep my plans to rule Equestria quiet enough. Does that count?”

“Listen here, Discord. I’m about to tell you something I’ve only told two other ponies in my whole life. But you have to swear to keep your lips zipped. Got it?”

“Oh, how does that rhyme go? I cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye?” He jokingly summoned such a sweet and smacked it onto his head.

“I’m serious, Discord.” The icing splat disappeared.

“Alright, alright. I promise.” Something told me he really meant it.

“Okay. But if you tell anypony else, I’ll never speak to you again.”

“That’s rather harsh, isn’t it?”

“Don’t worry. Rainbow Dash got the same treatment.”

“If that blue pegasus friend of yours is one of the two ponies, who’s the other?”

“My boyfriend.”

“Oh, right. Him.”

“I hope you play nice around other guys, Discord, because we’re about to go meet him.”

“We are?”

“Come on. Let’s take a walk.” He hadn’t noticed that I’d been writing a note to Fluttershy to tell her where we’d gone. I didn’t leave him much of a choice, because I started off without him. I knew he could teleport right to me if he wanted, but a coat appeared on a hook by the door out of nowhere. He dashed for it as though we were running late to play along.

“Alright, you’ve dragged me all the way out to the Everfree. Now what’s your ‘big secret?’”

“I’ll show you as soon as we’re inside.”

“Some long lost childhood treasure, then?”

“No. I just need cover.”

“Cover?”

“Do you remember the thestrals in the early days, Discord?”

“Why of course I do! It was thanks to them that I was able to take over Equestria in the first place. It’s too bad they were wiped out.”

“Yeah, well, don’t get your hopes up.” With a loud CRACKLE and a POP! my wings stretched out. I groaned with pleasure as they were released from confinement. Discord had dramatically and quite literally dropped his jaw to the floor, eyes bugging out. “Oh, much better. Hiding these things aren’t as bad as being encased in stone, I’m sure, but it feels good nonetheless. Shut your mouth, Discord. You’ll catch flies.”

“But you’re a-”

“Yes.”

“And still-”

“Yes, Discord, we still exist. Get over this quickly, please. I tend to get this a lot, and it’s getting old. Just remember, tell NOPONY. Especially not the Princesses, but since you’ve already got a grudge against them, I don’t think that will be an issue. Come along. Into the air we go.” He obediently snapped back to his old self. With a snap of his fingers, he wore a suit, and I was in a breezy ball gown.

“Shall we?” He offered the crook of his elbow like a real gentlecolt.

“We shall.” I was going to take his arm and play along, but I soon found my wings were too big for that. I couldn’t get into the air without hitting him. A sheepish grin found us separated once again. “Race ya,” I tried instead, zooming into open air. Discord barely had to flap his wings, as a magically summoned gust of wind carried him most of the way. Our formal attire was changed to a sports announcer costume for him, complete with an announcer’s cloud platform, and a Wonderbolt uniform for me. I looked down at the suit with a start. Why a Wonderbolt? That was Rainbow’s dream. I knew for a fact that thestrals wouldn’t be accepted to the flight group anyway. Maybe that was his point? I shrugged it off. It was Discord, after all. Nothing made sense with him. As if to emphasize this fact, he rattled off a spew of indecipherably slurred words coming so fast it made me dizzy. He finally tossed the microphone aside, and our clothes vanished as well.

“Well, well. For somepony thought dead for thousands of years, you make quite a good flyer.”

“You’re not too bad yourself. A thousand years encased in stone and you’re not even breaking a sweat!” He contradicted my statement by clothing himself in exercise bands, and started to run through the air completely drenched in sweat. I dodged a few of the flying droplets with a disgusted, scrunched up face. “Nice,” I sarcastically groaned.

“Why, thank you,” he took a bow mid flight, just as sarcastic. I grinned mischievously.

“Come on, Discord, keep up.” I folded my wings into a dive, heading right for a break in the trees. He tried to follow, but had to teleport several times to avoid crashing.

“Is this really necessary?” he asked, teleporting around the branch I was just gliding over to avoid hitting the tree itself.

“Oh yes. They don’t like being approached from the air.”

“They?”

“Hurry up! We’re almost there.” I folded my wings to perform a neat spinning dive through some low hanging branches. He gave up flying altogether and simply began teleporting to keep up with me, sometimes forming a hoop or other obstacle to make things even more challenging. I took on everything he threw at me with glee. I loved extreme flying sports almost as much as I loved to paint.

I finally allowed my hooves to touch down in a more or less open patch in the trees, using my enormous wings like a parachute to slow me down. Discord finally teleported next to me, arms crossed at being left behind in the fast-paced trip. I grinned teasingly, panting even heavier than he. It was a long flight, and speed cut down the time tremendously. “This way.” I continued pushing through the underbrush, not so much looking for landmarks as just following my instincts. I’d never been to a thestral sector besides my own, but I could almost sense that they were close. The undergrowth was becoming thicker, much to Discord’s annoyance; I was surprised he hadn’t shrunk the plants or turned them into candy canes yet. Maybe he really was changing for the better. This thought lifting my spirits, I finally broke through the thick wall and into a crater-like clearing.

Below me, thestrals were everywhere! Okay, not everywhere. We tended to be nocturnal creatures, and being around noon, most had gone to bed. Still, some worked a day shift, and were scattered about the clearing. Most of their tents were set up around the perimeter, but a few were scattered in the center. A huge bonfire rested at the center, illuminated by multicolored, smokeless flame, telling me that several ponies had contributed their fire. It wasn’t all that different from my sector, though we traditionally took turns lighting the fire.

I pulled myself completely free from the brush and met with empty space. I glided down from the ledge, looking for the one familiar face. I received curious, intrigued looks from some of the locals, but nopony said anything. After all, I wasn’t a threat. As my companion, Discord wasn’t questioned either. I doubted many of them knew who he really was, if any.

A familiar brown coat was just disappearing into one of the tents on the far side. Unless he had a twin brother, I’d found Torchwood. I rushed to the tent, careful not to make much noise. I wanted to surprise him. Voices inside told me he had company, and I wondered whether or not I should wait. After all, he’d been gone longer than me. He probably wanted to catch up with those he’d left so many years ago. Against my better judgment, I found myself knocking on the decorative stone placed outside the tent to request entry. (Since tents didn’t exactly have doors, we’d come up with the universal system of using rocks as doorbells.)

“Come in,” somepony’s voice called. It wasn’t Torchwood’s; he must be at a friend’s place. I tentatively stuck my head through the flap as identification. Of course tents couldn’t hold many ponies at once, but I was surprised when I found only three inside. Two unfamiliar faces stared back, but Torchwood’s eyes were locked on the ground. “Oh! Hello there. Who might you be?”

“Torch,” I hissed. He finally looked up and recognized me, eyes displaying a flurry of emotions: joy, confusion and worry all at once. He’d jumped to his hooves in an instant.

“Acrylic! I’m so glad you made it. That was fast. What happened?”

“False alarm,” I sagged. “This time, anyway. I was so sure!”

“This is Acrylic? As in, Acrylic Storm?”

“Oh, uh, Acrylic? Meet my parents.

“Your...” My eyes grew wide in realization.

“It’s so good to meet you,” his mother smiled. “We were so glad to have Torchwood back home. He’s only been here a few hours, but he’s barely talked about anypony else since he got back! I’m Rose Petal.” Torch’s ears flattened with embarrassment. His mother was a rather beautiful pony. She was thin as a twig, and a little taller than me. Her coat was a splendid teal, and her eyes were a stunningly clear grass green. Her cutie mark displayed a flourishing blue rose, it’s green leaves almost blending with her coat. Her mane, too, had just a hint more green than her coat, making the colors almost indistinguishable. Bright green highlights to match her eyes ran through the curly locks. A faded blue bow had been inserted somewhere at the back of the tangled mass, and a matching ribbon hung simply around her neck.

“You’re even prettier than I imagined,” his father put in. I felt my cheeks grow hot. He’d had expectations? “I’m Meteor Strike. It’s wonderful to make your acquaintance.” The stallion was buff like my father, but not quite as tall. Even his broad jaw line and slightly turned up nose added to his strong appearance. His coat was a pale red-brown color. In fact, everything about him was pale. His mane was short and brushed back, though his tail was longer than most stallions in Ponyville, reaching his hocks. Both were a solid gray in color with just a tint of red that almost gave it a pink appearance. His eyes were rounder than most with clear gray pupils. His long legs soon gave way to shaggy fur that partially covered stone colored hooves. His cutie mark displayed a faint orange streak curling in a half circle, trailing after a falling meteor encased in pale yellow flames as it pierced the atmosphere. Even that seemed paler than it might have been once.

“Oh, well... thank you...” I stammered.

“It must have been destiny that brought you two together. How else would two thestrals find each other hidden in a world among other ponies? How is that life suiting you, anyway?”

“Fair enough. It’s the little things that spoil you rotten. They have easy access to pastries every morning for breakfast! Everypony smiles at you just walking down the street... so long as you hide your wings. But when everything’s said and done, I think it was worth it.”

“Well, I’m glad you think so. From the letters Torchwood sent us when he first started off there, we were so worried about him. He didn’t like his job working for that earth pony... oh, what was his name? Graphite Page, was it?”

“Graphite Sketch, Mom. I worked at The Painted Page Gallery.”

“That’s right. Anyway, I can’t imagine holding an occupation that doesn’t allow you to use your special talent! It must be absolutely dreadful! Although, it seems he’s quite content working with you. Perhaps the employer makes a world of difference.”

“Mom, I’m right here,” Torchwood reminded. I knew what it was like to be talked about as though you weren’t there, but I couldn’t suppress a smile.

“Why, you’ve been hiding so long, I doubt you’ve had a chance to practice! When was the last time you put on one of your shows?”

“Shows?” Even after nearly six months of dating, I hadn’t even bothered to consider what his special talent was! I always assumed the torch represented something deeper, like his bright personality.

“You’ve been dating this lovely mare and haven’t even told her about your gift? Shame on you!” his father scolded.

“You go on out there right now and show her,” his mother demanded. “Go on, both of you! Why don’t you put on a show for the young ones? There hasn’t been a fire dancer as skillful as you around here for decades! They’ll be thrilled!”

“Torchwood, there’s something you should know,” I hurriedly began, finding myself being shoved out of the tent.

“Yes? What is it?”

“There you are, Acrylic.” Discord had been entertaining the young colts and fillies with his chaotic magic, but on a smaller, more controlled scale.

“Who’s this?” Torchwood asked. I didn’t have time to answer.

“It’s about time you got back. So this must be Torchwood, eh? Hmm... I expected somepony a little... shorter. I didn’t think you’d be dating a giraffe, Acrylic.”

“Discord!” I reprimanded.

“Discord?” Torchwood echoed. The whole encampment fell silent.

“Torchwood, meet Discord. Discord, meet Torchwood.”

“Can I speak with you for a moment?” My stallion friend pulled me aside after briefly staring the draconequus down. “How could you bring Discord to Midnight Armor?!”

“What’s the problem?”

“What’s the problem? That fiend took advantage of us!”

“That was a thousand years ago, Torchwood. I thought we were over that.”

“We’ve changed, sure, but Discord hasn’t.”

“But he has! That’s why the Princess brought him to us!”

“The Princess did what?”

“Celestia wants him reformed, and she thinks that Fluttershy and I are the best ponies to do that. She went out, so I took him on a friend-to-friend flight.”

“Oh, so we’re friends with him now, are we?” Torchwood took a few steps away and began pacing angrily.

“Yes, we are,” I quietly said. “Torchwood?”

“You promised me you wouldn’t tell anypony else.”

“Well, he isn’t exactly a pony...” I tried to lighten the mood.

“You KNOW what I meant,” he boomed. I shrank back. I’d never seen him so angry.

“He’s just like us,” I squeaked, trembling.

“He’s NOTHING like us.”

“He’s lost. Misplaced in a world he doesn’t belong in. Remind you of anypony?” Torchwood froze. I sighed and turned away to mask the tears stinging my eyes. “I should take him back now.”

“Yes, you should.”

“I just wish you’d give him a chance,” I sniffed. Torchwood noticed for the first time that I was teary-eyed, and his whole disposition softened. I hurried back to the crowd forming around Discord, pushing purposefully through. “It’s time for us to go,” I called to him.

“I suppose your boyfriend will be flying back with us?”

“No.”

“No?”

“No! Now, come on!” I briefly met the startled gaze of Torchwood’s parents before my wings snapped open, shooting me into the open air. Discord teleported his way behind me.

I had no reason to weave through the trees now, so I just kept low to the canopy. Discord was currently flying above me without any clouds to teleport to. Torchwood never appeared behind me as I half-hoped. Discord had fallen startlingly silent. “What’s the matter? You don’t have any smart-alec comments?”

“Who, me? I thought you ponies wanted me reformed. I have a whole list of jokes I could make, but I was going to humor you and keep quiet. But if you really want to hear them...”

“I’m sorry,” I hung my head. “I didn’t mean that. I’m just so... angry...”

“With that bloak, Torchwood. You’re better off without him, if you ask me.”

“I didn’t ask you. And I’m not mad at him, or even you. Just at myself. I don’t know why I ever thought I could belong to two worlds. I can’t please the ones I love in one without hurting somepony in the other.”

“Now, what’s the appropriate response a friend would say to the other? Perhaps something like, ‘do you want to talk about it?’”

“Friendship can’t be learned from a textbook, Discord. Don’t try and pull quotes from one. Just speak your mind... to an extent.” I cocked my head as I flew. From this new angle, I eyed a relatively large cloud high above. “But sure, we can talk about it.” I readjusted my wings to catch the wind, pulling me upward. I landed on the cloud and got comfortable as I waited for Discord. From here, I had a nearly perfect view of the distant thestral camp. Discord coiled up beside me, and for a moment, we just looked out at the camp.

“I should’ve known it was coming. It’s just... we’ve never fought before. And knowing that it was my fault just makes me feel worse.”

“How was this your fault? From what I heard, he was the one yelling.”

“I deserved it. I had no right to tell anypo- er, anyone else. It’s not just my secret anymore. Then something made me think that it was a good idea to take you to him. It wasn’t even my home, it was his. I was so caught up in trying to make friends with you that I forgot how important it was to preserve my relationship with him. Oh, what have I done?” Torchwood’s words rang again and again. I covered my ears in hopes it would somehow tune them out.

“Do I feel a letter to Celestia coming on?”

“What?”

“Doesn’t she like you ponies to write to her when you learn a lesson about friendship?”

“Well, yes...”

“Go on, then. Twilight has her secretary Spike; I’ll volunteer to write for you. Let’s hear it. Tell me what you’ve learned.” A scroll and ink-dripping quill appeared in his hands.

“Not now, Discord. And when and if I write to her, I’ll do it myself.”

“If? You aren’t going to let Celestia down, are you?” he jokingly nudged me.

“I’ll have to think of a way to put it without giving the thestrals up.

“Very well, very well.”

“Acrylic?”

“Where are you?” I looked down from my cloud in hopes of Torchwood coming back. Instead, I found all six of our friends searching the woods for us.

“Perfect,” I growled. I couldn’t get down without risking them seeing.

“Allow me,” Discord mockingly bowed. A snap of his fingers brought us to ground level, where I hurried to retract my wings.

“This way,” I ushered. We headed in the direction of the ancient ruins in hopes of veering around unseen. Unfortunately, it didn’t work quite as I hoped.

“Acrylic!” Rainbow spotted us. I turned, trying to look happy to see her.

“Rainbow! Pinkie Pie? What are you all doing out here?”

“We came looking for you!”

“What were you thinking, coming out into the Everfree with him?!”

“Well... Fluttershy’d gone out to check on Angel, Discord and I got to talking... long story short, he expressed an interest in the ancient ruins and I took him out to see them.”

“The ruins are that way.”

“We got a little turned around.”

“Or maybe he was trying to get you lost in the Everfree!” Rainbow accused.

“Okay, Rainbow, knock it off. That’s not what happened.”

“How do you know? He’s a thousand years old; surely he knows where the castle is. What could possibly interest you there?”

“Let me answer your question with a question. Don’t you like to revisit things familiar to you, Rainbow Dash? The world has changed just so much since my rule, it’s nice to look back once in a while,” he retorted. I received a wink, and could have wilted with relief. ‘Thank you,’ I mouthed.

“I still have a hard time believing you’d just take off like that,” Twilight agreed with Rainbow Dash.

“Guys, look. It doesn’t matter much now, does it? Let’s all just go back.” So we did, the distrusting ponies hanging around the back.

“Um... maybe we should go to my place this time...” Fluttershy suggested as we breached the tree line. I guess she’d noticed my gloomy disposition. I couldn’t get Torchwood’s angry words out of my head. They kept replaying like a broken record.

“That might be best,” Twilight spoke up when I didn’t answer. “Discord?”

“Oh, very well. I guess I’m moving.” He picked up two leather suitcases, and tramped off in the direction of Fluttershy’s cottage. I moved to follow, but Twilight held me back a moment.

“Are you okay?”

“Fine.” I bit my lip.

“Look, back there... I didn’t mean anything by it,” Rainbow tried to apologize.

“We were all just so worried about you.”

“There’s no need to apologize to me. To Discord, maybe.” I let out a dry huff of a chuckle. “But we made great progress out there.”

“You did?!”

“Sure. He just needs somepony to be his friend, just like Fluttershy said. He’s changing, Twi. I know he is.”

“Then what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Just then, Torchwood walked by. I could tell he was coming out of the Everfree, but he angled his path to look like he was just passing by. His head hung low, ears drooping, eyes never leaving the ground.

“Look! Torchwood’s back! That should cheer you up,” Pinkie exclaimed.

“Oh, hi, Torchwood,” Twilight waved. He glanced dejectedly in our direction, but eyeing me, decided against coming up. He only nodded acknowledgement. I, too, turned away.

“Oh,” they quietly gasped in unison. All but Pinkie.

“What? What’s ‘oh?’”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.” I tried to pull away for the cottage again. Rarity blocked my way.

“Come on, dear. The last thing you need is to trouble yourself with Discord. And from what you’ve told us, you’ve made incredible progress already. I’m sure Fluttershy can handle things herself.” One look from the others caused her to change her statement. “Well, we can, I mean.”

“I appreciate it, but I’m fine.”

“I insist! Let me walk you home.” I hated to leave Fluttershy hanging, as well as my new friend, but I didn’t feel like dealing with anypony at the moment. I let her lead me away.

I left the closed sign hanging in the window, and didn’t bother to turn on the lights. I felt so miserable, all I wanted to do was sleep.

“You’re sure there’s nothing I can do to help?”

“Nothing, Rarity. But thank you.”

“Alright, but if you need anything, anything at all, just come on over. And if you need somepony to talk to, any and all of us will be listening.” I just nodded, and she shut the door behind her. I looked back hearing the lock click, left alone in the dark. I had no trouble navigating with so much light pouring in from the glass wall in the workshop, and moped my way up the steps. I kept it together until I was under the sheets. Then, I wept.