• Published 16th Sep 2014
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Not The Hero - alarajrogers

In all his existence, Discord has never faced an enemy as dangerous as this.

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I Am The Champion, Dragons Are Losers 'Cause I Am The Champion

Well, dear readers, once again your humble narrator returns with a tale of narrowly escaping death by the skin of my teeth. (You think that's an expression, but frequently I do have skin on my teeth. It's oh-so-helpful in keeping them warm when I decide to turn a haystack into a giant pile of scoops of ice cream and then eat the whole thing.) There is, however, an important difference between the tales I've told thus far, and this particular story, which is that I WON! Haha! Stupid dragon, to seriously think he could kill me? The Avatar of Chaos? I really wish you could all see my dance moves here, because I think this particular dance of triumph is, dare I say it, one of the more graceful and inspiring of my spontaneous dances from over the centuries. (No, I'm not going to try to describe it. Writing about dancing is kind of like painting about music.) Oh, this was balm to my soul. I won, he lost, haha, I've still got it! When I'm up against a dangerous threat that is not Anon and his inexplicable reality warping powers, I am ze winnah! Discord rules, dragons drool. (And cry like babies when you take their hoard from them.) Woo-hoo!

I'm glad I can be cheerful about this, because the truth is, I am actually in quite a bit of pain. That was hard. I've managed to get all my body parts knitted back together and healed, mostly, with the exception of the fur on my goat leg... but I burned a lot of magic with this fight, and I've had to regenerate even worse injuries than the one to my tail (though thankfully injuries that weren't impervious to my powers, so I was able to heal them quickly.) Everything aches, and I'm exhausted. I need to spend a few days resting and recuperating. So I've got my Panauricon up and running to allow me to listen in all over Canterlot, Ponyville and a few other strategic locations, I've got my gigantic pile of pillows (I'm not joking, it's the size of a shed), I've got my fluffy blankets and my endless glass of mushroom cola and a good supply of snacks... and painkillers. There are actually potions that do work on me, for which I'm deeply grateful because I'm not sure I can spare the magic to ease my aching bones right now. I'm not stupid enough to give you recipes, but I will say this: poison joke liniment feels wonderful on formerly severed body parts. I laid in a supply of it after the tail incident, and now I have it slathered all over my midsection, and I cannot tell you what a relief it is to actually have treatments for my injuries on hand that don't require me to burn more magic.

And, of course, I have this journal to pass the time with. So I'll get some rest, and tell you all about the fight THAT I JUST WON, oh yes, in your face Winnie, or should I now call you Losey? "Eternal gold" my shiny red tail. How about "Eternal Loser?" How do we say that in llama, Winnie?

Yes. I went down to Southern Amareica and got my Element of Greed. The ease with which I retrieved the other two Elements of Disharmony were apparently just fate compensating me for how hard this one was going to be. Trust me, I had no idea how difficult this fight was going to be when I set out to retrieve my Element, or I quite possibly wouldn't have bothered.

If you've never traveled to Southern Amareica (or Drakonia, as the locals call it, but that hardly seems fair – the dragons aren't native, whereas the llamas and alpacas are, and while technically the quetzalcoatls are a native draconic species, I find it hard to care about the opinions of a species that used to sacrifice draconequui in rites of necromancy in an attempt to control the sun), you really should go sometime. The Andalusian mountains, capped with snow and full of resentful churning magma just waiting for the opportunity to spew out, rise up from a thick, teeming jungle containing such lovely creatures as swarms of fish that can devour a pony within a minute, and killer bees. Killer bees! I love this place. Too bad it's swarming with dragons.

Admittedly that's my fault, to at least some extent. I certainly did do my level best to make the lives of the Neighropan dragons in Neighropa miserable, and apparently some of them fled here, where the extinction of my people and subsequent northward migration of the quetzalcoatls up to the border of pony lands left the territory largely empty. It was populated by llamas and alpacas, but neither species are any match for dragons, and the Andalusian mountains are a rich source of tasty treats for dragons and shiny objects to hoard. Nowadays, most Equestrians are unaware that dragons originally came from Neighropa (hardly surprising... nowadays most Equestrians seem barely aware that Neighropa exists. They have some vague idea that there's a country named Prance somewhere and in the vague vicinity there might be griffins and there's a city called Trottingham over there somewhere.)

The far south of Southern Amaerica has actual dragon civilizations, in the nations of Chilly (yes, it is, quite), Auren, Argent, and Draguay, but where I was headed was the region where the Amarezon River comes down from the Andalusian mountains. Here, dragons who can't handle co-existence with their brethren live in anarchic solitude, each dragon creating its own den and staking out its own hoard.

Even by draconic standards, however, Wiñaypaqori takes the cake. Firstly there's his name. Now, Equestrians are accustomed to dragons having simple, easily pronounceable names. This is not the case in much of Southern Amareica, where the languages of several lost civilizations meet and rifle each other's pockets looking for spare nouns. Many dragons who spawn in the south have names such as Smeáthor or Angorad or something like that, names from the old dragon languages of Neighropa (unlike the north-spawning dragons, who have names like Garble. I am not making this up). In the zones of anarchy, however, dragons tend to borrow languages from the quetzalcoatls or the llamas because they spend so little time with each other, they lose the knowledge of dragon languages.

In the tongue of the llamas, Wiñaypaqori, who I shall henceforth call Winnie, means "Eternal Gold". This is because Winnie was sitting on a pile of gold that was quite literally the size of a mountain. He'd hollowed out the mountain he lives in, and had filled it with gold. The parts that weren't gold were him; he's the size of Ponyville. Greed makes dragons grow, and our pal the Winster has been a very, very greedy boy. If he had had any interest in power within dragon society, or indeed in creating a dragon society, which he doesn't because all he cares about is more gold, he could have done so easily; dragons instinctively submit to whoever has the biggest, best hoard. In fact dragons used to make pilgrimages to see Winnie's hoard and try to fight him for it all the time. Most of them weren't serious about fighting him for it; they just wanted to see it, but of course being a dragon and approaching Winnie automatically makes for a fight. Some few did seriously try to challenge him. Winnie found them crunchy and good with ketchup.

I know all this because Winnie was holding, and actively wielding, my Element of Greed. The Kraken didn't really use the Element of Rage, it was just part of his collection of shiny things. Winnie, however, would have been a perfect candidate for an Element of Greed if I had felt like handing out bearerships, which I didn't. In order for someone to bear an Element, the avatar needs to consent. The Tree of Harmony has been known to actively withdraw its support from former Bearers it considered corrupted, and ponies – or anyone, really – can't become Bearers unless it allows them to be. (Its standards are pretty terrible. Can you imagine, once it actually offered me Elements? Even funnier, one of them was Loyalty? But then, given that Rainbow Dash is a self-centered braggart and the last bearer of loyalty turned on her own sister, her nation, and her species itself, quite spectacularly, the Tree of Harmony doesn't appear to be so good at picking candidates for that one.)

Likewise no one actually gets to be a true Bearer for an Element of Disharmony without my permission, and since I've always thought the things are kind of laughably stupid, I've never chosen Bearers before. However, this doesn't prevent someone whose mind and personality resonate well with the Element from using it – I've seen some very interesting stunts pulled with the Element of Magic in the past, and the Elements of Disharmony are intended to grant power to individual users, so they're even more usable by non-Bearers. And when someone uses an Element of Disharmony, this generates disharmony, and I know exactly what they're doing. If I'm paying attention, which, when I was a statue, I most certainly was.

So I knew all about Winnie. The real question was, did he know about me? The Kraken had, and ran for it the moment I showed up, but krakens hoard for fun, not a biological compulsion like dragons have, and the Kraken wasn't using his Element. Winnie was. So this, I thought, might very well turn into a fight.

Now you ask me, "But Discord, you are so obviously superior to pathetic dragons with your vast magical resources and cleverness and creativity in using them. How could a dragon possibly stand up to you?" I find the vote of confidence inspiring, but there was a reason I had to drive the dragons insane rather than just turning them all into small cute puppydogs. (I kind of did make something that did that, but it was a portal to another realm, which by necessity translates Equestrian species into something compatible with the other world, and I thought the idea of turning dragons into dogs was downright hilarious.)

Those of you who are extensively familiar with the foundations and theory of magical lore, including the belief systems of the ancients and how they shape magic today, would know of this (and would also be Twilight Sparkle. Hello, Twilight! Tell me, did I have a lovely funeral? Please tell me at least that Pinkie catered it!) For the rest of you, let me explain the concept of the Chthonic Elements, also called the Base Elements, the Worldly Elements or the Elements of the Fundament. These elements, unlike the Elements of Harmony, do not refer to traits carried by sapient beings, but rather to the substances that make up the world – earth, air, water, fire, and life force (which can also refer to spirit, or to magic, but raw magic, not the overly harmonic kind that Twilight uses most of the time.)

Dragons and draconic creatures are aligned with between two and four of these elements, generally. Draconequui, being wielders of magic, had air, water and magic/spirit, mostly due to the fact that this is one of the most common combinations for the Neighsian dragons we descended from. Some Neighsian dragons have fire rather than water, and a rare few have all but earth. This is because dragons aligned with earth are Neighropan dragons. Most of them carry earth, fire and air, with a rare few also carrying magic. The most fundamental difference between Neighsian and Neighropan dragons, aside from the fact that we are graceful, svelte and sexy and they are huge, clunky clods, is that we align with water and they align with earth. To the best of my knowledge no dragons align with both water and earth.

Of the five elements, four are actively chaotic. Earth... isn't immune to chaos, exactly (although unleashing my powers on Earth would tend to cause massive earthquakes and volcanoes, so I only do it when I really need to raise islands and level mountains), but it is highly resistant to it. There's a reason the Elements of Harmony turned me to stone, after all. Of all the chaos avatars, Ar the dragon is the only one I know of whose shape barely changed – she got three pairs of wings, and that was it. Coyote and Loki became shapeshifters, Pan the goat turned bipedal, Anansi the zebra grew another four legs, not even I know what animal Set was in the first place, and Eris the ikaros apparently transformed in much the same way I did, acquiring a lot of animal parts she hadn't been born with. But all Ar got was extra wings. This is because the body of an earth-aligned dragon resists transformation except along the lines that it is designed for. Earth dragons can change their size, if they're very talented, and many of them don't grow wings until they hit adolescence, so Ar growing extra wings was something that an earth dragon's body allowed her to do. But I can't change a dragon into something completely different. Not without something like the magic of the differential between dimensional planes powering the transformation, anyway.

I can only alter the size of a dragon within a certain range, and a dragon as full of greed fulfilled as Winnie would be hard to turn into anything smaller than a house. I can take their wings, but I can't take their fire, or their scales, and with their scales I can't do much more than humiliate them. I've... I'll admit it. I've killed many dragons. It was a war and I'm not sorry I did it; it was them or it was ponies, and I decided I liked ponies better. But it wasn't easy – not just in the sense that I'm not exactly a natural born killer and snuffing out sentient lives has never been my idea of fun, but simply in terms of technical execution, it's not easy to do. Driving them mad was both more entertaining and more accessible as a strategy, but turning a greed-grown monster dragon into a mindless frothing beast wasn't actually likely to get me my Element any more than strolling in the front door would. I had a plan, but it wasn't going to be easy. Though I had no idea how hard it would turn out to be in the end, really.

The Element of Greed grants its bearer, or wielder, abilities pertaining to gaining, keeping, and defending whatever they consider most valuable, usually some sort of worldly object (gold and other forms of wealth are common, but one notable greed-wielder, a pony named Carmine Sand who lived about eight hundred years ago, stole monuments and statues... including me. I nearly did make her a bearer for that; she came very, very close to being able to free me.) It can act as a channel for some nifty spells as well. The most famous of these was probably the Midas Touch, the spell Eris placed on the Element of Greed when she made the minotaur king Midas its Bearer. The children's stories that recount that particular piece of history soften it considerably; Midas didn't give up his Touch in order to eat. He'd have fine-chopped vegetables mixed into a slurry with goat's milk and poured into his mouth with a golden funnel. Actually, Midas transformed thousands of centaurs, goats and his own subjects into gold before renouncing the Element after accidentally turning his daughter. Eris, who was every bit as fond of turning sentient beings into static objects as I am, released the beings who'd been turned to gold (well, aside from those who'd already been melted down for ingots), in exchange for an entire orchard's worth of apples that Midas had changed. You can probably guess what she did with the apples; the one she used to start a war between Minos and Tauros a century later was only one of the entertaining stunts those apples led to. Too bad Ar is probably sleeping on the rest of them, they'd be fun to play with.

Winnie would have heightened abilities pertaining to the keeping of his hoard. And since he was a mere wielder, not a true Bearer, I assumed the Element would have warped his mind, accentuating his greed to a ludicrous extent. Bearers, being duly appointed agents of Disharmony, have the ability to control the trait that their Element links them to; bearing the Element of Greed doesn't make the bearer more greedy any more than the Element of Generosity has led Rarity to give away her house. But wielders... rarely fare so well. Carmine Sand's obsessive need to chase after statues and monuments led eventually to Celestia's police force finally figuring out where in the world she was, resulting in the highly disappointing outcome that I was installed back in Canterlot Gardens. And my pal Winnie had been a dragon to begin with. So most likely, negotiation was going to be off the table, I thought.

Can you say "understatement of the millennium?" Wonderful. I knew you could.

But before I begin telling you all about this incredibly dangerous and challenging fight THAT I WON, I must digress shortly to explain some things about the distinctions between Order and Harmony and how they affect Chaos. This is relevant, trust me.

As much as I dislike Harmony, I dislike Order more. They're superficially similar, in that they both produce structured, predictable patterns, but Harmony arises when multiple independent entities choose to work together for a common goal; Order occurs when a single entity imposes its will on others and causes them to work together toward the single entity's goal. Ponies may mindlessly follow the patterns taught to them as foals like brainwashed sheep (Neighropan sheep; the Aggies of Agland are actually quite intelligent and independent, but Neighropan sheep... well, let's put it this way, a lot of them still live in Griffonia, where mutton is a food. If you need to look up that word, go ahead; once you're done, assuming you've found this journal in my Grotto of Disharmony and are still there, the bathroom's through the pink paisley curtains past the eel pond, and I've thoughtfully left you some mouthwash for when you're done vomiting. And now you know precisely how stupid Neighropan sheep are.) But at the least they are mindlessly following those patterns of their own free will, and doing so gives them pleasure. Under a system of Order rather than Harmony, it doesn't matter how free-thinking and independent you are, the leaders of the system will break you down and force you to obey, or you will suffer.

However, there is one good thing about Order. Although its power to impose a pattern on reality and force it to stay that way is more inimical to Chaos than Harmony is, it requires much more energy. If you've ever tried to keep a foal's bedroom clean, you probably already know that attempting to impose Order on a naturally chaotic system requires constant, endless effort. Systems of Harmony are self-maintaining, as are systems of Chaos, because in systems of Harmony every component knows the intended pattern and voluntarily follows it, and in systems of Chaos almost any action will fit the pattern, such as it is. But systems of Order require perpetual vigilance. Order is more inimical to Chaos than Harmony is; because Harmony depends on free will being exercised to maintain a pattern, Harmony has to have a lot of room for potential variation within it. Order maintains itself by stomping out Chaos wherever it finds it. Harmony controls Chaos; Order destroys Chaos. But Chaos destroys Order; the moment the energy being put into ordering the system falters, the slightest variation will cause the entire pattern to fall apart.

In terms of magic, Harmony is supported by the collective unconscious, Order is supported by will and energy, and Chaos is supported by imagination and independence. Magic channeled through Order can make changes that calcify, becoming impervious to other magic, at which point Harmony can't touch it and quite a lot of Chaos would be required to undo the calcification, and usually what you'd get there would be the destruction of the object. But to do anything with Order involves using absurd amounts of power, and if the power falters before the change is made permanent, the entire magical operation fails completely.

Back in the days when I unruled Equestria, I discovered that the Avatar of Order, Matrisse, which was located near Saddle Arabia, Camelstan and the Taur nations, was attempting to transform the world such that there would be no more magic. I'm not entirely sure why Matrisse thought this was a good idea, given that it was put here to help regulate magic, but then asking me to try to guess why the Avatar of Order would do anything sounds like an exercise in futility from the getgo. In any case I thought it was a spectacularly bad idea, so I went to stop it. Matrisse could not be reasoned with (not by me, anyway), so I had to destroy it. It used to be a crystal mountain; now it is a whole lot of individual smaller crystals distributed all over the world. They are all still the Avatar of Order – even I know better than to think reality can do without Order – but they're no longer put together enough to come up with a plan like destroying magic. (Put together enough! Ha! Did you see what I did there?)

Breathing the dust generated from smashing Matrisse paralyzed me, froze my magic, and gave me a horrible racking cough that took nearly a year to clear up. Having small bits of Matrisse wired to the base of my horns (and therefore right next to my brain), courtesy of ponies while I was sick and helpless after saving magic thank you very much, turned me into a drooling, spastic near-mental vegetable indistinguishable from a stroke victim, and only the fact that Celestia is so easy to manipulate that I could do it even while I could barely move, talk or think saved me from a fate worse than being turned to stone. The body of Harmony can paralyze me, but the body of Order can kill me. It goes the other way too; my blood can restrain the Tree and eat away at Matrisse's crystals, but, you know, the fact that I have to bleed a lot to have a large quantity of the blood of a Chaos avatar available to do these sorts of things makes attempting them significantly less attractive. But while Harmony can do some fairly terrible non-lethal things to me that actually stick when it's not touching me anymore, Order has to be directly exerting itself against me; Matrisse's crystals can only do me damage when they're in contact with me. (Which was why the dust in my lungs was so terrible; I had to expel enough of it by coughing to have the magic available to remove the lungs and wash them out before I could fully heal, and it takes a very long time to cough out most of the dust in your lungs when they're full of it.)

This is going to be important later. There may even be a quiz.

I teleported into Winnie's cavern with a very, very large mug of extra strength coffee, and a flugelhorn. "Wake up, Winnie! Rise and shine!" I caroled, and blew on the flugelhorn. For extra decibels I had amplifiers set up all over the cavern.

Wiñaypaqori was, of course, asleep on top of his gold; where else would you expect to find a dragon? I may have been exaggerating when I said he was the size of Ponyville, but not by much; at my full height, counting tail, I could hover on his lower eyelid and barely reach the top of his eye with my antler. When it comes to dealing with dragons, though, it's not size that matters, it's technique. Specifically, the magical technique of annoying them into submission.

He was close to a golden color himself, possibly a bit shaded more toward the yellow part of the spectrum. Mustard, perhaps. His undercarriage, like most dragons', was pale, almost white. Unlike most dragons, he was actually shiny, glittering almost in the light of the fire sconces all over the various walls. It almost looked as if he'd coated himself with the gold, with perhaps some platinum for his underside. "Wakey wakey!" I shouted again, and, armed with a massive squirt cannon, fired a cannonball of strawberry syrup directly at his eye.

Winnie was just opening that eye when the strawberry syrup caromed into it, splattering. He roared, swiveling his head so he could see me with the non-syrupy eye, which was very red and, as I might have mentioned earlier, was slightly bigger than me.

"See, Winnie, you've got something that belongs to me," I said. "And if you'll be a good little boy and just hand it over, we can—"

He breathed fire on me.

Dragons usually telegraph this. An intake of breath, a scrunching of the face, the head rearing back. Winnie didn't. The fire was intense enough to instantly vaporize me, not that that was going to do Winnie any good. What was of more concern to me was the spell being transmitted in the dragonfire. As you may know, if you know Spike The Tiny Dragon, or are him, dragonfire isn't just good for burning things; it can be a transmission medium for spells. The only one Spike knows, so far as I can see, is teleportation, which he uses mostly to send Twilight's overblown missives of her deep, important research into friendship to Celestia. This one was a literal spell of destruction, entropy wound up in a magical package and delivered via dragonfire.

Given how entropy is closely related to chaos, you might think this would actually be helpful to me. And if it had been aimed anywhere else, it probably would have, since the disorder of entropy fuels my magic as well as the disorder of complexity. However, you might by now have noticed that I am a living being, and much as I hate to admit it, living beings are complex systems that don't work nearly so well when they are disordered. Just as your chair is information, so are you, and so am I, and degrading the information that happens to be a feeling, thinking being tends to result in death. Unless you're me, because I'm very, very talented.

In my younger days there were times I actually died, and had to go to all the trouble of resurrecting myself. Oh, I can still remember Celestia and Luna's faces the first time they actually saw me do it. Celestia had been distracting me with a magnificent display of fire, plasma and highly excitable protons, and while I was turning her sunfire into dragonflies, Luna sliced off my head. I was very surprised to find myself suddenly freed of my body, a shade on the astral plane like any other dead being, but having restored myself once by then, I knew how to do it. It took me a few days, though. So Celestia and Luna reclaimed their old castle, declared me dead and proclaimed a new era of order, harmony and rebuilding, and were awfully startled at the swarm of bees that invaded a few days after they retook the throne... not nearly as startled as when the bees reformed into me, though. Oh, the hilarity of that moment. Almost makes me regret that I gave up dying for Winter's End (the holiday of weeks of starvation and deprivation that used to come before Winter Wrap-Up. Can't imagine why Celestia did away with that one.)

Dying's pretty darned inconvenient, though. You're in the middle of a wonderful joke and then swoosh, your head is on the ground and your body isn't attached to it anymore, which really just kills the joke. So nowadays, I turn myself into pure magic the moment I start to feel the tiniest bit of pain. Actually before I feel the pain, because I've gotten it down to a reflex. Turning into pure magic is an ability others have, of course; alicorns and powerful unicorns have demonstrated the ability, most recently when Woona came back from the moona and turned herself into black mist, a thorn, lame ripoffs of the Wonderbolts, etc. But only I have the ability to turn into pure magic that's being maintained in the form of myself. In other words, you can't tell whether I'm made of matter or magic because I look the same either way.

So Winnie's fire vaporizing my body wasn't a serious issue for me; my body was simply a construct made by my magic that I happened to be living in. It was destroyed quickly enough that it didn't even really hurt. The real issue was that the spell contained in the dragonfire attempted to disrupt the magic I was made of... which could have killed me permanently, since it's my magic that allows me to pull stunts like returning from the dead. Of course the day I actually fall to an entropy spell is the day I hang up my hat as Lord of Chaos, take my pension and retire; they do fall within my area of expertise, after all. I turned the spell in on itself so it ate itself and died, made a copy of my body made entirely of ashes aside from comically big eyes, and let the ashes crumble in mid-air, eyeballs falling to the ground last, in front of Winnie, while I teleported and re-formed across the cavern.

I could take any number of hits from dragonfire, and laugh. Entropy spells, not so much. While I could use my own chaos to unweave them, invert them or turn them on themselves, any part of the spell that I missed could do me extraordinary damage in my pure magic form. So I was going to have to avoid the firebreath as much as possible.

As soon as I reappeared I said, "How rude! Do you always greet your—"

He slashed at me, forcing me to vanish again. That was disconcerting; when I'd teleported he hadn't been anywhere near my new destination. The moment I reappeared, giant claws raked at me. I attempted to dodge through the claws – they were huge, and thus had a great deal of space between them, certainly wide enough for me to eel through – except for the part where I hit some sort of magical forcefield that gave me a tremendous zap, enough to stun me for a moment. His paw closed around me; I teleported again, and barely managed to avoid being lunch as his vast maw lunged at me.

Somehow he knew exactly where I was going to reappear before I did it. That wasn't a power granted by the Element of Greed. The speed with which he moved in defense of his hoard came from the Element, but the ability to see a teleportation end point before the port was done? I hadn't expected that.

For a few minutes I dodged him while I tested his limits. When I made three of myself and had us all reappear at different points, he couldn't tell which one was the real me, but when I teleported objects (mostly, his treasures), or manifested things that weren't me, he could tell. Somehow he could see me when I was discorporate, or maybe he could see the shape of my magic tunneling through the spaces between. He had rings on all his fingers, one of which had to be responsible for that force field web between his claws, and a golden chain around his neck, attached to which were numerous items of various magical properties.

I didn't see my Element anywhere. I knew it was on his person somewhere, but it wasn't on his fingers or his charm necklace, so where--?

He managed to hit me again, sending me flying into the wall with an enormous gash through my middle. I healed that more or less instantly and turned to mist, planning to cloud his eyes.

He slashed through me.

In my mist form I should have been impervious to his claws; they ought to have done me as much damage as you'd expect a dragon slashing at a mist would be able to cause, ie, none. Not only could he see me when I was magic, he could hurt me. I recorporated and let myself drop upwards, inverting gravity – not for Winnie, but for every object in the room that wasn't Winnie, causing his hoard to start to pour down on him. He shrieked in rage and flailed at it, beating his wings, while I curled up inside a large umbrella and floated down, which was now up.

The damage to my magic, to my essence, wasn't anywhere near as severe as what Anon had inflicted, but I can't regenerate damage to my magic. I have to wait for it to heal. It heals a lot faster than, say, pony bodies do, but I was stuck with it for at least a few hours.

Possibly I should have backed off then, having recognized that Winnie was actually capable of harming me, but I was angry. I was the Lord of Chaos, and this jumped-up fool of a dragon thought he could deny me what was rightfully mine just because he'd been using it for a while and had collected a few other magic items in the process? Ridiculous! Losing to the Elements of Harmony is one thing but I wasn't going to lose to a dragon.

As Winnie dug himself out of his pile of gold, I reverted the gravity, so the whole thing started falling on him again. And as he screamed in fury and flamed his own gold to teleport it away from himself, I let the air fill with the sound of my voice.

"Do you even realize who I am, Wiñaypaqori? I am Discord, Lord of Chaos and Disharmony. I've killed more dragons than I care to count, and driven even more of them mad. You have my Element of Greed, and I want it back."

"I will give you nothing!" he roared, bursting out of the gold pile finally. He breathed flame at me again, but I was expecting it, and dodged – and as I dodged, I transformed the top layer of his gold coins into dragon-mites, the creatures I created during the Dragon War. Dragon-mites are like parasprites, except that the only food they desire is dragon scales.

Winnie shrieked as my horde, made from his hoard, descended on him to eat his scales away. He flamed himself with such intensity, the dragon-mites – which, of course, I'd made to be impervious to dragonfire – burned. Normal dragonfire couldn't do that.

I decided to finish this quickly. I teleported to Winnie's head and tapped it lightly with a talon, focusing all my strength on tearing down his defenses and unbalancing him. I've successfully done this to Celestia, Luna and Starswirl the Bearded; it's cheating, so I dislike it, but sometimes winning really is more important than how you play the game.

I got in without much trouble – dragons are resistant to mind control, but I'm, well, me. However, when I tried to tip his mental apple cart, I found it impossibly resilient. I was trying to make him less greedy, or more apathetic, or frightened of me – something, anything to make him quit fighting me and hand my property over. Nothing I did worked, and I could feel some sort of strange pressure against my power, pushing hard against it in an opposing direction every time I tried to unbalance Winnie.

When I realized what was going on I became even more furious. My own Element was working against me! This kind of thing never happens to Harmony, because for fairly obvious reasons Elements of Harmony always work in Harmony, but being that I am Disharmony I could see how it was possible for an Element of mine to turn against me. But it shouldn't have! Winnie wasn't a true Bearer, he shouldn't have the ability to turn an Element of Disharmony against the spirit of Disharmony! Apparently it had been with him for so long, while I was in stone, that it had bonded with him as if I'd authorized him to bear it.

And just as I figured that out, Winnie grabbed me and squeezed me to a pulp.

Just because I'm made of magic doesn't mean I can't feel pain, and I assure you, having my bones smashed and my flesh crushed was excruciating, if brief. It didn't kill me, but it infuriated me even further. I turned myself into grape jelly, oozed through his claws, dripped onto his nose, re-formed and swung my tail into his eye, hard.

Dragon eyes are not nearly as impervious as the rest of them. You can't kill a dragon by shooting it through the eye; the bony plate behind the eye keeps you from having a straight shot to the brain, and dragon bone is even stronger than dragon scales. But you can cut a dragon's eye, and my tail is covered in dragon scales and spikes; just a thought, and my body's magic shifted, strengthening the dragonesque aspects of my draconequus form.

He howled and grabbed for me as blood spurted from the narrow slices my spikes had made in his eyeball. I shot upward and sideways, neatly evading his grab... and nearly ran into his wingclaw, aiming straight for me. Which wouldn't have been a problem, really, except for what the wingclaw was holding.

He had the Godslayer Hammer. Which I'd thought I'd gotten rid of by dumping it in another universe, a millennium and a half ago.

Dodging the Godslayer brought me into the sweep of his wing, which caught me and threw me back toward his tail, with enough speed that I was slightly stunned by the blow. Though not nearly as stunned as I was when his tail whipcracked against me with speed that should not have been possible for something so massive, smashed every bone in my body again, and flung me toward his front. I hit the gold pile and skidded. Ever try to regenerate your bones when you're flying through a pile of gold pieces at high speed? I don't recommend it.

I had to take a moment to get my breath and repair myself. This was almost my last. Winnie had switched the Godslayer from his wingclaw to his paw, and he brought it down at me with enough speed that it would have splattered me if it hit. Not that what it could do to my physical body was my biggest concern, when dealing with the Godslayer. There's a reason it's called that.

I needed a moment to gather my magic before I could teleport, and I didn't have a moment. So I rolled out of the way, frantically enough that I didn't pay much attention to what direction I was rolling in.

Turned out to be the direction of Winnie's mouth, as it dived down at me and closed around me.

He attempted to swallow me, of course, but swallowing works by using a tongue to push food toward the back of your mouth, whereupon it falls down your throat and the muscles of your esophagus grab it and push it down. I created a very large, realistic plushie me (well, as realistic as you'd expect from something with buttons for eyes and suede fabric for a head), levitated out of the way of Winnie's tongue and let him swallow that. Oh, did I forget to mention I'd filled the plushie with high explosives? Because I did.

Satisfied by the weight and shape of what he'd just swallowed, Winnie returned his tongue to its normal position, leaving me room to float comfortably above the back of his throat and start tossing grenades down. When the first one exploded, the shockwave set off the plushie. I stuffed my ears in my pockets (you didn't know I had pockets, did you? Well, now you do), since the explosions were rather loud. Winnie started throwing his head around, groaning and moaning, which was actually louder than the explosions, but if he expected to dislodge me that way he had another think coming.

I smelled the sulfur of raw dragonfire before it exploded upward, so I had time to turn myself into a scale on the roof of Winnie's mouth, as impervious to the heat as any of the other scales would be, before he filled his mouth and the air in front of him with a blast of fire. And then, as soon as the fire had passed, I made a wheelbarrow filled with frozen vodka – much colder than frozen water, given the freezing temperature of alcohol – and poured the whole thing down his throat. Then I thought about Winnie's size, and made a river of near-freezing vodka start running along the roof of his mouth (didn't know if dragons can get brainfreeze, but why not try to do it anyway?) and down his throat, with fish made out of gelignite and nitroglycerin swimming in it.

Winnie roared, and tried to make fire, but so much icy cold liquid pouring onto his flames made that a trifle difficult. I teleported out, because once he did get that fire restarted, I really didn't want to be around for the combination of burning alcohol and the explosive fish I'd filled the river with. Winnie's large red eye, still decorated with strawberry syrup, glared at me as I popped into existence right in front of it. "Hi, Winnie!" I said. "Hope you like free booze – but of course you do! Everyone likes free booze!"

Again he tried to squash me with his paw, but I flew away from him, laughing. "Having a bit of flame impotence there, Winnie? I hear they make potions for that now!"

Winnie growled, and grabbed something off his charm necklace, throwing it at me. I dodged quite easily, and then realized that he hadn't actually been aiming at me.

True fact: if you're a necromancer, and you know the right spells, and you have a supply of giant rainforest ants and dragon's teeth, you can imprint the spirit of one of your ants on a dragon's tooth and create a Myrmidon, a faithful slave-warrior ant-dragon. Myrmidons look like dragons with ant heads. Even I think they're creepy. I doubted Winnie was a necromancer himself, or that he could possibly have done such delicate work even if he was, but plainly he'd gotten one to do him a favor, because yes, those were Myrmidons rising up from below the gold pile's surface. The things Winnie had thrown at me had been dragon's teeth; Winnie had certainly killed enough of his fellow dragons to have a good bit of them lying around.

While Winnie worked his jaw, obviously trying to get his fire back (without a great deal of success), the Myrmidons attacked me. Myrmidons are not as impervious to my power as full dragons are, but there were ten or twelve of them or something and while they didn't have toys like Godslayer on hand, they could possibly wear me down and make me more vulnerable to Winnie. They were animated by magic, so turning one of them into a pile of egg noodles just meant I was being attacked by magical egg noodles. Instead of breathing fire, they spat acid, in large quantities. I dropped custard on them, flung gold into them hard enough to break their carapaces (Myrmidons aren't truly alive; they're magical constructs, so I had no problem with the idea of destroying them), turned gold into quicksand, transformed one's head into an anvil, that kind of thing, but they just kept coming. Like zomponies. They didn't feel pain and it looked like I would have to completely dismantle one to keep the magic animating it from continuing to attack me.

Still, I thought, they couldn't seriously hurt me, and there was no way I was backing away from this fight, not now that I knew Winnie had subverted my Element. Each individual Element of Disharmony has about a fifth of my power. (When you put all seven together it adds up to the power of one chaos avatar; the reason that combining seven fifths makes one is the fact that Disharmony doesn't work together, so a lot of the power is lost as waste.) I was not going to let this stupid dragon run around with an object that gave him a fifth of my own magical strength, no matter how many ant dragon golems he threw at me. I made tentacles with razor blades and sliced them up, I teleported above them and dropped grenades down their mouths when they looked up at me, I made small glass tornados to shred them and disperse them. I was down to five Myrmidons when I suddenly felt the strength go out of my limbs, and I wobbled like I'd just turned myself into an egg noodle, an overcooked one.

I hadn't been paying attention to the thaumics around me. Now I did, and realized I'd just walked into a rune circle. Made of Harmony Violets, in amber.

The Harmony Violet grows along the west coast of the Amareicas, in rocky, mountainous territory. It "purifies" raw or malign magic, which is to say it harmonizes it, pushing what is left over down into the dirt for its symbiotes to feed on. A tea made with Harmony Violets can cure nearly any magical ailment a pony might suffer, though with the possible side effect of addicting them to the things. Petals trapped in amber, a magical resonator, have much the same effect as leaves from the Tree of Harmony; they can be used as a power source for harmonic rituals or magic circles. At some point, probably while I was in his throat, Winnie had laid down a rune circle with ambered Violets. It wasn't a closed circle, so I wasn't trapped, but it was rapidly weakening my magic and if he charged it with dragonfire, he could actually turn me to stone. Temporarily, but since he had Godslayer, temporarily might well turn into permanently. The Godslayer Hammer shatters souls and magic; it could break my stone form, and kill me.

I looked up, and saw Winnie grinning viciously down at me. "Chaos creature, even you cannot steal from Wiñaypaqori," he said. "Those who steal from me take into their paws only death."

Then he belched.

I was fairly sure he hadn't intended to do that – that his plan had been a more controlled blast of dragonfire, charged with a spell to activate the rune circle. But he'd gotten his flame started, and just as I'd planned, my bombs went off in his guts, causing pure flame, sans spell, to roar out of his mouth in a giant deadly burp. I didn't stick around for it – I dove down through the gold, using what magic I could muster up and also my ability to dig, which is fairly amazing if I say so myself, as above me the gold melted in the heat of Winnie's flame, trapping the Myrmidons and the Harmony Violets.

I dug down at a sharp angle, and then up at a steeper one, planning to come up somewhere nowhere near where I'd last seen Winnie, but I sort of forgot about his ability to see me when he shouldn't have been able to. I had other things to worry about. While I was digging, I could feel some sort of force – not my Element, not the Violets, but something far more inimical to me – pressing against the magic I'd performed. The gold I'd turned to dragon-mites would have reverted on its own, except that Winnie flamed the dragon-mites to ash. See, if I turn a pony into cheese, and don't keep up the transformation spell, it's chaos' nature to be transient, so it'll revert naturally and the pony will be unharmed. But if mice ate the cheese while it was cheese, then the spell releasing will do nothing. The cheese was changed into something else while it was cheese, in this case mouse poop, and the additional change prevents the chaos from reverting. The new form stays. So when Winnie burned the dragon-mites, he destroyed his own gold.

Except he was somehow undoing it. He couldn't do that with the Element of Greed, for the reasons I just explained. He couldn't do that with Harmony, because all Harmony can do to spells of Chaos is make them fail and revert. Very powerful alchemy could turn ash into gold, or specific Chaos spells like the one Eris had once used on Midas, but what I was feeling was not ash turning into gold but ash reverting into the gold it had been before it had been dragon-mites. There was only one power I knew of that could do that.

And then Winnie's paw drove down into the gold, plunging through layers of coins and jewelry, and grabbed me, yanking me up before I could react.

Winnie had Godslayer. He had rings of power. He had my Element of Greed. He had Harmony artifacts. And apparently he had a shard of Matrisse, because only the power of Order can re-order reality the way he just did. And if he had a shard of Matrisse, or if his other paw was holding Godslayer, I really didn't want to stick around in his paw to find out.

I looked down at him as he pulled me up, studying the charm necklace. There. That thing looked like a piece of Matrisse. It was a jagged crystal, colorless but with that kind of whiteness crystals get when they're colorless but thick, roughly shaped like an obelisk but with lots of sharp edges and bits sticking out. For something that had come from Order, it was certainly irregular in shape. I chuckled to myself. If Matrisse was capable of consciousness anymore, it was probably furious that it had been reduced to such a state. It would probably prefer to be polished to smoothness.

And there, half-buried within the scales of Winnie's neck, I saw my Element of Greed.

Harmony loves its crystals. Crystals are orderly. Harmonious. They're good storage batteries for magic, but they're useless for channeling chaos. For that you want metal. A substance that's hard and unyielding, but can flow and become soft, or even liquefy, and become any shape you want to bend it into. And of course, the metal that the Element of Greed is made of is gold – what else would it be? It's a golden ball, with a crystal in the center like an eyeball. The last time I'd seen it, the crystal had been colorless, as one would expect since the Element had no bearer. It was now red, like Winnie's eye.

This utterly infuriated me. Just like the Elements of Harmony change to match a pony bearer's cutie mark, the crystal within the Element of Greed changes to match the bearer's eye, because the eye is the symbol of greed. I see, I want. Winnie was not a bearer, but the thing had changed to match him, as if he actually was a bearer, as if he had any right to be a bearer when I hadn't granted it to him. A thousand years in stone had damaged me at a fundamental level if some dragon could bond my Element to himself against my will. He'd obviously been wearing it at his neck for so long, and so closely, that his scales had started to grow around it; I'd have to pry it out of him.

Given the life I've led, the powers I have and the force I represent, I've never been much for material objects, but I suppose I'm dragon enough myself that on the rare occasions when there's something that belongs to me, it enrages me that someone would try to take it for their own. The Element of Greed was mine. Admittedly I hadn't really cared much about it in two thousand years but that wasn't the point! It was mine to give away, not Winnie's to take.

So at this point it didn't matter how many potentially-deadly-to-me toys Winnie brought out. This wasn't just about my plan to distract Anon anymore, this was about preserving my office as avatar of Chaos. I wasn't going to back down for any reason whatsoever.

I brought his hoard to life.

Gold coins sprouted wings and flew. Gold bars grew legs and tried to flee. Gold statues ambulated in whatever means the statue had been granted, and if none then they just rolled.

Winnie roared with rage, and swung Godslayer at me. I turned myself to liquid and poured to the ground, reforming. He swung it down again, and I teleported, at the same time turning the gold where I'd been standing as soft as melted chocolate. When the hammer slammed into the soft gold, I hardened the gold, embedding it. Godslayer might be able to slay gods, but it couldn't melt gold.

I didn't expect that to buy me much time, because I knew Winnie could melt the gold himself. Instead, Winnie pressed a claw to the Element of Greed and took on a look of concentration... and all of the gold that I'd sent running away from him came back. That didn't surprise me; I'd never seen the Element of Greed used to literally summon one's possessions back, but it was hardly a shocking application of its abilities.

This wouldn't do at all. My will bore down on the Element. Perhaps it had a fifth of my power, but that meant I was still five times more powerful. I was trying to wrench it away from Winnie metaphysically rather than physically, breaking his connection to it.

He didn't like that so much, and took a swipe at me. Because I was concentrating on the Element, I didn't dodge in time, and he tore two huge gashes through me – and through my magic. I collapsed, which gave me an opportunity to see the underside of Winnie's claws descending on me. Yes, one of those rings on his digits was the Ring of Shadow Slaying – significantly stronger against dark magic constructs than chaotic ones, but its entire purpose was to rip constructs of pure magic apart.

I rolled, just slightly, to let Winnie's palm slam down on me instead of his claws, squashing me flat, which crushed my body but did no further harm to my magic, so I turned myself into a paper version of myself and re-inflated the moment his paw lifted. His jaws snapped at me again. I teleported straight up, and spent another few minutes dodging various slashes and bites and fire blasts. At one point I threw up a shield, but his claws went right through it.

While I was dodging, I was continuing to re-animate his hoard to run away. He kept having to stop to use the Element of Greed to summon his stuff back, and I guessed, correctly, that no mere dragon could multitask as well as the Spirit of Chaos, so I had moments where I could focus. On his charm necklace I finally located the Eye of Odin (it is not really, that's just its name), a magical object that allowed the user to see what could not normally be seen. So that was how he was tracking my teleports. He also had a shard of Matrisse, as I mentioned, and gold wire woven in the shape of a heart the size of a pony, and a bunch of other stuff that I noticed at the time but which didn't turn out to be relevant so I've forgotten them. Hey, fight for your life and see how many of the small details you remember afterward.

Up to this point I'd mostly been fighting defensively. I didn't want to kill Winnie – well, okay, maybe I did a little bit, but that was my temper talking and I try not to listen to it too much. I'd killed dragons in wartime, but this wasn't a war, this was an upstart trying to unseat me and take my possession, and killing him, aside from being against my principles, would make me look weak. As if I had to kill him to defeat him. I take great pride in the fact that I am so powerful, intelligent and generally amazing that I don't need to kill my enemies, and I wasn't going to let a mere dragon take that from me, no matter how mad I was. But he'd resisted most of my casual attempts so far, so if I actually wanted my Element back I was going to have to get serious about terrorizing him, at least. Maybe even causing him pain. I didn't like to do it – causing psychological torment is much more interesting and classy than physical torture, and has longer-term effects – but dragons are very, very stubborn creatures.

I was still deciding on what to do when he pulled the gold wire heart off his charm necklace and blew flame on it. It lit up, and in the sudden blaze, a quetzalcoatl with black and orange feathers and silver scales appeared, like a phoenix in the process of being reborn.

In the ancient language of the quetzalcoatls, from before ponies from Espoña took over most of the territory and quetzalcoatl language had to absorb their tongue, the quetzalcoatl said, "What is your wish, master?"

"Destroy the draconequus," Winnie growled.

"Now that is just rude," I complained. "You steal my Element of Greed, you refuse to give it back, and now what, you summon a servant to try to kill me? You are off my Hearth's Warming card list, mister."

The quetzalcoatl's eyes narrowed as he looked at me. "Mayhem?" he said, uncertainly.

I goggled at him for a second. "How old are you?" I asked. "Because seriously, if you're mistaking me for Mayhem? You're senile. What, were you swimming in the primordial soup in day care?"

"You are no mere draconequus," he said, which was of course true. "The avatar of Chaos is no longer Mayhem? You look like him."

"I do not! Everyone with brains says I take after my mother, but I suppose yours crystallized over the ages." He was a lich. Had to be. And Winnie controlled his phylactery. A true immortal, like an alicorn, couldn't be enslaved by a creature like Winnie, and if he was both old enough to remember who Mayhem was, and had spent enough time out of circulation not to recognize me, he had to be ancient but asleep most of the time. But he was a quetzalcoatl, not a spirit of some kind. Quetzalcoatls were mortal. He wasn't, but he wasn't ascended either, and that plus his servitude suggested strongly that he was a lich.

Above our heads, Winnie was using his Matrisse shard to undo the things I had done. It was going to take him some time; I'd transformed a good half of his hoard by now, and I may have mentioned that his hoard filled an entire mountain.

I decided to go for broke. A lich was less likely to be able to hurt me than Winnie himself, so I could afford the distraction, I figured. I turned Winnie's entire hoard into butterflies.

While he roared in frustration and tried to zap the flying insects with his Matrisse shard, the lich fired a bolt of power at me, and since turning an entire mountain's worth of small shiny objects into butterflies is a trifle draining even for me, it actually hit.

It was a spell of intense cold. In a second, all the heat had drained from my body, and I started shivering uncontrollably. Irritated, I used my own power to warm myself... only to have the cold intensify.

A moment too late I figured out what was going on. Quetzalcoatls were master necromancers, or had been during the time period this fellow grew up in, but what this guy had done was impressive even for a species that managed to raise a second sun and feed it with the blood of the innocent. He'd actually managed to kill a windigo and bind its essence into a spell – made all the more astonishing by the fact that windigos are spirits and generally, killing a spirit involves destroying it completely. But no, this guy had converted a windigo into a spell, which meant that he had a spell that fed on disharmony and generated cold. I wondered if he'd engineered this thing to use against Mayhem, and the irony that would have been, given that Mayhem brought the windigos in the first place.

It left me in a bit of a pickle, though, since my magic is based in Disharmony, which meant that almost any spell I could possibly cast, the thing he'd just wound around me could eat. Also, draconequui don't like cold. At all. The only reason I enjoy snow activities is that I use my powers to keep myself warm. Neither do quetzalcoatls, of course, and for the same reason – our bodies aren't built for it – but this guy was a lich, so the cold wouldn't kill him. Cold couldn't kill me either, normally, but if all my magic was being devoured...

Memories of exploring with Celestia and Luna and finding caverns full of draconequus skeletons, where my people had huddled to try to share warmth before the cold the ponies brought killed them, came back to mind. I was getting colder and colder, dodging physically, with wings and legs, as the lich fired bolts of pure cold at me, and my own shivering was making it harder to move fast enough.

I flung an enormous amount of power into a spell on the swarms of butterflies I'd made, giving them ant heads that spat aqua regia rather than formic acid. The dead windigo spell ate a lot of the power and converted it to cold, pulling the very water vapor out of the air and freezing me solid. If you've ever been turned to stone, and been conscious during it, you can probably imagine how deeply unhappy I was with the concept of being frozen into a block of ice. But this was a gamble; I thought I'd be a lot more successful at undoing the windigo spell if the lich would just stop firing bolts of ice at me. And the whole reason I'd used so much power on the spell was so that enough of it would get through to accomplish the transformation.

I then cast a mental manipulation spell at my hordes of gold-corroding ant-butterflies, telling them to be very, very attracted to the heart made of gold wires and very, very hungry for whatever might be inside it.

Chaos and Disharmony aren't the same thing. Mobs, in particular, are a construct of chaotic harmony. Every individual member of a mob, in harmony, decides to accomplish the same task, which is generally beating the stuffing out of someone or something. Direct a mob at an object, which has no emotions and cannot feel panic, fear or pain, and there's no disharmony component of the spell at all. Normally you'd have to stimulate a mob into existence with negative emotion, which is disharmony, but not if you're dealing with a species that swarms in nature. And butterflies swarming and attacking something isn't exactly normal for butterflies, but it is completely normal for ants. There was a lot of disharmony in the spell that gave them ant heads and the ability to spit acid that would eat through gold, but there was none in the spell that made them want to swarm and eat the shiny golden heart, because that is very compatible with, and harmonious with, the nature of ants. So the entire spell got through without feeding the windigo-spell any more power.

Winnie didn't even notice – he was still engaged with turning the butterflies back to gold. When they swarmed on him, they were too close for him to easily zap them, so he concentrated on zapping the back of the swarm – not the ones near his charm necklace. The lich figured it out a minute or two before Winnie did. He'd been preparing a spell that I think he'd intended to shatter me, figuring, I suppose, that I was down for the count just because I was trapped in a block of ice. And then he realized what my butterants were doing (anterflies?), and started screaming, "No!" He tried to fire his cold spell at the anterflies – but they were swarming Winnie's neck, which made it look to Winnie as if his lich was attacking him, so he breathed fire at the lich – and coincidentally me, which began the much-desired process of melting the ice that held me. And meanwhile my anterflies were busily eating their way through the golden heart.

You probably know that a lich is a being who has placed his life force in an object, such that his body cannot be killed no matter what damage is inflicted on it, so long as the object is unharmed. You might even know about the quetzalcoatl obsession with hearts as a symbol for life force, though you probably have no idea how many thousands of ponies, llamas, alpacas, draconequui, and even other quetzalcoatls had their hearts torn out to feed the magically-generated second sun the quetzalcoatls created, during the days when the windigos were killing everything and the unicorns were playing games with the sun to harm their fellow ponies. And you know that I saw Winnie cast a spell on that golden heart to make the lich appear in the first place. So you can guess how I figured out exactly what Quetzy's phylactery was.

His actual heart turned out to be inside the thing. Aqua regia's a highly unstable acid that's known for melting gold, but the truth is, it isn't any good for quetzalcoatl flesh, either. My swarm hadn't even eaten their entire way through the gold shell by the time their acid, dripping into it, had done so much damage to the living heart within that the lich shrieked and crumbled to dust. (Yes, I know, destroying a lich either counts as killing something, thus decreasing Chaos, or restoring a dead thing to its proper state, thus increasing Harmony, but I was kind of fighting for my life here. There's a time and a place to stand on ideology, and when you're being frozen to death by an ancient lich, that isn't it.)

With him down, I could focus on unweaving the windigo spell. Winnie wasn't the only one with entropy spells; the destruction of anything by disordering it into noise is part of my basic toolkit, after all. There's no disharmony in it either; entropy is natural, a fundamental part of the harmony of the universe. Spells falling apart are actually more "natural" than spells holding together, after all. I'd undone the majority of the spell and almost melted myself free by the time Winnie decided to turn his attention to me again.

He happened to be holding a shard of Matrisse in his paw. I happened to still be largely paralyzed with cold, shivering violently as I melted my prison, and paying entirely too little attention to Winnie. So my first realization that I might actually be in an extraordinary amount of danger came when I saw the glitter of crystal headed toward my chest, and by the time I understood and thought of dodging, it was too late.

Winnie slammed the jagged obelisk of a shard of Order directly through my abdomen, and out the other side.

It is literally impossible for me to describe the pain this caused me, because a pony unfortunate enough to endure something so antithetical to her very selfhood being shoved through her would probably be dead, and therefore anyone reading this account has almost certainly never gone through anything similar. First imagine the pain of having a jagged crystal obelisk shoved through you. Now imagine that it is simultaneously white-hot and ice-cold, so it is burning you and freezing you at the same time. Now imagine that it's like a lightning rod conducting electricity into you, so you're paralyzed, limbs splayed, unable to move while your extremities go numb. Now imagine that you can feel it eating you from the outside in, raking your innards and your magic apart into strands and reweaving those strands into basic, boring stripes rather than the tapestry of complexity that makes you, you.

It was actually worse than all of that, but that can at least give you a vague idea.

I fell, on my back, staring up at Winnie's huge face and giant evil gloating grin above me. I couldn't move, I couldn't talk, and the pain was so horrible I could barely think. It actually felt rather like Anon's sword effect burning my tail had, and I was sure I was disintegrating from the inside out, but I couldn't even move my head to see. To be completely honest, I don't think I was afraid; I remember being angry, that helpless, sick anger you feel when someone who absolutely does not deserve to win this one has gotten one over on you. I don't think it had sunk in that I was about to die; I was mostly just infuriated that Winnie was going to be the one to get to kill me.

"Chaos creature, where is your laughter now?" he asked mockingly. "I told you. Those who come to steal from my horde come away with death in their paws. Would you like to plead for your life? To beg?"

It wouldn't have mattered if I'd wanted to (which for the record I didn't); I couldn't talk. My mouth was frozen open because I'd been screaming when the paralysis swept over me. You think bizarre, stupid things at a time like this; I remember hoping that none of my anterflies decided to land in my open mouth because I was already in enough pain without having to deal with aqua regia on my tongue, and that thought frightened me more than Winnie's large head and sharp teeth above me. I knew I was going to die -- my blood would eventually eat through the crystal obelisk, but it would take long enough that I wouldn't be alive when it was done. Yet I was more afraid of acid in my mouth than the obvious fact that I was paralyzed and doomed.

At the time I didn't think of it -- I was too busy feeling what I was feeling to analyze it – but now I find it interesting that when I've faced death at Anon's hands, I've felt terror, yet lying on Winnie's gold pile with his head and teeth and claws above me and a shard of Order stuck through my guts, all I felt was rage and humiliation. I mean, I'm not some heroic type to laugh in the face of death, but I'm fairly sure that if I could have talked, I would have made wisecracks rather than begging.

He lifted me with his paw. "I am curious to know what chaos tastes like," he said, chuckling. "When I swallowed you before, I had no opportunity to savor the flavor. This time I will be sure to taste your blood."

I'll admit that when he opened his mouth and lowered me halfway into it, I started wishing desperately that I could close my eyes. I was actually successful in making some sort of noise, a tiny high-pitched whine, not exactly the full-throated screaming I really wanted to be doing but it was something at least. With Winnie holding me up, I could see that there was in fact a large hole through me where the shard of Matrisse had gone in, larger than the shard itself, which was suspended eerily in the center of the gaping opening. The hole was growing, my flesh turning ashen gray and then crumbling to powder. I decided this would be easier for me to accept if I blamed my imminent death on Matrisse, who was after all one of my two great, eternal nemeses, not Winnie, who was still pretty much just an annoying dragon who'd gotten lucky. Winnie lined up his teeth with the existing large hole through my middle and chomped down. I'd thought I wouldn't be able to feel it, given how much pain was radiating from the wound itself and how numb my body felt at the edges, but I was wrong.

I couldn't feel anything where the hole was, well aside from the pain Matrisse was causing me, but my body was still in one piece rather than two because the hole hadn't spread to my sides yet. Winnie's teeth slicing through those sides, severing my lower half entirely, hurt badly enough to weaken the paralysis; I managed to spasm and scream. Winnie opened his mouth, grinning at me, letting me see the bottom half of my body lying on his tongue. Then he swallowed it.

Without a bottom half, the hole inside me didn't have a bottom half either. Gravity pulled the shard of Matrisse down, falling loose to the gold pile below.

I told you there might be a quiz.

As soon as the Order crystal was no longer in contact with my body, my power, and more importantly my ability to use it, started coming back to me. I knew I wouldn't have gathered enough strength to heal myself, teleport, or free myself in any way before Winnie finished me off, but there is one thing disharmony is exceptionally good at doing, and that is breaking bonds that should naturally clasp together. Such as the links of a large gold necklace.

I concentrated everything I had right then on Winnie's charm necklace, and it snapped. All sorts of wondrous magical items tumbled to the gold below us.

"What – No! My jewels!" Winnie shouted in frustration, and threw me down, rather hard, so he could start trying to gather the magical items that were rolling loose on the gold pile. His outrage, not to mention the hilarious way he was slipping and sliding on his gold and scattering the very objects he was trying to catch, fed me with just enough magic to pull myself sideways, into the spaces between realities.

A small alteration to physics made the blood that would have been pouring continually out of me start looping back up to travel back into my body. I drew in a few ragged breaths – my lungs are in my chest, when I don't feel like rearranging them for amusement, so I still had them – and concentrated again, summoning the lower half of my body.

You probably don't realize this to look at me, but I'm actually covered with scales from my ribcage downward. It's just that, until they get to just below my hips, they are tiny, and allow fur to grow between them, so the fur I'm covered with hides them. Dragons can eat each other, but it takes them more time to digest dragonflesh, because of scales. So I had no fur left, and my poor goat leg was more or less destroyed, dissolved in the raging fury of a dragon stomach, but my other, dragon-scaled leg, my tail, and my midsection were all more or less intact. Fortunately for me the parts I'd have liked losing even less than losing my leg are actually stashed inside my body where the scales protected them as well, and my wings were on my top half so I hadn't lost them either.

Creating new matter from scratch takes a lot of magic. It's normally magic I have available to burn, but right then I was very, very weak. Organizing existing matter into the form I wanted it in takes almost as much magic as creating new matter. But taking a more or less intact structure and gluing it to another more or less intact structure, fusing them together, takes almost nothing. Teleporting my lower half to me, out of Winnie's tum-tum, took more energy than fastening it back on myself.

Of course as soon as my pieces were all back together I started screaming again, because my mostly-dissolved goat leg hurt like you would not believe, and just because dragon scales provide some protection from dragon guts doesn't mean I wasn't badly burned all over. I spent several minutes screaming and swearing at Winnie in every language I know, which is almost all of them, while I waited to be able to gather up enough magic to heal the damage. Enough injury had been done to my very essence, to my magic itself, that I wasn't going to be able to fully heal the damage, not for some time. I put muscle and a thin layer of skin back on the goat leg, but I couldn't manage a full epidermis, a hoof, or my fur back, so it was still in agony when I tried to use it, and I could suppress the pain somewhat but I could neither fully heal my burns nor grow my fur back. I looked really, really stupid. Also naked. It's a lot more obvious where I'm hiding my naughty bits when all my fur's been burned off my lower body.

It would have been incredibly stupid to return to the fight right then, before I was fully recovered. The smart thing to do was obviously to return to my grotto, relax, lie around on my fluffy pillows, and come back once I was fully healed.

You can probably guess that I did not do this.

I was angry. I don't get angry often. I don't like me when I'm angry. Chaos has two faces (well, at least two; technically I'm sure there are a lot more) – the creative, funny, tricksterish side I prefer to show, the form of Chaos that makes me happiest... and destruction. Air burning, seas roiling, earth turning to glass or erupting underfoot. War. Plague. Annihilation.

These things have their own horrible beauty, but I do not like their aftermath, so I avoid them. But just as users of harmonic magic who tap into their own rage and hatred can draw on the well of dark magic and amplify their own power tenfold... so can users of chaos. And I was very, very, very angry.

Warnings: Using dark magic can cause eyeball leakage, spontaneous transformation into magical shadows, unexpected color changes, and severe constipation. Pregnant mares, foals, the elderly, and anypony who isn't near-suicidally stupid should avoid the use of dark magic. Ask your local thaumaturge if dark magic is right for you.

Foals, don't try this at home.

I made myself a pair of soft velvet pants to hide how stupid my naked, tiny red dragon scales looked, and a fancy ruffled shirt and velvet vest to match the pants to hide the fact that I was hiding something. And then I teleported back in.

Winnie looked up, saw me, roared, and breathed his fire at me. I turned it to liquid plasma and reflected it off a shield, bouncing it back to splash against his face. Dragons are impervious to fire, and lava, but the heat of the sun does actually set them back a tad. He screamed.

I snapped my fingers and made everything grow, warping space within the mountain cavern. Size is relative, after all. I grew enormous, dwarfing Winnie, and I enlarged the cavern and his gold as well. My power couldn't transform Winnie and alter his size, but there was no reason I couldn't affect the size of everything else.

Winnie flew at me, shrieking a challenge. I made a cloudball bat (it's a griffon game, it involves having opposable thumbs and being able to stand upright so you can swing a bat at a ball without magic) and swatted him with it, hard. Then as he went flying I stretched my talon out ludicrously and grabbed him by the neck, reeling him in toward me.

He attacked my talon, quite viciously, tearing at me and making me bleed, again, but I was beyond feeling pain. I bit down on his wings, pinning them together with my teeth, twisted one of his forelegs behind his back with my lion paw, and used my talon to tear the rings off his other foreleg. His tail swatted at me, cutting my chin, making my beard darken with my own blood. Right then I didn't even feel it. I ripped the rings off his talon and threw them at the far wall of the cavern, then did the same with his other talon. While I'd been gone, he'd managed to repair his charm necklace and restore at least some of his magic items to it. I choked him with it until the soft gold gave against hard, sharp dragon scales and snapped again.

Then I reached to the spot on his neck right above his collarbone, and tried to use my talons to pry the Element of Greed out of his flesh.

He bit me. Hard, as in tearing-fingers-loose biting. And then breathed another spell of rot onto my hand. Contemptuously I pulled my arm off and hit him with it, then made myself and the cavern grow even larger as I regenerated a non-rotting arm to replace the one he'd breathed on.

"One chance to correct your mistake, little dragon," I said, my voice booming through the cavern. "Give me my Element of Greed now, or I will show you how I broke the Dragon Empire and drove your ancestors to madness."

I could have done this all along. That was the thought that burned inside me, amplifying my rage. I could have done this any time, but no, I tried to be reasonable, I tried not to let my temper run away with me, and what did I get for my trouble? Almost murdered, and all the fur on my lower body burnt off. It had been so long since I'd been in a real fight with a powerful opponent – aside from the battles with Anon, where I was operating at a handicap anyway – that I'd been taken by surprise by his ability to hold his own against me. I'd let him put me on the defensive. No more.

I'd pay for this later, but right now, I had the floodgates open and the dial set to 11. He'd obey me, and return my property, or I was going to crush his spirit so thoroughly he would live every day of his long life weeping at his own foolishness in trying to stand against me.

"I'll give you nothing!" he screamed, and I smiled. In that mood, I actually wanted him to give me an excuse.

He went for my face again. I swatted him, with my lion paw this time, smashing him into the ground. He grabbed something off the gold pile and came back up. Startled, I realized he was carrying the Godslayer, which of course hadn't enlarged when everything else did – the magic items had all stayed at original scale. But I was fairly sure Godslayer was potentially deadly to me no matter how much bigger I was than it.

I couldn't change the size of Godslayer, I couldn't destroy it, and I couldn't make it less deadly, but that didn't mean I could do nothing to its properties. I snapped my fingers and turned it into an inflatable toy hammer, like the kind they sell at carnivals. Of course, inflatable toy Godslayer would still theoretically be able to kill me, except for the part where Winnie was clutching it so tightly in his claws, he popped it.


If Winnie had been very, very smart, he might have realized that smacking me with the floppy, uninflated plastic remains of Godslayer would actually have the same effect as smashing me with it in hammer form would have, but Winnie wasn't that smart. A hammer, to him, was useless if it couldn't be a hammer. He dropped it with an expression of rage, and then flew at my face so quickly I couldn't swat him away in time, and went up my nostril.

It is very unpleasant to have a dragon in your nostril. It is even less pleasant to have a dragon breathe fire inside your nostril. He'd tried to embed another entropy spell in it, but that, I unwove with ease. The actual fire, however, hurt like – well, like a number of words that I'm entirely too classy to use here, though if truth be told I said quite a number of them at the time. I reeled back, my changes reverting, everything returning to normal size, and I automatically teleported away from where I'd been hurt, leaving a full-size Winnie where I'd just been.

He lunged at me – the Element of Greed was responsible for his absurd speed in defense of his ill-gotten gains, and that was the only magic item I hadn't gotten off him – but without the Eye of Odin, he couldn't tell the difference between me and the giant Discord squeaky toy I left in my place when I teleported again, except when he got his teeth into it and it squeaked. Meanwhile, I was tearing off the top of his mountain. It was nighttime, Luna's stars glittering in the sky; we weren't high enough to see the True Stars, but I decided that might change for Winnie very, very soon.

I stripped his wings with a snap of my newly-regenerated talon, and then I inverted gravity. Winnie, and his entire hoard, fell into the sky. I reset gravity to normal on anything that wasn't dragon, so his hoard fell back down into the mountain, mostly (some of it on the mountain, and there'd be small dragons in the days to come who'd be pleasantly surprised by their explorations.)

Once, when I was a kid, I'd solved the problem of falling to my death (I wasn't a very strong flyer back then) by inverting gravity, whereupon I discovered that the most terrifying experience possible isn't falling to the ground; it's falling away from the Earth, into the endlessness of sky. I had my wings at the time, though I wasn't the best at using them, and I had magic sufficient to revert the change I'd made. Winnie had neither, right now.

I heard him shrieking in rage and, dare I say it, terror, and I laughed. Then I put him on a loop, so he'd fall into the sky some distance, reappear at the bottom (or, given the direction gravity was pointing for him, the top) of the loop, and fall into the sky again, et cetera. Of course it wasn't a true loop, I can't stand mindless repetition. Each time I let him fall a little farther before pulling him back to the start.

Dragons have a great deal of pride. It takes a long time to break them with fear. So while Winnie was falling into the sky, I was ostentatiously strolling around, picking up his gold and rubbing it against my face like a snuggly cat, or zapping it into birds and bees and other living creatures that would promptly fly away, so he could watch his hoard vanishing or being taken as mine. "I can do this forever, dragon," I said – which technically wasn't true, since I couldn't wait forever before taking on Anon again, but he didn't know that. "Return to me my Element of Greed, or learn how to eat wind and rain as you fall endlessly."

"I'll surrender it," Winnie finally snarled. "I'll surrender it! I'll give you the Element of Greed! Return my wings to me!"

I did, backwards. And dropped him so abruptly into his gold pile he bellyflopped. Dragons are tough, but I suspected that was a bit of an ow anyway.

His wings shifted back to normal almost immediately – dragon magic fights chaotic deformation, as I mentioned earlier, and while missing wings are a normal stage for dragons, backward wings are not. With obvious great reluctance, he began digging under his scales for the Element, prying a scale up so he could pull it free.

I stepped closer so I could watch him – I was very, very eager to have it back in my paws, now that I had bled so much for it. So I was watching the claw pulling at the scales, and not the claw holding a very large golden idol approximately six times bigger than I am, until said claw slammed said statue down on me and turned my body to pulp like he was smashing a cockroach.

Which hurt, but did me no long-term harm, because the idol wasn't magically active and his Ring of Shadow Slaying was gone, so he couldn't damage my magic. It did, however, seriously torque me off. Winning always put me in a good mood, as does watching my helpless enemies scream in terror, so some of the rage I'd been feeling earlier had actually dissipated. It came back.

"That was a mistake, Winnie," I said as I reformed.

He was raking through his gold, plainly looking for something, when I appeared. The moment I began to speak, he looked at me and snarled... and then lunged for me, with the shard of Matrisse in his paw. And as he came at me, I liquefied his gold and made it crawl up him, running over his scales – and under, prying them loose wherever it found a weak point. I'd attacked Winnie with dragon-mites and ant-butterflies spitting aqua regia; he had weak points in his scales. And the gold flowed into them, and under the scales, running along his skin.

I could feel him trying to use the Element to counter me. But I was giving his hoard to him. The Element of Greed cannot protect you from being harmed by what you're greedy for. I made gold flow into his ears, his eyes, his mouth. He screamed, and struggled, and beat his wings, but I'd turned this entire hoard into butterflies earlier. Turning it into liquid? This was nothing.

And then, as it built up under his skin and began pushing his scales upward, I went up into the air and spoke into his rapidly gold-filling ear.

"I can kill you, Wiñaypaqori. Don't think I can't. I've killed many, many dragons." I made the underlayer of gold, the part of it up against his skin, sharp and poky, pushing it into his flesh. Under their scales, dragon skin isn't much tougher than a pony's. He writhed, and tried to scream, but I'd sealed his mouth shut with gold. "I will burrow your hoard into your flesh and make you bleed. I will pour it in your eyes and ears so you see and hear nothing. I'll fill your throat and lungs with it. And when you are dead, I'll let all the local dragons know, and they'll come running." Sharper, deeper. I saw blood start to ooze out from under his scales in some places. "They'll take your hoard, Winnie. You'll be part of your own hoard by then, filled to bursting with gold. They'll rip your body apart to take the gold from it. You'll die, and everything you own, everything you are, will be taken by young upstart dragons and llamas and ponies, even your flesh, your skin, your bone. Your eyes will be covered with gold and displayed in a museum for the amusement of ponies. Your ribs will be used to make golden beds for dragon cubs. And I will still take my Element." I made the gold tighten all along his wing, enough pressure that he'd fear the bone would crack. "You can hand it over to me now, and live. Or I'll take it off your corpse when you die. Your choice."

With a muffled sound that reminded me very much of a sob, Winnie reached his gold-covered claw up to where the Element was stuck in his scales again, and pried it loose, throwing it as he did. The moment it was loose from his body, I teleported it to myself. "Thank you, Winnie, you've been an enormous help. Let me repay you by taking this burden off your hands." I let the liquid gold run off him, pouring off his body... and running in rivulets up the side of his cavern, to the large open hole in the top where I'd ripped the ceiling off. More of his gold liquefied and joined it in shallow rivers of liquid metal.

"I gave it to you! Give me back my gold!" Winnie screamed.

"I said I'd let you live. I never said I'd let you keep your gold."

He shrieked in rage and slashed at me with the shard of Matrisse, still in his paw. I dodged and opened a vortex on one side of the cave, sucking the gold over there in with the roar of vacuum. Still screaming, Winnie dropped the shard and flew to the vortex, trying to block it with his body and grab the pieces of gold that were flying toward it with his paws.

I opened another. And another. And another. And intensified the current flow of the golden rivers running up the side of the cave and then down the side of the mountain.

Winnie must have realized he couldn't block them all, and the only way he could keep his gold was to kill me somehow or stop me, so he launched himself at me again. I used telekinesis to smack him down again, brutally hard. Gravity quadrupled under him and my power held him flat, pushing down on him so hard that if dragon bone weren't as tough as it was, it would be snapping.

"We could have done this the easy way, Winnie," I said. "You could have given me my Element to begin with. It's mine, you know; just because you kept it warm for me while I was trapped in stone doesn't mean it was ever yours in the first place. But no. You had to try to hold on, you had to try to kill me, repeatedly." I floated over his eye and looked down into it. "I thought of killing you, and I would have if you didn't surrender finally. But I'm glad I didn't have to. Because taking your entire hoard from you and making you live with that will be much more entertaining."

"No!" There were tears welling in his eyes. "Don't take my hoard! Please! I – I'm sorry!"

"Would you like to plead for your hoard? To beg?" I said mockingly. "Oh, no, Winnie, it's far too late for you to apologize. I'm going to take everything."

I ripped off two of his scales with my telekinesis, drawing a choked scream from him, and wrapped them around the shard of Matrisse so I could safely carry it with my magic. Then I snapped my talon and emptied his cavern, teleporting all of it to random deserted locations all around the world. Treasure hunters were going to have so much fun, and I would so enjoy the chaos they'd make as they backstabbed each other, falsified papers, trespassed, and generally made nuisances of themselves.

I left Winnie at the bottom of his now-empty hollowed out mountain, crying brokenly for the loss of everything he cared about, and expanded my wings so I could fly with them. Then I flew the shard of Matrisse to the coast, and dropped it in the ocean. Just as rock binds Chaos, water binds Order, and the ocean, with its tides and its seething mass of life under the surface, is the most chaotic water there is.

And then I returned here, where I have been pampering myself for the past several days as I recover from that ordeal.

What? You were expecting that the use of dark magic was going to corrupt me? Turn me into what, Nightmare Chaos or something? Piffle. Unicorns and alicorns get corrupted by dark magic because they pen all their dark emotions inside for the sake of Harmony, and when they start tapping that for power, the floodgates roar open and they can't close them again. I don't pen up anything! When I'm angry, when I'm jealous, you'll know it. My emotions flow with ease... which is why I am able to tap my rage for power when I'm weak, and then let it go after I've achieved my victory and also my ironically fitting and calculatedly cruel revenge. I broke Winnie. I made him surrender and then I made him cry. And I could have tormented him to madness if I'd wanted to, but it was more fun to leave him sane, unable to escape into madness to relieve the pain of losing what had defined his existence for hundreds of years. Corrupted by dark magic? No. I used the magic to fulfill my rage, which is what it is for, and then I let it go.

Of course as soon as I let it go, the fact that my magical essence was damaged, and that my body had been broken and mangled in so many ways that I couldn't keep it perfectly regenerated, and there were hairline fractures throughout my entire skeleton and I still really couldn't use my goat leg and now I could feel the burns all over my body... well, it all caught up with me. Which is why I have slathered myself in poison joke liniment for several days, why I've been slugging down painkiller potions like they're raspberry cola, and why I've done nothing for several days except eat, sleep and write in this journal. But I'm feeling much better now, so I think maybe tonight, after the sun sets, I'm going to go have a conversation with Celestia. Why, I haven't had a chance to taunt her since the day I first met Anon! I can't have her feeling left out.

I can't

I don't even

can't talk about this I can't

she doesn't


i'm going to kill him i'm going to

where is my extra boost from dark magic now? i hate him i want him dead why does it make me feel so weak?

he's taken everything

she thinks that I

can't can't can't can't

Yes. Yes, I am crying. Yes I can barely see the page I'm writing this on. I was going to lie like I did before or just not even write in it right now but never again because now I know who I'm writing this for.

He took her memories, hers and Luna's, and he rewrote them and now she thinks

can't write this

I know now that this isn't for some mythical pony who might read this after I die. Maybe it is but that's not the only audience. It's for me. I have to write everything down, I have to do it honestly, because what if he takes my memories? What if he rewrites me the way he rewrote her the way he rewrote all the stallions he changed except this wouldn't even be body, just memories and he might change who I think I am

I'm crying, all right, future me? I'm not actually a goatee-twirling monster who can't feel grief. I'm not crying over a ruined plan or the fear of death or losing my hoard like Losey or whatever stupid thing he thinks villains cry about. I'm crying about

it's because

she thinks I killed her father

Our father

I can't do this. I can't do this right now. I can't write this

I'm going to get drunk. Very, very drunk. So drunk I can't use my powers, so I don't go staggering off into the night planning to kill Anon, because I want so very very much to kill Anon

I'm going to get drunk nnd make the whole world go away and then I'm going to sleep and sleep and sleep until it stops hurting and then I'll write about it

and from now on I have to tell the truth, the whole truth, ok it can have jokes but I need to be prepared in case future me doesn't remember who I really am I need to have this journal ready for that just in case

oh, tiaaaaa....

Author's Note:

Yes, bit of mood whiplash at the end there. I'd originally intended the fight to be much shorter and the issue with Celestia to take up half the chapter, but it didn't work out that way. So details on the Celestia problem next chapter.

I have no idea if my action sequences suck or not. 12K for a fight really does seem a bit much, but it seems to me like it moves pretty quick. Anyone else wanna weigh in?

Gonna add a list of all the folks who helped me with this chapter, tomorrow, but right now it is late and I am tired.

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