• Published 4th Nov 2011
  • 5,307 Views, 104 Comments

Trixcord - RTStephens



Two grandstanders. Only one horn.

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Exit, Stage Left

The journey to Canterlot gave Trixie plenty of time to think. Think about how deplorable it had been to break down in front of her greatest rival and get suckered into helping her. Think about how she had just given up the best deal that anyone had ever offered her and ditch it for a piece of glass. Think about how they were all charging into the den of the very beast that could turn the whole of Equestria upside down and was now invincible due to her existence.

Mostly though, she was thinking of how to get the pink pony next to her to shut the hay up.

“So then I was like, what could I do with this much clover, cider and belt buckles? I mean what pony in their right mind has these things?”

“Trixie could name a few...” Trixie said through gritted teeth.

“But then it just came to me! Like a... like a... um...”

“Buck to the head?”

“Oh! Like the most brillianty of brilliant ideas, ever! We’d have a second cider season! Everypony in town would wear all these clovers, some green outfits and we’d do nothing but drink cider all day! The buckles would be there to hold in our cider bellies when it was all over!

“I called it: St. Shamrock’s Day!”

Trixie knew she was asking for it but she couldn’t help herself. “Who’s the saint?”

“What?! You’ve never heard of St. Shamrock?”

“Can’t say Trixie has.”

“He’s only the most awesome, spectacular, unbelievable, unbeatable, unquestionable-!”

“You made him up, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“Right. Trixie is done with you.” She trotted faster and away from the annoying pink anomaly.

“Wait! I haven’t told you about the time oatmeal was so not the right-”

“Twilight Sparkle!” Trixie yelled loud enough to drown out Pinkie’s plea to be heard. “Have you come up with anything yet?”

Twilight looked back at the other unicorn with a small frown. “You know, you can just call me Twilight. All my friends do.”

“Out of the question,” Trixie responded sharply. “Need Trixie remind you that she is still not ready to forgive any of you? If ever? Things will go much more smoothly the way they are now.”

“And what’s that suppose to mean?” Rarity asked. “Just how exactly do you see us?”

“Business partners,” Trixie answered. “Trixie can deal with the lot of you that way. She has plenty of experience dealing with others she doesn’t like but must work with.”

“That’s not hard to believe,” Applejack commented.

Trixie shot the farmer a glare before continuing on. “Let there be no misunderstanding between us. Once this is over with and Trixie has all the fame that she deserves, she will go on her merry way. She has a reputation to rebuild. No thanks to any of you.”

“We already explained, Trixie,” Twilight spoke up, trying to keep tempers from getting out of hoof. “We were following you to make sure you were okay.”

“You could have told me instead of humiliating me!” Trixie snapped.

“We’re sorry. Really, we are!”

“Enough. Trixie doesn’t want to hear your excuses. Just tell Trixie what you have come up with, Twilight Sparkle.”

Twilight sighed. Her efforts, along with the others, to get Trixie to loosen up around them were not having much effect. Trixie seemed determined to keep her distance, no matter what. Deciding that focusing on the bigger problem would keep things civil, Twilight began, “Well, I’ve... never heard of this life link thing you described. If I had access to the Canterlot library, I’d take some time to look it up but we don’t have time.

“So far, the best way seems to be to find some way to sever the connection you have with Discord and then that should be enough for us to stop him.”

“And how do you plan to do that, without putting Trixie’s life in danger?”

“I don’t know!” Twilight exclaimed. “I was thinking that we could try the Elements of Harmony but they didn’t work on Discord. I’m hoping that maybe Princess Celestia will know something but we haven’t seen her since she left for Canterlot.” Twilight lowered her head and stared at the ground. “I hope she’s okay...”

“C’mon, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash spoke up as she flew down and trotted next to her. “This is the princess we’re talking about. She’ll probably have everything taken care of by the time we get there. There’s no way that dope could have gotten the best of her!”

“I hope you’re right...”

“There it is!” Pinkie Pie suddenly popped in between them, pointing into the distance.

Canterlot Mountain rose before them, but the normally majestic sight was marred by floating buildings, upside down trees, waterfalls of chocolate milk and many other strange phenomenon that defied the laws of nature. Strangest of all was that both the sun and the moon hovered above the mountain, covering one side in sunshine and the other in the dark of night. However, under the night side of the city, the sight that caused the most distress among the gathered ponies was the castle itself. Before, where a magnificent white castle was perched on the side of the cliffs, a fortress of black stone stood. Twisted spires rose up from a massive, blocky structure. Torchlight burned from spots all over the grotesque building to cast harsh shadows across its walls.

“And here I go!” Pinkie turned and took off like a shot in the opposite direction.

Applejack proved to be a tad faster.

“Hold your horses, there!” Applejack scolded as she stomped down on Pinkie’s tail, holding the pink pony in place. “I know it looks bad, and a might scary, but we have a job to do!” She looked towards her friends, trying to give the most reassuring look she was capable of. “Right?”

“R-Right,” came the shaky answer from Twilight. She gulped, before firming up her features and took a determined step forward. “Right! We are not going to let Discord get away with this! This is our land; not his! And we are going to fight for it!”

A resounding cheer rose up from the gathered ponies, their confidence swelling despite the grim odds against them.

Trixie didn’t join in on the celebration.

“Do you have a plan or is this all just false bravado?” she asked of them.

“As a matter of fact,” Twilight said as she came down from her emotional high, “I do. We need to get to the Princess and see if she knows anything about this life link. I’m sure she’ll know how to help. Once she fixes you, we’ll be able to beat Discord with the Elements.” Murmurs of agreement passed through the others at the idea.

“And what of Trixie? Does she just sit here and twiddle her hooves?”

“Well,” Twilight replied while scuffing a hoof through the dirt. “We can’t have Discord finding out you’re helping us or he’ll put you somewhere where we can’t find you. Then we’ll never beat him.”

Trixie snorted “So, Trixie is supposed to stand by and let you gain all the glory? Again?”

“This is no time for pride, Trixie. Too much is at stake.”

“And you are a foal if you think you can just waltz in there without him noticing any of you. You all stick out like a bunch of blank-flanks.”

“Oh?” Rainbow Dash joined in, standing protectively next to Twilight. “And you don’t?”

Trixie smirked. “Observe.” She grabbed one end of her cape, draped it around herself, and twirled in place. Before the other ponies’ eyes, Trixie suddenly disappeared from sight, as though she had stepped behind an invisible curtain.

“Ta da!” came the magician’s disembodied voice.

Twilight looked less than impressed. “So? It’s an invisibility spell. You might be able to sneak past a pony that can’t sense magic but Discord’s different. He’ll sense you coming a mile away.”

“Ah, Trixie loves the sound of a pony that has no idea what they are talking about. You see, Trixie is not using any of her magic at all.”

Twilight blinked. “Beg your pardon?”

“Go ahead. Try to find Trixie.”

“Ugh. Must we do this?”

“Just do it, you twit.”

“Fine!” Reaching out with her magic, Twilight scanned the area where Trixie’s voice was coming from, intent on putting an end to this nonsense.

A full minute passed before Twilight sagged from exerting everything she had and gave up.

With a flourish, Trixie flung the cape away, revealing herself once again and in the same spot as before. A smug look graced her features. “Trixie normally keeps this a secret, but her cape and hat are more than just fancy clothes. She’s had them modified to perform magic that doesn’t require her to use her horn. Becoming invisible is just one of them. She’s completely untraceable from magical scans.”

Rainbow helped Twilight right herself before addressing Trixie. “Okay... And your point?”

“Simple. You all go in and raise a ruckus-”

“Rackus!” Pinkie Pie piped in.

“Don’t interrupt! You all gain Discord’s attention. With him distracted, it will be an easy feat for Trixie to go in a different way and find the princess. Once she removes the link, you all can do your thing with the elements. How about that, hmm?”

The group of friends looked to one another, exchanging their opinions between themselves without uttering a single word. Finally, Twilight turned back to Trixie. “What about your link to him? Won’t Discord be able to feel you coming through that?”

Trixie groaned. “I don’t know, okay? All the more reason that you keep him busy so that he doesn’t think about it.”

Twilight fell silent, thinking over the plan. At length, she said, “Alright. Let’s do it. The more we wait, the more Discord gets his claws in our world.”

“Then get going.” Trixie waved them off before twirling her cape around her again, once more becoming invisible. “Trixie has her own part to play.”

“Just be careful,” Twilight cautioned. “Discord’s not one to take lightly.

“And I want to talk about that cape of yours later... if you don’t mind. That’s actually pretty cool.” Twilight missed the eye rolls of the others behind her.

“We’ll see,” was all Trixie had to say before the sound of her hooves galloping away reached their ears.

“Okay, girls!” Twilight announced to her fellow elements. “We have a job to do! We beat Discord once! We can do it again!”

The ponies gave a cheer and then rushed off towards the transformed castle.

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

“Really, Celestia. What were you thinking?”

Princess Celestia remained silent and stared ahead, ignoring the draconequus sitting on his throne.

“I’m sure you know that it took both you and your sister to seal me up the first time. And that’s with the elements as well.”

Celestia continued looking forward.

“Speaking of which, where is widdle Woona? I haven’t seen her in ages. Heard a nasty rumor that she had been sealed up on the moon. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

The princess’ features hardening was her only response.

“Giving me the silent treatment, eh? Well, I suppose that’s fine, too. Otherwise we’d just have the same old discussions as before. Right versus wrong. Chaos versus harmony. Cupcakes verses muffins-”

“Muffins.”

“Cupcakes are so much more delicious, though!” Discord protested. “I mean, what can you do with a muffin that you can’t do with a cupcake?! Put butter on it? Oh, that’s original!”

Celestia finally circled around to face her capture. There wasn’t much room to move in the transparent bubble that she was encased in, hovering above the floor besides the throne, but it was enough to turn her body if she wanted to. “While I do enjoy a cupcake every now and then, muffins are much better for a pony. And they taste just as good.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Discord waved off her counter argument. “I see we still don’t agree on the obvious then. You like all that boring nutritional garbage while I know what ponies really want.” He grinned up at her before taking a drag of his chocolate milk from his iron goblet. “At least I got you talking.”

Celestia’s frown matched Discord’s smile as she contemplated the prison she was in. Her efforts to break free had so far amounted to nothing other than wasting magic. Every attempt rolled off the smooth surface of the bubble and returned at its center. The stronger her struggles, the more power flowed towards the middle, strengthening the walls that surrounded her. It was as if her own power was being used against her to fuel this trap that she found herself in.

Discord smirked as he watched Celestia puzzle over predicament. “Want to know what I did?”

Celestia cast her gaze one final time over the bubble before stopping at Discord. Her eyes narrowed and she said, “By all means.”

The spirit of disharmony gave a joyful squee and tossed away his goblet. “That’s what I wanted to hear!”

That’s right, he loves to gloat, Celestia thought, keeping her angry expression from slipping. If I keep him talking, he’ll slip and reveal how I can escape.

Discord smirked as he strutted around the bubble keeping her in place. “That, my dear Celestia, is what I like to call a corealis trap. Came up with it all on my own while I wallowed away in that statue you put me in. I had to find a way to pass the time somehow, you know.

“Anyway, it’s designed to keep a prisoner in as long as there is disharmony in their hearts. Any force you try to use will just be used to make the trap stronger.” Discord stopped his circling to smile up at the princess. “Care to guess how you escape?”

Celestia gazed down at him for a moment before speaking. “By having a heart that is at peace?”

Discord’s smile never left his face. “I figured you would get it.”

This is too easy, Celestia considered to herself. Why would he give me the answer so quickly?

“You’re probably now wondering just why I told you all this,” Discord continued, making Celestia uneasy with how close he was coming to reading her thoughts. Discord shrugged and sat back down on his throne. “Simple, really. I’m curious to see if you have what it takes to be as pure as the ponies you rule think you are. If you can get out, so be it. If you don’t, you don’t. A little randomness in everyone’s life does a world of good. Especially, for me! HA! HA! HA!”

His built up laughter was interrupted when a sound like a wind chime range through the room. Quirking an eyebrow, Discord pointed his index fingers out in front of him and then dragged them diagonally apart. A circular view screen stretched out before him, displaying the yard just before the entrance to the castle. A familiar group of ponies were galloping towards the drawbridge.

“Well, well, well,” Discord mused. “Didn’t take long for your shock troops to come and try again.” He tilted the screen so that Celestia could see it herself. “At least now I’ve got some entertainment. No offense Celestia, but you really need to brush up on your conversational skills. You work on that while I greet our guests!”

In a flash, Discord disappeared, leaving Celestia alone in the room. She silently wished her faithful ponies luck before closing her eyes and attempted to clear her mind and soul of all turmoil and strife.

The hovering screen remained however, which would prove to be a distressing distraction.

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

The Elements of Harmony, wearing their designated necklaces and one crown, stood before a deep mote that cut through the ground before the closed drawbridge. The medieval castle lay beyond, the moon above casting its light down upon it, making the black fortress appear all the more massive and foreboding. It was a visage that seemed to have come straight out of a storybook of knights, princesses and dragons. Twilight Sparkle herself would have loved to curl up with such a book instead of having to live through it. The glamor of real life just never seemed to measure up to the words on a page. Too much bodily harm involved.

The unicorn cleared her head of such thoughts. Now wasn’t the time for them. Twilight looked back at Rainbow Dash and gestured towards the drawbridge. “Can you fly up and see if you can find some type of lever or pulley to open it up?”

“No need for that, Twilight Sparkle.”

Everypony started as the drawbridge descended of its own accord. Once it had opened completely, the archway that had surrounded the bridge while it was closed began to move. The bridge itself also flopped up and down. The ponies stared at the sight in confusion before Discord’s voice came from the open archway.

“Hello again, ladies,” he greeted. Understanding dawned on them as they realized that the archway was acting as a mouth with the bridge being used as a tongue. “Come to give me a housewarming party?”

“OH! OH!” Pinkie Pie hopped up and down in excitement. “Can I set it up for you?! I’ve never tried hosting a party at a castle like this before! I’ve got so many ideas, I don’t know where to begin! I mean I’ve got to get the caterers, the band, send out invitations, find steamers that match the walls and-”

Pinkie’s pie hole was closed up by Twilight’s hoof.

“We are not here for any stupid parties!” she yelled up at the animated structure. “We are here to stop you from causing any more trouble for us!”

“Bah, you’re no fun, as usual,” Discord said through the archway. The building and bridge formed back into its original, unmoving state. However, Discord’s voice still came from beyond the opening. “By all means, come in and try. Celestia’s certainly not much company and I need something to get away from her nagging.”

Hearing that her beloved teacher was being held inside caused Twilight to feel a rage the likes she hadn’t felt in some time. To the shock of her friends, Twilight’s mane and tail ignited into flames, forcing them to back away from the intense heat. The next thing they knew, Twilight took off like a shot inside the cavernous opening of the castle.

I’ll make you pay!” Twilight’s furious cry echoed from within.

The others hesitated, gulped and ran after her.

Inside, they found the livid unicorn quickly. The fire that had consumed her had gone out, but her coat had small patch marks of soot all over her body. Wisps of smoke rose from her singed mane and tail. She stood panting and glaring up at the highly amused draconequus floating before her.

“Now that was a sight worth seeing!” Discord said in approval and clapped his paws together.

“Where is she?” Twilight seethed through clenched teeth.

“Oh, don’t worry your silly head over her, Twilight. Right now she’s probably trying to attain zen or something. You, on the other hand, have other things to worry about.”

“Don’t think you can destroy our friendship, again! It won’t work! I won’t allow it!”

Discord tsked. “Really, now. Do you think I would waste my time to do that again? And what would the point be anyway? Your tacky bling can’t harm me, friendship or not. No, I’ve got something else in store for you all. Starting with you, Twilight Sparkle.”

“You leave her alone!” Rainbow yelled and placed herself before her unicorn friend. “You’ve done enough!”

“Ah, such loyalty,” Discord crooned. “I’ll be getting to you later, Rainbow Dash. For now, I would like to share with you a little something from your precious friend’s past.” He snapped his fingers and a sheet of paper appeared in his eagle claw.

“What’s that?” Rainbow asked cautiously. She set herself to move as fast as possible should anything happen.

“This, little ponies, is Twilight Sparkle’s eleventh grade report card.”

A strangled gasp escaped from Twilight’s mouth, causing everypony to turn to her in concern. The searing anger that she had felt earlier was suddenly replaced by a much different emotion. “You wouldn’t.”

Discord responded with a nasty grin. A pair of reading glasses appeared before his eyes and he held the card up to his face. “Let’s see. Historical Studies: A.”

“No,” Twilight said, a look of panic beginning to form on her muzzle.

Ignoring her, Discord continued on. “Arithmetic: A+.”

“Please, stop,” she pleaded.

“Magical Theory: A+.”

“You can’t do this to me!”

“Home Economics: A-.”

Twilight shoved Rainbow out of her way and called forth every ounce of magic she could to snatch the card from Discord’s grasp. He merely disappeared.

“Chemistry: A.”

Everypony looked up, spotting Discord standing upside down on the ceiling and reading the card as though nothing had happened.

“Practical Cantrips: A+.”

“No!” Twilight desperately yelled up at him. “Stop!”

“Technical Writing: A.”

“PLEASE!”

“And finally,” Discord announced with a flourish of his hands. “Physical Education-”

“I’LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU!”

“B+.”

“NNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Having cried out her anguish, Twilight collapsed to the floor, sobbing her eyes out.

Discord righted himself and landed on the ground, his glasses and the report card disappearing on the way. “Well, I can see I’m done here for now. Be seeing you later!” A flash of light signaled his exit.

The ponies left behind looked at each other and then down at the distraught Twilight.

“Um, maybe Canterlot has a different way of grading than Cloudsdale,” Rainbow Dash said to the others. “But doesn’t a B+ mean above average?”

“Last I heard, yes,” Rarity answered, before laying down next to Twilight and patting her on the back. “Ah, Twilight dear. Why are you so upset? Those marks were superb. I never got such good grades when I was in school.”

Twilight tried to answer through her weeping. “Y-you don’t... und-d-derstand. I w-would have been... a-a straight A student... if it wasn’t for that worthless. Stupid. Class.” She punctuated her last words with a hard smack to the floor with her hooves.

A collective blink passed through the group.

Rainbow Dash knelt down and placed a hoof onto Twilight’s withers. “Um, I don’t know how to say this, since I know this kind of stuff means a lot to you, but... you’ve got some really messed up priorities.”

“WWWWWAAAAAAAHHHHHH!” Twilight burst out with a fresh set of Pinkie Pie levels of steaming tears.

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

“Oh-ho! Which one should I pick next?” Discord pondered to himself as he walked the dark halls of his castle. “Perhaps Fluttershy or Rarity? Or maybe I should go with an earth pony? I need to make sure I spread my attention around or they might think I don’t like them anymore.”

Thinking of the ponies invading his new abode slowly wound its way towards another pony that he hadn’t checked on for a while now. “Better call in my life line.” Discord waved his lion paw and an image of the link he shared with Trixie appeared before him. He inspected it for a moment before murmuring, “Hmm, nothing seems out of the ordinary.

“I wonder if she’s made a decision yet. Not sure what I’ll do if she refuses. I guess I’ll worry about it later if it comes to that. I’ve got pests to deal with.” Another wave of his paw and the image faded away. A moment later, Discord also disappeared.

If he had looked closer, he would have noticed the red and blue lines of the link had fused further together and that the distance between himself and his symbiote had shrunk significantly.

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

Trixie peaked around a bend of a corner before stepping out into the torch lit hallway and quietly trotted down it. So far, getting in and moving around the castle had been surprisingly easy. No traps or creatures had impeded her way. She wasn’t sure yet if that was a good or bad sign.

The only problem she had encountered was where to go. There was no rhyme or reason to the layout of the castle and no clues as to where the princess was located. She could only hope that something would lead her in the right direction as she was reluctant to use any magic, no matter how insignificant.

Despite keeping her eyes and ears focused on the task at hoof, Trixie’s mind began to wander around the decision she had made that lead her here. Truthfully, she was a little relieved when Twilight had appeared and given her an alternative to Discord’s offer. Letting him get his way while she partied hard in Manehatten had been very tempting, but her more sensible (and annoying) side kept reminding her that he was the spirit of chaos and could not be trusted. Agreeing to Twilight’s proposal had given her the excuse necessary to back out of a deal with the devil himself and ease her conscience.

However, while she could live without Manehattan and all its bounty, the other perk she was tossing aside kept nagging at her. Eternal life. Such a thing was hard to ignore, especially as she had tasted death once already. It had not been a pleasant experience.

Maybe the princess or the elements can find a way to keep Discord sealed up or something, Trixie pondered as she chose a random path at an intersection. Or maybe we can compromise with him. Perhaps chaos and disorder only on the weekends? It could work... yeah, right.

Sighing softly, Trixie continued her search, both for the princess and a solution to keeping her immortality intact.

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

It took over five minutes of coaxing and gentle understand for the five mares to get Twilight moving again. That hadn’t stopped her whining, though.

“Why was I forced to take a useless class like gym, anyway? I could have used that time to read more books. Why couldn’t it have been just pass or fail? Maybe I could cast some sort of time spell, go back and-”

“NO!” came the desperate cry from her companions.

“But it’s not that hard, really,” Twilight pressed. “The theory’s already been made to bend time using fluctuating buffer patterns. All I need is an artifact of power to get-”

“Um, Twilight,” Fluttershy nervously interrupted her. “Not to, ah, offend you or anything, but, um, I really don’t like the idea of you traveling through time and, well, messing things up.”

“I’d be careful...”

“Twilight. You know how I told you I became New Fluttershy thanks to Iron Will’s seminar?”

“Um, y-yeah...”

Fluttershy suddenly grabbed Twilight on either side of her muzzle and forced her to look into the pegasus’ gaze. “Don’t. Buck. With time travel.” Fluttershy let her go and immediately lowered her head in embarrassment and stammered, “T-that is, um... it wouldn’t be very... nice, I mean.” She quickly trotted off and past the others, whose wide eyed stares followed her as she left.

Twilight blinked. Twice. “Ah... what was I talking about?”

“Nothing!” came the rushed response.

In a daze, Twilight nodded and followed after Fluttershy. The others did the same, silently vowing to never speak of this again.

They caught up to Fluttershy quickly and were greeted with a surprise. Perched on her outstretched hoof, cooing excitedly, was Princess Celestia’s pet phoenix, Philomeena. The bright, flame colored bird flapped her wings to take flight, circled overhead twice, then took off further down the hallway. Fluttershy addressed her friends with a bright smile on her muzzle.

“Guys! We’re in luck! Philomeena knows where the princess is held! She’s going to lead us to her!” Cries of delight came from them and as a unified group, they rushed after the phoenix.

Philomeena flew a few pony lengths ahead of them, squawking now and again to alert Fluttershy of which direction to take. Deeper and deeper the ponies went into the castle, taking turns at several intersections, until the magical bird stopped at a huge double-sided wooden door. Philomeena twirled in front of it and pointed a wing towards it.

“This is it,” Fluttershy translated. “The princess is inside.” She and the rest pushed against one of the wooden doors. It proved to be heavy, even with six ponies working it, but it slowly opened enough for them to squeeze through.

The room on the other end revealed itself to be a large hall similar to the one used to hold the Grand Galloping Gala. Only, instead of the high marble columns and royal blue tile, thick pillars of grey brick reached to the ceiling and a deep red carpet covered the floor. Hanging from the ceiling were six tapestries, each one displaying the image of a pony. Two unicorns, two pegasi and two earth ponies. Each were grey in color and appeared to be sad.

“This is definitely one of the few places I wouldn’t want to hold a party,” Pinkie Pie commented uneasily.

Above, Philomeena flew above them and pointed a wing towards the back of the room. A white pedestal could be seen and on top of it lay a red chest. Philomeena sang to them.

“She says that that chest might be able to help us,” Fluttershy explained. She started forward.

“Wait!”

“EEK!”

“Oops. Sorry,” Rainbow Dash apologized to the now cowering Fluttershy. Rainbow leaped ahead of the group and addressed them. “I want to open it. It’s just like in one of Daring Do’s books! A treasure sitting out in the open just waiting for somepony to pick it up.”

“But, wait,” Applejack spoke up. “What if there are traps?”

“Oh! I hope so! That would be awesome!” Rainbow flipped around and pawed at the floor as if getting ready for a race to start.

“Rainbow, we should do this together,” Twilight admonished. “We don’t know what to expect and you could be hurt.”

“Now, now, now. I’m not that type of spirit.”

Without warning, Philomeena streaked up and across the room where she crashed into the tapestry depicting one of the pegasi. The cloth became engulfed in flames and fell to the floor. The startled ponies and one horrified Fluttershy watched as the fire grew bigger. Then, a figure walked out of the fire. It was a pegasus and a very familiar one.

“You want a race, Rainbow Dash?” a greyed out mirror image of herself asked. “You’ve got one.”

The fire behind the corrupted Rainbow Dash flared in all directions. Before the ponies could react, the flames burned away the room to reveal a blue sky and each of them now standing on pink clouds. Rainbow gasped as she recognized the scene before her.

“Hey! This is just like the race course back in Cloudsdale! Just more... pink.”

“How observant.”

Rainbow yelped at hearing her own voice next to her and whipped her head around. The grey Rainbow Dash smugly gazed back at her.

“First one to the chest, wins,” her counterpart said, pointing a hoof at the mentioned prize. The chest now floated within a black star high above them.

“You’re on!” Rainbow replied hotly. “Ain’t no way you’re gonna beat me! Even if you are me!”

“Shall we then?” Grey Rainbow Dash set herself into a starting stance, followed closely by Rainbow herself. “Pinkie Pie? Would you mind starting us off?”

“You betcha!” Pinkie exclaimed. She bounced from one cotton candy cloud to the next, headless of the fall she would take should she slip, until she landed on a cloud right before the competitors. She took a big bite out of the cloud and then raised a hoof into the air. “Ready?” The racers tensed. “Set.” Pinkie slashed her hoof down. “Go!”

Rainbow Dash was off the moment the last word came out of Pinkie’s mouth. Living up to her namesake, she flew through the air like a bullet, aiming herself for the dark star shining its pale light ahead of her. She reached it within seconds and thrust out a hoof to touch it.

The star swerved out of her way.

“Huh?!” Rainbow cried in alarm and quickly put on her air brakes. She whirled around and spotted the star streaking downwards. “Hey! You didn’t say it could move!”

“You didn’t ask,” Grey Rainbow Dash said as she suddenly shot past Rainbow from above and headed towards the retreating star.

“Come back here!” Rainbow gave chase, gaining on her double with every flap of her wings. Within moments she caught up, flying side-by-side with Grey Rainbow Dash. The other pegasus adjusted her speed, now matching Rainbow move for move.

The two racers followed the star as it darted from one end of the course to the next. It always remained just far enough out of reach that neither competitor could get to it before it careened in a completely different direction. The minutes wore on and Rainbow began to huff and puff with the effort to stay at her top speed. She wasn’t used to keeping her fastest pace for prolonged periods of time, preferring to use short bursts to conserve her breath. It infuriated her to see that Grey Rainbow Dash appeared as fresh as when they started.

Then, unexpectedly, Grey Rainbow Dash veered away and flew into a large pink cloud. Rainbow didn’t ponder the strange behavior and focused on the prize just a few lengths ahead of her. She pushed her wings harder, confident that she would reach it in just a few more flaps-

Grey Rainbow Dash rocketed out of a cloud further ahead and reached for the star. Rainbow’s eyes widened in shock at the sudden turn around. However, the star randomly changed course once again, causing Grey Rainbow Dash to miss it by a hoof. This didn’t seem to deter Grey Rainbow Dash as she flew into another cloud a second later.

“Wait a minute!” Dash yelled and screeched to a halt. “That’s cheating!”

“I only said first one to the chest, Rainbow Dash,” Grey Rainbow Dash’s voice came from behind her. Rainbow squawked and turned to face her. “I never said how to do it. Anything goes, as they say!” With that, Grey Rainbow Dash dove into another cloud and reappeared out of another one further away, on course for the moving star.

“Oh, yeah?! Two can play at this game!” Rainbow shot into a nearby pink cloud, intent on regaining the advantage.

All she managed to do was get sticky, cotton candy all over her body and mane.

“Ew! It’s all over me! Get it off! Get it off!”

A bullhorn sounded and just as quickly as it appeared, the sky and clouds were gone to once again be replaced by the castle hall from before. The mares glanced around in confusion for a moment before regaining their bearings.

Except Rainbow Dash. She was still busy cleaning herself off of the sugary confection.

“I win!” Discord appeared before them, holding up the chest in his eagle claw. “What fun! What fun!”

“You no good cheater!” Rainbow shouted at him and would have attempted a flying tackle if her wings weren’t stuck to her side.

“Where’s Philomeena?!” Fluttershy scolded as she stepped forward with a frown on her muzzle.

“One at a time, ladies,” Discord admonished. “Your little chickadee is fine, Fluttershy. I sent her to the heart of an active volcano where she’s enjoying the ultimate hot tub!” He held the red chest before him. “As for this, I’m feeling generous so I’ll give this to you, Rainbow Dash! Losers like you need rewards now and then to make them feel special.” He tossed the chest which bounced off Rainbow’s head and landed on the floor. The lid sprang open from the impact.

Rainbow moaned and rubbed her sore head before poking her face inside the chest. Her head popped out a second later. “There’s nothing in here!”

“You were expecting something?”

“Well, yeah! Chests hold stuff we need! The box itself doesn’t do us any good!”

“Ha! I only said you might need the chest. I never said anything about what was inside of it. Or not, in this case.”

“Once I get my hooves on you...” Rainbow threatened as she tore off a piece of cotton candy stuck to her.

“You big meanie,” Fluttershy joined in.

“Aw, you hurt me, girls,” Discord said. He tapped his lion paw against his chest. “Right here, where it counts.”

“I doubt you even have a heart,” Twilight commented angrily.

“Actually, I don’t. Alvederzane!” In a flash, he was gone.

With Discord gone for now, Rarity trotted up to Rainbow with a lit horn. With a flick of her head, her magic stripped away the last of the cotton candy. She placed it in the discarded chest and shut it like a garbage can. “Well. That was pointless.”

“GRRRR!” Rainbow forced through grit teeth. “I can’t stand losing! Especially to him!”

“Oh, I hope Philomeena is okay,” Fluttershy moaned in worry. “A volcano has to be really... hot.”

“Don’t worry, Fluttershy,” Twilight reassured her. “From what I’ve read, phoenixes can survive in even the hottest places. I’m sure Philomeena is fine.”

“I hope so...”

“C’mon, everypony,” Applejack called out. “We’re not gonna find anything here. Let’s get a move on!”

The others quickly agreed and left the chamber to search somewhere else.

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

“Oh, my poor little ponies...” Princess Celestia sighed.

The display that Discord left behind showed everything that he was doing to the Elements of Harmony. No matter how much she tried to ignore it, Celestia couldn’t help watching the painful scenes unfold. It wasn’t helping her in the slightest from escaping the corealis trap. The perfect centering of her entire being just wasn’t possible with her heart breaking each time her subjects dealt with Discord’s antics.

“If only I were free, I might be able to do something to help. But I can’t be free if I don’t clear my heart and mind of strife. Darn you, Discord.”

Celestia closed her eyes and took deep, long breaths. Keep your mind off of troubles, she thought. Don’t think of anything that would bring a frown to your face. Several minutes of this allowed her to settle down, even with the noise of the display next to her. Peaceful thoughts. Bright blue skies. Large grassy fields. Ponies of all kinds and ages playing together in harmo-

“Rarity! Would you stop fussing over them thar rags?!”

“Oh, but this is simply dreadful, Applejack! These tapestries just don’t mesh well with the rest of the decor! What was Discord thinking?”

“I don’t care what he was thinkin’! We’re not here to decorate!”

“Girls! Please! Stop fighting! It’s not going to help us!”

“As if I need to be told that, Twi. Tell it to her!”

“Listen here! Just because things are a little off kilter, doesn’t mean I can just ignore this travesty of tapestries!”

Celestia groaned and rubbed her temple with a hoof. “Couldn’t he have at least changed the channel before he left?”

She sighed and opened her eyes, looking into the magical view screen. She could tell the stress of the situation was getting to them. Discord certainly did his job well when causing disharmony between ponies. He reveled in it, grew stronger and used it to cause even more chaos. Matters were even worse now that the power that could stop him no longer affected him. What were they to do to set things right?

Movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. She turned and saw the far door at the end of the room opening and closing, but no one had come in. Celestia squinted her eyes and listened carefully. Above the noise of the view screen, she thought she could hear the soft rustling of cloth coming closer. It was hard to tell.

“Princess?”

Celestia jumped to her hooves. She rarely became startled but the voice had came out of nowhere. She looked around the room but there was no sign of who had spoken.

“Who’s there?” Celestia cautiously called out. It would be just like Discord to mess with her even as he was having fun with others. “Show yourself.”

The sound of fabric being parted below her reached her ears. She looked down and saw a floating unicorn head staring up at her.

“Um, do you remember me, Princess?” the blue pony asked hesitantly.

Celestia smiled down at the pony. “Indeed, I do, dear Trixie. Much has happened since I last saw you at the Grand Galloping Gala, hasn’t it?”

“You can say that again,” Trixie grumbled under her breath.

“Are you here to help? Or are you working for Discord?”

Trixie’s eyes flashed with anger. “I have no allegiance with that monster! It’s because of him that everything has gone wrong with my life! I want him stopped as much as anypony!”

“I am glad to hear that,” Celestia said and dipped her head down. “I must also apologize to you, my little pony. If I had been faster, I could have stopped him from escaping that night and saved you a lot of grief.”

“Well,” Trixie shifted uncomfortably. “Trixie didn’t know about him either until recently. He hid in Trixie’s horn and stole her magic whenever she used it.”

“And now he’s back to full power,” Celestia commented. With that little mystery cleared up, she raised her head and asked, “How did you manage to find me?”

“Twilight and the others decided to keep Discord busy while Trixie tried to find you. This whole castle is just a random set of halls and rooms so Trixie just decided not to think of where she was going. It seemed to have worked.”

“I’ve gathered that myself,” Celestia agreed and indicated the view screen hovering nearby. “My student and her friends have been led by the nose the whole time. They won’t find me unless Discord wants them to.”

Trixie took a moment to inspect the bubble surrounding the princess. “Are you trapped? Is that why you can’t help?”

“That’s right. Discord created this prison to keep ponies like me from stopping his fun. My magic keeps getting turned away when I try to break it. He said I could escape if I’m clear of all fear and doubt, but even princesses are not perfect.”

Trixie circled around the bubble, scrutinizing every inch. Finally, she stopped and nodded her head. “Well then. Let the Great and Powerful Trixie give it a try!”

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

“Will you two cut it out?!”

“She started it!” “She started it!”

“Ugh! You both are as bad as school fillies!” Twilight complained to the still arguing Applejack and Rarity. “How did you two even get to this point?! Rarity, we don’t have time to spruce up the place! Applejack, stop antagonizing her!”

“Gesundheit,” Rainbow offered helpfully.

Movement had come to a halt once the farmer and the socialite had started going at it over the castle’s furnishings. The six ponies were all gathered in the middle of a long corridor. Make that an endless corridor. Moving forward didn’t seem to move them along any more than just standing still. Frustration over the lack of progress had led to the shortening of tempers which now caused an argument over the silliest of things to break out.

“Come on,” Twilight urged and galloped off. “We’ve got to keep going.”

“What’s the point?” Applejack asked tersely. “We ain’t made no headway for a while now and we ain’t gonna unless we can get out of this loop we’re in. Face it; we’re stuck.”

“I’m not giving up!” Twilight yelled from far ahead. “You stay there if you want but I’m going... on?”

Her friends blinked as Twilight appeared from the opposite direction she had taken. She sheepishly walked up to them.

“You were sayin’?” Applejack drawled.

“Maybe I can teleport out of here,” Twilight pondered to herself. “No... I don’t know where to point myself... Perhaps a Lost and Found spell? No... that’s not it... Maybe tear down the walls? That won’t work with this strong of magic...” She continued to think for several more minutes, uttering gibberish about one spell or another.

“Boring,” Rainbow whined.

“Agreed.”

The ponies snapped their heads up to see Discord walking through a side wall as though it weren’t there. “I can see that this little episode is winding down. Time to move on.” He snapped his fingers and transported them in front of a huge metal door. “Let’s get on with the climax, shall we?”

“Wait!” Pinkie Pie hopped forward and raised up a hoof to gain his attention. “What about me?”

“What about you?” Discord replied back.

“You didn’t get to me, yet! You did all those awful and terrible things to the rest of my friends but I didn’t get my turn! Come on, lay it on me!”

A collective facehoof resulted.

“Pinkie...” Twilight groaned.

Meanwhile, Discord tapped a claw to his chin, appearing to think it over. “Nah. I’ve got nothin’.” With that, he disappeared.

Pinkie’s jaw dropped. “He... he didn’t... do anything. All my hopes and dreams... they’re still there. All hopey and... dreamy.” She sagged to the floor, looking ready to cry.

Her friends shared odd looks between themselves before Fluttershy walked up to Pinkie and sat down next to her. “Um, Pinkie? After this is over, do you want me to... um, laugh at you and maybe... take away all your treats?”

Pinkie looked at her with shining eyes. “You’d do that for me?”

“Of course. If it would make you feel better, that is.”

Pinkie wrapped Fluttershy up in a tight hug. “Oh, thank you! Somepony that’s willing to treat me badly! I can’t wait!”

“There... there?” Fluttershy slowly patted the earth pony’s back. Whatever makes her happy, I guess, Fluttershy thought to herself in puzzlement.

“Oooookay...” Rainbow interrupted the “touching” scene. “Let’s keep going before we all go crazy.” She reared back and then blasted forward. She thrust out a hind leg and kicked the metal door with all her might. It crashed to the floor with Rainbow standing proudly on top of it. “Ready or not, here we come!”

The Elements of Harmony spilled into the room and formed a line. Before them sat Discord in his thrown. Princess Celestia hovered in her bubble next to him.

Discord lazily pointed at his busted door. “You’re paying for that.”

“Not unless we stop you first!” Twilight promised. “Release the princess and prepare yourself!”

“For what?” Discord genuinely wanted to know. “What can you do that you haven’t tried already?”

Twilight’s eyes sought out Celestia’s. The princess winked back at her.

A smile formed on the unicorn’s muzzle. She strode forward, taking the lead position before the other element bearers. “It doesn’t matter how many times we fail. We’ll keep trying until you are no longer a threat to us. Harmony will prevail and so will friendship!”

“Oi,” Discord moaned and ran his lion paw over his face. “If there’s one thing I can’t stand about being the spirit of chaos is lame, heroic speeches. They’re all the same.”

“Then let it be the last one you ever hear! Form up!” Taking positions besides Twilight, her friends began concentrating and forming the link that would unleash the power of the Elements of Harmony.

“I think not.”

That was the only warning they received before magic picked them all up and flung them apart, scattering them across the room.

Discord now stood in the middle of the room, arms crossed and no longer looking amused. He watched as the ponies recovered and slowly staggered towards him, determination etched into their eyes. “I give you high points for stubbornness but this has got to stop. I’m a busy draconequus and can’t be bothered by this nonsense every moment of the day. So, as much as I find you all so entertaining, I’m afraid I’m just going to have to put you in a time out.” He raised his eagle claw and snap-

A sharp pain suddenly came from his rear end.

“Yeeeooowww! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” Discord clutched his bottom and ran around in a panic.

“Do it now!” came a strained voice.

The bearers obeyed, rushing together and gathering their power. Quickly, the six mares ignited with harmonious magic and a rainbow shot out from them.

Discord stopped his dance of agony and looked up in time to receive a rainbow to the face. Before he knew it, his entire body became encased in stone.

The cleansing magic of harmony bathed the throne room, transforming it back to its original state. The elements shining on each of their wielder’s necks and head flashed one final time before winking out. The ponies regained their senses and smiled at each other for a job well done.

A flourish of movement came from besides the restored throne as Trixie revealed herself. She gingerly used her magic to grab hold of a hairpin and winced as she yanked it out of her butt. She tossed it to the side in disgust and trotted forward. “Trixie hopes you all appreciate what she had to sacrifice in order to help. She won’t be able to sit right for a week.”

A giggle came from next to her. Princess Celestia, released from her bubble, descended down to the floor. “Do you want me to kiss it better, for you?” she asked playfully.

“Trixie declines. She’s been embarrassed enough as it is.”

“Princess!”

Celestia was nearly bowled over as Twilight came in from a flying tackle. The princess chuckled as her student hugged her for all she was worth. “Happy to see me, I see.”

“I was so worried,” Twilight babbled. “I thought Discord had done terrible things to you.”

“No,” Celestia soothed as she nuzzled Twilight back. “Just forced me to watch as you all were picked on.” She gently pushed Twilight away and addressed the unicorn waiting expectantly beside her. “Thank you, Trixie, for your help. Discord couldn’t have been beaten without you.”

“Of course,” Trixie readily agreed. “Was there any doubt?”

A laugh was shared between the ponies gathered. Finally, Twilight looked between Celestia and Trixie and asked, “How’d you do it? Is Discord gone for good?”

“Yes, Twilight,” Celestia explained. “Trixie was able to release me from the prison Discord put me in. Magic couldn’t help me within the bubble but she found out that it could be broken from the outside. Quite easily, in fact. Once I was out, she told me of her link with Discord and I was able to weaken it enough so that she wouldn’t bring him back. Then we just waited for the right moment to use the elements on him. All’s well-”

“That ends well.”

All at once, the floor beneath them ruptured. Thick green vines sprouted and wrapped themselves around the startled ponies. Celestia violently tore free of the ones surrounding herself with magical lacerations and turned to do the same for the others.

“I wouldn’t do that, Celestia.”

The princess stopped as the vines tightened around the smaller ponies, causing cries of anguish to come from their mouths. She whipped her head to where Discord’s statue had been left, but it was no longer there. When she turned back, the spirit of chaos himself stood in the middle of the vines holding the Elements of Harmony.

“Nice try,” he sneered, his eyes flashing with contempt. “You nearly had me there. Now, if I detect even a glimmer of magic, these vines will grow thorns. Big ones. Understand?”

Celestia hatefully glared back but her horn did not glow.

Discord shot one last look her way before stepping towards the only other pony that he had not trapped. Trixie gulped and backed away. She didn’t make it far before a wall of vines grew behind her, keeping her from moving any further. Discord stopped a few lengths away and looked down at her with... disappointment?

“Why?” he asked simply.

Trixie glanced to and fro but any escape routes were cut off. Not that she thought she’d get far anyway. Putting on a brilliant smile, she asked back, “W-why, what?”

Discord narrowed his eyes. “I thought we had something. Something between us.”

“W-w-w-we do!” Trixie stammered. “That link thingy! Heh!” Her nervous grin faded as Discord’s frown deepened. “Um, how did you survive that, anyway?”

“I told you once that Celestia is overrated. She’s just as bumbling with her magic as her student. Besides, I just checked and your end resisted her. You don’t really want our link gone, do you?”

Trixie swallowed and pinned her ears back. She averted her muzzle away from those gathered.

“Thought so. Now...” He raised his hands and Trixie looked up in fright. She could feel an enormous amount of power being built between them. “Let me show you how real magic is done!”

“What... w-w-what are you going to do to me?!”

Discord loomed above Trixie, his eyes now irisless and completely yellow. He snarled and brought his hands down, aiming towards her.

Trixie did the only thing she think of.

She slammed her head against the floor.

“Iiieee!” Discord yelped and rubbed his noggin, all the power he had generated dissipating away. “Stop hitting yourself!

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you but I’ll think of something. Now hold still so that I can move you somewhere safe. We’re going to have a long talk later, mis-huh?”

A golden glow covered his entire body. The next instant, Discord slammed against the floor, Celestia towering above him with her horn aglow. The vines holding the six element bearers withered away, setting them free.

“Use the Elements of Harmony again!” Celestia commanded, her voice strained as she channeled as much power as she could to hold Discord down. Behind her, the bearers grouped together and began summoning the rainbow to blast him.

“NO!”

With a colossal force of will, Discord threw off the magic binding him. However, he was slow getting back to his feet. “This is getting tiresome,” he groaned. The next thing he knew, something climbed up on his back.

Trixie, her hat removed, rushed forward, reared back and stabbed down with her horn.

The roar of pain that tore out of both Discord and Trixie’s mouths would never be forgotten. Her horn pierced his back, just above his wings. The duo writhed in excruciating agony.

“FIRE!” Trixie screamed, tears leaking from her clenched eyes as she forced herself to remain in place.

The Elements of Harmony hesitated.

“But you’ll be turned to stone, too!” Twilight shouted above the hum of magic that surrounded her.

“JUST DO IT, YOU IDIOTS!”

Twilight tried to think of something, anything, to keep what was about to happen from happening. The build-up of magic from the elements wouldn’t be denied however, and the sparkling rainbow erupted out of them.

Trixie had one final thought as the rainbow streaked towards her. If I’m going down, I’ll do it with style.

The rainbow struck.

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

As soon as she was able to move, Twilight sped towards the impact zone. Her eyes watered as she came upon the scene.

Discord lay upon the ground, a pained and sorrowful look on his face. Above him, head held high and proud with her cape billowing behind her in a dramatic fashion, stood Trixie.

Twilight Sparkle dropped to the floor and cried in front of the stone statue.

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