• Published 15th Dec 2014
  • 9,814 Views, 575 Comments

This Cruel and Random World - Bluegrass Brooke

It was a simple bet. Spend one month as a pony, and prove to Celestia that he had been right all along. Discord never thought he would actually enjoy it. As the days pass, he finds himself desperate to keep up the façade a little longer.

  • ...

Learning Curve

Rain. It was a necessary part of life, and a welcome break from monotony. There was nothing quite so beautiful as the chaotic splatter of the raindrops as they struck the ground. Even when it was just water and not chocolate milk, it was fun. Why any creature would hate it was beyond him. But, as he walked to the library, almost everypony was hiding inside. The few ponies he passed were making mad dashes to avoid the downpour. Discord chuckled to himself. "Really, what is the problem?"

He eyed a large puddle and took a flying leap into it. Water splashed up his legs and onto his belly, but he could not have cared less. It was the most chaotic liberty he was granted in this form and he would soak it up for all it was worth.

The rest of his walk consisted of him splashing and dancing in the rain, while singing rather badly to annoy as many ponies as possible. A particular triumph was splashing Mayor Mare in the face. Though, her glare sent him backing up a step. "Sorry."

She waved it away with a smile. "It's all right. Not every day I see a stallion playing in the rain like a colt. Do be careful not to catch a cold."

"Right." When she left, he snorted a laugh. A cold? Now that would be amusing. Idly, he wondered what pony colds were like. Definitely not as fun as draconequus colds, that was a given. At least he would not be changing color. Shrugging it off, he continued his song and dance all the way to the library.

He swung the door open, stepping inside. "Twilight! I'm here to learn!"

The only creature in the main room was a rather disgruntled Spike. Apparently, his dripping all over the floor was not appreciated. "Entropy! Why are you all wet?"

"Ah, my dear Spike." Entropy walked over, patting him with a muddy, soaked hoof. "I was out in the rain. That's what we call it when water falls from the sky."

The sarcasm was not well received. Spike gave him a dirty look, pushing the hoof off his head. "I know! I'm not stupid!"

Really, he's so dramatic. Discord shook himself off like a dog. Much to his displeasure, pony hair did not whisk water away like his draconequus coat did. He was still completely soaked. Spike was dripping water too now, looking practically murderous. The sight was beyond comedic, and he sniggered, "I do apologize, Spike. Seems I got a touch carried away."

The sound of rapid hoofbeats coming down the stairs announced Twilight's arrival. "Sorry I'm late, I oversle—" She stopped short upon seeing his dripping coat. "Entropy! What in Equestria were you doing?"

"Walking." And splashing, and dancing. But let's not quibble over the details. He gave a sheepish grin, "Sorry about the mess."

"Don't worry about that." She flew over to him, pressing a hoof to his forehead. "You'll catch a cold doing that."

Really? These ponies are far too obsessed with colds. "I'm fine. I enjoy the rain so I dilly dallied a little."

Twilight sighed, shaking her head. "All right. But you really should be more careful." She started walking towards the hallway, motioning him to follow. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up.

Discord had never been in this part of Twilight's library. The narrow hall led to a small, but functional washroom. Twilight muttered to herself, pulling a few towels and a rag from the closet. She levitated them into his hooves. "Here we go. Go ahead and take a bath. You're covered in mud." She paused, apparently considering something. Turning back to the door, "SPIKE! Come take a bath! You're soaked too!"

A few seconds later, the dragon reluctantly came into the bathroom. "But, Twilight. I'm fine. Entropy just splashed me."

"Uh-huh." Her eyes focused on the dragon's dripping scales. Discord had to give himself credit. He really soaked the poor kid.

Spike crossed his arms, and pouted. "Fine."

Seemingly satisfied, Twilight left the room, closing the door behind her. Spike stared at Discord as though he were about to bite him. "You going to start the water?"

"Oh yes."Discord turned on the faucet watching the water quickly rise. He really did not understand ponies. They had an unhealthy obsession with cleanliness. It was practically taboo to skip even one day of bathing. And then, after getting wet in the rain, they thought it necessary to drench oneself further in the water knowing full well they would take another bath that night. It was an abject waste of time and water. But, he was not going to argue with the princess. After all, that would spoil their little game.

He slid into the large tub, scrubbing his coat clean for what felt like the hundredth time that week. Spike reluctantly joined him, still glowering. "So, Twilight says you ran around with her in the park yesterday."

"Oh yes, we had a marvelous game of chase."

Spike blurted the next words, "She hates running you know."

"Really? Well, for somepony who hates running, she was rather good at it." The dragon was obviously getting at something, but Discord would not play along. He finished scrubbing off, and got out of the water, grabbing a towel. "Why are you so worried, Spike?"

Spike leaned over the edge of the tub, feigning a casual expression. "Worried? I'm not worried!"

Discord was getting rather fed up with the dragon's constant denial. It would keep going on like this if he did not stop it now. He leaned close, eyes focused intently on Spikes. "You're worried that Twilight will fall head over heels for me. Then where would her number one assistant fall on her list of priorities?"

Spike was silent, quivering a little. Discord smirked. Hit the nail on the head. Now that he was dry, he walked towards the door. "Well, too bad for you. She's going to fall for me. I'm rather charming you know." Flicking his tail, he slammed the door closed. That should shut him up. Insufferable creature.

Twilight trotted over to greet him. "All clean?"

"Yes." His eyes darted around the library. The mess he had made upon his entry had been magically cleaned, and a state of order had come over the place once more. She doesn't waste any time, does she? "Ready for your lesson?"

Twilight nodded, then giggled, levitating something off of his neck. Apparently he forgot the towel. "You want this or should I put it up?"

He chuckled, "No, it's fine." Out of habit, he lay down on his usual cushion, despite there being a near army of them to choose from. Twilight had made a kind of designated reading nook in the center of the library floor. It was an excellent place to relax, and think. But, if she was entertaining the hopes of the townsponies coming to join her, she would be sorely disappointed.

She settled down beside him, jerking her head to the kitchen. "Would you like some hot chocolate?"

What? Is it Hearths' Warming Eve or something? "Do you have chocolate milk?"

"Sure! I'll get some for you." She hopped up, trotting over to the kitchen and singing a cheery tune. At least her singing had some semblance of balance. Then again, coming from the embodiment of harmony herself, that was none too surprising.

Discord rested his head on the cushion, watching her leave. For some strange reason, his eyelids felt heavy. I shouldn't be tired. I just woke up. Succumbing to the inevitable, he drifted into unconsciousness.

How did it come to this? Discord tapped his hooves nervously against the stone cobbles of the castle, staring up at the two ponies seated on the thrones. His so called friends were glowering down at him as though he were a distasteful stain on the stones. For an instant, he thought of fighting them, proving how powerful his magic could be against their precious harmony. But that was pointless. He did not want their fear, he wanted their respect. And respect was not so easy to come by.


"Yes, Celestia?" He glanced up at the young mare seated on the throne. Her normally immaculate pink mane was frayed in places; a tell tale sign of distress.

Though she sat straight and proud, Discord could not help but notice a nervous twitch in her front hooves. Despite that, when she spoke, it was with her usual authority, "You have committed a heinous crime against the kingdom of Equestria. What is your explanation?"

Heinous crime? That's a bit harsh, don't you think? He glanced at the small army of guards surrounding him. The one holding his chains looked ready to pull him apart at the first sign of trouble. "Celestia, I did not mean offense. It was an accident."

"An accident? AN ACCIDENT!" Celestia rose from her seat, eyes alight with an icy chill he had never thought possible. "You nearly destroyed an entire village!"

There was no words he could say to that. It was the truth, though it had never been his intention. "I . . . I did not mean . . . You know me, Tia." Discord murmured.

"Do not use such informalities with me, draconequus!" The echo of her hoof against the stones set him quivering. In all his years of knowing her, he had never seen her so mad. It did not suit the alicorn, not in the least.

Luna stood, eyeing Discord with distaste, but with her typical, almost supernatural restraint. "She speaks truth, Discord. What right had you to torture those ponies so?"

"Torture?" Discord stroked his black goatee, contemplating those words. Certainly he was not proud of his actions, but torture was going a little far. It had never been his intention to hurt anypony, just to make them see. His eyes focused on the stones, "I wanted to teach them a lesson."

"A lesson you say?" Luna huffed, "And pray tell, what lesson was that?"

"You . . . you would not understand." Of course they would not. They were ponies. Never in their comfortable lives had they felt the sting of isolation, of having every living thing turn away from you in disgust. In their eyes he was a freak of nature bent on destroying their happiness. So he had given them exactly what they wanted.

Celestia strode over to him, staring him down. "You will explain yourself."

"There was no lesson. I was angry and lost control." That was not the truth. The entire situation had been his construct, his master plan to teach all ponies of Equestria a lesson. But, it had gone wrong, horribly, irreversibly wrong. He heard one of the guards scoff and felt another spit on him.

Celestia leaned down, staring him in the eye. There was no warmth left, no promise of forgiveness, not this time. "You will answer for your crimes, draconequus."

Stop calling me that! I have a name, just like everyone else. He gritted his teeth, dreading what came next. There was no use trying to fight it. Instead, he splayed himself out on the stones, shamelessly groveling at their hooves. "Please, have mercy."

Luna interposed herself between Celestia and Discord, whispering in her sister's ear. Celestia gritted her teeth as Luna spoke, still shooting daggers at Discord. Then, slowly, almost reluctantly, she nodded. They turned to him in unison. Celestia spoke in a commanding voice. "You are hereby banished from Equestria. Never in all your years shall you return. There is no room for chaos in a land of harmony." Her attention turned to the guards, "Take him away. See to it that we are rid of him."

"Yes, majesty."

With a jerk of the chains, Discord was dragged from the chamber. He walked along, following the guards as best he could. As they walked, he could see the rain pouring down outside the castle's windows. It was likely the last rain he would see in Equestria. Now he would be forced to live out the rest of his miserable existence in isolation. Simply for one momentary lapse of judgment. Why? Why did it have to come to this?

"Entropy? Entropy! Wake up!" Discord's eyes flitted open to stare into Twilight's. The mare was lying next to him, resting a hoof on his shoulder. "You okay?"

He wanted to answer, but there was a distinct salty taste in his mouth. It took a while to realize that it was from his own tears. His hoof wiped them away. "Sorry."

"Don't apologize." Twilight's stroked his back gently, looking kindly into his eyes. Her voice was softer than he had ever heard it, "You had a bad dream."

You could say that. He could only nod, trying to regain some kind of composure. Honestly, I'm getting sentimental in my old age. In an attempt to focus on reality, he looked around at the library. Judging from the clock, he had been asleep for almost an hour.

Twilight continued to stroke his back, and levitated a steaming cup of something in front of him. "Here, it's tea. It'll help."

Discord leaned down and drank it. For tea, it was rather good. He found himself draining the cup. Twilight poured him another from the kettle resting beside her, and he took another long swig. "Thanks."

"Sure." In his semi-drowsy state, Discord could not help but stare at Twilight. With the light reflecting off of her coat, and the soft smile she was sporting, he could almost forget that she was an insufferable know it all. Almost.

It took a while to realize he was no longer wearing his glasses. Of course, he did not need them to see anything, but it was part of his act. A quick glance in front of him revealed that they had been folded up neatly beside the cushions. He scooped them up, placing them back on his muzzle.

"I thought they might bother you while you slept."

He gave her a smile, ruffling her forelock. "Thanks, Twilight."

She played nervously with her mane, eyes glancing up at him, and away. "It was nothing. I'm just glad you're all right."

"Yes, I do apologize for that." Discord was keenly aware of Twilight's attention on him. It was oddly comforting to have someone interested in looking at him. No creature in Equestria willingly met his gaze while he was in his true form. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts. "I've lived enough years that past mistakes like to catch up with me in my sleep."

Twilight's smile faltered. "I . . . I get that way too."

"You?" Twilight Sparkle, princess of friendship and magic troubled by her past? Not likely.

Instead of her usual confidence, Twilight looked almost conflicted. Her eyes darted around the room, then back at him. "When I sleep, I can't help but wonder." She lowered her voice to a near whisper, "What would have happened if I failed?"

What? Discord could not believe his ears. "But you never fail, princess."

"But I could! I could fail and all of Equestria could be doomed." Twilight looked as though she were nearing another one of her panic attacks. "Every day I keep thinking, what if something terrible happens? What if I become so complacent that I can no longer see the immediate danger? Then what, Entropy?" Her entire body began to quiver beside his. "How can I live a happy, normal life with that hanging over me?"

Her words struck him like a punch to the gut. For once, Twilight's worries were justified. It made perfect sense. What if another threat like Sombra or Queen Chrysalis were to show up? Their precious rulers had already proven their inability to protect Equestria under such circumstances. Then there was him. What use had he been to them in the past? Discord looked back to Twilight, and, before he even knew why, embraced her in a tight hug. "Oh, Twilight. You're never going to live a normal life, and that's alright. It's all right. Don't be scared. You're not alone, you're never alone." You're not me.

Instead of pulling away as he expected, the mare burrowed her face in his chest, clutching him tightly. She was silent, but Discord could not bring himself to push her back. His hoof stroked her back as she quivered like a leaf. The ever confident princess Twilight Sparkle crying into his chest. It should have bothered him to no end. But, for some strange reason, it was comforting. Comforting to know that somepony with as seemingly perfect life as her could have problems.

After a few minutes, she pulled back flushing crimson. "Sorry . . . sorry."

"Don't apologize, Twilight." He picked up her tea kettle and poured her a drink, handing it to her. "Your turn."

She giggled, taking a long sip of the now lukewarm tea. "Blech. I really can't make tea, can I?"

"Oh I didn't think it was all that bad." Discord picked up the cup, draining it. "Better than I could make. The Dean still hasn't forgiven me for having him try a cup."

Twilight laughed, leaning against his side. "Wish I could have seen that."

"You would have enjoyed it." He cleared his throat, looking around for a change of topic. "So, are we going to start our lesson? We're rather behind."

"Oh." Twilight sat up straight again, looking around the library. "Spike? Do you know where we put the schedule?"

For the first time since he woke, Discord looked around for Spike. Soft footsteps against the stairs announced that he had been upstairs. In a few seconds, he came into sight, a comic book clutched in his claws. "I put it on the podium."

"Oh, right." Twilight trotted over to the podium, levitating the long scroll into her hooves. "Hmmm. We're a little behind, but not so bad. Do you want to do your lecture first or should I do mine?"

"I'll start us off." He welcomed the distraction. It took a few tries to steady himself, but he managed to get to his hooves. After a long stretch, he made his way to the chalkboard. "You ready?"

"Yes." Twilight bounded over, sitting eagerly in front of the board.

Spike eyed Discord suspiciously. Discord could not help but smirk. His little prediction was turning out to be true after all. "Care to join us, Spike?"

"Uh, no. I'm good." Spike started back up the stairs, eyes still boring into Discord's. "I don't understand that kind of stuff."

He only smiled, watching until the dragon was out of sight. Judging from Spike's reaction, he had probably seen his and Twilight's little display earlier. Though it served his own purpose, he could not help but feel awkward about what happened. For a brief instant, Discord felt as though he connected with Twilight. But that was ridiculous. This was a game after all, nothing more. Twilight had won a point that morning. A point did not the game win.

Comics were great fun. When Spike read them, he was transported to another world entirely. But today, today his ticket to the teleporter was not working. Try as he may to follow the adventures of Hum Drum and the Power Ponies, he would always get distracted. Distracted by that image he would just as soon forget. Why? Why had Entropy been holding Twilight like that?

The only other ponies he saw hugging that way were Pinkie and Cheese. A horrible, chilling thought came over him then. What if Twilight liked Entropy like Pinkie liked Cheese, but was too blind to realize it? From their conversation earlier, it was obvious Entropy was playing a cruel trick on her. The unicorn wanted to see how much hurt he could cause Twilight. No way in Equestria Spike would let that happen on his watch. Twilight was as good as family to him, and there was nothing he would not do to protect her.

But warning her was easier said than done. She completely blew off anything he said. Maybe he could talk to somepony else. No, that would not work. They would believe Twilight over him anyday. Think, Spike. Think. A loud knock on the door brought his attention back to reality.

He peeked down the stairs, watching as Rarity stepped inside. Rarity was kind, generous, and above all, understanding. Maybe, just maybe she would listen to him. Spike ran down the stairs to greet her. "Rarity!"

"Hello, Spikey Wikey." Rarity gave one of her brilliant smiles before turning back to Twilight. "I do hope I'm not intruding."

Entropy waved a hoof dismissively, "Nonsense. You're doing no such thing."

"He's right. We just finished our physics lecture." Twilight nodded to the chalkboard now completely covering in formulas and chicken scratch.

"How exciting. I must say, I don't know how you manage to study so much, Twilight. But," Her eyes met Entropy's, "it's simply marvelous you have somepony to study with."

"I don't know about that. I fear I'm boring our dear princess."

Twilight shook her head fervently, "Oh no. Your lectures are fascinating, professor!"

"Well, now, I wouldn't say fascinating."

Urgh. Spike wanted to kick Entropy. Every word seemed to be laced with charm. It was infuriating to watch how easily entranced Twilight was. Was she really that blind to the truth? He decided to break up his latest attempts, "Rarity, why did you come out here in the rain?"

"Oh." She clapped her hooves together as though just remembering. "My dear, Spike. I completely forgot." Her gaze turned to Twilight and Entropy, "I've been asked to attend a fashion expo in Canterlot! And of course, I have to look my best. I thought, since Entropy was from Canterlot, he might give me some pointers."

Entropy's booming laugh echoed around the library. "Me? A fashion expert? Why that's—" He paused, seemingly coming upon some revelation. "Why yes, I know a few things about fashion. Being a professor, I see a lot of young ponies come through my doors sporting the latest fashions. I'd be delighted to help."

"Eeeeh! Thank you, darling." Rarity clasped his hoof in hers. "It will be such a help. But, I wouldn't take you away from our dear Twilight." She started to the door, levitating her umbrella. "When you can spare him, Twilight, do send him my way. Perhaps sometime this afternoon?"

"Sure." Twilight watched Rarity leave, then turned back to Entropy. "Guess we should get started with our magic lesson."

Entropy grimaced, "If your library can handle it."

Spike moaned. If I can handle it. "Twilight, I'm going back to read."

Twilight dismissed him with a hoof, eyes still focused on Entropy. "Sure. Whatever, Spike."

Gee, thanks. Spike walked slowly up the stairs, careful to slam his feet at every step for maximum volume. A sense of dread filled him as he went. So, Entropy was going to Rarity's today. No doubt he would try to pull the wool over her eyes too. Well not this time. This time would be different.

Spike never felt so uncomfortable coming into Carousel Boutique. The place was generally a sanctuary, a safe place to vent his troubles and enjoy a kind friend's company. But not today. Today he knew exactly what he was walking into. Another one of Entropy's acts.

He swung the door open, entering the well-lit Boutique. The front room was devoid of anypony, and he turned into the dining room. Sure enough, Rarity and Entropy were chatting like old friends. He cleared his throat loudly. "Hello."

"Oh, Spikey Wikey! I didn't know you'd be coming too." Rarity levitated a chair back, patting it with a hoof. "Do sit down."

"Thanks." He sat next to her, eyeing Entropy across the table. "Having fun?"

"Indeed. I was just telling Rarity about the latest trends in sun hats." His cheesy grin was not fooling Spike for a second. The unicorn was up to something.

Rarity looked more than delighted, tapping a notebook in front of her with a pen. "It's been simply marvelous. Why, I was just learning about an interesting caveat of hat fashion." A large sun hat levitated off of a rack and onto her head. Then, she place a single large feather in its ribbon. "It's simple no? Every mare in Canterlot has one in their hats. But, only one. Do you know what they call it?"

Spike raised an eyebrow, dreading the answer. "What?"

"Macaroni! Is that not fascinating?" Rarity sighed, taking on a dreamy expression. "It's so simple, so chic!"

Spike raised an eyebrow, "Yeah, really fancy, Rarity." A quick glance in Entropy's direction showed him sniggering a little bit, but he stopped when Spike took note. Macaroni? Seriously? That's food, not fashion. I could've come up with a better story than that! "Rarity, I don't think that's the latest fashion."

"Oh, don't be ridiculous, Spike. I'm most certain it is." The hat found its place on the rack once more. Rarity stood and walked over to the stove, putting on a kettle. "Why would Entropy lie?"

Why indeed? That was one piece of the puzzle Spike had yet to figure out. What purpose did a Canterlot professor like Entropy have in making their lives miserable? And another thing, why get Twilight to fall for him? He had to be leading her on for a purpose. Was it simply to drop her when he got bored? Spike's heart began to race at that thought. Poor Twilight! I've got to warn her!

"Spike? Spike?"

It took a moment to realize that he had not been paying attention to the two ponies. "Sorry, Rarity. I was spacing out."

"That you were." Entropy's laugh echoed around the room as it tended to do.

Rarity turned back to Entropy, obviously continuing a previous conversation. "How does it suit you?"

"Oh, well . . ." The stallion shuffled a little, looking away. "I can't say it's not awkward being taught by somepony as young as she is. But, I find it rather refreshing that all the knowledge won't be leaving with my generation."

Rarity clucked disapprovingly, standing to take the kettle off. "Now that's no way to talk. You aren't that old yet."

Entropy gave a weak chuckle. "I'm afraid I am."

"Come now, you can't be any older than thirty." Rarity began to pour tea into the cups, humming a tune as she went.

Entropy frowned, focusing on the table. "Forty actually."

"Oh." Rarity nearly dropped the cup she was handed to him. "And you've never settled down with anypony?"

"No, I never had the chance. There's not many mares interested in a washed up physics professor who can't even control his own magic." He sighed, and took a long swig of the tea. "This is quite good."

"Thank you." Spike could see the concern in Rarity's eyes. She was falling for his sob story hook line and sinker. Her voice was rather quiet, almost tentative, "You like her, don't you?"

Spike nearly spat out a mouthful of tea. There was no way a conniving pony like him really liked Twilight. No way in Equestria.

"Well," Entropy shuffled uncomfortably, voice growing almost as soft as Rarity's. "Yes. I believe I do."

Rarity gave tiny squeal of delight, clapping her hooves together like a little filly. "Why that's wonderful!"

Entropy shook his head, gritting his teeth. "No, no it's not. I'm nearly twice her age. There's no way a brilliant, talented princess would be interested in me."

"Oh, I don't know. Twilight sees ponies for who they are, Entropy. She's not the kind to judge based on a little thing like age." A look of purest determination had taken over. "Why, I'm certain I could work my magic and help you out."

His eyebrow raised slightly, "You would do that?"

"But of course! Why, Twilight needs somepony as much as you do. Who better than a brilliant and dashing professor." Rarity hoof pounded the air. "I think it's a delightful idea."

"All right. But I'm warning you, I'm a bit rusty. Haven't been on a date in years." As he said that, a small smirk stretched across his face.

Yeah, sure you're rusty. Rusty enough to hold Twilight like that. Spike coughed loudly, "I don't think Twilight wants to be set up."

"Nonsense, Spike." Her hoof patted his head as though her were a dog. "I helped set up Pinkie and Cheese, and they're happily married now."

Spike rolled his eyes. Rarity's definition of "set up" needed revision. As far as he knew, Pinkie and Cheese had been crazy about each other for a while before Rarity so much as lent a hoof. But, who was he to argue? "I guess."

"And there you have it." Just as she was about to continue, a loud ringing from her wall clock announced that it was already five. "Oh my. Is it that late already?"

Entropy stood, glancing at the door. "I'm terribly sorry, Rarity, but I have to go. I promised to help Cheese this evening."

"Right, of course." Rarity started to walk him and Spike out. "Do stop by to see me again, Entropy." Her wink was almost comedic. "And don't worry about Twilight."

"Right." Entropy led the way out the door into the rain.

After they had walked a little ways in the pounding rain, Entropy broke out into a fit of laughter. He clutched his sides, turning to Spike. "Did you see that? What a sap! Weave a little tale and she's eating out of my hooves. Now that's how you do it, Spike."

Spike never wanted to bite anypony as badly as he did in that moment. He was fed up with Entropy. Fed up with his cruel little joke on Twilight's behalf. "IT'S NOT FUNNY!"

He stopped laughing, giving Spike a challenging look. "Really now? And why is that?"

"You're lying! You're lying to Twilight, to Rarity, to everypony just so you can have a laugh." He stamped a foot into a puddle, sending up a fountain of mud. "It's not right! You'd better apologize right now."

"Apologize? For what?" Entropy lowered his head to Spike's eyelevel. "It's not my fault that your precious princess is so gullible." He stood straight, "It might even teach her a valuable lesson about judging a book by the cover!"

"Why you!" Spike rushed at the pony, beating his legs as hard as he could. His fists did not seem to be doing anything and it was beyond frustrating. Then, an idea came to him. He was a dragon, why not act like a dragon? There had been many times he had been warned not to use fire for anything but sending letters and helping ponies. But this, this was important and it was helping somepony; it was helping Twilight. Taking a deep breath, he shot out a stream of green flames at Entropy and immediately regretted it.

Spike thought Entropy was a jerk, but he never took him as dangerous. Not until then. Before Spike could even react, the stallion had literally thrown him to the ground. His heavy hoof pressed against his chest so hard he thought his ribs might break. The cold, hard voice was a far cry from any Entropy had used before, "That was not funny."

"Uh—" He could hardly breathe, let alone speak. All he wanted was the stallion to let him go. He winced as his tail twisted uncomfortably under him.

Entropy's pupils turned red as his horn lit up. Sparks flew in all directions and it was apparent that he was not attempting to control the magic. "Stay out of my way!" With that, he lifted his hoof and walked down the road.

Spike lay there for what felt like ages. Then, slowly, he got to his feet. As he walked, he noted how sore his tail was. It had been badly twisted, and he knew it. An icy dread filled his stomach. If there was one cardinal rule he was not to break, it was using his fire for anything but good. Now he would have to explain to Twilight how he got his tail hurt. Why me?

When he arrived, he attempted to open the door quietly. But, the moment he entered the library, Twilight bounded over to him. "Spike there you are! I was starting to—" She paused on seeing his tail. "Oh, you hurt your tail. How did that happen?"

"I . . ." He considered lying to her, and trying to hide the truth. But she would see past that. Besides, if he wanted her to believe him about Entropy, he would have to be honest himself. "Entropy pushed me and twisted it."

"Entropy?" She snorted, "There's no way that's true, Spike."

"It is. I was trying to get him to stop lying to everypony." Spike's tongue felt lose and useless. It was so much harder to explain out loud. "He's pretending to like you so he can hurt you later! He told me himself. And, and then he lied to Rarity too. So I told him to stop. And," He gulped, dreading the next bit, "I hit him 'cause he wouldn't listen and then I . . . I burnt him a little with my fire."

"YOU WHAT?" Twilight's face lost all color, looking down at Spike. "How could you?"

"I didn't mean to. I just got really angry. Then he slammed me into the ground and hurt my tail." Spike knew how stupid that explanation sounded, even to himself. And now he had even admitted to burning him.

Twilight's mouth opened and closed, obviously trying to register what just happened. She glowered at Spike. "How could you burn anypony after seeing what happened to Cheese last year? You know how much pain he was in!"

"I . . . I'm sorry, Twilight."

"Yeah, you'd better be." Twilight stamped a hoof and pointed to the hallway. "Go clean up, I'll treat your tail afterwards. You are grounded until further notice!"

Spike grimaced, making his way down the hallway. He had never felt so bad in his entire life. All he wanted was for Entropy to tell the truth. He never expected all of this.

Discord had never liked dragons. Greedy creatures without a lick of humor. Now he was quite convinced he hated them. Spike had not really burned him. In fact, the flames had only grazed his shoulder. But the very thought of a baby dragon thinking he could hurt someone as powerful as himself was beyond toleration. Discord had to put Spike in his place. So why did he feel guilty?

Anger was not an emotion he tolerated well. He never had. It did not come out in little trickles as most creature's did, but rather built up until it came out as great fiery explosions. Of course, Spike's actions were to be expected under the circumstances. He had baited him rather more than necessary, and had been asking for retaliation. There had been no reason to snap at the dragon. Perhaps that was what bothered him. Ah well, what was done was done and he would not dwell on it.

The rain had almost stopped by the time he reached old town hall. That's what most everypony was calling it, though it would probably have a new name once they opened the venue. He looked up at the half replaced siding, cracked stone steps, and polished oak door. It was apparent from the construction that the building had been built to impress. Unfortunately, it had degraded into a state of disrepair before its time. He strode up to the door, knocking loudly.

It swung open to reveal Cheese wearing a hard hat and a wide grin. "Entropy! Thanks for coming."

"Of course." Entropy walked inside, and gasped. Even he could tell the place was beautiful. Discord could not help but admire the floorboards, worn smooth from decades of dances and the magnificent trim work. The hall was in varying states of repair, and Cheese seemed happy to tell about all of his projects.

"And here we are." He gestured to the far end where a raised stage was half torn apart. "I could really use some help cutting the replacement boards."

"Sure." Discord had never done much carpentry. In fact, he really could not remember a time when he had done anything remotely similar to this. If he wanted a stage, he just snapped his fingers and one would appear. This seemed remarkably tedious. But, for some reason, it seemed to make the young stallion happy. "You enjoy this kind of work?"

"Of course! Can't be an earth pony and not love to work with your hooves." He was vigorously sanding a long board, nodding his head to an internal rhythm. "There's nothing that makes me as proud as seeing what I can do with a little determination."

"I suppose you're right." He was about to return to measuring his own board, when he took a good look at Cheese front hooves. Discord had seen scars, and burns, but never like this. The entire surface of his front legs, nearly up to his chest was covered in angry scars. Hair covered most of the top part, but was patchy at the bottom where the worst of it seemed to be. How in Equestria did a party pony end up like that? Accident at the circus?

Cheese noticed his staring. He lifted a hoof, giving a halfhearted grin. "Pretty ugly, huh?"

"No, I . . ." He really did not know what to say.

"It's okay. I know it bothers someponies." Cheese stopped sanding to stare at the scars. "Last fall, I got into a bad fire. My friend, he was trapped under some timbers. I had to pull them off of him."

"Why didn't you leave him?" It sounded cruel, but Discord was genuinely curious.

"Because I knew he would've done the same for me." He gave an honest laugh, sitting up straight. "Milo's a grouch, but he's a good pony. A real good pony. And, I really don't mind the scars. Just," The smile vanished, and he stared hard at the floor. "I hope the foal isn't scared of me."

Discord felt his stomach lurch. Though he hardly knew the stallion, it was obvious he cared a lot about his wife and was exceptionally worried about their unborn child. "You'll make a good father. And, if you love that foal like you love your wife, there's no way in Equestria it would hate you."

Cheese nodded, picking up the sandpaper again. "You're right. What have I got to worry about? Let's get this done before dinner. Pinkie's making us some casserole."

Discord set back to work. It was strange to hear all the little details ponies worried about. Twilight's concerns were at least understandable. After all, the fate of Equestria was business a princess ought to be concerned with. But Cheese's worry was something completely foreign to him. He never would have imagined ponies worried about a tiny thing like a foal liking them. It was not as though the world would fall apart because of it. Though, from the sound of it, Cheese's world might do just that. It was ridiculous, but Discord could not bring himself to laugh it off. Perhaps there was more to learn about these ponies after all.

Author's Note:

Rarity's working on her Yankee Doodle fashion scene. Perhaps she'll bring it back into style, or at the very least get a catchy song out of it.

Wow, this chapter was dense, like writing a fruit cake. So much to fit in! A very long chapter, but thanks for sticking with it. If you're interested, the whole story behind Cheese's burns can be found in What Changes May Come. I go into plenty of detail there.