• Published 27th May 2015
  • 3,830 Views, 159 Comments

The Unraveled Thread - Bender Alpha

||ON HIATUS|| The Stillness is coming. It's up to the heroes of Equestria to defend their home, with perhaps a little help from an unwitting refugee.

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PROLOGUE - An Unsettling Teatime

Discord stared into his cup of licorice tea and sighed. Slouched on Fluttershy’s couch, he listened to her bustle about the kitchen, preparing teacakes and a second kettle for her herbal tea. He snorted derisively. Honestly, it was so strange a concept: he, the Master of Chaos and Disharmony, sitting down to have teatime with a shy little pegasus in her cottage by the woods. Some might even call it absurd.

But, try as he might, Discord could never prove that her friendship was just an act. She might become exasperated, even frustrated, by his pranks and pestering, but she was never truly angry with him. Unless, of course, he was being purposefully and unnecessarily cruel, but he’d learned not to try that after freezing over the apple orchard. For whatever reason, it seemed like Fluttershy actually wanted to be actively kind to him, even going out of her way to perform acts of consideration and caring. Like up and deciding to invite him to afternoon tea not a week ago. But, regardless of his expressed disdain, he showed up anyways, just as she was sure he would. Not that she was prepared for him to show up only a minute after the clocks struck twelve.

And what an amusingly nebulous concept ‘afternoon’ is. Noon really only lasts for a minute, then everything up until ‘evening’ can be considered after-noon. Allows for quite a bit of mischief in the efforts of timekeeping, although I doubt that’s what she had in mind when she invited me.

“Remind me,” he called out to Fluttershy, “what exactly is the point of this?”

“It’s teatime,” she stated, as though that made all the sense in the world, but quickly added, “it’s a time to sit with friends, talk, and have a snack with tea.”

“Talk about what, tea and pastries?” He nearly snorted, watching her questioningly as she brought out a tray of little oblong powdered sponge cakes. ‘Ladyfingers,’ they were called in some other realms, but he sincerely doubted that was their name in Equestria.

“Whatever comes to mind, really. Gossip, news, problems, anything you really want to talk about.”

Discord sighed. “Yes, well, I doubt you’d be interested in talking about ponies’ firmly held misconception that chaos and entropy are the same thing. Honestly, there’s a huge difference between plenipotentiality and nullipotentiality.”

“Oh…” Fluttershy muttered, momentarily downtrodden. “Well, that is probably a discussion better suited for Twilight. But, if you want, you could talk about it while I listen. I’m a very good listener.”

There she goes again, Discord mused. Honestly, does she even have a selfish thought in her head?

However, not being one to pass up an opportunity to hear his own voice, Discord’s attitude flipped like a pancake, allowing his discomfort with intimacy to sizzle underneath the surface for a while.

“Well, why didn’t you say so earlier?” He bubbled, tossing his teacup aside, where it promptly forgot to shatter, or even spill its contents. “Really, I think it’s all just a case of ponies’ inherent metathesiophobia. With perhaps a few exceptions, it seems like the vast majority feel that any change is… bad… change…”

Discord went silent, a look of distraction passing through his eyes.

“Um… Discord?”

But Discord didn’t answer, slowly rising to his feet instead. He strained his senses, trying to catch a sliver of the sensation that had pressed on his mind for that fleeting moment.

“Discord, is something-”

He shushed her urgently. He had to be sure of this. He closed his eyes, cutting himself off from his physical senses. No sight, no sound, no smell, no touch. Just his mind, floating on the currents of the planet’s energy. It had been slight and near instantaneous, the tiniest ripple in the fabric of reality. But it wasn’t one of his. He stood there, more singularly focused than he had been in millennia.

The world exploded around him.

It rattled his brain like a blast from a concert speaker standing only a few feet away, turned up to eleven. Some malicious ghost rammed an intangible motorcycle into his stomach at full speed. His eyes rang, his ears saw stars, and he tasted burnt ozone. He didn’t realize he was falling until the floor ran up to body check him.

Then it happened again.

And again, and again.

Dozens of concussive blasts engulfed his world in the tsunami of reality torn asunder. He was faintly aware of Fluttershy above him, calling out his name. Eventually, the shockwaves ebbed into mere vibrations, and his mind was left spinning with the enormity of the impact. But impact of what? What had just happened?

Eventually, he was able to disentangle his senses, and his vision came back into focus. Fluttershy was indeed standing over his head, gazing down with more concern than any being had had for his health in… a long, long time.

“Discord, what happened?” She fretted, steadying his head in her hooves, looking into each of his eyes, as if to check for stroke. At any other time, he might have felt touched. But, at the moment, something was wrong and he needed to know what.

“I’m not sure,” he said, and sat up rather abruptly to rubberneck the room, but not before extracting the ache from his head and putting it in his pocket for later. Fluttershy’s cottage remained unchanged, not even a single birdhouse out of place. He wasn’t sure if this was a good or a bad thing.

“Stay here, I need to check something,” he instructed, and disappeared with a snap of his fingers.

For a moment, two points in space connected, and Discord scooted into the other point, reappearing some three hundred feet above Fluttershy’s cottage. He perched on that point, scanning the countryside.

Nothing had changed. Not one square inch of land had warped into anything other than what it had been just minutes ago. The air wasn’t purple. Old episodes of the “1st Gen” weren’t enacting themselves on existence. The grass didn’t even have wheels. He snapped his fingers again, translocating onto the roof of Sugarcube Corner.

All was normal. The ponies walked the town, going about their business as if no one had noticed anything out of the ordinary. Discord frowned. He’d been overwhelmed simply because he knew what he was looking for and opened up his senses a skosh too wide. But even so, he expected that even the average pony, with their greater than average connections to magic, would have at least felt a tingle. Something was off. Things hadn’t changed nearly enough to warrant that much of a thaumic shockwave.

Discord sat on the chimney, massaging his temples. Normally, he’d be all for shaking up the status quo. But when the status quo seemed unaffected by the shaking, well… Something had changed, and either he couldn’t detect it or it was affecting his ability to detect change at all. Neither option was particularly pleasant. He needed to figure out where those shockwaves came from. He needed to see the bigger picture.

So he translocated himself a thousand miles above the surface of Equus.

Floating in space, he could see the entirety of the continent Equestria called home. With another snap, he pushed energy into his eyes, augmenting his vision. The ripples in reality became visible.

He could see them all. A hundred clusters all across Equus, and even some above it, where the flow of energy was agitated into sending out waves of reverberation. Not one of these points was unusual but for the arcane turbulence.

But then, just as he was about to investigate one of the clusters up close, an abnormality made him pause. It was faint, barely distinguishable from the rest, but familiar. Different. It felt more like the original shockwave than the others. Discord plucked out the fluctuation in the pattern of the ripples, examining its ridges and vibrations. It was only a fragment, but its form suggested something that Discord hoped wasn’t true.

Little by little, Discord began to piece together the waveform from bits of information he was able to snatch from the cacophony of ripples. A dash of frequency, a pinch of wavelength, a teaspoon of energy output. In minutes he held an unbroken section of the distinct magical emission, and what it told him made his blood run cold.

This is the signature of a forced planar entry.

Immediately, Discord dove down towards the planet, following the traces of abnormality through the interference created by the bombardment of magical surges. They were distractions, all of them; meant to conceal the exact whereabouts of this interplanar interloper. He ground his mismatched teeth in frustration. This was his planet, his territory. He’d had enough of the Continuum and the humans. He’d finally found the perfect place and the perfect species to take under his wing, and he wasn’t about to let some ne’er-do-well come in mess it all up.

However, the closer he got to the source, the harder it became to separate the original from the decoys. Even with his prodigious senses, he was stumped. Infuriated, he kicked at one of the ripples, sending it careening into the sun. Astronomers worldwide would have fits for weeks trying to figure out exactly what caused that solar flare.

Giving up on finding the source directly, he examined the surrounding area, trying to determine the general location he should begin looking. After only a few seconds, he recognized the dense forest below him. He slapped his paw over his face, dragging it down in exasperation.

“The Everfree? Reeeeally? Ugh, how cliché. Honestly, would it kill anyone to use something else? Maybe the Saddle Arabian deserts, or the jungles of Zebrica? Heck, even the Crystal Empire would be a nice change of pace!”

With a long-suffering sigh, he snapped his talon, reappearing in Fluttershy’s living room.

“Of course nothing’s going to change on my account. I suppose I’ll just have to make do.”

“Oh! Discord! Um, who are you talking to?”

“No one of consequence, my dear. I’m afraid I need to take a raincheck on our teatime.” He started stuffing the miniature spongecakes into pockets that appeared on his sides. “Places to do, things to see, unfortunately.”

“Okay, I understand. As long as you’re not hurt.”

Discord smiled. Such touching concern. Fluttershy, you may just be my favorite pony.

“Fit as a fiddle, I assure you,” he said, plucking at strings that suddenly strung themselves along his lithe form. “Just a temporary nuisance. Nothing a good night’s rest won’t cure.”

“Alright, well don’t hesitate to call on me if you’re still not feeling well.”

“Of course. Same time next week, I gather? Though I still don’t understand why you ponies assign so much importance to routines.”

“It’s easier to make time for everypony if you know what your plans are.”

“Hm, I suppose. Anyway, I will see you next Tuesday. Ta-ta!”

With another snap of his claws, he stood outside Celestia’s door. His jovial expression fell. She was not going to be happy to hear about this.

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