• Published 24th Jan 2016
  • 2,016 Views, 104 Comments

If You Weren't Afraid - MyHobby



Discord's illness is tearing him apart. He must join Fluttershy and two young stowaways on a journey to his birthplace in order to find the cure.

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The Garden of Elysium

“A forest spirit?” Discord took a long draft of dew he’d collected in a leaf. He waltzed along on the surface of the stream, leaving little ripples behind every step. “Sounds suspect if you ask me. Downright worrisome, and I say that as a friend of Fluttershy. I know worrisome when I see it.”

“What choice do we have?” Pumpkin stumbled along the bank of the creek, kicking stones into the drink with every step. Moss clung to the bottom of her hooves as dirt snuck into every cranny. “We’ve got no way to message anybody back home, no idea how to get anywhere, and nobody really looking for us. At least, nobody that knows where to find us.”

Discord nodded, rubbing his goatee with a plucked fern. The beard giggled demurely. “Is that what the forest spirit told you? Is that how they phrased it?”

Pumpkin rolled her eyes. “Kinda, yeah.”

“You’re trying to convince yourself that the spirit is right.” He bumped her chest with the fern, nudging her back a few inches. “Stop doing the evil creature’s job for it.”

She glared at the surprisingly firm plant. She shared the glare with Discord himself. “It might not be evil. Maybe.”

“Little Miss Cake… How do I phrase this lightly?” Discord hemmed and hawed, twirling the fern branch this way and that, his horns spinning wildly. “Most things in the forest want to eat you. Or send you running in circles until you go crazy and then eat you. Or take everything from you that you’ve ever loved, throw the emptiness of the world in your face, show you the depths of your despair… and then eat you.”

“Cheery.”

“Glad you agree.” Discord bit the fern and crunched it between his teeth. “Following this glowy goldy thingy is bad mojo, mark my words.”

“You got a better idea?” Pumpkin pulled Chewie from his seat in her bags and stuffed his neck in her mouth. She nibbled as she walked. ‘And now I’m gonna wear my teeth down to nubs. Awesome.’

“Not a better idea, per se.” Discord drummed his fingers together. “But I think you might ought want to tell our peerless leader about your reliable sources.”

‘Because one Fluttershy freak-out a day isn’t enough,’ she thought. Out loud, Pumpkin muttered around Chewie’s rubbery body. “What good’s that gonna do? She already doesn’t wanna listen to what I have to say.”

Discord swung his arms wide and sported a grin to match. “Honesty!”

Fluttershy turned her head, her eyelids low. “What?”

“Honesty!” Discord placed his hands on Pumpkin’s shoulders and shoved her forward. “The best policy!”

Pumpkin swallowed as she looked at Fluttershy’s eyes. She was certain that any moment they’d glow red and fire laser beams at Discord’s face.

“Honesty!” Discord said. “I remember that friendship report! It was great. Good stuff. Yay.”

“And…” Fluttershy’s breath came as a hiss. “And what way… does that tie in… to running for our lives?

“Don’t worry.” Discord sent Pumpkin a wink. “All shall be revealed.”

Pumpkin let out a halfhearted wheeze of laughter. “Yeah. What he said.”

Pound fluttered to the ground and sat by Pumpkin’s side. He reached up to rub his neck with his feather tips. Silence settled upon the forest, save for the hesitant caw of a distant crow.

Pumpkin spat Chewie out. “So, like, last night I had this dream, and there was this forest spirit, and he was all glowy and stuff, and he said to follow the trail of gold veins in the ground, and they’d like lead us to Elysium, so we could find the Tree of Life and we could all be happy and stuff so… yeah.”

Fluttershy’s neck swiveled to look into the stream. The gold glistened along the bottom, shining in the evening sun. She gritted her teeth behind pursed lips. “No. No! We are looping back east starting now. We’re heading back for Equestria right now.”

Pumpkin stood up and raised a hoof. “But—”

“No!” Fluttershy shut her eyes, rubbing her forehead and flaring her wings. “I refuse to go anywhere near where this thing wants us to go. If it had good intentions, it wouldn’t have come to a child in the middle of the night.”

“This might be the last thing that can save Discord!” Pumpkin threw a hoof out to splash the stream. Chewie almost fell in, but was saved with a flicker of her horn. “Whatever happened to that? Whatever happened to the Tree of—?”

“You happened!” Fluttershy pointed with a hoof, right at Pumpkin’s chest. “Everything was going fine until you happened!”

Anger squeezed through Pumpkin’s eyelids and left two streaks running down her cheeks. “I just wanted to help—”

“You didn’t!” Fluttershy bit her lip and halted her tirade. She continued at a subdued volume, shaking her head. “We’re not saving Discord today, or tomorrow, or anytime soon, because you were irresponsible and—”

“Now hold up!” Discord snaked in between Fluttershy and Pumpkin, holding a talon aloft. “It’s not Pumpkin’s fault Tirek decided to attack a couple days ago! In fact, if not for her, he might have killed us in our sleep.”

Fluttershy’s mouth dipped open. “He might not have caught up to us if we weren’t slowed down.”

“Well I happen to find Pumpkin’s assistance endearing.” Discord crossed his arms over his chest, tilting his ears back. “Bumbling, yet endearing.”

“It’s not assistance!” Fluttershy flapped her wings to tower over Discord, matching his cross pose. “Stop encouraging her behavior. She’s just going to misbehave again and things’ll end up even worse.”

“Maybe her behavior encourages me!” Discord struck a thumb against his chest. He expanded his ribcage with a huff and raised one eyebrow. “Maybe I’m tired off everything being doom and gloom and it feels nice to know that people care enough to do something.”

I care enough!” Fluttershy placed her hooves over her heart. “I did something! I’m doing something. But I can’t finish it until the children are safe.”

“Who says they have to be mutually exclusive?” Discord shrugged, fluttering his tiny wings. “Why can’t we keep the kids safe while we go forward on our—”

“It’s irresponsible and stupid!”

“There we go again!” Discord clapped his hands and turned around, stepping over Pumpkin and Pound. He kneeled at the edge of the stream and dipped a stick into the water. “Following the same old logic loop over and over. ‘It’s so dangerous!’ Live a little, Fluttershy. We’ve only got the one life.”

Fluttershy shot across the stream to face him with a fierce frown. “We might not even have that if we aren’t careful!”

“Oh no?” He flicked water at her with the tip of the stick. The droplets turned to tiny ice chunks as they bounced off her face. “If it were up to you, everybody would stay in their little cottages, sipping tea with their little friends, and never ever having any fun. Isn’t that right? Yet here’s Little Miss Cake, having committed the crime of being proactive.

“I just want everybody to be safe!” Fluttershy sobbed.

Discord jerked his head up. The stick fell limp from his hands.

Pumpkin cowered behind him. Fluttershy stood trembling, her knees knocking, snot pouring from her nose. Her voice was stilted, halting, gasping.

“I j-just want everything to be alright.” Fluttershy wiped her muzzle, choking with every pause. “But everything’s not alright. Everything’s terrible and it just keeps getting worse. I want everybody to be happy but they can’t be because everything is horrible.”

Discord reached over. “Fluttershy—”

“Don’t.” Fluttershy turned her back on him and held up a foreleg. “Just don’t. Let’s just get these kids home as fast as we can.”

Pumpkin’s heart tightened. She took careful steps away from Discord, her horn glowing faintly. ‘Why can’t I ever do anything right?’

Pound glanced at her, then gave her a double-take. “Pumpkin, what are you—”

“Nothing.” She shook her head, letting her floppy curls jiggle leaves loose. ‘Everything I touch breaks. Everybody I try to help just hurts. I can’t help.’

An itch ran up and down Pumpkin’s rear leg. Her eyes drew to the stream, to the glistening gold promise beneath. ‘I can’t help. But maybe…’

“Pumpkin.” Pound’s voice hissed. He cleared his throat and tried again. “You’ve got that look in your eye. Don’t try to—”

“Shush.” The glow in Pumpkin’s horn intensified. She turned her hooves to face downstream. “I’m not doing anything.”

“Haven’t you been listening?” Pound swallowed hard, his bruises bringing a wince to his face. “Don’t you get the point? This is what Fluttershy’s talking about. This is why she’s upset. We can’t keep screwing things up like this.”

“So what?” Pumpkin bumped noses with her brother, lowering her eyebrows. The itch in her legs was driving her nuts, pushing her to jump forward, to leap into action, to run. “I’m just supposed to let Discord be sick and go crazy?”

Pound backed away. He rubbed the back of his head, lowering his eyes to his hooves. “I dunno. Maybe?”

Her answer came as an explosion from her chest, rising up from the deepest depths of her soul. “No!

She ran right through him. She didn’t stop for Pound’s crackling shout, or for Discord’s yelp, or Fluttershy’s shriek. She didn’t stop for branches, or rocks, or pits. She kept the gold vein in sight, running headlong with magic pouring from her horn. The vein left the stream behind and veered left, between rocky crags and massive boulders.

‘This is dumb.’

“You don’t have a choice.”

The voice sounded like hers, but strange. Like a different part of her brain was thinking.

‘I’m just making things worse again.’

“You could make a difference.”

‘I’m hurting Fluttershy, Pound, and Discord all at the same time.’

“They’ll forgive you when they see you’re right.”

‘How do I know if I’m right?’

“Look up, Pumpkin.”

She looked up, taking her eyes off the ground. The groundcover fell away in a rush of leaves, ferns, and rocks. She hit the dirt hard as her horn winked out.

Discord peered down, down, down the hole she’d fallen into. He grinned. “Look, Pa! I caught a tiger in my trap!

Pound leaned over, his mouth shut tight. His forehead wrinkled as he sighed through his nose.

Fluttershy’s head appeared beside his, fuming and crying all at the same time. “What were you thinking? What were you doing?”

Discord rolled his eyes. “Well, obviously, she felt inspired by your stirring leadership skills—”

“I’ve had just about enough of—!”

“Everybody shut up!” Pumpkin gripped the edge of the shallow pit and pulled herself out. She raised her forelegs and pointed at the trail of gold just between their legs. “Look!”

Pound looked first, and his eyes became wider than she’d ever seen them. He nudged Fluttershy’s shoulder and pointed.

The trail of gold disappeared between two boulders sitting close beside each other, only a crack separating them. It was not alone, as all across the surface of the stone, other veins snaked and spidered their way over and around.

The gold seemed to all but shimmer in the shadows.

Pumpkin gritted her teeth. “I can go alone and get eaten, or you can come along and protect me.”

Fluttershy thrust a wing out to grasp her. “Don’t you dare!

The wing passed through Pumpkin’s body. She stood up and, without a second glance at the others, marched through the opening. Her horn made for a decent light as she climbed through the crag. Bugs and rodents skittered away at her approach. Dead vines crunched beneath her hooves. A light shone ahead, past the thick stone and debris. A spider web waved in midair as she phased her way through it, leaving the inhabitant undisturbed.

On the far side, the ground lay rich with gold. Dozens of veins cut through the rock, all trailing towards the same spot. Ancient trees loomed overhead, covering the valley completely with branches and leaves. Brambles choked smaller plants and stole nutrients from their fruit. Ferns were nonexistent, as life-giving sunlight only reached the tallest of the trees. What little fruit there was reeked of over-ripening. The caw of scavenging birds echoed against the mossy stone walls.

Pound thundered in behind her, his wings tangled with leaves. “You’re gonna be the death of me.”

“Stick close,” Pumpkin said, easing herself deeper into the garden. “Maybe we’ll go together.”

He landed and shuffled his hooves. He gazed around, his nose wrinkling at the rotting fruit. “Is this the garden? Elysium?”

“I think so?” Pumpkin stepped around a bramble bush, which was riddled with thorns. “I think this is it.”

“Fairies and draconequuses fought over this place for years.” Pound glanced behind and grimaced at the approach of Fluttershy and Discord. “Not much worth fighting for, if you ask me.”

Pumpkin scraped her hoof along a trail of precious metal. She could see her reflection in the mystical root. “I guess you only need one thing worth fighting for.”

“This is so, so stupid,” Fluttershy said. She glanced over at Discord, her face softening. “Does it… feel familiar?”

“I…” Discord shifted weight from one foot to the other. He licked a finger and held it aloft, then wiped the spittle on his coat. “I don’t know. It just feels… dead. Wrong, somehow.”

Pumpkin turned from face to face. She frowned, suppressing another surge of tears. “Well… well come on! The apples are right over there! We have to hurry!”

“We’ll go together!” Fluttershy reached for her before drawing back just as quickly. “Please, let’s stick together. Please.”

“Yeah. “ Pound nodded, spreading his wings to hover a meter above the ground. “Yeah, that sounds good. Pumpkin?”

Discord cleaned his teeth with a toothpick out of Nowhere. “What say you, Little Miss Cake? You’ve lead us this far.”

Fluttershy frowned at him, but held her tongue.

Pumpkin hiked her tail. “Try to keep up. I’m not waiting around for you guys to decide if we actually wanna save Discord or not.”

She kept her face stern. Determined. Something niggled inside, though. The garden wasn’t exactly what she would call a garden. It was more like a swamp without the water. Or a mausoleum for plants. ‘But it’s just old, right? Just kinda old and lame.’

The gold veins looped closer together, weaving a pattern through the rock. They grew more root-like as she drew closer to the epicenter, rising out of the ground and creating stumbling blocks for her hooves. She stepped lightly, but carefully, her eyes examining the trees for any sign of golden apples.

She broke through an ill-defined tree line and stood at the foot of a hill. The lines absolutely covered the mound with trailing gold. The color darkened as it reached the top, tarnishing and dimming. She saw hefty roots, and a sturdy, thick stump.

There it ended. No trunk. No branches. No leaves. No fruit. Nothing but broken, golden deadwood.

Pumpkin fell to her knees.

Pound gasped behind her. He rushed up the hill, nearly tripping on his own hooves. “What? What’s going on? The Tree of Life is dead?

Fluttershy covered her mouth. She said nothing as she stood stock-still.

Discord blinked. He rubbed his eyes. He blinked some more. “But… Apples?”

“It’s a garden,” Pumpkin whispered. “It’s a garden and there was nobody to take care of it.”

Pound climbed up the dead stump. He peered inside, his head disappearing. “It’s all hollow! There’s nothing left!”

Fluttershy coughed hard. She shut her eyes tight and looped her wings around her body.

Discord rubbed his upper arm with his paw. He glanced down at Pumpkin. “So… that’s it then. No more apples?”

Fluttershy broke into deep, unstoppable sobs. She ran into the trees, snapping branches and brambles alike.

Pound’s head popped up to watch her go. He spread his wings to fly after her. “Wait! Miss Fluttershy!”

“She’ll be fine.” Discord stepped forward into the clearing, his eyes glazed over. “She’ll come back. I guess.”

“We have to stick together!” Pound said. He grabbed Pumpkin by the shoulders and shook her. “We have to stick together!”

Pumpkin spoke, but she couldn’t find it in herself to put much effort into her voice. “I led us here, and it’s already gone.”

Pound opened his mouth to say more, but paused. His lip twitched as he switched what he wanted to say mid-breath. “Just stay here. I’m gonna find Miss Fluttershy. And I’ll do… I dunno, something.”

He left in a whoosh of air. Pumpkin lay her head down against a vein of gold. She stared as Discord eased his way up the hillside and ran his fingers across the decayed bark. Heaviness settled into every limb, dragging her down. Pressing her against the stone.

Discord sighed. He tilted his head back and spoke. “Hi, Daddy.”

He cupped his hands behind his back. He rocked on his heels, letting his tail flick back and forth. “I haven’t talked with you in a while. Silly me. Totally my fault. But… but then I don’t really hear back from you all that often.”

He stuck a pinkie into his ear and twisted it around. “Is that my fault? Am I just not listening hard enough? Are you practically shouting at me and I just forgot the sound of it?”

He kicked a pebble and watched it clatter down the hillside, bouncing to a rest beside Pumpkin’s head. “I didn’t listen to you for a long time, when I was making Equestria my playground. Good times, those. Lots of fun. I wasn’t very happy, though. Not really. My fault. I never listened when you told me to make friends.”

He clenched his fists at his sides. His muzzle scrunched up as his ears lay back against his head. “Well, I’ve got friends now, just like you said. So what’s the point?

He whipped his skinny body around, waving his talon, shouting at the top of his lungs. “What’s the point of making friends if they’re just gonna be taken away again?”

Pumpkin didn’t have an answer. She covered her head with her hooves, squeezing tears from her eyes. Chewie fell to the side with a soft squeaka.

“Well?” Discord picked up a rock and tossed it at the sky. It clattered back to earth with a disappointing tap. “Why don’t you do something? Why don’t you help? All you ever do is watch! Sitting on your butt and taking notes! Ho, hum, if only they knew the right thing to do, they’d be so much happier!

He punted the pebble across the garden. He sent a final glare blazing through the heavens. “Do something!

He sat down, curling his arms around his knees. He faced away from Pumpkin, keeping his thoughts to himself. Pumpkin didn’t blame him. She did the same, shivering as the sun vanished completely from the sky.

No garden. No tree. No apples. No cure. No more Discord. There just wasn’t much else left to do.

***

Fluttershy couldn’t stop crying. She splashed her face in the stream, sucking up what little water she could get around the hiccups. That was it. Her last hope. The last chance to stave off Discord’s illness. She was going to watch her friend degenerate until either he collapsed in on himself, or he lost all memory of her.

She was going to have to break her promise. Her first promise.

Something around her neck got caught on her hoof. She yanked on it and found Cloudkicker’s little whistle. The boatswain’s call. Her cry for help.

‘There’s nobody to hear it,’ she thought. ‘Nobody who can actually help.’

Yet here’s Little Miss Cake,’ Discord said, tearing through her memory. ‘Having committed the crime of being proactive.

“There’s nothing to be proactive about!” She let the whistle fall to the stream bank. Her chest ached as she shrunk in on herself. “I’m going to lose my friend and there’s nothing I can do.”

“Nothing, my dear? Oh, now you don’t really mean that.”

Fluttershy lifted her head at the sound of a faintly familiar voice; one she couldn’t quite place. She rubbed a mild itch in the crook of her foreleg. “But I do—”

“Nonsense, child.” Hooves loomed into view on the far side of the stream. A small pony smiled down at her, wearing a pressed suit, red tie, and black boater hat. “If you’d lost all your faith, I couldn’t be here.”

He removed his hat with a flourish, bowing at the neck. “And here I am.”

Fluttershy eased back from the strange stallion. She spread her wings for a quick escape. “Who are you?”

“Please don’t be alarmed.” He set the hat back in place between his ears. A suitcase materialized at his side in a twinkle of light. “I am not a pony. I am a fairy. A fae. A magical creature. We met back in the Ponyville library.”

Fluttershy’s lip trembled as her eyes widened. “Jeuk?”

“That’s right.” Jeuk smiled a pleasant sort of smile, bobbing his head. “You see, I gave you that book to bring you here.”

“I-I don’t understand.” Fluttershy scratched the itch on her leg, backing away step by step. “You—you knew the Tree of Life was dead. You had to.”

“Oh, Fluttershy. I’m sorry.” Jeuk hovered above the stream, moving without taking a step. He let forth a sorrowful sigh, pinching his eyebrows together. “I, too, wish to see Discord well. But the solution I have… I was afraid you wouldn’t take it until you saw that it was the only way.”

Fluttershy’s heart thundered. She looked to the briefcase, which followed him across. “What solution?”

“Discord is not sick, Fluttershy dear.” Jeuk clutched the case by the top, holding it close to his chin. “He is suppressing his natural urge to create chaos and it’s tearing him apart. His body is working exactly as intended. Exactly as created. His magic is the very thing that is hurting him.”

He opened the case to reveal a dark cloud, a roiling morass. “The only way to protect him is to take that magic away.”

He turned his head away, lowering his ears. “I would use this myself, but I am a fae. A spiritual being. I cannot cast magic as a flesh-and-blood creature can. I need a willing friend.”

Fluttershy felt her heart sink deep into her stomach. “If someone takes his magic away, he’ll be alright?”

“Of course.” Jeuk giggled lightly. He nodded his head with fervor. “The chaos cannot destroy him if there is no chaos.”

His merriment faded in a heartbeat. “I must warn you, though. In order for the chaos magic to be successfully removed, it must be contained in another’s body. Otherwise, the magic will escape and cause untold destruction. It must be chained to a physical… vessel.”

He sucked in his lips. “Essentially, to save Discord, one must take his burden on as their own.”

He laid the suitcase out before her. He took a step back, holding his hat over his heart. “Fluttershy, will you do whatever it takes to save Discord?” He leaned his head forward, looking her right in the eyes. “Will you give your life to save Discord’s?”

The itch crawled up her leg to rest in the joint of her wing. It was a fiery, burning itch, clouding parts of her mind while bringing others into sharp focus. She saw Discord, sitting in his windmill home, gently turning the pages of his scrapbook, gazing at memories he no longer held. She saw him withering away as his body decayed under the influence of his own magic. She saw him vanish, bit by bit, until only a sad little pile of dust remained.

“Of course I will.”

Jeuk grinned, tilting the suitcase towards her. “Then take a deep breath.”

***

Pound Cake groaned as he flew through the westernmost parts of Whitetail Wood. He lost Fluttershy. She was fast. Faster than he had ever suspected. She could be anywhere, really. And he was just going in circles.

“Circles.” He slapped himself in the forehead. “Circles, circles, circles! Why am I always going in circles?

The trickle of a stream tickled the tips of his ears. He swooped down through the branches to find the same stupid stream they’d been following. He shot the horizon a quick glance. The twilight sky shone a deep purple, and brilliant stars lit the way. They’d probably have to camp out in the Garden of Elysium. Or, at least, what was left of it.

There she was; a splotch of butter-yellow against the green moss. She stood close to a strange pony, whose coat was a dull gray, and whose suit was black and well-pressed. The newcomer smiled his way, winking at him. “Good to see you again, Pound.”

The stranger vanished in a puff of smoke. The hair on Pound’s back prickled.

“Who was that, Fluttershy?” He put his hoof to her shoulder, leaning his whole weight against her for whatever measure of comfort she could provide. “What was it? I mean, there’s some weird things in the forest, but…”

“Find Pumpkin,” Fluttershy said. Her voice shook almost as hard as her feathers. She nudged him away with a light touch. “Take her far away. Just start running and don’t stop.”

“What?” Pound turned to face her, his muzzle scrunched. “What happened to ‘stick together’—?”

Fluttershy’s eyes, normally such a lovely blue, were black with tiny, glowing yellow specks in the middle.

Pound screamed as long as his lungs would allow. He took a breath just to scream a little louder.

“Just go!” Fluttershy leaped into the air and flew towards the garden. Black smog hung from her wings. “Just start running and don’t look back!”

Pound’s thoughts jumped to the ready answer of “Yes, ma’am,” but he halted his hooves.

He danced in place, his already sore throat driving him crazy. He stared breathless as Fluttershy’s tail disappeared among the foliage. He wanted to run. With every fiber of his being he wanted to run. He half wanted to start speeding away without Pumpkin, too.

He ran after Fluttershy instead. Every breath came as sandpaper in his neck. Branches clawed at him. Bugs flew into his eyes. Shadows deepened as the sky became a dark, lightless blot.

“Fluttershy, stop!” His hoarse voice didn’t carry beyond the boulders. “You have to stop right now! There’s something really wrong!

The Garden of Elysium reeked. His hoof squashed a round, red fruit that splattered against his leg. He kicked it aside, his ears perked as Fluttershy called out.

“Discord!” She touched down just inside the tree-line, her wings twitching. “Discord, come here!”

No!” Pound’s cry was nothing but a squeak. He stumbled over a raised root and smacked nose-first into the ground.

Discord slumped. His wings hung slack as he flew towards her, his eyes lidded and his forehead wrinkled. “What is it now, Fluttershy? Come to say goodbye?”

Fluttershy nodded, swirling her tail around to rest against her flank. “Y-yes. Yes I am.”

Discord clutched at his face with his talon. He bent his back around until it crackled like popcorn. “Then let’s get this over with. I hate long goodbyes, and I hate waiting to be encased in stone.”

He threw his arms out. “And all of Equestria breathed a sigh of relief that the big, bad Discord isn’t going to annoy them anymore! And all his friends shed a single tear and went about their lives! And Donut Joe never paid me back those five bits!

“I’m not going to turn you to stone,” Fluttershy said. “I promised I wouldn’t, and I meant it.”

Pound stumbled to his feet. He trotted towards them, a hoof covering his bleeding snout. He could barely see around the swelling.

“Really?” Discord glared over his shoulder. “So what’s it to be? Simply abandoning me, or banishing me… to… the moon?”

Pound saw Fluttershy open her mouth. Fierce, dark magic flowed out, striking its way towards Discord. The draconequus had time for a gulp before the Rainbow of Darkness found its mark.

Pound rammed into her side, hoping to knock her off-balance, but light exploded outward and cast him across the garden. Impossible colors swirled and heaved, from white to black, from red to blue, from orange to octarine. It poured from Discord’s open, gaping mouth to Fluttershy’s horrified scream. Her eyes filled with magic, glowing brilliant, blinding white.

Discord slumped to the ground with a wheeze. He reached upwards with a shaky arm. “Fluttershy…”

Fluttershy fell backwards, but never reached the ground. She hovered in midair, her wings spread but unmoving, her legs running but never connecting. Lightning ran jagged across her coat, taking with it a swirling, heaving mess of chaos.

Pound lifted his head. Pumpkin skittered across the clearing with Chewie in her mouth. She reached Discord and tugged him away by the tail. She said something, but the magic tearing its way through Fluttershy was just too loud. A din, a cacophony, an awful row.

Fluttershy tried to shut her eyes, but the magic poured through all the same. “I’m sorry!”

Magic blasted its way from Fluttershy’s body, straight towards Discord and Pumpkin. Pound didn’t have time to think. He shot forward like a round from a volleygun, forelegs held outward. He hit Pumpkin with all the force he could muster and sent her flying. She rolled and bounced to land at the foot of the hill.

The chaos hit Discord and Pound with the might of a runaway freight train. His heart beat at an irregular rhythm, like a toddler on a set of toy drums. Every hair stood on end, and every feather flew out of place. His eyes met Pumpkin’s and he reached for her. To tell her to run, to get help, to find home.

The Garden of Elysium turned inside out.

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