• Published 2nd Jun 2016
  • 2,456 Views, 58 Comments

Something Cosmic - DannyJ



Twilight and Discord are a long way from home, and have to journey through a chaotic realm to get back to Equestria. Fortunately, this is Discord's speciality, so Twilight is in safe hands. Less fortunately, all the local gods want him dead.

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Chapter 2: A Lord's Courtesy

In time, the churning grey ocean and endless cloudy skies gave way to land, albeit land engulfed by an impenetrable blizzard. Twilight's teeth chattered as she drifted behind Discord and into the heart of the storm, wrapping her wings around herself. Below them, a sheer cliff rose over a stony shore, waves crashing against the rocks. Atop the cliff itself, a thick white blanket had settled, and the wind howled as it whipped at them with a furious intensity unlike any Equestrian weather.

Raising a paw in front of his face, Discord summoned a shield to deflect the worst of it. The cold began to abate, though not nearly fast enough. He glanced behind at Twilight, and frowned when he noticed her discomfort. With a brief snap of his claws, a scarf appeared and wrapped itself around her neck. Her shivering eased, and she let out a sigh as a spell woven into the fabric spread warmth through her body.

"Thank you."

"You had better get over this soon," said Discord, as he turned his eyes forward again. "I'm not going to carry you forever."

"I don't know what this is," Twilight murmured. "It's like my magic just isn't there. It feels like what Tirek did."

The two of them descended towards the white expanse. Discord's shield touched down first, instantly melting the snow beneath them and clearing a circle before they landed together. The surrounding snow reached to Twilight's chin, hindering her view even more than the blizzard was already doing, but Discord, being much taller standing, didn't seem to care.

Idly, he scooped up some snow in his paw and stuffed it in his mouth, chewing it like it was gum.

"You still have a cutie mark, so I doubt it's that bad," he said, his mouth full.

"I'm serious, Discord. I'm really worried about this!"

Discord rolled his eyes.

"Okay, fine. Let's stop and check."

Spitting out a test tube and catching it with his tail, Discord whirled around to face Twilight, and pinched the tip of her horn. He closed his eyes, and suddenly, Discord went eerily quiet. Twilight hadn't even had time to react, and was left no choice but to stand still while he held her horn. Her eyes drifted across the limited area that she could see, and she shifted awkwardly as their mutual silence stretched on, until Discord eventually broke it.

"What on Earth..." he muttered, furrowing his brow.

When he finally opened his eyes again, they immediately shot to Twilight's flank, which he gave a suspicious look. Without warning, he reached down and grabbed it with his claw.

"Hey!"

Twilight's outrage lasted for all of two seconds, as Discord scratched away at her cutie mark and it flaked off like dried paint. Her jaw dropped, and she looked back to the draconequus in front of her, who only gave her a grave look. Twilight reached for the cutie mark on her other flank herself, and it too flaked away when she rubbed at it. A shiver that had nothing to do with the wind ran through her.

"Wh-What is this? Please tell me this is you?"

Discord grabbed the test tube that he had been holding in his tail and started inspecting it.

"Sorry, but you were right to worry. Your magic is gone. The colour in your eyes is an illusion too."

"Gone? But where did it go?" Twilight shouted. "Who took my magic, Discord?"

"Most likely a resident of the Abyss. There are a few possible culprits lurking in the dark there, dwelling in the cracks in the walls between worlds. But it doesn't really matter. Whoever did this, they are small and irrelevant, and I will deal with them myself after we've gotten you home safely."

Discord tossed away the test tube.

"The better question is, why is the background chaos so low here?"

Twilight blinked.

"Low? We're in the middle of a wild blizzard!"

Discord flapped his wings and took to the air again, and Twilight once again found herself floating after him beyond her own control, dragged along as if by an invisible rope.

"Wild blizzards are dime-a-dozen, Twilight. Not every species in existence are such control freaks that they feel the need to seize total control of otherwise autonomous natural processes. Wild weather is normal. And that's just the problem. This all feels... normal."

They stopped abruptly, and Discord held up his hands to the sky. With a big, sweeping motion, he parted the clouds, a booming shockwave blasting them away and letting sunlight spill through. He put his hands on his hips and pouted at the sky.

"Blue. Blue sky. In Jotunheim. This is one of the Realms of Chaos! Who got all this order all over my dimension?"

Twilight was about to say something, but Discord turned to face her first, throwing his arms up in the air as he continued ranting.

"Can you even imagine what this is like for me? It's as if I spent hours carefully making sure that all my books were in one nice big disorganised heap, and then some stranger came into my home and sorted them alphabetically just to annoy me. Eugh."

For some reason, Twilight could only think of one response right away.

"...You have a book collection?"

"Not the time," Discord snapped. "And seriously, if you're trying to make this a bonding thing, don't bother. You won't relate to my taste in literature. You freaked out after I read one little book vaguely related to an empire I toppled ages ago."

"Of course I freaked out! You were being really scary! Good guys don't smile when they talk about bad things they did!"

Discord groaned and grabbed his head in both hands.

"By Chaos, would you just let it go? Do we really need to go through this every time? You know what? I'm not even sorry about it! The dragons would've enslaved or eaten you all if it weren't for me. I did Equestria a favour. You're welcome!"

The sky above them was already growing cloudy again, dragging the world back into darkness. Twilight decided not to argue the point with Discord. Instead, she thought more about her missing magic, and contemplated his words about the creatures of the Abyss.

Nothing good came to mind when she imagined what manner of creature would or could do such a thing. Tirek had needed Discord's own help to become powerful enough to freely steal an alicorn's magic. These beings apparently needed no help at all. Not to mention it seemed as though they had abducted her from across dimensions without leaving her any memory of it, and had even gone as far as to use illusions to hide what they did. But then why didn't they return her home if they already went to all that trouble? Why leave her in the Abyss for Discord to find?

Unless the illusion was meant to fool Discord specifically?

Twilight opened her mouth to voice her thoughts, but instead, something different came out.

"Is that a castle?"

Her attention had snapped ahead instead, to a great stone fortress that rose out of the snow. Its battlements were draped with red banners bearing a white sigil of an apelike skull, and cannons lined the top wall. Tiny figures marched across them and stood guard atop the highest towers, looking almost like ants from their height. Twilight stared at the castle, entranced, all previous thoughts deserting her.

What was I going to say before...? Something... Was it important...?

They came to a stop, mid-air, the castle still a fair way ahead of them. Discord raised an eyebrow at the sight, but said nothing, while Twilight studied his face in an attempt to understand what he was thinking.

"So... should we go down there and ask for directions?"

"We're not lost," he said, simply.

"I thought you said you had no idea where we were going?"

"I didn't then. I do now. We're going the right way."

Instead of elaborating, Discord snapped his claws, and the two of them disappeared in a flash. When they jolted back into reality, they were standing on the ground again, once more surrounded by snow. Discord walked forward with a casual gait, the snow melting in front of his steps, clearing a path for Twilight as she trotted after him.

Looking ahead, she beheld the stone walls of the castle looming over them, the skull banners fluttering in the wind. Bright orange torches burned defiantly in front of its walls, on braziers that stuck out of the snow to mark a path to the castle's front gate. A lifted drawbridge blocked their way, but there was no moat, unless it was frozen over and buried underneath the snow.

Above them, one of the figures she had spotted earlier noticed their approach. Twilight couldn't tell who or what he was, as he was clad in thick winter furs and covered his lower face with rags, but he definitely had hands instead of hooves. The guard gripped a torch in his left, and pointed a crossbow down at them with his right. Discord raised both of his own hands in response, watching the figure warily.

"Who goes there?" the guard shouted, in a gruff voice.

Twilight held her tongue for a moment, wondering what to tell the stranger, but Discord soon answered for them.

"Loki of the Lost River, and his companion, Sigyn of Goldfeather!" he shouted back, affecting a rougher voice than was usual for him.

Her eyes shot over to Discord, but he ignored her, instead staring up at the battlements with an uncharacteristic grimness.

"What is your business?" the guard called.

"We are travellers, bound for the north! Might we seek shelter here on our journey?"

"One last question first, traveller. Who is the one true lord of these lands?"

Discord paused. Twilight noticed a slight smile tug at the edge of his lips.

"The Skeleton King of the Court of Bones, of course," he answered.

The guard walked away, the light of his torch disappearing from view. For a while, Twilight and Discord stood silently in the snow, waiting. Then the drawbridge began to lower, and Discord confidently strode towards it. Twilight followed, and caught his eye when he looked her way.

"Loki?" she mouthed, but Discord just held a finger to his lips.

On the other side of the drawbridge, a trio of bipeds just like the guard waited for them. Two of them were clad in furs just as the gate guard was, and wore the same ragged masks. Sheathed swords hung at their sides, and they held torches of their own. The third was different, dressed only in white hooded robes, and appearing unarmed.

Twilight balked as she took in the robed one's shaggy brown mane and vivid yellow eyes. They were as yellow as Discord's own. The guards shared the look, now that she could see them up close. And then she noticed the batlike wings protruding from their backs. Twilight recognised these creatures. They were gargoyles, of the same species as Scorpan, the brother of Tirek. But what were they doing here, in this alien realm? Gargoyles were meant to be native to eastern Thoroupe.

"Greetings, travellers," the robed gargoyle rasped. "Any who recognise the Skeleton King's rightful claim are welcome in the jarl's castle."

He gave them a predatory smile, which Discord matched. The gargoyle's skin sagged around his neck, and Twilight noted the bags under his eyes and a broken blood vessel or two near where his hair was thin enough to see them. She hadn't seen enough gargoyles in her life to tell for sure, but all the traditional signs of advancing age were there.

"We thank you most humbly," said Discord, half-bowing. "Perchance, might we partake in the night's feast with the rest of the castle? We can pay if need be."

"Visitors are welcome to the castle's meat and mead, provided your welcome is not overstayed. We provide shelter for travellers, but not for beggars. Will you be gone on the morrow?"

"Doubtless."

The old gargoyle nodded and led them in, the drawbridge closing behind them. More burning braziers rounded the outside of the snowy courtyard they crossed, and Twilight watched the guards up on the battlements all around them. In the centre of the castle was a great keep, a pair of enormous wooden doors big enough to march an army through marking the entrance. They hung open invitingly, a warm glow spilling out from within.

"My name is Carthfried of Gaulmore," said the robed gargoyle. "I'm steward to the jarl."

"I am Loki of the Lost River," said Discord. "My companion is Sigyn of Goldfeather."

"So I heard."

The three of them entered the open doors, and Twilight let out a sigh and removed her scarf. The cold was banished the moment they crossed the threshold, entering into a great hall lit by dozens more braziers. Several long tables stretched out before them, all filled with gargoyles speaking and laughing and stuffing their faces. The table was lined mostly with meat and fish, the sight of which made Twilight go slightly green, especially when she passed one gargoyle who was busily devouring a whole pig's head. But there were also boiled vegetables, wheels of cheese, roasted nuts, and the occasional sweet pastry as well, all more familiar to her Equestrian sensibilities. It all smelled delicious, in spite of everything else.

Carthfried led them to the far end of the hall, where another, much shorter table sat atop a raised platform. Behind it sat a young gargoyle with an iron crown, who lounged on a simple wooden throne as he sipped red wine from a brass goblet. A wide spread, which included a far greater number of pastries than the other tables, lay before him. He looked up at Discord and Twilight as they entered, narrowing his eyes and smiling at their approach. Twilight felt distinctly unsettled by the way his gaze lingered on her.

They climbed the raised platform together, until the three of them stood before the jarl's table.

"Loki of the Lost River, and Sigyn of Goldfeather, my liege," said Carthfried.

The young gargoyle only continued to smile, his piercing yellow eyes almost covered by the fringe of his long, flowing mane.

"Always a pleasure to make acquaintance with new guests," he said in a slick, oily voice. "You especially, my dear, are of a sort I have never seen before. I find your appearance quite striking. I would most love to know more about you."

Twilight blinked, unsure of how to react, and did not say anything. The jarl turned to Discord next, his smile wavering slightly.

"And you, sir... You are a draconequus, are you not? Perchance, are you from one of the tribes to the east? Winter Sons, perhaps?"

Discord simply smiled back at him. "The Winter Sons are southern; I'm a northerner. And in any case, my tribe and I parted ways long ago. Now I am but a wanderer, providing my service wheresoever it is needed."

The jarl nodded to Carthfried, who slinked away quietly.

"Strange. With mutations like yours, I would've taken you for one of their shamans."

"I dabble, I shan't deny."

Was this truly happening? Twilight almost couldn't believe what she was hearing. This was actual insight into Discord's past and the nature of his species. Until now, he'd never even confirmed that there were draconequui other than him, but apparently there were whole tribes of them here. And others that were similar to him, at that. And was he telling the truth about where he came from? Was this realm Discord's birthplace?

Carthfried returned shortly, placing a pair of chairs and extra plates in front of them, before leaving again. The jarl bid his guests to sit down with him, while Carthfried instead went to sit at the closest of the long tables, alongside the guards and other castle staff. As they took their seats, Twilight subtly directed a questioning look towards Discord.

What are you doing? What is all this for?

To her surprise, she heard Discord's voice respond in the back of her head.

I need information. Just play along for now.

He looked away and pretended not to notice her, but Twilight couldn't help but openly gawp at him after that.

Was that mind reading?! Nooooo... No, that's not possible! You can't read minds!

Oh no, of course not. Sure, I can rewrite your very personality and twist you into something entirely unlike yourself, alter your memories, take you over and turn you into a puppet, even remove your brain entirely, while you're still alive, so that you can hold it in your own hooves, but nah... Reading your thoughts, that's beyond my power. Honestly, Twilight, you're so dense that light bends around you. How do you think we were communicating in the Great Abyss?

She almost began spluttering, but then the jarl's words pulled her back into reality.

"Is something wrong, my good lady?" he asked. "You seem... disturbed."

"I-I... No. Everything's fine, um... my liege?"

The jarl chuckled. "Please, call me Wulfred."

He reached a hand across the table and placed it over one of Twilight's hooves. Again, her eyes shot sideways to Discord.

Make him stop, she whispered in her mind.

Why? Discord replied.

He's making me uncomfortable.

Then tell him to knock it off. What do you expect me to do?

I don't know what to say!

Heaven's sake...

"So tell me about yourself," said Wulfred. "What species are you? Once again, I must confess to having never seen your like before. I would be most interested to learn."

"She's a pony!" Discord said cheerfully, leaning over the table. "I found her in a hedge maze one day, took her in, fed her, clothed her, and we've been happy together ever since."

Wulfred backed away slightly, wearing a puzzled expression. "You are... lovers?"

Twilight cleared her throat.

"Oh, certainly!" said Discord. "She's the light of my world! Every day has been a new adventure for us, and don't even get me started on the nights!"

She kicked him under the table, but he just kept going

"Seriously, don't trust that meek exterior. She's quiet now, but get her hot and bothered, and she's quite the screamer. I swear, this mare could wake the dead!"

Now it's you that's making me uncomfortable.

And now you know not to bother me to solve your trivial problems. Grow a thicker skin, Twilight Sparkle.

"Speaking of," Discord continued, "will chambers will be provided for us? Your steward seemed to imply as much. We would need quarters with a large enough bed for two."

Just what do you think you are doing?

Don't get your tail in a twist; I'll sleep on the ceiling.

Wulfred gave a small cough into his hand.

"Uh... yes, that can definitely be provided..."

"Excellent." Discord began helping himself to a plate of salty fish on the jarl's table, biting their heads and tails off and leaving the rest.

"Oh, yes! Please, forgive my forgetfulness. Both of you, help yourselves."

A slight rumbling of the stomach reminded Twilight that she had visited three different worlds since the last time she'd eaten. The fish and meat at the table was unappealing to her to say the least, but the rest of it looked better. Twilight took her plate and began stacking it with boiled greens and carrots by hoof. Then she ran into another problem. No magic didn't just mean no spells. It also meant that she couldn't physically hold utensils anymore. They no longer stuck to her hooves.

Uh...

She was tempted to ask for help, but somehow, it seemed like a bad idea right now.

"So, how about you tell us about yourself next?" said Discord, chewing on his fish heads. "How long have you been in charge here?"

Wulfred perked up. "A long time! Next month will mark the fourteenth year since I took the title of jarl from my father. We will be having a troupe of performers here for the event. Grand stuff! I do so love the arts."

"Don't we all?" Discord grabbed a flagon of wine and poured out a glass for himself. "And you're all sworn to the Skeleton King?"

"Ah, yes..." Wulfred's good mood seemed to die. "It was... a necessary concession, to preserve my land and good standing. He has been expanding his borders for years now, and it was only natural that the Stormcliffs would be in his sights eventually. But, I firmly believe that our new lord has the right of it. His forces supplement my own, and they keep the raiders out."

"Raiders?" Twilight repeated, the food in front of her still untouched.

"Raiders, yes. Draconequui, as it happens. They dwell in the east and make occasional forays into my land. In the past, we brokered alliances with some of the more cooperative tribes to keep such activities off my side of the Lost River, but..."

"They've become unruly as well?" Discord suggested.

"Precisely."

"And would this be before or after you started flying the Skeleton King's banners?"

Jarl Wulfred shifted uncomfortably. "Well... it was some time after, yes."

"Hmm." Discord gulped down his glass. "Not surprising. The tribes have always hated the Court of Bones. Too orderly for their tastes."

"Everything is too orderly for those damned savages," Jarl Wulfred grumbled. "I'm too orderly. This castle is too orderly. Of course they don't like feudalism, but Jotunheim has suffered in anarchy for too long. The old gods are gone, and they should accept it. I, for one, don't want to be beholden to chaos anymore. It's time we brought some real civilization to these howling wastes. Goldfeather crowned a king, and they didn't immediately turn into a brutal dictatorship, so why can't we give it a try? Let the Court of Bones claim their dominion. I welcome the rule of law."

"Hear, hear," said Discord, toasting the jarl's speech, though notably not smiling anymore. "I too despair for the tribes sometimes. My people are all just so... stuck in their ways. Too attached to their freedom. Why, I think being told what to do by some smarter folk would be good for them. Teach them their place."

"Hmm." Jarl Wulfred nodded approvingly. "You're clever for a draconequus. I suppose travelling far from home is good for broadening one's horizons."

"Oh, you have no idea..."

It was at this point that Discord finally turned his attention to Twilight again. She paled as he looked between her and her untouched plate, and smiled slyly at her.

"Aren't you hungry today, Sigyn?"

The jarl noticed too, and furrowed his brow. Twilight said nothing outwardly, but gave Discord her best glare.

"There's nothing wrong with the jarl's feast, is there? I know meat isn't to your taste, but the rest of this should suite your delicate palate."

Stop it.

"Oh, I know what it is! The plates!" Discord slapped his forehead. "I'm so sorry. Should I go get your feedbag?"

You're really going to do this? You really have to embarrass me in front this world's nobility?

Always, Twilight. Always.

Well, she wasn't going to play that game. Twilight cleared her throat.

"Actually, I'm feeling a little under the weather. I'm sorry, Wulfred. It was wonderful to meet you, and I'm grateful for your hospitality, but I have to go lie down."

"Oh." The jarl looked surprised, but dutifully stood and reached across the table to shake her hoof. "Likewise, very glad to have met you, my dear. I hope your illness abates soon. Carthfried!"

The jarl's steward was up from his place and over to the table in seconds.

"My liege?"

"Please show our honoured guest up to the guest chambers. The large room, if you please."

Carthfried bowed, and beckoned Twilight to follow him. Together, the two headed out of the great hall and through a small passage by the side of the room, leading to a spiral stairway at the end. As she left, Twilight looked back at Discord and shot him a cocky grin of her own.

Bring some food up later. Then you can start explaining yourself at last.


The bedchamber that Carthfried led her to was spacious and luxurious, or at least it seemed so by the standards of the rest of the castle. Fine paintings hung on the walls, the servants had started a fire in a large stone hearth, and rich velvet covered the soft feather bed where Twilight curled up to rest. A nearby bookshelf taunted her with its vast store of knowledge on this new, alien realm, cruelly held out of reach by its unfamiliar language.

As she closed her eyes and let the warmth of the room lull her into a peaceful rest, Twilight thought on the day's events, and considered all that she had observed with Discord.

They had come to a strange land, where draconequui and gargoyles roamed freely, yet ponies were strange and exotic. Discord had called it one of the Realms of Chaos, and implied that it was his in some capacity, yet it seemed his hold over it was slipping. Was this the natural march of time, the civilizations of this world finally making progress, something that Discord would have disliked no matter how natural it was? Or was this Skeleton King that everybody kept mentioning a malignant force that truly shouldn't be here?

And then, what of her plight? Why had she been taken to the Great Abyss? Who took her magic, and why didn't she remember them? Were they the same entity that was vexing Discord so, and preventing them from getting home? Questions upon questions, and she was stuck here with the one individual in the world who was least likely to provide helpful answers even if he knew them.

Still, I should be grateful to him... Twilight thought, turning over on the bed. Even if he is still a jerk sometimes, I wouldn't have ever escaped the Abyss without Discord.

Suddenly, Twilight jolted awake as a crashing noise sounded outside her door, followed by the breaking of glass and a loud groan. She didn't register the strange, echoing effect of the cry at first, and rushed blindly to the door. With her clumsy, magicless hooves, she twisted the knob and pulled it open, rushing outside.

A little way down the hall, a robed figure was doubled over on the floor, his back to her. The figure's fine embroided clothes were now ruined by deep red stains, as was the carpet near him. A wooden crate full of smashed wine bottles lay on the floor, leaking their contents everywhere.

Twilight gasped and galloped over to the stranger.

"Oh my! Sir, are you okay? Do you need any help?"

The stranger pulled himself up, groaning again. This time, Twilight noticed how his voice echoed, as if he were speaking with many voices at once. He staggered, slowly turning around to face her, revealing not a gargoyle's face, but a gargoyle's bare white skull. The red embers which glowed in the pits of his eye sockets stared at her, and his exposed teeth made him look like he was giving her a macabre grin.

"Help?" the skeleton repeated.

"U-Uh... Um..." Twilight took a step backwards, her heart rate rising.

"You want to help me, fleshy?"

The skeleton advanced, the wine stains on his fine robes doing nothing to make him look less terrifying to Twilight.

"I, um... Y-Yes, if you'd like."

She started to sweat.

Please be friendly. Please be friendly.

"You can give me your skin," the skeleton said.

Not friendly! Not friendly!

Twilight turned away and bolted down the corridor, screaming at the top of her lungs. Behind her, she heard the skeleton's footfalls as he gave chase.

"Come back here!" he roared. "Let me eat your skin!"

Author's Note:

I think I'm getting more of a feel for the story's tone now. Chapters may get longer, though. This seems like a pretty good length.