• Published 22nd Jul 2012
  • 24,988 Views, 1,143 Comments

A Dream of Dawn - Starsong



What if Luna won against Twilight? What happens when Discord comes back?

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Daybreak

Discord

Discord drank in the night air. Freedom riveted his body as each moment of time and space in flux bounced gloriously off of his being. Motion. Freedom. Chaos. The essence that fueled him geysered and sparked from the minds of all around Canterlot, but no greater disharmony welled than that in Nightmare Moon's mind.

And yet he was not satisfied. Equestria grew stagnant and the dark princess was nearing her breaking point.

“That's impossible,” Nightmare Moon rasped. She recovered from the knock back before Twilight, and stood before Discord with wide eyes. “You were sealed away forever. We saw it.”

“Right, the Elements of Harmony.” Discord examined one of his claws. “Because no one has ever escaped their eternal prison. Honestly, Lulu, what did you think was going to happen?”

“What did you call me?” Nightmare Moon snorted in anger, but Discord paid her no mind.

“What gets me is the fact that you managed it before I did. You stole all the fun. No one likes a show-stealer, princess.”

“That was different.” She snapped her head back and shot a bolt of dark magic at Discord. The draconequus hardly flinched as it struck against his red-scaled backside and then exploded into confetti paper. Then she began to back away.

“Oh, it was quite different,” said Discord, advancing. “And then you went and blew up the one thing that you could have stopped me with. Not even I could not see that one coming!” He sighed and produced a redwood cane from thin air, swung it in a wide arc, and then pointed it at her. “But you disappoint me. One streak of mayhem and you're all tuckered out? Leaving everything as it is.” He shook his head and sighed. “This night has gone on for far too long.”

He lifted a claw—his dragon claw, surely not the most convenient of the four, given its placement on his hindquarters, but it was the one that meant business—and reached into the ether. The moon eluded his grasp, but he felt its magic somewhere up there in the cool sea of the cosmos. He ripped way through its veil until he found the jewel of the night itself. Tug as he might, though, it refused to budge from the sky. In that moment, Nightmare Moon shifted into shadow and fled.

“And I had such high hopes for you!” he cried after her. He gave a passing look to Twilight, who was still groaning and squirming in the grass. “If you'll excuse me for a moment, I have to ruin somepony's day.”

Nightmare Moon would not get far, and never further than his reach. He twisted his own body into a shadow on the wall and raced after her.

Where could she flee that he could not find her? There was no such place. Panic led her back to her fury as she flew through Castle Canterlot. She ripped apart balconies and towers, whole walls and threw them down upon him crackling with magic. His laughter echoed as he chased her all the way to her throne room. Even in her shade form she flung spell after spell at him and each one denatured before it struck him, flowing uselessly into nothingness.

Her guards shook, too new and too frightened of the primal spirit to come to her aid. Discord and Nightmare Moon alike returned to their natural forms within Canterlot Tower. Nightmare Moon fought to steady her breath. Discord propped himself on his cane and soaked in the tension. The build-up that held just before the orchestra pit caught fire and the ushers poured cottage cheese on everyone. In a word, delicious.

“What do you want from me?” asked the mare, tears in her eyes and foam in her mouth. “What in Tartaros do you want, Discord?”

“To have fun, and you've clearly forgotten how.” He blinked as another black bolt stole past his head, leaving a sizzle of smoke on his spiraled horn which, of course, he meant to put there. “See? You've been acting like the same mare ever since you broke free.”

“This is my country, Discord.”

“Not any more.”

Again she attacked him, but the lightning she called bounced away from him, shearing into pillar and cloth as rubble began to collapse into the throne room. The dozen or so guards that had huddled in to witness their confrontation now fled for their lives, leaving the doors swinging open behind them. Their frenzy would spread through the castle and Discord could delight in nothing more.

Nightmare Moon threw everything she had at him. Magic strikes bounced harmlessly off of him. Barriers of force simply melted around his body She hurled stones the size of wagons at him and before they struck him they would turn to sand, or wind, or powdered sugar, though that one did trouble him some. He hurried through a brief coughing fit to avoid getting smacked in the face. Dark energy swirled about Nightmare Moon as she flung chunks of the castle at him. He could not help but throw a few back, and soon they exchanged missiles, Discord in wanton glee and Nightmare Moon in frantic desperation.

Moonlight lit the stained glass windows, echoing their battles in the past. Crystalline images of Discord, of Nightmare Moon, of Celestia and the ponies of Equestria stayed silent and still. Then a moment later they shattered without a scream, falling through their own color and shattering upon the stone below. Moonlight streaked in through tattered curtains and lit the halls.

The goddess of the night summoned light from the heavens and fire from the deepest mountains of Equestria and still she could not win. She had been spending her power wantonly while he had saved his. She fed him with her own wildness, a force she could not overcome, until at long last she had expended her strength.

When it became clear that she had no chance against him, he bound her to her own shadow and raised his cane in the air, now shining like hot cherry steel. “This is the end for you.”

In truth, he'd planned to give her quite the humiliating paddling and then send her on her way. But still he found himself taken aback when Twilight Sparkle snapped into existence, teleporting herself between Nightmare Moon and the cudgel. He was surprised, and as a result, quite happy with her.

“I thought you hated the princess,” he said.

“I don't,” said Twilight, bolstering herself. “You were messing with my head. Don't hurt her.”

Discord shrugged and tossed his cane up in frustration. “But she was about to let everypony die!”

“Even so, there has to be a better way to end this.”

He tapped his extended tooth and pondered. There had to be another reason. One that would put the young unicorn between her worst enemy and their doom. “She has something you want.”

From the little shudder that overtook Twilight, he knew he'd struck a nerve. Still, it didn't make any difference to him whether she got it or not. It also made Nightmare Moon squirm.

“Well, don't be shy! I doubt you'll have another chance to ask her like this.”

He felt Nightmare Moon thrashing in his magical grasp, trying to break his control, but he held on taut while Twilight circled her. When their eyes met, Nightmare Moon became rigid and held her breath. Twilight leaned until their noses almost touched and then whispered one question:

“Where is Princess Celestia?”

Nightmare Moon struggled again. She pulled her legs frantically from the ground but her shadow pulled back and she fell in a heap. With wide eyes she looked at Discord, and then Twilight, and then laughed. “Where you cannot set hoof nor eye nor magic upon her. If you do not release me, do not leave me to my subjects, you will never see her again.”

Twilight hung her head, crestfallen.

Discord snorted. “You're lying.”

Both ponies looked up at him, astonished.

“I will not be accused by the king of lies himself,” spat Nightmare Moon.

Discord chuckled. I think I like that one, actually. “I am quite a liar, yes, but I am not lying about this. I can tell when a pony withholds the truth. Even you, princess.” He smiled and chucked the cane over his shoulder as she shrunk back. “The only way to banish your sister would have been something like the Elements of Harmony, and as I recall, you smashed those to bits. Even if you had managed to find a way to entrap her, I could feel it.”

The news unsettled Twilight Sparkle, who searched the mare for another answer, and found none.

“But all it really takes is one look at you to tell that you haven't the faintest clue where your sister is,” he concluded.

Nightmare Moon screamed and struggled. She lost control. That's what Discord was waiting for—no, working her towards, and he knew the moment she'd released her hold on the night. He released the mare and instead took her moon, her precious moon, and lowered it without ceremony. He had to release Nightmare Moon to complete the act, but it didn't matter. The moment she felt her shadow loosen she joined herself with it and fled as fast and as far as she could from him.

With no more distractions from his task, he searched through to the other side of Equestria and found the sun burning patiently for a new master. He stroked it through the ether, coaxed it up like a puppet upon a string, and pulled.

For the first time in months, golden light began to creep above the horizon. It brought with it a flood of warmth and a fresh breeze—the smell of life and motion. Discord strode to one of the broken windows to watch his work. The sun crested into the sky, and rays of light struck the remaining glass. The splintered image of Celestia's glass body embraced the sunlight, and dawn rose once more.

Twilight Sparkle stumbled to the window, her jaw slightly open. Ponies who had sheltered themselves in the courtyard during the fight now slid from hiding to feel the warmth of day, and to gaze upon Discord. There was love in their eyes. Love and gratitude.

It was as if great polished stones, the best kind to lay upon in the best of summer days, sunk seamlessly into Discord's body and warmed him from within. But he did not understand. He never thought that a pony could ever look upon him with anything other than disdain and fear.

He pulled a tattered tablecloth from the wreckage and tied it about himself, shaping it as a cloak. In good times a pony would find it silly, a jester's fare. But now they fawned over it as if he wore regal attire unparalleled in the realms.

“What are you doing?” asked Twilight, who sounded far too tired to be asking pointless questions.

“I'm more or less in charge now. But you've been rather helpful, haven't you? What would make a proper reward? Ah, that's it!” He reached into the space between matter and produced none other than Princess Celestia's tiara, settling it upon her head.

“Discord is king now, but I don't see why you can't be my pony princess,” he said.

Twilight Sparkle felt the weight of the crown but perhaps did not recognize it at first, nor feel the weight that Equestria now offered the two of them. She bent her head and stared at him.

She's not taking me seriously. Not that I can blame her. Still, it seems like it could be quite entertaining to have her around. And speaking of...

“Today is a great day, is it not?” He called out to the courtyard. “It's at least a day, and I think that might be enough for you for now. I think you deserve a little something for your trouble.”

With but a little twist in the tail of the world, the trees grew to thrice their size and bore fruit--mostly fruit. Sometimes it was a gaggle of horseshoes, or apples shaped like horseshoes, or pineapples that tasted like cherries. But it was sustenance nonetheless.

The ponies in the courtyard, seeing this, dropped all sense of decorum and surrendered to their hunger. They leapt at the trees, or else they kicked, or those that had some of their wits about them tugged the over-sized apples down with magic. All around Equestria, there was a frenzy of motion and feeding and glee. For the moment, it filled Discord with a little glee.

Twilight Sparkle

Twilight Sparkle could not believe her eyes. She half expected end of the night to be a dream, some thread of hope set before her, only to be pulled away. She would awake at the last second in darkness, with Nightmare Moon continuing to punish her for her insubordination.

But the wake never came. No. Instead she just felt tired. All this time she thought Nightmare Moon had held the secrets to Celestia's whereabouts, but that threat was just a ruse to keep her well-behaved.

Now that Equestria was not on the brink of disaster, she allowed herself to feel weary. She shrunk back from the adulation of ponies and Discord's gleeful prancing. She looked at her reflection in a bit of fallen glass and spied the crown of Princess Celestia upon her head.

“Where did you get this?” she asked.

“Oh, that old thing?" Discord shrugged. "I just pulled it out of wherever it happened to be.”

“It's the wherever I'm interested in,” said Twilight Sparkle. “You didn't happen to make this one, did you?”

“No, I just grabbed it from wherever it was.” Discord wiggled his fingers. “Come to think of it, it wasn't that far from here.”

Twilight swallowed her pride and scuffed her hooves. "Could you show me?"

Discord seemed for just a moment to be caught between apathy and retaliation. Then he shrugged and popped over to the other side of her in a blink. “Oh, fine. I could stand to do a little redecoration anyway.”

Every step of the way he changed something. A pile of rubble became a bed of flowers. The silver banners became pink, or purple, or some horrible amalgams of plaid. Sometimes he reversed his change right away, and sometimes he just left things as they were, as if he had better things to think about.

They proceeded through the castle and found it abandoned. The guard that had been truly loyal to Nightmare Moon, few in their numbers, fled when they saw her so thoroughly trounced. The rest were probably regrouping somewhere, Twilight imagined.

Twilight would have to look after the other ponies later. She followed Discord without daring to interrupt his play. When they came to the library tower, it took all of Twilight's will not to scream out in horror as Discord turned row after row of books into useless piles of sod and riddles of madness. Many of the books had no remaining sisters, no copies.

It's okay, she told herself. It's more important to find Celestia. An Equestria without these books is better than these books without Equestria. This knowledge can be rediscovered.

Discord looked back at her, and smiled. She shuddered. He had been in her head before, and yet he seemed to be refraining from invading her again.

Their search led them back out of the stacks and towards a dead end in the tower. Discord fished about for a certain spell and then snapped his fingers. A section of the wall parted and led into a small chamber.

“There we are,” said Discord. “What do you think?”

The chamber was white, from floor to ceiling, covered in polished stone. A single golden curtain shielded a window to the outside. Twilight could feel the magic in the room like a childhood memory. Some pony had put touches of enchantment upon every surface, and used subtle glamors to keep it hidden and warm.

A volume of the Daring Do series sat closed, a ribbon bookmark holding some forgotten page. A number of letters sat in a neat stack sat beside it. Twilight immediately recognized the writing on them as her own.

More than anything, though, the whole room just felt like Celestia. She could smell faint traces of the princess, elegant like an iris, strong like an oak--eternal as the mountain that held Canterlot. All the light in the room came from above her, a single sliver of Princess Celestia's magic captured in a tiny spec of a sun that shed light and heat.

Being there was too much for her. She collapsed on a purple cushion and began to cry. Some part of Celestia had been so close to her for so long, reaching out for her, and she hadn't found it. Now that she had, she couldn't stop a single sobbing breath. All the grief poured out of her and her tears soaked the pillow beneath her.

Discord, for all his glibness and buffoonery, left her there and shut the door quietly behind him so that she could cry herself to sleep in peace.



Twilight slept in light for longer than she could remember. She dreamed of walking through fields of grass, blades as soft as sand licking her legs. Field mice scurried past through the brush. Something nibbled at her hooves but she paid it no mind. Beyond the sea of green rose a black sky and the sun peeking over the horizon. A bit of salt tickled the her nose, the smell of the sea, though she did not know why it seemed so familiar.

The landscape seemed to stretch on forever. Yet it all moved, and beyond the veil of blackness, colored shadows washed over the grass. Gold and red and blue twirled together, and along with the motion of the plants they created an ephemeral landscape reminiscent of a painting. Dozens of ponies flashed by, and if she blinked she missed seeing several faces. She saw ancient trees with roots the size of mountains, and rivers that ran between their roots, blue as the sky.

A hundred thousand places she walked before the wind stopped, and the grass stilled, and all became white again, save for the sky above. A few stars blinked through the void and Twilight could hear a mare singing softly.

Hush now, the night wind sings
of the smiles tomorrow brings.
Foals in bed and birds in nest,
brothers and sisters come to rest.

Oh, bright stars who shine above
please keep warm the ones I love.
Though leaves may fall and colors fade
a Mother's promise has been made

to keep them out of danger's sight
to keep them safe till morning's light
and bring sweet visions to their heads
as they sleep softly in their beds.

Fresh tears fell down Twilight's cheeks, though when she reached to touch them they seemed far away. She did not feel misery, but instead safe and comfortable, just as when her mother had sung to her as a filly. The grass faded and the voice went quiet, but even as she fell into dreamless sleep she could swear she slept as her ancestors did, close to one another in the fields, basking in each other's warmth.

Applejack

Sweet Apple Acres stood holding its most sizable crop ever, barring a certain incident with Granny Smith's sister some years ago. The return of the sun also brought certain changes to the soil, and a vast amount of primal magic worked through the roots of the field. Applejack could feel it tingling in the ground. A tickle of strange magic that surged through the apples and blew them up to the size of footballs. She tried her best to ignore it, as well as Apple Bloom's occasional burst of laughter.

“At least they're apples,” sighed Applejack. “Better get them off the tree before they decide to be something else.”

“Yeah, about that,” said Apple Bloom, raising an eyebrow. “Why don't you just buck 'em down?”

Applejack tugged her hat down to hide the cherry tint in her cheeks. “I tried that yesterday and the darn thing just bucked me back, roots and all.” She stared up at the tree in front of her, branches hanging low with fruit.

“Y'could try it again. Buckin's gotta work some of the time, it's your go-to move!”

The orange pony straightened her hat and grinned. “Heh, I like your thinking. Trees are meant to be bucked! Only one right way of doin' things around here.”

Applejack twisted about and dug her hooves in for support. The morning sun washed over her. Her muscles flexed and she could feel her earthy strength flow through her hooves, building in her flanks. She thrust, hind legs cutting through the wind towards the trunk of the apple tree.

But instead of a satisfying thump, she was met with a dull sound like sponges hitting the ground. The bark of the tree dimpled, and then sprung back. She flipped rump over head and landed flat on her back. The tree rustled a little as it settled back into place.

“You alright, sis?” Apple Bloom hurried over and nudged her side.

“Takes more than a toss to put me down,” said Applejack, ignoring the soreness blooming between her shoulders. She rolled to her hooves and sighed. “Whatever you want to say about Discord, I just don't like the way he's running things 'round here. Can't figure them out for the life of me.”

Apple Bloom held her breath for a moment. Applejack couldn't blame her. Nightmare Moon's rule had been far more strict, and any amount of slander could have brought down the Princess' full wrath. Discord almost seemed to revel in their disdain, but it was always hard to tell. She certainly wasn't going to encourage to Apple Bloom to mouth off, especially with how helpful she'd been since the sun came back.

“Would you get your sis the step-ladder?” she asked.

“Sure thing.”

“That's a good filly.” Applejack pecked her sister on the cheek and watched her canter off to the barn. The farm had taken a lot of shapes, but in the end it was still her home and her family. She'd tend it no matter what happened.

Applejack brought over the cart and rounded up all the barrels she could find. She sighted the trees that looked best for picking and made notes. Been buckin' since I was a foal. Always known this farm like the back of my hoof, and now I can't go five feet without a surprise. Ain't right. But at least we still have our home...

“What'cha humming, sis?”

Applejack looked up, startled out of her thoughts. “Huh?” She hadn't really thought about it, since it'd been the longest time since she'd had it in her to sing. Yet a trickle of a melody remained faint on her lips.

“You were singin' something. Granny Smith sings that song a lot too, when we're all in bed. What is it?”

Applejack couldn't quite remember the words, but she did know Granny's old ticks. “Oh, she's just singing some old lullabies,” she said. “'s an old tune they used to sing before you were even born... supposed to protect your fillies and colts. Just a silly mare's tale, really. Nothing to worry your head about.”

“Well, what if you didn't sing it?” wondered Apple Bloom. “What did all them ponies have to worry about back then?”

Applejack pulled the stepladder over and nudged it under the tree. “Nothing to worry yourself over.”

“It was the mare in the moon, wasn't it? Nightmare Moon?”

A shiver took Applejack in spite of the rising sun. “Now, you know I told you not to say that name.”

“It's no big deal, sis,” scoffed Apple Bloom. “She's gone now.”

Applejack shook her head and stepped up into the leaves overhead. “We just don't know where she is. Now shush and move that barrel over here.”

“I ain't scared of her, sis.” Apple Bloom half-muttered as she pushed the barrel underneath the branch. Applejack grabbed an apple with her hooves, tugged, and the enormous thing thumped into the barrel below.

“She couldn't keep the sun down even with the princess gone," continued Apple Bloom. "Besides, you'll keep singin' those songs and making sure we're safe, right?”

“I don't need a song to protect my little sister,” said Applejack. “I promise you'll be safe.”

Apple Bloom nodded, and scooted the slowly filling barrel around after Applejack. “Thanks, sis.”

Applejack smiled and dug her hooves through the leaves. “And speaking of safe ponies, I got word from the castle this morning. Caramel'll be coming home soon. I'm sure he'll be happy to see ya'll.”

That put a bit of a hop in Apple Bloom's step, and seeing her sister happy always made the work go a bit easier for Applejack. Things were strange, but they were turning around. The land was providing food again, even if it wasn't always what they expected. The demands for tribute ceased the day the sun rose. Life was tricky, but livable.

Rumors about disappearing ponies still spread, but Applejack knew that was a bunch of hooey. Every head in Ponyville was still accounted for and if that ever changed, Pinkie Pie would know right away. As long as Apple Bloom stayed on the farm, she could play and fritter the day away without worrying what might be waiting in the twisting shadows.