• Published 7th Jul 2018
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Exiles - Coyote de La Mancha



Before recorded history, there was the terrible and primordial Age of Chaos. And in this age, there were two sisters. This is their story.

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About Fifteen and Seventeen

The two sisters were very cautious in their dealings with all forms of life, and they were wise beyond their years. Still, there was still only the two of them, and they were still quite young. So it was they relied more upon their power to survive, where other herds relied upon their numbers to grant a variety of skills, as well as mixed generations to grant experience. Indeed, there was only one speaking creature the sisters knew of who had magic such as theirs, and that one surpassed even their abilities in every way. Speaking folk mentioned his name only in whispers. Ponies in the walled place had even prayed to the Lord of All, giving daily thanks for sparing them from flux’s wrath until the very day they’d died.

Tia and Luna found the creature in the only way one could find anyone or anything in their world: by accident. Normally, the sisters avoided the flux as much as possible. The more intelligent and strong-willed one was, the longer flux seemed to take in changing one... but that was nothing to rely upon. Nothing about flux was reliable. So Tia would guide them through the shortest routes possible between pattern realms, as quickly as possible. They would run and fly through flux, sometimes for long periods, dodging the strange transforming creatures and plants along the way.

But one day, Tia stopped. She looked about herself, wearing her frown of concentration.

“Tia?”

“This way.”

“Tia?” Luna looked around, uncertainly. “Where are we going?”

“There is a pattern nearby. A strong one.”

“A realm?”

“No. Something else.”

Luna followed her sister, trying to control her trepidation. Tia was leading them deeper into flux, not away. Though it had never happened before, it occurred to Luna that flux might confuse even her older sister’s senses. It was a terrifying thought. Still, she resolved that whatever lay ahead, they would face it together.

They broke out of the foliage, and found themselves at a cliff overlooking a vast, rolling plain. This was deeper into flux than either of them had ever ventured. The ground was multicoloured, bright, and writhing. Winged creatures flew through the air, some of them plainly meant only to crawl. Suns and moons hummed and sang overhead as they danced and occasionally ate one another. For a moment, Bluish fluid seeped from the ground, collected into pools, and then rained upwards into the sky, vanishing into the aether.

Then the plain itself surged, became something living and foul, a vast mass of greyish semi-liquid flesh as far as the eye could see. It covered itself with eyes and mouths, even as misshapen creatures of all kinds formed themselves from its mass, flying or crawling frantically away. Some lost their balance, falling back into the fleshplain. Others were snared by tongues, tentacles, or other limbs which sprouted from the gibbering mass. All of these were devoured by the very source of their life, save for those few which soared upwards out of reach, or reached the tree line and vanished.

“Luna,” whispered Tia as she looked up, “we have found our enemy.”

“Nay.” Luna’s voice was small as she looked down. “We behold the world.”

Above the madness, dancing to its uneven tempo, was the serpentine form of its lord and master. The being some said had created the very world, and all within it.

Discord.

They had never seen anything like what contorted in the air before them. Discord was a being of monstrous appearance, a random hodge-podge of asymmetrical form. Yet, what else would such a one have been? Up until then, there had been two words for predators in the sisters’ language, depending on how the beast hunted. If it leapt upon its prey, it was a rabbit; if it stalked and chased, it was a wolf. There were so many variances in form and structure, there was no point in further distinction.

But what the sisters looked upon that day was neither class of predator, and yet both. One leg was for leaping and climbing, the other for running and giving chase. Its mismatched wings should not have allowed for flight, its uneven teeth should not have allowed it to feed. Yet it flew without care. And it fed, if it fed at all, very well indeed. Its very existence was a testament to its unconcern towards the very rules of survival. The monster laughed at all expectations, even those of flux itself, for it refused to be altered by the madness it danced in. This was Discord. And all of reality, even flux and pattern, were both prey and plaything to one so powerful and strange.

“Tia, we must withdraw,” Luna whispered. “The Idea is folly. He is too great.”

“Nay,” growled Tia. “This is the creator of all our pain, and the maker of every injustice ever suffered throughout the world. We must find a way.”

“Then we must find it later!” Luna hissed. “Tia... Tia, we are deep in flux.” She grabbed Tia’s shoulder, turned her to face her. “We must leave, ere we are overtaken!”

Tia hesitated for a moment, then nodded. “Very well. We withdraw.”

Even as they began their retreat back into the brush, the fleshplain receded into itself, resolving into a landscape of rolling hills covered with purple grass. Rivers flowed between the hills, filled with a chunky orange substance. Meanwhile, all around the sisters, the plants themselves rustled and grew, grasping at the two ponies hungrily.

There was no way to hide now. There was only the hope of a quick escape. Luna faded into the shadows, and the carnivorous plants swiped at her ineffectually, even as she gazed at them with narrowed blue eyes. Tia burned several of the murder trees into cinders in an instant, holding the others at bay with a shield of gold.

“Luna, get out of here!”

“No!”

“I’ll catch up!”

“I’ll not leave thee here!” Frantically, Luna looked around them. The entire copse had animated, and the plants were attacking not only the sisters but one another. Among all the other random things going on throughout the realm, Discord might not have seen them even now. But even as Tia blazed her way through the vegetation, trying to carve a way to retreat, they kept surrounding her, their numbers seemingly infinite. Her shields seemed impenetrable, but for how long in a place such as this? Going back as they’d come was plainly impossible. And if the realm was stable enough to allow for safe teleporting, Tia would have done so, either taking Luna with her or trusting her to follow through shadow.

Luna glanced skyward. Flying would be an even greater danger, plunging upwards into a mass of flux-spawned creatures and hungering faces. And carrying Tia, her abilities to avoid combat would be nonexistent.

Luna had never shadow-stepped with Tia since she was a small child. But then, as now, death was on the line.

Tia would just have to forgive her.

Suddenly, there were no more shadows. Every tree and bush gave off a weird glow as it burst into a brown flame which gave no heat. Luna crouched, exposed, wings spread and ready to flee. Tia glanced outwards to the plain, and her horn started to flash with the power of her will.

There was a snap. A burst of white light. The sisters found themselves suspended before the monstrous Lord of All. Tia’s eyes narrowed as she focused her most powerful spell of destruction at her enemy. But her attack simply melted, gushing into the ground like water, seeping into the newly-checkered soil and vanishing.

They were suspended in mid-air like ripe fruit, ready to be plucked and tasted at the leisure of their captor.

“Lokkentrett gollawop shinnagritt,” Discord observed. “Bzm.”

The monstrosity reached forward with claw and paw, lifting the tops of their skulls open as easily as a foal lifting a flat stone to see what dwelt beneath.

“Bzm, bzm, bzm. Geeblefitz. Grs aroogat hmmm, nice. Very nice. I especially like the conjugations you’ve put together.” It closed their heads again and they simply sealed; seamless, bloodless, painless.

“So. Hello girls. I’m Discord.” The madness in the creature’s smile was not comforting. “Welcome to my dance.”

Tia frowned. “Your... dance?” Well, she thought, at least we can move again.

“Absolutely, my dear... er...”

“Tia,” she supplied.

“Tia. Yes.” A wave of dismissal. “Suitably boring. Anyway.” Discord addressed both of them again. “Yes. My dance. You see girls, what you seem to perceive as some kind of struggle between pattern and flux is actually all that is real in our world. It’s the only thing that matters, if even it does. I like to call it the Dance of True Chaos.”

Something rainbow-coloured and fishlike paused in its flight to study the three of them quizzically. Then, it blew a large pinkish bubble before winking out of existence with an audible pop! The bubble continued on its merry way, humming to itself.

“Everything is possible in flux, you know,” Discord went on. “Even pattern. So, pattern gets belched forth every now and then, and little pockets of it develop. Sometimes they last a little while, sometimes they last longer. Meantime, so does life: another pattern, though far more interesting, since it contains so much flux within it.”

At that moment, a miniature version of Discord appeared on the creature’s shoulder, wearing red horns.

“Why art even speaking to these ponies?” it demanded.

“They interest me,” Discord answered.

Another duplicate appeared on Discord’s other shoulder, this one with a ring of light hovering over its head.

“And well they should,” it nodded. “They withstood the heart of flux, and even now are unaffected. How many creatures can do that? If that kind of uniqueness isn’t interesting, what is?”

The first duplicate frowned. “So? We don’t need these stupid ponies, we don’t need anyone! We’re Discord! They’re toys! Playthings!” A leer. “Let’s see how many ways we can take them apart!”

“Oh, let’s be nice to them,” suggested the second duplicate. “When was the last time we really talked to anyone?”

“No! blast them into bits!”

Discord glanced over at the two sisters, who were staring at him, wide-eyed. “Moral dilemmas,” he shrugged. “You know I hate them.”

“Blast them now! Blast them now!” raged the horned duplicate.

“Thou stay out of this,” the other admonished. “Discord doesn’t have to blast thee now.”

“But I demand Discord blast me now!” the horned duplicate shrieked. “So blast me now!”

Discord glanced at the horned duplicate with eyes bursting into flame. The blaze surged out, consuming the duplicate in fire, reducing it down to a blackened skeleton.

“Oh, um,” blinked the other duplicate, backing away slightly. “That’ll work, I guess...”

More flame, and it, too, was reduced to charred bone.

A biped with three arms and a gold bracelet frowned up at them all from his assortment of clay tablets. “Is this wackadoodle really necessary?”

“Sorry,” Discord called down, brushing the ash from its shoulders. “Internal monologue.”

The biped went back to his tablets and began pressing marks into them, muttering about not being able to file any exemptions without a form. Beside him, a shapeless spawn made disappointed noises. Suddenly, his bracelet made a small, chiming sound. “Ah,” he said, crumbling into geometric pieces, “time for my break.”

Discord turned his attention back to the ponies. “Anyway, where were we?”

Tia made her mouth work. “The... dance,” she managed.

“Oh, yes. That,” smiled Discord. “My one true love: chaos itself.” Behind the Lord of All, a series of large sundials fell from the sky, landing on a huge, barren tree. Immediately, they began to melt.

“But, why?” Luna asked. “Why this dance of yours at all? Why... any of this?” She gestured around them both. “Thy power is obvious, thy dominion without question. So, why force the dance on the rest of us? Canst not leave speaking folk in peace?”

“Leave you in peace?” Discord smiled incredulously. “Oh, my dear... eh...”

“Luna.”

“Loo-nah?” A frown. “Ugh. How terribly awkward.”

Despite the danger, Luna heard herself exclaim, “That happens to be my name, thou wretch! How dare thee!” even as her mind screamed at her in horror, What art thou doing thou brainless git, he’ll kill you both...!

It was then that the creature did the last thing they would ever have expected.

Discord... laughed.

“Oh, you girls are just adorable!” Discord cackled. “Wretch indeed! The Lord of all Chaos, a wretch! Oh, how marvellous. And as for leaving you be...” the creature leaned in uncomfortably close, madness dancing in red-on-yellow eyes. “Did I not just explain how, in sooth, all life as you girls know it owes itself to flux? That without flux, there would be none? Not thee, nor thy sister? Oh, Lulu,” Discord looked at her fondly.

“Luna.”

“...I do believe the world is far more interesting with thee still within it.” The creature looked sideways at Tia with a calculating eye, one claw stroking its beard. “Hmmm. Not so sure about thy sibling, however.”

Tia, meanwhile, had been studying the creature intently. “Nay, Discord. Though we owe our lives to thee, so too do we owe thee the deaths of all we once held dear.” Her eyes showed neither fear nor hatred as she said earnestly and with great dignity, “We remember both these debts. And we shall repay both, in full. Thou hast my word.”

Discord’s laughter howled, and marshmallow clouds shifted colour and curled away from them as it began to rain something brown and sweet-smelling, killing the grass below.

“Oh, that’s wonderful!” he crowed. “Better than I could have ever hoped for!”

Then, a snap of Discord’s claws. There was a burst of light, and the sisters were someplace entirely else. Slightly sticky from the brown rain, granted. But also unharmed.

Tia glanced around. “Pattern,” she said, “but weak. Canst shadow-walk us both?”

Luna glanced at her in surprise. “Of course.”

Soon they were in a different place of almost absolute darkness, sinking quickly into a mire. As one, the two of them illuminated the area in blue and pink. Luna grabbed Tia and hovered upward, while Tia surrounded them both in a hemisphere of impenetrable force.

They were hovering over a thick swamp. There was greenish mud up to their hips from when they’d first arrived. The sky was not hidden by the canopy, but it possessed no visible suns, moons, or stars. Tia nodded. “Good. This should last a while. And I think Discord knows not where we are now.”

“I am glad. Truly. Shall thy shield rest upon the muck for a moment?”

“It can.”

“Good.” Luna stopped flying, the globe of light landing in the mud below with a splat. “Now.” Luna grabbed Tia by the shoulders, demanding, “Art gone completely mad?!”

Tia arched an eyebrow. “Art thou?”

“I did not threaten Discord!”

“No, thou sniped at it. And,” she added, “it seemed to like it.”

Luna considered this, settling back onto four hooves and sitting down. “He... did, didn’t he?”

Tia nodded. “It did. And it liked my threats, as well, if only for their novelty. They amused it. Further, while Discord was sensing us, I think it did not know we also were sensing it. I can tell you this: it has a stable pattern. The strongest I have ever felt.”

“Yet he dwells deep in a realm of flux. And recall, he claims that his power fuels chaos itself.”

“The place where it dwells is in flux, yes,” she considered. “But I think it feeds on the dance it spoke of, and with the power it gains, it controls the world around itself. As it said, whenever flux threatens to be overcome by pattern, Discord feeds the flux again. I think it harvests that dance of chaos. Like the gardens within the walled place where we were born. And somehow, Discord remains itself, e’en in the centre of it all. Eternal. Unchanged.”

Luna frowned, nodding. “Then his power is great, indeed.”

“Yet not endless.”

“No. Certainly not.”

“So, now is thy turn to speak. Tell me, does Discord dream?”

“Oh, yes,” the pegasus affirmed. “He dreams.”

“Of what?”

“That which he cannot have,” Luna smiled grimly. “True surprise.”

Tia nodded. “Thus it has pattern in its power, and in its mind as well.” Tia returned the smile. “An’ that it dreams, thou canst find it again at leisure. An’ as it has pattern…”

“He has limits,” finished Luna. “And anyone with limits can fall.”

“Luna, the Idea! We can do this!” Tia could barely contain her excitement. In the trees, unseen things fluttered and slithered away, startled by the sudden noise.

“Yes, he can be overthrown,” agreed Luna. “But where best to do it? In pattern, or in flux?”

Tia considered this. “In pattern, Discord is slightly less powerful. And we, slightly more.”

“Yet in flux, all things are possible. Even two ponies casting down the Lord of all Chaos.”

Tia nodded. “In flux then.” She smiled. “A true surprise. And without Discord’s power continuing the flux, the world...” She practically shook with excitement. “Pattern will take hold, flux fading. The world will ultimately become a pattern realm. What our parents and their allies dreamed, we can make real. Not just for a few. For everyone!”

Luna was quiet, however, matching Tia’s elation with a pensive look. “He shall never be defeated,” she mused at last. “We must accept that, from the beginning. Else we cannot succeed.”

Tia frowned in puzzlement, but remained silent.

“E’en in his overthrow, he will be pleased,” Luna explained. “Even amused. It will be novel for him. A respite from endless, timeless boredom is no defeat. And as his power must be vast indeed, to remain as himself in his chaos dance for so long... “

Tia nodded again, understanding. “We must see that Discord will be willing to be overthrown, and then see that it remains powerless afterwards.”

“Yea. We dare not seek his destruction.”

“Agreed. Not only is trying to kill Discord too dangerous--”

“--but no world should be born from death,” Luna finished.

“Exactly. So, we must bind Discord, instead. Force a greater pattern upon it. An’ that its power flows from chaos, once pattern is more ascendant than flux, the dance will be all but gone. Discord’s own prison should keep it too weak to break free.”

“Yes. But how can we do this? Thy most powerful spells melted at his whim.”

Tia sighed. “I know not” she admitted. “At least, not yet. We are still young. Perhaps when we are older, we shall have the power. Perhaps there is an ally, a third yet to join us, we might yet find.”

“Mayhap.”

“Thy future wife, mayhap?”

Despite herself, Luna smiled. “Mayhap.”

Travelling further into the swamp, they found a suitable place to rest, and Tia cast her usual shields to protect them both. It was customary for Tia to take first watch, though tonight Luna seemed more inclined towards introspection than rest. She simply lay there, quiet and still, staring into the night. After a time, Tia considered her sister anew. “Luna?”

“Mmm?”

“Thou keepest calling Discord ‘he.’ Such a one surely predates all sex. Why thinkest Discord as male?”

Luna contemplated the night before them. “Didst not notice his posterior?”

Tia felt one ear go flat in her confusion. “Its... wings?”

Luna’s face was completely deadpan as she continued to look ahead. “Nay,” she shook her head slightly. “Discord has a tiny butt.”

Tia groaned, placing her hoof on her forehead. “Of course he does.”

Luna cocked an eyebrow at her sister. “Art well?”

But the sister of light only shook her head, as if in pain. “Please, I beseech thee. Stop talking.”

And in the darkness, Luna chuckled.

Author's Note:

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Tia’s use of “it” when dealing with the Discord should not be construed as a lack of respect for those who do not claim a static binary gender identity, from either Tia or from the author. Their language was still in a relatively primitive state, and civilization was not yet a thing.

In modern day, she would of course refer to someone who seemed either gender fluid or agender as “they,” unless they preferred a different pronoun. Though she certainly has her faults, the lady is nothing if not genteel.

As for Discord, in modern day his personal preference seems to be the masculine pronoun. There is every evidence that he finds this usage amusing, as though it is a private joke he shares with a select few. This may or may not have interfered with the sisters’ sleep somewhat after he was first freed.