• Published 20th Sep 2018
  • 949 Views, 28 Comments

Wanderings of a Chaos God - BronyWriter



The new chaos god travels the world with Princess Skystar

  • ...
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Mount Aris

I twitched and tried taking deep breaths as I tried to pull out the spear impaling me through the chest and into the wall behind me. Blood dripped from the wound as my hooves slipped from the spear, unable to get a good grip on it. I flinched back when I heard lighting from Tempest's broken horn charge up next to me. I groaned as the tips of my hind hooves barely touched the ground. Tempest fired her lighting at the stone shield encasing my caged nieces, though her attack did no damage.

Good. That bought me a few more seconds while she tried to figure out what to do next. If I didn't get free soon, Tempest was going to kill them. I took a few breaths, grabbed the spear in the crook of my forelegs, and began pulling it through my side. I cried out in agony as the spear slid through me, but with one final push, the spear came out, and I dropped to the floor. I heard a cracking noise in front of me and looked up to see that Tempest had turned around and bucked at the stone shield as hard as she could, sending large chunks of stone flying.

I shakily got to my hooves as my chaos magic closed the wound in my side. I grabbed the spear and tore it out of the wall. I had one shot at this. I charged forward just as Tempest readied herself for another strike. I let out a cry of both determination and terror as I flapped my wings, shooting toward her like a rocket. Tempest stumbled at the sudden loud noise, and turned to me just in time for me to drive the spear through her armor and into her chest.

All I heard was screaming. Tempest laid on the floor, twitching and grabbing at the spear impaled in her chest. She was screaming. I whimpered and collapsed into a sitting position next to her, my hooves over my ears. Why wouldn't she stop screaming?

My nieces were safe. I just wanted Tempest to stop screaming.

I squeezed my eyes shut and let out a loud scream of my own. Anything to block out the noise of Tempest dying next to me. When I finally ran out of breath, Tempest's screaming had stopped. My eyes snapped open and I could see that the hallway around me was completely dark, save for a single light overhead. Tempest laid in the light, not moving. The spear was out of her chest, but I didn't see blood all over the floor. I took in a deep, shaky breath and wiped my eyes as I stared at Tempest.

Maybe if she woke up then she'd see our side of things. She'd want to change instead of fighting us.

Out of the darkness in front of me I heard hoofsteps approaching. I tore my gaze away from Tempest's body and looked up just in time to see my brother stepping out of the shadows. He looked at me, then stared down at Tempest for a few moments.

"I..." I sniffled and wiped my eyes again. "I didn't mean to--"

"Hey, it's okay," he said softly, putting his hoof on my shoulder. I hadn't even heard him walk up. "You did what you had to do. This is a good thing."

My eyes widened and I stared up at him. He was giving me a comforting smile, but I didn't feel comforted. Nothing about any of this was right.

"How?" I whispered.

"You saved my daughters. You did the right thing."

"M-maybe I could have just disabled her or--"

TD shook his head. "No. That wouldn't have worked. Who's to say that she wouldn't have just gotten back up and tried to kill them again? It's a good thing that you killed her."

I flinched away from him. "How?"

"Like I said: you saved my daughters. You helped protect our subjects." He chuckled and patted me on my head. "You're really coming into your own, do you know that? I don't know how we would have won this war as quickly as we did without you. You're a natural at this."

I shot to my hooves and backed away from him, my legs shaking with every step. "Wh-what? I don't want to be a natural at war! I don't want to fight anymore!"

TD shrugged and stepped toward me, matching each one of my steps with his own. "I thought that way at first, too, but don't worry: it gets easier. Much easier. Haven't you already seen that? You crashed those airships together and into the Storm Creatures below. How many of our enemies did you kill? Hundreds, maybe thousands. Don't worry, though: they were just faceless drones. They weren't important."

"And do you think that the Storm King didn't see us that way?" I growled. "The Storm Creatures--"

"Were just soldiers. It's not unlike killing a Stormtrooper in a video game, really," TD replied. "Once you accept that..." He chuckled and reached his hoof out to me. "You will be our greatest military asset. My subjects see me as the god of war, but you... with your chaos powers, you'll be the real god of war, and our enemies will fear you!"

"I don't want that!" I moaned, my legs completely giving out under me.

"I know it's difficult to accept," TD said, standing above me. Somehow he looked ten feet tall. "But you'll do fine. I know you will. You'll protect Equestria at my side." He smirked and motioned back to Tempest's body. "And soon, that will be easy."

"NO!"

I shot up so fast that I tangled into my sheets and plopped down on the floor. I squeezed my eyes shut as a single beam of sunlight went through a crack in the curtains and into my eye. I rolled myself onto my back with my wings just as the door to my room opened.

"Holy shamoley, Kristen, are you okay?"

I cracked one eye open and saw Skystar standing in my doorway with a concerned look on her face. I weakly chuckled and began the difficult process of untangling myself. "Yeah. Yeah I'm fine."

"Another nightmare?" she guessed, walking over to help me.

"Yeah." I slid my left hind leg out of the sheets, which was what I needed to get totally free. I slid out of the tangled mess and stretched out my wings while Skystar tossed my sheets back on the bed in a giant heap.

"Wanna talk about it?"

I gave her a sideways glare as I continued stretching. "Why?" I grumbled. "You've heard it a hundred times before already."

"Oh." Skystar deflated a bit and poked at the floor with one of her claws. "Right. One of those."

"Yeah. One of those." I walked over to the curtains and peeked through them. Outside my window I could see the hustle and bustle of the hippogriffs going about their daily lives, much as they had when we'd found them in Seaquestria. "What time is it, anyway?"

"Just past six," Skystar replied. "I was just coming to bring you to breakfast with Mom."

"Sounds good," I said with a yawn, scratching at my stomach. I motioned to the door and Skystar led me out into the main halls of Aris Castle. "What's on the agenda for today?"

"Oh, the usual," Skystar said with a wave of her wing. "The main square could use a little more work, but it's mostly just painting at this point. Nothing too difficult."

"Good. Maybe after that I can take a nap." I grimaced as we reached the door to Queen Novo's private dining room. "Ugh. I'm the physical manifestation of chaos. Why do I still need sleep?"

"Stress?" Skystar guessed as she opened the door. "Or, I dunno, didn't you say that it takes time for a normal creature to become the Lord of Chaos? You've only been Discord's replacement for, what, seven years?"

"Something like that. I know I've hit the point where I don't need to eat." I plopped down at the table and pulled a bowl of oatmeal and some toast over to me. With a wave of my hoof, bacon and a doughnut popped into existence on a plate beside me. "But I still like it."

"Right. Of course," Skystar said, sitting down next to me and snatching up one of my pieces of bacon. I rolled my eyes at her and materialized a whole plate of it in front of us. She grinned and grabbed half a dozen pieces, shoving three of them in her mouth.

The side door to the dining room opened up, and Novo entered with two guards at her side. I nodded to her as I materialized a shaker of brown sugar and began sprinkling it on my oatmeal. "Good morning, Novo."

"Yesh, mornin' mom!" Skystar said through a mouthful of bacon. Novo glared at her, causing Skystar to blush a little. She swallowed and daintily tapped at her beak with a napkin. "Sorry."

"Very well." One of the guards pulled out Novo's chair while the other one loaded up a plate with fruit for her. Novo sat down and took the plate with a little grunt of thanks. She picked up her spoon and took a small, regal bite of grapefruit before turning her attention to me. "How are you this morning, Princess Kristen?"

I bit my tongue and forced a smile on my face. I guess legally speaking I was still a princess, and Novo was the kind of being who would make a big deal out of that, but I hadn't been in Equestria for quite a while, much less done anything that would make that title make sense. Sure my brother was still on the Equestrian throne, but that was it.

But she wasn't the kind of being to listen to that. So instead I just settled on a noncommittal answer

"I'm doing fine. Ready to start the day, and all that."

Novo grunted and scanned the table. Oh, right, I forgot. I swiped my hoof and a shaker of sugar appeared next to her. She smiled, nodded in thanks, then sprinkled it on her grapefruit.

"You know, one of these days you'll get good enough that they won't disappear after breakfast," Novo said once she'd finished. "Either that or we'll soon import enough that I don't have to worry about it."

"I don't know about that," I replied. "Chaos magic, and all that. The whole point is that it's unpredictable."

"True, but you're going to have control of it eventually." She shrugged and pushed the sugar away. "In any case, I thank you for the sugar."

"No problem. Happy to help."

"And I am happy that you are helping," Novo replied with a real, actual smile. "I assume you'll be out in the city finalizing repairs today?"

I nodded and materialized more toast for myself. "Yeah. Skystar said something about painting needing to be done on some of the shops there?"

"Yes, I believe that is what is next, though if I may say so: there is not much left to be done in terms of rebuilding Mount Aris. You've done a wonderful job."

I shrugged and made some more bacon for Skystar, who had been busying herself eating all of it while her mom and I were talking. "Yeah, it's no trouble. After the war it's nice to be able to actually repair stuff instead of ruin it."

"You've been a wonder. You've helped us do in eighteen months what it might take us far longer to do," Novo said. "Just your efforts in helping us gather everything we could from Seaquestria alone helped us greatly."

"For sure."

"And itsh b'n gret havin' ya 'r'nd!" Skystar said. With another glare from her mother, Skystar swallowed her bacon before speaking up again. "I mean, it's been great having you around." Skystar made a noise of contentment and nuzzled my shoulder. "It's nice having a good friend.

Normally that would be a nice, touching statement, but given that a large part of Skystar's attachment to me was her trauma from losing her two childhood friends to the Storm King's army... Skystar was an awesome friend and I wouldn't be as happy here without her, but that was kind of awkward sometimes. It came through some days more than others. Not that I can blame her, really. It's not like I've had a really good friend since coming to Equestria. The person I hang out with the most is TD, and he's, well, my brother. I need some non-family friends.

So I guess our friendship worked out well for the both of us. And as an added bonus, she didn't care that I was the chaos god, so that was always nice.

I finished off my oatmeal and toast and pushed my dishes aside before standing up and stretching my wings and legs out. "Well, I guess I'd better get to it, then."

"In truth there is little left for you to do," Novo admitted. "Mount Aris has almost been restored to its former glory."

"Well, almost isn't quite good enough," I replied. "It's like I said: I want it to look like the Storm King was never here at all." I shrugged as Skystar stood up next to me, snatching a few extra pieces of bacon off of her plate. "What are you up to today?"

Novo sighed and rubbed the side of her head. "Oh, you know, the usual royal duties that I'm still getting a little used to, such as foreign delegations." Novo grimaced and a slight glare appeared on her face. "I am still dealing with the political ramifications of your brother's annexation of Klugetown."

I groaned and facehooved. "Yeah, yeah that probably wasn't one of his better moves, but he had to be the big dummy and try to save them from something or whatever. Given what I know of them, I'm sure they just love being unwilling Equestrian citizens now."

"Maybe it's 'cause he just wants to help them?" Skystar chimed in.

"Or maybe it's because he's an idiot. In any case..." I nodded my head to Novo. "Best of luck with that."

I walked out of the dining room with Skystar right behind me, polishing off the last of her bacon. There were times when I regretted introducing that to her, but, eh, it wasn't like it was going to make her gain weight because it was from my chaos magic, and it made her happy, so it wasn't a huge deal.

We exited the castle and into the bright morning air of Mount Aris. It probably would have been chilly if not for my downy pegasus fur. With it, the air was pleasantly cool. I opened my wings and took to the air in the direction of the center of town, Skystar following right behind me. As I flew, a few hippogriffs waved up at me or bowed to Skystar. I waved back with a smile. Part of what had made the transition to here from Equestria had been the welcoming locals. I'm sure a large part of that was that I'd played a big part in defeating the Storm King, but I'm certain they were friendly anyway.

I landed in the middle of town square where a dozen or so hippogriffs had gathered around a single one who was reading from a scroll that actually looked significantly shorter than in days past. He glanced up from his scroll and nodded to Skystar and I.

"Lady Kristen. Princess Skystar. Good morning to you," he said in a gruff but not unpleasant voice.

"Morning, Rockwall," I replied with a smile. "I heard that we have some painting on the agenda today?"

He nodded and motioned to his scroll. "Yes. We have some storefronts that could use a little touch-up. We have enough that it should take us until at least the evening." He motioned to the group of hippogriffs with a wing. "Having said that, Lady Kristen, we can handle that if you would like. You've done more to help than we could have ever asked of you."

I scoffed and waved my hoof. "Don't worry about it. Happy to help." I walked up to one of the hippogriffs and nudged him with my wing. "Plus Daybeam here would probably mess it all up without me to help him."

Daybeam rolled his eyes at me, but I could see the hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "I admit that you're good... for a pony."

I fake frowned at him and narrowed my eyes. "Says the guy who was a fish until I fixed everything."

The hippogriffs around us began chuckling and muttering to themselves. I think I even heard one or two of them saying something about bets. They were probably betting on me.

"Oh, I hardly see that as a detriment," Daybeam said, buffing his claws on his chest. "With my fragment of the pearl, I have mastery of the sky, ground and sea!"

I gave him a flat look. "Uh-huh. I don't need a piece of a species-changing pearl to be better than you at all three." I motioned to myself. "I can breathe underwater by myself just fine."

Daybeam rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, we've heard all of that before. However, being able to be underwater does not guarantee your skill there. I would win any contest you proposed!"

"Ooh," the other hippogriffs said in unison while Rockwall grumbled something to himself.

I ignored them and shrugged. "Well, I guess we'll have to find out at lunch, won't we? I could beat you in a race in the air, on land, or underwater. In fact..." I motioned to a nearby rock. "You see that rock? Want to see how fast I can run to it?" I smirked and flicked my body in the direction of the rock for half a second. "Want to see me do it again?"

Daybeam gave me a flat look. "I see. If that's the way you're going to be about it. I suppose we'll have to put our skills to the test at lunch, won't we?"

I grinned and held out my hoof. "You're on. One race underwater, one on land, and one in the sky. Best two out of three and the loser is buying a round for everyone once the work is over."

That got a cheer going through the gathered workers as a few of them began exchanging bits. Daybeam chuckled and turned to the gathered hippogriffs with a bow. A few walked up to him, but any conversation was cut short when Rockwall stomped his leg on the ground.

"Alright, alright, that's enough out of you lot," he growled. "We're almost done here, so no need to slack off now at the finish line." He motioned to a stack of paint cans behind him. "Red team will get the south of the city, while blue team will take the north. We've marked every building you need to paint, and we've even put the instructions on the cans, so even you ladies can't mess it up."

"Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool," I said. "Especially one like Daybeam."

"Yes, yes, don't remind me," Rockwall grumbled. "But I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt here and not get mad until there's actually been a mistake. Until then..." He motioned to the paint cans again. "You have your orders, now hop to it!"

Well, that was my cue. I snatched up one of the paint cans and took to the air.

* * * *

I plopped my paint roller back into the tray and took a swig from the canteen around my neck. I tilted my head back to get the last few precious drops of water out before waving my hoof over it and instantly refilling it. Yeah, sometimes being the god of chaos has its perks.

I stepped back and examined the wall I had been painting. Finding no flaws, I flew over to Skystar who was happily humming some song to herself and rolling the paint roller up and down the wall in more or less the same spot over and over again. I grimaced and waved my hoof, causing some of the excess paint to seep into the spots she had been missing. She flinched back when the paint started moving by itself, but she must have figured out that it was me, because she whirled around, sending flecks of paint flying.

"Ooh, Kristen, I finished my wall!" she said, dropping the paint roller back into her tray. She threw her arm over my shoulders and puffed out her chest. "Doesn't it look awesome?"

"I think it looks pretty good, yeah," I said, wiping some of the paint she'd gotten on me off of my face. "I guess that means we're done with this building."

"Which means luuuunnnch!" Skystar said, nudging my side as the two of us walked back to town square.

"Yeah, yeah," I said with a slight smile. "Are you looking forward to lunch because you're hungry, or because I'm going to whip Daybeam's flank?"

Skystar giggled as the two of us walked out of our building and took to the air in the direction of the town square, chatting happily between ourselves. As we approached, I saw that a lot of our fellow workers had already arrived and were either breaking into various packed lunches or partaking from the food table that had been set up for us. Skystar and I landed in the back of the short line for the food table.

"So, you're actually here," said a voice from beside me. "I wasn't sure if you'd have the guts to show up."

I rolled my eyes and turned to see Daybeam standing beside me with a small group of hippogriffs backing him up and a smug smile on his face. "I could say the same to you, really," I replied. "I've been around long enough to know false bravado when I see it. You’re not going to wuss out when we get to the start line?"

Daybeam scoffed and waved his talons. "Projecting, are we? You don't have a chance and I think you know that. Are you going to eat before we begin, or would you like to get started now?"

"You know what?" I stepped out of line and turned to face him completely. "Let's get this going now."

"Excellent," Daybeam said, extending his talons to me as the crowd cheered. I gave him my hoof and he shook it. "Which one should we start with?"

"Well, since you've spent the last several years underwater, I think that it's a good idea to start there," I replied. “I'm not so bad underwater myself."

"Water it is."

* * * *

Our little contest actually managed to draw a fairly sized crowd, not just from the workers, but from several other citizens who had heard about our bet and wanted to see what the pony who had been helping them could really do. I think they'd be rather surprised.

We'd all gone back to Seaquestria and a few of the seaponies had set up a bit of a racetrack for the two of us. Skystar was in my corner, while Daybeam was being cheered on by a couple of his buddies.

"Now, are you sure that you don't want the pearl?" Skystar asked, glancing over at Daybeam. "I think you'd find it easier to swim if you actually had flippers, you know?"

"I'm the chaos god, Skystar," I said, waving my hoof at her. "When I found out I could sleep underwater, I switched to that. Until recently, I hadn't slept on a bed in several years."

"I mean, I guess, but sleeping underwater and swimming fast are kinda different, right?"

"I got my wings, don't I? Those are going to help out a lot."

"If you're sure."

"I'm sure." I looked out at the crowd that had gathered to watch us race. "What are the odds?"

"Three-to-one in favor of Daybeam," Skystar replied before pulling me into a tight hug. "But, I just know you're gonna do great!"

"I'd better, because I don't know if I have enough money to buy everybody a round tonight." I shrugged and looked back at Daybeam. "I'll get to that when it comes to it."

Skystar scoffed and waved her flippers. "I mean, come on. I'm the princess. I can help you out."

"Not sure that you should be using some of your royal money to buy a bunch of rowdy construction workers a round," I pointed out.

"Maybe not..." Skystar pulled me into a hug again. "But what are friends for?"

I smirked and hugged her back. "Yeah, yeah. I guess so."

"So are you two gonna stop hugging, or are we going to actually do this?" Daybeam said, pointing at the start line. "We don't have all day, and I have two more events to crush you at!"

"In your dreams," I grumbled as I swam toward the start line. "I'm really looking forward to knocking you down a few pegs."

"Well, we'll know soon enough, won't we?" He motioned out from the start line, where several other seaponies were setting up the track for our race. "All you gotta do is make it through those rings and back to the start line before I do. Sound simple enough?"

"Simple enough." I extended my hoof and shook his flipper. "May the best pony win."

"I assume you said that to include seaponies?"

"Yep. I'm not a total barbarian." I turned around and took my spot at the start line. "On the signal."

He swam beside me and nodded to a seapony who was holding a checkered flag. Where they got one and how it worked underwater, I wasn't sure, but it didn't really matter. I'd ask about it later. My back muscles tensed up as the seapony raised the flag. Beside me I saw Daybeam... crack his flippers like they were knuckles? Um... okay. Again, I wasn't going to question it. I looked back to the flag and narrowed my eyes. Time to put Daybeam in his place.

The seapony waved the flag down and I took off as fast as my wings could propel me through the water. Daybeam was temporarily surprised by my speed at taking off, but he was just half a second behind me. I made it through the first ring ahead of him, but he was catching up to me rather quickly. I made it through the second ring by a nose.

"You're slowing, pony," Daybeam said as we approached the third ring. He was slightly ahead of me for the first time in the race. "Getting tired?"

"If you're talking, you're not swimming!" I roared. I flapped my wings harder and shot straight past both him and the fourth ring. In his surprise he slowed down for half a second. It was all I needed. I angled my wings and turned in a perfect ninety-degree angle, zooming in front of him and through the fourth ring. He spun out of control for a few seconds but was hot on my hooves before I could relish my small victory.

Well, I'd won the first half of the race and wasn't tired at all. I could do the second one no problem.

He'd started gaining on my by the time I went through the fifth ring. I grimaced. I had him on acceleration and agility, but he had me on speed, and I didn't think my last little trick would work again. He actually reached out and batted my tail as we went through the sixth ring.

"Hey! Flippers off!"

"I'm right behind you!" Daybeam said in a sing-song voice. "Are you slowing down? Getting tired?"

"Are you kidding?" I looked back up and saw the seventh ring getting closer. "I'm just getting started!"

I have to admit, I kind of wanted to teleport to the finish line, but that would be cheating, and I didn't want to give Daybeam the pleasure of winning by default. He was going to be a popular being because he was buying everyone a round at the end of all of this. Who was I to deny him that honor? Once more I went through the next ring by a nose.

I swam as hard as I could as the final ring approached. I didn't think that seaponies could sweat, but if they could, I had to imagine that Daybeam would be. His flippers and tail were waving so hard that I thought he might spin out. It was working, though, as he was slowly inching forward. At this rate he'd be just ahead of me as we crossed the finish line. All around me I heard the gathered seaponies cheer. I even managed to hear Skystar's chipper voice among them. I couldn't let them down! I was the god of chaos! I had to beat this guy!

I screeched to a halt for half a second and coiled my body as tightly as I could. Daybeam paused for a second to look behind him, and smirked when he saw that I had stopped. Probably thought that I'd given up. I glared at him and stuck out my hind hooves out a few inches before using my water walking powers on the water behind me. It was like standing against a wall. I put all of my power into my hind legs and kicked as hard as I could. I shot forward like a rocket. Daybeam squeaked and began swimming for his life, holding one flipper out in a desperate attempt to get any part to cross the finish line before me. If he was any farther away then it would be a futile effort, but he had gained a lot of ground when I stopped. I was coming in like a missile, but he might be just close enough. I squeezed my eyes shut and held out my foreleg.

* * * *

A cheer went through the tavern as I slammed my empty mug on the table. I smiled weakly at the gathered hippogriffs and leaned back in my chair. Daybeam stood in front of me with a half empty mug in his claws. He smiled and raised it to me with a nod.

"Well fought, pony. You were an honorable opponent."

"Same to you, Daybeam." I smirked as a second mug of ale was placed in front of me. "I hope your coin purse isn't going to be hit too hard by this."

"Oh, I'll survive." He threw his head back and downed the rest of his ale. "You're not going to drop of exhaustion?"

"Not at all." I hooked my foreleg through the handle and took a few big gulps. "Thought you had me in the water race, though."

"As did I. I'll have to hold on to that. It'll make up for my less than great performance in the sky."

"You did good, Daybeam." I fished a few coins out of my coin purse and tossed them to the bartender. "Another round for Daybeam, an honorable opponent."

The hippogriffs cheered again as Skystar wrapped me in another crushing hug. Daybeam got his second round and we clanked mugs together. Right as we started chugging them, the sound of a mug repeatedly being slammed on a table caught our attention. The tavern quieted down as Foreman Rockwall stood on one of the tables.

"Alright, ladies, I'm not one for speeches, so I'll make this quick." He set his mug down and scanned the gathered crowd of hippogriffs. "I had my reservations that things would go this well when we started. I'm not too proud to admit that I saw it as a rather daunting task. However, with all of you coming together..." He nodded to me. "And with the help of friends, Mount Aris, our home and the home of our ancestors, has been rebuilt!"

The hippogriffs and I all cheered and raised our mugs. Rockwall nodded and raised his mug again, but after a few moments, he waved his claws to quiet the crowd down. "Mount Aris owes you all a debt it can never repay. I'm going to make sure that our people never forget what you have done to erase any damage the Storm King has done. So with that in mind, we're gonna immortalize you in pictures and stuff."

At a signal, a photographer came in, causing laughter from the rest of us, but we started moving into something resembling a wall of beings that could all fit in one picture. Skystar and I sat at the front of the group and we all raised our mugs.

"Alright, one... two... three..." There was a bright flash as the photographer snapped his picture. His camera spit it out and he snatched it out of the front, flipping it around to examine it. After a few moments, he nodded in approval, to more cheers.

"Alright, enough of that mushy nonsense," Rockwall growled. "I'm buying you all another round!"

We all cheered some more.

* * * *

I sighed and stared out into the city from the window in my room, staring at the mass of hippogriffs that had come out to celebrate the full reconstruction of Mount Aris. I managed a small smile as I saw the children running around while the adults talked animatedly among themselves. As somebody who had seen what they were like underwater, it really looked as though life had been returned to them. All of the Storm King's evil had been wiped away.

The feeling of knowing that I'd helped with that sure beat the memories I had of the war in Equestria.

The door to my room swung open and Skystar bounded in with a pair of sodas in her claws. She landed next to me and handed me a bottle, which I took with a word of thanks.

"Come on, Kristen! We're celebrating!" She took a deep swig of her soda before nuzzling my side. "Everyone's asking where you are. You did more to help us rebuild than anybody!"

"Yeah, I guess," I muttered, pulling my soda closer. "I do want to be out there having fun and drinking with you guys, but I think I'd just ruin the happiness a little bit."

Skystar frowned and tilted her head. "What? Why? Does somepony need to turn their frown upside down?"

I chuckled and shook my head. "No, it's not that, it's..." I took a deep breath and pointed out the window. "That."

Skystar followed to where I was pointing, and when she saw it, a look of comprehension crossed her face. She grimaced and nuzzled my side again, though this time it was more of a comforting gesture. "Oh. Yeah, I can see why you'd feel bad about that."

I nodded as I stared at my brother. Him, Luna, and Celestia were talking with Novo, while Nymeria and Maia were roughhousing at their hooves. I hadn't seen any of them since what happened with the Storm King. Nymeria and Maia had grown. I even saw that Nymeria had her cutie mark, though I couldn't see what it was from there.

"Do you think he knows you're here?" Skystar asked.

"Yeah, I'm sure he does. It'd be a hard thing to not hear about."

"He'd be happy to see you, right?"

"I'm positive, but... I don't think now is the right time."

"Yeah, I guess not." Skystar wrapped her wing around my back and scooted closer. "Are you happy to see him?"

I twitched my wing in a little shrug. "I guess. Maybe. I don't know." I took a deep breath and laid my head on the window sill. "He's my brother. He's only a year and a half younger than I am, so we were pretty much raised the same way. We were always really close. Really close. No matter what other friends we made, no matter what we went through, we always had each other. Then he got pulled into Equestria. For five years I wanted nothing more than to see him again. Then I did, and he wanted to be here. Like an idiot I ran into the portal after him."

"If it means anything, I'm glad you did," Skystar said.

"Yeah, I'm still not sure what to think about it," I replied. "But then I became the chaos god and had to come to terms with the fact that I'm immortal now and am eventually going to become one of the most powerful things on the planet. Even when that happened, I still had him. I also had Celestia, Luna, and two adorable little nieces, but he would still be there. He was still my brother." I opened up the bottle and took a deep swig of soda, wiping my mouth with the back of my hoof.

"I'll bet you still have good memories, right?"

I smirked and nodded. "Oh yeah. Heh, there was this one time when him and I were seven and eight. We got it in our heads that we'd always seen kids in movies and TV go after the cookie jar, but we'd never done it ourselves. So when our parents were outside talking to some neighbors, we actually went into the garage and grabbed the ladder so that we could get to the top of the fridge." I let out an amused scoff and shook my head. "Of course, it was too big for us, so we barely made it into the house before we dropped it. It was heavy enough that it dented the floor. Mom and Dad ran in and we made up the wildest stories. I think he was the one who came up with 'aliens did it'."

Skystar giggled and tightened her grip on me. "Sounds fun."

"Yeah, it was. There are a ton of good memories like that." My smile slowly faded as I stared out at him. "That was the TD I knew, and when I heard him torturing the Storm King just for revenge..." I sighed. "It made me realize that I didn't know him anymore. The TD I knew would never do something like that. I get that he's a ruler and has led armies and sacked cities, but I never thought of him as a sadist. Hearing the bones cracking and the Storm King screaming and then knowing it was my brother doing all of it..."

"Yeah, I can see why that would be hard." Skystar looked out the window and the two of us just stared at TD for a few minutes, watching him talk to Novo. "Did you ever want to talk to him about that kind of thing?"

I shrugged. "He's a politician now, and I think he's at the point where he'd just say he does what he has to to protect his subjects and whatever. I don't know who I'd be talking to, but it wouldn't be my brother."

"Maybe he'd listen."

"Maybe. Until the next big threat. Then he probably wouldn't pause and think 'will this disturb my sister'? He'd just go for it. I understand that protecting his subjects is part of his job, and I wouldn't want to get in the way of that, but him torturing the Storm King..." I shook my head. "I don't see my brother in that. Not even a little bit."

"Yeah. But I think it'll be okay in the end. You have eternity to figure things out, right?"

"Maybe. I guess we should figure it out sooner rather than later."

"For sure. Until then..." Skystar grabbed my hoof and began pulling me toward the door with a goofy grin on her face. "I can't let my best friend just mope around on a night for celebration! Come on, Kristen. I know where the cookie jar is!"

Despite myself, I couldn't help but smile. Yeah, it probably wasn't a good idea for me to just mope just because my brother was around. I didn't have to deal with that right then. I spared one last glance at him out the window before following Skystar out of my room.

* * * *

I stared up at the ceiling as the seconds kept on ticking by. Skystar laid on the floor next to me, snoring loudly and snuggling up next to the empty cookie jar. If I wasn't the chaos god, I'd probably be sporting a rather nasty stomachache. There were a lot of cookies in that cookie jar.

I rolled over and slowly pushed myself up to my hooves. It was probably a good idea to let Skystar sleep, but I wasn't going to go back to bed. In truth I'd only gotten a few hours the night before. I'd been thinking about TD. I guess seeing him again brought up more than I thought. I did my best to push him out of my mind as I left my room and went in the direction of the dining room.

When I arrived, Novo was already sitting at her chair, munching on her grapefruit. She smiled at me when I walked in, and I nodded in return.

"Morning, Novo," I said, pulling a chair out for myself. "Have fun last night?"

"I did," she said, putting her spoon down. "It was lovely to see my subjects happy like that again. I can't remember the last time we all came together in such wonderful celebration. The restoration of our homeland gave us a lot of cause."

"Glad I could help."

"You helped more than I could have ever asked of you, Princess Kristen. You and your efforts will never be forgotten."

"Thanks." I waved my hoof and a shaker of sugar appeared next to Novo. "So, um... how was my brother?"

Novo paused for half a second, but she recovered quickly and grabbed the sugar. "He is well. They all are. The efforts to restore Equestria went faster than ours. There is another memorial for the soldiers who fought and died during the invasion. From what I understand, Burning Blaze and River Rapids got pretty good statues."

"That's how Equestria is doing. How's my brother doing?"

"Hm." Novo took a few moments sprinkling sugar on her grapefruit before responding. I didn't like the idea that she was avoiding the question. "He is doing well. I can tell that the loss of Blaze and Rapids has hurt him deeply, which is something that I can relate to. He's even more protective of his children now. Same with his subjects. I don't think that he's going to be very nice to the next potential threat."

"Not that he was great to the Storm King this time," I grumbled.

"Given what he did to my subjects, and especially my daughter, I can't say that I would have done much differently," Novo replied.

"I have a high enough opinion of you that I think you wouldn't," I said.

"Perhaps. May we never find out. In any case, he's also more protective of Celestia. I think I heard that he spends almost as much time in Canterlot as he does in Baltimare, maybe even a little more. I think the war scared him a lot. He means well, I'm sure, but..." Novo shrugged. "I think he wants to help. He's like you in that regard: he wanted to help people after the Storm King. He wanted to fix things. It's just that he did that by annexing Klugetown, something that none of the rest of us leaders fought him on." Novo grimaced and put her talons on my hoof. "Your brother is powerful, Princess Kristen. Very powerful. Between his human weapons and his... drive, even Celestia can't always control him."

"Yeah, I've heard that," I muttered. "It's why I'm not sure how much of the brother I knew is there anymore. I think he's been through enough stuff where he's felt powerless, so he's overcompensating. He doesn't know how to help Klugetown, so he takes over the whole thing. The Storm King captures his family, so he tortures him forever. Stuff like that. I can't say I don't understand, but it's unnerving."

"It certainly is," Novo said. "But he means well, I think."

"I'm sure he does. Plus I'm sure that Celestia and Luna are helping him a lot. Ultimately, though, I think if you strip away all of his power you find a guy who lost everything once and is terrified of it happening again." I grimaced and poked at the food in front of me. "He's probably hiding it well from everyone else, though. I'd be surprised if his subjects picked up on it."

"Part of ruling as he does is that hiding emotion is necessary. I've known alicorns long enough to tell that they rarely show their subjects how they're feeling. It's nothing against them, it's just their job."

"I know, but it's still hard to see my brother in all of that. No matter what happens, no matter what his job is, he'll always be my brother. Even if..." I flattened my ears and deflated a little. "He's not really my brother."

"Maybe." Novo put her fork on her plate and pushed it aside. "But if I may say so, you haven't talked to him about it, have you? I'm not saying that I'm not glad that you're here, and you've been a huge help, but you didn't come here just to rebuild. You were running from your brother."

I gave Novo a glare from the corner of my eye and crossed my forelegs. "Look, I'm not afraid of my brother, I--"

"Yes. You are. You're afraid of what he's become," Novo cut in. "I understand why, but I'm not going to let you lie to yourself. You see what your brother is and what he's done and it terrifies you, especially since it's part of his job, or, at least, that's how he'd justify it to you."

"Fine then!" I snapped. "Yeah, it's freaky to hear him torturing a guy! It's scary when I see him snap someone's neck who wasn't going to attack us! It scares me that he's powerful enough that he doesn't have to exert any effort to kill someone. He can wave his horn and blow someone's heart up. Then everything that happened with Tempest..." I slumped my shoulders and rubbed my foreleg in unease. "Just the idea that I can do all of that too somehow scares me more than that. I didn't ask for this kind of power. I didn't ask to become the chaos god."

"I understand," Novo said. "And I can especially understand your problems given who your predecessor was. I never had to deal with him directly myself, but I've heard the stories. I know what he did."

"Right, and I'm not even anywhere near that powerful yet, but I'm still strong enough to cause a lot of damage if I did want to go down that path," I muttered. I pulled an empty cup over to me, put it on its side, and began idly rolling it around the table. "I don't want that kind of power."

"Well, have you thought about the fact that Discord probably never thought about this kind of thing?" Novo said, crossing her forelegs. "You're scared of going down this path, but I think the fact that you're scared about it means that you won't. You have almost unlimited power. You can do a lot of good with that." Novo motioned to the nearby window. "I've seen it every day for the last year and a half. You devoted your time to helping us rebuild from the Storm King's attack. That doesn't sound like something that Discord would have ever done."

"Yeah, I guess not." I lifted up my hoof and the cup floated up with it. "But that's over now. Mount Aris has been rebuilt. I had a goal for the last year and a half. Now I've achieved that goal."

"Well, if you wish to stay with us, we would be happy to have you," Novo replied, standing up from her chair. "You will always be welcome here. If you return to Equestria, that would be a valid option as well. Maybe not back to Baltimare, but if you want to spend time helping others, then there will always be others to help. Whatever you decide."

"Yeah, I guess." I took a deep breath and stood up. "I have a lot to think about. For the last eighteen months I've had rebuilding Mount Aris to think about. Now..." I shrugged. "We'll have to see."

"Of course. If you need to talk anymore, I'm always willing to listen."

"Right."

With that, I walked out of the dining room. From there I just... wandered. Wandered throughout the palace. All around me I could see the results of my efforts and the efforts of the hippogriffs who were finally free from their fear of the Storm King. It had been my home for the last eighteen months.

Well, I'd just walked away from Baltimare, which had been my home for five years. I left Earth, which had been my home for twenty six years. Plus I was the chaos god. being nomadic wouldn't be the worst thing. If I went around the planet helping other creatures... I could do real good.

I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn't notice Skystar walking next to me until she poked me hard in the shoulder. I flinched back and wheeled around to face her, my wings automatically flaring out.

"What? What's going on?"

"Um... I've been trying to get your attention for, like, the last five minutes. I kept calling you, but you weren't answering," Skystar said.

I blinked a few times and shook my head. "Huh. Sorry about that. I guess I was lost in thought. Really lost in thought. But um... yeah, how are you doing? You get breakfast yet?"

Skystar frowned at me and tilted her head. "Kristen, it's past lunchtime."

"Huh." Really really lost in thought. "Well, okay. Sure. What have you been up to?"

"Oh, you know, recovering from my cookie stomachache." Skystar smirked and shook her head. "Probably shouldn't have eaten all of those."

"No, probably not." I shrugged and the two of us started walking again. "Tasted good, though."

"Yep yep yep." The two of us silently walked for a few minutes, which was usually pretty difficult for Skystar. Normally she'd be chatting away like a tree of coked up parrots, so actually spending time just walking was unusual. We made a full loop around the main floor of the palace before she actually spoke up again. "So... I was talking to Mom. She told me about your conversation this morning."

I grimaced. Figured she might have spilled that. Instead of saying that I settled for a more neutral "Oh?"

"Yeah. She thinks you might leave." She stopped fully and turned to me. "Are you gonna?"

I shrugged. "I dunno. I mean... maybe? It's..." I took a deep breath and leaned against the wall. "I've done a lot here, and there's just some part of the back of my mind that's getting... antsy. I can't do anything else here. Nothing big, anyway. Besides, you know what my brother is like these days, or you've heard, at least. He's changing the world a lot. I'm not sure how much of it is for the better, if I'm being honest."

"You're still annoyed by Klugetown?"

I flattened my ears and grumbled a bit. "Yeah, not his best move. But besides that even, he's..." I took another deep, shaky breath. "He's the god of war right now, kind of. At least, that's how people see him these days. He's introduced new weapons, he's taken over several countries... he's destroyed. A lot. I look at Mount Aris and the people here and I think about how much I've helped rebuild. It makes me feel good, you know?"

"Yeah, I guess," Skystar muttered. "So you think you might leave to go help somebody else?"

"I just..." I groaned and thunked my head against the wall. "I hadn't actually thought about it until really recently."

"But you're leaning toward it."

"I guess."

Skystar walked up and threw a wing around my shoulders, gently nuzzling me. "I'm not going to wake up one morning and you'll just be gone, right?" I grimaced when I felt tears drip onto my shoulder. "I just don't want to lose another friend."

"Hey, you won't okay?" I said, pushing her at foreleg’s length and looking her right in the eye. "You won't lose me, okay? I'm kind of immortal, you know? Plus I'm going to get strong enough that I can just appear back here whenever I want, alright?"

"I know, but that's not the same as seeing you every day and hanging out with you. Ever since you came back and helped us rebuild Mount Aris, I've been happy again. Really happy." She pushed my foreleg aside and pulled me in for another hug. "I know that you're the chaos god and that you'll always see things differently, but I don't want to lose you." Her shoulders started shaking a little bit, and I felt more tears dripping onto my shoulders. When I heard the first quiet sob, I wrapped my foreleg around her and held her while she cried.

* * * *

I stared out my window as the sun slowly crept over the horizon. I amused myself with the thought that I had the power to stare at it directly without any damage. Heh. Just one more perk. My small smirk fell as the cool morning air washed over me. I leaned my head against my hoof and closed my eyes. It had been two weeks since my conversations with Novo and Skystar. Given Skystar's reaction to my leaving, I tried to push it all out of my mind. I could make Mount Aris my permanent home, right? I had a good friend and a community that was infinitely grateful to me. I could have a great life here, at least as long as Skystar and Novo were around.

Having said that, I couldn't shake the thoughts of the rest of the world. Klugetown, what was left of the Storm Kingdom after my brother got through with it, maybe Schunie...

Huh, I'd have to see all of those civilizations after my brother changed them forever.

Could I fix them? Should I? Maybe just looking at what was going on would help. Help somebody.

I took a deep breath and nodded. Maybe it was time. I spread my wings and silently slid out of the window. The mere thought of running off again... just going where the wind took me and experiencing life as it arrived gave me that excited feeling in the pit of my stomach that you get just before you go on a big roller coaster. Mount Aris was a good home, but it was time.

"So you're leaving, aren't you?" a voice said behind me.

I turned around and, to my utter lack of surprise, I saw Skystar sitting on the roof right above my window. I grimaced and flew over to her.

"I just... yeah. I've been thinking about it a lot. I think I can help." I landed on the roof right next to her, unable to make eye contact. "I don't know who I'll help or how or even if I can make a good difference like I did here, but I have to try."

"This is about your brother, isn't it?" Skystar grumbled. "You want to undo some of the stuff he's done."

I grimaced and nodded. "Maybe, yeah. If that's what the best course of action is, that's what I should do. Or maybe I'll start seeing things his way. I can't just stay here and wonder, though."

"Kristen..." Skystar stood up and put a claw on my shoulder. "Why can't you stay here? It'd be fun. We'd be happy. I know you're powerful and you get more powerful every day, but you still can't help everyone."

I stared at Skystar for a few moments. Maybe she didn't get it. Either that or she really didn't want to lose another friend. Either way...

"So, um... there was this beach, right?"

Skystar frowned and tilted her head. "Huh?"

"This beach. It's a story, so there's a beach. And one day the tide came in farther than normal, and it washed thousands upon thousands of starfish onto the shore. They covered the shore, and they went for miles." I turned and looked out at the horizon. "Then there was this boy, and he went up and down the beach throwing the starfish back into the ocean. Just all day, all he'd do was throw starfish back in the ocean. There were so many that he hardly made a dent, though.

"After a while, some people came up to him as he was throwing starfish back into the ocean. They told him that he was being foolish, and that he could never save all of them. Nothing he was doing really mattered in the long run. The boy looked at them, then picked up another starfish and threw it in the water. Before he picked up another one, he turned back to them, motioned to where he'd thrown the starfish, then said 'it mattered to that one.'"

Skystar and I just stood in silence for a few more minutes after that. Every now and again her mouth would open slightly as though she wanted to say something, but she never did. I put my hoof on her shoulder and turned back to the horizon.

"I think it's time. Goodbye, Skystar. We'll see each other again."

"Yeah. We will," Skystar whispered. "Because I'm coming with you."

I frowned and turned back to Skystar. "Now look--"

"No, don't try to talk me out of it," Skystar said, pressing a talon to my lips. "You have to do this, I get that. But what kind of friend would I be if I let you risk your tail all alone?"

"I'm immortal and just about indestructible," I said flatly. "What risk am I taking?"

"There's more than just physical peril," Skystar replied. She scoffed and shook her head. "Look, Kristen, if I can't come with you, I'll just 'happen' to bump into you wherever you end up going. If I can't hack it, I'll come back here, but if you're going to go around the world helping creatures..." Skystar straightened up and glared at me. "Well then I am too!"

"Um..."

I looked around as if somebody would pop out and try to talk Skystar out of it, but since that wasn't going to happen...

"What about your mom?" Yeah, she'd talk her out of it.

"We'll send her back a note," she said, waving her talons. "I'm sure she won't have that big of a problem with it!"

"Or you're going to get majorly grounded for it," I pointed out.

"I'm twenty-six," Skystar retorted. "She can't really ground me now, can she? In any case..." Skystar spread her wings and moved closer to the edge of the roof. "I guess it's time to get going."

With that, she hopped off of the roof and began flying away, leaving me staring at her for a few moments. This wasn't actually going to happen, was it? I mean...

Dang. It was. It would probably really ruin our friendship if I used my chaos magic to keep her on Mount Aris.

Maybe this wouldn't be so bad?

Or it would be a disaster.

In any case, I couldn't just let her go off on her own. With one last deep breath, I spread my wings and flew off after her.

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