• Published 30th Mar 2019
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Dissonance: A Hidden World - Braininthejar

"That which can be destroyed by the truth, deserves to be." But does it always? And just what is the truth about the Elements of Harmony?

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Chapter 4: The Trial

Rainbow Dash emerged from a bank of clouds and looked around. When no pursuers showed up behind her, she allowed herself a moment to catch her breath. The winged things that had been chasing her ever since she fled the creepy ballroom by jumping through the open window had apparently lost her trail.

Rainbow Dash blinked. A ball room? How did she get there? There was a green meadow and then a battlefield? No, the battlefield was before. The pegasus shook her head, trying to clear it. She had a nagging feeling that she had forgotten something very important.

“Hey! Rainbow Dash!” she heard a stallion’s voice from below. She looked down and saw the ice-blue mane of Thunderlane. The pegasus was flying up to meet her. “Everypony’s ready. We’re just waiting for you.” He then swooped down, leaving Rainbow Dash no choice but to follow.

As they descended towards the ground, Rainbow caught a glimpse of Fluttershy’s cottage in the distance. The mountains, no longer obscured by the clouds, allowed her to orient herself. She was now over the forested area east of Ponyville. There was a group of tents and a training range set up in a forest clearing below.

Thunderlane landed, joining a group of pegasi already standing there. Rainbow Dash recognized five regulars of her weather team, as well as Fluttershy, who was standing next to them, shaking a bit, but with unusual determination on her face.

In front of the group a large board had been set up. A dark grey unicorn stallion wearing a military uniform and sunglasses walked in front of it, a piece of chalk following in his telekinetic grip.

“Ah, Miss Rainbow Dash,” he said, turning to the audience. Dash was surprised to see that his sunglasses were missing one glass, a lilac eye boring into her inquisitively. Then the unicorn turned towards the board, the chalk moving at surprising speed, creating a rough sketch of a pointy mountain and the surrounding air currents.

“I’m captain Pincushion,” said the unicorn. “I will be coordinating this operation from the ground.”

He looked at the group and then nodded his head to the right, indicating the mountain. “As you already know, Equestria is facing the problem of a large dragon sleeping within our territory. The fumes from his breath have accumulating around the mountain top, disrupting the local weather patterns.”

He paused to make sure everypony is listening and then continued in a serious tone. “What some of you don’t know yet is that we have confirmed the fumes to be highly toxic. If they mixed with ordinary clouds and trigger and off-schedule rainfall, this could cause a disaster for miles around.”

There were gasps of disbelief at the statement. Pincushion waited patiently until they ended.

“Normally, this would have been the Wonderbolts' job, but due to some… other emergencies, elsewhere, they are all tied up at the moment. It is therefore up to Ponyville weather team to handle this problem. While another group has been sent to deal with the dragon itself, your job will be to create a twister to funnel the fumes away and pull them towards an isolated area in the Badlands, where they can be dealt with safely. Other, nearby weather teams are working to keep the winds around the mountain from spreading the cloud. According to our calculations, you have three days to prepare before it has to be funneled away. You should use this time to work on teamwork and any other outstanding issues. Any questions?”

Dash flew to the front of the group. “If this is so important, why just the seven of us? Wouldn’t it be better to have more pegasi working together?”

Pincushion looked up at him. “The bigger the group, the harder to coordinate it. You of all ponies should know that. Furthermore, the dragons’ sleep isn’t a constant thing and they are highly territorial. A larger flock might provoke it to attack.”

“Also, it’s not like we could draft everypony like it’s tornado day,” said Thunderlane. “This stuff is dangerous. If the funnel falls apart, we’ll all be poisoned.”

“Quite right,” said Pin. “Fortunately, fumes are much easier to move than water. As long as all of you do your job, you won’t need any more wingpower. Once you’re away from the mountain, one of the containment teams will take over to keep the funnel moving when you get tired. Now, I think I’ll leave you to your preparations.”

The unicorn nodded his head and turned to leave towards one of the tents. Rainbow Dash landed in the vacated spot and looked over her team.

“You’ve all heard what he said. It’s nothing we can’t handle, but we have three days of hard training ahead of us. Start your warm-ups, everypony.”

All the pegasi stomped their hooves in unison and then spread around the clearing to begin their exercises. All except Fluttershy, who was still standing stiff. Rainbow Dash flew up to her.

“Fluttershy, what are you doing here?” she asked.

The yellow mare lowered her gaze and started drawing circles on the ground with her hoof. “I… volunteered.”

Dash raised an eyebrow. “Volunteered? But you hate this stuff. Not to mention dragons.”

Fluttershy looked up at her, biting her lip. “I… I know. And I do… I mean…”
Rainbow Dash sighed, then smiled. “What’s going on, Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy braced herself and took a deep breath. “I heard somepony say they should get one more pegasus just in case and I’m tired of everypony thinking I’m useless, and I will try my best really.” She hesitated. “And it’s not like any actual dragons will be involved, right? It’s somepony else’s job,” she smiled hopefully.

Right on cue, a roar echoed upon the air from the direction of the mountain. Fluttershy shrunk in place, her wings stiff at her sides.

Rainbow Dash took a deep breath. “Fluttershy. Nopony thinks you’re useless. You’re a hero of Equestria, like me.”

“I know that, Dash,” said Fluttershy, “and you know that. But the other ponies… they just forget. They cheer for us one day and the next morning… You are an awesome flier, Twilight is Princess Celestia’s personal student, Pinkie Pie is the awesome party planner that everypony knows…” She sighed softly. “And I get pushed out of lines and overcharged at the market. Once the applause stops, nopony respects me…”

“Hey, Rainbow Dash!” shouted Thunderlane from behind. “Are you warming up with us, or not?”



Twilight’s eyes widened, and for a moment she became completely still, her mouth hanging open first in surprise and then in horror. Obsidian kept standing over her with an expression that implied a facehoof.

“See?” he said. “The moment you’re distracted from the pain, it stops hindering you. And don’t bother listening for a heartbeat. It’s only there if you think it should be. Now do put yourself together before your…” He groaned and smacked the ground in front of her with his staff, causing her to yelp and flinch away. “Focus! Your panic can literally rip you apart if you let it! Now shut your eyes, calm your thoughts, and imagine yourself healthy until the pain goes away.”

Twilight looked fearfully at him, then at the staff. Finally, she hesitantly closed her eyes, breathing in and out deliberately. After exhaling for the third time she opened her eyes with a more lucid expression. She was still shaking though.

“Do you mean... I’m dead?” she asked.

“Well, your body isn’t here, that’s for sure. Do you know where it is?” asked Obsidian. “The most logical location to get here from would be the Nevercrest sanctuary. Or is it another thing you’ve never heard about?”

Twilight scrunched her face in thought. “No, I haven’t.”

Obsidian shook his head. “Well, in that case, let us start with a simple experiment.” His staff swung in the air, pointing towards the broken arch marking the entrance. “Try to walk out of here that way.”

Twilight got up on shaky legs. Looking over her shoulder at Obsidian, she walked towards the doorway. She didn’t get far. As she tried to pass the threshold, she found herself stopped, as if struggling in something extremely thick.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“It means you’re as trapped here, as I am,” sighed Obsidian. “On the plus side, that means you’ll live, at least for the time being. You don’t have what it takes to survive the raw Dissonance outside.”

Twilight backpedalled from the exit and turned back towards the earth pony. Her right eye was twitching. “You… tried to kill me?” She took a lower stance and pointed her horn at Obsidian. “Tell me who are you and where this place is!”

Obsidian smirked, his staff coming to his side. “Oh, wonderful!. I haven’t had a chance to fight in centuries. But I’m afraid, you’re not much of a challenge.”

His staff glowed with blue runes, spun and hit the ground, expelling an explosion of force that swept Twilight with a cloud of white dust. Twilight braced herself, instinctively conjuring a bubble of force. She stared into the swirling dust, trying to locate Obsidian.

The staff flew at her like a javelin, piercing the barrier and bopping her on the nose. Blue sparks of magic exploded, arcing over Twilight’s body and the unicorn fell to the ground writhing in pain.

A blow of wind swept away the dust. Obsidian walked up to Twilight and stood over her. “That was pathetic. Now, before I was so rudely interrupted…”

He sighed heavily. “Ok, let’s start over. I will answer some of your questions now. Do you think you can stay on the floor and not try anything stupid for a moment?”

Twilight managed a painful grunt and a nod.

Obsidian cleared his throat. “So to start with, no, I wasn’t trying to kill you. I was just… trying to see if I could get out. Forgive me for being too eager after all the time I’ve spent here.
As for what Dissonance is, it’s the realm of primal chaos, an endless void in which the mortal world floats, a boundless sea of possibilities that gives life to everything, the source of all magic. Which any bearer of Magic should know, by the way.” His voice was still raspy, but was getting clearer by the sentence.

“Now, when I found you, you were almost completely drained. That means you’re not dead yet. Souls that get here after death tend to quickly dissolve. Some might stick around as ghosts if they have something to hold to, but sooner or later they all melt away. Dissonance is full of emotions and dreams and memories, everything that has ever gone through the mortal hearts. Without the flesh to anchor it, a soul quickly loses the sense of self, their memories mix with those flowing around them until they are a nameless spark of life ready for another incarnation.”

“But you were drained. That means you defended yourself. You didn’t know it, but you forced your will on the chaos around you, gave it form you could understand. And for a time it listened, but the strain exhausted you. The effort to stay yourself almost killed you. Metaphorically, you were submerged in water and wetting yourself with fear until you dehydrated. If you hadn’t stumbled into the tower, which I will need to investigate, since it was thought impossible for centuries, you would have died surrounded by figments of your imagination.”

He looked down at Twilight. The unicorn was still on the ground, but had already forgotten about the pain, now listening intently to his lecture.

“As for this place specifically,” continued Obsidian, “back when it still stood in the mortal world, it used to be the Tower of Thought, the place where the idea of the Elements of Harmony first appeared. For many centuries now it has been my home and my prison.”

“And as to who I am… you can call me Obsidian. I’m an advisor to the Elements of Harmony and the master of the Void Passage, the construct designed to test those wishing to bear the Elements.”

He stopped and looked down at her. “Now, your turn. Tell me your whole story. If somepony as weak as you have truly become the bearer of Magic, something must have gone horribly wrong.”

“Your teeth…” said Twilight, picking herself from the ground.

“What about them?” asked Obsidian, raising an eyebrow.

Twilight looked him up and down. “What’s wrong with your teeth?”

Obsidian shot her a bemused look. “After all you’ve heard, my teeth is what bugs you? What’s wrong with your hooves?”

Twilight looked at her legs. “What’s wrong with them?”

“You’re a unicorn,” answered Obsidian. “Back when I walked the world, unicorns had cloven hooves.”

Twilight shot him a confused look. “I’ve never heard of anything like that. How long have you been here?”

Obsidian smirked, which was probably meant to look endearing, but actually made him look like a Nightmare Night decoration. “Since before Coltlantis sank and its ponies turned into kelpies. Now, answer my questions. Time might be just a suggestion here, but that doesn’t mean we should waste it.”


Rarity fell onto her sewing table with a content sigh. She was tired, but happy, her newest work finally complete. Forcing herself to raise from her stool she levitated the last dress onto the hanger next to the other two.

“Those vacations have really done me good.” She smiled at her reflection in the mirror. She then blinked in confusion, trying to remember where she had actually been on vacation. Somehow she was sure there were airships involved.

Shaking her head, she approached the hanger to take one last look at the three dresses. It was lucky I returned when I did. If these girls really want to become successful fashion models, they need to be noticed. They need dresses that will let them show their inner beauty on that one show they get.

She turned the cloth in her magical aura, double-checking all the details.

“Yes, that’s a win for them and for me. I’m sure Reginald will be impressed.”


“We need to talk,” said Pincushion, approaching Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow interrupted her wing push-ups and looked up at the unicorn. “Give me a second. I’m just about finished.”

Pincushion nodded and moved away from the group, but kept watching Dash intently. The pegasus finished her training routine and rose into the air, joining the officer with a few lazy flaps of her wings.

“So… before we start, it’s been bothering me,” she said, looking down at him. “What’s with the glasses?”

Pincushion looked at the tip of his own muzzle. “Oh, that? They got broken in a fight. I keep meaning to repair them, but it turns out I see more this way. That’s not what I wanted to talk about though,” he said, suddenly getting serious.

“So, what is it about?” asked Dash, hovering lower to let the unicorn speak without raising his head.

Pincushion stared straight into Dash’s eyes. “It’s about one of your teammates.” He looked aside, his horn briefly indicating the yellow pegasus practicing away from the group.

Rainbow Dash frowned. “Fluttershy? What about her?”

“I have watched her practice and even though she’s a volunteer, I don’t think she should accompany us,” said the unicorn.

“What? Why?” asked Rainbow, though a part of her already knew the answer.

“She is an average flier at best,” said Pincushion, “but that’s not what I’m worried about. She is twitchy, easily startled. Your task will require perfect coordination and any mistakes might turn out downright dangerous. I think the small increase in wing power isn’t worth the risk to the operation.”

Rainbow Dash stared at him first, then at Fluttershy. “I… know what you mean... “ she said slowly, “But just look at her! Can’t you see how hard she’s trying?”

“Irrelevant,” said the unicorn. “It doesn’t matter if she gives her best, if it isn’t enough.”

Rainbow Dash just glared at him. “Ok, I will keep an eye on her. We still have two days, don’t we? Once it’s time to go, I’ll decide whether to take her along or not.”

Pincushion looked her in the eyes again. “As you wish, but remember: You’re the leader. The whole team trust you with their lives. We are all depending on you, not just Fluttershy.”


“So, what do you think?” Rarity opened the curtain with a dramatic gesture, revealing three ponyquins with the new dresses upon them. She looked at the three mares with a smile.

Daisy, Lily and Rose approached the ponyquins with unsure expressions. Seconds passed and Rarity’s smile started to become stiff. Behind the facade, the fashionista panicked silently. She had done everything there was to be done to make the dresses fabulous. They should be amazed. What has gone wrong? And why did the whole scene seem so strangely familiar?

“Weeell… to be honest…” started Rose. Rarity went pale, all the alarms ringing in her head.

“These are good, definitely…” said Lily, walking around her ponyquin for a closer look.

The unsaid ‘but’ hung in the air like a blade of a guillotine.

“Is there anything amiss, darling?”, asked Rarity, approaching the dress, her smile so forced it seemed ready to crack and fall off her face.

“We were thinking…” started Daisy. Rarity groaned internally. ‘Thinking’ customers were always the worst.

“I mean, we only get this one shot, don’t we?” continued Daisy. “We need to make sure we only have the very best.”

“Oh, I assure you, it is the very best,” answered Rarity. “I may not have quite as much at stake as you do here, but it is still a matter of my reputation as the best tailor in Ponyville. After all, those dresses will appear at the fashion show with my name on them. Even if I didn’t try my hardest for all my customers, I surely would for you.”

“We just want to make sure, that is all,” said Rose. “We have…” she paused, seeing a nervous twitch on Rarity’s face. “... we have decided to check one more designer, just in case.”

If there were any windigos left in Equestria, Rarity’s gaze would have encased Rose in a solid block of ice. The fashionista approached the earth pony on stiff legs. “Who?” she said in a hoarse whisper.

Rose turned red. “It’s… an unicorn from Canterlot. She arrived yesterday. We were thinking, since she is from the capital, she would be more in touch with…”

“Not. A. Word. More,” Rarity nearly growled. “Take me to her.”


The Ponyville town hall was brimming with activity, ponies walking in and out of the main chamber, bringing with them all sorts of fashion-related items. Even though the show wasn’t to take place until the next day, all present were showing nervousness. Under normal circumstances Rarity would feel for them; actually she had felt the same way until just minutes before. Right now though she was too incensed to notice. She trotted purposefully through the hall, her face tensed as some of her instincts prevented her from exploding with anger in front of multiple witnesses.

Lily moved ahead of her, obviously trying to find somepony. Rarity followed, scanning the room with her eyes until she located the pony Lily was heading to. It was a unicorn mare with light blue-grey mane and the coat in an awful pale shade of what she probably liked to believe was royal yellow. All she was wearing, from the white shirt, through jewellery, to the sweater draped over her back shouted ‘expensive’.

The gears in Rarity’s head started grinding as she tried to remember the name.

“Upper Crust, is it?” she said, pushing in front of Lily and forcing a smile again.

The other unicorn looked at her in surprise. “Hmm? Oh, it is you, Rarity. I’m afraid I’m a bit busy right now. Is anything the matter?”

“Actually yes,” replied Rarity. “I am preparing to show my latest works on the fashion show, but I’ve just been told that the models I designed by dresses for have been given another proposal. So I’ve come here to see what the fuss is about.”

Upper Crust looked at Rarity is surprise, then her eyes widened in understanding as he noticed the three mares surrounding them. “Oh, that would be me. The girls told me everything about their dreams of modelling professionally and I couldn’t resist helping them.”

It was Rarity’s turn to be surprised. “You? But you aren’t a designer. You just attend shows.”

“I am now,” smiled Upper Crust. “See, attending shows all the time gives me a certain advantage over the… other ponies,” she finished awkwardly, visibly catching herself at the last moment. “By always being in the center of it all, I don’t need to wait to read the magazines to see what will be in vogue. I can see the new trends as they are born. So, I thought, if I have what it takes to get ahead, why not do it? I gave it a try and never looked back since.”

She took her eyes off Rarity to have a look around the other mares. “You are just in time too. I have just finished working on your dresses.”

She pointed to a spot beside the wall, enclosed with red curtains. The flower trio rushed in and Rarity couldn’t help following.

“See what I told you?” said Upper Crust. The maes nodded vigorously.

“Yes, they’re beautiful!” exclaimed Rose before noticing Rarity right next to her and turning red again.

Rarity pushed past her to get a better look. For a moment she forgot about her anger and focused on taking in the details. “These are… more extravagant than mine… they’re almost haute couture. I went for something beautiful, but practical. I can certainly see the appeal… but the craft is shoddy! Look here!” she pointed her hoof at one of the dresses. “These stitches shouldn’t be visible. Ordinary ponies might not notice, but a fashion critic like Reginald will eat you alive if you show him something like this.”

Lily, Rose and Daisy looked at Upper Crust, whose face turned from dull yellow to peach. She pushed past them and showed Rarity away from the ponyquin.

“How… dare you!” she hissed through gritted teeth. “You think, a small town… seamstress knows more about fashion than me? I’ve been wearing such dresses since I was small, I was LIVING the fashion when you were reading about it in your magazines.”

It was Rarity’s turn to go all red, her boiling anger finally breaking to the surface. “You and fashion?! Don’t make me laugh! Not only you can’t sew properly. You don’t know anything about fashion either. You’re not an expert, you’re a snob! You only know how to parrot those who really understand the art!”

Upper Crust rose to her hind legs and for a moment it looked like she was about to slam into Rarity with her front hooves. Then she huffed in contempt and resumed her normal stance, an angry growl turning into a sneer. “Is that so? Well… why don’t we let those who really matter decide?”

She looked towards the flower trio, giving them a much warmer smile. “I’m sure you understand we’re both upset. We’d say things we wouldn’t mean to. So, please disregard our words and just decide for yourself. You have seen the dresses we’ve both made, haven’t you? Now, which of them would you choose for your one chance to shine?”

SIlence fell. Suddenly Rarity realised that the whole room was looking at the five of them, the rush of preparations replaced by silent anticipation. Daisy, Lily and Rose were looking panically at each other, as if cornered by predators.

Finally, Rose walked to the fore. “I… I’m sorry, Rarity. This really is our one chance.”

Nopony else said a word, but for Rarity the world might as well explode into shards. Rose hung her head low. Upper Crust smiled triumphantly. Rarity ran.

“Well, that answers some questions,” said Obsidian, looking scornfully at Twilight. They were sitting in one of the tower chambers, Twilight having just finished her story.

Twilight coughed. “You wouldn’t have anything to drink?”

Obsidian rolled his eyes. “No. Souls don’t need water.”

Twilight glared at him. “I’m still thirsty.”

Obsidian shrugged. “It’s in your mind. Your throat is sore because you think it should be. If it bothers you, conjure yourself a drink. This place is stiffer than the Dissonance outside, but it will listen if you push hard enough.”

Twilight looked at him, then at the floor in front of herself. She focused and her horn started to light up.

Obsidian swatted her horn with his staff. “Not like this. Use your will only.”

Twilight flinched away, shielding herself with her hooves. “Will you stop doing that?”

For a moment Obsidian looked like he was about to hit her again. Then his shoulders slumped. “Forgive me. It’s just you’re so… not what I expected. Not from my first real conversation in ages. Not from the Element of Magic. Life isn’t fair.”

“You’re the one to say life isn’t fair?,” said Twilight, backing into a corner.

“It isn’t,” said Obsidian. “Do you think I’m happy with all this?”

“How could you of all ponies be an advisor to the Elements of Harmony?” asked Twilight through gritted teeth.

Obsidian smirked. “Well, we never talked directly, so they were out of reach. Also, they were more competent than you. Less reason to hit them.”

“That… doesn’t really answer my question.” said Twilight. She remained in the corner, observing the staff cautiously.

Obsidian shrugged again and the staff hung passively at his side. “Coming back to the important matters, there are things in your story that don’t fit. Starting with the fact that you know nothing about me or how the Elements of Harmony came into being. Not a word about the Alicorn Empire, even though it was formed after the three tribes united to form Equestria. Instead you have this… hearth’s warming story. There are only two ways this could fit together. Either your entire history was falsified…”

“What?!” Twilight shouted. Obsidian’s staff jerked in her direction and she reacted by teleporting to the other side of the room.

“Don’t interrupt me, please,” said Obsidian. “Or so much time has passed that the real history was forgotten and then somepony took a couple of myths and made them history.”

“Or perhaps your memories are not what they used to be,” said Twilight. You’ve been stuck here for centuries and you have practically admitted to being…” she halted, looking for a word.

“Crazy,” finished Obsidian. “Don’t try to sugarcoat it. Of course I can’t prove anything to you. Even if I were to find a right book here,” he pointed around at the decaying bookshelves, “these are just props now, memories of what used to be. I’d have to rip it out of the shelf and then force it to have words in it. And then you’d say it’s just what I wished it to be.

“In the end it doesn’t matter, of course. The truth doesn’t care if you believe it or not. But still, I can ask you some questions to prove my point.” he said, turning towards the corner where Twilight was now standing.

“So,” said Twilight, “you say you’re right and the entire world is wrong?”

Obsidian smirked. “Why, yes. Consider this. The Crystal Empire. Gone a thousand years ago. Nopony knows about it. Princess Luna. Gone for a thousand years. Already a myth, a story to scare foals with. Discord. Nopony remembered him. Despite the fact that Equestria has a supposedly immortal ruler, who lived to see all those events, all of that history was lost, unknown even to the most brilliant student of the princess herself. Doesn’t it make you wonder what else was conveniently forgotten?”

Twilight turned red. “That doesn’t make sense! Princess Celestia would never lie to me!”

Obsidian’s smile widened. “Ah, I see your mind’s already pointing you to the most logical conclusion. You said that, not me.”

It was Twilight’s turn to sneer. “The most logical? Hardly. We aren’t the only nation with written history. You think somepony could cheat the whole world?”

Obsidian scratched his chin with a hoof. “The whole world? Let’s see… The Crystal Empire you told me about. It should be the most valuable... time capsule in the world, a treasure trove of knowledge from the times long past. But where were its scholars? You said there was a huge library there, but for all those bookshelves all you could find about its own history was one vandalized book. Didn’t it strike you as odd?”

“There were just the seven of us digging through it,” answered Twilight. “I’m sure there must have been more books we missed.”

Obsidian nodded. “Have it your way for now. I’m not finished yet.”

He walked around the room, his staff trailing a glowing pattern in the air. Twilight stayed on guard in case it lashed at her again, but it was not the case; when Obsidian finished his circle, the glowing trails coalesced into six points in the air.

“You said princess Celestia used to wield the Elements of Harmony before you six and used them to banish her sister to the moon. But that makes no sense for two reasons. The first is, you can’t just pass an Element to another pony. The bond is for life. Unless your princess changed her nature so drastically her Element considered her dead, it wouldn’t properly bind to another. Has she?”

“I don’t know,” said Twilight. “How much is ‘drastically’?”

“If I told you I used to be a bearer, would you believe me?” asked Obsidian.

“You?” asked Twilight, her eyes widening as her mind registered the implications “You used to be an Element of Harmony? I surely wouldn’t believe that. What element did you wield?”

Obsidian grinned widely. “Oh, can’t you guess?”

Twilight tilted her head and squinted. “Definitely not Kindness. Nor Laughter. That eliminates Magic as well, I think. I’d say… you might be Honesty, if it was really warped.”

“Wrong way of thinking,” said Obsidian. “I could be any of them. Since the point is I’ve changed so much, I might have as well been Kindness and then turn my back on it. You’re right about Honesty though. I was very different back then, but always to the point.” He nodded towards his rump and Twilight caught an outline of his cutie mark, a darker spot on his brown coat, barely visible in the muted light: a smith’s hammer.

“You say your princess is an image of virtues now, a paragon of all the Elements,” he continued “and yet the Elements are no longer hers?”

“I only have your word that that’s how they work,” said Twilight, looking at Obsidian with suspicion.

“Yes,” the stallion responded. “You also had the princess’ word and nothing more. And you believed her.”

Twilight turned red. “She is my teacher! She taught me all I know about magic!”

“And it looks like you can’t beat an earth pony in a magic duel,” responded Obsidian, sneering. “Some teacher she was. Did she at least teach you the principle of magical foci?”

“Of course she did,” said Twilight tersely.

“If you have used the Elements,” said Obsidian, “then you know they are such foci. They provide you with means to focus more power. Even if you didn’t know they take it from here, you understand how it works: you focus on your Element and it gets you power. You combine it with your friends’ and it gets far more potent. You split your attention between two or more and…”

Twilight frowned. Obsidian smiled.

“The Elements of Harmony always attune to one bearer each,” said Obsidian. “To use multiple ones wouldn’t make you stronger any more than growing extra horns would make you a better wizard. Your princess Celestia using all of them at once makes no sense.”

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