• Published 6th Oct 2012
  • 1,875 Views, 101 Comments

A Discordant Tale - piedol



A story of Ponies, Humans and Discord, and the tragedy lost to history.

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Prologue

Author’s Note: This is the first part of my ongoing attempt at creating an enjoyable HiE fiction experience. I aim to craft a world far more complex than what would be found in most other stories on the FiMfiction website, and it will be a long one that will potentially be split into multiple parts later on. For now, though, I want to display my current progress. This fiction will contain:

Ponies

Humans

Swearing

Additions and Editions to already established canon

Swearing

Blood, Fighting and occasional Death

Swearing

If you don’t enjoy any of the above content in your fics, this simply is not for you. If you don’t mind, or even enjoy those elements, then enjoy.

***

Prologue

"Silly humans. One does not simply catch me." I said aloud to the computer screen before me, as if my in-game adversaries could somehow hear my taunts over the internet without need for any sort of mike.

As the game played out, my hands deftly danced across the keyboard, hitting the appropriate buttons with split second timing, over a decade of practice showing through my concentration. In turn, the monitor showed all five members of the enemy squad doing their best, yet still failing, to subdue and violently kill my character. Time after time, just as my luck seemed to have run out, I'd make my demon jester jump to safety, baiting my enemies further and further away from their own haven while my teammates converged from behind.

"Idiots, the whole lot of you," I mutter as the first of their group falls, "running around like little headless chickens. I may be better than any one of you, but if you'd stop for a moment and think as a team, you wouldn't be losing so badly."

Why don't you just play for them then? You're so intent on winning, yet you're berating them for not being able to outplay you.

"I like winning," I answer myself, "but it feels meaningless unless it's earned. I want a challenge. Something to get my blood rushing. Something that will make me breathe a sigh of relief and have my heart racing with excitement once victory is at hand. This... This is a joke. Never once have I done poorly on my own. So long as my team is semi-decent, our success is assured before the game even starts."

You were singing a different song last year. You were new to this particular battlefield, once. There were those that mercilessly beat you down and made you feel worthless, much like you do to others now.

"Yet I persevered. I improved. I learned from my mistakes and those of others. Now it's weeks between games where my skills are actually strained. And even then, I know that if I were thrust into a similar match-up in the future, I would win without even breaking a sweat. Why do I bother? "

A minute later, the game was over. Once again, my team was the victor. Once again, the score showed that I had carried them to victory through my coordinated attacks and manipulation of the enemy team. A game it may be, yet I felt like a general at the head of an unstoppable army; A general who had reached his position only through love of blood and the rush of combat, only to discover after he had reached the top that there was no thrill in being unchallenged.

With a sigh, I closed the game. I sat there for several minutes, staring at the barren desktop and unsure of what to do next. As a bachelor, I found myself with far too much free time on my hands. My studies and numerous upcoming exams should have made that otherwise, if only they weren't as mind numbingly easy as the games I'd been using to fill my days outside of school. As it was, I had no urge to play anymore, and I didn't want to sleep or eat.

After an airy exhale that was somewhere between a sigh and a yawn, I numbly clicked the icon of a flaming fox and navigated my way to facebook; my usual fallback for when I found myself with nothing worthwhile to occupy my time with.

I was greeted by a flood of notifications: Reminders of birthdays for friends I didn't even remember having, invitations to obscure parties and animal rights movements, application spam and game invitations made up those which I disregarded. After dealing with the few that I deemed worth the effort, I made to move on to another time-wasting site. Youtube, Newgrounds, Funnygag- Anything to distract myself from my need for a distraction.

But I never made it off Facebook.

Right as my cursor was about to reach the search bar, I received a message. This in itself was an oddity, as I very rarely got private notes from anyone. Hovering over the new notification only served to double the strangeness of the occurrence.

"I got a message from... Discord?" I blurted, the only thing I could think to say in response to the increasingly bizarre situation. To the left of the blank preview for the text I'd just gotten, there was the unmistakable cartoon visage of none other than the draconequus antagonist from the television show.

It's either spam from one of those role-playing pony pages, or a mistaken message from one of those role-playing pony pages.

One that somehow found my hidden profile and managed to message it?

Probably an internal error on facebook's part? How the hell am I supposed to know?

Ignoring my subconscious urge to simply ignore it, I went ahead and opened the note.

"Greetings, human! I, as you've already noticed but doubtless refused to accept, am Discord, Spirit of disharmony. Before you disregard this message entirely, do both yourself and I the favor of reading it first. You've got nothing to lose but a minute of your time.”

“You're bored."

The statement caught me off guard but I shook off my surprise and read onwards.

"You crave excitement, challenge, something new, but you feel as if you'll never find that something in your daily, dull, mundane life."

I catch myself unconsciously nodding along in agreement with the accuracy of the words, but make no attempt to stop.

"You would do anything for a chance to get this elusive thrill. Well, almost anything, at least. You'd trade your current life in a heartbeat for one more adventurous and fantastic. That'd be a dream come true, wouldn't it?"

He had hit the nail more or less on the head. I would pass up my weekly cram sessions and increasingly monotonous afternoons in favor of days full of thrills any time. I continued onwards, now fully intrigued by this stranger that somehow knew precisely what I was feeling and thinking and that moment just as well as I did.

"Well, I can help. I can make your wish a reality, but only with your consent to do so. You'd get relative freedom, a new life to explore, power to use as you please, and in exchange, all I ask is that you give up everything you have now, for good. And when I say 'everything', I mean it to no small extent of the word.”

“Consider my offer. If you refuse, the decision is final. You will never get another opportunity like this again, I can promise you that. So choose wisely.”

“I await your response. Make it swift."

Well now... This is interesting. What are you going to do?

I don't know what to think. I can't explain how I got the message, or how this person seems to know me so well. I mean, this is more than a little over the top for a hacking scheme. I'm sure if they could bypass my security to send me this, and spy on me to learn so much, they could've taken anything they wanted by now. It seems they genuinely want a response to this.

So you actually believe that Discord, a freaking cartoon character, has contacted you, and wants you to make a relative deal with the devil. To trade your LIFE, in return for another?

Not... Necessarily. I can't exactly call this normal, though. I won't rule out supernatural influence. Judging from the facts, it's actually more likely than a regular hacker at this stage.

And ever so slightly less likely than this being an experiment of the government or the CIA or MIB or what-the-fuck-ever to enlist you into an alien fighting army, right?

That sounds so awesome, I'm actually hoping that's the case now. In any event, my supposed benefactor is waiting. If this is indeed supernatural, and I inadvertently doom myself, I die epically. If I truly do stand to gain from this, then huzzah! If it's just an internet prank then I haven't lost anything that can't simply be taken from me otherwise. I accept the offer.

Let's be sane for a second here. Let's, for one stupid moment, assume this is real. This is potentially trading your life here, forever. You have frie- acquaintances. You have family that you care abo- that care about you, possibly. You've got an exciting future in the working cla- you know what? Fuck it. Let's do this!

Without further pause for thought, I type my response:

"Alright Mister Discord, I accept your offer. Let's see what you have to offer."

It takes less than three seconds for him to reply. He hadn't been kidding about awaiting my response.

"EXCELLENT. Now that you are willing, allow me to assist you in upholding your end of the bargain.”

“I'll be ending your existence as a human in:

Ten...

Nine...

Eight..."

"A countdown?" I remark out loud, "Really? How cliched can you get? Cut to the fancy stuff already."

And he pauses, much to my continued surprise. I barely have time to register that he had impossibly reacted to my un-typed response before he speaks again.

"Have it your way then."

And my world explodes.

***

"You have GOT to be kidding me," I monotoned.

"Ah, but I beg to differ, my willing victim. Everything before you right now is utterly, undeniably real," came the bemused reply.

"Everything? What do you mean 'everything'?!" I indignantly exclaimed, "You're the ONLY thing here! There's nothing but pitch black as far as I can see in every direction. Heck, I can't even TELL if it's as far as I can see, because it's so damn dark!"

I was suspended above- below- god damnit, I was IN a void. There was nothing. Nothing but my own bizarrely visible body, naked, by the way, and the creature that had supposedly brought me there. I was too numb with shock to act surprised at the sight of none other than Discord in the flesh, so my next natural course of action was to get flustered and frustrated at my current reality's refusal to make sense.

The impossible draconequus chuckled and wiped a mock tear from his eye, "Ah, you would think this place was empty at first glance. But do not worry, human, for very soon you will see things as I do. But before we get to that, let's get this inevitable introduction out of the way. You're probably wondering where you are, how you got here, whether or not you're insane-"

"I'm pretty sure I can make a solid conclusion to that last one by now..."

"Whether or not you believe yourself to be of sound mind is irrelevant. The world of a mad man is nothing more than the world of a mad man. He cares not for the views of those he cannot perceive, as they cannot affect him."

"In other words I should stop worrying if this is a dream or not and just roll with it, because it's not like I have a choice either way. Oh joy," I dead-panned.

"Close enough. You've made your choice already, now you'll have to live with the consequences," he responded with a snaggle-toothed grin, "In any case, I'll fill you in on the basics of what's going on."

He made a move of clearing his throat, striding towards me on a non-existent red carpet. When he was right before me- or at least I assumed so, as distance was impossible to calculate when the only objects were our own equally glowing bodies, he curtseyed and grandly announced himself, "I... Am Discord, Spirit of Chaos and Disharmony," he hesitated before continuing, "At the very least, I am in Equestria."

I stared boredly at him.

He noticed my lack of reaction to his introduction after the pause, straightened his back once more, and continued "Eheh- But you already knew that, of course. What you don't know, however, is that I am not currently residing in that world. As you are aware, I was-" He winced, forcing the next words out of his gray-scaled mouth, "Defeated, by those insufferable ponies, and consequently imprisoned in stone. That stone prison is not simply a physical one, but an ethereal one as well. I have been utterly exorcised from the land of Equestria, Earth, and my universe of origin." He put a hand to his forehead in pretend despair.

“Earth? But you were just there, weren’t you?”

“I wasn’t referring to your Earth. Equestria exists on my universe’s variant to the Earth as you know it.”

"Wait, hold up. Universe’s variant? Are we talking multiple realities? Where are we? Where exactly were you exorcised to?" I inquired.

"This place has many, many names, and represents many different things, depending on where you originate from. For the sake of simplicity, you shall know it as the Source. That is also the term more educated ponies use to refer to it. 'The source of what?', would be the next question you want to ask me, so let me save you the trouble and answer it." He paused for dramatic tension.

I'm not sure what annoyed me more; the fact that he kept trying to make his explanation seem like some sort of exciting play, or that he actually had me hanging on his every word, so much so that I could do naught but blindly play along with a begging stare as he withheld information.

"This place," he finally continued after far too long, "Is the source of magic. Magic, not just for Equestria, but for all locations on all worlds. When I say magic, though, I don't strictly mean the spells and levitation and whatnot you know from the childish representation of the ponies' land in your world. The magic I'm referring to is the basest form of energy that forms the building blocks of all that was, is and ever shall be. While it may grow to be complex in some cases through interaction with different variations of itself, in its purest form it can be harnessed and controlled by those with the means and the desire. You're doing this as we speak, in a sense. You and every person you've ever known has been manipulating this energy on a daily basis, largely ignorant to the fact. You see, in this purest of forms, it becomes what you know to be 'will'."

He'd lost me. "Will? As in, willpower?"

"Correct. The Source is much like a river. It's always flowing, coursing towards its next imperceptible location. Except, in this river, there's not one uniform current. Every occurrence causes disturbances. Sometimes these occurences can lead to others, and they in turn lead to others, in a sort of domino effect. For example, the conceiving of a child. That child's life would be as a current in the river. Over the duration of its lifetime, it would interact with other currents, changing the course of events throughout the entire river to some small or large extent. These changes, these... Ripples, remain even after the one that caused them is deceased. The choices one makes are influenced by things that happen to them and those around them, and this is how a universe functions. A person's willpower is the measure of their ability to affect the world around them, to change the course of fate to their liking. As grand as this sounds, it generally comes down to things such as making yourself wake up on time for something important, or catching a dropped glass before it hits the floor, or winning a fistfight."

"I get the gist of it." I interject, wanting him to get on with it.

"No, you don't. Not yet. The examples I just listed are those that are observable in your world. In others, such as my own, the amount of will a being tends possess is far more varied. Those on the upper end of the spectrum, such as myself and the princesses, can largely alter the world around them on mere whims. The same can be seen in the countless other realities that exist. You would know of one particular world where humans called 'trainers' capture animals and force them to fight each other for the sake of earning themselves various colored badges and heightened social status. Ring any bells?"

"You have GOT to be kidding me."

He chuckles, "You said that already."

"You're telling me Pokemon are real? It's just a TV show!" I protest.

"Ah, but it is much more than that. Every fantasy you've seen, every daydream you've had, features an existing world. Every single one. Don't get overwhelmed though, as each reality is simply an alternation of your own, where events occurred differently earlier or later on in the timeline. Said events could even be the overlapping of another current entirely, in which case each universe leaves a lasting imprint on the other. The images they portray when they skew into other realities simply become unclear and twisted. In other words, you know about Equestria through a television show that you watch when you think nobody's looking. That universe, or current, as my analogy would better help me explain, passed closely to yours at some point in the recent years, sending ripples through it resembling the original, and the resulting output in your physical reality was a cartoon meant for children that also earned a place in the lives of many adult males, simply because those were the lives affected when the currents met."

My excitement peaks. "Wow. So you're saying I can visit any world I can imagine? I can live any fantasy?"

"No, because you're bound to let me choose. I'd say that's enough explaining for now, so let's get down to business. We made a deal; Your life in exchange for another more exciting. I never stated where I would let you live that old life. It's not going to be back on Earth, and it's certainly not going to be in a world of your choosing. I think you know where you're headed, human."

"Okay, firstly, enough of that. My name's Joseph. Secondly, you're sending me to Equestria? What is this, a bad fan fiction written by an overly self-indulgent author? Don't get me wrong, that would be exciting and all, but what do you get from all this?"

"Patience, Joseph. You'll learn in time. For now, all you need to know and accept is that I do indeed stand to benefit from your living there. All you need to do is have fun. Of course, being a bland and boring human in a magical world isn't your idea of fun, now is it?" His teeth somehow manage to glint as his smile widens.

It takes me a moment to pick up on what he's saying, "You mentioned giving me power..."

"Quick on the uptake, are we? Yes, I will indeed be granting you power; Power that so plainly manifests itself in daily Equestrian life. You shall have the ability to control... Your bodily functions."

My grin drops instantly, and Discord begins cackling maniacally at my expression. I watched him have a laugh at my expense for a good two or three of whatever counted as minutes in that place before he finally reduced his mirth to giggles.

"Heheh, didn't expect that did you?" He asks, wiping a remorseless tear from his eye, "Ah, how I miss having someone to toy with."

"Please tell me that was just a joke," I genuinely beg.

"Of course it was," he replies with a bemused smile. "I'm a draconequus of my word. I said you shall have power, and you shall have it. I'll grant you the ability to focus and control the magic of Equestria, far more intimately than the average unicorn would be able to."

I am unable to hold back a whoop of victory.

"I can't make you a wizard just like that, though. I can connect your spirit to the leylines of energy coursing throughout the land. I can even boost your meager natural ability with my own. I cannot, however, grant you skill. You must learn on your own, through practice, and study."

"Nothing I'm not used to." I say with a wave of my hand. "But before you make with the awesome power giving and whatnot, I still want to know one thing. Why me? Not that I'm complaining, but there are literally billions of other humans to choose from. Beyond that, according to what you told me, there are countless of creatures from other worlds. Why pick me? Unless I'm not the only one?"

"'Oh, you are. Trust me on that. As for my reasoning, well, remember when I said that the energy from the source permeates all worlds?"

I nod.

"The energy manifests differently in each realm, depending on the evolutionary traits of those attempting to use it. In Equestria, it's either the Unicorns, who utilize the energy as a means to assist them in performing their 'special talent' that they are destined to, the Pegasi, who's ability to fly and manipulate the weather are innate gifts of nature, or the earth ponies, who have absurd amounts of physical strength and stamina. Each living creature is affected by the energy from the Source in some way, and it is that resulting ability or trait that defines their very race. This holds true not just to the Equestrian Earth, but to all worlds..." He paused in his monologue and gave me a look that was somewhere between confusion and curiosity, "Except yours."

I took a few moments to digest what I'd just learned before speaking once more, "Why is our world devoid of--for want of a better term--magical influence?"

Discord straightened and began pacing back and forth across nothingness while he stroked his absurd beard.

"It truly irritates me to admit this, but I don't know. The energy from the Source should have a defining role in every world, because the universes themselves are composed of this inter-universal energy. Yours, however, seems to not only have evolved without any sort of evolutionary traits that allow conscious use of magic, but is also somehow doing just fine without it. I chose your world more out of a lack of options than anything else. In much the same way a planet has an atmosphere that protects it from extraterrestrial influence, a universe has a magical maelstrom surrounding it that restricts the use of magic within to just that which matches its particular rules. Can't picture a color that doesn't exist, now can you? Because of that very lack of magic in your own, I was able to make use of my powers to do what I did. Whereas I had found myself physically stranded out in the cosmos in every prior universe I had tried, I was able to teleport around in yours, and used my unrestrained powers to find your universe's counterpart to Equestria, because if I’m going to send a creature over, they should at least be able to breathe the same air as and understand the locals. That world was Earth. Yes, there are hundreds of languages on your planet, but Equestria is a mere country that speaks primarily one tongue. Humans know it is English, and Northern America’s dialect happened to be the closest to Equestria’s."

He points directly at me, "I then began searching on an individual level, traveling to various high-traffic locations around the country and sending out pulses of subconscious urges, then listening to individual thought responses. For example, telling someone to do something as simple as take candy from a baby. Most people reacted with revulsion towards themselves for even considering such deviant acts. Some reacted too extremely, proceeding to do things well beyond the spirit of mere deviation. Then, I found someone who not only accepted the urges as natural and acceptable courses of action, but sought ingenious ways to actually carry them out. Remember a month ago, when you managed to gain access to your principal’s facebook profile by having him tell you the name of his first dog in school, which also happened the answer to his security question?”

I nod, getting a idea of where this was going.

“The only reason you considered trying to hack into it in the first place was because I made you consider it. You went on to think of ways to use it for mischief, without my prompting. Brilliant idea, by the way; taking the private conversations teachers were having about students behind their backs and sending them out to everyone you could get to using the principal’s own identity.”

“Thanks...” I numbly stated. It was all pretty cool, having been essentially talent-scouted by a demigod, but the way he had done it left me wondering just how much of my decisions had really been mine over the last few weeks. How long had he been testing me?

“You were not the only person who I found suitable for my task, but you are the most suited. You have no familial ties, no friends to miss or urge to make any, you scorn public morals, you didn’t even enjoy living the life you did. You were perfect. And, as luck would have it, you were one of the souls affected by Equestria's entanglement with your world. It was simply meant to be. I proceeded to make you an offer you couldn't refuse. Once you were mentally willing, you were spiritually willing, and your soul allowed itself to be pulled to me, and now here you are."

"And my body?" I want to know what he's done with my fleshy home of twenty years.

He responds as casually as if I'd asked him what he'd last had to eat,"I had to make sure you had no way to go back on your word, so I blew up your head."

He meets my incredulous stare with the most innocent grin imaginable for a creature with such a twisted visage.

"You... You killed me?!"

He stifles a fake yawn, "You've been dead all this time. I don't see why it's such an issue now that you know the method of your departure."

I calmly relay my view on the matter to him, "Could you think of any other, I don't know, LESS DAMAGING WAYS TO GO ABOUT IT?!"

"What's the point in doing something if you don't do it with a bit of flair?" He asks in a way that makes it clear he needs no answer, "You'll come to see things my way in time. Now enough with the chit chat, on to the matter of connecting you to the magical realm."

I pinch my forehead, forcing myself to calm down, and motion for him to continue.

"The first thing I'm going to do is dedicate a small portion of your consciousness to actually managing this link. The amount of magic there is to see, sense and control is, quite frankly, overwhelming to one unprepared to experience it all. Unlike the ponies of the world you're about to join, you were not born with a natural connection to the leylines, and your mind is certainly not resilient enough to handle the sudden forming of one. At least, your conscious mind isn't. Your subconscious is a vast thing indeed. It's the part of you responsible for maintaining all the bodily functions and whatnot that you are consciously too distracted to be trusted with. It only makes sense that this be the part of the mind allowed to handle magical exchanges as well."

"You talk about my mind as if I still have a body. I'm a spirit now, right? Shouldn't I be entirely, um, consciousness? I mean, I have no brain or body to take care of anymore, so why-"

"Ah- stop right there. Take a look at yourself. You seem to have forgotten within the last few minutes, but your form is still that of a human. That's that you were born as, and so you shall remain until your dying day. Normally, when someone dies, mind and body are so closely linked that the spirit expires along with the physical form. After this, they lose cohesion, and become part of the environment, rather than factors affecting it."

"So we're recycled, essentially," I simplify.

"Energy can neither be created, nor destroyed, but merely converted from one form to another. We all have to return to the Source at some point in time, even I. It's simply a matter of how long we can cling to our existences before we finally bite the dust. In any case, you never did die. I separated your mind and body before doing away with the latter. Your mind is still accustomed to your old shell, so that is your spiritual form. It is also the form you will take once you arrive in Equestria, so start planning some way to convince the locals to overlook your oddities."

"You mean I'm not going to get to be a pony?" Sad brony is sad.

"You could always try a body swapping spell at some point, if you truly feel like giving up the use of opposable thumbs that much."

"Well if you put it like that..."

"Enough with tangents. Back to what I was saying. I'm going to acquaint part of your subconscious mind with the magic around you. Since you cannot consciously handle that connection, and you need to have some form of conscious control over it to be able to make use of it in the first place, you will need a proxy of sorts."

"Like, a way for me to indirectly communicate with that part of my mind without sending myself insane?"

His gives me a particularly mischievous smile now, and a pinkish glow begins to flow off of him and slowly envelops me.

"Well, I don't know about not sending you insane," he says, "but at the very least, you won't be brain dead."

I don't even get a chance to protest before there's a blazing flash of heat in my head. I try to cry out in pain, but my body refuses to listen. The heat within me blossoms outwards, making me feel like my head is growing grotesquely large, despite the fact that the hands clutching the sides of it tell me it's just an illusion. I feel like I'm being stretched out and over myself, and beyond that, in an expanding sphere of sudden awareness. It swells in size, every relative foot of expansion making me wish all the more that I truly was dead due to the fact that I couldn't pass out from the pain. Just when think I can't take it any more, the burning stops, quickly fading away and leaving both myself and the invisible sphere of sensation around me pulsing with warmth.

I realized I'd curled into a fetal position over the course of my torture, and gingerly ease myself out of it. Discord, meanwhile, is more than a little amused at my pain.

What the hell was that all about? My aching body aside, that was seriously freaky.

Tell me about it.

I recoiled violently at the unexpected response, and immediately regretted it as my still sore body was put through another bout of agony. Noticing my bizarre reaction to what would have seemed like nothing in particular, the draconequus leaned in with a renewed level of curiosity.

While I'd always made use of a sort of alter ego for the purpose of making better judgments by looking at things from multiple angles at once, it was always my own conscious effort driving the voice behind it. What I'd just heard, in my own mind, wasn't me, and that's a startling and highly disturbing reality to have to deal with so suddenly.

Oh relax, it's not so bad. Now you have a real voice in your head to chat with! No more of that weaksauce split personality thing. I'm the real deal now.

"What... The hell. Discord, there's a voice in my head. Why is there a voice in my head? What did you do to me?!"

He simply chuckled at my distress, "Don't look so stressed, Joseph the Human. Aside from significantly boosting your level of spiritual energy, and linking you to the realm of magic that was previously hidden to you, I took the liberty of widening the gap between your conscious and subconscious mind to the point where it developed a secondary consciousness of its own to cope with the lack of direction. Thankfully, that part wasn't too difficult because you seem to have been practicing doing it on your own for quite some time. The separation was practically automatic when I began my work. However, now you don't need to worry about managing two personalities at once. It's got a mind of its own and it's there to stay!"

We'll be the best of friends, I just know it! I also know your deepest, darkest, unspoken secrets, like why your right arm is so much stronger than your left-

Son. Of. A. BITCH.

You don't seem nearly as happy as I am. I'm not worried though, that'll change soon enough.

"Discord... Why?" I plead for an explanation.

"This is all part of the process for allowing you to control magic. Like I said, you cannot consciously handle all the information that would flood your mind should I simply allow you to view reality as I do. Thankfully, you no longer have to. Your mental companion will now act as the proxy I mentioned between you and the Source. It'll keep you sane--to an extent--and allow you to control the flow of energy through your body far more effectively than the average pony, seeing as you don't need to focus nearly as much to achieve the same results. Don't get too relaxed though. You'll still need to put forth some significant effort on your part if you want to end up on the same level as a unicorn that's been practicing since they were foals."

He made sense. I didn't like that, because I no longer had a valid reason to be angry at him.

"Aside from the whole intrusion-in-my-mind thing, I felt really weird when you were doing what you did, like I was being stretched out. Even now, I can feel myself tingling in places where my body clearly isn't. What's that about?"

"That was the feeling of your aura being made to expand rapidly through the equivalent of force-feeding it my own energy."

"Aura? You never mentioned-"

"Bioelectric field, if you like that term better. All living creatures have it. It's the feedback from their constant magical resonance with the stream. It pulses at such a high rate that it feels like a constant sphere of sensation around yourself, but in reality it's more along the lines of a heartbeat, only driven by magic. The higher one's magical potential, the larger their aura. It's convenient for things other than simply gauging thing ability of an individual too. For example, you can focus your awareness at any point within your personal field, allowing you to see far more than your eyes would show you. You can also 'synchronize' with others through this field, effectively forming a mental link. You can overwhelm the senses of someone significantly weaker than you by forcing a large portion of your energy through to them at once and causing their mental faculties to overload. The list goes on. Mastering your aura is vital to your success in the use of magic."

So you and I will have to get along if you want reach anywhere.

Reach anywhere? I'm going to Equestria! There's nothing to do but relax and make friends!

Sure, you're going to a veritable utopia ruled by friggin ponies, but you'd be lying to yourself if you deny your inevitable quest to conquer the land through the use of less-than-friendly magic.

Conquer the-

Something clicked in my mind. "So that's your game. You don't care about me simply being successful in magic you were just generous enough to bestow upon me. You want me to use the power to wreak havoc throughout Equestria! I'll tell you right now; I'm not doing it."

Discord held up his hands in a calming gesture. He was smiling as he responded, "Don't get ahead of yourself. As I told you, I have my reasons, and you taking over the land once your basic human nature kicks in is not one of them. No, I don't expect everything to be fine and dandy once you're there. Yes, I do expect there to be occasional conflicts that arise from your interest clashing with those of the natives. But I do not expect you to intentionally harm anyone. Human you may be, and that makes you capable of things ponies would never even conceive of, but you also know these creatures, and you care for them without even having met them in the flesh. Such a foolish and ill thought-out plan is beneath me."

"And I suppose it would be stupid of me to ask, once again, for you to tell me what exactly it is you are planning?"

"If I told you, and it turned out that I do not, in fact, have nothing but the best interests of the ponies at heart, would you choose not to go? You have no home to return to back on Earth. You'd be trapped in limbo forever, here, in the world between the worlds. You have neither the knowledge of how to create a body on a new world, nor to the power do so. In fact, I give you that very choice now. Will you choose them, and damn yourself, or will you take advantage of my most generous gifts and go wild in a new and wondrous life?" He leans in expectantly, an uncharacteristic frown across his features.

My silent scowl is more than enough answer.

"Excellent!" His devious smile returned as quickly as it had slipped from his face, "Now let's continue, shall we? To your alter ego--I know you can hear me--would you be so kind as to reveal to your ignorant counterpart exactly what his eyes fail to see in the 'void' surrounding us?"

Brace yourself. It's a lot to take in, and I'll only be showing you this for a second.

Just a second? Why-

And I was blinded. Where mere fractions of a fraction of a second before there was nothing but pitch blackness, there was now light. There was light everywhere. Red glows, streaks of yellow and green, splashes of violet staining the immeasurably huge expanse of color. There was no wall, no end to the vastness of it all. I felt like I had been thrust into the emptiness of space, but even that paled in comparison. Where before there had been nothing with which to gauge distance, there were now impossibly huge stretches of purple and blue haze between thousands, millions, billions of even larger, glaringly bright globs of color. I myself was on the brink of one such glob, which was duller than the rest. The sheer size of it alone made my head spin with vertigo. To compare myself to it would have been to compare myself to the universe. And that's when realization struck, and the darkness returned with a vengeance. Before my mind fully registered it, my poor, limited eyes told me I was once again blind to reality, and back in the pure blackness of the void.

My inner voice was silent, as was Discord. The latter watched me expectantly, waiting to hear what I had to say. When I spoke it was only after several minutes of staring blankly forwards into the nothingness- Except now I knew it was more than just that. Far more than I could ever hope to fully understand.

"That was... The Source, wasn't it?"

"Correct, Joseph. That mere peek you had at reality is how I am constantly forced to look at things. It may seem a bit grandiose to you right now, but trust me when I say that it does put some considerable strain on the mind after some time. Honestly, I envy the ignorance of creatures such as yourself. It becomes so very difficult to keep my thoughts in order in this prison." His smile became wicked, "Then again, who needs order?"

I was still far too dazed to be annoyed by his rambling, "Those... Giant globs. Are those universes?"

"Every one. And the particularly dull one we're currently floating outside of is yours. That little glimpse was the last you'll ever see of it, so I hope you remember it well. You would have also noticed several universes directly adjacent to your own." By 'directly adjacent' he meant distances spanning what would have been countless lightyears. "Those are the ones that only very recently tangled with yours. One of them houses the version of Earth that is home to Equestria."

"So you've awoken my latent magical ability, given me a way to actually use it by splitting my subconscious mind into two parts, and shown me what reality looks like, just in case I thought you were bullshitting me or something with everything before. Exactly how much else is there to do before I can be on my merry way?"

BRING ON DA PONIES!!!!

"Just one more thing. Magic operates more or less the same in every universe, and mostly comes down to focus and intent. However, Equestria's magic is tied more closely to emotion and passion. Without those things, it becomes unstable and degenerates into... Chaos."

"So you're saying that if I don't mean what I'm telling the magic to do, or my heart's just not in it, the spell would fall apart?"

"Potentially with dire consequences. Aside from that hurdle, which I have faith you'll overcome with time, you'll remember that magic there isn't so simple that any fool off the street could perform it."

As he said that, I remembered Twilight needing to be trained for years by the Princess once her talent had been discovered, and that she had used many books of magical theory while doing so. A book couldn't contain instructions on how to feel, which meant there was yet more for me to learn.

"Are there magical words or something?" I venture.

"Of a sort. There are runes. Each one, when envisioned mentally and subsequently charged with magic, will alter the world around the person casting the spell in some way. They act as channels, limiting what magic can be used for in Equestria. The magic of the planet itself was tied to them long ago by the Princesses themselves to prevent destructive magic from being used by anyone with ill intent. The magical seal over the land was then held in place by the Elements of Harmony. They are the focal point of Equestria's magic and balance. There are destructive runes, but those are kept hidden from the public eye in the minds of the Alicorns themselves. After safeguarding their land from most magical harm, they bound the magic of the races themselves to these runes, so that only when one learned to be truly passionate about something would they be connected with the magical leylines and realize their true potential- A connection that is represented by the appearance of a meaningful mark on their flanks. Even then, they would only be capable of mastering see what their hearts guided them to. See how it all comes together?"

"So cutie marks were invented by Celestia and Luna?" This came as a shock. I'd simply believed that they were a natural occurrence in the species. But what Discord was telling suddenly made my previous assumption seem silly indeed.

"It was mostly Celestia's decision, for your information. Luna simply went along with what her big sister deemed to be justice. All for the peace of Equestria. The reason I'm telling you this is because I am not bound by these magics, and by extension, neither are you. There's a reason Celestia sealed me in stone and cast me from the land twice instead of simply limiting my powers as she had done to the rest of her race, without their consent, mind you." He snarled suddenly, "I refused to be contained, so she gave me my wish, but not in the way I had wanted. Be wary of Celestia, Joseph. She may be the leader of a utopia, but the price she pays is that she herself must live in the darkness of her own heart. She's far from being the benevolent Princess of the Sun she'd have you believe she is. Her own sister is not above her wrath, once incurred. For your own sake, you must learn the runes and abide by them when under her gaze. Perform any unusually disruptive spells, and before you have a chance to protest you will find yourself suffering my fate," he finished bitterly. For once, the smile did not return to his face. He glared at me, not with anger, but with expectation. He wanted me to learn from his mistakes, and seemed to truly mean every word.

"I see..." Part of me wanted to keep my faith in Celestia, but another more rational part told me that I would do well to heed Discord's warnings. I told him what he wanted to hear. "Teach me the runes. I promise to keep myself in check."

"You'd better, for both our sakes..." He muttered, punctuating his statement with a snap of his fingers.

Whoa mamma. Tell him to ease up a bit. I have my limits.

What are you talking about? He hasn't done anything yet.

Not that you can see. He's imprinting his knowledge of Equestria's runes onto your subconscious mind, meaning I have to deal with it all! Believe me, it's a hell of a lot to take in. I don't know if I can take much more of- Oh, never mind. He's done.

I sighed in exasperation and focused on Discord once more.

"Is that the last step?" I ask.

"Yes," He confirms, "I'm about to send you on your way.”

It was only as he closed his eyes and scrunched his face up in concentration that I realized a gap in my preparedness, and became concerned.

“Where exactly am I going to end up? Even in a land of merriment and ponies, I doubt I’d last long in a place like the Everfree Forest.”

He spoke without seeming to lose focus, “Oh, don’t fret. I wouldn’t endanger your life so carelessly. In any case, there’s only one place I am capable of sending you in that universe. I may be exiled from the land, but my physical form still resides there, and as such, while my spirit cannot enter it once more, I can still send the spirit of another through to Equestria using my own body as a point of origin. The bonds of the reality itself tend to bend in my favor around my statue, much like they do around my being here, so I’m going to use that influence to ensure your new body is properly formed and attuned to your spirit once you arrive. Beyond that, you’re on your own. I can neither observe nor affect you once you leave the immediate range of my prison.”

“And if I’m spotted appearing directly at the foot of Discord’s statue, do you really think that will help my chances of being allowed to stay?” I ask incredulously.

“I can tell that the planet itself is currently in a night cycle, and there aren’t any guards in the immediate vicinity of my body, because the emotions of living beings tend to affect the runes that bind me in ways that the Princess does not find favorable, so you should arrive with relative secrecy.”

“Relative?” I was liking this less and less with each passing moment.

He didn’t even deem my last question worthy of a direct response. “Good luck, and do try to make a good first impression. Now brace yourself."

I groaned. "I've heard that one too many times recently, and every time it's meant I was about to experience excruciating-"

And my world explodes, again.

E2 to E4

End of Prologue

This was a lot of fun to write. It also took fucking FOREVER because I have a terrible case of Procrastination. This aint the normal “I don’t feel like it” kind of procrastination. This is Procrastination with a capital fucking ‘P’, so you know it’s serious. Every time I tried to overcome it, one body part or another would seize up and DEMAND I find another use for my time. That said, the hardest part of writing is beginning. Now that the ball is rolling, I think future chapters will come out far more smoothly.

Remember, if you spot any typos or inconsistencies, please point them out in the comments. I currently have no proof-readers (That actually do anything, at least), so I'm doing my best to keep everything as good looking as possible on my own.