• Published 6th Oct 2012
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A Discordant Tale - piedol



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

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Chapter 13

ADT Chapter 13

So you're lost in the deep, dark forest, miles away from any form of civilization. You're tired and hungry, and just want to go home to a nice warm bed.

Except, you can't find your way home because one of the people you were traveling with happens to be a fucking moron, and loses the written directions that would have guided you out.

What do you do?

Keep Calm

and

Desperately Try To Convince Yourself That Murder Is Not The Answer.

***

"Didn't we pass this dead tree already?"

"Impossible. We've been walking in a straight line for the past hour."

"Then why are there broken branches in the exact same places you attacked the first tree?"

"Maybe some other forest creature had a good reason to throw a tantrum, and needed something to focus his anger on so that he didn't end up throttling one of his friends, despite the fact that that friend might have fully deserved said throttling?"

"I don't know about that. Something tells me this is the same tree..."

Zeus help me.

Twilight couldn't remember every twist and turn we'd made on our way there. We were not only deep in the forest, but had ended up wandering into a natural basin that spanned several miles in all directions. Because of this, it was impossible for Rainbow to spot any geographical landmarks by flying above the trees, and the darkness of the night limited her sight range even moreso.

Now, you may be thinking the obvious 'Why didn't you just use the stars to find your way back?'. I already thought of it. I suggested it. Twilight laughed it off like I'd made a joke. As it turns out, the stars in the Equestrian sky aren't static; They're tied to Luna in much the same way that the moon is. Depending on her mood or preference, their positions can vary wildly from night to night, making navigating by them less reliable than an artist's income.

So what was our plan? Walk in the opposite direction that we approached the cave from. This would have probably worked, had it not been nighttime. We had been reliant on Twilight's magic for light even during the day, and by then she was fatigued to the point where her spell fluctuated constantly. This led to many of our previously taken paths being confused or even missed, which meant that we ended up even more lost than we would have been if we'd just stayed the night at the crystal caverns and traveled back to Ponyville by daylight.

Twilight's instability at the time brought into question the strength of her repelling spell, but the implications of that failing were too demoralizing to discuss, so we simply overlooked the issue and hoped that we wouldn't have to deal with it any time soon.

But I didn't worry. When it comes to making mistakes, my philosophy is, 'When you find yourself in too deep, you might as well go all the way. Sooner or later you'll either emerge victorious or end up dead.' Fifty-fifty odds are always worth taking, right?

Eventually, however, I reached the point where my tiredness was beginning to make me delirious. Trees would appear as terrifying beasts at first sight, and I didn't have any drugged up pink ponies to 'giggle at the ghosties' and make it all go away. It was clear to me that something had to be done, or our chances of lasting till dawn were shrinking by the minute.

Casper... Help.

I'd have given you directions if I could, but you were too distracted on the way here. Even your subconscious recollection of the route taken is questionable at best.

I may have been distracted, but keeping track of what we did was practically all Twilight focused on during the walk out here. Wouldn't she have clearer memories?

It's not unlikely. Might as well try your luck before it runs out.

Grasping at that last sliver of hope, I stopped and called out to Twilight, who was leading the way as per usual. She didn't register the sound of my voice at first due to her own tiredness, and continued walking. It was only upon my third repetition of her name that she stopped and turned to face Rainbow and I with bleary eyes.

"Hzz- wha? Joseph?" she mumbled.

"Twilight, I have an idea that might find us a way out of here. I'll need your permission to access your mind again so that I can check your memories for the recorded information of the paths we traveled."

She nodded her head slowly, though whether she was giving her consent or simply drifting into sleep, I couldn't really tell.

Good enough. I decided.

"What's this about reading her mind?" asked a somewhat more alert Rainbow Dash.

"It's magic," I told her simply. "Sort of like how Twilight helped everyone remember their friendship when Disc... ord...” I caught myself far too late. Twilight didn’t seem to have heard my last utterance, but Rainbow’s look turned from questioning to confused.

Now you fucked up.

She blinked and scratched her ears as if to ensure that they were functioning properly. “Wait, what did you say? Wow did you-”

“The Princesses told me about it before I came here,” I explained as sincerely as I could manage, trying to cut the conversation short. “Now, I’d love to reminisce, but I kind of have some memories to check.”

She shrugged indifferently. "Whatever. Do what you have to. The sooner we get back, the better."

With a mental sigh of relief, I lowered myself into a comfortable sitting position so that I would be able to fully relax and focus, even in my tired state.

"Rainbow," I called for her attention, "I'll be completely out of it for a couple seconds while I get this done. I'm not sure how it's going to affect Twilight's repelling spell, but if anything spooks you, just shake me as hard as you can and I'll snap out of it."

"Heh. It'd take more than some creepy crawlies to spook me, but I'll do what I need to if anything serious comes along," she jokingly promised.

Having no choice but to take her word for it, I shut my eyes and got to work. As with every usage of my abilities, I found the process to be swifter and more effortless than the last. In seconds, I'd bridged the gap between out minds once more and was spiraling into a familiar blackness. The forest rapidly faded into obscurity...

***

... and a library materialized in its place.

It was the Ponyville Library, or at the very least a fairly accurate representation of it. The shelves were almost fully stocked with the books the real library housed, and even more that it didn't. Whereas the original shelves were a mere four to five rows tall, these were placed one over another for dozens upon dozens of fully stocked rows that made the real library seem almost barren by comparison. In fact, as I looked straight up, I saw that there wasn't even a ceiling in sight. The imagined space simply continued upwards into white fog that concealed whatever may or may not have existed beyond that point.

Even with this limitation, however, Twilight's mental collection was nothing to scoff at. Fully organized by topic, author and name, thousands of thick and thin, soft and hard-cover texts alike were stored in her mind. Without even a glance inside a single one of them, I was certain that every one of the imaginary books contained information that directly mirrored what would be found in their real world counterparts.

I was in a living database.

I didn't waste time admiring Twilight's impressive memorization capabilities, though. No matter how slowly the time outside passed relative to what we experienced, I wasn't about to waste another moment in a situation that was one stray animal and fumbled spell away from disaster. Instead I set my sights on the only thing in the room that stood out against the otherwise wooden brown backdrop, which was of course the violet mare that ran the show in the imaginary library.

She, however, was the one that spotted me first. While she had been entirely out of it physically, her mental representation of herself was fully alert, eyes bright and blinking at me from across the room as she sat atop a dark purple pillow before an empty study desk.

"Joseph, over here!" she called upon noticing me.

I made my way to her side. As I neared her sitting figure, a second completely identical pillow materialized beside her. There wasn't any formative process either; One moment it wasn't there, and the next, it simply was. I wasn't overly surprised though; This was her mind, so her whims were law.

Taking the offered seat, I got right to the heart of the matter at hand, "Twilight, I need to see your records of the routes taken over the course of today's journey."

"Alright, let's see..." She began to close her eyes in an attempt to focus, but her own subconscious proved faster than her conscious by a large margin; She hadn't even fully closed here eyes before her familiar red journal found itself splayed open before us.

She blinked in surprise. "Oh! Well that's handy."

Choosing to ignore the paradoxical choice of words, I watched her telekinetically flip through the manifested memory to the beginning of her travel notes.

"Here we go," she proudly announced, shifting over so that I could get a proper look without having to crane over her shoulder.

I obliged, closely examining the hastily drawn but still impressively detailed diagrams. From the time we'd left Zecora's hut, Twilight had set down a meandering line, complete with angles and shading to represent height of the land, that showed how much ground we'd covered in what directions up to the cliff where the physical copy of the book had been lost. After this point, I was pleased and doubly amazed to find that the memorized path continued on in the false version of Twilight's journal, albeit somewhat more crudely. When pen and paper had failed her, she'd taken to outright memorizing our steps through a mix of shaky lines and written word. She'd even kept track of our direction relative to the sun, in spite of Princess Sunbutt's celestial orb being blocked from our view for the majority of our time in the Everfree.

Turned thirty-five degrees to the right at the Bandersnatch tree, sixty trots due East at a moderate pace, followed by a short, straight detour across the abandoned bridge...

It went on like that for the next few pages, the details giving me a vivid enough representation of our journey that I found myself actually recollecting certain portions of the trip that had completely slipped my mind until that point. Twilight's memories would be our ticket back to civilization.

At least, that's what I figured at first, but by the time I'd finished analyzing her records, I realized that, due to the sheer distance and variety of terrain traversed during the day, we'd have no feasible chance of making our way back along the original path under the shroud of night, unfocused, tired and demoralized as we were. There had to be a better way.

There has to be a better way.

You narrated that already. Also, there is another way, and it's considerably less risky than trying to walk back.

What would this other way be?

Twilight could tele-

NO.

Twilight isn't Luna. She has at least two years of experience with this. She'd be more reliable if it came down to-

I don't care. I don't even know if she's capable of taking all three of us any significant distance in the condition she's in.

Better than sitting here all night and waiting till dawn comes to NOT find you out in the deep dark forest, and you're all hungry and dehydrated and can't even think straight. You don't exactly have many options.

Alright, fine. I'll ask her to take us as far as she can manage. If worst comes to worst, I'll help her channel the spell.

Not a smart choice. The amount of energy required to shift matter along leylines, instantly transporting it from on place to another is-

Irrelevant. Like you said: This is a matter of life or death, and I don't have much choice. I'll do what I can to help, within reason.

Suit yourself. Now let's get Miss Trotter up to speed.

I swallowed my apprehension and turned to Twilight, who had been content to observe my own observation of her memories without comment for the past few minutes. The problem wouldn't be so much the casting of a teleportation spell, but doing it successfully on the dregs of energy she had remaining. Should anything go wrong, Celestia wouldn't be around to help stitch us together and make it all better.

"Twilight, I've come up with a plan to get us out of here," I said with barely concealed uncertainty.

"I'm listening." She flicked her ears to attention.

"The first thing I'll need to know is: How good are you at teleportation?" Whether or not I'd even entertain the notion of allowing her to consider zapping the three of us so much as the tiniest distance in any given direction came down to her ability to perform in her current condition.

She pursed her lips in thought. "Teleportation? I suppose that would be a much safer and faster option than any other mode of travel. Honestly, I like to consider myself somewhat adept at it. Manipulation of matter has been my focus for the past year or so, since it's one of the most difficult branches of magic to master; So difficult, in fact, that even Princess Luna-"

"I know," I curtly interjected. My ankles ached slightly as I reminisced that particular experience I'd shared with the Princess of the Night.

She blinked. "You do? Well, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised, seeing as you were in Canterlot before coming to Ponyville. Anyway, I'm fairly certain that I'd be able to teleport all of us anywhere within a reasonable distance."

Fairly certain?

"And what exactly classifies as a 'reasonable distance'?" I pointedly inquired.

"For an accurate jump, I'd say between one hundred and five hundred meters. Anything further would be somewhat hit-or-miss, with the margin for error increasing proportionately with distance."

I gave an impressed whistle. "That far? Is there any limit?"

"Technically speaking, the 'limit' is really dependent on how far you can transmit a magical signal before it begins to lose clarity. For a unicorn with the proper training..." she surreptitiously put a hoof to her chest, "that distance is around six miles. After that point is reached, rather... unpleasant accidents could occur, especially if said signal is really something living. The threshold for an error like that is quite sizable, though," she was quick to reassure me, "so even in an event where I'd have to make a blind leap to a location, so long as the target is only a few miles away, odds are that we'd end up off target, but in one piece."

I took these words with a grain of salt; They weren't a guarantee of a safe trip, but this entire plan would literally be a shot in the dark, so I had to be willing to take the risk.

"Alright, so you have the expertise," I said dryly, more to myself than her, "but are you capable of performing this level of magic, tired as you are? You can barely hold up the barrier as it is."

She shook her head to indicate a misunderstanding on my part. "My body is tired, but not my mind; the repelling spell is failing because I want to sleep, not because I'm low on magical energy or anything. I just need to stir myself awake long enough so that I can cast the spell, which should only take a second or two." She frowned as she considered another potential obstacle. "I don't think I'll be able to handle more than one teleportation safely, though. Several rapid tiny jumps would be manageable, but since we're going to have to go for quality over quantity here, sending the three of us a couple miles closer to safety is the best I can do before I'm completely drained. Transportation of matter and long distance displacement puts a serious strain on the horn, no matter how good you are." She grimaced with a show of slight worry, quirking her eyes upwards and inwards as she look to her natural wand of violet ivory.

So we only get once chance, and we have to make it count.

I looked to the crude map before us and measured the distance between our current position and Zecora's hut, not accounting for any twists and turns in the way. Even traveling along a straight path, there were still almost ten miles to be traversed before we were home-free of the Everfree. Despite the potential for Twilight to eliminate around half of those at once, we still stood no chance of making the remaining distance at night, especially considering the fact that she'd need to rest afterwards, which likely spelled a night's sleep before continuing on the morrow.

We'd need to find somewhere relatively safe to warp to so that we could sleep the night away without fear of attack, but where could such a place be found so far removed from the comforts of civilization?

Then my eyes fell upon the answer to our troubles—located plain as day on the page before me—and I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.

"Twilight, I've got it!" I declared suddenly, eliciting a squeak of surprise at my sudden outburst of an announcement. "I know where you can send us!"

She tilted her head, eyes wide and curious as ever. "And where would that be?"

***

As I severed the connection and emerged from my physical stasis, I opened my eyes to find Rainbow in the process of patting down a circle of fallen leaves to make a comfortable post for keeping watch till I'd finished my mental conference with Twilight. Even I was somewhat surprised at the difference between time spent in the mind and in the waking world; if Rainbow hadn't gotten so much as a chance to sit down since I'd spoken to her, less than ten seconds had to have passed. It was really quite disorienting from my perspective.

"Dash, don't bother keeping watch," I called out. "We're done."

She immediately ceased preparing what would have likely become her bed for the evening and blinked at me in surprise.

"Already?" she asked incredulously. "But you only just-"

"The discussion didn't take as long as I'd expected," I simply stated.

Her brows furrowed in confusion, and she opened her mouth to say something else, but reconsidered and opted to not press any further.

"So did you find us the way out?" she instead asked.

"Yes, but it's too far for us to walk," I replied. "Instead we decided that Twilight would zap us to the nearest refuge we could find, after which we'd rest till morning, and then she'd teleport us a second time, after which we should be in—or at least near to—Ponyville."

"So where's this refuge?" she asked with a hint of uncertainty. "The Everfree Forest doesn't exactly offer much in the way of safe napping spots."

"It's the Temple of the Royal Pony Sisters," came the answer from behind me.

We both turned to see Twilight only just rousing herself out of her self-induced trance, which I knew for a fact had been closer to a shallow sleep than a focused meditation. She had taken slightly longer to rejoin us because she'd needed to reference her own memories on magical manipulation of anatomy so that she could remember the process for directly triggering a release of adrenaline within the body. According to her, it was a 'convenient little trick' for staying up just a little bit longer—one which she'd made occasional use of while studying under Celestia back in Canterlot. It was a potent but short-lived substitute when caffeine wasn't an option.

She shook her head once, then twice, and when her eyes next faced forward, they were far more focused than they had been prior to our metaphysical meeting. She had the boost she needed in order to teleport the three of us the five or so miles that made up the gap between our current location and the temple.

Rainbow Dash whistled at the choice of destination. "Man, it's been a while since I've see that place. Has it really been two years already?"

"And three months, by my count," said Twilight.

Well don't I feel old now...

“Like dis post if ur a year 1000 pony.”

"Let's get this over with before you crash again," I urged Twilight.

She nodded in agreement and began channeling her magic. Legs spread and tensed, she screwed up her face in concentration as the familiar sparks of energy began to emerge from her horn as well as the very air around her.

"Dash, Joseph, get as close to me as you can," she ordered without breaking concentration. "Try to be in physical contact with one another, so we're more likely to end up in the same place."

I did my best not to ponder the implications of those words as I walked over to her, placing my right hand at the base of her neck, where it also met with one of Rainbow's extended wings.

"Ready?" she asked with a strained voice a moment later.

"Ready," Rainbow Dash and I answered in unison.

There was no countdown or further announcement—only a tense second as I waited for the inevitable, then a blinding flash of violet light as the spell was cast and my molecules were torn asunder in an instant...

***

... only to find themselves rejoining a fractured second later in the mossy shadow of a long abandoned temple. We had arrived not just in any part of the temple either, but in the very antechamber that had once housed the Elements of Harmony. Luna's pale orb shone down bright through one of the many tall, arching windows, casting the dull colors of the centuries-old stained glass over us and the gray mortar that made up the entirety of the room.

I was the first to break contact with the other two, running my hands up and down my body to ensure that no part of me had been left behind in transit.

"What's all the fuss about?" asked Rainbow as she retracted her wing. "You look like you expected something to go wrong."

"Can never be too careful," I offhandedly answered.

Twilight arced her back and stretched from where she stood between us, enjoying a long and drawn out yawn as she did so. "Well," she blinked blearily as the adrenaline wore off and her fatigue returned with a vengeance, "I did what I could. The keep's enchanted to appear invisible from directly above, and the bridge outside is the only other way to even reach the temple courtyard. We'll be..." she paused for another, quieter yawn, "fine here, so if you guys don't mind..."

With that, she curled up on the floor, and within seconds she was happily sighing herself off to sleep as she succumbed to the day's many stresses and strains.

Rainbow Dash and I smiled towards our exhausted friend, then looked to each other, our eyes alone communicating out mutual intent to follow Twilight's example. Rainbow was far more apt than I to do this, though. The very second I turned to seek out a more comfortable place to lay my weary head, I heard a resounding thump behind me. I spun around to find the pegasus already splayed out on the floor, legs up and ears twitching as she mirrored Twilight's soft breaths with rumbling snores.

Well they certainly have no issue with sleeping on solid rock.

Damn them and their comfy fur. I'd use one of them as a pillow if there wasn't a chance of me getting caught. Where the heck am I supposed to sleep?!

Yes, I was dead tired, but I have standards. Sleeping without a pillow, mattress or blanket? What kind of barbarian would even consider it?

And so I paced restlessly up and down the lengths of the silent room, the sound of my party's breathing and my own footsteps being the only sounds that kept me company as I sought a place to rest.

The segmented platform that formed the base of the now empty pedestal that had borne the socketed elements? Too many sharp angles.

A mossy corner of the room? Too dark.

What about... Crap.

There was nowhere that I found suitable. I know that normally when people get really tired, they tend to care little for where they end up passing out, but I personally find it impossible to sleep without some basic comforts. Without them, I'd end up tossing and turning in a half-awake state all night, drifting endlessly between shallow dreams and muddied reality, resulting in me waking up in the morning to find myself even more exhausted than I'd been before even trying to hit the hay in the first place.

So yeah. No sleep for me.

Finding myself with a sudden excess of free time which I had no desire for, and seeing as I had nobody apart from myself to converse with to pass this time, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and get a closer look at the temple's artifacts, at least until boredom drove me to sleep against my own wishes. The artsy windows and ornate carvings along the walls didn't to much to pique my interest, though, as I'd never really been too big on high class decor. The only thing that I felt inclined to take a good look at was the notched pedestal that had been the home of the Elements up until two years prior. Ancient artifacts that held enough power to banish godlike beings for millenia had laid dormant on the very piece of rock that now stood empty before me. Even though it all sounded much more grand than it actually was, I couldn't help but look upon it in silent wonder as to exactly what the story was behind the Elements of Harmony for them to have been neglected for so long in a place so displaced from Equestrian society.

I might not be able to learn anything from this alone, but at least it's something to look at.

Not satisfied with my view from down below, I hiked a leg up and pulled myself atop the base of the platform. From there, I was able to fully appreciate details in the construction of the pedestal that had been unnoticeable from the floor; the equally spaced and angled outlines of the chambers for each element, the pristine condition of the ancient stone and the runes that ran along every square inch of its uncracked surface-

That's odd.

I found myself being interrupted as my eyes fell upon the magical symbols that had been engraved into the rock.

Hmm?

The runes... I don't understand how, but some of them are charged.

How's that odd?

No visible source, for one thing. The only feasible way these could have remained charged for a thousand years would have been through the sheer residual energy of the Elements, except those were removed over two years ago. Why're these things still active?

Maybe I could try that whole 'sense the environment' thing again. A bit of practice never hurts.

And so I took the obvious course of action and pressed my hand to the seemingly inert runes. The first thing I learned was that the stone was strangely warm, despite the chilly air that permeated the rest of the room. The second was that you should never, ever make physical contact with strange magical devices, especially if their purpose is unknown. That's the kind of innocent mistake that can get you killed.

I'd barely had time to process the warmth that greeted my touch before a massive surge of energy bolted out of the stone and straight into me. The force of the shock would have knocked me clear off the platform, had the runes not simultaneously locked my hands in place, causing me to jerk backwards only to end up rubber-banding on my own arms and striking the unyielding stone chest-first. I barely managed to regain my footing and let loose a breathless swear before yet another pulse of magic invaded my being, then another, and another—my body began to convulse like mad from the overload of energy, yet my hands remained anchored to the accursed stone no matter which way I twisted or squirmed.

I would have yelled, but my mind was thrown into chaos by the sudden and violent assault, leaving me helpless as the magic flooded me entirely.

And it was suddenly over.

I found myself slumping to the floor in a sweating, panting mess as the magic faded—but I didn't even have time to comprehend the end of my ordeal before another began.

In an instant my world turned bright, and I was thrown into the most blinding whiteness imaginable...




End of Chapter 13

What, you thought I was gone?

School can really take it out of a guy, but I'll press on. Instead of spending this particular addendum making cheap jokes and flimsy promises, I'll make use of whatever attention I hope to have gained from this chapter to add some final details to that bit of magic which I tried my best to fully explain in this chapter, but was unable to describe properly without turning it into an essay in itself; Teleportation.

In (My) Equestrian realm, teleportation works much like Twilight described, with the molecules of the person, pony or object going through the process being broken apart and transmitted as a signal to the desired location before being reassembled. To elaborate, several things happen in that instant of transportation:
The complete structure of the subject (Let's use this term for the sake of simplicity) is 'scanned' by the first sequence of the spell and stored as a mini-macro of sorts (Sort of like taking a digital image and creating a text file that contains an exact set of instructions on how it's laid out).
This string of instructions is then transmitted, along with the fragmented molecules, by the second sequence of the spell, which is a Vector. The vector is basically another description, but this time related to direction and distance. It relates the information the pre-determined distance in a straight line (The particles are diffuse enough to pass unhindered through most solid objects, due to their enchanted nature) to the target.
At this point, the particles are reassembled according to the instructions stored at the moment the spell was cast.

All this takes place in a matter of milliseconds.
Now, while the process seems sound in theory, there is always a limit to what magic can do. Like light, the magic being transmitted along the vector does spread out slightly in travel. While the initial recorded information remains safe so long as the magic remains a single entity, if any part of the stream becomes so far removed from another that it gets a significant amount of lag when the rest of the information is called upon to coalesce—let's alone being completely separated—well... I'll leave that up to your imagination.

I'm tired as heck as I write this (I always leave the AN for the moment before the chapter upload, so my words are as honest and impulsive as they can be), so I'll just say that's the general overview of how teleportation works in this story. Just be sure to remember the finer details of any original mechanics I introduce as it progresses, because they may very well come into play later on, for better or for worse.

Thanks for reading. Till next time, remember to comment and critique to your heart's desire!