• Published 6th Oct 2012
  • 1,874 Views, 101 Comments

A Discordant Tale - piedol



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

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Chapter 2

Chapter 2

I tried my best to march, rather than be pulled along, as the squad of guards led me through the halls bound in ropes, but it was obscenely difficult due to the brisk pace they kept, and my own aching body. I didn't know where they were taking me, but if luck would have it, it would be straight to my goal.

After stumbling into a small regiment of the soldiers earlier, I'd had no hope for either running or fighting. I'd decided the best course of action would be to give up peacefully and hope they reported directly to the acting Princess when exceedingly unusual events occurred. Sadly, my immediate surrender didn't stop them from pummeling me mercilessly for apparently harming their comrades. I may not be a expert on Canterlot regime, but something tells me they took a tad more pleasure in tackling me to the ground than their 'protocol' advised. If it weren't for my alter ego suppressing my body’s pain signals, I would have felt far worse than I actually did. So much for a peaceful and kid-friendly universe.

Nobody spoke. I'd tried on more than one occasion to strike up a conversation with the stone-faced ponies surrounding me, but each and every attempt had been met with silence. I'd asked where I was being taken. I'd asked if they were happy with their jobs. I'd asked if any of them were even going to ask me what I was (Nobody did, sadly. Though I'd be lying if I said I got no curious glances before, during, and immediately following the beating). None of them showed any signs that they'd even heard me. While it did irritate me, I couldn't help but be impressed with their performance. Without magic to influence their minds on a primal level, I had no hope of getting Canterlot's trained protectors to act like a normal person, or pony, would.

And so the minutes passed in mutual silence. Even my mental hitchhiker strangely had nothing to say as we anticipated what was coming. After what felt like half an hour, though I'm sure was no more than ten minutes, my company emerged from yet another of Canterlot Palace's side entrances and out into the moonlight once more. I looked around as I enjoyed the feel of the cold night air on my battered form. We were back in the gardens, but neither the statue I'd arrived at nor the maze that housed it were visible from our new location. We seemed to be headed towards one of several towers situated around the area. Were these where they kept their prisoners? No. There were no guards visible at any tower on the premises, except for the one I was currently being ushered towards. What was so special about this particular tower? I was about to find out.

All the guards around me wore the same blue and gold ensemble, except for the one at the head of the pack; a black-coated unicorn with a violet tail. His armor was pitch black, with dark purple ridges along the edges. It was notably more angled and menacing than the uniform the other guards wore, at least by pony standards. As we drew closer to the tower, I saw that the ponies posted there also wore a darker variant of the armor, though none were quite as unique as that on the pony leading us. If my memory served right, these were the personal guards of the Princess of the Night, which could only mean-

Holy sweet bajeezus.

What? You've been quiet for so long, and that's the first thing you say?

Can't you feel it? Can't you see it? It's incredible!

What are you talking about?

Meanwhile, the group stopped before the entrance to the building, but the leader continued right up to the door and raised an armored hoof to give two sharp knocks before stepping back to wait with the rest of us.

Oh wow. I don't think we should do anything grand around her. There's no way we can stand up to that sheer POWER.

Oh for the love of cheese, would you please stop cowering and tell me what has you so spooked?

Close your eyes.

...What?

Close your eyes. Stop looking so hard. Start feeling. I can't be solely responsible for all our magical power. You need to advance in your own way, and you might as well start by learning to sense energy on your own. Now do as I say.

I comply grudgingly, and am left staring at the darkness beneath my own eyelids.

Now expand.

Could you please be a bit more... Explanatory?

Do like we did before with the guards. Stretch your aura outwards. Just try to recreate the feeling.

I focus, and feel for any residual magic around myself to make the task easier. Sure enough, I could feel my own personal field of energy floating around me like a loose second skin. Without wasting time to hesitate, I give it a mental push outwards, sort of like blowing up a balloon, but with a stream of conscious effort rather than air. Bit by bit, it expanded once more, growing from a mere five feet in radius to the full fifteen feet between us and the door, and past that. As the incorporeal bubble stretched outwards, it dragged over each and every one of the Pegasi, Unicorns and Earth ponies around me. I could feel everything within the bubble, whether or not I wanted to. Their short and bristly manes. Their smooth, light yet solid armor. The moisture of their eyes. Even down to their...

HOW LONG MUST I KEEP THIS UP?! I AM NOT COMFORTABLE IN THE SLIGHTEST HERE!

You can stop now. You should be aware of it.

I do as I'm told. There was now a burning itch at the top of my head, and I couldn't reach to scratch it with my arms bound to my sides. My aura was now expanded to slightly over twenty-five feet in radius. The upper half of the dome now encompassed little over a third of the structure before me. Though the doors remained closed, I was now fully aware of a lone unicorn guard standing to the side of the door on the inside. The opposite side of the door was strangely devoid of a complementing guard, which I found strange till I remembered the earlier knock at the door. Whoever had been holding the post with him must have left at the signal to fetch the pony I was being carried to; A pony so important that the protectors of Canterlot Palace themselves had to request to be graced with their presence.

Open your eyes.

I did so without question, and stifled a gasp. All around me, my world had become a swirling miasma of faint smog. Every one of the previously white and black equines were now surrounded by a shimmering haze of grayish energy, expanding outwards for a few feet off each body.

Their auras. They had always been there, I just hadn't been aware of them till mine overlapped their own. The earth ponies had auras less than a foot off their forms and their fields were dull almost to the point of being transparent, but that varied greatly between the other guards. The Pegasi's auras stretched between three and six feet off their bodies, and were a lighter shade of gray. The unicorns, on the other hand, had auras ranging anywhere from five feet to ten feet in range, with the majority being in the upper range of that spectrum, and every one of the horned ponies had a whitish haze to their personal fields. It was then that I recalled Discord mentioning that the aura of a living being could serve as an approximation of their magical potential. My own was closer is shade to that of the earth ponies, but that was more than likely due to its extremely diffuse state.

This is incredible!

This is nothing. Look up.

I did so, and the itch on my scalp suddenly became an incessant scratching. It didn't notice it too much though, as my jaw was too busy trying its best to reach the grass at my feet.

High above us, near the apex of the tower, there was a massive ball of white fire. Or rather, that's what it looked like to me. The core was more than sixty feet off the ground, yet the edge of the great sphere overlapped my own pitifully strained aura. As I stared in awe, the tiny sun was descending the tower at a brisk pace towards us.

That, my dear host, is the Princess Luna. Please refrain from wetting yourself in her presence.

Holy f-

And that's what it normally looks like, through a foot of bricks and worked steel. You don't even want to THINK about how far it could potentially reach if she tried.

How could I have POSSIBLY missed that?!

You didn't. Any creature with even the meagerest amount of magical attunement would be aware of her presence. Seeing auras is more about feeling with your mind than it is about using your basic senses. You just didn't know what to feel for till you'd been exposed to the energies of... Lower class beings, so you had subconscious idea of what to look for.

...I'm scared.

As am I, friend. As am I.

We waited in what had become fearful silence for the arrival of the Princess. If any of the guards were made uncomfortable by her approaching majesty, they showed no signs. It took less than a minute for her to arrive at the ground floor, but that minute bled by like the longest of hours. Before either of us were willing to accept it, she was approaching the door, and us. What had seemed a brilliant orb of warm light from a distance had me practically sweltering up close. Even some of the unicorns seemed to be shuffling slightly with discomfort, though only those in the brighter uniforms. Those of the nocturnal guard seemed almost to thrive in her presence, standing more confidently and gaining gleeful glints to their eyes.

Pull back.

Wha-?

Pull back! Retract your aura! The reason everyone here isn't outright burning up like you are is because theirs are fully retracted. Remember, when someone's personal magical field gets denser, it will act as a shield and help them better resist outside influences. Try it.

Pulling my aura back to myself was a much easier and quick task than expanding it had been. It naturally wanted to remain close to me. All I had to do was release what had become a subconscious strain on my mind to keep it held out, and it snapped back to me almost instantly. I felt relief immediately. My senses were dulled to Luna's presence. I was still aware of her, even from inside the tower, but it was now more of an instinctual knowledge, like the tingle one feels when they suspect they are being watched. Having done all I could do to prepare for meeting her, I held tight and waited.

There was another pair of knocks, though from the other side of the door. With near perfect synchronicity, the two outer guards left their posts, grabbed ahold of the protruding door handles, and pulled. The thick wood swung outwards to reveal the purple Alicorn herself, flanked by two more black armored guards. It was the oddest thing, though. When the door had opened, she seemed to be looking down with a strained expression on her face, like she had either been sighing in frustration, or taking a deep breath for patience. It was easy for me to pick up on that due to my having become used to doing both exceedingly frequently, almost out of habit. Regardless, the moment I noticed it, it was gone, replaced with an expression of practiced indifference.

Needless to say, this also vanished almost immediately when she laid eyes on me. No amount of practice could prepare someone for seeing something for the first time. Much to my disappointment though, she didn't react particularly fantastically. With a firm shake of her head, she re-donned her stoic face and approached me. The surrounding guards who had merely minutes ago been putting on shows of being unfazeable, proud defenders all stepped well aside and bowed low to her with one hoof extended outwards and the other cupped below their chest. I stayed where I was, not feeling quite the same urge to submit to someone I didn't know personally, though I attribute that lack of an urge in equal parts to my numbed senses that prevented my from being constantly reminded of the gap between our power levels, and my own damnable stupidity. A swift kick to the back of my knees by one of the trained ponies soon remedied that though, and I fell to the grass with a grunt.

On her own, Luna was almost as tall as my modest five-foot-six frame, with her forehead sans horn reaching by around my upper chest. The guards, by comparison, only reached up to my lower ribs if I didn't count the manes or horns. But as I'd learned earlier with extreme vigor, the size difference counted for exactly one squat and a diddle when it came to combat capability. From my new kneeling position, I was looking straight up her snout into her cold blue eyes. She regarded me for only a few seconds before addressing me.

"I have been informed that the guards caught you attempting to break into the palace. Additionally, they reported that you have injured one or more ponies in your attempt to do so. Had it been simply the charge of forced entry, you would have been apprehended and forcefully removed from the premises. Seeing as you've injured my citizens in the process, though, the consequences of your actions are now potentially far more... Scarring. Ponies as a race abhor violence, but if you are a serious threat to our hard won peace, I will not hesitate to resort to less pleasant methods of protecting it. Is that clear, whatever you are?"

Oh god oh god oh god oh god. Maybe we shouldn't have looked for the sister a thousand years behind in disciplinary methods.

I attempt to swallow, as my throat is suddenly painfully dry, but I cannot do so around the lump that has suddenly formed in it. I end up choking a bit, and nod vigorously in reply.

"Glad to see you can understand us, but can you speak our tongue?" She looks far from glad as she asks this.

"Y-Yes! Yes, I can. Look, about all th-" I begin, but she cuts me off.

"Speak as you are spoken to, miscreant."

I nod with a squeak.

"Now, as the currently acting Princess, it is my duty to handle any and all potentially serious disturbances that come to my attention. But believe me, I'd much rather be enjoying my evening back in the observatory, so I'd like to make this interrogation as quick as possible, and I’m sure you'd like to leave here this evening in as few pieces as possible, correct?"

DIDN'T SHE GET THE MEMO THAT THIS IS A SFW UNIVERSE?!

"Yes." I calmly confirm.

"Excellent," she flashes me a smile that is somehow neither joyous or reassuring, "Then answer my questions as I ask them. Rest assured--if you lie, I will know."

"Understood."

"Alright then, I’ll start with the obvious question; What are you?"

"I'm a human. A MALE human, just to confirm."

"Really now? Please, hold still for a moment."

Her horn flashed, and I felt several waves of heat pulse through me. It didn't hurt, but it was strange. As the magic subsided, I asked, "What exactly was that?"

"A simple test, to see if you were a changeling in disguise. If you had been under the influence of any magical transformation spells, that would have dispelled them. The form you wear now is indeed your own, it seems."

I guess they're more wary of potential threats after the recent attempted Changeling cu.

"Uh... Yeah." I felt a rush of nervous relief, despite not having been in danger of failing that particular test to begin with.

Careful. She's deceiving you.

What? How?

True, she did attempt to remove any enchantments on you just now, and there were none to be found. But she PUT one in place at the end. It's currently clinging very lightly to your outer aura. Extremely subtle, I have to say, but I would better pick up on such things that you would normally miss.

What's the spell for?

I cannot say, though it's not a seal of any kind. I doubt she knows we are capable of magic of our own, so I suspect it is a precaution of sorts. If the nature of this universe as we know it can act as any sort of guidance, it would most likely be there to prevent us from doing something that apparently only non-pony creatures would be able to do without any sort of hesitance or physical tells.

In other words?

Keep doing as you've been doing up till now. You do as she says. And above all, don't lie if you can help it.

I had an overwhelming sense of dread, but I could do nothing to dispel it. I could only sit and wait out the interrogation.

"I have neither seen nor heard of your species before this moment. From which region of Equestria do you hail?"

"Actually, I'm from-"

I froze. What was I supposed to tell her? The truth? That Discord had killed me in a parallel reality and sent me here to do whatever I damn well pleased? I'd be labeled insane if she didn't believe me, and dangerous if she did. If I lied, then I risked setting off whatever spell she had put on me. None of my options looked stellar.

How about part of the truth? Like...

"Well, I'm not from your planet, to be honest."

She looked taken aback, then uncertain, and quickly followed up with, "Then where are you from, human?"

"From... Another Earth, that exists parallel to your own. One that developed with my race claiming dominance rather than ponies, and so it has no Equestria."

I paused to give my words time to sink in, and for one or two of the guards listening in to stop snickering. Luna's jaw dropped, though for once she wasn't quite so quick to hide it. After she regained her composure, she humbled the amused ponies with a hard glare, then turned to face me once more, her eyes urging me to continue.

"I know it sounds crazy at first, but hear me out. I don't know what your understanding of the universe is, but there's more than one--thousands, billions, an inconceivable number in fact. Is this news to you?"

I knew before even asking that it wasn't. Discord's brief explanation on the use of magic was proving very handy in ratching my story.

"No. We are well aware of the nature of reality. Though it is an admittedly small wonder to meet another creature that shares this knowledge. The very fundamentals of our magic here are based on the use of inter-planar energy."

"Then you should also be aware of the fact that, with enough energy--for example, the kind of power a draconequus would wield--one can potentially open a gap between worlds. Following me here?"

Her jaw dropped, as did those of the ponies that had only moments before been laughing at my claim. The implications of my words were clearly more shocking to them than my supposed origin. When she spoke again, I could almost detect a hint of dread in her voice for what I was about to say next. Wait, scratch that, I did hear it. "No..." I got a small thrill in confirming her fears after that--in making one of the three most powerful creatures in the land of Equestria fear the mere sound of my voice.

"Yes. Well, your old friend Discord is now somewhere between worlds, trapped there after he was frozen in stone here. Despite him being imprisoned, he is still powerful enough to observe and influence other realities to an extent. That's what he did to mine when it caught his interest. He decided to fool around, and I was the unlucky soul chosen to be his amusement. He tore me out of my own world and dropped me here, and now I have no way of getting back. As for those two guards, while I was trying to find a way into the palace proper, one of them went berserk and attacked the other. You can ask them yourself, if you doubt me. I took advantage of the situation and tried to find someone with the power to assist me. Needless to say, things didn't go exactly as planned. Your guards attacked me on sight and dragged me here, but I guess it all worked out in the end, sort of." I finished by giving several of the gathered company the dirtiest looks I could manage.

More than one of them immediately began to voice their dissent and make excuses for their hasty action and a now seemingly incorrect assumption, but she cut them off with a shouted command of "SILENCE!", then spoke to me in a cautious tone.

"Discord is many things to pony-kind, but We assure you, he is no friend. Though it pains us to say so, We cannot afford to release him from his prison here. Though he may have some power over other worlds while in there, the peace of our own is our main priority, even if it comes at the cost of others' happiness. We... Apologize. You may rise, human. We are not deserving of your submittance if you have suffered so undeservingly for our weakness."

She looked down as she said it, almost like she had failed her own subjects, despite having had nothing to do with the situation. It pained me to see her look so defeated, but it was either that or let her find some other way to cause me pain.

I sighed with relief, feeling as if the weight of a hundred thick-headed guard ponies had been lifted off my shoulders, and gratefully rose off the grass to stand at my full height, looking slightly down at the Princess.

She bought it. Oh my gosh, she bought it! We LIVE!

It was mostly the truth, we just twisted it a tad. How's that spell holding up?

It reacted slightly as you told those half-truths, but not too much. It attempted to stimulate the hairs lining your nostrils, I assume to induce a sneezing fit, but I was just about able to suppress the signals because it wasn't fully triggered. I guess it really is a truth related enchantment. To be honest--pun intended--it's exactly what we could expect someone so accustomed to dealing with honest, lawful ponies to resort to as a fail-safe for intimidation. I wouldn't be surprised if all those threats earlier were nothing but practiced words to quell any aggression from an enemy before they could act on it.

Don't be stupid. Whether or not the words were empty doesn't matter. It doesn't change the fact that we are hopelessly outmatched in terms of both magical and physical power, and we do know for a fact that they will eventually resort to aggressive actions if need be. Remember Discord's first reign?

Still, with that self-reminder of what a peaceful nature the ponies had, I felt I could not let Luna beat herself up over something that in all truth was not her fault. I tried to console her some, "Princess, there is no need to feel shame for a situation you cannot help. I can understand your reasoning. A good ruler must put the welfare of his or her own nation well before that of another. I've got no hard feelings. Now if you don't mind, I'd like to get this interrogation over with, do away with these ropes and the guards, and reintroduce myself on more pleasant terms. I don't want to be known solely as 'human'." I flash her a hopeful grin, to which she gives a halfhearted yet thankful smile in return.

"Very well." She turned to the black armored guard that had originally led us to her, "Captain Vigilant, undo his bindings, then see to it that my sister's soldiers return to their original stations. The hu-" She froze, gave me an apologetic smirk and raised her eyebrows in silent request, to which I chuckled and happily told her: "Joseph."

What? I don't get an introduction too?

Shut up. You’ll be Casper and you’ll like it.

She nodded in thanks before gracefully continuing, "Joseph shall remain with us in the observatory under the watch of both ourselves and our guards. I wish to question him further in a less tense atmosphere. As for the two ponies that supposedly had an altercation, they are to be questioned once they have regained consciousness, and you shall directly report to me what they say."

The black coated unicorn nodded once. His horn flashed, and all at once the several complex knots holding my arms awkwardly to my sides came apart and the rope fell to my feet. As I rubbed the parts of my skin that the rough thread had rubbed raw, I couldn't help musing over the sheer number of uses I could find for a rope tying and untying spell in such a relatively innocent world. Consequently, I felt a wave of guilt for considering the uses I could find for a rope tying and untying spell in such a relatively innocent world.

And yet you’d still do it if you got the chance.

After releasing me, Luna's silent servant ushered the guards that had first apprehended me back towards the castle in an absurdly orderly single file line. Not bothering to see them off, Luna gestured for me to follow her with a shrug of her wing. And so she led us up to the observatory with her two personal guards in tow.

End of Chapter 2

What lays in wait for Joseph and Casper in the next episode of ADT? Find out next week on- Wait, no, that's a terrible way to end it. Let me try that again.

*ahem*

Thar be a shitstorm a brewin! Cast thine eyes to yonder updates approaching off the port bow (I have no idea what a 'port bow' is, but let's go with this) and prep yerr readin monocle fer future battles!

MUCH better. :3