• Published 1st Nov 2012
  • 19,983 Views, 635 Comments

Winning, and the pitfalls therein. - RandomNPC



Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't and sometimes you win only to lose. This is the third one.

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Discord (part1)

Why was it that ancient cultures seemed to always have some obsession with needlessly complicated and dangerous traps? The ruins were originally supposed to have been a place of study, or so the records had led Twilight to believe, yet she had trouble picturing aspiring students crossing narrow bridges over spike traps on their way to class. Perhaps it was simply that the section of the building she had invaded was restricted, and she had no clue how she was meant to disable the protections on it. Even still, the traps had reached a level of absurdity she'd not thought possible.

The vault had lay directly ahead of her, holding untold numbers of records and historically significant artifacts. Then the floor opened and dumped her into a snake pit. Bucking snakes that should have starved to death sometime in the last nine centuries or so. But no, there were still somehow enough snakes down in the pit to bury her with their mass. Added onto that, was the magic dampening field that was preventing her from doing much more than holding the snakes back.

“Anytime up there, Rainbow Dash!" she shouted up at her friend. “It can't be that hard to disable the dumb magic dampener, can it?"

A resounding crack sounded from above her, and Twilight flinched as she felt her magic roar back to full strength. Disable wasn't supposed to mean 'kick it until it stops working', but she supposed she'd have to let her partner slide this time.

She couldn't possibly put enough distance between the snakes and herself fast enough to satisfy her, but, as she teleported back to the lip of the pit, Twilight decided she would take what she could get for now. And 'for now' hopefully included enough research material, for the next year or so, from the Celestia-forsaken vault.

Rainbow was hovering nearby the remains of what had once been an elaborately carved crystal sphere, which she had reduced to tiny shards and dust. “So, now are you happy that you brought me with you, Twi?" she asked, smug as could be.

Twilight glanced wistfully at the broken gem, wondering if she could still salvage anything of it. Rarity might have actually disabled the blasted thing, rather than breaking it, she fumed to herself. But no, she wasn't willing to risk getting dirt on her coat for the sake of 'my little project'.

Honestly, she'd only managed to even get Rainbow to come with her by getting her hooked on the Daring Do novels. Having a pegasus with her, especially one so much more athletic than herself, had been a blessing more than once already, but she could still complain loud and hard about the lack of finesse that Dash tended to exhibit. After thanking her for probably saving her life, that was. Stupid Elements and their weird requirements. This friendship stuff was hard.

“Yes, Rainbow, and thanks. Now let's get that vault open so we can leave. I hate to sound like Rarity, but I need a bath worse than I've ever thought possible. I think my tail's going to be brown for a week." The two of them looked back at the vault door, and then grinned like a pair of foals. This was the one thing in the ruins that Twilight actually wanted broken.

Twilight started gathering her magic to rip the thing off its hinges, when a cloud of smoke and green flames appeared in front of her. With a small flash, a scroll materialized, and she caught it by instinct, opening the letter and reading it with hardly a moment's pause.

“Spike send a letter?" Rainbow asked as Twilight read. “What's going on?"

Twilight looked like she'd just seen an entire library's worth of books burned in front of her. “He says that Princess Celestia is calling us back for an emergency. She says that we're to drop whatever we're doing, right now, and get to Canterlot as fast as we can. All six of us."

Rainbow looked back between the vault door and Twilight for a few seconds. “Do you think, maybe, the vault will have a quicker way out of here?" she asked with a mischievous look.

“Well," Twilight said, considering, “If the Princess needs us back as quickly as possible, we would be remiss to not check." Twilight charged her magic back up while Rainbow got into position for a quick take-off. It wasn't like the vault would be trapped, and they were already right there, after all.

---Two minutes later---

“What sort of moron sets the entire building to collapse when the door's opened?" Twilight screamed as she clung to Rainbow's back, rubble still falling from behind them as they flew out of a newly blasted hole in the ceiling. “It's just not logical!"

Rainbow cackled madly as they left the ruins behind them, more deserving of the title than before. “That was... Awesome! You still holding onto the bag, Twi?"

Twilight levitated a large sack to her peripheral vision, bulges of countless tablets and other, more obviously valuable items deforming the fabric. “Of course. Think we've got time to drop it off in the library before Princess Celestia starts wondering what's taking us so long?"

Rainbow's only response was to speed up, angling slightly to her right. She was the fastest flier in Equestria, and Rarity would insist on making herself presentable for royalty. They had time.

---Canterlot Castle---

As it had turned out, a royal chariot with royal guards waiting impatiently was enough to even get Rarity moving quickly; the others had been gathered up and were already on their way to the castle by the time Twilight and Rainbow had reached Ponyville. As such, Rainbow managed to get the two of them to Canterlot with just enough time to catch up to the others as they were walking in to meet Celestia.

On the way, Rainbow had gotten the bright idea of trying to clean the two of them off by flying through a cloud or two. Then, they saw a pink cloud that looked like it was raining something brown, and decided they could just stay dirty for a little longer. Somepony at the weather factories had goofed up something fierce.

Upon their landing, Rarity, seeing the two of them showing up absolutely filthy and covered in dust, looked like she might have fainted dead away from shock. Twilight brushed a small bit of masonry out of her mane, cringing slightly. She was going to have to see the Princess without having taken a bath first. She was going to be hearing about this one for a while.

The doors to the throne room were opened as they approached, and Twilight hid slightly behind Applejack. Hopefully, she'd look less terrible standing next to her than she would next to Rarity. “Princess Celestia, we came as fast as we could." Or at least close to it.

Celestia looked down upon the six of them as they galloped in. “Thank you, Twilight. Thank you all." Her mask of eternal calm was cracked, ever so slightly around the edges. It was a slight change in the tone of her voice, a certain look in her eyes, and most of all, the lack of a warm and serene smile... or even a stifled laugh at Twilight's appearance.

Twilight immediately consulted her mental disaster rating checklist. Ponies in Canterlot didn't know how to properly quantify a disaster; to them, it was a disaster whether the cake had been slightly burned, or a pony had been hospitalized in a tragic accident. This was because they didn't deal with disasters so often. Since she had started spending time in Ponyville, and keeping in contact with the friends she had made there, Twilight had seen enough disasters to make her own ten point scale. A one was Rarity being melodramatic, and a ten was a theoretical situation where both Princess Celestia and Luna went insane at the same time, trying to destroy all of Equestria. Or an exam without any time to prepare.

Celestia worried this badly: minimum rating of five or six on the buck-o-meter. Her calling not only me, but my friends? The only reason to call all of us for the same emergency would be for the Elements of Harmony. Celestia wanting backup from the only artifacts known to be able to overpower Luna: bump that rating up to an eight. Luna and Celestia working together would be more than a force to be reckoned with. It would, quite frankly, be generally considered divine judgment. Yet, she wanted more power on hoof?

Celestia motioned for the group to follow her down a hallway, towards one of the towers. “I've called you here for a matter of great importance," Celestia stated as they walked slowly down the hall. “It seems an old foe of mine, someone I thought I had defeated long ago, has returned. His name, is Discord."

Fluttershy interrupted with a tiny shriek, apparently frightened by a stained glass window, and dashed behind Twilight to hide. Oh, come on. It was all Twilight could do, not to allow hoof to meet face. Important conversation that might relate to the fate of Equestria going on here, Fluttershy. Shouldn't you at least pay some attention?

After a brief pause, undoubtedly to allow Fluttershy a moment of silence for any pride she might have once had, Celestia carried own with her explanation. “Discord is the mischievous spirit of disharmony. Before my sister and I stood up to him, he ruled Equestria in an eternal state of unrest, and unhappiness.

“Luna and I saw how miserable life was for earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns alike. So after discovering the Elements of Harmony, we combined our powers, and rose up against him, turning him to stone."

At this, she pointed to a stained-glass window depicting the scene of a chimeric creature, turned to stone whilst trapped between the royal sisters. Rainbow flew up to the glass, spreading dust with every flap of her wings. “Alright Princess! Oh, and sorry about the dust. Think I might have time for a bath before we do anything else?"

Celestia glowered at Rainbow. “No."

“Oh come on," she complained, “I've got dirt stuck between my feathers, and it's really uncomfortable. Can't evil be considerate, just this once, and give us a few hours?"

The glower hardened into a full fledged glare of regal disappointment. Rainbow seemed to wilt under the glare, and landed back on the ground, fidgeting uncomfortably. "... Right, shutting up now. Continue."

“I had thought that the spell I cast would last forever, but since Luna and I are no longer connected to the Elements, the spell has been broken." Celestia looked at the ponies in front of her, seeming to silently ask if there were going to be anymore interruptions before she finished.

Twilight was more than happy to oblige. “No longer connected? So... let me just see if I've got all of the major points here. You and Luna sealed this powerful, evil former ruler away with the Elements long ago. Then, Luna, now another ruler of Equestria, went slightly crazy for a bit, and you were forced to use the Elements on her to banish her for a thousand years." Celestia nodded mutely, probably wondering where her student was going with this train of thought.

“Now, you just mentioned that the powers of the Elements should have been able to keep Discord sealed in stone for eternity." Twilight made her tone a tad accusatory. “Yet Princess Luna, who you've implied was not as powerful as Discord, got out of her bindings after a thousand years, and you were expecting it."

She leveled her best imitation of Luna's 'you don't want to lie to me' glare at Celestia. She had seen it used to great effect a few times over the past several months, and had been working on trying to perfect it herself. “That means that you broke off your connection to the Elements on purpose to let Luna escape, thereby also letting out this Discord guy. Did you forget about him because you were so busy worrying about Luna? Or maybe something else?"

Celestia looked away, unable to meet Twilight's gaze. “I may have allowed him to slip my mind," she finally responded. Helping Luna with politics had made Twilight a little too good at ferreting out things that ponies would rather keep to themselves.

The other Element bearers turned a questioning gaze to Twilight. Where exactly, was she going with this? Pinkie's eyes went wide and she suddenly jumped to the front of the group.

“Oh, oh, I know!" she shouted. “Discord must be another old relative of the Princesses, or maybe an old friend, or an old coltfriend! Then something horrible happened and made him evil, and the Princesses had to turn him to stone, and we have to fix him now. Right, Twilight? Am I right? I am, aren't I?"

Celestia lost all semblance of composure at the suggestion, twisting up her face as though she had just bitten into a raw lemon whilst trying to lose her lunch. After being sprayed by a skunk. “No!" she shouted. “Discord was the most vile creature I ever had the displeasure of speaking to in all of my long years. I'd like you six to use the Elements to turn him back to stone, so I can put him back into the sculpture garden, where the birds can continue telling him what I think of him for another thousand years or so."

The hallway suddenly rang out with low, manic laughter, the sound emanating from all around. “Oh, what's the matter, Celestia? Didn't you miss me?" the disembodied voice asked in a mocking, singsong sort of way. “I certainly missed you."

Rarity looked over to Twilight, and mouthed the words, “Bad break-up," followed by a contemplative pause, and the words, “Or a stalker." Twilight nodded in her agreement, before turning back to watch what would happen next. A pony could learn a lot just by watching and listening for a bit.

Celestia looked around the room, her eyes filled with a sort of hatred that Twilight had never seen in her before. “Discord," she shouted, “show yourself!"

Finally, the eyes of everypony present were drawn inexplicably to one of the stained-glass windows – one depicting Discord's terrible reign from ages past. With a flash of light, the image came to life, the twisted figure suddenly mobile, slithering from one window to the next. “It gets oh so lonely being imprisoned in stone. But you wouldn't know that, would you? Because I don't turn ponies into stone."

His image reached down into a new window, lightly tapping against... nothing. For a moment, he seemed to lose balance and fall backwards before catching himself. He looked down at the window he was in, taking in the unusually large image of a lavender unicorn, holding a book with an image of the moon and sun on it. “Huh," he muttered, stroking his goatee. “That's different."

With obvious effort, Celestia turned away from the window, looking Twilight in the eye. “There's no time to lose, Twilight. You must hurry and bring the Elements to defeat him! I may be able to slow him down while he's still weakened from his imprisonment."

Discord poked his head up, now covering the entirety of one of the windows with his body. “Ah, yes. Those pesky little Elements of Harmony. You'll find them hard to use, now that I've... borrowed them from your little hiding spot." He leered down at Celestia. “Bravo on hiding them so well. It must have taken me all of five minutes to find them."

Celestia looked wide-eyed to her student, but Twilight shook her head. “I'm calling your bluff. Where, exactly, were they hidden if you found them so easily?"

Discord glared down at her. After a three second staring match, he vanished from the window, appearing as a miniature of himself on top of Pinkie Pie's head. He leaned down to her ear, and stage-whispered to her, “Remind me not to play poker with that one." His voice was, of course, still loud and echoing around the room.

With a flourish and a flash of light, the windows were once more filled with his movement, his body stretched across three windows all at once. “Fine, you caught me. I couldn't find them anywhere. I know how Celestia typically hides things like that, yet I've searched each and every overly large, heavily warded vault I could find. I even checked some of the ancient ruins, just in case she had decided that they would be safer behind a metric ton of traps and magic protections. Nothing."

Twilight and Rainbow shared a brief look. And, suddenly, we know whose bright idea the traps were. Twilight could only be glad that she hadn't been required to dodge pitfalls and arrow traps on her way to classes growing up. I guess the Princess grew out of it, or somepony finally had the guts to tell her they were a bad idea.

“Well, of course they wouldn't be hidden in someplace like that," Rarity exclaimed. “How would we ever even get them if we needed them?"

Appearing in the window depicting his original defeat, Discord leaned up against the depiction of Princess Celestia. “I know, right? Yet for the longest time, that was just the way that things were done around here. Done using something to save the world? Lock it back up to keep it safe and out of the reach of the ponies that might need it again. And ponies think I don't make sense." He tapped a claw against his chin for a moment. “Not that making sense is any fun, mind you."

Applejack stomped up to the window, tilting her stetson. “Now look here you. That's enough messing around, so why don't we get to the part where ya tell me why ya decided to ruin my farm? Nopony wants to buy popcorn that's been all over the ground like that, an especially not when it's soggy with chocolate milk, too!"

Twilight looked askance at Applejack. He did what? Oh, Luna no, he's like a super-magical Pinkie Pie.

Discord waved a paw dismissively. “Oh, boohoo. I gave you giant apples too, or doesn't that count for anything. With those beauties, you could feed that puny town for a decade. Assuming that they never spoiled, that is."

If Applejack could kill with a look, Celestia would be buying new windows. “And the animals you made go crazy? Even if they're giant, I can't sell apples that have been gnawed on by a bunch of critters!"

This was going nowhere fast, and Discord was just looking more and more amused by Applejack's complaints. Time to get some useful dialogue going. Twilight cleared her throat to get Applejack and Discord’s attention. When they just kept on yelling, she teleported her friend away from the window.

“Right, we can deal with that later." Twilight looked up at the disappointed looking Discord. “Now, we still have the Elements, and you can't find them, so I think it would make sense for you to try and work with us here."

Discord snorted at the idea – derisively no less. “Make sense? Didn't I already mention that I don't approve of such wastes of time?" A sort of devilish smirk formed over his lips. “Besides, you don't have your precious Elements here right now. What's to stop me from simply removing the problem before you can do anything about it?"

Twilight sat down and crossed her front hooves over her chest. “How about, because I'm not interested in turning you back to stone. I know what it's like from a run-in with a cockatrice, and I wouldn't wish that on any creature. I might be willing to do it if I'm left with no choice, but I'd really rather not. I'm kind of on your side here."

“You're... on my side?" From his expression, one would think that the idea of somepony not wanting to harm him was ludicrous. Then again, with the way he acted, Twilight found herself unsurprised that he wasn't used to having anypony on his side of an issue.

Princess Celestia was eying her suspiciously, too, wondering what she was up to. Now for the fun part, where I piss off the pony who raises the sun. I need a raise after this is over. Hazard pay, and what have you.

“Rule of law is actually on your side, too, right now." Twilight considered that this mess was completely worth it to see the Princess's face contorting almost as oddly as Discord's. “Your situation is nearly identical to that of Princess Luna's from a year or so ago, and she wasn't just re-banished the second she came back. She even kept the whole night-eternal thing up for a full day or two without reprimand, so you should be able to slide on the bizarre weather and other bits of chaos.

“If we look over your situation, you're a former ruler of Equestria who became a danger to the land and its residents, and were thus sealed away with the Elements of Harmony. That description fits Princess Luna's situation identically, and she got her position back. One thousand years on the moon is apparently the appropriate sentence for that sort of thing, and you were locked up longer than that; you've served your time."

A stiff breeze might have knocked over Celestia; she was frozen so still, somepony might have mistaken her for a statue. Discord recovered slightly quicker, possibly due to his previous experience as one, sheer mirth stealing over his features while horror held Celestia's.

“So then... Celestia's own laws mean that she has to let me go? Possibly even give me my throne back?" Discord finally managed to ask, struggling to hold back laughter. Twilight nodded, and he stopped trying to hold back.

With a flash, Discord appeared in his full glory on the floor of the hall, rolling on his back and laughing so hard he was crying. Twilight pointedly avoided looking at her friends. They knew her well enough that they would trust her on this. Hopefully.

Princess Celestia's voice, once more calm and serene, cut through the noise. “Very well, I will uphold my previous ruling; Discord, you have served your time for your previous crime, and I will allow you to be reinstated in your old position. Provided that you accept the exact same conditions that my sister did, of course. Luna and I could use a vacation, and I'm sure you'll be begging us to take back over within the week."

Discord's expression immediately changed from mirthful to suspicious, as he narrowed his eyes at the Princess. “Conditions? Fine then, I'll bite. What are these... conditions?" The word 'conditions' wasn't just emphasized; it got its own finger quotes. Perhaps a spirit of chaos didn't like nebulous conditions. “I do hope it doesn't involve getting hit by the Elements to purify me or something, because that wouldn't work out so great for me. I'd have to decline."

Applejack blinked at Discord in confusion. “I thought the Elements were supposed to banish ponies an' all, not fix 'em. And we certainly didn't have 'em when Princess Luna showed back up."

The spirit of Chaos and Disharmony opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He was, for perhaps the second time in history, speechless. Celestia took the opportunity to steer the conversation back away from dangerous topics.

“The conditions are not so difficult to live with, Discord," she said. “I simply ask that you allow my student to act as your adviser, and that you pay attention to her. Then, when you have proven yourself unfit to rule again, my sister and I will take back over, and if you resist, you'll get another thousand years in stone. Possibly more since it will be your second offense."

Discord's fur bristled and his eyes narrowed at Celestia. “What, exactly do you mean 'when' I prove unfit to rule? I was ruling Equestria long before you and your loony sister, and I did just fine."

Fluttershy coughed softly. “Um, I'm sure you'd do just fine..." She trailed off the moment she felt eyes shifting onto her. Hiding behind her own tail, she managed to mumble, “Just... the Princess has been doing this for a while and all, while you've been... gone, so, you shouldn't feel bad if you don't do quite as well."

Discord shoved his face within inches of Fluttershy's, provoking a panicked squeak from her. “I'm ten times more fun than her. I'd make a far better ruler than that stick in the mud."

Twilight cocked her head sideways at him. “Really? So, you think you could get a higher approval rating than Celestia?" Disbelief oozed from every word, and Discord grit his teeth against the lack of faith these ponies seemed to have in him.

“Of course I could get more ponies to like me than she can." Small puffs of smoke were floating out from his ears as he shouted. “I'm Discord! There's nothing I can't do, or need I remind you of the chocolate rain and cola storms?"

Celestia stepped up in front of him, a tiny smile on her lips. “I bet you can't."

The word 'bet' seemed to freeze the room for a moment; it was so quiet that a pony could hear a pin drop. Slowly, ever so painstakingly slowly, a manic grin spread over Discord's face. “A bet, dear Celestia?" he asked. “What are we betting?"

The smile sent chills down Twilight's spine, and she could tell she wasn't the only pony in the room so affected. Celestia, however, sounded perfectly calm as she spoke.

“Us," she said. “The loser has to follow the winner's rules. If you lose, you have to obey our laws, and recognize my sister and I as the superior rulers. If, by some miracle, you can get a higher approval rating than me, without using mind controlling or emotion manipulating magic to do so, within a month... I'll start pulling pranks on every pony in Equestria, and I'll call you king."

Discord gripped one of Celestia's forelegs with his paw and shook. “Deal."

---Part 2 coming soon---