• Published 2nd Feb 2013
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The Opera Phantom Discord - Alexandrite Ward



Fluttershy's father is captured by the villianous Discord, Phantom of the Opera! Can she save him while being pursued by the handsome and charming Prince Blueblood?

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Villainy

Villainy


"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been quite some time since my last confession…"

A soft, elderly voice, responded through the screen to the mare who was confessing. "Speak my child, what are these sins that trouble you?"

The mare sighed, fighting back the tears that threatened to fall. "I have interfered with God's plan."

The priest's brow furrowed at the mare's words. "Interfered?"

"Yes," the mare went on. "While my faith in God is strong, my faith in ponies is lacking."

"Ponies are imperfect," the priest quietly explained. "It is easy to lack faith in others, even when we try not to. But God can give us strength…tell me, my child, is it this lack of faith in others that has caused you to believe you have interfered?"

"Yes," the mare replied, her voice filled with emotion. "I…I have…" she paused and felt a terrible shiver course through her body. "I mean, I…had…a friend, a stallion who I have known for many years, a stallion who lived his life locked away in shadow, a stallion who despised the light, a stallion who, despite his cold temper, was truly good to those who depended upon him, and I knew this…I had witnessed the good he had done…and yet, I doubted him."

The priest was troubled by the mare's words. "Please continue," he whispered.

The mare sighed, swallowing the lump in her throat. "There was a mare…she was young, pretty, and full of life…" she felt the tears slip down her cheeks. "She met this stallion…"

"And you feared for her?" the priest asked, beginning to understand the mare's troubles.

There was a long pause; the only sound the priest could hear was the mare's soft weeping. "Yes…" she sniffled, finally. "I did…I…I assumed the worst of him, forgetting the kindness he was capable of showing, and judging him no differently than others…and I was wrong, I was so wrong…"

The priest felt such pity as he listened to the mare cry. "How were you wrong, my child?"

The mare sniffled here and there, trying to control her tears. "He and this mare…they fell in love. He truly loved her with all his heart, and she loved him. But…but I drove them away, I forced them to be parted, thinking that what I was doing was for the best…and now…now he's no more."

The priest could not hold back his gasp from the mare's words. "He is dead?"

A soft wail escaped her lips, before finally murmuring a strangled, "yes." The priest sat in silence as the mare cried, wishing with all his heart that he could ease her pain. After several deep breaths, the mare finally began to speak again. "He is dead…and she is dying with grief," the mare whispered. "She is also leaving, traveling far away from this place, and I blame myself for all of this…had I not interfered, had I attempted to understand–"

"My child," the priest quietly interrupted. "You were not interfering; you were acting as many frightened parents act, seeing what was in front of them, seeing what they fear. Pray for this stallion who has left this world, pray for his soul, and pray for the mare who grieves him.”

"Pray for him, my child," the priest again murmured, soothingly. "Pray and tell him of your grief, your sorrow, and your love."

The mare nodded her head and slowly rose from the confessional. "Thank you, Father."

The priest whispered a blessing, before murmuring, "Go in peace."

Slowly, Madame Luna exited the confessional, and with her head bowed low, prayed that wherever Discord was, he could hear her.

"Fluttershy…"
Derpy's eyes fluttered open at the sound of the Master's voice. The Master was very strong, and had been a bit of a challenge for Derpy to carry, but he had managed to bring him to the catacombs, just as the Master had suggested. Upon arriving there, both of them began to breathe more easily, the air fresher and cleaner, despite the endless tunnels of bones that surrounded them. Derpy had gotten right to work, tearing pieces of cloth to help stop the bleeding for several of the Master's wounds. She was extremely grateful for all that Rarity had taught her. After binding the wounds, Derpy fetched them both some water, and looked for any other supplies that may be helpful.

Discord could barely stay awake. He had so many questions, but his body was so weak from the explosion. He was grateful to Derpy, but yearned to know what had become of the others. Where were they? Had they made it to safety? Were they trapped somewhere? He yearned to rise up and go in search for them, to stand on his own two feet, but sitting up on his own proved difficult; he hated to think how it would be to stand.

One of his legs pained him greatly, and Discord cursed whenever he or Derpy tried to move it. He needed help, this much he knew…if only he weren't so tired…

Both Discord and Derpy were completely exhausted from the ordeal. Derpy never meant to fall asleep, she had planned on staying awake and making sure the Master would be alright, but sleep overcame her, just as it took the Master. How long she had slept, she did not know, but Derpy awoke when she began to hear the Master call out for Fluttershy.

"Master?" she whispered, coming to Discord's side. "Master, is t-t-there something y-you need?"

"Fluttershy…" Discord murmured weakly.

Derpy bit her lip. If she could bring Fluttershy to him, she would. She remembered how well Fluttershy had helped the Master when he had been injured by the gunshot. But she did know how to get to the place where she stayed, or how to get word to her.

"I'm s-s-sorry Master…I…I d-don't know how to g-g-get Fluttershy," Derpy murmured sadly.

Discord's eyes drifted open then, realizing that Derpy was talking to him. His sleep had been littered with fevered dreams; nightmares where the Prince attacked Fluttershy and he was unable to help her. He glanced up at Derpy, who was leaning over him and looking concerned. The hunchback had been a great help, but he needed more, both of them did.

"Master?" Derpy asked again. "I said I'm s-s-sorry…b-but I don't know h-h-how to g-g-get Fluttershy."

Discord slowly nodded her head with understanding. "Madame Luna," he coughed. "Get Madame Luna…she will know what to do…"

"Madame Luna?" Derpy thought for a second and remembered that she lived in the house with the stable that had the very nice horses. Of course she would be able to help! "I will g-g-go a-and b-bring her to you!" Derpy promised, rising to her feet.

"Take the catacombs," Discord whispered. "They will be the quickest way."

Derpy's confident smile quickly vanished. "But the catacombs a-a-are d-d-dark! Darker t-t-than all the other t-tunnels…a-and I don't know t-t-them very well–"

"Derpy," Discord interrupted, his eyes focusing on the hunchback. "You can do this…I know you can. I showed all of you the way down the tunnel once…do you remember?"

Derpy slowly nodded her head, although she never thought she would ever have to use it. "I d-do," she whispered, trying to sound brave, but failing.

"Take the tunnel…count to 40, then turn to your right…count to 80, then turn to your left. Count to 20 and then turn left again…count to 70, and then turn right. You'll be near the entrance at that point. Just go another 20 paces and you'll come to some stairs. There are 14 of them. Go up the stairs and you will find yourself inside a mausoleum. There is an old rusted key that hides on a stone ledge above the gate. Use it to unlock the gate, and be sure to lock the gate once you've left. Take the key with you, and find Madame Luna."

Derpy slowly nodded her head, not liking the idea very much, but knowing that the Master was depending on her. "I w-will be q-q-quick," she promised. "I w-will find her a-a-and bring her back."

"I know you will," Discord whispered, leaning back against the wall of stone, and feeling his eyes grow heavy once more. "I know you can do this."

Derpy nodded her head and took a deep breath. Carmen mewed from inside her pocket, and Derpy smiled down at the kitten. At least she would not be taking this darkened journey alone.

She glanced at the Master one last time, before entering the darkness of the old Marisian catacombs.

"I can't believe it…and yet…it doesn't surprise me."
Fluttershy glanced up at the pretty dancer who sat across from her in Madame Luna's parlor. It was early morning, the day after Fluttershy had announced that she was quitting the Maris Opera House. Had she still been a member of the company, today would be her opening night, the day she would take her first step out on stage as an opera singer before all of Maris. But that day would never come for her, and it was her choice.

After Fluttershy and her father had left, both Madame Luna and Twilight had rushed home, bursting into the house, talking at the same time, their eyes wide, their faces pale, and looking shocked beyond all belief. Together, both Fluttershy and her father stood facing them, calmly explaining their decisions, how they felt this was truly better for them both, and that was the end of it.

Madame Luna looked horrified, and had to excuse herself from the parlor before bursting into tears. Twilight was still stunned by Fluttershy's news that she and the Phantom were lovers. It made perfect sense, of course, looking back on everything. Fluttershy's hysterical behavior after the explosion, her desperateness to get below the opera house, even the way she defended the Phantom's name in front of the Prince! It all made sense, and yet Twilight had never once suspected.

Little sleep was had that night.

Both Fluttershy and her father seemed unsure what to do next. Madame Luna could not stop crying and worrying, and Twilight had just too many questions. Finally, before the dawn's light rose, the four of them gathered together once more in Madame Luna's parlor. Time Turner had been talking with Fluttershy late into the night, and the two decided that the best thing for them both was to travel back to Time Turner's homeland of Sweden, and start a new life there. Madame Luna's tears flowed even more, and she excused herself again, saying she needed to go somewhere urgently, and left the house. Time Turner also excused himself, believing it best to go and arrange the tickets that they would need for their journey. Twilight and Fluttershy were left alone in the parlor, sipping tea and watching the dawn's gray light illuminate the streets of Maris from the parlor window.

"All those months…" Twilight murmured. "All those months you had been missing, you were only just below."

Fluttershy nodded her head and took a sip from her teacup. She was unsure how Twilight would react after learning the truth about her and the Phantom, but she realized that she should have known better; Twilight was truly the only pony in the whole company that had not judged Fluttershy. And still, even after everything she had learned, Twilight's kindness and sweet understanding remained steadfast.

"It's amazing," Twilight murmured again. "Just…I have never seen the Phantom myself, but I believed the stories. And he was always portrayed as this masked villainous monster…"

"I know," Fluttershy whispered. "And I thought the same when I first met him. I will not lie, he was not always kind; he had a fierce temper and his words could be most cruel…but something changed. Or perhaps, I changed, and saw the good in him. But the Phantom I knew then is practically forgotten; Discord…the Phantom I know now…he is the stallion I love…the stallion I will always love."

Twilight smiled at her friend's words, but felt the same pangs of sadness for her loss. "And the ring…the ring that Celestia saw you wearing and had assumed was from the Prince? That was from the Phan–I mean, from Discord?"

Fluttershy simply nodded her head, her hooves reaching up to brush her tears away. She felt so cold, so hollow since yesterday. She also felt so much older, as if Discord's death had aged her twenty years. Her heart, and her innocence died in that explosion, along with the creature she loved. She had become a widow, before becoming a bride.

Twilight reached out and took Fluttershy's hoof in her own. Fluttershy squeezed the dancer's hoof, grateful for the comfort. "You don't have to go, Fluttershy," Twilight whispered, looking into her friends' eyes. "You don't have to do this."

Fluttershy sadly shook her head. "No Twilight, I can't stay here…Papa is right. There is nothing for us here anymore. Nothing for us in Maris, and nothing for us back in the country. He has a sister in Sweden who he has corresponded with through the years, and after the death of my mother, wrote to us, telling us that we could come and stay with her if need be."

"Yes, but it's so far away!" Twilight sighed unhappily. "I'm going to miss you."

Fluttershy looked up at the mare who sat across from her and reached out to hug her tightly. "Oh Twilight, I'm going to miss you too, so very much. Both you and your mother are going to be my only regrets when leaving Maris."

Twilight put her hooves on Fluttershy's shoulders and looked deeply into the brunette's eyes. "Your only regret? Fluttershy…think about what you're giving up! I understand your feelings, and I respect them, but…giving the part to Celestia? Fluttershy, that's Discord's opera…don't you want to sing the part that he wrote for you?"

Fluttershy felt her heart swell with sorrow and shame at Twilight's words. She knew that Discord would be disappointed in her decision, but the truth of the matter was, she could not stand to be a part of something that cared so little for the genius that composed the great work they would be performing. It was all a lie, a mask in a sense, hiding the ugly resentment by taking the money.

"Twilight…a part of me wants to sing that part more than anything. But…" she looked away as the tears began to fall. "Ever since I came back, ever since I stepped foot on stage at rehearsals, I have always felt his presence. As if he were watching over me, guiding me through the music." She smiled at this thought, but it quickly faded. "Yesterday, when I stepped out on that stage, after everything that had happened…something didn't feel right. Something felt cold, harsh, and different. And then I realized…I couldn't feel him anymore. It was as if his very presence was taken away in that horrible explosion…" Fluttershy couldn't hold back anymore, the tears began flowing and she covered her mouth with her hoof to control her sobs.

Twilight quickly hugged her friend tightly as Fluttershy released herself to her sorrow. For a long time, the two of them sat like that, hugging one another and crying together until their eyes stung from all the tears that had been shed. Fluttershy finally lifted her head and wiped her eyes. "I can't do it Twilight…" she murmured sadly. "I…I know you're right, I know that I should sing…but I can't do it. I can't go out there, feeling that emptiness, the lack of his presence. I'm sorry…"

"Oh Fluttershy, no," Twilight shushed, shaking her head. "You don't need to apologize, and I'm sorry for making you feel pressured to sing. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to sing something somepony you loved created for you…and then know that…well, that they won't be seeing it." She paused, her hooves gripping Fluttershy's. "I wish I could quit too."

Fluttershy's head jerked up at Twilight's words. "Oh no Twilight, you mustn't wish that. There are so many wonderful dance scenes in the opera, and several solos for you. You must go on and perform them so that all of Maris can see the star that you are!"

"But Fluttershy, you are a star too!" Twilight argued.

"No," Fluttershy shook her head. "No Twilight, I'm nobody. At least in the world of opera, I'm nobody. But you have been dancing since you could walk–you deserve this moment to shine."

Twilight wanted to argue further, but at that moment, the door opened and Time Turner emerged. "I have our tickets," he announced. "We shall be leaving tonight, on the six o'clock train to the coast. Tomorrow, a ship shall take us to Sweden."

Both mares gasped. "So soon?" Fluttershy realized it was she who had said those words. She felt it best that both she and her father leave Maris, but she had not fully comprehended how quickly they would be going…or how much she would miss the city.

"It was the only train that still had seats," her father explained. "There was nothing else available until next week."

Fluttershy nodded her head with understanding, but she felt sadness wash over her. She touched her stomach and thought of the baby, thought of the city where her child had been conceived, and how perhaps one day, after the child was born, she would bring her son or daughter back to show them Maris.

"You must come and visit, both of you," Twilight insisted, forcing a smile, although it was quite strained.

"We shall," Time Turner promised, leaning down and taking Fluttershy's hooves in his. Fluttershy quickly smiled up at her father, and tried to smile at Twilight's words, yet hers was strained as well.

"Well," Twilight murmured. "I had best be getting to the opera house. Monsieur Flim announced that we need to have one more rehearsal this morning, due to yesterday's…" her voice trailed off, and she quickly looked away from both Fluttershy and her father.

"Good luck," Fluttershy whispered, rising from her chair to give Twilight a hug. It felt very much like a sad farewell. "I shall write as soon as we reach Sweetlen."

Twilight nodded her head, fighting back her own tears, before quickly turning to leave the house. Time Turner rested a hoof on his daughter's shoulder, offering as much comfort as he could. "We shall visit again soon, I promise."

Fluttershy said nothing, she simply reached up to give her father's hoof a squeeze, before turning to go and help with packing their things.

Madame Luna exited the small church with a heavy sigh. Clouds were brewing overhead; fitting, she thought. The sun's beautiful golden rays were quickly disappearing, as thunder could be heard in the distance. Yes, quite fitting; this is not a day for sunshine and warmth.
She knew she was late. She should be at the opera house, helping the mares prepare for the evening's opera, but it was a task that she was not looking forward to.

How could she go there, knowing that Discord was dead and Fluttershy was leaving? How could she enjoy watching her daughter dance, knowing that the genius that had designed and choreographed Twilight's solos was no longer present? How could she stand by, cold with grief, and watch the managers greedily boast about ticket sales? If Twilight and the other mares did not need her support, she would quit herself.

A creaking sound to her right caused the dance mistress to rapidly turn her head. She stood in the cold churchyard, surrounded by ancient gravestones, her eyes falling on a lonely, cracked mausoleum. She could have sworn she had heard the sound come from there! She took a tentative step towards the mausoleum, and froze as she heard a soft grunt escape its darkened confines.

Were the dead rising from their graves?

She took another step towards the mausoleum, and gasped as she saw the iron gate of enlarged tomb, creak open.

The sight that greeted her after that was never more beautiful.

"D-d-d-derpy?" she choked, as the hunchback and slowly, and carefully, emerged from her hiding place.

Derpy froze at the sound of her name, however she recognized the voice and turned quickly, gasping at the sight of the mare she had come above to fetch. She opened his mouth to greet her, but was stunned speechless when the dance mistress gave a shriek of joy, before rushing forward and throwing her arms around her.

"You're alive!" Madame Luna happily cried. "Oh thank the Lord above, you're alive!"

Derpy was still stunned by Madame Luna's burst of emotion. The few times she had conversed with the dance mistress, she always gave off an air of cold aloofness. Now, she was crying against her chest and hugging her as tightly as her two thin arms could.

However, it wasn't just Madame Luna's emotional outburst that had her frozen in his place. She still couldn't believe that she had managed to find her way out of the catacombs. She had almost burst into tears with worry, thinking that she had gotten herself lost, until Carmen's sweet meow brought her attention to the tunnel that led to the mausoleum's steps. Now she just needed to find Madame Luna; and before she had even shut the tomb's gate, there she was! The very pony she needed, standing right there as if she had heard the Master's prayer.

Madame Luna finally got control of her emotions, and quickly took the hunchback's arm, bringing her more securely into the shadows of the mausoleum. She was so happy that Derpy had made it, that she was indeed alive, which could also mean that the others were alive as well! But she needed to let her speak first and learn everything that she could about the situation. "Derpy, how did you get out of there?" she asked in a hushed voice.

The hunchback smiled with pride. "T-t-the Master t-told me about the c-c-catacombs, a-a-and h-helped me find the way outside," she explained.

Madame Luna froze at the mention of Discord. Was it possible? Could he still be alive?

"Derpy…you must tell me everything," she whispered, carefully and calmly, despite the anxiousness she was feeling inside.

The hunchback nodded her head, but pushed the gate of the mausoleum open. "I p-promise to t-t-t-tell you everything o-on the way…b-b-but we must g-go, the Master needs y-your h-help."

She couldn't contain her questions any longer. "Discord is alive?"

Derpy smiled and began to nod hwe head, but then hwe smile quickly faded. "H-he is badly h-hurt…a-and told me to come a-and get you," zhe explained.

Madame Luna could not believe it. Discord was alive…he was alive! But Derpy's words were slowly sinking in; he was alive…now, but he was in need of help, and if she did not go to him quickly…

"Lead the way," she murmured, picking up her skirts and entering the mausoleum.

Derpy grinned and nodded his head, feeling his hope rising. Everything was going to be all right; Madame Luna would help them as she always had before.

As Derpy bravely led the way back into the dark catacombs, Madame Luna found herself thanking God for answering her prayer, but also praying that by the time she reached Discord, she was not too late.

"Where is she!?!"
Twilight groaned and once more, attempted to calm the angry manager down. "She will be here shortly, Monsieur Flam, she simply wanted to go to church this morning before coming to the opera house."

"Church!" Flam practically spat. "On a Friday?"

Twilight took a deep breath so as not to lose her temper at the odious pony. "She wanted to go to confession," she simply explained. "After yesterday's tragedy, it should not be surprising that everyone is a little…shaken."

Flam looked down at the pretty dancer, his face twisting with disgust; how dare she, a mere child, lecture him! He opened his mouth to reply, but a sudden grip on his shoulder caused the younger manager to whirl around.

"Is there a problem, monsieur?" Blueblood casually asked.

Flam's eyes widened and quickly shook his head. "No monsieur, not at all! Simply, I was asking Mademoiselle Luna here, if she knew where her mother was. Madame Luna is late for rehearsals," he explained, hoping to not upset the Prince, while also wanting to tattle on the dance mistress.

Blueblood had been reluctant to come to the opera house that morning. Partly, because he got little sleep the night before, due to worries involving his loss of finances, and his plans involving Fluttershy. Even if the Phantom were dead, it still did not help the matter of his debts. Due to the scandals and lack of ticket sales prior to Don Juan, on top of his gambling debts, and the money he owed to both Silverstar and Master, Blueblood needed the Marquis Filthy Rich's fortune more than ever, which meant he needed Fluttershy as his wife, now, more than ever.

Which was the cause for his other reason to being reluctant for coming to the opera house that morning. Fluttershy's words to him the night before, on top of everything else she had revealed, were still whirling about in his head. She called him a monster; she confessed to rutting with that beast; she defended that creature even as she was being dragged away! The second he had her alone, after they were married, he would teach her a lesson, a lesson he was looking quite forward to inflicting.

Blueblood ignored any other words that were leaving Flam's mouth, and found himself smiling with interest at Twilight. She was quite pretty…and she did seem to have blossomed overnight, since last he had paid any heed to her. Perhaps he could persuade Twilight to cure the ache in his loins that Fluttershy had caused?

"I'm sure she will be here shortly," he murmured to the manager, offering a charming smile in Twilight's direction.

Once upon a time, Twilight would have found herself giggling and smiling back, but now, she only wrapped her arms around her body and immediately began to back away from Blueblood's hoofsome gaze. "Good day to you," she whispered, before quickly turning and rushing back to where the other dance mares stood.

Blueblood frowned, cursing Madame Luna for influencing the mare. He turned away then and pushed past Flam, practically causing the younger manager to fall backward. "Tonight's a big night," he muttered. "Is everything understood about what is to happen?"

"Oh yes!" Flam answered, quickly recovering from his near loss of balance. He followed Blueblood into the auditorium, and now stood beside Monsieur Flim, who was gazing up at the stage while Fancypants sang one of his many songs. "The police will be here promptly at six, before any patrons arrive, and they shall be stationed at every entrance, and backstage–"

"What's this?" Blueblood asked, his voice filled with both surprise and disgust.

Flam turned to look up at the stage to see Celestia, strutting across, singing "Think of Me", far too dramatically. "Celestia is Mademoiselle Fluttershy's understudy, so she is–"

"I know she is Fluttershy's understudy," Blueblood growled, his temper beginning to kindle. "But what is she doing on stage? This is pointless! It is a waste of valuable time, having the understudies rehearse when they will not be performing!"

Flam glanced at Flim, who was now beginning to turn pale with realization. "You haven't told him?" the older manager practically hissed.

"He just arrived! Besides, you should be the one to tell him!" Flam hissed back.

Blueblood's eyes narrowed at the two managers. "Tell me what?" he growled.

Both men looked up at the Prince, swallowing the nervous lumps in their throats, feeling their palms grow sweaty. "Well…monsieur, a-after you left…" Flim began, his courage quickly leaving along with his voice.

"T-things were quite tense," Flam offered, trying to help, but also feeling his own courage drift away.

"If one of you does not explain in the next few seconds," he growled, dragging the two men out of the auditorium and into the foyer where they would cause less of scene, "you will both be wishing that you had never even heard of the opera business!" Blueblood threatened, his eyes flashing with irritation.

Funnily enough, the two stallions were already wishing that.

The managers glanced at each other, took a deep breath, and together, said, "Mademoiselle Fluttershy quit."

There was a long pause, as if time itself had come to a stand still.

And then…

"WHAT?!?"

Before the two managers could say or do anything, Blueblood had grabbed them both by the collars of their suits, and had practically bashed the two of them together. "WHY DIDN'T DID YOU TELL ME THIS YESTERDAY?"

"W-w-we did not wish to worry you f-further!" Flam quickly explained, in a pathetic blubbering voice.

"W-w-we thought l-letting Celestia play the lead–" Flim attempted to reason, but was quickly shaken, violently, for doing so.

"DO YOU TWO IDIOTS UNDERSTAND ANYTHING?" Blueblood shouted, pushing them away from him, causing them both to stumble backwards. "WE NEED FLUTTERSHY! SHE'S THE BAIT! IF THAT BLASTED PHANTOM IS STILL ALIVE, HE WILL COME TONIGHT BECAUSE OF HER!" he took a deep breath, trying to calm himself, if at least to calm his voice. "She…" he began, his tone slightly softer, but still quite threatening, "…is the key to our plans. She is the thing that will lure him into our trap. Also, she's the one that the BUCKING PUBLIC IS PAYING TO SEE!" he roared again.

Both stallion shrunk at the Prince's tone, lifting their arms up as if to shield themselves.

"Do you WANT to live through more scandals? Do you WANT this place to remain haunted by that madcolt? IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?"

"NO!" both stallions pathetically shouted in unison.

Blueblood cursed under his breath, before smoothing his jacket and running his hooves through his blonde hair. It looked as if his plot would have to begin earlier than he had planned. "Get Celestia off stage," he growled. "And have everything ready tonight for Mademoiselle Fluttershy."

Flim knew he was playing with fire by asking this question, but it needed to be asked. "A-a-are you g-going to bring her back?"

Blueblood wanted to shout, but instead he clenched his teeth and nodded his head. "She will perform, I promise you that," he muttered, before turning on his heel and exiting the opera house. "And I know just how to persuade her…"

Time Turner watched as his daughter gently placed their meager belongings in the two carpetbags they possessed. She had insisted on doing the task by herself, telling him that he had already done his part by rising early to purchase their tickets. Time Turner finally gave in, yet it pained him so to see his daughter's face, pale and hopeless, the life that once sparkled in her eyes gone…
Sweden was their only choice. There was nothing for them in Prance; no farm to tend, and now after making the dramatic move to quit the opera house, they truly had no other options. Time Turner knew his sister would welcome them with open arms, but still, he despised having to rely on others when for so many years, he had provided for his family.

And while he knew it was not his fault, he blamed himself for the sorrow his daughter was feeling.

Fluttershy had found love; a creature who once upon a time had seemed like a horrible monstrous beast…but in the end, had learned to love, had adored his daughter, and who wanted to marry her. And the two of them, like so many couples, lost themselves in their passions, and now Fluttershy was with child…and the stallion who would have married her and helped her raise that child was no more.

He knew it wasn't his fault, but Time Turner blamed himself entirely for not somehow being a better help for his daughter.

"When will our boat be leaving?"

Time Turner glanced up at his daughter, realizing she was asking him a question. "Tomorrow morning," he murmured. "Around eight."

Fluttershy nodded her head. "And our train that will take us to the coast leaves at six," she confirmed.

Time Turner nodded his head to her question. "I was informed that there will be several inns in the area that will provide us with both a hot meal, and a warm bed for the night."

Fluttershy tried to smile, but found it difficult. The hours had been ticking by far faster than she had liked. She could not believe it was the afternoon already! Prior to packing their things, Fluttershy had insisted on helping Shores, Madame Luna's housekeeper, with several of the household chores, as repayment for the dance mistress' kindness. Several times during her work, Fluttershy had thought that perhaps instead of traveling to Sweden, she could find work in the city as a seamstress; after all, she was rather smart with needle and pin. If not that, then at least as a maid, she was not a stranger to hard work. But she knew her father wouldn't stand for it, if he could help it, and she personally was not sure how she could handle staying in Maris after everything. And yet, she also was not sure how she could handle leaving it as well. All that mattered now was helping her father, and looking after her baby.

"My dear," Time Turner murmured, interrupting her thoughts. "Let me finish, you have done more than enough today."

"I'm fine, Papa," she mumbled, not meeting his eyes, as she folded a dress into her bag.

Time Turner sighed and rose from his chair, gently placing his old hooves on his daughter's shoulders. They were trembling with the resolve not to cry.

"Fluttershy, let me finish this, and why don't you go visit Twilight?"

Fluttershy froze at his words and she turned to face him. "What?"

"Go to the opera house," he gently explained. "Say goodbye to Twilight and the others, it will do you some good."

"But Papa–"

"Fluttershy," he whispered, pushing a fallen wave away from her brow. "I know from experience; you will regret it if you do not do this. Go say your goodbyes…"

He did not say it, but Fluttershy knew what he meant. Yes, he was telling her to go and say her final goodbyes to Twilight and others of the company…but he was also telling her to say goodbye to the opera house itself…and to its ghost.

Time Turner smiled as he noticed her hesitation melt away. "Go on, I will finish this and wait for you."

Fluttershy nodded her head, a soft smile spreading across her face. "I shall be back before five."

"Take as long as you need," he whispered, wrapping his arms around her and hugging her close.

Fluttershy hugged her father back just as tightly, murmuring her thanks, before turning and leaving the town house to pay her last respects to the magnificent Maris Opera House…and the memory of the stallion who had called it his home for the last twenty years.

"Master!" Derpy cried, as he and Madame Luna finally came to the end of their tunnel. "M-m-master! I f-f-found her! I h-have her!"
Madame Luna gasped at the sight of the destruction that lay around them. She had seen little when she had taken the passage from the chapel, and yet she had not imagined how horrible the damage was. It was amazing that either Derpy or Discord had survived this disaster.

Much to Derpy's surprise, Discord was awake, and had been ever since he had heard their hoofsteps far down the dark tunnel. "Master!" Derpy grinned proudly and happily at seeing him conscious. "H-h-here s-she is!" she happily stuttered, taking Madame Luna's arm and gently pulling her towards Discord.

"Discord!" she gasped with relief at seeing him, although her relief was quickly squashed at the sight of the dried blood that caked his shirt and skin. "Oh God, Discord…"

"Don't faint on me," he grunted with discomfort, as he attempted to sit up. "You're the most level-headed pony I know, and if you lose your senses, I don't know what I'll do."

At least the explosion hadn't knocked away his dry humor. Madame Luna knelt down beside her friend and carefully began to examine the blood on his shirt. "Where do you feel the most pain?" she asked, taking note of the cuts on his chest.

"My leg," Discord groaned, wincing with pain as he moved it. "The left one."

Madame Luna leaned down to examine his leg, while Derpy hovered near by. "Is t-t-there a-a-anything I c-can do?" he softly asked.

Discord looked up at Derpy and felt his chest swell with pride. "You have done more than enough, my friend," he murmured most sincerely. "Thank you."

Derpy grinned, but knew now was not the time to be feeling proud; she needed to help the Master so they could save the others. "I f-f-found s-some of Rarity's m-medicines," she explained to Madame Luna, reaching over to show her the small bag that the little mare had kept whenever they were injured. "I g-gathered it a-after b-bringing the Master here."

Madame Luna smiled up at the hunchback. "You're quite resourceful, Derpy," she complimented. "And a good thing too, we need to put some of those herbs she uses on these cuts, as well as some clean bandages. And we'll need some wood…two thin slabs to make a splint."

"A splint?" Discord asked.

Madame Luna nodded. "It's not as bad as I feared; your leg isn't broken, but the ankle is sprained. A splint will help give your ankle the support it will need to heal. Derpy? Can you go and fetch me some clean strips of cloth, as well as two lean wooden slabs?"

"No," Discord interrupted before the hunchback could answer.

Madame Luna lifted an eyebrow at his words. "Discord, you need this splint if you want to be able to stand on your own, let alone walk–"

"Forget about me!" he growled. "I am fine, I will be alright, just help the others."

Madame Luna leaned away. "The others?" she asked, slowly realizing that he did not know what Derpy had told her.

"Yes, they are trapped somewhere, most likely in their chamber. Derpy, go and help them, I'm sure they are–"

"They're not here," Madame Luna calmly explained.

Discord stared at the mare before him, confused and irritated that nothing was being done. "What are you talking about? I told you, they're trapped on the other side–"

"T-t-the g-g-gypsies took t-them," Derpy interrupted, her voice filled with sadness and fear.

Discord's eyes widened with shock and disbelief. "W-w-what?"

"Master," Madame Luna whispered. "The same stallion that kept you imprisoned all those years…he has them."

Silence fell over the tunnel as the shock from Madame Luna's words settled over Discord. And then, suddenly, with a mighty roar of anger, Discord gripped the slab of stone he had been leaning against, and forced himself up onto his feet.

"Discord!" Madame Luna gasped as he attempted to walk on his own. "What are you doing?"

"What…does…it…look…like?" he growled through clenched teeth, groaning at the pain that was shooting through his body with each step.

His leg was not broken, but a sprained ankle still made it difficult for an ordinary stallion to walk on. But Discord was no ordinary stallion, the dance mistress had to remind herself. He could be the most unbelievably stubborn pony on the planet…and that was probably the only thing that kept him living this long.

"Discord, you are in no condition–"

"IT'S MASTER!" he shouted. "That…that…that BASTARD kept me in a cage! He tortured me, as well as the others! And I PROMISED them I would NEVER allow this to ever happen to them AGAIN!" he turned and slammed his fist, hard, into the wall behind him, leaving a dent in the stone. "I promised them," he whispered this time, ignoring the pain that pierced his ankle, as well as his bloody knuckles. "I promised them this would never happen again…"

Madame Luna felt Discord's pain, knowing how it felt to believe one had failed another. "We will save them, I promise," Madame Luna murmured, slowly coaxing Discord to sit back down. "But you are in no condition to go and fight them, at least not yet," she argued, hoping Discord would see reason.

With a groan of defeat, Discord sat down once more, and Madame Luna sent Derpy to fetch her the supplies she needed. She opened Rarity's small medical bag, and began to go through her tiny collection of healing herbs. "You need a doctor," Madame Luna sighed, as she took a small brush from the bag and dipped it into one of the herb jars.

"I need to get my hooves around Master's neck," Discord growled, wincing at the sting of the herbs on his open cuts.

"All in good time," the dance mistress grumbled as she applied the herbal paste to his cuts, before bandaging them.

"How did he find this place?" Discord asked hypothetically. "How did he get in?"

"Derpy said she saw them enter through the sewer entrance above their chamber," Madame Luna informed.

"The sewer entrance?" Discord thought about the passage that led down the sewer into the chamber his friends occupied. It was the most unguarded of the chamber entrances, but that was for the simple reason that Discord thought no one in their right mind would willingly walk through raw sewage to get to them. And even then, there was the boulder that covered the tunnel entrance into the chamber…

"He didn't just stumble upon that tunnel," Discord growled. "Somepony told him. Somepony found out and passed the information on…" A low snarl escaped his throat. "The Prince."

Madame Luna suspected the Prince as well, but it still made little sense. "How did the Prince discover this place? He hates you, yes, but he's the last pony who would walk through raw sewage to learn of your whereabouts."

At that moment, Derpy reappeared with several strips of cloth and two wooden slabs, just as Madame Luna had requested. Discord looked up at his friend and realized how the trap had been set. "They followed Derpy and Fluttershy," he whispered. "The night she brought him back, the Prince must have had somepony follow them…for she told me Derpy got them inside through the sewer."

Derpy had only just arrived, but already she was paling at her Master's words. "Does…does t-t-that mean it's m-m-my f-fault?"

"No," Madame Luna quickly intervened, taking the two wooden slabs and binding them to Discord's leg. "If anyone is to blame it is the Prince, if he is behind all this."

Discord grunted in pain as she tightened the splint. "He is, I know it."

Madame Luna shook her head. She suspected Blueblood of being behind this, but it made no sense! Just as she believed Blueblood would never walk through a sewer, she could not believe he would go out of his way to associate with gypsies. "How did the Prince come to know Master? Why would he want to know the stallion?"

"I don't know," Discord sighed with frustration. "But you can not tell me that this is all coincidence! That my greatest enemy who is more than determined to see me dead, and who covets Fluttershy, had nothing to do with the pony who kept me a prisoner in his freak show, finding my home and invading it to take the others?"

Madame Luna sighed, knowing that while it made no sense, she could not see it as pure coincidence either. And then she gasped with realization. "Discord, there is something else you need to know. Fluttershy–"

Discord paled at the mare's words. "Good God, is she alright? He didn't lay another hoof on her, did he?" he would skin the Prince alive if he had tried to force himself on Fluttershy again. Discord had every intention of the killing the stallion, but now it all came down to how much torture he would inflict.

"She is fine," the dance mistress quickly intervened. "But…she thinks you're dead!"

Discord's brow furrowed at the mare's words. "Dead?"

"Yes, the explosion, we all felt it…and few ponies believe that you are still alive, I even thought you were dead!" Madame Luna confessed. "And Fluttershy…she…she quit the opera–"

"What?" Discord gasped, groaning as he moved his leg too quickly. "What do you mean?" he demanded.

"The managers insist that the opera go on," Madame Luna explained. "They have too much money invested, but Fluttershy accused their hypocrisy, and thinking you were dead…quit the opera."

Had this been any other circumstance, Discord would be raging at the thought of somepony other than Fluttershy singing in his opera. But the opera was the last thing he needed to worry about.

"There's more," Madame Luna murmured. "She and her father are leaving Maris, tonight."

"WHAT?" Discord roared. "WHERE?"

"Sweetlan," Madame Luna quickly answered. "Her father has family there. Discord, please understand, Fluttershy believed she had nothing left here–"

"It's alright," he muttered, attempting to stand with his new splint. "I can not blame her, and it's the damn Prince's fault for arranging all this!" he cursed as pain shot through his leg as he attempted to put some weight on it. What was he going to do? He needed to save his friends, and stop Fluttershy from leaving Maris! He needed to get word to her that he was alive, that he was alright, and he feared for her too. If the Prince had mastered this whole plot to kill him…there was no end to the hoofsome noblecolt's villainy.

"Where is she now?" he asked, groaning at the pain in his leg.

"At my home, with her father. Time Turner went to get train tickets; I believe they will try to leave Maris tonight."

Discord nodded. He had no idea what the time was now, but he needed to get word to her as soon as possible. "Tell her I'm alright, and have both her and Time Turner stay where they are and lock the doors. Unless it is either you or your daughter, do not let anyone else inside."

Madame Luna felt a cold chill run down her spine at the serious tone of Discord's words. "What do you suspect?"

"I don't know," he groaned, attempting to put some weight on his leg once more. "But knowing she is safe is all that matters. Just tell her that I am alright and I will come to her later, but do not let her leave that house for anything!"

Madame Luna nodded her head in agreement. "I shall leave at once and get word to her right away…and what are you going to do?"

Discord took several deep breaths, fighting the pain that was in his leg as he stood away from the wall, his weight balancing back and forth between his legs. "Derpy and I are going to pay a visit to Monsieur Master."

"Discord! That is not wise–"

"WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE ME DO?" he roared in anger. "I am not exactly the sort of stallion who can rely on the police for help!"

"Discord you can not fight him! He has a hoards of stallions, and you…you can barely walk!" Discord had nearly lost his life; she did not want him to go looking for an opportunity to put it at stake.

"We shall take the black carriage," Discord explained, ignoring her concern. "Do you think you can help me?" he asked, looking at Derpy who had been watching the whole scene with a trembling lip.

The hunchback was unsure. She tried to avoid any kind of fighting; besides, the Master was always there to protect them. But now, it was the Master who was in need of her strength , and then she thought of Rainbow Dash, Shortround, and Rarity…being held in cages, being beaten with whips and rocks…

A great storm of rage filled her eyes. "Y-yes Master," she growled, in a way similar to Discord's. "I w-w-will f-fetch the carriage."

Madame Luna threw her hooves up into the air. "This is crazy! Discord, you can't expect Derpy–"
"She's not a filly, madam, but a mare. A mare who has proven several times today to be capable of looking after herself, as well as others. And I will not sit here another second, knowing that my…my family…are being held in cages!" he spat bitterly.

It was a pointless battle. Nothing she said would stop him, and she knew how important it was to help Rarity and the others. "I remember hearing news about a gypsy carnival just outside of Maris," she murmured, "to the north."

Discord nodded his head and limped in the direction Derpy had gone, his back straight, his broad shoulders square, and his head lifted high. "Go and send word to Fluttershy. And tell her…tell her I love her, and that I will see her again, very soon." he paused, turning and looking back at the mare who had been a guardian angel to all of them throughout the years. "Thank you…for everything"

Madame Luna nodded her head, a tearful smile spreading across her face. "You're welcome…and be careful," she whispered.

"I promise," Discord vowed.

Time Turner sighed and glanced at the clock in Madame Luna's parlor. He could not believe how quickly the day had flown. It was after four and he knew that within the hour, Fluttershy would be back and the two of them would leave to catch their train.
He set down the cup of tea he had been sipping, and tried to think of the positive things that awaited them in Sweden. It had been years since he had visited his home country, and while a part of him longed to see his sister and the land of his birth…he knew, like Fluttershy, he would miss Maris immensely.

A knock on the door interrupted Time Turner's thoughts. Fluttershy had returned earlier than he had expected. He rose from his chair and opened the door, ready to embrace his daughter who he expected to find in tears…but his blood turned cold at the sight that greeted him.

"Ah, good afternoon, Monsieur Time Turner," Blueblood greeted, as thunder softly growled overhead. "I do hope I am not intruding?"

Blueblood's hoof slammed against the door, stopping it from closing when Time Turner attempted to shut it in the noblecolt's face. "Now that is rude," Blueblood sighed, pushing his way in. "A proper gentlecolt would have at least invited me in for tea."

Time Turner glared at the stallion before him, the pony who only a few weeks ago he had thought was the epitome of good manners and gentility. "You, monsieur, need a lesson in how to be gentlecolt," Time Turner spat. "Get out of this house!"

Blueblood ignored the old pony and pushed his way past him, taking a seat in the chair Time Turner had occupied, and helping himself to a cup of tea. "It is not your house to be throwing orders," Blueblood murmured, as he added sugar to his cup. "And I'm not here to see you, but your charming daughter."

Time Turner had gone from a hot red to a deep shade of purple. "YOU STAY AWAY FROM HER!" he shouted. "YOU ARE PURE FILTH! I KNOW WHAT YOU TRIED TO DO–"

"Must you shout? It can hurt one's head."

Time Turner could not believe the arrogance of this pony! The conceitedness! The way he assumed authority wherever he went! He opened his mouth to shout other, more crude, obscenities at the noblecolt, but was robbed from all speech when he felt two strong arms grip his own, pulling them behind his back, causing him to flail helplessly. Who was his unseen attacker?

"Thank you," Blueblood complimented his coachcolt, as he sipped the tea from his cup. "Now, Monsieur Time Turner, perhaps you can answer a few questions for me?"

"Go to hell!" Time Turner spat, struggling against the coachcolt's strong grip.

Blueblood sighed and rose from his chair. Without pausing or blinking, his fist made contact with the old pony's stomach, causing Time Turner to crumple and groan in pain. "Now…" Blueblood murmured, grasping the old stallionst head and lifting it up to look at him. "Let's try this again," he said with a devilish smile. "I understand that you and Fluttershy have quit the opera house…and judging by your bags," Blueblood noted, "I'd say you're planning on going on a long trip. But why on earth would you be doing that? And once more…where would you be going?"

"I'll tell you nothing!" Time Turner coughed in agony as Blueblood's walking stick made contact with his gut.

"Are you that stubborn?" Blueblood grumbled. "Best let me know now; I'd hate to be doing this all night."

Time Turner simply spat at the Prince's feet, although he felt horribly sick in his stomach from the beating.
Blueblood sighed, realizing there was no reasoning with the old stallion, and knew he would be forced to use different tactics. "Monsieur Time Turner, I have been more than patient with you and your daughter, but my patience is growing extremely thin. If you do not begin answering my questions…" with a simple snap of his fingers, two burly gypsies entered the foyer, each dragging the bound and gagged housekeeper, "then I shall be forced to take out my anger on this innocent mare."

Time Turner stared wide eyed at the Prince. Surely he was not capable of committing such villainy! But Time Turner knew he was a pony who looked like a gentlecolt, and could pass off as one in society, and yet who was capable of nearly committing rape on his daughter, not to mention beat a helpless stallion. Time Turner gasped in horror as Blueblood lifted his arm to backhoof Madame Luna's housekeeper, the poor mare's eyes lit with terror. "No! I'll tell you whatever you wish! Just please, don't hurt her!"

Blueblood lowered his arm and a satisfied smile spread across his hoofsome features. "Good Colt."

It was quiet in the chapel; peaceful and calm. Fluttershy wished she had visited this place more often when she had been a member of the company. It was nice to be away from the chatter and noise of the opera house, preparing for its opening night of Don Juan Triumphant.
Fluttershy had seen very little when she had entered the majestic building. She was still in shock at how hard it had been to enter; it seemed as if her own feet refused to carry her up the stone steps that led into the grand foyer. Yet she pushed herself to do it, and once inside, quickly discovered that everyone was on stage, going over the last bits of the opera before its inaugural performance.

Fluttershy gazed from a crack in the door and felt her heart swell with sadness as she watched Celestia sing Aminta's songs. Yes, it had been her choice to quit, but she would be lying if she admitted she truly didn't want to play the part. The truth of the matter was that she did…but not without Discord. It wouldn't be the same without his presence haunting the stage from overhead.

Twilight and the other dance mares were extremely busy, dancing from one scene to the next. Fluttershy wanted to say goodbye to her new friend, but realized it would be impossible, and inconsiderate to interrupt the rehearsal. Also, she did not wish to draw any attention to herself, especially from the managers who were talking with one another as they watched the rehearsal.

With a heavy heart, Fluttershy went to the chapel, grateful to find it empty. It was a simple room; a single stained glass window with a beautiful picture of an angel illuminated the room with color, and beside a cross that hung from one wall, laid a small row of candles, some looking ancient and worn, many covered with dust. A box of matches lay on the ground beside the candles, and Fluttershy quickly lit one. She knelt beside the cross, and gazed at the broken vent that Madame Luna had pried open, that now only resembled burnt wood and crumpled stone. With her hooves folded, Fluttershy closed her eyes and began to pray, allowing the tears to flow freely down her cheeks.

"Discord…" she whispered. "If you can hear me…please know how much I love you. I…I miss you terribly…" she gasped as a sob escaped her throat. "I…I wish…" she paused to gather her senses. "I know you thought little of yourself…but I know your heart…and I know that you are with God, composing beautiful music for the choirs of angels…" she smiled slightly at this comforting thought. "I only pray that…that you can forgive me for quitting," she continued, feeling her eyes sting from the tears. "Please know that, no matter what, I shall always be your Aminta…" she bit her lip to keep from sobbing, although her body was violently shaking with the need. "I will be going far away…but I have already vowed to bring our child back, when he or she is old enough to understand. I will tell them about you, how their father was a great composer…and I will show them the Maris Opera House…you will live on in our child…and forever, in my heart."

She couldn't go on anymore, the sorrow had become too much. Her folded hooves rose to cradle her face as she sobbed into them, moaning softly, shaking and trembling with grief. After a long moment, she finally lifted her head, and sat in silence while she listened to the orchestra play Discord's music. Her red, puffy eyes, lifted to the image of the angel on the window, which would brighten now and then as lightning illuminated the late afternoon sky.

"Angel of Music, guide and guardian…" she found herself softly singing. "Grant to me your glory…" her words were faint, and it pained her to sing them, but it was truly, the only way she could say goodbye to her beloved.

"Angel of Music, hide no longer…
Come to me, strange angel…"

Her voice died away, but for a moment, her eyes locked with the vent, hoping, praying, knowing it was impossible, but still wishing that any second…Discord would emerge from the entrance.

In the distance, she heard a clock chime the hour. It was time for her to hurry back so she and her father could catch their train.

With a sad sigh, she silently rose to her feet, and carefully, removed the beautiful red rose Discord had given to her the night he had visited her bedroom, from the inside of her cloak. Oh so gently, she laid the fragile flower at the dusty entrance of the secret passage. "Goodbye…" she whispered, before turning and hurrying away before anyone caught sight of her.

It was quicker to take a coach back to Madame Luna's town house; she had enough coins in her purse to afford one. It didn't take long for Fluttershy to hail one and receive the ride she needed to the home of the dance mistress. It was a smart choice, as the clouds opened up over head and began to pour.

She leaned back and continued to stare out the window, as ponies covered their heads and quickly rushed indoors to escape the rain. In her head, a slow, haunting melody began to play over and over.

"In sleep he sang to me…in dreams he came…
that voice which calls to me, and speaks my name…
And do I dream again? For now, I find
The Phantom of the Opera is there–
inside my mind."

The coach came to a sudden jerk. They were there already? She thanked the driver and quickly paid him, before rushing up the steps of the town house to get out of the rain as quickly as possible.

"Papa!" Fluttershy gasped, when she finally managed to get inside. "We had best think of taking a coach to the station, it is pouring outside–"

"I don't think a coach will be necessary, my dear."

Fluttershy froze as the all too familiar voice from her nightmares filled her ears. With painful agony, she slowly turned to face the pony she despised with all her heart.

"So nice to see you, my dear mademoiselle!" Blueblood greeted all too warmly. He was sitting, comfortably, in a chair in Madame Luna's parlor, holding his arms out in a gesture of welcome, while the smoke from one of his cigars polluted the air. "I have missed you, dearly."

Without a second glance, Fluttershy turned to quickly escape, but gasped in shock as a large gypsy blocked her exit from the other side of the door.

"Ah, we shall have none of that now," Blueblood casually sighed, rising from his chair.

Fluttershy turned away from the gypsy, and bit back a scream as she realized several large, burly, dark-haired men were closing in on her from all different angles of the room. She turned and faced Blueblood, anger seething in her eyes. "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" she screamed at him, feeling the hysteria begin to rise within her.

"You know the answer to that, Fluttershy."

She shook her head. She couldn't believe this was happening! "WHY?" she demanded. "Why me? I'm nothing! Even you can admit that!"

"I could, once upon a time," Blueblood murmured, inhaling from his cigar as he examined her. His little rose did indeed have vicious thorns, but he had learned the proper way to plunk and destroy such delicate petals. "But you have become much more than 'nothing', my dear."

Fluttershy lifted her chin, trying to remain brave, but finding it difficult. The more the men closed in around her, the more hysterical she became. Was this his revenge? Would he let these men defile her body, and happily watch as they did so, over and over again? Her hooves went to her stomach in a protective fashion, feeling the bile rise in her throat. She had to remain calm, she had to be strong!

"Where is my father!" she demanded, lifting her chin and refusing to show him her fear.

"He's fine," Blueblood murmured simply. "And you shall see him, quite soon, but first…I have a business matter to settle with you."

Fluttershy's eyes narrowed with confusion from his choice of words. "Business matter?"

"Yes," Blueblood sighed, exhaling another cloud of smoke from his nostrils, before putting the cigar out on the chair's arm. "I have a great deal of money invested in this opera…and the public is expecting a little nobody named Fluttershy Time Turner, to be playing the part…not Celestia. So, I need you in that opera."

That was it? He had come to bully and frighten her to simply sing in Discord's opera? She opened her mouth to speak, but Blueblood immediately carried on.

"Second," he continued. "As soon as the performance is over and you have taken your bow, you leave the opera house, with me…"

Fluttershy swallowed the lump in her throat, knowing there was something she was going to despise about this. "And?"

Blueblood couldn't help but grin. "Well…I might as well do this properly." She stared with wide eyes as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a dazzling diamond and gold ring, before falling to one knee in front of her. "Fluttershy Time Turner, will you marry me?"

He had to be joking.

There could be no other explanation!

She wanted to kick him on the chin and remove that smug smile with her boot.

"Now, before you lose your delicate feminine senses and are overcome by tears of joy," he muttered with sarcasm, rising to his feet. "Allow me to explain what I mean about this being a 'business venture'." He nodded to two of the gypsies, and with a knowing smile, the two men disappeared through the kitchen entrance. "I know you don't like me, and I've accepted that…but I am giving you a choice, my dear," he said with a charming smile. "A choice to accept my proposal, or to decline it. However, before you make your decision, allow me to offer you an early wedding gift."

Suddenly, one of the gypsies that had left moments ago, returned, hauling her father into the room by his bound wrists.

"PAPA!" Fluttershy gasped with horror at seeing his black and blue face. There were bruises all over his face, his lip was bleeding, and he was groaning in pain. "You…you monster!" she shouted at Blueblood, but several strong arms reached out and grabbed her before she could launch herself at the blonde noblecolt.

"Wait…it gets better," Blueblood grinned, before snapping his fingers once more. The other gypsy, who had disappeared, emerged again, this time hauling a burlap sack over his shoulder. He didn't even bother to place the sack on the ground, before opening it to pour out the sack's contents.

A bound, gagged, and badly bruised Rarity, tumbled out in front of Fluttershy's feet.

"RARITY!" she gasped, fighting against the arms that held her, wanting to fall to her knees and embrace the tiny mare. She was alive! But how in the world had Blueblood gotten his hooves on her? "LET HER GO!" Fluttershy shouted. "SHE'S DONE NOTHING TO YOU, LET HER GO!"

"Now wait, my dear," Blueblood reasoned, his tone extremely patronizing. "Before we make any rash decisions, I want you to fully understand the gift I am offering you…so, please…look out the window."

One of the gypsies grasped the curtains and yanked them back, and Fluttershy felt the color drain from her face, as she took in the sight of two wagons, each containing a cage, and inside those two cages, lay the crumpled figures of Rainbow Dash and Shortround.

The tears that ran down her face were cold as a sick realization washed over her.

"My good business partner, Monsieur Master, has a most extraordinary carnival," Blueblood softly explained. "He collects all kinds of monsters, and so when I told him about your hunchback friend, his interest was, shall we say, aroused."

Fluttershy slowly turned to face the Prince, her voice straining from the horror of the situation. "What do you want?"

All traces of humor and sarcasm faded from Blueblood's green gaze. "You, Fluttershy. You as my wife. After tonight's performance, you will leave the opera house with me, and we shall immediately be married. That is the choice I am giving you…and they," he pointed to Rainbow Dash, Shortround, and Rarity, "are my wedding present to you. Should you accept my proposal, I will pay Monsieur Master quite hoofsomely, and have your friends released. However, should you refuse, not only will Monsieur Master be adding three new additions to his freak show, but I will ponyally see to it that your dear, devoted, and insane father…be taken immediately to the nearest asylum. After all, we can't have a madmen like him, who raves about masked fiends, be walking the streets now, can we?"

Fluttershy stared at the stallion before her with cold, horrifying, disbelief. Was it possible for a pony to be so cruel? "You call that a choice?" she whispered.

"Indeed, I do," Blueblood murmured. "An unfair choice, perhaps, but…such is life." He retrieved the bracelet once more and held it out to her. "So my dear, what is your decision?"

Author's Note:

All I have to say is: WOW that felt long while I wrote it lol, I fully expect errors :P