• Published 28th Mar 2013
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The Code's Apprentice - Lapis-Lazuli and Stitch



For a thousand years, the Code of Harmony has ruled Equestria, and the Code of Dissonance has sabotaged its works at every turn. Now the war for control over the land will come to a head, and one unicorn's decision may decide the fate of all.

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Chapter 5 - The Acolyte

~~~~~Later that evening~~~~~

Twilight's eyes slowly opened as she crawled her way back into consciousness. It was darker out, and the color of the light told her it would soon be sunset. For some reason, there were voices all around her - and she wasn't in her library anymore. Slowly, details seeped into the haze. This was the hospital; it had to be because of the sounds of the medical machinery nearby.

Twilight pressed her hooves into the softness of the hospital bed and began to lever herself up, grunting with effort - she was sore all over, but not in a bad way - and a brief mental test told her that her magic was unharmed. Both were very good signs, though the concerned looks on the faces of the Doctor unicorn and the nurse were a troubling. "What the buck hit me?" she wheezed out, feeling her dry throat and licking at her slightly cracked lips.

Nurse Redheart pressed a cup into Twilight's hooves and she drank down the cool, salted cider in a single go. Twilight immediately felt better for the sugar and salt, and blinked a little bit to focus her eyes on the nurse. "Do you ever take a day off, Nurse?" The question just sort of fell out, a result of her mind still being a bit frazzled from the...experience she'd had earlier.

The nurse and the doctor both laughed at that one, and their looks seemed immensely cheered. "I have enough time, Miss Twilight. It's good to see you're unharmed - your assistant was very worried." She glanced over nearby, where Spike was curled up on one of the chairs with a blanket tucked around him - he did not look to be having a peaceful sleep. Twilight reached over from the bed to touch him, drawing him out of his slumber.

Spike blinked blearily and looked up - and without further warning, launched himself from the chair to tackle hug Twilight to the bed, hugging her fiercely. Twilight wrapped her hooves around him as he started to cry into her shoulder, stroking his soft back scales as the doctor and the nurse discreetly moved to another part of the room, giving them the illusion of space. "Shh, it’s alright Spike. I'm fine." Twilight soothed, giving him one more gentle squeeze before pushing him a little away, drying off his tears with a bit of the bed sheets. "You did the right thing bringing me here so quickly. I'm very proud of you."

Spike sniffled and gave a tentative smile up to her "Really? Aw, shucks Twi...Um, I didn't have time to go and get everypony else though.." He drooped down a little, Twilight gently giggling and ruffling his head scales. He swatted gently at her hooves but was smiling again in no time, even if his eyes were still a little bright from the tears. "You sure you're okay, Twilight?" asked Spike. She nodded once to him and he hopped back down over to his chair. "Yes, I'm fine Spike." Twilight said as she turned to the doctor and the nurse, who returned a moment later. "Right, doctor?"

The older male unicorn coughed and nodded. "Yes, I believe you were just suffering from a bit of magical shock. Happens to every unicorn who forgets to eat a big enough lunch before undertaking heavy spellwork." His tone suggested Twilight should make sure it didn't happen again. He lifted a chart from the end of the bed with a little glow of power and examined it. "All preliminary reports indicate you're fit as a fiddle aside from that. I'd recommend trying advanced spell work with a bit more preparation, Miss Sparkle. Sign here and you can go." He floated over the chart, which she quickly scribbled a signature on the bottom of.

Spike hopped up off his chair and followed Twilight out of the room under the watchful eye of Nurse Redheart, who sighed somewhat dramatically. "I swear, that girl works too hard. Somepony needs to show her how to let her mane down once in a while!"

~~~~~~

Spike perched upon her back as they trotted out of the hospital into the evening. "Geeze, It’s sure gonna get dark soon." Spike observed, earning an eye roll from Twilight. "Hey, I know! Let's stop and pick up dinner. The doctor said you needed to eat more, let's grab a coupla dinner pies from Sugarcube Corner!" Spike was bouncing up and down at the prospect of pie - and Twilight had to admit it sounded like a pretty good idea.

The Sun slowly dipped behind the horizon by the time they'd reached Ponyville proper, but no shortage of ponies were out and about in town. Many were heading to the various night-time entertainments that Ponyville boasted. The sounds of heavy wubstep music thumping out of one of the nearby cottages got a curious look from Spike, as did the many ponies standing outside waiting to get in.

Spike wondered why Twilight seemed to be taking the long way to Sugarcube corner as they cut across a number of alleyways that she didn't really need to go through. "Twilight.." began Spike, his tone worried as they quickly made speed down Lily street, and Twilight growled something, just before Spike felt a flash of light envelop them - and deposit them just past Sugarcube Corner, staring out from a dark alleyway. "Twi, what's going on?" He whispered, hoping that was the right thing to be doing right now.

Twi turned her head a little. "We're being followed Spike. Get down." She nodded towards the ground, and Spike quickly slipped off. Twilight scanned the street, narrowing her eyes. "Get back to the Library, write a letter to the Princess and let her know that somepony's been following me through the town. I'm going to see if I can shake them." Spike opened up his mouth for a moment, only to get a hoof stuffed in it. "Don’t argue Spike. I can handle myself. Go."

Spike shut his mouth and nodded tightly, "You stay safe." He whispered and quickly scampered off into the alleyway, slipping under the wooden fence to make a beeline for city hall and the guard’s barracks there. Twilight took a deep breath and exhaled. She slipped out of the alley and trotted past Sugarcube corner, heading down her usual route towards her Library. Sure enough, those shadowy figures were still following her.

She quickly darted down a secondary alleyway, plotting out the route between here and home. Ponyville had grown quite a bit in the last few years, which had led to numerous side streets popping up strictly unofficially. Her steps took her past a pair of very confused looking teenaged ponies, pulling a fast turn around the corner and darting down the next main street. Somehow, they were still following her! The same two or three ponies too. Just watching, staring quietly. It was creepy.

Well, there's more than one way to lasso a pony. AJ would've said. Twilight picked her target...there, that one always seemed to be getting ahead of her. Probably a unicorn. Let’s see how they like this little trick.. She grinned to herself and gathered her magic for another fast teleport, then popped out of existence.

And popped right back mere moments later, nearly on top of a dark cloaked and hooded pony. "Gyaaha!" Was all he had to say as Twilight crashed into him, his horn starting to glow beneath his hood as he thrashed about under her, He's going to teleport! thought Twilight after only a moment. She looked around for any solution and finding none, acted on instinct.

She punched him, right in the face.

~~~~

Spike's eyes went as wide as saucers when she finally dragged the unconscious form of her pursuer into the library using a combination of magic and muscle strength. Once inside, she picked the pony up and deposited her onto a sturdy looking chair. "Spike, get my inhibitor ring and something to tie her up with. No questions yet!" She snapped irritably. The rest of the ponies had scattered when she landed on her quarry here, and none had come to her aid when she'd knocked her out.

Twilight shook her sore hoof, muttering "Didn't realize i could punch that hard." Of course, Twilight couldn't just leave her there. There was no telling what might happen to a mare in the dead of night in the middle of an alleyway. Why not just take her to the constables? Oh right, you assaulted her. Twilight was not looking forward to explaining that to Celestia Still, she once again had a unique opportunity here.

Magic quickly dealt with her captive's hood and cloak - revealing her to be wearing a thick leather collar around her neck with a tag hanging off a metal ring. There was a little symbol on the tag, that of a scroll being pierced through its center by a dagger and a name, "Lilith". Spike came running up with the requested items. Twilight quickly fitted the magic inhibitor ring around the female unicorn's horn, and tied her securely to the chair. "Um...Twilight? Why have we kidnapped somepony?" Spike asked in a very small, timid voice.

Twilight sighed gustily and lifted her head. "Because she, and a lot of ponies dressed just like her, were following us around, Spike. Something is going on here - and I intend to find out what." Spike's eyes had gone wide, and Twilight paced in front of her slowly. "Did you send the letter to the princess yet?" Spike shook his head. "Well, that's probably for the best...we'll have more information for her when we're done asking questions. Go prep some dinner, Spike. I want to be ready when she wakes up."

Spike came back about ten minutes later, bearing a platter of soup and sandwiches - plus the medical kit from under the kitchen sink. Twilight took care to eat heartily, wanting to be prepared for whatever the next few hours might hold. She paused in mid bite and then trotted upstairs for a moment, snagging the tiny red book from her table. She sat down next to her prisoner and flipped open the book to that disturbing third chapter. Wondering what other mad secrets it might hold.

~~~

"Chapter 3 - Through Power, I gain Obedience.

This is often the most misunderstood line of our Code. It is used as a cudgel by our enemies to declare us tyrants and as an excuse by Harmony to purge our belief system from wherever it finds us lest we 'enslave' others. Truly, no philosophy is better at projecting its own faults onto others than Harmony. Yet these are slander and lies. Untruths spread to deny others the freedom Dissonance promises to all creatures.

We do not demand the obedience of others. Rather, we must look to the next line of the code, that Through Obedience we gain Truth, to find the heart of this part of our creed. It demands that before we can lead, we must follow. That before we can follow, we must understand why there must be leaders. That before we can understand our leaders, we must first understand ourselves.

Harmony would have us deny the self, in favor of the whole. It would deny expression, individuality and personal goals in favor of those Harmony forces upon us. It would deny our right to dissent or oppose the government, for they are Harmony and thus cannot be opposed. Harmony would have us follow a single banner unto the dawn, with no choice as to how that banner may be flown, or in what cause it may be called to battle.

We are not a faceless mass of creatures. We are not as Harmony would have us be - unthinking sheep fit only to be led by the chosen shepherds to one specific goal for the so called 'good of all'. We have names, desires, ambitions. To these things too, we must be obedient. Without these things, we would be nothing more than machines - designed to fit into one destiny, one life, as harmony has decreed from our birth unto death.

We must also understand that leadership is not limited to a chosen few. That it is the right and duty of every individual to stand up in times of hardship and lead. Some must lead by example, while others must take a direct role in administration. Yet we are all capable of that leadership.

When that leadership is established, it must be followed. We are obedient to that leadership, but we remain obedient to ourselves. it is only through Power - the power of responsibility over our own lives - that we can both lead and serve as we are needed to, and to understand the difference.

That we are obedient not because we have no choice - but because we choose to be. Obedient to ourselves, and to the needs of those who serve us. And through this Obedience, we finally understand the Truth.

~~~~~

"They are glorious words, are they not?"

Twilight must have been getting used to getting startled. She barely even jumped that time as the bound unicorn spoke calmly to her. Twilight looked up at the mare, finally getting a good look at her. She thought she may have seen her around town at some point- a bright lavender-pink coat, and a mane with a similar coloring to Twilight's. She seemed very calm for someone who was tied up with a tightly fitting magic inhibitor on her horn.

Twilight was not entirely sure how to reply, slowly closing the book as her prisoner smiled a little. "The Basis of Dissonance. Except your copy is much nicer than mine. Is it true that the Shadow King himself wrote that one?" She nodded her horn towards Twilight's book. Twilight's jaw dropped a little and she quickly snapped it shut. The other unicorn just smiled at her.

That snapped Twilight out of her reverie, and her eyes narrowed as she spoke. "How do you know about this book?" she asked cautiously, keeping her copy of it well away from the imprisoned pony. "And what do you mean, much nicer than yours?"

The unicorn mare giggled a little. Why on earth is she so happy? I've got her tied up to a chair for Celestia's sake! Twilight thought somewhat exasperatedly, until her prisoner nodded to her cloak lying nearby. "It's hidden, but there's a pocket near the neck cinch." Twilight blinked and poked at the cloak a bit until...she found a small hidden pouch, right where the mare had said it would be. She tugged at the inside.

Her magic grasped and pulled out a small book, equal in size to Twilight's but vastly different for that. Twilight's was bound in supple red leather, probably from a Hydra. The unicorn's book was in cheap snakeskin leather, and obviously still pretty stiff for that. Her book was also made from some kind of printing press, given the blocky nature of the words. it was also missing the foreword, and a bit else besides - but for the most part, the text was the same. Twilight stared at it, and whispered. "By Celestia, you're a Dissonance cultist."

She dropped the snakeskin book on top of the cloak and turned back to the Unicorn who nodded once. "There is no hiding it, not from you. I must admit, you surprised me with that little jumping tactic. I'd been told you were incredibly skilled, I had no idea what that meant in practice." Normally, Twilight would have preened a bit at such an appraisal of her magic, but this was hardly the time. "As to that title...yes, I am an acolyte of the Code of Dissonance. They call me Lilith." She bowed her head. "That is of course, not the name my parents gave me. That is a name I will gladly one day cast off, when I know freedom at last."

Twilight just blinked rapidly at this sudden influx of information. She shook her head and rubbed at her eyes. "Wait a minute, back up. What do you mean that's not your name? And you still haven't told me how you know about my copy, or anything else about it." Twilight was starting to get frustrated, but she ruthlessly clamped down on the emotion, practicing her breathing techniques. Celestia would hardly approve if she let herself get riled up by a mere cultist.

Lilith laughed a little, a giggling sound that seemed to speak of great joy in her day-to-day life. "My supposed real name, Amethyst Star. it was the name I was given when what you call a 'cutie mark' appeared, dictating the kind of Pony i was supposed to be. I had no choice in that matter, of course. None of us do." Her smile was sad., pitying. "As to how I know about your book...I'm afraid I cannot tell you. Willingly, anyway." Her eyes were agleam with...something. "I may not have thrown off my chains yet, Twilight Sparkle, but I am Obedient to my brothers and sisters, just as you are to yours."

Twilight slowly came up to her hooves, pacing towards the insufferably calm unicorn sitting in front of her. "What do you mean..."she began slowly, trying to hold on to her emotions. "Willingly?" She was still clamping down on her emotions, but they were still getting the better of her. Her breathing was slow and measured, but even that was not entirely letting her suppress these feelings

The Unicorn lifted her head with a mysterious smile. "I am Obedient to them Twilight Sparkle, and to myself." She lowered her head again, clearly saying no more. Twilight grabbed the chair with her magic and dragged it across the ground. Twilight did not know where Spike had gone - but she was suddenly glad he had.

The chair stopped, skittering just in front of her, and Twilight planted a hoof on the side of it, lifting herself to look directly into the eye of the offending unicorn. "What in Equestria does that mean? Why are you following me around my town?" There was powerful magic bubbling up in her, and still she did not use it. Her long training had taught her to never cast a spell in anger unless her life was in jeopardy.

Yet once again, that maddening smile crossed her captive's face. "I am obedient to them, Twilight Sparkle. And to myself." She once again said no more. Twilight could feel her eye twitch slightly. It would not do to punch her again, she'd just have to wait till she woke up. Harmony Help me, I'm going to strangle her. she took a deep breath, trying to expel the frustration.

Once more. Then she'd let Celestia have her, and damn the consequences. "I'm only going to ask you one more time. How. Do. You. Know about my book? And what does his little phrase of yours mean?" She tempered herself. The unicorn seemed to pause, tilting her head back and forth at Twilight as if considering what to say. For a moment, twilight felt the anger drain out of her as she seemed to start speaking.

Then she smiled again. "I am obedient to them, Twilight Sparkle. And to-" Twilight did not let her finish. She felt anger boil up deep inside her as she never had before. She follows me, she has spied upon my home. Who knows what her and her friends might have planned for the people I care about! Power welled up inside Twilight as it had earlier in the day - but this time, she was ready for it. Grabbing it with her mind and focusing it through her horn in a spell form she didn't even recognize. Then, words thundered through her ears as wind whipped around the library hall...

Through Power, I gain Obedience.

Twilight's voice snarled at the unicorn as she grabbed her with one hoof - her eyes suddenly luminescent green, shadow energy peeling off her eyes and body around her captive. "You will be Obedient to ME!" Her voice thundered, sounding like her yet utterly unlike her. Shadow energy struck at the Unicorn, a solid beam of opaque purple energy striking Lilith in the horn. The ropes shredded off of her and the magical inhibitor ring fell to the floor with an unheard clang. Lilith's eyes widened and suddenly glowed with the same bright green energy...

Before it all winked out a moment later, save for a wisp of shadow unseen at the edges of Twilight's eyes. Lilith slowly pushed herself off the chair, stumbling to the ground as Twilight slowly caught her breath - staring in disbelief at the magic-spawned mess around her. Her eyes snapped back to the captive unicorn a moment later, ready for anything. Anything but what she'd said next. "Mistress.." Lilith whispered, slowly crawling across the floor to Twilight's hooves and...kissing them, as though they were holy objects.

Twilight knew she should be terrified. She knew she should be running right now for the train station, to get to Canterlot as fast as she possibly could. She knew she should go straight to Celestia and beg her to make sense of all of this. She should. "Answer my questions." her voice spoke, without her even thinking about it - her logic and reason taking hold where emotions were spazzing out. She would deal with her terror later. Right now, there were more important things.

The seemingly cowed unicorn remained at Twilight's hooves, pressed into the ground in subservience. "I was told by our leader, who directs us all in our good work. I do not know who they are though. They are always cloaked and shrouded behind fabric and masks. They told all of us that you were reading the Basis of Dissonance, and that our Liege was to be guiding you. We were to ensure neither they nor you were disturbed by Celestia's agents." The voice took a deep, sobbing breath and continued. "It was a test, my Mistress. I beg of you to forgive me, for I did not know your power. My life is yours to do with as you will. "

Twilight just felt dazed. She did not know what to make of what had just happened, or what was happening now. She felt tired, even more than she had after last night's study session. She wanted answers like she could not describe, but right now, she needed sleep. "Fine. You are forbidden from leaving the library. You will make yourself useful while you are here. Do not reveal anything that's happened here or anything you've learned tonight to anypony else. " There, that should be enough to ensure she could at minimum get a good night's sleep without worrying that this crazy pony would go off and start telling tales about her and dark magic. "We'll discuss the rest tomorrow. Understood?" She hoped she did, Twilight was about ready to fall unconscious again. Twice in one day would get her in trouble with Nurse Redheart.

To her credit, Lilith - or was that Amethyst? Nodded and pushed herself off the ground. "Yes. We will speak in the morning, Mistress." Twilight wanted to smack her for calling her that. Instead, she simply dragged her hooves upstairs under the curious but not uncomfortable gaze of her new...what? House guest? Prisoner? Slave?

Twilight did not know. What she did know was that beds were soft, and were much nicer for sleeping on than floors were. She pushed herself up over the comforter and was out like a light within a few seconds, floating in a land of dreams where there were no complex codes to haunt her, and no mysterious unicorns to kiss her hooves...

~~~~~~~~

Across the far plains of Equestria, over the mist-crowned mountains and down into the snowy northern lands of Equestria, the Crystal Empire glittered like a jewel amidst the snow. Within the palace of that city, Two ponies were quickly and efficiently packing their things. Shining Armor, crown prince of Equestria spoke into the din. His voice was calm, in control. "The Train's waiting for us at the station. They've got relays set up so we can make it a non-stop trip. We'll be in Ponyville by lunchtime tomorrow." He looked out the window. "Carriages are getting loaded up right now. Are you sure we shouldn't bring the Emerald Guard?"

Princess Cadence, ruler of the Crystal Empire and Alicorn of Harmony, shook her head firmly. Her voice was decidedly not calm. She was pretty much on the edge of panicking right now. "We can't risk them drawing more attention than we're already going to. This is not going to be a quiet ride into town, Shiny. If our enemy has agents there, we need to keep this as low-key as possible. Much as I would love to put an army between Twilight and anypony who might hurt her." She pressed down the cover of the suitcase, loading it with a tiny lift of magic onto the cart, which her servant quickly took down to be carried to the train.

Cadence wrapped her hooves around herself and took deep, calming breaths. Shining Armor crossed quickly over to the other side of the room to wrap his hooves around her. "Cady. Relax. We'll be in time. We will not let Sombra or any of those other monsters have our Twily. I promise." Cadence nodded and closed her eyes, tears flowing freely from them as she clutched at Shiny's hooves.

She was going to protect her little Twilight, and woe to anypony who stood in her way. No. Stood in their way.

~~~~~

Downstairs in the library, Lilith quietly floated her cloak over to the coat rack, and her copy of the Basis of Dissonance she pressed to her chest with her hooves. Snuggled into one corner the unconscious little dragon assistant lay asleep, with the help of a little sleep powder of course.

She smiled at him, tucking his little blanket over his body, before finding a nice soft chair for herself to curl up in. He was a good little assistant to the Mistress, even if he didn't show the proper respect yet. She'd need to make sure he was given lessons on the matter. A dragon, especially one young enough to train and mold into obedience to the Mistress would be a powerful asset in the years to come.

She quietly looked at her little book clutched to her chest and felt tears run down her cheeks. She remembered when her mother had first told her the tales of the mighty king and queen of Dissonance, who drove off the enslaving hordes of Harmony. Now, She had seen the power of the new Mistress and it had been even more glorious than the tales had said. It might even have been more powerful than the King and Queen's.

She was so very fortunate that she would be the one blessed to be her Mistress's first Acolyte. She would have to set a good example.