• Published 7th Feb 2012
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Displaced - Seven Fates

A unicorn colt has an accident, and nopony knows him. His wild claims go widely ignored until...

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Chapter 20

Pain: it wasn’t just something that manifested physically. It’s as much a psychological reaction as it is a physiological one. There are many causes of psychological pain; homesickness, doubt, disgust, rage, and hate are but a few examples of psychological pains. The pain Warren Ashland was experiencing was of both varieties. On one side of the proverbial coin, he was being continually battered and bruised by the onslaught of the Sweetie Bloom chimera. While its claws weren’t getting through the reinforced material of his clothes, each blow was enough to bruise both flesh and bone.

On the other side of the coin, he was in agony over what the monster Morrigan had done. The rage, guilt, and disgust he felt over had become of two of the fillies that had made him feel so welcome in Ponyville was almost paralyzing. The only thing that kept him moving was the pain brought on by the seething hate he felt for the Draconequus. The physical pain was nothing compared to what he felt inside.

Ducking a blow that would have otherwise decapitated him, Warren continued to make sure he kept himself between the chimera and Scootaloo. He felt terrible shame for what the filly was going through. So much loss in her life, and now the monster that had been made from her two best friends was trying its damnedest to kill them both. It was all taking a toll on the filly, manifesting itself in a catatonic state. She just hung limply in his arms.

Wanting more ground to avoid the creature’s sweeping strikes, Warren ran down the stairs, leaping over the rails partway down. After he rose to his feet from a roll, he repeated himself by making for the next set of stairs. Every step of the way, the Sweetie Bloom chimera was at his heels, yowling angrily.

This time, however, the creature bowled him over just as he reached the stairs. The resulting impact catapulted him over the edge. Try as he might to mitigate the damage with an unsuccessful roll, he felt a sickening crunch as he hit the ground. Having had broken ribs in the past, he was somewhat prepared for the spike of agony as they cracked, but nothing could have prepared him for the pain that followed as his left shoulder was wrenched loose from its socket.

When he sat up, he could see Morrigan’s damnable chimera perched between him and the final set of stairs to the island. The human-sized monster was salivating at the sight of him, but he could have sworn he caught a momentary glimmer of revulsion in the thing’s eyes. He was instantly reminded of the minotaurs—the very ones he’d later slain—and how their eyes had reflected a restrained intelligence.

The beast stood there, holding its ground. It struck him then that there was a good chance that Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom were still very much alive. They would have been in uncontrollable agony over what they were being made to do, and would probably need counseling if they could be saved, but there was still a chance to save them.

As if to answer his thoughts, a voice called from above, “Oh yes, those two fillies are still very much alive inside my beautiful chimera.” He looked up to see Morrigan floating upside-down above him with a malicious sneer on her face. “It was the only way that I could make it loyal enough to guard little Scootaloo.” The draconequus pointed at the little orange filly that lay cradled in his arms. “They will protect her with their lives, even from her friends—especially from her friends!”

Warren bit back every bit of rage-fueled profanity that was threatening to spill forth from his tongue. “So what you’re saying, is that Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom will never harm Scootaloo?” he grunted. Attempting to move his left arm resulted in a strangled scream of agony. He wouldn’t be able to pick the filly back up again. “That’s good to hear.”

“Oh?” Morrigan crooned, her snide voice filling the air. “Why is that?”

Warren ignored the question as he used his good arm to lift Scootaloo off of his lap and place her against the wall beside him. “Because,” he said hoarsely. Using the wall to stabilize himself, he began to rise. “...now that I know that I don’t have to worry about Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom harming her, I can focus on subduing them.”

The boldness of his words elicited mocking laughter from the Draconequus. “You’ll subdue them?” she mocked, before letting out more roaring laughter. “Did you not hear me when I said that they will protect her with their lives?”

Warren ignored Morrigan’s rhetorical query, and strode out to face down the monster before him. “Come on, girls!” he said, looking the chimera in the eyes. He stretched out his good arm, welcoming an embrace. “Come give Goldenrod a big hug.”

The chimera hesitated, glancing up at Morrigan expectantly. He could see an internal conflict raging inside those yellow-orange and green eyes. The creature took a step backward, trembling slightly as it fought with itself. For a split second, he hoped it would run.

“Go on,” Morrigan shouted angrily. “Kill him and be done with it. I’d rather focus my attentions elsewhere!”

It was all the prodding the chimera needed. It dashed forward and leapt at Warren, its slavering maws wide open. Even as the beast slammed against him, he didn’t budge an inch. As it closed both sets of jaws down on his shoulders, he screamed. The taste of blood was ripe in his mouth.

Nothing stopped a smile from spreading on his face.

- - -

Everypony rushed to aid Rainbow Dash. They had gathered beneath a tall flagpole—on a circular red-bricked concourse marked with concentric rings of a dark stone—when the pegasus mare came streaking out of the sky. If the magic users in the group hadn’t pooled their telekinesis together...Twilight didn’t really want to think about what would have happened.

They were horrified to find just how bad of condition she was in. Most of her tail looked like it was singed away. Worse than that, there were furrows burned through her mane and coat from Celestia knows what. Her left wing stuck out at an awkward angle; at the very least, it was dislocated, worse, it could have been broken.

Applejack was the first up to help the mare up. “Rainbow Dash, ya silly girl,” she said, exasperated. “She said it’d be dangerous! She didn’t ask ya ta fly yerself through Tartarus an’ back!”

The farm pony was quickly pushed out of the way by a butter-coated pegasus. Before anypony could object, Fluttershy was thoroughly inspecting every square inch of Rainbow Dash. She cast a glance back to everypony else. “She has a few contusions, and the burns are worrisome, but she’ll be okay...” she said softly. “... and you’ll have to keep off of that wing until we get you to a doctor.” She looked Rainbow Dash in the eye. “You will keep off your wing, won’t you?”

Rainbow Dash gave Fluttershy a confused look before rasping, “So... awesome!”

“She might be a bit dazed, but-”

“Heads up, everypony!” Applejack shouted. “Discord don’t wait for nopony, no matter how much we be wantin’ to talk.”

Sure enough, when Twilight looked up, Discord was bearing down on them, slobbering mouth contorted in a hungry smile. She didn’t even think; she just let her magic flow. A magical dome erected itself between the oncoming terror and the pony septette.

The draconic form of Discord didn’t so much impact the bubble shield as it did part around it. From within the bubble, the ponies—even Princess Luna—couldn’t help cringe as Discord split down the middle as he hit the shield. Like a monstrous medical cross section, they got to see a side of Discord they would rather not have: his inside.

The horror didn’t stop there. Even as they watched, the two halves of the Draconequus began to merge once again. It was sickening watching as strand after strand of flesh began linking between the two halves. Nothing more would have pleased Twilight than the ability to modulate the shield in order to opaque it. It was making her more than a bit queasy to watch.

“Has Rainbow Dash gained her senses enough so we can use the Elements of Harmony?” Twilight groaned, feeling the throb in her horn as the now-mended Discord wrapped himself around the dome and squeezed like a boa constrictor. “I can’t keep this shield up forever with the pressure Discord is putting against the shield.”

“I suppose...” Rainbow Dash groaned, managing to rise to her feet. “...but I wish everything would stop spinning.”

“Fear not, Twilight Sparkle.” Princess Luna assured. “Once you drop the shield, I will teleport us to a safer position.”

Nodding at the Princess, Twilight took a quick look at everypony else. They all nodded in affirmation. “Okay girls, form up around the Princess,” she said tentatively, wincing as the dome began to crack. “Once we’re out, get ready to blast him. Our friendship will pierce the heavens!”

Letting out a sigh of relief, Twilight closed her eyes let the shield collapse. The coils of Discord’s length surged forth to crush them all. The crushing death that the dragon so wished to inflict upon the ponies never reached its intended target. In but a split second, the seven ponies vanished in a bright flash of navy blue light.

As soon as she could feel her hooves on solid ground again, Twilight opened her eyes and let the power of Harmony flow through her. As had happened so many times before, the six mares began to float, held aloft by the sheer surge of magic building up within them. One by one, the Elements of Harmony began to glow and pulse a bright white, until finally the coronet representing Magic began to glow too.

A blinding white beam of concentrated magic surged forth from the group, spearing through the draconic form of Discord. Letting out one last defiant roar, Discord began to thrash about violently. For each second of exposure to the magic, Discord became smaller and smaller, his more chimeric features returning to him.

The Bearers of the Elements of Harmony sank to the red brick walkway on which the Princess had moved them, exhausted from the exertion. They cast thankful looks towards each other, smiling gleefully. They’d done it, they’d stopped Discord! Now they just had to-

“Oh, that wretched sister of mine! What a dirty trick!” Discord groaned indignantly. “Why I ought to...”

The seven ponies stared at Discord. Against all odds, he had survived a direct hit from the magic of Harmony. It hadn’t been like before, when disharmony had corrupted their hearts, but instead the Elements had a purifying effect on seemingly only one layer of chaos. Stripped of Morrigan’s enchantment, Discord was still very much a threat!

They couldn’t attack again so soon, though. Using the Elements was a draining feat, and with all the use they had gotten over the recent years, it seemed very likely to Twilight that the effect was being diluted with each use. Even with a two year recovery period, the frequent reliance on the Elements could only be weakening them.

Twilight blinked, staring at Discord. Normally, he would have been one to gloat over their failure. Instead, he’d ceased mid-sentence, distracted by something. To Twilight’s horror, the Draconequus had begun transforming, elongating and becoming more draconic again. This shouldn’t have been possible!

“Never in my life did I ever expect to encounter such a malicious self-renewing enchantment.” Princess Luna spoke as though she’d just been bucked in the ribs. “One of the most complex types of enchantments possible; for anything other than a Draconequus, placing one on a living being is impossible!” she explained hastily, gathering magic in her horn. “These are the most common source of the ‘curse’ misconception. They can only be rescinded by their caster, or are removed upon the death of the enchanter.”

Twilight gave a horrified look to the Princess. “Are you saying we are fighting a losing battle?” she asked, letting new-found panic take hold of her.

“No, Twilight Sparkle.” The Princess didn’t frown. Instead, she gave her sister’s student a hopeful smile. “We only need to survive long enough for your friend to triumph over Morrigan.”

“Do you really think he can do it?” Fluttershy asked, anxiously watching as Discord grew back into his full draconic glory.

“I think what the Princess means is that we shouldn’t just have faith in him because we want him to succeed.” Rainbow Dash said, as navy blue light began to form around the group. “We should have faith in him because he must succeed.”

“Thus spoke the Element of Loyalty.” the Princess humorously whispered, as the group was enveloped in a navy-blue flash.

- - -

A dark corridor stood before him. Warren didn’t quite know how he had gotten there, or where he was. He wasn’t even quite sure he was anchored to his body; he could see and feel the corridor around him, but it was as though his physical awareness no longer existed. When he looked down, he realized that he didn’t have a body. That startling realization chilled his soul almost as much as the corridor itself.

What is this place? The question floated to the forefront of his mind before he realized he’d even thought it. Is this what lies on the other side of the veil?

As if to confirm his thoughts, images flooded his mind in quick succession. He struggled to make sense of the ones he could understand. There was a bus surging towards him as he lay sprawled on the road. That bus then transformed into a dark ruin where his fear was tangible in the air. Things sped up as the images of ponies—fillies, mares, a stallion, and a rude bunny that he didn’t much care for—appeared before him.

Many of the ponies vanished from his sight, leaving only the fillies outside the schoolhouse, listening to him. These were his memories, he realized with startling clarity. So it’s true, that your life flashes before your eyes before you die, he thought to himself as the schoolhouse became a burning hang-glider, plummeting towards the forest canopy of the Everfree Forest.

Suddenly, he was walking towards Zecora’s hut with Sweetie Belle. Wait a minute! That’s not how things happened! he shouted inside his head. Apple Bloom went with Sweetie Belle to Zecora’s while I tried to get Scootaloo to a doctor! As more and more unfamiliar memories began to flood his mind, he realized these weren’t just his memories... He was being blasted by the very being of Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom. That means that I’m not dead, but crossing into their minds!

Warren tried to shake his mind free of the memories, focusing on the corridor. He found it easier if he pictured himself moving forward; it was harder for the memories to assault him if he focused. Soon, he was blazing down the length of the corridor, riding over the memories like a surfer on a wave.

His progress along the dark corridor came to a crashing halt as the corridor ended in an impossibly large metal door. It looked like some sort of prison cell in what dim light his perception provided him. It was as though it was there solely to test his resolve. Open only if you have the willpower to face what lies beyond.

Without a second thought, he forced the door out of existence, and stepped through the archway into the blackness that lay beyond. A dim room manifested itself around him. He was now in his body, much to his relief. He turned his head from side to side, scoping out the chamber, not liking what he saw.

Across the chamber from him, etched into the wall was a doorway that didn’t seem to really be there. That wasn’t what was drawing his attention though. In the far corner of the dungeon, he saw two small shapes huddled together, shivering. As he approached, he could more clearly make out what they were: Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. His stomach lurched sickeningly as he noticed the fillies weren’t just huddled together; they were stuck together, their very bodies and beings slowly fusing together.

“Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom? Is this...” he spoke aloud, not sure if they would actually hear him. “Is this the inside of the chimera’s mind?”

To his shock, the pair looked up at him in unison. “What? Goldenrod? Ya can’t be in here!” Their voices shrieked. “She’ll hear ya anthen she’ll hurt us! Ya have ta get out of here!” The fillies tried to shrink back further away from him, only managing to press themselves further together.

Their minds can’t take being in here in this form... They’re holding onto each other just to keep from losing their minds. It made him sick to realize what the witch that credited herself as God had done to his friends. It’s so hard on them that they’re losing themselves in each other.

“I’ll save you both.” he whispered, turning away. “I promise.”

He suddenly had a good idea of what that doorway etched into the wall was. If Morrigan had to control the chimera, of course she would have to have some means of asserting herself into its mind. This etching probably manifested a doorway when she so chose. The link would have to had to have been constantly active for moments where sudden control was needed, given the reluctance the two fillies had shown when she ordered them to kill him.

A grim idea crossed his mind. That monster probably isn’t expecting unwanted guests inside her mind. If I can get inside her head, I might be able to find a way to fix what she’s done. Warren smiled darkly. She’d intruded on his own mind and body far too many times; it was time to return the favor.

Mustering all the willpower he could manage, he forced himself against the etched doorway. It was surprising just how easily it yielded to him. Had she reasoned that once under her influence, the fillies wouldn’t have the strength to move against her from within? That didn’t matter. All that mattered was that he was inside her mind.

Arcane knowledge—almost more than he could possibly stomach—flooded his mind. So many things began to make sense all at once. Chief among the things that drifted into his mind was how to free Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom from this torture, but there was so much more. He understood now just how to use magic without killing himself outright. He actually laughed when one final piece of knowledge regarding the portal flitted into his mind.

I might actually be able to pull this off! I might-

“How dare you!” Morrigan’s voice flooded his very being.

A blinding white agony flashed through him, before fading to black.

- - -

When Warren opened his eyes once more, it wasn’t without extreme difficulty. His chest ached more than he had ever imagined it would. It had all been a stupid gamble, but as he glanced up at the tip of his horn—placed firmly between the two heads of the chimera—he knew it had been worth it.

Operating only on the principal that his magic was the same as Morrigan’s, he’d surmised that he might be able to reach Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom inside the creature’s heads with the right application of magic. He hadn’t counted on an actual telepathic invasion, but it had proved far more profitable than he’d expected. Warren only wanted to sway the creature to his side, but instead he had gleaned the secrets of not just how to save the fillies, but possibly to stopping Morrigan altogether.

He groaned as the heads of the beast withdrew their fangs from his shoulders. They’d proven far more effective than their claws; he saw sickening crimson trails flowing through multiple puncture marks in his silver flower-cloth hoodie. Fighting to remain upright, he grimly took notice that his fractured rib had moved on to an actual break. Things aren’t going to be as easy as I’d like... not that they ever are, anyway.

The chimera backed away slowly, giving him a confused look. He caught the faintest glimmer of recognition in the creature’s eyes, before the returning hungry, glazed look removed any hint of familiarity in those gamboge and green eyes.

“What are you waiting for, you idiotic beast?” Morrigan all but screamed, unbridled panic flowing in her voice. “Kill him! He knows too much! He’ll ruin everything!”

A growl erupted forth from the creature’s gullet, followed by a roar signifying the beast’s charge. Warren chanced only a momentary glance at the wall that stood only a few feet behind him. He knew what he had to do in an instant. His only doubt was whether or not he even had the stamina to do so.

Turning, he ran at the wall to the right of where Scootaloo still rested. At the last possible moment, he stuck out a foot, kicking off from the wall. He found himself flipping backward through the air, watching as the chimera slammed headfirst into the wall. Whispering a silent apology, he landed on the creature’s back.

He didn’t even think about what had to happen next. Igniting his horn in a sickly green, he plunged his hands into the backs of the creature’s heads. Just as he expected, the creature’s heads had yielded like two fleshy portals. In spite of his dislocated shoulders, he forced his arms further and further into their skulls, his hands finding purchase on exactly what he wanted: the two fillies.

The chimera wasn’t about to take things laying down, as it were. Shaking off its confusion, the monstrosity was back on its feet. It quickly began doing its damnedest to buck Warren off of its back, hoping to shake him loose before he could free the fillies from within. It did the creature no good, however, as Warren quickly secured his position, tightening his legs against its sides.

“What are you doing?” the Draconequus shrieked. “You’ll kill them both!”

Warren looked up at Morrigan, and grinned, blood bubbling over his lips. “I’ve seen the truth, you monster,” he wheezed. “Lie all you like. You’ll never win.”

Forcing a controlled burst of energy into the spell, he yanked at the two fillies. Any ability the chimera might once have had to keep the two fillies within crumbled under the force of the spell. His hands—still gripping the school fillies—exploded out through the backs of the chimera’s heads. Quickly, Warren lost his purchase on the creature’s back, and found himself sprawled on the ground a few feet away, the fillies landing unmoving beside him.

Weakly easing himself into a sitting position, he stared at the chimera. No longer bearing any tangible parts, the creature let out a horrific death rattle, thrashing about on the ground. He had to cringe away as a sudden conflagration began to consume what remained of the incomplete creature.

Just as he was about to check on the two unconscious fillies laying at his sides, there was a flash of light in front of him. Avian claws wrapped themselves around his throat, and lifted him from the ground. Morrigan had the advantage of being far taller than Goldenrod, even in his human form. His legs hung uselessly a full foot off of the ground.

Malice filling her, the draconequus forced him to look her in the eyes. “I’m going to do to you what I should have done from the very start,” she said, her voice horrifyingly flat. “You will wish you had the chance to rue the day you crossed me, pitiful human.”