This Cruel and Random World

by Bluegrass Brooke

First published

It was a simple bet. Spend one month as a pony, and prove to Celestia that he had been right all along. Discord never thought he would actually enjoy it. As the days pass, he finds himself desperate to keep up the façade a little longer.

Featured August 16, 2015 on Equestria Daily!

Twilight could not have been more ecstatic to have a magic student of her own. Not only was Entropy kind, but he completely understood and even shared her love of learning. An entire month working alongside him was a dream come true. But when admiration turns into something else, she may be unprepared for the consequences.

Discord despises the thought of an entire month as a pony. No chaos magic, and he has to keep his true identity a secret. Stuck with the insufferable know it all Twilight Sparkle was a fate worse than death. Or was it? As time passes, the once tiresome mare had become almost pleasant to be around. Could he actually be falling for her?

[AU for excessive headcanon that doesn't quite jive with canon]

Cover by the ever-talented CarniverousCaribou and colored by my friend Toonebs.

The entire story takes place in my own universe and continues the summer after What Changes May Come ends. Elements from that story as well as my parallel fic An Honest Life are included here. There is no need to read either to enjoy this one, though I encourage you to check them out. Essentially the events are canon until the middle of season 4.

This is one story I never thought I would be able to write. I had been wanting to compose a Twicord fic, but had no idea how to get a good setup. The idea for this fic came from SageBrony07 who's also been instrumental in the idea for many of the chapters.

I can't say thank you enough to Nomad_Sigma as well. He's been such a big help with the last leg of the story, editing my ramblings along with being the best idea man a girl could ask for!

Prereading for certain chapters provided by Nomad_Sigma and SageBrony07. Proofreading by
Smaug the golden, TemplarBrony, The Forgotten Comrade, and viewers like you.

It takes an army, that's all I've got to say. :rainbowlaugh:

Prologue — The Bet

View Online

This Cruel and Random World

"He cannot be serious." Celestia stared at the floor of the throne room opening and closing her eyes—willing the scene in front of her to fade away. Unfortunately, everything remained exactly where it stood. The room's polished marble floor now more closely resembled a specimen preserved in amber. Lowering her muzzle, she inhaled deeply. Sweet? "What is it?"

One of her guards took a cautious step into it and flinched. The substance drizzled lazily from his hoof as he recoiled. "Oh, gross!" Registering her intent stare, he formalized his response, "Sorry, Ma'am. It's honey."

"Honey?" In an instant, Celestia knew who was to blame. She stretched her slender body to its fullest height. "Discord!"

A low, mocking voice echoed around the hall. "What, princess? Do you not enjoy it?"

Celestia rolled her eyes, glancing around the room for any sign of the draconequus. "This is not the place, Discord." It is never the place . . .

He revealed himself in the nearest stained glass window, sniggering like some school yard colt. "Au contraire, Celestia. This is the perfect place." With a loud crack, he materialized in front of them, levitating above the honey. "I wanted you to appreciate my gift in all its splendor."

Deciding to play along for once, Celestia raised an appraising eyebrow. "Gift?"

"Oh yes." With another crack, Discord donned a sun bonnet topped with flowers. "What could be more fitting to celebrate the arrival of summer than a room full of honey for our dear, sweet princess?"

"Of course." Though Discord's pranks were harmless, they continually inhibited productivity. Inhibitions stemming from an unhealthy level of boredom no doubt. A being as powerful and knowledgeable as Discord could hardly be blamed for acting out when no appropriate challenges were presented. Unfortunately for him, they had a dearth of crisis-level incidents at present. He would simply have to wait like the rest of them. "We require the hall, Discord. Change it back."

Discord clucked disapprovingly, wagging a talon in front of Celestia's muzzle. A snide expression contorted his features. "Yes, yes, your precious ponies and their incessant whining." He quite literally rolled his eyes on the floor, scooping them up. "What could be more important than that?"

Celestia sighed heavily. Managing Discord tried even her patience at times. Though she repeatedly explained the importance of such 'trivial matters,' he failed to show any semblance of interest or respect. Keeping him civil had become an ever-constant struggle. How had her father managed Havoc?

Discord laughed, sending a booming echo across the hall. "Cat got your tongue, Celestia?"

Celestia was not even surprised when Discord attempted to magic her tongue out of her mouth. A quick spell deflected that trick. For the love of— Seeing the disappointed expression on Discord's brought out a brilliant idea. One so simple that she could not believe it had never crossed her mind before. He was bored, so why not give him a challenge worthy of his talents? Ever so casually, she leaned against the stained glass window. "You know this game of ours could go on forever, Discord."

"Oh, inevitably." Discord was now juggling some of the more valuable statues from the hall. "There is nothing I love more than a good laugh."

She allowed the corners of her mouth to turn slightly upward. Lure him in slowly . . . "A good bet."

A muffled crash echoed around them as the statues sunk piece-wise into the honey. Discord stared in stunned disbelief, clearing his ear with a talon. "Do my ears deceive me, Celestia, or are you actually making a bet with me?"

"I am." Discord slithered up to her, ears perked forward. For once, she held his rapt interest. Best to use it to her advantage.

Discord tapped his hoof against the stone. "Well? I am waiting."

"You think so little of ponies, Discord. However, deep down, you are afraid." The words came out in a rush before she could catch the significance. Immediately, she turned from his gaze. That had been a lie. Discord did not fear ponies, but rather mistrusted them. A mistrust most warranted . . .

A heavy silence followed her words before Discord snorted a burst of golden flames as if brushing off the issue. "Hardly, Tia. If anything, your beloved ponies are afraid of me."

Though on the surface the words were confident, she could sense the sorrow hidden within them. "Perhaps it is misunderstanding that holds you back."

"Misunderstanding is it?" he scoffed, looking back at the guards—faces now white with terror.

"If you only got to know them—"

"I have known them long enough, Tia." Discord's conflicted scowl sent deep furrows along his face. Rare that he should show his age so openly. With a quick snap, the entire hall returned to its previous state of order. "I tire of this." The words cracked like thunder in the stillness that had fallen across the chamber. He lowered himself on all fours, tail encircling her legs. "Have you considered that it is your ponies that lack knowledge?"

Celestia bit back the primal fear wrought by her proximity with the draconequus. The finest hunters ever to grace this world—at least by Father's account. She had seen enough of their warriors to know how quickly they were capable of rendering a pony to a piece of consumable flesh. "Discord," she growled, "enough."

"'Enough,'" he mimicked in a high-pitched, mocking tone. His golden eyes stared challenging into her own. "Speak your mind, Tia lest I forget this conversation occurred."

She gulped, looking back towards the ponies. This could prove a great turning point or a spectacular failure. Either way, she owed it to the citizens to try. "I feel that you would benefit from prolonged contact with the ponies."

"Prolonged contact?" Discord's eyes narrowed as if she had espoused heresy in the High Temple. "And how would I be achieving that?"

"One month living in Ponyville."

Discord gave a low, rumbling chuckle that set the hairs on her neck on edge. "Are you so naïve to think they would accept my presence so easily?"

Celestia sighed heavily. As much as she longed to think they had reached the point of complete tolerance, it remained an as yet unattainable ideal. "No. I fear they would not understand if you were to appear as you are. I remember a spell of yours, back before—that." She braced herself for the reaction to her next words. "Taking on their form for a month, would it be impossible?"

Discord's snarl turned to one of purest loathing. At long last, he grumbled his response, "No. It-it could be done with relatively little effort."

"Then why not spend that time amongst them? Allow yourself the opportunity to absorb their culture, magic, society. Perhaps . . . perhaps then you would understand."

Flames danced past her mane into the throne room proper—a brilliant display of control and magic. One that caught her very breath. Discord smirked, seemingly satisfied by her response. After watching the dying embers for a time, Discord stared intently into her eyes. "Very well. How do you define success?"

"If you resist using chaos magic during the period and refrain from revealing your true identity."

"Foals' play." He leaned in until she could feel the residual heat of his flames on his nostrils. "And what if I succeed?"

"Then—" Celestia felt the words catch somewhere deep in her throat. "I will listen to a request or two from you."

Discord rolled his eyes. "Hardly a fair trade. However," he held out his paw," tis better than lying about here."

"Indeed." Celestia took it, shaking firmly. An entire month without Discord causing her trouble and a chance at having his cooperation at last. If all went well, he might even prove to be respectful in the future. Then again, that might be too much to ask . . .

Chapter One — A Break in Routine

View Online

Nothing out of the ordinary persisted in Ponyville—rather oddities came as fleeting lightning flashes. Recently, such storms had all but died out. For the first time since Twilight Sparkle's arrival, Ponyville had returned to the bastion of everyday life it began as. The previous winter had seen a dearth of horrific incidents, rampaging monsters, or even a wayward spell. It had been so quiet that Twilight had prepared herself for a resurgence of chaos the moment the ice thawed. Her hopes had quickly been slashed.

The only incident of note had been Rarity's loss of some fabric that spring. A few minutes of investigation later revealed that the Crusaders had borrowed it for "improvements." Now, with the arrival of summer, little hope remained for more activity then the occasional misplaced sock. Such was the way of life Twilight Sparkle had been relegated to.

"Twilight, are you okay?" Spike cocked his head to the side, prodding her with a wary claw. "You've been spacing out all morning."

"Urgh." A dull thud echoed around the library as Twilight's head made repeated contact with the book she had been re-reading. "Why?"

"Why what, Twilight?"

Doesn't he understand? Twilight waved a hoof melodramatically around her. "Look around you, Spike. What do you see?"

"Uh, books." Spike puffed out his chest a little bit. "Super organized, dust free books."

"Exactly." Rolling on the wooden floorboards revealed an equally dust-free ceiling. "It's organized. How many times last year was it ever organized?"

Spike's eyes closed in concentration, counting on his claws. "Less than this year?" He leaned over, patting her on the back. "By why's more organization a problem? You love organizing stuff."

Her assistant obviously did not grasp the significance of the dilemma. "Yes. But that's not the point!" A quick scan of the library revealed every little book, quill, piece of parchment, and cushion in its proper place. Normally it would have relaxed her, but today it was maddening. "This never happened before! I was always stopped by somepony's problem or the fate of Equestria." What if this down period led to her being unprepared for a real disaster? No! I won't accept it. But without a chance to practice, what could she do? "When will something happen?"

"Uh, I dunno." Spike tried in vain to push her to her hooves. "Come on, Twilight. It's not that big of a deal. Besides, we can always mess up the library and reorganize it. That might be fun."

'Fun.' A relative term if ever she heard it. Twilight stared blankly around until knock at the door brought her to full alert. A visitor? Knowing her luck it would be the Knitting Society again. "Who is it, Spike?"

Spike walked to the door, peering out the window. When he turned back, his mouth hung open in shock. "It's Princess Celestia."

"What?" Twilight flipped upright, hurriedly straightening the loose strands of her mane. Is he serious? She trotted over to the door, legs quivering with nerves. The princess did not come for idle chit chat. No doubt she would be sent on another dangerous mission. Mentally preparing herself for the worst, she opened it with her magic. Celestia glided inside in her typical regal fashion, flanked by a tall stallion she did not recognize. It took more than a few moments to register the oddity before her. Finally composing herself as best she could, she addressed Celestia. "Princess, it's so good to see you."

"And you as well." Celestia smiled sweetly back at her, eyes darting around the immaculate library. "I can see you are putting your time to good use."

"Yes, well . . . there hasn't been much going on around here lately." Try nothing. The Royal Canterlot Library had been more happening and that was saying something.

"I see. Well, I hope I can change that." Celestia nodded to the unicorn who had been hanging back by the door, examining the shelves with interest. Celestia cleared her throat, eyes moving significantly from him to Twilight. "Why don't I introduce you two? Twilight, this is Professor Entropic State."

He strode forward, offering a hoof. "Please, call me Entropy. Such long titles should hardly be used among colleagues."

Professor? The all too rare opportunity for conversation amongst scholars set her grinning like an idiot. "Hello, I'm Twilight Sparkle," she murmured, taking his hoof.

An all-too charming smirk creased the lines of his face. "I've heard some wonderful stories about you, Twilight."

Twilight felt her heart leap inside her chest at the smooth, silky quality of his voice. "I uh . . ." Her tongue felt like it had twisted itself into a knot. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise." Entropy's golden eyes darted around the library at Twilight's expansive collection of books. He gave a long whistle. "You're quite the scholar!"

"Well, I try." Twilight tried to remain calm as Entropy strode around the room, examining the shelves of books. It took all her willpower to avoid staring at the rippling muscles underneath his sleek brown coat. Forcing her mind back on the issue at hoof, she whispered an aside to Celestia, "What's he doing here?"

Celestia chuckled, looking Twilight in the eye with that piercing stare of hers. "Entropic State was hoping to study magic under the Princess of magic herself. I thought you would enjoy the chance to have a student of your own."

"A student of my own?" The thought sent her heart racing a mile a minute. Celestia had come all the way out here to give her a student. Judging from Entropy's salt and pepper mane, he had at least ten years on her. How could a mare as young as her teach a seasoned professor like him? "He's older than I am."

"Does that matter?" Her hoof patted Twilight's back reassuringly. "You are the most gifted student of magic I have ever had. Besides," Her gaze became distant as if re-living an age-old memory, "he is lost. I was hoping you might help him find himself."

Lost? What did that mean? "Oh, o-okay." Twilight's mind began to race with the implications of Celestia's request. A student of her own, just like she had been to Celestia. A heavy responsibility and one she dare not take lightly. Perhaps this was all a grand test? What if she failed? The very thought of failing made her sick.

"Excellent." Celestia turned to the professor. "Entropy!"

"Yes, princess?"

"I'll expect a full report on what you have learned in a month's time."

Entropy gave a little bow, "Of course, your majesty."

Silence followed her mentor's departure. Clapping his hooves together, Entropy turned back to her. "What now, Twilight?"

"Uh . . ." For once, Twilight had no idea what to do. It stood to reason that Entropy expected some kind of schedule or lesson plan. However, he had come out of the blue and she had no starting point. "Celestia says you want to study magic. What did you want to work on?"

"Oh, well that's an easy one." Entropy winked from behind his rectangular spectacles. "Control."

"Control?" Her eyes focused on the stallion's cutie mark. A circle with eight arrows branching out, the laypony's symbol for entropy. Somehow, his problem made a little more sense. "You can bring entropy, but you can't bring synergy, huh?"

"Precisely." Entropy gave another kind smile. "You've a good head on your shoulders."

The complement lightened her mood in an instant. Somepony outside of a crisis had actually acknowledged the value of her book smarts. Could he be real? Twilight found herself giggling to herself. "I guess." Clearing her throat, she pointed to a heavy spell book resting on the podium. "Could you demonstrate?"

"Of course." Lowering his long horn, Entropy levitated the book. It hung, suspended in his golden magic for a moment. Then, just as it looked like nothing would happen, the book literally exploded, sending pieces flying in all directions. Spike ducked for cover underneath the nearest cushion and even Twilight found herself too stunned for words. Grimacing, Entropy turned back to her. "You see my dilemma."

Despite the fact that a priceless spell book had been reduced to tattered debris, Twilight could not help but be impressed. The amount of raw power he possessed was astronomical—easily close to her own. "Incredible!"

"Hardly. I just blew it up."

"But the sheer power of it. Oh I can't wait to see what we can do with it once it's under control." If harnessed with hers, that power could easily double the output of any spell cast. The possibilities were endless.

He stroked his goatee thoughtfully. "I can imagine a spell with both of our magic would be quite impressive."

"Oh undeniably!" Twilight hopped around the library in a manner that would have put Pinkie Pie to shame. "This is going to be so awesome!" Seeing Entropy's concerned expression, she bottled her excitement. "I mean, it's going to be an excellent opportunity for knowledge." And if all went well, a doorway into entirely unexplored magic potential.

"Certainly." Entropy's gaze fell to the still quivering dragon under the cushion. His glasses nearly slipped clean off his muzzle as he leaned down to Spike's level. "I do apologize for startling you."

"No problem." Spike remained curled in a ball, looking at Entropy as though he were going to shoot lightning bolts down on him. Twilight felt her gut tighten at the overreaction. What had gotten into him?

Deciding to give him a break, she made the decision. "Why don't I show you around town, Entropy?"

The suggestion set off another of Entropy's carrying laughs. "Why, that's a brilliant idea."

Grateful for the distraction, Twilight led the way out to the sunlit streets of Ponyville. The day was warm with a cool breeze, perfect for a quiet stroll through town. As she walked, she could not help but notice Entropy's un-enthused expression. Her narrative of the town's history had all but fallen on deaf ears. "Entropy, are you all right?"

"Oh yes, I suppose." The stallion had stopped by the town fountain, looking around them at the cheery townsponies passing by. An expression very close to disdain was plastered on his face as he tossed a rock into the fountain. "But, don't you see the problem, here?"

Twilight's eyes darted this way and that, expecting something catastrophic. Ponyville looked as it always did lately—orderly. "What problem?"

"Well, it's mundane." Entropy started to sing in a smooth baritone voice,

"There's a smile to everypony's face
In this town, everything has a space
But what strikes me odd
is how little ponies trod
outside the comfort of this place."

Twilight's eyebrow raised ever so slightly, "So? That's normal." She followed Entropy through the market, watching ponies heads turn towards them as they went. Entropy's words resonated, being the exact same point she made to Spike that morning. Still, did he have to sing so loudly?

Ignoring the stares, Entropy continued unabated.

"Each piece of brick a brack
has a stand, has a rack.
Now tell me true
does this mean anything to you?
Or is that just another act?"

The stares began to make her self-conscious. Lowering her head, she nudged him down the street. "Entropy. Ponies are watching."

He laughed, patting her on the head. "Let them.

Every little thing doesn't have to be perfect
There's more than one way to earn respect
For if they can't tell by now
I'll show them how
the natural order of the world is far from correct."

As they walked away, ponies behind them began to argue amongst themselves. Twilight stared in wonder at the spectacle. For the life of her, she could not figure out what started the whole thing. She doubted it was the stallion's doing, but the timing had been uncanny. Maybe his singing was a kind of magic? No, that was not it. It had to be coincidence. Whatever the song did, it seemed to be a kind of game with him. His singing at least followed the same pattern if not the same tune. A limerick, huh? I can manage that. Trotting up to him, she started in her steady soprano,

"Entropy, I do not understand
why you demand
that we bring disorder here
as it causes only fear.
What's the harm in sticking to the plan?"

Entropy seemed almost giddy to have Twilight sing along with him. He leaned in close, staring piercingly from behind his spectacles.

"The plan is boring
Why it only causes snoring
I'd say the best fix
would be to scratch that itch
and let harmony take warning."

Twilight snorted,

"That's easier said than done
why I'm not the only one
who seeks a little stability
to prevent my insanity.
Chaos has no place here."

Though Twilight expected another reprise, it did not come. Instead the stallion stopped walking, and turned back to her, smirking. "That doesn't rhyme. Game over, my dear princess."

"What? I uh, argh!" She stamped her hooves against the dirt. "I was so close too."

"That you were, Twilight. That you were. But," He trotted over to a nearby bench, posing ridiculously. "I am the master of rhyme today!"

What? Despite his prim and proper appearance, the pony was hardly acting his age. "Okay."

Entropy jumped down, moving back to Twilight. Though he was still sporting a Cheshire grin, his little act seemed to be winding down. His voice lowered back to normal volume, and he gestured grandly to the surrounding buildings. "For what it's worth, I don't think any less of your town for being boring."

Really? I thought he hated it. Twilight found herself smiling at the goofy stallion. "Well, how do you keep things from being boring back home?"

Entropy looked taken aback. His overly cocky expression morphed into an unsure one. "I don't really know." His hoof dug nervously at the dirt, as if contemplating the question. "I'm rather fond of my studies, I suppose. If I'm not reading quantum physics, I'm studying chaos theory."

"Really?" Ever since coming to Ponyville, Twilight had not had the chance to intelligently discuss heavily scientific topics with anypony. To have somepony who actually enjoyed that as much as her was a dream come true. "You understand all that?"

"Of course! I'm a professor at Canterlot University."

"At Canterlot University? Eeeeeh!" She spun around in happy circles. "I've been looking for someone to share ideas with for ages. What do you think of Rallneigh's theories?"

"Foals' play. The stallion's an idiot." Entropy raised an eyebrow cautiously, "Westcock's got the right idea though. Have you read his findings?"

"All fourteen volumes!"

Entropy nodded approval. "I use his work extensively in my lectures."

"Really? I didn't realize any professors were forward thinking enough to teach him yet." An immediate surge of respect washed over Twilight then. Here was somepony who she could actually hold an intelligent conversation with. Somepony who just might teach her something she could not have read in a book. She felt strangely nervous asking him, but decided to anyway. "Would you . . . would you teach me?"

Entropy's eyes widened ever so slightly. "All right. But, I don't know how much help I'll be."

"Thank you! Thank you!" She gave him a quick hug, then released him just as fast. What did I just do? "Sorry, got a little excited."

"That's fine." He turned his attention to the tolling clock tower. "I've got to make some arrangements for my lodgings. So, I'll see you tomorrow then?"

"Yes, tomorrow." Twilight giggled nervously, pawing at the ground until Entropy was out of sight. After he left, she sped down the street to get things ready. Not only did she have her first ever student, she would be tutored by a top notch Canterlot professor. Tomorrow was bound to be full of learning for both of them, and she hoped for an easy transition.

Chapter Two — Get it Right

View Online

"Ponies," Discord spat. Oh they were fine for a good laugh or a quick chat, but he tired of them quick enough. Yesterday he had been his fabulous, chaotic self—free to move and do as he pleased. Now he was relegated to an entire month in pony purgatory. Grumbling to himself, he flipped over in an attempt to get comfortable. Every little piece of his body had been forced out of place, making centuries-old patterns of movement impossible. The hooves for instance . . . Finite movement with those glorified shovels proved a game of practice and chance. Mostly chance, he reflected as he tried yet again to scoop up the picture on his beside table.

Moaning, he lay flat on his back, staring at the window the narrow bed pressed up against. Its antique frame creaked in protest whenever he so much as shifted, resulting in his lying as still as possible. A quick glance outside the window revealed a brilliant view of the red-shingled rooftop and the moonlit sky beyond. Nice enough—if a little small. However, the cat themed knick knacks, checkered quilt, lacy pink curtains, and potpourri all screamed old lady. Discord could almost feel the sickening homeliness of it all. Though that might just as easily be attributed to the veritable army of lavender sachets Mrs. Plumsworth squirreled away.

Poor Mrs. Plumsworth! The dear would have a heart attack if she realized that she invited the master of chaos himself to stay in her spare bedroom. As far as she knew, she had done a favor for a polite young gentlecolt in need of lodging. Adorable.

Idly he thought of tossing the ceramic kittens to the floor for an added splash effect. But no. Celestia made him promise to be a good boy, what better way to get back at her than doing exactly what she said? Still, would it be a sin to at least lay out the fluffy bath towel sloppily in the corner?

"Argh! When did I become so pathetic!" Realizing he had shouted, he clasped a hoof to his mouth and flipped over. The movement elicited a creak of protest from the bed and his artificial form. Every bone in his body ached, and he longed to curl his tail around his head like normal, but ponies apparently lacked that flexibility. Accepting fate, he lay on his side, focusing on the stars twinkling in the sky.

Tomorrow he would have to deal with Twilight again—pretending to be amused by her rants on quantum physics and play the ever-eager student. What good came of learning unicorn magic? Surely he could have cleared away this so called "misunderstanding" without being subject to lessons from a being a fraction his age. Unicorn magic—like so many pony creations belongs to their kind. Celestia had lost touch with reality if she fancied a draconequus capable of harnessing a magic born of harmony. A magic as uninspired as ponies themselves . . .

She cannot be serious. Oh, gods, she cannot be serious. That hope shattered upon impact with the determined gleam in Twilight's eye. In emphasis, the yellow playground ball clasped within her magic began to bounce playfully. Reluctantly, he stepped forward. "So you want me to bounce this with my magic?"

"Yes." Twilight rocked on her hooves as if anticipating a good show. "I borrowed this from the school this morning. Can't believe I didn't think of it earlier!" Apparently the revelation of using playground equipment for practice was worthy of being carved into the annals of history. Not surprising considering her instructor . . . Taking his inaction as a sign of confusion, she added, "You bounce it like this." The soft rubber ball bounced more vigorously.

What am I, a dog? Discord rolled his eyes clean over, "I can comprehend a simple game, Twilight."

A bright flush stretched across face. "Oh, sorry. Here you go."

Irritably, he seized the now immobile ball in his own magic. Really, what's the point in all this? Out of the corner of his eye, he watched his so called tutor chat with Spike about some mundane tasks for the day. How does she stand being such a windbag? You could mute her and she'd still be talking.

Though Twilight was well and truly immersed in her dictation, the dragon's focus remained on the ball. Discord spared a nasty glance towards Spike, setting him cringing. Given the kid's suspicions yesterday, he would have to keep an eye out. Another check revealed Spike had fixated on the ball. What is his problem? Oh.

The once hoof sized ball had been magically magnified to the size of a baby elephant. Before he could react, the prop deflated like a balloon, landing on top of both Twilight and Spike. "Sorry, Twilight. I suppose my magic has a mind of its own."

"Oh it's all right, Entropy." The flattened ball shrunk and levitated into the trash bin. Spike clung to Twilight's leg, quivering.

What is his problem? It had been an accident. Then it came to him. Instinct. Dragons possessed a great deal more than their more harmonic relatives. Even after his kind had left this world, that primal fear of draconequus—disguised or no—remained. Best to replace that natural fear for an artificial one. "Afraid of an old stallion like me, Spike?"

"No!" He unclasped his claws from Twilight's leg, puffing out his chest. "I don't scare easily."

Discord raised an eyebrow, adjusting his spectacles. Uh-huh . . . You keep telling yourself that. He turned back to his would-be instructor, "So, what's next, Twilight?"

"Let's see." Twilight trotted over to her podium producing the inevitable checklist. "That didn't work. Hmmm, that's one more thing you've had trouble with."

One more? Try seven. Maybe if your ideas weren't on par with a kindergartener's, things would be different. He put on his most charming expression, pushing the list out of Twilight's magical grip. "Maybe, we're going about this the wrong way."

She slapped a hoof to her forehead, "You're right! Argh, and the answer was staring me in the face the whole time too." Completely ignoring his dubious expression, she retrieved a piece of parchment and quill from a corner shelf. "All right, then. I should have started with your history."

"History?" His heart lurched uncomfortably. What is my history? Why had he not crafted a cover story sooner? Blast.

"Yes, let's start from the beginning." She rested on a nearby cushion with the air of a psychiatrist working out a diagnosis. "Were you able to control your magic as a colt?"

"Well," Think, Discord, think. It's got to be convincing. She will sense a falsehood. The altered truth? Yes, that will suffice. He cleared his throat, lying down across from her. "Yes and no. There were times when I would be just fine controlling it, then I would find myself trying to control too much and it dispersed everywhere."

"I see." Twilight's quill scribbled furiously. "So, what did you do about it?"

"Well, Father tutored me night and day—using techniques unique to our family . . ." A long since buried memory resurged. He closed his eyes, shaking it away like some venomous snake. He chose his next words carefully, "He wished for me to learn balance in all aspects of life."

"Balance, hmmm. Did you go to Canterlot?"

"Yes." Truth be told, Canterlot had not even existed at that time, but he refused to mention that little detail. "Father held a position there." A position of greater import than any that existed in this current "utopia." What to say next? A thousand cruel words slithered like thousands of vipers at the tip of his tongue. No. He could not succumb to emotion, not anymore. Twilight—though an alicorn—had no more part in that bitter history than a house pet had in a fight amongst wolves. Biting back the words, he continued in a whisper, "Father passed and no one took up his role as tutor. All the 'control' I've learned came from experience."

"Oh," Concern swept across her face. Her voice was small and timid, "no one took up your training?"

"Who would want to?" Interfacing with a draconequus on that level would have been absurd especially after . . . that. Discord fought back yet another urge to snap in a thousand directions. Backstory. Always with the backstory. What did it matter anyway? The past resided in the past, and no amount of chaos or harmony would ever alter that reality.

Twilight leaned in closer until Discord could see the individual hairs of her coat. To his surprise, it smelled like a field of lavender. He had been expecting books and stale hay flakes. Unconsciously, he leaned away from her. "Eventually I found my place as a scholar and came back. I've never really used my magic since then."

"Why did you decide to come to me?"

"Well, that was easy." He jerked a nod to the books lying scattered about. "Celestia found me in the university library and asked if I'd be interested in a one of a kind opportunity." Discord stared hard into Twilight's eyes, "Of course I said yes. What kind of idiot would I be to pass up the chance to study under the princess of harmony herself?"

Twilight giggled, playing with her mane. "Oh, I'm nothing special. Really I'm not."

"But you are." In a way, the words rang true. Celestia—isolated from her subjects for centuries—had forsaken her solitude to make Twilight her apprentice. Such practices were long since outdated even in Morpheus' reign. Celestia had found hidden promise within this child. Whether that promise was worth the sacrifice remained to be seen. Realizing he had kept her waiting, he added. "You have a great gift that is not isolated to the study of magic. Of all the royal mages over the centuries, only you proved capable of wielding the Elements. Surely that must count for something."

"I wouldn't understand them if it weren't for my friends." Twilight's countenance became pensive for a long moment. After a while, she gave an unconvincing laugh. "We can discuss how 'special' I am later, Entropy." She got to her hooves once more. "For now, let's try a more active approach."

"All right." He followed her out of the library, pausing at the door to speak with Spike. He gave a fatherly wink, "Don't worry, I'm not going to explode any more books today." Gods willing.

Spike only nodded, rubbing his claws together nervously.

Ridiculous. Why am I comforting the little errand boy? My how far I have fallen. With a swish of his tail, he left the library in pursuit of Twilight.

Their morning had not been going well. Bound and determined, Twilight set out to prove he could in fact control something with his magic. Unfortunately for the townsponies, it was their possessions Discord failed to control. In all honesty, he had given it his all. It was not as though he wanted everypony on the street staring at them like some circus act.

A cacophonous thud sent a shock of Discord's spine. The remnants of the stand he had been trying to stabilize lay on the ground like a broken piñata. "Why doesn't it work?"

"I don't know. As far as I can see, you're doing everything right."

An orange blur galloped over to them. "Oh my Celsestia! What did you do to my stand?"

"Sorry, Carrot Top. We were training." Twilight placed a hoof on the mare's quivering shoulders. "I'll fix it in a jiffy."

Discord watched with half-interest as pieces of the stand zoomed back into place once more. How could she make him look so bad in such a short timespan? Touchy feely unicorn magic did not agree with him. That could hardly be considered his fault now could it? If he used chaos magic, it would be repaired with the snap of his claw, or in this case hoof. It took a while to register that Twilight had been addressing him. "Yes?"

"Time to go." Twilight prodded him along with her horn, eyes focusing on Carrot Top's irritated snarl. "Maybe we should find a less popular spot to practice?"

"Right." They wandered down the street until they came to the city park. It was a pleasant little place, accented with flower beds planted in quaint little patterns and birds singing in the trees. The sight made him want to vomit. Judging from Twilight's expression of wonder, the opinion was not reciprocated. He attempted a middle of the road response. "This is nice."

"Yeah. It's my favorite place in town." Twilight walked beside him, humming a little. Her eyes kept glancing up at him whenever he turned away.


"Nothing, it's just. Well," A flustered expression took over, and she started to twirl her mane again. "I've never had a student before. Am I doing okay as an instructor?" She mumbled while avoiding eye contact.

Seriously? Discord so longed to slap the mare and was half tempted to turn her horn into liquorish. But, no, he needed to practice self-control. Later, Discord, later. He settled for a typical, caring response. "Well, there's a lot to be improved upon. You can't become an instructor in a single day. It takes time, discipline and practice." And a functioning brain.

"I see." To Discord's surprise, the mare looked rather put out. She looked up at him from the corner of her eyes, "Do you think I made a mess of things?"

"Yes." My dear, you couldn't have caused more chaos if you tried. Seeing her hurt expression, he amended his response. "But, is that such a bad thing? Remember what I said yesterday? A little variation from the plan is healthy."

"Yeah a healthy screw up." Twilight sighed dramatically, "Let's go back to the library and rethink this."

Discord nodded, following her back. The mare was unusually subdued and it was starting to bug him. Has she caught on to the plan? No, she'd pin me to the ground if she knew the truth. This has to be due to something else. But what? A part of him wanted to slap her back into that overly confident princess he had grown used to. In this depressed state, she was starting to more closely resemble Luna. Maybe she just needed a confidence boost. "Say, Twiilght?"


"How would you like to get started on our lessons? Why, you could watch me teach, and get some ideas."

"I'd love to!" Her eyes shone with renewed excitement. "I can't wait! What are we going to be going over?"

"Oh I thought we'd start light." He raised an eyebrow, "How about Likan's law?"

Twilight nodded emphatically, trotting along beside Discord. "This is going to be amazing! Thanks so much for doing that, Entropy."

"My pleasure." Discord could not help but cast sideways glances at Twilight. Quite the overreaction to a simple lecture. Pathetic. She really needs to leave that library more often.

"Woah. Wait, slow down!" Twilight was scrawling so fast on her piece of parchment that even Discord was impressed.

Discord continued his impassioned lecture on quantum physics as though Twilight had said nothing. "Keep up with me, Twilight. This is where it gets interesting." The thought of Princess Twilight the ever powerful alicorn being so interested in a physics lecture was beyond comedic. At least his vast store of knowledge in the area had come in handy. With a flourish, he scrawled one last note on the board and slammed the chalk down. "And there you have it. The first installment of my introductory quantum physics course."

Twilight moaned, slamming her head onto the floor. Her voice came muffled, "I think I'm going to be sick."

"Too much?"

"Yes. But," She looked up at him, the cheesiest of grins plastered on her face. "It was fascinating. I never realized how much I'd missed with self-study."

Discord smirked, setting the thin-framed glasses back to neutral on his muzzle. "That's the power of instruction, Twilight."

"Sure is." Twilight stood, glancing at the clock. "Ooops. It's already two. Guess we missed lunch. Have you seen Spike?"

"No, I'm afraid I haven't." Discord watched Twilight begin to pace around the library. "Twilight, what's wrong?"

"Oh, where could he be? Maybe he thought we were ignoring him and he ran off." Twilight's pacing intensified, as she levitated all kinds of objects in search of the dragon. "Spike? Spike?"

The situation seemed to be fast spiraling the mare into panic. Panic was the least amusing emotion Discord could think of. Perhaps it was time for an intervention. Sighing, he strode up to her, pushing her into a sitting positing. He leaned in close, golden eyes staring intently at her. "Twilight, calm down. We'll find him, there's no need to panic," he soothed.

"But, I-he. . ." Twilight pressed against him, trying to stand. Her voice was shaking, "He's my responsibility and he's lost."

"I know, but we'll find him." He patted her on the back. "It's going to work out, Twilight."

She bit her lip, nodding slowly. "Kay."

"There. Now let's go look for him." Discord started towards the door. "Any clue as to where he might be?"

"Yeah. He'll sometimes go over to Rarity's to help. We can start there. I'll show you the way."

Apparently Ponyville was not quite the expansive metropolis its residents saw it as. In a matter of minutes, they had crossed town and arrived at Carousel Boutique. Twilight trotted up to the door, knocking loudly. "Rarity, it's Twilight. Is Spike there? We've been looking for him."

The door creaked open, and Rarity stood to greet them. She sighed in relief, "Finally, darling. Do come in." Then, she noticed Discord. Her eyebrows raised, and she hissed none too quietly in Twilight's ear. "And who is this stallion you are hiding so casually?"

"His name's Entropic State, but he goes by Entropy. He's my student for the month."

"I see." Rarity turned to Discord who had been examining the ridiculous building design. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Entropy. My name is Rarity. I'm one of Twilight's friends."

"A pleasure." He held out a hoof for her to shake, then glanced meaningfully at the shop's interior. "But, weren't we here for a reason?"

"Oh yes, come in, come in." Rarity trotted inside, levitating the door closed behind them. "Spike darling! Twilight's come to pick you up."

The little dragon slunk over to them, green scales adorned with ribbons and wearing a particularly sour expression. "Hey, Twilight."

"Spike! There you are." Twilight rushed to him, quickly giving the dragon a bone crushing hug. "I was so worried. Why didn't you say anything?"

"I didn't want to interrupt your lecture." Though Twilight seemed to believe the reason, Discord was not convinced. The dragon still shot suspicious glances at him out of the corner of his eyes.

Discord walked over to join Twilight, patting Spike's head in a fatherly fashion. "Oh, pish posh. You are more than welcome to interrupt little one." He pressed a hoof to his chest. "I fear I get rather focused when I'm discussing physics and quite lose track of the time."

"I'm the same way. Sorry, Spike. We'll try to be more considerate next time." Twilight released Spike from the hug. "Did you get some lunch?"

"Yeah, Rarity gave me some." Spike grinned at Rarity, "Thanks."

"Not a problem, Spikey Wikey. Thank you for your wonderful modeling." Rarity untied the bows with her magic, placing them neatly on the shelf. "Twilight, Entropy, do make sure we aren't forgetting our number one assistant in the future."

"Right." Twilight's embarrassed chuckle echoed around the shop. "Let's go, Spike."

Discord followed Twilight and Spike, listening to Twilight lecturing Spike on communication. It seemed all too boring for his taste. So what if the little twerp wandered off? And why in Equestria had he felt obligated to calm Twilight down? By the gods, Discord you're getting soft.

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around Ponyville. It irritated him to think that, despite centuries of knowledge, he could not do something as simple as levitate a book with unicorn magic. Frustrating and embarrassing to say the least. His latest attempt resulted in Ponyville's fountain spewing boiling water in all directions. Ponies were screaming and running in all directions. An irate Mayor Mare galloped towards them. "Twilight Sparkle! What in Equestria are you doing?"

Twilight cringed, lowering her head, "Sorry, Mayor. We were working on controlling Entropy's magic."

Discord turned away from the conversation, savoring the panic around him. Between the mess he made this morning, the fountain, and the various other tasks that had gone wrong, Ponyville was becoming far more entertaining. The sight of the ponies running helter skelter around the fountain and dodging the pile of rubble made him burst into laughter. He rolled on his sides, laughing until Twilight leaned over him, glowering down at him. Ooops.

"That is not funny, Entropy. I was trying to tell the mayor how sorry you were. Well, apparently you're not sorry at all!" Twilight kicked him with a hoof. "Come on, we're going to fix this mess."


"That's what you get for being insincere, Entropy." Twilight trotted over to the fountain, remedying the situation with a quick spell. "The rest we do without magic."

Urgh! Killjoy. Discord attempted to stand, but fell back in the attempt. Stupid hooves. He tried again, but could not quite figure out how to steady his hooves on the damp grass. Wincing, he hit the ground with a thud. How do they do it?

Twilight cantered over to him, eyes filled with concern. "Are you hurt?" Her soft hooves stroked his sides, making him jump a little. "You are hurt."

He rolled his eyes, "I'm fine." I didn't expect you to touch me that's all. Reluctantly, he allowed her to bring him to a standing position. Confound these ponies. "Sorry, the grass was wet."

"No problem." Twilight pointed to the rubble Discord had caused with his attempts at spell casting. "Let's get to work."

"Right." Discord took no pleasure in work. Some ponies and indeed some monsters might say that work was the cure for just about everything. He had to respectfully disagree. Work, particularly hard work was boring, and the end result was always less chaotic than it started out as.

Twilight looked to be in hog heaven, happily showing him how to put everything back into order. He gritted his teeth, pretending to be just as excited as she was. It took a lot longer than he originally thought to set things right. Apparently exploding flower boxes not only resulted in a large quantity of dirt, but also shards of wooden shrapnel in just about every nook and cranny. Then there was his attempt at straightening the lampposts which resulted in every one leaning ever so slightly to the left.

Finally, after hours of manual labor, they managed to complete the last repair. A loud toll from the clock tower informed them that it was seven o'clock. "Well, that's enough destruction for one day, huh, Entropy?" Twilight panted weakly.

Enough? There's never enough destruction. Sighing, he nodded acknowledgement. An overwhelming, unfamiliar surge of exhaustion was slowly creeping in. It was the first time in centuries that he had felt well and truly tired. All due to this horrid disguise of his. How do they stomach being so weak?

"Entropy?" Twilight's hoof waved in front of his face, causing him to step back in surprise. "You were spacing out again."

"Oh, forgive me, Twilight. Just . . . sorry about the mess today."

She gave him a friendly slap on the shoulder, "Don't worry about it, everypony has bad days."

He gave a halfhearted chuckle, still focusing on the grass. You don't know the half of it. Sighing, he started back towards his temporary home. "I'll see you tomorrow, princess."

"Yeah, see you."

I hate this place. Never had Discord wanted to blow up a town quite so badly. He settled for exploding the nearest bush. Ha, take that! There was nothing special about unicorn magic. It was as though the stuff had been invented by law abiding ponies like Twilight Sparkle, who failed to possess even the slightest glimmer of individuality. He would never be capable of controlling it, so why try? Ponies and their magic sucked all the fun out of everything. His chaos magic was exciting, unpredictable, and perfectly suited to his needs.

As he walked, he felt his limbs become stiff and sore. Why does it hurt so much? I'm not that old. Well, okay, maybe I am. But it's never bothered me before. Stupid ponies and their fragile little bodies. No, there was absolutely nothing good about being a pony. As soon as he could, he would return to his true form and write this up as a bad memory. Give it time, Discord. A little time and you'll have won.

Warm Welcome

View Online

Twilight pressed a hoof to the blackboard, eyes sparkling with wonder. "Amazing! And this formula works all the time?"

"Well, not all the time. But that's what's so fascinating." Entropy was standing beside Twilight, speaking softly into her ear. "By all accounts, this formula should predict the rate of the degradation. The fact that it fails proves that there are countless other variables at play."

"How do we start looking for answers?"

Blech. Spike turned away from the ponies' conversation, folding his comic book. Leave it to Twilight to turn a physics lesson into some kind of date night. Except that it was daytime. Entropy had only been here two days and already Twilight was spending more time talking with him than she ever spent talking to him. Why's he so special?

"Twilight. Twilight!" It took a few tugs on the alicorn's leg before she noticed him standing there.

"Yes, Spike?"

He held up Twilight's lengthy list. "We're off schedule."

A grimace stretched across her face as she read the parchment. "We're an hour behind. Sorry, Entropy but I think we'll have to get back to your lesson now."

"Oh, what a shame." Erasing the board resulted in a storm of chalk dust, sending Entropy into a coughing fit.

Twilight walked over, patting him on the back. "You okay?"

"Just . . . fine." He managed to stop coughing, a small smile on his face. "Chalk dust."

Spike watched their little spectacle with skepticism. It was not as though he hated Entropy, he just did not like him much. The stallion seemed bound and determined to destroy Ponyville before the month was up. And it would be their job to clean up the rubble.

"Spike? Hello? Earth to Spike!"

Twilight's voice jolted him from his daydream. "Yeah?"

"Could you go with Entropy and get some supplies for lunch?"

"Sure, Twilight." Spike wanted to slap himself for agreeing, but what was he supposed to do, say no? That would make him the worst number one assistant in Equestria. He walked slowly to the door, followed closely by Entropy.

When they were out of the library, Entropy inhaled deeply. "What a perfectly glorious day."

Spike raised an eyebrow. Perfectly glorious? Who says that? Ignoring the stallion, Spike walked towards the marketplace. Suddenly he felt himself being lifted into the air by the scruff of his neck. "Hey, put me down, Entropy!" Before he could protest further, the stallion had thrown him onto his back. "I'm not a baby anymore."

Entropy's booming laugh shook his sides, causing Spike to grip onto his mane tightly. "No, but you are dreadfully slow." With that, he took off at an extremely jarring walk that would put Twilight's trot to shame. "So, Spike I take it you don't like me much."

Spike felt his heart leap into his throat. "Why . . . why would you think that?"

Entropy turned his head around, staring at him with a 'you've got to be kidding me' expression.

"Okay, maybe I don't like you a whole lot." Well this is awkward. Trying to think of some less hurtful way of saying it proved unfruitful. The words tumbled out before he could stop himself, "I just don't like you getting all cozy with Twilight."

Entropy stopped so suddenly that Spike nearly flipped over his head. "What? My but you are delusional, Spike." He stamped a hoof. "I'm simply teaching her. There's nothing more than that."

"Really? Positive?"

"Yes!" Apparently the stallion was getting flustered, because he continued walking. He did not say another word until they arrived at the market. With an unceremonious thud, Spike was deposited on the ground. "Come along, we'll get this done quickly."

He could only nod, following him down the crowded street. Ponies occasionally looked over at Entropy, smiling warmly. Entropy always returned the smile and gave a curt nod before walking on again. After buying carrots from a rather cautious Carrot Top, they moved down the row. As they did, the strangest things began to happen. Ponies would start arguing or items would topple out of place. Spike watched in wonder as Roseluck got into a heated argument with Time Turner. "Geeze, what's gotten into them?"

"Oh, I don't know." Entropy looked away, a perfectly innocent expression on his face.

Sure you do. The next few stands, Spike kept a lookout for any mischief from Entropy. For the life of him, he could not catch the stallion actually doing anything. That did not stop the entire marketplace from descending into a state of chaos before his eyes. As they made their way back towards the library, he finally caught something. With a flick of his tail, Entropy managed to send a turnip into a mare's saddlebag's causing the stand owner to accuse her of theft. "Hey! I saw that."

Entropy whistled a cheery tune, avoiding eye contact with him. "Saw what?"

"You, you put that turnip in her bag. She didn't do it." Spike started to tug on the pony's legs. "Come on, you've got to go apologize for causing trouble."

"Me, cause trouble? My dear Spike, I'm hurt that you would even suggest such a thing."

"But you did! I saw you!" Once again, he felt Entropy grab him by the scruff of his neck and throw him onto his back.

"You can strangle me from up there."

Spike huffed, looking back towards the now angry group of ponies. "You're horrible. I'm telling Twilight."

Entropy snorted, "As if you have any proof."

"I . . . I . . . urgh!" The rest of the way he rode in silence, feeling more upset each minute. This stallion was trouble, of that he was certain. How much and for what reason was a mystery. All he knew was that he had to keep her as far away from him as possible.

If I hear 'focus' one more time.

"Focus on the result, Entropy."

Urgh! That's it, I'm going to lose it. Discord glowered back at Twilight. "I can't focus when you keep telling me to!"

Twilight's face turned beet red, "Sorry. Sorry." She cringed, turning back to her book.

He attempted to concentrate on the sticks lying in the grass. It was supposed to be a simple levitation. But, between the oppressive sunlight beating down on his coat and the incessant prattling of Twilight, it had been more than a little difficult. Thinking about the heat led to the sticks igniting. In fact he had ignited them with such frequency and regularity that Twilight proclaimed they must be making progress. The only advancement I'm making is into insanity.

Golden magic surrounded his horn and the sticks burst into flame once more. Mechanically, Twilight levitated a bucket over and doused the flame. Discord flopped on the grass, moaning. "Why is it so hard?"

Twilight looked up, obviously resisting the urge to give a dictation on trying your best. But, blessedly, she said nothing.

For hours now, they had been practicing in the park. And, apart from his sweat drenched coat and quivering limbs, nothing had changed. Twilight believed that his problem was mental. Discord knew better. He was a being of chaos, and a being of chaos was incapable of harnessing harmony. That one truth had persisted over the centuries. There was nothing Miss Goody Two Hooves could do about that.


He opened his eyes to see Twilight's face uncomfortably close to his own. Why must she do that? Looking at her directly seemed to make her lean closer, so he averted her gaze. "Yes?"

"Do you want a break?"

Break? Gods, I'm not some invalid. If he was being honest with himself, he had never felt so exhausted. Then again, honesty had never suited him. "I suppose it wouldn’t hurt."

"Good. Because we're going to be late." Twilight held out a hoof, and he allowed her to pull him to his hooves.

"Late for what?"

Her giggle was more than a little suspicious. "Oh, you'll see."

Why am I not comforted?

Twilight was worried about Entropy. Though she had tried countless methods of teaching, each one fell flat. The problem was certainly not his intelligence, the stallion was simply brilliant. No, his problem was mental and that was no small thing to change. Her eyes focused on her student, "You're doing fine, Entropy."

"What?" His ears perked up, a small smile stretching the lines of his face. "Well, I suppose I can hold the record for most objects destroyed in a single day."

"Oh no. That would have to be Discord."

Entropy stopped so suddenly he nearly fell back on his haunches. His mouth hung open, glasses askew. "What?"

"Discord. You know, the spirit of chaos himself." Twilight patted Entropy on the back. "Let's just say he puts your little fireworks display to shame."

Entropy laughed and laughed, eyes tearing up. For the life of her, Twilight could not understand what was so funny. The stallion eventually regained control, waving a hoof in the air. "Sorry, sorry."

"Feel better?"

"Infinitely." Entropy started down the street again, marking Twilight's pace. "So, where is it we're heading?"

"We're almost there." Eeeeh! He's going to be so surprised. When they arrived in front of Sugar Cube Corner, she was nearly hopping up and down with excitement.

Entropy stood next to her, eyeing the storefront with curiosity. "Buying sweets?"

"Sort of." Twilight opened the door for him, motioning for him to enter.

A shower of confetti and a chorus of noisemakers greeted them upon entering. There in front of them were all of Twilight's friends and a good number of townsponies. Pinkie hopped over to Entropy, placing a party hat on his head so quickly he could not have refused if he tried. "Welcome to your welcome to Ponyville party!"

"Huh?" Entropy turned to Twilight as though expecting some kind of joke. "Why?"

Twilight could not resist giving him a cheesy grin. "It's been Ponyville tradition ever since Pinkie Pie came to town. I wanted it to be a surprise."

"Oh, well," He jerked a nod at Pinkie, "thank you."

"No problem." The pink mare spun around in a happy circle. "I'm super excited Twilight has somepony to talk all sciency to 'cause nopony around here understands that kinda stuff."

"Pinkie." Twilight felt her face grow uncomfortably hot. "That's not true."

Pinkie rolled her eyes, "Fine. Almost nopony. But still, it's super exciting to meet you. And you've just got to meet the rest of our friends." She literally pushed Entropy over to the corner where their group was gathered. "This is Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash."

Entropy nodded curtly to each of them in turn. The mares smiled a warm greeting. Twilight walked over to stand by him. "We all wanted to greet you properly."

"Thanks." Though sporting a soft grin, the stallion looked a little overwhelmed by the sudden attention. His eyes glanced around at Twilight's friends until they focused on Pinkie's scar. Concern suddenly washed over his face, and he stammered, "Are-are you okay? What happened?"

"Huh?" Pinkie spun in little circles trying to figure out what he was talking about. "Oh, the scar. I've had it since last year." Her face turned a little red, "I fell in a hole and got cut by a rock."


Twilight could not figure out why Entropy was so concerned about Pinkie seeing as how they had just met a few seconds ago. Maybe he was just a thoughtful pony. Clearing her throat, she gestured to the ponies all milling around the party. "Big turnout. The Corner's getting too small for this sort of thing."

"You said it!" Applejack fanned herself with her Stetson. "It's too hot in here with all these ponies."

"Sorry." Pinkie pawed at the floorboards, "We're still working on the venue. It's kinda a wreck right now."

Entropy glanced between them, raising an eyebrow. "Venue?"

"Yeah." Pinkie scooped up a cupcake from a table, slowly unwrapping it. "I'm starting a party venue in the old town hall but it's kinda falling apart." Just as she was about to bite into the cupcake, an orange blur came over and knocked it from her hoof. "Cheesie!"

The lanky stallion gave a triumphant grin, posing as though he had just completed a difficult obstacle course. "Victory!"

Her cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk's. "That was my snack, dear."

"Nope. Your snacks are in the back and you know it." Cheese patted her on the forelock, eliciting an even deeper pout from the mare. "Remember what the doctor said. No sugar."

"But, it's just a teensy tiny bit." Pinkie pleaded, staring into Cheese's emerald eyes.

Twilight watched Entropy staring in confusion at the scene. She leaned over, whispering in his ear, "That's Pinkie's husband, Cheese Sandwich."

Entropy's eyes went wide and he stared incredulously at Twilight. "She's married?"

"Yup. And," She found herself giggling a little bit, "pregnant."

"What?" His eyes drifted to the mare's sides. "She doesn’t look it."

"She's only five months along. Don't start treating her different, she'll get really upset."

"Right." Entropy began to walk towards the other ponies when he was caught in a death grip by Cheese. His ears laid flat on his head. "What?"

"I didn't introduce myself." Cheese stepped back, holding out a hoof. "Name's Cheese Sandwich. I'm really excited to have another stallion to chat with." Then, leaning in close, he whispered none too quietly, "We're outnumbered."

Entropy gave another one of his booming laughs, drawing the attention of a few of the ponies. "I can see that." He shook Cheese's hoof, "Nice to meet you."

Twilight watched as Cheese walked Entropy around the party, smiling and laughing among themselves like old buddies. She was distracted enough that she failed to register her friends surrounding her. Pinkie's hoof against her side made her jump in the air. "What?"

Applejack bit into a cupcake, gesturing matter-of-factly to Entropy. "You were spacin' out Sugarcube."

"Was I?" She giggled nervously, playing with her mane. "I just thought it was nice to see Entropy getting along with Cheese."

"Yup. Cheesie was super happy when I said we had a new stallion in town." Pinkie watched her husband for a few seconds. "He really needs some stallion friends."

"Got that right." Rainbow's face scrunched up in a grimace. "He keeps trying to get me to fix the siding and trim work with him." She glared accusingly at Pinkie, "What gives?"

"We really need to get the siding done. Plus," Pinkie's ears drooped a little. "he's lonely. I think he wants to talk about stallion stuff but he's got nopony to listen to him."

"That's to be expected." Rarity patted both Pinkie and Twilight on the forehead. "Though it seems he'll have somepony to chat with now."

"I don't know about that. Entropy doesn't exactly fit the typical stallion model. Or the typical unicorn model." Twilight glanced nervously over at Entropy who for the moment seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. "He hasn't been able to perform one successful spell this entire time. I think he'd blow up Ponyville if I left him alone long enough."

Fluttershy gasped, hiding her face in her long tail. "He would?"

Rainbow snorted a laugh, "Really? Awesome!"

Twilight moaned. Don't they get it?

Thankfully, it was Rarity who brought up the real dilemma. Her hoof rested reassuringly on Twilight's shoulder. "You're worried you won't succeed, aren't you?"

"Yeah." All she wanted to do was curl up into a ball. Never in her life had she felt like such a failure. "It's no good, girls. I can't convince him to focus his magic on anything useful. He just gets more and more frustrated, and I can't blame him." She bit her lip, turning away from them. "I'm a failure of a teacher."

"Oh, Twilight." Fluttershy hugged her tightly. "It'll be okay. I'm sure of it."

"Yeah, it ain't like you've never delt with difficult cases before." Applejack patted Twilight's back reassuringly. "I've got one of my own at the moment."


She groaned, rubbing her forehead. "It's like he's got some kind of crazy charisma waves or somethin'. I ain't never seen Apple Bloom so darn excited about anypony before."

"Charisma?" Rainbow's muzzle scrunched up in distaste. "Since when do you say words like 'charisma'?"

"Noooo." Applejack sunk to her hooves, pounding her head against the floorboards. "His fancy talk's gettin' to me too! Next thing you know, I'll be connin' good ponies out of their hard earned bits."

"There, there, Applejack." Fluttershy lifted Applejack's chin, speaking in her most reassuring voice, "He's only been here a few days, give him a chance."


Twilight rolled her eyes, looking away from her friend. At least Applejack's farm hoof was not threatening to blow up portions of town. Though, it was not as if Entropy wanted to cause mayhem. Maybe her friends were right. This could be fixed. After all, it was not as though she were facing some kind of world threatening evil. Just a misguided professor with far more power than he knew what to do with. Perhaps it was not such an impossible task after all.

By the time Discord managed to leave the party, it was already dark. He did not mind, in fact, he found the cool evening air to be oddly refreshing. Even the quiet streets did not irritate him as they tended to. No, the only bit of his walk he would have changed would be the form he was forced to enjoy it in.

The town clock began to sound. Absent-mindedly he counted the chimes. Nine o'clock, huh? It really was not so late. It seemed that ponies went to bed far too early these days. Whatever happened to staying up late and enjoying an evening stroll? Just like Twilight, they were simply too focused on the routine.

Discord strode over to the fountain, gazing at the reflection in the water. The unicorn looking back was not him. Just a façade to prove to Celestia that he was right all along. Though he wanted to be done with their little joke, it would be interesting to see how it played out.

After all, these ponies trusted him. Ridiculous as it was, they wanted to welcome him into their town. Act the kind, bumbling tutor and they fawn all over you. Pathetic. Discord snorted a laugh, swirling the water with a hoof. It was easy to win them over. Too easy. This month would drag out indefinitely if he had to keep playing the good boy. He had to think of something to spice up the game. Thankfully, that was just his specialty.

This Could Be Fun

View Online

What a repulsively perfect day. Discord grimaced, trying to ignore the sunshine streaming directly into his eyes and reflecting off his glasses. Though it was early in the morning, everypony seemed to be walking around the street in sickeningly high spirits. This is going to be a very long walk.

With the air of somepony going to a funeral, Discord made his way towards the library. Every few feet, ponies would stop to say good morning and he would be obligated to greet them in turn. It was infuriatingly slow progress. As soon as he could, he veered off down a side street to avoid any more well-wishers.

Now that he was finally alone, he began to relax. At each house he passed, he was careful to mess up one little detail. An overturned flowerpot here, a loose brick there. It was a pathetic substitute for his usual tricks, but it would have to do. He was about to move away from bending a mailbox when a loud thunderclap sounded right into his ears. Naturally he jumped like a rabbit and it was only by a miracle of self restraint that he did not blast the perpetrator with a strong dose of chaos magic.

High pitched laughter preceded the arrival of Rainbow Dash. She flew down, giggling like a school yard filly the whole way. "The look on your face, Entropy. Priceless."

Discord was fairly certain the only look on his face was one of purest irritation, but he was not about to argue the point. He cleared his throat, adjusting his glasses. "I suppose you think that was amusing, Rainbow Dash."

"Well duh! That was perfect!" Her sniggering was starting to get on Discord's nerves. She wiped the tears of glee from her eyes. "That prank never gets old."

Amateur. I could do better in my sleep. Hmmm. Yes, I could do better, couldn't I? Discord raised an eyebrow, sauntering over to her, "So you think that was good, eh?"

"Yeah." The over confident expression on her face faltered ever so slightly.

Discord continued his mock appraising look, then broke into one of his booming laughs. "It was. Well played Rainbow Dash."

"Well yeah, I'm the best prankster in Ponyville. Well, apart from Pinkie." Rainbow relaxed, folding her wings and stood next to Discord. "So, you going to do more egghead stuff?"

"Oh yes, I promised Twilight another lesson later today so I wanted to get there early." He shrugged, leaning against the nearest light post.

Her ears perked up, "Lesson? Say, what do you teach?"

Discord examined his hooves, continuing in a would-be-casual voice, "Quantum physics mostly, though I dabble in chaos theory."

"Sounds boring!" Rainbow eyed him cautiously as though egghead were a contagious disease.

They walked down the street together, though Discord was careful to walk ever so slightly to the side, forcing Rainbow to walk along close to the houses. He counted each of her steps until she reached just the right spot. "Hold on, Rainbow Dash."

She stopped cold, looking expectantly up at him. "What?"

He stroked his goatee thoughtfully. "I've always wondered. How do you get a thundercloud to release lightning?"

"Oh that's easy. You jump." She began to hop on the ground.

Discord heard the distinct pop of a wooden stopper being pulled. With a loud crash, the flowerbed beside Rainbow Dash tipped over, spilling its contents all over the pegasus. He burst into laughter at the look of dumbfound amazement on her face. Priceless. Simply priceless. "You should see the look on your face!"

"How? How did you?" Rainbow looked back at the overturned flowerbed then down at the ground. Her hoof cuffed the grass to reveal a pressure trigger hidden in the dirt. She turned to Discord, "When did you –"

"Oh, the other day when I had to clean up my little mess." He rolled his eyes, "It was terribly dull doing everything the earth pony way so I thought I'd spice things up a bit."

"That was amazing!" Rainbow flew into the air, knocking off the dirt and flowers as she went. She came back, landing beside him. "I've never seen a prank like that before. So simple, so brilliant!"

"Yes, well, I am rather known for it back home." Try notorious for it. Discord chuckled, motioning for Rainbow to follow him. "I just couldn't let your amateur act stand without a proper challenge."

Rainbow nodded approval, "Well guess you win this round, but only this round. Tomorrow I'll have some really good stuff."

"We'll see." A wonderful thought occurred to him then. Why not have even more fun? He raised a cautious eyebrow, "Though, it might be interesting to prank a few townsponies. What do you say?"

"YES!" She did a loop de loop, eyes sparkling with excitement. "I've got some great stuff I wanted to try." Discord listened to her rudimentary list of pranks with mild interest. For a being with no magic and little creativity, she really was rather good at planning pranks. Though, under the same circumstances, he could easily top her and he would.

As they walked, he had to suffer through a play by play of her latest and greatest pranks. It was more ego stroking than he could stomach, and that was saying a lot coming from him. By the time they arrived at the library, he was ready to be rid of her. "Goodbye, Rainbow Dash."

"See you, Entropy. And hey, let me know if you think of any good pranks."

"Oh I will." Right after I use them on you. Discord strode into the library, slamming the door open. Twilight wheeled around from her cushion, looking as though he had fired off a blast of magic. Maybe that was a touch too loud. Chuckling, he closed the door softly. "Sorry, Twilight."

"That's fine, Entropy." She lept up, trotting over to him. "You're here early." Discord watched her prance around him like an overexcited dog welcoming its owner. She ceased her dance to stare intently into his eyes. "So, ready to get started?"

"Yes." He tried to avoid the alicorn's gaze, keenly aware of how close her muzzle was to his. "Twilight, you're a little close."

"Oh . . ." Her face turned a violent shade of red, and she backed away. "Sorry."

"It's fine." Discord watched her trot around the library, apparently setting up whatever lesson she had planned for the day. It was best to leave her be. He looked around for Spike, but thankfully he did not appear to be at home. The dragon's suspicious nature was starting to get on his nerves. If he was not careful, his ruse would be up before it even got started.

"All set!"

Discord turned to see Twilight holding up a strange apparatus. It looked like an upturned colander with wires and lights sticking out. Kill me now. Grimacing, he walked over to where she had connected the piece to some kind of read out machine. "So, what's this?"

"A magic readout detector." Twilight stroked the machine lovingly. "It can detect the strength of a unicorn's magic. But, it's not so good with earth pony magic."

"I see." Discord sat on the floor, allowing Twilight to strap the device on his head. Though she appeared confident, Discord knew better. He had read her little correspondence letters with Celestia. Twilight Sparkle was an accident waiting to happen.

A loud beeping noise started up, echoing around the room. Twilight sat across from him, levitating up a small ball. "All right, Entropy. Levitate this for a bit. I want to see what happens when your magic goes haywire."

Oh no you don't. Gritting his teeth, he began to levitate the ball. It went well for a bit, but soon the orb began to twist and squeak. After a few seconds, it exploded. Still watching the readout, Twilight caught the pieces in her own magic, then gave him another ball to try.

It went on like this for close to half an hour. He would attempt to hold the ball in the air and it would either explode or warp itself until it deflated. Either way, it was frustrating. With each new set of data, Twilight's smile widened.

The last ball he was trying to focus on kept twisting as though he were wringing it out. He was so distracted that he did not even notice Twilight had turned off the machine.

"Entropy?" Twilight's face came right up next to his, causing him to lose concentration and drop the ball.

"Yes?" Twilight's eyes bored into his own. For the life of him, Discord could not see what so fascinating. "What?"

She placed her hoof on his cheek, "Your eyes, they change color."

"What? They're gold the way they've always been." What is she going on about?

"I never noticed it until now. I was too focused on the magic itself." Twilight's warm breath fogged up the glass of his spectacles. "When you use magic, your pupils turn red."

Oh no. Discord had not even considered that a possibility, but it made perfect sense. Harmony magic sought to return things to order. A draconequus disguised as a unicorn was far from orderly. It was trying to reveal the truth. Well, he could not have that. Not yet anyway. Think, Discord, think. "I uh . . . it does that. I never understood why. My teachers always thought it had to do with my lack of control."

"Hmmm." Twilight leaned in even closer, examining his eyes. "That doesn't make any sense."

Twilight had pushed his back to the ground and was now standing over him. It was more than a little awkward, even for himself. "Twilight. Uh, could you get off of me now?"

"What?" She looked down, realizing what she was doing for the first time. In a smooth motion a cat would be proud of, she leapt back off of him. "Oh my Celestia! I'm so sorry, Entropy. I don't know what came over me." Her face was the color of Applejack's apples by this point. "I'm really sorry. I was curious about the eye color thing."

Discord listened to her long winded apology in amazement. Why in Equestria is she so worked up? Then it hit him like a ton of bricks. She fancies me. Discord you old fox, how did you miss that! The thought of Princess Twilight Sparkle bearer of harmony being attracted to him, the spirit of chaos himself was beyond comedic.

This is perfect. Here in front of him was the very opportunity he had been hoping for. A chance not only to get back at the insufferable mare, but to pull off the most elaborate prank of his life. He would make Twilight Sparkle fall in love with him, then reveal the truth. It was so simple, so brilliant that he wanted to kick himself for not thinking of it earlier. Oh Discord, you've really outdone yourself this time.

If Twilight had been a superstitious pony she would have said that the day was going too well for something not to go wrong. But, she was more rational than that. Just like the past few months, events were simply falling where they needed to. Nothing suspicious there.

After their little test, she had sheets upon sheets of data to sort through. But that could wait and it would. Teaching Entropy was her first priority after all. After a few more attempted spells, she decided their energy would be better spent doing research. So they had begun researching just about every possible cause for a unicorn to lose control of their magic. It was slow going, tedious work, but Entropy did not seem to mind. Twilight could not help but admire his determination.

Entropy looked up from his book, a rather cumbersome tome on light spells. "Twilight?"

"Yes?" Her heart skipped a beat at the sound of his voice. "Find something?"

"Well, yes and no." He gave a sheepish grin, pointing at the page. "I'm afraid I don't quite understand this passage but I think it might be helpful."

"Hmmm. Let me see." She got up from her cushion and lay down beside him. The book was open to a chapter on healing magic. Brilliant! I didn't think to look into healing magic. She raised an eyebrow at her pupil. Entropy always had a way of thinking outside the box. "What part were you wondering about?"

"This one here." His smooth, baritone voice was enough to send shivers up her spine. The stallion's hoof tapped the passage in question. "It says something about magic being blocked. Do you think that might be what's causing my problem?"

Twilight began to read, nodding as she went. The entire time, she could feel Entropy's side pressed against her own. It was warm, but not uncomfortable. Twilight found herself purposely taking longer than necessary to read the passage. She looked up into Entropy's eyes, "It's an excellent theory, but I don't think it quite fits. Dr. Nemane says that this sort of thing comes as a result of psychological trauma or physical injury. Your problem's been around as long as you can remember."

"True. But, perhaps this blocking could be expanded." Entropy leaned in so close she could feel his hot breath against her face. "After all, the author's a doctor. He might not think to look beyond the medical field."

Twilight nearly jumped when she felt his tail resting on hers. Judging from his intent focus on the text, he had not noticed. She tried to return her attention to their conversation. "So, if . . . if that's the case, then maybe magic could be blocked by other paths."

Entropy stroked his goatee thoughtfully, "Hmmm. I think that's a logical leap. Why not test the theory out?"

"Yes." Her heart began to race at the stallion's proximity. He can't be that oblivious. It was more than likely payback for her earlier, she would not blame him. But why did he have to be so good at it?

A loud creaking of the door announced Spike's return. Twilight looked up to see the dragon staring open mouthed at them, arms folded around a shopping bag. Her voice was a little more high pitched than normal, "Spike, you're back early."

"What are you doing?" Spike's cheeks were a little red, and he stammered something incoherent.

Entropy raised his head, smiling broadly at Spike. "Research. Twilight was running through a theory with me."

Twilight twitched as his tail wrapped around hers again. Ok, he has to know what he's doing. She gave a loud cough, pulling away from Entropy and standing. "Thanks for picking up those supplies, Spike."

"Yeah, no problem." Spike walked over to her, eyeing Entropy the whole time. "So, how's magic training going?"

Entropy gave a heavy sigh. "None too well I'm afraid."

Spike gave a clear I didn't ask you expression. He looked back at Twilight, "Fluttershy was in town. She was wondering if you needed her animals for magic practice."

"Oh . . ." Her eyes darted to Entropy whose focus had returned to the book. "I don't think we're quite ready for animals yet."

"Indeed not."

Entropy's reply made her jump. Apparently he had been listening after all. Twilight chuckled, turning back to her own cushion. "We'll just be researching today. Tomorrow we'll have some more practical lessons."

"Okay, I guess." Spike dropped the bag of parchment on the floor, walking towards the kitchen. "But, it's a nice day and Rainbow said the weather team's making it rain all day tomorrow."

Twilight turned back to her pupil. "Entropy? What do you say, want to do a practical lesson today?"

"Well, we'll research for now, then after lunch I'll give you a practical lesson." The stallion's gaze did not leave the book, "There's more than one way to teach physics. A change of pace might be fun."

"It's settled then. We'll go to the park after lunch." Twilight returned to the task at hand. Though it was a fascinating book, she could not help but pause every so often to look up at Entropy. An entire afternoon to be the student and forget her worries for a bit. She could not help but feel giddy at what Entropy had in store for their lesson. Whatever it was, as long as she was with him, it was bound to be fun.


"Seriously." Entropy's eyes sparkled with excitement as he held up a rope in his mouth and a saw in his hoof.

The other ponies in the park eyed him suspiciously as they passed by. After the last few days, they had learned to stay well clear of the pair while they were training. Thankfully for Ponyville, it was a simple physics lesson. At least that's what Twilight thought it was. "So, you want me to build a pulley system to lift that crate," She nodded to the crate of bricks by Entropy's hooves, "from the ground to that branch?"

Entropy gave a wicked grin, "Precisely."

"But it's so simple! Foals' play." Twilight hated to be the whiny student, but this was downright degrading. "We were studying quantum physics yesterday and now we're messing around with pulley systems!"

"True. But, sometimes you just have to take a step back." He threw the rope unceremoniously to the ground. "If it's so easy, it shouldn't take too much time." He spoke the words in an almost mocking tone.

There were a host of comebacks to that, but for the life of her, Twilight could not think of any. Instead, she gave a loud snort, scooping up the rope in her magic. I'll show you a pulley system. The sun beat down as she worked, allowing the heat to be absorbed in her dark coat. Urgh, so hot! Why's it so hot? To add insult to injury, the system was proving more difficult to build than she first thought and she was constantly having to tear down and reevaluate.

After about half an hour of work, she was finally comfortable trying it out. Cautiously, she began to hoist the crate up with the rope. The tension immediately went slack as the rope snapped in two, sending the crate crashing to the ground. "Urgh!"

Entropy's booming laugh just behind her made her wheel around. His eyes were twinkling with amusement. "Having trouble, Twilight?"

Twilight felt her face grow hot. "I uh . . ." Her hoof cuffed the grass nervously. "Yes." She practically whispered.

"Well, do you want the solution?" He walked over to survey her mess with a perfectly neutral expression.

Twilight felt like crawling in a hole. "Yeah, I'd like that."

Entropy picked up the rope, examining the mid section that had snapped. "It's simple really." A broad grin stretched across his face as he turned back to her. "It's impossible."

"WHAT? But pulley systems work." She was not going to be fooled. She spat the next words like a curse, "I know it can work."

"Well, of course it can work. But not with what I gave you." Entropy gestured to the split rope. "I made some calculations so that the rope did not have the tensile strength to hold up that crate of bricks. Brilliant, huh?"

It was brilliant. The entire exercise had been constructed to test her in the most unexpected way possible. Of course it was common sense to evaluate the tensile strength before starting. But, in her desire to get the task over with, she had completely forgotten that crucial detail. Twilight stared at him with newfound respect. "Brilliant, Professor State. Simply brilliant."

"I try." He ruffled her forelock playfully, sending a shiver up her spine. "Well now, shall we continue to the next lesson?"

"Of course!" Twilight levitated the remaining supplies into a pile and followed Entropy down the path. "So, what are we doing next?"

"Hmmm. I wonder." He tapped a hoof against his chin.

The smug expression on Entropy's face was driving her crazy. "WHAT?"

He stopped, leaning over to her so close that their muzzles almost touched. "It's . . . a . . . surprise."

"Urgh! No fair!" She bumped his side playfully, snagging his glasses in her magic.

"Hey now, that's a cheap shot." Even Twilight was surprised how Entropy looked without his glasses. Now that she could see his chiseled features in detail, she could not help but admire them. Despite being a little older, he really was one of the most handsome stallions she had ever met. She felt her face heating up as they stared off.

Entropy tapped his hoof against the ground, holding a slightly irritated expression. "Going to give them back?"

"Hmmm." Twilight spun the glasses in the air, contemplating. "Nope." With that, she took off down the field at a dead gallop. "Catch me if you can!"

"If you insist." Entropy lurched forward, following Twilight. At first, she imagined she would win, but Entropy had a lot longer legs than her. It only took a few minutes for him to come neck to neck with her. "Going to give up?"

"Nope." Twilight took a hard left turn, sending Entropy sliding into the grass. It took him a moment to get oriented, then he was off again. Their little game kept on that way for a long time. Soon her coat was entirely lathered in sweat, but for once she could not have cared less. She was having the time of her life and, judging from Entropy's laughter, so was he. One wrong turn to the right sealed her loss and she slid hard into the grass. "Ooof." Just as quick, she felt Entropy's hoof pressing her back to the ground.

"Got . . . you." Entropy was panting so hard he looked like he might collapse. Apparently physical training was not standard for Canterlot professors. His entire coat was drenched in sweat and his normally orderly mane was sticking up in odd places. "Gods, you run fast."

"Yeah I guess." Gods? That's so old fashioned. Who says that? She looked up at his hoof which was shaking a little. "Tired?"

"You have no idea." Entropy leaned down, looking her square in the eyes. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to put you on probation, Miss Sparkle."

Twilight was half certain her face might catch fire. Though he smelled like sweat, she did not mind him being so close. The droplets trickling down his face and the triumphant grin he was sporting made him look ten years younger. She found herself wanting to stay like this for hours. Her giggle elicited a bigger smile from Entropy. "You win."

A loud cough sounded from behind them. They looked over to see the Cutie Mark Crusaders staring open mouthed at them. Apple Bloom stepped forward cautiously, "What are you doin'?"

Entropy chuckled, lifting his hoof off of Twilight and straightening. His eyes glanced down at Twilight. "Adult stuff, you wouldn't understand."

"So you're making out?" Sweetie Belle looked a little revolted, "Ewwe."

Twilight scrambled to her hooves, "No, no, fillies. He didn't mean it like that. Right Entropy?"

He looked away in a would-be-casual fashion, "Well, I wouldn't say making out exactly."

Her hooves waved dismissively, as she stammered, "Don't listen to him. He's joking." Why am I explaining myself to them? She rubbed her temple, "We were just running around being goofy and I tripped. Entropy caught up and tried to get his glasses back. That's it." Her eyes focused menacingly on the stallion, "Right, Entropy?"

He jerked a nod, "Correct."

The crusaders seemed to take this as a cue to move on, and they shuffled along quickly. Twilight rounded on him like an angry timberwolf. "What were you doing putting those kind of ideas in their heads?"

"Relax, it was a joke. Though," He leaned close, whispering in her ear. "I wouldn't have said no to a little more." With a flick of his tail, he walked off, scooping his glasses up on the way. "See you tomorrow, princess!"

Twilight had a million more things to say to him, but stopped herself. Instead, she could only wave, a small smile stretching across her face. "Bye." Today had been fun, but maybe too fun. There was something dangerously attractive about Entropy. If she was not careful, she might make a decision she would soon regret. Focus Twilight, focus. He's your student, nothing more.

Walking back to the library proved an interesting trip to say the least. Ponies kept stopping her and asking if she was all right. Apparently their danger barometer went through the roof when bookworm Twilight Sparkle actually exerted herself. After reassuring no less than fifteen ponies, she arrived back at the library. "I'm back, Spike."

"Hey, Twilight. How was—" He stopped short, staring at the dried sweat coating her entire body. "What happened to you?"

Her eyes rolled clean over, "A game of chase. Apparently Entropy's got more endurance than I give him credit for." Twilight sighed, "I'm going to take a bath."

Spike walked after her. "Chase? But I thought you were doing physics."

"We were. Then I stole Entropy's glasses to see what he would do." She could not help but laugh when thinking back on it. "And then, I ran off with them. He chased me around for a good half hour."

"Really? But you hate running!" Spike looked as though she had lost her marbles.

"Oh, Spike. I can enjoy running too." Judging from his dubious expression, that explanation was not flying. Snorting, she turned to face him, "Okay, I know I don't like running. But, I thought I'd try something different today. Is that such a crime?"

He cuffed his foot against the wood, avoiding her gaze. "No, I guess not."

"There. It's settled then." As she stood there, the stale smell of dried sweat reached her nostrils.The earthy smell was not terrible, but it made her feel like a farm pony instead of a librarian. "I'm going to get a bath." Just as she was about to head for the tub, the door flung open and Rainbow Dash came charging in.

"Twilight! Hey, give me some books!"

Twilight fought back the urge to throw something at her. "Would it kill you to say please?"

"Oh, uh . . . please?"

Rainbow's sheepish grin set Twilight giggling. There really was no helping the boisterous pegasus. "All right, what do you need?"

Instead of responding, Rainbow Dash stared transfixed at Twilight's sweat matted coat. "What happened to you?"

"Oh, I uh . . ." She tried to think of a term that did not sound childish, "I was racing with Entropy in the park."

"You were racing?" Rainbow was looking at her with a kind of reverent awe. "Entropy deserves a medal for getting you to run! And I thought he was only good with pranks."

"Pranks?" Twilight watched as Rainbow pulled some books from the shelves.

"Yeah, he's going to be helping me pull off some amazing ones!" Her eyes were still focused on the shelves. "He pulled one this morning to me and it was awesome!" She flew down with a hooffull of action novels, laying them in front of Twilight. "I mean, for an egghead, he's totally cool."

"For an egghead?" For some reason, their little conversation was starting to get on her nerves. Her voice was a little harsher than she intended it to be, "What's wrong with being an egghead?"

"Nothing, just, it's boring that's all." Rainbow leaned casually against the podium, watching Twilight check out the books. "But Entropy's different. He's funny and kinda mischievous like me! You know, I think I'm going to get along great with him. Can't wait to spend some more time with the guy."

Twilight slammed the last book closed so hard that both Rainbow and Spike jumped. Her magic levitated the books into Rainbow's hooves. Though she tried to remain calm, she found an irrational anger surging through her. "Entropy's my student, not yours! So you can just keep your hooves off of him, Rainbow Dash!"

There was a period of silence that seemed to stretch for ages. Then, slowly, Rainbow Dash made her way to the door. Eyes still on Twilight, she fumbled for the latch and missing a few times. Her voice was unusually subdued, "Okay then. See you later, Twilight." With that, she managed to escape the library.

Spike jerked his head to the door. "That was kinda harsh."

Twilight rounded on Spike, setting him cringing. "Nopony asked you!" Before she could get any more irritated, she stormed off down the hallway. A cold realization swept over her as she started up the bath. She had just screamed at one of her best friends for no reason. All because she was talking about having fun with her student. And that was what Entropy was. So why was she so worked up about it? Urgh! What's wrong with me?

Discord never did like cats. Now, he was certain he hated them. After coming back coated in dried sweat, Mrs. Plumsworth had insisted he take a long bath. Once that torture was over, she fed him some very smelly kind of casserole and made him sit on the couch and talk to her. They spent two hours chatting about all her cats. She had five. What was worse, the little beasts all snuggled around him as though he released catnip pheromones. Normally, animals avoided him like the plague, but they seemed to be attracted to him in this form. Why me?

Eight o'clock rolled around and he was released from his feline captors by the elderly mare's early bedtime. Climbing the stairs to his room, he collapsed on the bed. Now that he was alone and lying still, he began to notice the aches. At first they started as a trickle, then became a full-on wave of agony. All his joints felt stiff and it hurt to so much as twitch his legs. Arthritis. He forgot completely about that fun little detail of pony life.

With more effort than he would have cared to admit, he reached over and grabbed the liniment from the endtable. Its strong minty smell was pleasant enough, and it had an immediate effect on the throbbing joints. He used to wonder at all the little medicines, salves, and herbal remedies ponies came up with, thinking they could not possibly need all of them. Now he was starting to appreciate their significance. Ponies really were fragile beings.

Discord looked out the window, focusing on the darkening streets below. It had been a productive day after all. Not only had he had a good laugh or two, he had managed to find the perfect method of getting even with Twilight. And that little trick was turning out to be far easier than he anticipated. A few charming words here, a little touch of the tail there, and he had her right in his paw or in this case hoof. He laughed to himself, savoring the thought of the perfect little princess fawning over him. She would never live this one down. The game was afoot, and there was no way he could lose.

Learning Curve

View Online

Rain. It was a necessary part of life, and a welcome break from monotony. There was nothing quite so beautiful as the chaotic splatter of the raindrops as they struck the ground. Even when it was just water and not chocolate milk, it was fun. Why any creature would hate it was beyond him. But, as he walked to the library, almost everypony was hiding inside. The few ponies he passed were making mad dashes to avoid the downpour. Discord chuckled to himself. "Really, what is the problem?"

He eyed a large puddle and took a flying leap into it. Water splashed up his legs and onto his belly, but he could not have cared less. It was the most chaotic liberty he was granted in this form and he would soak it up for all it was worth.

The rest of his walk consisted of him splashing and dancing in the rain, while singing rather badly to annoy as many ponies as possible. A particular triumph was splashing Mayor Mare in the face. Though, her glare sent him backing up a step. "Sorry."

She waved it away with a smile. "It's all right. Not every day I see a stallion playing in the rain like a colt. Do be careful not to catch a cold."

"Right." When she left, he snorted a laugh. A cold? Now that would be amusing. Idly, he wondered what pony colds were like. Definitely not as fun as draconequus colds, that was a given. At least he would not be changing color. Shrugging it off, he continued his song and dance all the way to the library.

He swung the door open, stepping inside. "Twilight! I'm here to learn!"

The only creature in the main room was a rather disgruntled Spike. Apparently, his dripping all over the floor was not appreciated. "Entropy! Why are you all wet?"

"Ah, my dear Spike." Entropy walked over, patting him with a muddy, soaked hoof. "I was out in the rain. That's what we call it when water falls from the sky."

The sarcasm was not well received. Spike gave him a dirty look, pushing the hoof off his head. "I know! I'm not stupid!"

Really, he's so dramatic. Discord shook himself off like a dog. Much to his displeasure, pony hair did not whisk water away like his draconequus coat did. He was still completely soaked. Spike was dripping water too now, looking practically murderous. The sight was beyond comedic, and he sniggered, "I do apologize, Spike. Seems I got a touch carried away."

The sound of rapid hoofbeats coming down the stairs announced Twilight's arrival. "Sorry I'm late, I oversle—" She stopped short upon seeing his dripping coat. "Entropy! What in Equestria were you doing?"

"Walking." And splashing, and dancing. But let's not quibble over the details. He gave a sheepish grin, "Sorry about the mess."

"Don't worry about that." She flew over to him, pressing a hoof to his forehead. "You'll catch a cold doing that."

Really? These ponies are far too obsessed with colds. "I'm fine. I enjoy the rain so I dilly dallied a little."

Twilight sighed, shaking her head. "All right. But you really should be more careful." She started walking towards the hallway, motioning him to follow. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up.

Discord had never been in this part of Twilight's library. The narrow hall led to a small, but functional washroom. Twilight muttered to herself, pulling a few towels and a rag from the closet. She levitated them into his hooves. "Here we go. Go ahead and take a bath. You're covered in mud." She paused, apparently considering something. Turning back to the door, "SPIKE! Come take a bath! You're soaked too!"

A few seconds later, the dragon reluctantly came into the bathroom. "But, Twilight. I'm fine. Entropy just splashed me."

"Uh-huh." Her eyes focused on the dragon's dripping scales. Discord had to give himself credit. He really soaked the poor kid.

Spike crossed his arms, and pouted. "Fine."

Seemingly satisfied, Twilight left the room, closing the door behind her. Spike stared at Discord as though he were about to bite him. "You going to start the water?"

"Oh yes."Discord turned on the faucet watching the water quickly rise. He really did not understand ponies. They had an unhealthy obsession with cleanliness. It was practically taboo to skip even one day of bathing. And then, after getting wet in the rain, they thought it necessary to drench oneself further in the water knowing full well they would take another bath that night. It was an abject waste of time and water. But, he was not going to argue with the princess. After all, that would spoil their little game.

He slid into the large tub, scrubbing his coat clean for what felt like the hundredth time that week. Spike reluctantly joined him, still glowering. "So, Twilight says you ran around with her in the park yesterday."

"Oh yes, we had a marvelous game of chase."

Spike blurted the next words, "She hates running you know."

"Really? Well, for somepony who hates running, she was rather good at it." The dragon was obviously getting at something, but Discord would not play along. He finished scrubbing off, and got out of the water, grabbing a towel. "Why are you so worried, Spike?"

Spike leaned over the edge of the tub, feigning a casual expression. "Worried? I'm not worried!"

Discord was getting rather fed up with the dragon's constant denial. It would keep going on like this if he did not stop it now. He leaned close, eyes focused intently on Spikes. "You're worried that Twilight will fall head over heels for me. Then where would her number one assistant fall on her list of priorities?"

Spike was silent, quivering a little. Discord smirked. Hit the nail on the head. Now that he was dry, he walked towards the door. "Well, too bad for you. She's going to fall for me. I'm rather charming you know." Flicking his tail, he slammed the door closed. That should shut him up. Insufferable creature.

Twilight trotted over to greet him. "All clean?"

"Yes." His eyes darted around the library. The mess he had made upon his entry had been magically cleaned, and a state of order had come over the place once more. She doesn't waste any time, does she? "Ready for your lesson?"

Twilight nodded, then giggled, levitating something off of his neck. Apparently he forgot the towel. "You want this or should I put it up?"

He chuckled, "No, it's fine." Out of habit, he lay down on his usual cushion, despite there being a near army of them to choose from. Twilight had made a kind of designated reading nook in the center of the library floor. It was an excellent place to relax, and think. But, if she was entertaining the hopes of the townsponies coming to join her, she would be sorely disappointed.

She settled down beside him, jerking her head to the kitchen. "Would you like some hot chocolate?"

What? Is it Hearths' Warming Eve or something? "Do you have chocolate milk?"

"Sure! I'll get some for you." She hopped up, trotting over to the kitchen and singing a cheery tune. At least her singing had some semblance of balance. Then again, coming from the embodiment of harmony herself, that was none too surprising.

Discord rested his head on the cushion, watching her leave. For some strange reason, his eyelids felt heavy. I shouldn't be tired. I just woke up. Succumbing to the inevitable, he drifted into unconsciousness.

How did it come to this? Discord tapped his hooves nervously against the stone cobbles of the castle, staring up at the two ponies seated on the thrones. His so called friends were glowering down at him as though he were a distasteful stain on the stones. For an instant, he thought of fighting them, proving how powerful his magic could be against their precious harmony. But that was pointless. He did not want their fear, he wanted their respect. And respect was not so easy to come by.


"Yes, Celestia?" He glanced up at the young mare seated on the throne. Her normally immaculate pink mane was frayed in places; a tell tale sign of distress.

Though she sat straight and proud, Discord could not help but notice a nervous twitch in her front hooves. Despite that, when she spoke, it was with her usual authority, "You have committed a heinous crime against the kingdom of Equestria. What is your explanation?"

Heinous crime? That's a bit harsh, don't you think? He glanced at the small army of guards surrounding him. The one holding his chains looked ready to pull him apart at the first sign of trouble. "Celestia, I did not mean offense. It was an accident."

"An accident? AN ACCIDENT!" Celestia rose from her seat, eyes alight with an icy chill he had never thought possible. "You nearly destroyed an entire village!"

There was no words he could say to that. It was the truth, though it had never been his intention. "I . . . I did not mean . . . You know me, Tia." Discord murmured.

"Do not use such informalities with me, draconequus!" The echo of her hoof against the stones set him quivering. In all his years of knowing her, he had never seen her so mad. It did not suit the alicorn, not in the least.

Luna stood, eyeing Discord with distaste, but with her typical, almost supernatural restraint. "She speaks truth, Discord. What right had you to torture those ponies so?"

"Torture?" Discord stroked his black goatee, contemplating those words. Certainly he was not proud of his actions, but torture was going a little far. It had never been his intention to hurt anypony, just to make them see. His eyes focused on the stones, "I wanted to teach them a lesson."

"A lesson you say?" Luna huffed, "And pray tell, what lesson was that?"

"You . . . you would not understand." Of course they would not. They were ponies. Never in their comfortable lives had they felt the sting of isolation, of having every living thing turn away from you in disgust. In their eyes he was a freak of nature bent on destroying their happiness. So he had given them exactly what they wanted.

Celestia strode over to him, staring him down. "You will explain yourself."

"There was no lesson. I was angry and lost control." That was not the truth. The entire situation had been his construct, his master plan to teach all ponies of Equestria a lesson. But, it had gone wrong, horribly, irreversibly wrong. He heard one of the guards scoff and felt another spit on him.

Celestia leaned down, staring him in the eye. There was no warmth left, no promise of forgiveness, not this time. "You will answer for your crimes, draconequus."

Stop calling me that! I have a name, just like everyone else. He gritted his teeth, dreading what came next. There was no use trying to fight it. Instead, he splayed himself out on the stones, shamelessly groveling at their hooves. "Please, have mercy."

Luna interposed herself between Celestia and Discord, whispering in her sister's ear. Celestia gritted her teeth as Luna spoke, still shooting daggers at Discord. Then, slowly, almost reluctantly, she nodded. They turned to him in unison. Celestia spoke in a commanding voice. "You are hereby banished from Equestria. Never in all your years shall you return. There is no room for chaos in a land of harmony." Her attention turned to the guards, "Take him away. See to it that we are rid of him."

"Yes, majesty."

With a jerk of the chains, Discord was dragged from the chamber. He walked along, following the guards as best he could. As they walked, he could see the rain pouring down outside the castle's windows. It was likely the last rain he would see in Equestria. Now he would be forced to live out the rest of his miserable existence in isolation. Simply for one momentary lapse of judgment. Why? Why did it have to come to this?

"Entropy? Entropy! Wake up!" Discord's eyes flitted open to stare into Twilight's. The mare was lying next to him, resting a hoof on his shoulder. "You okay?"

He wanted to answer, but there was a distinct salty taste in his mouth. It took a while to realize that it was from his own tears. His hoof wiped them away. "Sorry."

"Don't apologize." Twilight's stroked his back gently, looking kindly into his eyes. Her voice was softer than he had ever heard it, "You had a bad dream."

You could say that. He could only nod, trying to regain some kind of composure. Honestly, I'm getting sentimental in my old age. In an attempt to focus on reality, he looked around at the library. Judging from the clock, he had been asleep for almost an hour.

Twilight continued to stroke his back, and levitated a steaming cup of something in front of him. "Here, it's tea. It'll help."

Discord leaned down and drank it. For tea, it was rather good. He found himself draining the cup. Twilight poured him another from the kettle resting beside her, and he took another long swig. "Thanks."

"Sure." In his semi-drowsy state, Discord could not help but stare at Twilight. With the light reflecting off of her coat, and the soft smile she was sporting, he could almost forget that she was an insufferable know it all. Almost.

It took a while to realize he was no longer wearing his glasses. Of course, he did not need them to see anything, but it was part of his act. A quick glance in front of him revealed that they had been folded up neatly beside the cushions. He scooped them up, placing them back on his muzzle.

"I thought they might bother you while you slept."

He gave her a smile, ruffling her forelock. "Thanks, Twilight."

She played nervously with her mane, eyes glancing up at him, and away. "It was nothing. I'm just glad you're all right."

"Yes, I do apologize for that." Discord was keenly aware of Twilight's attention on him. It was oddly comforting to have someone interested in looking at him. No creature in Equestria willingly met his gaze while he was in his true form. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts. "I've lived enough years that past mistakes like to catch up with me in my sleep."

Twilight's smile faltered. "I . . . I get that way too."

"You?" Twilight Sparkle, princess of friendship and magic troubled by her past? Not likely.

Instead of her usual confidence, Twilight looked almost conflicted. Her eyes darted around the room, then back at him. "When I sleep, I can't help but wonder." She lowered her voice to a near whisper, "What would have happened if I failed?"

What? Discord could not believe his ears. "But you never fail, princess."

"But I could! I could fail and all of Equestria could be doomed." Twilight looked as though she were nearing another one of her panic attacks. "Every day I keep thinking, what if something terrible happens? What if I become so complacent that I can no longer see the immediate danger? Then what, Entropy?" Her entire body began to quiver beside his. "How can I live a happy, normal life with that hanging over me?"

Her words struck him like a punch to the gut. For once, Twilight's worries were justified. It made perfect sense. What if another threat like Sombra or Queen Chrysalis were to show up? Their precious rulers had already proven their inability to protect Equestria under such circumstances. Then there was him. What use had he been to them in the past? Discord looked back to Twilight, and, before he even knew why, embraced her in a tight hug. "Oh, Twilight. You're never going to live a normal life, and that's alright. It's all right. Don't be scared. You're not alone, you're never alone." You're not me.

Instead of pulling away as he expected, the mare burrowed her face in his chest, clutching him tightly. She was silent, but Discord could not bring himself to push her back. His hoof stroked her back as she quivered like a leaf. The ever confident princess Twilight Sparkle crying into his chest. It should have bothered him to no end. But, for some strange reason, it was comforting. Comforting to know that somepony with as seemingly perfect life as her could have problems.

After a few minutes, she pulled back flushing crimson. "Sorry . . . sorry."

"Don't apologize, Twilight." He picked up her tea kettle and poured her a drink, handing it to her. "Your turn."

She giggled, taking a long sip of the now lukewarm tea. "Blech. I really can't make tea, can I?"

"Oh I didn't think it was all that bad." Discord picked up the cup, draining it. "Better than I could make. The Dean still hasn't forgiven me for having him try a cup."

Twilight laughed, leaning against his side. "Wish I could have seen that."

"You would have enjoyed it." He cleared his throat, looking around for a change of topic. "So, are we going to start our lesson? We're rather behind."

"Oh." Twilight sat up straight again, looking around the library. "Spike? Do you know where we put the schedule?"

For the first time since he woke, Discord looked around for Spike. Soft footsteps against the stairs announced that he had been upstairs. In a few seconds, he came into sight, a comic book clutched in his claws. "I put it on the podium."

"Oh, right." Twilight trotted over to the podium, levitating the long scroll into her hooves. "Hmmm. We're a little behind, but not so bad. Do you want to do your lecture first or should I do mine?"

"I'll start us off." He welcomed the distraction. It took a few tries to steady himself, but he managed to get to his hooves. After a long stretch, he made his way to the chalkboard. "You ready?"

"Yes." Twilight bounded over, sitting eagerly in front of the board.

Spike eyed Discord suspiciously. Discord could not help but smirk. His little prediction was turning out to be true after all. "Care to join us, Spike?"

"Uh, no. I'm good." Spike started back up the stairs, eyes still boring into Discord's. "I don't understand that kind of stuff."

He only smiled, watching until the dragon was out of sight. Judging from Spike's reaction, he had probably seen his and Twilight's little display earlier. Though it served his own purpose, he could not help but feel awkward about what happened. For a brief instant, Discord felt as though he connected with Twilight. But that was ridiculous. This was a game after all, nothing more. Twilight had won a point that morning. A point did not the game win.

Comics were great fun. When Spike read them, he was transported to another world entirely. But today, today his ticket to the teleporter was not working. Try as he may to follow the adventures of Hum Drum and the Power Ponies, he would always get distracted. Distracted by that image he would just as soon forget. Why? Why had Entropy been holding Twilight like that?

The only other ponies he saw hugging that way were Pinkie and Cheese. A horrible, chilling thought came over him then. What if Twilight liked Entropy like Pinkie liked Cheese, but was too blind to realize it? From their conversation earlier, it was obvious Entropy was playing a cruel trick on her. The unicorn wanted to see how much hurt he could cause Twilight. No way in Equestria Spike would let that happen on his watch. Twilight was as good as family to him, and there was nothing he would not do to protect her.

But warning her was easier said than done. She completely blew off anything he said. Maybe he could talk to somepony else. No, that would not work. They would believe Twilight over him anyday. Think, Spike. Think. A loud knock on the door brought his attention back to reality.

He peeked down the stairs, watching as Rarity stepped inside. Rarity was kind, generous, and above all, understanding. Maybe, just maybe she would listen to him. Spike ran down the stairs to greet her. "Rarity!"

"Hello, Spikey Wikey." Rarity gave one of her brilliant smiles before turning back to Twilight. "I do hope I'm not intruding."

Entropy waved a hoof dismissively, "Nonsense. You're doing no such thing."

"He's right. We just finished our physics lecture." Twilight nodded to the chalkboard now completely covering in formulas and chicken scratch.

"How exciting. I must say, I don't know how you manage to study so much, Twilight. But," Her eyes met Entropy's, "it's simply marvelous you have somepony to study with."

"I don't know about that. I fear I'm boring our dear princess."

Twilight shook her head fervently, "Oh no. Your lectures are fascinating, professor!"

"Well, now, I wouldn't say fascinating."

Urgh. Spike wanted to kick Entropy. Every word seemed to be laced with charm. It was infuriating to watch how easily entranced Twilight was. Was she really that blind to the truth? He decided to break up his latest attempts, "Rarity, why did you come out here in the rain?"

"Oh." She clapped her hooves together as though just remembering. "My dear, Spike. I completely forgot." Her gaze turned to Twilight and Entropy, "I've been asked to attend a fashion expo in Canterlot! And of course, I have to look my best. I thought, since Entropy was from Canterlot, he might give me some pointers."

Entropy's booming laugh echoed around the library. "Me? A fashion expert? Why that's—" He paused, seemingly coming upon some revelation. "Why yes, I know a few things about fashion. Being a professor, I see a lot of young ponies come through my doors sporting the latest fashions. I'd be delighted to help."

"Eeeeh! Thank you, darling." Rarity clasped his hoof in hers. "It will be such a help. But, I wouldn't take you away from our dear Twilight." She started to the door, levitating her umbrella. "When you can spare him, Twilight, do send him my way. Perhaps sometime this afternoon?"

"Sure." Twilight watched Rarity leave, then turned back to Entropy. "Guess we should get started with our magic lesson."

Entropy grimaced, "If your library can handle it."

Spike moaned. If I can handle it. "Twilight, I'm going back to read."

Twilight dismissed him with a hoof, eyes still focused on Entropy. "Sure. Whatever, Spike."

Gee, thanks. Spike walked slowly up the stairs, careful to slam his feet at every step for maximum volume. A sense of dread filled him as he went. So, Entropy was going to Rarity's today. No doubt he would try to pull the wool over her eyes too. Well not this time. This time would be different.

Spike never felt so uncomfortable coming into Carousel Boutique. The place was generally a sanctuary, a safe place to vent his troubles and enjoy a kind friend's company. But not today. Today he knew exactly what he was walking into. Another one of Entropy's acts.

He swung the door open, entering the well-lit Boutique. The front room was devoid of anypony, and he turned into the dining room. Sure enough, Rarity and Entropy were chatting like old friends. He cleared his throat loudly. "Hello."

"Oh, Spikey Wikey! I didn't know you'd be coming too." Rarity levitated a chair back, patting it with a hoof. "Do sit down."

"Thanks." He sat next to her, eyeing Entropy across the table. "Having fun?"

"Indeed. I was just telling Rarity about the latest trends in sun hats." His cheesy grin was not fooling Spike for a second. The unicorn was up to something.

Rarity looked more than delighted, tapping a notebook in front of her with a pen. "It's been simply marvelous. Why, I was just learning about an interesting caveat of hat fashion." A large sun hat levitated off of a rack and onto her head. Then, she place a single large feather in its ribbon. "It's simple no? Every mare in Canterlot has one in their hats. But, only one. Do you know what they call it?"

Spike raised an eyebrow, dreading the answer. "What?"

"Macaroni! Is that not fascinating?" Rarity sighed, taking on a dreamy expression. "It's so simple, so chic!"

Spike raised an eyebrow, "Yeah, really fancy, Rarity." A quick glance in Entropy's direction showed him sniggering a little bit, but he stopped when Spike took note. Macaroni? Seriously? That's food, not fashion. I could've come up with a better story than that! "Rarity, I don't think that's the latest fashion."

"Oh, don't be ridiculous, Spike. I'm most certain it is." The hat found its place on the rack once more. Rarity stood and walked over to the stove, putting on a kettle. "Why would Entropy lie?"

Why indeed? That was one piece of the puzzle Spike had yet to figure out. What purpose did a Canterlot professor like Entropy have in making their lives miserable? And another thing, why get Twilight to fall for him? He had to be leading her on for a purpose. Was it simply to drop her when he got bored? Spike's heart began to race at that thought. Poor Twilight! I've got to warn her!

"Spike? Spike?"

It took a moment to realize that he had not been paying attention to the two ponies. "Sorry, Rarity. I was spacing out."

"That you were." Entropy's laugh echoed around the room as it tended to do.

Rarity turned back to Entropy, obviously continuing a previous conversation. "How does it suit you?"

"Oh, well . . ." The stallion shuffled a little, looking away. "I can't say it's not awkward being taught by somepony as young as she is. But, I find it rather refreshing that all the knowledge won't be leaving with my generation."

Rarity clucked disapprovingly, standing to take the kettle off. "Now that's no way to talk. You aren't that old yet."

Entropy gave a weak chuckle. "I'm afraid I am."

"Come now, you can't be any older than thirty." Rarity began to pour tea into the cups, humming a tune as she went.

Entropy frowned, focusing on the table. "Forty actually."

"Oh." Rarity nearly dropped the cup she was handed to him. "And you've never settled down with anypony?"

"No, I never had the chance. There's not many mares interested in a washed up physics professor who can't even control his own magic." He sighed, and took a long swig of the tea. "This is quite good."

"Thank you." Spike could see the concern in Rarity's eyes. She was falling for his sob story hook line and sinker. Her voice was rather quiet, almost tentative, "You like her, don't you?"

Spike nearly spat out a mouthful of tea. There was no way a conniving pony like him really liked Twilight. No way in Equestria.

"Well," Entropy shuffled uncomfortably, voice growing almost as soft as Rarity's. "Yes. I believe I do."

Rarity gave tiny squeal of delight, clapping her hooves together like a little filly. "Why that's wonderful!"

Entropy shook his head, gritting his teeth. "No, no it's not. I'm nearly twice her age. There's no way a brilliant, talented princess would be interested in me."

"Oh, I don't know. Twilight sees ponies for who they are, Entropy. She's not the kind to judge based on a little thing like age." A look of purest determination had taken over. "Why, I'm certain I could work my magic and help you out."

His eyebrow raised slightly, "You would do that?"

"But of course! Why, Twilight needs somepony as much as you do. Who better than a brilliant and dashing professor." Rarity hoof pounded the air. "I think it's a delightful idea."

"All right. But I'm warning you, I'm a bit rusty. Haven't been on a date in years." As he said that, a small smirk stretched across his face.

Yeah, sure you're rusty. Rusty enough to hold Twilight like that. Spike coughed loudly, "I don't think Twilight wants to be set up."

"Nonsense, Spike." Her hoof patted his head as though her were a dog. "I helped set up Pinkie and Cheese, and they're happily married now."

Spike rolled his eyes. Rarity's definition of "set up" needed revision. As far as he knew, Pinkie and Cheese had been crazy about each other for a while before Rarity so much as lent a hoof. But, who was he to argue? "I guess."

"And there you have it." Just as she was about to continue, a loud ringing from her wall clock announced that it was already five. "Oh my. Is it that late already?"

Entropy stood, glancing at the door. "I'm terribly sorry, Rarity, but I have to go. I promised to help Cheese this evening."

"Right, of course." Rarity started to walk him and Spike out. "Do stop by to see me again, Entropy." Her wink was almost comedic. "And don't worry about Twilight."

"Right." Entropy led the way out the door into the rain.

After they had walked a little ways in the pounding rain, Entropy broke out into a fit of laughter. He clutched his sides, turning to Spike. "Did you see that? What a sap! Weave a little tale and she's eating out of my hooves. Now that's how you do it, Spike."

Spike never wanted to bite anypony as badly as he did in that moment. He was fed up with Entropy. Fed up with his cruel little joke on Twilight's behalf. "IT'S NOT FUNNY!"

He stopped laughing, giving Spike a challenging look. "Really now? And why is that?"

"You're lying! You're lying to Twilight, to Rarity, to everypony just so you can have a laugh." He stamped a foot into a puddle, sending up a fountain of mud. "It's not right! You'd better apologize right now."

"Apologize? For what?" Entropy lowered his head to Spike's eyelevel. "It's not my fault that your precious princess is so gullible." He stood straight, "It might even teach her a valuable lesson about judging a book by the cover!"

"Why you!" Spike rushed at the pony, beating his legs as hard as he could. His fists did not seem to be doing anything and it was beyond frustrating. Then, an idea came to him. He was a dragon, why not act like a dragon? There had been many times he had been warned not to use fire for anything but sending letters and helping ponies. But this, this was important and it was helping somepony; it was helping Twilight. Taking a deep breath, he shot out a stream of green flames at Entropy and immediately regretted it.

Spike thought Entropy was a jerk, but he never took him as dangerous. Not until then. Before Spike could even react, the stallion had literally thrown him to the ground. His heavy hoof pressed against his chest so hard he thought his ribs might break. The cold, hard voice was a far cry from any Entropy had used before, "That was not funny."

"Uh—" He could hardly breathe, let alone speak. All he wanted was the stallion to let him go. He winced as his tail twisted uncomfortably under him.

Entropy's pupils turned red as his horn lit up. Sparks flew in all directions and it was apparent that he was not attempting to control the magic. "Stay out of my way!" With that, he lifted his hoof and walked down the road.

Spike lay there for what felt like ages. Then, slowly, he got to his feet. As he walked, he noted how sore his tail was. It had been badly twisted, and he knew it. An icy dread filled his stomach. If there was one cardinal rule he was not to break, it was using his fire for anything but good. Now he would have to explain to Twilight how he got his tail hurt. Why me?

When he arrived, he attempted to open the door quietly. But, the moment he entered the library, Twilight bounded over to him. "Spike there you are! I was starting to—" She paused on seeing his tail. "Oh, you hurt your tail. How did that happen?"

"I . . ." He considered lying to her, and trying to hide the truth. But she would see past that. Besides, if he wanted her to believe him about Entropy, he would have to be honest himself. "Entropy pushed me and twisted it."

"Entropy?" She snorted, "There's no way that's true, Spike."

"It is. I was trying to get him to stop lying to everypony." Spike's tongue felt lose and useless. It was so much harder to explain out loud. "He's pretending to like you so he can hurt you later! He told me himself. And, and then he lied to Rarity too. So I told him to stop. And," He gulped, dreading the next bit, "I hit him 'cause he wouldn't listen and then I . . . I burnt him a little with my fire."

"YOU WHAT?" Twilight's face lost all color, looking down at Spike. "How could you?"

"I didn't mean to. I just got really angry. Then he slammed me into the ground and hurt my tail." Spike knew how stupid that explanation sounded, even to himself. And now he had even admitted to burning him.

Twilight's mouth opened and closed, obviously trying to register what just happened. She glowered at Spike. "How could you burn anypony after seeing what happened to Cheese last year? You know how much pain he was in!"

"I . . . I'm sorry, Twilight."

"Yeah, you'd better be." Twilight stamped a hoof and pointed to the hallway. "Go clean up, I'll treat your tail afterwards. You are grounded until further notice!"

Spike grimaced, making his way down the hallway. He had never felt so bad in his entire life. All he wanted was for Entropy to tell the truth. He never expected all of this.

Discord had never liked dragons. Greedy creatures without a lick of humor. Now he was quite convinced he hated them. Spike had not really burned him. In fact, the flames had only grazed his shoulder. But the very thought of a baby dragon thinking he could hurt someone as powerful as himself was beyond toleration. Discord had to put Spike in his place. So why did he feel guilty?

Anger was not an emotion he tolerated well. He never had. It did not come out in little trickles as most creature's did, but rather built up until it came out as great fiery explosions. Of course, Spike's actions were to be expected under the circumstances. He had baited him rather more than necessary, and had been asking for retaliation. There had been no reason to snap at the dragon. Perhaps that was what bothered him. Ah well, what was done was done and he would not dwell on it.

The rain had almost stopped by the time he reached old town hall. That's what most everypony was calling it, though it would probably have a new name once they opened the venue. He looked up at the half replaced siding, cracked stone steps, and polished oak door. It was apparent from the construction that the building had been built to impress. Unfortunately, it had degraded into a state of disrepair before its time. He strode up to the door, knocking loudly.

It swung open to reveal Cheese wearing a hard hat and a wide grin. "Entropy! Thanks for coming."

"Of course." Entropy walked inside, and gasped. Even he could tell the place was beautiful. Discord could not help but admire the floorboards, worn smooth from decades of dances and the magnificent trim work. The hall was in varying states of repair, and Cheese seemed happy to tell about all of his projects.

"And here we are." He gestured to the far end where a raised stage was half torn apart. "I could really use some help cutting the replacement boards."

"Sure." Discord had never done much carpentry. In fact, he really could not remember a time when he had done anything remotely similar to this. If he wanted a stage, he just snapped his fingers and one would appear. This seemed remarkably tedious. But, for some reason, it seemed to make the young stallion happy. "You enjoy this kind of work?"

"Of course! Can't be an earth pony and not love to work with your hooves." He was vigorously sanding a long board, nodding his head to an internal rhythm. "There's nothing that makes me as proud as seeing what I can do with a little determination."

"I suppose you're right." He was about to return to measuring his own board, when he took a good look at Cheese front hooves. Discord had seen scars, and burns, but never like this. The entire surface of his front legs, nearly up to his chest was covered in angry scars. Hair covered most of the top part, but was patchy at the bottom where the worst of it seemed to be. How in Equestria did a party pony end up like that? Accident at the circus?

Cheese noticed his staring. He lifted a hoof, giving a halfhearted grin. "Pretty ugly, huh?"

"No, I . . ." He really did not know what to say.

"It's okay. I know it bothers someponies." Cheese stopped sanding to stare at the scars. "Last fall, I got into a bad fire. My friend, he was trapped under some timbers. I had to pull them off of him."

"Why didn't you leave him?" It sounded cruel, but Discord was genuinely curious.

"Because I knew he would've done the same for me." He gave an honest laugh, sitting up straight. "Milo's a grouch, but he's a good pony. A real good pony. And, I really don't mind the scars. Just," The smile vanished, and he stared hard at the floor. "I hope the foal isn't scared of me."

Discord felt his stomach lurch. Though he hardly knew the stallion, it was obvious he cared a lot about his wife and was exceptionally worried about their unborn child. "You'll make a good father. And, if you love that foal like you love your wife, there's no way in Equestria it would hate you."

Cheese nodded, picking up the sandpaper again. "You're right. What have I got to worry about? Let's get this done before dinner. Pinkie's making us some casserole."

Discord set back to work. It was strange to hear all the little details ponies worried about. Twilight's concerns were at least understandable. After all, the fate of Equestria was business a princess ought to be concerned with. But Cheese's worry was something completely foreign to him. He never would have imagined ponies worried about a tiny thing like a foal liking them. It was not as though the world would fall apart because of it. Though, from the sound of it, Cheese's world might do just that. It was ridiculous, but Discord could not bring himself to laugh it off. Perhaps there was more to learn about these ponies after all.

The Bitter Truth

View Online

Twilight knew something had to give. It always ended up that way, and she supposed it always would. Whatever forces that ran this world seemed bent upon her never living out a normal life, and there was nothing she could do to stop events from spiraling out of control. Strangely enough, this time it came as a direct result of Spike's actions rather than her own. Ironic to say the least.

"But, it's not fair!" Spike stamped a foot against the floor boards of the loft, glowering mutinously at her.

"It's more than you deserve." Twilight snapped the words a little more harshly than she intended. Feeling a touch guilty, she turned her attention to making the bed again. "Honestly, Spike. You tried to burn Entropy! I should take away more than your comic books and privileges for that."

Spike made his own bed, still shooting murderous glances at Twilight. "It's not my fault he's a big jerk. Besides," He straightened up, looking directly into her eyes, "what's so great about a washed up physics professor that can't even control basic magic?"

Twilight stamped a hoof, returning Spike's glare. "Entropy is kind, thoughtful, and much better behaved than you've been!"

One of Spike's eyebrows raised ever so slightly, "Yeah, and he's what, twice your age?"

"He's . . ." She trailed off, wondering about that herself. Just how old was Entropy? Sure he was a little grey in the mane, but that did not make him old, did it? "He's not that much older than me." The words came out more like a soft affirmation than the confident statement she intended them to be.

"Uh-huh." Spike snorted skeptically, starting to don his cleaning apron. He walked gingerly to the stairs, careful not to slap his bandaged tail against the steps. "You keep telling yourself that, Twilight."

A part of her wanted to chase after him and demand some respect. After all, she was his adopted sister, employer, and princess of Equestria. But doing that would have made her out to be a spoiled child. No, she would let it slide for now. Besides, though she hated to admit it, he was right about Entropy. The stallion was a lot older than she was, easily old enough to have a family of his own, though she doubted that was the case.

Sighing, Twilight walked over to her bed and pulled a small notebook from her bedside table. The diary was a little frayed in places, but it was still her treasure. She splayed out on the freshly made bed, flipping through the pages with her magic. The latest entries were about her assorted fiascos training Entropy. As methodically as she was capable, Twilight began to read between the lines.

Admittedly, she had been and still was a little smitten with the professor. And why not? He had been ready and willing to learn from the instant he walked through her door, and never once looked down on her for being younger than he was. The fact that he had a great sense of humor, knew more about physics than anypony she had met, and was dreadfully handsome was just icing on the cake. As far as she was concerned, Entropy was a near perfect fit for her. So why did her affections for him feel so wrong?

Maybe I'm just imagining things. Then again, maybe not. Twilight rolled over to stare at the now awakening town, wondering. Certainly she had responsibilities, and that might be part of her trepidation. But that was not the whole reason. No, it was something much deeper; it was because she was different. Ever since her arrival in Ponyville, she gave up being a simple student, accepting the role fate had placed on her shoulders.

Entropy's words from yesterday rang in her head. "'You'll never live a normal life', huh?" But why not? After all, Pinkie was living out a perfectly normal life with her husband despite being an Element of Harmony. A part of her wanted to slap the stallion for saying something so rude, but that would be pointless. He was right of course. Unlike her friends, she was hopelessly entangled in the very fabric of this country, and no matter how hard she struggled, her life would never be "normal" again. It stung worse than she could imagine, but that was the unalterable truth. Would it be possible for any stallion to love her with that looming over their relationship?

There really was very little Discord dreaded these days. After his "reformation," he no longer feared being turned to stone at every little chaotic discretion or being banished from the kingdom for his outbursts. In fact, as long as he stayed relatively harmonic, Celestia and Luna seemed all too eager to turn a blind eye. That suited him just fine, and the rest of Equestria along with him. In fact, he had grown so comfortable in his position that he had little to dread from anypony. That was, anypony but Twilight.

Certainly the alicorn princess was a far cry from their stuck up overlords, but she had proven herself temperamental in the past. Temperamental and powerful. Given his current limitations, it would be best not to invoke her ire just yet. And here he was, walking towards the library and perhaps one of the most degrading lectures he would ever have to sit through. With each step into the thick mud, his mind flashed back to his outburst yesterday. Of all the creatures to blow up at; it had to be Spike.

If it had been any adult in Ponyville, he would have not been so much as bothered. But, the plucky little assistant was still a child, and as a child, had little understanding of how the real world operated. Getting angry was normal, but getting angry at a child for acting like a child was inexcusable. Even he, the master and spirit of chaos itself could not stomach that. So he walked with his head hung low, and tried to avoid the nagging desire to start bombarding Ponyville with a shower of chocolate milk rain. For some reason, chocolate milk had become his fallback whenever he was nervous. Strange. In truth, he really did not care for the stuff half as well as lemonade.

"Entropy? Entropy?"

Discord pinned his ears, wheeling around to face whoever had the gall to break his reverie. "What do you . . ." He bit his tongue when he saw who he was scolding. Fluttershy was hiding behind a wing, looking like some startled forest creature. Typical, sweet Fluttershy. The mare was probably the only being in Equestria who had made an active effort to understand him as a person, and the last pony he wanted to offend. "Sorry, Fluttershy."

"It's okay." Her teal eyes darted to the saddlebags draped across his back. "Are you going somewhere?"

"To the library." Discord could not hide the grimace. Sighing, he looked around the fast crowding main street. "Spike twisted his tail. I thought I'd bring him some medicine."

Fluttershy clasped a hoof to her mouth. "Oh my goodness. Is he okay?"

"He's fine." I think. Provided I didn't break his ribs. He cleared his throat, "I'm sure Twilight's seen to it, but I thought I'd bring some more medicine just in case."

"That's very thoughtful of you, Entropy." She started to walk slowly forward, inviting him to follow her. Discord was not about to argue, and listened to Fluttershy discuss all the hazards of a twisted tail. The way she was going on, one would have thought they were discussing battle wounds. "And then," She made a wild gesticulation with a hoof, "poor Rose couldn't fly for two weeks."

"That's just awful." The phrase was his old standby whenever he and Fluttershy talked about her animals. Often times, it was the most considerate thing to say given the circumstances. As they walked along, he could not help but notice the sharp pain that came whenever one of his hooves struck the ground. That reminded him of something the old woman had said to him the other day. "Say, Fluttershy? Mrs. Plumsworth mentioned you had an herbal remedy for arthritis. Would it be too much trouble to ask for some?"

"Of course not. I'd love to make some for you." Fluttershy patted him gently on the back. "My grandpa always got arthritis, but felt so much better after my treatment. We'll get you back to normal in no time."

Discord had the distinct impression that Fluttershy viewed him as another of her animal friends. To add insult to injury, she had compared him to her grandfather. I'm not that old! We draconequus live a lot longer than you ponies. Discord knew for a fact that the mare would not be implying his advanced age if he was in his true form.

Fluttershy stopped by the fountain, and gasped. "I almost forgot. Today I normally have tea with Discord, but he's on vacation this month, so—"

"Hold on a moment. You mean you have tea with the spirit of chaos himself?" A wave of admiration surged through him as he saw her nod confidently. Oh Fluttershy, you're just about the only pony in Equestria who would admit to something like that. Discord was quite enjoying his little charade, and decided to play along. "Is it every day or something? What do you have to talk about with somepony like him?"

"Every two weeks." Fluttershy fidgeted with the long strands of her mane, avoiding his gaze. "And we find all kinds of stuff to talk about. Like, how he's adjusting to the castle, how my animals are doing, about our friends. . ." The mane twirling had reached fever pitch now.

"And?" Discord knew there was more. There always was when she started with her mane.

"Well, I was kind of hoping this time he might," Her voice lowered until it was barely audible, "help me with some relationship advice. Since he's lived so long and all."

Discord broke into fits of hysterical laughter before he could stop himself. Ask me for relationship advice? Gods above, she's lost it! He clutched his sides, laughing so hard that the poinies passing by kept staring at him. Wiping the tears from his eyes, he looked back at her. "Sorry, sorry, Fluttershy. Just, it seems a little counter-intuitive to ask a master of chaos magic for advice on a harmonic relationship."

"Oh." Fluttershy's face was the color of a ripe tomato now. She cuffed her hoof against the ground, kicking up a glob of mud. "Guess that is a little silly."

"Yes, just a little." Discord waved the thought away with a hoof. "But don't feel bad about it. Who knows, maybe he could help you." That thought was beyond comedic. Discord knew full well how useless his advice would be on that front. No creature anywhere was honestly interested in romancing him. "So, what about tea?"

Fluttershy seemed to perk up again at the mention of the party. "Well, since I'm not meeting with Discord, I thought I'd invite everypony over to my cottage for tea. Would you and Twilight like to come?"

"That sounds simply delightful, Fluttershy." Discord closed his eyes, remembering Fluttershy's expertly brewed tea and heaven sent biscuits. Their little chats were easily the highlight of his month. Though, truth be told, there was not a lot else to look forward to. "I think Twilight would enjoy it as much as I would."

"That's good. I'll be sure to make you some." Fluttershy looked behind her at the now bustling marketplace, "I'll have to pick up some more ingredients first, though. Bulk, Cheese, and Pinkie are coming too."

Discord raised an eyebrow, "What about Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack?"

"Rainbow Dash is fixing up the town after the downpour." Fluttershy giggled a little, "Mayor Mare was really mad about all the damage, and the mud."

Discord lifted a hoof, watching the mud drip off of it. "I did wonder about that." He closed his eyes, trying to imagine the scene that must have taken place. A shame he could not have been there; he would have brought popcorn. "And Applejack?"

"Well," Fluttershy leaned in a little closer, and whispered into his ear, "Apparently the crusaders pulled a really dangerous stunt yesterday. Applejack said Apple Bloom almost drowned."

"WHAT?" That was not in the least way funny. Discord felt his heart lurch at the thought. Ponies were happy go lucky creatures. Something like drowning simply did not happen to them. "Is she okay?"

"Yes, thanks to Flim; but Applejack's not letting Apple Bloom out of her sight for a while." Fluttershy looked extremely put out. "She wouldn’t tell me the whole story."

Discord patted her back in what he hoped was a reassuring gesture. "I'm sure she'll tell you when she's ready."

"I know. I can't help but worry though." She glanced towards the edge of town, "I just went to Rarity's and she says Sweetie Belle's helping her with orders as punishment."

He was sure if that was punishment for Rarity or for Sweetie Belle. If Twilight's stories were to be believed, the filly was amazingly destructive for her size. "I see, so, just a small party then?"

"Yes, but it should be fun." Fluttershy started back towards the market. "I'll see you at three then. I should have your medicine ready."

"You're a life saver, Fluttershy." He watched her leave, wishing he could be spending his sentence with her instead of the uptight know it all. Speaking of . . . Discord grimaced, remembering once again where he was walking to. Let's get this over with.

The rest of the trip he made in silence, mentally calculating the best way to beg for forgiveness. He decided on immediately addressing the issue before Twilight had a chance to blow it out of proportion. Yes, that was the way to go. His hooves moved mechanically along, and it took a moment to realize that he was standing in front of the library door. With a long, deep breath, he opened it and stepped inside.

He nearly started backwards at the amount of chaos taking over the library. Piles of books, papers, quills, and just about every assorted object in the library was strewn across the floor. Discord could not help smirk with pride. And here I was thinking I'm the only creature who adores a healthy dose of chaos. This is simply delightful. Lifting a hoof, he happily knocked over the podium for added effect. "I love what you've done with the place, Twilight."

There was the sound of rustling, then a crash from the loft. In a few seconds, Twilight appeared, looking decidedly disgruntled; strands of mane sticking out at odd angles, and a manic glint in her eyes. "I can't find it anywhere!"

"Find what?" Discord sprawled himself out on a pile of books to better admire their new and improved classroom. Perhaps today would be entertaining after all.

"Malcom's Extended Spell Reference. I need it for my latest theory." Her horn became surrounded in magic as she tossed book after book out of the way. "Spike doesn't even know where it went. Oh, what could have happened to it?"

Discord levitated a stray cook book in his own golden magic, allowing it to self-destruct and scatter paper and pieces of binding across the floor. "Oh, that book."

"That book?" Twilight rounded on him, staring fiercely into his eyes. "What's that book?"

"Well, the one I blew up the day I came here." Discord said in his most matter of fact tone. Honestly, it's not the end of the world. "I thought you'd remember that, being a librarian and all that."

"The one you BLEW UP!" Twilight collapsed on the floorboards, pounding her hooves against the wood. "Do you have any idea how valuable that book was?"

"Well . . ." He knew full well how valuable it was, but he also knew in its pages was the information Twilight would need to piece the puzzle together. If that happened, then his little game would be over far too quickly. That could not happen; not yet anyway. He looked up at her with his most innocent expression, "Valuable?"

Twilight slapped a hoof to the ground so hard it echoed around the library. "It was priceless. I had it on loan from Celestia."

"That uptight old sock can learn to relax." The words left his mouth before he really registered their significance.

Its effect was near instantaneous, as he felt Twilight's hooves slam him to the floor. "How dare you talk about the princess like that! What in Equestria is wrong with you?"

Oops. Discord felt like an idiot. Of course ponies did not go around calling the being they revered as a god an "old sock." He of course did so on a regular basis, but that was beside the point. Looking into Twilight's fierce gaze, he knew he was sunk. Unless he could distract her. A brilliant thought came to his mind just then. Oh, yes, that will do nicely, and it fits so well with my game. Discord leaned forward and pressed his muzzle to hers. To his surprise, it was like kissing a rose petal. Strange, I thought it'd taste like stale hay.

Twilight pulled away, cheeks a violent shade of red. "What in Equestria? Why did you . . ." She stammered the words, as she backed into the overturned podium. "Why did you kiss me?"

"Sorry, you're just so cute when you're mad." Discord laughed a little, surprised how dramatic her reaction was. She must be fawning over me more than I thought. "I wanted to see how the student of our dear sun princess would react to my insulting her. I didn't really mean any of it."

"Oh." Twilight looked incredibly sheepish, and tried to stand. Her legs were shaking so badly that she fell over in the attempt.

Sighing, Discord walked over and pulled her up. Her body leaned against his for support, then slowly pulled away. "Better?"

"Yes." Twilight's eyes met his for an instant, then focused on the floorboards. "Sorry for getting so upset. Of course you didn't mean it."

Seemingly gaining some composure, she turned back to him, "That really was a valuable book though."

"I do apologize." Discord tried to look sincere, but could not stop the small smile stretching across the edges of his mouth. It was too funny seeing their confident princess tore up over a single book. "I hope the information it held wasn't too critical."

She shook her head sadly, "Not for me, for you. I have a theory about your magic, but I wanted to research it some more. That book was going to help me uncover the truth."

"Really?" Well, now I'm really glad I blew it up.

"Yes, well, it doesn't matter now. I suppose we should clean up." Her eyes drifted to his saddlebags lying on the ground. "What's that?"

"Oh," Discord scooped up the bags, and held them out to her. "Medicine for Spike. After what happened yesterday, I was worried I might have hurt him."

"Entropy." A genuine grin stretched from each corner of her smooth face. "That was very thoughtful." She gave him a quick hug, and took the bags. "Thank you."

"How is he?" Discord dreaded the answer, but had to ask regardless.

"He's fine. His tail's only a little twisted." She snorted, pinning her ears. "I've grounded him, and taken away his privileges." Her eyes met his again. "I'm really, really sorry about what he did to you. I thought, with what happened to Cheese, he'd be more careful with fire."

Discord started back as Twilight's hooves ran gently over his sides. Touching her of his own volition was one thing, but having the mare stroking his coat whenever she wanted made him feel strangely violated. "Twilight? What are you doing?"

Twilight ignored him, still rubbing down his sides with a gentle hoof. "Are you okay? There weren't any burns were there?"

"No, I'm fine." For the life of him, he could not understand why she was so worried about him and so little concerned about the dragon. After all, he had nearly snapped the creature's ribs in half. Mares really were idiots when it came to stallions. He sighed, "Twilight, I'm the one who should be apologizing. Losing my temper at him, that was inexcusable."

Twilight stepped back, waving a hoof dismissively. "It's all right, Entropy. Honestly, I don't know what got into Spike."

Discord raised a skeptical eyebrow, "What got into him?"

"Yes. He's been making up these crazy lies lately." She brushed back a strand of mane, looking almost embarrassed. "Calling you a liar and a crook. It's just awful."

So he had the gall to tell her. Plucky devil, even if he's an idiot. Of course Miss Perfect wouldn't believe him, he should have known that from the getgo. The fact that Twilight would overlook something as serious as him pinning the child to the ground unsettled him. A being in her position ought to think a little more on logic and a little less on emotion. "Please don't blame him, Twilight. He's jealous, and a little scared I should think."

Twilight looked hard into his eyes, "Jealous? Scared? Why?"

Are you really that blind? Discord rolled his eyes, jerking a head to the loft where Spike was undoubtedly hiding. "He's had your full attention his entire life; living each and every day beside you. Then, out of the blue I show up, and suddenly he has to share you. Of course he's upset!"

"I . . . I didn't think of it like that." Her expression darkened, and she pawed anxiously at the ground. "What should I do?"

"Well, spending time with him wouldn't hurt." Honestly, don't you know anything? Discord scooped up one of the books off the ground, handing it to her. "Maybe cleaning up your own mess instead of letting him do all the work." He winked, "I've been around more than a few years, and I can tell you from experience; actions always speak louder than words."

For a moment, it looked as though Twilight were going to complain, but she merely nodded. Levitating the book back on the shelf, she looked around the library. "Guess I should pick up this mess."

He snorted a laugh, lying back down on the books. "You know, I rather like the new look. Why don't we leave it as is for the day? I don't think there's any harm in it, and frankly, I think better in a mess."

"Really? Well, okay I guess." Twilight looked as though she would rather swallow nails, but said nothing. Instead, she dragged out a cushion and joined Discord on the floor. "But I'm cleaning up as soon as we're done."

"Fine, just fine. Shall we get started then?" Looking around the relatively chaotic room, Discord felt right at home. He watched Twilight's eyes constantly dart up to the loft when she thought he was not looking. For the first time since he met the pony, he saw her for who she truly was; a naïve young girl with a lot to learn about life in general. It seemed almost cruel to put so much responsibility on her shoulders. Cruel and unnecessary. Such was the way of this world, and nothing, not even his chaos magic could change that.

"Twilight, do pay attention, this is important." Entropy wacked the podium with a rather large physics book, making her jump like a jackrabbit.

"What?" Her eyes darted around the chaotic library, then focused back on him. "Sorry, Entropy."

"You have nothing to apologize for, Twilight." Entropy rubbed his temple with a hoof, "However, if you don't start to focus soon, I'm afraid we'll miss our appointment."

Appointment? In all the excitement that morning, she had forgotten to check the schedule. Twilight glanced nervously across the sea of clutter, but it was no use. The place was so torn up that she could not have found anything specific if she had the rest of the afternoon. She looked helplessly back at Entropy. "We didn't plan for any appointments today, at least I think we didn't."

Entropy leaned casually against the chalkboard, examining the dried mud on his hooves. "We have not planned for it."

Now I know he's messing with me. Twilight puffed her chest out defiantly, "How can we be late if we haven't planned anything?"

Entropy snorted, rolling his eyes clean over. "Honestly, Twilight. Sometimes appointments are simply thrust upon us. It's not for me to change the mechanisms of fate."

It was her turn to roll her eyes. "Sure, whatever. Just what has fate brought to our hooves today?"

"A tea party with Fluttershy, Bulk, Pinkie, and Cheese." Entropy gave a wolfish smile. "Of course I said we would come."

"What?" Of course she was not surprised about tea, but the gender ratio was really throwing her off. Normally, when Fluttershy invited them over, it was just the girls. This felt completely different. "You don't mean it's a group date?"

Entropy looked as though he were pondering the idea for a moment. "Yes . . . if you want it to be." His voice was as level and confident as ever, despite the implications of the words. He leaned in close enough to feel his warm breath against her cheek, "We might even pick up where we left off this morning."

Twilight cringed, certain her face was beet red again. The memory of his muzzle pressed against hers was enough to send her heart and mind racing out of control. It had been sudden, a little unsettling, but absolutely wonderful. However, admitting that to Entropy was another matter entirely. "I uh . . . I . . ."

Entropy whispered softly into her ear, "You don't have to decide just yet." Chuckling to himself, he strode back to the chalkboard. "Shall we continue with the lecture?"

"Yes." She practically squeaked, turning back to her notes. Was this what it felt like to have a crush? Was Entropy messing with her, or did he mean it? Twilight would have given anything to have Pinkie's or even Cadence's advice on the matter. For now, she would just have to focus on his lecture.

"What equation would the royal scholars have used to decipher this phenomenon?" Entropy tapped the chalk board impatiently with his hoof. "Twilight! Are you even listening?"

"Huh? Yes. They would have used Klifner's equation." Though she had completely guessed on the equation, it sounded all right. Entropy did not look at her as he erased the board, then set down the chalk so hard it snapped in half. Twilight grimaced as he strode over to her and settled himself on the messy floor beside her. He's really mad.

Entropy did not look at her, but stared straight ahead at the now blank board. "Klifner's equation had not been discovered in the third century post banishment."

"Sorry." Twilight felt like crawling in a hole. Her fantasies were proving incredibly detrimental to their lessons. "I should have been paying attention."

"No, it's my fault for teasing you." Entropy sighed heavily, leaning against her side. "I really am hopeless around you."

Twilight felt her heart leap uncomfortably in her chest. Hopeless around me? Does that mean he likes me back? Probably not. She snorted a laugh, "Really?"

"Really." Entropy chuckled almost nervously, avoiding her gaze. "I've never met a mare like you before." The words came out almost as a whisper as he buried his head between his hooves. "Sorry, guess I got carried away."

Twilight patted his back reassuringly. "Don't be sorry."

Entropy chuckled weakly, raising his head. "Well, I suppose that's enough apologies for one day." He jerked a nod to the chalk board, "Your turn to dazzle."

"What? But I don't have a lesson plan." It was unfortunately true. She had been too preoccupied with Spike and her conflicting emotions to focus on Entropy's magic. Still, it would not hurt to try. "Well, okay, but it's not going to be structured."

Entropy's booming laugh bounced off of the empty bookshelves, "Perfect." He reclined on a stray pile of books as though it were a throne. "I do so love a touch of chaos."

Twilight bit her lip. What kind of professor wanted any measure of chaos? The only creature in the universe who actually enjoyed chaos was Discord. Thankfully, the walking disaster had not shown his face around Ponyville for some time. Probably wreaking havoc in the palace. From Entropy's statement, and previous actions, perhaps Entropy was friends with him. She snorted at the thought of Discord having any friends beside the Elements of Harmony. Though, it would not hurt to ask. "Say, Entropy?"

"Yes, Twilight?" Entropy was attempting to levitate another book, much to the misfortune of Carter's Culinary Guide.

She watched the pages slowly start to tear away from the binding. Thankfully, Entropy noticed her concern and dropped the book. "Never mind. It's nothing important." There was no way Entropy was connected with the spirit of chaos himself. He was bored just like her; and boredom led to destructive habits. Idly she wondered if she would be tearing up books for fun when she got to be Entropy's age. Celestia, I hope not. Twilight could not stomach the thought of blowing up valuable literature, no matter how bored she was. Though, perhaps a cook book every once in a while would not hurt.

Discord rarely walked anywhere. If he wanted to travel, he merely snapped his claw and would teleport exactly where he wanted to be. There was no real point in walking anywhere when one had a wealth of chaos magic at one's fingertips. So, it came as a great frustration to see just how long it took to go anywhere without it. Pony's hooves were bulky, and heavy compared to his own limbs, making each step feel weighted down. He winced as they walked through yet another knee deep patch of mud.

"Are you all right, Entropy?" Twilight was flying beside him, looking a little concerned. "You keep wincing."

"It's my joints. This blasted mud keeps pulling them." Discord had a few more choice words to describe Rainbow Dash's present to Ponyville, but decided against using them. Instead, he blasted away some of it with his haywire unicorn magic. The effect on Twilight was beyond hilarious.

She leapt behind the nearest tree, as though expecting a fireworks display. Discord snorted. Certainly he was terrible at controlling unicorn magic, but there was no reason to panic. "Twilight, I'm not going to blow up the forest." He pulled himself out of the mud pit with some difficulty, huffing a little more than he would have liked. "See?"

Twilight flushed a little, landing on the muddy path to walk beside him again. "After the books, I thought there might be explosions."

"Probably would have been if I had kept it up. There's always some kind of explosion with my magic." He admired the sunlight streaming through the trees and bathing the path in a soft glow. "It's rather beautiful out here."

"Yes, I'm a little jealous." Twilight giggled, waving a hoof around them. "It's the most beautiful spot in Ponyville. Much better than my library."

"What?" He smirked playfully at her, "You mean you'd actually leave your library if you lived out here?"

Twilight snorted, stamping a hoof against the mud. "I leave the library sometimes!"

"Uh-huh." Discord rolled his eyes, trotting forward a little ways ahead. "I don't believe you!"

Twilight giggled, cantering over to him. "Well, I'm here aren't I? This doesn't look like the library."

"I guess." He started to walk down the path again, eyes darting occasionally to Twilight. Every time he did, she would return the look with a soft smile. The mare had been responding a little too well to his advances today. Though he was all for teasing her, there had to be a line. If he led her on too strong and she discovered the truth, then he would have more than one angry alicorn out for blood. Discord did not relish the thought of being turned to stone again.

"We're here!" Twilight trotted energetically across the small bridge to Fluttershy's cottage. As usual, the place looked as picturesque as a postcard. Discord could practically feel the homely goodness radiating off of the house.

The door swung open, and Fluttershy stepped out. She was wearing her mane up in a ponytail for once, and looked very relieved to see them. "Twilight, Entropy. You made it. I was oh so worried the mud would have kept you away."

"Almost." Discord lifted a mud encrusted hoof, grinning back at his friend. "I nearly got stuck a few times."

Twilight giggled, "I thought I'd have to magic him out a few times."

"Oh my." Fluttershy waved them inside where her dining room table was set for tea. Cheese, and Pinkie were already there, grinning back at them. Fluttershy turned to Discord, "I'll get you something to wash up with."

"Thank you, Fluttershy. You're most considerate." Discord watched Twilight take a seat beside Pinkie and start chattering away about Pinkie's mane. Even he had to admit the elegant French braid suited her. "It looks lovely, Pinkie."

"Thanks, Entropy. Cheesie did it." She leaned over, kissing her husband on the muzzle; turning his face bright red. "Cheesie's the best at braiding.

"I'm not really." He dismissed the complement with a hoof, turning to Entropy. "How are you feeling?"

Discord grimaced a little, avoiding Cheese's gaze. After their work on the venue yesterday, he had hardly been able to walk. Apparently old joints did not mix well with wooden floors and sanding. "I can't say it doesn't hurt, but it's better."

"That's super good, 'cause I was really worried." Pinkie turned to Twilight. "You better make sure he takes his medicine. He's all ouchy."

"I am not!" For some reason, Discord was starting to feel incredibly self-conscious about this conversation. He was old and worn out, so what? They did not have to hammer the point home with a stake. "I'm perfectly fine, thank you, Pinkie." He said a little more tersely than he intended.

"Oh, okey dokey then." Pinkie turned back to Twilight and they began giggling like school yard fillies. What they found to talk about was beyond him.

Sighing, he made to take a seat beside Cheese when a white blur grabbed him in an excruciatingly tight hug. It took a moment to realize that it was a snow white pegasus with the largest biceps he had ever seen. This must be Bulk. "Hello."

"Hi! It's good to meet you! Yeah!" Bulk shouted the words directly into his ears, setting him cringing a little. Volume control did not seem to be a strong suit of his. The pegasus continued to squeeze him so tight he felt like he might break something.

Thankfully, Cheese strode forward, tapping Bulk on the shoulder. "Bulk, I think you might be hurting him."

"Oh, sorry!" The pressure immediately released, and Discord felt his hooves hit the ground once more. Eyeing the pony's oversized muscles, it was clear how he managed such a bone crushing grip. Despite his massive size, Bulk looked almost shy when he stammered, "Sorry, Fluttershy said you were new and I wanted to make you welcome. Yeah!"

"It's fine. Thank you for the sentiment." It took a second to realize his glasses had been dislodged. Cheese scooped them up, and handed them back to him. Discord grimaced at the now broken nosepiece. Ah well, this party could use some excitement. He lit up his horn in his golden magic. The look of terror it brought to their faces was priceless. Before he could so much as consider a spell however, Twilight dashed forward, snatching the glasses with her own magic. Spoilsport.

She grinned triumphantly, quickly casting a repair spell and placing the glasses on his muzzle. "There." Her nervous chuckle echoed around the room, as she elbowed him hard in the ribs. "Don't want any accidents, now do we?"

"I suppose you have a point." A pity, he so longed to improve Fluttershy's cottage for her. He supposed he must settle on being a good boy for the day, no matter how infuriating that was. Sighing heavily, he took a seat beside Cheese and pretended to be just as excited about their mundane world as they were. A few more weeks, Discord, a few more weeks and you'll be home free.

Twilight was starting to worry about the three stallions. Certainly Cheese and Bulk could handle fixing Fluttershy's water wheel, but adding Entropy to the mix was borderline dangerous. She could only hope he would not try and "improve" it with his magic.

"Twilight? Are you okay?" Fluttershy stared hard into Twilight's eyes, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing much." Twilight shrugged, stretching out on the picnic blanket they had laid out in the shade. It was a beautiful afternoon, and after tea, they all agreed to spend it outdoors. Spurred by Cheese's addiction to home maintenance, the stallions had promptly run off to fix Fluttershy's wheel. That was fine by Twilight, as she had been dying for some girl talk.

Pinkie rolled from the blanket to the grass and back again. "Nothing means something, Twilight!"

"What? Really?" Fluttershy held a hoof to her mouth. "I didn't know that."

Pinkie nodded sagely, scooping up another of her sugar free scones. "It always does in relationships. When Cheesie's really upset or worried, he always says it's nothing. But, it's always something."

Twilight snorted a laugh. "Okay, okay. I was worried that Entropy might try and magic Fluttershy's water wheel back together."

"Oh, goodness." Fluttershy's tail twitched rapidly, and her eyes darted back to the creek. "You don't think he will, do you? It's very fragile."

Pinkie dismissed the thought with a wave of her hoof. "Relax, Fluttershy. Cheesie's really careful with projects. He won't let anything bad happen. But," She turned to Twilight, grinning mischievously, "I'm guessing Entropy's not so good with that sort of stuff."

"Well . . ." Twilight tried to think of a time that Entropy had been careful with anything. "No, I think he prefers to break things."

"Geeze louize, he's like a crazy old uncle." Pinkie giggled, then burst out laughing, rolling on the ground. "Fun but super-duper destructive! How's anypony that old get away with being that silly? I've got to take notes."

"He's not that old!" The words came out much harsher than she intended, and Pinkie stopped laughing to stare up at her. "Sorry, Pinkie. It's just, I don't see why everypony has to go on about him being old."

"Because he is, isn't he?" It seemed rather cruel for Fluttershy, but there was no denying that she was the one who spoke the words. Twilight wanted to smack her. Apparently, Fluttershy took note, because she continued, "Well, not Granny Smith, old, but a lot older than us. I mean, he was close to our age when you were born. And he's been a teacher for years and years."

"So?" Twilight felt the blood rushing to her ears. The words were true, but they stung badly. She rounded on Fluttershy like an angry timberwolf. "Are you saying I can't like somepony older than myself?"

"Like, like?" Pinkie poked her head between them, eyes staring hard into Twilight's. "You've got a crush on Entropy?"

"What? I . . ." What little confidence she had, vanished in an instant. "So what if I do! Is that a problem?"

Pinkie only stared, taking a step back. It was a rare occurrence indeed when one of their resident party ponies was at a loss for words. Finally, she found her voice, "You mean you like him like I like Cheese?"

"Well, I don't know about that much. We just met a few days ago! But," She fidgeted uncomfortably, "I think I might."

"Oh, no. That's not good." Fluttershy shook her head sadly. "He's too old for you."

"He's not!" The list of possible comebacks seemed to slip from her mind. She resorted to her stores of knowledge. "Mares my age used to marry stallions older than Entropy all the time in the pre-banishment era! They never had any complaints."

"That was because there were too few stallions. Mom told me that story." Pinkie nodded in a knowing fashion. "But now, there's a whole bunch more."

Twilight stared thunderstruck at Pinkie. It was true, though it was beyond irritating coming from her. "What does it matter if I love him?"

Fluttershy sighed, placing a hoof on her back. "It's not love I'm worried about, Twilight."

"What then?" A part of her wanted to scream in frustration. Really, what was the problem? She was not fawning over Entropy like Rarity had with Trenderhoof. It was simple interest, nothing more. What was the harm in that?

Fluttershy took a deep breath, "Think about it, Twilight. If he's almost twenty years older than you, how old will he be when you get married, or when you have foals? How will they feel if their dad dies of old age before they're even grown up and have families of their own? You'll be left lonely."

"You don't know that!" She stood, snorting angrily at Fluttershy. "And what if I told you I don't mind that? What if I told you it was worth it, huh?"

Pinkie jumped between them again, "Calm down, Twilight. Nopony said it wasn't worth it. Fluttershy's just worried about you." She shot a dirty look at Fluttershy, "But it was kinda mean."

"Sorry." Fluttershy hid behind a wing as Twilight settled back down. Despite her frustration at Fluttershy, she had to admit, the mare had a point. If she did end up falling for Entropy like Pinkie had for Cheese, they would inevitably have less time together than if she chose a stallion closer to her own age.

Then, a new, terrifying thought floated to the surface of her mind; one she never dreamed of before now. Celestia had made her into an alicorn, but what did that imply? As an alicorn, did that mean she was destined to live as long as the princesses? What would become of her, her friends, her entire existence if that were true? It might very well end up that she would outlive Entropy and just about everypony else she knew and loved. I don’t want that. Celestia, please, anything but that. In that open expanse of grass beside her friends, Twilight never felt so trapped.

Twilight was depressed; even Discord could see that. The entire way back from the party, she had hung her head low like some poor, dejected hound dog caught in the hen house. Even his rendition of Bulk snapping the water wheel blade in half was met with deaf ears. Their walk had been entirely monotonous, and simultaneously irritating. What good was teasing the know-it-all if she never reacted?

They strode quietly into the library around sunset, and he closed the door behind them. To his surprise, the place was halfway clean. In the center of the library, balancing a stack of books in his hands was Spike.

The dragon glowered at him, but smiled brightly at Twilight. "Hey, Twilight. How was the party?"

"Fine, just fine." She started slowly up the stairs. "I'll clean later, Entropy, you're done for the day."

Discord watched her climb up to the loft in surprise. What, no snarky remarks? No ogling over how fabulous I am. Well, color me offended. Snorting, he turned to Spike. Though they had spent the morning and much of the afternoon in the library, he had only spoken to him long enough to hand over the medicine. Now, they stared hard at each other in what had to be one of the most awkward silences in Equestrian history. He cleared his throat, taking the stack of books from the dragon's claws. "Let me get those."

"Uh, thanks." Spike watched him place the books onto a shelf with gritted teeth.


"They don't go there." He quivered a little as he pointed to the opposite bookshelf. "There, top shelf."

Discord shrugged, picking them up and placing them on the correct shelf. As he did so, Spike's eyes followed his every move. He felt a tinge of guilt, as it was his actions yesterday that caused his uneasiness. Sighing, he walked back over to Spike, bending down until he was at eye level with the dragon. "Spike, I'm well and truly sorry about what happened yesterday. There was no excuse for my actions, I should never have pushed you like that."

"I'm sorry too. For calling you a liar." Spike looked pleadingly into his eyes, "For the love of Celestia don't hurt her, Entropy. She means the world to me."

Discord stared in stunned disbelief. So he admitted it. He crossed his heart with a hoof. "I'll do my best, cross my heart."

"Thanks." To his mixed horror and admiration, Spike hugged his leg tightly. "I just worry about her."

"I know you do." Discord patted him on the back, then pulled away before the situation got any more awkward. "Why don't we clean this place up for Twilight, eh?"

"Yeah!" Spike shuffled off to work with renewed fervor. They worked in companionable silence, with the occasional direction from Spike on the proper location of books. It took well over an hour and a half, but, by the time they were done, the library had never looked so clean. Of course, Discord hated it, but Spike looked around in admiration. "It's great! Thanks, Entropy."

"Sure. Anything to get away from Mrs. Plumsworth's stories." Discord grimaced at the thought of yet another retelling of Tuffles the cat's misadventures in Ponyville. He was about to leave when Twilight walked slowly down the stairs, levitating a scroll in her magic.

Her eyes seemed almost vacant, and she raised an eyebrow at seeing the state of the library. "It looks beautiful, Spike." Then, she seemed to notice his presence for the first time. "Entropy? You're still here?"

"Yeah! He helped me clean up." Spike elbowed Entropy in the leg, beaming up at him. "We got it done really fast." His eyes fell to the scroll. "Letter for Celestia. Allow me." He leaned forwards to send it off, only to have Twilight snatch it away, flushing a violent shade of red.

She smiled sheepishly, "It's not for Celestia, it's for Discord."

WHAT? Discord felt his jaw drop. Why in all of Equestria was Twilight writing to him? Realizing he was still gaping, he closed his mouth and stared questioningly at Twilight. "Why are you writing to him?"

"It's . . ." She seemed to consider, then puffed out her chest in a none too convincing attempt at a self-confident stance. "It's none of your business Entropy. But," The scroll levitated over to him and he caught it. "You're from Canterlot, and I suppose you must have spoken to the spirit of chaos at some point, seeing as how you're so fond of it yourself."

"Correct. Though I can't say we're good friends." Discord twirled the scroll, seeing the unfamiliar red seal with his draconequus form pressed onto it. A sealing spell, huh? Interesting. Must be quite important to her. He looked back at her, smiling. "I can't say I know him well, but I think I can get this delivered safely to him."

Twilight gave a sigh of relief. "Thank you so much, Entropy. Make sure you send it as soon as you can."

"I will." Discord placed the scroll carefully in his saddlebags, then stepped out into the cool night. A part of him wanted to tear open the scroll at once, and read it right away, but that would not be fair to Twilight. No, if she was writing to him, she had to be out of options, and desperate. Despite his personal irritation at his situation, he owed her the courtesy of a well thought out reply; even if that meant going against his own inclinations.

Discord read and re-read the letter by the moonlight spilling onto the quilt. In all the months since his imprisonment in stone, he had not dealt with anything truly serious. Acting serious went against everything he stood for, and frankly, was something he avoided at all costs. And yet, here he was reading through Twilight's exceptionally serious letter. He stared out the window, tapping his chin with a talon. He had allowed one of his limbs to resume its normal form in order to open the letter and help him think. Discord was certain that even Celestia would approve of his bending the rules given the circumstances. His gaze turned back to the shaky handwriting scrawled on the parchment. One more time then. One more time.

'Dear Discord,

This is probably the most stupid thing I've done, and I guess I'd understand if you turned this letter into confetti or something.'

Discord attempted a laugh that came out completely hollow. No, not confetti. Glitter, but not confetti. I've got standards, Twilight. He read on,

'As you may be aware (you probably already are), I've taken on Entropic State as my personal student for the month. I've learned a lot about teaching and a little about life in general from him, and I think he's a good pony, and I can't help but admire him.'

Please, you're head over heels for me. He traced the sentence with his talon, frowning. From that point on, her writing was almost illegible for all the shaking her quill had done. Here it comes.

'I know it seems like I'm always confident, but I'm not. I never have been. Something has come up, Discord. Something really, really scary. I don't want Celestia or Luna to know, not yet. I know we don't exactly get along, and frankly, you're the last creature I'd come to for advice. But, you're just about the only being in all of the world who might understand where I'm coming from.

I was made an alicorn without really understanding what it was. I guess I just assumed since Celestia put her trust in me, then I'd put my trust in her. Now I'm starting to wonder. Just what does that mean for me? For Equestria? For my friends, my family? Am I some kind of replacement for Celestia and Luna? Will I live for centuries like them, or is my time here as limited as my friends?

I'm not scared of living, Discord. I'm scared of living without them. I can't imagine centuries upon centuries alone. It's like I'm staring into a dark void with no way out. I feel so lost, and a part of me wishes I was never made an alicorn at all.

How do you stand it, Discord? Is that why you distance yourself from ponies? Is that what I have to do to stay sane? I'm so scared, Discord. I need your advice.


Discord looked up, taking a series of deep breaths. So she had discovered the cruel truth of the matter. Damn. She's too young for this! I could have told Celestia that, but no, she refused to seek my council on the matter. Anger like he had not felt for years surged inside him, sending an unnatural breeze through the closed room. He closed his eyes, slowly allowing his magic to ebb. What was done was done, and he would do his best to help pick up the pieces.

He scooped up a piece of parchment and a quill. Slowly, thoughtfully, he began to write a response in his smoothest calligraphy.


I admit I was surprised to receive your letter; surprised and touched. Thank you for trusting me with this, and I will honor your request by keeping this matter from Celestia.'

Discord could not help but snort a laugh. For some reason, his language always grew formal when he wrote; an ever present reminder of how truly old he was. He hoped it would not put her off too much.

'Your concern is not a new one, and I fear, it is not so easily resolved. I have struggled with the same questions, and have come to my own conclusions. Do not think that I have the answers to everything. No creature, no being in all this world, not even Celestia and Luna hold all the answers.'

It was an irrefutable truth, and one Twilight desperately needed to hear. Her reliance on Celestia's knowledge had gone far enough.

'You asked me if you will live a life as long as your friends. That I am not sure. Magic is a fickle thing, and not so easily understood as you and Celestia would like to think it is. The true powers that govern this world are not so keen on divulging their secrets; even to beings as powerful as we are. You may live a normal life, you may outlive us all, or you may die tomorrow in a freak accident with a tuba. What I do know, is that you cannot live your life to the fullest if you are living in fear.'

"Gods, this sounds like a sermon." Discord was tempted to toss the letter away and start over, but decided against it. After all, this was his way of proving to Twilight that he was her friend; that he would treat her concerns with the utmost courtesy and respect , without shortchanging her intelligence or calling her names. She deserved that much.

'As one of the Elements of Harmony, I can relate to your fear of outliving your friends. I have to say, that it is something I have struggled with. For years, I watched the ponies and creatures I cared about live and die around me. It scared me so much that I shut myself off from the rest of the world. Shut myself away, and let my hatred fester. I suppose you've heard of my little outburst. Needless to say, Equestria was spared from becoming my chaotic plaything.

I would never have understood the truth if it had not been for you and your friends. By your kindness, I was able to see the grand error in my reasoning. Choosing not to have friends to spare myself of the hurt was wrong.'

Discord paused to open the window. A strong burst of cool night air swept over him, cooling his rapidly rising heartbeat. For centuries he had lived with that choice. Why had it taken six young mares and their Elements of Harmony for him to see the truth? Sighing, he turned his attention back to the letter.

'The truth as I see it is this; no matter who you are, what you are, life will never be without pain. It is a cruel world we live in, and nothing is ever certain. Even these ponies you defend, live their lives with that fundamental truth hovering over them. You can either choose to embrace that uncertainty, and live life to the fullest, or you can hide inside yourself and wither away. That is why I choose to be myself, to make jokes, to see the world through a brighter lens. Yes, we may lose our friends in time, but we will forge new, just as meaningful friendships along the way.

It is a cruel and random world, Twilight; but that is not all it has to be. Remember that.

Your friend,


For a long while, he merely stared at the letter. Then, slowly, he rolled it up, sealing it shut. It pained him to think of the suffering Twilight would undoubtedly go through in the years to come. He could only pray that his letter eased some of it, and brought her a measure of peace. After one long last look at the letter, he engulfed it in his golden flames and sent it away. With a flick of his talon, his limb returned to a hoof. Discord sprawled out on the bed, closing his eyes and attempting to drift off to sleep. Tomorrow would undoubtedly be miserable as he dealt with Twilight's depression. He could only hope that when his letter came tomorrow night, it would bring her back to that cheerful pony she was meant to be.

Fever Pitch

View Online

Spike was seriously concerned for Twilight. Ever since they had woken up that morning, it had been as though she was on fast forward. By the time eight o'clock rolled around, they had made their beds, eaten breakfast, dusted the entire library, and finished the day's itinerary. For the life of him, Spike could not see where Twilight's renewed excitement came from, or when it would give out. He watched as Twilight started scrawling furiously on a sheet of parchment, "Twilight. What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong, Spike." Twilight laughed a little too high pitched to be convincing. "I'm just writing up a lesson plan for today."

"Yeah." He ran a claw over the now shimmering podium. "Since when do we get up at six to dust?" Though Twilight was a neat freak, Spike knew full well her desire for cleanliness only went so far. The only time she became this obsessed with order, was when something really serious was on her mind. "What's bothering you?"

Twilight giggled in that fake way again, scooping up yet another piece of parchment to write on. "It's nothing important."

"It is." Spike stamped his foot, snatching the parchment from her podium. "You came home all sad yesterday, and then you sent a letter to Discord. What? You can tell that crazy ex villain but you can't tell your number one assistant."

"It's not . . . not something I want a baby dragon to worry about." She patted his head in a motherly fashion that made Spike want to slap her.

"Don't patronize me, Twilight!" He puffed out his chest confidently. "I can handle it."

Twilight sighed, looking around the pristine library, then back at Spike. "I've just been trying to understand my role as princess, as an alicorn, and what that means for me and for everypony around me."

Spike snorted. That was it? Typical Twilight, constantly worried about things that did not matter. He walked over to a corner shelf and withdrew a photo album, setting it on the floor. Twilight strode over, eyeing the book with a questioning glance. Spike cleared his throat, opening up the pages. "You're the best princess Equestria could ask for, Twilight. Look at all the amazing things you've done with your friends and for Equestria." He prodded a picture of her coronation with a claw, "Celestia trusts you with the responsibility, so why shouldn't you trust her? She's got everything figured out."

"I guess." Twilight levitated the album to her muzzle, nodding slowly. "Yes, you're right, Spike. Celestia knows exactly what she's doing, doesn't she?"

"Exactly." Spike took the album from Twilight, returning it to its place. "So, what are you going to do with Entropy today?"

"Well . . ." Twilight looked away, as if not willing to answer.

Well what? Spike tugged at her hoof. "Come on, Twilight, tell me."

She turned back to him, a cheesy grin plastered on her face. "I'm going to have you help today, Spike."

"Me?" His heart leapt a little. The prospect of working alongside Twilight for the entire day, and being useful was too good to be true; even if it meant dealing with Entropy as well. He did a happy jig, punching his fists in the air. "Yes, yes, YES!"

Twilight chuckled, wrapping him a tight hug. "I know you'll be great." She released him, levitating the parchment towards her. "What do you say we meet Entropy for a change? Our lesson's outside today anyway."

"Okay." Spike happily followed Twilight into the sunlit street beyond the library. Looking around at all the happy faces, including Twilight's, he could not help but think today was going to turn out just fine.

Discord had grown almost accustomed to Ponyville's bustling streets. That did not mean he particularly enjoyed his daily commute, but it had become substantially more tolerable. Whether for good or ill, he was starting to be absorbed into the community of Ponyville. He passed a few of the local venders who all gave him a cheery greeting which he promptly returned. I swear, it's like I'm trapped in a permanent musical. Hey, that's an idea. Discord cleared his throat and began to sing,

"Morning in Ponyville shimmers
Morning in Ponyville shines
And I know for absolute certain
That everything is certainly fine"

Carrot Top snickered a laugh, "Twilight teach you that one, Entropy?"

He winked, leaning against her stand, "That she did, that she did." With a flick of his tail, he trotted down the road, glancing around at the passing ponies. He could not remember the rest of Twilight's song, but that was not going to slow down the spirit of chaos for a second.

"There's my friend en route to his project"

Cheese looked up questioningly, from under his hardhat. "What?" He spoke around the lunchbox in his mouth. "You need something, Entropy?"

He barked a laugh, "Oh, no. Just singing."

Cheese shrugged it off, walking towards the construction site. Discord watched him for a while, then turned back to the ponies around him. What else? Ah, that will do.

"There's the mailmare mis-mailing some letters." Discord chuckled as the wall eyed mare shoved a stack into the nearest mailbox with a sour glance his way. Simply delightful reaction. I should try some more.

"This Ponyville is so boring and still,
Can things ever change?
I don't think that they will."

Discord would have continued if he had not run nearly headlong into Twilight. He skidded to halt, nearly bumping muzzles with the startled mare. "Good morning, Twilight."

"Morning, Entropy." She stared at him as though appraising his sanity. "Were you singing?"

"Indeed." He puffed out his chest, gesturing around at the crowding street. "I was serenading the local denizens with one of your songs."

"One of my songs?" Twilight sighed, "I don't think those were the lyrics."

"No, I could only remember the first bit, so I took the liberty of improving on the original." Discord snorted a laugh at Twilight's near mortified expression. "Nothing bad, I can assure you."

"Really? Allow me to teach you the rest then." She winked playfully at him before singing herself.

"My Ponyville is so gentle and still.
Can things ever go wrong?
I don't think that they will."

Twilight's song seemed to cheer up the townsponies and a few of them joined in for the chorus. After she was done, they dispersed to their respective tasks. He could only stare in admiration at Twilight's broad smile. Here I was thinking she'd be depressed. I suppose I had nothing to worry about after all. He walked over to her, keeping step as they moved to the park. "Yes, your version is much better than mine."

"I wouldn't say better, just different." Twilight looked behind them, then stopped. "Spike?"

Spike ran over to them from the market, holding out a rolled up piece of parchment for Twilight. The kid was puffing out his chest as though he were presenting Twilight with her crown instead of a to do list. Discord could not help but snort a laugh. "What are you doing here, Spike?"

"I'm assisting in your training today." Spike stood up as tall as his diminutive frame would allow. It was adorably pathetic, and Discord did not have the heart to tell him how stupid he looked. Spike's attention turned back to Twilight, "What's first, Professor Sparkle?"

"Yes, do tell." Discord leaned casually against the nearest tree, watching Twilight go over her notes. Though he had been glad to see her smiling again, it was fast becoming apparent that it was a hollow smile. A part of him wanted to smack her senseless. Hiding from the truth was not brave; it was cowardice. I'll give her the option before things go too far. "Twilight, what's wrong?"

"Nothing." She turned to him, that cheesy, false smile still plastered on her face. "Let's get started, shall we?" Before he or Spike could argue, she took off towards the edge of town at a breakneck trot.

Discord looked down at Spike, unable to hide his concern. To his surprise, Spike returned the look. With a swift motion, he slung the dragon on his back, and trotted after Twilight. "So, Spike, do you have any idea where we're going?"

"Nope." Spike wrapped his claws in his mane. Discord could feel him trembling. "Why are we going so fast?"

Discord shot him an are you serious look, jerking his head towards Twilight. "Ask her. I'm just following orders today."

They trotted down the road for a long time, moving well past Ponyville before stopping at the entrance to the Everfree Forest. Discord slammed to a stop so suddenly that Spike nearly flew over his head. His eyes darted to the forest, then back at Twilight. "The Everfree Forest? What are we doing here?"

"Well, I've . . . got . . . a . . . theory." Twilight was panting like a dog, lathered sides heaving. Her head jerked to the trees before sinking between her hooves again. "The forest . . . messes with magic. I'm thinking that maybe . . . maybe you can control your magic there."

"Really?" Discord had to admit, he was impressed with Twilight's ingenuity. Even he never thought of that as a possibility. "It's worth a try." He turned his head behind him, "What do you say, Spike?"

"Fine. Just so long as we're not trotting there." He slid off of Discord's back, glowering at Twilight. "Entropy's trot's super bumpy."

Discord snorted, "Bumpy?" With his joints aching like they had been, Spike had a point. Even Fluttershy's remedy could not alleviate the stabbing pain whenever his hooves contacted the earth. His method of compensating turned out to be a showy looking, but incredibly jarring trot. "I suppose you're right. I'm far too old to be trotting around Equestria."

Twilight gave him the strangest look just then. It was not annoyance, nor pity. For a brief instant, she looked as though she might speak, but turned away, head hung low. "Let's go." She started into the forest without another word.

What bee got into her bonnet? Accepting the inevitable, he following her into the forest. Its darkened interior was a welcome relief from the oppressive heat of Celestia's sun. There was little that brought him into the forest these days, and he as not entirely convinced that it was such a bad thing. The entire place reminded him of a tacky haunted house, without the amusing rubber bats and spaghetti brains. It was terribly dull, and even the occasional glint from the local residents did little to entertain him.

As he was about to jump over a small patch of Poison Joke, Spike clambered onto his back with a fluid motion a cat would have been jealous of. Discord wheeled his head around to face the now trembling dragon, "Yes? Do you need something?"

"Could you . . . could you carry me the rest of the way?"

Discord rolled his eyes. Honestly, you could have said something earlier. With a bit of calculation, he made the jump and joined Twilight on the other side. "How far?"

"Not long now." Twilight's tail was swishing in an almost irritated fashion. For the life of him, he could not figure out what she was so angry for. "How're your joints?"

"Holding up."

Twilight jerked a nod, walking a little faster. Her moodiness was starting to get on his nerves. Just when he was about to ask what he had done, she whirled around to face him. "How old are you?" The words came out in a rush, and set the mare's face a violent shade of red.

"How old?" So it's my age she's worried about. I suppose that's reasonable. Discord closed his eyes, trying to think. He was a little older than Celestia, though he was not about to mention that to her. If he was counting in draconequus years, then he really was not terribly old. He decided to give her his best estimate in pony years. "Forty-two."

Twilight gaped open mouthed at him. "Forty-two?"

"Correct." Twilight's stare was starting to make him feel self-conscious. His age had never really bothered him before, but now that he was stuck in this form, he began to realize the limitations that came with it. He lowered his head, "Pathetic I know. Some washed up professor living alone at my age. I'd understand if that bothers you."

"No! No it doesn't." Twilight waved the thought away with a hoof. "Really, it doesn't, Entropy. I was just surprised, that's all."

Surprised? Please, you were shocked senseless. Discord strode past her down the path. "Are we going to practice now?"

"Right. This way." Twilight took the lead once more, and Discord followed slowly behind. The path was new, but at the same time, strangely familiar. Come to think of it, this whole place is familiar. Then it hit him. He stopped cold, looking around at the aging trees and back at the worn bridge they had crossed. "We're headed to the old castle, aren't we?"

Twilight turned back, pouting a little, "How did you know?"

"I read about it in the library." That should be a good enough excuse for the book worm. "I thought the layout looked familiar to the maps."

"Wow! I'm impressed you'd remember something like that." Twilight grinned back at him with a kind of reverent awe. "I never remember all the maps I've read."

"Well, history is a hobby of mine." I lived through most of it. Discord cleared his throat, gesturing to the break in the tree line. "I suppose that's it?"

"Yup. Just you wait, I've got some great lesson plans for us there." She winked at Spike. "And a special job for my number one assistant."
Spike shot Discord a worried glance as soon as Twilight's back was turned. Discord could only chuckle. Certainly the alicorn had something planned. Whether or not it was great was yet to be determined. At least she was keeping her spirits up better than before. He could only hope they remained up. Time would tell.

"That's it!" Twilight watched as Entropy made yet another successful attempt at levitating the loose stones into a pile. The dusty hall was proving an invaluable classroom. Even Entropy's destructive magic could not blow apart stones in a hurry. All the priceless heirlooms had been collected months ago, allowing them to let loose their magic without causing massive property damage. For the past few hours, she had drilled Entropy on levitation magic, and it finally seemed to be paying off.

The unicorn was focused entirely on keeping the largest stone airborne. As he did, Twilight could not help but notice the blood red color of his pupils. It always unsettled her to see that. A part of her worried if his lack of control was driving him to corruption like Sombra. She hoped not. Entropy was a kind pony, if a little eccentric. And handsome. Twilight wanted to kick herself for that last bit. Quit acting like a school yard filly, Twilight. Focus.

Entropy let the stone drop with an unceremonious thud. "There. How's that?" He looked up at her from behind his spectacles, eyes shining in what looked like triumph. "I did it. No explosions or fires."

Twilight doubted whether stones could explode or catch fire, but could not help but smile at her student. "Great job, Entropy. Why don't we take a break?"

"I thought you'd never offer."

They walked over to the base of the old thrones, kicking up little clouds of dust as they went. Twilight enjoyed the way the dust particles hung in the air, caught in the filtered daylight like thousands of gleaming candles. "It's almost pretty in here."

Entropy's laugh resounded off of the stones and back to them. "Pretty? You've lost your touch if you think this is beautiful." His eyes took on a dreamy expression, "This one time, my class turned everything in the classroom upside down, everything. Even the carpet. It was glorious."

Twilight could not help but raise an eyebrow at that. How was an upside down classroom more beautiful than this piece of living history? Her eyes fell on the insects scurrying up the moss laden stones. Quite literally living. She looked back at Entropy, wondering. He had seen a lot, spoken to a lot of ponies. Would he know anything about alicorns? About her destiny? No, he was just a simple professor at Canterlot University. There was no way their sun princess discussed such sensitive topics with him.

"Twilight? Are you going to stand there all day?" Entropy was lying next to their saddlebags, holding up a canteen. "Come and get some water."

"Right." She strode over, lying beside him. The cool stones felt uncomfortable against her belly, but Entropy did not seem to notice himself. His gentle stare sent a shiver up her spine. Why did he have to look at her like that? It was not fair. Maybe small talk would ease her nerves. "So, Entropy, do you have any family in Canterlot?"

"No. I don't have a family." Entropy snapped the words in an uncharacteristically harsh tone. Then, upon seeing her expression, he continued, "Sorry, my parents died when I was young. Nopony really bothered with me since I couldn't control my magic. I make my own way, always have."

Make your own way? That sounds like me. Twilight grimaced at the memory of how she had been before she arrived in Ponyville. As the personal student of Celestia, she had been proud and excited, but undeniably lonely. If she had never gone to Ponyville, just what would she have become? It was possible she would have ended up like Entropy; alone and bored with the world. Then, another, almost surreal thought occurred. Would she have been made an alicorn? Her life might have been completely normal if she had simply stayed in Canterlot. What would that have meant for the future of Equestria?

"Twilight?" Entropy was leaning so close to her that she could see her reflection in his glasses. His hoof stroked her cheek softly, "Are you all right?"

Instinctively, she pushed Entropy back against the stones. He winced, gritting his teeth. Oh, no. I hurt him. "I'm so sorry, Entropy. You just surprised me." Though he had, she was more worried about repeating the scene from yesterday. For the life of her, she could not figure out what had come over him to kiss her so suddenly.

She felt a sudden pressure as Entropy pulled her down against the stones beside her. "That's for knocking me down. Now we're even." Twilight tried to stammer that they were far from even, but Entropy leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "If you wanted a reprise, you should have just asked. I'm more than willing to pick up where we left off."

He wasn't joking, he really likes me. An irrational surge of fear washed over her. Entropy liked her, not just as a student, but as a stallion. All the little hints that he had been dropping were adding up. But, Fluttershy was right, they couldn't be together, the just couldn't. She could never be with any stallion. After all, she might be the one to outlive him.

Before she understood why, she threw Entropy back against the stones hard enough to make him cry out in pain. "What do you think you're doing? You can't like me!"

Entropy stared open mouthed at her, glasses sliding off his muzzle and onto the floor. His eyes sparkled with a mixture of fear and shock. "Okay, I'm sorry, Twilight. I thought the feeling was mutual." The words came out as a shaky whisper. His face turned rather red, and he looked down at her hooves against his chest. "Can you let me up now?"

"Huh?" Twilight realized that she was still pressing on his ribs with all her might. Slowly, carefully, she stepped off of him.

He rolled over on his sides, coughing a little. From the submissive expression on his face, he was not going to argue about what happened. His eyes darted one last time to her before he made to stand. Unfortunately, he sunk to his knees in the attempt. Wincing, he tried again, managing to steady himself. "I'm going to help Spike with the research now."

"Okay." Twilight watched him walk gingerly over towards the library. Her heart ached at the sight. The blood rushed to her ears, heart pounded uncontrollably fast. What's wrong with me? She liked Entropy, she might even love the stupid stallion someday. Hurting him made as little sense as the anger now coursing through her body. She was not angry at him, she was angry at herself, at her whole situation. There was no way out; there never would be. She was trapped in this existence, forced to live as Fate's puppet for however long it saw fit. The thought would surely drive her to insanity long before then. I need a way out.

Ouch. Not again. Discord walked, or more accurately limped, to the library and some peace of mind. With each step either his back or legs would cry out in pain. His brilliant plan to cheer Twilight up with a little flirtation had completely backfired. Now his was dealing with the unfortunate consequences.

He looked around at the familiar castle, remembering his own brief reign here. Back then, he had transformed it into a glorious candy fort for the amusement of his flying pigs and various other pets. Yes, it had been a great deal more entertaining back then. A shame he could not make any improvements at the moment. Though he would take some mental notes for later. Princess Celestia's throne room would make a most excellent chocolate swimming pool.

Despite his pleasant fantasies, as he walked down the corridor, he could not help but think about Twilight. Of all the little things to blow up at, his flirting was not even on his list of possibilities. Then again, it made some sense. The mare was scared and confused about her lifespan. That coupled with his advanced age probably brought those concerns to the surface. But why so violently? Certainly he had been a bit pushy, but it was not like he tried to force her to do anything unseemly with him. Still, he should have known better than to mess with her emotions when she was like this.

His hooves carried him mechanically into the library where Spike was seated inside a ring of dusty books. The entire place stunk of antique shop and mold. Wrinkling his muzzle, he lay down beside Spike. "So, this is," he considered a word that would not be too offensive, "different."

"Yeah." Spike looked up from his latest spell book, his own nose scrunched up. "It's the smell of knowledge or something like that."

"Smells more like decay to me." They shared a good laugh at that one. Discord scooped up the nearest book, mildly surprised to recognize the name on the cover. I knew this pony. Cantankerous old sock. He tapped Spike with the book, "Any luck?"

Spike crossed his arms, glowering down at the book in front of him. "No." He looked expectantly back at him. "How's training?"

"Uh . . ." Well, other than the fact that I upset Twilight just after I promised not to, it was great. Oh, and she's about ready to break into a magical fit of panic about her potential immortality, but nothing you should worry about. Yes, that was exactly what he wanted to say. Instead, he chose a more reasonable response. "She's stressed. Even with your wonderful demonstrations on parchment transportation magic this morning, and her tutelage, I've really not mastered much more than levitating stones."

Spike patted his leg in a reassuring manner. "It's okay. You'll figure it out. If anypony can teach you magic control, it's Twilight. She's the master of control itself."

Master of chaos meets master of control. Sounds like a cheap stage production. Discord looked at the books, all of which he was familiar with and none of which were remotely helpful. "Spike, these are good, but they aren't what we need. Twilight wants you to research non-harmony magic, doesn't she?"

"Yeah." He gestured to the massive bookshelves around them. "If we know all about what harmony magic isn't, we'll be able narrow down what it is and how to use it. That's what she said."

"Uh-huh." Discord snorted a laugh. It was a creditable notion, but one he knew full well would never work. Harmony magic was an entirely different creature from his chaos magic, or any other magical force he had encountered. Still, if it would keep Twilight focused on the present, he would lend a paw, or in this case hoof to help. He started down one of the narrow aisles between the shelves. "Come along, we need to study chaos magic."

"Chaos magic?" Spike's eyes bulged, and he scrambled towards him, tugging on his leg. "That's dangerous stuff. Discord's the only one who can even use it, and Twilight says he might not even know how to control it."

Discord swished his tail in annoyance. Please, I practically wrote the book on chaos magic. Just because I use it for fun, doesn't mean I don't understand it. He shook Spike loose, continuing through the sea of books. It had been centuries since he was last here, but he still knew where he kept his personal store of chaos magic books, which consisted mostly of his own journals on the subject. Idly he wondered if Celestia had not destroyed it some time ago. He hoped not. Those journals were just about the only personal possessions left to his name. To say he would be annoyed at her for damaging them would have been an understatement.

They walked through the rows until they reached the darkest corner of the library. As he ran a hoof across the centuries of dirt, a red glow began to outline a symbol not unlike his cutie mark, except the center was not a circle, but an outline of a draconequus. Spike trembled beside him, clutching his leg for support. "And there we have it."

Spike peered cautiously at the now swirling dust. "What did you do?"

"Just watch." Discord jerked his head to the red lines which were glowing exceptionally bright now. A loud creaking sound preceded the grinding of stones. In a matter of seconds, they were staring down into a darkened stone staircase. "And voila."

"How did you do that, Entropy?" Spike hopped up and down, looking at him with something close to reverent awe. "Can you use chaos magic too?"

He barked a laugh, "Don't be ridiculous, Spike. I can't do something like that." His horn lit up, and he slowly walked down the steps. "Discord told me about it one time. I was reading about secret chambers, and he complained that they were nothing compared to his. So, I convinced him to tell me about his. This was one of them."

Spike's eyes glanced nervously around the smooth stone walls. "You mean Discord made this?"

"I guess. I don't see why he couldn't." What? I can't make something mundane? Were you expecting checkers and cotton candy? Discord snorted, looking around at the bottom of his study. The place was a mess, covered in cobwebs and so much dust, it was hard to make out anything. With a quick burst of his unicorn magic, he blew the dust off of the majority of the shelves, bathing them both in a thick layer of it. "Sorry, Spike."

"It's . . . fine." Spike coughed, squinting in the haze at the shelves. "Wow, there's a lot of books."

"They aren't books, not most of them anyway. They're journals." Discord sighed in relief when he noticed his protection spell over them was still working. He scooped one up, stroking it lovingly. It reacted to him immediately despite his pony form, and opened itself to the exact page he had left off at centuries earlier. It was an older entry of his, from his time in exile. He smiled as he read through it. His life's work was contained in this room. Well, all the work that he really cared about anyway.

Spike made to touch one, but he stopped him a hoof. "Don't!" Realizing his overreaction, he flushed crimson. I really am stupidly sentimental about these. He cleared his throat, "These are extremely valuable and fragile. There's no other journals like these in all of Equestria, Spike. Twilight's destroyed spell book has nothing on these."

"Count me out! I'm not going to tell Discord I destroyed his books."

That's a good boy. Discord grinned, looking through the shelves. Which ones, which ones. It took over an hour, mainly due to his nostalgic urge to page through each journal, but he managed to select three volumes he thought would help Twilight not only understand his magic, but also her own situation. "Time to go, Spike."

Spike looked up from his seat on the stone stool. Judging from the drool on the side of his mouth, he had been making the most of his nap time. "Right." He trotted obediently after him, and they stepped out into the relative light of the library.

Discord was careful to reseal the chamber just as he had before. It would only open for him, but he wanted to make certain nopony snooping around would be able to so much as think about prying it open. Once he had finished, he started back towards the throne room. "We'd better get these to Twilight."

"Right." Spike eyed the journals now resting comfortably under one of Discord's front hooves. "So, what does he say in them?"

"Oh, all sorts of things." His earlier volumes were more along the lines of a teenager's whiny diary than anything else, but the middle volumes like these were valuable observations on his own chaos magic. The latter ones outlined his slow progression into the terror he had become before his imprisonment in stone. Discord would rather die than let anypony or any creature for that matter, read those entries. Seeing Spike's expectant look, he continued, "Mostly it's observations on chaos magic with a little insight into the history of Equestria. I thought Twilight would enjoy them."

They walked in silence the rest of the way. Discord did not mind, and was glad to hear the dragon humming a merry tune. It appeared that he only wanted to have a part in their training, no matter how small that part was. The dragon was confident in who he was, and that was something to be admired.

When they arrived at the throne room, Twilight was still where he had left her over an hour ago. She was staring hard at the stone floor, horn glowing in a strangely dark, almost black aura. Discord felt his heart sink. By the gods, it's corrupt magic. He stopped in the entryway, placing the journals beside Spike. Though his heart was racing, he managed to speak in a fairly calm manner. "Spike, you need to stay here."

"But, Twilight." Spike tried to move, but he held the dragon back. "Entropy, Twilight's sad. She needs us."

"I know, but you need to stay here. It's dangerous." Discord's eyes darted to the ever growing aura around Twilight's horn that was now seeping into her eyes. "Her magic has corrupted."

"What?" Spike hissed in his ear, "Is that even possible?"

Discord nodded slowly, starting forward. "Stay back, Spike. I'll call you when it's safe." He continued to walk towards her, his hoof beats echoing across the chamber. "Twilight, it's me, Entropy."

The mare looked up at him, the magic reaching out for him like black tendrils. The foul miasma it created was enough to make him gag. Gritting his teeth, he strode even closer, eliciting yet another burst of it. A quick glance at Twilight made his heart lurch. The mare was shaking uncontrollably, and a fear like he had never seen before flooded her eyes. His hooves felt like lead as he struggled towards her. With each step, more and more of the foul magic would coil itself around his limbs. Just before he reached her, he collapsed, unable to fight it any longer. This is bad, this is really bad. Come on chaos, help me out here. Try as he may to use his own magic, it was no use; he was becoming overwhelmed by the darkness. No, not again. I made a promise. Never again.

What? Where am I? Discord felt as though her were floating in some kind of liquid, though it did not look like liquid. It was dark, and a little moist, like a storm cloud. When he tried to wave it away, he discovered that he had reverted to his original form. Snarling, he snapped his talon, attempting to magic the cloud away, but it simply hung in the air just as before. Then a high pitched, mocking voice echoed around him. 'Well, well, well, what do we have here? Discord, the master of chaos, the bender of reality bested by a simple cloud.'

"Show yourself!" Discord whacked the cloud with his tail, only to feel it held fast by some invisible force. His struggles to break free resulted in an even tighter grip. "If you know who I am, then you know what I'm capable of."

'Do listen to yourself, Discord. My, my. Since when did you resort to idle threats?' The voice started a mocking laugh that seemed to echo endlessly in the void.

"Who . . . who are you?"

'Me? I'm you, of course.' The voice lowered, seemingly speaking directly into his ears. 'Your darkest fears, your secret ambitions, everything that you despise about yourself and keep locked away inside.'

Discord moaned, trying to block out the voice, but it was no use. "I don't have to be afraid, not anymore! I'm happy."

'Happy?' It resounded all around him, making him cringe. 'What part of your miserable existence is happy? You live life as Celestia's personal pet; obeying her every whim. Since when did you kowtow to the likes of her?'

"I'm free to do what I want." Within reason. Discord attempted yet again to snap away the cloud, but it seemed to close in even tighter, grabbing his talon now. "I have friends that care for me! I don't need you."

'Friends? Friends? Is that what you call them?' Celestia and Luna banished you from the only home you had ever known when you lost control of one of your spells.'

Discord shuddered at the memory. Lost control was an understatement. He nearly went mad with the power surge. "I almost burned an entire village to the ground."

The voice whispered almost lovingly into his ear, 'But you didn't. Nopony died. There was no reason for such an overreaction. You were young, still growing into your power as Celestia and Luna were. Why should you be punished and they rewarded?'

"I . . . they . . ." Those questions that had spun around his head for decades after his banishment resurged with a bitter potency. He tried to pull away from the cloud, but it grabbed him with bone crushing force, causing him to cry out in pain.

A cluck of disapproval rippled along the cloud. 'Listen to me when I'm talking, Discord. By the gods, you do so like to interrupt.' It continued in its matter-of-fact tone, 'After you had been nearly driven mad with loneliness, and came back to beg for mercy, they tried to lock you in the dungeon. Then they had the gall to blame you when you fought back. Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but that doesn't sound like a friend to me.'

Tears started to trickle down Discord's face, as he struggled despite the nearly unbearable pain. "The past is the past. I don't care what happened then! They forgave me."

"They forgave you? What about them? Did they ever once ask for your forgiveness? Did they ever once admit their own fault?'

"They'll come around." Though he spoke the words, he knew how utterly hollow they sounded. In all the months that he had been back, Celestia and Luna never once admitted their own guilt. If anything, they constantly drove home the point that he had been misguided, and that they had led him to the right. It was cruel, and he knew it, but he would not let his bitterness corrupt him. Never again. "I don't care! I'm happy being me, and that's all I need."

'Yes, Discord. The last draconequus on the face of this world. Forever hated and feared by those he calls friends. What a perfectly happy existence.' The words came as sharp and painful as a piece of shattered glass raked across his heart. 'What have you to live for? You are alone, you will never be loved, nor will any creature love you. Your so-called friends abandon you at the drop of a hat. Why, you can't even entertain so much as a notion of having a family of your own. Fate has decided you will never be happy, Discord, accept it.'

Discord shook his head. "Stop it. Stop it! STOP IT!"

'Stop it? Weren't you telling yourself Twilight needed to accept the truth?' The voice laughed again, cold and harsh as a winter wind. 'Perhaps it's you that needs to hear the bitter truth!'

A rage like he had not felt in centuries gripped him. Every part of him wanted to rip the cloud to shreds. Twilight needed him, and he was wasting his time with this illusion. "I'm the master of illusions here; I refuse to be trapped by one of my own creation!" Taking what little remained of his strength, he let out a burst of his fire, engulfing the entirety of the void. A brilliant light flashed in his eyes, and slowly, the void melted away.

Discord felt his body contact the cold stones once more. For a moment, all he could do was stare down at his pony form, a little shocked to see that nothing of what transpired in the void had actually occurred. He looked up to see Twilight now completely engulfed in the black mass eyes closed tight. Every inch of her body seemed tainted by the foul magic. If he did not hurry, it would be too late.

Plunging forward, he tackled the alicorn to the stones, shaking her violently. "Twilight! It's not real, fight it! Fight it!" The cloud was beginning to swirl faster now, like some angry beast ready to strike. He was running out of time; he needed to snap her out of it before they lost her. "Twilight, I know you're scared. It's okay to be scared, I'm scared too. You're an alicorn, and I don't know what that means for you or for Equestria."

Discord gulped, trying to think of the right words to say. "Please, Twilight, don't dwell on what could be. Your friends need you now; here in the present. Would you forsake them for an irrational fear?" He clutched her to his chest, wincing as the dark magic stung his body, trying to gain purchase on his mind once more. Miraculously, as though an invisible force was speaking for him, the words came. "The mechanisms of this world did not choose you when you became an alicorn, they chose you from your birth."

His hoof stroked her back gently, soothingly, "Twilight. It's the time just when the world is at its most beautiful. It's a perfect harmony between the day and the night. You are the same." Discord found the tears streaming down his face and stinging his eyes. Not her, anypony but her. Please. She's too young for this. "You and you alone can find the balance between chaos and order, between the darkness and the light. Don't short-change your destiny by boiling it down to a random act of Celestia's!"

The dark magic surged around them, and, for an instant, it looked as though he had lost. Then, slowly, the magic changed. Where the tendrils had been, a pure lilac light replaced them. What had been a noxious miasma became a purifying mist. Discord looked down at Twilight, relief washing over him. Her silken coat had returned to its normal, bright shade of lavender, and no trace of the shadows marred her features. He clutched her tighter, breathing in the familiar floral scent. "Thank the gods you're all right."

Twilight looked at him as though seeing him for the first time. Her eyes darted around the throne room, at Spike, then back to Discord. "Entropy? What are you doing? What . . . what happened?"

"Your magic, it was corrupted." Discord could not stop his hooves from trembling as he held her to him. "Don't scare me like that! I couldn't live with myself if anything happened to you." The words sounded strange, even to himself, but they were the truth. Celestia assumed Twilight was ready for the responsibilities placed on her, but Discord knew better. The mare still needed someone to protect her, someone to lead her out of the confusion before she was led to the wrong. Who was better suited to the task then him?

Twilight stared blankly at him, "My magic was corrupted? You mean like Sombra's or Nightmare Moon's?"

"Yes." Discord realized that he was still gripping Twilight tightly, and released her, shuffling back on the stones to meet her gaze. He cleared his throat, "I read about it before. Alicorn magic is more powerful, but more easily corrupted than unicorn magic." His hoof ran over her sides, checking for damage. Thankfully, she appeared shaken but unharmed. "It's much more sensitive to emotion or stress, and therefore can easily swing towards the wrong."

"I . . . I guess that makes sense." Twilight looked down at her hooves in wonder, "I've noticed my magic has been more temperamental since I was made an alicorn. But," She turned back to him, the fear returning to her eyes, "I never dreamed it would react like that. What would have happened if you didn't stop me?"

Discord shivered at the thought. Nightmare Moon was one thing, but a young, inexperienced alicorn running rampant with untold reserves of corrupt magic was another level of threat entirely. "You would have become something far worse than Nightmare Moon or Sombra."

"What? WHY? I'm not bitter, I'm just . . ." She trailed off, though Discord knew exactly what she would have said. The mare was confused, he did not blame her, but she needed to control her emotions before somebody got hurt.

Discord rested a hoof on hers, "Twilight, your magic is different than Celestia's or Luna's. You are more magically gifted than you could ever imagine, but with that power comes a greater tendency towards corruption." He tried to think of what to say next. Entropic State was not supposed to know fountains of information on alicorn magic after all. "Celestia told me that much before I came here." Yes, throwing in the old windbag might help his believability.

Twilight looked up, mouth hung open in disbelief, "She did? Why?"

"Because she was worried about you." It sounded right coming from Entropic State, but Discord could not have disagreed more. If Celestia truly cared for Twilight, she would not have burdened her with so much responsibility at such a young age. The alicorn was a fool, something he had always known deep down, but saying such a thing to Twilight would only hurt her more. So he smiled, trying to hide the uneasiness that came as he looked into her eyes. She's too young; too naïve. Don't you see what you've done, Celestia?

"Whatdidyousaybefore?" Twilight's words tumbled out in a rush. Seeing his questioning look, she slowed herself down, "I mean, what did you say to make me stop?"

"Oh, that." Discord felt himself growing a little self-conscious. The truth would hardly make sense coming from Entropic State. Given the circumstances, he decided to fib just a little. "Well, Spike said you were worried about being ready for your responsibilities as a princess. I assumed that was what it was, so I reminded you how much ponies rely on you here, and that there's no reason to be afraid."

Twilight nodded slowly, then got to her hooves. Her eyes darted nervously around the hall. "Spike? Where are you?"

Spike's head peered from around the entryway, eyes wide with fear. "Is everything okay, Entropy?"

"Perfectly safe, Spike." Discord chuckled as the dragon practically flew to Twilight's side, wrapping her leg in a tight hug.

Twilight giggled, leaning down to hug Spike back. "I'm so glad you're okay. Sorry I scared you."

"It's okay, Twilight." Though he appeared relaxed at first glance, the dragon's legs were still shaking violently. He broke away from the hug, trotting quickly towards the exit. "Can we go?"

"Sure, sure." Twilight made to follow, but Discord stopped her with a hoof. "What's wrong, Entropy?"

"I . . ." How do I say this? "If you need somepony to talk to, when you're ready, I'll be there."

A broad smile stretched from the corners of her mouth that set even her eyes sparkling. "Thanks, Entropy. I appreciate it."

"Certainly." Discord turned back towards the entryway to retrieve the journals. When he returned, Twilight was staring almost longingly at them.

Twilight charged towards him, "Where did you get those?"

"In the library." He carefully held out his journals for Twilight to examine. She lit her horn and attempted to levitate the top one. Much to her chagrin and his amusement, the journal refused to budge.

"What the?" Twilight tried again.

When she did, Discord's voice, magically magnified and recorded centuries ago echoed around the hall, "Alicorns, think they can take sneak into my study, take my journals without permission, and try to read them with harmony magic. How quaint."

It had been so long since he set the spell, Discord had forgotten completely about it. He laughed and laughed at the thunderstruck expression on Twilight's face.

Twilight's horn lit up even brighter, surrounding the journal for a split second before the magic dissipated like the tide breaking over a rock. "URGH!"

Once again, Discord's past self mocked Twilight's attempt. "Really? If it didn't work the first two times, why are you convinced it will work now? Isn't that the very definition of insanity?"

Discord laughed hard, clutching the old journals to his chest. Just when he thought he would not be able to laugh the rest of the day, here he was cheering himself up. "Brilliant! Simply brilliant."

Twilight snorted, stamping her hoof in frustration. "Is that Discord's voice?"

"It is." He wiped the tears of amusement from his eyes. "These are Discord's journals. When I met him in Canterlot, he told me about his collection."

"Really? So that's why harmony magic doesn't work on them." Instead of the expected look of disgust, Twilight looked almost awestruck. Her hoof reached out to take one. When she did, it made no sound, but opened obediently to the first page. She carefully turned the pages, scanning the lines. "Wow, there's so much! What was he writing about?"

Discord chuckled, "Well now, that's for you to find out, isn't it?" He carefully handed her the other two journals. "Take very good care of them, Twilight, or Discord will have both our heads."

"Right. Thank you Entropy. This . . . this will help a lot." She looked towards the exit where Spike was tapping his feet impatiently. "We'd better get going."

Discord nodded, following her across the stones. Twilight appeared confident once more, though he feared that that confidence would be all too temporary. Today's fiasco had proven that Twilight was not ready for the power she now wielded. Alicorn magic was far too temperamental to start with. Add a young girl into the mix and they were looking at disaster. If Twilight could not control her emotions or her magic, it was only a matter of time until something drastic would have to be done. He could only pray it would never come to that.

Twilight slunk into the library, feeling more exhausted then she had in months. Every inch of her body ached as though somepony had stretched her too far and left her to dry. Their walk back to Ponyville had been completed in near silence, punctuated only by Entropy's jokes. Though funny, she had not found the heart to laugh. Every part of her wanted to crawl under a rock and stay there.

Her hooves moved mechanically up the stairs, and led her to the bed. She slunk down on the covers, closing her eyes and allowing her mind to wander. Why? In all her days, she never imagined that she could lose control of her magic, to allow it to corrupt all because of a single thought. What would the princesses have done in her situation? Certainly, they would not have been so easily corrupted. Even Luna's corruption took centuries to accomplish. And yet, she had polluted her own magic in a matter of minutes. I'm a failure.

Spike appeared in the loft, carrying the journals carefully over to the bedside table. "You forgot these downstairs, Twilight." He patted her on the back, "You okay?"

"I'll be okay, Spike. I'm not going to go crazy again." Her words came out harsher than she intended. Flushing, she looked up at him, speaking in her best attempt at a normal tone, "Really, I'm okay."

Spike nodded, then looked around the darkening room. "Maybe some cake? Pinkie brought some over while we were gone."

"Cakes sounds great, Spike." Twilight turned her head to stare out at the window. It was a beautiful sunset over Ponyville; a beautiful day to be alive. So why did it hurt so much? She sang low and soft,

"Evening in Ponyville glistens
Evening in Ponyville shines
And I no longer know for certain
If everything will certainly be fine"

Twilight scooped up one of the journals, deciding to distract herself with somepony else's thoughts for one; even if that somepony was a draconequus with a penchant for destruction. Just as she began to read, Spike came charging into the room, eyes wide with panic. "Spike? What in Equestria is wrong?"

He flailed dramatically onto the rug. "I've gone deaf in an ear!"

"What? Spike, nopony goes deaf in one ear instantaneously." Seeing that her words had no effect, she hopped off the bed and onto the floor. Gently, she stroked her hoof over the ear in question. To her surprise, something long shot out of it like a bullet, presenting itself at her hooves. Twilight stared incredulously at it, "A scroll?"

It was indeed a scroll, though nothing like the ones Celestia sent through dragon fire. Its lilac seal had a portrait of her face carved into it and a few words were written on it in flawless calligraphy, "'My friend, Twilight.'" Twilight sniggered then burst out laughing. "It's from Discord! What a way to send a letter, eh, Spike?"

Spike grumbled something about personal boundaries under his breath before starting back to the stairs. "I'll just get that cake then."
"Okay." Twilight levitated the scroll and returned to her spot on the bed. I didn't expect him to reply so soon. I wonder what his letters are like. Giggling with excitement, she unrolled the parchment and began to read . . .

Coming to Grips

View Online

Early mornings were Discord's least favorite time of day. Normally, he would not have dreamed of attempting anything productive before say eight o'clock. Today was different, however; today he had to focus. He stood, panting knee deep in the dew laden grass, trying desperately to control the harmony magic surrounding his horn. It was of little use, and the golden lightning arched into the pre-dawn haze before dissipating like a cloud of smoke. He snorted in frustration. Great just great.

In all his years of living, Discord had never really been interested in harmony magic. There was little benefit he could draw from it, apart from understanding its use in besting his own chaos magic. Harmony was like a dull bran muffin next to the fabulous, besprinkled cupcake that was chaos. Now, for the first time in his life, he was honestly regretting not paying attention to his early training in the subject.

Discord looked around at the isolated meadow. The crickets had silenced, the birds had yet to wake, and everything seemed frozen in place. It would have bothered him if he had been here under any other circumstances, but this was far from normal circumstances.

Yesterday's fiasco had proven that Twilight was incredibly vulnerable to corruption magic. The only way to stop corruption magic was with pure harmony magic, as had been shown time and time again with the Elements of Harmony. It seemed as though Celestia intended on leaving Twilight to her own devices. That was dangerous, and Discord feared what would become of Equestria without anyone to watch over her temperamental power. For his friend, and the safety of everyone involved, he would take on that role.

Discord sighed, beginning his attempt at a transportation spell again. The half-baked spell flickered spastically and rebounded, this time in a kind of explosion that set him jumping back as quickly as his current form would allow. Damn. Not even close. This practice of his was threatening to drive him to fits. If one young alicorn could use corruption magic, then it stood to reason that he, the master of chaos, could use harmony magic. So why were his attempts being rejected so violently?

He closed his eyes, inhaling the crisp morning air through his nostrils. Ponies really did have a wonderful sense of smell; far better than his own. In an odd way, taking long slow breaths as a pony had a greater effect on calming his nerves than it ever did as a draconequus. You can do this, Discord. Sure it's a little different, but it's just magic. Just as he was about to give the spell another attempt, a familiar burning sensation in his throat preceded a jet of golden flames issuing from his mouth.

Discord coughed for a long while. The spell used to transform him into a pony was powerful, but it came with a few nasty drawbacks. After all, pony throats were not designed to suddenly spew out flames at the drop of a hat. He glanced down at the cause of his discomfort. A single scroll was lying innocently on the grass. Swishing his tail irritably, he scooped it up. His name was scrawled on it in Twilight's unmistakable loopy handwriting. Discord could not help but chuckle at her method of sending it to him. Really, flames? Am I Spike now? How uninspired.

He started to open it, but the sealing spell refused to break. "Oh, come on. It's me!" Snarling, he transformed the hoof into its true form as a talon. Without ceremony, he broke the seal and began to read.


Thank you for taking my concerns seriously. I'll admit, I had my doubts when I decided to write to you, but now I see there was nothing to worry about. I know how difficult it must have been for you to stay so serious, but it really did cheer me up. You're a good friend.'

Discord felt a strange pull on his heart at those words. Twilight considered him a good friend. He was certain that he had hopelessly botched that title forever with his continued screw ups. It felt good to know that there was one alicorn in Equestria who considered him worthy of that title, and a part of him knew that she would not toss it aside as readily as Celestia did. Chuckling, he read on,

'Yesterday, something really bad happened. When I was worrying, my magic began to corrupt, at least that's what Entropy said. If he hadn't been there, I'm afraid something terrible might have happened.'

Discord snorted. Understatement of the century my dear.

'Does your magic corrupt like that when you're stressed?'

Gods no. Then again, I don't really get stressed. Discord paused, thinking about that for a moment. It had been centuries since he had been really stressed. Frustrated, yes, especially about being turned into stone, but not stressed. He always knew he would get out of his predicament eventually, so it did little to worry him. Whenever he felt even the slightest hint of stress coming on, he simply thought of a good joke or prank, and the stress would melt away. He returned to the letter,

'Entropy gave me a few of your journals he found in the Castle of the Two Sisters. I hope you don't mind; he said you gave him permission.'

Discord realized how strange that sounded. I gave myself permission. Yes, I suppose I did. He barked a laugh. "Oh, dear. I've started talking to myself. Whatever am I to do?" His eyes darted back to the parchment.

'What I read got me thinking. Maybe your chaos magic, my harmony magic, and corruption magic are connected somehow. I won't say any more here, but I'm going to dig into my research, and discover the truth.

Your friend,

-Twilight Sparkle'

"Argh, now you've done it, Discord. She'll be pouring over books for days now." Discord grimaced at the thought of sitting down and reading books upon books for days. Better find an excuse to help the townsponies. I wonder if I could improve the fountain again. Ice water's an idea; that might even be refreshing.

With a sigh, he teleported the scroll away with a snap of a talon. He would reply later. Just as he did, another jet of golden flames shot out of his mouth. Spluttering in shock and annoyance, he looked down at the much less welcome handwriting. Celestia. Sighing, he scooped it up, and tore it open.


I trust you've been keeping your end of the bargain and not causing trouble for the ponies.'

Discord bit his lip. Define trouble.

'I have sensed you breaking your illusion spell and using a touch of your magic. I do hope it was for something truly important. In any case, I shall know if you dissolve it completely.'

The letter shook in his talon a bit, surprising him a little. For some reason, her words came close to angering him. This was not about him playing around, it was far more important than that; something Celestia ought to know if she were doing her job. Snarling, he read on,

'How goes your harmony magic training? Luna is quite curious if you've managed any spells yet. I should very much like to see that. It has been many, many centuries since I have watched you so much as attempt harmony magic. Perhaps you can give a demonstration upon your return? That would be most amusing.


"Oh, I'll give you a demonstration all right." Discord chuckled, burning the letter with Celestia's precious harmony magic. "Right after I have my bit of fun." Discord smiled to himself, transforming the talon to a hoof once again.

He was the spirit and master of chaos itself; it did little good for him to get angry or serious over anything; even the uptight sun princess. After all, life was too fun to dwell in a dark closet feeling sorry yourself. It was something Twilight desperately needed to learn, and a lesson he was all too willing to teach her.

Discord looked around him at the awakening meadow. If Twilight was going to learn how to have fun, then he would have to keep her as relaxed as possible. What better way than to learn her harmony magic? His horn lit up, arching rays of magic in all directions. Try again, Discord. You can do this.

Discord wandered into town around eight thirty, head hung low. Every inch of his artificial form ached. Hours of practicing harmony magic wore him out more than days of chaos magic ever could. Not only were his limbs exhausted, but his mind felt dull and numb. Despite his best efforts, he had made little more progress than when he first started. It was embarrassing to say the least.

He was so distracted in his own thoughts that he almost slammed headlong into the library's oak door. Flinching a little, he took a step back and opened it quietly. Instead of the usual, excited greeting, he found Twilight lying down in the center of the library on a pile of cushions. She was so intently focused on the book between her hooves, that she probably would not have noticed him charging in and screaming at her.

Sighing, Discord started to walk over when Spike trotted up to him. "Good morning, Spike."

"Morning Entropy." Before he knew why, the dragon grabbed a hoof, directing him away from Twilight. Spike motioned him to lean down, and Discord obliged. "Twilight's in intense research mode."

"Intense what now?" Discord made to look up at Twilight, but Spike held his head down.

"Ever since she got Discord's letter last night, she's been researching." Spike bit his lip, shooting a quick glance over to Twilight and back again. "I don't think she's slept at all. When I got up, she was already down here."

"I see." Discord sighed, rubbing his temple with a hoof. "What do you want me to do about it?"

Spike tapped a foot, jerking his head over to her. "Isn't it obvious?"

"What? She likes research, I'm not going to stop her." No one could stop her when she's like that.

"Yeah, but she likes you more." The dragon looked as though the next words were practically painful to say. "Maybe . . . take her on a . . . on a date or something." His face turned cherry red, and he quickly avoided Discord's gaze. "Just to get her mind off of stuff." He added in a rush.

Discord gave one of his booming laughs, "Really?" Then, lowering his voice again, "I'll see what I can do, but no promises." With a good natured wink, he trotted over to Twilight. "Good morning!"

Twilight glanced up from the book only long enough to acknowledge his presence before she returned to reading. "Good morning."

"Would it be all right if I grabbed a bite to eat?" Discord took her slow nod as acknowledgement of the request, and walked over to the kitchen. It was a small, functional space, but pleasant enough if left messy, which it almost never was. He quickly grabbed a glass of lemonade and a piece of bread. Munching slowly, he contemplated the best way to break Twilight's trance. The idea came to him in no time. Smirking to himself, he finished off the bread and pulled out a bag of leftover spaghetti noodles from the fridge. This ought to be fun.

Discord walked back into the library, smiling a greeting to Spike who looked more than a little taken aback by the noodles. Judging from Twilight's unwavering attention on her book, the prank would be a walk in the park. He settled down a little behind her on the cushions, eyeing her tail appraisingly. Then, gently, he began to braid it, weaving in the noodles as he worked.

Pony mouths were incredibly awkward to maneuver, but he was somehow managing a passable job. How does Cheese make Pinkie's braids so tight? Rolling his eyes, he took another mouthful of the floral tasting strands in his mouth. She really needs to use less shampoo. He was careful to be as gentle as possible, and in a few rather tense minutes, he had finished. Unfortunately, Twilight chose that exact time to notice him.

Her eyes grew as wide as saucers. "What are you doing back there?" She shot up, face crimson, "Were you ogling me?"

"Not hardly." He rolled over on his back, smirking up at her. "I was braiding."

"Braiding?" Twilight spun around in a perfect imitation of a dog chasing its tail. She squeaked with surprise when the embedded noodles slapped her sides. After the first three times, she shot up in the air, beating her wings furiously.

Discord roared with laughter, rolling on the ground. Priceless. Simply priceless. Spike's own laughter joined his, and together they watched Twilight attempt to magic the noodles out.

She was having little success, and flew down, stamping her hooves hard against the ground. "It's not funny! What kind of stallion does something like this?"

"An ignored one." Discord put on his best innocent expression while avoiding eye contact with the irate mare.

Twilight looked nearly desperate now. "What am I supposed to do? It's all tangled in my tail!"

"Relax, relax." Drama Queen. Discord patted the cushions in front of him. "Lay down, I'll get them out."

"Fine." Twilight lay down, eyeing Discord cautiously as he began to work. Apparently satisfied that he would not try any more stunts, she turned back to Spike. "Spike, can you get me some more quills?"

Spike groaned, "Again? We just bought some!"

Twilight held up a snapped quill in her magic, grinning sheepishly. "I've been a little too excited with my research. I broke all but one."

"Fine." Spike grabbed his knapsack, and headed to the door. "Be back later."

"Later, Spike." Discord said with a mouthful of Twilight's tail. The noodles had broken up into little chunks, and really made a mess of the once silky strands. "You want me to magic them out?"

"What?" Twilight wheeled her head around, looking terrified. "I don't want to lose my tail!"

Discord spoke around the strands, "I've been practicing this morning you know."

Twilight's voice softened to a near whisper, "You have? Really?"

"Really. Been outside since four." He hummed a nameless tune as he worked, slowly working the sticky pasta out of the hairs. "You know, you made a big mistake letting Spike go like that."

Twilight stopped tapping her hooves to his song's melody to stare at him. "Hmmm? Why's that?"

"Well, it's not every day a middle aged professor like myself gets his face in a young mare's tail." Discord chuckled as he pulled out yet another chunk of noodle from the tail. "I might get tempted you know."

"Tempted?" Twilight's voice almost quivered. "Entropy, what do you mean?"

Discord could not believe how perfect his little setup was for teasing her. He inhaled the heavily perfumed scent of lavender and the softer, earthy smell of her coat. He never imagined ponies could be so pleasant up close. "You smell nice." The words came out before he had actually contemplated what he was saying. You smell nice? Really, Discord, is that the best you can come up with?

Twilight's voice wavered again, "Really? I thought I smelled like book worm, that's what everypony says."

"No, more like lilacs." The smell really was amazing, and he did not even like flowers all that much. He found himself resting his chin gently on her rump to get a better sense of the earthy undertones. Discord knew it was a stupid thing to do, but he really could not resist the urge or the strange pleasure it brought. A soft, low nicker came out almost as involuntarily as he brushed his cheek against the smooth hairs.

"What are you doing?" She practically squeaked, turning to face him.

In an instant, Discord snapped out of his little daydream; pulling back as fast as he could. "I'm so sorry," he stammered, finding his face heating up. What's wrong with me? Taking on a pony's body for the month seemed easy enough when he had agreed to it, but now he was seeing the major flaw in the plan. Damn stallion hormones are addling my brain.

Twilight just stared at him as though seeing him for the first time. "So, you really do like me. You weren't teasing?"

Gods, I don't even know, mare! I just acted, isn't that explanation enough? Discord felt his heart and mind racing a mile a minute, trying to come up with some legitimate excuse. On one hand, he wanted to continue his little game with her, but a new, more nagging sensation was telling him that it was an extremely bad idea. "I . . . I don't know." The words came jumbled and stupid, but he could not stop himself, "I was teasing you earlier, but now . . . now I don't know . . . maybe a little?" Argh! Why did I tell her that?

To his mixed horror and relief, Twilight began to giggle, then burst out laughing. She rolled on the floor, waving her hoof helplessly at him. After a time, she sat up straight, grinning back at him. "I'm so glad." She wiped the tears of laughter away with a hoof, "Here I was thinking you were this suave stallion with all his emotions put together. But you're just as confused as I am! Guess that makes us both idiots."

"Both? You . . . you feel the same?" Discord felt his heart rate slow, and the internal panic ebb.

"Yeah, I was nervous because I thought you wanted me to make a decision right away." Twilight ruffled his forelock, grinning playfully. "But, I'm glad it's not like that."

Discord gulped, nodded weakly. "Me too." Trying to recover some of his dignity, he jerked his head towards the wash room. "I think you ought to wash that tail of yours. I can't get all the bits out. Sorry."

"It's fine, it was a pretty funny prank." Twilight trotted towards the hallway, "I won't be long!"

"Okay." Discord sighed looking down at his hooves. Though his little hiccup had worked itself out, it still made him numb all over. Centuries of living, and he had never once felt any pull like he had around her just then; it was as though his body had simply thrown away common sense. What if, gods forbid, he took it one step too far and gave into temptation? Discord felt a shudder run through him at the thought. We're not even the same species. A slip up like that could never be undone, and he would have more than a broken friendship to answer for. This little game of his had gone far enough; it was time to end it.

There were plenty of ponies in Equestria that sought thrill in extreme sports. Rainbow Dash could probably list at least five she had tried and another six that she wanted to try. Twilight on the other hoof, was more of an observer. If librarians had an extreme sport, it would be research, and Twilight the grand champion. She knew all the little idiosyncrasies, the subtle, yet telltale signs she was on the right track, and of course the best way to compile her findings. Yes, she, Twilight Sparkle was a master of her craft. But, at that moment, Twilight would have given anything to have a skill more in line with Rarity's.

She peered up from the journal at Entropy. The stallion was engrossed in a rather large textbook on spell theory, his eyes darting quickly across the page. After she returned from her bath, he had not said two words strung together. He had purposely picked a spot as far away from her as possible, and dove into researching his own predicament while she followed her "rabbit trail."

He looked up from behind his glasses, then back at the page again. Twilight wanted to slap him. Act all friendly, then pretend nothing happened, huh? Reading ponies was a soft skill, one she was none too good at. Was he mad at her? Embarrassed? Or did he actually want to continue where he left off? She felt like an idiot, but she had no idea what to think.

Twilight glanced at her perfectly smooth tail with a flush. Entropy really had been very gentle sorting out the strands, and even she had to admit, if the noodles had been omitted, the braid would have been lovely. A part of her knew she should be offended by a stallion putting her tail in his mouth without permission, but for some reason that did not bother her.

On the contrary, she could not help but think back to the feeling of his muzzle against her hair with a kind of longing. And then he had to go and make it worse by resting his head on her rump. If it had been any other stallion in all of Equestria, she would have kicked them senseless. But it was Entropy, and he was the last pony in Equestria she wanted to hurt; especially after yesterday's incident. As strange as it sounded, the only part of Entropy's actions that bothered her was that he had stopped.

"Twilight, could I ask you a question?" Entropy looked up from his book with an almost cautious expression.

"Of course!" She flushed at her volume. Calm down, it's a question, Twilight, not a date invite. "What did you want to ask?"

Entropy frowned at the book, "Well, I'm wondering how you think about spells before you cast them."

"How I think about spells?" Twilight closed her eyes, trying to imagine how she pictured them in her mind's eye. It was a difficult question. Her eyes drifted around the quiet library for inspiration. Everything was neat and organized, just like it always was with her spells. Maybe, that analogy would work. "I think about a pattern I suppose. Each spell has a set path, so I just follow that it. What about you?"

"Me?" Entropy's frown deepened, as he glanced from her to the pile of books strewn at their hooves. He levitated up a small spell text book until it started to vibrate violently. "It's like I take the magic and smash it up."

"Smash it up?" In all her years of magic training, Twilight never heard of something so ridiculous at that. "Magic's not meant to be smashed up, Entropy."

Entropy flushed, pawing at the ground. "Well, maybe not smashed up, but it is all jumbled. But I don’t try to put it into a pattern like you."

"Huh? How do you expect the spell to work if you don't follow the pattern?" It was a valid question. There was no way in Equestria that magic could possibly work the way you want it to without a pattern to follow.

"It works." He said it confidently, as though his attempts at spells the past week had been every bit as effective as her own. Twilight doubted that his magic had ever really worked, but she decided to listen anyway.

Entropy lit his horn, allowing the sparks to dance and arch around the library. "I guess you can say I see all the pieces, floating around, then I slam them together and force them to take the shape I want." The golden magic condensed into a writhing ball of energy before dissipating.

Twilight raised an eyebrow, "Slam it together and force it to take the shape you want?" Somehow, Entropy's description seemed familiar, as though she had read something about that before. Then it hit her like a ton of bricks. Her head wheeled to the journal beside her hooves. "That's it!"

"What's it?" Entropy's voice shook ever so slightly. "Is this about your research?"

"Yup." Twilight turned her attention to Discord's journal again. The way he described chaos magic, it's eerily similar to how Entropy describes his own magic. Is it possible that anypony can use chaos magic? Oh, Celestia, I'm onto something big.

For the next few hours, they worked in companionable silence. This time however, Twilight was completely focused on the research. She was on the precipice of a breakthrough, and nothing was going to stop her. Nothing but reality that was.

"Twilight. Twilight!" Entropy's hoof shook her out of her reverie. He was leaning down to her eye level, looking more than a little concerned. "I'm going to hang out with Bulk and Cheese."

Her eyes widened, "Huh? Now? But I thought you weren't going until one."

Entropy pointed to the wall clock. "It is one, Twilight." He sighed, rubbing his temple with a hoof. "Promise me you'll get some rest?"

"But . . . the research!" She tapped a hoof pointedly against her latest pile of books.

"It can wait." Entropy jerked his head towards her loft. "Go and take a nap, you'll think better." He started to the door, "I'm taking Spike! Male bonding time and all."

Twilight scrambled to her hooves, "What? But I need him to find books!"

The stallion gave one of his booming laughs, "I'm sure you'll manage by yourself." With that, he stepped out the door and out of sight.

"Ponyfeathers." Twilight sighed, and turned her attention to the books again. Just as she was about to settle down, she caught herself thinking on the time. One o'clock, one o'clock . . . Where was I supposed to be at one o'clock? Then it hit her. Rarity's! Twilight scrambled out the door, and down the street to her friend's house. Of course Rarity would not mind if she was late, but Twilight certainly did. After all, no matter how important her research was, it meant nothing compared to her friends.

"This is going to be awesome!" Spike fist bumped the air while perched on Discord's back. "I've never been 'male bonding' before. What are we going to do?"

"Work out, I would imagine." Discord tried to remain optimistic that he would be wrong. There was nothing he detested quite as much as unnecessary physical activity. Spike's sudden kick on his left side made him wheel his head around, "What?"

"You're going the wrong way." Spike pointed to the bridge leading out of town. "We're meeting Bulk at the training field, not in town."

Discord took the child's continued tapping against sides as a signal to get a move on. "You know, I'm not your taxi."

"Yeah, you're way too bumpy for a taxi." Spike patted his mane like a dog. "But, it's a lot quicker this way, and we're already late."

"All right, all right." Discord snorted in annoyance, walking across the bridge to the fields beyond. It was oppressively warm out, far too hot to be wandering around the countryside with a baby dragon hitchhiking on one's back. Might as well get to talking, or this is going to be an incredibly boring trip. "So, how did you like my little prank earlier?"

"Brilliant." Spike chuckled slapping him on the neck. "I've never seen Twilight so surprised! It was perfect."

"Yes, I thought we might get a good laugh out of that. Though, I will admit, spaghetti's not my first choice." Discord laughed at the memory, then paused upon tasting the floral shampoo on his tongue. "Her tail doesn't taste good."

Spike leaned down to stare into his eyes. "Does anypony's?"

Discord shrugged as best he could carrying Spike. "Not really. But," He closed his eyes, still trying to get the taste out of his mouth, "it would have been better without the soap."

The child laughed and laughed. It was good to see him so relaxed around him, especially after the way he had thrown him to the ground the other day. But, he was not convinced the dragon really liked him yet. Perhaps a test was in order. "Say, Spike? Were you serious about my taking Twilight for a date?"

"WHAT?" Spike's claws began to twist his mane in uncomfortable spirals. "Well . . . yeah, I guess. I mean . . . Twilight likes you, you know." The words were nearly as jumbled as his own had been, and Discord could not help but chuckle.

"I know she does, I'm just starting to think that . . ." He gulped, looking away, "Never you mind, it's nothing important." For once in his life, he was not sure what he thought about the whole situation.

The rest of their trip was spent listening to Spike's rendition of his favorite comic book. Discord really could not complain, it was surprisingly enjoyable, especially the bits where Hum Drum nearly destroyed the world through his klutziness. It was simply delightful to hear how much chaos one bumbling assistant could cause. I have high hopes for you, Spike. High hopes.

They walked onto the training grounds; a kind of track in the middle of nowhere Ponyville. Discord took in the weights, jumps, hurdles, and sundry other exercise equipment with distain. How terribly dull. Before he really got a good look at the place, he was greeted by an overly enthusiastic Cheese Sandwich.

"Entropy! You made it." Cheese was hopping up and down with so much energy that Discord started to feel dizzy. "Are you ready to party?"

Discord rolled his eyes, bending down to allow Spike to clamber off of his back. "Last time I checked, physical training did not a party make."

Cheese, waved the thought away with a hoof. "Shoot, any task can be a party as long as you're doing it with friends. Besides," He jerked his head over to the grass where Bulk was lifting some weights. "Bulk needs our support." His emerald eyes took on a dreamy quality, "We're just like the girls, all gathering around to support one another."

"Sure we are." Discord cleared his throat, putting on his imitation of Cheese's enthusiastic expression. "Let's get to it!"

"That's the spirit." Cheese led them over to join Bulk and begin what promised to be a very long and exhausting afternoon.

"Sorry I'm late, Rarity, I—" Twilight stopped short upon entering the Boutique. The entire place looked as though a bomb had gone off. Clothes, ribbons, fabric, and papers strewn the usually tidy floor. Careful not to step on anything important, Twilight made her way inside. "Rarity? It's Twilight."

"Twilight?" Rarity's head appeared from around the corner to her sewing room. "Oh, I thought you decided not to come. Do come in."

Twilight treaded cautiously over to her, wading through the clutter until she reached her friend. Rarity was looking more than a little strung out, with her mane at frayed angles and a piece of measuring tape draped around her neck like a scarf. Twilight looked behind Rarity at the even more jumbled sewing room. "What in Equestria is going on?"

"Deadlines, Darling, deadlines. Nothing to worry about. I wouldn't miss our chat for the world." Rarity waved her in with the air of accepting some foreign dignitary.

Twilight settled herself down on the windowsill, watching the unicorn levitate supplies in all directions. "So, you said you wanted to talk to me. What about?"

"Isn't that obvious?" Rarity ceased her aerial display to pull up at stool across from her. Her lips parted in an almost predatory smile. "I wanted to talk to you about Entropy."

Twilight felt her heart leap inside her chest. "What about him?"

"Well, it's not every day you get an available stallion as your pupil for the month." Rarity leaned in closer, smile stretching from ear to ear now. "How are you getting along?"

"Good." They really had gone through a lot in a few short days. Through it all, Entropy had not only been supportive of her mistakes, but he had gladly helped her out whenever he could. And, even after yesterday's fiasco, he treated her just the same as always. Getting along with him was an understatement; it was a wonder she ever got on without him in the first place.

Rarity shook her head vigorously, threatening to shake her red spectacles off of her muzzle in the process. "No, no, no. I'm talking about romantically." She gave one of her overly theatrical sighs, clutching the fabric she was working on to her chest. "Ooooh. I'm just dying to hear all the juicy details."

"Details? Rarity, there aren't any juicy details." Though her mind flashed back to Entropy holding her yesterday in the castle and today's incident. That doesn't count, does it?

Rarity gave an uncharacteristic scoff, rolling her eyes. "Twilight, please. You and I both know that isn't true." Her hoof rested on Twilight's, "Come now, you can tell me. Do you have feelings for him?"

For a moment, Twilight thought about lying, saying that Entropy was no more than a student, but that would not do and she knew it. Entropy was different from any other pony she had met; yesterday had been proof enough of that. For hours after the incident, she could feel his hooves wrapped around her, and the soft smile he gave when he knew she was all right. It was greedy of her, but she wanted more. "I . . . I think I like him, not just as a friend. I know it's stupid; we just met after all. And I know I'm rushing into things and –"

"Twilight." Rarity stopped her with a hoof, "It's not stupid. Not every romance has to move slowly. You enjoy spending time with him, getting to know him, so why not ask him out?" She laughed, clapping Twilight on the back. "There's no harm in a little experimentation, is there?"

"No . . . I guess not." Twilight felt a mixture of guilt and relief at those words. Experimentation? What would happen if she "experimented", and it did not work out? Worse yet, what would happen if she did? If she did prove to be immortal, how would Entropy react? It was no longer a simple matter of liking somepony and dating them. Would anpony understand that? "Rarity. Can I . . . can I ask you something serious?"

"Serious?" Rarity's eyes flickered with surprise, then returned to their usual soft expression. "What is it?"

Twilight bit her lip, contemplating the words. "What if I told you that, as an alicorn, I'm like Celestia and Luna. That I," She gulped, sinking her head to her chest, "that I can't age like you. What would you do?"

Rarity gave a high pitched giggle, "You are so funny, Twilight. You just grew a set of wings. That doesn't make you immortal."

Twilight felt a stab of annoyance at her for the words, despite knowing their intent. Rarity had not felt the creeping darkness encircling her mind and corrupting her magic. She did not snap out of a daydream to find that she nearly became a more terrifying monster than Nightmare Moon. Rarity did not spend every minute of the past few days worrying about her position in life. Her situation, her worries, really were not relatable to anypony besides herself.

"Twilight?" Rarity waved a hoof in front of her face, frowning a little. "Are you all right?"

"Fine," she snapped. Then, flushing, she got to her hooves. "Sorry. Just, I'm going out. You're really busy, I should just leave you alone."
Rarity looked taken aback, "All right. Do stop by again."

Without another word, Twilight left the Boutique to stand outside in the sunshine once more. The heat felt good against her coat, and calmed her now frantic heartbeat. Relax, Twilight, relax. Don't need to lose it again. Gritting her teeth, she started out of town towards some peace and quiet.

It truly was a beautiful day; perfect for a long stroll. The steady thud of her hooves against the soft dirt lulled her into a kind of trance. For once, she did not care where she going as long as she was allowed to think. Despite her self-assurances, Entropy's kind words, and Discord's advice, she could not shake the nagging fear that had plagued her. All she wanted to do was find some way of returning life to some semblance of normal.

She paused as she reached the familiar crossroads to Sweet Apple Acres. Normal life, huh? Twilight could not help the smile from stretching across her face. Nopony in all of Equestria knew more about normal life then Applejack. Even if she did not understand all that was bothering her, Applejack would have some practical advice for her; she always did. At the very least she would be able to vent some of her frustration.

This is supposed to be good? Discord frowned at the mug of whatever it was with distain. It tasted like leftover dishwater, and had the same, off brown color. "Cheese, I know you're trying to be nice, but this tastes terrible."

Cheese leaned against the tree with a wicked grin on his face. "It's not supposed to be good tasting, it's supposed to be good for you."

Discord could have told him that the only thing good for him at the moment would be a long nap and a date with an ice pack. Their little training exercise had gone on for hours now, and it was becoming abundantly clear that his middle aged pony form could not keep up with the young stallions' enthusiasm. He moaned, lying flat against the grass. "I can't go on."

Bulk patted his back in what Discord could only assume was a comforting gesture. It came out as more of a bone jarring slap, but he did not have the heart to tell off the pegasus. "You'll be fine. Yeah!"

"Yeah." He muttered weakly, turning his head to Spike. "Spike, you still with me, buddy?"

Spike waved an arm weakly before allowing it to slap down on the ground once more. The poor kid had collapsed spread eagle the moment they finished. Though he had become their cheerleading squad for most of the second half of the workout, Spike had more than worn himself out.

Discord looked up at Cheese who settled down across from him and Bulk on the grass. A suspicious smile had stretched across the party pony's face. He groaned, "What? Don't tell me there's more."

"Nope. Just thought how fun this was." Cheese gave one of his carrying laughs that seemed to ooze good cheer. Then, slowly, it subsided. He rubbed his scarred hooves together, an almost glum expression taking over. "After what happened last year, well . . . I thought I'd never feel comfortable hanging around other stallions again."

His ears perked up, "What happened last year?" Bulk elbowed him hard in the ribs. Discord rounded on him. "WHAT?"

Cheese laughed again, causing them both to stare in surprise. "It's okay, I don't mind talking about it." His gaze drifted across the tree line towards Ponyville. "Pinkie's helped a lot with that. Just, I was starting to think I'd be afraid of making friends, with what happened to Milo."

"Oh, that friend of yours that got caught in the fire?" Discord waved the thought away with a hoof, "I don't think I'm the kind of pony to be caught in a fire. More likely the one to set it." He puffed out his considerably less muscular chest in an imitation of Bulk. "I can handle myself."

Apparently that was funny, because both the stallions burst into laughter. "What?" It was so strange to see any creature laughing at him. Most of his jokes did not go over half so well. "I'm strong! I kept up with you kids, didn't I?"

Cheese snorted, rolling his eyes. "Kids? You're not that much older than we are."

Discord raised an eyebrow. Seriously? Seriously? I'm old enough to be your great, great, great grandfather. He sighed, parting the blades of grass in a rather bored manner. "I'm well over twice your age. I'll call you what I want."

"Over twice my age? Really?" For a moment, Cheese stared open mouthed at him, then continued in a would-be-casual manner. "So, you been getting along with Twilight okay?"

Discord felt his heart leap in his chest as his mind rushed back to his little slip up. His hoof started to part the grass a little more vigorously. "Okay. I guess . . ."

Bulk looked like a foal in a candy shop, eyes darting from Entropy to Cheese. "Fluttershy said you really, really liked Twilight." He flexed his biceps, "She knows a lot about that kind of stuff. Yeah!"

"What? I . . . I don't know if I like her like that." Discord looked to Spike for backup, but the dragon was now fast asleep. Way to back me up, Spike. Bulk and Cheese continued to stare relentlessly at him. Though he hated to admit it, Bulk had a point. Perhaps it was time to organize his thoughts. His mind raced back to this morning's incident. That might be a good place to start. He proceeded cautiously, "Say, Cheese? Why do . . . why do stallions put their muzzles on mare's rumps? What's the point?"

Bulk gave a very girly gasp as though Discord had just uttered a string of curse words. Cheese's eyes immediately darted to Spike who was still out cold. Then, he leaned in close, "Seriously? You're a professor and you don't know that?"

Discord was starting to feel like an idiot again. Of course he had spent years around ponies before, but it was not like he studied the idiosyncrasies of stallion behavior. "I don't know. I'm a hermit that lives in his apartment, teaches class, and comes home. I've never even dated a mare before, okay?" It was sadly, very close to the actual truth. He never really bothered interacting with other creatures unless it was for a good laugh.

That got both of their attention. Cheese's expression flickered from surprise, to embarrassment. "Sorry, Entropy. I assumed that you had experience in that area. But, I guess I can explain it." A bright flush started across his young face, "You see, stallions do that when they're asking for an invitation, you know? To get personal with a mare if you catch my drift."

Discord felt his heart skip a beat. That's what I was doing? It was a small wonder Twilight had not kicked him to Tartarus for trying a stunt like that. Instead, she had just looked at him. His stomach dropped at the realization. Oh, gods. She wanted me to continue? I definitely can't do that. He gulped, burrowing his face into his hooves. "I'm in trouble."

"What did you do?" Cheese sounded very suspicious. "Entropy?"

The words came out before he could stop himself, "I might have done that to Twilight this morning."

"You didn't." Cheese rolled on the grass, moaning something about stupid professors, and Bulk gave another girly scream, completely obscuring his head in his tiny hooves.

Discord waved a hoof dismissively, "It was an accident. I played a prank on her, and was helping clean her tail up, and I really liked the way her tail smelled and," He gulped, realizing how incriminating his story sounded, "It was really, really hard to resist. I didn't know why I did it, I just did it. Honestly I had no idea it meant that."

Cheese shook his head, giving him a comforting pat on the back. "Guess you'll just have to beg for mercy."

"But, she wasn't mad at me." Discord bit his lip, remembering Twilight's actions that morning. I think she liked it. Gods, I think I liked it.

"WHAT?" Cheese leaned in close, staring him down. "So she really does have a crush on you. Pinkie was right."

"You gossip about Twilight with your wife?" Discord rubbed his temple with a hoof. How low you have fallen.

Cheese waved the thought away with a hoof. "That doesn't matter. The real question is, do you like her?"

He moaned, "I don't know! Why does everypony keep asking me that?"

"Because it's something you need to think about." Cheese sighed, "But it doesn't have to be right now. You'll figure it out, and, if you want to talk, we'll be there. Right, Bulk?"

"Yeah!" Bulk clapped him on the shoulder, smiling in that overly caring way of his.

"Thanks, guys. But, I don't know if liking Twilight's all that great of an idea." For a lot of reasons.

"Hmmm. Well, you can't predict the future, Entropy. Don't give up before you even start." Cheese got to his hooves, looking around at the now setting sun. "We should probably head back."

Discord reluctantly got to his hooves, feeling the limbs shake at the sudden exertion. He hobbled over to Spike, nudging him with a hoof. The dragon was as sound asleep as ever. Snorting in frustration, he made to scoop Spike up, but Cheese held out a hoof. "I'll get him." With a much smoother motion than Discord could have managed, the young stallion placed the still sleeping dragon on his back. They made their way back towards town together, too tired for conversation.

With each step he took, Discord felt a shock of pain going up his legs. The day had been a great deal more taxing than he originally planned; both physically and mentally. Though, even he had to admit, it was nice to spend time with ponies that considered him a friend instead of public enemy number one. Perhaps, with all the added encouragement, he might manage to learn harmony magic after all.

The thought made him chuckle a little. Imagine me, the master of chaos performing harmony magic. Twilight has no idea what kind of miracle she's asking for. Poor, ignorant mare. As they walked closer to Ponyville, his thoughts focused on the warm bed waiting for him when he got back. That, and the promise of some liniment was all the motivation he needed.

Sweet Apple Acres had never looked so good. Despite the recent storm, the trees were trimmed neatly back, fences mended, and even the overgrowth around the posts was trimmed back. She's been busy. Twilight's eyes darted towards the overlooking hills and spotted Applejack reclined under a particularly large apple tree. Twilight grinned, cantering over to her. "Applejack! Hey, Applejack!"

Applejack looked up, returning the smile as Twilight pulled up. "Howdy, Twilight. You need somethin'?"

"Yes and no." Twilight found herself panting a little more than she cared to admit. It took a few moments, but she managed to stammer. "I was hoping to get your honest opinion about something."

"Well, you've come to the right pony." Applejack patted the grass beside her.

"Thanks." Twilight joined her, looking out over the spectacular orchard scene below. Though she tried to steady her nerves, should could not help but glance nervously around. "The orchard looks nice."

Applejack puffed out her chest, a confident grin on her face. "Yup. We've been workin' real hard this year. An with Flim 'round, well, there ain't no tellin' how much better Sweet Apple Acres will be." She stopped, looked around Twilight as though just seeing her for the first time. "Say, Sugarcube, where's that student of yers?"

A tinge of embarrassment came with the thought of Entropy. The poor stallion was probably so confused with all the mixed signals she had given him over the past few days. It was probably for the best he was having time to himself. "He's with Cheese and Bulk. They're doing some kind of physical training." She let out a heavy sigh, "I didn't want to join them."

Twilight felt Applejack's hoof rest on her shoulder. "That don't sound like you, Sugarcube."

"Urgh. I haven't been acting like myself for days." Ever since her mind had wrapped around that poisonous subject of immortality, she could not be herself. There was no way the new her could be as carefree and happy as the old her, at least not completely. But Discord had been right, she could not dwell on that her whole life. So why was it so difficult to forget? Twilight buried her face between her hooves. "I don't know what's wrong with me."

Applejack rubbed her back gently, "You want to talk about it?"

She nodded slowly. It would be okay, Applejack would listen to her. Then, as though her mental flood gates opened up, she began to talk more than she had in months. It was closer to a rant than a conversation, but she could not stop herself. Everything that had bothered her for the past few days came out; her insecurities as a teacher, her attraction to Entropy, her fear of failure, and of course, the entire immortality fiasco. She had just finished her narration of yesterday's near disastrous incident when Applejack stopped her.

Her eyes were as wide as saucers, "Are you tellin' me that you were goin' to end up like Nightmare moon if Entropy hadn't done somethin'?"

"Yes." She squeaked, burrowing her head in her hooves. "I didn't realize it, Celestia never told me, but my magic corrupts more easily now that I'm an alicorn." The image of the dark tendrils reaching out to her sent an involuntary shiver up her spine. "It was the worst feeling in the world. Like I was drowning in a sea of my own thoughts with no way out."

Applejack nodded sagely, though it was clear she did not understand anything about the magic. "Entropy's pretty talented to snap you out of somethin' like that. How'd he do it?"

Twilight's throat felt tight as she spoke, "I don't . . . I don't remember. When I woke up, he was holding me and crying. I think he was really scared." I don't blame him.

"He must really like you. An, from the sounds of it, you must really like him." Applejack rolled on her back, staring up at the lazily drifting clouds. "Sounds to me like he'd be real good for you."

It's not so simple, Applejack. Twilight contemplated how best to explain her problem, "I'm afraid Applejack. I'm afraid to hurt him, afraid of what would happen if I turn out to be immortal." Her heart began to pound faster than ever, "How can I go around being a normal mare, going on dates, laughing and joking around with that hanging over me?"

"Twilight. You really are overthinkin' this." Applejack turned to face her, a soft smile on her face. "All you can do is be yerself. Don't you think somepony as smart as Entropy knows what he's gettin' into hittin' on the princess of magic herself? Don't you think he's figured out what's botherin' you?" She snorted, "Shoot, I don't think he could have stopped that little surge of yers if he didn't care for you an understand what's on yer mind."

"I guess you're right." Twilight gulped, digesting Applejack's words. If that was true, then maybe, just maybe she had a shot at it. That did not erase the fact that she had made a bumbling idiot of herself in front of him. "I think I'd like to try, but I've been sending him so many mixed signals. I think he's really starting to get confused."

Applejack raised an eyebrow, "Mixed signals?"

"Yeah." Today's incident came to the forefront of her mind. That had to be the definition of mixed signals. "Like today, Entropy was cleaning my tail."

An expression of admiration and amusement stretched across her face. "What? You let him do something like that?"

"Not normally, but he thought it'd be funny to tie noodles into a braid since I was so busy with the research." Twilight felt a little guilty about ignoring her student for a wild goose chase. She made a mental note to try and improve the next time around. "Anyway, when he was working, he sort of put his chin on my rump . . ."

"He WHAT? Twilight, that's harassment!" Applejack's expression of terror was beyond priceless, and Twilight could not help but giggle at it.

"Well, he didn't do it intentionally; it just happened." Twilight giggled louder still, "He jumped back so fast when he realized it. I've never seen any stallion so embarrassed in my life." A sinking feeling hit her when she thought of the near terror on Entropy's face. "He's really scared about my reaction. I don't blame him after I snapped at him yesterday. And, it's not like," She flushed, stammering the words, "it's not like I didn't like it. I kinda wish he had kept going . . ."

"You wanted him to keep going?" Applejack just stared open mouthed at her for what felt like an eternity. Then, slowly, she seemed to regain her composure. "You must really like him, huh?"

"Yeah." Twilight rested her head on her legs, staring out at the sun lit orchard below. "I think I want to give him a try, Applejack. He's different from any stallion I've ever met. It's like, like he's made for me, you know?"

"I can't rightly say that I do, Sugarcube. But, maybe someday." She mirrored Twilight's posture, smiling down at her farm. "If I did like a stallion like that, well now, I don't think I'd beat 'round the bush with him. I'd tell it to him straight, and take what came."

Twilight nodded, "Yeah, you're right." She shot up, puffing out her chest confidently. "I'm going to tell him, Applejack, I'm going to do it."

"There's the spirit." Applejack waved goodbye as Twilight made her way down the hill. "Say, Sugarcube?"


Applejack winked, "You do remember you can fly, right?"

Twilight glanced down at her wings, feeling a flush stretch across her face. "Uh, yeah. I knew that!" With a running start, she took to the sky, enjoying the odd sensation of the warm breeze against her wings. Flight was one thing she simply could not get used to. A part of her enjoyed the connection with the ground, and another part enjoyed the freedom flight offered just as much. In the same way, she supposed that was how being an alicorn was. It had its benefits, but there were still some things she could not get used to. At the moment, it was like Applejack said; she could only be herself. The pieces would come together someday, they had to.

Princess Luna stood, admiring her current masterpiece with satisfaction. A little tweaking on her part had allowed the Solaris constellation to shine with a purity not seen in months; a perfect display for a cool summer's night. She strode along the garden path, enjoying the reflections her moon cast upon the blades of grass and the pond. It was all peace tonight, and nothing could break that. Except, perhaps her sister.

"Luna, I must seek your counsel." Celestia flew down beside her, white coat glistening like a string of pearls in the moonlight. Luna had to admit, the look suited her. Seemingly ignorant of her disturbance, Celestia plowed on, "I have received a most troubling letter from Discord."

"Discord?" Luna could not help but snort a laugh. Their resident spirit of chaos never sent troubling letters. At worst, they were mildly inappropriate, but never troubling. "Truly, sister, I see no cause for alarm."

Celestia gave a creditable impersonation of a frustrated child, stamping her hoof against the grass, and holding up a piece of parchment. "Read it, Lulu, and you will see what I mean."

Rolling her eyes, Luna humored her older sister. The fine calligraphy was indeed Discord's writing, though the decided lack of childlike drawings in the margins did take her by surprise. "I see he has learned to compose a professional letter."

Her hoof stamped against the ground once more. "Luna! Just read it."

"Fine, as you wish, as you wish." Luna cleared her throat, and began to read. "'Dear overlord Celestia,'" She sniggered a laugh, "I thought he would tire of calling you that."

Celestia huffing, looking away and mumbling something along the lines of, "I am not an overlord."

Her eyes darted back to the parchment, "'Don't you worry your oversized head about my end of the bargain. I keep my word. You will be happy to note that I will be,'" Luna frowned, deciphering the overly artistic calligraphy. "'dismantling the mechanisms of harmony magic under our dear princess Twilight's tutelage.' I do not see the problem here, Tia."

"Read on." Celestia jerked her head back to the letter.

Sighing, Luna continued, "'Your continued ignorance continues to astound me; your letter is proof enough of that.'" Luna felt her heart skip a beat. What does he mean? "'I am starting to wonder if you ever cared for that pupil of yours. Do you really know her? Did you ever pause to consider the consequences of your decision?'" The words struck her like a punch to the gut. It was uncharacteristically harsh coming from Discord.

Curious to see where this was going, she read on, "'Not once did you seek my council on her ascension. Not once did you ask for my opinion on the matter. I could have told you it was a bad idea, that she was too young, but you refused to see me as anything more than a fool.'" It was strange, but she felt a sudden connection to the draconequus. Many centuries ago, Celestia had refused her council in much the same way. She glanced over at her sister, now staring hard at the ground. Oh, Tia, how this must pain you.

Her voice shook as she read the next bit, "'You have been blinded, Celestia, by your own stubborn independence, and mark my words it shall be your downfall.'" It took her a moment to regain the composure to read on, "'If you still do not know what I speak of, I shall not enlighten you further. Needless to say, if I had not been here, your precious student would have been lost to us forever.' It ends there."

Celestia bit her lip, nodding slowly. Her gaze met hers, "What do you make of it, sister? Does he speak truth, or is this another of his tricks?"

"I cannot say." Luna frowned at the parchment, handing it back to Celestia. "I fear there is some truth to the matter. Twilight is young, and perhaps unsure, but," She chuckled weakly, "Twilight would not allow herself to be lost. Her friends would never let her slip so far."

"True, though for Discord to speak in such a manner . . ." Celestia frowned, looking more serious than she had in months. "Do you think he will return to his old ways, sister?"

"No, Tia, I do not." She shrugged, starting down the path once more. "He is bored; you said so yourself. Perhaps he tries to entice us for sport. Do not think upon it too much, sister."

Celestia nodded, flying back towards the castle. Luna watched her go, heart heavy. Though she believed what she told her sister, she could not stop the nagging suspicion that Discord was up to something else. It could be another one of his tricks, but perhaps, just perhaps, he was genuinely concerned for the country. Either way, she would keep a watchful eye. There was too much at stake to let a warning like this one slide. Luna looked up into her sky, remembering the many similar nights Discord, Celestia, and herself had spent in each other's company. It seemed so very long ago now. My old friend, what trouble have you gotten yourself into?

It Always Falls Apart

View Online

[Authors forewarning: This chapter contains soft core gore in the last section. Not enough to warrant the gore tag, but there is blood.]

"Entropy. Time to get up. Don't want to miss the setup." A soft, elderly voice drifted into the room like a wisp of smoke.

Groaning, Discord opened his eyes to see Mrs. Plumsworth's head poking around the door. Her powder blue mane was done up in a tight bun and pressed under her bonnet; a sure sign that she was ready to start her day. "What setup?" Wincing, he somehow managed to sit up despite the stinging pain in his limbs. A quick glance out the window showed that Celestia had yet to raise the sun. "Urgh, what time is it?"

"Four." She said it with her usual sweet, dimply smile that no creature could possibly resist. "The setup for the festival starts just after dawn. I thought it would be quite the treat to walk over together."

Treat? For who? Discord rolled out of bed, gasping at the sudden pain shooting up his hooves as they struck the wooden floor. He limped over to the door to join her. "What are we doing for this festival anyway?" Admittedly, Discord had not paid much attention to Cheese's rant yesterday on the upcoming festivities. It all sounded too structured for him.

"Oh, you'll be helping the other young men with the setup. We ladies will be working on the activities." Discord watched her climb down the stairs with some trepidation. It was a miracle the wizened earth pony got around as well as she did as small and frail as she was. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, she shuffled into the kitchen.

Reluctantly, Discord followed her. He watched her pack a picnic blanket full of the mysterious sandwiches she loved so much. Despite staying with her for well over a week, he had yet to discover what vile substance she filled them with.

Knowing full well he would be scolded for touching anything in her kitchen, he sat at the table and watched her work. She set down a steaming cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal. "There you are, dearie. Eat up."

Really? What am I, seven? Discord rolled his eyes and began to eat the tasteless oats. "So, you and the ladies going for a picnic?"

"Oh, yes." Mrs. Plumsworth giggled, "I've got a big game of checkers planned with the whole gang. I'm gonna knock their socks off." She stacked a mug of cider into the basket, and continued in that oh so sweet voice of hers, "You and the princess have a hot date planned?"

Discord spluttered on his coffee, "What? No, nothing like that."

"Best get on it, boy. A handsome young stallion like yourself doesn't deserve to be left all by his lonesome." She waved a hoof in an overly frisky manner that made his skin crawl. "Kiss her on the muzzle for me."

The memory of Twilight's muzzle to his floated to the forefront of his mind. It had been easy to tease her in the moment, but now he was deeply regretting it. Getting that close to her again might be dangerous in more ways than one. "I'll think about it." Yes, he would think about it. It and what an idiot he had been for ever agreeing to this little bet.

"That's it!"

Spike jerked awake, peering blearily around the darkened loft. Though he had heard Twilight's voice, the alicorn was nowhere to be seen. Getting to his feet, he made his way slowly down the stairs and stopped. The library was a complete wreck; papers, books, and parchment strewn everywhere like the aftermath of some great explosion. There in the center of it all, grinning manically was Twilight.

She turned to Spike, looking decidedly unhinged. "I've done it!"

He cringed, afraid of the answer. "Done what?"

"Found the truth behind it all, Spike." Her eyes shone with unbridled excitement. "It was right in front of me the whole time." A piece of parchment levitated towards him, and he caught it. "Send that to Discord."

"Him again? Why?" Spike frowned at the sloppily written note. "We should tell Celestia."

She clasped a hoof to his mouth, eyes darting nervously around the library. "No, no, no, no. She mustn't know, Spike. She mustn't know."

Yup. She's gone into intense paranoia mode again. Spike sighed, rolling his eyes. "Fine, I'll send it." He blew a jet of green flames on the parchment, sending it away. "There."

Twilight gave a wicked smile, rubbing her hooves together like some movie villain. "Excellent, excellent."

Spike loved Twilight like a sister, but some days he wondered about her. He glanced at the clock overhead. Four in the morning? "Twilight? Did you sleep at all?"

"I don't need sleep." Her eye twitched ever so slightly as she began to levitate the books back to the shelves in all the wrong positions. "Not when I've got the truth at my hooves."

"The truth?" Spike was about to demand some answers when a jet of flames shot out of his mouth again. "That was fast." To his surprise, the letter that came was the exact same one that Twilight had send, with a small note attached. "Huh, he sent a note."

Twilight leaned in over his shoulder, eyes bulging. "What does it say?"

"'My dear Twilight.

Dragon flames again? How dreadfully uninspired. Do think of a better way of reaching me at four in the morning than that.


"WHAT?" Twilight levitated the note to her muzzle, frowning deeply. When she did, another line of text appeared on the bottom of the parchment in purple ink.

"'If you must send me a letter, slip it inside your copy of 50 Sinfully Satisfying Deserts. Once you've done that, spin around five times counterclockwise, three times clockwise while singing 'I'm a pretty pony.' And do put some effort into it.'"

Spike could not stop the burst of laughter from coming out. "'I'm a pretty pony?' Priceless! Should I get a tutu?"

Twilight shot him a particularly dirty look before walking over to the shelves housing the cook books. She held up the violently pink book, complete with lacy trim. "Why this book?"

"Who knows?" Spike walked over to her to inspect the book. Other than the unnaturally gaudy cover, there was nothing particularly chaotic about it. "Maybe he just likes sweets?"

Her eyes rolled clean over, "Of course he does. Don't you remember the chocolate milk rain and cotton candy clouds?"

"Oh yeah." Spike waved her on. "Let's see if this works."

"Okay, here goes nothing." Twilight slammed the scroll into the book, handed it to him and began to twirl in the designated pattern. She was as uncoordinated as always, and nearly fell on her muzzle after the first three spins. When she had finished, he glanced down at the book.

Discord's snide voice emanated from the cook book, causing Spike to drop it like a snake. "You call that spinning? Please, you'll have to do better than that."

Twilight snorted, stamping on the book a few times. That just set off a fit of laughter from the book. "Oh! How pathetic."

"Urgh! Fine! Some friend you are." Twilight took a step back and began the routine again. It took three tries before the book stopped complaining. After the third try, it simply went quiet.

Spike prodded it gently with a foot, using all the caution of approaching an angry lion. A shower of golden sparks danced skyward, and the book vanished in a puff of smoke. They coughed for a few seconds until it cleared. The burn on the wooden floor was the only evidence that the cook book had ever been there. "Well, that was . . . interesting."

Twilight nodded slowly, looking down at the burn. Her eyes widened as she stroked the spot. "Part of that was harmony magic."

Spike felt his stomach drop. The last thing Equestria needed was an unruly draconequus using harmony magic. "He can use harmony magic?"

A small smirk stretched broke around the corners of Twilight's mouth. "He can." She wheeled around, trotting over to her jumbled pile of books and papers. "This is perfect! I can prove my theory now."

"What's your theory?" Spike wanted to slap her for keeping him suspense. What did a draconequus using harmony magic have to do with her theory? He had a sinking feeling that Twilight was hiding something from him again. "Twilight, this isn't about your magic corrupting, is it?"

Twilight gave an unusually high pitched giggle. "Oh, yes, Spike. That and so much more . . ."

Judging from Twilight's intent focus on her notes, Spike decided it was best to leave her be. Besides, it was far too early for any sensible creature to be up; well apart from Applejack. He dragged himself up the stairs to the loft once more. A little sleep would do him some good. It would do Twilight a lot of good, though he doubted she was about to take the hint. Whatever she was researching, it had to be important. He had a multitude of questions for the alicorn. But, for now he would leave them be; they would keep for a few more hours.

When Discord envisioned a setup, he had thought of setting up a small tent, perhaps cordoning off some grass for the activities, and being done; definitely not hard labor. That illusion vanished the instant he arrived at the park and was greeted by Cheese donned in his trusty hardhat. He raised an eyebrow, "A little overzealous, aren't we, Cheese?"

"No, silly. I'm just prepared." Cheese patted a mountain of blueprints tucked under a hoof. "Lots to build today."

"How," Discord considered the word, "delightful." Despite the short walk from the house to the park, his legs were screaming in protest. Their little exercise had seemed a tolerable idea at the time, but now he was starting to think Cheese wanted to torment him. Discord limped alongside him, keeping pace as best he could. "Pray tell what city are we constructing today?"

"Uh . . ." Cheese looked taken aback. Discord rolled his eyes, gesturing at the stack of papers. Cheese's emerald eyes lit up, "Oh, you mean the blueprints! All kinds of cool stuff. There's six large tents that need setting up, a dance floor to be built, and a little stage for the kid's show."

"And we're going to do this in one day?" Of course, something as simple as that would take only a few snaps of his talons, but he did not think ponies were quite that efficient. Besides, ponies had a naturally tendency to chat away their productivity rather than actually accomplishing anything of note.

Cheese puffed out his chest, stretching to his fullest height which still left his withers a good inch shorter than his. "Please, we'll get it done by the end of the morning."

"The end of the morning? My but you are ambitious." Inwardly he cursed his luck. That would mean an entire morning of grueling physical labor with his stiff joints. Not exactly something to look forward to. He watched as Cheese trotted over to his wife to discuss something, Equestria knew what.

An early morning haze had fallen over the fast awakening town. Mrs. Plumsworth had not been wrong about getting there early. Already a steady stream of ponies were making their way onto the grassy thoroughfare they were now standing on. Discord's ears perked up when he saw the teacher, Cheerilee if he was not mistaken, complaining to a pair of mares by the park fountain.

"It's not like I'm ungrateful, Lyra, I just want a break!" Cheerilee stamped a hoof against the well-worn path.

Lyra snorted, waving the thought away with a teal hoof. "You're Ponyville's teacher, it makes sense to have you watching the kids."

"Yeah." Her friend who resembled the candy tattooed on her flank nodded sagely. "You're the only pony around who actually understands those line dances."

Cheerilee tugged at her mane, glancing longingly to the group of mares gathering under one of the trees. "But any townspony can teach the dances. I thought I might help out the mares this year."

Discord had heard more than enough. Here was a golden opportunity to tactfully avoid manual labor. He sauntered over to them as casually as his aching joints would allow. "You ought to go enjoy yourself, Cheerilee."

The mare wheeled around, flushing crimson when she saw him. "Entropy? I, uh didn't think you were listening."

"Sorry, I happened to overhear." He stroked his chin, putting on his best concerned expression. "As a fellow educator, I thought I'd come over and offer my assistance."

The teal mare raised an eyebrow, "Your assistance?"

"Correct." His eyes darted around the park, noting the first fillies and colts trailing in with their parents. How hard could foalsitting for a few hours be? If anything, it would be a refreshing break from the monotonous routine of pony life. He looked Cheerilee in the eye, "Why don't you let me take over the dance instruction? That would give you the whole morning off to work with your friends here."

Cheerilee squealed in an almost filly like display of excitement. "Yes! That is, if you don't mind, Entropy."

"Not in the least. I'm living in Ponyville for the month, I might as well help out where I can. Besides," He glanced over to where Cheese was starting to round up a few stallions, "I strained myself rather badly yesterday. I could use the break."

"Hold on a minute!" The mint pony stepped forward, giving him the stink eye. "How do you know Ponyville line dances?"

He waved the thought away with a hoof, "Please, I've studied plenty of line dances over the years. They're all essentially the same." That of course was a downright lie. Dances, like local festivals and traditions were remarkably varied. But, he was certain he could make something up, he always did.

Cheerilee stepped between them, staring pleadingly at her friend. "Bon Bon, let him try. Please. I really want to work today."

"Okay, but, don't blame me if he screws things up." Bon Bon started to the group of mares with Lyra, still eyeing Discord suspiciously.

Cheerilee grinned at him. "Thanks so much. Just teach them the simplest ones you know. And remember, positive reinforcement."

"Of course." Discord could scarcely hide the smirk stretching across his face. Positive reinforcement his hoof. Children need to be instilled with fear and reverent awe, not "positively reinforced." Sniggering to himself, he started over to where the children were gathering. Today was going to prove quite interesting.

Running errands was a necessary part of Spike's daily ritual. On any given day, he could expect to be sent just about anywhere and everywhere at a moment's notice. He did not mind, in fact he relished being useful to Twilight. But, he was fast growing tired of making excuses for her whenever she wanted to avoid reality. Such was the case today.

Around seven thirty, Twilight had roused him from his bed and told him to inform the others she would be late. Try as he may to explain the importance of being on time to organize the mare's half of the setup, it was no use. So he had trotted over to the park as fast as his half-awake legs would take him. Needless to say, Twilight's excuse was unpopular, though the townsponies did not seem ready to argue with Equestria's newest princess so early in the morning.

Walking back to the library, he could not think of a time when Twilight missed a town event for research, especially when it was her job to organize part of it. He opened the door slowly and stepped onto the crowded floor. It was even worse than he left, and Twilight stood in the middle of it, levitating two pieces of parchment and tapping a hoof to her chin. "What am I missing? What am I missing?"

"Uh, Twilight. Are you okay?" Spike stepped carefully over the books until he reached her side. He tugged pointedly at her wing, "I delivered the message."

"You're back." Twilight dropped the parchment to the floor, giving him a Cheshire grin that made him cringe. Such a look generally preceded a highly unpleasant experiment. She lowered her head to his eye level, and glanced over him as though she were going to buy him at the market. "Tell me, Spike. Is dragon fire magic, or is it just fire?"

"What?" The question was so random, so out of the blue, he honestly did not know what to say. Was dragon fire magic? Spike realized with a lurch of his stomach that he did not know the answer. I'm a dragon! I should know all about dragon fire. Feeling rather stupid, he stammered, "Well, I use it to send letters, but there's no spells or anything, I just think about who I'm sending it to, and it goes."

"Interesting." Twilight began to scribble furiously on a new sheet of parchment, casting the occasional glance towards him.

Urgh! She'll be at this all day if I don't do something. Spike decided to settle for drastic measures, and grabbed a particularly valuable history text lying on the floor. "Twilight! Enough!"

She looked up, and giggled in the high pitched, fake manner she had been using all day. "Spike, what are you doing with that first edition of Lyle Lessly's Guide to the Past?"

"Well, Entropy made this crazy bet with me." Yes, Entropy would be one to make a crazy bet. The stallion was half insane, that he was certain of. "He said I couldn't blow up a book with my fire as fast as he could with his unicorn magic." He fingered the purple cover lovingly, "I think I can top him."

Twilight shot him a dirty look, "You wouldn't dare."

Spike blew a jet of green flames extremely close to the book's ageing spine. "Wouldn't I?"

"Give it here!" She lunged forward, and attempted to snatch it from him, but he was quicker. He held the book at arm's length, grinning wickedly back at her. Seemingly conceding defeat, Twilight took a step back and glowered at him. "What do you want?"

"You need to go to the set up and help the mares organize. All this," He gestured to the piles of books and notes, "can wait until you get back." His words seem to irritate Twilight even more, but he knew she had to hear them. Though she was kind, and generally thoughtful of others, Twilight was quick to become obsessed with things that did not really matter. "Our friends come first, remember?"

Slowly, almost reluctantly, Twilight nodded. "You win, we'll go to the set up." She walked towards the door and outside into the sunlight.

Spike dropped the book, trotting quickly after her. "That's the spirit, Twilight! Now that you're on board, this day's going to fly by."

She gave her first genuine smile all morning as they started out towards the park. "Thanks, Spike." Then, a small smirk stretched the corners of her mouth. "Fly by eh? So, the faster we get this done, the faster I can finish my research?"

"I guess . . ." He glanced nervously behind them at the library. "But, we should just focus on doing a good job for the festival, Twilight."

Twilight did not reply, but merely chuckled to herself, trotting ahead. Spike rolled his eyes, running after her. Why do I have a bad feeling about this?

Marvelous, simply marvelous. Discord watched with some satisfaction as Applejack's sister started screaming at the snobby earth pony filly sporting a tiara. A crowd of their little cronies had gathered around to watch the fight. Even he had to be impressed with how rapidly the children were spiraling out of control. It could not have been better if he had planned it himself. So he leaned against the large oak tree and watched the display from a safe vantage point.

One of the Crusaders, Scoot-something or other had stepped in to stop her friend. Discord groaned. Come on, let her have a go at it. You're ruining all the fun. Judging from the snooty filly's practically feral expression, she was not giving an inch. Children never ceased to amuse him. They were natural fountains of chaos sent from the heavens to cast their parents' orderly lives into a state of sweet disharmony. Every time he watched them, he could not stopper the desire to let them run amok.

Many centuries ago, he had tried just that. Celestia was not pleased to discover that her throne room had been desecrated by a mob of wayward toddlers from the village. Though she tried to scold him for letting them loose, she had laughed so hard that any desire to punish him was lost. Discord frowned at the memory. After all these centuries, he really had been the only one of them who had not changed. He missed the old Celestia, the fun Celestia, not the cantankerous overlord he knew today.

"That's it, I'm goin' to get you!" Discord looked up in time to see the Apple Filly lunge towards her adversary.

Oops. I let them go too far. The last thing he wanted was to be scolded by Twilight for allowing the children to physically harm each other. He called out to them loudly, but without shouting, projection was his strong suit after all. "Oh, my? Trouble in paradise?"

The children all seemed to freeze in place, whipping their heads around to stare at him. I've still got it. Smirking, he adjusted the glasses on his muzzle. He feigned surprise at their incredulous expressions, waving them on with a hoof. "Don't mind me, continue beating each other senseless."

The snotty filly snorted disapprovingly, glowering at him as though he were a distasteful piece of trash. "And just who are you?"

"Me?" Discord strode over to them, mentally calculating which ones would be causing him the most trouble. "Professor Entropic State. But you may address me as Professor State, or your majesty." Yes, that was a title more befitting a being as handsome and powerful as himself. Not nearly as distasteful as draconequus or old man. He bowed theatrically, then gave a booming laugh that set all of them back a step. That's right, be afraid. The master of chaos himself is before you.

Apple Bloom gasped, waving at him as though he were some kind of road side attraction. "You're that stallion that was makin' out with Twilight!"

What? Discord felt his heart leap in his chest. Does she even know what that means? He felt his face heat up as every one of their eyes focused on him. "We weren't making out, alright? She stole my glasses. Regardless," He cleared his throat, "today you are fortunate enough to have me as your dance instructor."

"You?" A peppermint maned mare Twist looked horror struck, "Wherth Cheerilee?"

Discord rolled his eyes, doing a credible impersonation of her lisp, "Thee's taking a break."

Once again, the tiara filly looked as though she might be sick. "Why should we listen to the likes of you?"

"Me?" Do you know who you are talking to? If he was in his true form, there would be none of this incessant whining. Entertainingly chaotic or not, he had to put these snots in their place. He lit his horn, allowing the sparks of golden magic to arch into the air and ricochet off of the ground in every direction.

The effect was instantaneous, as the children scattered like sheep. Slowly, he allowed the magic to subside. "I'm afraid I don't have the best control of my magic. If you don't want to dance, we could always practice levitation." He stroked his goatee as though considering the idea, "I've never tried levitating a child before. I wonder if you're fire proof. . ."

"No!" They shouted in almost complete unison.

Discord grinned wickedly. "Then we're in agreement." He stepped forward, with all the air of a general organizing his troops. "All right. Today I will teach you the most complicated and time honored dance known to pony kind; the Summerset Tolt." He shook his head, "Sadly some of you may not finish."

"The what now?" Applejack's annoying little sister seemed bent on usurping him. "What kind of dance is that?"

It was a valid question, and one Discord could not so readily answer. Being locked in stone for centuries had the unfortunate consequence of dulling his ability to learn modern dances. This particular one was from the time before his banishment. Instead of an explanation, he puffed out his chest confidently. "The kind that separated the stallions from the colts, the wheat from the chaff." He laughed so loudly the ponies closest to him had to cover their ears. "Colts to the left, fillies to the right! Make a line!" Today was going to be interesting.

Twilight liked to consider herself a multitasker. After all, there were not many ponies in Equestria with the ability to work as a librarian, uphold royal duties, and research magic all at the same time. Today however, she felt hopelessly single minded. While she was in the library, all she could focus on was her research. Now that she was outside in the park, with the mares awaiting her every order, the setup was all she could think about.

She was moving at a good, steady pace, but all the mares around her were moving like Tank without his propeller. It was infuriating to say the least. She patrolled the various stations like a shark around schools of fish. Her eyes fell to Rarity who was attempting to wrap red ribbons around the rings for the ring toss. "Rarity! What are you doing? Ribbons aren't on the to do list."

Rarity rolled her eyes, finishing off the bow. "I know, Darling. But I thought they could use a little pizazz."

"No pizzaz!" Twilight levitated the box of ribbons away from her, scowling until Rarity cringed a little. "You're supposed to be doing the check list, then moving on. We don't have time for dilly dallying!"

"Darling, this isn't a race you know." Rarity gestured around at the sunlit park where the mares were working. Each group was smiling and laughing amongst themselves, slowly moving through their assigned tasks. "This is about socialization as well."

"We can socialize when we're done," Twilight snapped, grabbing the box of ribbons. Before Rarity could argue some more, she took off at a fast trot. Why am I the only pony who cares about getting this done? At this rate, it'll take all day. I need to get back to my research.

Discord leaned against the tree, watching the pathetic excuse for a dance before him. Children were absolutely terrible at following directions, not that he was complaining of course. But, even someone as fond of chaos as he was grew tired of repeating the same instructions over and over again. The Summerset Tolt was incredibly difficult to teach, but it was the only dance Discord thought he could remember the steps to. He was of course mistaken.

Spike looked up at him from his position beside the phonograph. "Hey, Entropy? Shouldn't we be teaching them the next steps?" The dragon had to raise his voice to be heard over the painfully slow paced, whining orchestral piece emanating from the device.

"Correct." Just as soon as I remember them. Discord closed his eyes, trying to think back to the sultry summer nights under Luna's moon. He could still taste the wood smoke in the air, feel the cool breeze against his coat, and hear the laughter of the villagers as they danced the night away. They were all dead and gone now, but their smiles and songs would forever remain engraved in his mind's eye. And yet, he could not remember what came after the half pass to the left. Strange how memories came as fragmented puzzle pieces.

"Entropy? Entropy!" Spike pulled his tail hard, setting a surge of pain through his spine.

Discord's attention returned to the dragon, "Don't do that!" His heart lurched at the hurt expression on Spike's face. Oops. I've got to stop snapping at him. He cleared his throat, "Turn off the music, Spike. I'll teach these poor sops the next step."

Spike saluted him, quickly cutting off the pathetic excuse for music. Discord would have argued that the tune did not even resemble the original, but the slow pace of it made keeping step less difficult for the children. Not that any of them were even coming close to succeeding. Sighing, he made to break up their little display. "Attention, everypony! Eyes on me!"

They stopped, panting hard and starting up at him. Apple Bloom, ever the fount of complaints, began in her most annoying whine, "Are we done yet?"

Discord rolled his eyes, mimicking her, "Are we done yet?" He stood up straight, stamping a hoof into the earth. "NO!" That seemed to silence the wave of murmuring. Good, let's get this over with. "The next step is . . ." What was the next step? Ah well, he would just make something up, it was not as though they could tell the difference. "Take your partner, and swap places." He waited until they reluctantly complied. Then tap your hooves three times, once with your left front, once with your right hind, and once with your right front in that order."

The blank stares they gave him were beyond comedic. He proceeded to demonstrate, realizing how stupid it looked. A small, smirk stretched across his face. Yes, it is stupid isn't it? This could be fun.Discord cleared his throat, "Take your partner once again, three turns clockwise, one turn counter clockwise, and a half turn clockwise. Then freeze." He chuckled as the fillies and colts tripped over each other in their hasted attempt at performing the steps. "Once you've stopped, take two and a half steps back, and wait."

"Wait for what?" The Scoots filly looked into his eyes almost defiantly. "For us to fall asleep?"

Discord barked a laugh, "Hardly! You wait for the bell."

She rolled her lavender eyes, "What bell?"

"In the actual dance, you'll hear a bell. Once you do, you must proceed to imitate a chicken, but only the third closest to the orchestra." Yes, that sounded sufficiently convoluted. He tapped a hoof against his chin, trying to drag up some other crazy instructions. "The other two thirds will imitate ducks. Then, after the bell rings again, you switch."

The group let out a collective moan of frustration, but attempted to do what he said. Discord could not help but laugh at how fundamentally stupid his little dance was. The children were far too gullible for their own good. For the next hour, he proceeded to mix up the dance until it no longer resembled anything close to the original. Just as he was planning yet another gloriously convoluted step, Cheerilee came trotting over to him. "Entropy! It's time to break for lunch."

Drat. Discord sighed, waiting until the mare came to a stop in front of him. When she did, all the children gathered around her, chatting at once. All she had to do was look at them, and they silenced. "Seems like you had a difficult lesson."

Snips nodded sagely. "It was terrible! His majesty is a terrible teacher. He kept making up dances and laughing when we messed up."

"His majesty?" Cheerilee shot daggers at him.

"It was a harmless joke. Right, kids?" Discord feigned an innocent expression, but the children were having none of it. He shot Cheerilee a sheepish smile, "Well, I thought it was funny."

Cheerilee looked at all the fillies and colts, frowning. "Sorry my little ponies. I promise to teach you the real dances this afternoon." She waited until they dispersed before rounding on him like an angry timberwolf. "What is the big idea? It sounds like you were trying to make them fail."

"I was." There was no point in denying it, as it had been his intention all along. Judging from Cheerilee's sour expression, he would have to explain in greater detail. Ponies, don't have a lick of common sense. He gestured around at the park, and all the ponies now separating into their respective families. "Those fillies and colts, they're under constant pressure to succeed. So, when they fail, they think it's a big deal and that they somehow are inferior to their peers. But, the thing is, sometimes nopony succeeds, and that's okay too."

Cheerilee looked to be ruminating on his words. Then she gave a slow nod. "All right, then. It's a different approach, and I can't say I agree, but I'll let it slide." She gave him a friendly cuff on the shoulder before heading over to join her friends.

Satisfied he had dodged the bullet, Discord turned back to the tree and Spike. Despite being the instructor, he was still worn out from their little dance. He laid down on the grass beside the phonograph and Spike. The dragon's eyes were darting in every direction, and it was starting to make him sea sick. "Spike, calm down."

"But Twilight's not here yet!" Spike looked as though he were nearing panic state.

Great, not another one. "Relax, sit down and join me. It'll work out, Twilight will come when she's ready to."

With a big pout, Spike plopped himself on the ground beside Discord. His claws grabbed out chunks of grass, mumbling something about Twilight's irresponsibility. Discord could not help but snigger at that. For all her faults, Twilight could hardly be called irresponsible.

As they lay there under the tree, Discord realized for the first time just how hungry he was. He marveled a little at that. Being a draconequus, he often went days without eating, simply because he never felt hungry. Ponies on the other hand, seemed to need a constant stream of food. It was more than a little infuriating. He turned to Spike, "Did you bring anything to eat?"

Spike rolled his eyes, "Do I look like your personal chef?"

"Yes, yes you do." Discord chuckled, rolling on the grass. Teasing the dragon came all too easily these days. Watching him, Discord could see that he was still worrying about Twilight. It was annoying to see the child so melancholy for no good reason. He nudged Spike in the ribs with a hoof. "How did you like my dance, Spike?"

Spike stuck out his tongue, "Terrible! The first half was soooo boring, and the second bit made no sense."

"I know? Marvelous, wasn't it?" The image of the children tumbling over each other brought another smile to his face. "They were trying much too hard."

"But, isn't trying hard a good thing?" Spike's voice waver a little, "That's what everypony says."

You've got a lot to learn. Discord snorted a laugh, "I suppose some will say that. But, there's a point where the amount of effort you put in will never be worth the result." It had taken him a few centuries to piece together, but that was the truth. He had tried so hard to deny who and what he was to fit into Celestia's neat little society, but it had not been worth it. Nothing was worse than denying oneself. His attention returned to the dragon staring questioningly at him. "The point is, Spike. Sometimes you have to give up the attempt, find something that is truly worth your time. I tried to teach those snots that, though they were being quite stubborn on the point."

Spike's eyes grew wide. "So it wasn't a real dance?"

"Well, the first part was, but the second bit was just something I made up." Discord sighed, getting to his hooves. "It's a very old dance from the time before Discord took over Equestria." The memory made him shudder a little. His reign had only been for a few years by draconequus standards, but it had been enough time to cause misery to just about every living creature his magic came into contact with. Strange. All he had wanted was to have a little fun with them. Clearing his throat, Discord tapped the phonograph. "Your music wasn't even close to the original. It's actually a rather lively tune."

Then, as though pulled by some invisible string, he began to dance. It came flooding back as he moved along the grass, the ponies' laughter, the sound of their hooves clapping in time, the lively music drifting high into the night sky like the smoke from the fire. The dance was complicated, yes, but it moved fluidly like a river, sometimes slow and calm, other times rushing by. It was beautiful in a way that no modern dances he had seen could compare to. And so he danced, allowing himself to be surrounded by the past for a brief, blessed moment.

"Entropy?" Twilight's soft voice behind him shattered the illusion like a thousand pieces of glass. The mare was staring at him, eyes full of a kind of wonder. "I didn't know you could dance like that!"

"Yes, on occasion." Discord felt his face heat up. He never had photo albums, or paintings to remind him of his past, but he did have his memory. Twilight's interruption felt as though she had walked in on him reminiscing. It was embarrassing, especially since he continually professed the belief that the past was the past. Clearing his throat, he turned to Spike who was staring equally thunderstruck at him. Must have gotten a touch carried away. "I enjoy some of the more classic dances."

"Classic? I've never heard of that one. Maybe I should study Equestrian dance history some more." She turned to the phonograph. "So, how'd the dance lesson go?"

"Uh, well enough." He prodded the device with a hoof. "The music was a touch dull, but that can't be helped." While he spoke, Twilight's eyes darted around the park. What's she so worried about? "Twilight, is everything all right?"

Twilight's hooves began to prance against the grass. "The activities are all done, but the stallions are behind with the setup. They said they'd need another hour to finish. They're throwing off the schedule!"

"Wow, they're already almost done?" Discord was more than a little impressed. Apparently Cheese was a better organizer than he gave him credit for. "That's great. I don't see where the problem is."

Twilight slapped a hoof to her forehead. "We can't set up for the carry in until the big tent is up. Then there's the little tents that need put up for the activities. Equipment's still lying all over the place, and nopony can find the bean bags for the toss!" She stood huffing for a moment, lilac eyes glinting manically.

"It'll work out." Though, judging from Twilight's expression, that was far from what she believed. With a sigh, he started towards where Twilight had the activities at. "If you're so worried, I can help you put up the small tents."

"Yes!" Twilight trotted over to him, keeping step with him.

Discord could not help but wonder what he had gotten himself into. Hopefully Twilight's latest obsession would not lead to another incident with her magic. Even if it did not, he was convinced that he needed to keep an eye on her for the time being.

Discord had come to believe that Twilight Sparkle was one of the most put together creatures in Equestria. Today he had begun to see just how dangerously unpredictable the young alicorn truly was. In the course of the lunch hour, she had managed to collapse three tents, topple over the rubber duck trough, and tripped over no less than three crates. Currently, he was watching her "help" organize the food tables for dinner.

"Twilight, maybe you should—" He winced as a casserole dish shattered on the ground when Twilight's magic sputtered out halfway through moving it. Mayor Mare cantered over, muttering something to Twilight which resulted in her giving a high pitched giggle. Discord eyed her progress across the tent, likely to "supervise" the correct placement of the cider barrels. Gods give me patience.

As he moved towards her, he spotted Spike casting an equally nervous glance at Twilight. The dragon spotted him, running over. "Entropy! Twilight's going crazy."

"I've noticed." His ears flicked over as a loud crash announced that Twilight had dropped the box of cider mugs; thankfully, those were wooden. "It's like she's on fast forward. Is that normal for these sort of events?"

"No! She's normally super calm and composed." Spike rubbed his hands together, tapping his feet in a nervous tattoo. "What do we do, Entropy?"

You're asking me? I've never seen her like this! She's going to hurt somebody if she keeps it up. He cleared his throat, "Does she, does she have a backup plan, you know, in case she gets like this?" His hoof waved over to where Twilight was attempt to lift an entire barrel of cider by herself.

"Well . . ." Spike stared hard at Twilight, then glanced around the park. Then he gasped, looking up into his eyes. "Yes! After the Smarty Pants incident, she made a kit with sleeping powder in it."

Smarty Pants incident? Do I even want to know what that is? Discord nudged Spike with a hoof. "Why don't you go and get that kit? I'll bring Twilight to that oak tree we had the phonograph under. Then we'll use it. Sound good?"

The dragon saluted, running off towards the library. Discord took a deep breath and walked over to Twilight. He literally dragged her away from the two stallions trying to set up the cider. They shot him grateful smiles before returning to work. Twilight struggled a little, but he was stronger. After he had got her onto the grass, he glowered at her. "What were you thinking? Trying to do everypony's job isn't helping, it's causing more trouble."

"But they need me. They're lost without my organization." She made to move back to the tent, but he blocked her. "Entropy! Let me go back."

"Nope." Discord could tell Twilight was not going to be stopped by him for long. There had to be a better solution. Then it hit him. "Twilight, I've got something that needs your special attention over there." He jerked his head over towards the tree. "The phonograph is broken, and we need it fixed for the dance tomorrow."

"Of course!" Twilight trotted unsteadily towards the tree. Discord watched her progress with a moan. The mare was exhausted, and it was only a matter of time before she hurt herself.

When he caught up to her, she was grinning manically at the phonograph. The poor device had a stick jammed into its box as though it were being tortured. He raised his eyebrow at Twilight, "I see you fixed it."

"Oh, yes, it's all fixed now." She gave a strange, fake laugh before starting to pace in front of him. "It was trying to sabotage the success of the festival, but now that it's fixed, all is well. Phonographs are devious creatures, Entropy." The decided twitch of her eye did little to prove her sanity.

Discord looked around for Spike, but saw no sign of him yet. It was back to buying time. "Why are you so obsessed about making this festival run well?"

Twilight giggled again, and paced even faster. "It needs to be perfect. Don't you see that, Entropy?" Her steps began to sway with her nodding head now. "This is my chance to live a normal life, my one chance, Entropy. If I have to live forever, then I want this time to be perfect. You know?"

Discord's eyes widened with the realization. So that was it. It all made sense now. "Twilight, I—"

Twilight cut in, continuing as before, "If I accept anything less than perfect, I'd be cheapening the time I have with my friends. I'll regret it for centuries. That's why every last little thing must be perfect!"

Discord's heart ached at her words. It's not the situation, Twilight, it's the people you share it with. He heard a soft cough, and looked up. An involuntary grin stretched across his face at the sight of the dragon hanging in the branch above them, waving a vial. Perfect. Now to settle her down. With some effort, he literally slammed Twilight to the ground, forcing her to sit still. "Calm down, Twilight. It's all right."

"It's not all right. Not yet." Twilight continued to sway, twitching like a trapped squirrel every so often. "I've got to make it right. I always have to make it right. If I don't Equestria falls apart. So, I have to be cool, collected, and focused at all times. Ready for danger to strike. . ."

Discord moaned, seeing that he was having little success in convincing her to settle down. Her rant was starting to get on his nerves too. Twilight started to ramble about having important research to do, research that would shake the foundations of Equestria. Discord highly doubted any research Twilight could come up with would do that. There had to be a way to shut her up.

"And then there's my friends. Of course Applejack understood some of it, but she really doesn't get it. I mean, who could get—"

Without thinking, and without a second's hesitation, Discord pressed his muzzle to hers. The effect on Twilight was as instantaneous as if he had placed a stun spell on her. This time, her muzzle did in fact taste stale, but there was still that sweet earthy undertone he had noticed the day before. It was strangely addictive, and he found himself quite reluctant to pull away. For what felt like minutes, but was likely only a few seconds, he held the kiss. Then, slowly, he broke it, proceeding to rub his cheek against hers. He breathed softly into her ear, "Relax, Twilight. It will all work out, you'll see."

A loud chink sounded, and Discord watched the vial drop onto Twilight's back and break. Discord rolled his eyes. Smooth, Spike real smooth. He looked up to complain, but was stopped by the sudden weight of Twilight's body against his. "Well, that was quick." Sighing, Discord lowered her safely onto the grass and stroked her back, checking for cuts. Thankfully, Spike's little blunder had left her unscathed.

He heard a loud shuffling noise, and turned to see Spike shimmying down the tree. Once he was on solid ground, the dragon shuffled over to him, eyes wide as dinner plates. "Why . . . why did you kiss her?"

Discord froze for a moment, contemplating the question. Why had he kissed her? It had been so spur of the moment that even he did not know the entire truth. A small voice in the back of his head seemed to scream at him. Because it felt good! Yes, it did feel good, but it was also so fundamentally wrong that it made him sick. He should be disgusted with himself, and embarrassed. Instead he found his heart racing and the almost irresistible urge to repeat the scene. He gulped, looking at Spike. "I . . . I don't know. It was the only thing I could think of to get her to stop talking."

Spike's cheeks were a little red as he spoke the next words in a near whisper, "But, you liked it, didn't you?"

Discord was beyond denying it now. "Yes, yes I did." He stood, wincing at the pain in his joints. "So, how long does this powder last?"

"Three hours or so." Spike glanced at him as though expecting an order. "What do we do now?"

"Go back to work, kid." Discord started off towards the tent once more, Spike trailing behind him. Try as he may to ignore it, he kept flashing back to the feeling of Twilight's muzzle to his. Oh, gods, I admit it. I like kissing her. Is it really such a crime?

Interacting with Ponyville's citizens was like being perpetually stuck in a postcard with no way out. Everypony seemed ready and willing to chat, laugh, and smile with each other no matter how many times you may have messed up. Even Cheerilee had come over to thank him for that morning, saying that none of the children had fought during the decorating. Apparently, he was somehow responsible for that, though he had no idea where she got the ridiculous notion from.

After over an hour of chatting with what felt like the entire population of Ponyville, the party started to break up. Slowly but surely ponies trickled away, leaving only their group of friends left. Discord was relieved to see that Twilight was awake, and apparently sane once more. He grinned as she approached with Spike. "Sleep well?"

"Yeah. Sorry about going all crazy." Twilight gave each of her friends a hug in turn. "How did everything go?"

"Amazing!" Pinkie grinned from ear to ear, nudging her husband hard in the ribs. "Cheesie and I managed everything after you left."

"Thank you so much. I promise it won't happen again." She raised an eyebrow at Discord, "Spike said you had to restrain me to get that powder on. How?"

Discord chuckled nervously, trying his best to avoid eye contact. "You know, ways."

Cheese and Pinkie laughed in unison, sharing a very knowing look. Thankfully, Cheese strode forward to rescue him. "Hey, you want to help me put up the supplies we grabbed from town hall's closet?"

"Sound thrilling." Discord practically flew over to where Cheese had a pile of cleaning supplies waiting to be returned. He slung a few over his back, and grabbed a broom in his mouth. "Be back later, Twilight," he mumbled around the wood.

Together he and Cheese started towards town hall. Despite being young and exponentially more energetic than he was, the stallion was not trying to trot ahead like normal. "Finally tired?"

"Yeah, I'm ready to go home." Cheese adjusted the bag of supplies draped over his back. "I think I pushed myself too hard, and there's still the tear down."

Discord chuckled. Typical kid. They walked in silence the rest of the way. Discord found himself actually enjoying the ripples of light reflecting over the buildings. The town was peaceful again, winding down like clockwork as it always did. Somehow it was comforting. He supposed that was how the ponies saw it, though he could argue that chaos was far more comforting.

Town hall's heavy oak door was slung open when they arrived. They walked across the empty, yet immaculate floor to the closet. Discord could not help but stare at the equally substantial oak door. "Why would they waste money on this? It's a closet!"

Cheese shrugged, opening it, and revealing mountains of neatly organized supplies. "I think it used to be an office." They got into a rhythm where he would hand off the supplies to Cheese.

As they worked, he had a brilliant idea. Why not have a little fun with him? After all, Cheese could use another laugh, and so could he. After handing him the last of the supplies, Discord took a quick step back, slamming the door closed. With a practiced precision, he used Cheese's keys still in the handle to lock the door, quickly removing them.

"Entropy! The door closed, can you open it?" Cheese's voice was a little higher pitched than usual.

Discord chuckled, kicking the keys across the empty floor. "I'm so sorry, I seem to have misplaced the keys." Before the stallion could get a word in edgewise, Discord trotted out of the hall and into the light. He did a happy spin on his haunches, inhaling the cool evening air. "I think I fancy a walk."

As he made his way back to the park, Discord could not help but laugh at his own ingenuity. It was a good prank, a very good prank. Cheese was too trusting, it would be hilarious to see how he tried to rationalize being locked in a closet by his friend. Humming a cheery tune, and trotting rather briskly, he made good time back to the girls.

He skidded to a halt in front of Twilight. "Finished! Told you it wouldn't take long."

Twilight looked around the empty park, then gave him a questioning stare. "Where's Cheese?"

"Oh, him." Discord practically giggled. They were going to get a kick out of this one. "I played a prank on him."

Pinkie's voice came out unusually urgent and high pitched. "What kind of prank?" When he did not answer, she leaned in close, eyes boring into his. "What kind, Entropy?"

"Quit being a wet blanket, Pinkie." Seeing that all of the mares were now glaring at him, he decided it would be best to tell the truth. Discord sighed theatrically, "I locked him in town hall's closet."

His words had an immediate, and catastrophic effect. Pinkie's face went as white as a sheet. "The closet? In the dark?" In a split second, she took off at a dead gallop towards the hall. The others quickly followed suit, shooting dirty glances his way as they passed. Discord could only stare open mouthed as he, Twilight, and Spike were left standing alone in the park.

Twilight rounded on him, eyes actually misting over with tears. "How could you do that to him?"

"What? It was a prank!" Discord turned to Spike for backup, but the dragon looked every bit as confused as he did. He raised a hoof to touch her shoulder, but she recoiled, glowering at him.

There was no warmth in Twilight's eyes now. "Well it's not funny!" She turned to Spike, "Stay here!" With that, she tore off after her friends.

Discord did not hesitate to gallop after her. What did I do? It's not as though I beat him up. His legs ached and his muscles burned, but he did not even consider slowing down. Whatever he had done, he had to make it right. It was stupid, but he wanted their respect, wanted it more than he had ever wanted Celestia's or Luna's. These were the ponies who had accepted him as a friend, and he so desperately wanted to prove that he could be a good friend in turn.

He nearly slammed into the hall when he arrived, scrambling inside the door. What he saw inside made his heart stop. The smooth floor by the closet was covering in splinters of wood and thick droplets of blood. Discord stepped cautiously towards the scene, feeling as though he might be sick. What remained of the door was hanging by its hinges, and Cheese lay just beyond it in a pool of his own blood. "Cheese?"

The stallion was sobbing uncontrollably into Pinkie's chest as she stroked his back, whispering into his ear. Discord could only stare in horror at the deep gashes running down Cheese's hind legs, exposing the muscle underneath. Judging from the near destruction of the solid door, Cheese must have used his earth pony strength to kick it to shreds. Unfortunately, he seemed to have cut his legs on the jagged edges.

Even as he started, he noted the pieces of wood sticking out of his leg at odd places. The distinct, vaguely familiar smell of fresh blood drifted to his nostrils with an incredible potency. His eyes focused on the fast expanding pool under Cheese's legs. Gods, he's bleeding out fast. "He needs help," he somehow managed the words despite the pounding of his heart.

Rarity's eyes flickered to him for an instant, before turning back to Cheese. "Rainbow Dash has gone for a doctor." She said the words in a curt manner, as though dismissing any further association with him.

Discord watched as Twilight rushed over to Cheese, starting to wrap a towel tightly around the gash. Even as she did so, the cloth was already turning a deep shade of red. Fluttershy's tiny whimpers mingled sickeningly with Cheese's sobs. Applejack shot him a look of purest disgust. "How could you? He's yer friend, ain't he!"

He mumbled softly, "Yes."

"Like hell he is!" Pinkie's voice reverberated across the hall, as cold and harsh as an icy dagger to the heart. "What kind of friend does this? Huh?" Her voice continued to rise despite the fact that everypony, even Cheese had gone silent. "Get out! You don't deserve to have friends!"

The words echoed over and over again in his mind even after they had faded into the silence of the hall. She was right, they were all right. Panic like he had not known since the day of his banishment flooded over him. He had failed, he always failed. There was no place for him amongst ponies, there never had been. He, Discord, the spirit of chaos itself was incapable of having friends. No matter what he tried, everything would inescapably fall apart.

Without looking back, he ran, ran as hard and as fast as his legs could take him. It did not matter where, just as long as he kept moving. Every fiber of his being was urging him onward. Discord knew that if he stopped, he would wake up and realize that once again, he was alone. So he determined to keep going as long as he could. Then and only then would he face reality.

The River of Light

View Online

[Author's note: I was not satisfied with the pacing and some of the character interactions with this chapter, so I've gone back and heavily modified portions of it. I highly recommend you go back and reread the second and the beginning of the fourth section, as I've added almost 1k words worth of additional dialogue and interactions that will be referred to in later chapters.]


It's at times like these, I wonder where I went wrong.


Discord always thought fun was a matter of perspective. Some creatures, mainly ponies, believed that in order for any activity to be fun, it had to be contained and predictable. That self-limiting thought process irritated him to no end. For the very activity that one creature found repulsive, might bring endless amusement to another. Therefore, he had little qualms about transforming the large field of wheat before him into a giant, squishy loaf of bread to sunbathe on. That was, until Celestia found out.

"What did you do?" The telltale, carrying voice of their very own sun princess sounded above him.

Discord chuckled as she landed on the loaf, prancing like a filly when it started to give way under her. "Stop struggling, Tia." Seeing that the alicorn was dead set on sinking to the bottom, Discord snapped a talon, turning the bread into stone under her hooves. He could not help but snigger into his paw at her sour expression, "Do not look so downcast, it was but a jest."

"A jest?" She snorted, tossing the stray strands of pink forelock from her eyes. "This is hardly amusing, Discord. Think of the ponies whose farm you have desecrated."

Desecrated? For gods' sake, I can turn it back. Being certain to flash her his most irritated scowl, he snapped his talon, and the field of wheat returned to the exact state he had found it in. He stroked back his sleek black mane, shooting her a toothy grin. "Happy?"

For an instant, Celestia looked as though she might actually laugh. Then, slowly, the hint of a smile vanished as her expression became as harsh as granite. "Discord. We must talk about your," she paused, apparently choosing her next word carefully, "disruptions. I have received no less than twenty four complaints this past week alone."

Really? That's a new record. Discord's airy laughter echoed across the field. "How delightful!"

Celestia's scowl deepened as she turned her attention towards the small cluster of stone buildings in the distance. Her voice was uncharacteristically soft, "They have requested I forbid you from coming into the village."

"What? Surely not." Discord rolled on the grass lining the field, enjoying a good laugh. When he had quite worn himself out, he looked up into Celestia's eyes. To his surprise, they were still as cold as ever. His stomach dropped at the realization. "You . . . you did not agree, did you?"

She stared hard at the grass, pawing the blades gently aside with a hoof. "I did."

Discord shot up, forgetting all his usual self control and grabbing Celestia's shoulders. "WHY? What did I do?" He knew he was overreacting, but he could not help it. This latest ban marked the twelfth village he was not allowed to set foot in. "Do you not think this measure excessive?" Excessive was an understatement, it was downright oppressive.

A moment of silence followed his words. Discord could not help but be irritated by his friend. Certainly she of all ponies would understand he meant no harm. Instead, she just kept staring at him with those cold eyes. "Your disruptions have gone on long enough, Discord. You are making my subjects' lives miserable." She rubbed her temple with a hoof, "Do you not see the trouble your magic has caused?"

"Trouble? My magic?" Discord snorted, waving the thought away with his paw. "I hardly think magic as wonderfully chaotic as mine could be considered anything but fun!" It was the truth. Unlike Celestia's precious harmony, his own chaos magic was overflowing with surprises. Even he did not know what form it would take.

"Wonderful? WONDERFUL?" The rising crescendo of Celestia's voice made him jump away from her. All trace of control was gone from her voice as she continued, "Your magic has always been, and shall always be an abomination, Discord.

"An abomination? Hardly!" He felt his heart pounding unnaturally fast in his chest. It was all perspective, it always had been. Just because his magic appeared strange, does not make it an abomination. Why was Celestia refusing to see reason? He gestured around at the perfectly restored, sunlit field. "My magic is nothing but good. Playful, yes, but good, just as your own."

Celestia scoffed, stamping her hoof so hard a small crater was left where it struck. "Do not make comparisons, draconequus!"

Draconequus? The word hit him like a punch to the gut. Over all his years of knowing her, Celestia had never referred to him like that. Despite all the curses thrown at him, all the scornful remarks, Celestia and Luna had been his rock of support. With her words, that rock began to crumble. His talon shook uncontrollably as he glowered back at Celestia. "So, I am nothing but a draconequus to you now?"

Celestia's ears folded back, and she shook her head. A new, almost panicked look filled her eyes. "I did not . . . I did not mean to say such words."

"No, but you thought them." Discord knew his blood was up, but he could not stop himself from continuing. He flexed his talon, allowing the nails to glisten in the sunlight like diamonds. "Does my form disgust you, Tia? Do you wish me to depart this place?" His eyes unconsciously drifted towards the mountains in the distance.

A painful, long suppressed memory surged to the forefront of his mind. The darkened cave, a pool of blood, a pair of lifeless bodies. Discord shook his head violently, forcing the thought away. He swallowed, staring hard at his mismatched limbs. Try as he may to deny it, he was not a pony, and never would understand their reasoning. "Would you . . . would you see me forsake my soul as my father before me?"

"By the gods, no!" Celestia started to shake a little. "You are my friend in truth, Discord. I would not see you harmed."

Discord snarled at her. Friend? Who was she fooling? "Friends do not send friends into exile, Tia!"

Celestia's ears pinned flat against her head, eyes boring into his. "I would not have to take such measures if you knew restraint!"

He had had heard enough. Without pausing to consider the consequences, he grabbed Celestia's leg with his talon, pulling her to the earth with a heavy thud. Then, using his entire weight, he pressed her back to the ground. A low, primal growl sounded from deep in his throat as he looked into her now misted eyes. "You know nothing of restraint, princess."

The look of panic on Celestia's face was strangely satisfying. It gave him a sick sort of pleasure to smell the fear on her breath, and hear the rapid pounding of her heart. His talon dug deep into her leg, causing her to cry out in pain. He chuckled, blowing a jet of golden flames mere inches from her face. "My entire life has been nothing but restraint. At any moment, I could forget myself entirely."

"You are not like them, Discord." Though she attempted to struggle, Discord held her fast. Apparently noting the futility of her efforts, she looked back at him, eyes pleading. "You may be a draconequus, but you are different. I could not see you abandoning your intelligence as the others did."

"Truly, Tia?" The words came out as a kind of purr. He stroked her cheek with his paw, wondering at the soft, fragile quality of her skin. It would be disturbingly easy to tear her open, and yet, the thought was oddly tempting. Idly, he wondered just how much blood she would lose before she passed to the next world. The chaos of the chase would be most invigorating at the very least. He wiped a tear from her eyes, a smirk parting the corners of his mouth. "Do not press upon your luck, friend."

He sighed theatrically, looking up at the expansive sky. The heavens seemed so far above them, but, were they truly so out of reach? "The gods have given us a gift, Tia, a fact you would just as soon push to the shadows." Slowly, carefully, he stepped off of her, eyes still focused heavenward. "It is a gift of freewill, and one not so easily pried away by any scheme of mortals. However," his gaze returned to the mare lying on the grass, "we can reject that gift of our own volition."

His hollow laugh echoed around the empty field. "We use our freewill to give that gift up! Do you not see the irony, Tia?" He turned back to Celestia, trying to judge the unreadable expression on her face. "Fear not, I still value the gift, and those who bestowed it upon me. I will not surrender my intelligence so easily."

Discord had one last fleeting image of Celestia's panic stricken face before snapping his talon. He now stood under the cool, dark undergrowth of a nameless forest, glad to be alone. Over and over again, he replayed their conversation. Celestia, like her precious subjects, failed to understand his sincerity. It was all a matter of perspective. They simply did not see the world as he saw it. Perhaps all they needed was a push in the right direction, and he knew just where to start.


And then I remember. It is my nature.


"Cheese, Cheese!" Pinkie's panic stricken voice echoed around the empty hall. Though Cheese had gone quiet, staring hard at the floor, she was still clutching him close, crying into his mane.

Twilight cringed, as she continued to cast the healing spell on his leg. The blood flow had all but stopped since she wrapped the tourniquet around it. Miraculously, despite her inexperience with healing magic, the spell was working better than it ever would have when she was a unicorn. A small part of her wanted to ponder its implications. But, that would have to wait.

She nearly jumped skyward when Cheese snarled at Pinkie. "What were you thinking?" He pulled away from his wife, glowering at her. "How could you talk to Entropy like that?"

Pinkie sat up straight, huffing, "He deserved it." Her hooves gestured wildly around at the splintered wood and blood crusted on the floor. "It's his fault you're hurt!"

Cheese snapped back in an uncharacteristically harsh tone Twilight had only heard him use once before, "It's my own damn fault, Pinkamena!"

For a brief moment that seemed to stretch on for an eternity, Pinkie was in a deadlock with her husband. Twilight had heard couples argue before, but never Pinkie and Cheese. It always seemed as though they were immune to arguments, being the cheerful party ponies they were. Now she could see how stupid that was. "Pinkie, Cheese maybe you should—"

Pinkie stamped her hoof so hard a dent was left in the floorboards. "Your own fault, huh? Was it your fault your parents locked you in that damn box for days on end? Did you trap yourself in that closet?" Her voice reached a feverish crescendo, setting Fluttershy, Rarity, and Applejack back a few steps. "How do you expect me to explain to our foal how his father died because his so called friend aggravated his claustrophobia?"

Applejack stepped forward, pinning her ears. "It ain't all Entropy's fault, Pinkie."

"Yes." Rarity jerked her head to the door, "You were acting horrid yourself."

"I . . . you . . ." Pinkie stammered. At first, Twilight thought that would be the end of it, but a steady stream of tears began to stream down Pinkie's muzzle. "So what if I was?" She shot a defiant look at Rarity, setting her back a few steps. "You don't know what it's like, worrying that your child's father might be dead because of some stupid prank. It wasn't funny! It wasn't!"

"Pinkie, it's all right." Cheese's voice was soft, almost pleading, a far cry from his earlier outburst. "I'm fine, the foal's fine. Entropy didn't mean anything by it." He sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Entropy doesn't understand how ponies think. It seems crazy, but in his mind, locking me in there was funny, so he thought we'd get a kick out of it too." Cheese frowned, looking hard at his bloody hooves. "Besides, he couldn't have known I would panic like that, I never told him about the claustrophobia."

WHAT? All of them turned their attention to Cheese. Twilight felt her heart pounding in her chest. He never told him? But, that means . . . Oh, Celestia.

Cheese pinned his ears, glowering at them. "Don't you have anything to say for yourselves?" His voice started to shake, "You saw how scared he was. He never meant for any of this to happen! And then you go and scream at him like he was trying to hurt me." Tears were now streaking down his muzzle. "Didn't you pause to consider how he felt? I'd say you're the ones who don't deserve to have friends!"

His words hung in the still air like a miasma. Pinkie had started to shake, falling to her knees, murmuring apologies under her breath. The rest of them stood in silence, staring hard at the floor. Twilight's heart sunk like a rock. It was true, all of it. Some princess of harmony she was. In a matter of seconds, she had managed to hurt the one pony in Equestria who truly understood her. He had been so accepting of her mistakes, even when she allowed her magic to corrupt. And, despite all that, she had jumped on the bandwagon with the rest of them.

Rarity's soft voice broke the relative silence, "What should we do?"

Every one of their eyes turned to Twilight, as they always did when a problem needed fixing. This time however, she was just as lost as they were. There was nothing to say, not really. Entropy had slipped up with his prank, but they were even more at fault. What kind of ponies hurt their friend so badly that he felt the need to run away? His panic stricken face kept floating to the forefront of her mind. They had been cruel to him, nothing they could say would change that.

Applejack took of her hat, fidgeting with the brim. "Well, Twilight?"

Twilight found herself shaking under her friend's stares. Please don't look at me like that. "I . . . I . . . don't know."

To everypony's shock, it was Fluttershy who spoke up first. "We need to let him know it's okay."

Cheese nodded in agreement, "Yeah, and begging for his forgiveness wouldn't be a bad starting point." He sighed, glancing down at his legs. "Say, Twilight, I'm not bleeding anymore, right?"

"No." The change in subject threw her off. Perhaps he was more worried about the injury than he let on. She patted the area around the gash, examining it with amazement. The deep damage was almost completely healed. How did I do that? Seeing Cheese's worried frown, she smiled, "I healed all the major damage, you'll be fine with a few stitches." Though you did lose a lot of blood. . . Mentally, she began to calculate the amount from the stains fast soaking into the wood.

"Twilight?" Cheese's sleepy voice brought her out of the trance. Though he was smiling, his eyes were flickering with pain. He lifted his head weakly to the door. "Why don't you find him? He's got to be scared." The stallion allowed his head to rest against the floor, closing his eyes tight. "I don't want him to think it was his fault," he mumbled.

Twilight looked to Pinkie. Certainly it was irresponsible to just up and leave. Seemingly reading her mind, Pinkie shot her an encouraging smile. "Go on, Twilight. And," she gulped, pawing at the ground, "let him know that . . . that I'm really sorry."

"You can tell him yourself when he comes back." Twilight got slowly to her hooves, casting one last look at the grim expressions on her friends' faces. "But, I think we owe him more than just an apology after what we did." They all nodded in agreement, and she smiled back at them. "Don't worry, I'll find him." She started towards the door, a strange urgency washed over her, as though every fiber in her being was screaming at her to find him before it was too late. With a great leap forward, she galloped out the door into the darkening streets of Ponyville. Please be okay, please be okay.

Waiting, it was always waiting. If he was not waiting for something, he was waiting for somepony, mainly Twilight. It was as inevitable as Hum Drum screwing up a mission. Guess that's why they leave me behind. Spike shuddered at the thought of being compared with a good for nothing like Hum Drum. He flexed his claws, admiring the way the moonlight reflected off of them. I'm more useful than he is! He's not a ferocious dragon, after all.

Then again, Spike could hardly call himself a ferocious dragon. The last time he tried to be ferocious, he nearly burned Entropy, and incurred the wrath of the one pony he never wanted to upset. He was bound and determined never to let that happen again. So he sat on the grass, just as Twilight had ordered him, and waited. It must have been over an hour, but he was not going to complain, not this time.

"Spike? What in tarnation are you doin' here?" Applejack's familiar voice cut through the still night air like a knife. The mare strode over to him, raising a skeptical eyebrow, "Watchin' the tents?"

"No." Spike stroked the grass with a claw, a little embarrassed. He knew full well how stupid he looked, but he really could not help it. Twilight had told him to wait there, and so he would. No matter how tired, cold, or hungry he was. "I'm waiting for Twilight."

"Oh . . . Did anypony tell you what happened?"

"Nope." His reply was a little terse, but he could not help it. There was nothing remotely amusing about sitting alone on the cold grass for over an hour. "Nopony tells me anything."

Applejack sighed, placing a hoof gently on his back. "We just don't want you to worry, that's all."

"Yeah right. You just don't trust me with anything important."

For a moment Applejack was silent, then she looked him in the eye, smiling softly. "You know, I think yer old enough to hear some of this." Without asking, she settled down beside him on the grass. "You see, Cheese had a bit of a rough start as a colt. When he's in the dark, well, he gets scared, real scared."

"Like, he needs a nightlight?" Sure the dark was a little scary, but it was nothing a little light could not cure. Spike was surprised to see Applejack looking a little troubled. "What?"

"Well, his kind of scared ain't somethin' a light's goin' to fix." She stroked the blades of grass aside with a hoof. "It's more like he forgets where he is, an thinks back on all those bad memories. He don't know he's safe, an that makes him panic."

"So that's why Pinkie ran off!"

"Yup. When we got there, he had already gone an hurt himself real bad."

"He'll be okay though, won't he?" His blood ran cold at the thought of Cheese ending up in the hospital again. The poor guy had lived in one for a month after the fire.

Spike cringed as she rubbed his head in a decidedly, maternal fashion. "Yup. He's all right, thanks to Twilight. But, before we knew that," Her hoof stopped, falling to the ground beside her. "we all blamed Entropy. He ran off, and Twilight's gone lookin' for him."

"Oh." So it was back to Entropy again. Why did every little aspect of Twilight's life revolve around him? What about her number one assistant? He got to his feet, looking around at the darkened town. "You think I should go back to the library?"

"Yup. Unless yer afraid the tents are goin' to get nabbed." She winked playfully, getting to her hooves. "Don't worry about her, Spike. She'll be home soon."

Spike watched Applejack walk away towards the apple farm with a frown. There was no denying she had a point, but he could not stopper the nagging suspicion that something was wrong. It was not as though he thought Twilight would come home hurt, which was far from likely. No, what bothered him the most was that she would come home different.

Ever since that afternoon, he could not stop thinking about Entropy kissing Twilight. If she really liked him doing that sort of thing, where would it lead? Would he become just another Hum Drum to her? Spike shook his head, trying to push back the thought. Twilight may be love struck, but she was not stupid. There was no way in Equestria she would forget him so easily, even if she did like Entropy that way. It would be all right, there really was nothing to worry about.

There were screw ups, there were mistakes, and then there were catastrophic failures. Unfortunately for Discord, his life consisted of nothing but the latter. Today was no exception. A failure to relate, a failure to use common sense, and a failure to realize the limitations of his damn pony form. Discord winced at the searing agony radiating down his hooves. He had gone as far as physically possible before he had to give in and rest.

Now he stood alone on the most deserted outcropping he could find, staring down at the jagged rocks of the canyon below. The terrain around Ponyville never ceased to astound him. It was as though the gods had decided to have a good laugh, and had thrown just about every possible land formation in the immediate vicinity of the sleepy town.

That reminds me. Discord looked up into the heavens, amazed as always with the vast expanse of space before him. Even Luna did not know the number of stars or planets, of that he was certain. That fact alone was one of his greatest comforts. He closed his eyes, praying softly. "Forgive me for my transgressions. It was not my intention to cause him harm. Watch over him, and grant him healing. And, if it be your will, I should like another chance."

Sighing, he returned his attention to the scene around him. The moon's soft light reflected off of the rocks, and cast long shadows onto the grass. It was a spectacular display, and one Celestia had never been able to match. His eyes tracked the narrow creek, winding lazily through the canyon below. A part of him wondered how far it was to the bottom. Certainly a pony would never survive such a drop. He glanced at his hooves, contemplating if he could die from it in his current form. It was better not to risk it.

He walked to the cliff's edge, staring down. Heights never had bothered him. He supposed it came from being raised on a cliff face. Magical flight came as naturally as walking to a draconequus, and there were many times he raced his father in just such a canyon. It was one of the few memories he held of him, at least in life. Discord felt the incredible urge to forget this whole game of his and return to his true form. There at least he would find some comfort.

But, leaving now would not be fair to Twilight, he owed her this month at least. Discord did not relish the thought of returning, knowing full well what he would be returning to. Judgmental glances, whispers behind his back, he had been through it all time and again. Even as a pony, he was fated never to connect with another living creature. Perhaps he had not escaped his kind's fate after all. Just as he made to turn towards town, a lilac blur came galloping towards him. What now?

Twilight slid to a halt inches from his muzzle. From her lathered coat and shaking limbs, she must have been running herself ragged. Discord could not fathom why she would have run so hard looking for him. Unless was still mad about his little prank. He braced himself for the inevitable lecture.

Twilight leaned in uncomfortably close, a triumphant glint in her eyes. "Found you!"

"I can see that." Discord took a few steps back, keenly aware of the proximity of the cliff face. He stared challengingly back at her, "What? You come to remind me of my failures?" The words came out far harsher than he intended them to.

She took a step back herself, lowering her ears submissively. "No, I—"

"You what, exactly?"

Her hoof stamped hard into the ground, "I came to apologize! Alright?" Her voice softened as she stared hard at the grass. "I'm sorry for blaming you, Entropy. And, I want you to know that I forgive you."

The last words struck him worse than a kick to the gut. They were the exact same ones Celestia used time and again, as though by saying it, everything would somehow go back to the way it was. It never was their fault, oh no. They might apologize, but it was always out of guilt at being caught, never out of true remorse. Twilight was every bit the same as Celestia, he had been an idiot to expect better. "You forgive me? What about your part?" His voice rose to a dangerous crescendo that echoed off of the rocks. "How in the hell did you expect me to know about the kid's claustrophobia, huh? It was an honest mistake, and you turn on me like a damn timberwolf! I thought we were friends, Twilight!"

For a split second, Twilight looked as though she might back down, but she soon took a defensive stance, glowering back at him. "All I heard was that you had locked Cheese in the closet. What was I supposed to think?"

"You could have heard my side of the story. Why does nopony bother to listen to me? You're just the same as every one else. So quick to cast blame, but too damn stubborn to admit when you're wrong!"

"Am I?" To his surprise, Twilight's eyes had started to mist over. "Don't pretend to understand me, Entropy! You don't know what it's like, being in my position. Everypony expects me to be perfect. And," her voice softened, "I'm not. I've never been. You of all ponies should know that. You saw what happened with my magic!"

Discord snorted, rolling his eyes. "Yes, yes. The misunderstood princess. Cry me a river."

Twilight's hurt expression made his heart lurch ever so slightly. Her voice was laced with venom, "You keep saying how nopony understands you, how you're always alone. But, you never try to make friends." She leaned in closer to him, glowering. "You give up like some little colt when nopony wants to play with him. You're nothing more than a child, Entropy!"

"Me? A child? I'm nearly twice your age, girl! You know nothing of how this world works."

"I know more than you do!" Twilight stepped forward, driving him until his hoof nearly slipped off the edge of the cliff. Her voice raised to an earsplitting level, "What do you do with your life, Entropy? Do you save Equestria on a regular basis? Do you have to deal with watching your friends age and die around you? Celestia, think of somepony other than yourself for once!" Her voice softened until it was barely audible, "I know I'm just a stupid girl with a lot to learn about the world. But, don't go acting like you can read minds. Remember what you told me, nopony understands everything, and that's okay," she patted his hoof, "that's why we need friends, to show us what we couldn't see ourselves."

Discord stared hard into her eyes, seeing the tears now fast flowing down her smooth cheeks. The aching in his chest intensified to a nearly unbearable level. Don't look at me like that! Please, anything but that. "I . . . I . . ."

Before he could think of something that did not sound like an excuse, he felt Twilight's muzzle press onto his. In an instant, the ache transforming into a hammer pounding against his rib cage. When she pulled away, he stood stock still, gaping in wonder. "Why?"

Twilight wiped a tear away with her hoof, smiling weakly. "I need you, Entropy, all of you. The good, the bad, everything. And," she gulped, flushing crimson, "I'd really like it if you'd take all of me. My good points, and my failures." Her eyes met his, this time with an almost pleading look, "I'm so sorry for what I did, Entropy. It was wrong, I know it was wrong. Would you ever forgive me?"

Discord did not think, he did not have to. He leaned forward, drawing Twilight into a tight hug. He whispered softly into her ear, "It's forgiven, Twilight." He held her close, inhaling the sweet scent of her coat hidden in the sweat. Pressed against her, he could feel her heart beating as fast as his own. "I'm sorry for being an old fool. You're right, I need you, and our friends." He sighed, stroking her back with a hoof. "And, I'll do my best not to jump to conclusions before I try to get to know ponies."

Twilight gave a soft nicker, nuzzling his neck. "Me too."

Realizing that he had been holding her for quite some time, he broke the hug, feeling his face heat up. What was I doing? He cleared his throat, "So, you coming here . . . that means Cheese is okay?"

"More than all right. I healed all the deep damage, and most of the surface wound."

"The kid had his legs sliced open. How in Equestria did you heal that most of the way?" It was a valid question. The wound had been deep, it did not take an expert to figure that out.

"I think it has something to do with my alicorn magic. It would fit with my theory . . ."

"Your theory?" Then he remembered Twilight's obsessive focus on her research lately. Perhaps it was time he got to the bottom of it. "What's this theory of yours anyway?"

Twilight flushed, pawing at the grass, "It's a little out there. Promise you won't laugh?"

That depends. The idea that any of Twilight's theories could be earth shattering was a little ludicrous. It was likely not worthy of his attention. Still, her actions tonight proved that he had a lot to learn about her, perhaps she would surprise him. "I'll do my best."

"My slip up the other day, when my magic corrupted . . ." Twilight's words nearly set Discord back a step. So that's where she was going. Well, it made sense that her theory would involve her magic. He listened intently to her next words. "It got me thinking. Then you gave me Discord's journals, and I started to see the bigger picture."

My journals? The bigger picture? What is she playing at? "Twilight, there is no bigger picture."

"That's where you're wrong, Entropy." Twilight's eyes shone with a determination he had never seen before. "This world, our magic, it's all connected! It's bigger than us, or the Tree of Harmony, or anything else we've ever dreamed possible."

"Connected?" She's lost it now. He waved a hoof, pushing the idea aside. "Twilight, how can you say that your harmony magic is anything close to corrupt magic, or chaos magic for that matter?" There's no way my magic is connected with hers.

Twilight shook her head vigorously. "No, you're thinking about this like I was when I started." She looked down at the creek winding through the canyon. "Magic isn't something we're born with and we store up inside ourselves. What I've discovered is that it's more like a river flowing through the heart of this world."

"Really, Twilight? You've lost your mind if you think that magic comes from a river!" Discord could not help but chuckle. "Your magic comes from the Tree of Harmony, just as it does for all ponies."

"Well, how do you explain chaos magic then?" Twilight glowered at him, obviously ready for a fight. "Do you think Discord takes magic from the tree?"

"Well . . ." No, no I don't. It was stupid, but he never so much as considered where his magic came from, as long as it came.

"See? It doesn't make sense for him to take it from there when he can take it directly from the river!"

"What river, Twilight? What river?" He waved his hoof wildly around at them. "In all my years I have never come across such a phenomenon as that. So, what drives this fantasy of yours?"

For a long moment Twilight just stared at him. Her eyes flickered with a sea of emotions. Then, without any warning, she strode forward, and covered his eyes with her hooves. "What do you see, Entropy?"

"Huh?" Why is she messing with me? "Nothing. Just your hooves." He was starting to lose patience with the mare's ramblings.

"Exactly. Now, just stand there and feel." The familiar warmth of Twilight's harmony magic washed over his sides. He could not help but imagine that she was slowly losing her grip on reality. It was nothing but the same old magic he had felt hundreds of times before. Boring as oatmeal, and just as warm. He felt her hooves slid off his eyes. She was grinning back at him as though she had just managed something incredible. "Okay. You can look now."

Discord raised an eyebrow, following her gaze to his sides. His heart stopped. A large portion of the smooth, chocolate covered hairs had been turned white with red polka dots. "By the gods, that was chaos magic!" His heart pounded into his throat as he stared at the impossible. How? HOW?

"I know! Isn't it incredible?" Twilight was beaming from ear to ear now. "It was my first time using it, so I wasn't sure it would work." Her hoof stroked his sides, frowning a little. "Maybe I went too far, I think I turned your skin a different color too."

Discord was getting frustrated with her now. How could she act so casual with what she just did? Never in all his years had he seen a pony use chaos magic, let alone an expert in harmony magic like herself. And yet, it had felt just like all her other spells. How could he have missed the feeling of his own magic? There really was only one explanation, and it irritated him to no end to admit it. Twilight was right, their magic had to come from the same source.

"Do you believe me now?" Twilight leaned in, grinning wickedly.

"Fine." He gave a theatrical bow, "You have bested my intellect, Miss Sparkle. I'll accept this crazy theory of yours."

Twilight's hooves clapped together, "Great! Because there's one last thing I want to try." She took a strong stance, as though expecting him to charge at her. From her pointed jerk of the head, he was supposed to join her. When he had, she lit her horn. "I want to see if we can see the river."

"How?" Discord lit his own horn, wincing at the spluttering, golden magic. "There. I'm ready to destroy something now."

Twilight rolled her eyes. "You're not going to destroy anything, Entropy. Just close your eyes like before, and feel."

"And how is our 'feeling' going to reveal this river?"

"It's not. Our subconscious will reveal it, when we focus on the source of our magic." Without another word or explanation, Twilight closed her eyes, sending a surge of magic from her horn. It was well and truly a mind boggling amount, and even he had to wonder at that.

Accepting that he might as well attempt it, he began to mirror Twilight. The same warm sensation flooded over him as before. This time it was different. If their magic truly came from the same source, then there was no distinction between his magic and Twilight's. If there was no distinction, then there was no need to hold back. So he allowed himself to forget who he was, where he was, and focus entirely upon the surging force now coursing through his body.

Twilight's gasp broke his reverie. He opened his eyes, and nearly jammed them shut again. There, just in front of them was the singular most beautiful sight he had ever witnessed. It was nothing like any river he had seen before, more like a great, writhing ribbon of light. The brilliant white magic churned in a determined flow in front of them, and stretched on for what looked like an eternity. Discord could only gape in awe.

"It's beautiful!" Twilight's eyes sparkled with a childlike wonder, prancing beside the stream and laughing. "I was right! It is a river, Entropy."

Discord fell to his knees, staring up at it. The light was painfully pure, and he knew, just knew that nothing could ever corrupt it. "Heaven has reached down to us."

Her soft chuckle sounded in his ear, sending his heart jumping. "Yeah. It has." She looked into his eyes, smiling sweetly. "What do you say we try out my theory?" Her horn alighted in its lavender aura, as a small portion of the light lept from the stream, appearing around her horn. She broke her concentration, allowing the light to return. "Harmony magic."

Taking a deep breath, Twilight lit her horn once more. This time, the light did not leap out from the stream. Instead, hundreds of thousands of droplets were dragged from varying points all along the river, slamming together as if Twilight's horn was a magnet. More quickly than before, she relaxed her concentration, sending the droplets rocketing back. She joined him on the grass, panting heavily now. "Chaos magic."

It's not an aberration. Discord could not stop the tears from flowing down his face. Before he could stop himself, he gripped Twilight in a tight hug. "Thank you, thank you."

Twilight chuckled, "Why in Equestria are you thanking me? I—" She stopped short when the river began to surge. Then, just as suddenly, it began to fade until nothing was left but the night sky. "It's gone."

Discord could not stifle a chuckle. "I guess it's shy." He looked into Twilight's eyes, noticing for the first time how distinctly exhausted she looked. "Twilight, maybe we should head home."

Ignoring his comment, Twilight pulled away, gesticulating wildly at the now decidedly uninteresting landscape. "My theory was right!"

Discord rolled his eyes, sprawling out on the grass. "I suppose I'm going to hear a lot about this, aren't I?" Seeing her hurt expression, he waved her on. "Go and dazzle me with your newfound revelations."

Twilight jerked a nod, "Okay. So, you saw that I could use both chaos and harmony magic, because they're both the same magic. The only difference is the method we use to draw it out of the river." Her eyes turned to his side which had returned to its usual shade of brown some time ago. "My chaos magic is transient because I can't slam the magic together like Discord can. But, I imagine he has trouble with harmony magic since he has to draw it all from one spot on the river."

You have no idea. Though, Twilight's words were encouraging. If she could use his magic, and control it, who was to say he could not do the same? But, there were a few gaping holes in her theory. "Sounds logical. But, what about the Tree? Corrupt magic? That sort of thing. You've missed a few bases."

"The Tree is easy. It's like our horns, channeling magic, sort of like a fountain." Twilight prodded his horn before plowing ahead. "I imagine most unicorns, earth ponies, and pegasi need a channel to access the river. For unicorns it's the Tree, for earth ponies it's the very soil, and for pegasi, it’s the sky. Alicorn, and other powerful beings like Discord can access the river directly, that's why they're more powerful." Her eyes bored into his, a frown stretching across her face. "What I can't figure out is how you can access it."

Discord looked away, chuckling nervously. Smart girl. "I haven't the faintest clue."

"Well, besides that, there's the matter of corrupt magic." She began to pace in little circles, more closely resembling a drunken scholar than an alicorn princess. "You know how when we cast a spell, we release the magic? Well, maybe corrupt magic comes from holding onto it too long, cutting it off from the purity of the stream."

Discord's eyes followed her swaying steps as he stood. "Twilight, you need to res—" Before he could finish his sentence, Twilight began to stagger, and collapsed in a heap. "Twilight!" He rushed over to her, feeling her heaving sides. Thankfully, she did not appear harmed, just tired. He nuzzled her cheek softly. "Idiot."

As his hoof stroked her frayed mane back, he could not help but admire the way its strands reflected the moonlight. At that moment, Discord could not think of anywhere he wanted to be other than beside her under the stars. He leaned down, resting his head against her own, breathing softly, "Thank you, Twilight. Thank you."

She'll be okay. She'll be okay. Spike lay curled up on his basket, repeating the words like a mantra. Hours had passed since he had gone back to the library, and there was still no sign of Twilight. Try as he may to sleep, his mind kept running a mile a minute. What if something really bad happened to them? What if she was lost? What if Twilight just ran away? Okay, admittedly, that was not likely, but there was no telling with Entropy.

Spike glanced at the clock above Twilight's headboard. Two-thirteen in the morning. There was no way she would be out that late without a good reason. Taking action, he got to his feet and started towards the stairs. Just then, the door to the library creaked open. He trotted over, looking down from the loft. Entropy? The stallion was carrying Twilight on his back as he made his way to the stairs. She looked unharmed, though obviously asleep.

He waited for them, biting his lip to stopper the urge to cry out. When Entropy got to the top, he smiled weakly at Spike. Without ceremony, he walked over to her bed and rolled her onto the quilt, resting her head on the pillow. He huffed for a while, wiping the sweat from under his forelock.

Spike rushed over to him, gripping his leg. "Why were you carrying her? Is she all right? You weren't attacked by timberwolves, were you?"

Entropy rolled his eyes, holding out a filthy hoof. "Hush. She's fine, just tired," he whispered. Sighing, he turned his attention back to Twilight. "We had a lot to talk about."

A lot to talk about? Spike felt his stomach drop. "What kind of stuff, Entropy?" He hissed the words, nudging the stallion in the ribs.

Instead of a response, Entropy climbed up on the bed himself. He sprawled out on the foot of it like some oversized guard dog. "Goodnight, Spike."

"What?" He can't be serious! He tugged at the stallion's leg, "Entropy, you can't sleep in Twilight's bed. She'll be really mad."

"Too tired," Entropy mumbled before closing his eyes and going silent. In a matter of seconds, he was as sound asleep as Twilight.

Spike ran his hands over his head. This was not good. All his worst nightmares had been confirmed. Twilight was out talking to Entropy the whole time, probably about mushy stuff. Then he brings her home at two in the morning and has the brass to fall asleep on her bed. Did that mean they were dating now? He hoped not, hoped that Twilight would knock some sense into him as she woke up. But, a part of him knew that was not going to happen. For now, he would just close his eyes and pretend that this was all a bad dream. Yes, a very bad dream.

The light of the bonfire climbed skyward like some great red mountain, illuminating the villagers dancing around its base. Their laughter and music drifted to where Discord lay on the grass, watching the scene unfold as it had countless times before. He chuckled at the swirling black edges around it. The dream was not a new one to him, though he never really grew tired of the memory. It had been pleasant enough to watch their dance, though he had been forbidden to take part in it.

So, just like countless times before, he watched, enjoying their laughter and wondering. His tail tapped out the rapid tempo of the dance as the firelight danced off his scales. A soft breeze blew the familiar, comforting smell of wood smoke and spirits to his nostrils. It was a good smell, one he would always seek out. He nearly toppled over when he heard a soft voice in his ear.

"Discord? What are you doing by yourself?" Twilight, no his dream's version of Twilight giggled softly, sitting down beside him. She was wearing the fashion of the day, some three hundred years before his banishment. Strange, it suited her, especially with her mane braided the way it was. The apparition seemed to read his mind, because she nudged him playfully in the ribs. "What? Does the dress look weird?"

"No! I . . . uh . . ." Why am I embarrassed? It's just a dream. Discord cleared his throat, gesturing to the crowd with his paw. "Why aren't you dancing?"

Twilight rolled her eyes. "Because you're the only one I want to dance with, silly." She huffed, sticking her muzzle in the air. "You've been sulking all night. If you're going to take me to the dance, you had better at least act like you're interested in dancing."

"I took you?" Discord burst out laughing. "Me? I'm a draconequus! Surely you don't want to be associated with the likes of me."

Discord winced as her hoof made contact with his chest. "Well I do!" Her eyes stared challengingly into his own, "You have a problem with that?" She turned away, fidgeting with her mane. "What were you thinking about?"

"Oh, a lot of things." He raised his talon, gesturing at the band. "The irony for one."

"Irony?" Twilight pressed her side to his, looking questioningly back at him. "What kind of irony, Discord?"

His dream Twilight was persistent, he would give her that. He sighed, looking back at the dancing forms. "The song is one of ours, the draconequus that is. It's not a happy song, but everyone has so much fun dancing to it."

"Well?" She scooted closer, stroking his chest with her hoof. "What were the words? I'm hopelessly curious, you know."

Curious? Please, you want me to give a history lesson. Guess it couldn't hurt though. "It's a song from the war that tore our kingdom apart, many centuries before you were born. They used to sing it dancing and laughing like these ponies. Father never told me why." He cleared his throat, and began to sing in a language he had not used since he was a child,

"Fade, fade, fade away
As the rust takes the iron,
So our minds slip away
We've turned, turned, turned away
From faith, love, and laughter
And the works of our hands
So, dance, dance, dance while you can
Tomorrow's but a dream and today is the end"

He chuckled, feeling his face heat up. "I'm afraid I'm a little stale."

Twilight shook her head, "No, it was nice. I've never heard a draconequus song before. But," She looked down at her hooves, "it's a little sad. Why did they fight in the first place?"

"Oh, I don't know, Twilight. Something stupid I'm sure. That's how all wars seem to start." He stared at the alicorn, the living embodiment of harmony as she was so lovingly called by Celestia. "The world may do well with a healthy dose of chaos now and again, but, it can't survive without harmony, it just can't. My kind never learned that simple truth."

Twilight looked into his eyes, as though searching for something. Then, slowly she ran a hoof across his cheek. "But, you did, Discord. You need harmony, that's what brought you to me."

"No, I came because of a stupid bet." That had been his only real reason for coming to Ponyville. Everything that came as a result was mere chance.

"Well, the bet may have brought you to me, but you stayed, didn't you?" She giggled, running a hoof through his mane. "You could have left today, nopony would have blamed you. But you stayed. You stayed for me, yes, but there's more to it than that." She looked up into the heavens, "The gods have a plan, they brought us together for a reason. Don't be so quick to dismiss this as mere chance, Discord."

A loud crash of the logs released a jet of flames, launching hundreds of sparks into Luna's night sky. His eyes focused on Twilight's childlike wonder. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"Yes!" She looked back at him, a small smirk stretching the corners of her mouth. "Come on, Discord. Let's join them."

"But, I can't remember all the steps!" Before he could protest, she had pulled him to his feet. He rolled his eyes. Even in my dreams, she still wins. For once, he did not mind, in fact he was glad of it.

Would It Be So Wrong?

View Online

Twilight always considered herself a highly rational pony. Easily stressed, but certainly not liable to make emotional decisions without thinking through the consequences. At least, that was what she used to think before she woke up with a stallion in her bed and no idea how he ended up there. Come to think of it, how did I get here?

The morning light cast warm rays onto the quilt where Entropy lay sprawled out on the foot of the bed, fast asleep. Judging from the dried sweat on his coat, he must have pushed himself last night. Twilight thought back to the last thing she could remember. The river had dissipated, and she had been telling him about her theory. And, after that, they ended up here. Her heart lurched as she started to put two and two together. Oh, Celestia! What did we do last night?

She sat up straight, blinking the sleep from her eyes and looking for Spike. Certainly she would not have done anything like that with him around, Entropy at the least would not have dreamed of it. Still, that did not change the fact that he was on her bed. Slowly, she crawled over to him, nudging him in the ribs. "Entropy. Entropy, wake up."

Spike's voice came from the top of the stairs "Twilight?" He adjusted his apron, tapping the wooden bed frame with a frown. "What are you doing?"

What am I doing? She sat up straight and stared back at him. "I . . . don't really know." That was the understatement of the century. Her eyes fell onto Entropy's sleeping form, the stallion really did look exhausted. "How'd I get back here, and why's Entropy in my bed?"

Spike clapped a claw to his forehead. "You don't remember?"

"No." She braced herself for whatever he was about to say. "Was it bad?"

"No." Spike waved the thought away, walking over to her. "Entropy came back around two in the morning carrying you. He said something about you being tired. But," he pointed at the sleeping stallion, "he was complaining he was tired, and wouldn't leave. I tried to tell him you wouldn't like it, but he didn't listen."

Twilight's heart skipped a beat. He carried me? But those cliffs are at least two miles away. She could not help but smile at Entropy. There was never anything to worry about with him around. Her hoof stroked his side gently, "Oh, I don't mind, Spike. He's welcome to stay."

Spike gaped at her for a while, then, seemingly searching for a change in subject, he pointed at the clock. "It's eight thirty, the festival's already started."

She yawned, looking back at the faded numbers with a frown. They had overslept, and for once, she did not care. Slowly, she got to her hooves, wincing from the aching in her limbs. Ran too much last night. She could only imagine how tired Entropy was, especially with his arthritis. "I'm going to take a shower, Spike. Let Entropy sleep as long as he wants."

"Uh, okay." Spike trotted after her, taking the stairs two at a time. "What were you talking about yesterday?"

"Huh?" Her half-awake brain could hardly focus on her steps, let alone Spike's wild train of thought. "Talking about?"

Spike jerked a nod, "Yeah. When Entropy came back, he said you had a lot to talk about. What were you talking about, Twilight?"

Twilight rolled her eyes, not in the mood to humor him. "A lot, okay? It's nothing important." It was in fact, very important to her, but she was not about to explain herself, not yet. She reached the door to the bathroom, and turned back to him. "Later, Spike."

Stepping inside, she slammed it, sliding down onto the cool tiles. Her life seemed to be on fast forward ever since yesterday. The festival setup, the mishap with Cheese, looking for Entropy; the focus and subjects of the conversation had somehow slowly blurred until they were no longer distinguishable from each other. A good long shower was exactly what she needed to clear her head and sort out this whole mess. That was assuming it could be sorted out.

Discord never imagined that his favorite smell would be lavender. Not that it was bad, but it was a decidedly feminine smell. However, since he had messed around with Twilight's tail the other day, he could not get enough of it. He was even smelling it in his sleep. Or was he? A warm sensation spilled over his back, as though he were laying on a sunlit hill in the middle of the day. He probably had fallen asleep by the cliffs after running off yesterday.

"Entropy?" Twilight's voice drifted to his ear like a wind chime in the summer breeze.

Great, now I'm imagining things. With a bit of effort, he blinked awake and stared at the alicorn lying beside him, soft coat glistening in the morning light. Now I know I'm imagining things. "Twilight? What? Why are you here?"

Twilight rolled her eyes clean over, blowing a strand of damp forelock out of her eyes. "Seriously?"

Discord wiped his face with a grimy hoof and took a good look at where they were. His heart sank when he noted the large bed they were lying on and the sunlit interior of Twilight's loft. A glance at the clock said that it was nearly nine thirty. Twilight was leaning against his side, coat still damp from what he assumed was one of her showers. She was looking out the window at the town beyond, tail resting comfortably atop his own.

Try as he could to remain calm, he could not help the rapid beating of his heart upon realizing that Twilight did not seem bothered in the least with their proximity. Have mercy on my soul. "What did I do to you?" The words spilled out before he could figure out something remotely intelligent to say.

"Nothing much." Twilight shot him a very knowing smile before kissing him on the cheek. "For somepony who claims to be intelligent, you're really clueless."

Yes I am. Explain! He closed his eyes, desperately trying to remember the sequence of events from the previous night. Accepting defeat, he turned to Twilight, "What happened?"

An almost hurt look flickered across her face, "Don't you remember?" She stared piercingly into his eyes for a moment, as though judging his sincerity. Then, slowly, she reached out, stroking his forelock back with a hoof. "You carried me back from the cliffs after I collapsed."

Then, it came back to him as fast as a wave against the rocks. His screw up, their conversation, the river, Twilight collapsing, and the long walk to Ponyville. Instinctively he attempted to move, sending an equally involuntary gasp from the sudden, searing pain. He gritted his teeth to avoid letting loose a string of curses.

Twilight frowned, rubbing his back with a hoof. "Are you okay?" Though she was being incredibly gentle, he could not help but wince from the contact. She sighed, and lit her horn. The pain numbed in an instant as she cast a healing spell on his back. "Sorry, I should have tried to treat it before waking you up."

"It's fine." The day before, he would have had something to say about Twilight nonchalantly casting harmony magic on his body. However, that seemed idiotic now that he knew the truth, her magic was every bit the same as his, just drawn from one place instead of thousands. It no longer bothered him in the least, in fact, it felt rather good. He lowered his head, allowing her to keep working on the spell.

"Your back's strained." She flicked her mane, sending up yet another tantalizing waft of lavender. "You could have woken me up, silly."

Discord snorted a laugh, "Please. Nightmare Moon herself couldn't have woken you up last night." His eyes tracked her progress. For a mare whose specialty was far from healing magic, she had a knack for it. He glanced down at the quilt, noting the dirt obscuring the lilac checkered pattern. "Sorry about falling asleep on your bed, and making a mess."

Twilight gave a filly like giggle, still focusing on his back. "Oh, I don't mind, Entropy. You're always welcome to stay. Besides," her voice lowered to a near whisper, "that's what mares do for their stallions."

Their stallions? Discord felt his heart lurch again. He tried to think where she had gotten such a ridiculous notion. And then it came to him. "Twilight, I think you're confused. Yesterday when I hugged you, I . . . it wasn't like that."

The spell stopped as she turned to stare at him, eyebrow raised. "Really? What was it then? Because, last time I checked, stallions don't go hugging just any mare like that."

"I . . . I was caught up in the moment." He really had been. If he had been in his right mind, he would never have dreamed of holding her the way he did. Discord tried to look away, but was quickly ensnared by the playful glint in her eyes. Why must she look at me like that?

"Yes, but . . ." She leaned in close enough for him to smell the mint from her mouthwash. Then, before he understood what was going on, she pressed her muzzle to his in a determined fashion. For some reason, Discord could not pull away, it felt too good. Then, slowly she broke it, flushing crimson. "You're saying you don't like that?"

"No, I like it a lot!" Discord felt like kicking himself the instant the words left his mouth. It was the truth, but it was far from helpful given his current predicament.

She caressed his neck with a hoof, an almost pleading look taking over. "Then, what's the problem? Don't you want to date me? Isn't that what you've been wanting for days now?"

"I . . . you . . ." A part of him wanted to scream that it was not right, that they could not be together. They were completely different species, it would never work out between them. But, another, more dangerous part wanted so badly to agree, to finally have the chance at finding someone more than a friend. The thought was dangerous, and crazy, but so tempting. Would it hurt to play along, if only for a month?

"Well?" Twilight leaned in with all the air of an expectant filly.

Discord gulped. Gods help me, I'm going to do it. "Yes, that's what I want . . . as long as that's what you want." He looked down at his hooves, at the façade he kept for the sake of his little game. Somehow, that did not seem important at the moment. She liked him, and who knew, maybe after all was said and done, she would grow to like him for who he really was. "But, I'd like to take it slow. Go on a few dates, and see where it leads, that sort of thing."

Twilight gave a squeal of delight, wrapping him in a bone crushing hug. "Thank you, Entropy. You won't regret it."

Oh, I'm sure I will. Discord flinched when Spike chose that moment to appear at the top of the stairs. "Hello, Spike."

With the agility of a cat, Twilight released him, sitting up straight to face her assistant. "What's wrong?"

Spike just stared open mouthed at the pair of them. Then, slowly, he raised an accusatory claw at Twilight. "What were you two doing?"

Discord chuckled, getting slowly to his hooves. Thankfully, Twilight's spell had done a credible job at keeping the agony in check. He limped over to Spike, patting him on the head. "We've decided to start dating, that's all." His attention turned back to Twilight, "I'm going to take a shower, and then we can walk to the festival together." Without another word, he started down the stairs. It was better to leave it there and let Twilight hash it out, she was far too fond of withholding information from the child. Besides, he could use the space. After all, he, Discord, the master of chaos himself was dating someone for the first time, and he had to get it right. The thought made him warm all over, and more than a little nervous. Oh, what to do first?

"You're dating him?" Spike felt as though his entire world had collapsed with a single sentence. There was no way in Equestria Twilight would decide something so important without him, was there? He leaned in close, tugging on her leg. "Twilight? Tell me this is some kind of joke."

Twilight sighed patting him on the head in that patronizing fashion of hers. "It's the truth, Spike." She levitated a brush to her mane, looking out the window as if indicating the point was moot.

Don't ignore me! "Twilight." He stamped a foot down against the hardwood, still glowering at her. "You can't just go and decide to date somepony without asking me first."

Twilight snorted a laugh, turning back to face him. "Really? Since when do I need your permission to date somepony? Besides," she dropped the brush, getting to her hooves, "I thought you liked Entropy."

"I do." Sometimes. "But he's been getting way too friendly with you." Twilight seemed perpetually stuck under the illusion that Entropy was perfect. After what Applejack told him yesterday, he thought she would be mad at him for hurting Cheese. Instead, she seemed all too ready to forget it even happened. "He hurt Cheese, Applejack told me."

"It was an accident." Twilight started down the stairs, list hanging suspended in front of her. "It's all forgiven, Spike. So don't worry." Her progress halted at the bottom as she lowered the list to stare wide eyed at the door. "Do you know whose running the activities if I'm here?"

Annoyed by the change of subject, Spike spoke a little more tersely than he intended. "Mayor Mare." He cuffed the floor with a foot, mumbling under his breath, "If you weren't so obsessed with Entropy, you'd know that."

"My, my, is that a hint of resentment I hear?" Entropy's smooth voice directly behind him, made Spike wheel around. Sure enough, the stallion was looking at him with that Cheshire grin of his. "I thought we were friends, Spike."

"Yeah, well, friends don't go dating Twilight without my permission." He puffed out his chest, keenly aware of how ridiculously underwhelming the gesture was. Just as he was about to speak up again, Entropy shook himself off like a dog, spraying water all over him and a little on Twilight.

Rather than snap or chide him, Twilight burst into a fit of giggles. "There is such a thing as a towel, Entropy." She trotted over to the hall closet, returning with a fluffy white towel. Using her magic, she proceeded to rub off his mane, causing Entropy to flush violently.

Urgh! Spike felt like he was trapped in some corny romantic comedy. Deciding to end the noxiously lovey-dovey atmosphere, he kicked Twilight pointedly in the hock. "Twilight, shouldn't we go to the festival now?"

"Oh, right, sorry." Twilight dropped the towel, making her way a few strides before stopping in the center of the floor. Her eyes made their way across the shelves, focusing back on him. "Where did we put the speech for the contest winners, Spike?"

"Uh . . ." Taking the initiative last night, Spike had cleaned the entire library. There had been so many papers, and he had been so distracted, that for once, he could not remember where he had put everything.

Entropy's booming laugh made them both jump. A scroll levitated from the very top of the nearest shelf, landing in front of Twilight. Entropy smiled brightly, still holding the scroll steady in his golden magic. "Here, I put it up so you wouldn't lose it."

Twilight just gaped at him, and Spike was inclined to do the same. He can control his magic? Apparently this was news to Twilight as well, because she literally screamed with delight, causing Entropy to lose concentration and drop the scroll. The expression of shock on the unicorn's face was beyond priceless as Twilight leaned in close, grinning from ear to ear. "You did it!"

Entropy lowered his ears submissively, tail tucked between his legs. "Did what?"

"You used harmony magic to lift the scroll." She spun in place like a ballerina, then hopped up and down in a credible impersonation of Pinkie. "Yes, yes, YES!"

The stallion shot him a questioning look, but Spike was not inclined to help him out. Instead, Entropy cleared his throat, "Yes, I suppose I did."

Twilight leaned in close, eyes sparkling in that over exuberant way Spike knew would lead to trouble. "How did you manage it?"

"I just remembered last night, and how you drew the magic out of the river." Another flush stretched across the stallion's face as he focused on the floor. "It was nothing really," he murmured.

"Nothing really? Entropy, that was incredible!" Twilight gave Entropy a quick hug before turning to Spike. "Did you see that? He just performed a perfect levitation spell!"

Spike rolled his eyes, "Thrilling." Apparently the sarcasm was lost on her, because she continued to jabber on as they made their way out into the sunlight beyond.

The air was heavy with a sticky kind of heat that clung to one's back like a sweaty hug you could do without. To top it off, the pegasi had cleared the sky to allow Celestia's sun to break through in all its fury. At that moment, he would have given anything for a glass of lemonade.

"Spike?" Entropy had slowed, allowing Twilight to walk ahead, still chattering away to herself. The stallion collected his walk so that he could keep pace with him. Though he looked as upbeat as ever, there was a distinct hint of concern in his golden eyes. "I'm sorry for not explaining the situation with Twilight first. I didn't mean to upset you, I just," he chuckled, staring hard at Twilight, "get swept up in the moment when I'm around her."

Swept up in the moment? Spike could see his point. Twilight was the kind of pony you wanted to do your very best for, not because she was intimidating or demanding, but because you knew without a shadow of a doubt she would do the same for you. "Yeah, guess you're right. And, I guess it's okay, I mean, you two are practically made for each other."

Entropy barked a laugh, "Maybe. Time will reveal the truth, one way or the other."

He raised an eyebrow, watching Entropy stride forward to walk with Twilight again. The truth? Something told him that there was more to "the truth" then just their feelings. But what? What kind of secret could Entropy be hiding? Certainly it was not anything dangerous. After all, how much harm could one nerdy professor with zero magical ability cause? Still, the thought was unsettling, and he made a mental note to keep an eye open just in case.

Awkward moments were Discord's specialty. There were many days where, in his boredom, he would conjure up the most embarrassing situation to throw unsuspecting ponies into. Such "discomforts" never bothered him, in fact, they always had a way of raising his spirits. Unfortunately, such was not the case with Twilight.

They had walked into the festival to see it in full swing. A bit more chaotic then Twilight would have liked, but ponies appeared to be enjoying themselves. That suited him just fine. After all, what fun was there in sticking religiously to a schedule? Spike seemed to agree and scampered off to go "guard" the dessert displays. Before he and Twilight had time to orient themselves, Mrs. Plumsworth appeared with her gaggle of friends. They had voiced their surprise at his and Twilight's late arrival together. Mrs. Plumsworth asked where he had been, and then things fell apart.

Apparently stating that you spent the night at somepony's house was a cause for alarm. After he had said it, the words seemed to linger in the air like the oppressive humidity. Discord felt his stomach sink as the implications of his blunder sunk in. Being frozen in stone for over a thousand years made it difficult to keep up with the "lingo." He looked apologetically at Twilight, but the poor mare was cringing behind him, flushing cherry red, and murmuring something incomprehensible. Great, smooth going, Discord. He turned back to the elderly ponies, "It wasn't like that! I . . . we were studying magic last night. Twilight had a new theory, so we spend the night working it out." The words tumbled out in a rush, but he hoped they were enough.

Mrs. Plumsworth was the first to step forward, that knowing smirk plastered on her face. "Oh, don't you worry, son. We can keep a secret, can't we girls?" The mares nodded approval. One by one they came up, clapping Discord and Twilight on the back before shuffling off to torment some other ponies.

When they were relatively alone, Discord turned back to the still cringing alicorn. "I'm so sorry, Twilight. Really, the words just sort of tumbled out. I didn't think they'd take it like that."

Twilight stood a little straighter, giggling nervously. "It's okay, I just didn't expect you to be so . . . blunt."

She has a point. "Sorry for being so tactless. Why don't we—"

He was cut off by the thundering of hooves and an overly excited looking Applejack. "There you are! I was startin' to think you'd never show up."

Twilight sprung to attention, head jerking around the crowded thoroughfare. "What? Is somepony in danger?" Discord had to stifle the urge to break out into a fit of laughter. It was such a "Twilight" thing to do. That at least was good news, as it indicated she was returning to normal at long last.

Applejack raised an eyebrow, "No." Then her eyes fell on him. She stepped forward with all an over-serious air. Unconsciously, he stepped back a few paces, trying to avoid her piercing stare. To his surprise, she actually bowed in front of him. "I'm sorry for what I said yesterday. It wasn't right to go blamin' you without the facts, an I only hope you can let me make it up to you."

What? She's apologizing? Discord's heart was pounding uncontrollably in his chest. In all his years, he had never had any pony or creature give him a genuine, respectful bow. Certainly they would for Celestia, but never for him. The whole situation felt terribly awkward, and for the first time in his life, that thought did not amuse him in the slightest. "It's fine, Applejack, I forgive you. Just," he motioned her up with a hoof, "there's no need to bow."

Applejack got up, and nodded, a small flush tinting her cheeks. Her attention turned to Twilight once more, "It's not a big deal, Twilight, but the mayor could use some help with the judging. An maybe Entropy could help run the dances, since he's so good at them an all."

Discord saw the playful smirk on Applejack's face before it vanished. Ha, ha, very funny. He stood up straight, "Very well, I shall grace this town with my knowledge of classical dances." He walked over to Twilight, and without hesitation, kissed her on the cheek. "See you later." The expression of mingled surprise and pleasure on Twilight's face was all the encouragement he needed. Something told him that, no matter what came of their little "experiment," it would be well worth it.

"Twilight? What was that?" Applejack looked as though Twilight had slapped her with a wet sock.

"What was what?" Twilight knew exactly what Applejack was getting at, but something told her it would be more fun to tease her a little first. "You want to walk to the judging tent with me?" Before her friend could get a word in edgewise, she started off at a brisk walk.

"Twilight." Applejack nearly collided with a passing couple in her attempt to catch up. When she had, she stood in front of her, blocking the way. "Why'd Entropy kiss you?"

She giggled, brushing a strand of forelock back. Guess I'm caught. Her eyes darted around the laughing and chattering ponies, checking for eavesdroppers. Though she was delighted at the prospect of dating Entropy, she was not certain how he would feel about the entire town knowing they were dating quite yet. "He kissed me because that's what stallions do to their marefriends."

"What?" Applejack leaned in, hissing in her ear, "You're datin'?"

Twilight was unable to stop the smile from stretching across her face. She, Twilight Sparkle was dating a stallion for the first time in her life. Wait till Shining Armor finds out. Her eyes focused onto Applejack's. "Yes. We just decided this morning."

Applejack let out a long whistle, removing her hat to scratch her forelock. "Well all be, I didn't think you'd take my advice that fast, Twilight. But," she clapped a hoof on her back, "I'm right happy for you, even if he is a bit . . . different."

Different? That was the understatement of the century. Twilight snorted a laugh. "Yeah, he is that."

They walked for a while as Applejack relayed the latest from Sweet Apple Acres. Apparently, there was something wrong with Flim, she refused to say what exactly was wrong with him, only that he would not be able to stay and work for much longer. Twilight was starting to get the sense that this news was offsetting for Applejack on more than just the obvious level. Just as she was about to ask her about Flim, she literally ran into him.

The lank stallion staggered back a step, rubbing his head. "Twilight?" He gave a strange, soft laugh that sounded more like a wheeze. Judging from Applejack's lack of reaction, this was normal for him. His eyes darted around the spacious expanse of grass littered with a multitude of townsponies readying themselves for the relays. "You running the seven legged race or something?"

"No, Applejack's walking with me to the judging tent." Twilight could not help but stare at Flim. Since he had arrived in Ponyville, she had been too busy to properly chat with him. Now that they were face to face, it was easy to tell just how thin and "strung out" he looked. The sunlight cast a long shadow over his face from his cowboy hat, but it was easy to make out his sideburns, and shaggy forelock. That coupled with the driving collar around his neck made him look all too much like Big Mac. It was an almost comical contrast from his slick maned showpony getup he usually sported. She could not help but burst out laughing from the comical picture.

Flim rolled his eyes, "Forgive me for assuming you partook in more activities than paperwork." He turned his attention to Applejack. "Is she always like this?"

"I think she's just surprised 'bout yer," she gestured to all of him, "new look."

"Oh." Flim glanced down at his dirt covered hooves, then shrugged. "Can't be helped, Applejack, can't be helped."

Applejack clapped him on the shoulder, "Darn right. That's the mark of a good workin' pony, Flim."

"Indeed." He looked back at her with a frown. "Did you need something, Twilight, or were you just looking for some late morning entertainment?"

Twilight flushed a little, realizing how rude she had been to him. "No, I—" She gasped so loudly that both Flim and Applejack jumped back a little. "That's it!" How could she have missed an opportunity like this? This was the perfect time to test her theory. She leaned in closer to Flim, eying his horn. "You're a pretty powerful unicorn, right?"

"Yes." There was a definite note of caution in Flim's voice as he regarded her with wide eyes. "I have to be to power our machines."

Perfect! She allowed herself a short victory dance before regaining composure. "So, what's your magic specialty?" Her hoof reached out to touch his horn, but he flinched away like a cat. Flim and Flam's horns were unusually long, did that mean they could harness more magic? "Could you demonstrate?"

Flim sighed theatrically, "I suppose." He lit his horn with a green aura, pointing it at a lone tricycle on the grass. Immediately, its wheels began to turn furiously, and it whizzed off at an incredible speed until Flim released it. He turned back to her, a smile across his face. "My specialty is power generating magic, so's Flam's."

"Awesome!" Twilight could not believe her luck. This was a perfect chance to test whether or not Entropy was the rule or the exception to it. If the river could be accessed by any unicorn with enough power, then Flim should have no trouble drawing directly from it. She looked pleadingly up into Flim's eyes, "Would you be willing to help me with my research? All you'd have to do is cast a few spells in front of Entropy and myself."

The stallion seemed to consider this for a moment, then spoke slowly, "My magic gives a lot of energy, but it takes a lot of physical strength to use." He moaned, running a hoof through his dusty mane, "All right, I'll do it. But, you'd better pay me. Just because I work for the Apple's for free doesn't mean I'm a walking charity case."

Pay? Twilight snorted, rolling her eyes. She should have known Flim would not have changed his tune completely. "Sure, I'll pay you. Say, ten bits an hour?"

Flim held out a hoof, and she took it. "Deal. Just let me know when you want to start." With that, he started back towards the stage, whistling a cheery tune.

Twilight stared at Applejack, mouth slightly ajar. "He's really something else, isn't he? Applejack?" The mare was staring at Flim as though just seeing him for the first time. Maybe she had not expected him to be so forward with the payment. "I don't have a problem paying him, Applejack, it's only fair."

Applejack her head, turning back to her, "Sorry, Twilight. Just spacin' out." Her eyes darted towards the relay games. "Just, I got to do somethin', so I'll see you later." Without another word, she cantered away.

Really? If you didn't want to walk with me, you could have just said something. Reluctantly, she made her way to the judging booth. Today was looking to be a long one, but when it was over, she would have something's, or rather somepony's company to look forward to. Things were finally looking up.


View Online

Sore did not even begin to describe how Discord felt. The pain was no longer isolated to his joints, but seemed to radiate from every inch of his false form. He sprawled out on the quilt with a groan. The day had been one long blur after the events of the early morning. Running the dances until Cheerilee stopped his fun, chatting to and about other ponies, and practically being force fed fair food. In fact, it had been so hectic that he scarcely had time to so much as string two words together to Twilight before she was whisked off to do something else.

He looked out the window at the moonlit view of Ponyville. It turned out to be a pleasant enough town despite his earlier assumptions. And . . . He chuckled, thinking of Twilight's embarrassed smile this morning. Perhaps it was not quite as boring a place as he first imagined. Lowering his head to the pillow, Discord tried to picture how tomorrow would play out. No doubt Twilight had a lesson plan for him, and it would inevitably backfire. That always kept their lessons entertaining.

His eyes darted to the hooves, his hooves he supposed even if they were scarcely better than an illusion. Or were they? He had cast the spell hundreds of times before, mostly for a quick joke, though sometimes for self-preservation. Was it an illusion or a transformation? Pathetic as it may be, he really could not tell. It felt real, at least the pain did, and that certainly was not normal for him. Could it be that, as long as the spell functioned properly, he was as much of a pony as any of Twilight's friends?

Quit fooling yourself, Discord. You're a draconequus, remember? You blew fire the other day, which counts for something. But, a smaller, more tempting voice spoke up. Yes, but who knows, maybe ponies can do the same thing with their own magic. Discord closed his eyes, trying to silence his stray thoughts, and marveling at how easy it was.

Under any normal circumstances, he would stay awake for over a week before he could slow down his mind enough to drift off. It was his nature, he simply needed mental stimulation, and could not get that while sleeping. Tonight however, he welcomed the break.

Just as he started to fade out, a loud rapping on the window jerked him uncomfortably back to reality. He looked up to see none other than their dear moon princess staring back at him. Couldn't you use a door? Sighing, he undid the latch, sitting up as she drifted gracefully onto the bed. A sneer stretched across the corners of his mouth, "You know, stallions don't generally let strange mares wander into their rooms at night."

Luna ignored his quip, frowning as she stared around at the tidy room. "I am surprised that you did not make your usual 'modifications' to your chambers."

He shrugged, watching her eyes grow wider as she noted the neatly folded towel in the corner. "I can be organized when I wish." The longer he stared at her, the more he wondered. Luna had always been cautious around him, Discord imagined it was because of that incident with his father, but never had the heart to ask her. "So, have you come to admire my new chambers? How unlike you."

Luna cleared her throat, turning back to him. "Certainly not. I have come to seek your counsel."

"What?" He barked a laugh, staring her coldly in the eyes. "The day you seek my counsel is a dark day indeed. No pun intended of course," he purred, leaning back against the windowsill. "Tell me the real reason, Luna."

"It is about your letter." The words tumbled out of her mouth in a rush, as though she feared she might lose her confidence if she wavered. Knowing Luna, she would have. The mare began to paw at the floorboards, avoiding his questioning stare like the plague. "Its contents concern me greatly, though Tia does not seem to be bothered. Pray tell, what did you mean by the 'consequences of your decision' and of losing Twilight?" Luna's hoof struck the floor, echoing off of the knickknack lined walls. "Surely you do not think she would allow herself to be corrupted as I did."

"Not intentionally, Twilight is too kind for that." She's not like you. He frowned, growing increasingly irritated at Luna's avoidance of his gaze. "Look me in the eye when you speak to me." Luna bit her lip, and began to quiver in that disconcertingly familiar way of hers. Discord sighed, softening his voice, "Luna, I would not hurt you. You know that."

The alicorn nodded slowly, stroking her neck with a hoof. "I know, I know, Discord. It is just . . . difficult for me. You . . ." Her head jerked up, allowing her eyes to lock onto his. "Forgive me my foolishness, Discord. I do wish to hear your thoughts on Twilight. Do you think her dangerous?"

Discord could not help but smile, remembering the gentle sensation of her muzzle to his. "Certainly not, Luna. But her propensity for magic makes her vulnerable to—" He gasped as a surge of pain worse than anything he had felt in centuries flooded his senses. He let out a few choice draconequus curses, glad for once that Luna did not understand him. It probably sounded more like a series of growls and hisses anyway.

"Discord?" Luna's voice held a touch of panic as she rested a hoof on his sides. "What's wrong?"

"Don't know . . . lots of pain," he managed to spit out in between his exclamations. For a while he lay there, allowing himself to regain some composure. Then he turned back to her, shocked to see her expression. Gods she's terrified. He smiled as encouragingly as he could given the circumstances. "I'm all right, the spell is merely resisting me." I'm not going to die on you yet.

Luna raised an eyebrow, stroking his side with a hoof. "Strange. You have used this spell before, when we were children."

Discord frowned, thinking back on the distant memory. "Yes, but for an evening, not an entire month."

"It was a fun evening though." Her eyes sparkled with that childlike wonder of hers, "You and Tia took me with you to sneak sweets. Do you not remember?"

Discord chuckled, glad to see she was all right. "Yes, it was quite the adventure." He stroked his goatee, smirking knowingly at her. "You tripped and I had to carry you the whole way back. And then we got quite the lecture from Father—" He paused, seeing her expression darken in an instant. You idiot!

"It is all right to speak of him, Discord." Luna's hard expression told him the opposite was closer to the truth.

"What happen—"

Luna interrupted him, voice terse. "I will not speak ill of the dead." She looked him into the eyes again, "We must return to the matter at hand. What does Twilight's magic make her vulnerable to?"

Discord scowled at her. A part of him wanted to press the matter about his father further, but it would wait. They had all the time in the world for that. Twilight's dilemma was a different story entirely. "To corruption, Luna. She can draw more from the river than either you or Celestia, but she cannot yet control what she draws out."

"River? What do you speak of, Discord?"

For an instant, he thought of telling the truth, but decided against it. The river was Twilight's discovery, and they hardly understood it yet themselves. "Never mind. It is but a metaphor. The point is that Twilight's magic is tied closer to her emotions than yours or Celestia's." Seeing her questioning expression, he continued, "She was not ready mentally or physically for the strain you have placed on her with her ascension. Leaving her alone is foolish. She nearly lost control the other day. If I had not been there she . . . " Would have been lost.

Luna cursed under her breath, staring hard out of the window. "What is to be done?"

"Watch her, closely. Guide her if necessary." The thought of having Twilight, his Twilight guarded by their uptight overlords was too much to bear. "I will take that role for the time being. However, after this month is over, we should allow her to decide who would best fit that role."

"Tia most likely," Luna muttered in a bitter tone. "She will not be happy about this, Discord."

He shrugged, "She must reap what she sows, Luna. You are the proof of that." Luna twitched, but said nothing as she made to leave once more. Just as she was about to fly off, he held out a hoof. "I have a question for you."

She looked as though she wanted to protest, but bit her lip, nodding slowly. "Very well."

Discord took a breath, quite unsure how to phrase the question, it was far easier in his head. "You see the dreams of every pony, do you not?"

"I do." Luna's voice was cautious, "What of it?"

"When I am in this form, do you," he gulped, staring hard at his hooves, "do you see my dreams as well?"

"I do not." Luna's words struck him like the Elements. Before he could ask her more, she took off into the sky, leaving him to his thoughts.

"Entropy, you can stop now." Twilight watched Entropy perform yet another perfect levitation spell on a stack of library books. For the life of her, she could not understand what possessed him to remain so singularly focused, it was hardly like him. "Entropy! You did it, you can stop."

He looked back at her, pupils remaining red for an instant before turning back to their original color. "Forgive me, Twilight. I was . . . preoccupied." The formal language sounded more than a little strange coming from him. His attention turned to the stack of spell books in front of them. "Why does it come so easy?"

"Oh, I don't know, Entropy." She shuffled closer, allowing her side to press to his. His slow deep breaths and steady heartbeat reassured her that he was no longer nervous with her touch. She looked down at the books, noting that not a single one was damaged. "Don't worry about it, you're doing great."

"Yes, but why?" He sighed lowering his head onto his hooves. "It should not be so easy," he mumbled.

"Entropy, you should be happy." Her hoof stroked his back reassuringly. "It's a good thing."

"Maybe," Entropy looked sadly into her eyes, "as old as I am, I should have been able to do levitation for years before now. Why did it take seeing the river to change that?"

Twilight could not help but giggle at him. He really doesn't get it, does he? "Entropy, you're not like them. You," how to say this, "you think on a different wavelength, it's only natural you'd approach magic the same way." That seemed to be just the wrong choice of words, because he pulled away from her, glowering challengingly. She waved her hooves defensively, "It's not a bad thing, but maybe, maybe you're meant for a little more than . . . ordinary."

Entropy's booming laugh reverberated around the room. "Isn't that what I told you?" He rolled on the floorboards, clutching his sides, "Twilight, you . . . you never cease to amaze me."

"What?" Twilight was suddenly feeling highly self-conscious. She elbowed him hard in the ribs, "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, nothing." He waved the thought away with a hoof. After clearing his throat, he continued, "So, you are suggesting that I was trying to approach the river from the wrong angle?"

"Well, not necessarily the wrong angle . . ." Instinctively, she reached out to touch his horn. The tip felt cold, as hers did after she used magic. I wonder. "Maybe we're going about this the wrong way." She released his horn, lighting her own. After a moment of concentration, she drew the same magic as they had that night, directly from the stream. Just as fast as it came, she let it flow away. Before Entropy could protest, she placed his hoof on her horn.

"Twilight? What are you doing?" Entropy's face was redder than she had ever seen it before.

"What temperature is it?"

"I don't think that's—"

"What temperature is it?" She repeated with a bit more urgency.

"It's warm, really warm." Entropy looked at her with concern, pulling his hoof away from her horn. Without warning, he planted a kiss on her muzzle, then brushed against her cheek in that gentle way of his. "You know, if you wanted me to touch you, all you had to do was ask," he breathed.

Twilight felt her heart lurch, "Entropy, I'm serious about the horn. I think it means that—"

"Don't care." Entropy chuckled, knocking her back against the floor with a playful smirk. Once again, he pressed his muzzle to hers. He nuzzled her cheek and neck as gently as before, allowing her to savor that familiar earthy smell of his.

It felt wonderful, but it was a bit forward, even for him. "Entropy. Entropy!" She felt her face heat up as she pushed him off of her. "Spike, remember."

"Oh, right." He chuckled nervously, rubbing a hoof through his greying mane. "Got a touch carried away." His attention turned to the floorboards, seemingly lost in thought.

There he goes again. "What's wrong? You've been acting weird all morning." He mumbled something incoherent. It was more than a little annoying, so she nudged him hard in the ribs. "Look at me when you're talking."

Entropy's eyes widened as he wheeled around to face her. "What did you say?" Apparently realizing that he had better get to talking, he continued in a rush, "I'm just worried."

"Worried? You?" She snorted a laugh, "Hardly." Though they had only known each other for a few short days, Twilight got the impression that Entropy was not the type of stallion to worry about much.

He puffed his chest out, staring defiantly back at her, "It's the truth!" His hooves gesticulated to encompass the library. "I've been here for eleven days now."

Eleven wonderful, undeniably taxing days with more than a few mishaps. It was to be expected, after all, her life had not been "normal" since she left Canterlot. Entropy knew full well what he was getting into, right? "Entropy, I don't understand. Why's that a problem?"

Entropy sighed, looking back into Twilight's eyes. "My time here's almost halfway over. What happens," his voice grew soft, "what happens when I leave?"

"Oh . . ." Twilight felt her stomach drop out from under her. It was such a logical question, one that she herself would have asked. Explanations reeled around in her mind like a broken record. What would happen? Just as she was about to admit defeat, Applejack's words gave her the confidence she needed. "Then we'll just take what comes. It's as simple as that."

"You can't be serious. That's your solution?"

"It is." She clapped him on the shoulder, grinning toothily back at him. "What's the worst that could happen, Entropy? I'm a princess of Equestria, it's not like we'll never see each other."

"Yes, well . . ." Entropy pursed his lips as though giving the idea serious consideration. "All right then, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Happy?"

"Not quite," Before he could protest, she pushed him playfully to the floorboards. "Promise me you'll forget about the consequences, and just relax. We may not have much time left, but," her muzzle pressed gently to his, "we'll make the most of what we do have."

Entropy's soft nicker made her heart pound faster in her chest. "All right, dear, but, it'll bite you in the rump later."

Twilight nickered back, nuzzling his cheek. "I think I can handle it," she breathed. It would not have mattered if she had a few hours left with Entropy. Each and every second they spent together was worth whatever consequences would come.

If there was one duty Princess Mi Amore Cadenza loathed, it was paperwork. She was a mare of action, and there was precious little action in signing paper after paper. It almost always required sequestering herself in her chambers for hours at a time. Blessedly, the mountain of official documents were interrupted by the occasional fan letter. Today brought an especially rare, but extremely welcome occurrence, a letter from Twilight.

Cadence smiled as she levitated the letter closer. Her eyes grew wide as she noted that the lilac envelope contained a note in Twilight's own writing. Why didn't she have Spike write it? After a quick glance out at the slowly awakening city, she started to read through Twilight's customary well wishes. She nearly dropped the letter when she read the next bit.

'You're not going to believe this, but Celestia's trusted me with a student! He came fourteen days ago, and nothing's been the same since. Entropy's the perfect student, kind, thoughtful, and intelligent. He's a teacher at Canterlot University too! He's even been teaching me theoretical physics and chaos theory. His lectures are brilliant!'

It was all she could do to hold in her snort of laughter. If there was one aspect to any stallion that Twilight would fixate on, it would be his intelligence. Though, admittedly, there were not a lot of stallions anywhere that could compete with Twilight's knowledge, so it was understandable she was excited. Rolling her eyes, she continued,

'He can't control his magic yet, and at first we were really puzzled by that. But, then we discovered the truth behind it all! I won't say any more, as our theory's a bit shaky. Let's just say, it could change the very foundation of Equestrian magic theory.'

Cadence giggled softly. I highly doubt that, Twilight. Her sister-in-law was one of the sweetest ponies she had ever met, but she did tend to overblow the importance of her discoveries. She had been doing it ever since she was a filly, and there looked to be no stopping her now.

The letter continued with a very detailed summary of life in Ponyville with her new student. Judging from Twilight's constant praise of the stallion, she was more than a little infatuated. At first, she imagined it as puppy love, until she read the next paragraph.

'You're going to think I'm crazy, but here it goes. Entropy and I have decided to start dating. It's like we're made for each other, Cadence. How did you know when you were in love with Shining Armor? I think I might love Entropy, but I can't tell.'

Her heart skipped a beat. Oh, Twilight, what am I going to do with you? She finished the letter, smiling at the almost filly like excitement of her sister-in-law. Young love was too precious. Just as she was about to re-read it, the door swung open and her husband stepped inside. "You're back early."

Shining Armor nodded, removing his helmet and wiping the sweat from his brow. "I had to get away for a bit. The guards keep complaining about the new training regimen."

Cadence giggled, "It is a touch more difficult than they're used to."

"I can't help it! Princess Luna specifically insisted that I up their training." He sighed, striding over to her desk. "Paperwork?"

"No, a letter from your sister." She held up the letter for him to see. The urge to tell him about the latest development was too much to resist. "She's found herself a stallion."

"What? No way!" Shining Armor made to grab the letter, but she stowed it carefully in the envelope once more. "Come on, Cadence, let me read it."

"It's private. But," she shot him a playful smile, "if you be a good boy, I'll give you the scoop."

He chuckled, sitting down beside her, sweat streaked sides pressing to hers. "All right, I'm listening."

"Celestia's given Twilight a student for the month. He's a professor from Canterlot University, and, from what she says, he's a lot older than she is." Cadence noted his concerned look, patting his forelock. "Don't be such a worry wart! Twilight wouldn't fall for just any stallion. Besides, she's assured me that they're keeping everything appropriate."

"That doesn't change the fact that she didn't ask me first!" He flexed his muscles in a determined fashion, "Who does that stallion think he is, messing with my Twily?"

Cadence snorted, rolling her eyes. For somepony head over heels in love, her husband could be incredibly thick skulled when it came to romance. "Shining dear, it's not something either of them could help. Love just happens. Having your permission won't change a thing."

"But . . ." He made to protest, but she stopped him with a well-timed kiss. His expression of frustration melted to one of contentment. Slowly, they broke the kiss. All trace of irritation had left him now. "All right, you win. But, I still want to meet him."

"Of course. I do too." Cadence frowned at the stack of paperwork in front of her. "But, it will have to wait until we finish our business." She stuck out her tongue in disgust, levitating the topmost paper. "Approvals for new schools don't sign themselves you know."

Shining Armor laughed, getting to his hooves. "Good luck with that." His helmet returned to cover his head once more. "I'd better get back to the guards. Let Twily know I'm thinking of her."

"Sure." Cadence watched him leave, then removed Twilight's letter from the envelope. Her little sister was finally growing up. There was so much to write about, she hardly knew where to begin, but she would do her best. After all, first loves do not come around every day. This was going to be fun.

Unwanted Attention

View Online

One week. One week of dating, and she had him wrapped around her hoof. Discord honestly had no idea when or where it happened, it just did. Between their near constant magic practice and continued research, it was impossible not to be impressed with Twilight. For a pony as young as she was to have the knowledge, flexibility, and determination she had was nothing short of remarkable. He supposed everything she did was remarkable, at least to him.

What was most remarkable at the moment was how determined she was to learn chaos magic. As he lay on his quilt staring at the awakening town, he wondered what possessed her to become so singularly focused on it. In all honesty, he was pleased that somepony was taking an interest in his magic, but that was hardly convenient given his current situation.

Twilight seemed convinced that the more she nagged Discord about it, the more she could learn about chaos magic. He was quite sick of the stack of letters she kept sending him, as it was starting to interfere with his sleep. Try as he may to explain that chaos magic could not be learned through writing, his mare seemed determined to drive him crazy in the attempt. Chaos magic had to be felt, as he wrote time and time again in his responses. That led to a whole new problem where she kept asking him to come to Ponyville and teach her and Entropy. That would be awkward to say the least.

And then there was her constant ranting about Entropy. It was reassuring to know she felt the same about him as he did about her, though it sometimes felt like he was reading a school filly's diary. Really and truly he did not care what she looked like, so why in Equestria was she so worried about it? Gods above, he would not have cared if she were a griffon, and that was saying something. That coupled with Spike's ill-concealed attempts to come between them at every chance he could get was getting on his nerves. Children. I'm surrounded by needy children.

Just on cue, the book on his endtable began to vibrate. Sighing, he levitated it towards him, withdrawing an all too familiar letter. He rubbed his temple, bracing for today's drama.


I have a bit of a confession.'

He rolled his eyes, "Shocking that."

'Yesterday I found a really old potion in a spell book. There was no description, but the text said it was a chaotic potion, so naturally I made a bit up to experiment.'

"Naturally!" Discord burst into tears of laughter, rolling on the quilt. Leave it to Twilight to make a potentially dangerous potion without knowing what it even did. And then there was her adorable assumption that it was a chaos magic potion. "Not likely, dear. Draconequus don't go giving away the recipe to chaos magic potions to just anypony with a spell book." Still chuckling, he read on,

'Well, before I could test it, Spike bumped into me and I . . . I spilled it all over Entropy.'

"WHAT? You said that was water!" It was a small miracle the magic from the potion did not revert him back to his true form. That would not have ended well.

'I didn't tell him, and he went home. Now I'm feeling a little guilty. Do you think he'll be okay? Should I tell him?


"For the love of . . ." Discord made a wild gesticulation at the paper, "YES! What do you think?" Still fuming, he withdrew a sheet of parchment, writing with his unicorn magic for a touch of practice.


This might come as a revelation to you, but in my day when wayward alicorns spilled potentially dangerous chemicals on their elders, they explained themselves and apologized. Do you not think a pony of his age and standing would be capable of registering that it was an accident? Surely he has had some experience with potions before, and would be able to assist. If you had any iota of common sense left, you would tell him!


He sent it off in a jet of golden flames, tail twitching irritably. Great, now there's mysterious magical effects to add to my list of concerns. Children! Sighing, he got to his hooves, wincing at the pain in his joints. It was not so unusual anymore, and he had perfected the best gait to avoid jarring his bones more than necessary. It was abundantly clear now that it was not mere arthritis he was suffering from. The spell was slowly rejecting him, and any hint of chaos magic might be enough to dissolve it altogether.

Despite that, Discord could not help being happier than he had been in months. Not only was his life pleasantly varied, but he actually had someone to share those pleasant moments with, someone who truly cared about him. That thought kept him going despite the nagging pain radiating through his body like poison.

Purposely avoiding the kitchen and by extension, Mrs. Plumsworth, he veered out the side door into the sunlight. The warmth cascaded over his coat, allowing the aching to fade to near nonexistence. Whistling a nameless tune, he began his usual route to the library, nodding a greeting to the ponies he passed. They all knew his name by now, and he knew just about all of theirs'. It took a greeting with Carrot Top to realize that something was off.

Rather than her usual half-interested smile, the mare literally jumped in front of his path, grinning in a wolfish manner. Discord lowered his ears, taking a few steps back. "May I help you?"

"That depends," She walked, no sauntered up to him with all the air of a drunk hooker. Oh gods, why me? Before he could react, she was staring centimeters from his muzzle, eyes boring into his. "What are you up to sneaking by so casually?"

He bit his lip, trying to stopper the urge to blast her with his still volatile harmony magic. "I was not sneaking, I was walking."

"Nope, you were sneaking." She actually brushed his chin with her hoof, causing him to cringe.

There was nothing that remotely attracted him to this mare, and from her previous interactions with him, the feeling was mutual. So what in Equestria was the problem? Then it hit him like a ton of bricks. Twilight, I'm going to kill you. "I believe you may be under the influence of a mismanaged potion, Carrot Top. I—"

"—Potion?" Her high pitch laughter was like talons on a chalkboard. She pressed her hoof to his chest, "Darling, I don't need a potion to see that you're the finest catch this side of Canterlot."

Twilight was going to get a lecture from him personally, just as soon as he found a way to escape. Being involved in the spectacle was a lot less amusing than watching it. Sighing, he pushed her unceremoniously onto her haunches. "Enough, Carrot Top. I'm leaving." Just as he started off, the mare grabbed his hind leg, nearly pulling him to the grass. "Let go!"

"No!" A look of utter desperation stretched across her round face. "Please stay."

"Please leave me alone," he retorted, glowering down at her.

"Yeah! Leave him alone, Carrot Top." Rainbow Dash's jeering voice sounded from a nearby rooftop. With all the agility of a cat, she landed on the grass, prying the surprised vendor off of his leg.

Discord took the hint and cantered off, Rainbow keeping step. They veered off into a side alley, panting heavily. He grinned at her, "Thanks . . . Rainbow . . . you're a lifesaver."

Instead of a response, Rainbow was staring at him with a look of revelation sweeping over her face. "You're . . . you're younger!"

He rolled his eyes skyward. "Really? I do not have time for this, I am the same damn age I was yesterday!" His hoof stamped the dirt for emphasis, wincing at the resulting concussion.

"No you're not!" Rainbow facehoofed, proceeding to grab a nearby watering pail. She held it up for him, "See?"

Discord started backwards at the image. There stood a stallion that looked twenty years younger, jet black mane, no lines, and a more muscular physique. This was not just a love potion he was dealing with. "Twilight," he growled, turning back to towards the library. "When I get my hooves on you . . ."

"Before that," Rainbow Dash interjected herself between him and the street beyond, "why don't we you know, hang out?" Her eyes darted to his shoulders, with an unsettling interest. "You could come to my place, show me some techniques. You know?"

Techniques? What's she— Discord twitched as Rainbow Dash's tail wrapped around his. Great, just great. He pushed her aside with a hoof, "Not interested, Rainbow."

"Aweee. Come on." Her eyes sparkled with a lustful hunger as she pressed her side to his. "You've got to have a lot of experience."

"I do not!" That was the truth as sure as he lived and breathed, but Rainbow Dash did not seem satisfied.

The mare clasped one of his hooves, staring pleadingly into his eyes. "Come on, just one time. Please?"

The mare's advances were making his skin crawl. Typical ponies, mate with whoever they want then throw them away whenever it's convenient. He pinned his ears at her, "No! My kind do not partake in one night stands." Discord wanted to slap himself for the last bit. Flim's speeches about the virtues of honesty during their research must have rubbed off on him.

To his surprise, Rainbow Dash either did not notice his slip up or did not care. Instead, her side pressed to his once more. "But, it's not night, silly," she whispered in a credible impersonation of Mrs. Plumsworth's frisky voice.

Have mercy on me. Under any normal circumstances, Discord would not have dreamed of raising his hoof to a lady, but desperate times called for desperate measures. With as much strength as he could muster, he drew back his hind hoof and kicked Rainbow Dash right in the chest. The effect was instantaneous and Discord did not bother to watch her crumple to the grass.

He lurched forward in a headlong gallop. Idly he wondered at how much running he had done since he arrived in Ponyville. It really was ridiculous, and he made a mental note to complain to Twilight about it when he got the chance. His legs began to burn and he cursed his luck. I'm far too old to be gallivanting around the countryside because of a few mares.

Finally, he slid to a halt in front of the library door. Without even looking behind him, he ran inside and bolted the door behind him. He stared hard at the floorboards, panting heavily. "You're . . . . in . . . so much . . . trouble."

"What for?" Twilight's voice came from the top of her ladder. Discord looked across the room and noted her levitating a book from the top of the shelf, completely focused on the task at hand. "I didn't make you run."

"You!" Discord slapped a hoof to his face, "Don't play innocent! When were you going to tell me about the potion?"

Twilight turned to face him, gasped, and tumbled off the ladder. Without hesitation, he lurched forward, preparing to catch her in his magic. Thankfully, Twilight realized she had wings halfway through the fall and caught herself. They breathed a collective sigh of relief, staring at each other. Then, as if they planned it all along, the pair burst into a fit of hysterical laughter. Twilight was the first to gain her composure, waving a hoof as she caught her breath, "How'd . . . how'd you know about the potion?"

"What else could have done this," he made a sweeping gesture over his body, "Last time I checked, this was not what I looked like."

"Point taken." Twilight giggled, trotting over to him. Her hooves stroked his sides in that electrifying way of hers, "Were there other effects?"

He let out a soft chuckle, allowing her to continue examining his limbs. "Yes, and they were far from welcome."

Twilight listened to his quick recap with an unusually distracted air. As he spoke, her hooves stroked his legs, sides, and even his mane as though she were contemplating buying a new wagon. When he finished, he looked for her usual response, a theory or perhaps a wild spell to try. To his dismay, she continued to pet him like a particularly fluffy cat. "Twilight. Twilight! Pay attention."

"Sorry." She giggled, running a hoof through her mane. "It's just, I was really curious what you looked like when you were younger." Her muzzle pressed to his for a brief instant before pulling away. "You must have been quite the lady's stallion."

"Not hardly." Discord had an uneasy feeling about what was coming next. Surely an alicorn would not be affected by a little potion, right? He started towards the bookshelf, looking for some sort of antidote reference. "Where should we start looking for a counter potion?"

Twilight's high pitched laughter set the hairs on the back of his neck on end. "Silly, we don't need a counter potion." She trotted over to him, whispering seductively in his ear, "all we need is each other."

Not her too! Discord was all for having Twilight's affections, but not this way. He rounded on her, "Listen to me, Twilight. I want your affections, truly I do, but only yours." Clutching her close, he breathed softly into her ear, "You are more than enough."

Immediately she relaxed, "Okay, Entropy. But," her voice softened to a near whisper, "it's a shame, you know? This way we're the same age."

So that's it. Discord sighed, stroking her mane gently. "No, Twilight. This isn't an age spell, and even if it was, it would not be right." I thought she was over this. "Time must march on, I cannot stop it and wait for you."

Twilight nodded slowly, burrowing her face in his chest. "I know, I know," she murmured softly.

"Entropy? You finally show up?" Spike's ever annoying voice sounded from the door to the kitchen. Sure enough, the little apron clad dragon trotted out in his usually loud manner. "Why do you two have to be all huggy? It's only like eight o'clock. And what's up with your mane?"

Discord snorted, rolling his eyes. The child had no understanding of the word tact. We were having a moment. Reluctantly, he pushed Twilight back, getting to his hooves. "Next time you interrupt adults, do try to me semi-respectful about it, Spike." He swished his tail in the dragon's face, turning to the bookshelf once more. Today was going to be interesting to say the least.

While Twilight could safely say she knew a lot about spells, potions were another matter entirely. In the course of four hours, they had tried just about every conceivable spell she could think of to put Entropy back to normal. Despite their best efforts, the potion's effects remained as strong as ever and would not have been much of a problem if it did not mess so strongly with her focus.

Twilight was convinced that she loved Entropy, convinced for days now. Maybe not as much as Pinkie loved Cheese, but enough to safely say she was infatuated with the stallion. However, this potion took her affections to dangerously obsessive levels. Even with her alicorn magic, it was difficult to stopper the crazy fantasies that flitted through her mind every time she looked at him.

"Twilight?" Entropy waved a hoof in front of her face, jolting her out of the most recent "bad student" daydream. There was a distinct note of exhaustion in his voice, "Twilight, for the love of the gods, focus. I have explained this to you three times already."

"Sorry, what were you saying?" Twilight felt a heady tinge of guilt as he beat his head against the nearest spell book.

"The potion," he pointed to the book resting on the pedestal without looking up, "acts as an aphrodisiac and an illusion in one. Therefore," his hoof moved toward her horn, "we need to treat the symptoms together rather than separately."

Twilight nodded, glancing around at the mountain of books piled around them. "But, how do we nullify an aphrodisiac and an illusion spell together?"

"I don't know." He slammed his head harder against the book, the dull thud echoing around the room. "You tell me, oh great and powerful alicorn."

"Hmmm." Entropy had a point, she should know how to fix something like this. It should be simple, so why was the answer so hard to find? She hated to admit it, but she needed backup. "Maybe I should ask Discord."

"I don't think that's wise." Entropy grimaced, making a slicing motion across his throat. "Didn't he just write a 'you solve your own problems' response? What if he gets mad?"

Twilight could not help but roll her eyes at him, "Discord doesn't get mad, Entropy, not really mad anyway." It had to be close to the truth. After all, even when he first broke out of his stone imprisonment, he had never really been mad, not to the point where he would actually hurt anypony at least. "He's the spirit of chaos, not the spirit of vengeance. What's the worse he can do, turn us into books?"

Entropy looked as though he had a snide comeback for that, but said nothing. Instead, he scooped up the nearest book and began to read again, mumbling something about children. She pinned her ears at him, "And I'm not that young, Entropy!"

"Hmmm? I didn't say anything, dear." He levitated the book up, an overly innocent expression on his face. "But you're quite right in that regard."

"Don't agree with me so easily!" Get a clue, would you? With a little more malice than she would have liked, she turned to the nearest book. Their quest was starting to appear hopeless after all. Then, realization hit her like a brick. "Entropy, what's the only thing that can cancel out chaos magic?"

"Harmony magic," he muttered, still focusing on the text. "It's how you defeated Discord, isn't it?"

A small smirk stretched across the corners of her mouth. "And, I suppose the only way to cancel out harmony magic is with chaos magic?"

"No." Entropy's curt response hit her like a punch to the gut.

"What do you mean 'no'? It's only natural that the opposite of harmony would neutralize it." What did Entropy know? He was just being sore because she had been ogling him all day.

Her stallion rolled his eyes clean over, "Listen, chaos magic isn't the opposite of harmony magic, remember? It's just drawing from a millions of places instead of one."

"But harmony magic can beat chaos magic!" There, he could not possibly argue against that.

He shot her an Are you serious? look, "Twilight, the reason your harmony magic bests chaos magic is a simple matter of volume."

"Volume?" What's he playing at?

Entropy pointed his horn at a nearby book, casting one of the simple transportation spells they had been working on. "You see there? I'm drawing from the fountain, not from the stream. My power is therefore limited. Now," he pointed at her horn, "you as an alicorn, and your friends as the Elements of Harmony can draw directly from a single spot in the river, correct?"

Realization began to dawn on her, "You don't mean . . . ."

"Yes I do. You defeated Discord not because your magic was any 'purer' than his, but because you could draw more magic from the stream." Entropy tapped his book with a hoof, "That's why he immediately went after the Elements and shattered your ability to use them. He knew he could never out-magic you, so he out-smarted you."

The answer was so logical that she could not think of an intelligent rebuttal. It was far from pleasant remembering how easily Discord had out foxed them, but Entropy had a point. There was only one question remaining. "So, what nullifies harmony magic?"

"That, Twilight is obvious." He sneered in that knowing way of his, "Corrupt magic."

"Oh." A pit began to form in her stomach, radiating an icy chill through her body. That magic. The magic that would have seen her become as terrifying as Nightmare Moon. It was painful just to remember, and even more painful to admit that if Entropy had not been there, she would have given in.

Before she could speak, she felt Entropy's hooves wrap around her. "Don't worry," he whispered into her ear, "I would not let that happen to you, you know that."

She nodded, fighting the urge to cry. "Sorry."

"There is nothing to be sorry for, Twilight." His low, smooth voice was the best medicine in the world. "Let the past remain in the past or it will consume you," he breathed the words, almost as if he were speaking them to himself.

Twilight hugged him back, "That goes for you too, silly."

He chuckled softly, "All right then." All too soon he released her, returning to his research with an uncharacteristic determination.

At that moment, she was tempted to fall into another of her fantasies, but fought the urge. Allowing a stupid potion to beat her was just ridiculous. Speaking of . . . She stared at Entropy, wondering. The potion's effects were ludicrous to say the least. Did that mean it was chaos magic? There was only one way to find out. She closed her eyes, focusing her entire concentration on the river and the sensation of chaos magic. All she had to do was slam the fragments together, how difficult could that be? "Entropy?"

"What?" He looked up in time to flinch as a burst of her chaos magic hit him square in the chest.

What happened next could only be described as a major screw up. An unnatural, almost pressurized calm filled the room, as though they were lying in an open field right before a storm hit. Then, all too suddenly there was an unbearable ringing in her ears coupled with such a pressure that she feared her head might burst. Twilight writhed on the floor, moaning from the shock and pain of it all, it was too much for anypony to stand. Just as she was about to fade into unconsciousness, it receded as fast as it came.

She blinked blearily around the room, surprised at how bright it looked. Her heart lurched when she saw Entropy doubled over, clutching his chest. "Oh my Celestia!" As fast as her numb limbs could move, she crawled over to him. "Entropy? Speak to me, are you all right?"

He looked up, eyes flashing with a mixture of pain and anger. "Fine," he rasped, still clutching his hooves to his chest. "Do not . . . do not try that again, Twilight."

You don't have to tell me twice! "What happened?" She made to examine his chest, but he flinched away from her. "Entropy, let me look at it."

"I'm fine, Twilight, just fine." He jerked his head towards the kitchen. "Could you get some water?"

She nodded, getting to her hooves and cantering over to the kitchen. When she returned with a bucket, Entropy was lying in a more natural position, no longer gripping his chest. He took long gulps from the bucket as she watched him nervously. "I'm so sorry, Entropy. I tried to do the same spell I did by the cliffs, but something must have gone wrong."

He raised an eyebrow, speaking in his most sarcastic tone, "You don't say?"

Her eyes darted to his limbs, surprised to see them shaking. "Are you all right?"

"For the hundredth time, I am well." Entropy gave her a less than convincing grin. "I was just a bit surprised at the . . . effects."

She knocked him to the floor, "You can say that again! I have no idea how that happened. I mean, it's not like I haven't—"

"— Twilight? What are you doing?"

"What do you mean, Entropy?" She looked down to see his golden eyes staring at her with a mixture of shock and irritation. "What?"

"I don't think that I'm quite ready for this kind of . . . familiarity." He let out a long sigh, "Even if I was, I would not choose the main floor of the public library to make my advances."

She followed his gaze, stomach dropping out from under her as she realized that she was practically sitting on his chest. Somehow her hooves had found their way onto his, very nearly pinning him to the floorboards. In a swift motion, she jumped off of him, feeling her face heat up. "Oh my. I'm so sorry! It's this stupid potion, it's messing with my head."

"You can say that again," he mumbled just loud enough for her to catch the words. Rolling over, the stallion got to his hooves, straightening his now jet black mane. "I am going to seek the advice of one who is gifted in the area of illusion magic."

Twilight rolled her eyes. Theatrical much? "Who are you going to ask?"

"Flim." With a shrug and a wave, he trotted towards the door. "Man the fort for me, Twilight and do try to think of cures that don't hurt so much."

Before she could make to protest, the stallion had left her well and truly alone. Twilight tried to imagine Flim, Ponyville's resident ex-conman as a resource for anything besides shady business dealings. Certainly his power generating magic had come in handy for their research, but it was nothing compared to Entropy's raw power. She just hoped Entropy did not run into any distractions along the way.

Well, this is interesting. Discord tried not to look behind him, keenly aware of his little fan club, then again, they were not exactly subtle. It sounded as though half the mares in Ponyville were arguing over who was to kiss him first. The only saving grace was that they were too busy arguing to actually approach him. That did not stop him from making as fast of progress as he could. Unfortunately, something had to give.

Their resident mail mare shouted at the top of her lungs. "Let's catch him, and then decide who gets him!"

There was a roar of agreement at this, and Discord felt the thunder of hooves behind him. I'm getting too old for this. With a deep breath, he lurched forward, galloping as fast as his aching limbs could take him. Though he was making every attempt to zigzag and throw the mares off course, they kept up with him like hounds after a scent, it probably had a lot more to do with that than he cared to admit.

Lighting his horn, he began to cast a distraction spell from one of Twilight's books. The result was nothing less than pathetic. Rather than a distraction, he managed to teleport a forlorn stuffed animal in front of the herd. They trampled the poor ugly thing with all the air of a herd of wildebeests. Great, now what? Up ahead he spotted his opportunity, Big Mac's wagon loaded with straw. Perfect. He turned a sharp corner and in the split second it took for them to round it jumped headlong into it.

He must have been well concealed because the mares continued down the road in a thundering mass. That was way too close. For a while he lay hidden in the straw, contemplating his next move. The other stallions in the town did not seem so keen on his newfound popularity, and a few had actually burst into fits of laughter when he and the mob passed by so they would be of little use.

His best option appeared to be waiting it out until Big Mac returned. After all, where there was Big Mac, there had to be Flim. It irked him to no end to rely on a unicorn for something he should be able to figure out, but in all honesty, he was past the point of caring. What was more pressing was Twilight's near exposure of his true form and her inability to control chaos magic.

Not being able to control harmony magic was one thing, but if she was not careful, a lot of ponies could get hurt with her dabbling in chaos magic. It had taken him centuries to fully control his own magic, and the more he delved into it, the more difficult it became. If she actually read my journals closely, she would have known that.

Chaos could not be harnessed, only directed, a simple fact he had been forced to learn the hard way. There were times, even in his adult life where his control had wavered. Twilight was clueless, but incredibly powerful, enough to disrupt even his spell for an instant. In his current weakened state, an instant was all it took to lose control. It had required every ounce of willpower he possessed to contain the wave of concentrated chaos magic, longer to revert his talon back into a hoof. This spell required a dangerous quantity of chaos magic, and if he slipped again, all of Ponyville might be in danger.

"Entropy? What in the hay are you doin' in my wagon?" Big Mac's voice sounded right above his head. In a few seconds, he had wisked away the straw, allowing the oppressive sunlight to beat down on him. The stallion's eyes grew wide, "What in tarnation happened to you?"

"Twilight spilled a potion on me, some kind of aphrodisiac illusion mix." He burrowed himself in the straw again. "Trust me on this one, you don't want the mares to see me."

Big Mac let out an exasperated sigh, "Where to?"

Discord shuffled around in the straw, getting into a more comfortable position. "Flim if you can manage it. He's the master of illusion magic around here."

"Eeeyup." Without another word from Big Mac, the wagon lurched forward and down the bumpy road.

Discord did not know when or how he managed to fall asleep, but the next thing he knew Big Mac was whisking the straw off of him. The brilliant light made it impossible to see any of his details, though from the shadows, he assumed there were two ponies staring at him. "You can come out now."

"Is he okay?" Flim's nervous voice cut through the air. "Why's he all young looking? Is it an age spell?"

"Dunno . . ."

Blinking several times, he allowed the scene to come into focus. The wagon was resting underneath a particularly large apple tree. Flim was leaning casually against the trunk, looking a good deal like Applejack in his cowboy hat, collar, and straw clasped between his teeth. The younger pony jerked his head towards him, "Should we get Twilight?"

Big Mac looked horror-struck at the idea, shaking his head vigorously. "Nope."

Sighing, Flim walked over to him, scratching his scruffy red sideburns with a frown, "What in Equestria did you do to yourself?"

"Urgh! For the last time, it is not my fault. Twilight was experimenting with a potion and spilled it all over me." He jumped unsteadily off the wagon, staring hard at the thin stallion. "It's some kind of aphrodisiac illusion magic. I've been chased by the half the mares in Ponyville all morning. Twilight's even lost it!"

Flim looked at Big Mac, the smallest of smiles creasing his face. Then, as if by some unspoken cue, the pair burst into a fit of laughter. Flim's was accentuated by a bizarre, hollow cough that made his skin crawl.

If there was one thing draconequus were good at, it was recognizing weaknesses. His father claimed it was a natural instinct, in order to seek out the weakest prey to target. Though it was useful in certain situations, it always unsettled him to think that he was "sizing up" his dinner. He at least was one hundred percent confident that Flim had a serious lung disease.

Their fit of laughter subsided, and Flim managed to speak, "So? Why did you want to see me?"

He shrugged, "Well, I assumed you would have learned a thing or two about illusion magic when you were conning ponies."

"Why . . . you . . . " Flim huffed, looking away, "So what if we did? I'm not using it anymore. I've turned a new leaf, haven't I, Big Mac?"

Big Mac nodded sagely, "Eeeyup."

Discord glowered at the red stallion, "Enough comments from the peanut gallery." This whole situation was having his blood up. All he wanted was to live in relative obscurity for one month, one blasted month. Was that so much to ask for? "You," he pointed to Flim, voice icy, "tell me how to fix this mess now."

"All right, all right. Celestia above you're moodier than a pre-pubescent mare." Flim turned around, staring up at the apple tree. "We'll start with the illusion first. That's the tricky bit."

Satisfied that he would finally get some answers, Discord watched the unicorn set to work, picking apples, sticks, leaves, and Equestria knew what else. Big Mac followed Flim's every move like some overgrown lackey without a job. Seeing that it would be a while before Flim was finished with whatever he was doing, Discord set to work with his own experiment. He found a canteen under the wagon seat, and set to work.

Healing magic was one art that Discord rarely practiced. Not that he was not good at it, on the contrary, he like so many of his kind was gifted in that area. No, the real issue came from the fact that his healing magic was of course chaotic in nature and nopony anywhere, especially Celestia would tolerate its use in the medical field. Besides, it was not as though ponies could even use chaos magic in the first place, save for Twilight. The worst irony was that though he was able to use it on others, the magic was utterly useless on himself.

After the day's incident, he was more than a little cautious about using his magic. But, Flim was helping him out, and it was the least he could do to help him in turn. He began to cast the delicate spell on the water, waiting for that distinct, sickly sweet smell. Sure enough it came, and he cast another. Again and again, he stacked the spells, drawn from the depths of his memory. He surprised even himself at his progress. In a matter of minutes, he had finished the now steaming pink solution.

Flim's voice behind him caused him to jump, "Ready, Entropy?"

"As I'll ever be." Discord stood, turning to face a grinning Flim and Big Mac. He had the strong impression that they were neglecting some critical detail. His eyes fell on the cup of what looked to be a concoction of apple juice, dirt, and spit. "So, this is the antidote? I don't believe you."

"It's the truth." Flim held it up in his emerald magic. "I've used this before when my little sisters made a similar mistake with one of their potions. It really works!"

He rolled his eyes. "Very well." Without another look, he took the cup, draining it in one gulp. It was gods awful stuff, nearly causing him to gag from the aftertaste. "So, what now?"

Flim shot his cohort a knowing look, and pointed at Discord's tail. "See for yourself."

Sure enough, the formally ebony tail had resorted to its previous salt and pepper state. He let out a long sigh of relief. It felt wonderful to be back to "normal", but it did beg the question. How did one farm hand ex-conman out magic his and Twilight's combined knowledge? "What did you put into that potion anyway?"

"Oh, it wasn't a potion. It was apple juice with a bit of dirt." Flim shrugged, leaning against the wagon, "I didn't even use any magic."

"WHAT? But, you . . . look at me, I'm back to normal!" He gestured pathetically at all of him. What was wrong with this pony? Was he blind to what just happened?

Flim sniggered, waving away the concern with a hoof. "That you are, but it would have worked with whatever I gave you, just as long as you believed it would cure you." He shot him a toothy grin that could rival even the sleaziest salespony. "Illusion magic is all about belief. You see what you want to see, not what is actually there. So, the only cure for illusion magic is another illusion."

Discord could only gape at him. "Brilliant. Why did I not think of that?"

"Because you're a boring old sock, that's why!" Flim laughed at his quip, striding over to him. "Ready to get rid of your 'mare magnet'?"

"Please." Discord dreaded the thought of returning to town with that still hanging over him. "Is it going to be quite so backhanded?"

"No, more like upfront." Without any further word or warning, Flim leaned in and kissed him right on the muzzle. His scruffy muzzle was about the farthest thing from Twilight's velvety one, and tasted like stale apple juice. However, there was an immediate surge of magic, and Discord felt the aphrodisiac spell lift like a mist. Flim took a step back, gagging, "Celestia! Do you ever wash! Your breath stinks."

Big Mac shot him a decidedly confused look. "But, I thought you liked mares."

Flim face hoofed, "Of course I like mares! But, to break the spell, somepony of the same gender had to kiss him, and frankly, I didn't think you'd be so eager to jump in."

Illogical games and thought processes were a favorite of Discord's, but even he had to admit that he was baffled by this one. "Why in Equestria was that necessary?"

"The potion is designed to attract the opposite gender. So, it doesn't know what to do when somepony of the same gender makes advances." Flim proceeded to wipe his muzzle on his hoof, glowering at it with distaste. "Don't ask me to do that again, that was gross!"

Discord burst out laughing himself. "By the gods, Flim, you are bolder than I gave you credit for." Even he could not have come up with a more ridiculous cure. "How did you learn that one?"

"Well, my sisters had to get kissed by Séance. It was a lot less weird since she was family." Flim cuffed the grass with a hoof, looking a little embarrassed. "Don't tell Applejack," he murmured under his breath.

"I don't think she'd believe me if I did." Discord clapped a hoof on Flim's back. "Thanks for your help."

"Sure." Flim made to follow Big Mac back to the fields, but Discord held out a hoof. The kid raised an eyebrow, "Yes?"

"I have something for you, a bit of a thank you." Discord picked up the canteen, handing it to Flim. Seeing the younger stallion's dubious expression, he proceeded to explain, "It's not water, not anymore. I've put a series of healing spells on it. Take a few sips of that in the morning and in the evening and it'll help your lungs."

"But . . . you can't use magic . . . you . . ." Flim stammered, eyes darting from the canteen to Discord's horn and back again.

Discord chuckled, patting him on the back. "I did not tell Twilight because I feared she would not understand. I am actually rather gifted in healing magic. Unfortunately," he lowered his voice to a near whisper, "it's not a particularly legal type of magic. So, let's keep this our little secret, eh?"

Flim nodded, walking away with the canteen in a kind of daze. Satisfied that he had done some good, Discord trotted back towards town, whistling a cheery tune. Today had been interesting to say the least, but it had been enlightening in more ways than one.

Interlude - What went wrong?

View Online

Celestia pranced down the hallway, choosing her steps as daintily as if she were her mother. Chin up, back straight, head held proud, tail ever so slightly up. You can do this, Tia. Focus.

"Ha ha ha!" A familiar, high pitched laugh shattered her concentration like a mirror.

The filly rounded on the draconequus leaning against the nearest pillar. "Discord! I'm trying to focus."

"On what? Becoming a peacock?" He snapped his talon, and the feathers of her perfectly trimmed wings turned into peacock plumage.

"Change it back! Change it back!" She spun in circles, pink mane flying in all directions. My beautiful wings! They're ruined. Her attempt at magicing them back to normal failed gloriously, only growing out the feathers more. After a while she stopped, huffing at the now cackling draconequus. "It's not funny! Stop it . . ." A few salty tears streamed down her cheeks as she stomped her hooves against the stones. "Discord! Be nice."

"Naw, I think they're an improvement!" Discord floated over to her in his magic, chuckling as she tried to grab him, tripping over the now grossly enlarged wings.

Celestia was about to storm off in search of her father when a low, commanding voice made them both jump. "Discord!" She wheeled around to see Havoc, golden eyes boring into his son's like daggers. Discord immediately landed beside her, cringing.

Havoc crossed his tiger paw over his dragon arm, glowering at Discord. His next words were in draconequus, but even through the hissing she could tell he was extremely mad. She could not help but smirk when Discord muttered something back to him in the same language, cuffing his hoof against the stones.

Rolling his eyes, the ebony draconequus rounded on her. "Celestia, you know better than to wander around without your guard. The Empire takes no quarter, not even for royalty. If they were to catch you, they," He frowned, apparently deciding that the exact details of what the griffons might do was too much for a filly. "It would not be good," he finished lamely.

Discord ran behind his father's griffon leg, sticking out his tongue. "Yeah! Wimpy alicorn." Havoc snarled something in draconequus at Discord, and the child shrugged, "What? They are wimpy. You said it!"

Havoc moaned, rubbing his claw through his mane, "Discord, I did not say that. I merely made the point that an alicorn is no physical match for a draconequus. It is not an insult, it is a fact."

Celestia was starting to feel just a touch inadequate. "Well, Dad could beat you up anytime, Discord!"

Havoc's booming laugh echoed around the chamber. "That he could. That he could." He snapped his claw, returning her wings to normal once more. "I apologize for my son's lack of manners, majesty." He looked down at Discord, setting him cringing again. "He shall be assisting me with the offerings for his outburst."

Discord groaned, "Do I have to?"

Havoc's claw ran almost unconsciously over the countless draconequus runes embossed on his gold plated necklace. Celestia had never seen him remove it and wondered if he had had it permanently bound to his body. He spoke to Discord, "Of course, as a son of the high priest, it is your duty. Come, we must prepare." Havoc grabbed Discord by the scruff of the neck like some disgruntled kitten and with a snap, they had both vanished.

Celestia had to admit that she was a little jealous of their ability to just disappear at random, it would make sneaking out so much easier. Just as she started down the corridor again, she literally ran into her father. The black alicorn took a step back, frowning down at her. "There you are, Tia." He frowned, looking around the chamber, "Where is your guard?"

"I . . . left them, Father." Celestia wished the adults would simply drop the matter. "Havoc already chided me," she added, hoping that would prevent another mundane lecture.

"Did he now?" Morpheus laughed, looking around the hall. "He has left to perform the offerings?"

"Yes." Though she tried to sound casual, she could not completely hide the bitterness in her voice.

Her father raised an eyebrow, "What troubles you, Tia?"

"Why? Why do you allow him to do such . . . barbarism, Father?" Celestia cringed at the memory of Havoc's most recent offering, a severed stag's head presented to her father on a silver platter. "Surely he could find a more humane way?"

Morpheus sighed, running a hoof through his mane, the exact shade of a moonless night. "Tia, we must be respectful of their beliefs. Havoc is high priest to all the draconequus. It is his duty to offer sacrifices for his people and their scripture says it must be flesh offering."

"But, the deer are growing intelligent! That is what mother says." What if they became as intelligent as ponies? Would her father still approve?

"Tia, they raise them as livestock, and Havoc is ever cautious to slay them humanely. But," he looked out the window at the sunlit city beyond, "if it comes to that, I will have a discussion with him."

"Very well, I shall hold you to it." She held out a hoof, "Your word?"

He chuckled, taking it, "My word, Tia."

"Lulu, I do not see the point in—" Celestia paused, staring ahead at her little sister who was doing a credible impersonation of a cat stalking a sparrow. "Lulu, what are you doing?"

The teenager moaned, standing up straight in the knee high grass. "Why must you question everything, Tia? Did you not request this walk with me?"

"Yes, but, a walk, not a," she paused, thinking of the most tactful word, "hunt. If I wished for that, I would have brought Discord along."

Luna snorted, then burst out into tears of laughter, rolling on the ground. "Truly, Tia? It is not a hunt! I merely hoped to come close enough to pet it."

"It?" Celestia followed her gaze a particularly disgruntled rabbit staring at them from behind a nearby raspberry bush. "Why do you not request the guards to fetch you one?"

"But, that ruins the fun of it, Tia." Luna sighed, getting to her hooves, "I enjoy a challenge on occasion."

"Yes, as do—" She stopped short staring beyond the clearing. There in the distance rose a black pillar of smoke rising into the midday sky like a great serpent. "What is that?"

"What is what?" Luna followed her gaze, frowning deeply. "That is the direction of the nearby village, is it not?"

Celestia could only nod, feeling an uncontrollable shaking in her limbs. Fire was not uncommon in Equestria, but a fire so large that it could be seen from this distance was beyond terrifying. "We must aid them!" Just as she was about to take off with Luna, three of their guards flew down to greet them.

They bowed, the elder addressing her directly, "Majesty, the village is in danger."

"I can see that." She jerked her head towards the smoke. "Did you not send the weather team?"

"Yes your majesty, but," he bit his lip, staring hard at the grass, "there is a situation that prevents us from acting."

Celestia felt her stomach drop, an icy chill taking hold. "What situation?"

"Discord. He—"

"—He has gone mad!" The other guard interjected, shooting a panicked look back at the village. "The village has become the beast's plaything. Please, Princess, you must stop him!"

The older guard made to chide him, but she interrupted. "I understand your concern, but Discord would not act so. His magic is but jests, there is no real harm to it."

"You may tell that to the villagers he has tortured!" The younger pegasus pranced anxiously, "We must hasten there at once."

Luna nodded, "Very well, we shall see what trouble he has caused."

Before Celestia could protest, Luna took to the sky and she was left to catch up. They flew alongside the guards in silence, Celestia was too nervous to speak. Discord had been growing restless lately with his recent ban from the villages. What was she to do? He had proven himself a threat to everyday society, and he refused to see reason. However, she never imagined he would resort to this. Discord was easily irritated, but he would never hurt anypony, would he?

When they landed, they were greeted with a scene out of her worst nightmare. The village, or what was left of it was an arrangement of upside down buildings on fire, checkerboard grass, and an absolute menagerie of chaotic beasts and objects only Discord's perverse mind could have thought up. There on a self-made throne sat the young draconequus. He smirked holding up a glass of what she hoped was wine. "Tia, so good of you to join me."

"What is the meaning of this, Discord?" Her voice was icy, and it took every amount of self-control she possessed not to blast him with her magic. This was not her friend, this was a monster. "Return this place to order at once!"

"Order? Why?" Discord scoffed, running a claw through his black goatee. "There is no fun in order, Tia! I am merely showing our lovely subjects this fact as they refuse to listen to me any other way."

Luna stamped her hoof. "And why should they listen to a beast like you?"

Celestia felt her heart lurch the moment Luna spoke. Her sister's opinion of draconequus was far from positive, though normally she would show ungodly restraint in that regard. It had been the worst possible insult at the worst possible time. In an instant, Celestia felt herself being bound in tight chains, growing out of the ground like thorns. Luna had been trapped in an overlarge bird cage. When they tried to defend them, the guards were thrown unceremoniously against a nearby building, knocked unconscious by Discord's magic.

"That was rather rude, Luna," Discord spat, glowering at her sister with a look bordering on loathing. "How dare you! Do you know who I am?" He snapped his talons and a great maelstrom of chaos magic, like some evil cloud descended on them, warping everything it touched into grotesque shapes. Discord stood, magic swirling more violently with each word, "Every damn day I hear that I am not fit to be in the company of ponies. That I am a monster bent on destroying everything they love! Continually insulted for using the magic I was born with. Then you blame me, sentencing me to isolation!"

"I am not like that. I am not!" He was silent for a moment, allowing the magic to crescendo still further. His voice shook, tears streaming down his cheeks, "Do you not think I have suffered enough?"

Celestia's heart ached to see her friend suffer so, but she could not think of the words to comfort him. He was right, but what was she to do? After his mother's outburst all those years ago, draconequus were reviled by their subjects. No amount of propaganda on her part would change that. "Discord, you know I care for you."

"Truly, Tia? Truly?" Discord snarled, cursing at her in draconequus. The magic started to spark like lighting, striking at them like whip lashes. Try as she may to break free of the chains, they were held fast.

There really was only one option left, and it was the most painful she could imagine. She turned to Luna, whispering, "Luna, you must anger him further."

Luna gaped at her, "What? You are out of your mind! He will kill us, Tia."

"No, his magic is what holds us and we cannot match him in that regard. However," she jerked her head to the draconequus' claws. "we may yet be a match for him physically. We must make him forget he has magic."

"You are not suggesting . . ." Luna gulped, staring sadly at Discord, "What if he does not return from it? What if he takes after her?"

"We are out of options, Luna. We must act now or all of Equestria will suffer."

"Very well." Luna raised her voice to an earsplitting level usually reserved for addressing the subjects. "The ponies are not mistaken, Discord, you are a monster! What message do you hope to convey by this brutality? You are no better than your father."

He snarled, apparently no longer concerned with controlling the sea of magic around him. "Do not compare me to he who forsook his own soul!"

"I shall compare you, for you are the same!" Luna stamped her hooves, glowering challengingly at Discord. "You and all your kind are nothing to us. Go back to whence you came!"

Discord seemed to lose it then, allowing the magic to cascade over him like a flood. It crashed into them, dissolving the chains and cage like dust. When it settled, they were left to stare at Discord, or what was left of him. It was as though he had left to be replaced by some sort of feral animal. It was sickening to watch him crouched on all fours, snarling and spitting at them. A blast of his golden fire would have enveloped Luna if she had not dodged it.

This was her chance. Without hesitation, Celestia charged him, lowering her horn as it surrounded itself in the most powerful concentration of harmony magic she could muster. A sickening resistance hit as she drove her horn into his chest and out again. The effect was instantaneous, causing him to thrash around, howling in agony. His attempts at slashing her were credible, but she was ready and so was Luna.

Chains wrapped around him, directed by the alicorns. In a matter of seconds they had bound him tightly in what amounted to links of pure harmony magic. Slowly, its effect took hold, and Discord stopped struggling. For a moment he lay there, still as death. Celestia feared they had killed him, but his chest still rose and fell. She strode over to him, looking into his eyes. Blessedly, he had returned to them after all.

Tears streamed down his muzzle, "Why?"

"It . . . it was the only way," her own voice shook, staring hard at him. Around her the ponies had gathered, glowering at him. A few began to stamp their hooves, calling her to finish him off, even Luna looked close to joining them. Celestia bit her lip, contemplating. Every fiber of her being was screaming at her to show him mercy, to explain to the ponies that he was not a monster after all. But now it was too late, Discord has sealed his own fate. She had to make a choice between him or her subjects, and she knew the answer. "Take him to the castle! We shall try him henceforth."

"Yes, majesty." The guards dragged him away unceremoniously.

Celestia turned away, too ashamed to watch the ponies pelting her friend with whatever rubble they could find. He had made a grievous mistake, and he must pay the consequences, such was the way of the law. So why did she feel like the one who was at fault? Surely this world was cruel in every sense of the word.

"Tia! Are you listening?" Luna cocked her head to the side, frowning down at her.

Celestia jumped back on the covers of her bed, leaning away from her sister. "Lulu! Do not come so close."

Luna chuckled, standing up straight on the marble. "Well, I would not have needed to if you were paying attention." She jerked her head to the sunlit window and the courtyard beyond, "As I was saying, sister, I have spoken with Discord."

The mention of his name made her jump. It was of course a coincidence, but an uncomfortable one to say the least. "What did he say?"

"He fears for Twilight. He suggests . . . he suggests that after his stint," she emphasized the word as if he were a particularly rowdy inmate, "we ought to let her decide who is to watch over and mentor her."

"That is obvious, is it not?" Celestia prodded her chest with a hoof, "It is my responsibility, Lulu."

Luna bit her lip, looking around the immaculate chamber, "Yes, but, Discord seems under the impression that she may decide on him."

"Him?" Celestia burst out laughing, clutching her sides, "You cannot be serious, sister! Truly my student would not willingly choose to study under him."

Luna giggled, "Yes, well, it does seem a little hopeful on his part." Her smile faded, voice taking on a serious tone, "I fear he is in pain, Celestia, he cried out in front of me."

"In front of you?" If there was one thing Discord despised, it was showing his weakness to anypony, let alone Luna. "I thought it was but a harmless spell."

"I thought as much, but it seems to be weakening him." She sighed, looking away, "I am all for his learning our ways, but not at such a price. We should consider bringing him back to recover. If Twilight is as volatile as he claims, we may need his magic to combat the corruption."

Celestia raised an eyebrow, "You think it has come to that?"

Luna shook her head sadly, "I do not know, but we should be prepared for the worst."

"Very well, I shall . . . I shall write to him. Perhaps I will cut his visit a week short." The thought of having Discord wreaking havoc on her castle again was less than pleasant, but Luna was right, this was more important. "In the meantime, I will consider how best to explain the situation to Twilight."

Luna nodded her approval, retreating out the door once more. Celestia stared out the window, contemplating. Twilight was a dear student and friend, the representation of all that they valued. For her to corrupt so easily made no sense. Perhaps Discord had been right after all. Just like the fool she was, she had ignored him, ignored him until it was too late. She chuckled, running a hoof through her mane. History certainly has a way of repeating itself, eh, Discord?

Butting Heads

View Online

Discord contemplated destroying the letter, it would be satisfying to say the least. To send the words of that pompous swan to ash under the heat of his flames would be incredibly cathartic. However, that would do nothing to change the fact that he would be leaving Ponyville a week early. The very mention of his needing to “recover” made his hair bristle. What did Celestia know about him? Just because he had one slip up, she decided to treat him like a geriatric invalid. It was the spell, not his age that was affecting him, and he still possessed the common sense to stop himself before any of its effects became permanent.

Like always, she was ruining his plans. Was it so much to ask for a normal, peaceful life if only for a month? Besides, it would admittedly benefit Twilight as much as it would him. From the sound of her letter, Celestia intended on pulling Twilight away from Ponyville the week after he returned, to learn control, as if it were her idea all along. Discord was no fool, and could already see the signs that the alicorn had no intention of allowing Twilight to choose a mentor. He would have to have a conversation with her when this was over.

He was jolted out of his reverie by what sounded like a band marching down the street below. Sighing, Discord opened his window, looking down at Pinkie Pie. The mare was sporting her one pony band, trotting along as though it was perfectly normal. Well, for her it was. He could not stop the small chuckle that came from the sight. “Band practice, Pinkie?”

She looked up, grinning from ear to ear. “Yup a doodles, Entropy. Princess Cadence is coming today, so I’m gonna sing her a ‘Welcome Back to Ponyville’ song!”

“Marvelous! Don’t let me stop you!” Discord shut the window, sinking back on his bed. Seven in the morning seemed a touch early for band practice, but he would not complain, it did wonders to shake up the order of things. Speaking of . . . Discord frowned, tapping his chin with a hoof. Why didn’t Twilight mention Cadence? Deciding to hear the answer first hand, he got to his hooves and started for the library.

“This is going to be great!” Twilight spun around the floor of the library like a little filly. Today was the day that Cadence and Shining Armor were finally coming for a visit. She could not help but be excited thinking about how well Shining would get along with Entropy. After all, he was kind, funny, intelligent, and just about the best stallion in Equestria for her. What was there not to approve of?

Her exuberant dance led her to a headlong collision with Spike. The dragon fell on the ground, glowering at her. “Twilight!”

“Sorry, Spike.” She chuckled sheepishly, pulling him to his feet. “Guess I got a little excited.”

“You could say that again.” Spike eyes went as wide as saucers, “What did you do to your mane?”

“Huh?” It took a second to register what Spike was going on about, and then it hit her. “Oh, you mean the braid? Yeah, I thought I’d try something different. How does it look?”

“Uh,” Spike bit his lip, apparently contemplating the question, “nice? But,” his claw cuffed the floorboards, “a bit messy.”

Twilight winced, accepting that it was indeed a sloppy job. She honestly could not understand how Pinkie managed to do hers up so neatly. Sighing, she started to undo the braid. “Guess I’ll try again.”

Spike shrugged, scooping up a stray book and placing it on the shelf. “Why don’t you just ask Entropy to do it for you?”

“Entropy?” Twilight felt her heart leap in her chest at the mention of her stallion’s name. Her mind immediately fell to the feeling of his chin against her rump. Even if it had been an accident that one time, it was a little disconcerting. She was definitely not ready for that kind of familiarity. Silently she sent up a prayer of thanks that Entropy had the self-restraint not to give into temptation four days ago when she had been under the potion’s effects.

Just as she was about to comment, the door swung open to reveal none other than Entropy himself. “Good morning, dear, you wouldn’t believe the news.” He strode in with all the air of somepony announcing a particularly juicy piece of gossip. “Pinkie Pie has informed me that Cadence will be coming to visit today.” The stallion stopped beside Spike, leaning on the dragon as if he were the podium. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? I would have prepared a speech.”

Spike snarled something incoherent, pushing Entropy off of him. “Because you’re an embarrassment to Equestria, that’s why.”

“Spike.” Twilight sighed, rubbing her temple with a hoof. “I wanted it to be a surprise. Plus,” she took one of his hooves in her own, “Shining Armor’s coming with her, and I’d love for my BBBFF spent some quality time with my stallion.”

"Your BBBFF? Pray tell, what is that?”

Twilight could not help but giggle at his response. “Big brother best friend forever, it’s what I call Shining Armor.” She nuzzled him on the cheek, “I hope he’ll be your friend too.”

Entropy chuckled in that soothing way of his, “Well, friend yes, big brother no.” He leaned in, scratchy muzzle tickling her own. “I’m a little bit older than he is,” he breathed, smirking a little.

“Silly, that doesn’t bother me at all.” She held him in a tight hug, savoring his supportive warmth despite the temperature in the library.

“Yuck. Do you have to do that every time you talk?” Spike’s voice cut in, breaking her trance.

Giggling, she pulled away from Entropy, staring hard at the floorboards. “Sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing?” Entropy’s attention fell to the slip shod braid job. “Trying for the messy look? I have to admit, it suits you.”

“No, I was trying to put it up like Pinkie does. But,” she fiddled with the stray strands, “I’m not the best at it.”

Entropy’s booming laugh echoed around the library as it always did. Then, as gently as if she were a kitten, he stroked her forelock back, smiling sweetly at her. “Why don’t you let me put it up for you?”

Her heart leapt a little at the possibility of a reprise from the other day. “You don’t mind?”

“Not at all.” He motioned her to sit on the cushions, and he sat behind her, carefully unwinding her attempt at a braid. “Spike, would you mind getting me something to eat?”

Spike shot daggers at him, cuffing the floorboards. “I’m not your errand boy.”

Entropy continued in a mock-offended tone, “Why not? You’d make such a good one.”

Twilight sighed, “Entropy.” Then, turning to Spike, she pointed to the kitchen. “He’s got a point, we haven’t had anything to eat yet. Would you mind?”

“Urgh. Fine.” Spike stamped off, calling behind him, “I can take a hint you know!”

Entropy chuckled into her mane, apparently trying to stifle another outburst of laughter. Twilight had to admit, it was pretty funny. When it came to the baby dragon, both of them were still learning the idiosyncrasies of asking for alone time. “Sorry, Twilight,” he managed, still sniggering into her mane, “it was the only thing I could think of.”

“It’s okay.” She sat up straight, trying to hold still as he started to work. “No noodles this time, dear.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it.” Entropy hummed while working, slowly combing out her mane with his hooves and sorting the strands. “So, what are you and Cadence planning on doing?” He voice was a little muffled from the hairs, but she got the gist of it.

“Catching up mostly. Though,” She snorted a laugh, “we’re going to attempt to plan a surprise birthday party for Celestia.”

Entropy stopped for a second, releasing her mane. “Why?” His voice was curt, almost cold, a far cry from any he normally used.

Twilight started to feel a little nervous. Almost all the time Entropy had been in Ponyville, he was cheerful and upbeat, but the moment she so much as mentioned Celestia he became stiff and abrasive. She continued in what she hoped was a level voice, “Because she’s our ruler, my former teacher, and one of the most wonderful mares in all of Equestria.”

Entropy scoffed, “Wonderful is she? The very goddess of goodness?”

She could not help but get irritated by Entropy’s tone of voice. Her own came out a little harsher than she intended, “Yes, and frankly you should see her the same way.”

“Really?” Entropy pulled back, getting to his hooves to glower at her. “Do you even know the princess you so blindly serve? Why that goddess,” he spat the word like a curse, “you hold so highly is nothing but an arrogant wench who fails to see her own fault!”

Twilight got to her own hooves now, glowering back at him, “How can you say that?” There was something fundamentally wrong about Entropy’s reaction to their ruler. Celestia might be stuck in her ways, but she was far from a villain. Twilight found her words coming off in a gradual crescendo, “Think about it, Entropy. Celestia not only had to banish her own sister to the moon, but she had to live with that guilt for centuries. Despite all that happened, she was quick to forgive Luna, and the first pony to give Discord a chance at redemption!”

“You . . . perhaps . . . perhaps you speak truth.” Entropy’s voice shook like a leaf, pupils flickering to that strange, blood red color of theirs. For an instant, it looked as though he might actually run off, but he just stood there, staring at the floorboards. “Forgive me, Twilight. I was blinded by my assumptions."

All she could do was stare at him. It was as though she were seeing him for the first time. “Entropy . . . why . . . why do you talk like that?”

He lifted his head, “Like what?”

“Like,” like an out of date textbook, “like Luna.”

“Luna?” Entropy bit his lip, as though contemplating an explanation. “I never realized . . .” he locked gazes with her, “is it terribly noticeable?”

Like a train tearing through Ponyville. Then again, she had not noticed it until now, assuming it was all part of his being a professor. “Where did you learn to talk like that?”

“I uh . . . I . . .” The slightest trace of panic flickered in his eyes. Why in Equestria was he so nervous? “It is but a force of habit, my father insisted on it.”

“Your father?” Twilight made to ask another question, but Entropy leaned in closer, wrapping her in a tight hug. “What?”

He brushed his cheek against her neck, “Forgive me for lashing out, and for speaking like an old codger.”

Twilight snorted, rolling her eyes. “It doesn’t bother me, Entropy.” She closed her eyes, savoring the familiar, earthy smell of his coat. When she rubbed her hoof over his back, he flinched. “Entropy? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” He shot her an encouraging smile, though she could see pain flickering in his eyes. “I’m just old, Twilight.”

She burst into laughter, rolling on the cushions. “If you’re old, I hate to think what Granny Smith is!”

Entropy chuckled weakly, rubbing his hoof against the back of his head. “Yes, well, I suppose that is true.” He jerked a nod to her mane, “You want me to finish?”

“Oh yes,” Twilight returned to her earlier position, allowing Entropy to get started again. He seemed unusually silent, and she hoped he was not embarrassed about his outburst. For a long while, he worked in silence, humming a little tune occasionally. Then, once he finished her mane, he spoke softly, “If you . . . if you had a choice of mentors again, would you choose her?”

Mentors? Entropy’s sudden change of subject was more than a little off-putting, but she was glad to hear his voice again. “Well, I guess. Who else would I pick?”

Entropy’s hoof started to stroke the hairs on her back gently. “Well, there is Luna, Cadence, or,” he paused, “Discord.”

“Discord?” She wheeled around to stare at him, mouth ajar. “You can’t be serious, Entropy!”

He gave an innocent shrug, “What? Why not?”

“Well, he’s the Spirit of Chaos for one thing.” Twilight gesticulated grandly around at the library. “Besides, he keeps telling me that he doesn’t want to teach me chaos magic. That’s just about the only subject he could teach me.”

Entropy looked strangely sour for a moment, as though contemplating witty retort. “Very well, forgive the suggestion,” he spat the words, getting to his hooves.

Why’s he so mad? She stood herself, stepping in front of him. “What? You want me to learn chaos magic, is that it?”

“Well . . . yes.” Entropy sighed, “It’s only safe if he teaches you, Twilight. Besides,” he gulped pawing at the floorboards, “you don’t know he’ll say no. Why, I think if you ask him, he’d be honored.”

Twilight snorted a laugh, “Honored? That doesn’t sound like Discord to me.” Her words seem to make Entropy’s irritation grow. I never thought he liked Discord so much. Maybe he relates to him. She rolled her eyes, “Fine, I’ll ask him next time we meet.”

Entropy gave a small smile. “I’d like that, Twilight. I really would.” He looked at the clock, frowning. “There is something I need to tell you.”

“What?” A sinking sensation filled her gut at the serious expression on Entropy’s face.

“It’s just that, I’ve been called back to Canterlot early.” He placed a hoof on her shoulder, “I wanted to stay the whole month, but I’m afraid I’ll have to return a week early.”

“A week early?” The words crashed over her like a cold shower. “But, that doesn’t leave us much time.”

“No, no it doesn’t.” He sighed, “I wish I could stay, however, the university has called me back.”

“But, you’ll come back to visit, right?” There was a touch of desperation in her voice, but she could not help it, this was all happening too fast.

Entropy dragged her into yet another hug. “As often as I can,” he whispered, nuzzling her cheek. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize. It’s just so sudden.” Twilight bit back the urge to scream in frustration. Why did everything have to fall apart after it got put together?

Thankfully, Spike chose that moment to interrupt. “Seriously? Can you go for half an hour without going all lovey dovey?”

Entropy chuckled, releasing her with all their air of a criminal caught in the act. “Guilty as charged, Spike.” He walked over to him, patting his scales down, “Finish our breakfast?”

“Finished Twilight’s breakfast,” he emphasized, turning back to the kitchen. “I’m just gracious enough to let you have the scraps.”

“Your generosity knows no bounds, Spike.” Entropy gave her a playful wink before following Spike towards the kitchen.

Twilight giggled a little, following suit. Though today was looking to be as fun as she hoped, she could not stop the new sense of dread creeping in. Entropy was leaving, and soon. A part of her wanted to travel to Canterlot with him, but that would do little good. No, Ponyville needed her here, at least she hoped it did.

Shining Armor was all for spending the day with his sister, but he had not signed up for an entire day with Twilight’s stallion friend. He stared pleadingly at his wife, “You can’t be serious.”

Cadence giggled, ruffling his mane, “Of course I’m serious, dear. It will be quite the experience for both of you. Besides,” she sighed, taking on a dreamy expression, “I want some girl time with Twilight.”

“Urgh.” Shining looked out the window of the train, taking in the familiar landmarks. His hoof cuffed the cushion they were seated on, “But, Cadence, I don’t even know the stallion. What if we don’t get along?”

There was a moment where Cadence simply stared at him as though he had two heads. “Please, Twilight wouldn’t date a jerk. I’m sure you’ll get along well enough.”

Shining grimaced, trying to force a smile. “Sure we will.” From the sound of it, this Entropy was just about the exact opposite of him. Hopelessly unstructured and reckless with his magic, he sounded like the last pony he would want watching his back in a pinch.

“That’s the spirit.” Cadence gave him a playful cuff on the shoulder, smiling in that enchanting way of hers. “It’ll work out, you’ll see.”

Shining made to protest, but the screeching of the brakes announced that they had finally arrived. Taking a deep breath, he stood, holding out a hoof for his wife. She smiled, taking it as they strode out after the guards. Shining nearly started back when a loud blast of music greeted them.

Pinkie Pie danced around the train platform, banging on a one-pony band with her usual exuberance.

“Welcome, welcome, welcome back!
We’re super happy to--"

Cadence pounced in front of her then, holding out a hoof to stop her from continuing. “Thank you, Pinkie Pie, but you shouldn’t be jumping around in your condition. What about the foal?”

“Okey dokey, but, I’m fine, really.” She rubbed a hoof gently over her midriff, “The foal isn’t coming for a while yet.”

Shining watched Cadence tense, but nod slowly. “Sure. I just don’t want you to overexert yourself.”

“Yes, we want the foal to be healthy.” Shining winked at her, looking behind him to watch the guards return to the train. “So, where’s Twily?”

Pinkie sniggered, fiddling with the instrument. “She’s late.”

“Late?” Shining whirled around, unable to hide the look of purest amazement from stretching across his face. There was no way in Equestria his Twily would be late for anything, especially something as important as meeting them at the station. “Are you serious?”

“As serious as,” she paused, apparently contemplating just what was serious enough for his question, “as Nightmare Moon.”

“Uh, okay then.” Shining looked around the relatively deserted station, “So, we wait here, or should we go to the library?”

Pinkie started to hop away. “The library, silly! Got to go, there’s cupcakes in the oven.”

“Bye!” Cadence waved at the retreating figure, then turned back to him. “Shall we head off?”

Shining jerked a nod, keeping pace with Cadence as they moved along. For the first time in what felt like years, he was able to enjoy a relaxing walk with his wife. Of course, they were frequently interrupted by various townsponies bowing and smiling at them as though they were on parade. Truth be told, they were both so used to it by now, that they scarcely noticed, to Shining and Cadence, they were the only ponies in the entire town.

In all too short of a time, they arrived at the door to Twilight’s library. Before they could open the door, it swung open, and Spike trotted out. The dragon looked furiously behind him, slamming the door shut. Apparently noticing them for the first time, he took a step backwards into the oak. “Shining, Cadence, what are you doing here?”

He raised an eyebrow. Really? “Didn’t Twilight tell you we were coming?”

Spike’s palm made contact with his forehead in an audible slap. “Crud! What time is it?”

“Uh,” Cadence frowned, staring up at the sun, “it’s around noon I think.”

“Great, just great.” Spike sighed heavily, reaching for the door, “They’ve been kind of busy experimenting.” From the tone of his voice, this was nothing new to him. “You wouldn’t believe the stuff they’ve destroyed!”

Twilight destroying anything seemed a bit of a stretch. At the worst, she might throw her quills on the floor or bury herself in a mountain of spell books. He looked to Cadence, jerking a confident nod. Slowly, they followed the dragon inside. What greeted them was surprisingly less dramatic than Spike made it out to be. The only thing that stood out to Shining was a tall stallion standing in the center of the room, looking up at the loft with a Cheshire grin plastered on his face. “Do come down, dear. I’ll fix it!”

Twilight’s voice came shrilly from the loft, “Like Tartarus you will!

“Twilight?” Cadence stepped cautiously towards the stallion, following his gaze. She turned to him, “Is Twilight up there?”

“Indeed.” The middle aged unicorn’s golden eyes twinkled mischievously, “Though I cannot seem to convince her to come down.” He shouted up at the loft, deep voice carrying throughout the library, “Twilight, Cadence and Shining Armor are here. If you don’t come down, I’ll drag you out myself!”

There was a pause, then the soft sound of Twilight’s hooves making contact with the stairs. Shining watched as his sister walked towards them with all the air of a dejected puppy dog. It was immediately apparent as to the reason. There, resting above her feathery wings was a set of violently yellow butterfly ones. His sister slunk over to the stallion, casting a sidelong glance at them as she passed. “Entropy, you were supposed to cast the spell on yourself.”

Entropy, shrugged, leaning against the podium. “Why would I do that? Could you see a stallion with butterfly wings? Gods, that would be ridiculous!”

Shining could only gape at the stallion’s casual indifference to the situation. “You cast that spell on Twily?”

“Oh yes.” Entropy stood up straight, puffing out his chest as though he had just run a marathon. “A successful temporary transformation spell, if I do say so myself.”

Twilight rolled her eyes, “Yes, and now you’re going to cast the counter-spell!”

The stallion looked as though he might protest, but one glance at Shining’s withering stare seemed to convince him otherwise. “Uh . . . of course, dear.” He cleared his throat, lighting his horn with the most sporadically controlled magic Shining had ever seen. With a long breath, he aimed it at Twilight. The effect was instantaneous, surrounding the wings and shattering them like a piece of stained glass.

Twilight breathed an audible sigh of relief. “Great job, Entropy.”

“Thank you.” He straightened, turning his attention to them for the first time. “So, you must be Cadence and Shining Armor.” He bent down in an overly theatrical bow. “Forgive me for not introducing myself. My name is Entropic State, professor at Canterlot University and Twilight’s student.”

Twilight rolled her eyes, nudging him in the ribs. “You’re more than that.” She nuzzled him gently under the chin, making his lined face turn a violent shade of red. “He’s my stallionfriend.”

“I see.” Shining could not help but be unimpressed by the whole situation. From what Cadence told him about Entropy, he was expecting somepony around his age. This stallion was nearly old enough to be her father. He squinted at the unicorn, trying to judge his sincerity. “You’re a bit . . . older than I expected.”

Entropy’s booming laugh set him back a step, “That I am, that I am.” His eyes fixated on Twilight, “I suppose I am to leave you girls to catch up?”

Cadence giggled, “Well, only if you want to.”

Twilight trotted over to him, an expectant look on her face. “You don’t mind hanging around with Entropy, do you, Shining?”

He forced a smile, “Not at all.” Truth be told, there was nothing he wanted to do less than hang out with a deranged professor with a penchant for destruction.

Entropy clapped a hoof on his back, nearly knocking the wind right out of him. “Excellent! I have just the idea for us, Shining, you too, Spike.” He started to the door with all the air of a general rallying his troops. Spike trotted along behind him like some errant flag boy.

Why am I not comforted? With one last, long glance at Cadence, he followed the stallion to Celestia knew where. He could only hope that they would return in one piece.

“So, how’s it going?” Cadence leaned forward the instant the stallions left the room, eyes sparkling with a filly-like anticipation.

Twilight could not help but feel nervous, playing with her now braided mane. “Good, I think.”

Cadence’s squeal of delight made her jump. “That’s great.” The alicorn wrapped her in a bone crushing hug. “I’m so happy you’ve finally found a stallion of your own.”

Finally? A part of her wanted to be offended by the statement, but even she had to admit given her personality and position, it was pretty close to the truth. “Yeah, it’s been great.” Great and confusing. She sighed, levitating up a stray spellbook. “I guess I’m going to hear a lot of advice now?”

“Only if you want it.” Cadence began to help Twilight put back the supplies, humming a little. “I want to be there for my little sister, you know?”

Twilight’s heart leapt at the statement. Though Cadence was her sister-in-law, Twilight had always considered her as good as a sibling. They worked for a while, Twilight listening to Cadence’s latest update from the Crystal Empire. As Cadence went on, she could not help but allow her mind to wander back to Entropy. Shining’s reaction had seemed fake, even for his “public face.” A part of her longed to follow them and see how they were faring, but she supposed Entropy would have something to say about that. She settled for a neutral question, “What do you think, Cadence?”

“Hmmm?” Cadence stopped straightening the stack of parchment to raise an eyebrow at her. “About what, Twilight?”

“About . . . about Entropy, and dating him.” She sighed, sitting down on the nearest cushion. “I know it’s a bit sudden, and I guess I’d understand if you don’t approve.”

“Oh, Twilight.” Cadence sat down beside her, drawing her into a gentle hug. “Of course I approve, why wouldn’t I? He’s the stallion you chose after all, and I know you wouldn’t choose just anypony.”

“But,” she gulped closing her eyes tight, “he’s a lot older than me, and I know Shining doesn’t like that.”

Cadence snorted, “He can just get over it, Twilight. He’s been nothing but foalish about this entire situation.” Her hoof stroked Twilight’s back in a motherly fashion. “Does the age difference bother you?”

Twilight had the urge to scream in frustration about that one. Cadence did not even know the start of the problem, perhaps it was time to tell somepony other than the spirit of chaos about it. Slowly, methodically, she began to talk about everything that she had been keeping bottled up inside over the weeks.

When she finished, Cadence just sat there next to her, holding her close. “So you’re asking me if we’re immortal?”

“Yes,” she squeaked, bracing for whatever Cadence was about to say.

Rather than the expected laugh or chide, Cadence just sighed, patting her back. “You know, I wondered about that myself. It used to scare me a lot, but then I realized something.”

Twilight looked up at her, “What?”

“Well, I realized that it doesn’t matter, not as a part of the big picture anyway.” Cadence’s horn lit up in her magic as she scrawled out a heart in the air. “Love is what really makes a difference in this world, Twilight. True love isn’t a fleeting thing, Twilight, it’s persistent throughout our lives.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. Of course Cadence would bring up love, but that did not change the fact that she very well might lose everypony she ever loved. “But they’ll leave us someday, what then?”

Cadence ruffled her forelock playfully, “Listen, Twilight, just because somepony passes, doesn’t mean that you stop loving them. Love is . . . love is a sacrifice.” The heart split into two even pieces, “When you love somepony, you give up a piece of yourself in the process. Then they in turn give you a piece of their own heart, though sometimes you’ll find they won’t and that’s okay too.” She giggled softly, “You’ll never really lose them, Twilight, because they’re every bit a part of you as you are to them.”

The words rang in her ears like hundreds of bells. She could not stop the grin from stretching across her face, “Well, I’m going to have one patchwork quilt of a heart when this is all said and done!”

“Maybe,” she giggled, giving her a supportive pat on the back, “but quilts can be beautiful too.”

Twilight nodded, nuzzling her under the chin. “Thanks, Cadence.” There was nothing to worry about after all. Entropy just might take a large chunk of her heart, but she knew he would leave her with just as large a portion of his own.

Why do I put up with this? Discord rolled his eyes listening to yet another of Shining’s renditions on the new training regimen. Gods, even father didn’t go on about his troops this much.

“And of course I insisted on the twelfth drill manual as a base,” Shining nodded confidently, “it’s the most complete of the set you know.”

“Naturally.” Discord glanced around at the townsponies with a frown. Though they stared at them, and a few pointed in amazement, nopony came to rescue him from the monotony that was Twilight’s brother.

Shining cleared his throat, “So, Entropy, you said you’re a professor. What do you teach?”

How to insult a princess in ten syllables or less. He shrugged, “Theoretical physics mainly, though I dabble in history.” Discord’s eyes tracked the crowded street around them, trying to decide if he would take a leaf from Spike’s book and high tail it out of there.

The commander raised a questioning eyebrow, “So, you don’t teach magic?”

“Gods no!” Discord’s archaic language seemed so set Shining back a step. “I mean, I could not even use magic properly until I started to study under Twilight.”

“Mmhmm.” Judging from Shining’s pursed lips, he was just itching to make a snide retort. However, he apparently had more self-restraint than Discord gave him credit for.

“Well, seeing as how we are stuck together, why don’t we do something productive?” Yes, something, anything to shut up the tin soldier. His eyes drifted to the nearby creek bank, a brilliant, yet surprisingly devious idea coming to mind. “You know, I could use some help gathering materials for a potion Twilight wants me to make.”

“A potion?” A small grin stretched across Shining’s face, “Sure! I used to make potions all the time with Twily, how hard could it be?”

“Indeed.” Discord trotted off towards the creek, grinning maliciously. This was going to be all too easy.

What passes for normal is just what passes for lame!” Entropy’s out of tune singing voice grated on his ears like thousands of horns on a chalkboard. They were standing knee deep in what Shining could only describe as the center of allergens in Equestria. The flowering weeds sent showers of spores in all directions as they tromped through the meadow in search of what Entropy was calling “flufflions” whatever those were.

The annoying song was accentuated by the occasional sneeze from Entropy. Whenever this occurred, a burst of sporadic golden magic would release from his horn, sending up a dense cloud of pollen into the air. The latest sneezing fit resulted in a nearby tree branch exploding, sending shrapnel in all directions. Entropy rolled on the ground laughing, compounding the situation with yet another storm of pollen. “Brilliant!”

“Yes, wonderful.” Shining sneezed a few times himself, glancing around at the meadow. “Have you found any yet?”

“Oh, yes.” Entropy levitated up a nearby Queen's Anne Lace, “See? Flufflions.”

Shining moaned, clapping a hoof to his forehead, “Seriously? There’s plenty of those in Ponyville! Why did we have to come out here for them?”

“Because these flufflions are softer.” Entropy stroked the weed like a kitten, “Isn’t that right little one?”

He’s lost it, he’s really lost it. “So, what’s next on the list?”

“Well, we could always go back to the blackberry bushes.” Entropy raised a hoof, pointing towards the woods again. “We didn’t get quite as many as we needed.”

“No.” Shining was still picking out thorns from his now tangled mane. “Don’t we have enough already?” They had been out gathering “ingredients” for hours now. First it was cattails by the creek, then it was fresh leaves from an oak tree, after that ordeal, Entropy decided they needed to acquire one, just one twig from a timberwolf. Well, the wolf had not been happy about that, and Shining had ended up galloping halfway to Ponyville with Entropy before they could blast it with their magic. So much for a relaxing afternoon with his potential brother-in-law.

“Aweee. Well, yes, I suppose we do.” Entropy got to his hooves, shaking off the pollen like a dog. “Come, let us return victorious!” Head held high, he levitated the saddlebag full of “supplies” and led the way out of the meadow. Shining was starting to feel like he was part of a circus act.

Their progress slowed once they hit the main road. Once again Shining’s eyes fell to the stallion’s uneven gait. At first he had shrugged it off as him goofing around, but now he was not so sure. If he had to guess, he would say that Entropy was in a lot of pain. “Entropy, are you okay?”

“Perfectly fine, Shining.” Though, as he said the words, one of his hooves did a jerky reflexive movement. He turned to him, grinning sheepishly. “Sorry, it’s arthritis, so there isn’t a lot to be done.”

Arthritis? “I see.” Shining continued to walk alongside him, wondering. Just how old was Entropy to have arthritis as bad as he did? He continued in his most would-be-casual voice, “So, uh, how old are you exactly?”

“Hmmm?” Entropy shot him a toothy grin, “Forty-two.”

Shining stopped dead in his tracks, staring incredulously at him. “Forty-two?” And you’re dating my sister?

“Indeed.” Entropy’s cocky grin faltered a little, turning into an almost hurt expression. “Is that . . . is that a problem?”

His hoof cuffed the dirt, “No.” Yes! What kind of creep are you? Shining was finding it increasingly difficult not to smack some sense into the stallion. “Just, have you considered the,” he paused, trying to think of a good word, “ramifications?”

Entropy raised an eyebrow, “Ramifications?”

Shining rolled his eyes. Come on, you can’t be that dense! “Well, you’re a lot older than Twily. Have you considered that maybe you’re going to have trouble down the road.”

Entropy snorted, “Trouble? Shining, trouble has followed me every day of my life. I sincerely doubt any trouble from my relationship with your sister would be much of a threat.”

“Really?” Shining’s harsh tone startled even himself. “You’re the stallion my sister chose, and frankly I wish she hadn’t.” He stamped a hoof so hard against the dirt that it sprayed all over Entropy. “You think dating her is a game? Well, I can tell you that Twily doesn’t see it that way! So, if you really want to keep dating her, you’d better be able to commit.”

“Commit?” He took a few steps backwards into the nearest tree trunk.

“That’s right, and you had better be aware of the consequences.” Shining sighed, trying to control the almost primal urge to kick Entropy senseless. “You’re a lot older than she is, so if you do decide to get married, which I guarantee she’ll want at some point, you had better be able to accept that fact.”

Entropy rolled his eyes in that annoying way of his. “Truly, Shining aren’t you jumping the gun? We’ve only been dating for a few days.”

Of course that was a logical argument, but he was not about to back down. “Maybe so, but you need to think about it. What if you do marry her and she gets pregnant? Will you even be around long enough to raise the foal?”

Entropy pinned his ears, snarling at him. “I’m not some damn cripple, soldier boy!”

“Really? Well you sure were acting like one!” The blood began to rush to his ears as he felt the anger coursing through him like poison. “Can you honestly say that your age won’t cause problems for Twilight down the road? What about your position? Have you thought about what happens if you get married? Will you drop your career and move to Ponyville, because I can bet Twilight’s not going to go to Canterlot with you!”

“Enough!” Entropy’s golden magic blasted him back into the nearest tree. The stallion’s pupils had turned a shade of blood red as he advanced toward him. “Do not pretend to understand me, or think for a moment that I have not considered the consequences. Let me tell you something, boy,” he spat the word, “I know more about this life than your imbecilic mind could possibly wrap itself around.”

Without another word, Entropy spun on his hocks, walking towards Ponyville. Shining followed slowly behind, dreading what would come when they arrived. He had royally screwed over his chances of ever getting to bond with Twilight’s stallion, and he could not say he was upset by that. This Entropy was nothing but trouble, and it was only a matter of time before Twilight saw that for herself. Perhaps he would give her a push in the right direction.

Spike was fairly certain that he could have cut the tension in the small kitchen with a knife. Ever since Entropy and Shining Armor had returned, they had done nothing but glare at each other. They would speak to their respective mares, but never directly to one another. Knowing Entropy, this was a recipe for disaster. Spike scooted the tea cup towards Entropy, carefully choosing his next words, “Did you find what you were looking for?”

“Oh, yes, Spike. We had quite the . . . adventure.” Entropy’s tail was swishing so irritably that it more closely resembled a whip.

Twilight cleared her throat, glancing between the stallions, “So, uh, did you have fun?”

Shining rolled his eyes, “Fun is a relative term, Twily.” He shot daggers at Entropy. “And somepony’s idea of fun could use some revision.”

“Oh, is the tin soldier using fancy words?” Entropy sneered at him, “I’m shaking in my horseshoes.”

“Enough, you two!” Cadence elbowed her husband hard in the ribs. “Really, you two are acting like foals. What’s gotten into you?”

“Well now, that would be difficult seeing as how I’m a geriatric invalid.” Entropy stood up so suddenly the table nearly toppled over. “I am leaving, Twilight. I promised to help Cheese today.”

“Uh, okay then.” Twilight’s eyes tracked Entropy until he left the library. Slowly, she turned back to her brother. “What was that about, Shining?”

“You tell me!” Shining looked as mad as Spike had ever seen him. “What’s this about dating a stallion old enough to be your father?”

Twilight shot to her hooves, magic swirling around her horn in an uncanny resemblance to Entropy’s. “It’s none of your business who I date! I love Entropy, his age shouldn’t even be a factor.”

“Really? Will you be saying that when you’re left to raise his foal on your own? When you have to spend most of your life by yourself?” Shining joined his sister, snorting and pawing at the ground like an angry bull. “I’m not going to stand by and quietly let you screw up your life for the sake of one worthless professor!”

“Entropy is not worthless! You . . . you . . .” Twilight’s eyes were misting over with tears as the magic spluttered around her. Spike found himself backing into the corner to avoid getting caught in the crossfire, joined by a shaking Cadence. Twilight’s eyes flashed venomously at her brother, “Dating him is my choice, Shining! I love him, and I want him in my life, why can’t you accept that?”

“Because it’s wrong!” Shining stood, allowing the words to linger like a miasma before continuing in a softer tone, “It’s all wrong, Twily. He’s not right for you, loving him will only cause you pain. Think about it, okay?”

“I don’t need to think about it!” Twilight stamped her hoof against the floorboards, “Get out! If you don’t want Entropy around, then, I don’t want you around either.”

Cadence took a cautious step forward, “Twilight, calm down, I’m sure Shining’s just worried.”

Shining stood in front of his wife, shaking his head. “Enough, Cadence. Let’s just go.” He started to the door, casting one last look at Twilight. “We’ll see you later, Twilight.”

After they left, Twilight headed for the loft, “I’m going to bed.”

Spike trotted after her, “But, it’s only five o’clock.”

“I don’t care,” her voice shook ever so slightly. Gritting her teeth, she turned away, cantering up the stairs.

Spike was left standing in the center of the library, alone once again. Great, now what?

Idle Thoughts

View Online

“You are the most pigheaded, idiotic jerk out there!” Cadence slammed her hoof against the marble floor of their bedroom, hard enough to shake the desk. “I told you,” she shook her head, “no I begged you to swallow your pride and try to get along with Entropy. Now look what you’ve done!”

Shining felt like crawling in a hole. The entire train ride back, Cadence had been giving him the “silent treatment,” and now that they were finally alone, she was letting him have it in spades. “Cadence, I was just worried for her.”

“Worried about what, Shining?” Cadence’s harsh voice echoed in his ears as she rounded on him like a Timberwolf. “Sure Entropy’s a little goofy, but he has a good heart, I know that much!” Moaning, she fell on the bed, beating her hooves against it like a little filly. “Stupid, stupid, STUPID!”

He rolled his eyes at her, “Okay, okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have called him an old man.”

Cadence shot him a withering glare, “You just don’t get it, do you?”

“Get what, Cadence?” Shining knew his wife well enough to catch her drift. Anytime they came to “touchy” subject matters, she would start to avoid the real issue at hoof. “He’s too old for her, and you know it. We need to put a stop to it now before it gets out of control.”

Cadence’s ears flattened against her head, “Out of control? Out of control?” A few tears glistened around the edges of her eyes. “It’s already out of control, Shining, ever since she was made an alicorn.” Her hooves slid absent-mindedly over the covers, “Have you thought about it, Shining? About, about my being an alicorn,” she murmured.

What is she talking about? Shining sighed, rubbing his temple with a hoof, “Well, you’re a princess, a co-ruler of Equestria, and the mare I love. Isn’t that enough?”

Cadence bit her lip, “Have you considered that I might live as long as Celestia?”

The words hit him like his own sword to the chest. “I . . . you . . . you can’t be serious.” She’s joking, she has to be! He found his hooves shaking uncontrollably, threatening to give way to the panic now sweeping over him. I didn’t sign up for this! “You’re going to grow old with me, that’s the way it works,” he stated with all the air of an exasperated teacher.

“No, Shining. That’s the way it works for you. My fate is a little,” she gulped, fidgeting with the covers again, “less clear.”

“You’re not saying your immortal, are you?” Despite his best efforts, his voice shook like a leaf.

Cadence let out a long, slow sigh. “I don’t know, I just want you to be aware of the possibility.” She pointed to her crown resting on their bedside table, “After Twilight was made a princess, that became her possibility too.” Her hollow laugh made his heart lurch, “Maybe she’ll outlive us all, Shining. So, tell me again who’s too old for who?”

He could only stand there, staring at the center of his world even while the rest of it crumbled around him. “Oh, Celestia help me.” He sunk to his knees, no longer able to fight the shaking. “What can I do?”

“Well, you could respect her decision for starters.” Slowly she got down off the bed, resting a wing over his back. “Try and get along with Entropy,” she drew out the words, as she played with his mane, “not jump to conclusions, and have a little trust in your sister.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Shining closed his eyes, savoring the rosy scent of Cadence’s coat. “It’s just so hard to let go. I still see her as my baby sister, even through all the,” he gulped, “changes.”

“I know, dear, I know.” Cadence held him tightly, nuzzling his mane softly. “It will work out, you’ll see.”

“I’m sure it will, but, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to double check.” His words had an immediate effect, as Cadence pulled away, glowering at him. “I meant, about Entropy that is. Just to make sure he’s who he says he is, and isn’t a criminal or something.”

Cadence rolled her eyes, “Really? A criminal?” Despite her words, the challenging glare softened. “All right, but please be polite about it, Shining.”

“I will.” He gave her a quick kiss on the muzzle then got to his hooves. If he was going to do some investigating, he was going to do it right. There were still plenty of ponies in Canterlot willing to dig up some dirt for him. All he had to do was pull a few strings, and he would know all he needed to about Professor Entropic State.

“Well this is,” Discord frowned, staring at what remained of Scootaloo’s scooter, “interesting.”

Twilight moaned, collapsing on the grass beside the mechanical refuse. “Entropy, didn’t I tell you that you had to follow the steps exactly?”

“Yes, and I did.” Discord looked around the park, watching as the local residents made a beeline away from their little powwow on the grass. He levitated up the screwdriver for her to see. “It would have been so much easier if you let me use this.”

She face hoofed, “That would defeat the purpose of magic exercise! What kind of teacher would I be if I let you take the easy way out?”

“What kind of Princess allows her student to blow up some innocent filly’s toy?” He feigned a sorrowful look, clutching his chest, “Oh how heartless!”

Twilight’s eyes rolled clean over, “Yeah, yeah, I’m the bringer of chaos herself, can we move on?”

A part of him wanted to profess that that title belonged to him, but he bit his tongue. “So, I uh, just cast the spell and all the pieces go together? Even if they are a little,” he levitated a shard of what had been the hoofboard, “worse for wear.”

“If you do it correctly.” Twilight sat up straight, waving him on. “Let’s see you try again.”

Discord allowed the golden magic to spiral around his horn like some strange serpent. Admittedly, it still felt bizarre to be harnessing harmony magic instead of chaos, but he had to admit, it was useful in some situations. As he focused on the scooter, he felt the magic change, and before he could even register what was happening, he released a concentrated burst of chaos magic directly at the pile. The effect was instantaneous, and effective, there was no way the Lord of Chaos would mess up a simple repair spell. That did not change the fact that the recoil sent a ripple of his own, errant magic around them, pressurizing the nearby vicinity as it had when Twilight struck him with it.

Wincing, he fought to control the sudden backlash of magic threatening to break loose in millions of directions like shattered glass. As he did so, he noted Twilight cringing on the ground beside him, clutching her ears. After one of the tensest moments in his recent memory, Discord managed to rein in the chaos until it released the pressure, allowing a Sabbath stillness to fall over them.

Twilight just stared open mouthed at him. Finally, she managed to find her voice, “What just happened?”

“I uh,” nearly destroyed Ponyville with a tidal wave of chaos magic, “I did the spell, but I guess it just didn’t like me.”

“Hmmmm.” Twilight got shakily to her hooves, examining the now perfectly intact scooter. “Wow, this is amazing, it looks just like it did before.” She turned to him, beaming brightly, “Great job, Entropy!”

Discord gritted his teeth, fighting the urge to exclaim that he had not done a “great job” after all. However, it would do little good at this point, so he merely nodded. “Yes, well, I knew I could do it.”

Twilight raised a skeptical eyebrow, “Uh-huh. Well, Mister I Know What I’m Doing, how would you like to help survey the apple orchard with me?”

“Survey the apple orchard?” Why in Equestria would you want to do that? Though, from Twilight’s expression, she was bound and determined to do it regardless of his opinion on the matter. “Allright, but why? Isn’t that something up Flim’s alley?”

“Uh,” Twilight grimaced, looking down at her hooves, “well you see, Flim’s not . . . Flim’s not working at Sweet Apple Acres anymore.”

“WHAT? Why not?” Certainly Flim was a bit of a seedy fellow, but Discord got endless amusement out of teasing the young stallion. To have him just up and leave out the blue just felt wrong.

“Well, he’s gone to look for Flam, to mend bridges.” She levitated her saddlebags, starting towards the orchard. “That’s about all I know.”

Discord’s gaze fell to the scooter lying on the grass. “But what about the scooter?”

“Well,” Twilight gave one of her signature sheepish smiles, “I sort of didn’t ask to borrow it for practice. I just noticed it was broken, so . . .”

Discord could not help but chuckle, wrapping his tail around hers. “My dear, I do so love the way you think.”

Survey work turned out to be remarkably dull work as Discord expected. The only saving grace was that he had split up with Twilight to “divide and conquer.” Truth be told, he needed the time to rest and reflect. His latest slip up had nearly spent his energy, and even listing down the number and condition of the apple trees was proving a little too much for him.

He looked at the sea of trees around him, noting how much that was still left to do. Applejack would likely have ended up doing the entire survey herself if they had not volunteered. Something told him that was exactly Twilight’s reasoning as well. Levitating up the notebook, he checked off yet another tree. “Number thirty three of grid D. Moderate maturity, good growth—”


A light voice in his ear made him wheel around to stare face to face with a slightly sunburnt, freckled mare. Speak of the devil. “Hello, Applejack.” He levitated the notebook in front of him, an innocent smile stretching parting the corners of his mouth. “I hope I’m doing a satisfactory job.”

“Of course you are, Entropy.” Applejack cuffed him on the shoulder, grinning brightly back. “I’m right grateful for all yer help, Entropy.” Her eyes fell to the notebook, “So, uh, it ain’t too tricky, is it?”

“Not at all, merely tedious.” Discord could practically smell the anxiety coming off of her. It was all he could do was to stopper the primal urge to give chase.

Her hooves pushed aside the grass blades, avoiding his gaze. “I uh . . . I was wonderin’ what you put in that potion for Flim.”

“Potion?” How does she know about that? I told that kid to keep his mouth shut! “I uh . . . it’s a secret.” Yes, a secret passed down from his father and his father before him. There was no way in Equestria he was divulging that information, besides, it would be of little use to a pony anyway. “So he told you?”

“Yes, but, I haven’t told anypony else, promise,” she stated in that ungodly honest way of hers.

Sighing, he dismissed the thought with a hoof, “Don’t worry about it. So,” Discord began to use the tree trunk as a podium, “why do you want to know about it?”

“Well, ain’t it obvious?” Applejack stared at him for a moment, taking a while to note his impatient expression. Then, sighing theatrically, she continued, spelling out the words, “I want to make it for Flim!”

You want to make it?” Discord raised an eyebrow, “You cannot be serious. You are an earth pony, what makes you think you can make potions?”

She huffed, looking away, “Well, Zecora makes potions and she ain’t a unicorn!”

Discord had the urge to slap her out of her stupidity. Why in Equestria was she being so stubborn? “Zebras study potion making from the time they are foaled. It’s comes nearly as naturally to them as breathing.” To his horror, Applejack looked absolutely crestfallen. Smooth going, Discord. He rested a hoof on her shoulder, “Why is this so important to you?”

“Because, because,” Applejack bit her lip, ruddy cheeks turning an even darker shade, “because I love him, okay? An I don’t know what I’d do if he got sick when I ain’t around.” She gasped, clasping a hoof to her mouth as though she had let loose a string of curse words.

“Really?” Well, that was unexpected! Discord patted her awkwardly on the back. “Don’t worry about it, Applejack. It will work out.” He tried to think of something, anything comforting to say, but his mind was only swimming with jokes. “Listen, I . . . I will make sure he gets the potion, all right?”

“But, he could be anywhere, Entropy.” She pulled away, standing straight. “How in tarnation to you plan on findin’ him?”

“Oh, I have my ways.” More than you could ever imagine. He cleared his throat, patting her on the head like a stray dog. “So, don’t you fret, Applejack, I’ll see to it he’s covered.”

“Uh, thanks I guess.” Her eyes drifted towards the farmyard. “I’m just goin’ to get back to work.” She started forward, casting one last look at him before cantering off.

Well now, that was weird. Shrugging, Discord made a mental note to send Flim the potion that night. Turning back to the trees, he attempted to get back into the rhythm to no avail. The more he worked, the more exhausted he felt. Damn, I shouldn’t be so tired. Accepting the inevitable, he curled up against a particularly old tree. Under any normal circumstances, he would have simply snapped his claws and summoned a chaise lounge, but today he was an arthritis prone, middle aged pony in need of a nap.

Runes, a sea of runes dancing in the torchlight like millions of fireflies. It would have been a magnificent sight to any creature graced enough to enter the High Priest’s temple, but for Discord, it provided a nostalgic sense of comfort. He lay on the floor beside the altar, small body curled tightly on top of his father’s golden robe. The silk cloth did little to cushion him from the hard stone underneath, but he would not have traded it for all the feather mattresses in Equestria. It was Havoc’s robe, his smell, one that would never come again in this lifetime.

A part of him was screaming at him to do something useful. After all, it had been three months since they sent up a sacrifice for the safety of the troops, three months since there had been any form of praise offerings given, and three months since he last saw another draconequus. Despite that, Morpheus had outwardly refused to allow him to continue the ceremonies, professing that there was “no point” now that the draconequus had left Equestria.

What did he know? Just because they were gone did not mean the gods left them. If ever there was a time they needed a sacrifice, it was now. After all, it was his duty as the High Priest’s son, and yet here he was lying on the floor like some helpless crybaby.

There was nothing for it though, so he lay there, staring at the ruins like he had done for weeks now. He imagined the scriptures they represented, the stories, the songs, and every good thing in this life. His father claimed that they were the window to the gods’ hearts, and he used to agree, but now they felt more like the heavy oak door keeping him locked inside.

His ears perked up as it swung open, revealing the familiar, white bearded guard. Undoubtedly Morpheus had dragged him out of retirement as he was one of the more “trustworthy” guards. Though Discord was certain the unicorn despised him, he kept his orders well, and had never so much as threatened his life. Rather than the usual glare Discord’s direction, his gaze fell to the stones where a small white filly came trotting into the room. “You will behave,” The guard’s deep voice echoed around the sacred chamber like some great thunderclap. With that hanging over them, he slammed the door, rattling the frame in his wake.

Discord watched as Celestia advanced towards him, basket in her mouth. He could not help but roll his eyes at her. Typical ignorant ponies. “What do you think you are doing?”

She gave a squeak of surprise, cringing a little. “Sorry.”

Oops. He softened his voice, “Sorry, Celestia, I did not mean to shout. Just, you did not perform the greeting.”

“Oh.” Celestia stopped, lowering the basket carefully to the ground. Then slowly, she gave a deep bow, pink locks flying forward to obscure her eyes. “I, Celestia, Princess of Equestria request permission to stand at the foot of the gods.”

Discord dismissed her with a lazy wave of his claw, “They have heard your request, enter with humility.” The words were as familiar to him as any mantra, but they were a necessity. If he forgot the phrases, no creature in Equestria would bother to remember them in his stead.

Celestia bounded forward, basket in tow once more. She settled herself on the top step to the altar, grinning at him with that cheesy smile of hers. “I brought you a snack.”

“I’m fine,” he snapped quickly.

“Like Tartarus you are!” She gesticulated to all of him, “You haven’t eaten since,” her voice fell, “since it happened.”

His eyes fell to his sunken in sides and clearly visible ribs. There was nothing he wanted to do less than eat. Besides, if he did eat something, it would not be pony food. He turned away from her to face the altar again. “Go away.”

“Not likely!” Before he could protest, she had quite literally rolled him down the steps.

He pinned his ears at her, “What was that for?”

Celestia stuck out her tongue, “For being a big idiot!” She stamped her hoof hard against the stone, glowering at him with more fire than Discord ever thought possible. “You dumb dumb, when are you going to stop being so mopey? It is not like you, Discord!”

Oh, taking insults from Lulu I see. Discord rolled his eyes, “So what if I am sad?” He felt his voice rise in a gradual crescendo, “My parents are dead, I have been shunned, everypony hates me for being a draconequus, and your stupid Dad will not let me do the one job I am supposed to do!” He felt the tears roll off his cheeks, but he did not care, not this time. “So forgive me if I am a little ‘mopey!’”

Celestia’s confident shattered like a broken mirror. For a while, she just stared at him, watching him cry like an idiot. Then slowly, she walked over to him, wrapping him in a tight hug. “It is okay, Discord, it is okay,” she murmured softly, patting his back, “you still have me and Lulu, and I know Mom doesn’t hate you.”

“What am I going to do?” He bit his lip, trying to stopper his haywire emotions. It was humiliating for him, the son of the High Priest to be bawling his eyes out over something like this. “I do not . . . I do not have a purpose now.”

Celestia pulled back, lifting his chin with a hoof, “You will find a new purpose, Discord, that is what Mom says. But, in the meantime,” she levitated the basket towards them, “you should eat something.”

He was more than a little surprised to be greeted by a familiar smell when she opened the basket. “Fish? But, ponies don’t eat fish.”

“I know, but,” she nudged him in the ribs, “we know it is your favorite. So Lulu caught some and I cooked them.” The alicorn let out a tiny giggle, “You should have seen the cooks’ faces! It was quite the show.”

Discord chuckled at the mental image of the uptight cooks freaking out over Celestia’s experiment. Though, he had to admit, the filly had done a credible job of baking a fish casserole. Well it looks edible. He lowered his head, taking a big bite out for himself. Though he was greeted by a few bones, he had to admit, it tasted good. Still crunching the bone, he looked up at Celestia, “You know, you are supposed to take the bones out, right?”

Celestia flushed, pawing at the ground. “Oops. Is it that bad?”

“Not at all, it is delicious.” He eyed something else in the basket, a rolled up scroll. “What is this?”

“Well, I thought after you ate, you could help us plan out some pranks.” She sighed, glancing at the door, “It has been terribly dull without you around, Discord. I simply cannot think of any decent jests.”

Discord snorted through a mouthful of casserole. If there was one aspect of court life that Celestia failed to grasp, it was the need for comedy. Father had known that well enough, and taught it to Morpheus, perhaps it was time he taught her. “All right, but be prepared to break some rules.”

“Entropy? Hey, Entropy?” Twilight’s voice coupled with the shaking of her hooves woke him from his trance. He blinked, staring blearily up at her. “Yes, Twilight?”

She gave him a surly glare, “You were supposed to be surveying.”

“My apologies, I,” he gave a long yawn, “needed a nap.”

“Really? What are you, five?” She levitated a saddlebag full of apples onto his back. “Some days I wonder, Entropy. Some days I wonder.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He walked stiffly after her, still blinking to adjust to the brilliant summer sun.

“Nothing,” she sang in that playful voice of hers. “Just, I need your help with something else now.”

He raised an eyebrow, “Milking my assistance for all it’s worth, Twilight?”

“That’s right.” Twilight spun around in a happy circle, “We need an expert on Canterlot to help make the decorations for Celestia’s party.”

“Hmmm.” Discord tapped his chin, “Well she is more than a little fond of cake.” He chuckled, remembering a formally snow white filly dyed a violent shade of pink from a poorly placed bowl of icing. “And do not get me started on her obsession with song birds!”

Twilight stopped dead in her tracks. “Why . . . why do you know so much about her? I thought you didn’t like her.”

Damn. Discord wanted to slap himself for his lapse of judgement. The truth was the only thing that was going to save him now, “I never said that, Twilight. Certainly Celestia and I butt heads from time to time, but, when I think on it, despite her faults, she is a very dear friend.”

“Friend?” Twilight grinned in that dangerously invested manner that only led to trouble. “How long have you known her? What, were you her student?”

Discord snorted a laugh, “Hardly, Twilight.” He looked up at the sun. “I suppose you can say she has always been the one constant in this crazy life of mine.” His gaze returned to meet hers, “Truly, it is not important, Twilight. I very much doubt the princess sees me as much more than an incredibly irritating clown.” Yes, that was all he would ever amount to in her eyes.

Storm Clouds Rising

View Online

Luna stared at the moonlight reflecting off of the marble balcony. It was a beautiful night, her night, and one that should not be wasted with pointless concerns. And yet, here she was contemplating a question that she would more than likely never have the answer to. Ever since her conversation with Discord that night, his question had been circling in the back of her mind.

“May I join you?” A tentative voice drifted in from the open door.

Luna turned around, smiling broadly at her sister. “By all means, Tia.” As Celestia settled down beside her, she wondered. It was a long shot, but perhaps she knew more of the situation than her. After all, Celestia’s knowledge base would surely have expanded in a thousand years. “Tia, may I ask you something?”

Celestia smiled in that soft way of hers, “Of course, Lulu, anything.”

She took a deep breath, “When I traverse the dreamscape, I may enter the dream of any pony. However, not once have I entered the dreams of another . . . another species.” Sighing, she stretched out on the marble, pressing her stomach to its cool surface. “Why can I not enter Discord’s dreams as well? Or the griffons? Surely they are creatures gifted with dreams as well.”

Celestia’s laugh cut through the still night air, “That is easy, Lulu. It is because they are not ponies, you know that as well as I. Tell me now, what is truly troubling you?”

Luna looked up into her sister’s eyes. Would she take her seriously? She began slowly, choosing her words carefully, “When Discord is in his pony form, I . . . I cannot see his dreams.”

"Yes, because that spell does not change what he is, merely his outward appearance.”

“You say that, Tia, but . . . but that is not entirely the case.” There was more to it than just some simple illusion. No, this was different, it was draconequus magic of an incredibly high caliber. “In that form, his magic feels like any unicorn’s, Tia. His smell and even his presence is that of a pony. If I had not known better, I would have confused him for one.”

“And your point, sister?”

“It is powerful and ancient magic that he uses to keep that form. Maybe it blocks me from seeing his dreams.” She stared into Celestia’s eyes, “What if it is not an illusion, but a transformation?”

“You cannot be serious, Lulu.” She sat up straighter, staring at the night tapestry. “True transformation spells are only something the changelings are capable of, Father professed that fact most adamantly, do you not recall?”

“I do, but, perhaps, just perhaps it really is a transformation.” Luna could tell in an instant that Celestia doubted her. “Is it not possible that Discord, the only being even capable of using chaos magic, found a way? Undoubtedly such a stunt would be dangerous and incredibly taxing, as his form was not meant for such things. You must admit, it would explain the pain he is experiencing.”

There was a long silence where Celestia closed her eyes, apparently mulling over the idea. Then, she met her gaze again, “Yes, it would indeed, Lulu. But,” she got to her hooves, “best not trouble ourselves over the implications of a spell that neither of us could hope to perform, nor would Discord ever divulge the secrets of.”

“Very well, Tia.” She leapt to her own hooves, following her sister to the doorway. Before leaving, she cast one long look at the starlit sky. Yes, far too nice of a night to waste on pointless concerns.

Shining Armor stood on the terrace overlooking the training field. The new regimen was backbreaking, but of the utmost necessity. Princess Luna was right to be concerned about the Crystal guard’s state of discipline, and Shining would see to it that they were whipped into shape.

He was started from his reverie when a courier flew down, bowing hastily. “Letter for you, sir.”

“Thank you.” He levitated the envelope pleased to see the Sergeant’s characteristic mouth writing. It’s about time. Dismissing the pegasus, he turned back towards the castle for some privacy.

Leaning against the cool stone, he began to read,

‘Shining Armor,

I fear your concerns were justified. As far as we could tell, there has never been a professor by the name of Entropic State at Canterlot University. From my sources and my own knowledge, nopony of that description has ever lived in Canterlot. I do find it peculiar that Princess Celestia should vouch for him, perhaps that is something to consider.

Your servant,

-Guiding Light’

Damn, I knew it. It seemed as though this Entropic State was nothing but a fraud. But who was he really, and what was his game? For Celestia to completely ignore such evidence was concerning to say the least. Was this some elaborate plan of hers, or a deception on his part? If the latter was the case, Twilight could very well be in danger. Looking up at the sun, he judged how much time he would have. I could make it there by nightfall if I hurry.

“Twilight, put it down,” Discord practically moaned, clapping a hoof to his forehead. Despite her promise to spend the entire afternoon in each other’s company, the alicorn seemed more than determined to spend it with her muzzle in his journals. He stretched out on the checkered blanket, allowing the sun to soak through his dark coat and ease the now nearly unbearable ache radiating through his body like a poison. “It’s too nice of a day to be reading.”

“Really? It’s the perfect day to be reading. Besides,” she patted his forehead as if he were a little foal, “you said you wanted to relax today. You’re leaving tomorrow evening, aren’t you?”

“Yes.” Discord bit his lip, trying not to imagine what would happen tomorrow. Rather he focused on the expanse of grass stretching to the corners of the meadow. “I do not wish to leave, Twilight.” The words came as a kind of mantra, as if to reassure himself and accept the truth. This month had been incredibly stressful, but he would not have traded his time here for all of Equestria.

Twilight levitated the book down shuffling over until her side pressed against his. “I don’t want you to leave either,” she murmured, resting her head on his withers. “You’ll come to see me, won’t you?”

“As often as I can.” A surge of guilt came over him as soon as the words left his mouth. After tomorrow evening, the pony that was Entropic State would no longer exist, there was no possible way he could keep that promise. How in Equestria was he going to explain that she had been dating the Lord of Chaos for days now? All he could do was pray that she would understand.

“That’s good.” For a while, she lay there, head resting on him, rising and falling with each breath he took.

Discord never knew what closeness was, not in the way that it related to mates anyway. But in that moment, he thought that he might just be starting to get it after all. It did not matter where they were or what they were doing, as long as Twilight was by his side, he was content. Strange to think that a creature as small as she was could have him so hopelessly entangled. For the first time in his life, he began to consider the possibility that he had found his match. He whispered into her ear in his softest voice, “I love you.”

Twilight kissed him softly on the neck. “I love you too.”

Spike really did love hanging out with Twilight, but he could only tolerate Entropy’s company for so long. His threshold had lowered exponentially when the couple had begun the annoying habit of not even acknowledging when he came into the room. Though he marked it off as Twilight’s stress about Entropy going home, he could not help but worry that its effects would last longer. So he tried his best to keep himself occupied, but there was precious little to do in the library these days.

He looked around at the spotless shelves, practically glistening in the midday sun. Two days ago, Twilight had somehow managed to teach Entropy a cleaning spell. This led to a cascade of “cleaning raids” in which Entropy and Twilight had scrubbed every nook and cranny of the building to practice their spells. Spike was more than convinced that they were making excuses to spend the time together. Entropy for one would never volunteer for cleaning duty unless there was something in it for him.

So, he sat there on the perfectly arranged cushions, twiddling his thumbs as he had been for the past hour. He contemplated going to Rarity’s, but the unicorn was spending the day with Sweetie Belle, and that would mean no opportunity to share his concerns to his one confidant. He rolled around the floor, bumping into the podium. A rattling noise preceded a loud thud as it toppled to the floor. Oops. Getting to his feet, Spike made to put it back, noting Entropy’s heavy physics book lying open on the floor.

Knowing the lecture he would get if he damaged Entropy’s textbook, he made to scoop it up. He was stopped halfway by a piece of paper sticking out from one of the pages. Spike flipped the book open, watching a sheet of parchment flutter to the floor. Disregarding the book, he scooped up the paper and nearly dropped it when he recognized Twilight’s writing.

“What’s he doing with this?” He sniggered, fingering the parchment, “Love letter?” Taking a quick glance around the room, he decided that just for a moment he would stick his nose where it did not belong.

On closer examination, he could see the remnants of Twilight’s familiar sealing spell, however the image of the receiver was not Entropy’s, but Discord’s. Spike’s heart began to thump in his chest. Why does Entropy have Discord’s mail?

Curiosity got the better of him, and he flipped the letter open and began to read,


I know I just wrote to you, but something’s come up again. I tried to fix that mess with the potion by using chaos magic, but, it sort of backfired. The whole library was pressurized, it almost felt like I was standing in an ocean of magic. Has that happened to you before?

Spike froze, staring around at the library. “Twilight used chaos magic? I thought she was only researching it!” He clapped a claw to his face. “Get ahold of yourself, Spike.” The real question was how did Discord’s letter end up in Entropy’s possession. This particular one had been sent using his dragon flames, he could tell by the residue. So how had Entropy got ahold of it?

Spike began to pace feverishly across the floorboard, struggling to make sense of it all. After a while he paused, clapping his claws together. “What if he’s Discord’s spy? Maybe he’s here to dig up dirt for a prank!” No, that would not make any sense, if Discord wanted to prank her, he would have done the investigating himself, heck, he would probably enjoy it. Unless . . . .

A sudden, irrational and simultaneously brilliant thought crashed over him. “Unless Entropy is Discord!” Spike clutched his claws to his ears, as the blood pounded in his head. The destruction, the inability to control harmony magic, and the obnoxious personality all made perfect sense now.

But, why would Discord be disguising himself as a pony, and why in Equestria would he want to date Twilight? Spike shuddered at the thought of the aged Spirit of Chaos actually romancing Twilight. Whatever the reason, the idea was disturbing, and Spike vowed to settle the matter. If Entropy was in fact Discord, he would know soon enough.

Despite their relaxing afternoon off, Discord could not help but feel woefully unenthused as they made their way back to the library. All that time and he had not thought of one decent way to tell her the truth, and he was running out of time. Maintaining the illusion was threatening to pull him apart at the seams, and if he did not hurry he might end up destroying a lot more than a few buildings.

“So, I told her we could got to Canterlot for—” Twilight stopped short, staring at him as though he might explode any second. “Are you okay?”

“Huh? Oh, yes.” He winced as they continued to walk along Main Street towards the library. “It’s just my blasted joints.”

“Entropy, this is getting ridiculous. It’s not right for you to be having so many problems with your joints. For Celestia’s sake, you’re only forty-two!”

“I know, I know.” He lowered his head, avoiding the now withering stare. “I promise I’ll see a specialist when I get back to Canterlot, okay?”

She brightened in an instant. “Okay, but I’ll hold you to it.”

The rest of their walk consisted of Twilight’s recounting their plans for Celestia’s party. Discord was far too tired to give a lick about Twilight’s historically accurate royal banners, or about anything much more then when he would get to rest. Finally they arrived at the library, opening the door and stepping inside.

As always, they were greeted by a several degree drop in temperature. Whether it was the bookshelves providing insulation or some kind of enchantment, it was always more than welcome. He breathed an involuntary sigh of relief, “That’s better, I thought we might melt.”

“You? My coat’s darker than yours!”

“No it is not.” Discord snorted, pointing to the dirt colored hairs. “See? Brown is much darker than lilac.”

Twilight just giggled, walking off toward the kitchen, “Well, whiny, how about I make you some lemonade?”

Discord’s ears perked up. If there was one drink he could not resist, it was lemonade, especially Twilight’s lemonade. “Yes, please. And, if you don’t mind, some more of that potion you gave me.”

“The one for your joints or the one for pain?”

“For pain, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble.” Discord watched her walk into the kitchen, then moved slowly to the cushions. Just as he curled up on his favorite spot, Spike quite nearly appeared out of nowhere. He snorted, pulling back, “Where did you come from?”

Spike raised an eyebrow, “Your powers of observation are astounding.”

Discord had the sudden urge to clap the kid on the head for being a smart-aleck, but thought better of it. “I was tired.” And for your information, I could track you down at midnight in the pouring rain.

Spike settled down on the cushion across from him, grinning in an almost challenging manner and clutching what looked to be a small book. Gods, what now? He pointed at the book, “Pray tell, what is that?”

Spike grinned smugly, holding it up for him to see. “It’s my official journal as Twilight’s assistant. I record all the things that happen in here, and some of my thoughts as well.”

Discord could not help but snigger. He has an official journal? He raised an eyebrow, “Any insights then, Spike?”

“Hmm, yeah, here’s one you might find interesting. It’s about the girls and their battle against Discord.” He flipped through to a page, “I’ll summarize it for you. When Discord revealed himself in Canterlot, Twilight and her friends were really surprised.”

The depths of your understanding have no limits, Spike. Entropy waved a hoof lazily. “Cut to the chase, boy.”

Spike looked a little taken aback, but cleared his throat and continued. “Well, when they discovered that the Elements of Harmony had been taken, Discord gave them a riddle to fool them about their location. However, Twilight figured it out instantly, and knew just where they had to be.”

Discord felt a tinge of irritation crack through his spine like a whip. “Is that the official record?”

“Sort of. Not many know that Discord managed to steal the Elements from the castle. Twilight said it would have caused an uproar among the nobles, to know that such important artifacts had been stolen right out from under the Princess’ nose. Anyway,” he continued, as though he had not been interrupted. “Knowing that the Elements were back in Ponyville, Twilight thought of this awesome plan: why not pretend to fall for Discord’s little trick? That way, they could retrieve the Elements without him getting in the way.”

Pretend to fall? Why they fell hook line and sinker! Discord could not help but swish his tail, “Oh, really?”

“Yup! Twilight knew that if Discord discovered that they had already worked out his riddle, he would have just moved the Elements elsewhere. So they all agreed to pretend they fell for his spell.” Spike shrugged, “Guess Discord isn’t as smart as he looks, because they totally fooled him!”

“Fooled him did they?” Discord sat up straight, bristling like a cat. “They did not fool him, he fooled them!”

Spike waved the thought away with a claw, “Please, that old geezer? He’s just smoke and mirrors, the girls saw through him in an instant.”

Smoke and mirrors am I? Discord felt the chaos magic slip out from under his spell as he glowered at the dragon. “What do you know? You weren’t there.”

Spike huffed, “Well you weren’t either, but Twilight was!” He cleared his throat, “After they pretended to fall under the spell, they headed to Ponyville. The thing was, they had to keep pretending, otherwise Discord, as dense as he is, would catch on.”

Dense am I? DENSE? He pinned his ears, fighting back the magic threatening to break loose in all directions. Control, Discord, control.

Spike continued to ramble about the girls finding the elements. “And then they made me the element of loyalty, since Rainbow had to leave for the trick to work.” The dragon struck a pose, “And with a whoooosh, kaboom, we froze Discord in stone. But, we all agreed to give Rainbow the credit instead of me seeing as it was her element all along.” An obnoxious smirk stretched across his face, “Guess that draconequus wasn’t so tough after all. He’s just a weak pushover.”

Discord shot to his hooves, pinning Spike to the ground. “Enough! I’ll be damned if I stand here and take your lies, boy!” Chaos magic began to escape, slowly pressurizing the room. “Draconequus are not weak! Those ponies fell for my trap like the gullible fools they are. I am the puppet master here!”

“Entropy? What . . . what was that about?” Twilight’s soft voice by the doorway made his heart stop cold.

Oh, Tartarus.

Twilight always felt a little awkward in the kitchen. After Spike had grown old enough to help out, he was more than willing and capable of making the meals for the two of them. After Spike had grown old enough, he had taken to the role of her personal chef with gusto. Much to her chagrin, he had proven himself more capable than her with cooking, and was more than willing to take over making their meals. That was well and good, but there were days she wanted to cook something for herself. Thankfully Spike had yet to master proper lemonade, so she was still permitted to make that.

As she worked, she listened to what sounded like Spike telling Entropy a story. She was glad that he was finally starting to become comfortable around the stallion. As she listened to Entropy’s deep voice mingling with Spike’s, she could not help but worry. The past few days had seen a gradual decline in not only his interest in learning, but his enthusiasm for anything in general. If she left him alone for more than a few minutes, she would find him collapsed on the ground fast asleep. That and his apparently growing pain had her wondering if something was seriously wrong with his health.

Twilight shook the thought away. Entropy was just a little depressed about leaving, that was all. As for the pain, well, he had been doing a lot more walking than he ever did at the university, so it was to be expected. Just as she was adding the final ingredients to the potion, Entropy’s voice, completely devoid of its usual warmth pierced the silence.

What in Equestria are they arguing about now? For a brief moment, she made to walk over and stop them, but thought better of it. No, they were both an important part of her life now, and they needed to learn to get along and sort their problems out themselves. Entropy was an adult, and Spike was old enough to know to behave. Though knowing them as she did, she was not holding her breath. Something tells me I’m going to be playing referee.

Finishing up the potion, she levitated the pitcher of lemonade and the potion, mentally bracing for whatever petty argument she was about to walk into. She stopped cold when she saw Entropy pressing Spike against the floor, an enraged glint in his eye. Then, the strangest noise she had ever heard came out of his mouth. It was not a growl nor a hiss, but something in between, something that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end, as if by some primal fear.

All she could do was rest the pitcher and potion on the ground, standing there frozen in the doorway. “Entropy? What . . . what was that about?”

He looked over to her, a look of sudden realization dawning on his face. Slowly, he unpinned the dragon, lowering his head. “My apologies, Twilight, I . . . I don’t know what came over me.”

Spike scrambled to his feet, running over to stand in front of her like a bodyguard. “Get back, Twilight. Entropy’s no pony!”

Twilight could only glance between Spike’s look of purest determination and Entropy’s exasperated expression. Why me? She turned to her stallion, eyes boring into his until he cringed. “Explain, now.”

Entropy bit his lip, “Well—”

“—I was talking to him about defeating Discord and he went all crazy.” Spike gesticulated wildly, looking into her eyes. “It was like he was some kind of monster or something. No pony should be able to make sounds like that!”

Twilight had to admit, he had a point. She sighed, rubbing her temple with a hoof, “What was that you were speaking?”

“Uh . . . it was . . . .” He pawed at the ground feverishly, averting her gaze. “Uh . . .” Apparently her question was too difficult for him because he just opened and closed his mouth. “Things,” he supplied unhelpfully.

“URGH!” She stamped her hoof against the floorboard. “I’m surrounded by children!” Without ceremony, Twilight grabbed Entropy by the leg, dragging him towards Spike. “You two are going to learn to get along, even if it kills you!”

Spike looked practically mutinous, “I am not working it out with him.”

Rather than a response, Entropy merely rolled his eyes, looking to her. “Well?”

“Uh . . .” Twilight wracked her brain. What could possibly teach the two to get along for more than a millisecond? “You know, Fluttershy could always use some help with the animals. Why don’t you spend the afternoon there?”

Entropy and Spike exchanged a horrified look, and she knew she had hit her mark. Before either of them could protest, she started to push them to the door, stopping them by the doorway. “Wait here.” Cantering over to the kitchen, she levitated the bottle of potion and rejoined them. “Here, Entropy. Make sure you drink all of it, okay?”

“All right,” he murmured, taking the potion. “So, er, shall I drop Spike off this evening?”

Spike butted in-between them, scowling at Entropy, “I don’t need dropping off, especially from the likes of him!”

Entropy groaned, turning to face the door, “Come along, Spike, you cannot find an appropriate means of finishing me off here.”

“I’ll lead the way, old man.”

“Really now, I’m not that old.” With one parting wink her direction, he strode out behind Spike, leaving her alone once more.

Twilight grinned, realizing that this was the perfect opportunity to pick up where she left off. Levitating the aged journals from her saddlebags, she settled down on the cushions. There was something strangely captivating about them, apart from their obvious use as a chaos magic guidebook. The way they were written, it was like a looking glass into Discord’s mind, to see him for who he was, and not who he pretended to be.

Her eyes focused on the last page of the volume she had chosen, contemplating the minuscule words crammed into the corner.

‘I fear I am slipping; losing my way. Perhaps I will join them soon.’

Over the years, Discord had come to find that no sane creature would willingly seek out the company of a draconequus. It was understandable, and even expected given his kind’s nature, but it did prove problematic at times. So, heading to Fluttershy’s for “critter time” seemed ludicrous at best. For some bizarre reason however, that was far from the case.

Now he stood with Spike in Fluttershy’s yard, surrounded by her animals, holding a rake in his magic. Though he tried to ignore them, Spike’s judgemental glances keep finding their way towards him. Allowing the rake to fall to the grass, he rounded on the kid, “What?”

“Nothing.” Spike pretended to be fixing the nearby chicken wire fence. “Just, I’m surprised a draconequus isn’t scaring all these cute fuzzy animals away.”

“Draconequus?” Great, just great. The last thing Discord needed was Spike blabbing to Twilight before he had the chance to explain himself. Best to play innocent. “My dear Spike, I have no idea what you are talking about. I’m a unicorn, always have been.”

The dragon raised an eyebrow, “And I’m the prince of Equestria.” He stamped his foot down in what Discord could only assume was supposed to be an intimidating gesture. “Drop the act, Discord! I know your game, and it’s not fooling me.”

He snarled at Spike, half tempted to blast him with his flames. However, aggression was far from the best approach given the situation. Instead of raising his voice, he softened it, “And what if I was, Spike?”

Spike looked taken aback, staring wide eyed at him. “Then . . . then I’d tell Twilight.”

“And what would she do?” It was a valid question, and he was admittedly a little curious to hear the the kid’s response.

“She would . . .” he puffed out his chest, trying for his intimidating look, “She would be really really mad because it’s an awfully mean trick to pull.”

He spoke the next words as gently as he could, despite his irritation, “Why is it a mean trick, Spike?”

“Because you would have been lying to her the whole time! And,” he looked down at his feet, “Pretending to love Twilight . . . it would make her sad.”

“What would make you think I was pretending?”

Spike took a horrified step back, nearly tripping over one of the chickens. “Eeewe, no! You’re pretending, there’s no way you could like her like that. You’re the Spirit of Chaos, you can’t love her.”

Ignoring the fact that their hypothetical situation had morphed into a very real accusation, Discord continued, “Why would my being the Spirit of Chaos prevent me from loving Twilight?”

“You and Twilight are like night and day. There’s no way the two of you could honestly get along.” Spike crossed his arms sullenly, “Besides, you’re never serious about anything!”

Discord raised an eyebrow. Really? What, is my serious knob broken or something? “Listen, Spike,” he leaned in closer, “Discord might enjoy causing a little havoc, and maybe he doesn’t like organization that well, but, that doesn’t mean he can’t learn to bend.” Sighing, he stood up straight, looking around at the still stick strewn yard. “Well, we could sit here and chat about hypothetical situations all day, Spike, or we can get to work, your choice.”

Spike mumbled something under his breath along the lines of “I’m onto you” before heading to work. The afternoon wore on in the tense silence, occasionally interrupted by Fluttershy coming out to offer them iced tea or water.

Though Discord tried to ignore the fact, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find a way to keep his chaos magic in check. Whenever it did “malfunction”, it sent the animals running helter skelter away from him. This only seemed to fuel Spike’s suspicious glances his direction. His latest slip-up had sent a tangible wave of chaos magic rippling through the yard. This resulted in every one of the animals making a beeline for Fluttershy’s cottage.

Spike smirked at him, “Seems the animals don’t like you much, Discord.”

Discord made to retort when a searing pain sent him to his knees. It was exponentially worse than any before, it was all he could do to lie moaning on the grass. Rather than dying down, it only intensified until his vision began to blur. Before he could think of how to stop it, he threw up a mouthful of blood. Damn.

“Entropy?” Spike knelt beside him, shaking him gently. “You need a doctor. I’ll go get one.”

“Do not worry, Spike.” Discord rolled on his side, allowing the beating sun to numb the pain. “I will be fine. Just . . . just let me rest a bit.”

“Uh . . . okay then. Should I get Fluttershy?”

“No, I do not want to worry her.” The last thing he needed was a panicked Fluttershy rushing to get help. He lifted his head, casting a quick cleaning spell on the blood before allowing his head to hit the grass again. Best not leave any evidence.

Though he loathed to admit it, he was nearly out of time with this form. One way or the other, he would have to tell Twilight, and soon. Closing his eyes, Discord listened to the scratching of the rake as Spike started to work again. Its rhythm was oddly soothing, and he soon found himself drifting off.

Not this one again. Discord knelt in the familiar stone hall, limbs wrapped tightly in the heavy chains. Once again he would be forced to re-live his banishment. Mentally he braced himself for Celestia’s harsh voice to reverberate around the chamber.

However, it did not come. Rather another, heart wrenchingly familiar voice completely devoid of its usual warmth spoke up. “You know why you are here, Discord.”

Discord gritted his teeth, staring hard at the chains, heart pounding in his chest. No, not this, anything but this.

He winced when she continued just as icily, “Look at me, Discord.”

Every part of him was screaming not to look up, not to meet her gaze, he did not deserve to look her in the eyes after what he had done. If he did, he would be forced to admit the truth. However, he could not avoid it, not any more. Slowly, he looked up to stare into Twilight’s eyes. “Yes?”

Twilight stood there just in front of him, somehow taller than before and sporting a crown not unlike Celestia’s. There was no trace of her usual playfulness now, just a stony glare. “Why?”

“It was . . . a bet. However, I did not intend on,” his throat became tight, “falling in love with you.”

A harsh laugh rebounded off of the stones, setting him cringing. “You fell in love with me? Don’t be ridiculous, draconequus! You were playing me for a fool the whole time.”

It was true, at least it had been true. Now, now he wanted nothing more than to have her love and trust. Though given his actions, he just might have lost that opportunity forever. He started pleadingly into her eyes, “I was at first, but the situation has changed . . . I have changed. I can no longer see you as a mere friend, Twilight, but as a,” he gulped, feeling his face heat up, “a mate.”

“Since when do draconequus look to ponies for a mate?” The words dug at him, as though she were tearing out his heart with a rusty spoon.

“I am the last of my kind, you know that,” he murmured. His eyes drifted to his patchwork quilt of a body, so different from those of the ponies around him. “There is no way for me to have a family of my own, so I forsook that kind of affection.” Discord turned to her, the one creature in Equestria who might understand him. “I am tired of being alone, Twilight, I am tired of it. ”

Twilight’s stony expression faltered for a moment, then returned once more. “What makes you think I would love you back?”

Discord grimaced, knowing the answer. There was no reason, no reason in all of Equestria for her to care for him like that. “Because—”

“—Because what? Because you’re good for me? You’re the Spirit of Chaos, a criminal nutjob, and a liar.”

His blood began to boil at her words. So what if he had lied to her? He would like to see what she would have done in the same circumstances. To find yourself falling for the one creature in Equestria that would never have you if they knew the truth. Discord turned away from her, “Very well, do what you will, Twilight, I can see it was a vain hope.”

He winced, as he was hoisted to his feet and drug out of the chamber by the guards. When he awoke, he would have to face the fact. There was nothing he could say that would change the inevitable. Tomorrow he would lose her, and be alone once more.

Twilight had always considered herself to be a dedicated researcher. When there was a matter that needed to be understood, she would commit herself to the subject completely. This evening was no exception to that habit, although her focus had shifted from chaos magic theory to diagnostics. She was currently studying a particularly monstrous tome, open to the page on cancers.

Though most had been effectively eliminated through magic, there were still a few that could not be reached by even the most skilled unicorns. Twilight cringed as she read on about cancers of the brain. They brought on an agonizing, slow death that she would not have wished on her worst enemy. Although some of the symptoms were close to Entropy’s recent condition, that had proven true for many ailments, and she knew that it was not the case with him. He was only depressed.

A rapid hammering on the oak door tore her attention from the page. “Yes? Come in.”

It swung open and her brother, donned in his Royal Guard armor, all but stormed through the door. Before she could recover from the shock of Shining Armor’s sudden appearance in her library, he had rushed over to her, pulling her into a back-breaking hug. “Thank Celestia you’re all right.”

The heavy armor pressing into her chest was far from comfortable. Having enough, she pried him off her with an annoyed sigh. “I’m fine, Shining. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Shining bristled and looked around the library, acting as if he expected someone to jump out in ambush. “You alone?”

Twilight rolled her eyes, “Well I was.”

He sighed, removing his helmet. “Good, because I need to talk to you.” Without waiting for a response, he continued in an urgent tone. “Entropy isn’t what he seems, Twilight. My contacts in Canterlot have found some disturbing information.”

“Hold on! Your contacts in Canterlot?” Twilight bristled, snarling at Shining, “You investigated him?”

“It’s not what you think,” he added hastily. “I . . . I want to respect your choices in stallions, Twily, but I wanted to double check. Background checks are standard procedure for my guards.”

“Well Entropy isn’t one of your guards, Shining, he’s a professor.”

“That’s what I’m trying to say, Twily. He’s not a professor, never has been as far as we can tell. In fact, as far as we know, there’s never been a pony of his description living in Canterlot.”

The words lingered in the still air of the library even as a ringing began in Twilight’s ears. “You . . . you can’t be serious, Shining.” She shot to her hooves, trying to steady her racing heart rate. “You’re wrong! Entropy’s a professor at Canterlot University, he told me himself.”

He stood, meeting her gaze, “Twily, by all accounts the pony named Entropic State doesn’t exist. It’s a false identity.”

“But Celestia vouched for him!” There was no reason for Celestia to lie to her. “If she says Entropy’s a professor, then he is.”

“But he’s not!” Shining’s armored hoof struck the ground with enough force to send an echo through the library. “I very much doubt Celestia would lie to you, but what if she was deceived? What if Entropy has some other agenda?”

“Entropy isn’t a criminal,” the words came as a soft affirmation. “Why would he even do something like that, huh?”

Shining pinned his ears, glowering at her, “Think about it, Twilight. By coming here and making you fall for him, he’s in the perfect position to gather intel on the newest princess, even learning some of her own magic.”

Twilight had heard enough. “Entropy isn’t here to steal my magic, Shining! He loves me, end of story.”

He clapped a hoof to his chest, “So you trust this pony you’ve known for only a few weeks more than your own brother?”

Her throat grew tight as she locked gazes with him. After what felt like an eternity, she closed her eyes, turning away. “Yes, yes I do.”

Silence, then a long, heavy sigh. “Fine, but don’t blame me when everything falls apart.” Without another word, she listened to his armor clanking against the floorboards, then the slamming of the door.

Opening her eyes, she stared around at her library, but it was not her library, not anymore. Between all the days of studying, spell practice, mishap upon mishap, it had somehow become their library. Without him around, the place felt cold and empty, she felt empty. It was as though some invisible string had wrapped itself around them, hopelessly tangling their lives together. Would it be so wrong to leave it that way?

Summer nights always had a soothing effect. Whether it was the crisp cool air, the music of the crickets, or the soft breeze Discord could not tell. All he knew was that it made the agonizingly slow walk to Ponville marginally more bearable, though that might of had something to do with Spike as well. Ever since he had woken from his nap, the dragon had been almost annoyingly civil to him.

A part of him wanted to interrogate him about that, but he was too tired to care. So he continued plodding down the dusty road in silence. Spike kept glancing at him as though he just might explode any second. Discord tried to ignore it, focusing instead on not gasping in pain with every step he took.

Finally, the dragon spoke up, “Say, Entropy?”

Now I’m Entropy again am I? Make up your mind, Spike. He raised an eyebrow, “Yes?”

“If you were . . . if you were Discord,” Spike seemed to note his irritated look and hastened to add, “and I’m not saying you are. But, if you were and you did decide to date Twilight, you would take good care of her, right?”

Discord’s heart lurched at the question. He paused, locking gazes with Spike, “She would be the center of my world. Nothing, and I mean nothing would come before her. I would be loyal to her, even beyond the grave.”

Spike looked a touch taken aback. “Uh, all right. That’s good, I guess.”

Discord jerked a nod, continuing to limp along beside him. “I’m going to be trusting you to keep Twilight’s experiments in check.”

“Please. I was doing that long before you came around.” Spike’s eyes darted to his for an instant before focusing ahead. “But . . . you can count on me to keep her in line.”

He chuckled softly, “Oh I don’t doubt it for a second.”

By the time they returned to the library, both Discord and Spike were too exhausted to speak. Then again, there was nothing left to say. Discord watched the dragon lead the way inside, shuffling across the floorboards as if in a daze. Looking around the darkened library, he wondered if Twilight had called it an early night. A pity, he had wished to talk with her. Sighing, he looked down at Spike, “Goodnight. Tell Twilight I’ll be back around seven thirty.”

Just as he was about to walk out a strong breeze swept over him, accompanied by the sound of hooves touching down. He turned about, only to find himself muzzle to muzzle with a panting Twilight.


“Oh, it’s . . . I just didn’t want to miss you,” she added. Then, before he knew what was happening, her velveteen muzzle pressed to his in an intoxicating kiss.

Slowly, reluctantly, they broke it, staring hard into each other’s eyes. Discord nickered softly, “Well that was unexpected.”

Twilight wrapped him in a tight hug, burrowing her face into his mane, “It shouldn’t be.”

He returned the hug, feeling her steady heartbeat against his chest. It felt right, too right. After tomorrow it would all be over, but that did not matter now.

“Oh come on! Really? I’m standing right here!” Throwing his arms up in frustration, Spike turned and walked away, grumbling under his breath.

Chuckling, Discord released Twilight. “I suppose that’s my cue to leave.” With a parting peck on the cheek and a wink, he stepped out into the cool night air.

Discord generally took the longest route possible back to Mrs. Plumsworth’s, but not tonight. Tonight it was all he could do to make it there. As he shuffled by the fountain, he was stopped by a familiar burning sensation in his throat. Sure enough, in a jet of golden flames, a sealed scroll appeared. He rolled his eyes. What now?

Leaning against the fountain, he tore open the envelope and began to read. His eyes widened as he read the small paragraph. “Twilight’s planning to come see me in Canterlot?”He moaned, clapping a hoof to his forehead, “Gods, could this month get any worse?”

He strode over to the nearby alleyway, transforming his hoof to a talon with a flourish. Snapping it, he summoned parchment and a quill. After scrawling out a hasty note, he sent it off with a jet of flame. He so despised requests, but it was better than Celestia showing up at exactly the wrong moment. Hopefully she would understand. Discord sighed, transforming his talon to a hoof and limping down the street once more. She’s never going to let me live this down, is she?

Sign of Rain

View Online

Twilight strode down the slowly awakening marketplace, eyes darting around at the crowd of ponies milling about. Of course Entropy would choose today of all days not to show up at the library. Honestly, what could he possibly be doing? Snorting in frustration, she turned down an alleyway towards Old Town Hall. Maybe he was just saying goodbye to Cheese, that at least would make some sense.

Halfway down the alley, a sudden yawn took her, forcing her to a stop as she let it pass. As she did, the most uncomfortable burning sensation began to well up in her stomach. Without any warning, a jet of lilac flames shot out of her mouth at an alarming speed. She nearly set back on her haunches when a familiar scroll appeared in its wake. Rolling her eyes, she levitated it closer, noting Discord’s flawless calligraphy.


I have a better idea . . . .

Before she could even ponder the meaning of Discord’s note, a noise like a dozen fireworks going off sounded from behind her, causing her to start and drop the letter. Spinning around, she fixed Discord with a withering glare. “Discord! For the love of Celestia, don’t do that to me! Can’t you show up like a normal pony?”

Discord’s chuckle told her everything before he answered. “‘A normal pony’? My dear Twilight, do I look like a normal pony to you?”

She rubbed her temple as the draconequus leaned casually against the nearest flower box. “No, no you don’t.”

Discord grinned as he patted her on the head, almost like a teacher praising a foal. “So, what is the emergency, Princess? Library run out of quills?”

I don’t have time for this. She looked him square in the eyes, “I need some advice.”

“Advice from me?” Discord chortled in that annoyingly condescending way of his. “You must be desperate.” Despite that, he leaned in closer, “How can I help?”

“You see, I’ve got some problems with my brother.”

“Your brother you say?” He snapped his talon, summoning a lounge out of nowhere. “Do tell.”

“I had an argument with him yesterday, well a few days ago too.” Twilight tried to remain composed while Discord started blowing pink bubbles from a pipe. “He’s always been a bit overprotective, but this time he stepped way out of line.”

“Really? That doesn’t sound like the gallant knight we know and love.”

You could say that again. She stamped her hoof hard against the dirt, “He won’t even give Entropy a chance, just because he’s older than me.” Her legs felt weak as she remembered the argument from a few days ago. “Then he acts like Entropy’s some kind of criminal, and has his buddies investigate him.”

“WHAT?” Discord dropped the pipe, staring open mouthed at her.

“Yeah, and that’s not the worse bit.” Twilight sighed, blowing a stray lock of hair out of her eyes. “He claims there’s never been a Professor Entropic State. But, that can’t be true, because Celestia vouched for him personally.”

For a moment, she contemplated telling Discord about Entropy’s threat to Spike, but thought better of it. Shaking her head, she continued more quickly, “I got mad at Shining, and he stormed off. I don’t know what to do, Discord. If I support Entropy, Shining might hate me, but if I agree with Shining, I’ll lose Entropy. I don’t want that either!”

“Twilight . . .” Discord snapped his talon, causing the lounge to disappear. “I’m the Spirit of Chaos. I break up friendships, not mend them. However, I will give you a piece of advice.” He looked her in the eye, “There is always another option, do not limit yourself to two choices.”

She rolled her eyes. Really helpful, Discord. “Don’t you ever have straightforward advice?”

Discord’s booming laugh made her hairs stand on end. “My dear Twilight, when has a draconequus ever given a straight answer?” Discord’s smile vanished, his tone becoming serious, “Besides, you’ll have plenty of time to ask for advice from Celestia.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, she’ll have you all to herself before long.” Discord cuffed at the dirt with his hoof, “She seems to think you need to learn control after your little outburst.”

Her heart sunk at his words. “My outburst? How did she know about that?”

“A powerful being like her? Please, it would be easy.”

He can’t be serious. “I can’t go back to Canterlot! I live here in Ponyville, all my friends are here.”

“That isn't much concern to her.”

For a long moment, all she could do was stare at him, limbs quivering. Celestia’s sending me back? But why? It was only one slip up! I can control it now. Her heart began to race until the blood pounded in her ears. It was all crashing down, just like before. I’ve got to think of a solution. Without another word to Discord, she took off at a dead gallop.

Well, that was . . . awkward. Why in Equestria had she bolted like that? He did not think he had said anything terribly offensive. Ah well, he had at least given Twilight what she wanted while simultaneously avoiding the truth. However, that avoidance was about to come crashing to an end, on his terms.

Taking a deep breath, he opened the door to the library, stepping inside. “Twilight, I need to have a . . .” he trailed off, staring around at the decidedly alicorn-free room.

Spike trotted over to him, still wearing his cooking apron. “Hey, Entropy.” He squinted looking at the door, “Where’s Twilight?”

“I thought she was here.”

“Er, no.” Spike slipped out of the apron, starting for the stairs, “She came back a while ago, ranting about finding a solution. I thought she was looking for you.”

Discord’s heart skipped a beat, realization sinking in. Oh, gods. What did I do? Wheeling on his haunches he charged out of the door and into the morning sunlight. He had to find her and fast, or it would be too late.

Twilight stood by the edge of the cliffs, allowing the wind to cool her lathered neck. The winding canyon below would have been a beautiful sight under any other circumstances, but not now. Now it felt more like the chasm that would soon divide her from her friends. After all they had been through together, all they had accomplished, she would be pulled back to Canterlot as if it stood for nothing.

The sound of hoofbeats made her turn around. There, panting heavily was Entropy looking as close to panicked as she had ever seen him. She wanted to smile, to reassure him that everything would be all right, but she could not bring herself to do it. Still, she walked over to him, “You found me.”

“I’ll admit, I had some difficulty.” He smiled softly, reaching out a hoof to stroke back her forelock, “What’s wrong?”

She pulled away from him, glowering at him. “Everything’s wrong Entropy!” Why did he have to go when she needed him most? “You’re leaving, Celestia seems to think I can’t control my magic and wants to take me back to magic kindergarten, not to mention Shining Armor might just never talk to me again!”

Entropy reached out a hoof, “Twilight, you need to calm down.”

“Don’t tell me to calm down!” Tears stung at her eyes, but she could have cared less. “You just don’t get it, do you? Everything I’ve done, everything I worked for, it’s all for nothing! I’m not useless, and I’m not a damn filly anymore.”

“Nopony’s saying you are, Twilight.” Entropy stepped closer, but she continued to back away.

Sparks of magic started to fly from her horn just as Entropy’s did. “I won’t t-take it any-anymore!” An incredible pressure seemed to well up around her, as it had before with Entropy. Then, just as quickly as it came, it broke in a tangible wave, sending Entropy flying backwards into a nearby boulder. Her heart stopped at his limp form, head soaked in blood. Entropy? Oh, Celestia, what did I do?

Damn, that hurt. Discord blinked, trying to clear the blood from his eyes. His head must have made rather solid contact with the boulder. Wincing, he tried to stand, but felt his legs give out from under him. Snarling in frustration, he wiped the blood away with a hoof to stare ahead of him.

There was Twilight surrounded by an unmistakable miasma of corrupt magic. It was larger than before, and, judging from the rotting stench it was giving off, particularly potent. He lit his horn, attempting to blast away some of it with his harmony magic. The attempt did as little good as if he had thrown a dirt clod at a dragon.

He watched as the miasma only continued to grow, reaching out for him. Not this time. Slowly he struggled to his hooves, concentrating all his focus on the spell keeping him bound in the false form. If that concentration of chaos magic were to be released at once, it just might be able to flush out the corruption. He sent up a silent prayer, then released the entirety of his chaos magic on Twilight.

As soon as it left him, he felt his body morph back into its true form and watched as a great wall of magic cascaded over the alicorn. The strands of corrupt magic evaporated like mist or were swept away by the golden wave crashing over it. Just as quickly as it came, it evaporated, returning to its source.

Discord rushed to Twilight, looking her over. Thankfully, there appeared to be no lasting damage, though she was quivering, likely from the shock. He knelt down beside her, stroking the mane back with his paw. “It’s all right, Twilight, it’s allright. You’re safe now.”

Her eyes began to flicker, and she blinked slowly awake. For a while she stared at him, as if trying to make out his features. Then they widened, “Discord? What are you doing here?” She struggled, attempting to get to her hooves, but he held her gently down. “Discord? Let me up, I need to find Entropy, he’s hurt.”

“No you don’t.”

“I do!” She started to thrash about, but was apparently too weak to give it much of an attempt. After a while, she glowered up at him, “Why won’t you let me look for him?”

“Because,”he sighed heavily, heart pounding in his chest. This was it, there was no turning back, no more denying the truth. “Because he’s right here.”

“What are you talking about? Entropy’s not here, Discord,” Twilight snapped.

Gods have mercy. With a long slow breath, he concentrated his efforts on drawing up the chaos magic once more. Slowly, painfully, his body transformed back into that of a unicorn once more. When the transformation had finished, he released her, taking a step back. “Because, Twilight, I am Entropy.”

Silence, the kind of silence that ate away at his heart like an agonizingly slow poison. Twilight stared at him, eyes widening and mouth hung open. Then, weakly she got to her hooves, pointing a quivering hoof at him. “All this time . . . it was you?”

“Correct, Twilight.”

“But, but Celestia said you were a professor!” She let the hoof go limp, “Why would she lie to me? Why would you lie to me?” Her eyes misted over with tears, even as her voice rose to fever pitch, “How dare you! I trusted you, Celestia forbid, I think I even loved you. And you went right along with your little game like it was nothing. What kind of sick bastard does that?”

Discord cringed. It was all coming down, just like he knew it would, and yet a part of him wanted to fight back. Concentrating on his magic, he released the spell, resuming his usual form, chaos magic swirling and sparking around him like an electric cloud. “What do you think? I’m the Lord of Chaos, Twilight!”

He let his words hang there, heart aching as Twilight stepped slowly away from him. But he had to continue, he had to explain, perhaps then she would understand. Allowing the magic to subside, he rubbed his temple with his talon. “It started as a bet, Twilight.”

She stopped backing up, staring at him incredulously. “A bet?”

“Yes, a bet.” He ran his paw through his mane. “Celestia grew tired of my disruptions, claiming I did not respect the affairs of ponies. So she challenged me to living a month as a pony without the use of my chaos magic.”

Twilight’s eyes widened, staring at the ground, “So when she vouched for you—”

“—It was because she knew the truth.” Discord’s heart lurched at the betrayal streaking across Twilight’s face. It’s all my fault, all my damn fault. He felt his own voice shaking now, “I never wanted to play you for a fool, Twilight. It was a game at first, I never intended to . . . never intended to . . .”

She stamped her hoof challengingly, “To what, Discord?”

He could feel his heart pounding against his chest, blood rushing to his ears. The words tumbled out before he could stop himself, “To see you as a mate!” The tears came freely as he sank to his knees. “I can’t help it.”

Her expression morphed into one of repulsion, “We’re not even the same species, Discord! There’s no way a relationship between us would work . . . not in the long run.”

He sobbed into his hands, “I know . . . dammit I know, Twilight.” After a while, he regained enough composure to look her in the eye. “You cannot deny that we were happy together.”

“Yes,” she whispered, pawing at the ground. “But, it’s not . . . it’s not right, Discord. It never could be.”

Not right? Discord felt a ripple of anger shoot through him. He stood, this time on all fours to be at her eye level, tail swishing like a whip. “What is so wrong about our being in a relationship?”

“Well,” her eyes drifted to his body, grimacing, and he knew the truth.

“Does my form repulse you, Twilight?” His voice rose to its loudest, echoing off of the canyon below. “Do you hate yourself for falling in love with a draconequus? Or is it my being the Spirit of Chaos that has you cringing? Do you think me incapable of love?”

Twilight flattened her ears, taking a step back, “No, I—”

“—You what? You’re only worried about your reputation! The princess of Equestria in love with a mere chaotic beast,” he spat the word like a curse. His magic began to ebb and flow around him as he snarled at her. “What would your dear princess Celestia think of you then?”

An anger like he had not felt since the day of his banishment surged up inside him. Twilight was acting as though he was some kind of disease, as if his only purpose in all this was to cause her misery. Was she so blind to the truth? “Have you even considered how I feel? For centuries I have been reviled because of what I am. You keep telling me what an awful fate it is to be separated from your friends, but what do you know of estrangement?”

He pounded his chest with his paw, “I am the last draconequus in the world, Twilight! Imagine for a moment how that feels.” His voice started to shake, “To know that you will never see another of your kind, even if you travel to the farthest reaches of this earth. Longing for their understanding all the while having what little is left of your culture taken out from under you.” Discord allowed his head to sink down, voice growing barely audible, “Being the only creature who does not find his form repulsive.”

Twilight did not speak, though from the dead look in her eyes, he had overstayed his welcome. Sighing, he stared up at the clear sky, “Forgive me, I should not blame you, your feelings are only natural.” He turned to Twilight, raising his talon. Despite all that had transpired, he could not bring himself to hate the mare now frozen in front of him. “It’s a cruel and random world, my dear, I sincerely regret becoming the one to prove that to you.” Without another word, he teleported away, leaving Twilight to her thoughts.

Discord stood outside the throne room, quivering. Try as he may to settle his anger, he could not. Had Celestia known all along it would come to this? Even if she had not, it did little to change the reality. Twilight’s haywire magic, her confusion about her ascension, all on top of Celestia trying to rip her away from everything she loves. It was wrong and he was not about to stand and take it.

Upon stepping forward, the guards who had been watching him flinched. He could only roll his eyes, “Really? What are you going to do?” With a single snap, he appeared in front of Celestia’s throne. As usual, the alicorn was reviewing some kind of official document with that smug expression of hers.

She looked up, allowing the parchment to fall to the marble. “Discord?” The smile widened, and she motioned him to come closer like some dog. “I did not expect you would be so eager to return after you lost our little bet, and just a few hours before I was going to call it off.”

“This isn’t about your damn bet, Celestia,” Discord snarled, staying where he was.

“Discord, what in Equestria is the matter? It was but a game.”

“But a GAME?” Discord raised his talon, allowing the sunlight to catch the long nails. “Do you consider turning inexperienced children into near immortal alicorns a game? Do you consider allowing her to magic to corrupt because of the fear you were responsible for a game?”

“Now Discord—”

“—Do not interrupt me, Celestia,” he spat. “While you sat in your little throneroom playing dictator, I nearly lost Twilight today because you decided to wrench her away from her home! To learn control that I could very well have taught her in Ponyville if you had given me the chance.”

He lowered himself on all fours, snarling at her. “But you did not even consider it. Because I’m a damn beast that only knows of jests! Well I can tell you, Princess, that I can be very, very serious.” Taking a breath, he released a jet of golden flames around the room, sending an ethereal glow to the chamber and scorching the banners.

“Discord, enough!” She rose, voice softening, “calm yourself. I never intended upon taking Twilight Sparkle from Ponyville. And,” she stared hard at him with those calculating eyes. “I have no problem with you teaching her control if she wishes it.”

He felt his heart pounding in his chest. “You did not, you did not mean to take her?”

“By the gods, no!” Celestia walked slowly towards him, eyes sad. “Do you think me cruel enough to take everything she loves away because of my mistake?”

For a moment, he considered lying, but that would not do. “YES!” A silence fell over the chamber, punctuated only by the crackling of the burning banners. After a long moment, he continued, staring hard at the marble. “After all, you . . . you were content to watch it happen to me.”

Celestia flinched, looking away. “I am sorry—”

“—I do not need your half-hearted apologies, Tia.” He sighed, closing his eyes. “I have had enough of those for a lifetime.” A part of him wished that he could continue to be angry at her, but the longer he stared into her eyes, the more he knew that was impossible.

No, when it came down to it, all he felt was guilt. “It is I who should be apologizing. I could have put my hoof down after the fact, warned you she might lose control. In my arrogance, I was content to sit back and watch your plan burn.”

“Do not speak so, Discord.” Celestia rubbed her temple with a hoof. “You were right all along, she was not ready. I was . . . too willing to play god.”

So she admits it at last. Discord snorted, rolling his eyes. “I could have told you that centuries ago. I tried to if you recall.”

“I know, I know and I should have listened.” Her eyes looked into his in that annoyingly calculating way of hers. “You are the only creature who had the courage to tell me that.”

“Indeed.” He did not like the way her attention had turned to his neck, as if she were contemplating the best collar to chain him up with. “What?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all, Discord.” Though her Cheshire grin said that was anything but the truth. The smile faded as she stared at his head. “You are injured.”

Injured? Oh, that. He dismissed her concern with a wave of his paw, “It has already healed.”

Celestia giggled, starting to the door. “Excellent, then perhaps we should go to Ponyville and see Twilight. She deserves an explanation from the two of us.”

Discord twitched, Twilight’s horrified expression coming into focus. “I have already explained to her,” he looked down at his mismatched limbs, “she . . . she did not take it well.”

“Oh,” Celestia’s smile vanished in an instant, “very well then. I shall try to make her see reason.”

He scoffed, “Do not bother, Tia. She has all the reason in the world, it is I who has lost sight of it.” Before Celestia could complain further, he raised his talon. “Go fix your own problems, I must rest.” Yes, rest and think of some way to mend the broken pieces.

Twilight had arrived at the library by late afternoon, and yet, could not remember how she had come to be there. Had she walked? It did not matter, nothing mattered anymore. Stumbling through the doorway, she came face to face with Spike. “He tugged gently at her mane, “Twilight, where’s Entropy?”

Her eyes stared dully into his, “There never was an Entropy, Spike.” Gently pushing him aside, she shuffled towards the stairs and some peace. Somehow she managed to reach the bed, collapsing in a heap on top of it. Every inch of her body felt cold and numb despite the oppressive heat in the loft.

She lay there staring at the clock on the wall, watching the seconds tick by. Over and over again she replayed the scene, willing it to change and have everything to go back to the way it was. But that was as futile as stopping the clock hands. It would not prevent time from passing, and blotting out the memory would not make the truth disappear. Entropy was Discord, he had always been Discord.

A part of her still wanted to be mad at him, for lying to her, for being who he was, but that would not be fair. What was he supposed to have done? It would have ended up like this regardless of when he told her.

Her eyes turned the the quilt, remembering that morning she had woken up to Entropy lying on her bed like some dog. That made perfect sense now, Discord was always the type to make himself at home. Though he had carried her safely back, despite the pain in his joints. Stupid old man could have hurt himself.

She rested her head on the pillow, greeted by the heavy smell of lavender. Closing her eyes, she longed for Entropy’s earthy scent, but that too was a lie. He was Discord, and Discord undoubtedly had his own smell, his own personality, and . . . his own taste.

Twilight ran a hoof over her lips, recalling the number of times she had kissed him in that false form. His rough muzzle against hers had been the most wonderful feeling in all the world. From the way Discord had kissed her back, he felt the same. Discord, the Spirit of Chaos kissing her like some teenage stallion head over hocks in love. Why? What did he see in her?

She could not deny that Discord cared for her, he had to. If he hated her, he would not have freed her from the trap of her own mind. Rather, he had held her tight, assuring her she was not to blame, while knowing full well how close she had come to slipping away for the sake of an irrational fear. And that was only the beginning of it. Those encouraging letters he had sent despite how awkward they must have been to write, his patience as Entropy throughout their lessons, and the quiet support all pointed to love, at least love as she understood it.

What did she know of love? What did he for that matter? They were both inexperienced and awkward. They had not planned on it, but yet, here they had ended up. Twilight had been certain it would remain forever, but now it seemed as fragile as a sculpture made of glass. And she had shattered it with a sledgehammer.

Could it really have worked between them? Discord certainly seemed to think so, but she was not so certain. They could try to go back to the way it was, but it would never be the same. Change was necessary, she would not deny that. But, could this new relationship be as strong as the old one? Would she be able to trust Discord, even after he lied to her for so long?

Her ears perked up at the sound of the library door opening. A loud gasp from Spike made her heart skip a beat. Discord? She shook the thought loose. Get ahold of yourself, Twilight! Of course it’s not him. After today, I wouldn’t be surprised if he never speaks to me again.

“Twilight Sparkle? May I come up?” A familiar, soft voice drifted from the bottom of the stairs.

She can’t be here yet! Twilight looked up from the quilt, “Of course.”

Listening to the sound of hooves against the stairs, she watched Celestia herself stride into the loft. The significantly taller alicorn had to bow her head a little to prevent her horn from scraping the ceiling. She smiled in that gentle way of hers, settling down on the rug. “I hope you don’t mind my stopping by, Twilight. I wished to have a quick word.”

“You’re early,” Twilight snapped, unable to hide the bitterness in her tone. “Should I pack my things?”

Celestia raised an eyebrow, “Pack? Whatever for, Twilight?”

Twilight snorted, gesturing to the window. “For Canterlot! So I can learn to control my magic.” The last few weeks had proved that her corrupting magic was becoming a dangerous liability to Ponyville after all.

“I fear this is all a misunderstanding.”

A misunderstanding? “What do you mean?”

Celestia shook her head slowly, “I never had any intention of bringing you back to Canterlot, Twilight.”

“What?” The blood rushed to her ears as she stared wide eyed at Celestia. “But, Discord said—”

“—Discord was mistaken.” Celestia sighed, “I had hoped to work out a kind of mentorship program with our letters. I thought we might try that for a time, and see where it goes. Also, Discord has expressed some interest coming to Ponyville to teach you himself.”

Discord? Her stomach churned at the name. “I don’t want to see him,” she snapped, punching the pillow. “He lied to me, you lied to me! All for a stupid prank. Why should I trust anything you say?”

There was a drawn out silence in which Celestia’s eyes darted from Twilight to the floor. Then, slowly, she spoke up, “It was meant to be a jest, Twilight. I had never intended it to upset you so much. Discord as well.”

Upset me? Upset doesn’t even begin to cover it! Try having the pony you’re dating turn out to be a draconequus! Twilight snorted, “It was not funny. Why didn’t you tell me it was Discord from the beginning?”

“It was a selfish choice on my part, Twilight.” Celestia’s eyes met hers, awash with sorrow, “I am sorry, I had hoped you could give him the confidence to make friends for himself.”

“He’s a draconequus and the Spirit of Chaos, he doesn’t need friends.”

“Twilight Sparkle!” Celestia’s harsh voice hit her like a whiplash to the face. “What kind of talk is that for a princess? Of course he needs friends.” She pointed at Twilight’s chest, “I had hoped that after nearly a month in his close company you would have learned what truly prevents him from making them.”

Twilight swished her tail irritably. Sorry I was a little preoccupied about him lying to me for weeks on end. “What?”

Celestia continued with the air of someone explaining a simple math problem. “Discord has been unable to befriend ponies because he thinks that he is incapable of friendship.” Celestia’s voice softened until it was scarcely more than a whisper, “I fear he has allowed his past to blind him to the present reality.”

Discord’s words began to play over in Twilight’s head. ‘For centuries I have been reviled because of what I am.’ She grimaced, remembering the pain in his eyes as he has spoken the words. “His past?”

“No, this was many, many years before then.” Her attention focused on the faded rug, running her hoof absent-mindedly over the lines. “When Discord was but a child, an incident occurred. His parent’s actions ended up taking the lives of over two hundred ponies, and causing the draconequus to leave Equestria.”

“But, why?”

“That is not my story to tell, Twilight.” Celestia continued in the same soft tone, “After the incident, Discord was taken in by my father. Father was . . . bitter towards the draconequus, so he considered it his duty to force Discord to conform to our standards.” She shut her eyes, gritting her teeth, “Then our subjects refused to let go of the past. They blamed Discord for what had transpired, and so he was rebuked, and many a false accusation brought against him.”

Celestia looked up at her, eyes sad. “I should have noticed the isolation he received, but as with Luna, I turned a blind eye. By the time I noticed, he had built a wall around himself.”

There was a long, weighted silence, leaving only the steady ticking of the clock as the words sunk in.

Twilight felt her limbs quivering under her. Discord had trusted her enough to break down that wall, allowing her into his life. Then in one cruel moment, she had betrayed that trust, tearing apart perhaps the deepest connection Discord had with another creature in centuries. All because she was too self-righteous to see past one mistake.

“Twilight?” Celestia’s voice jolted her to reality, “He needs to hear the truth, and I believe would enjoy hearing it from you.”

Twilight longed to go to him, but would Discord accept her after she had thrown him aside so carelessly? Would he give her another chance to prove herself? If the Spirit of Chaos himself could be reformed, then who was to say that she could not be as well? “I’ll tell him.”

Before she knew it, Celestia had wrapped her in a gentle hug. “That’s my girl. ” After a few seconds, she broke it, clearing her throat. “I’ll leave you to rest now.” She started towards the stairs, turning around at the top, “Oh, and Twilight?”


“Thank you.” Shooting her a quick smile, she turned away. Twilight listened to the sound of her hoofbeats against the floorboards until they had subsided. For a moment, she stared around at the loft, contemplating her next move. Then she saw the small journal resting on the endtable, Discord’s journal. He had given it to her as an invitation, an invitation to learn who he really was. Hopefully it was not too late to accept.

One Voice

View Online

Shining Armor paced the sunlit floor of the Captain’s office, trying to blot out the reality that had come crashing down on him. This pony, Entropic State or whatever he called himself, was a threat not only to Twilight but to Equestria. He had to be, or this was all some elaborate scheme of Celestia’s that he was not privy to. Either way, he had managed to brainwash Twilight enough to trust him more than her own flesh and blood.

The memory of the other night’s events still stung, and it seemed Twilight would not be so willing to see reason. That just left him and Cadence. After some convincing, well, a lot of convincing, Cadence had agreed that they needed to speak with Celestia regarding the matter. However, she was adamant that whatever Entropy’s true purpose was, it could not have been to harm Twilight or he would have done so already.

Shining hated how much time they were wasting. He wanted to leave the moment she had agreed last night, but she insisted they depart in the morning. So here he was, waiting until Cadence saw fit to leave. Urgh! “Why can no one see the urgency?”

“Why indeed.” A low voice behind him made him wheel around, face to face with the last pony in Equestria he wanted to see.

“Entropy?” He drew his blade, glowering at the unicorn leaning casually against the wall. “How did you get in here? Guards!”

He chuckled, examining his hoof. “Oh, they can’t hear you. They’re a little tied up at the moment.”

“What did you do to them?”

“Nothing of concern to you.” Entropy eyed the blade pointed at his chest with mild interest. “Are you going to stab me before I explain myself? How heartless.”

“Drop the act, Entropy. If that’s even your real name!” He tried to steady his blade despite the nearly overwhelming mixture of hatred and fear coursing through him. How did one unicorn get past all his guards? There was no way he was an ordinary pony, no way in Tartarus.

“Do calm down, Shining. It hardly becomes you,” Entropy drolled. Rather than back away, or even charge towards him, he stood stock still. “I came here to explain myself, but if you want to run me through, I suppose I won’t stop you.”

Shining felt the blade quiver, then, slowly he let it fall to the floor. Every fiber of his being was telling him to end it now, but he could not. This stallion, no matter how horrible, was the pony his little sister loved. Harming him would not change reality. He stared piercingly into Entropy’s eyes, “What do you want? Come to tell me your plans to take over Equestria?”

Entropy raised an eyebrow, then burst into a booming laugh. “Me take over Equestria? What would I do, force everypony to study physics? Please, I have more important uses for my time.”

The hairs on his back bristled, “Like what? Lying to Twilight, deceiving Celestia!”

“I,” he grimaced, looking down at the stones, “I did not intend upon hurting your sister.”

His heart skipped a beat. Hurting her? “What did you do to her, Entropy?”

“You said so yourself, boy. I lied.” Without warning, a swirling golden magic filled the room, causing an ungodly pressure. When it subsided, the unicorn had vanished, being replaced by a familiar draconequus.

“Discord?” Shining felt his legs grow weak and shaky. “You’re Entropy?”

“Correct.” Discord leaned against the desk, wrapping his talon on its smooth surface. “I fear my little joke went a touch too far.”

The Spirit of Chaos; his sister had been dating the Spirit of Chaos. Shining pinned his ears, raising the sword again. “What kind of sick joke is that?”

“A bet with Celestia. She claimed I could not spend a month living as a pony, so I proved her wrong.”

A bet? This monster had played around with his sister’s heart all for a bet? And Celestia had simply gone along with it. “So, you two think it’s funny to mess around with my sister? A good chuckle to watch her suffer when you reveal your little lie? Does she even know who you are?”

The calm expression on Discord’s face vanished, being replaced by one of loathing. “I am not a child to be reprimanded by the likes of you, boy. Of course I have told Twilight. However, I saw it fit to explain myself to you. Not that you deserve it,” he added in an undertone.

Clearing his throat, the draconequus continued in a softer voice, “The bet was not to mess with Twilight’s love life, Shining. That bit, regrettably was my doing.”

“Why?” It was all he could do to stop his voice from quivering. “Why would you do that to her?”

“At first I thought it would be a good game. However,” Discord paused, staring at his paw, “our feelings for one another changed the game. I began to see your sister . . . see her as a potential mate.”

Mate? The blade dropped again, and he stood there, heart racing until he thought it might explode. “Good . . . good Celestia, you are a beast, Discord! A centuries old Spirit of Chaos and you wanted to . . . with my sister?” Disgust did not even begin to describe it. This was so wrong on so many levels.

Discord sighed looking uncharacteristically serious. “Well, I don’t know if I wanted that, Shining. I just started to see her as an option. I admit now, that was wrong, and I hate to have allowed myself the guilty pleasure of thinking it might work out.”

Shining could only stare at him, wishing against hope that he wake up from this nightmare. There had to be something he could do to take control, anything. “What if I tell ponies? How do you think they’ll view the ‘reformed’ Discord then?”

There was a flicker of irritation in Discord’s eyes, then it softened. “Shining, I do not care what you do to me, my reputation was ruined many a century ago.” He bit his lip, “However, your sister is another matter. If . . . if word got out about our relationship I fear it might sully her good name.”

“Your relationship?” Shining’s heart stopped cold, “You didn’t. Oh Celestia, you didn’t!”

Discord shot up straight, “No! By the gods and my honor I did not touch her!” Despite his words, there was a distinct discomfort marring his face. “However, that would not stop the rumors, Shining. I would not see her honor tainted by selfish actions. Please, please have the consideration to keep this matter quiet. Celestia herself has not been privy to this information.”

Shining wanted to scream at him, to demand that he tell the truth to everypony, but could not bring himself to do it. However much he despised the creature in front of him for what he had done, there was no changing the truth. He closed his eyes, looking away, “Get out. I will keep your damned secret, but only for Twilight’s sake.” There was a loud pop, and he knew he had left him to reflect on the worse possible outcome.

Discord did not hate books, not that any creature would honestly believe him. Being imprisoned in stone for nigh on two thousand years left a lot of catching up to do, and they were a great help where that was concerned. However, the idea of the Lord of Chaos curled up on a longue reading and enjoying a book with as much zeal as Twilight was comical to say the least. And yet here he was, curled atop a mountain of history books in the darkest corner of Canterlot Library.

There was nothing he hated more than being ignorant, especially where it concerned common knowledge. As he tried to focus on the accounts, he began to curse himself over and over again for falling into just that mold. Why had he ever thought dating Twilight would be a good idea? It was as though he had thrown all common sense and reason out the window.

He was nothing like ponies, none of his kind were. Ponies thrived on mutually beneficial interactions, his on conflict. Whereas Twilight built friendship after friendship, he had burned every bridge behind him. A small voice seemed to echo in the back of his head. But you built friendships, think of all the ponies this month. Cheese, Bulk, Flim, Cheerilee, they didn’t hate you. They wanted to be your friend.

Discord shook his head, “No, you’re wrong. They would throw me out the moment they discovered the truth.”

Really? If they hated you so much, why did Cheese forgive you like that? Why did Flim help you out? Admit it, they care about you, and they’d understand.

His eyes began to swim, blurring the page in front of him. The voice was right of course, if any creatures would understand it would be them. However, understanding and trust were two separate matters entirely. “I lied to them for nearly a month. They’d have every reason never to trust me again.”

The voice chuckled. Really, Discord. How can you say that after what happened with Celestia? Even after you broke free and wrought havoc upon Equestria for the third time, she forgave you, even trusting you with another chance.

“Yes, but . . .” He could not argue that logic. If their uptight overlord could forgive him, who was to say his friends would not? It was only a matter of telling them the truth and they would come around. However, Twilight was a different matter.

His blunder could not be repaired so easily. Gods above, why had he even considered dating her? Even putting aside the fact that he was a draconequus, he was terrible for Twilight. The mare was just a child, and he had lived for centuries already. Besides, how in Equestria would a relationship between the Lord of Chaos and the Bearer of Harmony herself gone over? He would drive her mad in a matter of months or he himself might snap.

Then there was the other consideration. Discord sighed, staring hard at his mismatched limbs. A draconequus, the draconequus he supposed it was now. Even if by some miracle they managed to get along as a couple, that left one glaring issue. They were not the same species, and no amount of chaos magic could change that. He groaned, resting his head on the books. “Why am I so stupid?”

You aren’t stupid, you’re lonely. The voice drifted in his ear like a passing breeze. There’s nothing wrong about wanting a companion.

“Yes there is,” he snarled. “I am the Lord of Chaos, I don’t get to have a companion.”

The voice gave a high pitched giggle. How does that make sense? Honestly, Discord, quit being such a stick in the mud and think of the possibilities!

“Possibilities?” Discord could not help but allow a wide grin to stretch across his face. “True enough.” Snapping his claw, he summoned a glass of lemonade, sipping it thoughtfully. “Why, with the two of us working together, I don’t believe Equestria would go a day without a good laugh.”

He sneered, “Imagine Celestia’s face! She’d probably have a hernia knowing Twilight and I were dating.”

See? It’s not so bad. Besides, The voice grew playful, imagine the spells the two of you could come up with! Why, after seeing the river, even you were able to use harmony magic. Twilight’s proven she can use chaos magic too! Think about it, Discord. Two chaos magic users working together to have a bit of fun.

“Exactly!” Discord chuckled softly, “I don’t think we’d ever be bored! We might even try an experiment or two just to annoy the princesses. I’d love to see the look on their faces when we turn the castle into swiss cheese.”

He got to his feet, grinning broadly. “What am I kidding myself? It could have worked, and it still can. We loved each other before all this, who’s to say we can’t again?” It would take time, but she would come around, she had to. Discord closed his eyes, sending up a silent prayer. Gods, it has been a long time since I offered a sacrifice, still I ask that you hear my plea. Let my actions speak truth and sincerity, let her see me for who I am, and if it be your will, may she accept me into her life again.

Twilight paced, well, wore a track in the library floor was closer to the truth. Her mind had gone in a continuous loop ever since Celestia’s visit the night before. How in Equestria should she approach him? A part of her wanted to kick the living daylights out of him, but that would not solve anything and would likely land her in a puddle of pudding.

Discord, the arrogant Lord of Chaos, fooled her into thinking he was a simple unicorn. Just like that, she had fallen for his stupid trick, all because he was “charming.” She shuddered at the thought that she ever considered the draconequus attractive. Sarcastic, annoying, and sometimes cryptic, but most definitely not charming.

And yet he had managed to get her falling head over hocks for him. Spike had warned her he was up to something, time and time again. But no, she had to trust Entropy. Trust the one “pony” who was anything but trustworthy. There was nothing to be said about her decision other than stupid. Shining was right all along, and now she was somehow going to have to mend their relationship assuming he would even take her back.

“Twilight. Twilight!” Spike was clinging to her leg like some kind of elbow leech.


He rolled his eyes, “Door.”

Really? “What, you can’t open it?”

Spike grimaced, “I don’t want to talk to him.”

Twilight felt her stomach drop. No way, not so soon after everything had blown up. But, sure enough, when she opened the door, it was Discord standing there. “What do you want?”

“I . . . well,” he chuckled nervously, holding his arms behind his back, “I came to pick up my journals and have a little chat if that’s okay.”

A part of her was tempted to slam the door in his face, but, she had made a promise to Celestia. Groaning, she motioned him inside. She started towards the stairs, “They’re in the loft, I’ll get them.”

Discord eyed Spike with an almost hungry expression, “Take your time.”

It in fact took very little time at all to gather the three volumes. As quickly as she could, she made her way down the stairs. The scene she was greeted with nearly caused her to drop the journals. “What in Equestria did you do to my library?”

The draconequus looked up from a stray cotton candy cloud he had conjured up. “I improved it.”

Twilight’s eyebrow twitched, looking at what had been her wooden floor. Its entire surface had been coated with various squares of primary colors so that the entire place more closely resembled a daycare. “What? You expressing how childish you are?”

Discord tsked, “Jumping to conclusions again I see.” He raised a talon, pointing to the corner of the room where Spike was bound to a small chair with a jump rope. “It was Spike’s fault.”

“What? It was not!” The dragon struggled to break free of his confines.

“Well, if you hadn’t been taking this entire mess like a baby, I wouldn’t have had to child proof everything.”

Twilight stamped her hoof hard against the nearest square, surprised with how shock absorbent it was. “Urgh! Discord, the only child in here is you.” She raised a hoof, pointing towards Spike. “Let him go, and for Celestia’s sake, put things back to normal.”

Discord rolled his eyes, “My, if you aren’t a wet blanket, dear.”

Twilight shuddered at the endearment, “And don’t call me that!”

“Sorry, sorry. Gods your touchy today.” He leaned over the cloud at her, “You in heat or something?”

“NO! Now turn everything back or I’ll try some of my chaos magic on these journals.” She waved the journals around for emphasis. He raised an eyebrow, as though expecting something else. “Fine! Please put it back, Discord.”

Apparently those were the magic words, because with a single snap of his talon, the room reverted back to normal, and Discord stood tapping his hoof in the center. “There, happy?”

“No.” She ran a hoof over the journals. Just how did a creature who wrote such elegant and heartfelt letters one minute be so childish the next? Celestia, he was going to give her a migraine. Her eyes focused on Spike who looked close to strangling Discord provided he could reach his neck. Rolling her eyes, she pointed at the door. “Can you leave for a minute, Spike. Apparently I’ve got to discuss some things with Discord or he’s not leaving.”


Spike groaned, eyeing Discord as if he might take a chunk out of Twilight. “Okay, but I’ll be back to check on you in a bit.”

“Okay.” Twilight turned to Discord, pointing at the cushions. “Sit.”

Apparently due to his anatomy, Discord was incapable of sitting. The best he seemed capable of was curling up tightly on his usual spot, looking across at her. “Satisfied, your highness?”

“Yes. I’m sick of talking up to you.” It was more than a little awkward, especially since she had spent most of the past month talking to him at near eye level.

Discord bristled, glowering at her. "Well forgive me for standing the way I always have. Next time this damned ugly beast will act appropriately," he snapped.

Twilight's chest tightened, "I . . . I didn't mean it like that."

"Truly? Then tell me, princess, what did you mean to imply?" There was no warmth or mirth in his tone now. "That I ought to be ashamed of what I look like? Would you prefer my Entropy form, that seemed to please you well enough." His tail swished violently back and forth, "Do you even realize how much pain I was in keeping that up?"

Her mind flashed back to the pained looks Discord had shown over and over again. Though he had always dismissed it, the symptoms had been getting progressively worse. After yesterday's incident, she had not even considered that detail. Her eyes fell to his talon, half expecting to find it quivering as Entropy's legs so often did, but it was still. "It didn't cause any permanent damage, did it?"

"No," he stated in an unnaturally icy tone. "Though it will weaken me for a time."

"If it hurt so much, why didn't you tell me earlier?"

Discord rolled his eyes, "Oh, I don't know. Perhaps I was afraid of how you'd react." His mouth widened in a kind of snarl, "Seems I was correct to assume that you ponies cannot look past outward appearances."

"I," she gulped, pawing at the floorboards, "I didn't mean to . . . to look at you like that."

"Oh, I think you did. That is your kind's way after all." He raised his talon, allowing the sharpened nails to catch the light. "Accept those who look like you, conform to your standards, then throw out anyone who does not." His eyes stared coldly into hers, "You know, I don't exactly appreciate ponies being repulsed by how I look."

His voice raised until it echoed around the still library, "All my life I have been told that I am ugly, that my form is somehow inferior to your own, that I should not show my face in public, that the gods must have made some mistake when they fashioned the draconequus. They said that over and over again to me, even as a child!" The rant broke as he murmured softly, "And then you, the one creature I thought would understand did exactly the same. Do you even know how that feels?"

"I . . . I . . . no, no I don't." Twilight's heart ached as Discord started to quiver, fists clenched. "I should have never treated you like that. It was wrong. I was wrong." She lifted a hoof to try and touch him, but he snarled, setting her back a few steps. "There's nothing wrong with how you look, Discord. It just takes some . . . getting used to. I'm so sorry for how I reacted. If I could take those words back, I would in a heartbeat."

Discord's tail twitched, but he seemed unwilling to scold her again. Rather, he stretched out on the cushions, averting her gaze. "Perhaps you speak truth . . . or perhaps not. I honestly do not care anymore. Your reaction was to be expected. There . . . there are no other draconequus to compare me to. They've been gone for centuries now," he whispered.

Twilight winced as an uneasy silence followed his words. What was there to say? Sorry about you being the last draconequus, here, have a hug and it will all work out? Discord was right, ponies did not know what draconequus looked like. In fact, in all her years of studying under Celestia, she had never come across a single book describing the draconequus, their history, or even a single painting. She inched closer to him, "What did they look like?"

Discord snorted, "As if you want to know."

"Oh, I can be quite curious when I want to be." Twilight stared expectantly into his eyes. "So, did they all look like you?"

“Gods no.” Discord snorted a laugh, “Do all ponies look the same?”“

“Well, no . . .”

“There’s your answer. But, if you really want to know, Father was at least two feet taller than me, and a lot more muscular. And he had this antler,” he mimicked a moose antler, “that always scraped the ceiling. He could be pretty intimidating when he wanted to be.” He sighed, flexing his paw, “I can’t really tell you what the others looked like. I . . . I was raised by Father. Mother wasn’t too fond of living amongst ponies.”

“Oh.” Twilight was starting to feel guilty for bringing up the subject. Searching for a change of subject, she found the journals, pushing them towards him. “Thank you, they were really helpful.”

Discord chuckled, fingering them with his talon. “I am glad. You are the first I’ve shown them too.”

“What? Really?”

“Well, it seemed foolish not to. You needed to know about chaos magic, and,” he gulped looking away, “I would much rather have you learn it from me.”

Celestia’s words rang in her head. ‘Discord has expressed some interest coming to Ponyville to teach you himself.’ It could not be chaos magic he wanted to teach her, could it? After his letters, she thought he was rather fed up with the idea of her using it. “Discord, do you . . . do you actually want to teach me chaos magic?”

Discord twitched, flushing a little. “Yes, well it would be quite the treat working somepony who actually wants to use my magic rather than stop it.”

She opened her mouth, eager to jump at the opportunity to learn chaos magic from the master himself, but stopped herself. No, Discord could not be trusted, not after what he did.

Seemingly reading her thoughts, Discord continued in a soft voice, “I came to apologize, Twilight, though I know that does not mean much considering what . . . what happened.”

Twilight bristled, “Damn right it doesn’t mean a lot! After what you did to me you ought to be locked up.” Her eyes met his, “Why? What in Equestria made you want to treat me like that? To mess with my emotions, pretend to love me!”

Discord actually growled. It was a low, primal noise that somehow carried to the corners of the room, and sent a chill down her spine. “I did not pretend!” He muttered something in the same language she had heard him use on Spike. “I told you yesterday, though it seems you still do not believe me.” His paw pointed to her chest, “Despite all rhyme or reason, I love you, Twilight. That fact has not changed, and frankly I’m disgusted that you would think me so low as to pretend to for a mere prank.”

“You said you were playing a game.”

“In the beginning, Twilight. In the beginning. However,” he stared hard into her eyes, “that all changed when I saw you for the wonderful companion you could be.”

Twilight twitched, remembering his phrasing last afternoon. “You said you were starting to consider me as a potential ‘mate.’ What, you wanted to experiment in your pony form, is that it?”

Discord scowled at her for a moment, then leaned forward eyeing her not with anger, but with a perfectly neutral expression. “Twilight, when I say that I consider you a potential mate, that is a great honor. My kind do not experiment, we commit. One mate and one mate only for a lifetime, that is our way.” He leaned back again, smiling softly at her. “So, when I tell you that I consider you a potential mate, you should know that I am not using the term lightly.”

Twilight felt her blood run cold. So that’s what he meant. The thought that Discord, the Lord of Chaos, would seriously consider her as a potential life partner was almost too much to take in. She clasped her head in her hooves. “There’s no way, no way.” Slowly she looked up at him. “Why me? Why not somepony like Celestia or Luna?”

“What?” Discord leaned back, looking genuinely revolted. “Gods no!” He shuddered, hissing again in that language of his. “Tia and Luna are my sisters, Twilight. They became as good as blood to me when Morpheus took me in.”


He dismissed the question with a wave of his paw, “Celestia’s father, it is not important.” His eyes met hers again, “What is important is you.”

Twilight’s stomach lurched. “I’m nothing special, Discord. Well, apart from being made an alicorn, and you said that was a mistake.”

Discord shook his head vigorously, “The timing was a mistake. However, as I told you before, you aren’t some mishap of Celestia’s.” His talon lifted her head ever so gently, “The gods chose you, not Celestia, and the gods don’t make mistakes.”

He sighed, brushing back her forelock, “Twilight, it is the time when the world is at its most beautiful. The time when a perfect balance is reached, the border between the night and the day,” his voice lowered, “between chaos and harmony. It is you, Twilight, and you alone that can find a balance in this world because you see it for what it could be. That is something neither Celestia, nor Luna could ever achieve. If there is any creature in all of Equestria who can understand how chaos, how I fit into the bigger picture, it is you.”

Twilight could only stare at him, blood running cold. For months she had been the princess without a calling, but Discord, Discord saw it differently. “You think . . . you think that’s my purpose? To find balance?”

“Balance is a relative concept, Twilight, not so easily defined. However, if you can encourage me to truly connect with others after centuries of self-isolation, then you are talented indeed. You want to know something else?” He grinned toothily back at her, “You managed to get me, the Lord of Chaos himself excited to learn harmony magic. That’s something not even Tia could manage!”

Me, the bringer of balance? The idea seemed ludicrous to say the least, though Discord did have a point, at least where he was concerned. However, that still left one glaring problem. “But, I can’t be meant to bring balance, Discord. I lose control of my magic at the drop of a hat. If it weren’t for you, I’d have corrupted my magic! If I’m so good at balance, why can’t I control the balance inside of me?”

Discord laughed loudly, much louder than he had as Entropy, actually rattling the door. “Really, Twilight. One can be destined for something without truly understanding it. Why look at me.” He snapped a talon, summoning a shower of confetti out of nowhere. “I am the living personification of chaos. But, as those journals point out most elegantly, I really don’t understand chaos, not entirely.”

“You don’t?”

“Gods no. Why, it took me centuries and centuries to even learn how to control the basics.” Discord snapped his talon again, cleaning up the confetti. “It’s a lot harder to fix one’s mess than it is to make it, for example. I was at least six hundred years old before I figured that one out.”

“Seriously?” She never would have guessed that Discord had trouble learning chaos. “I guess I just assumed you were born with the knowledge.”

“Nope. In fact,” he stretched out on the cushions like a cat, “Mother said I was an absolute embarrassment to the family for taking so long to catch on.”

Twilight giggled, then stopped, remembering Celestia’s story. A part of her wanted to ask about the incident, but now was neither the time nor place for that. Instead, she looked him in the eye, “So, you think I’ll master balance someday?”

Discord came closer, soft smile stretching across his face. “Oh, inevitably. Though you’ve already had quite the start.” Then, without warning, he leaned forward, kissing her on the muzzle. It was scratchy, but for some bizarre reason, far from unpleasant. He pulled away, face flushing crimson, “if you can get me to fall in love . . . to look for a companion after I have told myself for centuries I should die alone, then you must truly understand balance, Twilight.”

Twilight felt her heart skip a beat as he kneeled in front of her, “I am asking, no begging of you Twilight, grant me a chance to earn your forgiveness.”

Honestly, hasn’t he learned anything this past month? Twilight lowered her head until her hot breath mixed with his. “Discord, forgiveness can’t be earned.” She watched him stiffen, still focusing on the ground. “You want to know why?” He shook his head, gritting his teeth.

Sighing, she leaned in closer until she could whisper in his ear. “Because, Discord, it is a gift. A gift given freely out of love, without any expectation of return. You don’t have to earn my forgiveness, Discord because,” she kissed him softly on the forehead, “you already have it.”

His eyes met hers, as though searching for sincerity. “But . . . but I have lied to you, treated you like some kind of puppet. How could you not be angry?”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong, Discord. I’m still furious!” Her words sent him cringing, but she knew they had to be spoken. “You’ve broken my trust, and that’s not something mended in a day. However . . .” Am I making the right choice? Looking into his eyes, she knew the answer. “I want to give you another chance. You’ve proven that you can change after all. I think we might be able to start this friendship over again.”

There was a long silence, then he nodded. “Very well. Thank you, Twilight.” Discord got to his feet, scooping up the journals. “I fear I have kept you too long already.” Just as he was about to teleport away, she grabbed his paw. He raised an eyebrow, “Yes?”

Twilight stepped back, “I . . . I uh . . .” Come on, Twilight, spit it out. “If after things settle down, and I feel I can trust you, I think I’d like to . . . to try dating again.”


“Really.” What? You think I’m making it up?

A large grin stretched across his his face, showing off his wickedly pointed teeth. “I look forward to that, Twilight.” He raised his talon, pausing, “Oh, and, I did forget to mention one thing.”

She raised a cautious eyebrow, “What?”

“Your chaos training begins tomorrow.” Without another word, he snapped, vanishing with a loud crack.

Chaos training? It seemed the tables had turned on her yet again. Who’s the student now, eh, Twilight? Still, she could not help but look forward to tomorrow. One thing was for certain, her life would never be boring again.

That dream again. Strange, he thought it would have left him alone, but it was more persistent than ever. There before him was the same bonfire, the same villagers dancing in time to the same melody. Discord stretched out on the grass, content to watch the familiar scene as he did every night.

He could not help but smile when his dream Twilight strode over to him, dressed once more in the fashion of the day. There was no hatred in her eyes, only that soft understanding of hers. Chuckling, he jerked his head towards the fire. “Come to tell me I ought to dance again?”

Twilight giggled, settling down beside him on the long grass. “Not tonight, Discord.”

The flickering light revealed a new addition to her wardrobe, a strange crown. It was not the gaudy affair Celestia’s was, but a small piece, closer to a circlet. He could not help but admire how the gold and silver strands had been wound around a jet black metal he did not know. “That’s new,” he murmured. “What’s the occasion?”

“Really? You should know, you were at my coronation.” She removed the circlet, spinning it around in her hooves. “It’s a symbol to remind me of my new title.”

He raised an eyebrow, “And what is that?”

“The Bearer of Balance.” Her muzzle scrunched up as she fidgeted with it. “I don’t like it.”

“Why not? It suits you.”

“Yes, well, now ponies will turn to me to help them find balance.” Twilight sighed, staring out at the crowd. “They can find it well enough on their own, if they’d only learn to look.”

Discord chuckled, “You can’t mean that, Twilight. Why, it took days of working beside you to find out that I even had a place in this world.”

“Discord, every creature has a place in this world.” She elbowed him hard in the ribs. “And you knew that full well before I came along.”

“True, but I did enjoy the reminder.”

Her eyes returned to the bonfire, watching the sparks rise into the night sky. “A lot of ponies need a reminder. Guess that’s my job now.”

Twilight smiled, pointing to the crowd before them. “Listen.”

Discord raised an eyebrow, “Why?”

“Just listen.” Her eyes focused on the band who had started up a new, unfamiliar tune. It was fast as the other before it, but it had an ethereal quality that the usual song had never achieved. Then, just as suddenly as the music shifted, it stopped.

His ears perked up as a clear, beautiful voice rang out from beside the band. After a few haunting lines, another voice joined it, and another. It went on like that for some time, one pony after another joining in until everyone gathered was singing. The song no longer sounded like a collection of singers, but one single entity. “It is beautiful.”

Twilight nodded, pointing at the crowd. “That sound, that’s one voice. They all have a different sound, but put them together, and you get a song more beautiful than any one pony could achieve.”

“Indeed.” Discord stroked back her forelock, “So that’s what you meant.”

“Mmmhmm.” She leaned against his side, sighing contentedly. “It’s like the river. We’re all drawing from the same source, but how and where we draw it is different. Not wrong, but different.”

Discord stroked her back with his paw. “You have taught that to me these past few weeks.”

“Yes.” Her soft giggle drifted into the night, mingling with the villagers’ song. “Guess that’s how our friendship works. You might be chaos, I might be harmony, but we work together, balancing each other out.” There was a pause, then she whispered, “We could show them together you know. I don’t have to be the only Bearer of Balance in Equestria.”

“Really, Twilight, could you see me educating anypony besides you?” Sighing, he buried his face in her mane. “But, I think I could manage a demonstration.”

“Yes, I suppose you could.”